A Simple Running Log

June 5, 2012

Training for 6/5/12

Filed under: Uncategorized — aschmid3 @ 7:24 pm

I have a lot to write — a pretty hefty race report, a monthly summary and updates on my training since last Wednesday.

But first and foremost, I am happy to say Clark is now colon- and disease-free. The procedure went perfectly, according to his surgeon, and he recovered faster than expected, so he got to come home yesterday afternoon. It’s been a long and rather exhausting past few days for all of us, Clark especially obviously, but it looks like he’s well on his way to feeling like his old self again — minus a colon, of course.

So I guess I have to backtrack to last Wednesday night. I had to cover a local high school graduation, and since I wasn’t coming back in the office until today, I had to go back to the office that night, write the story, pick out the best pictures I took, write captions for all of them and get all of that filed before I could go home. It was almost 11 p.m. when I finally made it home.

We were up before 5:30 a.m. Thursday, so we could be in Baltimore by 8 a.m. for Clark’s check-in for the surgery. They told us he would go back to the operating room around 10 a.m.

Of course, it took them a lot longer than that, so he didn’t go back until 11:30 a.m. I went to the waiting area, and my mom showed up about five minutes later to keep me company.

They had told us to expect the surgery to take about six hours. It was being performed robotically, which meant smaller incisions and typically a faster recovery, but it also meant the procedure itself would take longer.

We got updates every couple of hours. In the first update, they said they hadn’t actually put Clark under until 12:30 p.m. So we figured he wouldn’t be done until 6:30 p.m. at the earliest.

Mom and I left after the first update for lunch. We walked toward the Inner Harbor, intending to eat at an Italian place, but we passed the Pratt Street Ale House, and I could smell the beer fermenting. I used to hate that smell when I was little and we went on Anheuser-Busch brewery tours at Busch Gardens, but now I love it. We ate lunch there instead. I ordered a pale ale, and the waitress said the restaurant’s British brew master and American manager had a competition going; they had each brewed a pale ale using either British or American hops, and now customers were invited to drink a 10-oz. pour of each and vote for their favorite. Of course I took part.

The British pale ale was mild, while the American one was very hoppy and bitter. I prefer the milder beers, but Clark loves ’em bitter, so I voted for the American pale ale in his honor.

We walked back to the hospital after lunch, and hung out in the waiting area the rest of the day. Clark’s parents and aunt arrived later in the afternoon.

Just after 7 p.m., the surgeon came out and said everything had gone as well as it could have, and she was very happy with how everything turned out. We were finally allowed to go back in recovery and see him around 8:30 p.m. Clark looked pretty good for just having had major surgery, I have to say. He was fully alert and could talk. We were only allowed to stay about 15 minutes though.

I headed home after that. It was after 11 p.m. when I got back. I immediately went to bed.

Friday morning, I did some ab exercises and took Pepper for a 3-mile run. I packed my bag for my trail marathon the next morning and went back to Baltimore.

When I got there, around 1 p.m., Clark was still in recovery. A bed had not yet become available in a private room in the acute surgery care wing. They moved him not long after that though.

Mom was there again too, so eventually we went for a late lunch. We made it all the way to the Italian restaurant at the Inner Harbor that time. I had a big plate of mushroom ravioli and two mini desserts. When I ordered two to Mom’s one, she told the waiter I was running a marathon the next day and needed the calories. I just laughed and said I’d have probably ordered two anyway.

We got back to the hospital before it started raining. And when it started, it poured its ass off. The TV in the hospital room was on the local news, which was reporting on tornado warnings in the area. It rained like that for a long time. I wondered what that was going to mean for our trail race. It was supposed to be clear again the next morning, but that much water was definitely wreaking some havoc on the dirt trails we would be running.

I checked the event Facebook page, where the race directors had posted to “make preparations” for the mud. Some people were commenting about wearing waterproof shoes, even though they’re heavy, or gaiters, which cover ankles to keep mud and debris out of shoes. I don’t have any of that stuff, and even if I did, I wouldn’t have gone back home to get it.

I had planned to drive to Arlington and stay in Chad’s apartment, since it was close to the race site, but it was still pouring rain by 10 p.m. and I didn’t want to leave Clark anyway. I slept in my clothes on a crappy vinyl couch in Clark’s hospital room. I got some sleep eventually, but I woke up several times during the night, sometimes on my own, sure I had missed my alarm, and sometimes because a nurse came in to check on Clark.

I woke up the last time three minutes before my 5:30 a.m. alarm would go off, so I got off the couch, kissed Clark goodbye and left. He wished me luck and told me to run hard. I got a bagel and cream cheese in a hospital cafe on the way out.

In the parking garage, I changed into my running clothes, and then drove about an hour to a tech park, where I got on a bus to be shuttled to the race site, in a state park.

My bus arrived at the race site more than hour before the 9 a.m. gun. There were only 300 people signed up for the marathon (the 50-miler had started at 5 a.m. and the 50K at 7 a.m.), so there weren’t a lot of people milling around. I quickly got my bib and timing chip, and then sat down to wait.

Soon, I saw my friend Melissa arrive, the one who’d posted on Facebook she’d signed up for it, which inspired me to do the same. We hung out with a couple of other friends of hers. Eventually, I stripped down to my race outfit and checked my gear bag, after putting seven salt caps and two ibuprofens in my handheld water bottle pouch.

Melissa and me before the race.

Just before 9 a.m., they called us over to the start. Dean Karnazes was our ultra runner celebrity guest. He gave us a little pep talk, and said he’d run some of the trails that morning, and they were definitely muddy. He asked how many people were there to run their first marathon. Several people raised their hands, and everyone else clapped for them. Dean said, “I can almost guarantee you your second marathon will be much easier.”

Truer words were never spoken, as we would all soon find out.

The gun went off pretty much on time, and we were off.

The course looped around a grassy field to start, which was where we got the first taste of the water on the trails. This was not a little mud. These were huge stretches of standing water, and the dirt on either side had been trampled into thick, gloppy mud by the 50-mile and 50K runners who had already been through there. At first, people were trying to pick their way around it, trying to keep their shoes dry. Wet shoes and socks lead to blisters, and the longer you’re running, the worse the blisters can get. It’s not a good thing to drench your feet within the first five minutes of a marathon.

After looping the field, we followed a paved golf cart path a little ways, before getting on the trail.

At first, the mud was funny. We all soon gave up trying to keep our feet dry, and often I would hear someone giggle when their feet almost slipped out from under them in the muck. The first 5.7 miles before the first aid station weren’t too bad. We all tried to run through the mud as best as we could as the trail wound through a flood plain that had obviously seen some major flooding the day before.

About two miles in. See, I was having fun at first.

I got to the first aid station just under an hour into the race. I got my water bottle topped off, ate half a banana and kept going.

The mud just kept coming. It wasn’t funny any more. All I could think about was how I was going to have to run through it all on the way back again. At one point, there was no one near me, and my feet almost slipped out from under me for the 100th time already, so I let fly a long, aggravated string of swearing.

Soon, the mud gave way to the climbs. The trail was now running along the Potomac River, and there were some pretty steep hills. I was also running into 50K and 50-mile front runners on their way back to the finish, so I was stepping aside for them, and trying to say something encouraging to them as they passed.

It was at this point I started to tire, and then I got mad at myself for signing up for this thing in the first place. Here I was, under trained and exhausted from the previous several days, taking on the most difficult marathon course I’d ever seen. I am not a recreational marathoner; until this one, I had trained pretty seriously for months to be able to finish every one I’d registered for.

In the middle of this revelation, I started to feel like I needed a bathroom. Of course. This was the lowest point of the race for me, the last couple of miles before the mile 12.4 aid station. I kept thinking we had to be almost there, and there would be a port-o-potty so I could do my business like a civilized human instead of squatting in the woods like an animal (not that it ever bothers me on solo training runs, by the way.) But that stupid aid station just would not appear! I ran as much as I could, but there were some climbs that had to be walked, and even when the trail was runnable, that made my gut pains feel more urgent.

I made it to Great Falls Park, and started running into marathoners coming back, which meant they had found the aid station, which was also the turnaround point. I just had to hold on a little longer!

I finally made it. There was only one port-o-potty though, and already two people in line. Gah! I had no choice though, so I got in line. The first guy in line said he wasn’t racing, so he stepped aside. I had to wait about five minutes for my turn, but then I finally got in there. I tried to be as fast as possible, since there were more runners out there, but it took me a few minutes to feel like I had the all-clear.

When I was done with that, I got my water bottle topped off again, grabbed two peanut butter snack crackers from the aid station and crossed the 12.4-mile timing mat 2 hours and 30 minutes into the race.

I started running again. Now that the pressure was off my digestive system, I could tell my legs had already taken quite a beating, and I wasn’t even halfway done yet. I kept up a slow run as much as I could, again walking the uphills when I had to.

Soon enough, I felt like I had to go again. Damn digestive system. There was no way I was going to make it back to the next aid station, more than six miles away. I waited until there were no other runners in sight behind me, and then ducked into the woods.

I have to admit I didn’t bury it six inches like the race rules requested. But I’m pretty sure I was at least 50 feet from the trail, and 200 feet from a water source.

That was the last I heard from my GI tract, thankfully. Now I just had to drag my tired self back through this hilly, muddy course.

This was where the other runners became my saviors. I didn’t pass people; I’d run up on them and then just follow them like a weird little stalker in Dri-Fit shorts. If they walked up a hill, I walked up the hill. If they ran, I ran. It was the only thing keeping me going, being able to watch someone else’s shoes slip-slide through the muck. If they could do it, so could I.

Clearly, I was not the only one employing this strategy, because soon I found myself in a conga line at least 10 runners deep, all following the shoes in front of them, just trying to make it to the next aid station. I knew it’d taken me almost 90 minutes to get to the mile 12.4 station from the mile 5.7 station, which was the one we were heading for now. So at four hours, 90 minutes after I’d left the last station, I started to wonder if we’d somehow managed to miss a turn on the very clearly-marked course. I wasn’t the only one; murmurings rippled back through the line as other runners wondered aloud how close we were.

Finally, it appeared, like an oasis in the desert. It was beautiful. I had gotten really insanely hungry during that stretch; I guess the bagel I’d eaten at 6 a.m. had been burned off before I even started running, and the half a banana and two crackers I’d eaten at the first two stations were no longer cutting it. So when we got to the mile 19.1 station, I ate everything I could get my hands on.

I had a handful of Skittles and a handful of plain M&Ms. I ate the best nectarine I’ve ever tasted. I scarfed down a handful of potato chips and a quarter of a peanut butter sandwich. And here’s the weird thing — I hate white potatoes, but I ate two roasted potato wedges, covered in salt, and they tasted like manna from heaven. I would put those potato wedges up against any meal in any five-star restaurant anywhere in the world. I washed it all down with some more water and a cup of something pink, some kind of sports drink.

While I was inhaling half the aid station’s spread, another runner asked how far we had to run to the next aid station. A volunteer answered we had 3.3 miles to cover. The runner said, “Why doesn’t that sound easy?”

My stomach was no longer growling with every step, I only had 7.4 miles to go to finish off this thing (the race was officially 26.5 miles, a little long for a marathon, but what’s a few more tenths of a mile when you’re having this much fun?) and I felt like a brand new runner. I got back in line behind another runner again, and we snaked our way up and down the last few hills and through more mud.

I had been taking my salt caps every 45 minutes or so, and I had been drinking nearly all the water between aid stations, so I can say I did at least one thing right in this race. While I got hungry as hell, I never got muscle cramps or side stitches, so my salt and water levels were OK throughout.

Approaching the mile 22.4 station, we started noticing what looked like hoof prints in the muck. Then we saw some unmistakable piles of horse poop. When I got to the next aid station, as I was popping yet more Skittles and M&Ms, one of the volunteers said horses had gotten loose and had taken off down the trail. Someone had wrangled them before we got there, but I had to laugh at what the runners in front of me thought when they saw a couple of rider-less horses tearing down the single track toward them.

This aid station marked the beginning and end of a roughly 2.4-mile out-and-back we now had to run before returning to our original course. It started out on a paved bike path, but then turned to yet more mud. I was so freaking tired of mud!

At the midway point of the out-and-back was a short loop. As I ran to the left to start the loop, a volunteer said we only had a 5K left to the finish line.

Just a 5K? I can run a 5K in my sleep! I resolved to run the entire final 5K. There were no more hills, and just a couple more mud puddles, so I figured I could do it.

I locked in my sights on the next runner ahead of me and ran. I passed her when she slowed to a walk on the bike path on the way back to the final aid station. Though I was tempted to stop at the aid station and suck down some more M&Ms, I kept going. A sign just past the aid station said we only had 1.7 miles to go.

I checked my watch for the first time in a while. It was at 5:38. I was both appalled it had taken me 5:38 to run about 25 miles and amazed I had been able to run that long. I knew I could come in under 6 hours.

We were now running down a nice, wide stone trail toward the finish. We were passing a kids’ soccer game on the left, and runners who weren’t part of the race were running the opposite direction down the trail, so we had obviously arrived back in the state park.

Soon enough, we made a right and were back on the golf cart path we had run earlier. The runner in front of me asked the volunteer directing us how much farther we had to run. “Half a mile,” the volunteer said.

It felt so good to run on solid, flat pavement! I was able to pick it up for that final stretch. The finish line was an inflatable arch in a grass field, and between the golf cart path and that arch was, of course, one final giant puddle of standing water. I pounded through it like a little kid, splashing it everywhere.

I was so happy to finish! A volunteer put a finisher’s medal around my neck and handed me a water bottle. I stopped my watch:


Hmm. Where’s that smile now, huh?

Holy crap. More than two hours slower than my best road marathon, and more than an hour slower than my worst road marathon. I never thought I’d need nearly six hours to run a marathon.

But the clock and my timing chip could suck it, because I had made it through 26.5 miles of mud and hills, even after seriously doubting my ability to do so only 12 miles in. I can honestly say that race was the hardest thing I’ve ever physically done, but I did it.

According to the official results, I was the 101st overall finisher out of 218. There were seven more runners who had started the race but dropped out. That means only 225 started out of 300 registrants, which means 75 runners — a full quarter of the field — didn’t even show up Saturday morning. There are always no-shows at races due to injuries or emergencies that pop up, but not that many. I wonder how many of those runners simply stayed in bed because of the rain Friday.

Anyway, I was also the 25th of 78 female finishers, and 15th of 32 in the 26-35 age group. The winning women’s time was 4:35; the winning men’s time was 3:41, which is crazy slow even for a trail marathon. I later learned the winning 50-mile time was a full hour slower than last year’s (this was the first year for the marathon.) So everyone, even the elites, had a tough day in that mud.

Melissa found me soon after I finished. She had dropped out at the 12.4 aid station because her calves were cramping and she didn’t think she’d be able to make it back, at least not before the 7-hour cutoff. (We later found out the cutoff had been extended to 9 hours due to the conditions; the last recorded chip time was 8:56.)

I peeled off my shoes and socks, expecting a blistered, bloody mess, as wet as they’d been for six hours. Nope. I’m most prone to blisters on the outsides of the balls of my feet. My left foot is already completely callused over there, so I had nothing on that foot. On the right foot, there was one tiny blister that didn’t even need attention. The only thing that was any concern was a blood blister on the inside of my right pinky toe where it had rubbed against the toe next to it.

I scrubbed off my New Balance 110s as best as I could in a tub of water marked SERIOUS MUD (SHOES). They looked like they would pull through, which was a relief, since I’d only had them less than two months.

Sadly, my socks were a casualty. They were one of my two pairs of very nice Balega running socks, which I reserve for long runs and races. They had started the day crisp and clean, light blue and white. Now they looked like crumpled old soggy newspapers, and worse, there was a hole in the toe of one of them. I was pretty pissed they’d been destroyed, but they’re probably the only reason my feet didn’t get it worse. If I’d worn a cheap pair of running socks, I’m sure I would have had a lot more blisters.

When I threw them away, I didn’t just toss them in a trash can; instead, I carefully laid them out on the top of the pile. I was just trying to assess the damage one last time and decide if I really had to trash them, so I stood there a few seconds and stared at them intently. I looked up and saw another woman looking at me just as intently, with a very curious expression. I figured I’d look even weirder if I retrieved a stinky, mud-choked pair of holey running socks from the trash, so I left them behind, gave the woman a quick smile and walked away.

Goodbye, Balegas.

Now it was time to collect my stuff. I got my bag from gear check and slipped on my flip flops. Ahhhh. The best part of any warm weather race.

Then I got my North Face technical T-shirt, and got it custom screen printed with the distance I’d run, which was a cool touch. Usually when you run a race with multiple distances, everyone gets the same shirt with all the distances listed, so it’s not clear if you ran the 50-miler or the kids’ race. I also got a pair of North Face arm warmers, which are really pretty sweet.

Next was the food line. We all got a hot meal after the race. The caterers had a selection, but I asked for a scoop of everything — couscous, salad, pulled pork, roasted turkey, pasta salad and a roll. And a chocolate chip cookie, which I ate first.

Finally, I hit the beer garden for my one free beer. The kegs started spitting foam just as I was getting near the front of the line, so I stood and waited for the fresh ones to arrive. I scarfed down all the food on my plate as I waited. Two fresh kegs were finally tapped — one with light beer and one with a wheat beer. I did not run that far to drink a light beer. Of course, I wouldn’t walk across my kitchen to drink a light beer. I’m annoyed it even exists. I took my wheat beer and sat down at a table to enjoy it.

OK, that is the best part of a warm weather race. Any race, really.

While I was sitting there, I talked to a couple of other runners near me. One had run the 50-miler for the fourth year in a row, and the other had just run his first marathon as a training run for his first 50-miler — in three weeks. We talked about how tough the course was and how slow the winners’ times were compared to previous years thanks to the mud.

I am in total amazement of the 50K and 50-miler runners, by the way. I didn’t have another step in me after the marathon. I couldn’t imagine trudging through that muck for another 5 or 24 miles.

I couldn’t find Melissa again after I left the beer garden (we couldn’t leave the fenced area with beer.) So I got in line for a shuttle and headed back to the tech park.

When I returned to my car, there was a flyer under the windshield wiper for a Spartan race, one of those runs with muddy obstacles. They call that a mud run? Please. Go run six hours or longer in a mud bath. That’s a freaking mud run.

I drove back to the hospital and stayed with Clark until about 9:30 p.m. Then I headed back home, picked up Pepper from Clark’s parents’ house and went home. I took a hot shower and went straight to bed again.

You know that feeling, when you’re falling asleep, and you suddenly feel like you’re falling so you jolt yourself awake? I kept getting one similar to that, except it would be one of my feet suddenly jerking out to the side — like I was slipping in mud again. It was bizarre.

Sunday morning was a little rough, haha. When I got out of bed, the first thing I felt was the blood blister on the right pinky toe. I couldn’t find my Band-Aids, so I taped a cotton ball to the toe.

The next thing I felt was the muscle soreness. But it wasn’t my quads or calves, like after a normal marathon. All the muscles around my joints — my ankles, knees and hips — were aching, from keeping me upright after every step. I did some yoga and foam rolling and felt a little better after that.

I headed back up to the hospital. Clark and I watched the NASCAR race from Dover. It felt weird not to go to that race, but we didn’t miss anything anyway. Jimmie Johnson won. Gag. Mike had a good time without us though, judging by the illegible drunk texts we were getting from him all day, haha.

At one point, they said Clark would get to go home that day, but then they changed their minds because they wanted him to meet with a particular nurse the next morning. So I left again that evening and went home.

Yesterday, I just did some ab exercises and push-ups, and then wrestled on my 110s to take Pepper to the trail. (They were pretty stiff after drying out with all that mud, but I got them back on.) We hadn’t run very far when Clark called and said he’d be released soon, so we ran back to the car to go home.

Before I got in the shower, I tried to remove my cotton ball from my pinky toe. Do not tape cotton balls to blisters. The cotton ball fuses to the blister. It was very painful to pull off, even in the shower after I let the water soak it. I found some moleskin after my shower, put that on instead of another cotton ball and went back to Baltimore one last time.

Clark got to leave around 1 p.m. At home, I cut the grass (and even did the trimming and then blew off the grass clippings from the lawnmower and weed eater with the air compressor, just like Clark would have done) and then did some sorely-needed grocery shopping at Walmart. Julie very sweetly dropped off a huge lasagna, bowl of salad, loaf of garlic bread and Reese’s peanut butter cup cake for dinner.

This morning, I got up early and drove out to the Sharptown bridge for the first hill repeat session of my half marathon training, which technically started yesterday, even though I mostly blew it off.

I did a mile to warm up and then ran up and over the bridge four times. It wasn’t too bad actually. I did another mile to cool down, for a total of 4.2 miles. And now I’m at work, and now this blog is all caught up.

Except for my May summary.


  • Week 1 (May 1-5): 27 miles
  • Week 2 (May 6-12): 40.7
  • Week 3 (May 13-19): 40.7
  • Week 4 (May 20-26): 30
  • Week 5 (May 27-31): 19

Total: 157.4 miles

I’m very pleased with my mileage last month. The previous three months’ totals were 31, 80 and 87, so it feels good to not only be in the triple digits again, but over 150.

Racing went OK too. I ran two 5-milers, matching my PR in one and running not too far off it on a hot, humid morning in the other. I also did that 10K, but I didn’t really race it.

June has a lot of races and a mileage increase as I start training for fall PR attempts in both the half marathon and (road) marathon. I already did the trail marathon I was planning, obviously, and now I have a 5K every weekend between now and July 7, as I complete the required number to qualify for the summer series.

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