"I'm going to break 4 hours", she wrote, with the kind of confidence one would expect to accompany a statement about the sky being blue or not peeing the bed at night anymore. And, I've heard it uttered so many times that every time another mouth speaks it, it's like deja vu. Strangely, it isn't men that seem so preoccupied with the 3:59:59 marathon; these declarations have been exclusively limited thus far to women. Why? Hell, I don't know. Most of the men I know who are running marathons are either shit happy to finish, or are trying to qualify for Boston-- there's little room in between. But, the women? It's always 4 hours.
For me, it was in 2010: Cleveland. I was coming off a rather overwhelming sense of disappointment from having finished my first half marathon in 1:53 when I decided, on a whim, that 2 months later I would break 4 hours at my first marathon. While I'd trained like a mad woman for that half marathon, often putting in 8-10 fast miles on my treadmill, heading out in the rain and snow for 12, 14, 16 miles, doing hill repeats and tempo runs at Perkins Park, I slacked like it was my chosen profession for that marathon. I'd picked Mill Creek for my first half, not realizing how challenging the course actually was compared to, say, the River Run. There were 19 hills over the course of the 13.1 miles, some of them rather big-- especially for someone whose idea of a hill was something 1/2 as steep and 1/2 as long. I'd expected to finish in 1:45, and had I made my first attempt on a flatter course, I might have at least broken 1:50, but as it were I simply wasn't prepared for the hills or the distance. So, after a few days of never really having experienced the afterglow of a first half marathon finish, I resolved myself to knock out a 3:59 marathon in Cleveland.
first marathon: Cleveland (2010)-- wearing my prized Pinkies and a pair of $10 shoes, I was poised and ready for the 4:40 marathon disaster that swore me away from trying again for 18 months
It was a disastrous failure of epic proportions. In the two months between my first half and first full marathon, I gained 5 pounds and basically quit training entirely. I averaged about 18 miles per week, hitting a mere 25 once or twice compared with the 40-50 I was running in preparation for the half marathon, and showed up so completely unprepared I didn't know what was about to hit me until it hit me like a dump truck on the 14th mile. I started with the 3:50 pace group, and left them in the dust after 3 miles, concerned they were running too slow and concerned that my legs felt too good. I'd convinced myself that I could bank time early and use it later when I got tired, assuming that the couple minutes I might rack up would take care of all the walking that was about to come. Wrong. Hellfire, was I wrong. After 10 miles, I was tired. I watched the 3:50 pace group pass me like I was standing still, and loafed over the timing mat at the halfway mark in an exhausted 1:56. A quarter mile later, I was walking. I convinced myself that it was just going to be a couple minutes and then I'd run the rest of the way, but after I started running again, I found that I felt even worse than before. After a few minutes of jogging, I started walking again, and in the midst of a lengthy span of walking during the 15th mile, the 4 hour pace group passed me the same way the 3:50 group had. I felt defeated. The walk/run continued until about mile 23 at which point I just started crying, wailing that I wanted to quit and I was never going to finish, and by God I would never run another marathon. By this point, the 4:15 and 4:30 pace teams had long since passed me, and I was afraid I was going to walk my way to a 5 hour finish. Somehow, perhaps by divine intervention, I managed to get my shit together a mile and a half later and ran most of the last 2 miles, but the 4:40 finish that came was not what I'd dreamed, expected, or even accepted as a worst case scenario. Not by a long shot. And, after that marathon, I silently committed myself to never running more than a half marathon again.
That lasted for a year and a half. I finished my second half marathon the following May at Cleveland in 1:52, but still wasn't particularly interested in running another full marathon. I registered for the Towpath half in October a few months later, and "upgraded" to the full, again on a whim, at packet pickup the day before the race. I went into it scared shitless after my awful experience at the previous marathon, and set a more humble albeit realistic goal of 4:10. I remained on pace well into the 20th mile at which point it felt like someone had bludgeoned my right kneecap with a sledgehammer. I hobbled my way through the last 6 miles to a 4:32 finish-- a victory in the sense that it was an 8 minute PR, but frustrated that I'd not only failed at an easier goal, but was now injured to boot. A month later, in November of 2011, I painfully completed my third half marathon, still injured, in 1:58:01 (currently still my worst half marathon finish time) and committed afterward to not only taking down my 4 hour marathon goal, but the Burning River 100.
finishing my third marathon in 80+ degree heat at Cleveland in 2012
As bad luck would have it, mother nature couldn't have chosen a worse day for my third attempt, and despite a 10 minute PR at Cleveland in 2012 of 4:22, the miserable sun-baking heat and two lovely bouts of diarrhea ensured that this attempt was yet another giant failure. I finished my first 50 mile trail race the following month, and in July of 2012 I finished my first 100 miler. And, it was only after this that I finally took 4 hours by the balls and kicked it into the dirt at the Towpath marathon in October 2012. The week before, I'd finished the Akron half marathon in 1:47:49. I've heard that the best formula to use in determining a realistic marathon goal is to double one's half marathon time and add 20 minutes. It's fairly accurate. So, I ultimately required four attempts. And, even in the fourth, I made it by a mere minute and a half. It isn't an easy feat, ladies.
Towpath Marathon 2012: I finally broke 4 hours with a finish time of 3:58:29
Now, in retrospect, I'd like to point out that had I been well-trained heading into my first marathon, I probably could have at least come close. But, I don't think I'd have made it. There's something to be said of having covered more than the race distance prior to racing it; and, it takes either a fast runner or one with a psyche of iron to overcome what happens between miles 18 and 24 if one has never, or seldom, run that far in training. They coined it "the wall" for a reason. I think everyone approaches their first marathon confident they can handle it after a few 15-20 mile training runs, and some people do, in fact, run through the latter miles with no ill effects-- physical or mental. I'd dare to say most, in their first marathon attempt, however, do not.
Four hours might seem slow when the Boston standard for those of us under 35 is a blazing fast 3:35, and if you're accustomed, like I am, to running 23 minute 5k's-- a nice 7:30 pace on a typical day, a 9:05 pace really doesn't sound like much to maintain. I can run sub-2 hour half marathons injured, walking a full mile up a long hill in one race last June, poorly trained and out of shape on another occasion. But, despite having raced a dozen ultramarathons including an 85 mile run last month, and a 10 miler in 1:17 a couple weeks before it, I've only run a marathon under 4 hours once. I'm sure there will be more of them in the future as I continue to grow stronger and develop as a runner. But, it's a task not to be taken lightly.
YUTC 50k trail race: my true passion is ultra trail running
Me? My next unrealistic goal is to qualify for Boston. It's lightyears away right now, but if there's one thing I'm good at, it's achieving incredibly unrealistic goals. I'm currently injured, coincidentally (or not so coincidentally) the same knee as before, so my next marathon attempt in 6 days is likely to be ugly; and, I have no real goal except to finish somewhere in the vicinity of 4.5 hours. But, I'll start chipping away at my Boston goal when I take on the Akron Marathon in September. I won't make it, but every minute I strip from my 3:58 Towpath finish is one less minute to worry about. In the meanwhile, I have two 100 mile trail races and a healthy slew of 50k's waiting for me-- my real passion as a runner.
To the ladies out there fretting about a 4 hour marathon: it might not happen. And, if you've never run a marathon before, it probably won't happen. But, the good news is that there's always another marathon waiting around the corner. So, continue running with that 3:59 dangling in front of your nose like a carrot. Eventually you'll get tired of chasing it and you'll grab that mickey fickey like it's the only thing separating you from utter starvation. Kinetics. You've just got to keep moving.
Monday, April 29, 2013
I had an objective. In the days leading up to the Outrun 24 hour trail race, I had only one real goal: retain my mental faculties in the early morning hours before the sun rose. No mental collapse, crying and sputtering desperate pleads to quit. No staggering along the course in the dark, mentally defeated and agonizing about how many miles I had left. This was my breaking point in my first 100 mile race, one that cost me hours, and nearly cost me finishing the race. However, as the days turned into mere hours, my nerves were somewhere beyond the stratosphere, and suddenly I realized I did not want to settle for 100k anymore. I didn’t even want 95 miles, definitely not 99, 99.5, 99.9. I wanted to prove to myself that I could run 100 miles in less than 24 hours. It was a Herculean task for someone who had barely covered the same distance in 30 hours just 9 months earlier, but I’d run a half dozen 50k’s since then and watched as they kept getting better and better. Granted, I’m not exactly a superstar, but I’ve moved from finishing in the bottom ½ to the top ¼ of female finishers in long distance events and with that came the kind of confidence that convinced me that my dream was possible.
Starts at the more epic distanced ultras are like a scene out of a comedy: the horn sounds, but rather than take off in a flash, participants jog, laugh, walk, scratch their asses, blow their noses, drink from their water bottles. And, in an event like a 24 hour trail run around a one mile loop, after a mile or two, some are already dipping into the cookies and candy. It’s a sight to behold during the early hours, for one more accustomed to viewing the typical marathon. The first two hours were rather uneventful for me—I was running a little faster than I should have been running, but wasn’t feeling any ill effects. Even walking up the hill on every loop, I was well into my 13th mile as we headed into the third hour.
The temperature rapidly rose between 10 am and 2pm, climbing to 68 degrees in the early afternoon. With no cloud cover or shade from the trees that had yet to sprout leaves, it felt like I was being broiled alive. After three hours, to my horror, I heard an announcement that I was leading the women’s field. Because this happened as I was crossing the start into my 19th mile, the spectators lining the start area in lawn chairs and tents were obviously aware as the man announcing in the timing tent pointed out that it was me. “She just ran by”, he added, making it impossible to miss the stocky creature trotting by in pink shorts with the look of “did I do that?” all over her face. Feeling it was only appropriate to do something, I executed a half-hearted rendition of the Rocky Balboa victory dance with my fists in the air, but was profoundly embarrassed. Never, at any point during the race, did I honestly think I would win.
I began to struggle for the first time not long after this. I felt hot and completely lost my appetite. For anyone who has never experienced this sensation, it is like watching someone handle raw chicken before putting your food, with bare hands, into a dish, sneeze on it, and then tell you to eat it—all after you’d swallowed a pound of watered down flour. Your stomach feels full, but not satisfied from having eaten, and you’re acutely aware that your body needs nourishment because you’re as agitated as you are alert enough to realize you haven’t eaten for an hour and a half; and, it’s hot, you’ve been running for four hours, and will be running for 20 hours more. As a low carb runner, nothing looked less appealing than candy, cookies, Heed, bread, and trail mix loaded with sweets; and after the first 45 miles of
last year, even watermelon had
lost its appeal. I settled for a cup of Nuun and a peanut butter & jelly
square—the former for the electrolytes and the latter because I knew my body
needed something of substance. Burning River
I passed the marathon mark in 4:40, coincidentally the same time in which I’d finished my first marathon a few years ago, and passed the 50k mark well under 6 hours. The miles that followed, between 32 and about 44, were amongst the worst for me of the entire race. Not long after passing the 6.5 hour mark, I heard another dreaded announcement that I was still, somehow, leading the women’s field. Having been reduced to walking a lot more than I’d like to admit, the 7th and 8th hours passed in slow motion, it seemed. I took a 15 minute break after finishing either my 43rd or 44th mile, ate a salami and cheese sandwich in the shade, took some Advil, drank some pop, and started to feel better. Having put on a hat, too, the sun didn’t have quite the effect it had hours earlier. I’d been, like always, doing mental calculations while I moved, and had started worrying I wouldn’t reach 50 miles under 11 hours. With this new strength, however, I began banging out 11 and 12 minute miles again, and I started to rekindle the fire in my dream of finishing 100 miles again. I hit the 50 mile mark in 10:25, approximately a 12.5 min/mile pace, so I was only slightly behind where I felt I should be at this point (I’d been aiming for 10 hours or better, with 10:30 the cutoff of where I thought I could feasibly still finish 100 miles).
There were two moves that sealed the deal on missing the buckle: a 15 minute break at 53 miles, and the hour with which I rewarded myself for having reached the 100k mark under 14 hours. I’d lost my lead during the 15 minute break I took around mile 44, and fell even further behind during the second extended “sit” once I completed mile 53. After taking an hour off upon reaching the 100k mark in 13:48, I’d fallen 6 miles behind the new leader, Crystal Shinosky. I found my pacer, John Delcalzo waiting at the aid station, and now clad in my orange tutu, black pants, and Burning River 100 jacket, I was eager and ready to tackle some more miles, even though I realized I’d sacrificed my dream in taking an hour off. John was optimistic that there was still a shot, even if it was a long one, of reaching 100, and we ran the next few miles at about a 12-12.5 min/mile pace. However, I began to notice a pain in my shins around the same time that John decided I really needed to eat something.
I’d admittedly neglected eating much for a couple hours because I didn’t have much of an appetite, but by the time we hit the 16 hour mark at midnight, it was apparent that I was starting to run into trouble. First, I mistook my own shadow for something moving in the woods and yelled “what was that?” I don’t know what variety of imaginary creature I conjured, but I realized almost immediately afterward that there was nothing there, and it reminded me of seeing a pile of leaves on the way to the O’Neill Woods aid station at
believing it was a dead cat. I also lost my balance twice when I stopped at the
aid station. John handed me a bottle of Boost and told me to finish it, which I
did, but it only made me feel worse. The soup of Boost, Advil and salt tabs
floating in my stomach was like a bad dream that repeatedly threatened to come
back out the way it came in. At 72 miles, I sat down and started crying because
I was so frustrated. “I just want to run”, I remember saying. “How can I make
this go away?” Burning
Overcome with nausea, I told John I was taking a 20 minute nap around 2:30 am. I’d run 76 miles and knew I should still be able to at least get into the 90’s even with the nap. Unfortunately, it was cold in the tent, and though I’d started to drift off to sleep a couple times, the 20 minutes passed quickly. At this point, I began to alternate laps with my sister, Heidi, who had paced me on a few miles between 50 and 100k, and John. I insisted we walk them, mostly because my shins were aching but also because the nausea had not completely subsided. The next 5 miles passed at a snail’s pace. I reached 81 miles with 3 and a quarter hours left on the clock, and headed back to the tent feeling frustrated. I was nauseated, and my shins and feet hurt, and had started to think that it didn’t really care whether I ran 2 more miles or 10. Heidi popped into the tent and said about the same—did it really matter at this point whether I ran 84 miles, 87, or 91? Yes, and no. Obviously, I wanted to cover as much distance as possible. And, there were 3 hours left. I’d registered for this event under the pretense of running either 100 miles or 24 hours (whatever happened first) as a mental training exercise for the 100 milers I’ll be running in the summer. So, stopping early because “it didn’t matter whether I covered 84 miles or 91” felt, in a sense, like I was somehow selling myself short. I knew that, even with aching shins/feet/ankle, I had more miles in me. Freezing in the tent, I made my way to the fire pit where I again began to debate with myself, out loud like a crazy person, whether or not I should continue.
I whittled the 3+ hours down to 2, and couldn’t rationalize stopping when I was coherent and still capable of walking and, I would discover shortly, running. I left the fire pit with a blanket wrapped around me and headed back onto the course. And once I hit the trail, I started running. I was reduced to walking after perhaps a quarter mile, but finished the last quarter mile running. I ditched the blanket, and continued running into the next lap. Heidi was waiting for me after I finished my 84th mile and I let her know mile 85 would be my last. She walked with me onto the course without saying a word. The sun was rising and almost like magic my spirit lifted as we wound through the trail one last time. I felt sad that I wasn’t going to have enough time to finish 100 miles. But, I’d done it.With the sun rising and my body still intact and capable of running, the nausea having passed, and my mind utterly clear and sound, I had accomplished all that I’d truly wanted to accomplish at this race. I felt good about that. We ran the final stretch and through the finish and I sat down and tore off my timing chip. “I’m done”, I said. “Are you sure?” Zack asked. “Yes”, I answered. Somebody behind me asked, “how many miles?” Confident, content, and perhaps even a bit proud, I replied, “85”.
There was still over an hour left when Zack Johnson hung the medal around my neck, and I watched as others continued on their own journeys around the fire pit and back onto the course for another mile. I was pleased. Final results indicate the distance I covered was the 12th greatest in a field of 85 runners, 4th amongst the 35 women. I discovered that my feet fared much better than they had at
but my ankle was tender to the touch and incredible swollen. More than 24 hours
later, I am still struggling to walk. Burning River
With six weeks until my first 100 mile trail race of 2013, I am in a good place mentally and physically. I am running longer distances faster than ever before, and feeling better than I’ve ever felt running while I complete them. I’m shooting for 25 hours at
this year, but do not have a time goal for Mohican in mid-June. I’d like to
finish under 30 hours, but it’s a tough course so I’m leaving it open. Only
time will tell. Burning River
Cheers to keeping my shit together. If I can keep it up, this is going to be a great summer.
Posted by Kimberly Durst at 2:29 PM
Monday, April 22, 2013
Typically, I prefer for my blogs to read like an article. However, when circumstances call for it, I am more than willing to alter the game plan. That said, I had the pleasure of commuting 110 minutes for 23 minutes of misery at the Kinsman 5k yesterday. In short, here's the low down on my experience.
1. The drive was far more memorable than the actual race. En route, I shared the road with a very large tractor, a horse and buggy, a turkey, and a hearty variety of dead animals in various states of decay.
2. It was 85F on Thursday afternoon. By Saturday morning it was 31F and snowing chunks of Antarctic iceburg. With the afterthought of wind gusts, I should add. I suspect if I surveyed 100 runners, 97.5 would agree this amounts to a heap of misery.
3. I tried really hard to like the race, but the course was a boring ribbon of serpentine roads that wound around one endless cornfield it seemed, with hills-- the ugly, long, gradual incline type. I tried equally hard to want to run as fast as I could, but I think the miserable weather blew the fire behind me into the feet of the people running in front of me. There was no saving me. I was barely 15 seconds/mile faster than my pace at the 10 miler last weekend.
4. My reward for suffering this misery was a really ugly hat.
I should also note that there was a banquet table spread with more food than I've seen at my last three ultras combined. With a vast assortment of cream cheese frosted, cinnamon maple and chocolate chip muffins, cheese, veggie, and pepperoni pizza, bagels, cookies, oranges, bananas, and a lot more that I missed on the assembly line, I wanted to grab the megaphone from the race director and remind people that they only ran 3 miles.
I finished in 23:00 ( no, I apparently could not run even one second faster up the last hill). It was an utterly average finish time for me with an utterly average placement for me-- 5th overall female, 1st in the 30-34 age group. It was miserably cold. I was completely bored with the course. It is a race that will go down in the record book for the sole purpose of being almost comically uneventful. It did, however, set the stage for the taper that has commenced for my 24 hour trail race next weekend in
I'm looking to log some serious mileage there, and the weather forecast looks
promising. Providing my body holds up, I'm hoping to get as close to 100 miles
as possible. Kirtland, Ohio
I'd love to tell you a little more about my blissful experience in Kinsman, but I'm trying hard to push it into the back of the closet along with the ugly hat.
Posted by Kimberly Durst at 6:31 AM
Monday, April 15, 2013
It isn't everyday that I get to challenge myself at a new distance, especially nowadays when I've somewhat run the gamut on race distances. However, so far this month I've had the pleasure of expanding my horizon twice-- first with my disastrous 25k trail race last week, and this past weekend at the Cleveland Spring Classic 10 mile (a road race). Having done absolutely no speed training in more than a month, I felt like I was playing a game of Russian roulette with potential outcomes-- and considering Murphy's Law dictates my life, I was going to bite the bullet. Nonetheless, I declared to all and sundry that I was going to break 1:20, even though secretly I knew it was going to have to be snowing rather heavily in hell for me to even come within a minute of that. I've gained some weight and tipped the scale at 139 Sunday morning, and my guts felt like a ninja attack was bound to strike somewhere between mile 3 and 9.
Conditions were favorable, though, I noted, trotting a nice mile warm up after registering (race day registration—something I never do), for fast running. Having seen the previous year's results, and after talking to another running friend who was hoping for a similar finish time, I decided that I'd stick with her unless she started to fall behind. I didn't wear a watch, and there were no timers or timing system at the mile markers, so I winged it in regard to pace. My brain has always been a reasonably reliable tool at calculating pace and distance, so after passing the first couple miles and this other lady, Heidi, wasn't slowing down, I assumed we were on target since I could hear her watch sounding each mile. My speed-rusty out of shape thighs told me these were definitely not much faster than 8 minute miles, and I kept on keeping on, like I was following orders from the section in How to Survive 101 Calamities that instructs the reader to stick out his elbows in a crowded room during an emergency and let the crowd carry him. My elbows were out, and I was floating along her pace for dear life.
following Heidi Finniff (in green) early in the race
I was surprised at the halfway point that I was not tiring. My legs felt no worse than they did at 2 miles, and my unofficial pacer did not seem to be slowing down either; in face, the distance between us seemed to be increasing. I sailed past the 6 mile marker and into the finishing area where we steered left to start a shorter second loop. I wasn't sure the precise distance at this point, but estimated it to be about 6.3 miles en route, the time clock indicating 50:22 had passed. This confirmed my belief that I was maintaining roughly an 8 minute pace, and I focused on keeping this up for as long as I could. My legs finally started to wear down around the 8 mile mark. I was 5th overall female at this point, but Heidi had opened the gap between us even further, and there were several ladies very close behind me. Two of them passed me at about 8.5 miles and a third on the last mile.
In hindsight, I must have been slowing down for three women to pass me during these last two miles, but I felt as fast (albeit tired) as I did miles before-- and as strong. Rounding the last corner, I believed up until the last stretch that I was going to finish just over an 8 minute pace. From a distance, I could see the clock and thought it was ticking 1:20:50, 1:20:51, etc. when in reality it was counting 1:16:50, 1:16:51...! This was an unbelievable surprise! I charged through in 1:17:04 to finish 8th overall female, 3rd in the 30-34 division (the two ladies that passed me were 1st and 2nd). I absolutely did NOT expect to maintain a 7:42 pace for 10 miles, and almost immediately I began calculating to what this would translate in a half marathon (even slowing down to 9 minute miles, I would have finished in 1:44-- a huge PR), and began dreaming of super fast marathons.
A day later, I am excited to head out for some miles in the most beautiful weather we have seen in months in
I have decided not to taper for my 24 hour trail race in 2 weeks (O24; I ran
for 10 hours there last year). Instead, I will race a local 5k on Saturday, and
then head out for 10-15 miles on trails the following morning. I'm shooting for
100 miles at O24, but I won't be heartbroken if it doesn't happen since there
is a nice 100k medal, and 100k is another distance I've never technically
raced. I expect to run between 85 and 95 miles at O24.
Posted by Kimberly Durst at 12:25 PM
Monday, April 8, 2013
Since Burning River last summer, I've found myself desperately wanting to title almost every ultra race report following my many events the ever so lovely Clint Eastwood film title, "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". Having refrained from using it for at least a couple months (I've convinced myself of this; I haven't actually checked), I decided after my, well, "unique" experience at the Fools 50k, what better race to use it? Hell, it was 65 and sunny, my split at the 25k mark counted as a final race result, and I nearly puked a gas tanker worth of neon yellow liquid as I was doubled over with my shirt off and belly hanging over my skirt, sweating like a beast, face red, hair stringy, eyes bulging. Indeed, folks. Beautiful weather? Check. Less than stellar finish time? Check. And I think my description of what I looked like after 25k should suffice to satisfy the last of the "Good, Bad and the Ugly" criteria.
The day started out great. I lined up for a nice picture with two of my ultra running pals: Andrew Gordon (who will be pacing me at Mohican 100) and Dawn Harrison-Drasner who has dubbed herself my "running mom".
I wandered around with George Themelis, talked to some other friends-- John DeCalzo, Zack Johnson, Margie Kost, and prepared for what should have been a reasonably relaxed, enjoyable 50k in what I believed were ideal weather conditions. It was about 52F at the start and slightly cloudy, and I started out feeling pretty good as we made our way across the grass and into the woods. My legs are always a little rusty for the first 3-5 miles, and I made a mental note of this around mile 3-4 when I realized I wasn't feeling up to par; and sure enough-- not long after passing the 5 mile mark, I realized I was flying and feeling great. I was in 4th place after mile 2 and stayed there until mile 15; aid station staff as well as running friend Mark Pancake reminded me of this probably 5+ times throughout the loop.
Between miles 8 and 10, I started to feel a little hot. I considered taking off my long-sleeved shirt then, but figured I'd survive through the loop with it, and began drinking a lot of water, emptying my bottle about a half mile before reaching the aid station. When I got there, I downed two cups of mountain dew while waiting for my bottle to be filled, and then dashed ahead seeing there were two women not terribly far behind me.
(photo by Jared Boehm)
I gained a bit of ground on them during the stretch to the last aid station where I drank another cup of mountain dew that almost immediately felt like the kiss of death. Within 5 minutes, the 3 cups of mountain dew I'd drank within a half hour on a belly not accustomed to inhaling copious amounts of liquid sugar was wrenching with pain, and I was reduced to trotting. First, Jay Rasch and another gentleman passed me, then a woman (who ended up finishing 3rd), then two more men. In a span of only 2 miles, I went from 4th place, running strong albeit feeling a bit overheated, to 5th and struggling to maintain that (a fast road runner, Liz Wetter, was just steps behind me) and so nauseated I was dizzy and burping up bile mixed with super-sweet liquid. I crossed the 25k mark in 2:46:33 with Liz just a step behind me, staggered to the aid station, tore off my shirt and crumbled in the grass. After a minute or two, I stood up, made my way past my car where I temporarily abandon my shirt, and started back toward the woods. About 90 seconds later, overwhelmed by nausea and the horrific realization I was going to have to run another 15.5 miles in now 65F sunshine with it, I turned around and went back.
Completely defeated, I laid in the grass and covered my face, waiting for the awful feeling to pass. Having already notified the gentleman at the timing table that I was dropping to 25k, I sat waiting for the 25k finishers to finish (the 25k race started an hour after the 50k). It was heartbreaking to see the 50k finishers start coming across the timing mat, knowing I should be almost done. Even worse, my 25k split was included in the final results for the 25k race. I was 15th out of 112, 2nd in my age group, but because I was pacing for 50k instead of 25k, some slower runners finished ahead of me.
After arriving home, I went for a walk with my kids and felt, overall, lousy. I had no appetite for hours, discovered I'd lost over 4 pounds, and my pee looked like iced tea. It definitely wasn't a race to go down in the record books. But, as always, I'm moving on to the next one. Next week I'll be racing a 10 mile road race, and on the 27th-28th I'll be taking my first stab at 100k+ territory for 2013 at O24.
Posted by Kimberly Durst at 4:17 PM
Sunday, March 10, 2013
The 5k is not a personal favorite distance. Unlike the 50k trail race that is a mission of strategy, or the half marathon road race during which one has time to “regroup” after a bad start, the 5k is the Dance Blindfolded by the Firepit of race distances for me. Even though I have raced probably four times as many 5k’s than all other distances combined, and have been running them since I was 15—literally half of my life, I have yet to “figure it out” in regard to pace. Basically, as best as I can tell, it’s just a big ugly dash to the finish.
ugly running: local 5k I finished in 23:35 the week after the Burning River 100
First, let me begin by saying that after you’ve finished a 100 miler, and ran the last 5+ miles of that 100 miler out of fear of missing a 30 hour cut off, nothing about 3 miles will ever or could ever again be daunting. I mean, there was a time when a 5k had its place in my life as The Big Event. I remember tapering in college for the conference and regional meets, and I remember marking my calendar and counting down the training days for certain local races. When I was a fresh-from-college unemployed 22 year-old, I remember all the hoopla that surrounded a charity 5k I ran that accepted canned goods as an entry fee and offered a post-race meal of burgers and hot dogs. I hauled ass two miles to the race with my plastic bag of canned corn banging a hearty bruise on my thigh as I dodged traffic en route to the race. Those days are long gone. Worse, I’ve decided that 50k is my favorite distance—trail 50k to be specific, events that often take longer than 6 hours to complete. Goals aren’t measured in 15 seconds in such an event; often they’re measured in closer to 15 minutes. So, feeding my brain a race plan or goal that boils down to less time than I spend at most ultra aid stations has admittedly done a number on my race psyche.
The Turtle vs the Hare: this is what I looked like after finishing 100 miles. It's also how I looked at every aid station after 50 miles (minus the really cool buckle...and the smile).
Nevertheless, I have a 5k PR that has stood untouched for nearly 7 years. Seven years. A lot of marriages don’t even last that long. I dragged said PR out of the closet on Halloween this past year like a skeleton getting ready to dance, and narrowly missed it by 8 seconds the night before a nasty trail marathon. That, unfortunately, is the only time I’ve come within even 45 seconds of matching it. In fact, there have only been three times I’ve even come within a minute of it since 2006. Three times. I’ve had more DNF’s at fat ass 50k’s this year.
That said, I didn’t step into this race with overly high expectations. I joked that I was going to beat the 21:50 PR, but in reality I expected to be chasing the 23 minute mark as I’ve done at every other 5k I’ve raced since July of 2009. That, unfortunately, has become my blanket, my comfort zone. I know that on a good day I can loaf through the third mile and still finish in 23:05, and on a bad day when my stomach hurts and I have a migraine or diarrhea, I’ll still probably finish in 23:55 even if the ground is spinning, I have a Charlie Horse and look like I’m doing my own rendition of the Harlem Shake. I slept like shit, but wanted to make the best of it. So, toeing the line at the start, I decided, “what the hell. Let’s run this thing like I have trained my whole life for it”. This lasted less than a quarter mile, at which point I realized I was already in 5th place with, it appeared, no real chance of moving up.
Quinlan's Pub 5k: the first quarter mile
Realizing that I was no longer in contention for a cash prize, I was content with running a fast but realistic pace, rather than blow out on the first mile and try to salvage the scraps leftover for the next 2.1 miles. I’d say it worked like a charm except that it really didn’t. Two more women passed me—both on the second mile, pushing me back to 7th overall, and I didn’t even come close to beating the 21:50 PR. I did, however, finish in 22:38—the second fastest 5k I’ve run since either of my two children were born (May 2007 and February 2009). I snagged a nice trophy for winning my age group, and feel good enough to run again this evening. Tomorrow, it’s back to trails for me as I prepare for the Buzzard 50k on March 23rd, incidentally the day before my 30th birthday.
Trails. Trails. Trails. Trails. Trails.
I still have a number of 5k’s this year, and hopefully I’ll bid that seven year PR adieu before we ring in 2014, but for now I’m content with having run a good race. The 5k, the ugly little wonder that it is nowadays for this cumbersome body that would rather be trotting along the trails for 6 hours dodging horse shit and fallen trees, go way back. We have history. And, we’ll keep making it, probably long after I’ve attempted my last 100 miler. Cheers to that.
Posted by Kimberly Durst at 3:09 PM
Sunday, March 3, 2013
I have been running ultra marathons for exactly one year. In fact, a year ago today I was standing, shivering, in the ugliest get-up in which I've ever appeared in a competitive running event, waiting nervously for the start of the one that started it all: the Green Jewel 50k. Yesterday, five 50k's, one 10 hour run, a 50 and 100 miler later, I was back. I would celebrate my ultra running anniversary in ultra running style, albeit a day early.
* Here is a link to last year's report:
I have been blasting my PR's, one after another, since the Youngstown 50k in September, and was prepared for a big one at Green Jewel. Having finally broken the 4 hour mark at the Towpath Marathon in October, I was confident in the weeks leading up to this event that I was capable of finishing under 5 hours at this 50k. Unfortunately, as the bus that shuttled runners from the finish to the start of the race made its way down the road, I realized that it had snowed a lot more in Rocky River and Brecksville than it had in Warren-- only an hour away. Last year, by comparison, the course was dry; and, although it was cold and windy (mid-30's, if I remember correctly), conditions were still favorable. Snowing, windy, and in the 20's, we took off on the well-packed snow covered all purpose trail at 9am. I knew within a mile that 5 hours was going to be very unlikely.
The first 10 miles were uneventful. I started the race with Ben, lost him when I stopped to use the bathroom during the 7th mile, and then caught him again at the mile 10 aid station. The time split shows I was averaging 8:27 at this point, which would have been a lovely pipe dream and much more conducive to my 5 hour goal. In reality, I was averaging about 9:10. However, I was struggling to even maintain this pace, wearing my NB Minimus trail shoes on the snowy pavement, and knew that I was going to slow down big time when Hell opened its mouth to swallow me around The Chalet at mile 19, the point at which I start to grow increasingly anxious by the quarter mile, frustrated by the distance that remains, physically tired, and rapidly deteriorating mentally as the direct result of the frustration and exhaustion. (Side note: this happened, curiously, around mile 33 at the Mohican 50, and 60-65 at Burning River.)
The second 10 miles were torturous. We didn't pass anyone during the vast majority of this stretch, and nobody passed us either, so even though we'd slowed to about a 10 minute pace, shuffling along the snow, apparently others had slowed at the same rate. Anne McClain left the aid station before Ben and I did, and we spent miles following her on the way to the hill at Ridge Road. I was finally reduced to walking on a short "hill" around mile 23, and then a mile later on The Hill leading up to the Ridge Road aid station. I was exhausted at this point from the effort of running on shoes utterly lacking in tread over mile after mile of snow, but greatly relieved to see that Andrew Gordon was waiting for me at the aid station for a 6.5 mile run to the finish. As the physical and mental discomfort of 25 miles in sub-freezing, snowy conditions had left Ben without much to say at this stage in the race, it was a welcome relief to run with someone who was fresh and ready to run and didn't have miles of misery on his feet and in his head.
The last 6.5 miles were, despite the company, the slowest for me. There were two more hills up which I was again reduced to walking, and it was on the last of these hills that Kali Price passed me, followed shortly thereafter by Brenda Runion. In retrospect, I wish I'd have run these hills because I'd have shaved several minutes from my finish time. Nonetheless, the last mile was probably one of my fastest of the entire race. As I do not wear a watch/Garmin, I had no idea precisely how fast I was running, but I assume it was likely in the upper-8 minute range. I crossed the finish line in 5:20:11, missing my 5-hour target by a landslide but still crushing last year's time by 23 minutes-- a huge PR.
As nutrition and foot care have been huge issues in past races, it is interesting to note that I wore old, cheap socks and my NB Minimus trail shoes sans Vaseline. This was probably not the best move, but my feet fared very well with no new blisters or any other problems. In regard to nutrition, I consumed far fewer calories, carbs, and sugar than I did last year. In comparison, last year I blew through at least 6 gels, several cookies, M&M's, pop, and had my water bottles filled with gatorade. This year, I drank only water with the exception of ginger ale at Ridge Road; and, I consumed only 1/2 of an energy bar, a fig newton, and 1/2 of an apple cinnamon Hammer gel. My stomach also fared very well. I consumed a very light breakfast prior to the race consisting only of a few almonds and an apple.
With a year packed full of ultras including a 24 hour race and two 100 milers, I'm eager to get back out onto trails in preparation for my next 50k in three weeks. And with each new PR, I'm full of optimism, looking forward to making and breaking new goals.
* Here is a link to last year's report:
Posted by Kimberly Durst at 10:06 AM