Sunday, December 16, 2018

JFK 50-mile, 2018 race report

Last month was my second attempt at the JFK 50. I did it two years ago (race report here) with the stretch goal of breaking 8 hours and landing in the top 10 overall, but it was my first 50-miler ever. Some bad quad cramps and lack of nutrition caused me to sit down for almost 30 minutes wanting to cry. I ended up going 8:37 that year, and figured if I trained a little more, took in more nutrition, and didn't cramp or stop to cry, surely sub-8 could be mine!

This year, it was snowy and slushy, muddy and messy, thanks to 6 inches of snow on the Thursday before the Saturday race. Not just for the first 15 miles (the Appalachian Trail) but the following 26 miles of the crushed gravel towpath—so ...the first 41 miles.

I went slower than I wanted the whole day, partially because of the conditions, partially because it was “that time of month” (TMI? Sorry-not-sorry), and mostly because I was burnt out from a big year of ultra training and racing. I hired a coach for the first time since my Ironman pro days, and started consistently training in December 2017, but did not foresee getting burnt out by September. There was a 6-week window from September to mid-October where I didn’t train very much until it was !!!panic time!!! with a month to go. Unfortunately those 6 weeks should have been critical training weeks!

I didn’t hit any of my A, B, or C goals (which I did not adjust for the conditions or my decreased fitness) but still finished within 30 minutes of my 2016 time. It’s been a month since the race, and I was disgruntled for a little bit (there are earlier iterations of the race report that are pretty whiny and depressing), but I’m okay with it now.

Other than my time and pace goals, I made a huge list of process goals and pretty much nailed all of them: no catastrophic falls, no going out too fast on the towpath (haha! I couldn’t if I wanted to!), keep a steady pace, have fun and smile lots. And no sitting down and crying for 30 minutes!

While I didn't have the finishing time that I wanted, I had the race that I trained for (i.e. didn't train enough for), and most importantly, I think I've finally found a worthy adversary in my search for a new physical challenge post-Ironman life. Something hard enough that it gets under your skin and makes you want to go back! But not so hard that you have to quit your day job. 😉 And it's a tough enough race that "just finishing" is always a major accomplishment.

I also really enjoyed the team aspects of JFK this year. I ended up with an amazing crew: crew chief Ryan (we have now taken turns crew chief‘ing each other), the husband Kevin, and our friends from DC: Becci, Caitlin & Mo & Ivy (fun fact—Caitlin and Ivy were my crew in 2016, but Ivy was still in Caitlin’s belly at the time!).

It was really helpful and uplifting to see them every 1.5 hours or so and I really needed them to help me with some unexpected wardrobe and shoe changes. I didn’t think I was going to change shoes (and socks) at all—and at one point I was running so slow, I couldn’t stay warm enough and requested my tights to go over my shorts.

Speaking of team, my friend Maureen (“Mo”) from Team RWB tri camp was doing her first 50-miler and suggested we get a women’s team together to go after the women’s team title. JFK lets you race as both an individual and as a team, kind of like in cross country, except they tally the top 3 finishing times instead of finishing places.

Mo recruited her high school friend Amanda, who would also be running her first 50, and I reached out to my former teamTBB teammate Kate. I had not seen her since we both raced Ironman Wisconsin in 2010 (she got 4th, I got 8th) after we did training camp in Thailand together. She has had 2 kids since then and lives and trains in NYC—she was my dark horse for the win and did not disappoint!

The Team RWB Badass Woman Eagles ended up taking the women’s team win, which was an incredible way to end the season. (Kate had to leave early back to NYC.)

My friend Adam Popp also did his second JFK 50 and snagged a PR in these tougher conditions. We had previously met during the HAT 50k in 2017 when we learned we had many mutual friends through Walter Reed and Team RWB. (I’m still trying to figure out how to not come off as a creeper when coming across an amputee during a race.)

As the first above-knee amputee to run the race last year, he was also the guest speaker at the Legends’ Dinner the night before the race. It was great to hear his story but even better was that we were able to hassle each other about our training leading up to JFK (we haven’t raced the same event since HAT 2017). I was worried about how he would do on the AT section but once he got on the towpath, we both ran the same towpath split! He ran the final road section faster than I did and ended up finishing right behind me.

All-in-all, a very enjoyable weekend with great friends and of course November is always my favorite—JFK goes right into Thanksgiving and my birthday. It’s the best!

I am now enjoying my much-deserved off-season. I did learn lots from this race and more so the entire race season, and will do a 2018 recap soon...but don’t hold your breath!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

2018: the year of WINNING

It’s practically the end of Q1 (first quarter of the year) and the second day of spring. And it’s a snow day, which is always the best time for a blog update! While it can be argued that blogging seems dead, what with the proliferation of other forms of more instant updates (FB, instagram etc), and I haven’t even updated this very blog since last summer, a snow day seems as good a time as any.

So now with the obligatory “sorry I haven’t updated in forever” blog apology out of the way, how about a self-indulgent update? Last August was my last blog update  and I was aiming to cram in 15 weeks of training to go after the JFK 50 again, since I had such a wonderful time in 2016. I ran lots during my California vacation, then came back home to real life, and it was just not meant to be.

I couldn’t get myself to train enough (my goal of 5 runs per week) in order to perform as well as I believe myself capable of being, and made the wise decision to pretty much call it a year. The Year of the Rooster (my Chinese zodiac sign) and my 36th birthday came and went. After the last 7 years of alternating sitting on my butt and then trying to cram in training with mediocre results, I was ready to change. Eventually you get tired of your own excuses, and I knew that I needed to get in good consistent training. I was tired of being just like this song in my favorite TV show:

In every race I’ve done in the last several years, I feel like I go into them undertrained and underprepared, do okay but not great, and make the excuse “well anyone who beat me obviously trained more than I did” and “I could do great...if I really wanted to”. Whoop dee freakin’ do!

I didn’t like the feeling of half-assing any more so I interviewed for the SWAP Adventure TeamWe started in November and I’ve successfully reincorporated training back into my daily life. 5-6 run days per week! Through the bitter cold winter! I haven’t trained through an East Coast winter since my first year here, 7 years ago!

Speaking of goals, I did make three 2018 resolution/goal things.
1. Cook so much there are always leftovers.
2. Get out of work on time (6pm).
3. Trust the process! In running and in life.
I even threw in a bonus one—Put things away. Less clutter!

I have been doing very well in all of the above, I am proud to say! Running seems to be the keystone habit in getting back to being my overachiever self.

It has also been very neat watching winners in all different sports:

January, we went to the Tulsa Shootout (dirt race cars) and hung out with Chris Bell’s team. It was pretty amazing to see him to win the final feature race of the night!

February, my husband’s beloved Philadelphia Eagles won their first Super Bowl.

Early March, I lost many hours of sleep watching the Winter Olympics.

Last weekend I volunteered at the local Caesar Rodney half marathon and got to watch the winners come through.

I may not understand all the aspects of different sports, but I understand having a passion for something, working hard, and the glory and ecstasy of achieving your goals.

So far in 2018, with consistent training, I’ve been able to finish top 5 in the overall women’s field in every event.
PHUNT 25k: 5th woman
Hearts for Heroes 5k: winner!
Naked Bavarian 20-miler: 4th woman
Beau Biden 10k: 3rd woman

This weekend is the HAT 50k, and the big one is next month, the North Face 50-miler in DC. Some bloggers choose a special “word for the year”, and I think mine for 2018 is WINNING. Winning is not necessarily 1st place (though it sure is nice!) but being the best I know I can be. And winning at life, which consists of many other things!