Posts tagged ‘Francis Marion Dirt Dash’

September 4, 2014

Swamp Thing

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This race report comes a bit late thanks to a jam-packed Labor Day weekend and the aftermath of digging out at work this week.  Now that the dust has had a chance to settle on I’on Swamp Road, though, I can say with assurance that this was one of the most fun races I’ve ever done.  The Francis Marion Dirt Dash was exactly what I was hoping for–a small race with a ‘for runners, by runners’ feel in an absolutely gorgeous setting.  To top it off, it was only about 73 degrees at the start and the dense forest provided good shade throughout the race.  It was humid to be sure, but overall I found the race conditions to be quite comfortable.

Per the race instructions, we parked at a visitors’ center nearish the start and caught a shuttle van across the highway to the park.  From there we walked back the access road about half a mile to the start line, which was literally just a heel-drag line in the dirt.  We got our numbers, milled around a bit, and I griped with a few other runners about the lack of satellite telemetry at our particular global position. Truth be told, I was a mite nervous about running in the heat without GPS pace information.  The trail ahead looked shady and cool, but I had no idea what to expect for the rest of the course or the weather.  I decided to approach the uncertainty as a training opportunity to run based on perceived effort, and though it did make the whole exercise seem more productive, it did little to calm my nerves.

Before the start

Before the start

The Caveboy was running the 12K race, so when the runners assembled for the start we wished each other luck and my Long Run Buddy and I positioned ourselves nearish the front for the half marathon.  At 7:00 sharp, Chad Haffa, the race organizer, yelled “Go!” and we were off.  We settled in at what felt like a comfortably fast pace for the first out-and-back leg.  LRB had MapMyRun going, so he called out splits for the first few miles.  We were hanging around an 8:20-8:30 pace, which was a little faster than I was aiming for, but it felt pretty comfortable.  There were few mile markers on the course (it actually only may have been at mile 2/11), but somewhere around three and a half miles in my watch found its bearings and I had pace data.  For the next several miles I tried to soak up the scenery and serenity of the place and just enjoy the run.  LRB and I split up around mile 7–he was ready to pick up the pace  and I was feeling like I needed to reign it in a bit.  I slowed to about an 8:40 and plugged along on my own for a few more miles.

I could only judge the distance left based on my assumed pace and overall time, but I guessed the next aid station I encountered to be about mile 10.  I tried to confirm this with the volunteers, but they cheerfully informed me that they had no idea where they were.  I for some reason found this to be quite charming and picked up my cadence a bit.  I passed another runner about half a mile later who agreed with the 10-10.5 estimate, at which point I felt much more confident about my pace to the finish.  The morning was definitely getting warmer, but I was happy with how I was running at that point.  I’ve never considered myself a strong heat runner, but I was holding my own at a faster pace than I expected.  With about half a mile left I passed one more runner, chatted briefly, and then focused on surging to the finish line.

I crossed the line in 1:53:26, less than 4 minutes off  my PR.  Given the trail, the weather, and the fact that I never really made myself hurt, I was thrilled with the race.  The sentiment was further reinforced when I was handed a cold can of beer before 9 AM.  (Breakfast of Champions.)  LRB had finished a few minutes ahead of me, the Caveboy was relaxing with his libations already, and soon we were cheering for the award of the giant pinecones to the overall winners.  (Seriously, best race trophies ever.)  The full results were posted Monday, and I came in second in my age group and was the seventh overall woman.

My one regret of this race was the untimely demise of my beloved gen2 iPod Shuffle.  I usually clip it to a loop I sewed onto the hip of all of my running shorts and skirts, but the stitching pulled out about a quarter mile into the race and I moved it to my bra strap instead.  I promptly forgot about its new location and proceeded to dump water on my head and down my bra at every aid station.  It actually continued to function for the rest of the race, but when I tried it the next day it was unresponsive.  Oddly, the following day it worked again, but has refused to turn on since then.  I tried packing it in kitty litter to dry it out to no avail (good Paleo girl that I am, I have no rice).  I finally gave in this morning and ordered a new (used) one on Amazon.

Anyway, the rest of the weekend was what the Caveboy described as “one of the most tiring, relaxing weekends we have ever had.”  We surfed, kayaked, and stand-up paddle boarded (which I officially love).  I also squeezed in a short barefoot run on the beach before our flight on Sunday.  I’ve been a bit off schedule on running this week, but I did a 5.5 mile run at my parents’ cabin on Monday, a 5-mile tempo at race pace and a 1% grade on Tuesday, 3 miles easy yesterday, and a 7 mile tempo a touch faster than race pace this morning.  My long run is slated for Saturday, and next week the final build up to the taper officially begins.

Happy Unofficial Autumn!

~ModC

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August 27, 2014

Tired Legs

In theory this week was going to be a cut back/mini-taper before the Dirt Dash in South Carolina this Saturday.  Since it was an extra week that I added to the marathon training schedule, I planned just to wing it on workouts based on how I was feeling.  Sunday I decided on a 16-miler, which seemed long enough to be hard, but not completely leg-deadening.  Rather than doing my usual steady pace, even-split approach, I opted for a fast finish run, which I thought might get me primed for the half this week.  I started out running 10 minute miles with the Caveboy, then dropped to around 9’s after about 5 miles, and mid-to-low 8’s for the last 4.

I finished the long run feeling great, and I headed into this week flush with optimism.  I also happened to catch this article on Runners’ World this week on increasing training just before a taper, and I started getting ideas.  Monday would normally have been an off day, but instead I decided to go for broke and scheduled a strength session.  After 45 minutes with Gillian my legs and core were quivering and I was high on endorphins.  I chased that workout with an easy 5 on Tuesday, and then decided this morning to squeeze in an interval workout.  I now have two days of travel and enforced rest, and if you count the rest of today, it’s really almost 3 full days before the half.

I’m generally a worst-case-scenario type of person, but I’m feeling uncharacteristically optimistic about the Dirt Dash.  I hadn’t planned to really race hard on Saturday, but once I got the runner instructions email this week, I realized two things:

1. This race is really small.

2. It is on an access road through the woods and swamp.

The course, on I'on Swamp Road.  Not making that up.

The course, on I’on Swamp Road. Yes, that is the actual name.

For some reason, that got me really excited.  I know I’m completely in denial about the heat, humidity, and pterodactyl-sized mosquitos we will likely encounter.  Still, the idea of just running through the woods sounds like a nice change from stampeding through Central Park with 4,000 other people and being pampered every step of the way by New York Road Runners’ fabulous volunteers.  (Not that I’m knocking it.)  I know I could totally melt down in the heat, and I may have pushed myself too hard this week to recover in time.  Still, I feel like this is going to be fun.

August 11, 2014

Relentless Forward Progress

You know those days when you feel light and fast and like you could run forever?  Sunday was not one of those days.  Last weekend I got really lucky with the weather for my long run, but this Sunday was hot, bright, and cloudless.  I prepared for my third 20-miler as well as I could–I hydrated and beet-loaded, filled my water bottle halfway and froze it, and got to bed early on Saturday.

The route was a variation on the usual Brooklyn to Central Park run.  I skipped Prospect this week and ran straight to the Brooklyn Bridge and up to Central Park, picking up my friend along the way.  From the north end of the park we peeled off to Morningside Park, enjoyed* the hills of Morningside Heights, cut across Columbia’s campus, and ran south along Riverside Park.  It was a beautiful day and a lovely route, but I really had to work for this one.  I probably started off a little too fast given the heat, but I think this was mostly just a case of having an off day.  Despite the struggle, I was happy that I was able to pull it together mentally enough to get through it.  I keep reminding myself that having a lackluster 20-miler is still something of an uptown problem, especially compared to a few years back when I was trying to fight through and IT band injury.

Sunday also marked the end of what I’m thinking of as my first major training block for the marathon.  Next week’s long run is only 15, and then I’m debating whether or not to squeeze in another  20 before the half marathon on Labor Day weekend.  From there on, I’m taking advantage of the NYRR fall race calendar to spice up my long runs.  As it stands right now, starting in September I’ll have a race every other weekend until the marathon.  That is not to say that I’ll actually be racing them, but I thought that it might help dispel some of the pre-race anxiety to make the starting line feel a little more routine.  It also gives me the chance to practice race day fueling and decide if I’m going to carry any of my own hydration for the marathon. It’s going to require some creativity to get the distances on my schedule in some cases, but I can always keep running after the finish line.

*By ‘enjoyed’ I mean, tried to convince myself that the burning in my quads was a unique gift from the universe, to be treasured and savored.

July 18, 2014

The Week So Far…

Things got a little deadliney at work this week, and while I did get all of my weekday workouts in, I haven’t had much time for anything else.  The schedule was thus:

Tuesday: Intervals – 2×1200 @ 7:13 pace, 4×800 @ 7:04 pace, with 2-min. recoveries [so. very. hard.]

Wednesday: Easy run – 3 miles

Thursday: Tempo – 1 mi easy, 5 @ 8:09, 1 easy [not bad]

Saturday: Easy run?

Sunday: Long – 20 @ 9:32

To be perfectly honest, I’m not all that excited at the prospect of another 20-miler at the moment.  To add some interest, I’ve decided a different route and a new playlist are in order.  On the up side, I was looking at my training calendar, and I think in a lot of ways, these past few weeks were one of the hardest chunks of the schedule.  Next week is a cut-back week, and the long runs in my next four-week cycle total 61 miles, as opposed to the 75 from this round.  I’m also giving myself a bit of a taper week before the Dirt Dash in Charleston, so that should break up the monotony as well.

I’m still trying to keep my weekly mileage below 35 right now, which historically has been a good number for me to improve without getting injured.  On that front, I’m also adding some weekly goals for strength training:

15 min of planks a week

Hip/pelvic stability work 5 days/week

Quality time with the foam roller 5 days/week

Relentless Forward Progress.

-ModC