Race Report: Green Mountain Relay (Part 3)

In our last installment, I had showered and passed out with my two female vanmates in a cheap motel somewhere in Vermont at around 1:30 in the morning. I had my trusty Lunesta with me, but was hesitant about taking it. The stuff has a half life of about 4 hours, usually. But my internal clock was now so messed up that I wondered if it would compound my cumulative exhaustion the following morning. Yet, despite being tired, I realized while stepping out of the shower that my brain was still going. I took my chances and swallowed the blue pill.

About two hours later, the alarm went off. Wow. Was it hard to get up off that bed. Even more difficult was getting my head around the reality that I would be racing again in two hours. In the dead of night, we shoved ourselves back into the van and off we went to the next transfer point.

I don’t even remember what our start area looked like or any of the interactions with the other van’s team. My memory of those two hours is totally gone, if it was ever recorded. I must have eaten something, but I don’t remember what. In fact, I don’t even remember starting my last leg. My recollection of that race starts at about the .25 mile mark, when I felt some raindrops and thought, rather dimwittedly, “Oh, that’s nice. A little sprinkle to cool me off.”

Rainy days and Sundays always speed me up.

Three minutes later I was running through a downpour. But it was great. My leg was “easy” and under 3 miles. I raced that fucker, rain or no rain. It turned out to be my strongest leg of the three. I had been smart enough to pack my flats with the drainage holes. So the water poured right out as fast as it came in.

In the above photo you see me approaching the one person I would pass in this entire race. That’s The Captain’s hand on the steering wheel. My vanmates would stop to help the guy in front of me (traitors) — he was running with an iPod in the pocket of his basketball shorts and found it uncomfortable. (What is this, the local turkey trot?)

As they pulled away with his iPod, entrusted to return it to him at the next transfer point, they honked and he waved at them. What he didn’t know is that they were honking at me as I approached from behind. He was surprised to see me. We smiled at each other and I said, “I hope you like running in the rain.”

Drying off after 24 hours of racing on fumes.

The rain lasted until I hit the mile 2 mark, after which it quickly eased off to a drizzle. At that point, it was all downhill, less than a mile to go. I managed a 6:55 pace for that one. How delightful. Stats: 2.92 miles in 22:03 (7:33 pace), 94% effort. Thanks, Lunesta!

With that I was done. All that remained was to get changed out of my soaking clothes and wait for food. I needed food. I was starving.

But first, again, our team had two more legs to run. Then we needed to engage in our final transfer of timekeeping accessories and wristband to Van 2. This part is also something of a blur. I vaguely remember talking to Robert and having him tell me that he puked several times while racing the night before. That was also where we saw The Amber Van with Ambers done up in full bird of paradisery.

I also groggily posted a few Facebook updates, since we’d been in a total digital access dead zone for much of the previous day. I can’t use my iPod’s onscreen keyboard with any adeptness normally. This morning, I was a complete spastic. As a result, I ended up accepting one of Apple’s auto-completed words and posted an update that moments later completely mystified me.

“Pikers?” What did I mean by that? I’ve seen Snatch, but that wasn’t what I meant. For over 20 minutes, I wracked my addled, rusty brain. What had I been trying to say?

Teammate Amy finally figured it out, although she was laughing so hard that she could barely get the word out. “Pukers! Pukers!”

Lots of pikers, but not me.

A few moments later, teammate Matt removed his second layer and revealed a very interesting tee shirt. We were, um, impressed.

I remember breakfast because it was probably the best breakfast I’ve ever eaten. I knew what I wanted: protein, carbs and salt. And caffeine. Sure, I had to request a meal with a ridiculous name — the “Cock-A-Doodle-Doo” — a name that didn’t even really make sense, since it was poached eggs over sourdough with lox (later on I realized there was a joke in there: the “Cock-A-Doodle-Jew”), with a side of hash browns. I practically ate my plate.

What a total dick.

Since we were done and our Van 2 teammates were still racing, we had a leisurely breakfast. Once sufficiently stuffed, we waddled back out to the van and made our way to the finish.

I have to say that the finish was a bit anticlimactic. For one thing, it was really hot again. So we sought out shade and loafed, waiting for Van 2 to come in. They arrived around 11:30 (we were over 40 minutes under our predicted time). We all ran to the finish line together and it was time to eat again.

Now, here’s my one criticism of the race organizers (I’m sure there were other lapses, but I was too tired to notice them) — if you’ve got people coming to you for lunch after running for 24-36 hours, you’d damn well better have enough food. There were ultra guys — teams of six (that’s around 35 miles of racing apiece) — coming in.

We lined up for food and I was surprised at how little there was. Worse (but I suppose this was a good thing), we were sternly instructed to only take one item: a burger or a piece of chicken, and one potato, etc. This was just crazy. I’ve seen more food available at the finish of 10 mile races.

We collapsed on the grass, ate our parsimonious portions, and tried to ignore the live bluegrass band. I think everyone had pretty much had it, because we made haste to the vans in order to start the journey home. After a quick transfer of foodstuffs and borrowed equipment, there were hugs all around and we piled back into the van — at least for me, it was with an odd mixture of eagerness and reluctance. Eagerness to get home. Reluctance to get back into the van. Eagerness to get out of the heat. Reluctance to end this crazy trip.

My vanmates

I would be remiss if I didn’t present a portrait of my vanmates.

“The Captain” (who wishes to remain completely anonymous, I suspect because he has a real job) is a still-waters-run-deep kind of guy. I initially thought he was standoffish. Then I revised my assessment to shy. Eventually, I realized he’s just quiet, observant and reflective. He lent a dimension of calm to a group that was otherwise fairly high-energy, verging on hysteria at times. I was glad he was half of the team in charge.

The infamously (and somewhat disturbingly) monkey-armed “Tennille” is Pigtails Flying. I’d met TK a couple of times previously and I knew her to be extremely extroverted and approachable. I’ll even go so far as to say fun loving. TK was a delight to be with and she had a sense of humor about her own tendency to randomly go all Control Freak on us. She is a natural leader and, as with The Captain, I was likewise happy to have her co-running the show. She also sent me (and presumably the other runners) a thank you note — I think she got this backwards — it seems within seconds of returning home. Her mamma raised a girl with manners.

Mike and Matt are identical twins. I found it difficult to tell them apart at times, although I finally figured out that their eyes are slightly different in shape. But I was able to distinguish them primarily by their voices. Mike was also the chattier of the two. I knew Matt already as host of the Dump Runners Club podcast. They frequently talked over each other and were engaged in a constant, seamless comedic exchange that would often crescendo into something that was so funny that it approached a total transcendence of space, time and dreariness.

Finally, there was Amy (“The Flying Finn”), a twentysomething runner, triathlete, soccer goddess and photographer extraordinaire (thanks for the blog snaps). Amy and I met at our GMR drinks meetup last month. I had thought at the time that she was reserved, verging on staid. But I quickly learned that, once put into an environment in which she a) could be heard and b) could be appreciated for her intelligence and wit, she was Ms. Personality (this reminds me of someone I’ve known all my life, but her name escapes me). She does a mean (and I do mean “mean”) Canadian accent and out-raunched and out-snarked all of us. She was also an excellent bedmate.

Random crap

TK calls these posts “Ellipses…”

I call them a great way to unwind on Friday afternoon, after the steam whistle has blown. Toot!

The Green Mountain Relay, and my commitment to it, is becoming more of a reality every day. I had to register and input my most recent (terrible) 10K time. Then I had to pick a shirt style (because that is the most important part of all of this — how I look).

Now I’m scrutinizing the various “race leg” sets and, like some clueless roundeye who’s wandered into a Dim Sum palace, I’m pointing helplessly at a few and saying, “Yes, I’d like to run these! I have no concept of exactly how running extreme changes in elevation, for around 18 miles over a 24 hour period — some of those miles in the dead of night — will affect me. But, dammit, I’m choosing with confidence and authority!”

Oh, right. It's the Green MOUNTAIN Relay.

The way it works is, the race is 200 miles long, divided up in to 36 “legs.” They are numbered (surprise!) 1-36. On a 12 person team, each runner will run three legs, evenly distributed. So, for example, runner 1 will run legs 1, 13 and 25. Some legs are harder than others, and a couple of them are fucking brutal. I’ll let some 25-year-old studs claim those.

But I am nevertheless among the masochistic majority, clamboring for the three-leg sets that are on the “hard” side of the spectrum. And I may not get one of the harder sets, since it seems I may be one of the slower team members. I still don’t yet know how I feel about this piece of information.

Also, on a related and disturbing note, the phrase “baby wipes” is beginning to appear frequently among team member communications. What have I gotten myself into?

So far, at least in email, the team is a fun crowd. (I’ve met two of them exactly once, although we’ve been members of the Running Blog Mutual Appreciation Society for quite some time.) Someone shared this photo snapped during last year’s race (this man was not on their team, by the way).

According to co-captain TK, "It was some freak running down the highway we saw while we were all in the van. It was the funniest thing ever and we all mocked him from the confines of our vehicle."

Edited: When I saw this photo, I knew this man reminded me of someone, but I couldn’t think of whom. This morning, it hit me. He looks quite a lot like a running Ron Jeremy. (That Wikipedia entry is worth a read, not the least of which because it reveals the existence of something call the Adult Star Path of Fame, located in Edison, NJ.)

On a totally different topic, I am cleaning up on the 2009 shoe closeouts. I’ve picked up Saucony Fastwitch 3s for $40 and Asics Hyperspeed 3s for $55 (Holabird Sports). Holabird doesn’t like grabby people, so they only let you buy one pair of the Hyperspeeds. I’m going to put Jonathan up to buying another pair (or maybe I can drop the cloak and dagger and just place a separate order). At this point, I’m doing almost all of my training in “racing” shoes (7.5 oz or lighter). I can’t imagine how I used to train in 12 oz. tugboats.

My shorts (or, rather, the elastic) have all decided to expire at once too. My mesh “comfort liners” have taken to flapping about like sails. I’m already showing way to much flesh when I go out as it is. I draw the line at sunkissed butt cheeks. I’ve got four pairs of new shorts on the way from Running Whorehouse.

I managed to destroy the watch face of my 301XT last week. I knocked it off the counter and broke the glass face right up the center. The watch still functions, but I’m sure it’s not waterproof anymore. I’m quite annoyed that Garmin thought it was a good idea to not only make the front of a sports watch out of glass, but actually raise the glass so it’s guaranteed to shatter if it gets hit. Great job!

On the running front, I’ve had nothing but good workouts this week (two of them, rather than just one; playing with fire), despite the freak heat wave, and I was zippy on my 7 mile recovery run this morning. So I don’t know what to think about Sunday’s 15K race. Maybe I’ll do well, despite my doubts.

Joe has posted about the upcoming Masters Mile at the Louck Games in White Plains early next month. I’m skipping it since it’s just a few days after the Long Island Half Marathon. I know my limits. But I mention it here because, like a lot of outdoor track stuff, not many people are aware that it’s there for the running. The more the merrier. I’m screwing up my courage these days to perhaps try a track race at Icahn.

We shall see. But, again, people, it’s out there, and that’s why I mention it. These are open races, no invitation or qualifying time required. Take advantage or this stuff will go away. And then you’ll have a bunch of sad people noisily clacking around in spikes.

Wanted to borrow: a working analogue heart rate strap

I was recently sent a doohickey called the ithlete from the developer, a very nice gentleman named Simon Wegerif. The doohickey in question attaches to an iPod and when connected to a heart rate monitor feeds heart rate variability (HRV) data into an iPod application, also called ithlete.

The problem is, neither of my digital heart rate monitors (a Garmin and an older Polar) are recognized by the unit. You need an analog model (treadmills typically come with them) for it to work. Since I’m not  yet convinced of HRV’s legitimacy as a predictor of overtraining, I’m not willing to plunk down $50 for another monitor. I’ve written to the two guys who do the Science of Sport blog in hopes that they’ll do a post or two surveying the HRV research that’s out there.

In the meantime, I’d still like to review the product, since its maker was kind enough to send it to me gratis. So, web community, is anyone out there willing to let me borrow an analog strap for this purpose? I’d like to borrow it for a few weeks to track readings over a span of training and racing. I would mail it right back to you, plus reimburse you for the original postage costs (assuming you don’t include a brick).

If you’ve got an old analog strap lying around that you’re not using, and you’re willing to make a trip to the post office, please let me know. Email me at: raceslikeagirl@optonline.net

Here’s a list of the compatible models:

  • Suunto Dual
  • Polar T31, T34, T61
  • Polar T31 coded (incl Wearlink)
  • Nike analog chest transmitter belt
  • Cardiosport analog chest transmitter
  • Sigma Sport non coded
  • Oregon Scientific analog
  • Decathlon Geonaute HRM Chest belt

Thanks!

Race Report: TRRC Freezer Five Miler

This race was one of the many B or C list races I had on my calendar for the winter and spring. Unlike the four mile race I ran a couple of weeks ago, I hadn’t planned on racing this one. So why did I race it? Because it was there.

I was feeling discouraged by my debacle of a speed session on Friday, aside from suffering from a bad case of cabin fever. I did a five mile recovery run along Fox Meadow Road and Walworth Avenue in Scarsdale yesterday (reasonably flat) and was surprised to find that I felt good and wanted to run fast.

Jonathan had planned to do the five mile race and I’d thought I’d go as his driver and support. But I reasoned that I hadn’t raced in a few weeks, and the next important race isn’t until mid March. I might as well race this one for the experience and practice. Naturally, I got a terrible night’s sleep and woke up two pounds heavier than the previous day, with stiff, sore legs. I figured I’d go in with low expectations and if I felt crummy I’d turn it into a tempo run.

I should note that this race (or at least the course it’s on) has some history for me. I ran my third race ever, a cold 10K in March 2006, on this course and haven’t been back since. My average pace per mile that day was 9:04. Today it was two minutes faster per mile and the hills didn’t seem nearly as bad as I remember them.

The race was held in FDR State Park, about a half an hour north of us. It’s just north of the Donald Trump State Park, which we’ve never been to, although I always like to say that it’s probably very classy.

The course is hilly, with fairly steep ups and downs, but they are short. In some ways, it reminds me of Central Park’s terrain and I’m thinking I should race and train there more often. The races there are on the small side, probably well under 200 people, so you can hit all the tangents and easily find individual runners to work on reeling in.

Today I had an experience that was eerily similar to my last Westchester Half Marathon in October. At the one mile turnaround (an out-and-back they tack on to come up with five miles) I noted that I was ninth woman again. So I worked on passing women over the next couple of miles. I managed to get into sixth place by mile three, at which point I could only see two women I had any hope of catching.

One of them turned out to be Yukiko Nishide, a prolific local masters runner who was running my exact pace, even the up- and downhill variations the whole way, but seven seconds ahead of me. Try as I might, I couldn’t close the 20 yard gap she had on me. I did manage to catch one woman, though — last year’s winner — about .2 miles from the finish, ultimately gaining four seconds on her, which was fun. My breathing as I passed her was something straight out of a porno soundtrack; thank goodness she was wearing headphones!

My first mile was the fastest at 6:50, with the rest varying between just under 7:00 up to 7:20 for one bad hilly mile. My legs were tired going in and there was a stiff headwind in some of the tougher uphill sections, so I would have been surprised to have broken 35:00. Official time was 35:26. In any event, I got fifth overall, second in the 40-49F AG. I suspect Ms. Nishide and I would have placed higher (as would have Jonathan, 13th overall and first in 50-59M) had a vanload of 20-year-olds from West Point not turned up.

Afterwards we ran into a friendly AG rival of Jonathan’s, Takashi Ogawa, and his wife, Katsura, who races on and off but always comes to his races. We last saw Takashi nearly a year ago as the three of us were deciding not to run a 30K race in torrential rain. He was preparing for the Green Bay Marathon at the time. Neither of us had seen him since and we wondered if they’d moved out of the area. It turns out Takashi pulled out of that race at the two mile mark with a hamstring injury, which he’s been working to come back from this entire time. While I was sorry to hear that news, it was comforting to know that we weren’t the only ones who’d had a disappointing 2009, at least for marathon racing.

The race was organized by the Taconic Road Runners Club. What they lack in quantity they make up for in quality. They only have around a dozen races a year, but I’d forgotten about the great post-race food they provide: homemade cookies and banana bread, coffee cake and excellent coffee, along with beer if you wanted that at 10:30 in the morning in sub-freezing temps. There was even a roaring fire going in the outdoors clubhouse. No water stops, which was a little weird. But they had race results up in hours rather than days.

Today I did everything you’re not supposed to do. I raced 36 hours after doing speedwork. I tried new tights and shoes (Asics Hyperspeed 3′s — men’s models, no less — which were outstanding to race in). I was groggy from a Lunesta I’d taken at 2am. I had wine last night. No taper whatsoever. I ate candy (Yes, candy. I know! I’m insane!) five minutes before the start. You name it, I did it wrong. Things went okay despite all that. I’m starting to think that I need to start caring less about doing everything correctly.

Snow bunny

I just did my first run in my new Redwing snow shoes, down around the Bronxville pond. What we’re experiencing is not technically a blizzard, apparently. But the wind was around 20 mph. Not that I noticed the wind today.

Good God, running in snow is hard! Notice I said in rather than on. In the untrodden sections, I sank down a good 4-6 inches with every step. I ran just under two miles, much of it in a foot of fresh, powdery snow. Running in that stuff was laughingly slow. Once I got onto some packed snow, the going was much better and I could achieve something resembling a natural running form. Average pace: 12:55. Average HR%: 74.

I was supposed to do a four mile recovery run this evening, but the only way to stay below 70% was to walk. So I figure two miles at 74% is roughly equal to four at 65% (Uh…). But why do my calves, quads and ass hurt so much? Oh, I’m gonna pay for this folly, I know it.

For fun (and, as it turns out, demoralization) I tried two all-out sprints of .05 miles, one on the packed stuff and one on powder. The first one yielded a blazing pace of 8:32. The second one was paced a minute slower. My attempt to dash up a hill was equally unimpressive.

How do you people race in this stuff?

“Was this review helpful to you?”

No. But it did bring up some interesting questions:

  • Is the writer’s native language English? How did he or she manage to get so many of the basics wrong yet use and spell the word “dissipate” correctly?
  • Does the conducting medium have to be honey or peanut butter? Will Nutella work? What about Marmite?
  • Why would it occur to someone to smear peanut butter on their own body for any purpose other than fulfilling a sexual fetish or attempting to attract an elephant (or both at the same time)?

To wear: whatnot

The weather forecast for tomorrow’s race over the past 10 days has evolved from cool and rainy, to cold and cloudy, to freezing and sunny. I can’t get any read on the wind situation, as it seems to shift (like the wind!) every time I check, going from reasonable to downright ugly. But it’s going to do whatever it’s going to do, regardless of how much I worry.

I won’t be running in a Mr. Peanut costume tomorrow, so I won’t be easy to spot. But if you’d like to try, here’s my planned ensemble: black shorts, a bright orange tee shirt, black armwarmers, cheap black gloves (which I’ll abandon by mile 3 or so) and my orange “Kentucky racers” (courtesy of my virtual running pal, Tracy, who spends her days experiencing New Running Shoe Smell). I’ll start off with my Ted Corbitt Memorial 15K white cotton longsleeve, which I’ll also abandon early on.

I should also note that my experiment with living life as a blonde is drawing to a close after a year of fun with chemicals. I’m now more solidly on the brown side and will probably stay that way since the time and expense of maintaining my flaxen locks has become too burdensome. I’ll update the blog photo once I get a shot where I don’t look like Richard Lewis.

This will be my first outing with armwarmers, which I admit I felt a little douchey about buying, but when I have them on they actually look kind of cool, and they make my arms look less porcine, which is always a bonus.

The forecasted temps are actually ideal for me. I race best when it’s just above freezing, and start to get too warm if it gets anywhere near 50. But I know a windchill of 27 at the start is too cold for just a short sleeve shirt, and I didn’t bring any technical clothing I’m willing to throw away. If I wear a long sleeve tech shirt, though, I’ll be sweating by the end, when the temps are expected to be right around 40.

Armwarmer bonus: Extra storage space. I will take five gels during the race. I can fit four in my shorts’ pockets. Now I can stick the fifth one in the sleeve of my armwarmer rather than carrying in my hand it all the way to mile 3. Hooray!

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