Kicking off 2018 at Antelope Island!

After a multi-month hiatus, it’s time to figure out what I want this blog to be in 2018. I’m not 100% sure what that will mean, but I do know that I took a ton of pictures on my run this morning, so if nothing else, it means more pictures! I was originally thinking of doing 18 miles for 2018, but after only doing one run since the Route 66 marathon which was the weekend before Thanksgiving, it was quite a struggle! Either way, I got a great tour of Antelope Island and definitely want to go back again – tons of trail options and beautiful views!

Can you spot the animal at the top of the hill?! There he is! I blame these guys for not hitting my full 18 miles – they were blocking the trail on an out-and-back portion… yeah, I’m sticking with that! 😂 Apparently the birds were cold too! They flew off not long after I snapped the picture.

It was a beautiful morning to get out on the trails and I’ll definitely be back!

Official marathon training

Since I was doing so many half marathons this summer, I didn’t actually start training for my marathon until mid-September. I was going to start increasing my mileage with the Great Smoky Mountain race, but ended up pushing it off another week. 

For this training cycle, I was most concerned about how to train for the super flat Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah marathon course. Looking at the elevation profile, you would think this course has major hills, but if you look closely, the course maxes out at less than 60′. Given all of that, I decided to focus my training runs on the greenway that is closest to my house since I could easily add mileage to extend the 12 miles I actually run on the greenway. 

My first training run was an 18-miler and I continued my walk/run pattern (5 minutes running, 1 minute walking) and mostly just ran by feel, not worrying about my time. I ended up with an average pace of 11:00. My goal for the marathon was to break 5 hours (11:27 pace), so this was definitely a surprise to be able to run it this fast. 
My second training run was a 20-mile run, just a week later and I ran virtually the same course, though I added some hills in the beginning, running through my own neighborhood. This run was much harder and I averaged about a 12:30 pace. I had a lot of technical issues with this run trying to get my watch to work correctly and then switching to my phone app instead, but in general it was just a much harder run than the week before. I think the lesson I learned from this one was that I need at least a week in between my long runs in order to fully recover.  
The good news about the 18 and 20 milers being back-to back is that I was able to get back onto my official plan and space out my remaining long runs with shorter runs in between. On October 3, I did a short 10-mile run on the same flat course again and managed a 10:54 pace. 

The weekend after that, I actually got to do a training run with my friend Beth who was going to be doing the marathon with me. She was in an official training group on Saturdays, so we only managed a couple of runs together. For this run, we were doing the Thunder Road first half preview run and added a few extra miles onto it to get a full 17 in. It was really nice to finally have people to run with and the group of ladies I ran with were awesome! We kept up a 12:00 pace with all the fun hills that Thunder Road has to offer. 
Next up is my last long training run of this cycle combined with my third running of the Myrtle Beach Mini Marathon. 

Crewing a 100-miler: Cruel Jewel 100 – Blairsville, GA (2015)

A few months ago my friend Paul posted a message that he would be coming to Georgia to do the Cruel Jewel 100 mile race and asked if anyone would be interested in pacing or crewing for him. Immediately I jumped on board! The race was only going to be a few hours from Charlotte and I’ve been following more trail runner blogs and Facebook groups, so I figured this would be a great way to step into this culture without having to do all the training myself. Originally he asked if I wanted to pace with him for any of the race, but after he finished a 100k in February at a faster pace than I’ve been doing my half marathons, I felt I would be a little out of my league, so I told him I would crew with his wife, Carrie, instead.

Friday morning was a early wake-up and I left the house at 6:45am for the almost 4-hour drive to Vogel State Park in Blairsville, GA. The race didn’t start until noon, so even though I didn’t make it quite when the rest of the group did, I did get there around 10:30 and had plenty of time to catch up with old friends and meet some new ones!

After we saw everyone head out, we had a little bit of time to kill because the first aid station we were allowed at was around mile 20, so we shuffled all of our gear into one vehicle (a monster truck that I was fortunate not to have to drive!) and headed on our way to find the next aid station. The good news was that I had pretty good cell phone coverage throughout our trip, so I was able to plug our locations into my phone to figure out directions to our next remote location. 

The first aid station was on the side of a road and we didn’t really notice that we passed it until we also passed a church that had a few large vehicles in the parking lot. When we got to a T in the road, we realized that the church parking lot must have been the right place and turned around to head back. We parked in the church parking lot and hiked up the road a ways to where the aid station was down the hill on the side of the road. We got  there in plenty of time to talk with some of the other crews who were supporting runners on the course and get all the gear set up before our runners came in about 4 hours after the race started. 

After the first aid station, we had two more quick ones, about 5 miles apart and then we had a long break so we planned to head into town to grab some food. We had some time to kill, so we headed to our next aid station to make sure we knew where we were going and then went into town to a local Pizza Hut. It was about 9pm on a Friday night and that’s the only place besides fast food that would could find open! It was definitely a locals hangout where everyone seemed to know everyone else. 

After dinner, we rearranged our gear in the truck and went to pick up another person who was going to pace Paul, hopefully from the halfway point back to the finish line (50-ish miles). We planned to pick him up at 11:00pm and then head back to the aid station, about 25 minutes away, giving us 30-45 minutes before his earliest expected arrival time. Unfortunately, we got a little lost at the estate the person was staying at – we ended up at the horse stables and spent some time waiting outside the main hall there before we realized we weren’t at a house. Of course, our 15 minutes early turned into “we need to find you now” pretty quickly when we realized we weren’t at the right place. Cell phone reception was also very spotty and our texts were missing each other and even phone calls weren’t going through, but eventually we found the right road and got to the house. 

Soon enough we were able to get back on the road and head to the aid station. As we made our way to the turnaround point, we saw our runners making their way up the dirt road about half a mile from the checkpoint. Apparently they had sped up a ton in the section of the race that was on the road and we were now scrambling to get parked and get all of the supplies ready in the few minutes we had before he came into the aid station. With two of us, we were able to get everything ready with just a few minutes’ wait. After this close encounter, we went straight to the next aid station which was about 20 miles later in the race so that we could finally get a few hours of sleep. This was also around the time that I realized that I forgot to pack my sleeping pad, so I just took my sleeping bag and blanket to the bed of the truck and slept under the stars. I woke up after an hour and panicked a little bit when I couldn’t see the stars anymore… it took me a little bit of time for me to realize that I couldn’t see the stars because there was cloud cover, not because hours had passed. I got another hour of sleep and then my alarm went off to make sure we got up and wouldn’t miss our runners again. We woke up in time to see the second and third place men come through and shortly thereafter our runners came through, still going strong. After that short nap, we had 3 more quick aid stations, including one that had a bonfire and disco light.

We got another quick cat nap of 20-30 minutes around 6:00am at aid station #17 and then headed off-roading to get to aid station #19. This aid station was only open on the return trip for the crews and for good reason! It was up a virtually one-way dirt road with lots of grading and major ruts in the road – this was one time I was really glad we were in a truck (and that I wasn’t driving)! When we got to the aid station, we were told by the volunteers who were working there that the section up to this station of the trail was the toughest part of the course and that everyone would be slowing down coming into that aid station. I got another few hours of sleep in the back of the truck and then we saw the second place guy come through, followed about 25 minutes later by our group (#1 female, Ange on the left with her pacer and #3 male, Paul on the right).

After we said our goodbyes at the aid station, we took our time making our way back down the dirt road and back to Vogel State Park for the finish line. We knew we would have some time to kill at the park and I got to clean up a bit, change clothes and hang out with all of Paul’s family that came up from Atlanta for the race. We all cheered when the second-place guy came through the finish area and knew that it should only be another 30-or-so minutes before we saw our runners – a mere 27 hours after they started their journey.

Overall, this was a really cool experience for me. In some ways, it’s just like running a relay race – little to no sleep, a lot of hurry-up-and-wait, the goofiness that comes from having only 5 hours of sleep and dealing with people in all states of happiness, agony, exhaustion and elation. Paul and Ange did almost all of their training runs together in San Diego and while they didn’t have intentions of trying to stay together through the race, all of their training allowed them to stick with each other until the very end. I got to meet a lot of great people throughout the course of the weekend and it’s amazing to see people push themselves beyond what most people think is absolutely crazy, especially with an elevation profile like this…

As I mentioned, Carrie and I didn’t get much sleep, so we were quite slap happy at times, which lead to some good quotes from the race, including:

When trying to make sure we were still on the right road
“There’s a blinky”
“or a solidy” 
… well, it wasn’t actually blinking anymore

When the San Diego folks heard a bullfrog at one of the overnight aid stations and I was trying to explain what it was…
“is that a goose?”
“no, it’s a frog”
“a goose frog?”

and the most accurate statement of the weekend
“A watched hill never produces runners”

Thank you to Paul for inviting me and Carrie for letting me crew with her – I can’t imagine doing that by myself! 

Marathon #2 – take 2

Well, it’s official, I will be attempting a second marathon this year after all. After having to drop from the full marathon to the half at Rock ‘n’ Roll DC, I was disappointed and was contemplating whether to try to add a fall marathon instead. Originally, I registered for the Marine Corps Marathon lottery and even convinced my boss to sign up too. Then, in a moment of brilliance insanity, while I was waiting to hear about that race, I registered for the Asheville marathon & half challenge which will take place next March – a half marathon and a full in one weekend! 

Unfortunately, when the emails started coming out last month for the Marine Corps Marathon, I didn’t get in (but my boss did, so he’ll be doing his first full in October!). So, I started looking at other fall marathons since I don’t think it would be a good idea to have my second marathon ever come on the heels of a half… which lead me to: Rock ‘n’ Roll Savannah in November! With this race, I’ll get to check off a few things: a marathon, a race in GA, my 3rd RnR in the Southern Charm series and my 4th RnR overall. 

As an added bonus, a few days after I registered, I found out they will be offering the sweet finisher jackets for the Savannah marathon too! I was really disappointed to miss out on this swag, especially after I saw it in person in DC. So, in November, this will be mine!

Anyone else going to be earning this jacket with me in November?