Category Archives: Asheville

Week in Review 11.19.18 to 11.25.18

All aboard the HalloweenThanksgivingChristmasValentine’s Day Express…

Monday: 7-mile tempo run. 4 by 5 minutes at tempo with 1 minute between.

(I love this workout because the benefit is the same as a 20-minute continuous tempo but somehow is mentally much more approachable)

Tuesday: 4-mile recovery run. Found a decent option for dark winter nights that isn’t the treadmill. Carrier Park has lights on until 10 pm and I fashioned a 13-minute loop. Not glamorous, but I suspect I’ll be there a lot to save myself from death by treadmill.

Wednesday: Intended to do a shakeout run but unfortunately, operated until 8 pm. Came home and crashed instead.

Thursday: Greenville Turkey Trot 8K. Full race report on Instagram.

Friday: 4 easy miles. Felt pretty darn good after the race, which was encouraging.

Saturday: First real efficiency run back! Jogged to the track then 5 by 200 at R pace. I’m SURE I wasn’t moving as fast as I thought in my head, but I worked hard. Total 5.25 miles.

Sunday: Slow paced 10 miles at the Biltmore. With two workouts and a race in a week, thought I’d better entice myself to take this very slowly so opted for the Biltmore where the gravel roads naturally slow me down.

Total Miles: 38.3. 

Starting to get into a rhythm, which is reassuring. I’m also starting to notice that my stride feels more like my stride than it has in a while. Still struggling a bit with frustration that things aren’t coming back as fast as I want them to, but working to remind myself that I haven’t been fast (for me) since 2015 so I need to be patient in this build up.

One more week up at my current normal workload then a cutback week and another crack at the 8K!

Weeks in Review 10.23.18 to 11.4.18

Last two weeks going into Savannah…

10/23: Fartlek workout. 5 by 2 minutes on, 2 minutes off plus stabilizer legs. 7 miles total.

10/24: Early AM 3 mile recovery run.

10/25: 5-mile regular run plus PT.

10/26: AM tempo run with 2 miles continuous at tempo effort. 6 miles total.

10/27: No run, romping around the State Meet.

10/28: Last long run on the Thermal Rail Trail. 65 minutes. Very excited to find this resource. It will definitely feature prominently in my build-up for Grandma’s!

10/29: 2 miles easy with core.

10/30: Last workout. 1 mile at half marathon pace then 5 by 1 minute on, 1 minute off. 4 miles total.

10/31: Off day.

11/1: 2 miles in the pouring rain with striders built in.

11/2: 2.5 mile run through Savannah with KC.

11/3: RockNRoll Savannah Half Marathon. Full race report coming, but Gun 1:33:00, Chip 1:32:56 good enough for 10th overall.

11/4: Core and stretching only.

Training definitely kicked up over the last couple of weeks and in the week before my mini-taper, I was starting to feel like my old self. Now that I see what my race effort came out to be and the equivalent VDot (49), I have some paces to aim for as I move forward through my transition season and onto the San Diego Half.

 

Week in Review 10.15.18 to 10.21.18

Monday: 4 early am recovery miles plus back strength training.

Tuesday: Interval workout in the rain (for which I was totally unprepared). 10 by 1 on, 1 off for 5.25 miles total.

Wednesday: 5 miles easy plus PT.

Thursday: Much needed rest day with some core.

Friday: Early am tempo run. 4 by 5 minutes at tempo pace. 6-mile tempo. Arms strength training.

Saturday: Easy 5 miles run plus core.

Sunday: 11-mile long run in absolutely perfect running weather.

Total Miles: 36.3

Grateful to have another good week of running in the bank. Both of my workouts and long run went well and I did a reasonable job of getting my strength workouts in. Best of all, I’m starting to feel a tiny bit like my old self when I’m running. The beginning of this next week will be the same volume and intensity and then it’s on to taper for the ten days before RockNRoll Savannah.

How DO You Get Back to Running After Injury?

Short Version: Slowly, methodically and with no glamour.

May: Almost no activity besides PT and surviving the day

Early June: Light recumbent biking, PT

Late June: Light elliptical, biking, and PT

July: Elliptical, Walk Jogging, and PT

August: Walk-Jog to Continuous Jog 3 to 4 days a week

September: Building up to 5 days a week, initiation of basic workouts

October: 5 to 6 days a week, building to 35 miles per week, base phase workouts

Longer Version:

Tearing my MCL was my first “surprise” running injury and as result, my recovery from my MCL was different from my fasciotomy and tarsal tunnel release. Because of the extent of damage to my knee and because the MCL is the “gatekeeper” of the knee joint, I was in a big, clunky immobilizer for almost 10 weeks. At first, I had to wear it any time I wasn’t sleeping or laying on the couch. This was because without an MCL, my knee was vulnerable to additional injury with any twisting or extension. After a few weeks, I graduated to only wearing it when I was going to be at work or walking around but could have it off for PT or around the house. Around this time, I started biking again with the immobilizer in place. This was essentially only to get blood flow through the knee. I assure you, there were minimal cardiovascular benefits. By the end of June (6 weeks out), I was on the elliptical for 30 minutes of very easy effort.

On July 3rd, I went for my very first “run.” The rules were strict: no pivoting, flat surface only, no more than a few seconds at a time. As this was my first walk without my brace with the exception of PT, suffice to say, I was very tentative. As I was starting to wean off my brace at work (12+ hours with stairs, elevators, standing and twisting), I took it easy with any additional exercise. Throughout the rest of July, I slowly built up my running with a run-walk approach. When I got to a point where I could run for 5 minutes before a break, I switched a continuous short run instead.

August was where I really started to run regularly again. I was still restricted to no pivoting so spent a huge amount of time on the bike path down by the river. I transitioned to slow, continuous running and built up to 20 minutes 3 to 4 times a week. By the end of August, I started adding drills back in. I started with just stretching drills first and finally added dynamic drills at the end of the month.

September was the first month where I felt like I might actually be able to recover from my injury, a full 4 months later. I built my runs to 30 minutes, added in a long run, started very simple workouts and finally, got back to 5 to 6 days of running a week. My last week in September was as follows:

Monday: Tempo Effort with 2 by mile at Tempo Pace, 5 miles total. Legs after.

Tuesday: 50 minute easy group run

Wednesday: Off day.

Thursday: 32 minute run

Friday: 30 minute run with 6 by 1 on, 1 off.

Saturday: 35 minute easy run

Sunday: 90 minute long run.

As you’ll notice, essentially all of my runs are time based. I did that intentionally to avoid any comparison trap for myself as I come back. Prior to my injury, I certainly wasn’t in peak shape but my mile pace was my usual 8:00 to 8:15 for easy runs. Afterwards, it took me anywhere from 10 to 11 minutes to run a mile and I wanted to avoid the temptation to push myself before I was ready.

I am a long way from where I want/need to be but I am also feeling well and have no knee pain. Even better, I have an endpoint to my MCL which means that things are coming back together. I still can’t pivot or run on other surfaces but I am slowly, slowly making forward progress.

Hey.

When I finally figured out my password to this site and was trying to figure out a way to start up again, all I could think about was that I feel like a terrible ex who ghosted someone and is coming back 12 months later to see how they are. So, in homage to everyone who has ever been ghosted or done the ghosting, let’s just call this blog post, “Hey.”

In many ways, a lot and nothing has happened since I last wrote after RDC. I’m not an intern anymore, I’m not even a brand new PGY2 at this point. I let all my sponsorships go in December of last year. I tore my MCL in May and took most of the summer off (more on that later). I’m just barely back to training semi-normally. So what prompted me to write again? A few things.

First, I tried to break up with running last winter. At the time, I was blaming running for all the stress in my life. So I stopped. Sure, I plodded along a bit and I even ran a decent enough 8K. But I really wasn’t into it and I didn’t even think I missed running. Then I met Dave, who happened to be one of my Attendings, but who also happens to be a runner and talking with him about running and racing made me have the smallest inkling of missing IT. Dave connected me with Ellen, who became my first real running friend here and those miles with her made me admit out loud that I missed it. And then I tore my knee.

May was actually a decent running month for me. I built back up to 30 miles a week, which was a LOT on an intern schedule, and my long runs were moving along. I was starting to daydream about a fall race and even had a great workout on a trip home in May. The purpose of that trip? Seeing one of my dearest friends (and running buddies) from medical school get married. She and her husband are going to have a lot of luck because their wedding day was RAINY. Anyway, flash forward to the reception and me dancing in heels on a rain soaked floor and…twisted knee, instant inability to bear weight, shit. I hobbled back to North Carolina, saw an amazing Orthopedic Surgeon, got an MRI and sure enough, Grade III MCL plus a bonus avulsion of my gastroc. Not optimal. I spent the remainder of May, June and July in an immobilizer and in intensive PT. I was exceedingly lucky to find (through my awesome Orthopedist) a phenomenal physical therapist in Sean, who spent a huge amount of time rehabbing my knee with cool technologies like BFR (blood flow restriction) therapy (which Heather Kampf just used during an injury and came back to win the Navy Mile last week).

Anyway, it was a long, suboptimal summer of training but all of my work with Sean has paid off and not only am I back to running 30 miles a week, my SPARK for training is back. I am day dreaming on runs again when three weeks ago, I was having pity parties. I babbled at Will for 10 miles on Sunday about my hopes and dreams and goals. He and I can both assure you that hasn’t happened in a very long time.

What prompted me to write, however, was the fact that this blog has always been a place to process what running means to me, to think aloud as it were about training, running, and racing. It has captured the heartbreak of bad races (still not over Philly) and celebrated great ones. It has forced me to evaluate my rehabilitation and recovery through two surgeries. It has followed me through the entire process of becoming a physician. So even if, after a year of silence, no one reads it anymore, this blog is the best way I know to figure out who I am as a runner at whatever stage of life I find myself.

So what’s next? Up first is the RockNRoll Savannah Half. I am doing this with friends and quite legitimately, don’t have any big goals besides finish. In my head, I’d like to try to challenge myself to get of sense of my fitness but if I finish and my knee doesn’t hurt, it will be successful. Beyond that, my next big goal is the San Diego Half in March. I’ll be completely honest – I have a lot of hope for this race. If I can get back down into the mid 1:20s for this, then I’ll look at aiming for the Trials Qualifier or at the very least, a marathon PR for the fall of 2019.

Hey. I missed you. Love Sarah.

Race Report: RDC Marathon

First and foremost, I just have to give credit to the organizers of the RDC Marathon for a fantastic first year event. It’s not easy to pull off a race and they did an amazing job from start to finish with planning. If you are looking for a PR race or a race with super easy logistics, check out RDC for next fall.

My buildup to RDC was…unconventional. I got my long runs in but my workouts were severely lacking. I did a couple of tempo efforts here and there and a couple of small scale marathon pace workouts, but all I carried in with me was general fitness and experience. Dave’s plan was for me to capitalize on this and go out slowly and stay very, very comfortable until 20 miles.

Two days before the race (Friday), I stood in the OR for 16 hours. Friday is usually a pretty mellow OR day for us with a couple of elective cases but last Friday was NUTS and I was in the OR until 10 pm. Not optimal pre-race preparation. I got my rounds done on Saturday morning then headed to Chapel Hill to post up in my hotel room for the evening. Chatted with Dave for final race stuff, walked to the grocery store to find some palatable snacks and fell asleep around 9.

On Sunday morning, I woke up at about 4:45 and fumbled around trying to get ready. It was below freezing in Chapel Hill and the valet didn’t plan on having to defrost my car so I left a little later than my plan of 5:30. It was no matter as the race was only an exit down 40 and right off the highway. I pulled into the mall and found the start line and grabbed a spot approximately 20 feet from the Start/Finish. I donned my winter layers and went for my first 5 minute shakeout run, followed by a good stretch. There was nowhere indoors to be so after this, I got back in my car, turned it off and flipped through Instagram mindlessly until about 6:25 when I headed out for my second 5 minute shuffle and stretch. By now, the sun was up and people were beginning to mill about. I swapped my warmup clothes for throwaway clothes and headed for the start area. After some announcements and the Anthem, we were off!

The first two miles of the course loop around the mall and are relatively flat with a couple of rollers. My plan was to run the first two miles in about 7:30 pace so my mantra for these was “easy girl, easy.” I tried to find a comfortable pace and not push at all, which was not entirely easy given that I was freezing in my shorts.

At mile 2, we turned north onto the Tobacco Trail for the first half out and back, which went out 6.5 miles before turning. This was my old stomping ground from when I lived in Chapel Hill so I knew many of our landmarks on this half. My plan for the remainder of the first half was no faster than 7:15 so I just tried to settle in and relax. Although the course is relatively flat, the “out” section is actually gradually downhill so I had to be careful not to go too fast. Toward the turnaround, I started passing runners and felt smooth, strong and happy. At the turnaround, I was able to see all the other people ahead of me and figured that I was in first place for women in the full with a woman about 4 minutes back from me. More on this assumption later…

We made the turn and begin to climb back up the incline we’d just come down for a couple of miles. I forced myself to relax and not fight the hill and just focused on reeling people in as a means to staying entertained. Somewhere around 8, I passed two women who I assumed were in the half. I initially tucked in behind them just to have company but they were slowing down a bit too much so I went on alone. I should note that by this time, the weather was PERFECT in the high 30s and still. We rolled towards the Start/Finish area again where the half would turn off which took me up a bit of a hill and then down the other side.

Once we headed south onto the second out and back, there was a fairly significant downhill and I saw 5:40 pace on my watch and had to put the brakes on. I was feeling great but also knew that mile 13 is a long way from mile 26. Right around here, a biker pulled up and said “I think you’re my first woman, I’m your lead biker.” Jess ended up being an awesome companion for the next 13 miles. He’s a multisport athlete but has done a couple of marathons and nailed the balance of conversation and quiet. We headed out towards the turnaround at ~20 and I felt amazing through mile 19. This is where I made a tactical error (obviously realized after) in reading the course. I started to feel more clunky during 18 and kept pressing without realizing that I was on a pretty significant uphill false flat. As soon as we turned, I realized it was downhill and my pace dropped again. I had wasted energy, however, and paid for it on the run home. At the turnaround, I was also able to see my competition. Much to my surprise, the woman I had passed around mile 8 was only about 4 minutes behind me and looked strong. She had a shirt on still but I had assumed she was a half marathoner, not a full runner. This spooked me as I wasn’t feeling awesome and didn’t want to give my win up over the last 6 miles.

Miles 20 through 23 were just less fun and I was over running although I took advantage of the downhill slope of 22 to drop one of my fastest miles of the day. Around 24, Jess said “Put your head down and win this race,” which was just the kick in the rear I needed to hear. I got up the last set of hills (seriously?!?!? Flat course and the only hill is at 25?!?!?!?!) and turned into the finish area and gave the last 400 meters whatever I had left. I crossed just over 3:10 as the overall women’s winner, 6 minutes ahead of second.

All in all, it was the perfect day for running a marathon with incredible weather and a fast course. My nutrition was excellent and I was able to take gels and hydration throughout the race without trouble. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to get there in better shape because this is definitely a PR course. Obviously 3:10 is far, far off my PR but I’m extremely proud of this race for a few reasons. First, I respected my body and executed my race plan. Second, my splits were very even and I squeezed every second out of the course. Third, I did this on crummy training as a General Surgery Intern. Finally, this is my first overall marathon win which accomplishes one of my bucket list goals!!

Not only did Jess bike with me for 13 miles and help me open my post race beer, he also snapped this photo. Full service, I tell ya.

Mile 1: 7:25

Mile 2: 7:24

Mile 3: 7:13

Mile 4: 7:10

Mile 5: 7:12

Mile 6: 7:10

Mile 7: 7:10

Mile 8: 7:10

Mile 9: 7:18

Mile 10: 7:09

Mile 11: 7:06

Mile 12: 7:13

Mile 13: 7:09

Mile 14: 7:01

Mile 15: 7:09

Mile 16: 7:10

Mile 17: 7:08

Mile 18: 7:16

Mile 19: 7:12

Mile 20: 7:21

Mile 21: 7:24

Mile 22: 7:04

Mile 23: 7:42 (Hissy fit, not hill…)

Mile 24: 7:19

Mile 25: 7:19

Mile 26: 7:40 (Hill back to the start area)

Mile 26.2: 6:46

3:10:18 Gun, 3:10:16 Chip.

Race Report: Swamp Rabbit Urban Ultra 25K

Let’s start with the punchline first…

And now tell the funny story…

I was initially planning to do a half marathon two weeks ago as a fitness test but ended up tweaking my hamstring and getting the Resident Plague and spending that Sunday in a feverish ball asleep for 36 hours. Because I live firmly in the Bible Belt, finding a Sunday race is tough and I work on Saturdays so finding a replacement race was difficult. Thankfully, I am now on a rotation with the world’s most understanding Attendings who are generally entertained by my running escapades and they were okay with me missing last Saturday so I registered for the Swamp Rabbit 25K. When I discussed this with Dave, we were both psyched for the distance because it provided an opportunity to really assess my current marathon fitness. Of note, I MAY have mislead Dave into believing this was a road race because I believed it was. See, the Swamp Rabbit is the 30+ mile greenway in Greenville so I assumed this race used the greenway. I was wrong.

I woke up bright and early on race morning and headed to Greenville. As has been our lot lately, the weather was a bit on the miserable side. Summer has come back with a vengeance and the humidity is oppressive. It was about 70 when I got to the race course with an equal dew point, leading to almost 100% humidity. Thankfully, it was overcast with occasional rain sprinkles. The course was a 10K out and back but the 25K started at the halfway point and since we had to be bussed out there, I didn’t bother warming up until we got out there. I did a short run (on the paved trail) and some drills and we were off at 9 am.

I immediately ended up at the front and although another woman went with me for about a half mile, I spent the remainder of the race alone except for passing 50K runners or seeing other 25K runners on the out and back. The first mile was on pavement and I just tried to settle into a relaxed pace that approximated marathon effort. I came through in 6:58 and thought “perfect!.” And then we took a sharp right turn onto a goat path. Turns out that although the course was BASED on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, it actually included many segments on single track, boardwalks and sand. Whooops. As I sputtered internally, I focused on staying efficient and keeping my effort up while I explored the first 5K back to the Finish Area. We climbed a big grass hill with multiple switch backs, then barreled down the back side on a root filled descent. The remainder of the “back” contained boardwalks, trail, stairs and some pavement and a final grass hill up to the Finish/turnaround. I rolled through and headed onto the “out” section.

The first part of the out actually stays on the Swamp Rabbit Trail, so I tried to use this time to pick up my leg speed and bring my pace down again. We then climbed a long hill followed by a long descent and turned onto the same switchback that we had careened down on the way back. That climb was TOUGH. Roots and switchbacks made keeping momentum tough and although the first time over it wasn’t too bad, the second time was misery. Then it was down the grass hill and back on the Swamp Rabbit to the 10K/where we started.

I took my first gel at the 10K and this was where I realized how hot I was. Since my goals of using this a marathon simulation were a bit shot and I was comfortably in first, I actually stopped and took my gel rather than choking on it. Then I set off again for the return trip. On the pavement, I was happy to see my pace right around 6:50. On the trails, all bets were off. I will admit that as I wound my way through the last trail before the Finish Area, I was internally whining about having to do ANOTHER 10K on the trails. I came through the Finish/15K and stopped again for a sip of water and THE BEST SIP OF COCA COLA EVER. I see why real ultra runners swear by it…By now, I had soaked through my singlet and shorts and was just in survival mode.

The last 10K included a few moments of happiness but mostly a slog where I bribed myself multiple times with the idea of a) laying down and b) finishing the Coke I’d left at the finish. During this last 10K, the sun came out and the conditions went from overcast and humid to just plain brutal. Crossing one of the swamps on a boardwalk, I am pretty sure turtles were moving faster than me. Somehow I persevered and the next thing I knew, I was crossing the last bridge and running up the grass slope to the finish. I crossed in 1:57 and happily found my Coke. I didn’t lay down because I was SO soaked that I never would have gotten the grass off of me.

All in all, I’m very happy with this race even if it wasn’t quite the simulation run that I’d hoped for. My pace averaged out to 7:30 pace on super challenging terrain which makes me feel more confident about what I can do on the road in a month. I’m also happy with my mental game. I could have completely shut down upon finding out the course was a trail race but instead, I worked hard on the paved sections as I could and tried to be efficient on the trail sections without injuring myself or letting my heart rate drop too far. I also had a great time getting to know more of the local Ultra community. Maybe it’s the South but the two ultra “crowd” experiences I’ve had since moving here have been just overwhelmingly welcoming and positive.

Splits below, although not that useful as my Garmin is atrocious on trails/under tree cover. I saw everything from 5:50 to 12:00 minute pace during the race and although I believe the latter, I’m skeptical about the former…

6:58

7:29

7:33

7:26

7:36

7:09

7:50

7:46

8:00

8:30

8:00

7:38

8:00

8:00

8:08

 

Still (Mostly) Alive

It’s hard to believe that only 11 weeks have passed since starting Intern Year and in the same breath, 11 weeks has flown by. I am almost done with my first rotation of this year (Acute Care Surgery) and with it, done with the bulk of my training for RDC! As expected, my running has had to take a bit of a back seat to everything else but I’ve done a reasonable job of continuing to train and build and finally have some long term goals in mind!

July: My only real goal for July was to survive and figure out what my running schedule might look like when the reality of 80+ hours of work hit. We had a relatively mild summer here and since I ran in the early morning for most of it, I really didn’t struggle too much with heat and humidity. I ran a very reasonable 181 miles and my long runs progressed to 16 miles. Workouts were non-specific (long trail runs, fartleks and easy tempos) and focused on general fitness acquisition.

August: I started to figure out what work was all about and finally managed to get through my days more efficiently. I hit the wall a bit energy wise in the middle of the month and finished up with only 165 miles. I did, however, get my first 20 miler in for the cycle and my workouts started to get more specific. I also started going to Orange Theory, which has been very interesting in terms of my perception of effort versus my heart rate.

September: After a relatively disappointing August, I have been trying to refocus more on my running in September. I am about as fatigued as I’ve ever been right now and my body is showing it with lots of general aches and leg heaviness. I did get another 20 miler in and my workouts have become even more focused (more on this later). I restarted my iron to make sure I’m tuned up from that perspective and have been focusing on sleep and stretching as much as I can to combat 80+ hours of standing/interrupted sleep/weird positions in the OR. I’m doing a check in half marathon in Johnson City this weekend and interested to see where I’m at as compared to both Unplugged and the Asheville Half. I don’t know what the topography of the course will be and the weather looks hot but it will be nice to have a supported “up-effort.”

I realized in August is that I have to become more flexible with training and with that, workouts have to become more intentional. I don’t have the recovery ability to do multiple workouts a week and instead, have to make do with a couple of quality efforts each week. Because of this and because I have been so frustrated with my stagnation, I finally decided to hire/bring on a coach. I say ‘bring on’ because I am working with Dave Ames, who is a friend beyond being a coach, and the decision was about as collaborative as it gets. As many people know, Will has been my coach forever but with intern year for him and an intentional shift in our marriage to be as focused on just being married and not being co-workers, co-coaches, athlete-coaches, it was time to make a different plan.

One of the amazing things about having a coach is that all I have to do is workout. One of the terrifying things about having a coach ARE those workouts. For example, I had a medium long run on Sunday with a workout built in that didn’t seem that difficult on paper but was EXTREMELY difficult. Similarly, I have a mile repeat workout today that I am convinced is all but impossible so I have the difficult task of convincing myself first that I can do it and second, getting through it. Dave gets incredible results from his athletes and furthermore, has a lot of experience with the sports psychology aspect of racing which I need almost as much as the physiologic piece.

My race schedule has evolved as well, with a new focus on the US 50K Road Championships (hoping to podium) in March and CIM 2018 for my (hopeful) OTQ attempt. This takes a little pressure off RDC where my main goal is to just get back into marathon running and hopefully undo some of the emotional baggage I am (still) carrying from Philly.

But first, the Bluegrass Half in Johnson City on Sunday!

Transitions

I am a day away from starting my General Surgery Residency. Gulp. I (and so many others) have been working for years for this day and it is simultaneously exciting and terrifying.

I am and always will be a runner. I will continue to run and race throughout residency and continue to engage in the running community as a competitor, observer and constant supporter. By virtue of my schedule for the next five years, however, keeping this blog going with the level of quality I attempt to achieve is going to be incredibly difficult. I have come very close to pulling the plug on it entirely in the past few weeks but then I read something from the running community that moves me or run a race that I want to recap and I change my mind again.

What I’ve come to is that this blog creates a place for me to gain insight into my running and archive my experiences even if no one else engages. It is also a repository for a lot of experience with the recovery from compartment syndrome, a rare and frustrating condition for many runners. Every few months, I get an email from someone who found my blog after searching for information on CS who is relieved to find SOMETHING out there on coming back afterwards.

This blog is going to slow down after tomorrow. It will still hold race reports as I race and product reviews as I do those. It will have training updates as I work towards my next marathon and towards my much larger goal of the Olympic Trials. It won’t have a weekly training update; I don’t have that many hours in the week to be consistent. It won’t capture every running thought or share as much exercise physiology as it did. In the coming months, I may transition back to a free WordPress blog rather than the very expensive hosted version that this currently is. If that changes something for readers from an interface perspective, you’ll be the first to know.

If you miss a daily dose of me (who wouldn’t…), my Instagram account will stay very active as it’s easier to do on the fly. My Instagram is more diverse than this blog; after all, I’m more than a runner. It includes food, gardens, insight into medicine but also a healthy dose of running. My handle is @runswatrun if you’re interested.

To the 503,666 visitors to this blog (holy sh*t), thank you so much for your support and encouragement and interest.

With Love,

Sarah

Race Report: Cottonmouth 8 Mile Beer Relay

Hands down, this was some of the most fun I’ve ever had at a race. Will really doesn’t race anymore after three ankle surgeries but I wrangled him into this one because it was a relay race, involved beer and was on trails rather than roads. The basic setup was that there is a two mile trail loop and teams of 1 to 4 had an option to drink a beer before the lap then set off for a 2 minute deduction in total time. The other component was that you had to carry a full beer “baton” for the whole race. There were age graded adjustments built in as well for final results. We did the relay as a two person team; I ran legs 1 and 3 and Will ran legs 2 and 4.

The night before the race, we had the arduous task of choosing our beer. It had to be >5% ABV, it had to be beer based (meaning ciders etc were excluded) and we wanted it to be in a bottle for easy drinking and something we would likely never want to drink again in case we got sick while running. We spent an inordinate amount of time in Ingles and finally settled on New Belgium’s Watermelon Lime Ale, coming in at 5% in bottle form. Our only mistake was not making sure they were twist off tops, which meant that we had to also remember to bring a bottle opener.

We got to Travelers Rest a little before 9 on Sunday morning and had an easy, breezy check in process. The Race Director was delightful and super welcoming, which was a nice change from my last attempt to get involved in the running community here. Will and I set out to preview the course which was marked with big arrow signs and after the first downhill (which, incidentally, was super technical), encountered two arrows that went like this –> <–. Hm. We tried to backtrack from the other side of the loop and still couldn’t make it work. We finished the course preview of the second half, a loop that included a football field and old asphalt track and let the Race Director know that something was up with the first loop. When he went out to check, he found that someone had reversed 5 of his arrows overnight! After he fixed it, we went back out to preview the first half of the course and it had magically turned into a great trail loop!

From the get-go, this race was low key and fun and prerace was no exception. People were hanging out, drinking beers and playing beer pong and corn hole. I didn’t drink before because I was already concerned about my ability to drink two beers and run 4 miles. I was also worried that I’d overload on fluid so despite the fact that it was in the 80s and sunny, I didn’t let myself have water and was PARCHED. My biggest prerace concern was chugging a beer at the start. I’ve never been one to chug anything, in part because of my inability to burp, and I was worried that it would take me 2 minutes to finish my beer and erase the 2 minutes that drinking a beer erased from each lap.

Chose an appropriate singlet for the morning! Cheers!

The start went WAY better than anticipated for me. I got the bottle open without difficulty and managed to drink it in ~25 seconds. I started to run in about 15th place and jogged out of the start area. Our plan was to take the whole race at about tempo effort but try to run intelligently on the course. The first mile was all trail and had sections with very technical footing and a big climb. The second mile was much more runnable and had a football field and lap on the old track, so was a perfect place to make up some time. The first downhill was MISERABLE. I was so full and had a sloshy stomach and desperately needed to burp, which is never my strong point. Since the whole idea was to have fun, I just kept jogging until I finally mercifully burped and felt 100% better. I found my tempo effort and started passing people quickly. When we came out of the woods, I found myself in 3rd place, solidly behind first (the race director who is a beast of a trail runner and beat us by 90 seconds) and about 30 seconds behind second. As we moved onto the faster part of the loop, I worked at closing the gap to second (our main competition) and ultimately got within 15 seconds of him. I finished the first lap in 15:35 and tagged off to Will, who put his beer down much more efficiently than me.

The man, the myth, the legend with better knee drive than I could ever hope for.

Will’s first lap was a beautiful thing. I’ve never seen him race and it was really fun to watch him pick his way over the course. He’s a great trail runner and a heck of a gamer in races and it was incredibly fun to get the chance to cheer for him for a change. The runner from the other team was very, very fast and Will did his best to hang close enough to him to keep us in it. At some point in his loop, Will passed the second runner from the team who had come in first (they were a 3 person team) as well and he came into the exchange zone in second by about 20 seconds.

My second beer was not as smooth as my first but I got it down in about 30 seconds and took off again. Unfortunately, the team that we were chasing was much more proficient and he was gone from sight before I finished my beer. This time, I was able to burp almost immediately and pushed my effort to tempo effort from the get-go. Although I couldn’t see my actual competition, there were plenty of people to pass on course which made it very easy to stay focused. Unfortunately, the second lap was MUCH warmer than the first. When we were in the woods, it wasn’t too bad but when we came out into the full sun, woooooweeee it was hot. I worked hard to not give up on the track and through the final field and was happy yet again to find that I had the fitness to start in tempo/interval effort in the final part of the race. I came into the exchange zone in a solid second but quite a ways down from the first team. My lap time was 15:45, which I was happy with now that I had two beers sloshing around.

Will took off after another great beer exchange and I jogged to the corner at the end of the woods loop to await him. The runner for the first team is clearly a trail guy; he hammered the first half of the course and put a lot of distance on Will. When they hit the flats, however, Will started to close the gap again. They ultimately beat us handily but I think Will and I were both super happy with our efforts!

The final rule was that at the finish line, you had to shake up the full beer that had been your baton the whole time and crack it open and spray. I’ve rarely seen Will smile so easily as he did when the finish line official made him do it! I had to duck and run to avoid a full spray of warm, shaken Budweiser.

Good thing we brought a change of clothes!

All in all, it was an awesome experience for us and a decent workout to boot. After the race, we hung around for almost two hours and ate pizza and met lots of runners from the Greenville running community. I connected with a runner (incidentally the guy who ran my leg from the team who beat us) who works at Pace Running, which is a local running store in Travelers Rest that exclusively carries Skechers so it was fun to talk shop a bit. It was such a nice contrast from my first experience to feel welcome and included just by virtue of showing up.

From a race perspective, I’m just so grateful to continue forward progress. My laps were very close in time and our team average pace was 7:45, so my 7:47 and 7:52 didn’t hold us back too badly! Given that my mile pace for the Asheville half was 7:20, I feel very good about this performance on trails, in the hot sun post-beers!

My favorite part of the day, however, was getting to see Will in race mode. We met after his first ankle surgery when he was already in the long, long recovery process and he hasn’t raced much since then. He did one 5K as part of the VCM relay and paced another for one of my athletes but otherwise just runs for fun. Without putting too much of him on the blog without his permission, I’ve always thought that he was nervous about racing again because it might fall short of his prior performances. I think Sunday was a great step for him to realize that you can reinvent yourself and race for fun and still be a “runner.”