Monday, March 14, 2011

What...A Weekend! Race Report(s): Shamrockin' Half Marathon & Spectator Report - Way Too Cool 50K

Where to start, where to START?!?  This past weekend was filled with racing...once again.  I know that I had informed all of you that I had planned on running my first 50K this weekend at the Way Too Cool 50K, as my friend Stacey had offered to let me use her bib.  I had emailed the race director a few weeks ago and she informed that bib swapping was not ok, and if either of us tried anything funny, we would BOTH be BANNED from any future races.  Well, with that piece of information, we both thought it wise to ditch that idea and for me to find a new 50K of my own.  Being banned from the #1 50K in the country was NOT something either of us wanted, and really, in the end, I wanted my name to be on the official finisher's list, not my friend's.  Luckily, next weekend is the Brazen Mt. Diablo 50K challenge so I have signed up for this and am sooo excited to be apart of that race, as Brazen Racing holds a special place in my heart.

So, without further adu, my spectator's report from WTC on Saturday & my own race report from Sunday's Shamrockin' Half Marathon.  Grab yourself a drink, this might be long - sorry!!!

Even though I wasn't racing the 50K, I decided to still go and cheer on my buddy Punky for his first ever ultra trail run.  I was honored to be apart of his first 50K and be the support crew that is so essential to runners when they take on the awesome challenge of an ultra run.  Friday I headed up to Sacramento to stay with my family so that it would be an easier drive to the early start on Saturday morning.  I got to hang out with my favorite 8 year old nephew, get a run in, stuff my face with quesadilla's and make some tasty banana muffins for Saturday - a perfect way to start out a fun weekend.

I got to bed a little late on Friday night, and soon my alarm was going off at 4:30.  Punky and I made plans to have me drive him to the race, as it was easily predicted that he probably wouldn't be in any shape to drive home after the ultra.  So right on time, at 5:15 a.m. Punky was at my door step and we headed off into the dark morning to beautiful Cool, CA.  Yes, you read that right - the town was called Cool.  Just off highway 49 in gold country, it was the most perfect and beautiful setting for a fun, challenging race.  Punky seemed calm and collected, but he later informed me he was more like a duck sitting on top of the water, all calm, but below the surface his little feet and heart were going a mile a minute.  I am sure this is what everyone feels when they are on the brink of tackling 31 challenging miles. 

We arrived with plenty of time to check in and begin the process of gearing up for a 31 mile run.  The race officials did an awesome job in organizing everything.  The whole race area was decked out in fun frog theme decorations, including a giant 10 foot blown up frog that greeted you as you entered the parking area.  One thing I did notice: ultra runners are their own breed.  They just "look" & "act" different than your average road runner.  Their clothes are little more flashy, they are calm and collected looking forward to the day's challenge, and they consume lots of food and water while waiting for the race to start.  I also noticed, most every car had a sticker of some sort of past race on their bumpers or window, showing the world that they are inducted into the world of ultras.  Also, there were lots & lots & lots & lots of Subaru's - take from that what you like ;)
What...have I gotten myself into?!?

Pretty soon it was time to send Punky off to the starting line.  If you don't know Punky, he's kind-of a "celebrity" in the running world.  I have yet to attend a race with him where no less than 5 people come up and say "hey", either personally knowing him or having known him from his blog.  I guess I was in the presence of someone great, or at least someone who is good at personal P.R. ;)  The whole vibe at the start line of the beginning of the race was of excitement - but a different kind-of excitement than at the start of a road race.  Everyone had confidence, everyone had a smile on their face, and most everyone was ready with a kind word for their fellow ultra runner - not the typical game face that you can encounter in the start corrals of competitive road running.  I actually liked it a lot and made me excited for my very own experience into the ultra running world next week.  I snapped a few pics of Punky with his friend Rachel who was also tackling her first 50K and soon the gun went off and I said good bye to Punky.  I was a little sad for a second that I was on the spectator's side and not joining him, but soon enough I was filled with excitement for him - he was finally taking the challenge of becoming an ultra runner ;)

Waiting for the start - his friend Rachel is in the blue ;)
And...their off!!
My plan for the day was to hang out with the other spectator's, get a run in, and then when it got close to his predicted finish time, I would run out to the end of the race and try to meet him around mile 27 or 28 and pace him back to the finish.  I soon found out though, that I would have the opportunity to see him on a loop back at mile 8, so I gathered around the aid station and waited and cheered as fellow runners came in.  I think the first runner came in right around 50 mins - smokin' time!  And pretty soon I got to see Punky, looking strong!  I was so excited to see him, check in with him and send him on to the next 23 miles.  The good news was, he had a giant smile on his face and looked like he was enjoying the whole thing and soaking it all up.
Punky looking strong coming in at mile 8
After I saw Punky and sent him on his way, I headed back to my car to get my own run on.  Cool, CA is not very big, and it has the major highway 49 running right through it.  There isn't much to it, and if you blinked you would probably miss it as you drove by.  But none the less, I laced up and headed out to the road.  Within a half mile of running on a two-lane road though, it became clear to me (thanks to the many angry looks of driver's passing me) that running there was not an option, so I turned back a bit deflated.  How was I going to RUN?  A bit of panic set in as I walked back to my car.  I had 7 hours to kill and couldn't run?  What would I do?  But then, God sent me a sign, I looked into the "shopping" center right next to the race area that held the local liquor store, pizza parlor...AND there was a GYM!  WHOO HOO!  I was saved!  I ran right over to the gym and asked them if I could buy a day's membership and they more than happily said yes!  So, for $8 (the BEST $8 I have ever spent) they let me run on one of the TWO treadmills they had.  It was a cute little gym, nice and clean and even had a TV.  So for an hour I ran on the hamsterwheel, knocking out another 9 miles and looking out the window at the beautiful Golden hills of California and wishing Punky all the best for the day.

The "gym" that saved the day!
I didn't want to run too much though, as I knew I would still be pacing Punky later and...I had a little race of my own the next day.  So after 9 miles + that mile from earlier, I called it a day and went back to my car, ate some lunch and got ready to hit up the finish line and cheer Punky and some friends in.  Sam, the race director from Brazen was also out there running today and he was hoping for a sub 5.  With just over 4:45 into the race, and the winner's already crowned (the first male came in at 3:20!!) I began cheering for all the racers.  Cheering is so much fun, and not something I get to do very often since I'm usually the one racing.  It is such an honor to see someone cross the finish line of their first or 100th ultra.  My voice was almost horse from screaming and clapping my heart out - such an awesome and humbling experience.  Soon Sam came in looking strong and I got to pick his brain about what I should do with pacing Punky.  He told me the course was muddy and a bit difficult, but I should head out soon and begin looking for him.  I got my trail shoes on and began heading up the course backwards.  I stopped often because the course was single track and I didn't want to get in the way of the runners.  I also loved stopping to cheer, as they were all so grateful to finally see a smiling face after running 6+ hours.  It took me just under an hour to go 3 miles, and pretty soon I found Punky.  He was looking tired, but I do believe that is to be expected with you have been running that long.  He was just as happy to see me, too.  I won't share his story here, you'll have to cruise on over to his blog to share that experience with him, but let's just say it was good I came when I did.  It was fun to walk and run with him, keep him motivated and cheer him on to the finish of his first ultra - a true honor.  It took us about an hour to get back and when he got to the finish line it was so awesome to finally be able to call him an ultra runner ;)

Getting Punky to the finish!!
The race organizers did a fantastic job with everything at the finish line.  Everyone was helpful, encouraging and they even handed out little cupcakes with frogs made out of icing.  You can bet Punky ate a few of those!  After chatting with a few fellow runners and congratulating some peeps, we made our way home.  Punky did fantastic!!  He ran strong and smart and I am so lucky he did this BEFORE me, now I can pick his brain for my own this Saturday ;)  Congrats Punky for an awesome day on Saturday - you did amazing!  I'm so lucky (and honored) I got to share the experience with you and can't wait to see what's next!

We got home around 4:30 and I was lucky enough to stay with my sister once again.  She had a big dinner of spaghetti and salad waiting for me to carb load for my own race the next day.  My good friend Layla also came to stay with me and my sister as she was running the race the next day, too.  We got to chat and fill our bellies with pasta and soon enough it was time to hit the sack and prep for our own race.  Thanks (or no thanks) to day-light savings time, we were loosing an hour of sleep that night, and once again the alarm went off at 4:30 (I felt like I was in that movie Groundhog day!). 

When I got up that morning, I.was.exhausted.  I felt like garbage, and I questioned my sanity as I got ready.  I had no idea what the day would hold, I was really just hoping to get the monkey off my back that was qualifying for New York - sub 1:37.  When I thought about that time and the mile average I would need (7:23), I was a bit overwhelmed.  I had 89 miles on my legs for the week on race day, I had slept a mere 8 hours in the past two nights - total - and I was just mentally drained.  As Layla and I drove to the start, in the dark, I was really doubting what I could do.  We arrived with plenty of time to get Layla's bib and rest a bit in the car.  It was a bit chilly out so we stayed in the car as long as possible.  I may or may not have told Layla more than once, "I don't want to race today!"  "I think I'll just stay in the car and take a nap while you run, come and get me when you're done."  All week Punky and the hubbs kept telling me that I had the NY qualifier in the bag and that really I had sub 1:30 in me if I played my cards right.  I really attempted to not let either of them sway me emotionally, I just wanted to race well, get my sub 1:37 and ENJOY the day - anything else would be icing on the cake ;)
Layla & me before the start ;)

Finally we made our way over to the starting line and I stripped myself of my throw away clothes and stood in the cold in nothing more than a sports bra, shorts and some arm warmers.  It was chilly, but I could tell right away this was a smart move.  I had decided to also use a pacer for the race since they had a 1:30 on hand.  He was almost at the front, so I positioned myself between the front line of runners and the pacer.  I was feeling like maybe the 1:30 guy might be a bit fast but I would at least try a shot at staying with them in hopes of banking some time.  All of a sudden it was go time and the gun went off!

I began sprinting with the lead pack.  My legs felt awesome.  I started chasing a chic who was also in a sports bra and I had over heard her say in the starting corral she was shooting for a 1:25.  She became my target as we bobbed and weaved through the little bit of crowd that was ahead of us.  She was moving well, and when I looked down at my watch we were already running sub 7's.  This made me a bit nervous.  I have never strung together more than 7 or 8 sub 7's before, but in that instant I felt like going with it.  The 1:30 pacer was right behind me at this point too, so I just went with it.  At mile 1 my Garmin beeped a 6:41 mile and I panicked for a second.  Whoa!  TOO FAST!  Or at least that is what I was fearing.  I decided to try and scale it back and actually stick with the pacer from then on - I was really afraid of bonking too soon.  Mile 2 I tried to run with the pacer but my legs did not like holding back and when my Garmin beeped at mile 2 a 6:51 mile I knew I had more in me and I began to let go and let my legs take over.  Thankfully the girl in the sports bra was not too far ahead at this point and I began to chase her down once again.

By mile three I could tell my legs were feeling strong and I just went with it hoping for the best.  I finally caught and passed sports bra girl and never looked back.  I kept checking in with myself as I ran, hoping that I would know the signs to look for in case I started to bonk and would need to scale it back again.  But it never happened.  My breathing was in control, my kick felt great and my legs felt like they were on FIRE!  And so the miles kept going by and each one was faster or as fast as the last.  At mile 5, a spectator yelled at me that I was the 3rd female!  WOWZA!  How did that happen?  I didn't know I was running that well but it really lit a fire for me.  When I reached mile six in 40:15 I knew something awesome was happening and I just let it take me away.

Along this point also, a shorter chic came up and started drafting off of me.  I could hear the clap of her foot steps behind me, matching my every stride each time I pushed a little more.  It was so annoying.  I even turned my music up but I could still "feel" her on me.  Any time we had a hill, she would over take me, but I would recover quicker and take her over again.  It continued on like this for the whole race and there were quite a few hills and bridges we would cross.  She was playing the game well.  I attempted really hard to zone her out, but she just kept on me.  I also gu'ed around mile 6 or 7 - without water, but I never wanted to stop long enough to grab a cup and attempt to get it down.  I was running well and I finally felt the gu kick in and just kept at it.

I couldn't believe how well I was running, and for the first time, in such a large race, I had spectator's cheering for me and reminding me how close I was to the front.  Around mile 10 one woman spectator told me the second female was only a few seconds ahead of me and to go get her!  Again, it was just the fire I needed and my tenth mile was 6:33!  Every time though, that I would push and kick that short chic would match me.  It became apparent she was waiting to take me over - she knew my kick and could respond.  She knew what my weakness was now and it was now just a matter of time before she would attempt to capitalize on it.  I had to stay strong though, because I was feeling emotions I have never felt before.  I was in the lead pack at a pretty major race.  I wanted to cry, I wanted to run faster, I wanted to shout to the world how awesome I was feeling.  But I had to keep my emotions in check as the race was still unfolding.

Finally, with about 1.5 miles left, we hit the final bridge - and it was a rather large one.  This time the chic over took me quick and found her own kick and took off.  I tried to recover quickly but she just took off.  She found my weakness, let me do all the work for the race and finally made her move.  I tried to respond but I couldn't.  My legs were moving as fast as they could and I didn't want to get out of breath in case she herself bonked and I had a chance to take 3rd back.  But...she didn't.  She ran strong.  She was so close I felt I could reach out and touch her.  And each time I responded she found another gear and pulled away.  The final 3/4 mile was around the baseball stadium we started at.  As we rounded around I heard them say the first female had just crossed the finish line and I do believe that lit a fire for all of us.  I attempted to run faster but the parking lot and area they had us running on was all torn up concrete.  It was hard to find my footing.  At this point I was just holding on for dear life.  The finish of the race is right inside the baseball stadium and as I entered chasing that chic I saw woman #2 cross.  I put my head down and ran, seeing the clock read 1:27:xx.  I finally crossed the finish line in 1:27:54!!!  I couldn't believe it!  I put my hands in the air and screamed loud!  I was soooo excited!  I couldn't believe I had just raced as well as I had.

After I grabbed my medal, the chic who had drafted over me came over and congratulated me.  She ran a great race too, finishing just 13 seconds ahead of me.  I had tears rolling down my face - if I had only know it was 13 seconds, what would I have done differently?  It didn't matter in that moment though, my reaction made the whole crowd go nuts for me!  They all were excited for me!  I had every volunteer handing out medals trying to put a medal around my neck :)  I found my sister in the crowd and the tears just kept coming - I couldn't believe what I had just done, I couldn't believe how good I felt - it was so surreal. 

As I climbed up the top stairs I had many of the runners in front of me congratulate me.  I do believe that many of them are used to running this fast and are a bit jaded, they were happy for me and my happiness, it felt really good.  The second place woman also came over and gave me a hug - she finished a mere 40 seconds ahead of me. 

I quickly found my sister and cried in her arms.  I don't think I have been that overwhelmed from a race before.  Sure I really felt awesome after CIM, but this was new.  It was so unexpected, and I felt so fantastic afterwards that I was so overcome with joy.  I had ran well, I had ran smart and felt oh, so good!

We waited for Layla to cross the finish line, who by the way, had a PR day herself!  Go and check out her story, I won't ruin it here for her, but she should be proud!  She ran a great race also - just three months out from injury!  I also found out my official stats as we waited for Layla - turns out I came in second in my age group!!  I couldn't believe that either!  I had some more bling to gather!  The only kicker to that was though, the woman who came in first - was the chic who drafted off me, the one who beat me by 13 seconds - damn!
Official stats:
13.1 miles 1:27:54 - 6:41/mi pace
2nd in AG (30-34)
4th woman over all
My favorite and best cheerleader Buggy & me ;)

I am still on cloud 9 today.  I am beyond thrilled with how my race turned out.  But I will be honest, I'm left with a lot of "what-if's?"  What if I hadn't ran 16 miles the day before?  What if I hadn't had 89 miles on my legs for the week prior?  What if I had a decent night's sleep?  What if I had kicked sooner and not let that chic draft off of me for so long?  What if I had been able to kick at that last bridge and not let her get away?  What if...  I almost can't let myself go into too many of those, I know I ran well.  I know I ran as well as I could with what I had given myself.  It was my first major race to run in where I actually raced it like I could really win it.  Dealing with all the emotions while out on the course was a new experience to me, and I think learning to respond when someone is right on your heals is also something that will get easier and strategy will present itself as I get more races under my belt that are of that caliber.  Right now, I am just enjoying the fact that I can finally say that all my crazy mileage and training is actually paying off.  I am proving that what I am posting and running is for real and that when it comes down to, I can deliver when I want to - the possibilities make me excited, makes me excited to now ask..."what's next?"

To say I'm not nervous about this weekend would be a lie.  I'm a bit overwhelmed, especially after seeing what happens at a 50K - but I would also be lying if I said I wasn't excited!  I can't wait to see what it feels like to cross the finish line of my very first ultra, I'm sure it will be nothing short of amazing.

I need to say a big shout out of thanks to my sister Suzie - she made this weekend possible for me.  She fed me well, she took good care of me and she was the best cheerleader I could ask for.  Thanks Suz, you mean the world to me!  And thank you to all of you for your encouraging support.  I thought about many of you as I ran yesterday ;)  Yesterday was day 66, I ran 19 miles yesterday (came home and ran another 6) and I ran 108 miles last week.  My legs are feeling great, fresh and ready to tackle the week and my first ultra.  If I don't check in here again this week, I will next Sunday, hopefully with a race report.  Good luck to all of you racing this weekend - run strong, run fast, ENJOY & believe in yourself!  You've got it in you!  I'm off to catch up with all of you!

Have a great week!
Happy running peeps!


ajh said...

You must still be higher than a kite. Those stats are some to be proud of!

d.a.r. said...

Holy crap!! I had goosebumps reading this--you did SO well and should be so incredibly proud of your race. You are seriously on fire!

Mel -Tall Mom on the Run said...

SOOO Great!! You are amazing... It is hard to say what the end of the day what you accomplished is sooo amazing.. Congrats

L.B. said...

That was one of the best race recaps I've ever read! Congratulations! It's just amazing seeing how far an already accomplished marathoner has gone in such a short amount of time. Don't second-guess yourself! Take pride in that time and pin that PR up with pride. Unbelievable performance. And congrats to Punky too! Ultras runners are awe-inspiring.

trailturtle said...

Nice job, Katie. You're gonna love that Diablo 50k--one of the most beautiful and diverse one around since it is a point-to-point one. And the good thing is you don't have to go to the top of Diablo. THAT 50k is a killer.

I believe I'm gonna have to modify the carrot I've been dangling for you to bring it closer to 3.

Maybe I'll see you Sat, but my start is your finish. My friend, Carol L. is doing the 50k, too. She is 64 and has run more than her age in trail marathons and ultras just in the past few yrs, including the same Diablo 50K last year. I'll tell her to look out for you at the start--as that'll be the last she sees of you!! Her husband, Larry, will be at the Findly Road Aid Station. If I see you before the race somewhow, I might give you something to drop there for her.
Recover well, Ann

Jamoosh said...

Damn - (and I say this will all due respect) I hope you have a nice butt because if I am ever in the same race with you that is all I am going to see - for about five seconds. That's an awesome race!


I am so proud of you Katie! Reading that race report got me all choked up. I can't wait to see all that is in store for you with this increase in mileage. I think if you keep it up your times are just going to keep dropping. I'm jealous!

Best of luck with the 50K!

Morgan said...

First off, way to support Ron on his first Ultra! You are such a great running friend...

Second, and most importantly, holy shit girl you rocked that Half!!!!!! Way to go!!! 4th female!!! Overall!!! You raced your brains out and you deserve all the Cloud 9 you want!!!

Laura said...

you are amazing and LOVED the race report!

Allison said...

Wow - what an amazing race! Enjoy your time on Cloud 9, you totally deserve it! I know that if I had a race like that I would be moving in. ;-)

Marlene said...

OH KATIE, I am so happy for you! Major chills reading this and I am tearing up. You are a FRONT RUNNER! Amazing. I can only imagine what you could have dnoe on fresh legs. Do you even know what fresh legs are anymore?

Congrats on the massive PR and NYCQ by a LARGE margin.


Bethany + Ryan said...

insane!!! AMAZING!!! congratulations!!!!!! wow!!!! so happy for you!!!!

Page said...

KATIE!!! I read this post and couldn't help but to have the most ridiculous smile across my face! I AM SO SO SO EXCITED FOR YOU!

That is seriously an amazing accomplishment and I can only dream of being as fast as you someday.

Congratulations on an amazing race!

MCM Mama said...

Wow!! Wow!!! Wow!!! Your recap of the race was so vivid it felt like I was running along with you. So.Very.Impressed by how well you ran. Great job!

Average A said...

AHHHH! I already knew how much you rocked, but reading this gave me CHILLS!!!!! AWESOME!! Congrats again and again and again!!

Layla said...

This was so fun to read! But I now see one drawback to running the same races -- I wasn't there at the finish to see/hear that awesome scream for joy. I wish I could have been there, because it sounds like you really made the spectators excited.

But it was still a fantastic day, and I admit that I like saying, "My friend was 4th overall woman at a half-marathon this weekend." SO COOL!

J said...

Seriously insane! I do not know how you ran that fast!! That is so awesome! Congrats!! The moments/races where you just feel so good and everything works is the best!

Denise said...

i think it's safe to say we are no longer twins. :-(

congrats on an incredible race! all your hard work is really paying off!! i'm not even sure what else to kicked ass.

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

I was in the stands to witness Katie's awesome finish. Her reaction after crossing the finish line was the best of all the front runners. I think it is the emotional moments, both lows and highs, that make running so great. Congratulations Katie on your awesome race day!

Shellyrm ~ just a country runner said...

Great reports! I already told you how great you are. You are going to get a big head! ;-)

Rest those legs (in streaker-eze that means lower the mileage and intensity) with the 50k coming up! Please do it for me. I want to read about a strong fast Katie killing the trails and making me look like the old snail that I am. I can not wait to see how you do at your ultra.

Christina said...

That is the most awesome race report. I'm so glad you didn't reign yourself in at the beginning and just went for it. You are amazing!

Teamarcia said...

Holy crap girl you are amazing! What a fantastic race--and the day after 16, with 89 miles for the week? Incredible! Yu are a machine! Awesome race and time--it is all coming together for you so beautifully.
Bus to Hopkinton for you fo sho next year!

Katie said...

Wow I am almost speechless from reading that! What an amazing race and amazing report, I could feel your emotion and I'm getting a bit emotional myself. I may have to read this before all my races, it is making me want to find a race for tomorrow!!

PunkRockRunner said...

I can not thank you enough for all of your help out there. I never could have finished without you. More importantly, I hope you realize just how impressive your performance was on Sunday. I have no doubt that you will continue to get stronger and faster.

All the best,


Stacey (aka Ultraprincess) said...

Great RR! Look forward to following your journey.

Rad Runner said...


Sam Felsenfeld said...

Just catching up on stuff ... WOW WOW WOW ... that's some crazy speed. You aiming for sub-3 in a full?