Tuesday, April 23, 2013

"America's Toughest Road Marathon"

This weekend Emir and I ran another marathon. Months ago after we had already signed up for and booked everything for the bear mtn 50k (in 2 weeks!), emir emails me at work exclaiming that he had won entry into the blue ridge marathon through a running blog he follows. I was like "wow cool! But where is it and when is it?" He said Virginia and April 20th. I said "then we have to stay the weekend and its only two weeks before the 50k. We r already staying up at bear mtn a couple nights". Emir was just so excited to have won something, he never wins anything and it would have broken my heart to make him give it up. So in the end we were able to use hotel points and figured what's another race?!?

Bart Yasso and I


So Friday morning we dropped the kids off at school and set off for Roanoke. It's a 6 hour drive plus we stopped for lunch, gas etc so 7 in all. It rained pretty heavy at one point once we were in Virginia but by the time we checked in, it subsided. We went over to the expo in downtown Roanoke. First of all the most expensive parking garage was $2!!! R u kiddin me??? AND there were garages that were free!!! Wow. Anyways I knew Bart yasso was going to be there so maybe that's why I wore my runners world half festival shirt ;-). As we walked around Bart yelled out to me that I was wearing the best shirt in the house. I obviously don't really know Bart but being around him the whole runners world festival back in oct. you can just tell what a great guy he is and his true passion for running. I did end up getting a pic with him and he tweeted me later about how great it was to see me again which was nice. There wasn't a whole lot else to the expo but there was a bunch of reminders of what happened this week in Boston. Many people wearing Boston shirts, jackets and the colors. They also were giving everyone "running for Boston" bracelets and stickers. They told us how there was influx of people signing up and wanting to run the race after hearing about Boston. They also gave free entry to anyone who ran in Boston. One lady there ran and finished Boston and then ran a double Blue Ridge. There was probably about 20 or so people who started at 2:30 am and ran the course so they could be finished and back in time to run it again with everyone else, crazy but awesome.
After the expo we found a great place with craft beers for dinner. There was a big music festival coinciding with the marathon so there was lots of great stuff going on around the cute downtown Roanoke. We had a great time and I even enjoyed a delicious beer float for desert! Awesome. That night we were both restless and woke up a lot. Emir said he was hot. I know myself it was nervous excitement. I wasn't nervous for Philly in nov or the OD marathon a few weeks ago. I guess because they were your typical, avg courses. I'm at the point now where I know I can run a marathon. But blue ridge is completely different. It has the title of "America's toughest road marathon". Boasting over 7400 feet in elevation changes which takes place over 3 of the blue ridge mountains. This is not a marathon you can take lightly. I was so excited to get out there and run in this beautiful scenery and also join together with my fellow runners in support of Boston but very nervous if I would really survive this course. Since January, yes we have trained some elevations but lately due to aches and pains, etc we haven't done much. Eventually it was time to get up.

We both felt tired and were dragging from a restless night. Once we had our coffee and gorged on eggs, sausage, potatoes and English muffins we were upbeat and excited. We drove downtown to the start. I decided to go with a race tank and shorts. The temp was supposed to be in the high 50s to low 60s sunny so I didn't want to be hot. The only problem was that at 630 in the morning it was 40 with wind gusts! Freezing! But I saw so many other runners dressed like me I figured I would be fine once we started (which turned out to be true). I wore yellow and blue colors to support Boston as so many others did too. Emir and I also printed out special Boston race bibs we attached to our hydration packs. Some other runners had them as well. It was just such a mix of emotions that morning. This was the first marathon in America to take place since Boston. There was also a pretty intense security presence given the size of the marathon is only 1700(full and half). They checked our bags when going into the start area and we saw them checking spectators as they moved around to viewing areas. There were helicopters overhead during the race and police EVERYWHERE. I definitely felt secure an safe but also sad at the same time that this has become necessary. After words about Boston
and a moment of silence, we were off!

So when the blue ridge marathon people say there are some flat parts, they are lying! Haha. Supposedly the first couple miles leading up to the first mountain are flat. To us normal people who don't live in the mountains, these are hills and not that easy. But the views leading to the mountain were breathtaking and with the brilliant sun that morning just stunning. The first mountain we encountered we kind of skirted the side of it going uphill then broke away from the halfers and headed to Roanoke mountain. Wow what a long climb that was. One section was particularly steep so we walked a minute or two as was EVERYONE. Eventually we made it to the top. I had been snapping pics along the way since it was so beautiful and we agreed this marathon was totally for fun since the thought of doing it for a specific time would be absolutely ridiculous. At the top of Roanoke Mountain was a large aide station with lots of volunteers.  Two of the volunteers saw me taking pics of the view from the top and asked if I wanted them to take a pic of me.  So of course I stopped and posed for a pic on top of the mountain.   The descent down was almost as hard as the ascent.  It was so steep!  It was hurting different muscles than the climb up! 


The race continued on in that fashion.  We had a few miles between each of the 3 mountains that were nowhere close to flat.  Then it would be a long climb up and long descent down. The climb on the second mountain was a real struggle for me.  Both Emir and I had the feeling he was going to be leaving me behind.  My legs were feeling so tired and I was just feeling overall dead.  Awesome, I wasn't even halfway done yet.  But at the top, I stopped for a minute took in a GU, had some water.  We both had our packs full of Tailwind (of course) but I just needed something else too.  We started the descent and in a few minutes I started feeling much better.  Luckily it carried over to the rest of the race.  Of course the 3rd and final mountain didn't arrive until around miles 18-19.  They say Peakwood is the smallest and easiest of the 3 but once again, LIARS!!!  Ok yes it's the smallest in terms of height but let me tell you, it was by far the steepest and it felt like it went on forever!!!  But there was an awesome party going on at the top with water, GU brew and tons of fruit and PB&j's and awesome, awesome volunteers who you couldn't help but smile and laugh with.  We took one of our two potty breaks up here (there were port a potty's every station! which was every 1.9 miles or so).  I was waiting for Emir to come out and Bart Yasso enters the party scene.  He's high fiving everyone and comes over grabs my hand says "darlin, I'm so proud of what you are doing!  you are awesome!!"  This coming from a man struggling with lyme disease who just ascended this crazy steep mountain.  Bart is just amazing!  After we descended the last mountain we still had somewhere between 5-6 miles left.  But I was feeling good and I could tell Emir was too.  I mean were our legs hurting? hell yeah!  But we knew we could do it and could finish strong.  Of course there were some more ups and downs those last miles but felt like nothing compared to what we had been through.  On that homestretch I drank my tailwind, some water, ate a snickers some spectators left in front of their house for runners and Emir and I did a shot of Boston Lager.  And the last .2 mile stretch down to the finish line that was lined with everyone screaming for us, we ran holding hands and lifted our hands together as we crossed the line.  Even more awesome was the announcer who announced each person as they crossed.  He yelled "Husband and wife, Emir & Amy Dedic from Flourtown, PA coming in strong together!!  Look at them holding hands crossing the line together!"  I hope they got a good pic of it!! :-)  We finished in 4:30, which both of us could not believe!!  We totally thought for sure it would take us way longer to do a marathon of this difficulty not to mention I stopped for a pic, we stopped twice to pee, walked up a few of the steeper sections and stopped at a couple aide sections.  We were both so proud and beaming at our job well done!

So yeah this race was hard as hell but I'm still on this crazy high from it.  I just don't even know what other words to use other than awesome and amazing.  What made it so awesome not only were the views but the people.  Roanoke and the surrounding Blue Ridge Mountains are not extremely populated places but there were crowds throughout the whole race.  Besides the official aide stations which they had a ridiculous number of with tons of enthusiastic volunteers, tons of the locals also set up their own "stations" in front of their houses.  People had music blasting for us from their boom boxes, they were cheering, had cowbells, signs, bubbles, you name it we probably saw it.  Not only that but the local spectators had water and food for runners too!  There was fruit, pretzels, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, candy, frozen grapes and that's only what I saw.  They were all so motivating and told us how proud they were we were doing this.  The only city race I've done so far is Philly.  And while I'm sure in total there were way more spectators along the course, it was nothing like this.  In Philly there were huge sections with nobody cheering and it just didn't feel as genuine as this.  These people loved having us there and in return we loved being there.  I would do this race again in a heart beat. 

One would probably assume after a tough race such as this that we would be taking at least a few days off however once again we are so smart and our first ever 50K at Bear Mountain is next weekend May 4th.  We had the two days after Blue Ridge as rest then run Tuesday, off Wednesday and run Thursday, Saturday and Sunday.  Thank goodness at least it's taper time!!  Even though these two extremely challenging races are so close together, I'm really glad we did Blue Ridge.  Yes one huge reason is because it was just such a great race in general but also we were able to treat it as an "ultra" training run.  It had plenty of those steep inclines that we will face in the 50K.  So we were able to get practice walking up the parts that are impossible to run and being able to switch back into running mode.  We also got practice at taking a minute or two to stop at aide stations to pee, eat, drink whatever we needed at that time which just what I expect will be needed at an ultra trail race.  Emir and I both agree that we are feeling more confident going into the 50K now and we are really looking forward to it!

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A few (long winded) random thoughts ;-)

Forgive the length, this is what happens when I don't blog for a few weeks!!! ;-) 

Since our marathon a few weeks ago, I've had a couple rough patches.  The following weekend we were supposed to run 20 on Saturday and 14 on Sunday (I know!!, crazy!)  I was still on a high from my PR.  I noticed a twinge in both my hamstrings on the shorter runs during the week but I was like obviously you can't run your fastest marathon time ever and then not be sore.  Normally we would have taken at least a few days off then a bunch of short runs but since we are in the middle of 50K training no rest for the weary.  Anyway on Saturday's 20 miler.  I started off right away with some pain in my left hamstring.  So I kept the pace down and kept going.  I was feeling sore and slow but not unexpected.  Around mile 16 I began having sharp pains in my low back and left hip.  It became debilitating.  AHHHHH I was so frustrated!!  I ended up walk/running the rest of the run.  I made my 20 miles (mostly because otherwise I would have been stuck in the middle of the trail)  I knew it didn't look good for Sunday but I wanted to at least try.  Emir convinced me to at least just use the treadmill so that way if I had a problem I could easily just stop.  Sunday was also Easter so I woke up super early to try to get the run in before church.  I woke up a few times during the night because it actually hurt my left hip to lay on it :-(  I took a few slow run steps on the treadmill and couldn't take it.  I also knew that it was most likely in my best interest to not run Sunday and have my off day Monday to hopefully overcome this.  At first I was really disappointed to be missing this run completely.  I was just excited to run so many miles in the last few weeks but I got over it. (BTW even with missing this run, 200 miles for March!!! My highest ever in one month) Then I began to really start to worry about how bad my hip hurt.  We have two more marathons and our 50K coming up.  I didn't want to be sidelined now!  So I took action.  I foam rolled the crap out of my legs and iced my hip many many times over that week.  I stretched many many times that week and I began a glut and hip abd strengthening program.  Yes of course I know how important these muscles are and that yes I should be doing strengthening exercises a couple times a week buuuuut  what can I do sometimes???  I am a working mom of two young kids.  We have been logging a solid 45-50 miles a week for a while now which some weeks can be challenging just to get our runs in.  One of us will literally run in the house as the other one is running out.  Then run back in barely get a shower and off we go to whatever we have that day.  I'm not complaining.  I love running, love my kids, my husband but sometimes something has to give and usually that's any other physical activity other than our runs.  Anyway lucky for me I was only still a little sore come Tuesday so I was able to get back on my schedule and complete all my runs.  By the following week, my hip and back were pain free, THANK GOODNESS!! :-) 

Last weekend we went to our shore house for a 3 day weekend since they were forecasting beautiful weather, for once they were right.  We had a few wonderful runs down there.  There's nothing like running on the boardwalk, sea wall and ocean drive in the beaming sun reflecting off the sand and ocean.  I had some instep soreness on my longer run but I was wearing my Altra Torins which I don't tend to wear all the time.  They also aside from the Zero Drop don't have any instep support the way all my other shoes do.  I think I need to stick to shorter runs for those unless I decide to gradually work them in so that I can do long runs in them.  Today I did my 16 miler in my Saucony Viratta's which also are 0mm offset however I never have an instep problem with them, I'm guessing they have more support in that area.  I just want to say how much I freakin love my Virrata's.  I'm not one to obsess over gear, shoes, etc but I have fallen madly in love with these shoes.  They are light, comfy and I ALWAYS run fast in them.  Of course they were what I was wearing for my 3:59 marathon.  While on this topic of running gear, I wanted to take a minute to discuss something.  Like I said I'm not really a "gear freak" per say but at this point I do have a ton of it.  I'm lucky enough to have an awesome running connection.  My sister-in-law is the Fitness Editor for Fitness Magazine ( @FitnessJenna )  She not only gives me the latest and greatest gear for birthdays, Christmas and just because occasions but she has also hooked me up with some gear testing opportunities, hence the 6 pair of running shoe rotation I have going on right now.  Honestly, if it wasn't for her I would still be running in cotton t-shirts, mesh shorts and the cheapest running sneakers that I would prob wear for 600 miles +.  One of the reasons I got into running in the first place was because it was affordable.  I didn't need to belong to a gym or a pool to get my workouts in.  I didn't need tons of equipment or gear to work out.  And if I wanted to do a race, it's not hard to find reasonably priced events locally.  However lately the running gear/shoe market has been booming and going CRAZY!!!  I mean I did realize that for marathon/ultra distance training/racing it is necessary to have a few "running" pieces of apparel for the longer runs.  I learned that the hard way with some MAJOR shafing episodes.  I also know that you really do need a pair of shoes that suits your running style and yes I do admit they can't last forever or you will get injured.  But is it really necessary to spend SO MUCH on this stuff?  Before Jenna was able to start supplying me ;-)  I would find extremely reasonably priced running things at Kohl's and Target that weren't usually any "special" brand.  I never really had any problems with any of this stuff.  Now that I have the higher end name brand things, yes it usually looks nice and feels nice but is it really that much better?  Is it worth the money?  I don't really know the answer.  I do know however that the last couple of weeks I have been testing sports bras for Fitness Magazine.  They are all higher end running bras.  3 of the 4 bras are in the $30-40 range.  The 4th is actually $75.  Can you believe that?!?  I would NEVER spend that on a sports bra but maybe I'm just a cheapskate ;-)  Anyway I've been pretty happy with most of them.  However would you believe that the $75 bra has shafed my back pretty bad TWICE!?!  So it just proves my point that "name" and cost don't always mean better.  Ok end rant ;-)

Back to running, today I tried a different route that Emir found online.  It included around 3+ miles of uphill.  It was challenging but it was definitely the confidence booster I needed before we head to Virginia next weekend for the Blue Ridge Marathon.  Blue Ridge has over 7200 feet in elevations over 3 mountains (yikes!!)  It has been deemed America's Toughest Road Marathon so it's no joke.  Today's run was nothing compared to this marathon but I hadn't really done any hill work in a while so I had really been questioning what it would feel like.  It actually felt pretty good and I enjoyed it.  I think at this point with all the miles and miles that we have been putting in, our legs have a pretty good base.  We aren't going to break any records but I feel confident that we can do it.  I'm also feeling pretty good since we just got a huge package from Tailwind Nutrition to help fuel us up those mountains! :-)  LOVE THAT STUFF!