Monday, January 7, 2019

2018 Running Recap!

Yes guys, I actually went for it last year and executed--a whole year focusing on “just one thing” and trying to get decently good at it: trail ultramarathons! As shown dominating my Instagram top 9 in 2018...

...and finally tallying up all the races and places I did below. Turned out I did 2 each of the “big ones”: marathon-, 50k-, and 50-mile distances, with a sprinkling of shorter distances down to the 5k. It was also, unintentionally, the first time in 18 years that I did not do a single triathlon the whole year. (See mishap further down below.)

So how did the year of WINNING go???

I had some solid results with overall women’s podium placings in many, and a couple wins (but only in tiny local 5k’s*); the results below are my rankings in the overall women’s fields:
  • Jan. PHUNT 25k: 5th
  • Feb. Hearts for Heroes 5k: 1st
  • Mar. Naked Bavarian 20-miler: 4th
    • Beau Biden Trail 10k: 3rd
    • HAT 50k: 8th
    • Downhill Easter 5k: 4th
  • Apr. Red, White & Blue 5k: 1st
    • North Face DC 50-miler: 3rd
  • May. 😴
  • Jun. Night Train 50k: 2nd woman, 3rd overall! πŸ’ͺ choo choo! πŸš‚
  • Jul. Cayuga Trails Marathon: 3rd
  • Aug. PT & rehab & many miles
  • Sep. Bottle & Cork 10-miler: 4th
  • Oct. Ryan’s 100-miler: crew & pacer
    • Marine Corps Marathon: 359th πŸ˜‚
  • Nov. JFK 50-miler: 28th woman and 1st women’s team! πŸ†
  • Dec. 😴
I learned and re-learned some things. Okay, here are 10 things:

1. I still race very well in the heat. The Night Train 50k may have been my best race of the year, which was a pleasant surprise as it was a very last-minute addition to the race schedule. I was coming off my plantar/Achilles issue that had flared up before and after North Face but had a very solid month of training in June. (Also, looking back at the crazy list of races, 4 races from 5k to 50k in March was really dumb!) The race was completely flat, on crushed gravel, very hot and humid, and longer than just the average training run. I was holding paces in the low 8's despite the heat and honestly very stunned to see NOBODY for HOURS after hitting the halfway point. Also, beating all the boys except the 1st guy? It was reminiscent of my more dominant days racing in South Korea.

2. I am still the klutzy runner of my high school years. Some people laugh that my top goal for trail races is always "no catastrophic falls". What people don't realize (and even I forget most of the time) is that I am not super coordinated. This is how I ended up being a runner and not say, a gymnast or soccer player or basketball player. Or you know, the typical Asian badminton or tennis player. As a high school track runner, I really wanted to run the hurdles, but my coach kept me in distance as I had tripped on a (very high!) speed bump (that came out of nowhere!) during cross country season my freshman year. My older sister doesn’t ever let me forget.

When I first got into trail running a couple years ago, I would always trip or stumble at least a couple of times. Some people say I shuffle my feet too much. (I have probably always run this way, but training under Coach Sutto really fine-tuned my "bombproof Ironman shuffle" to be a faster shuffle.) I now trip, stumble, or fall significantly less to the point where I forget how klutzy I used to be...or can still be. That is, until the Cayuga Trails Marathon, which has all these stone stairs built through the GORGES waterfalls in Ithaca.

Of course, I didn't trip on the stairs, it was a flat section around mile 5, which was so unexpected that I instinctively threw my right arm out to break my fall which we would later learn resulted in a huge bone bruise and a partial tear of my supraspinatus tendon (part of the rotator cuff). I was just super annoyed at myself because I was running in 2nd place at the time, and got passed when I went down. I spent August in physical therapy for my shoulder--the orthopedic team, chiropractor, and physical therapists all asked if I still finished the race. WHAT?! It hurt like a bitch and I couldn't swing my arm for a couple miles, but it never occurred to me to pull out 5 miles into a marathon.

Unfortunately, this was one of the reasons I ended my 18-year triathlon streak, as swimming was on the list of questionable activities (as was donning or doffing a sports bra). I had done my first triathlon at the age of 18 in the year 2000, and did anything from 1 sprint triathlon to 8 Ironman triathlons each year since then, so there was something symmetrical about starting the streak at age 18 and ending it 18 years later.

3. I need to respect the marathon more. I would consider the Cayuga Trails Marathon much more difficult than an average road marathon, so let's talk about MCM. I did the Marine Corps Marathon for the first time, which was used as a build-up/training race for JFK 50 (3 weeks) later even though it is a mostly flat road marathon. MCM was right after my September/October training slump and burn-out, but I felt I could still easily BQ it (3:35) as a training run, as I have run a 3:25 for a marathon within the last 3 years on sub-par training (with walk breaks when I died at the end). This was also on the heels of a massive training weekend, so I went into it extremely untapered (the 6-day taper did not work!) and had amazing positive splits. I may have been able to push through (missed the BQ by 7 minutes) but I just did not have the mental tenacity to keep pushing myself to run and preferred to walk and pet dogs in the final miles. (Keep pushing through pain or stop and pet dogs? I am so often faced with this conundrum.)

4. 50-milers are still no joke, and they need to be trained for adequately. Not sure I will try doing more than 1 per year moving forward. Initially I had planned to do 3x 50-milers in 2018: North Face DC, the Cayuga 50 (also 50-mile nationals), and then JFK. I did not know enough and didn’t have the best guidance for how to structure the year. I thought to get good at running 50-milers, just run a bunch of 50-milers, right? I stepped down to the Cayuga Trails Marathon after getting the slap in the face I needed after North Face to remind me that 50-milers are still very hard. Turned out, it was also difficult to maintain motivation for nearly 12 months focusing on the 50-mile distance. But now I have a better idea of how I would like to structure a year moving forward.

5. I still have no desire to do a 100-miler, but will happily pace Ryan for another one. Within reason. (Not Eastern States.) It was a neat experience crewing and pacing Ryan for his first 100-miler attempt. Even though we fell short, I was so impressed with how he did, and we both learned a ton in the process. I'm pretty sure the next attempt will be a successful one! Rule #1: don't trust what the runner says after mile 50.

6. I may be my own best coach. Am I uncoachable? I wanted to go all-in for 2018 and hired a coach, because I'm getting older and felt like my best years may be numbered (or not, as my local nemesis the 70-year-old Gene Dykes would have us all believe). But post-TBB I had always wondered if I could still be coached after being coached by one of the best ever (a sentiment echoed by a number of my former teammates). While it was great at first, I think it succeeded more for the accountability and my previous lack of self-motivation.

By September, I felt burnt out from 10 months of 99% run training. I wasn't mixing it up with the swimming and cycling of my previous 18 years that had kept me relatively injury-free (and let's be honest, happier). On the coaching front, I didn't feel like some of my legitimate concerns were being listened to, or that just being positive and telling myself I was perfect was going to solve them. I know enough about training programs and philosophies to coach myself, and had been fairly successful previously, but did not always have the self-motivation, self-confidence, or accountability to execute plans I had written for myself.

7. My own race reports are still fun to read. I did not blog very much in 2018, because it does seem rather self-indulgent with all the other me-me-me-me social MEEEEdias out there these days, but I got a lot of joy going back to some of my very old blogs (the Ironman race reports from the TBB blog circa 2009-2010) where I found my "old self" a great source of inspiration. That person was very resilient and mentally tough, with a ridiculous amount of self-belief, and entertaining too, and hey, they were a good reminder that that person was I did not blog very much this year, but did small recaps on my Instagram, and would email my coach longer recaps. Moving forward, I'll probably get back to race reports for the bigger races, as I enjoy reading them later. (Also, I am such a dork that I remember even writing up race reports in my diary when I was a teenage cross country runner in high school. So, this is just a thing I do, like trip over speed bumps.)

8. I still got it! The fun part of the year was the feeling of being within striking distance of the win or the podium at many of the races this year. I feel like a has-been in the world of elite triathlon, which I'm okay with, because I don't have the time or desire to get back to the level of racing I once performed at. SO, this was like trying a new sport and seeing how good I get at it. I started off the year with winter training being very strong before a foot/heel issue cut into my prep for North Face. I felt very good the first 2/3rds of North Face and for a while even felt I could pull off the win. It's been a very long time since I have had that feeling at race bigger than the neighborhood 5k!

It felt like a very successful year, even though I still feel like I bombed JFK. It sucks to end a great year on a sub-par race, because it taints your perspective on how the rest of the year went. But hey, we still won the team trophy!

9. 14-16 week build-ups may be best. (Apparently I can also get into pretty good shape on 5 consistent weeks of training.) I went through my mileage logs for Strava in 2018 and it seemed that I would do great as far as staying healthy and motivated for 14-16 weeks before getting injured, or sick, or burnt out. This is good information for me moving forward in coaching myself.

10. Maybe I am not suited for running very long distances on extremely uneven ground. Other than the klutz factor, I have a very prominent accessory navicular bone in my right foot. When I was in grad school for prosthetics & orthotics, it was very fun *sarcasm* for my lab partners when we took turns casting each other's legs for custom molded AFO's (plastic ankle braces) because I would make them cast my right ankle. Something about this dumb extra bone on the side of my foot seems to throw off my biomechanics when running on uneven ground (you know, trails) as the foot issues get aggravated when I train and race too much on trails. I raced 3 trail races in March and had increased my training on the trails as well, and my foot did not seem to hold up very well. People actually get surgery on their foot for this issue (with mixed results) and I actually had considered it for a very brief moment before I threw it in the bad ideas trash can. A better idea? Avoid doing too many races that would aggravate your weird foot thing. Problem solved! JFK isn't to bad because it's really only the first 15 miles that are through the Appalachian Trail (and even then, it's maybe 11 miles that are on uneven trail terrain).

***BONUS*** My Kevin did his first marathon, the Tough Ruck in Boston back in April, earning his first Boston Marathon medal before I ever have. I'm a very proud wife, and impressed that he has decided to go back for a PR in 2019! To follow his journey and help him raise money for the Military Friends Foundation, see his Tough Ruck 2.0 page here.

*P.S. Awards for winning tiny local 5k's are the best: I won a dozen Duck Donuts from one, and a $25 Amazon gift card from the other. Until next time, thanks for reading!

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