Race Recap: Dino Half Marathon 2017

As some of you know, I've been dealing with an ankle injury since my last race in March. What was initially diagnosed as a ligament sprain was actually peroneal tendonitis, so I've been going to PT once a week and was finally cleared to run again on May 1. For the past two weeks, I've been slowly building my mileage back up. I was given the go-ahead by my physical therapist to try running this half to see how my ankle would do.

The Dino Half took place in Vernal, Utah on Saturday, May 13th. Going into the race, I had no idea what to expect. With my lack of training for the past two months, I wasn't sure how I would do, being that my longest run since getting cleared to run was six miles. What I found out is that if you have a solid base already, it's easy to get your endurance and mileage back to where it was. I was pleasantly surprised.

Race weekend began with Geof and I driving to Vernal and picking up our race packets. I fell asleep in the car while seated cross-legged and once I stepped out of the car, realized my left calf was super tight. After picking up my packet, someone stopped me in the parking lot and asked if I had a running blog. She said she had read my post about the Dino Half from last year! That was so cool and it caught me off guard, so I apologize if I was acting awkward. I never imagined anyone but my friends and family would read my blog. 

We dropped our things off at the hotel and headed out to eat a pasta dinner at Antica Forma. I had linguine with meatballs and it was perfect. At dinner, I started to get an itchy tickle in my throat and was worried I might be getting sick. I let that thought drift from my mind as we ate and after dinner, we took a short walk by the restaurant to walk off the tightness in my calf. We went back to the hotel, gathered our gear for the race, foam rolled and headed to sleep.

I woke up the next morning with my throat and calf feeling pretty good. Rest must have worked out those kinks. I ate avocado toast, drank nuun and got ready. I taped up my ankle with KT tape and wore a compression ankle sleeve for precaution. We headed out the door around 5:50 a.m. to catch the buses to take us to the start of the race in Dry Fork Canyon. Once dropped off, we lined up for the port-a-potties, stood by the fire and I wrapped myself up in a heat sheet. It seemed like the wait before the start went by quickly, even with the race starting ten minutes late. At 7:40 a.m., after all the buses had dropped off their runners, they counted down and blew the horn.

The weather was nice—breezy and warm. I felt good at the beginning. Race day can make you feel so much better with all the adrenaline that kicks in. The first three miles of the race were on an eroded road and it was bumpy and rough. My ankle actually shifted and popped three times but as I continued to run, the pain from the shock of the pops began to subside. I had to work to stay on the flatter areas, but after those initial miles, the canyon road smoothed out and I was good. My ankle never popped again after that.

Geof and I ran together for the first three miles and then I went ahead when Geof slowed on some of the hills. He has been having some pain in his calf and ran the hills slower and more carefully to not aggravate it. I was feeling surprisingly so good and was keeping a nice pace. At mile 6, the 1:55 pacers came up behind me, overtook me and I ran behind them for a long time. They were running faster than they should have, but listening in on their conversations, I knew it was to bank time on the downhill portion of the course before the last miles leveled out.

Photo: Flo-Foto

Photo: Flo-Foto

I started to lose steam at mile 10 (yup, my legs had not run this far since my ankle injury in March) and I began to slow a little. My calves were feeling tight and sore. My 8:00-something pace went into the 9:00s but I was determined to keep those pacers in sight. After mile 10 sometime, Geof appeared by me again! He said he had been trying to catch up to me the whole time. He was just who I needed to see and we kept pace together for the last few miles.

When we only had half a mile to go, I ran past the 1:55 pacers and thanked them and said I had been following them for 7 miles. Geof and I tried to pick it up and we ran it in! I also ran my fastest Dino Half and I feel good about that with my lack of training lately (this was our third time running this race). Final chip time—1:52:34.

Mile Splits:
1—8:07
2—8:12
3—8:07
4—8:09
5—8:19
6—8:30
7—8:15
8—8:31
9—8:29
10—9:04
11—8:56
12—9:34
13—9:27
0.12—1:00

Post-race consisted of eating a spicy chicken sandwich, fries and custard at Freddy's, watching the new season of Master Of None, getting dinner at Vernal Brewing Company and frozen yogurt at Farr's. The next day, I woke up early because I couldn't sleep. I was having a hard time because my throat began to hurt really bad and I started to get really sick. We checked out of the hotel and drove back home, taking the long route through Flaming Gorge. It was really beautiful. I needed rest and took some short naps in the car on the way back.

Flaming Gorge

Flaming Gorge

The dry air and running into the wind during the race probably played into me getting sicker and making the virus worse (did you know that during endurance running you lose red blood cells?), but I wouldn't have traded running for anything. I'm really happy that I ran a strong race with a recovering ankle that isn't 100 percent. It makes me optimistic for what the year will bring and how much more I can improve once my ankle is fully healed. Excited.

Race Recap: Antelope Island Buffalo Run 25K

I've been thinking about what I want to say in this recap for the past day and I'm having a hard time writing it out. Thinking about what happened on the course yesterday makes me a little emotional. I've been shedding some tears here and there since then and even though I did finish the race, I had an incident halfway through and it was tough. My experience went from good to bad to ugly, but I ended up finding some willpower I didn't know I had. Here's how it all happened.

Pre-Race
Like I mentioned in my previous post, I was so excited about starting this year's race season, especially on the trails (this race being the longest trail race I've done!), and was anticipating running such a beautiful course among wildlife and the most grand views. I got my gear ready the night before and laid everything out on the floor so I wouldn't forget a thing. The forecast was going to be warm. At the peak of the day, it hit 80° and I later found out that this year was the warmest it's ever been on Antelope Island for this race. Usually, temperatures average 50° at this time of year. With the heat in mind, I brought my hydration vest, equipped with a water bladder and a front bottle.

On the morning of the race, I woke up and ate avocado toast and drank my usual glass of nuun before heading out the door. While Geof drove, I ate some apple sauce and took a quick nap in the hour it took to get to the island. We parked near the backcountry trails around 7:20 a.m. At this point, it was already 60° out. We took a port-a-pottie break and sat in the car before Geof lined up to begin his 50K at 8 a.m. I had another hour to spare before the start of the 25K, so I stood around the fire, chatted with some fellow runners and then headed back to the car to grab my hydration vest and take one more port-a-pottie stop. At 9 a.m., everyone lined up and we took off.

We rolled into Antelope Island right at sunrise.

We rolled into Antelope Island right at sunrise.

The Race
The 25K course has an elevation gain of 2,000 feet, so knowing what was ahead, I started the race steady and was excited at how good I felt at the beginning. The first 2.5 miles were straight uphill with around 600 feet of gain. I was able to keep a steady, even pace all the way up. I surprised myself by making it to that intersection at mile 2.5, because in all of our prior training runs, Geof and I had to take a couple of walk breaks. It just shows how much race day determination can kick in and make your motivation skyrocket. Anyway, I kept running, taking in some amazing views and headed toward the Junction Trail. This is where a bison came so close to the runner right in front of me and a couple of us had to slow for a second in order to let the bison cross the trail. It was pretty cool to see one that close. 

I hit 5 miles at the end of the Junction Trail. We had to take a left turn here and head up a super steep hill. I hadn't stopped to walk yet but walked up this entire section, as did every other runner. This portion has 200 feet of gain in about 0.2 miles. One thing I've learned from trail races is to walk up the really steep sections in order to conserve energy for the rolling hills, flats and downhills. I wouldn't have been able to run up that thing without tiring out anyway. Just speed hiking up that hill made me winded and tired. I began running at the top of the hill and Geof and I crossed paths as I headed toward the Elephant Head aid station and he headed away from it (he was on his way out of the Split Rock loop). This was the sole aid station in the 25K course, but you end up hitting it twice—once on your way into Split Rock and once on your way out. We gave each other a quick high five and because I still had enough water and nutrition, I just ran by the aid station and down toward Split Rock Bay. I felt my momentum came back on the descent down but knew what was ahead. This next part of the race is the toughest—in technicality and elevation. You gain 600 feet in a little over 2 miles and it's a lot harder than the start of the race with how rocky and loose the terrain was. I was alternating running with some walking, but everyone—including me—began to walk when we got to the switchbacks leading to the top. After I had reached the high point in the climb, I began running again.

Course elevation and my pace overlay.

Course elevation and my pace overlay.

Then my race turned upside down. At 8.6 miles in, I took a slight turn and landed weird on a rocky section. My left ankle rolled outward and I felt it pop. I thought I could shake it off if I kept running, but I took a couple of steps and knew immediately I had to stop to walk. Any uneven terrain made my ankle feel like it was popping and though I tried to run off and on, I couldn't without wincing in pain. I started to cry thinking about how bad it hurt and that I would probably have to walk the rest of the race. I started to think this might be my first DNF. A few runners who passed me asked how I was doing. One guy offered me a short piece of tape to try and wrap my ankle (I didn't know how to tape it so it didn't work very well). One girl noticed my gait was off and felt sorry and wished me luck. One person asked what happened to me and I told her I thought something snapped in my ankle. She didn't say anything and ran off. I felt awful. I silently cried and wiped away the tears as I kept walking. I think I was just in shock at what my race was starting to become. I've never sustained an injury so suddenly from running. I must have looked pitiful but it's not like me to give up, so then and there I decided to only think about what to do next. I decided I would walk to the Elephant Head aid station and see if anyone would be able to tape up my ankle there.

At mile 11, I made it into the aid station and asked if there was any tape. They had duct tape and while one volunteer refilled my water bottle, another one sat me down and taped my ankle up. He asked where it hurt and said he had pulled that area in his ankle before. I asked him if he thought I would be able to walk the rest of the race or not. He said yes and that I would still finish in a decent time. He said the tape might not help fully, but it should alleviate a little bit of the pain. That was so encouraging and I thanked the two volunteers. I was still in shock and I feel like I rushed out of there after he had taped me up, but I really appreciated them for helping me when I needed it the most. This was a pivotal moment in the race for me and I began to feel a little better.

I knew walking out of the aid station that I still wanted to finish, even if it was slower than I wanted. I walked for another half mile or so and then found I was able to run on the more smooth, flatter sections of trail. I walked the uphills and uneven areas but was able to alternate some running and walking until the finish. For the last few miles, it was getting hot and I was getting hungry. I was too worried about my ankle that I didn't take in as much nutrition as I should have. I tried to keep drinking water though. My ankle still hurt and at times, I felt stronger jolts of pain in there, but was amazed that I was still moving and was able to finish the race. I don't know if it was all the adrenaline that pushed me through or if taping had some sort of placebo effect, but I think it helped me.

Post-Race
The race ran long. It ended up being 16.55 miles (more like a 26.6K) and I finished in 3:27. I felt a little sad because I really believe I could have done a sub 3:00 (my initial goal) if I didn't wreck my ankle, but that was already in the past. I was handed my finisher mug and they filled it with bison stew. I ate that on the grass while watching the runners come in. I was kind of moody and was thinking the worst about my ankle. It was starting to tighten up the longer I sat and was beginning to swell and bruise. I grabbed some ice from the finisher tent and sat back outside to ice it.

It was so inspiring to see all the runners come in. People who were running the 25K, 50K, 50 mile and 100 mile distances were all finishing in the same area and it was so cool to watch. Geof came in around two hours after I sat down and finished his first ultramarathon! Ahh! He did such a good job, coming in at 6:20. I stood up to congratulate him. He was in pain too but more so from having to run the 25K course twice for his 50K. By now, it was 80° and he had run out of water several times in the race before making it to the next aid station, so he was parched. He refilled on water and grabbed some stew while I headed to the car. I was having a hard time walking now and was limping around trying to make it back. I wasn't able to put much weight on my foot and that worried me.

Geof running it in to the finish.

Geof running it in to the finish.

Aftermath
We headed home, I took a shower and went to the doctor to get my ankle looked at. The diagnosis? I have a grade 2 ankle sprain/partially torn lateral ligament. That initial pop I felt on the trail was my ligament partially tearing. How terrifying is that? I'm in an ankle brace now and can't run for at least two weeks. I'm scared because I've heard that if you sprain your ankle, there's a higher likelihood of it happening again and unlike broken bones, they don't come back stronger after they've healed. I love trail running so I do want to get back out there but I'm a little fearful. I'm on the RICE treatment now and just hope I can heal fast.

One thing I did notice about trail racing is how nice everyone was. So many runners smiled or gave motivating remarks as they passed. Road races can be like that, but generally there's a more laid back approach to trail running. It's not as competitive, but it's more about enjoying yourself, your environment and the people around you. I love that. I was a little sad after this race, but now I think I need to come back in the future and try it again.

Have you ever gotten injured during a race? How did you come back from it?

Race Recap: Thankful 13 Half Marathon 2016

Thanksgiving has come and gone and I'm behind with writing this recap. We ran the Thankful 13 on Thanksgiving morning and it was such a good race. I'll do my best to remember the details.

This was the second year in a row that Geof and I have run the Thankful 13 Half Marathon. We wanted to start a tradition of running some kind of turkey trot each Thanksgiving, this one being our third consecutive turkey race (we did a 6K back in 2014). The Thankful 13 is Utah's only half marathon on Thanksgiving day and because we signed up earlier in the year, it's always a gamble with what sort of weather will show up on race day. We got pretty decent weather—yes, it was cold and in the high 20s but thankfully, no rain or snow, which made for better running conditions.

I didn't sleep too much the night before. I had worked until 12:30 a.m. and slept for maybe 3.5 hours. I woke up, ate my breakfast of avocado toast in bed, drank my usual glass of nuun and got dressed for the race. I like Thankful 13 because it's a looped course and you don't have to get up so early to bus anywhere. Even then, we still arrived at the race start with plenty of time to spare. The port-a-potties were convenient and located in the parking lot. I took the time to sit in the warmth of the car and took one potty stop before heading back into the car to stay warm. With ten minutes until the gun, we walked over to the starting line. That's when I realized I had to pee again. We headed back over to the parking lot and waited in a long line, which resulted in us still being at the port-a-potties when the gun went off. We quickly ran back to the start arch and began the race at the back of the pack. 

Geof told me he wanted to run with me and would go at whatever pace I wanted. I felt good immediately and we were moving at a brisk pace. I felt appropriately dressed in the 29° weather, wearing a long sleeve 1/2 zip, fleece lined tights and a lightweight shell jacket. About three miles in, I took off my gloves and shell jacket and tied the jacket around my waist. I warm up easily when I run, but without the shell on, I felt perfect for the remainder of the race.

During the middle of the course, on the Jordan River Parkway sections, there were some icy patches and I did a few small slip-and-slides, but luckily no falls. The miles were ticking by. With four miles left, Geof began to convince me I could run a sub 1:50. I wanted to believe I could but in order to do so, I would need to push hard and drop 30-40 seconds off each mile. I was still running strong, with miles 7–9 all around an 8:35/8:40 pace, but that's about as fast as my legs wanted to go. I didn't think I could drop that much time per mile, so I just wanted to keep my steady pace going.

As we were running the last two miles, I kept thinking about portions of the race from the previous year and noticed how much stronger I felt this time around. I remember struggling at the end of the race last year, especially going up the final small incline right before the finish line. It took everything in me last year to keep my legs running and not give in to walking. This year, I had a surge of energy going up the incline and sprinted up to the finish. Final chip time—1:52:10, my second fastest half (and my fastest on a non-downhill course).

Photo: Flo-Foto

Photo: Flo-Foto

Mile Splits:
1—7:58
2—8:21
3—8:28
4—8:28
5—8:15
6—8:47
7—8:36
8—8:36
9—8:40
10—8:41
11—8:41
12—8:50
13—8:40
0.18—1:17

After crossing the finish line and receiving our medals, we stopped by the the Runtastic booth and received a Trilogy medal. If you run three Runtastic races in one calendar year, you earn this additional medal. We had run the Dino Half, Haunted Half and now Thankful 13, so we qualified! 

I'm so happy with how this race went. I had the best time. Because I was on lack of sleep going into the race, I didn't give myself a time goal, but knew my priority was to run for fun and by feel. Those decisions turned out pretty great.

What I've learned in my past few races is that when I put less pressure on myself, I see greater results. It's easier said than done though. I'm constantly wanting to improve and get better but when I have off-days, I can be hard of myself. Knowing that I try my hardest on any given day is all that I can ask for. My advice to myself every race now is to try my best. My best one day might be completely different than my best on another and I'm okay with that. I'm constantly teaching myself to be proud of the outcome, no matter what it is. I try to remember why I love to run in the first place. It's not the PRs or the medals. It's the joy and happiness in my heart when it's just me, my mind and the footfalls of my feet. I love that feeling.