Thursday, October 31, 2013

NYC Marathon Preview with Ali Hatfield

Some of you might remember Ali from a feature I did on her last year. If you haven't read it, I suggest you do (she's pretty awesome). Ali is running in the New York City Marathon this weekend and kindly took some time to answer a few questions for me about her upcoming run.   

Q: You were supposed to run NYCM last year, but then Sandy hit. What was it like to put in all the preparation for such a big race only to learn it wasn’t going to happen?
Ali Hatfield (AH): The 2012 race was such a mix of emotions for me. I was sad for the victims of the hurricane, and so torn as to whether I wanted to do the race with everything going on. After I decided to go to NYC, and the race was canceled, I was pretty upset. I immediately signed up for the Dallas Marathon the following month with the hope I could use my current fitness level there and reach my goal.

Q: What did you end up doing in NYC that weekend?
AH: We ended up having the best weekend in NYC! We went to see a show, explored the city, met some of my blog friends, and learned different ways to help out the Sandy victims. One of my favorite memories from the weekend was running in Central Park with a slew of other runners that were supposed to run that day too. The atmosphere was one of happiness and determination. The thing I love most about being a runner and about other runners is that we don’t give up and we don’t give in. We were supposed to run our marathon that day, and you bet we still ran!

Q: I remember how excited I was to run NYCM in 2010. Just waiting those few months after learning I got in was so hard! You’ve had to wait almost 2 years for this moment. What are your emotions going into the race weekend?
AH: This race is extremely emotional for me! I have never been so excited for a marathon than I am for NYC 2013. After the cancellation in 2012, and the Boston Marathon bombings this year, I really feel like this race will be such a celebration for what we have all overcome. I feel so thankful that I am able to run this race.

Q: How has your training gone? Any goals?
AH: Training has been fantastic this year. To be honest, I have never had a better training than I have this year. I just feel “on”. So in tuned to my body, and so motivated to conquer this thing!!!!  I have SO many goals for NYCM. Where to start...first goal is to finish (which is always my goal when you run 26.2 - respect that distance!). Second goal is a PR, which is anything under 3:32. Third goal is 3:25!!

Q: Running along First Ave in Manhattan was certainly the highlight for me when I ran. Is there a particularly section of the course you look forward to running along?
AH: Honestly I am excited for the entire thing. I want to soak it all in and enjoy every step. The last couple weeks I have really been envisioning the finish line and crossing it with the amazing spectators cheering loud and proud!!

Q: Any of your (Twitter) friends running? Gonna get the chance to meet up with anyone?
AH: I have so many friends running, it is awesome!! We are planning a tweet up at 10am on Saturday at the Eatery. Join us!!

Be sure to follow Ali on Twitter, @AliHatfield. Also, check out her blog, Miles With Style.


Update: Ali crushed it at NYC! Read all about her race weekend here. Congrats Ali!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Race Recap: Ragnar Trail Relay Arizona w/ Team Nuun

This past weekend I got the chance to run with Team Nuun at the Ragnar Trail Relay at McDowell Mountain Park, which is just northeast of Phoenix. In the process, I got to meet some awesome runners, bust out some miles on some of the most picturesque trails I've ever been on, and share my love of Nuun with everyone that stopped by our tent!

Nuun Tent
The race began at 12pm on Friday and went through the night and late into the next day. Teams of 4 (ultra-teams) or 8 runners set off to complete the 132 mile trek. Each teams predicted pace determined their starting time, so while the race started at noon, my team didn't set off till 4pm. Each runner was required to run each of the 3 legs. Each leg was a different distance and each had their own challenges. The green leg was 4.6 miles, the yellow was 4.3, and the red was 7.6...for a total of 16.5 miles per runner. The order in which you ran your legs was determined by your team assignment. As runner 1, I ran my legs in the following order: green-red-yellow.

The sun was hanging low in the west and the temperatures had begun to cool when I set off on the green loop. The leg very enjoyable and after standing around all day waiting for the start, it felt good to be running. The trails we ran on were primary used for mountain biking, so they were fairly wide and well groomed. While the elevation gain on each lap wasn't huge, the rolling nature of the trails kept you on your toes. The Ragnar crew did an excellent job marking the trails, which let me focus more on running and less about going the wrong way. Garmin Track - Green Loop

As I came into the transition area, I handed off our timing bib to Megan, who was running the 2nd leg. Megan is a member of the Nuun staff who, among other things, was responsible for managing the Nuun tent during the event. She also was the one that organized our team. Megan works closely with the Ragnar staff and attends many of their races throughout the year to run the Nuun tent as well as participate in some of the races. Needless to say, her hard work was very much appreciated by not only our teammates and I, but all the race participants as well. I can't tell you how many times I heard a runner tell her throughout the race weekend how much Nuun had saved them.

Day turned to night, but I still had a few hours to kill before my next leg. A pasta dinner was provided by Ragnar and I took full advantage of it. I ate a couple hours before my leg so it had some time to digest. The beer garden had also opened and as tempting as it was to grab a cold one, I stuck with my water and Nuun. Beer could wait until the finish.

Headlamp donned, I set off for my second leg around 10:30. This was by far my favorite leg. Running under a blanket of stars and a full moon in the Arizona desert was absolutely amazing. The first half of the leg was uphill, but the second half was all downhill and my legs responded with some quicker miles. I was feeling awesome and was a little bummed when I completed my leg, as I wouldn't of minded running a couple more miles in such a peaceful place. Garmin Track - Red Loop

After my leg, I chatted with a couple of my teammates, Sean and Kristina, near the bonfire the Ragnar crew built. Sean was runner 8, so he was the one that exchanged the bib with me when he would finish his legs. We discussed how Kristina would come wake me up in the morning when it was my turn to run. They then headed off to their tent for some shuteye. I stuck around the bonfire for a little while longer before heading to my tent to get some sleep as well.
I wasn't expecting to sleep much during the night, but as soon as put my head down, I was out until I heard Kristina calling my name to tell me Sean was on course. I collected my running gear and performed some minor acrobats to climb over my teammates, Caitlin and Sarah, that were sharing the tent with me. I was surprised to find it was still dark out. I was expecting to run my third leg at sunrise, but we were running much faster than expected.

Caitlin, me, and Sarah
I headed down to the transition and it wasn't long before Sean came flying in. I clipped on our timing bib, flipped on my headlamp, and off I went on my final leg. As soon as I started running, I knew it wasn't going to be a fast one for me. My legs felt heavy and no matter how hard I tired to push, my legs politely said, "Uh, hell no." Apparently being on my feet for the better part of a day and not sleeping much had finally caught up to me. As I neared the completion of my leg, I was treated to a beautiful horizon as dawn crawled out of bed. The sun, still hidden behind the dark silhouettes of the desert mountains, was simply breathtaking. As I entered the transition one last time, Megan was there waiting for me. While my running duties where over, we still had 7 more legs to complete. Garmin Track - Yellow Loop

I spent most the morning helping out at the Nuun tent and hanging with my teammates. I ordered a breakfast burrito from a food truck and drank copious amounts of coffee. It didn't take long for it heat up and judging by the looks on some runners faces, I was glad I didn't have to run anymore.

Our team continued to crush it on the course and before I knew it, Sean was preparing for his and our team's final leg. Shortly before setting off, Sean removed his running shorts to reveal some rather stylish Superman undies, complete with a cape. He was also wearing Superman socks (which also had capes). He would go on later to say, "You can't take running too seriously." I can't agree more. My teammates and I awaited his arrival and when he came into view, we cheered loudly and joined him to run across the finish line together. It was an awesome way to end an amazing race.

Afterwards, we all received our finisher medals and posed for a team photo in front of the Ragnar truck. Everyone did an absolutely stellar job! We completed the 132 mile course in under 21 hours! This was my first Ragnar event and I had a blast. Running is all about camaraderie and there was certainly plenty of this within our team. I was honored to be part of such a fun group and I look forward to possibility of running with them again!
Team Nuun
Me, Megan, Caitlin, Nicole, Tomas, Sarah, Sean, and Kristina

Thursday, October 17, 2013

So you had a bad race?

It happens. Even when we are well trained, we sometimes have a bad race. As we notch up finish after finish, our goals eventually change. Somewhere along the way "just finishing" is no longer good enough. We want to better our times. Run stronger races. Typically, it's what motivates us to train and race that distance again. We always know we could do just that little bit better.

In a perfect world, we would PR every time we raced. But, when we push our limits, we knowingly put ourselves at risk. Risk of not PRing. Risk of having a race that goes horribly wrong. Risk of questioning why the heck we are even doing this.

I recently ran in a marathon that I thought I was going to die in.  And, as I began to crash, I grew increasingly frustrated. I was well trained, been running what I thought was a smart race, and eating and drinking plenty. Yet, my body was starting to shutdown.

Eventually, I did finish. But, rather than feeling elated that I had just finished a freaking marathon, I was disappointed.

Later, I got to thinking, "was I really all that disappointed?" Sure, it sucked that I didn't have a good race, but I DID finish and I needed to be proud of that. Some people aren't afforded the same things I selfishly take for granted. I have my health, a supportive family and great friends. I've discovered that putting one foot in other a little faster than walking is a hell of a lot of fun.

Bottom line, good or bad race, I'm just grateful to be able to do something I love. I never know when my last stride will be, so I need to live it up!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Race Recap: Wineglass Marathon

Marathon banner on the light posts in Corning
After having rough go at The North Face ECS Georgia marathon last week, I was looking forward to Wineglass. A few months earlier my friend Janine asked me if I wanted to join her. I had heard good things about this race, so it didn't take much convincing to get me to sign up.

Situated in the finger lakes region of New York, the Wineglass Marathon is a point-to-point run (my personal favorite) starting in Bath and finishing in the quaint town of Corning. With a net downhill, the course lends itself to be fast.

Janine and I arrived on Saturday afternoon and went straight to expo, which was held at the YMCA in Corning. After grabbing our bibs, we were directed to downtown Corning to pickup our wine glasses and (celebratory) champagne. The trees had already begun to change to fall and the streets and sidewalks were full of golden leaves. While the race had a fall look, it had a summer feel. Daytime temperatures reached the high 70s (maybe even the low 80s) all weekend.

Downtown Corning
Janine and I stayed at a bed and breakfast not too far from Corning. This was Janine's first time staying at one and it did not disappoint. The owners had the cutest terrier (Chloe) at the house and being the dog lovers Janine and I are, it was nice to have a little friend to play with.

Rufus Tanner B&B
Early to bed, early to rise. We were up at 5 and out the door by 6. Parking was abundant in Corning and we got to the shuttle buses to the start line with plenty of time to spare. After a 25 minute bus ride, we arrived at the start line in Bath. Bag drop was a breeze and there were plenty of porta-pots, so the lines weren't too long.

The race started right on time at 8. While I had no time goal, Janine was gunning for a PR. Anything under a 3:47 would do it for her. We started off behind the 3:45 pacers. I had no intentions of running that fast, so I let Janine go and I settled into a comfortable pace. I opted to run without my Garmin. Better to let the body tell you what it wants rather than having a watch bark at ya.

It was raining ever so slightly at the beginning of the race and there was a nice chill in the air, but it wouldn't last long. The first few miles went through the streets of Bath. From about mile 5 until the halfway mark, the course went through the beautiful countryside of New York. If you're use to races where people are cheering and hollering the whole time, you're in for a surprise. Besides the cheers from the volunteers at the aid stations and the occasional car horn, it was just you, the road, and the sound of feet pounding the pavement. Just the way I like it. :)

I made it to the halfway point in 1:55 and I was feeling good. The rain was long gone and the sun was trying hard to stick its head through the clouds. Hydration was definitely important during the race and hats off the the Wineglass race crew...they had aid stations set up about ever two miles.

The course was absolutely gorgeous, especially the middle miles. The hills surrounding the course were covered in a tri-color blanket of leaves. Every now and again, you would run past a pasture of horses and cows. The scenery reminded me a lot of the countryside near the town I grew-up in in Indiana.

I picked up my pace from miles 13 to 20 and in hindsight, it probably wasn't a good idea. I was certainly feeling it in my legs and I had to ease off for the last 6 miles. Around mile 24 I saw Janine ahead of me and my heart sank. I wasn't running a sub-3:47 time, so I knew Janine was in a bit of trouble. When I caught up to her, she told me she was in a lot of pain. I tried to my best to find the words that would comfort her, but she was having a rough time. Nonetheless, she powered through it like a champ and we crossed the line together in 3:54:26! While it wasn't the time she was hoping for, it was still damn good!

The Wineglass Marathon was a great event from start to finish. Very well organized and great on-course aid. Highly recommend it!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Runner's Spotlight: Meet Anne Marie

My next featured runner is a fellow running club friend. Anne Marie is coming off a summer injury and is ready to get back into her normal training routine. So ready, in fact, that she decided to undertake a huge endeavor, train for an Ironman! Anne Marie is fun and full of energy and I was excited when she took some time to answer a few questions for me. Runners, meet Anne Marie!

When did you start running and why?
Anne Marie: When I started college (Fall 2005), I could not run a mile and started jogging because I was petrified of gaining any additional weight (I was much heavier when this journey began). A hip flexor injury (never underestimate the power of stretching) kept me from running away with the running addiction. I jogged casually on and off over the years, and completed my first 5k in November of 2010. January 2011, I signed up and began training for my 1st half marathon. The running addiction truly took hold with my first 13.1 on Memorial Day weekend 2011. That summer I tackled a sprint triathlon. That fall I ran my second half marathon and started law school. Few things can balance the mental intensity of the first year of law school, and signing up for my first marathon seemed like the natural progression of my running career. I trained with the DC Road Runners and successfully ran my heart out at the Rock n Roll Marathon, Washington DC March 2012. Since then, I have taken a minute per mile off my marathon pace, completed 4 marathons, one of which I trained for with my better half (who proposed the day after our first 20 miler together), and shaved a full 7 minutes off my 5k time. Running is the first time I ever felt physically strong and I love it.

You recently signed up for an Ironman (awesome sauce!)...where/when is it? Why did you decide to sign up for such a huge undertaking?
AM: On June 29th, 2014 (my mom’s 60th birthday!) I will attempt the 140.6 journey in Coeur D’Alene, Idaho. I did my first sprint triathlon the weekend before law school orientation (my first gap year after college before law school I lived in France and rode my bike everywhere, including the local pool where I swam laps 3x/week... a triathlon was the product of fortuitous circumstances) and my dream was to complete an Ironman at the end of law school. After falling in love with running, and making some of the most amazing friendships imaginable on the trails, I tabled my iron-dreams and focused on getting fast. This was a great plan… until I overdid it and wound up in the doctor’s office with excruciating pain five days before my wedding. Fortunately, my favorite people from all over the world surrounded me and I was marrying my best friend, so I was definitely able to keep the running injury in perspective. I was cleared to swim and bike to my heart’s desire. And… well… it was really fun! Don’t get me wrong, I missed running, but the wind whipping on my face while biking was exhilarating, and I love how swimming makes me feel stretched out and tired all over. During a Friday yoga class, I was hit with this complete clarity of “I WANT TO DO AN IRONMAN.” I walked home, proclaimed my desire, and my better half asked that I prepare a powerpoint, taking into consideration all of the training/time/finances/physical challenges. After an epic powerpoint, he came home with flowers and full endorsement of the 140.6, Idaho, here we come!

Ironman aside, what are your current running goals?
AM: My #1 goal is to rebuild my base. Pre-injury, I was happily running 45 miles/week. My first week back on the roads, I am looking at max 20 miles for the week… it’s a process. My other goals include:
  • Sub 4 hour marathon (I ran 4:00:42 at Rock n Roll USA March 2013)
  • Sub 25 minute 5k (I ran 25:43 two weeks before the wedding in August)
  • Race every month!
Do you have a weirdest/funniest running moment you'd like to share?
AM: If I had to choose one, I would pick our final long run in Paris summer 2012 (I was working in French labor and employment law, while the better half “worked on his Ph.D. stuff” and traveled around). We had 18 miles on the schedule for Marine Corps training, we drank a bit too much wine on Friday night, and it was already pretty warm when we finally laced up and headed out the door Saturday morning. Our plan was VERSAILLES, which was 14 miles from our apartment. My better half planned the route, which required us to do a handful of loops in Paris (jardin de luxemborg, jardin des tuileries, champ de mars) before heading straight for Versailles. When we finally made our way to the edge of the city, we learned a very sad feature of “map my run” in Europe – it cannot tell the difference between freeways and streets with sidewalks. Yup. The “Route de Versailles” on-ramp was not exactly what we were hoping for. A few laughs ensued, we bought extra water from an epicerie, and embarked on a crazy back-road journey OVER the hills (read MOUNTAINS) between Paris and Versailles. We asked a bagillion people for directions to Versailles, and they would always exclaim “a pied?!” (by foot?!). Yes. Yes. By foot. It was definitely a make or break moment in our relationship, we bought clementines for fuel, we laughed because if we didn’t we would have cried, and I ran my fastest mile of the run for our last mile! It was epic. We proceeded to a grocery store for picnic supplies, and plopped down in front of the castle, where my charming better half claims is the first place he knew he loved me five years prior. It was absolutely perfect, in a messy, confusing, real life sort of way. We did feel terrible for the people around us on the train back to the city…

Where is your favorite place to run in DC?
AM: My all time favorite is DC Road Runners’ Tuesday Night Run Bridge to Bridge – starting at Iwo Jima, crossing Memorial Bridge, touching base with Lincoln/WWII/Washington (depending on desired distance), heading down the waterfront towards Georgetown, and back across Key Bridge.

Who is the biggest motivator in your life?  
AM: My mom. She is the strongest most courageous person I have ever met, and will likely spend her 60th birthday cheering in Idaho!

What is your favorite quote?
AM: Dumbledore - "And now Harry, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure." 

If you could only give one piece of running advice to someone new to running, what would it be?
AM: It gets better, keep going!

When is your next race?
AM: Waterman’s Sprint Triathlon – Sunday, October 13th, followed by a metric century bike ride (100k) on Saturday, October 19th.

Anything else we should know about you?
AM: Read my blog: Sweat In The City
Follow me on Twitter: @2sweatinthecity

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly...a race recap. The North Face ECS Marathon - Pine Mountain

The Good
1) Unbelievably awesome/beautiful course in southern Georgia. The trail was technical as hell with plenty of roots and rocks just begging to grab your toes and send you flying!
2) Awesome race volunteers. Special shout out to the Pine Mountain Trail Association for prepping the trails for us!
3) Great race organization! My thanks to The North Face ECS staff for all their hard work, especially race director Nick Moore.
4) Picture perfect weather on race day.
5) Awesome runners village.
6) Great post race meal.
7) My friend, Cathy, finished 3rd overall in the women's marathon!!!!!
8) Partnered with The North Face to be one of their bloggers for the event.
9) Ran a marathon in my 15th different state. (Quest for all 50)
10) Finished my 34th marathon.
Always run with my dad's initials on me. 34 is my family's lucky number.
The Bad
1) Tripped at mile 2.
2) Got stung by a yellow jacket at mile 4. (Little bastard hurt)
3) Rolled my right ankle (thankfully not bad) one too many times.
4) Took a wrong turn at mile 15. (Doh!)

The Ugly
1) Ran out of water in my pack before reaching the 3rd aid station at mile 17. (I should of refilled at the 2nd aid station, but I thought I had enough)
2) Got stomach cramps at mile 15.
3) My race turned into more a hike after mile 21.
4) Stomach cramps migrated to my back.
5) Unable to take full breaths from mile 22 to the end. (Thanks to my horrible cramps)
6) Found a nice rock to sit on at mile 24.
7) Made friends with the medics at the mile 25 aid station. (Thanks for your help, Diana!)
8) Finished in 6 hours, 27 minutes and 19 seconds. Long day!

Garmin Upload

Unfortunately, I didn't have the day I was hoping for. That's running. It happens. As one runner said, "Failure will only whet the runner's appetite for another attempt." Looking forward to ECS San Francisco in December!!!