Monday, April 29, 2013


Okay, this is one of the dumbest finish line photos ever. I was trying to honor Boston and break the tape after running 26.2 miles. Glad I didn't fall over doing that move! Photos by Kelly Barten.

No wait. This one's worse. Second Place finisher did start to fall down and was put in a wheelchair. That's giving it everything you have!
I'm pleased to report, for those of you who haven't already been bombarded by facebook posts and tweets with the news, that I won the Eugene Marathon women's race! I met my goal of winning and raced faster than I thought I would crossing the line in 2:48:50: both very cool achievements. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who has sent me messages, Facebook comments and tweets congratulating me. It means a ton to have such fantastic support from friends, family and the running community at large.

The Guard Register did a nice post-race write up that you can find here.

Eugene is a great place to run and race. I have run the Eugene Marathon twice before, so I knew what the course looked like and what to expect. This time, the race finished in Hayward Field rather than Autzen Stadium where it had both times I ran it before, and I was really looking forward to that.  The thought of possibly breaking the tape while running down that track to the finish seemed a little too good to be true.

If you read my Marathon Eve post, then you know that I wasn't terribly confident heading into the race. My goal all along was to win, but I also knew that depended heavily on who showed up to race. The Elite Coordinator sent a message to the elite athletes last week, and I noticed a lot of very fast women on the list. I will admit that I was intimidated. Even more intimidating was actually seeing these young, fit competitors in the elite tent the morning of the race.

Race weather was absolutely perfect: mid-50s and overcast at the start and little to no wind. I ate my normal pre-race meal and felt pretty decent. I milled around in the elite tent and did an uncharacteristic little warm up (hip flexibility exercises, light jogging, a few drills) about 30 minutes before. I did this mostly because I needed to burn off a little energy. I was never anxious or nervous before the race. In fact, I was a little worried that I would have a hard time getting into the race simply because I didn't feel much of anything beforehand. As we headed to the start line, I realized I needed to pee. It felt kind of urgent, but I usually feel that way right before the race and my body resorbs the excess fluids somehow. Unfortunately for me and another girl with the same need, there were no facilities close enough to the start to relieve ourselves so we both just held it in.

We assembled for the start and listened to a poignant message from Stephanie Rothstein-Bruce who reminded us to cross our hands over our hearts as we crossed the finish line in support of the Boston victims. I made a mental note of that.

And then we were off. This race starts both the half and marathon runners together. I found out that it is very easy to get drawn out by the speedy half marathoners and impossible to know where you rank in the marathon with everyone mixed together until the two races split at about the 10 mile mark. My race plan was to start out at 6:30 pace for the first 10 miles. That was the pace I felt I could definitely hold for this race based on my training. I would then try to pick it up the next 10 and hold my shit together for the last 10k.

Well, I started a little hot that first 10 miles mostly due to finding a couple of great groups to pace off of. I also felt fantastic at the pace we were doing. The only real hills in the race come during that first 10 miles, so my paces were slightly erratic, but I averaged around 6:18-6:19 for that first part. As soon as the race split, I saw all of my speedster pacers head off in the direction of the half finish line and I was headed out to the Willamette River for the scenic tour.

It became clear to me within the first couple of miles after the split that I was the first woman because people were telling me that. It's always hard to know exactly, because you don't know whether people are really paying attention. Then, right before the 1/2 marathon point, a man who I could tell was paying attention, rode up on his bike and told me that the second place woman was right behind me. She had me in her sites and she was a strong runner. He also told me there was a chase pack behind her, but they were not a threat "unless I decided to run back towards them". I guess I must have looked strong too.

And I was feeling very strong at that point. I was just concentrating on keeping each mile faster than 6:30 pace. I am not sure why my chip didn't register at the half and 20 mile stations, but I did look at the clock at the half and it read 1:23:05. Now I know that second place was only 10-15 seconds behind me at that point! Even without that information, I had no reason to doubt that she was right behind me. I tried to just concentrate on running my race. I admit I was running scared the entire second half knowing I would probably slow down and just waiting for her to catch me.

Around mile 18 or 19, I realized that my body had not resorbed my excess fluid and I really had to go pee. It was getting very uncomfortable. I could pull a Paula Radcliffe and slip off to the side for a quick one, but I didn't want to give up any time with speedy on my tail. There was a nice stretch on the trail where there were no spectators or other runners (that I could see) and I just let go. It was gross and a bit humiliating, but I felt so much better afterward even with my soggy shorts, socks and shoes! I was shocked at how much I really had to go! This turned out to be a very smart decision. Had I pulled off to go pee, I almost certainly would have given up my lead and possibly lost the race. Judge if you will, but I'll take the win any day of the week.

Everything dried out quickly, and I felt much better for the next few miles. The race then headed up and over the River to make its way back to Hayward. I was still concentrating on holding my pace under 6:30, but that became increasingly difficult as I got past 20 miles. My paces slipped into the high 6:30s and then hovered around 6:40-6:45 for the last few miles before I turned onto the streets of Eugene headed back to Hayward Field. Those last few miles were torturous. There were very few runners ahead of me, and with the winding trail, I would go for 5-10 minutes without seeing anyone. There were few if any spectators on that stretch except for some very cheerful volunteers at the water stations. I was gulping water by this point. I really don't know why I was so thirsty, but I couldn't get enough water.

I knew I was fading in those last few miles and my legs were just dead. For whatever reason, all I could think to tell myself was, "this is your race to lose." What does that even mean? I had nothing left to give at that point should my nemesis have somehow managed to catch me. The couple of guys that did catch me gave me a good scare. I finally realized I was going to win the race when I rounded the turn to enter Hayward and heard the crowd going nuts. I heard my name announced shortly after that and saw the banner being held for me to break. I barely had time to wrap my brain around what was happening but somehow got my hand to my heart and managed to stay upright across the line. Wow.

I was immediately greeted by the elite coordinator, Ken, who congratulated me and got me some water.  I then talked with a few reporters and was finally able to find the Genius beyond the finish line holding area. He had finished in 2:43 and was not allowed to stick around to watch. He didn't even know I had won!

I promised a friend I would post my fueling strategy for this race. It has remained pretty much unchanged for the past 15 marathons I've done. I take one gel with a little water (Gu Roctane blueberry pomegranate flavor) about 15 minutes before the race starts and then one every 5 miles (miles 5.5, 10, 16 and 21 in this race) always with a cup of water at a water station. I plan this out ahead of time based on where the water stations are and never mix sports drinks with the gel. I like being self sufficient and not having to rely on elite fluids. This recipe has worked perfectly for me year after year. Hope that helps!

I had a beer post race with the Genius and then got a bottle of wine and 5-lb bag of Krusteaz Pancake Mix as a prize. I'm supposed to get a year's supply of pancake mix, though I don't know how many 5-lb bags that equals. I got a quick massage which I think really helped to work out the kinks in my calf muscles. Overall, I felt great during the race with only a few twinges in my right hip flexor and gluteal muscles. Nothing that a little lacrosse ball action can't hammer out! My shoes definitely need washing!

The Genius and I drove and ate our way home that afternoon. We had huge burgers in Eugene and then two over-sized meals with two big milkshakes for dinner at a Black Bear Diner.

I am finally letting the glory of this experience sink in. It still seems like it happened to someone else, but I keep seeing my face in that photo. I guess this 45-year-old mother of 5 (cats and dogs) did just kick all those young girls' butts all over Eugene, didn't she? Feels kind of good.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Marathon Eve

On this, the eve of my 20th marathon, I confess I have no idea what tomorrow's race will look like. It could be the best of my life or it could be a suck fest. Come to think of it, that's pretty much how every marathon is whether I want to admit it or not. A perfect training cycle never guarantees a perfect race. So many things can go right and wrong in 3 hours or less, and so many are out of my control.

I have not posted about my training lately partly because it has been whack-a-doodle. I also felt little motivation to post the trivialities of my running life when big, horrific things were happening in the world. It just seemed ridic to post about a stupid long run or workout when people's lives were being so deeply affected by a couple of idiots with bombs. I have had a heavy heart since Boston. I am grateful that the peeps I knew at the race walked away from the experience with no physical scars, but I can only imagine the emotional scars that they will carry for years to come.

And life, she marches on...

These last two weeks have been the craziest taper weeks I've experienced. When I took my new job in October, one main motivating factor was to get out into the field more. When I planned to run this marathon, I wasn't yet aware of how much field time I would be getting or exactly when it would come. In my two taper weeks, I've had 8 days out in the field, and I have really struggled with how to fit running in while not totally killing myself.

Take this past Tuesday as an example (albeit extreme) of what a day in the field looks like. I left home at 6:30 a.m. and got back home at 11:30 p.m. Four of those hours were spent driving. The other 13 were hiking up and down a creek canyon through mosquito infested, poison oak covered habitat looking for rare plants. I hiked a total of 14 miles and climbed 5000 feet with the same amount of descent (yes, I wore my Garmin). I also accidentally poisoned myself with Jungle Juice (99% DEET) by spraying it directly on my face. I read the directions afterwards, as my face turned numb and my lips started burning. "Do not spray directly on face". I was in pretty bad shape most of the day from that alone and might still feel a little off from it. My legs were absolutely dead at the end of the day. I thought to myself on the drive home, "so much for a taper."
Cool plants like to hang out at the tops of hills in rock outcrops. The view is lovely from up there. 
Nature is beautiful. I am lucky.
My mileage has been lower than I've ever run in the last two weeks of marathon training, but I've never  spent this much time out in the field those last two weeks either. I've struggled with this because I am a slave to my running numbers. I know it's not smart to layer running on top of all of this physical work, but my brain doesn't like it one bit! It's debatable how much of a physical toll this abnormal running taper has taken on me, but it has left me feeling under prepared for the race. I will say that I feel strong as an ox--field work makes you tough! However, I am definitely more fatigued than I would like to be.

I've learned a valuable lesson in that I should avoid planning a marathon during the field season. I could also never recreate these last two weeks if I tried if my race ends up being spectacular. So, I will just get my butt out there and run my race.

Thanks to everyone who's wished me luck and supported me along the way. Here's to lucky number 20!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

The Heavy Metal Blues

These last two weeks have been quite a ride. After having such a great training week and race at the Across the Bay 12k two weeks ago, I fell off of the ledge. Luckily, it was a short ledge.

I had a workout scheduled for the Wednesday following the race and had to delay it by a day because I felt like I hadn't recovered fully from the race on Sunday. I did the 10 x 800m workout, but it wasn't stellar. I shook it off and ran a long run Sunday that felt a lot harder than it should have. My whole body ached after that run and that is really unusual for me. Long runs are my bread and butter workouts.

The following week, I was having trouble running 8 minute pace on my easy runs. Again, my Wednesday workout was postponed, but I couldn't muster the energy to try it on Thursday either. During my easy run Thursday night, it hit me. I realized that the last time I had felt this way was when my iron stores were low.

You can read about my history with low iron stores in this post. To summarize, I have had to supplement pretty heavily with liquid ferrous sulfate just to maintain a level that is still considered low by some.  Last summer, I experimented with taking a different form of iron, Feosol tablets. I had my iron stores (ferritin) tested at the beginning of the summer and then, in between, started using the Feosol while still taking the liquid iron on and off. My levels remained in the high 30s, which is good for me. At some point I started only taking the iron pills. Why did I switch? The liquid stuff is nasty. It tastes nasty. It stains my teeth. It backs up the plumbing.

About a month ago, I started taking a multi-vitamin that had calcium in it. Trouble is, calcium inhibits iron absorption. I was taking both pills together. Add in some heavy training and you have a recipe for low iron stores. And that is a recipe for sluggish running and injury. Another symptom that made me think low iron was a foot niggle that was not getting better, even with treatment. Low iron stores make it hard for the body to heal too, so there is a really high risk of injury if training continues at a high level.

I confirmed that my iron stores were low a little over a week ago. I also looked at my history and saw an interesting pattern.

Jaymee's ferritin history 1997-2013

Most coaches believe a ferritin level of 20 is the point where performance is seriously affected but it varies for each athlete. Some can get away with levels in the teens and still have decent races while others can't get below 30. That's why I made this chart. It tells the story of my iron levels plotted against my performances. I also know how I felt during those times which is what helped me identify this as my problem last week. I think I caught it just in time. 

The chart shows that my ferritin levels never really get very high even with a solid supplementation regime. When I'm training hard, my levels tend to decline pretty quickly. What also seems apparent from my chart is that there's a fine line between levels that contribute to my injuries and when I perform well (TCM = 2:46 marathon and OTQ = 2:45). My current level of 26 is the same as it was the two times I've had major injuries and that's scary. On the up side, I only need to get my levels over 30 to feel normal again. I am back on the liquid stuff to make that happen as quickly as possible. I have been able to get my ferritin to improve from 21 to 34 in 30 days by taking it 2x per day. Add in a lower training volume and I should be good to go for Eugene.   

It's nice to have been tested every 6 months so I could make a chart like that one, and figure out where my levels should be. I have to admit that it makes me mad that I still end up low even though I know better. The simple solution is to just keep taking the liquid iron and double up during hard training. Lesson finally learned.

The 10 mile race I was looking forward to this morning went fine. I did not race to my potential but I kind of suspected that would be the case given all of this heavy metal business and the tough work week I had (think 10 hours of hiking each day for two days through poison oak infested forests, climbing 3000+ feet each day--that was my Monday and Tuesday). I don't like making excuses for poor performance, but anyone who's had low ferritin knows the feeling. You try to get your little legs to go faster, and they just won't. It's like a disconnect. The up side is when your iron stores rebound: you feel like someone has given you a boost of adrenaline. I'm looking forward to that and hope it comes before my marathon.

SacTown 10 miler awards ceremony.

My race time at the SacTown 10 miler was 1:01:55. I won the masters title for the third race in a row this year. That was satisfying. It was a great race and really well organized. I got to share the stage with Olympian Kim Conley for the awards ceremony. So, that's something. We both got these lovely engraved platters, though she won a little more cash than I did!

I'm hoping I will start to feel a little better in this next week of training. It is my last high-mileage week before I taper. I am hoping for some good marathon paced workouts to build some confidence before I start to let my body absorb all of the hard training I've done this cycle. Regardless of how the marathon ends up going, I know that I've worked hard and become much fitter in the last couple of months. I've gained confidence in myself and my coach and can carry that forward into the next marathon cycle.    
Don't forget to take your vitamins!