Sunday, May 28, 2017

Aftershokz Minis: Small package, big sound

Disclaimer: I received Aftershokz Trekz Titanium Headphones as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out to review find and write race reviews!

If you follow my blog or IG, you know I LOVE my Aftershokz Trekz Titanium headphones.  They have seriously changed my running for the better.  I use them all the time for music, podcasts, now audio books and to chat on the phone while on the go.  I used to think that I wasn't enjoying my surroundings if I used headphones while running plus I hated dealing with the wires, etc.  But Aftershokz are wireless and they are bone conducting headphones so I can still hear all the nature sounds, people and cars which is why I love them.  I can hear music plus everything else and truly enjoy my runs.

Why did I want to try the minis if I love my current Aftershokz so much?  Well mostly curiosity because while the regular ones fit pretty fine and don't move around at all, sometimes I do bump the band when I'm climbing hills and things when I tilt my head back.  Not a huge deal, but I wanted to see if smaller ones might be better for my smaller head.  Plus if I'm being really honest, Niko fell in love with mine while training for the Hot Chocolate 5K so I wanted to have another pair to share with him ;-)  I love the Aftershokz for the kids because they don't go in the ears and they aren't huge clunky things either.  They take up almost no space at all, no wires to get tangled and they can still hear me when they have them on. 

So how do the minis compare?  They look exactly the same as the regular, just smaller.  It was actually difficult to tell that they were indeed smaller until I held them up against each other.  They feel just as comfortable and stay in place when I'm running.  They are smaller but they still fit me perfectly and still slightly big on Niko but they are not kid's headphones, haha.   I found the sound to be exactly the same, nice, crisp and clear.  I had no problems taking phone calls or switching songs with the controls. 
Minis fit me too!

used the Trekz to communicate with my crew during Boulder Field 100K
I'm really not sure how long the battery life is supposed to last however I've only had excellent experience with this.  My regular trekz have lasted as long as 11+ hours at my 24 hour races (fully charged of course).  My latest track ultra I took both pairs, hoping that I wouldn't have to ask Emir to charge any headphones for me during the race.  I wore the regular first and I believe it was close to 11.5 hours when they finally died and I switched to the minis.  I ended up stopping at about 21.5 hours after crushing my 100 mile PR time and the minis were still going and had yet to say low battery so it was a solid 10 hours for those as well.

trekz titanium in the rain
I can't say enough good things about these headphones.  I mean obviously they have a special place in my heart as they have helped me do really well at some big races in the past year but still they are an awesome product.  I even use them regularly while cooking and cleaning.  They are just so comfortable and the wireless is HUGE for me.  So if you are in the market for new headphones, I HIGHLY recommend them!

Monday, May 22, 2017

D3: Rain and Records

D3 feels like a lifetime ago even though it was just last weekend.  Emir went back to Colorado and getting the house on the market was no easy task.  But that's not the point of this post....

I'm not even kidding a little bit when I say that I really thought I could only have good running years every other year.  It sounds crazy and yes I am.  I'm your typical runner head case.  I may not appear to be that way on the outside or say it out loud very often but I totally am.  Why did I think this ridiculous thing?  Well because I ran my first marathon in 2011.  2012 I had Una so I guess technically that doesn't count.  2013 I steadily improved on my own but had some serious downs, returning from pregnancy and post partum were rough.  2014 I was given the gift of Coach Caleb by Emir which turned out to be the best running gift ever because 2014 was a fantastic year for me.  2015 started out just ok but I had to get my appendix out and suffered my first DNF.  Just things didn't feel good.  2016 I bounced back, had a good year again.  And that brings us to this year.  I spoke last post about how pretty much all my training since NJ One Day in November has been sucking.  I've been really slow at times and long runs felt really awful.  Combine that with a random foot injury just before Austin Marathon in February and I was convinced 2017 would be another weird, not great year like 2015, especially since we are making this huge move across the country and have so much going on, I just knew it was all too much and I probably shouldn't have set any goals for this spring or maybe even not raced at all.  But since I decided I wanted one more big East Coast race, I decided to just do what I could. 

Coach kept telling me throughout training that I was improving a lot but of course I didn't believe him.  What was he looking at?  My paces were all over the place and sucked a lot.  What does he know?  He was successful in getting me to just keep doing what I was doing and saying would be worth it in the end.  It felt good that he was so confident but I still wasn't convinced I was going to do well at D3.  Honestly I don't know how he puts up with all of us crazy runners.

Anyway, even after doing what to me was surprisingly well at the SRT 50K, I still was not convinced that I had TRULY improved.  I was thinking ok that was much better than I thought I would do (well duh it was a PR) but I'm still not sure I'll PR this 100 or if I do maybe like 23 hours, 22:30 hours, we will see.
I love 24 hour races with a small loop, I can pack EVERYTHING!

The week leading up to the race was actually fairly relaxed around our house since Emir had just completed MMT100 that weekend before D3 so he was recovering and I had only a few very short taper runs.  The race weather forecast was not looking so great but nothing can be done about that.  They were calling for a nor'easter on race day, 1-2 inches of rain, high winds.  We still until that morning held out some hope it might slide out to sea a bit more than they thought, anything that might lessen the impact a bit.  Nope.  Pouring rain when we woke up.  I'm pretty sure the weather impacted Emir, my one man crew, more than me.  He had such a  time trying to get the tent, etc set up.  Then he had to just stand around in torrential rain and winds for 15 hours until the rain finally subsided.  So I do really appreciate all he did for me.

this was no easy feat at 6:30am in the pouring rain and gusty winds

The start of the race was kind of a blur, as I was in my car getting ready and emerged just in time for the start.  I was excited because my friend and teammate Kristen was running the 24 hours as well as another running Amy who I ran with at NJ 1 day and the infamous amazing Alaskan Dave Johnston plus I knew I would have a great time getting to know all the other wonderful runners that day.  What I do remember in those early laps was thinking how much I liked running on a track sooo much more than the paved loop at the NJ one day.  I remember feeling pains and just general sluggishness very early on at NJ one day.  This was much different.  My legs felt good.  I just felt like I was on cruise control.  Plus despite the weather, crews and spectators were out around the track.  I saw people ALL the time which made a huge different for me.  At One Day, I would only see people once every 10-20 minutes depending on how long the lap took.  I was loving this way more even very early on. 

I hit the marathon mark around 4 hours and some change I think.  It was somewhere in this time frame that my stomach started turning.  Sometimes during ultras, I get in a phase where I just don't feel like eating but this was actual nausea which I've actually not experienced before.  Emir suggested it was because I had only done gels, chomps and waffles until this point which is possible but I've run that distance a million times fueling exactly that way and not been nauseous.  Anyway, he got me some coke and I forced a half a burger with no bun.  I was feeling slightly better but then my stomach was killing me.  Not to be too graphic but I spent some quality time in the potty and after that I felt MUCH better and started cruising again. 

This happened periodically through the entire race.  I was worried how much time I was spending in the bathroom as I was forced in there to unload at least 4-5 times but if I didn't, I wouldn't have been able to keep running.  I also noticed another issue with my frequent potty stops, I had horrible chafage in some awful places that were on fire whenever I went to the bathroom.  I was just hoping it wouldn't progress to the point that it would really bother me while running.  Since it was pouring rain for hours and hours, I felt there was no point in changing clothes especially since I wasn't feeling cold or anything.  I re-applied glide several times but I think since I was soaked the entire time, it wasn't having the normal effect to prevent the chafage plus I think wet clothes just chafe so much more than dry. I do have to add, I wore only pair of socks and one pair of shoes the ENTIRE race, my zensah compression socks and Altra Paradigms.  My feet came out just as pretty as they went in, despite being soaked for 21+ hours of running.

I had a very good 50K time, not far off my PR of a few weeks prior and then I reached 50 miles under 9 hours, very solid and ahead of NJ One day.  I felt very good about how things were going.  At this point, I decided to switch clothes even though it was still raining as I was finally starting to feel chilly.  Just as I was about to emerge from my tent back onto the track, my sister Cindy and her boyfriend Todd appeared!  I had no idea there were going to come and it meant SO much to me that they came to support me especially in those awful conditions.  They probably stayed 2 hours, cheering me every single time I passed by.  It was a huge boost and I think helped me go faster those miles 50-60. 

I don't really remember a ton between when they left and when I reached 100 miles.  Eventually, I think at like 15 hours, the rain FINALLY stopped.  So at some point I changed into different dry clothes including pants which I just put over top of my wet shorts and socks.  Kristen and I's friend Sophorn came to crew Kristen so it was great to have another familiar face to see every lap, always smiling and cheering us on.  Then came Christine who is also an Altra ambassador and we finally were able to get together to run a few miles a couple weeks ago in the Wissahickon.  She asked the RD if she could run with me and he said no problem unless I was breaking a record or something, ummm no!  HAHA  So she accompanied me for a couple laps which was awesome.  

I also met the infamous Yoshiko Jo!

Miles 80-100 were rough for me.  My legs were starting to hurt BAD and I was feeling exhausted.  I just tried to keep moving.  I would walk a lap here and there but walking was starting to become more painful than my slow run trot.  This part felt like FOREVER.  Eventually after crossing the timing mats for the millionth time, Emir said "Listen, you have 12 laps until 100, you got this"  And he explained how I had to go past the main timing mat to this other timing mat to make 100.  It felt SO HARD and every lap I kept repeating how many laps were left like one million times as I slowly made my way around.  I was also getting the nausea back worse than ever but I just wanted to get to 100 and then I could worry about that.
coke break, trying to head off the nausea
Once I had a few laps to go, I realized what time it was.  I had no clue what paces my miles were since I hit somewhere in the 60s.  It was a combo of that I just stopped caring what exactly my pace was and my watch was stuck under my jacket sleeve and gloves.  I was just moving how I could and I wasn't going to do anything better than that even looking at my watch.  Anyway, I starting realizing, wow I think I'm going to have a pretty significant PR.  But you know how math is at mile 98-99 so I was thinking I needed like 30 minutes per mile and stupid stuff like that.  Finally I crossed that big timing mat with only about .15 miles to go to the 100 mile mark and the clock said 21 something, I didn't make out the rest but I was like "holy crap I will break 22 hours!"  My previous PR being 23:32.   After I crossed the 100 mile mat, I was done.  I walked the rest of the lap to complete it and went and sat in the tent.  Emir came bursting in "21:21!!!!"  Holy crap!!!  that's a 2 hour 10 minute PR.  I was feeling simultaneously awesome and completely awful at the same time.  Sitting there my legs were THROBBING and I felt more nauseous than ever.  Oh and I also could feel the chafage wounds on my back, torso and unmentionable areas.

some of my chafage, the rest is not suitable for the blog
I tried to take a few bites of stuff but couldn't.  Emir went to fetch me a grilled cheese and when he came back, I said I was done.  He didn't argue with me at all this time, unlike at NJ One Day.  My sole goal for this race was to PR my 100 mile time which I had just crushed.  That's what I was training for, not for more than a hundred.  I gave everything I had into that hundo time and I just had nothing left.  And neither one of us, was one bit upset that I wasn't continuing on.  I didn't have a single regret and I still don't.  Maybe one of these days I will say to coach, I'm doing a 24 hour race and want to do as many miles as I can, surpassing 100 and that will be my goal but that wasn't it for this race and my mind and body knew it and shut down accordingly. 
100.16 miles!

The RD Bill came over to congratulate me on my huge PR.  This was my first time meeting Bill and he's truly an incredible man.  I could tell how much he cares about his race and the runners and wants everyone to have a great day.  I enjoyed our chat even though I really just wanted to die.  I also appreciated his hard work throughout the day.  I think he probably did at least 50 miles on that track, the number of times I saw him walking the opposite way of us talking to every runner and offering soup, etc during the night.  I also wish we switched directions more than every 4 hours because I loved watching Bill dance with the Turn sign.  I've never seen someone so excited about telling runners to switch directions!  HAHAHA
Bill is one awesome dude!!

I know Bill doesn't want to hear what's great about the race, he wants to hear what he can fix.  But honestly I can't really find anything wrong with his race (he has been doing it for YEARS).  The timing at the race was OUTSTANDING!  They had a screen just past the timing mat/tent area so that as you went by you could see your mileage and place as you went by.   They would even move said screen every four hours when we changed direction.  They also moved the mats as needed so that we could get official 50k, 50 mile, 100k and 100 mile times.  They had kids from the Valley Forge Military Academy working hydration stations for us, two of them plus the main food station.  All that on a track!  It was awesome.  You could just leave your bottle(including the awesome handhelds Nathan gave us!) at the hydration station and they would fill it for you and pick it up next loop. 

I would be remiss, if I didn't mention how much running with my friend Kristen meant to me.  This may be it for a long, long time of us doing a race together and I loved seeing her out there, chatting with her and watching her push herself lap after lap just so calm, cool and collected all race long.  It was also nice to share laps with Amy Mower again who I met at NJ One Day.  She too had a huge 100 mile PR and went on to have a 24 hour PR with 109 miles.  Even though I didn't really talk to them I LOVED watching Dave and Tara zoom around the track like it was nothing all day and all night, so inspiring. 
Kristen and I making one of the turns together, with Amy on our heels

So I still haven't figured out my stomach thing.  There is a chance I had a slight stomach bug as Una had one over that weekend as well or maybe it was just the stress that running my fastest 100 time put on my stomach, who knows.  It took days for me to not feel nauseous when I ate.  I still don't feel 100% completely normal in the stomach but my legs feel very good although I won't go for a run until tomorrow so we will see.  What I do know for sure is coach was right (ugh) and in his words I
"see the value of doing the work even when you're unsure of whether or not you are making progress. Patience and persistence!"  I'll see how well I do at remembering that next training cycle ;-)

I will end by sharing my numbers from the race:

50K: 5:04:58 
50 miles:  8:54.35
100K:  11:26.22
100 miles: 21:21.47

Also aside from my big hundo PR, I set 2 PA state records for my age
I set the record for fastest 100 mile time and for most miles in 24 hours 100.16
Two PA state records in my last race as a PA resident!!

And yup I can't wait to do it again!

Monday, May 1, 2017


I have to admit, I've been kind of slacking on my blogging.  I didn't even write a post about the Love Run Half that I ran a month ago or write the Colorado post that I promised.  Life has totally taken over all of my time.  But honestly I don't care.  I'm out there doing things with my family and friends and loving every minute!  If you want to see more of that, just check out my IG and FB, there ya go, no blog needed ;-)

Things have finally calmed down for a bit so that I can actually write about the race I ran on April 22nd.  My big race of the spring is D3 24 hour race on May 13th where I plan to try to PR my 100 mile distance.  I usually try to do some kind of lesser distance ultra during my training cycle for a 100 miler but this time around I had nothing.  Things have just been SO hectic with preparing to move across the country, Emir working in Colorado alot and the kids having one million things going on.  Who gives 4 year olds a book report and projects?!  Anyway I just didn't have time to put thought into it and I certainly didn't have time or money to travel anywhere.  One day something popped up in my FB about the Schuylkill River Trail 50K relay.  I was curious so I clicked on it.  Turns out aside from the relay there is a 50K solo option which is an out and back on the SRT.  It was really perfect.  It was to take place 3 weeks before D3 which is peak mileage week, it's on a mostly flat trail (D3 is on a track) and the start/finish is only 25 minutes from my house.  Oh and most importantly it's sponsored by Sly Fox Brewery, SOLD!

I really didn't think about this race much once I registered.  It was to be my last big training run for D3 and I had some big things coming up the week before the race.  Emir was in Colorado the entire two weeks before the race.  He left on a Sunday, we joined him Wednesday and came home Tuesday and he stayed until that Friday night, the night before the race.  It was a crazy time to say the least.  The couple days before we left on our trip was me running at the crack of dawn, getting the kids to school and me working all day to race around picking them up and racing to whatever sport was that night.  We had the best time on our trip.  We did so much yet I felt so relaxed and so at home there.  I made a running friend there already and we all love our new neighborhood.  None of us wanted to come back.

Running in Heaven
Aubrey!  can't wait to run more with this lady!

Rocky Mountain National Park
 When we finally did it was not a pretty 3+ days of single parenting.  I completely missed getting a run in on that Tuesday because by the time we got home from the airport, got Niko's glasses fixed and went food shopping, it was so late and I was so exhausted.  I also had to wake up at 4:45 Wednesday morning to get my run in.  We had baseball, softball or track all 3 nights and Una had a project due Friday.  Pretty sure I cried a couple times with how overwhelmed, tired and just stressed I was.  And the house was A MESS.

one of my stressors although I'm damn proud of it! Earth day project
Friday night before the race Niko had a track meet which didn't end until almost 8 so we didn't get home until 9:30 from eating dinner with my family.   I was exhausted and really didn't feel like getting my stuff together but I did.  Luckily the race had staggered start times as not to overtake the trail which wouldn't be closed during the race so my start was actually 10:15 so I did get to sleep in later than usual for a race day.

The weather forecast changed somewhat last minute and they were calling for rain.  The temps were going to be 50s-60s so I still went with shorts and a singlet but brought my Altra pullover.  The start of the race was interesting as it was a solid half mile from the pavilion area where all the race stuff was.  I was walking for a bit and couldn't even see it in sight and was wondering if I was even going the right place but some other runners were headed that way too.  Eventually we got there.  The RD explained how they could only send 8 people off at a time so even though there was a larger group of us with a 10:15 start time, he could only start 8 every couple minutes.  Didn't matter since we had chip timing in our bibs.

My goal for this race was just to run easy and fuel well.  I had prepared myself while waiting to start that it didn't matter what people were doing around me.  It would be hard to know who was running a relay and who was solo so there would definitely be people sprinting their 4-5 mile segments and I couldn't let that affect how I was running.  I also had to keep in mind that people were starting at all different times from 9-11:30 so no way of knowing what time people started either.  And also it shouldn't matter to me anyway since I just needed to run my own training run.

I felt like overall I did a really good job of this.  I stayed very relaxed and honestly didn't care at all about what anyone else was doing.  The staggered start times really helped with that so we were all spread out everywhere and having relay people all mixed in, I just always assumed people blowing by were relay people.  I fueled early and often.  I had everything I needed in my pack since I wasn't sure what to expect as far as aid.  There were 3 transition points (technically 5 since you hit two of them twice on the out and back) for the relays.  The race info indicated there would be water and maybe some bananas but I didn't want to rely on that since it was a relatively smaller group of us doing the ultra solo.  I was pleasantly surprised however at the goodies they had for us.  I didn't stop at all until I got to the halfway transition at Conshohocken Brewery.  I filled up my water and a volunteer offered me all kinds of snacks and even coke.  It was great, definitely a pick me up after slogging 15 miles in the pouring rain.  I really had to pee and she said we could use the bathroom inside.  I ran in but there was a huge line, lots of people enjoying some beer on the rainy day.  Even though it was a training run, things had been going well the first half and at that point I was on pace for a good time so I didn't want to stand in line.  I knew eventually I would find some secluded area on the trail which I did.

I had started to lag a bit the last couple miles before halfway but probably the coke, the brief stop and a couple snacks picked me back up.  I started really cruising again.  I had thought going into it that 5:15 would be a good time.  It technically would be a 50K PR for me.  I think my fastest stand alone 50K is 6:20 but I definitely ran a low 5 something at C &O canal 100 so then again technically not really a PR but still 5:15 would be a very solid time for me and a great training run going into D3.  With about 7 miles left I checked my time and did a little math, kind of hard not to when you are running solo for 31 miles.  I started to realize that even if I couldn't maintain below 10 minute pace for the last 7, even if I went 10:30s I could still finish sub 5 which would be a big PR for me.  So while I wanted this race to be easy pace, I did push myself that last part a bit because now that I knew it was within reach, I wanted that sub 5.  I was able to maintain under 10minute miles until mile 28 but I was only slightly over and still had a cushion.  I reached the part of the course back near where we started but there was nothing there and it was quite clear that was not the finish.  I was right around 31 miles and would hit 50K at 4:52 which HUGE PR but crap I wasn't finished the race.  Even though I knew the finish line must be back over where the pavilion was and that it was a solid .5miles away, I was determined that my race time would be under 5 hours.  Adrenaline just took over because the way I felt those last few miles I never would have imagined I could have picked up the pace and run sub 9 pace at that point but I did and I finished in 4:56.   People were cheering for my finish and I was pumped.  There were several groups of relay teams that congratulated me and said they watched me all day because they saw me come through all the transition points.  I received lots of compliments about how strong I looked and many questions about ultra running in general.

I quickly went about finding my finishers beer and award.  I wanted to watch my friend and teammate Kristen finish so I sat around stalking the finish line.  I was getting chilly now that I was done since I was soaked so I ran to the car to grab my sweatshirt.  Somehow I must have missed her :-(  But I saw some other people finish and listened to the band.  It was a shame it was so miserable out because it was a fun after party.
Anyway I was about to leave as I realized I definitely missed Kristen when the RD got up to announce the top 3 finishers in the ultra and the relays.  He was announcing the female ultra first so I was interested to see what the times were.  He announced 3rd then 2nd place but he didn't give their times so I was like oh bummer I don't know how I compared, I guess I'll look it up later and was starting to turn around when " First place overall female ultra AMY DEDIC!"  And yes I'm pretty sure I squealed a bit as I almost tackled the guy to get my trophy.  It was a small local race but damn I don't win races regardless and I knew I ran well that day so it felt REALLY good to win.  AND it felt even better when they posted the results online the next day and I saw that the 2nd & 3rd place ladies had the same exact time as each other so they must have paced each other and I won by 25 seconds.  This made me just even happier.  It was a great race with great competition but I pushed myself that extra bit at the end and that's what won me that race.  I'm giving myself a pat on the back right now ;-)  HAHAHA

Beer can trophy, yes!
Of course whenever you have a good race you always feel inclined to say how great the event was in general.  But even if I wasn't as successful as I was, I still would recommend this race whether you want to do it as a relay or solo.  They had lots of fun little details such as when I got my bib there were extra glasses from sly fox which were there for the taking and a HUGE pile of running head bands which were help yourself.  The pavilion area was huge and nice since it was raining and hello INDOOR bathrooms.  As I said the transition points were a huge surprise with how much they had for the ultra runners.  And of course post race was great with all the beer, food trucks and bands.  It was definitely a fun day.

Now back to me.  I'm definitely feeling more confident about how D3 will go now that I ran this and just felt so good.  I'm hoping not to feel like I did at NJ one day.  My legs were hating me at like mile 20.  I'm also just so glad to not feel like I'm struggling to finish long runs anymore.  Jan, feb and march were ROUGH as far as my long runs.  I just think I wasn't quite recovered from NJ one day plus I was trying to work on speed which I hadn't done in forever.  And yes coach I know it takes time, blah blah blah but to put it bluntly, I felt like shit and now I don't so I'm happy.  A little less than 2 weeks to go, time to put on my hundo pants!!!
trail runnin in the Wiss this weekend