About 15 miles of the JFK 50 is on the Appalachian Trail which is hilly, rocky and rooty. I have always raced on the road - never on the trails. I decided to research some trail races and do them as part of my training. It's one thing to run trails by yourself, but racing with others adds another dynamic that I want to get used to. This particular race, The Blue Crab Bolt 10K, was organized by EX2 Adventures. It took place at Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg, MD. They are a fun group and really had all of their ducks in a row. Having planned events for most of my career, I tend to be hyper-critical of race organizers, but there is not one thing I would have changed. Online registration was easy; Pre-race communications were sent out in plenty of time; Parking was a cinch; Packet pick-up went smooth; Water stops were plentiful and stocked; Course was well marked; And the planned post-race festivities actually made me want to stick around. Let me tell you I LOVED EVERY SECOND of this experience. I didn't want the race to end. My goal was just to finish without injury - but I actually placed 3rd in my age group! SO FUN!!! I can't wait until the next one on August 13!
I didn't watch this video before actually applying to the race. It would not have deterred me though! It actually helps me mentally prepare. I have only watched it all the way through once because it does create a bit of anxiety.
The one thing I learned from this video as well as getting great advice from others who have run this course - PRACTICE running on rocky, rooty, hilly trails! I will be running a trail race - The Blue Crab Bolt - this weekend in Gaithersburg, MD. It's only a 10K, but hopefully practicing on these types courses will help me.
Another steamy morning and I got up early to watch the sun rise over the track and torture celebrate myself on my birthday morning with 4 - 1 mile repeats. I did a 2 mile warm up and a 2 mile cool down, then the repeats at Mile 1: 7:25; Mile 2: 7:15; Mile 3: 7:06; and Mile 4: 6:46. Not bad for an old lady.
Well, another year down! 36! Yikes! Life really does keep getting better though. I love my 30s. I started getting serious about distance running at age 30 and I don't think it is a coincidence that I feel better at 36 than I did at 29.
NEW BEGINNINGS The will be a lot of new beginnings this year including a huge shift in my career. Yesterday, I started a new job with the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD) helping run their membership department. (I usually like to take my birthday off of work, but thought it would be bad form to ask for my second day off. Ha.) As hard as it was to decide to walk away from such fun subject matter like fishing and boating, this really is the right move for me as I continue down my career path. GOALS I am extremely driven and goal oriented. Like anyone, I think, I need to write those goals down for them to become real. Since I have this blog, I thought, why not publish my goals for the whole world to see! My goals for the coming year include:
1. Complete the JFK 50 Mile race in November 2011. I am well on my way towards this goal. It's not going to be easy, but my persistent and stubborn nature will in over the sweet, soft Jess. I am certain. Ha! 2. Run a Spring Marathon and BQ again with 3:35. I hope to run the Boston Marathon in April 2012. They did change their registration process and it is no longer a first come, first serve basis. If I don't get into the Boston Marathon, I will find another to run and BQ again for 2013. 3. Go to Yoga at least once every other week. Yoga does my mind and body soooo good. I really got into it a few years back. I know it would help me so much (mentally and physically) to incorporate this back in my life again. 4. Go to at least 6 new DC-area sites, museums, festivals, etc... I live in a great city, but take it for granted for sure. There is so much to do all the time. I just have to make the time. 5. By my first home/condo. House prices are outrageous in the DC-area. Check out what I can get for $200K in Cleveland vs. $200K in Alexandria. I have been diligently saving my pennies though and by the time the end of the year rolls around, I will have saved enough for a healthy down payment. I hope to be in a new house by March 1. 6. Read one book per month. I love reading and usually have a book or two started. I sometimes lose motivation when I can't find the "perfect" book. It's just an excuse though. Less TV...more books! 7. Take all my vacation time at work. Money will be tight buying a new home and all, but I am pretty lucky to have family and friends in cool places that I can visit. I always end up leaving vacation time on the table at work. Time off is good and makes you sharper. At least that is what they tell me! Ha! 8. Sleep. I am the worst sleeper ever. I want to get better. So I will attempt to practice better sleeping habits, trying to get at least 7-8 hours per night, going to bed at a consistent time, getting up at the same time, etc... I think that is a good start. I am looking forward to this year. It WILL be the best yet!
Last weekend, I ran a really strong 16 miler and set out this morning to run 15. At 6:15am when I left my house, it was already 85 degrees. I had my hand-held amphipod filled with berry flavored nuun and was ready to go! (LOVE this thing! It's so comfy and fits right to the contour of your hand!)
By the half mile mark, I was already wiping sweat from my brow and by Mile 8, I has sucked down all my water. I physically needed it. At Mile 10, I decided to stop the run and walk the rest of the way back. I probably could have made it back to my car, but I really didn't want to risk it. Dehydration is nothing to mess with, especially when you are on a trail that doesn't have easy access to help if you need it. I normally would be really disappointed in myself for not finishing what I started, but these runs right now are kinda like "test" runs for when my real training begins. I just have to tweak my approach and learn from my mistakes. Mistake #1 - I ran the C&O towpath trail. I love it so much but there are no water fountains on the trail. Mistake #2 - I only was carrying 21 oz of water. I was planning on running 10 tomorrow, so I will attempt the 15 again bright and early, bringing more water and running on the Mt. Vernon Trail which has water fountains every couple miles. ACTION ITEM: Find out what hydration systems work for other ultramarathoners. Anyone have the Camelbak Octane LR? Until tomorrow morning...several months ago, before the JFK idea, I signed up for the Pacers Crystal City Twilighter 5K which takes place tonight at 8:30pm. I am NOT racing this and will take it easy. There is a fun festival at the Finish line - Beer truck included!
As I mentioned before, my official training will start on August 1 but I have it all mapped out with Speed/Track workouts...Tempo runs...Long back to back runs...and Rest. I haven't done Tempos in awhile so I decided to "practice" for my training this morning. At 5:50am, when I headed out it was already 82 degrees with 84% humidity. At the end of my run, let's just say I looked like I just jumped out of a pool.
In spite of the heat, I still managed to do fairly well with a 2 mile warm up (run to the track) and 2 mile cool down (run home from the track) and a strong Tempo in between: Mile 1: 7:53; Mile 2: 7:48; and Mile 3: 7:29. Even though many don't enjoy this heat and humidity, I really love it. I love running as long as I have my nuun and listen to my body. It is very cleansing refreshing for me. AND will make me a faster/stronger runner in the Fall. The body is an amazing machine.
Numerous people have asked me this question and the answer is simple – BECAUSE I CAN.
I love running. I love racing. I love the marathon. To be honest, if you would have asked me a year ago if I ever would be interested in completing an ultramarathon I would have said “H” to the “E” to the “double hockey-sticks” NO! Then, the Marine Corps Marathon happened. That race transformed how I view my running ability, potential and boosted my self-confidence.My goal was to run a sub 4:00 that morning and I came in at 3:39:45. I not only beat my marathon PR by over 40 minutes, but I qualified for the Boston Marathon too. I can tell you it was one of the greatest feelings I have ever experienced.
So why not just try to improve my marathon time instead of going the ultra-route? Like I said – BECAUSE I CAN. There are times where I take my good health for granted. My body can endure a lot and I recover fast. To me, it is about pushing my body to what I thought was the limit, then taking it one step further. That makes me feel alive. Some people call this the endorphin-effect, I call it my all-natural Xanax.It is the allure of trying something that tests my body, tests my mind, and is a good way to delve into my true self and see what I am made of.
I think of the people who can not run but would like nothing more than to feel the wind in their hair as they move swiftly along the trail or long to feel the beautiful discomfort of mile 16, 32, 45,… I feel so lucky and fortunate to be able to experience these things.
I am scared. I will not deny that. This training schedule in front of me scares the bejeeebies out of me. Back to back 20+ mile runs?What if I get hurt? What if this makes me hate running?What if a mountain lion eats me on the trail? Ha. But, if there was not a little fear or risk involved, would it even be worth doing? That is a big, fat – NOPE.
On Tuesday, I found out that my application was accepted to run the JFK 50 mile ultramarathon on November 19 and I am beyond excited! It is all I have been thinking about for the past several days. (Well, maybe not ALL because I have some other pretty significant transitions occurring in my life right now. Stay tuned for details J) I have been doing research on training plans, reading ultramarathoners blogs, looking for websites, books and any other resources. I am just trying to absorb as much information as possible. Now, of course, I am overwhelmed. What the heck have I got myself into? Ha.
People’s reactions when I tell them that I am doing this race are so funny. Most think I am crazy which there may be some truth to. (My favorite text: "Ur crazy. Who r the other 2 crazies in it?" "I'm frightened by the fact that 1000 other crazies want to do this too.") Some are concerned. But, everyone is intrigued with the details of the training and the race. I am a ultramarathon newbie and all those details intrigue me too! As I said, I am not sure what I have got myself into; therefore I have decided to start a blog for a couple reasons. #1 – I want to share this experience with my family and friends. Most don’t live close enough to me to hear about the day to day agony that I will go through…ha! I also will rely on everyone as a support system. I have great cheerleaders that inspire me every day. #2 – I will be mostly training solo and this will be a great way to hold myself accountable to my training schedule.
My official 16 week training schedule starts on August 1, and I plan on posting daily after that. Until then, expect to see intermittent posts about how I prepare to train, what inspired me to apply in the first place and all my thoughts and fears that come with anticipating about what lies ahead. This is going to be a grand adventure! There will no doubt be blood, sweat and tears along the way. One thing is for certain, the morning of November 20, after completing this feat - I will be a stronger runner, and will have introduced myself to a self I’ve never known.