Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Tale of my First Ultra

Like an ultra...this is kind of long.

Before moving to Ohio, I did what every person addicted to running/racing does, I googled races near where I'd be moving. I found a few races. One of the first that I found was Stone Steps 50k. I'd never done a 50k before but for some reason I was interested in this race. It was described at Cincinnati's toughest Ultramarathon. I thought sounds like a challenge, I love challenges. So why not try to run my first ultra that is described as Cincy's toughest.

I signed up for the race and thought what did I just do. I just signed up to run 50 kilometers...31+ miles.  That is a freaking long way. 

The weekend before the race, a friend gives me a tour of the course. It is 4 loops of 5+ miles and 3 loops of about 3 miles. We ran just over 8 miles that day and I was tired and sore after it. I think there is no way am I going to be able to do this for 31+ miles...what was I thinking. Well, I'm signed up so I'm going to try.

A friend with experience at this race tells me I should plan on it taking me about 6 hours. Ok, I spend the week mental trying to prepare myself for 6+ hours of running. How does one do that? I don't know I just kept telling myself I get to run for 6+ hours. I get to spend 6 hours doing something I'm passionate about. I'm so lucky! I gave myself lots of little pep talks. 

Race weekend comes around. I have no idea what to expect. I get up at 5:45. I decided to try something a little different than my normal pre-race breakfast. I made pumpkin pancakes the day before so I ate 2 pancakes, a yogurt, a banana and drank a big glass of water. I jumped in the car at 6:20 and headed down to Cincinnati. It was about a 45 min drive.

I wasn't sure what to wear for the race. It was around 32 degrees at the start and warmed up to about 50 degrees at the finish. 42 degree is my cutoff for wearing shorts usually. I decided on my Oiselle long rogas, knee high sock, my favorite long sleeve shirt (Oiselle's lux layer love it) and my singlet. 

The race started at 8am. I keep telling myself start conservatively, start conservatively, you're going to be running for 6+ hours. The race starts people take off fast. I fall in behind some guys trying not to go too fast. I know there are at least a few women in front of me. The first loop is the 5+ mile loop that includes the stone steps and gummy bear hill. Don't let the name fool you, it is NOT a tasty little treat. I was running behind 2 guys because the trail is only wide enough for 1 person. The guy in front asks if I want to pass. No, I need to start slowly. I follow them for a while the guy in the middle steps to the side so I pass him. I keep following the other guy. I am watching my footing more than paying attention to where we are going. Then all the sudden I am looking around and he is looking around and we realize we got off the course. So I take off back the way we came. He yells an apology. I say no worries but there is no way I'm going to continue following him. I get back on course and pass some of the people that I had recently passed. They say didn't you just pass us. Yep, I took a wrong turn already...3 miles into the race and I'm taking wrong turns. I had a little rush of adrenaline after the wrong turn. I dropped the guy that I'd been following for the last 3 miles pretty quickly. I run by myself for a while then I hear people up ahead. I slowly work my way up to them and realize there is a women in the group and follow them through the end of the 5 mile loop. 

We get to the start/aid station. I have a mostly full water bottle and a Gu in my pocket so I don't grab anything on the first pass. I head out on the 3 mile loop by myself. I am keeping careful watch on the orange flags hanging from the trees. I don't want to get off course anymore. My first pass at the 3 mile loop was pretty uneventful. I took my first Gu. I was trying to listen to the advice of one of my Oiselle teammates, Emily. She's run a ultras before so I asked her for advice the night before. She said enjoy the experience and fuel often and early. I ran by myself most of the loop. Toward the end I started to hear a couple people talking up ahead. I recognized the voice of a women that I had met the weekend before when I was touring the course. I caught up to them at the end of the 3 mile loop. 

At the aid station, I decided to get a refill on my water bottle. This time I filled it with Powerade. Actually, I didn't fill it. When you get to the aid station a very kind volunteer asks if you want your water bottle filled so she filled it for me while I checked out the food options. There were peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, grapes, pretzels, oranges, banana, granola bars, mini cookies, Hammer gel, plain and peanut butter m&m's, coke, and more. I grab a glass of coke. Mmmm, it was so good. I'm also a sucker for peanut butter m&m's. I wasn't sure what to eat and how my stomach would handle the different foods while running but I ate them and hoped for the best. 

I started the 2nd 5 mile loop with Nancy and Jonathan. Nancy asked if I had done the race before. Nope, this is my first 50k. She says well, you're doing well. I think we are the first women. I freak out a little in my mind. What are you doing Julie, you have no business running with the women in the lead 8 miles into the race. I fall in behind them. I listen to them talk, answer a few questions. Freak out a little bit about running with her. We get to the stone steps and I am much slower at climbing them then they are so I fall behind. I can see and hear them up ahead. I start to feel better about not being right behind her anymore. I start thinking about when I finish my next 3 mile loop I'll be over halfway done. 

I get back to the aid station and grab some food. I head off to start my 2nd 3 mile loop, a spectator tells me to stay on her heels. I think no way man, I want to finish this race. Well, I catch up and follow them through the loop.

At the end of the loop, Nancy stopped at the restrooms. I got to the aid station and thought I really do not want to be leading the women's race. Should I wait and follow her out of the aid station. Then I realized how crazy I was being and headed out as the lead woman for the 3rd 5 mile loop. It was hard for me to be in the lead in my first ultra. I wasn't really sure how my body was going to react to the longer distance. I still had 13+ miles to go so I wanted to try and run conservatively. The course was challenging. Sometime during that loop Nancy and Jonathan caught up to me. From this point on, Nancy and I ran the rest of the race together. We lost Jonathan for a while but he caught up during the last 5 mile loop.

We made it to the aid station and grabbed some food. There are amazing volunteers at this race that fill up your water bottle when you get to the aid station. I love race volunteers! We started off on our 3rd and final 3 mile loop. We ran and chatted. It was nice. I was starting to feel the effects of the hills, the time running and the distance. At this point, I had been running for longer than I had ever run before. My quads were not happy with all the downhills. I really hoped that I could stay with Nancy for a little while longer. It was so awesome to run with someone.

We got back to the aid station at the end of our 3 mile loop and saw that the men's winners had already come in. They were speedy. During our final 5 mile loop, my legs were exhausted. I was afraid during the downhills that they were going to give out. We were running along and I hit a small rock on the ground and was unable to catch myself so I went down. I went down hard. My reaction time was also very slow. I was unable to catch myself at all. I managed to hit both knees, left side, left shoulder, and the left side of my head. I jumped up right away. I know if I looked at the damage it might freak me out. My knees were hurting. We kept going about 3/4 mile from the finish line, it happened again. I hit a root and was too exhausted to catch myself. I went down on my knees this time. Ouch, they were already hurting. I jumped right up. I didn't want to survey the damage. I had made it this far. I was not going to let a fall stop me from finishing.

About 400m from the finnish Nancy asked if I wanted to take the win during my first ultra. Yes, that would be amazing! I took off and won my first 50k! I ran a 5:27:53. I was really hoping to win a platter and I did! It was so amazing! I loved it and can't wait to do more.

The totally awesome platter that I won!
My new running buddy
The results of the multiple falls. It looks like I have an extra knee cap.

I may have already found my first 24 hour race in Minneapolis next summer!

Friday, October 25, 2013

Ohio...the first 2 months

So I've been living in the great state that gave America the hot dog for about 2 months now. I was planning on updating my blog regularly so my friends and family would know what I was up to out here in small town Ohio. If regularly means no updates yet then I'm doing well...Starting Monday, I'll regularly update this blog. Ok, that is unlikely but I have a few highlights that I want to remember so I'll post some about them in the next few weeks.

I decided it was time to get a different car. My dad thought my '97 Contour was a POS. I wasn't sure it would make it to Ohio with out many repairs needed on the way. If it did make it there, it would have taken forever. You can't drive over 55 mph without the car shaking. You also have to plug the flasher box in from behind the steering wheel if you want to use the turn signals. Time for a new car to make the trip to Ohio! I was planning to buy a used car but ended up with a brand new one. Introducing my brand new Honda Fit. I love my new car! It is just what I wanted. Here it is packed down with all my stuff on the way to Ohio.

Only brought 1 of my 3 bikes with me....crazy.

Yep, I moved to Ohio with just what I could fit in the back of my car. I found an apartment when I got into town on Friday night. It is a nice little place that is about 1.5 miles from my building on campus. I run or bike to campus everyday. Here is a pic of my office. It is a pretty sweet little place. I've got my Twin Cities Marathon posters to remind me of home and running! Because I love to run...and talk about running so it is a good thing I'm teaching exercise physiology!

Oxford is a cute little town. It has been a change living in a small town again after being in Minneapolis. Every time I go to the store or go running, I run people that I know (my students or coworkers).

Cincinnati pretty fun! I've been to a Cincinnati Reds game! They played the Pirates so I got to watch a former Minnesota Twins player.

View from the Reds game was amazing!

The next morning, I went back to the Reds' stadium to do yoga on the outfield. It was so much fun doing yoga with 2,000 other people at the Great American Ball Park!

They have this amazing gas station/ice cream store. Ice cream, you scream, we all scream for ICE CREAM! Yum! I love ice cream!

Up trip back to Minnesota to run the Twin Cities Marathon!

Oh yeah, I'm running my first 50K on Sunday!

Enjoying the adventure!


Sunday, April 14, 2013

10 Mile Race through the Snow

Yesterday, I raced the Fred Kurz 10 mile. It is a unique race in that everyone starts at a different time and they try to get everyone to finish at the same time, 10:30am. I've never done a race like this before. It was very intimidating to know that all the faster runners were starting behind me. They estimate your finish time based on 2 race time you submit with your entry.

I wasn't sure what time I would be starting. The first runners were going off at 8:30 so I figured if I got there about 8:15. I would have time to get my bib and warm up.

I got to the school and was so happy to see that packet pick-up was in the school. It has been pretty chill in Minnesota this April. We had snow a few times last week. I didn't expect it to stick but there was about 6-8 inches of fresh snow on the ground race morning.

I was told my start time was at 9:17 so I had about 1 hour to kill before the start. It was a little to early to warm up so I sat down by a wall and got stuff ready for the race. I was thinking about heading to my car to drop stuff off when I heard a quiet "Julie." I looked around but didn't recognize anyone. Then the guy next to me says, "Your Julie ..., right." I look at him confused and replied yes. He says, "I am Barrett ... I graduated with your brother." I didn't recognize him but it was so awesome that he recognized me. We chatted for a bit. He was starting at 9:11 so a little before me. I wished him good luck and was off on my warm up.

I went and check out the trail on my warm up. I was told it was a hard packed gravel trail. Well, there was no gravel to be seen only 6-8 inches of snow that hadn't been packed down yet except for one wheel mark that zig zagged along the trail.

Before, I knew it it was almost 9:17. I started with 5 people which was kind of fun. We chatted for the first 1/2 mile then we got on the trail and one of the women took the lead. I tucked in behind her on the narrow part of the trail that was packed down. After about a 1/2 mile the 2 men behind us passed us. I stayed behind her for another 1/4 mile and decided that I better get around her and catch back up to the 2 men. I stayed behind them until about 2.5 miles into the race when they caught up to a group of men but didn't pass them. I wanted to go faster but passing 5 men that were running single file was going to be a challenge on the snow covered trail.

I passed a couple of them and snuck in to rest for a few short bit then I was off and passed the last one. From that point on in the race, I was on my own. It had been nice to have someone blocking the wind for me but I wanted to try and race so I need to go on my own.

The race was an out and back course. I wasn't sure what the etiquette was when I was meeting people that were on their way back. I didn't know if I should move out of the small section of packed snow or make them. I decided to make them move out of the packed section and that I would move out after I hit the turn around. It seemed to work.

Every time that I went to pass people, I had to speed up because I wanted to get around them quickly and get back onto the packed section of trail. A few times, I spooked people when I passed them. One time, I slipped and checked a guy with my shoulder. I apologize and raced away.

I ened up passing a lot of people after the turn around so I felt like I was doing a fartlek workout. Good thing, I did one on Monday to prepare me for the race.

I was hoping to not get passed but 2 men passed me in the last half mile. They were flying.

When I finished, I had almost caught all of the women that started before me. I think there was 1 women that I didn't catch.

I finished in 1:15:41 which was slower than they predicted but I was happy with the time considering the conditions. While I was waiting around for the award, I noticed a someone that I recognized but didn't know how. I went up and talked to him. We figured out that we have a mutual friend so we have met each other through them before. It was fun chatting with him while waiting for the award.

It turns out that I took 1st in my age group and was the 2nd place women. I won a fleece jacket.

It was less than ideal racing conditions but I am really glad that I got out there and did the race anyway.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Training Recap for the week of April 1

It was a great week for training. The snow has finally melted off the track! Yeah! I love winter and snow but I was ready to hit the track.

I made some plans to run with friends this week so I ended up only running a few days on my own the entire time. Actually, I am planning to meet a friend on the track one time per week. We won't always be doing the same workouts but it will be nice to have someone at the track with me.


Monday: 2.5 mile warm-up to the track, 6 x 400 m with 400 m jog, 2.5 mile cool-down

The track is 2.5 miles from my house so I will always have a good warm-up to get there. I forgot my watch so I have no idea what kind of pace I was running. It was challenging but I think I was pretty consistent. I didn't want to do anything crazy on my first day on the track. It was just the right amount because my legs were still pretty tired from the hilly 7 mile race on Saturday.

Tuesday: 5 easy miles

Wednesday: 2 mile warm-up to the hill, 6 x 0.25 mile hill repeats, 3.3 mile cool-down

After last weeks poor performance on the hills, I decided that I needed to add hill repeats to my weekly calendar. It was windy Wednesday. There was a nice headwind going up the hill, extra strength training, and a great tailwind when I was jogging down the hill. The repeats weren't fast but they were difficult. 

Thursday: Off

I need to bring a snack to school so when I get home around 6:15 I can go out for a run right away.

Friday: 5 easy miles

Saturday: 13 miles easy

I was meeting a friend to run 9 miles but decided that I wanted a few more miles for the week so I ran the 2 miles to and from her house instead of bicycling it.

Total: about 38 miles

Not high mileage but I am slowly trying to increase the miles.

I can't add...all week long I thought I was going to be over 40 miles for the week. 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Run Hood to Coast with Nuun

Yes, please.

Sounds like a blast.


I made a video application to be part of Nuun's Hood to Coast relay team.

I had a ton of fun making this video.

I discovered that I really like making videos.

I really wish I had more time to do fun thing like this.

Without further ado...

I love running!

I love hydrating with Nuun!

I really want to run Hood to Coast with the Nuun team!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

MDRA 7 Miler Recap

Wow, I have been racing a lot during the last week...3 races in 8 days. Race number 3 was the MDRA 7 Miler. I am really enjoying the MDRA races. This is the first year that I've run them. They are a great test of your current fitness

Early Saturday morning, the lightening and thunder woke me up. I grabbed my phone to check the radar, hoping, the weather would blow past before the race started. It looked promising that the rain would stop before I left for the race. I was relieved because it was going to be about 30 degrees so with some rain that would be chilly.

It wasn’t raining when I left for the race. Unfortunately, it started to rain as I was driving there. Luckily, there was a gym to use for prerace preparations. I got registered and headed out for a windy, rainy, cold warm-up run. I don’t think I warmed up much on my run.

We headed out of the gym at about 5 min to 9am. It was a chip-timed event, which was nice for the small event. The roads were open to traffic so you had to watch for cars. The race was 7 miles and it was a hilly course. This was my first time running it but I heard people talking about the hills.

I was hoping to run around 7:00-7:10 for my mile splits. I love having my Garmin set to give me half-mile splits. I think it helps me stay on pace sometimes.

Every time the Garmin beeped I looked down and was running 3:25-3:35 half miles. I was okay with that. I felt it was a decent pace for my current fitness level. Then at mile 2.5 the watch beeped and I looked at it…3:52. “What??? Pick up the pace Cuz. You are racing.” There were a few longer hills but nothing to slow me down almost 20 sec in a half mile. I did start to wonder if 3:25-3:35 was too fast for me for the course but I went back to that pace after my slow half mile.

I knew that I was in about 6th place at that point in the race. I wanted to stay there but I had a feeling there were some women close behind. I couldn’t hear them. The half miles were ticking by and I was starting to feel the effort then around mile 4.5 there was a hill…it was a hill that just wouldn’t end. I felt like I was walking, a few men ran past me. When I finally reached the top, I was exhausted. My Garmin beeped so I looked at it…4:17. What? NO…I slowed down almost 45 sec in that half mile. Not good. I started to worry my legs were done for in the race. I knew there were some hill coming up and that there must be a few women on my heels.

Could I pick the pace back up? I didn’t know but I had to try. Luckily, my legs responded and the next half-mile split was back at 3:28. Good, now only 1.5 miles to go. I could hear the breathing behind me but I managed to hold them off all the way to the finish line.

I finished in 50:45. I was hoping to be closer to 49 min.

I realized that I need to work on my hill climbing. I decided to start doing hill repeats 1 time per week. Yesterday was my first day of hill repeats. It was hard but I did it.

Workout: 2 mile warm-up; 6 x 400 m hill repeats into the wind; 3 mile cool-down

I am looking forward to running the hill again next week.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Irish Run St. Paul

So this was a busy weekend of racing for me. I was expecting/hoping for warmer temps for the weekend races but it is Minnesota so you never know what you're going to get for spring weather. 

I signed up for the Irish Run St. Paul earlier this year as part of the MDRA Grand Prix series. Then I decided that I wanted to run the MDRA Lake Johanna 4 mile because it would get me out to a new location to run. The race was free to MDRA members so it wasn't going to cost me anything. I ran the Lake Johanna 4 mile on Saturday and averaged of 7:02 miles. Then I ran the Irish Run St. Paul 8k on Sunday and again averaged 7:02 miles. Hey if nothing else, I am consistent.

I think the girl to my left thinks I am crazy for wearing shorts.
I picked up my bib the day before which was so nice. It allowed me to stay at home until 12:45. The race started at 1:20. I drove to a location about a mile from the start and finish line. I didn't need to park so far away but this distance away would allow me to get at least a mile warm-up and cool-down.

I ended up running about 1.5 miles for my warm-up. Midway through my warm-up, I ran into my fellow Oiselle teammate Melissa. It was great to have a chance to wish her good luck. She is super speedy. I also saw her out on the course because it was an out and back. It was fun to cheer for her in the middle of the race.

Pre-race, I did some strides and dynamic stretching. I was wearing shorts and it was chilly out so my legs were pretty red by the time the race started. I didn't know where to line up to start. I lined up in the middle of the pack. I figured that would be a good spot for me. I might have started a little too far back because I was weaving a lot in the first mile and got stuck behind some other people for a while.

I was hoping to maintain about 3:30 1/2 miles. I have my Garmin set up to tell me my 1/2 splits. Sometimes, I look at it during the race and other times I analyze my pace post race. The race starts out going down summit ave toward the Mississippi river. It is about 1k down hill and then you turn around and climb for most of the next 4k. Then you turn around again and head back down the hill toward the finish line.

I did a decent job maintaining 3:25:-3:35 1/2 mile splits. I ended up running next to a girl for about 2k but there was an uphill in the last mile and I just couldn't hang with her anymore. Something I realized this weekend, I really need to work on my hill climbing. I seemed to lose contact with the women running near me on the hills and then I was unable catch back up after the hill.

I finished the 8k in 34:53. Overall, it was fun to get out there and push myself again. I am looking forward to the Spring racing season. Hopefully, I can improve my times a little. I also realized how much I love to run this weekend. Whether, I am racing or just out for a run by myself, I love it. This really isn't something new but it is nice to have an occasional reminder.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Lake Johanna 4 Mile

The Minnesota Distance Running Association put on a great race this morning. I decided last weekend to sign up for the MDRA Spring Race Series. This was the first race in the series. The race was described as a scenic yet challenging Four mile loop around Lake Johanna through the residential neighborhood of Arden Hills. It had just the right amount of hill to make you hurt.

The race didn't start until 11am. At first I thought this was going to be great but by 9:00, I was ready to run. I got extra time to be nervous about the race. I got to the start a little after 10am. I quickly signed up and shed a few extra layers. I headed out for a 2ish mile warm-up, did some stretching and lined up at the starting line.

I ran into Steve at the start and said hi. It is really fun getting to know some of the local runners. The race started and there was a gradual uphill for the first mile or so and then the course was rolling the rest of the way.

I started out next to a women and we stayed side by side for the first 2 miles. Then she passed me. We had almost caught up to 2 other women when she started to pick it up. I wanted to go with her but I couldn't get my legs to pick it up. I stayed about 10 meters behind the 3 women for the next mile and a quarter. Then we hit a long uphill in the last mile and I just couldn't hang with them on the hill. I told myself that it would be ok, I could catch them on the downhill but I didn't catch back up. I finished a few seconds behind the 3rd women in 28:08. I was a disappointed that I wasn't able to find my really competitive side and run with the women instead of accepting 4th place. I know that I am capable of faster time.
My Mac Jacket keeping me warm post race. I didn't win any of the door prizes.

Thanks MDRA for a great race. I am looking forward to the next race in the series which is a 7 miler next weekend.

Friday, February 22, 2013


I can't believe I am even considering showing anyone my weight or body fat percentage, let alone putting it on the internet for everyone to see.

One reason, I don't want to know or share my body fat percentage is because I love ice cream.

Have you heard of the BodPod? Well, it is a one of the most accurate ways to measure body fat. Yeah, just what I want to know, an accurate measurement of how much fat I have.

If you want to know your body fat percentage, the BodPod is a pretty slick way to determine it. I don't really want to know what percent fat I am but I did it anyway but I love science and technology. I geek out on numbers so how could I refuse to know this number. I really liked that you didn't have to get pinched or go underwater and exhale all of your air.

With the BodPod, you just sit in the chamber for 2 to 3 measurements of 50 seconds each and then you are done. Easy...

Then you get this lovely printout that tells you how much fat you have on you. also tells you how much fat free mass you have! That is everything in your body...lean mass, bones, organs...

If you are lucky they let you goof off and take silly pictures of yourself in the egg looking contraption.

Surprise, its me!

Let me out of this thing...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Cold and Rainy Run

I did a group run this weekend. It was fun to meet a bunch of new people and run some trails that I rarely run on in the winter. 

There was a great turn out for a cold, snowy and sleeting run in the middle of winter. We met at the Minnesota River Bottom trails. These are awesome trails to run in the summer. I haven't done much trail running in the winter. 

This year I did decided to invest in some trail running shoes. I thought they would be great for the ice and snow on the roads. I pulled them out for this run and boy was I glad that I had trail shoes. My trail shoes were the Brooks Ghost with Gore tex. They were amazing. I was the only women that didn't have to turn around early because of cold and wet feet. Yes, my feet stayed warm and dry. This was a shock to me. I normally have poor circulation to my feet. I blame it on being tall. It is so far for my heart to pump the blood to. My feet were so happy during this run. 

The second thing that I was so happy to have was my Oiselle Clearly Run Jacket. It kept my upper body dry and warm. The sleet was pretty heavy for a while during the run. This is my first running rain jacket. It was so breathable. I didn't feel like I was wearing a rubber suit which is what I always assumed that a rain jacket would feel like when running. I absolutely loved it. Between this amazing jacket and the shoes, I was one happy camper on a run that was miserable for so many others.

The group doing the lunge matrix pre-run.
At the end of my 2 hour run, I was tired and thirsty. Luckily, I had stashed some banana nuun in my glove compartment for hydration emergencies such as this one. I freaking love bananas. When I ate the candy runts, I use to pick out the bananas. mmm....I think it is time for some banana with peanut butter.