Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Archive for the tag “sleep”

Race Report: Dam to Dam

In many ways, I feel like this entire year has been quite a whirlwind up until now. The seasons haven’t held true to form, the weather has been anything but normal (is there such a thing anymore?), my schedule has been less than rigid and regulated at work, and my training hasn’t quite had the rigor and organized discipline I’d like. I’ve been putting in plenty of miles, but my race goals have been a bit too distant, which has left me with time in between targets. However, I can always count on one race every year as a benchmark for my running progress. Dam to Dam, Iowa’s Distance Classic, was my very first race longer than a 10K, and marked the beginning of my addiction back in 2009. Since then, it has come to hold a special place in my heart, not only because it’s a wonderfully organized race, but because the tradition and proximity equate to a giant gathering of friends for a morning of running, celebrating, and “hydrating”.

Hanging out before the race.

Hanging out before the race.

Not to paint too pretty a picture, I should get the less than desirable aspects of this race out-of-the-way first. Namely, the time. The race starts at 7AM at the Saylorville Dam in Des Moines, which is only accessible for the race via busses that depart from downtown Des Moines between 5AM and 5:45AM. This was even more true this year due to flooding in the area, which limited traffic access. Now, this means meeting others at 4:15AM to carpool down to Des Moines, which in turn meant I was awake at 3AM. Well, my eyes were mostly open and I was moving, at least. I’ve probably mentioned before that I’m not a morning person, so this was a struggle. It’s a good thing I enjoy this race so much!

The view from the start is hard to argue with!

The view from the start is hard to argue with!

We were in Des Moines in time to hop on one of the first busses, which meant arriving at the dam/ start around 5:30AM. This left us with plenty of time to kill. Luckily, we are a pretty self-sufficient group, and were able to entertain ourselves. The weather varies widely this time of year, and we got extremely lucky this year. It was in the low 50s at the start, and the sun slowly emerged on the back of a light breeze. Thus, we passed the time comfortably before making our way up to the starting line. With 8,500 runners in all, the people watching alone is enough to pass the time!

8,500 runners ready to tackle the course!

8,500 runners ready to tackle the course!

This year, I was convinced (tricked? 🙂 ) by a friend to attempt an 8:00 min/mile pace for the 20K (12.4 mile) distance. My pace has been improving quite a bit as of late, but I had yet to attempt sustaining it for quite that long. I was hesitant, but agreed nonetheless, and another friend agreed to pace us during the race itself, which was really nice. We worked our way up, closer to the front of the pack, and as the palpable intensity of the crowd increased as we made our way closer, I couldn’t help but feel as if I was somehow an impostor of sorts. My energy was high, and my adrenaline was pumping, and we head out with the rest of the pack to make our way through the first mile.

Working our way closer to to the front of the pack.

Working our way closer to to the front of the pack.

Now, the first mile is a bit like squeezing pebbles through a salt shaker, so I was expecting a bit slower first mile. We hit the mile 1 marker around 8:20, which left us in great shape. Over the next 8 miles or so, the distance just seemed to tick away comfortably, and we maintained a sub-8:00 min pace throughout. I stopped to take water, took in some nutrition around miles 5 and 9, and still felt ok to chat with my two pacing friends. After the first few miles, my doubts about achieving our goal (for me, that is) vanished and I let the feel of the race take over. It’s a fairly flat course, but there are a few decent hills to give a runner pause. We tackled them boldly, and maintained our pace.

With about 5K remaining, I found myself about 50 yards ahead of my friends after a water stop, and I let my legs take over. Even after crossing the last bridge and making the final turn towards the finish, the consistency in my pace and breathing remained, and I had a bit left for a final kick at the end. I crossed the finish line in 1:37:11 with a 7:49/mile pace, and I couldn’t have been more pleased with my PR! I turned around to congratulate my friends, and they looked just as full of energy as I felt, and it was clear that handily accomplished our goal.

Celebrating after a great race!

Celebrating after a great race!

The snacks, beer, and celebrating with our large group of friends afterwards made for a perfect end to a beautiful morning. Once again, Dam to Dam served as a reminder to me of why I enjoy running so much. I have some of the most amazing friends, capable of so much, humble without question, and encouraging to a fault, and they continue to reinforce my love of running. Pinning on a bib and putting a medal around my neck at the end of the run is really just a bonus!


Little Rock Marathon 2013: A Tale of Two Races

After an annoyingly wet, snowy, and cold winter, I was pretty sure that the perfect running cure would be a destination race complete with sunshine and warm weather. Naturally, I headed south to cross another state off of my list. Enter Little Rock, Arkansas. Mother Nature may not have cooperated, but I still returned home with wonderful race weekend with friends under my belt, and a GIANT medal around my neck!

I took off with two other friends on Friday afternoon for the 9 1/2 hour drive down to Little Rock. We stopped in Bentonville, AR for the night, and felt somehow obligated to at least go into a Walmart since it happens to be headquartered there. I picked up a cheap throw-away sweatshirt to wear before the race, as it had become evident from the forecast that it wasn’t going to be nearly as warm as I had hoped.

Fe-eling ready for a marathon!

Fe-eling ready for a marathon!

Sleeping in on Saturday morning was a rare treat that I certainly didn’t take for granted. We hit the road and got to Little Rock around 1pm and headed straight for packet pick-up. The expo was quite a bit larger than I had anticipated, and it took an extra surge of will power to avoid spending money on more running gear that I didn’t need (I know you’ve all been there!).

Ready to race!

Ready to race!

After getting checked into the hotel, food was a priority. We found a great Mexican restaurant based on a recommendation from Tonja’s brother-in-law, and it ended up being the perfect pre-race meal, complete with an excellent margarita! After our late lunch, we headed back to the hotel and relaxed for a bit in the hot tub. Incidentally, I wish I could soak in a hot tub before every run. I’m going to need to work on that. 🙂

The race didn’t start until 8AM, so we didn’t have to get up too early (plus we crashed pretty early the night before!). We headed down near the start and met up with another friend who drove up for the race from Mississippi, which was a very nice bonus! As we lined up in the start coral, the 27 degree temperature began to sink into my less-than-fully covered body, and I could feel a bit of the feeling leaving my toes. Was I in Arkansas or Iowa? The echoes of Southern twang and hospitality, along with the lack of snow on the ground provided the distinction I needed to remind myself I was still in a new state running a new marathon.

As the gun sounded, we all shuffled off at a reasonable pace. They released runners in waves, which meant it wasn’t nearly as congested at the start as it would have been otherwise. Kecia and I were running the marathon, and Tonja was running the half-marathon, and luckily, the two courses stuck together for the first 10 or so miles.

I went into the race hoping to break the 4:00 hour barrier, which would be a PR for me, and something I had never done before (my PR entering the race was 4:07). This meant running approximately 9-minute miles. We were all feeling pretty good at the start (hot tub, perhaps?) and we clocked the first mile at 8:43, and I knew we were going a bit fast, but I always start a bit fast so I wasn’t too worried. When the next two miles came in at 8:40 and 8:36, I knew I had to put on the brakes a bit or I was going to be in trouble. We ended up maintaining a bit faster pace for the first half, and crossed the half-way point around 1:55. The first half of the marathon had been a wonderfully flat and comfortable course, and Kecia and I both found ourselves smiling and congratulating ourselves on an excellent marathon choice. Then race #2 started.

Almost as soon as we hit 13.1 miles, the hills appeared. It was as if the marathon itself was scolding us for deciding to keep running. For about the next 3 miles, I’m pretty sure we did nothing but climb hills. We would reach what we thought was a summit, and then turn a corner to find another hill. I was having flashbacks to Kansas City! The hills finally ended, and the initial descent was steep enough that I felt like I was back in Trinidad. After that, the course leveled out for the most part and our miles remained consistent.

This was without a doubt my most consistently paced marathon. I never really hit a wall, and the back-and-forth motivation that Kecia and I had going for us meant we were always pushing each other and maintaining our pace. We did however notice that our Garmins were hitting the miles further and further from the actual race mile markers. We weren’t going out of our way to add distance by any means, but we still seemed to be accumulating additional tenths of a mile with each passing mile we ran.

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

By the time the end was in sight, we knew we were going to end up running additional distance, but we didn’t care. We pushed through with the finish line in sight, and it felt amazing as always to cross the finish line! My official chip time ended up being 3:57:12, and my Garmin time was 3:54:05…either way, I broke 4 hours!! I was absolutely elated to not only have reached my goal, but done so with so much time to spare. I happily walked up to accept my medal…and just about fell over when they put it on. This was hands-down the largest race medal I had ever seen, and it weighed enough to practically pull both of us down. Tonja was waiting at the finish line, having conquered her half-marathon in style, and we all shared the same happy glow that comes with finishing a race.

All smiles after a PR performance!

All smiles after a PR performance!

After changing out of our race clothes, we had a quick lunch, headed back to the hotel to shower, and hit the road for our 9-hour drive home. I would have normally been happy to stay the night in Little Rock, but I had to teach the next day so getting back became a priority. I was so incredibly thankful that Kecia and Tonja were game to drive home after the race! It was a long drive, and all of our legs were stiff and a bit sore, but we still had a blast along the way. The trip of course wasn’t complete without a stop at the Hillbilly Hideout for snacks and pictures— we were in Arkansas, after all.

Race medals- as big as our heads!

Race medals- as big as our heads!

We arrived back in Ames around 1AM, just missing most of the next snow storm that was blowing through, and thankful to be home. The lack of sleep made the next day a bit of a challenge for all of us, but the memories and the medals made it all worth it!

The Hillbilly Hideout!

The Hillbilly Hideout!

Collective Bargaining with your Body

Resting after a period of hard training leading up to a race is common sense, right? Your body can only handle so much before it tells you to stop one way or another, so you might as well take it easy and let yourself recover. This seems like common sense to me, as it no doubt does to you. We all get a sense for how hard we can push our bodies before our bodies push back- in a sense, finding that limit is one of the ultimate goals for endurance sports of all varieties. Ultimately, it’s important to listen to your body when it begins to give you signs that you need to slow down. Doing so will allow you to keep training, while staying healthy and not injuring yourself in any way.

Photo Credit: Runner’s Connect

In the past, I’ve usually listened to my body. Overall, my ability to listen to my body in all aspects has allowed me to stay relatively healthy. I NEVER get sick, in fact (famous last words- you can see where this is going, right?). My immune system has become quite hearty, which has been beneficial for my productivity in all aspects of my life. However, I don’t always listen, which is when I pay the price. In the past week or so, I’ve felt a drop in my energy levels. I was still able to continue training, and was logging the miles I wanted for the most part, but it seemed to involve more effort than usual. This is especially true considering I’m more conditioned now than I’ve ever been, after so much training this past year.

Earlier this week, I took a day off from training, and chose to do some work in the yard instead. Unfortunately, that work was digging up old stumps in the yard, the result of some serious neglect by previous home-owners. The beautiful epicurean and I committed ourselves to planting our garden this year, and getting the yard in decent shape. Being that my thumbs are more brown than green, I’ve been naturally drawn to the more maintenance-oriented tasks, such as mowing, weeding, watering, and tilling. Yard work in all senses is a new experience for me, being that I grew up without a yard or the responsibilities that comes with having one. Thus, I don’t have a very good grasp yet on how much energy I exert doing this work. This proved to be costly, as several hours of digging up stumps with a shovel proved to be quite painful for my muscles. None-the-less, I recovered overnight (so I thought), and continued on my normal routine, capping the night with a nice calm run with friends (8 miles and change). However, when I got home, I could tell that there was something up with my body.

Early Stages of Garden Construction

Sure enough, two hours later, I was curled up on the couch, covered in blankets, and shivering, despite my 101 degree temperature. My entire body was sore, and I couldn’t move. Sleeping that night proved to be less than comfortable, and I spend the entire next day on the couch, unable to eat anything except bread and crackers (a far cry from my normal and necessary caloric intake!). I certainly don’t get sick often, but when I do, look out!

Thankfully, I’m feeling a good deal better today, and have been able to keep some food down without the nausea and aches that prevented it yesterday. I’m not at 100% yet, but I should be by this weekend, as long as I continue to take it easy. Now, it’s entirely likely that I picked up a bug somewhere that sidelined me like this, and it didn’t directly have anything to do with my training. However, I’m going to take it as a sign and reminder that a large part of maintaining your endurance is resting, and keeping your body healthy so it can accomplish all of the things you are asking of it. I’m going to keep asking quite a bit of my body, so the least I can do is make sure I rest accordingly, on my terms, instead of waiting for my immune system to go on strike. I’ll consider this a fair compromise in my collective bargaining agreement with my body. Don’t mess with the union!


Going the Distance: A Whirlwind Weekend

Most runners will tell you that prior to a long run, you should adequately prepare- proper amounts of nutrition and rest. In most cases, I would agree with these folks, and I have indeed typically adhered to that policy. However, this was not your typical weekend! The beautiful epicurean and I were on vacation in New England this past week (future travel post coming soon!), and were scheduled to arrive back in Iowa on Friday night, just in time for a 5-hour training run, in preparation for the Free States Trail Run 40-miler, on Saturday. On paper, our travel plans worked out perfectly. However, as I should have known, trusting the airline industry to stick to a schedule makes about as much sense as running a marathon without nutrition. Needless to say, our schedule led to what would become a rather exhausting, but accomplished weekend.

Friday, March 16th

8:00AM- wake up in Boston, MA and obtain breakfast (somehow coffee and chocolate cake seemed like a great idea at the time!)

9:30AM- depart Boston for Providence, RI to catch a flight home.

12:15PM- arrive in Providence, return our rental car, and head to the United Airlines desk to pick up our boarding passes.

12:20PM- ticket kiosk takes issue with our request for boarding passes and requests our presence at the ticketing counter.

12:25PM- Learn from ticketing agent that our boarding pass to Cleveland can be printed, but our second pass from Cleveland to Minneapolis doesn’t seem to be accessible. We head through security and arrive at our gate.

12:30PM- We speak with the ticketing agent at the gate and are informed that the Cleveland to Minneapolis flight was over-sold, and we have been rebooked on a flight to Washington, D.C. We make our way down to our new gate. Luckily, PVD is a relatively small airport.

2:15PM- Our flight from Providence to Washington, D.C. departs, relatively on time.

3:30PM- We arrive in Washington, D.C. and head to our new gate for our flight to Minneapolis. Now, bear in mind that our original flight from Cleveland to Minneapolis was scheduled to depart almost an hour earlier, so we are already behind schedule.

4:15PM- While waiting at the gate, we are informed that our flight crew is running late. Original departure time- 5:10PM/ New departure time- 6:10PM.

6:30PM- We depart from Washington, D.C.

8:10PM- We land in Minneapolis, a full 3 hours later than we had originally been scheduled to land.

9:00PM- We head out for the drive down to Ames.

12:20AM- We arrive in Ames, tired and exhausted, having not eaten very well and probably not hydrated properly.

By the time I fell asleep, it was 1:30AM and I was seriously considering the sanity of waking up at 5:30AM for the second longest run in my life. None-the-less, I woke up, met up with some early-rising friends, and hit the ground running by 6:00AM. Thanks to several groups of great friends, I was never alone. Prior to this run, I had run one other ultra-marathon, and numerous marathons. However, never did I think I would be heading out on a training run longer than a marathon.

The benefits of running with a group?

However, after 5 hours, I had run 28 miles. My legs were sore, my core was tight, my head ached, and I was very hungry, but I was done! I spent the rest of the day relaxing, stretching, and trying to regain the immense amount of calories I had left along the route. I no doubt failed, but I certainly gave it my best 🙂 This run made heading to bed very easy indeed.

Now, normally this would be the end of my story. However, training for this ultra has tested me in ways I never thought possible. Not only is it a different degree of physical stamina, but the shear mental endurance required has certainly put me to the test. With that in mind, I woke up this morning with the knowledge that I had another long run ahead of me. This time, however, it wasn’t just sleep deprivation and poor nutrition eating away at me, but also the fact that my legs already had 28 miles on them.

In addition, this run was a solo endeavor. I love running with friends. It’s what keeps me motivated and accountable. However, the additional miles these past few months have meant more time to myself. I’ve definitely learned to embrace the solitude of the road, with only my thoughts to keep me company. As I left today, it was 70 degrees and the sun was shining brightly. It was a perfect day (heck, maybe even a bit warm- didn’t see that coming in March!). I knocked out another 17 miles, and enjoyed it thoroughly. In addition, the chocolate milk never tasted so good when I got home!

So, to recap: 4 states, 5 hours of driving, 2 flights, and 8 hours of running.

It was a whirlwind of a weekend, but I wouldn’t trade the time, travel, friends, family, and running for anything!

Some day the rest will come :)

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