Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Senior Runner Records Falling

images-1So what were your running accomplishments in 2015? As the calendar year turned over, I asked myself that question. Reflecting on some personal running goals accomplished, I looked around to see what my fellow senior runners at the top of several age groups did in 2015. It’s impressive.

Given the number of records that fell this year, I zoomed in on looking only at women, those in my current age group (W65-69) and the AG I will move on to in a few years (W70-74).

In the 65-69 category, Edie Stevenson achieved a new 12K AG record with a time of 53:56.

Also in the 65-69 AG, setting a record in my favorite distance, the 10-miler, Sabra Harvey ran that distance faster than any previous woman in the age group – 1:14:15.

Moving on to the W70-74 group, the impressive Jan Holmquist managed to break records in three distance categories: 5K – 22:14, 8K – 36:37, and 10K – 45:19.

Finally, not an age group record, but a single age world record for the marathon was set by 74-year old Helga Miketta of Germany running that distance in 3:49:31.

These new record times are daunting, but also uplifting. They tell me what can be achieved. All of the record breaking women above are clearly talented, but for those of us with more modest goals but also interested in improving our own performance, it’s worth looking at similarities in women who make it to the top ranks of the Age Groups.

Care to take a humbling look at AG records for your age and gender? Here you can find age groups records for masters categories with USATF. At this link, you can find all single age world marathon records.

I’ll keep these incredible athletes in mind as I fine tune my goals for 2016. And you, are your running goals set?

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Mistletoe & Miles Malaise

B-B Mistletoe Kiss

It doesn’t really feel like December until I find myself putting the final touches on a package to post or a perfectly worded clever email to someone special and realize it is well past midnight. That doesn’t bode well for the early morning run, but it is the nature of the season.

It is also that moment of clarity, realizing so much of what you are hurriedly preparing – with every attempt to make it appear unhurried – gifts, baking, notes where the bulk of the work and time could have been accomplished months ago.

The ambivalent grouch in me appears when I long for the seasonal interruptions in my schedule to just go away and simultaneously enjoy the decorating and all the miscellaneous preparations that suddenly occur.

What to do but find my way out the door and lose myself in a mid-distance run. Mid-distance because, well, marathons for the year are mostly a memory, the start of serious training for spring marathons is weeks away. Northeastern December weather in the United States still mostly in the 40’s and 50’s is also peculiar enough to make me feel out of sync.

Nothing to do but just run for the joy of running. Don’t run for pace, don’t run for a particular heart rate or distance, just run. For the joy of it.

Yesterday’s north-to-south road trip precluded a run of any distance without a headlamp or knuckle lights. With an early start, we drove under dark skies until around 7:45 a.m. With the late sunrise cloaked in gray skies, the coziness of December settled around us.

Whatever holiday you may be celebrating wherever that may be, may the coziness of the season settle in around you and those close to you.

B-B Mistletoe Kiss

A Tempered & Tropical Turkey Trot

Thanksgiving day on Oahu starts with a 10-mile prediction run, hosted by the Honolulu Marathon Clinic. With the Honolulu Marathon just weeks ahead, what was the purpose of a 10-mile prediction run?

 

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Dawn breaking with cloudy skies, runners walked to the start with Diamond Head in the background

We were to run without any timing devices, relying on our bodies to determine the appropriate pace, a pace that would be comfortable running through the full marathon. The premise is that as we run the final six miles of a marathon, we pay dearly for any mistakes made in the first 10 miles.

Each runner wrote their anticipated time on a popsicle stick and carried it during the run. The sticks were turned in as we crossed the finish line. Those who had a finish time very close to their anticipated time (I spoke with a woman who was one second off her anticipated time, who does that?) were the award winners.

I drove to registration through tropical rain and fog. Approaching the parking lot in the dark, but seeing shadowy runner forms walking to the bandshell, I knew I was in the right place.

It was an early start, sometime around 7 a.m. Most of the rain cleared, and thankfully the clouds remained giving us some cover from the intense tropical sun.

We started with a loop around Kapiolani Park, then headed up Diamond Head Road, passing lovely cliffside homes looking down on Diamond Head Beach and early morning surfers. The course looped  through another neighborhood and a commercial section, then returned to the park via Diamond Head Road. The hill at Diamond Head wasn’t nearly as daunting as it was a number of years ago after 25 miles into the marathon. Fresher legs make a difference.

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Diamond Head Beach

 

I fell into what I felt was my marathon pace without difficulty. What I didn’t feel was any sense of what mile I was running. My only gauge was placement of water stations, with three on the course and knowing I had covered roughly another 2.5 miles each time I approached a station.

I had added about five minutes to my expected time at 10 miles for my prediction because I was running in heat and humidity. As I finished, I was off by five minutes and change, predicting at 1:50 and finishing at 1:45 something. Although I won’t be on Oahu to participate in the Honolulu Marathon this year, I may use this type of run as part of my marathon training for races in the future.
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One of the few bargains on Oahu, this prediction run had a $7 entry fee. For that, we had a bagpiper start the race, police directing traffic at intersections, and,

as our finisher prize – IMG_1918a deliciously warm, sugar covered malasata from Leonard’s Bakery, a Honolulu landmark.

Hoping your turkey trot was as successful and insightful.

 

 

 

The Outdoor Life – Western Style – II

It’s Travel Tuesday and having completed my assignments for the upcoming and wonderful Thanksgiving Day, I now take liberty to daydream back to a wonderful Wyoming hike at Vedauwoo. This and every day, I’m thankful that the natural beauty of this and many other sites are located within national forests and national parks – the forethought of earlier generations.

IMG_1631Late September at 8,200 feet already brought cool temperatures. We bundled up and joined our hosts with the Friendship for of Cheyenne who had packed up a wonderful picnic to sustain us as we explored this wonderful world of granite.

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Credit: runningthroughthisworld.com

Located between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming the outcrops extend over a vast area. Arriving at the park, we find this mass of rocks is breathtakingly beautiful in its wildness and enormity and intriguing in varying shades of pink/gray. The Arapaho referred to the area as the Land of the Earthborn Spirit. The granite formation still brings out the creative spirit as performers bring dance, poetry and theatre among the rocks.

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Credit: J.W. Hasper

Like looking at clouds intently, you can see the shapes of animals or human in the formations of Vedauwoo, most visibly the appearance of a turtle and a giant human.

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Credit: andylibrande.com

There is also something in those rocks that calls “Come climb me.” And climb we did.

IMG_1627We could see more experienced (and younger?) hikers and climbers on other areas in the outcrops and hoodoos (spires with varying depth). A couple of hikers who knew Vedauwoo well lead the way. 

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Up, up, up. The climb was beautiful and aside from a couple of breaks to catch my breath in the thin air, not particularly difficult. I was mesmerized climbing those beautiful rocks. From a perch midway up, I couldn’t help but wonder what the view was a couple of centuries ago when buffalo in the thousands moved in herds and the spiritual Arapaho people had not yet been removed to the Wind River Reservation.

IMG_1641.jpgOn reaching the summit of our particular formation, the view went for miles. As our eyes searched for a horizon, we celebrate our arrival on the windswept rocks with a deep breath and with appreciation for the experience. 

 

 

A Beautiful Day for a Marathon – but

But, not my day.

It began as a perfect day for a marathon. With temps starting in the low 40’s and clear skies, I lined up with friends for the Aspire Harrisburg Marathon. Everyone was looking forward to taking a spin on the new course, seeing fresh neighborhoods and finishing on Restaurant Row among early diners and cheering spectators.

Cruising over the bridge at Mile 2.

Cruising over the bridge at Mile 2.

The first 7-8 miles were well-paced staying around 9:30 – 9:40. At around mile 9, I took a sip of my Tailwind and soon after began feeling nausea and light in the stomach. I continued on pace, hoping it would pass, but it was not to be. It persisted with some side cramps adding to the mix.

I was holding my pace but after another couple miles, I knew it was time to take stock and make a decision to tough it out or call it a day. I had looked forward to running the new course around mile 16 – 20 through a small neighborhood and historic rural scenery along the river.

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On Front St. with historic architecture backdrop.

Around mile 12, the internal discussion began.
Ego was firm. “You can do this. We’ve finished marathons through nor’easters, waves pummeling over breakfronts, 80 degree heat on asphalt roads. You’ve never dropped from a race of any distance for any reason. Why now?”
Body said “I’m really not looking forward to another 14 miles of this. Give me a break.”
Mind piped in: “Rationally, this is the time to run the new section of the course while it is safe and closed to traffic.”
Then Spirit spoke with a louder than usual authoritative voice: “We’re only doing the new section if Ego goes to sleep. Body is hurting and must have consideration. If we continue to the new section, we walk so body is comfortable.”

OK, so team decision, we walked miles 16 – 20 with Ego only once or twice trying to pump back up to a run but quickly brought into line. We walked past Fort Hunter, past homes in the Village of Hekton, and saw both again on a fast walk back to the turn into city neighborhoods.

At mile 19.75 having run and walked 3 hours, 30 minutes and 32 seconds, we completed the new section. We then left the course, diverting to the McDonald’s parking lot and my husband’s waiting car.

A ginger ale with ice followed  by a hot shower did wonders. I felt much better although still slightly nauseous. I have a body that is thankful, an ego that is quietly grumbling and ready for the next race, and a spirit that is thankful I’ve learned to listen.

The Outdoor Life, Western Style

Cheyenne sky at sunrise

Cheyenne sky at sunrise

There is no other way to say it. I’ve fallen in love with Cheyenne, Wyoming.

On a recent travel exchange with Friendship Force, I was introduced to this wonderful city and the surrounding area. The scenery, outdoor lifestyle, friendly people and food made for a memorable trip.

Our band of 16 travelers was hosted in the homes of Cheyenne Friendship Force club members. From my host’s home, after giving myself a couple of days to adjust to the 6,500 ft. elevation, I slipped out the door for some early morning runs. A nearby dirt road led me up a steep hill to the water tower and a ranch meeting the outskirts of the city.

Ranch sculpture at the crest of my gravel road run

Ranch sculpture at the crest of my gravel road run

I supplemented those runs with several hikes during the week. For our first hikes and sightseeing, we dressed in layers ready for weather changes and cooler temperatures as we would gradually climb to around 10,000 feet.

Our convoy route took us through Laramie, then slightly south dipping into northern Colorado for a few miles before turning north again. Along with fields of cattle and horses, we spotted antelope, mule deer, elk and goats. Sadly, we also saw fallen trees and others still standing but with dried dead limbs, evidence of the pine beetle destruction known as beetle kill. Enroute, the mostly brown flat land turned to hills, then craggy mountainous region.

With a stop and museum tour in Encampment, we enjoyed our first of several delicious picnic lunches eaten in the brisk, thin mountain air.

Aspen Alley

Aspen Alley

With fall weather changing from sunshine to rain to sleet and back to sunshine again, we  proceeded to  Aspen Alley and the Snowy Range. Making our way across Medicine Bow National Forest we appreciated the beauty of the gold leaves of the aspen where trees had not quite peaked, but were lovely nonetheless. Standing quietly at the edge of the forest, the aspen make a murmuring sound our hosts described as trembling.

Some of us decided to hike the road through the Alley and meet drivers on the opposite end. We then continued on driving by or making stops and short hikes at Silver Lake, Mirror Lake, Snowy Range Lookout points and Libby Flats at altitudes up to 10,800 feet.

As we hiked Aspen Alley, we spotted this ranch hidden from the road

Hiking Aspen Alley, we spotted this ranch hidden from the road

We stopped at the Continental Divide near Centennial (think James Michener’s novel by that title) where we later had stopped at the Old Corral for dinner. The building is authentic western with large tables and wooden walls. not to mention a worthwhile gift shop and a hotel, frequented by cyclists, hikers and sightseers.

Wyoming has a beautiful wide-open sky. This particular day, it put on a spectacular show with a morning rainbow that guided us through the first hour or so as we dipped south, closing our day with a distant evening lightning show during the dark drive back to Cheyenne.

Medicine Bow National Forest

Hiking Medicine Bow National Forest

So ends our first full day of this trip. So much more to tell on another Travel Tuesday.

Race Report – Blues Cruise 50K

Shortly after  a successful first ultra trail race at the Dirty German, I signed up for the Blues Cruise 50K in Leesport, Pennsylvania. Friends had described the race as challenging yet fun. I learned that both were true.

It’s good to see a familiar face at a race and I was fortunately to spot three. Near the bag drop, I ran into Rick and Jeremy both experienced ultra runners. Jeremy followed The Blues Cruise up with the Oil Creek 100K. I expect he will be writing about it in The Road to Trails.

An intense group at the start while I'm lined up in the back of the pack.

An intense group at the start while I’m lined up in the back of the pack. Credit: Ryan Goverts

Near the start, I heard Kristin’s voice, another ultra runner who blogs at Family, Food and Running. She was in a support role for this race and also recently ran the Oil City 100 Miler.

Unlike my experienced ultra friends, as a newbie ultra runner and trail runner, I am still making rookie mistakes. Assuming I would be one of the slowest runners on the trail, I lined up with the back of the pack. Runners stretched ahead as far as I could see with most of them starting at a walk. In addition to the typical rocks and roots, walnuts the size of tennis balls were falling from the trees and onto the single track trail. I bided my time until we arrived at the first aid station. It was packed with runners and with no early need for water or food,  I slipped through the crowd and finally found my pace.

Pink ribbons flagged the well-marked course.

Pink ribbons flagged the well-marked course. Credit: Ryan Goverts

Rain for several days preceding the race left portions of the trail with some mud, but certainly passable. Running on grass after passing a muddy spot helped to kick the weight of any lingering mud off my shoes.

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Credit: Ryan Goverts

We were running the course counter-clockwise around Blue Marsh Lake. That placed the ski hill on the course at mile 10/11, my toughest – although not my slowest – mile.  The slowest pace came around mile 23/24 where the uphill/downhill pattern continued. I can also attribute the slowdown to my second rookie mistake letting a horseback riding group get ahead of me while I munched on a salted potato at an aid station. How was I to know they would saunter along for a period of time before again breaking out into a trot? Several of us walked the single track during that time rather than attempt to spook a horse as we shouted “on your left” to the rider. No, better to loose a few minutes and pick up the pace later.

I would tell you how lovely the scenery was, but honestly I was watching the trail underfoot very carefully. I did well until about mile 24 when the beautiful cloud cover gave way to a bit of sunshine. I recall thinking “gee, it’s a bit more difficult to see the trail detail with this dappled sunshine” when – boom – I was down. No harm done, I was back on my feet as quickly as I went down.

Pulling out of the the last aid station I was ready to be finished. I chatted with a couple of guys just behind me on the trail. Their delightful conversation helped me keep going.  Oddly, I have run shorter and mentally more difficult races, but I felt this was the most physically challenging race I have run.  I have done marathons through smoldering heat, nor’easters, angry ocean whipping over the breakwall, and sleet blowing across the Susquehanna. Still, the Blues Cruise was more challenging. And, of course, I plan to do it again, with tougher training built in before the race.

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Credit: Ryan Goverts

Finish time? 7:03:11, thanks to a combination of Tailwind in my pack, potatoes with salt, an orange slice and a sip of Coke at several aid stations. I arrived at the finish of that beautiful, hilly, well-marked course in time to say good-bye to my friends who came through the finish much earlier.

Food was abundant, but my stomach said to settle for a grilled cheese. A grabbed a bottle of water, did a 5-minute mud removal cleanup and headed for home. My tired muscles were a strong reminder that I had met the challenge of a second 50K trail race.

Thank you Blues Cruise race directors and volunteers for making the race possible.

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