Sunday, June 29, 2014

Hatfield McCoy Marathon Race Rating

Race: Hatfield McCoy Marathon
Date: June 14, 2014
Location: Goody, KY
Year Running: 15th
Registration: $55 

Race Information
Size: 514 full, 341 half, 38 double half
Course Limit: none
Min. - Max. Elevation: 635 - 1270 ft
Min. - Max Temperature: 59 - 83
Charity Supported: Tug Valley Road Runners Club

Airports: Ahaha. Good luck. The closest airport is the Tri-City Airport in Huntington, WV, but it seemed like the majority of participants that flew used the Yeager Airport in Charleston, WV. I can fly out of Detroit (a major airport and Delta hub), but getting a flight for under $400 would've be nigh on impossible. I met Karin on the way at the Columbus Airport. I think her flight was expensive since it was bought last minute, but doing something similar and driving several hours after landing might not really be a bad option.
Rental car: Necessary. See above.
Host hotel: None. There are few options in town, so book as soon as you register. We both agreed trying to drive into town, find parking, and then find the shuttle would've been insanely stressful on race day. There is also the option to stay at one of two local firehouses for a nominal fee. This was super fun, and I highly recommend it! Just bring a sleeping bag so you don't freeze.... 

That sad sheet will not do anything for you, trust me.
Communications: A little sparse. We didn't get the pre-race email, including the final details for the pasta dinner, until Friday morning. Sending this even an extra day before would've been nice.
Expo: At the local high school, had a few local vendors, though the wares were a little strange, ie I don't normally go soap shopping before a race. My main suggestion would be to move the vendors into a classroom and out of the hall. It was very hard to browse because of a lack of space. We ended up waiting until right before the skit to look after most people had departed.
Other Activities: Pasta dinner, Hatfield-McCoy Feud skit (This is a must do, plan to stick around after dinner!)

Race Day
Parking: A mess. This isn't really the race's fault. Downtown Williamson is just very old "historic," so there are just a bunch of small parking lots jammed into random places. We had parked by the firehouse, I'm not too sure where everyone else found spaces. Clearly they did though, but I would strongly recommend to scope it out the night before when there's still daylight.
Shuttles: Shuttles took us from downtown Williamson to the start line at the Food City. It was a short ride of only a few minutes. The shuttles basically just circled the streets until full. It would've been nice if the race designated a few intersections for the shuttles to wait at, as Karin and I basically ran from corner to corner until we happened to be in the right place at the right time.
Bathrooms: Plenty. Pro tip - wait to go until the Maniac/Fanatic/50 Stater picture gets organized. The line will then thin significantly.
On Time: A few minutes late.
Corrals: None, but not needed. The roads in the beginning were maybe seven (?) lanes wide total, so everyone had plenty of room to spread out and get in an appropriate spot.

Type: Point-to-point
Terrain: Asphalt, concrete and dirt; mix of roads, multi-use paths, and a short trail-ish section
Bathrooms: Every few miles. (I didn't need to go the whole race because of how much I sweated, so I don't remember exactly.) They were readily available, and people who needed the bushes never seemed to be at a loss for a discreet spot.
Crowding: None
Highlights: historical markers about the Hatfield-McCoy Feud, mini-ponies, swinging bridge at the golf course
I'm still baffled by their saddles.
Course Support: Aid stations just about every mile, after about 16 miles they all had two or three kinds of fruit, as well as ice. In remote sections EMTs patrolled in ATVs, and ambulances patrolled on the roads. (But as I mentioned in my recap, there was no med tent....)
Spectators: Few, but there weren't many good spectating spots. Anyone that happened to be out along the course was very supportive, which was nice since very few of them seemed to understand why we would want to run. All the cars on the roads were patient and friendly, and the police provided escorts in more curvy parts of the course.
Local knowledge of race: Hard to say...I suppose good? Most of the race was away from town, so it's hard to say what people thought. They did have one of those electronic construction signs warning locals when the road would be closed.

Food: Tons of fresh fruit and other typical post-race options. A post-race meal of a wrap and chips was also included in the registration fee, though I never would've found it if Karin hadn't been able to show me where it was.
Atmosphere: Awesome! The RD scheduled music through at least 5 PM, and there were shaded tables to sit at all along the chute, so people actually stuck around for quite awhile afterwards.
Party: As mentioned above, there were plenty of places to sit in the finish and relax. The race also provided bag drop and shuttles to showers to help encourage people to go clean up and come back to the party, which was a really thoughtful touch.
Though the showers themselves left much to be desired....
Shirt: Short-sleeve technical T-shirt. I wish they picked a color other than white, since I like the design.

Medal: Huge but not obnoxious. The bullet holes just complete the look. I even had to switch it to a heavier magnet to hold it up at work.

Final Thoughts
  • Everyone talked about how amazing this race, and it didn't disappoint. Even though I had a slow time (par for the course this spring season), I never felt like a nuisance or like that the volunteers were tapping their watches until they could go home. 
  • There were a few tiny things I might change, but overall you can tell how much love the RD and his staff pour into this race. It means so much to them and their community.
  • This is a great race if you're a Maniac, I would go so far as to guess the majority of participants were in one of the three clubs. It was awesome to be surrounded by individuals who agreed a marathon was an awesome bachlorette party.
  • The hills are not nearly as terrible as they were talked up to be. If you can't train on significant hills, like me, just plan to walk up Blackberry Mountain and the hill at mile 23. It won't add much time (which isn't even a factor anyway). 
  • Even if you're slow, you'll never be alone. After Karin and I walked several miles, there were plenty of people around us - and it's not like we were setting any land speed records before that either. Lots of people seem to pick this race because of the lack of a time limit, so there's always someone to chat with or at least see in the distance for comfort.
  • This race has what I call the three H's - heat, humidity, and hills, but the race does a great job mitigating the risk, and it is so much fun! Don't be intimidated!
  • 50 Staters: Yes. Run, do not walk, to the registration page and sign up. This race can count for West Virginia or Kentucky, and neither of those states have very many other choices, especially West Virginia, so this is a great way to pick up either one. (Or both, if you run it every returner gets a personalized sign on the course!)
  • Non 50 Staters: Maybe. And I only say maybe because of how awful the travel can be, which is independent of how amazing the race itself is. If you have to fly, it can be insanely expensive. If you are close enough to drive or enjoy road trips, then I highly recommend it.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Hatfield McCoy Marathon Recap

As I alluded to in my previous Hatfield-McCoy post, I got very little sleep the night before the race because I was busy trying not to die of hypothermia. (Last time I was in West Virginia I did actually get slightly hypothermic, I guess I will always be cold there, no matter the season.)

Even worse, the first alarms went off probably about 45 minutes before I had any intentions of getting up. I was content to remain bundled in my sheet, but our rather obnoxious cot neighbors decided they wanted the lights on, so on they went.

This made everyone feel like it was acceptable to be noisy, so no more sleeps for this sad panda. Quite honestly though, I felt fine that morning. I assume I was running on pure adrenaline. Though I did basically have to tape my eyelids open later in the day to make the drive to Circleville.

There were only two sinks and three stalls in the women's bathroom, but the line moved surprisingly quickly. I think we could've left our stuff there, since people had the option to also stay the following night, but we decided to schlep everything to car so we wouldn't have to worry about it.

Our next course of action was to pick up a shuttle to the start. The RD had said the shuttles would be available on almost any of the downtown Williamson streets. No one at the firehouse had a single clue what this meant, so we ended up wandering around downtown until we were in the right place at the right time. The closest analogy I can come up with is it was like trying to catch a shuttle from long-term parking at the airport. The system worked okay, but I wish they would've designated some intersections, at least.

This was also the first incident of race deja vu. I've come to realize marathoning can be quite small. At Fargo there was a lady that clogged the expo aisles with all her luggage and had no indoor voice whatsoever. Well, she was back with her loud, blocking ways, but this time on the shuttle. Quite a few of us were waiting to board, but we probably stood outside an additional five minutes while she bickered with the driver about coming back after the start. FFS. From now on, she shall be known as The Blocker.

MOVE BITCH, GET OUT THE WAY. . MOVE, VACATE YOURSELF FROM MY PATH.. oh no! the battle royale is outside! I am definitely going to lunge my fist towards your face... visibility out! move the intercourse process backwards, defend

The ride was only a few minutes, and we were deposited at the Food City. Karin and I both originally thought this was a bizarre-o starting line if there ever was one, but the RD explained it is a locally-owned grocery chain that has successfully competed with Walmart, so he wanted to honor them. Plus you can't beat the view for a grocery store!

Guess who couldn't wait to eat her bagel? Classic.
This is where I spotted The Bitch again. I did my best to look like I was having fun to avoid another scolding. Her red hair will haunt my dreams. 

I felt bad that we couldn't really have sashes like a typical bachlorette party, so I turned in my annual pass to the tiny corner of my brain that houses my creativity and made race bib inspired "sashes" for us to wear. They were a big hit with the other runners! (Though everyone kept asking where the groom was...which I thought was a bit odd.)

I like how the Maniac on my shirt looks freaked out by mine.
Unlike all the negative non-runners, these people thought doing a marathon as the party was awesome, and quite a few were jealous they hadn't thought of it. And we even had someone offer to be a stripper.


The other thing we both noted about this race was that it seemed to function mostly as a cult classic for the Maniacs. (I'm sure it was only exacerbated by the fact that it was the 50 Staters reunion race this year.) When people were getting together for the start line photo, it honestly looked like a giant yellow sea was engulfing the parking lot. I loved this vibe, and I sincerely hope the race doesn't get too big.

The race started a few minutes late, but we were off! I think one of the secrets to this race being amazing is the no time limit. While everyone at the back of the pack always seems friendly, it was 10 times that this race without the pressure of the clock. If someone wanted to walk and chat for a few extra minutes, no worries!

We also stumbled upon a goal for the race - have Karin get pictures with the trifecta of emergency personnel. Number one - cops. This guy seemed quite pleased someone was happy to see him!

Now I see why people said I needed to move closer to him...for some reason I though we were almost touching!
Clearly we were already having a bit of a runners high because we began to develop a rating system for all the bridges we were seeing. We did create a special "small bridge" category so as not to penalize them unfairly.
I believe this got a 4/5, just for reference.
However, there was some trepidation in the first few miles. Both of us trained in mid-Michigan, which, as I've said many times before, has no hills. Like, no hills to the point the MSU cross-country team has to go the cemetery to do hill repeats no hills. Everyone talked about how infamous Blackberry Mountain was, and there was pretty much nothing we could do to prepare. But it seriously wasn't bad at all.

At one point we started power-walking for maybe a half mile, before we came to an aid station. This station has signs saying we were at the top. I was skeptical for a minute - were these nice-looking old people punking us? No, we were truly at the top. And it was time to run down! My knees weren't too happy with this, but it was some of the most fun running I've ever done.

We also were able to pick up EMTs, two out of three ain't bad for eight miles!

Then came the bestest part of the race, the mini-ponies! They would've been relatively easy to miss if we hadn't known about them, but they were adorable.

But lesson learned - don't touch them. I went for a pet, and it nearly went berserk.
Next stop was firefighters! I was worried this one would be tricky to get, since there isn't a very high chance a marathon will burst into flames, but we did it! All three before the halfway point!

We also made a quick stop for some moonshine. (Not really because I can't tolerate alcohol to save my life.)

I'm bummed I didn't think to get any pictures of downtown Matewan. I was too busy being cranky that we had to pass the finish line for the half to be bothered to take out my camera.

I'm done now, right? Right?!
Unfortunately, this was also when Karin started not to feel very good. It was very hot and extremely humid, again two things we don't really have in Michigan. After a few miles of walking, she didn't feel much better, so she dropped. I offered to stay with her and drop too, since it was her special weekend, but Karin said I should continue on since I had already made it so far.

Side note time: so far the race had been great about being prepared for the heat, with cold water, undiluted Powerade, and ice readily available. There were also ATVs and ambulances patrolling the more remote parts of the course and using megaphones to call out if everyone was feeling alright. Though I obviously felt awful that Karin had to DNF, I was operating under the assumption that she would be able to recuperate on a cot in an air-conditioned medical tent. I found out from her at the finish line that the "med tent" was just a piece of shaded sidewalk. It's not like I puttered along on purpose, but I would've hustled more had I known the situation. This is my one disappointment with the race. For all the love and care put into it, there should be an air-conditioned place of some sort at the finish to accommodate ill runners, especially since the race is hot every year.

Back at the ranch, I plodded along. I'm glad Karin made the call to drop when she did because the course took a sharp turn for the worse almost immediately after. The road quickly tapered out into dirt and then into thick mud. I ran with a guy for most of this stretch, and we actually had to completely stop a few times to determine the best path. I know the RD can't help the weather, but I wish this section had been advertised better.

I think the worst moment came where the trail (let's call it what it is, that was no road) and came to what seemed like a dead end, blocked by a rusted aerator. There was nothing to do but push through the bushes, where we suddenly found ourselves on the golf course. Talk about culture shock. But the swinging bridge made my mountain goat activities worth it. Though I almost laughed that there was a golf course employee out there to supervise us. Trust me, after running 20 miles, I'm not in any shape to hurt your course.

I hate to say there was anything "nice" about Karin's DNF, but the walking had set me back quite a ways from my running pace, so it was honestly pretty fun catching back up with where I should be. Whenever it got hot or hilly, I would talk to another runner for awhile before forging ahead. I decided to leave my iPod behind at the last second (dumb), so their company really helped stave off the boredom.

I think around the 17 mile mark, almost every aid station had some combination of grapes, orange slices, and bananas. These were a godsend on such a hot day. I barely used any of my own fuel in the second half because of everything the course had. At first the undiluted Powerade had been a little nauseating, but it was so delicious in the second half.

After the golf course jaunt, the course basically turned into a sufferfest. There was little shade (and wouldn't be until the evening), so the asphalt had had all morning to warm up. I could feel the heat radiating off the ground and started doing a very generous .25 mile walk, .25 mile run pattern to keep my core temperature down. (Again, if only I had known poor Karin was just sitting on the sidewalk....)

While I certainly was not setting any land speed records, I felt surprisingly good. It reminded me of the last 10K of Mount Desert Island - I was looking forward to getting to stop running, but I was still enjoying the race. This definitely made me feel very positive about my fitness gains in the last month and a half.

I don't have very many pictures from this part of the race, because there wasn't much of note. Oh yeah, besides this monster hill at mile 23. It was much shorter than Blackberry Mountain and didn't take very long to walk up, but it was demoralizing to come around a bend and see it there.

Here's Johnny!
The last three miles seemed to drag on, but I have to credit a guy I had been running with on and off for kicking my butt in the last mile. I was walking out of laziness, and his encouragement led me to run the very last stretch. I'm not sure of his name, but I owe him a couple minutes off my time.

I forgot what this picture was when I first uploaded it...for a second I was like, "Who the hell is Minh?!"
I didn't completely enjoy the finishers chute because I was busy looking to see if Karin was out there. When I didn't spot her, I immediately began to worry, since almost three hours had elapsed. It turned out she was just sitting down behind other people and would've been almost impossible for me to spot. Phew.

Time: 6:21:58

I took a moment to grab some food and pull myself together to look for the med tent, when she walked over. (Another side note, the poor food lady was instructed to force a banana on every runner. I thought this was very wasteful. I had eaten probably more than two full bananas in the last 10K, I threw mine out because I was done with them!)

I'm also glad Karin had had time to scope out the finish chute set-up, because it was awkward to navigate with marathon fog brain. The mason jars were out of the way, and there were no signs to the post-race meal. I would've written it off as a loss if Karin hadn't been able to take me there.

I did appreciate that the RD had scheduled live music well past when people were finishing, which actually kept the party going. There were lots of tents with chairs and tables lining the chute, but not enough of them. If there had been more, I would've been tempted to stay longer.

All in all, this was an awesome race! I'm so excited to go back next year with Michael and look for my returner sign. You can tell the whole day long how much the RD loves this race and wants every single person, from the fastest to the slowest, to have the same world-class experience. It takes effort to get to Williamson, but it is worth it 100 times over.

(PS - As I posted about on Twitter, my chip malfunctioned, and I didn't have a time. I didn't realize until after dinner Sunday night, but it was resolved in a matter of hours, and the timing guy was so nice and helpful. This only sealed the deal on how awesome this race is.)

But perhaps the most important thing I learned this race? There was legitimately a person named Pharmer.

Truly the godfather of all hipsters.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Hansons Marathon Method: Week Four

I'm very pleased to say week four of Hansons was 100% back on plan! Honestly, this week might have been harder than last week, even though I didn't, you know, run a marathon. Running four days straight is still a completely new kind of pain for me to handle. I have to admit that, despite my excitement, I'm still more than a little bit anxious to run six days in a row next week. 

Other than some sinus pressure, I have no injuries or ailments to report. But holy hell, how did I used to get through allergy season without my (allergy) shots? A few days this week were maybe 50% of what I used to experience on a daily basis for a month straight, twice a year. And it sucked hardcore. Hopefully whatever is having its weird blooming season and spewing fuzzies into the air at an alarming rate will take a chill pill soon.

Wednesday, June 18

Thursday, June 19
3 mi easy, 10:54 min/mile
core work

My legs felt quite heavy when I started this run, which didn't surprise me. Just as the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, I always feel great the first run after a marathon and feel like death the second.

Friday, June 20
3 mi easy, 10:57 min/mile
core work

I went for my run right after some pretty epic rain, but it apparently was not quite epic enough to cut the humidity, so it was sadly surprisingly horrid. But I think I glimpsed a fox! I only saw it at a distance, it was small enough to be a rabbit, but it was bright orange and seemed to be running instead of hopping. I know foxes definitely live in the area, so it's quite possible.
"Good luck trying to identify me from a distance, betch."
Saturday, June 21
5 mi easy, 10:55 min/mile
core work

I lolly-gagged way too long before starting this run after not sleeping particularly well the night before. I always forget the rail trail is only shaded in the evening (yes, I know it makes no sense, but I imagine it always shaded), so I had to run in the direct sun. I did feel a bit dizzy afterwards. Time to start chugging even more water.

Sunday, June 22
5 mi easy, 10:58 min/mile
core work

I had rented 47 Ronin (eh...quite glad I didn't pay to see it in theaters) from Redbox the night before while grocery shopping, and I decided to just return it at another Redbox that was about 2.5 miles from my apartment. People looked at me like I was crazy for running in the middle of the day while carrying a blu-ray disc. A pox on them. All the cool kids literally run their errands.

Monday, June 23
I did get quite a bit of activity this day walking around a warehouse to do inventory (not my normal job by any means). My feet absolutely ached. 

Tuesday, June 24
5 mi easy, 10:57 min/mile
core work

I was stuck running on the hotel treadmill because a) it was so humid outside it felt like soup (Seriously, how does anyone in Texas run? You must be some kind of wizards.) and b) a thunderstorm was raging within a couple mile radius. I had a flexible enough schedule that I was at least able to time my run with World Cup, though of course the storm knocked out the cable for the last two miles. Sad panda. I didn't even get to see the biting!
Do I practice biting others on my long runs? Is it acceptable to take a walk break while doing so?
I also noticed my calves were crampy and achy after what I can only assume was a change in form. I did a bunch of extra stretching, but I'm expecting some soreness tomorrow.

Somehow the end of the "easy" part of this training plan snuck up on me. (Maybe because Tuesday is a weird day to end the week?) My one rest day for week five is tomorrow, and then I will be running six days in a row, with day six being 12x400s on the track. Oy vey.

Honestly though, I'm still pretty pumped. My new dorky mantra has become "do the work." It reminds me that while I'm running on tired legs, that's the entire point of the plan. All the paces so far (well, just the one, really) have been doable, and the challenge is mostly mental. The 400s aren't blazing fast, even for me, so I know I won't be struggling cardio wise from the get-go, which is encouraging. I'm sure I'll be dead at the end, obviously. But that's better than the beginning.

And let's just say, someone is going to be wearing her compression socks around all day tomorrow.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

"Who Runs a Marathon for a Bachlorette Party?" - Kentucky Recap

About a year ago, my engaged friend Karin expressed interest in running a marathon for her bachlorette party. I thought this sounded infinitely better than doing a scavenger hunt and getting wasted. Hatfield-McCoy seemed like the perfect option - it was relatively close to the wedding, everyone loves it, and the travel wouldn't be too arduous. We paid our ridiculously low registration fee ($50!!) and called it a day.

Fast forward to the present day, when I had to do things like ask for time off and explain to my coworkers why I was running a marathon for a bachlorette party. There was certainly a wide variety of responses: Did Karin force me to run it? Did I force Karin? Was it a surprise? Was I joking? And most importantly, would there be a stripper on the course? (That was asked in complete seriousness by more than one person.)
I guess I should've watched this move for inspiration. I have failed as a MOH.

Karin had also just moved out of state for work, which led to some headaches trying to work out the travel details. The Race Director freely admits that the race is a giant pain in the ass to get to, and he really appreciates everyone that makes what is basically the 50 States pilgrimage. We eventually settled that the best way would be for me to pick Karin up around lunchtime from the Columbus Airport.

The drive to the airport wasn't too bad, until I got close to Columbus. US-23 suddenly takes you through a bunch of towns and really adds time to the trip, but there's no other way. I even checked my phone at one point (while at a red light) to confirm I was going the right way. Finally, I was able to get off at the airport and started looking for signs to the cell phone lot.
Does this look like a freeway to you? I didn't think so.

Jesus Christ, let me just say, whoever made the signs for the Columbus Airport needs to go back to sign school. While traffic wasn't too heavy, the signs were contradictory and made me cut across four lanes of traffic several times. Example - once off the highway, a sign indicates to get in the far left lane to get to the terminal. This seemed on, until the next sign sucker punches and informs you that lane is really just rental car return.

Once I made it out of that debacle and could follow signs to passenger pick-up, I assumed I was finally on the right track. But it turns out staying in the left lane is what takes you to cell phone lot, but there is literally no time to make the lane changes once this sign shows up. Basically, I just hid behind a car waiting to pick up a handicapped passenger so the workers wouldn't yell at me for idling.

Karin reported the inside of the airport was not much better. Apparently the ground transportation signs led her into a wall. For a small, one terminal affair, the Columbus Airport was sort of a colossal disaster. At least Karin's flight was right on schedule.

Getting back on the highway was fortunately slightly easier. There was a rest stop maybe 30 minutes away from the airport, dedicated to Ohio's Spanish-American War veterans of all things, and ate the lunch I had packed the night before. I think we checked out every table available, since most were swarming with ants. Pretty sure the groundskeepers there thought we were up to no good.

Apparently they exist.
After driving through Ohio for what felt like forever, we finally hit the Kentucky border. According to Google Maps, we could cut travel time off by popping through Ashland. After going over a brightly colored bridge we both thought was a roller coaster at a distance, we discovered the Columbus sign maker had struck again. We followed signs for the highway we needed and were led through slow construction back to our starting point.

After what seemed like an eternity, we made it to West Virginia. We stopped to get gas (which was 20 cents cheaper than in Kentucky, interestingly enough). Outside the bathrooms was a giant poster with the entire NASCAR season schedule. The clerk's name tag was also made out of a receipt. Winning.

Karin and I have actually been to West Virginia before, during spring break of our freshman year of college. We didn't arrive until after dark and really struggled to find anything or even follow the curvy roads in the dark. There was also torrential rain, and everything was flooded like crazy.

I may have constantly said "Release the river!" the whole time.
We were hoping this part of the state would be better, especially in daylight. The roads were just as confusing, though a bit better in the light. I have no idea how the locals blast through those curves. I drive a Focus and really had to slow down. We also got stuck behind a gravel truck, so that was fun.

At one point, we were in a two lane passing stretch, and the car beside us honked their horn. Being two women alone in a rural area, we both looked carefully straight ahead. After a few more beeps, I tried to do a careful side eye and saw the passenger making extremely enthusiastic running motions. We mimicked them and saw they had 13.1 and 26.2 stickers as they blasted away. Of course, when they first honked, I was stuffing food into my face. Classic.

Driving in West Virginia is also weird because there's no clear way to know how far you've gone, with the slow speeds and the curvy roads. So very suddenly, we were in Williamson. Or something. I had no idea what city or state we were in most of the time. It was super disorienting to say the least. Honestly, if the RD didn't emphasize that the start is in Kentucky and not West Virginia, I would've had no idea.

Our first stop was packet pick-up and the pasta dinner (included in the race fee). Packet pick-up was a little crowded since it was in a school hallway, but it moved quickly and was well-organized. The pasta dinner had a pretty nice spread, but the portion were a little small. I ended up munching on some mini-bagels that night after getting hungry again.

While we were waiting in the pasta line, the running-driving-lady came up to us and said hi. She was super nice and said to ask if we had any questions, since she was a local. We ended up sitting with two younger guys, whose names I unfortunately never got. I think my favorite part of the dinner was seeing the State Championship football poster.

Defense wins championships has never been a truer saying
After the dinner was what Karin and I had both been really looking forward to - the Hatfield McCoy Feud skit. Before the skit, the Race Director talked for maybe 15 or 20 minutes. He got choked up several times when talking about the growth of the race and the local running club. It was really touching to see how he really pours everything he has into the race.

The skit was well done, maybe 10 minutes long. The re-enactors did a great job, and the playwright does the local Feud tours, so he really knows his stuff. This was a great summary of the Feud for someone who only knew it existed, not what caused it or what happened during it. It also helped to have some context for the historical markers we saw the next day.

The next step was to find the Williamson Fire Department, where we were spending the night. We ended up getting cots next to the two guys from dinner, who were kind enough to share their valuable outlets with us. The atmosphere was really fun, surrounded by other runners, and it was so kind of the FD to let us stay there. (We still have no idea how they were allowed to do this from a legal standpoint.) It also made for some classy photo ops.

This is the tallest fire pole in North America. The more you know.
I hadn't brought my sleeping bag since it was so hot outside, but this turned out to be the biggest mistake ever. They turned the air on, and it only got colder as the night progressed. I ended up putting on socks, my jacket, my poncho from Fargo, and my fleece hat, and I still probably only got four hours of sleep max, since I spent most of the night freezing. When everyone got up, I couldn't stop shivering.

"Refugee chic," as one friend described.
You can read more about the actual marathon here, but keep reading if you want to hear about the nastiest showers in existence.

Once I finished the marathon, ate my post-race meal included in the race fee, and threw out my required banana, Karin and I regrouped at the car. Both of us desperately wanted showers and had three options - the former high school, the National Guard Armory, and the community pool. We had no idea what the former high school currently was and felt weird about barging into the Armory, plus we assumed the community pool would be nice.

Hahaha. Were we wrong.

First off, driving there was asinine, as is driving to anything in Williamson. We went over some railroad tracks, and I had to slam on the brakes because the street suddenly dead-ended into the parking lot on the other side. The pool looked nice and was sponsored by the Kiwanis Club, so we congratulated ourselves on picking a good location.

Okay, I usually don't get squicked out by bathrooms, but this one was disgusting and in disrepair. The only shower facilities were an open shower room, so we took turns, and I prayed no women decided to parade their young sons through. After changing in the changing stall (which had a curtain, though it was too small to be useful), I decided to use the bathroom. Thank God I was still very dehydrated, and it wasn't an emergency. Because this is what I had to work with.

Why are there no doors?!
I opted out. Thanks, but no thanks. There was also no toilet paper or feminine trash.

I did feel much better after getting the grime off, but it was not the relaxing shower I had been dreaming about the whole race. I'm not sure waiting until Circleville to shower would've been significantly worse.

It was about 3.5 hours to Circleville, where we were spending the night. It was the only hotel along the route I had enough points for a free night at, and it fortuitously turned out to be very close to the Columbus Airport. (I booked it months before I knew I would have to take Karin there early Sunday morning.)

We both demolished some bread sticks and pizza at a local place called Pizza Cottage. The food was great, but service was a little slow. Our waitress seemed to only be around when we didn't need her, despite the fact the place wasn't even half full. It was also glorious to finally watch some World Cup, after missing out all weekend.
Though this was also a bit traumatizing in its own way....
I think we made it until 9 PM before passing out. After the cold cots, the warm memory foam mattress felt like a cloud. I slept 8.5 hours before waking up, which is rare, because I usually only can go about 6 before needing the bathroom. I felt much refreshed.

After dropping Karin off at the airport, I drove about an hour more to Marion, OH, where I met the Eager Feet Parents for breakfast. That greasy delicious food was just what I needed to fully recover from the race. It was also fun to show off my medal.

Because bullet holes.
It was only about four hours from there to home, but after doing all the driving the whole weekend, I was 1000% done. I stopped two or three times on the way home when I really didn't need to, just to get a chance to get out of the car before I went bonkers. I think the only thing keeping me going was knowing kitty snuggles were awaiting me at home.

And no, there's no such thing as too many Faramir pictures. Thanks for asking.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Hansons Marathon Method: Week Three

The third week of Hansons was again a modified week, just like the first. My Type A personality had a fit about going off plan again, but I shoved it into a corner, because I had the Hatfield McCoy Marathon to run! The race was incredibly fun, and I can't wait to go back next year and look for my sign. The jury is still out on whether I will make Michael carry it for the whole race so I can keep it.

I was also super glad that it appears my peroneal tendonitis is gone. I waited with bated breath the whole race for it to cripple me, but it didn't bother me one bit. It suddenly hurt for about five seconds yesterday, and I was ready to have a meltdown, but then it immediately went away. Weird. But definitely good.

Pictured: me at work
Wednesday, June 11

Thursday, June 12
4 mi easy, 10:52 min/mile
core work

I was spending the night at my parents' house before heading to West Virginia the next morning, and it was nice to change up my route. But for some reason I had trouble pacing myself properly and started way too fast. I seem to run by effort level, so once I should be settled comfortably into my pace, I speed up to maintain the effort. Definitely need to fix this before speedwork starts.

Friday, June 13

Though in a way, rest was a bit of a misnomer. We spent the night at the local firehouse, and it was seriously about as cold as Antarctica in there. I think I got no more than four hours of sleep because I was freezing.

And it also looked like we were at a refugee camp.
Saturday, June 14
Hatfield McCoy Marathon, 6:21:58 (14:35 min/mile)

Recap coming soon, once I get all the pictures from the weekend. Suffice it to say, I didn't finish that much slower than Crossroads of Northwest Indiana, but I felt great! Even despite the heat, humidity, and hills. The time is nothing to write home about, but this was a huge confidence booster that my fitness has improved since the end of April.

Fun fact - I got yelled at by another runner for taking this picture, because it wasn't "that pretty." Ok.
Sunday, June 15

I obviously stiffened up from the five-ish hours of driving home, but I didn't feel sore at all and could even take stairs no problem. Again, this was a huge change from Indiana, where I could only shuffle the day after. (And all my coworkers mocked me when I had to go to the printer.)

Monday, June 16

I felt a little more fatigued than the day before, but still nothing awful. I saw my magic chiro and got my shin splints rubbed out. Holy hell, that was even worse than the treatment for my peroneal tendonitis. By far the worst part was when I thought we were finished, he told me we had to do it in reverse. But I did feel so much better afterwards.

Tuesday, June 17
5 mi easy, 10:59 min/mile
core work

I had spent quite a bit of the day worrying about this run, since I had run a marathon two days before, but cumulative fatigue and all that. Of course it was much easier than I had expected. My legs actually felt light and springy at first before the heavy feeling came on. Honestly, the run was really only hard because of the humidity, not the fatigue. I also watched several young boys beating a tree with their baseball bats, so there's that.

Total Miles: 35.2 mi
Total Time: 8:00:15

Although I modified week three, my mileage was quite a bit higher than the plan called for. This is helping keep my fear of the jump in mileage in week six at bay. I'm super glad I got to run an awesome marathon and get in a bit of recovery.

I have noticed I'm starting to get a bit antsy to up the mileage and start speedwork. I know I should enjoy the lower mileage weeks while I can, but it's so motivating to have a goal to work towards, and it's hard to hold back. I'm hoping when I get back to running four days in a row this coming week, this feeling will subside as the fatigue grows. Good thing I can recover every day with a heavy dose of World Cup.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Hansons Marathon Method: Week Two

The second week of Hansons was definitely a bit different than the first. The first week I rearranged the days a little bit to race the Pine Trine 5K. This meant I ended up with a rest day in between each running day. Not exactly the ideal situation for a training plan that is supposed to emphasize cumulative fatigue.

This week I was able to follow the plan exactly, which gave me four days in a row of running. The mileage was very low, both on each individual day and in total, but I definitely could feel the effects Sunday morning, the fourth day.

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When I trained with Hal Higdon's plan in the past, I ran five days a week, but never more than three days in a row. (Mondays I swam, and Fridays were rest days.) It'll be interesting to see how the fatigue continues to build as the mileage increases. This coming week I've modified the plan because of the Hatfield McCoy Marathon, but I figure running 26.2 miles makes up the difference. I think week four is going to really be a good indicator of how I'll feel as training progresses.

The only real negative of the week was my peroneal tendonitis flaring up. This started up during the Med City Marathon, I think from a combination of old shoes and too much camber. The rail trail I do most of my training on does have a slight camber, and now that I've been focusing on staying off the camber, it's cleared up again. Just in case, I've made an appointment to see the chiro Thursday. I'd hate for anything run the marathon.

Wednesday, June 4

Wednesday was by far my busiest day of the month, so I enjoyed my rest day, even though it was National Running Day. I did a belated celebration by pretending I was back in high school and filling out the Twitter Runchat questions like they were a Xanga survey. Don't pretend those weren't awesome. 

Thursday, June 5
3 mi easy, 10:56 min/mile
core work

Friday, June 6
3 mi easy, 10:58 min/mile
core work

Saturday, June 7
3 mi easy, 10:43 min/mile
core work
23 mi bike

I did this run in the morning before the Eager Feet Parents came to celebrate Mother's Day, Father's Day, and Eager Feet Dad's birthday. I think running early instead of late threw me off my game and hindered my ability to pace myself well.

The bike obviously was not prescribed, but it was awesome to show off the rail trail and explore it at a much faster pace than usual. I actually missed a landmark we were going to stop at on the way out because I'm so used to it taking significantly longer to get there.

Sunday, June 8
4 mi easy, 10:57 min/mile
core work
3 mi hike

This was the first day my legs felt dead when I started my run. I'm sure the long (for me) bike the day before didn't help any, but I had felt the fatigue building throughout the week anyway. Once I pushed through the first mile, I felt much better. It was actually pretty awesome because no one was on the trail (my town has a phenomenon known as "Church-o'clock", where no one ventures outside before 11 AM on Sunday because of services), so I had the place to myself and saw a bunny, two deer, and a snapping turtle.

In the early afternoon the EFP and I went to the nature preserve on the edge of town and tried out a three mile trail. We saw only two other parties the whole time, which meant we got to see some cool wildlife. I even checked off turtle species number two for the day!

Monday, June 9

Tuesday, June 10
4 mi easy, 10:59 min/mile
core work

It felt good to get out on the roads again after a rest day. My legs felt much fresher, and the humidity had died down a lot.

Total Miles: 17 mi
Total Time: 3:05:24

Overall, this was a great week! I'm still getting used to my easy pace being faster than a shuffle, as it should be, but I'm no longer scared of failing. (I've just pushed that fear to the first week of July when speedwork comes calling.) It was nice to get some other activities in, especially since they ended up not interfering with my training. It was also good to figure out what seems to be triggering my tendonitis and how to prevent it.

It bothers my OCD tendencies a little bit that I won't be following the plan perfectly this coming week because of Hatfield McCoy, but I know that's silly. I'm super excited for the marathon, and it's more mileage than the plan called for, so it's not as if I'm taking the easy way out!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Belated National Running Day

Unfortunately, I did not celebrate National Running Day on the actual day. NRD had the unlucky chance of falling on both my busiest and most stressful work day of the month, as well as a planned rest day. Considering my brain felt like it was oozing out of my ears after 11 hours of non-stop journal entries, celebrating by lying on the couch sounded like the best.

I was disappointed I didn't have the time to participate in the RunChat questions on Twitter, so I thought it would be fun to fill them out here and hopefully give a little bit of insight into my running.

When did you start running?
I started running the summer of 2011. I had to do a double-take and check my math because it's hard to believe I've almost been a runner for three years!

When was your first race?
My first race was September 3, 2011. (I use this date for my runniversary because it feels the most official.) It was called the Run Back to School 5K, and we got the ugliest yellow t-shirts, but I still treasure mine.

By treasure I mean keep at the bottom of my t-shirt drawer.
When do you like to run?
My favorite time is to run at night. I feel like I'm in the tiny minority, since I feel like very other runner out there is a diehard morning runner. But to me nothing is more relaxing than looking at the stars on a cool evening while I work off the stresses of the day.

When's the earliest you've ever gotten up for a race?
I think getting up at 4:45 AM at Med City a couple weeks ago was the earliest I've gotten up for a race. I know when we hit the mountainous Western states some much earlier wake-up calls are coming. I'm not too worried since we get the Eastern time zone bump.

Not even too early to be annoyed by this crap.
How much water do you drink a day?
This is a rough estimation, given that my water bottles are 24 ounces, but I would estimate at least 80 ounces a day. That's based off what I'm currently drinking on low mileage and relatively cool summer temperatures. I wouldn't be surprised if this edges closer to 100 come July and August.

What's your favorite non-racing distance to run?
I would say four miles. I almost said five but then realized not only do 8Ks exist, I've done one. When I run a marathon, I break the race into four mile sections. For some reason this chunk of distance is particularly satisfying - three miles doesn't seem like much on it's own, and five miles actually takes a bit of time for me to complete. Four miles is the perfect happy medium.

How many days a week do you run?
Right now I'm running five days a week as I'm in the base-building(-ish) phase of Hansons. In a few weeks this is going to increase to six. I do generally look for a plan with five days of running, however. More than two rest/cross-training days make me feel antsy.

Everyone should run at least a mile today because ____.
I don't actually like this question. I didn't run because it was a rest day, and there's nothing wrong with that. Run a mile if you want to, not because anyone is pressuring you. Put that in a fortune cookie.

What's your top piece of advice for a new runner?
Don't be afraid to run slowly! When I look back at how slow I was running when I first started running without walk breaks, I was probably doing 13 and 14 minute miles, even though I was only running two or three miles at a time. This was not only essential to me building my fitness but to keeping my pace easy enough that running was still fun.

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What's your favorite PR?
My favorite PR is my 10K PR (56:08). I set it at the BTN 10K in 2013. I didn't train specifically for the race, instead just adding it in as part of my tri and marathon training. We were somehow blessed with weather in the 50s race morning even though it was the end of July in Chicago. I felt strong the whole time and like I could've gone even faster if the race hadn't been as congested.

What's your favorite race?
BTN 10K. It was definitely tempting to pick one of my marathons, but this is one of the two races I've ever repeated, and I really love it. Running while sporting my school's colors is definitely unique and fun. Plus the course alone the lake in downtown Chicago is pretty spectacular.

What's your favorite running shoe?
Mizuno Wave Riders! This was probably the easiest question. Other than my (sadly) rarely-used trail shoes, I have only ever run in this shoe. I love that it fits my narrow feet while still giving me tons of wiggle room in the toe box. As someone who has always struggled with getting shoes to fit just right, these are a godsend.

Though mine aren't white because a non-runner friend assured me these were ugly as sin.
What's your favorite racing distance?
I feel blasphemous not saying marathon, but I think the half might be my favorite (even though I've only done two). It's long enough that it's much more about endurance than the 10K but not long enough to turn into an unending sufferfest like the marathon can.

How many races have you done in 2014? What was the best?
Six: Winterlaufe 8K, Crossroads of Northwest Indiana Marathon, BCBS 5K, Fargo Marathon, Med City Marathon, and Pine Trine 5K. Med City has been my favorite so far. The course was super scenic and would've been perfect if the weather had cooperated.

I love running because _____.
It's amazing stress relief for me and makes me feel accomplished. No matter how bad a day at work is, I know my run is waiting for me when I get home. And no matter what else I've struggled with that day, I know I can knock out what's on my training plan and get a win.

What's the strangest thing you've seen on a run?
Back when I would run at night during college, I definitely saw some interesting drunk people. My favorite was a rather overweight guy - wasted, of course - trying to ride a too-small bike with flat tires. The sound of the rims scraping the pavement was absolutely horrific, but he was clearly baffled as to why he wasn't making much progress.

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Approximate recreation.
What's a piece of gear you have you couldn't have imagined 10 years ago?
First of all, the answer should be everything, because I never though I would be able to be a runner 10 years ago. My less sappy answer is my iPod shuffle. I remember how cool it was to get an iPod in eighth grade. That thing was gigantic and couldn't even hold that many songs by today's standards. Now I have one that fits in the palm of my hand with about the same capacity. That's pretty amazing.

Why did you start running?
I've always wanted to be a runner. It seemed amazing that some people could just put on their shoes and go for miles under their own power. Plus people were always telling me I looked like a runner, and I wanted to prove them right.

What are the top three races on your bucket list?
This one is challenging, since my bucket list right now is basically to complete the 50 states. Boston is number one by far, Antartica is a closer number two (mostly because the limiting factor is money and not my turtle speed), and any marathon in New Zealand is third.
Can't mention Boston without Meb.
What's the most challenging race you've run?
It's so tempting to say Med City because its agony is quite fresh in my mind, but I'm going to go all cliche and say my first 5K was the most challenging. Running three miles was still a pretty big deal for me at that point, and I wanted to use this race to prove to myself I was a real runner. When I suffer now in a marathon, I know I'm going to finish, just slowly. That first race was special.

What's the biggest lesson running has taught you?
Running has taught me to break difficult tasks into small chunks, mentally. This came in especially handy when I worked 12 hour days all week during an internship. I would just tell myself to focus on getting through the next two hours, which was much more manageable than 12. I think I would've gone completely insane without this.

What will be your biggest accomplishment in the next 12 months?
Right now my goal is to run a 4:20 marathon at the end of September. If all goes according to plan, I would ideally like to target something faster than that. If my biggest running accomplishment a year from now is running something between a 4:00 and 4:10, I will be a very happy camper indeed.

What makes your local running community so great?
This isn't a very formal answer, but I love how many active people there are in the community. It's great to see so many people out running on the rail trail no matter what time of day it is.

I run because ____.
It's awesome! It chases away the crankies and the blues, it gives me goals to reach for, and it keeps me healthy and strong.