Sunday, August 24, 2014

ENDURrun Stage 7: Marathon

On Sunday, August 17th at 7:30am, the final stage of the ENDURrun had begun. When asked by Sean (H+P coach) just before the start what I wanted to do, I said 3:40 or under. My fastest marathon so far is 3:32, so I was planning on something a fair bit slower than my PB, but with six races in the seven days leading up to this marathon, I figured that this was still a reasonable, yet reasonably hard goal.

I was quite happy with how I started the race this year. I kept it controlled, didn't go out too fast, and settled into a pace a little over 8 min/mile. After a few km, the pack thinned out and I was running with Mark McDonald, who was hoping to run around 3:40. Mark and I stuck together for 10ish km (but I could be wrong... I know it was more than 6, but less than 13), but then I ended up a little ahead of him, on my own.

I started to pass a few people once I got to University Ave, and a couple more on Northfield and I could see Catherine ahead, noticing that the gap was closing. As I ran through the start/finish at the half way point, I was just behind Catherine, who was one spot ahead of me in the cumulative results. Until this point, I wasn't even considering the possibility of moving ahead in the overall standings on this final stage of the ENDURrun. I was in 4th, over 18 minutes behind 3rd place heading into the marathon, so it would be a tall order to overcome that deficit.

I ended up passing Catherine around the 22km mark. As I went past, I asked if she was ok; she was having some muscle tightness in her leg. I wished her the best, and she offered some encouragement to me as well. From that point on, the race is a bit of a blur, with the exception of the final 10km of a painful stomach. I think I had too much Gatorade and I was paying for it. It was tough to run through that, but I was determined. I did slow down a bit, but looking at my splits, I can see that I would slow for a bit and then probably tell myself to suck it up and I'd speed up again. That happened a couple of times until it was less than 5K to the finish. At that point, I was able to maintain a decent pace. It wasn't quite the pace I was running at the start of the race, but it wasn't too far off. My first mile was 8:13, my 26th mile was 8:36 (and was uphill). I rounded the final corner, and ran across the finish line, with a finish time of 3:39:43.

I had finished the marathon in 3rd place for the ultimate females, but wouldn't know how I placed overall for the week until Catherine crossed the line. I hung out near the finish, drank my recovery drink, chatted with other runners, teammates, etc, and kept an eye on the time. When the clocked passed into mid 3:58, I knew that I had finished the ENDURrun in 3rd place, something that I did not expect at all going into this week.

My final time for ENDURrun 2014 was 14:06:52, just under 54 minutes faster than last year, and over 2 hours faster than the year before. I am very happy with how I ran all week and I look forward to continuing my training and hopefully improving even more for next year!

I had a fantastic week with everyone again this year. The race organizers, runners, the volunteers, family members, friends, and teammates were/are all so very supportive and were/are such a fantastic group of people to be around day in and day out. Thank you to everyone for making ENDURrun the summer camp for runners that I (and many others) want to attend year after year.


I'm sure all see you all again next year for my 5th year, but for now.... for the 4th time.... after 8 days, 7 stages, and 160km, I am still one tough runner.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

ENDURrun Stage 6: 10K Time Trial

ENDURrun is getting dangerously close to being done for the year. This morning was stage 6, the second last stage of this event, a 10K.

This time trial stage starts in Elmira and finishes at the race director's house in Conestogo. It is a flat course with long straight stretches. It's a fast course, but it takes place the day after running up, down, and all around a ski hill and also the day before a marathon... those factors don't necessarily make the fast course a fast course. :)

I figured I would run 46 or 47 minutes today and I ran pretty much smack dab between the two, finishing in 46:38.

Although the cool temperatures have been great for running, it was cold after today's stage. Normally, when races finish at Lloyd and Julie's house, I immediately jump in the pool. Today.... I didn't even consider going in. I was way too cold. Instead, I threw on my jacket, drank my recovery drink while waiting in line for massage, then put on pants and grabbed a little bit of food.
I am still sitting in 4th place overall female, about 18 minute behind 3rd and 32 minutes ahead of 6th.

Tonight, there is a social event at the race director's house where the runners and volunteers have the opportunity to hang out, eat some food, talk about what has happened this week so far, and also about what to expect tomorrow (or possibly not about running at all.... but that doesn't happen often).

I'm looking forward to spending some more time with everyone this evening as we are nearing the close of our incredible week together. If you are one of the runners or volunteers reading this... See you there!

ENDURrun Stage 5: 25.6K (16 mile) Alpine Run

Yesterday morning was the stage that is dreaded by many: Chicopee.

It's a tough stage, which takes place at a ski hill, but I do enjoy the course. Well, most of the course.

Here's a rambly course description for you:

Start, run to the first uphill, a long gradual gravel service road that winds up the side of the hill, turning twice, with a fair bit of loose gravel this year and a lot of erosion, so it was a little tricky to find good spots to run near the top of the hill. Once arriving at the top, run straight ahead, then turn right into the first trail section, which starts with a fairly steep sandy downhill. Run across the bottom, then windy your way back up through the trails, pop out the top and head back the way you came, but before reaching the service road, turn right and run straight down a ski hill (something I love to do), across the bottom and over to the bottom of another ski hill, turn and run (or "run") straight up this ski hill. Once reaching the top, run across and down some cinder block steps into another trail section (my favourite part), for some windy single track down, and then back up the hill. Hang a right out of this section and run to another ski hill to run straight down. At the bottom, nip into another trail section. This section is flat, but includes a lot of mountain bike boardwalks, which were missing some boards, some were bouncy, and some were breaking under our feet (I broke one, but luckily it happened when pushing off, not when stepping on the board). After the flat section, it's back up the hill via Goat Trail, out the top, over the top of the hill, and straight down. Hang a left at the bottom of this hill, and run through the start/finish line. That is one loop, so do that another 4 times.

The race went well for me. I ran the first lap quicker than I intended to, but I had been ahead of Angela for about half of the lap and didn't want to give that up too quickly. After the start of the second lap, ran my own race. The quick first lap didn't seem to affect my overall race, so that was good. I still felt strong and was relatively consistent for the remaining 4 laps. My splits were as follows:  31:13, 32:47, 33:24, 33:02, 33:03.

My finish time was 2:43:29, which was over 14 minutes faster than last year! I'm definitely happy about how it went.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

ENDURrun Stage 4: Hilly 10 Miler

Last night's stage was tough. My legs were starting to feel the previous 3 stages and the headwind after the turnaround certainly didn't help anything.

Here's a description of the course from the race website:
The first of two hill runs, this course is for the fast, strong runner. This 10 miler is on paved and packed gravel roads and is characterized as demanding and hilly. The start and finish are both up hill, mainly along Wilmot Line west of Waterloo. The gathering point is at Camp Heidelberg at 6pm – the only stage to start at the end of the day. After the short hill start, runners run through a low forested region then join Wilmot Line. There are a series of large hills to slow you up, but the descents are long and fast. Approximately half way out the course doubles back straight towards the finish. The rapid succession of hills during the last third of the course draws on all the strengths of the runner. The final 300m finish usually sees the competitors battle to the finish line and a well deserved leg massage!
Although stage 4 didn't feel great for me, I was perfectly happy with the end result. I wanted to finish in under 1:20 and I did. My finish time was 1:19:47, a 10 mile PB for me (mind you, I've never run a non-ENDURrun 10 mile race) and was another 5th place finish.

My Post-Stage 4 Food
It was incredibly great to see the crowd of Health & Performance members cheering on the final hill to the finish, and some runners who were on the other side just up a bit further (Matt, Mindy, I don't remember who else was there... sorry.. your regular shirts didn't stand out as much as the gold!). It is always fantastic to have people cheering on that final uphill stretch. Thank you to all who stood and cheered!

As with every stage of this event, there is plenty of time to socialize with other runners, family, and friends while enjoying an amazing assortment of food and a nice casual setting. A highlight this year was the unexpected ENDURrun reunion! Several former ENDURrun Ultimates were out as guests, including Jessica and Brian, who I haven't seen in 3 years! It was great to see you!

Since it's Thursday today... here's a throwback to Jess and I running stage 4 in 2011!
After today's "rest day" (probably the busiest day of the week with the eating stages 4.5 and 4.75 and a massage appointment), it is time to prepare for tomorrow's tough stage: Chicopee. I hope the legs are happy tomorrow because they need to carry me up and down a ski hill many times.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

ENDURrun Stage 3: 30K XC/Trail

Yesterday morning, after a night of much rain, the first big stage of the ENDURrun happened. It was stage 3, the 30K cross-country stage.

The course is a 5K loop. The first half is a bit of road then grass sections including some grassy hills and valleys, while the second half of the loop is on trails through a small forest. This 5K loop is run 6 times.
I went into Stage 3 hoping to run between 27:00 and 27:30 per lap, which would give me a finish time between 2:42 and 2:45.

I started out at a comfortable pace, making sure not to go out too fast. By the time we got to the first grassy section, I had settled in behind Catherine and decided to see if I could stick there, keeping her in sight for the remainder of the race.

At the end of the first lap, I looked at the clock and saw that it was a little under 27 minutes. I was glad that it wasn't too far below because I wanted to be sure I was running a pace that I could maintain for 5 more laps.

Photo by Natascha Kleinke
I don't remember the time on the clock after lap 2, but I'm guessing it was 53 or 54 minutes. I do know that when I crossed at the half way point, it said 1:20:xx and finishing around 2:40 was a definite thought in my mind. 

Continuing on, I still had Catherine just ahead of me with her bright shorts acting as a beacon to guide the way. It remained that way until about half way through lap 5.

Shortly after entering the trail section on the fifth lap, my vision started going wonky. I had some spots that I couldn't see. This has happened to me a few times before, so I knew it wasn't anything serious, but I also knew that it was a sign that my blood sugar was too low and when that happens, I need to take in some fuel. Although my body felt great and I felt like I could continue at the pace i was running, I made the decision to back off a bit, take a couple shot blocks (I carried some on me just in case... and I'm glad I did), and take some Gatorade and water when I went by the aid station which was coming up in 1.5 km. After I crossed the start/finish to start my bell lap, I walked through the aid station to drink a cup of Gatorade before continuing on. It felt silly to do that with only one lap to go, but I wanted to resolve the issue to be sure it didn't get worse. I had decided that I would rather have a slow bit of the race and finish strong than suffer (and barely see) for the final 7.5 km of the stage.

The vision was starting to return to normal by the time I entered the grass downhill on my final lap (just past the 1K mark) and by the time entered the trails for the final time, it was almost normal. I finished up the final 3.5 km and crossed the finish line in 2:44:31.

Although I did slow down (and my lap times definitely show it), I didn't lose my position in the race and I was still the next person to cross the finish line after Catherine... I just couldn't see her ahead of me during the final lap and a half.

I finished 4th female today (Stage 3 Results), but maintain my 5th position overall female in the cumulative results.

The lap times haven't been posted in the results yet, but according to my Garmin data, my lap times were as follows:

Lap 1: 26:48
Lap 2: 26:45
Lap 3: 26:52
Lap 4: 27:03
Lap 5: 28:46
Lap 6: 28:16

Post race, I had another large platter of food (actually, it was the smaller of the platters, but larger than a plate), which again took a really long time for me to eat. I'm generally not hungry right after I run, but during ENDURrun, I know that I need to start re-fueling to aid in recovery ASAP, so I force it down even if it takes me an hour to do so.


Congratulations to Pat Kelly and Angela Batsford on your stage wins! Although Mindy and Matt did not win this stage, they do retain the gold jerseys for stage 4 as they are still in first position for the cumulative results. The first and second male and female positions are only a few minutes apart at this point (3:01 for the men and 3:59 for the women), so it will be interesting to see what happens over the next two hilly stages.

The fun continues this evening with Stage 4, a 10 miler on the hilly Wilmot Line.

Monday, August 11, 2014

ENDURrun Stage 2: 15K Time Trial

I'm going to be a bit lazy today and quote the race website's stage description instead of describing it myself. Actually, I will call it efficient. Yes... efficient sounds better.
This flat out-and-back course on paved (70%) and gravel roads runs through Woolwich Township and takes you through countryside dotted with Mennonite farms. The peaceful and relaxing surroundings are among broad open field spaces where the land is still worked by horses. You’re sure to encounter the local horse-and-buggy traffic on this scenic run. The course starts and finishes in the quaint village of Conestogo at the Schmidt residence, and runs on some of the 10 km Time Trial course. Flat and wide open, you won’t be able to hide from your competition in this exciting time trial Stage.

Being a Time Trial, runners start at separate and consistent intervals, in reverse order of current standings.
Today, each runner started one minute after the last, with the first runner starting his race at 8am. At 8:39, and it was my turn to start the game of catch (or attempt to catch) the runners who started ahead of me while trying not to be caught by anyone who started after me. I passed a few runners today (4?) and I am happy to report that I was not passed by anyone in today's stage. 

My finish time was 1:10:44 (PB). I was 5th female today and I have maintained my 5th place position. There was no change in the overall leaders today, so the gold jerseys will continue to be worn by Mindy and Matt at the 30K stage tomorrow.

After writing this incredibly short post, it is time for me to get back to resting up in preparation for tomorrow's stage, which some call the real first stage of this race. But first... the obligatory food photo.
  
My platter of food that took me approximately an hour and a half to finish.




Great job out there again today, everyone! See you at Bechtel Park in the morning!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

ENDURrun Stage 1: Half Marathon

Good morning (although it will be afternoon by the time I publish this blog post). It's 6:58am and I have a few minutes before my ride gets here, so I thought it was a good opportunity to quickly start today's blog post.

I am excited to get to the start line this morning and I'm looking forward to everything this week has in store. I hope everyone has a fantastic week!

........

It is now 3:27pm. I ran, I ate, I got a massage, I swam, had a beer, and now I'm home, sitting on the couch, drinking smoothie #2 of the day. Time to actually write this blog post.


The Race:

Stage 1 of the ENDURrun is a half marathon, starting at a park in Conestogo, running one ~13km loop on roads and paved trail through a golf course, then a smaller ~8km loop following a similar, but shorter route (obviously).

The race started at 8am with a record number of people this year. Although the registration numbers were not the highest (there were over 50 registered in 2012), it was the year with the most starters. Each and every one of the 46 registered Ultimate Competitors was able to run (and finish) today's stage! Already, this was shaping up to be a great week.

It was fairly cool (for August) at the start, which was fantastic for running. The sun was definitely out in full force and it did warm up in the second loop, but it didn't get overly hot. In fact, I finished much less sweaty than I normally am at the end of an easy summer training run!

My plan today was to keep each mile below 8 minutes. I had my watch set to only display the laps and not total, so if I looked at my watch (which I didn't do much) I actually didn't know what my pace over the whole distance was or how many minutes I was into the race, just the time and pace for the mile that I was currently running. I came very close to successfully implementing this plan.... one mile (mile 13) was 8:01. So close!

I finished the stage in 1:42:00, which was 6:59 faster than last year and 4 seconds slower than my fastest half marathon, but more importantly, it felt good.

Looking at the results, I see that there were a lot of great times today! It's going to be interesting to see how the week plays out and how the standings change (or stay the same... you never know!) throughout the remaining 6 stages.

The gold jerseys, which represent the top male and female contenders based on cumulative time, have now been awarded and will be worn by two newcomers tomorrow: Mindy Fleming and Matt Leduc.

Great job out there today, everyone! See you tomorrow in Conestogo for Stage 2!

I almost forgot to take a photo of my post-race food today.... as you can see, my watermelon was already consumed.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Whoops.

Time got away from me. In my last post, I said I would backtrack and write about June. That obviously didn't happen yet. Since it is now just a couple hours away from the pre-race meeting for the 2014 ENDURrun, I guess I should write something! This is going to be short. Very short.

I ran two races in June, one road race and one trail race.  Here's how they went.

June 15th - Road Race - Waterloo 10K Classic (Waterloo Running Series)
  •  At the 5K mark, I was below my 5K PB
  • Finished in a new 10K PR of 45:37, which was 1 second shy of 2 minutes off my previous best 10K

June 21st - 14ish km Trail Race - Heart Lake (5 Peaks Series)
  • Tripped on nothing (or something small... who knows?), sliding shoulder first down an ever so slight decline in the second loop, leaving a fair bit of skin on the course
  • Finished 10th female, in a time of 1:14:40
  • H+P took the top team award!

So there you have it. June in a nutshell.
Now, bring on the ENDURrun!