Category Archives: Residency

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!