Eagle Up Ultra – 50 Miles

I seriously stink at keeping up with important race recaps, but life has quickly gotten away from me.

Yep. You read that right. I ran 50 miles on June 8, 2019 as part of the Eagle Up Ultra. I made the decision last summer. My friends easily talked me into it based on the course description and the time cutoff of 24 hours. It seemed very doable for me!

Then, I came down with a left hip injury after running the Marine Corps Marathon in October. After taking some time off, I began training in January and ended up with a right hip injury due to over compensation with my original injury. I ended up going to physical therapy from February up until 2 weeks before the race. I went back and forth with my decision, but I bit the bullet in March and registered for the race after my physical therapist pretty much gave me the okay to run. While my injury wasn’t going to completely clear until I took another break, she assured me that it wouldn’t get any worse – especially with my weekly maintenance program she had me on. I looked forward to having the Graston Technique performed on my legs, despite how much it hurt because I knew it was necessary to keep me going.

But even when I got the okay to run this race, I still didn’t make it as public as I normally do for big races because in the back of my mind, I wasn’t completely sure it would happen.

Training for an ultra is an entirely new beast. I reached so many new milestones during this training cycle. I had my biggest monthly mileage (~200), biggest weekly mileage (50 miles) and my longest single training run (30 miles). I was frequently HANGRY and tired.

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June 7th finally rolled around, and I headed to Emily’s house after working in the morning. We promptly left and went to the Oakmont Bakery.

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Carbs are necessary.

After scarfing down a bunch of calories, we drove straight to Canton, Ohio. The drive wasn’t bad, aside from a small section of bumper-to-bumper traffic. I think it took us, in total, a little over 3 hours. We first went to the camp sight/packet pick-up before checking into our hotel. We waited around for our other Pittsburgh crew to arrive with the tent. While we weren’t camping (SO NOT MY THING), we wanted to set up a tent for our race day essentials. My box had things like extra socks and shoes, sunscreen, bug spray, chafing balm, etc.

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Part of the crew! Emily, myself, Abbie and NeCole.

After setting up, we went to the Team RWB pasta dinner, and I ate 2 heaping plates of pasta and bread. We ended the night early, so we would have ample time to get to the hotel to unwind and prepare for the next morning.

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Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: Part 2

I woke up suppperrrr early on Sunday…I think around 3:45 in the morning. I wanted to make sure I left my house no later than 4:15 to get to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center parking garage before streets began to close. Last year, I ran into problems because roads closed much sooner than they were supposed to, so I couldn’t get to the garage I planned on parking in. This year, I made it with no issues at all, so I was very very grateful for that! I gathered my stuff and made the quick walk over to the Westin for the SCRR pre-race lounge – one of the best perks of being a SCRR member.

When I made my way to the lounge, I set my stuff down, grabbed a bagel with jelly and forced myself to eat.

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Eating before a big race is difficult for me. My stomach is usually upset because of nerves, so I have to force myself to eat because it’s necessary. Once my friends started showing up, I perked up and was able to relax my brain. When it was time to leave the Westin and head to the start line, keeping track of my friends was a lot like trying to herd a bunch of cats. Every time I turned around, someone else disappeared. Normally it wouldn’t matter much, but we wanted to cross the start line together. Eventually, we all got together for a few group photos and made our entry into Coral D.

We were in the corals for maybe 30 minutes after the gun went off.

Just before crossing the initial timing mat, our group chanted “WHO RUNS? WE RUN?” It’s been a tradition over this training cycle, so it was a must! I went into this marathon with the mindset that it was a training run, so I had absolutely no time goal in mind. The first few miles are always a blur because they are filled with so much excitement! I do remember having terrible left knee pain that literally came out of nowhere, Abbie running over to her hubby in the North Shore and Carla screaming “BALLS” several times. If you know Carla, that will not come as a surprise.

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Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend: Part 1

I’ve been participating in Pittsburgh Marathon weekend events since 2012. It’s my favorite weekend of the year, and it never gets old – that hometown feel. Many of my running friends and I can agree that it feels like Christmas morning for runners in Pittsburgh. We spend months training for this special weekend; early mornings and a winter in Pittsburgh can truly test one’s limits.

Because I’m impatient, I took Friday off and headed to the expo when it became open to the public. Last year, as an official blogger, I got to head into the expo 2 hours early and watch the ribbon cutting ceremony. It was a cool experience that I hope to enjoy again in the future!

This year, I had to park about a 1/2 mile away from the convention center, but the walk wasn’t bad since it was basically a straight shot…good for me because I get easily lost! Once I entered my way into the convention center and headed into the designated area for the expo, I almost immediately bumped into my long time friends, Michael and Jennifer. They had their little boy of 2 years with them; he was signed up for the Toddler Trot (THE CUTEST RACE EVER!). After chatting with them for a bit, I went over to packet pickup to retrieve my bibs/shirts for the 5K and marathon. *One odd thing about Pittsburgh Marathon packet pickup is having to go clear across the venue to get our goodie bags. So, you have to juggle your items for a while.* This year, we got a pretty cool additional item with registration – a Pittsburgh themed pair of Goodr sunglasses!

I did a few laps around the expo to check out the merchandise and socialize, but I my best to not really spend any money. All I purchased was a meal and some fudge because carb loading.

I went home and took a nap; I tried to get in as much sleep as possible because I never sleep well the night before big races between the excitement and nerves.

The following morning, I woke up and got ready for the 5K (the first part of the Steel Challenge).

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Journey to Sub 5 – Marine Corps Marathon

Going into this race, I had really high hopes of finally reaching my goal of a sub 5. My training went great, and I didn’t have any major setbacks other than a bout with ankle pain at the very beginning of this cycle. My ankle issues resolved when I got myself into the correct inserts. Training for a fall marathon is tough because it’s hot and humid for most of the cycle, depending where you live. BUT! That means, faster marathon times as long as the weather is cooperative! Woo hoo!

Thennnnn, 15 weeks later, following my 20 mile training run, it was time to begin the taper. Don’t get me wrong; I enjoy the taper, but I do get a little stir crazy with all of my extra down time. I’ve never had a taper quite like this.

I started off with a bang by getting stuck with a needle at work. I’m still dealing with this. Two days later, I fell down a couple of steps while going to the bathroom in the middle of the night. I had a bruised knee as a result. I ripped my shorts in the upcoming weekend while on a training run. I was too close to a building and somehow caught a large screw that was fixated on a meter of some sort. This was the 1st time I wore these shorts after having the zipper repaired, and they were $58. I shed a few tears. The thing that freaked me out the most was getting a head cold just 2 weeks out from race day. This is one of the downfalls of working in pediatrics. I’m constantly getting sick, especially with my compromised immune system. Fortunately, I managed to get better just in the nick of time! I figured at this time, it can only go up from here!

Before I knew it, Saturday the 27th arrived, and it was time to head to Washington D.C. I haven’t been to D.C. since I was 12 for a school field trip, so I was pretty excited. I went with one of my good running friends, Abbie. She drove and helped immensely with our travel plans. We left early, knowing our trip would be roughly 5 hours with rest stops. The drive wasn’t too bad despite my tiny bladder and the consistent rainfall. We decided to head straight to the expo due to time restrictions. The expo was very well organized, and we both quickly got our necessary items (bib, etc.) before shopping for items we don’t need, but want. I didn’t do too much damage at the expo. My most expensive purchase was a $35 Brooks Running MCM shirt to offset the interesting participant shirt we were given.

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Obligatory expo photo.

After we finished up at the expo, it was time to head to the hotel. We stayed in a less-than-ideal place, but it got the job done. I was mostly upset at the fact that there WAS NO ELEVATOR for us to use. Abbie and I struggled a little to carry all of our items to the 2nd floor. But, I’ll take that over the overpowering smell of cigarette smoke a friend of ours had to deal with in his room at the same hotel. I got my race attire/gear prepared for the morning, and then I relaxed until it was time to leave for dinner. I ran the Marine Corps Marathon for the Friends4Michael Foundation – a charity that supports families with children whom have brain tumors. The charity held a pasta party at Sine Irish Pub & Restaurant for charity runners and guests. Abbie and I took an Uber (my 1st ever) to dinner. I wasn’t really sure what to expect for dinner, in terms of paying our own way, etc. Much to our amazement, food and drinks (alcoholic and non-alcoholic) were free. It was a lovely night filled with extraordinary people and delicious carbs! After dinner, we made a couple of brief pit-stops and Ubered back to the hotel. Don, the friend stuck with the smoking room, came down to our room, and we all talked for a while until I couldn’t hang anymore.

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Dirty 30 Miler

Since I started running in 2011 and quickly discovered my love for distance, I’ve always wanted to run my age in miles. I, of course, also wanted it to be a special year. When I turned 25, however, I was sick with Lyme disease – not knowing my diagnosis at the time. I could barely brush my hair without muscle fatigue, let alone run. So 30 seemed to be the last doable year as a milestone birthday. Not knowing what the future holds for me, I try to take every opportunity to achieve my running goals. It made my decision to attempt this that much easier. I just had to go for it!

When non-runners asked me how I was going to celebrate my 30th, I told them I planned on running 30 miles. Each time I answered, I got this look…

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The next step was planning.

LOCATION. LOCATION. LOCATION. I had to remain logical in my decision. If I were to get sick or injured, I didn’t want to be stuck in the middle of a long route, regardless if I’d be with someone. Not to mention, since this wasn’t an official race, I needed an easy way to access additional water/Gatorade and fuel.

I chose North Park because it was the easiest option to work with, although we aren’t the best of friends. North Park is known for it’s scenic 5 mile loop around a lake. The ‘course’ is comprised of rolling hills with a slight canter along the bike/pedestrian path. Because of the slant in the road, I felt it would be best to switch directions after each loop to keep my hips from getting too angry. I’ve had hip issues in the past when I’ve participated in races held there, which stays in the same direction for the entirety of the event.

Next, I needed a date and time. I couldn’t do this on my actual birthday because it fell on a Wednesday this year, so I picked July 21st. And since my birthday is in the dead middle of summer, I wanted to start early to try to beat most of the heat. I LOVE LOVE LOVE my sleep, so at the risk of being a zombie, I chose to begin running at 7 in the morning. I live roughly 1 hour away from North Park, and I was already going to be awake at an ungodly hour. “Maybe I could get most of my run done before my body wakes up and realizes what’s happening,” I wishfully thought.

I created a Facebook event and invited my closest running buddies to help pace me. There was absolutely no way I could tackle this distance alone. There is strength in numbers! Unsurprisingly, my friends were all VERY supportive and chose to help – whether they wanted to run, crew or do a little of both. I also needed to make sure I had at least one person for each lap to not only keep me sane, but to keep me from running too fast. You’d think after 7 years of running, I’d have this pacing thing down.

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