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Wind, rain and some CRAZY terrain...

Oh, and crazy friends, too. See this group?
Birds of a feather...
Yes, who would think that 9 people would be this excited to run 34 miles over rough terrain in the rain and wind (did I mention is was only in the 40s?).

The day started off like this:
Rainy, cold, blah. It didn't look good for the day, as rain showers were predicted all day (mixed in with snow that never came). We all took turns ducking in and out of cars, keeping warm and getting ready for the day. 

As the time to run got closer, we all piled out, snapped a few picts at the start line.
Getting ready to run
The fashionistas in the group-- Keith matching his trail shoes to his compression socks, Jane matching her pink trail shoes to her kinesio tape.
And then off we went:

Now, it may not seem that bad, but see that hill/mountain/mesa (not sure what to call it) directly ahead? Well, we were about to run UP it. (No lie.) And while the scenery looks beautiful, keep in mind it was raining and we were running through this.

What I guess I am getting at, is that even though the picts look awesome, it felt more like this.
Actual picture of starting the first climb
So off I went, actually happy as can be. While I hadn't prepared for the terrain or the conditions, I was sure my body could take 34 miles of whatever Moab wanted to throw at me-- if I took my time. What was probably plaguing my mind the most was starting slow. My goal was to finish. As I wrote in my last blog, I had dnf'd my first 50k in Moab and I didn't want it to happen again, so I knew I had to concern myself with just my pace. This made me sad because I ended up pulling away from a large part of the group-- their plan was to run super-slow for 18 miles then take off. I ended up more on pace with Jane and Steve for the first 5-6 miles.

After the first aid station (5.5ish miles), I started making friends. Kemp came up next to me- he was from the RMTC and we chatted for a bit before he took off. I fell into step with a silent man (who I later learned was Fred). He was awesome to run alongside and really helped me find a steady pace. Turns out he was from Moab, so I trusted he knew what he was doing. Mile 8ish, ended up with Kemp and Fred again, together, and Steve took off.

Somewhere around 10 miles we ended up right above the start line.
View from below
View from above-- those itty bitty dots are our cars
Crazy, huh? That is the thing about these races. It would almost be a shame to race them, as I don't know if you would have the time to really look around. Everywhere there was beauty. EVERYWHERE.  Even in the horrible weather we were getting, all you had to do was look around.

Once we hit halfway, I was happy. I was feeling good. There were ups, there were downs, but I was handling them. I talked to a man who had run it before and he told me, "If there is an easy half and a hard half, we just did the easy half." Kemp smiled, so I knew it was true. And he was right. There were much more challenging climbs and lots of slick rock on the second half. It was very technical with loads of climbing. And when I say climbing, it was the kind of climbing when you are hiking. EVERYONE is hiking. There was one climb where to get to the top it was so steep we were all on our hands and knees, gripping. I felt bad for anyone who didn't have trail shoes. To add to that, when you weren't on slick rock, a lot of the time you were trudging through deep sand. I wasn't sure what was worse.

I was really glad I was feeling good at this point cuz I did a little mental check of myself. I was standing there looking up, up, up and then I looked back at Kemp and just said, "I signed up for 55 miles of this in May!!!" (referring to Comrades-- my real goal). And when I said it, I couldn't stop grinning. I was so happy. I don't even know why. Kemp probably thought I was delirious or being facetious, but I wasn't. The climbing and the challenge of this run just juiced me up for my training for Comrades. I think that I knew the next time I would be racing something like this I would be much more prepared and that this is more of a checkpoint of where I was and let me get an indication of what I needed to do to be where I wanted to be in 3 months time.

Kemp and I leaving aid station 4-- about 22 miles or so.

Top of one of the mesa-type things out there. You can't tell, but the wind was about to blow me over.

Running over miles of slick rock. Hard and Ow! Those little dots are people.
Somewhere just before aid station 5 (29 miles), Kemp and I split up. By then, it was just time to get her done. It was one last climb, 1 mile of flat and 4 miles of descentish. So off I went. I wish that I could say that it was "easy", but I had blisters and my feet hurt, so really going down hurt more than going up. Who ever thought I would think that? Maybe it is a good thing Comrades is an up year this year. :)
Only pict I took from the last 5 miles. It was sooo nice to be off the rock.
And finally-- THE FINISH! It actually kind of snuck up on you, but that is ok cuz I was just glad I was there.

It was great to see Shawn, Andrea and Steve there. I quickly changed and then got to see the rest of the crew finish! 
We finished!
Afterwards, it was back to the condos for showers, relaxation and some yummy, yummy grub (courtesy of Heidi-- THANK YOU!)
Jewels, Nancy and I enjoying our meals-- don't they look delicious?
Happy to be done!
 Overall, the weekend was a huge success for everyone! There were lotsa newbies to Moab and a lot of fun had by all. I was really happy that with all of the adverse weather conditions and just tough terrain conditions that no one got really negative and everyone had a successful race for themselves-- myself included. It was a challenging course, but beautiful none-the-less and running in harsh conditions can only prepare you to run stronger in the future. It showed me where I was and where I want to be in the future. Such a good time!

My first 50k... AGAIN.

Tomorrow I am off to Moab. Oh, Moab, wonderful Moab. It is just such a gorgeous place.
Us running through Hunter Canyon
I have only been there once, and, ironically (or maybe not) it is with the same crew as I went before--give or take a few poor souls.

Group shot before the race- aren't we cute?

Anyways, if you are so interested in how that trip went, you can read about it here.

The long and short of it is that I went out to do my FIRST 50k, but didn't quite make it. That's right. It was my first "real" trail run and over some really crazy terrain. I hadn't trained for that terrain and did not really know what I was doing nutritional-wise, heart rate, etc. and had a horrible day. (Well, as horrible as can be in such a BEAUTIFUL place. And I am not being sarcastic about that.)

Who could have a truly horrible day when you get to run and see views like this for 5 hours straight?
While the race director put me as an official finisher for the 24-miler, for all intents and purposes, I DNF'd the 50k. Or at least that is how I viewed it.

I was ready to go back the following year (Nov 2010) prepared to redeem myself by rocking the course, but alas the race director decided not to put it on, and another awesome run bites the dust. So, I jumped on the bandwagon and signed up for the Moab RedHot 55k, that is this Saturday.

When I registered, I figured that it would be a good build-up for Comrades and that I would be more than prepared by the time race day came. BUT, somewhere along the way, I started focusing on Miami- a flat and fast course- and I neglected to train for Moab. I guess I "thought" I would have some time after Miami, but really with recovery taking a week and a half and then... all of a sudden I am packing fro Moab. Seriously.

So, reflecting back on what happened in my last Moab trail run, I am ready to suffer. My nutrition is in a better place but my legs and my muscles... I am not so sure about. I did some incline work on the treadmill this past week and I felt like I was dying, even though my heart rate did not reflect it (bad sign). That in mind, I am scared. Scared scared scared that the same thing is going to happen as last time.  This trail running thing is hard and what I learned is that you can't underestimate that. 

WHOOLAH! And there is my revelation. Two things (a) "what I learned" and (b) "you can't underestimate".

While I haven't been training for Moab-like conditions, over the past 15 months I have been learned a lot about myself, negative-splitting, my nutrition, my running, my heart rate, everything. Even though I haven't been training for these exact conditions, I do have a few tools in my pocket that I can call upon to really help me get through the day in a much better way than last time (and this time finish it).

And as far as not underestimating...  I need to go out slow, steady, with a focus on my heart rate. I need to use the tools I have been working on to provide me with the best race possible.

So, here goes. Moab try #2. My goals have shifted since I signed up... and that is ok. My focus is now on finishing the race. AND I plan on making it a wonderful run. I look at it as the real kick-off to my Comrades training as it will be an ultra-distance run with LOADS of climbing. I am excited to be back running in a very gorgeous place with a bunch of my friends. What else can better get me in the mood?

Ahhh.... Miami!

How can you not think of this city with fond feelings as we all (well, mostly all) sit in sub-zero weather? I certainly wish I was back there right now, BRRRRRRR!

 Anyways, I arrived on Friday to sunshine and palm trees. After quick hugs, it was off to check in to our hotel (off of Oceanside Drive!). As we checked in, we asked about late checkout on Sunday and I said maybe 3:00. Heather was puzzled why I would think that we would need it that late... then I realized the race started at 6 a.m. 6 a.m.!!!! Oh my goodness, I LOVED that fact. The earlier the better. It seems all I do is get nervous on race morning, so the less time to do that, the better.

Our hotel was walking distance to the expo, so off we went to check in for the race. 
The expo was... well, it was an expo. Lots of stuff. Being Jen and Heather's first marathons we did a bit of shopping and ended up with some new gear. For me, it was just a Bondi band. Pink, of course. We all got them to match.

After the expo, we relaxed with a nice meal on Lincoln Drive and then hit the local Walgreens on our way back.
Despite the excellent selection of hats, sunglasses, cover-ups and alike, we ended up with just a couple bottles of wine and a movie and headed back to the hotel. By this time it was after 9 o'clock and we were ready to settle in.

Saturday was all about rest, relaxation, and a nice little run (mad I forgot my camera-- gorgeous!). We ate in outside cafes, drank (a little) in outside bars and just laid low. Jen and Heather's hubbies showed up just in time for dinner where we observed some of the nightlife just starting to kick off. Oh, South Beach...

Sunday came way too early. We were up and ready to go by 4 a.m. (ugh)
Pre-race with our matching pink Bondi bands. 

We walked up to the convention center, where we were catching the shuttle to the start/finish. This was a classic moment for me. As we were walking, everyone was still clubbing. It was awesome. Us in our running clothes and all the South Beach hotties with their pleather mini skirts and fishnets. Oh, it was awesome. I tried to take a picture, but it didn't turn out. Sadness.

Got to the start and we decided to separate. I needed to get a good warm-up run in and the others just wanted to chill. The beginning was a little bit of chaos, but mostly just because there was lots of people. There was 18,000+ all starting together. Yikes. So, off I went on my warm-up run AWAY from all the people and I ended up by the water by myself in the dark. It was perfect for my mental to just be away.

Then I returned and hopped back in my corral. There were nerves and mostly I just wanted the race to start. I knew once the gun went off, I'd be fine. Or at least I hoped I would. I was very anxious to see what the day would bring me.

The gun went off and so did I. The first half of the race is island hopping, so we started up and over a bridge. It was dark, but we got to see all the huge cruiseliners lit up. The sun came up and we passed Star Island. I looked over at P. Diddy's place (or at least I like to think I did) and ran on by. My first mile was pretty slow (it was also the biggest "hill" on the course) and after that, I settled into a pretty steady pace.
View from top of the first bridge by day

Somewhere around five miles, I decided that if I continued on with this pace, I would have 6 miles of real pushing in me at the end. So, I mentally broke my run up into two 10-mile runs and one 6-mile run. The first 10, very easy. The second 10, somewhat harder. The last 6 miles would be an all out effort.

Everything seemed to be going well for most of the race. I was ahead of my desired pace at the beginning, which I liked. The first aid station wasn't until around 2.5-3 miles, but after that, the aid stations were placed about every 3/4 mile-- which was really nice. There were plenty of opportunities to grab whatever I needed. Mostly I grabbed Gatorade, since I was carrying a small hand bottle of water. Around mile 3 I discovered that my salt tablets had disinigrated in my pocket-- and that I was really sweaty. The humidity was high since we were right on the water and I looked forward to the second half of the race that would be away from the water.

After running around an island or two, we headed back toward downtown. When we got there, there was plenty of excitement and cheering. We went through a stretch that was lined with people cheering and cheering-- very Tour de France-ish. They even had ING dancers in full on orange bodysuits dancing and slapping hands. Fun stuff. 

We then split from the half-marathoners and off we went, the lone marathoners. The second half was very different from the first. The first half was beach, water, exposed and humid. The second half, the sun had come out, so the temperature had risen, BUT it was much more residential and shaded, so that was a nice pay off for the less scenic route. I continued on with my game plan and just ran.

Somewhere around 18-20 miles my legs really started to hurt. Really hurt. I was pushing harder, but going slower. I wasn't sure if it was muscle fatigue setting in or my legs were starting to cramp due to lack of salt. Either way, it hurt. By mile 20, I could do the math. If I kept my pace under 9-minute miles, I would reach my goal (a sub 3:40 marathon). If I cramped, I was going to be SOL. Luckily, at mile 21 I asked for some salt and WHOOLA! the med people handed me a tablet, I asked for three. Took them and kept going. 8:26. 8:31. 8:11. Just keep her below 9. The mile 24 aid station came up and I got more salt. Yay! Now, I was SURE I could make it to the end without cramping. With just 2 miles to go, I reasoned that the sooner I finished, the sooner the pain would be over. So off I went...

At the end of mile 25 there is another bridge. On the website it describes it as this: you'll go over a drawbridge that goes almost unnoticed because it is small and as you go up it you'll begin to hear the cheers and the music of the finish line. Lies. All lies. I wouldn't call it small, it certainly didn't go "unnoticed" by me (and friends) and it felt very, very cruel at the time. Not to mention, I believe it was the longest .2 miles I have ever run after that regardless of the cheering. BUT, then it was DONE!!! The clock read 3:36:09!!! (Later found out my real time was 3:34:44, which qualifies me for BOSTON!) 

I was so happy to cross the finish line. I will say I was a little woozy and it took me a minute or two to recoup. Once I did, I realized my feet hurt and my shoes were bloody. During the race I had blistered heavily. I guess my quads hurt so much that I didn't notice my feet. This would mark my first trip to the medical tent. Oh well, small price to pay for a good race.  

Overall, it was an awesome race for me! I pr'd by 25 minutes and dropped my marathon time from last year by 33 minutes. I felt good (for the most part) until the very end and even that was a test to myself to see what I would do, and I succeeded. I had a great time with my friends and had awesome support from family and friends along the way. Thanks to everyone that helped make this happen!

 Me, Heather and Jen after the marathon. 
So proud of those girls both kicking butt in their first marathon!

In lieu of an ice bath, I chose the ocean. The perks of racing in Florida!

You reap what you sow...

Not to brag, but I have the best parents ever. Seriously. They are supportive, kind and have provided me with the proper tools in life for me to be able to succeed at what I desire. They have prepared me beyond belief for the things I have faced and continue to face. And when I reflect back on things, accomplishments in my life, they are often what comes to mind. While I have a constant support system of friends and family (parents included), they are the foundation.

So when I was reflecting last week on my upcoming race, I really wanted to thank my parents for getting me there. While I had wanted to physically write a letter, it ended up being an email. And here is where I am going to share something personal with you - our correspondence.

I have been meaning to write you all week, but it has been kind of hectic around here. But, I just wanted you to know that I am going to Miami tomorrow to meet some girlfriends and run a marathon. I have been training really hard and I am hoping to qualify for Boston. There is a chance that I will make my time goals and a greater chance that I won't, but I am still going to try. If I do qualify (and if am able to go next year- 2012), I would really like it if you were there. You set a great example for me when I was young by running and, because of that, I started running. I never forget that when I am training for things. On top of that, you and mom instilled in me the importance of setting goals and striving for them and that to me is what Boston is about. I love you and hope you will consider coming to Boston with me if/when I ever make it.   ~ Randi

To which I received a perfect response crafted by my dad:
My dearest Randi,
Of course, we would love to go to Boston with you.
Again, thank you for the very kind comments about our parental influence; I'm sure Hunt and Linc will say the same things to you in a few years.
Good luck in Miami this weekend.  Will the marathon have a tracking website?
Love Dad

It is amazing to me how our parental influence can affect us in more ways than we realize until we have time to reflect on it. As a child, my father ran in races which exposed me to the sport. I watched him train for 5ks, 10ks, a half marathon and even a marathon in high school. While this gave me a great foundation on both the sport and goal-setting, I would not be where I am today without my parents' guidance. They provided me with the right tools and examples-- mentally and emotionally-- to set, strive for and accomplish my goals.
As parents, we need to realize that what we introduce our children to today and the values we instill in them can make a lifetime of difference. It did in me... as I think it does in all of us.

Like I said, I have the best parents and here's hoping that Hunter and Lincoln say the same thing in years to come.