Tuesday, August 31, 2010

9 runners, 197 miles, 28 hours 29 minutes 23 seconds

Hood to Coast Relay: August 28 - 29, 2010
The Team Without a Name

It's deemed the largest relay in the world--starts at Timberline Lodge at Mt. Hood and travels 197 miles to Seaside, Oregon. I had to run it.

I grew up in the PNW. Well, I kinda grew up everywhere, but spent a lot of time in the good ol' PNW. I heard about this race growing up. It's an event. And there's a certain level of bad assery title that you earn when you run it, especially when you tell someone that your team has only 9 members as opposed to the traditional 12.

Told a lot of folks, co-workers about my weekend. Um, yeah, I need those days off, my Blackberry probably won't work because I'm running down a mountain with 9 friends to the coast of Oregon, sleeping and eating in a van. Vacation? Hell yeah vacation!

My dear twitter friend Brian Brode mentioned that he was on a Hood to Coast team. Like the shy girl I am, I said, hey if you need an alternate, let me know. Turns out they needed another crazy chick. I passed the test.

Despite the fact that these 9 runners are very smart, creative individuals, we could not come up with a creative name prior to the deadline. There were names like Wii Not be Fit, Mid-leg Crisis, When the Fit Hits the Shan, We've Got the Runs, and many more. We were The Team Without a Name.

Our start time was 11:45 a.m. Teams are seated by their anticipated finish times which are based on the runner's 10K times. We were right in the middle. The first leg down the mountain is a beast! Erin, a totally bad ass chick, volunteered to slay that mountain -- 6 miles with a 3,000 foot elevation drop. Holy quads, Batman! That woman ran that leg with 6:30 splits. She not only took the lead from our start group, she passed the 11:30 runners and perhaps some 11:15 starters!

I ran legs 3, 12, 21, and 30 -- about 20 miles total. And I kinda got lucky and got the easy ones. I was really shocked at how well I did.

Leg 3 - 4 miles - 7:33 pace. This was my fastest 4 miles I have ever run!

Leg 12 - 6.4 miles - 8:13 pace. Certainly a PR here as well for this distance.

Leg 21 - 5 miles - 8:22 pace. I'm pretty proud of this one. 5 miles on a dirt road at 3 a.m. It was pitch black and very dusty. I ate Oregon dirt for 5 miles. The little light I had from my headlamp didn't help much due to all the dirt the vans kicked up. It was a white out! I vaguely remember Brian getting me on tape saying I was a dirty girl....

Leg 30 - 5 miles - 8:23 pace. I was so tired. No sleep. But I still managed to keep it under 8:30. I remember the Elites passing me and saying "good job." Ha!

The Team Without a Name crossed the finish line in 28:29:23.

I could go on and on and on about all the details, funny events, speeding tickets, yadda, yadda, yadda. But I'm going to keep you in suspense and just say ... freakin' run this race if you ever get the chance! You'll make new friends, have a good time, and get to see some pretty damn gorgeous country.

Take a peak at my photos from the event.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One step backward, two steps forward

I felt like I was on the road to nowhere for quite some time. But I'm ready to say that I found the road to somewhere and I'm quite liking it.

Starting in late May, I think every race I ran was a personal worst, or close to it. It was hot. I started logging more miles than ever before. I started cross training. I starting hitting the weights harder. Yet, I felt like I was moving backward. I felt slow, tired. I thought, maybe this is as good as I'll get. Yet somehow I found the strength to keep slugging through my training no matter how discouraged I felt. But I have to say, I didn't slug on my own. I had a lot of friends who helped me put things into perspective. I'm not going to call you out by name, you know who you are.

I had two goals to work toward. #1 - America's Finest City 1/2 Marathon in San Diego and #2 - Chicago Marathon.

My confidence started picking up as I started running some 18 and 20 miler training runs. Then, I head to the PNW before San Diego and had some amazing weather and amazing times. For the first time in my life, I ran a sub 7 mile.

Aug. 15 - America's Finest City 1/2 Marathon

I flew to San Diego to meet my running partner Bojana in hopes to run a 1:50:00 to get in a coral for Chicago. Well, I got an email that Friday that said it was the deadline to submit for a coral. Poop. Oh well. I'm gonna give it my all anyway to see what I can do. And I did.

This is a gorgeous course! Starting at the top of Cabrilo National Monument, the course takes you on a 5-mile downhill until you reach the marina/airport area and then through downtown and up to Balboa Park. And I do mean up. At mile 10, you start your climb. It freaking hurt too.

I knew there was a hill. Bojana and I drove the course before hand. She said, "I think this is going to be much worse than mile 12 Austin." I hated to admit it, but she was right. Ok, just give it your all. I'm not walking any step of that hill. I did that in Austin, not doing that here. I got this.

I pushed it really hard out the gate. Looked at my Garmin and knew I needed to slow it down when it said 6:50. I tried to keep it at 8:00, but soon realized that was too fast for me. So I tired to keep it around 8:10-8:15, about 10 seconds faster than my coach wanted me to run it. However, secretly I wanted to see if a 1:45 was possible.

I hit my first 10K at 51:03 -- that is a 10K PR by nearly 5 minutes. My pace started to slow a little bit, but I really didn't noticed it at the time. I was just having a good time out there.

Then mile 10. Holy hell! That is a mother of a hill. And it keeps going. My IT band was on fire. I hurt. This is hard. But I kept telling myself, pain is temporary. You got a 5K and it's over. That's nothing. You can run a 5K in your sleep. I figure I lost about 3:30 on that hill. My pace slowed down to a 10:00/mile. I'm ok with that.

Hill done. The finish line is in sight. The pain that was once in my quads and IT, I totally forgot about. Balboa Park never looked better. I hear someone call my name! It's Twitter buddy Rocketman, Jeff! He came to cheer Bojana and I on. So wonderful to be in this great city and hear someone cheering me on at the finish line!

There it was. 1:54:09. It wasn't 1:50:00, but it was a over 5-minute PR off my February 1/2 PR. And it felt really good.

I couldn't walk. My quads were on fire. My IT was on fire. I wanted to puke. For the first time after a race, I didn't have anything left in the tank. I ran this race the hardest I could. And I was beaming. All those months of waking up at 4 a.m., running in 90 degree heat, it paid off, right there in Balboa Park, one of my favorite places in the United States. All those bad races that I had were erased from my mind.

I needed this race to feel good about my running again. The hardest lesson to learn is that sometimes we take one step backward to take two steps forward. Stepping backward sucks. It really sucks. But it's all part of becoming a better athlete.