Thursday, May 26, 2011

Running--It's my life (at least it feels like it is)!

Most people within about 30 minutes of meeting me learn about my running. It's not something I do leisurely and not something I can usually hide from people as it is such a big part of my life. I have run for a good portion of my life, but only recently did I realize how much it truly means to me.

Let's start at the beginning, though, shall we? When in 5th grade, my teacher at the time handed out pamphlets for different rec sports to do. I had done karate, gymnastics, and swimming before. Soccer and basketball did not sound appealing, either. For some reason, the rec track club sounded like something I wanted to try. I comically did sprinting and shot put, two things that I was totally not built to do. I also race walked, which I found really fun. I stopped running when I was going through growth spurts and my legs hurt too much to do so, but the seed was planted: I was going to be a runner.

The summer before my freshman year of high school, I was prepared to tryout for the high school tennis team. It was only after one particularly frustrating day of practicing that I decided that tennis was too temper-inducing and that I ought to run instead. I look back and am so thankful I made that decision because running for Magruder High School made so many of my favorite memories from high school. I ran cross country and indoor and outdoor track all four years of high school. Cross country was my favorite as I naturally did better in endurance and loved the family my team became. I had amazing coaches and I was able to improve each year steadily. For track, I ran longer distances, but had the pleasure to do hurdles and pole vault as well. I met some of my great friends through Magruder running (some I'm still connected with!) and the love of running was further solidified in those years. 

My place after an XC meet in high school
I was not the best runner, therefore I was not seeking a college team to compete on. I got lucky in finding the Drexel University Track Club, though, as it was a perfect place to challenge myself, but not be committed to a varsity team. I met some awesome friends through there and ran a lot of fun races. My coach is actually the person who urged me to sign up for my first marathon (the 2007 Philadelphia Marathon) and since then, my love of endurance running has only grown. 

After my 2nd Philly Marathon finish in 2009, I needed assistance
walking from my brother
After two Philadelphia marathons were under my belt, I was seeking a spring 2010 marathon and came up with nothing exciting. I had always been interested in running ultras and thought that I ought to try my first ultra with the Back on My Feet 24 hour Lone Ranger ultramarathon. I didn't realize how steep of challenge I had put myself up for, but I love a good challenge! I competed in the inaugural Mind the Ducks 12 hour race in May as a test before my 24 hour race and knew I was hooked to ultras. I've completed two 12 hour races, one 24 hour race, and have my second 24 hour race in just 7 short weeks!

In the last few weeks, I've had times when running wasn't possible (too busy or my current injury of overused muscles in my feet from my recent 12 hour race). As much as I knew I enjoyed running, I didn't realize how important it is to me and for my sanity. It's my time to feel in control of something, to challenge myself, to think things through, to jam out to some tunes, to do my body good, and to be me. Running has so intrinsically become part of who I am that not being able to run now makes me feel in a funk. I am so lucky to be able to run as much as I do and I cannot wait to get back to it when my feet heal up so I get back to being me!

Finish of 2011 Mind the Ducks 12 Hour Race with Jesse, a runner friend
Photo: Shelly Robillard 
Last but not least, I've met some of the most amazing people running. Whether it was from high school teams, Drexel Track, the Runner's World forums, or from a race, I have been so inspired by other runners that I have befriended. I've been able to meet people from all other walks of life that I wouldn't have met otherwise. 

Can you tell that I love running?! Yeah, it may be obnoxious to others, but it truly has become a part of me and I cannot wait for my many running adventures for the rest of my life. :D

Sunday, May 22, 2011

It's a brownie weekend!

This has truly been a brownie-filled weekend! In the last 36 hours, I've made two batches of brownies, one that was awesome and one that was a flop.

Yesterday, John and I headed to Greensgrow Farm to pick up some yummy local goodies. We got a dozen of local eggs (clearly we've dipped into them), some leeks (some used in recipe below), cremini mushrooms, an onion, and some asparagus (side dish to our dinner tonight). There was so much more we could have gotten, but we only got a few things and in total, they were less than $12. Tasty, local, and resonable?! I'll take it! Yes, I am paying a bit more for local produce, but I happily do so.

Speaking of the leeks, I searched (where I spend way too much of my free time) for a leek recipe for dinner and chose a pasta with caramelized leek and feta cream sauce dish (link). The recipe did not exactly turn out as it was supposed to; the feta never really melted enough to be a sauce. If anyone makes this or if I make this again, I'd definitely add 1 cup of chicken stock or pasta water to the pan instead of the little splash requested. It was a bit dry of a pasta dish, but golly, it tasted good (especially the caramelized die for). 

Such a pretty picture (obviously taken by the original blogger
and not moi)
Back to the main point of this post: brownies. John and I headed to tailgate the Phillies v. Rangers game yesterday with his friends, so I had to bring some fudge-tastic brownies. When it comes to brownies, I will choose fudgey ones over cakey ones any day. I toasted some almonds and tossed them into the batter and they turned out so great. I also added my (not so) secret ingredient, which I add to nearly every brownie recipe: cinnamon. It adds depth to them and makes them have a warm flavor. 

Nutty, fudgey brownies galore
Not content with baking just once this weekend, I wanted to bake something after dinner tonight. I originally bought some double stuff Oreos to for another recipe, but decided that Oreo Brownies sounded like the perfect thing to make. They took nearly no time to make and in the blink of an eye, they were out of the oven. I did not have the called-for unsweetened chocolate, so I used oil and cocoa (done this about a thousand times without fail). I think this was part of the downfall of the recipe. The brownies came out pretty, but definitely cakey and there wasn't much depth in flavor. I did also omit cinnamon, but I'm really bummed they did not work out. They're not bad, but not worth bringing in to work (my original game plan). 

If only I knew they wouldn't be so yummy, I wouldn't be cheesing so much.
I also clearly need more sleep.
So my brownie recipe success this weekend has been 50%, but luckily, I know why they weren't great and can tweak it for the future. Overall, it's been a food-filled weekend and I wouldn't have it any other way. :D

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Mind the Ducks 2011 12 Hour Race Report

Man, where to start? I ran this race a year ago as my first ultramarathon and it was such a good race, I had to do it this year, too. I made some great friends and knew that I had to come back and challenge the course and my previous distance once again.

The race report, though, really starts the Monday before the race. I had done an easy 12 miler the day before and I felt my achilles start to get tight throughout the work day. Tuesday, the pain was even worse. I iced it, took anti-inflammatory meds, and wore heeled shoes to give it a rest. Thursday, I went to a sports medicine doctor and he agreed with my self-diagnosis of achilles tendonitis. He said it was really minor and if I kept up my routine and added some stretches the physical therapist gave me, he'd clear me to run. You have no idea how big the smile on my face was when he said that. I could have kissed him...almost...hehe.

Friday morning, I took a flight in from Philadelphia and met my mom in the Rochester Airport (she took a flight from Baltimore). The toy of a plane I took made me feel so motion sick, even hours after the ride. We quickly went to pick up last minute things, then ordered some delivery pasta. Nothing like a good carbo-load the night before the race!

We woke up and headed to the race location. We were pushing it on time and got there with just 10 minutes before the start. Got to say hello to runners I met last year, including Jesse Scott ( Jesse and I have kept in touch through Facebook and it's been great to become friend with a fellow ultrarunner who is part of the younger demographic like myself. We've talked about running mostly, but also just our lives in general and I was very happy to see him again.

Before I knew it, the race was underway! The first hour went by quickly, but my achilles started to tighten up a bit. I was freaked out that I wouldn't be able to do the whole race, but popped a few ibuprofen (not ideal and I avoid taking them normally to spare my kidneys, but my achilles needed to not swell up). I was able to keep the pain at bay for the entire race, which was awesome.

Like last year, I found myself starting in about 8th place for the women. I also decided to stick with my plan last year of being the tortoise in the tortoise and hare story. Last year, I kept my same pace the entire time and was able to sneak into second place while others slowed down. I knew it worked last year, so I tried it again this year, just a bit faster.

Surprisingly, the hours zoomed by. I employed a 27/3 ratio of running to walking, which allowed me to break up each half hour easily. I would try to snack on something in each of those 3 minute breaks and took an S-cap every hour or so. I was able to chat with some runners I met last year as well as some newbies to the race. I love the ultra community because it is so supportive and people are generally extremely friendly.

As the hours flew by, I was able to slowly creep up the leader board. The forecast predicted rain and while it only misted or lightly drizzled for most of the race, there were a few hours of hard rain. Surprisingly, it didn't bother me, but I think it pushed away runners who were ready to quit anyway. This was good for people like me who weren't quitting for anything as our competition dwindled.

Right before the start of the race
One thing I would do differently next year is drink and eat more. If I wasn't doing my walk break near the aid tent, sometimes I'd forget to eat. Also, water kept sloshing in my stomach, so I found myself drinking less water because of that. It kept my stomach troubles away, but meant that I wasn't hydrated enough. I was lucky, though, that I was still able to push through and make it.

The interesting part of the race came in the last hour and a half. I had been averaging 10:20-10:30 min/mile pace not including my walk breaks. With an hour and a half left, I realized that if I wanted to hit my high goal of 67 miles, I'd really have to keep my pace on track. I thought, "If I'm going to really leave it all on the course, this is my time to push it." I then picked up the pace to around 8:50 min/mile pace. I was zooming by everyone (minus Jesse, of course, as he was just killing all day and ended up (unsurprisingly) the first placed male overall and ran 77 miles). It felt great to feel fast at the end of a 12 hour race and for once, I felt intimidating.

With one hour left, I was only 1 mile away from 2nd place and she was left walking the last hour. I was able to lap her enough to surpass her by a few miles and was able to cut the lead of the first placed female by 2 miles (she still dominated and ran 71 miles...crazy!). I found Jesse with about 2 miles left and we decided to stick together like we had last year. He was able to keep me going and it felt superb to finish with a friend. We pushed along the last laps and finished at the same time. Couldn't have been happier!!!

Myself with Shelley, the RD with my 1st place female open award
(sorry for low quality, it's from my mother's Blackberry)
Again, Shelly, the RD, put on such an amazing race and the volunteers were fabulous. I loved this race even more the second time and cannot wait to be out there next year! I also have to thank my amazing mother, who walked the entire time in the opposite direction so she could always see me (walking about 45 miles) and who kept me going by either grabbing food for me to eat or just being a goofy person and keeping my spirits up. Couldn't have done it without her!

Final stats:

Miles: 68.8 miles
Place: 2nd place female, 4th overall
Toenails that will be lost: 3-4
Feeling: Like I'm on cloud nine (minus my body, which hurts like hell)