Life on the Run … As of Late

Long time, no post.  2018 has been a year of highs & lows.  I have been criticized for not sharing some of the lows but realistically, a lot of it has consisted of family drama and I just refuse to put it out there and give it more life and energy than its already consuming.  This blog is my own. I pay for it.  The lack of sponsors, advertisements and the few ambassadorships that I’m willing to take at this point in time, give me the freedom to post what and when I want.  You’ll never see a paid post here or any content that I do not fully support.  So, what’s going well?  This guy.  Meet Loki.  If you follow me on social media, my Instagram is overflowing with his adorable face.  He makes me smile.  Gives endless cuddles.  Loves to nap.  And just wants to be with me.  Thanks, Loki, you are always a bright spot in my day!!

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What else is happening?  A lot!  After Ironman Lake Placid (read recap HERE), I took some down time, then was expecting to CRUSH the 70.3 distance at the Michigan Titanium race in Grand Rapids, MI on August 19th.  That didn’t go quite as expected.  I had visited a new chiropractor, who specialized in nerve damage (since I’m still having issues with my back and the lack of power in my legs), before the race.  Long story short, new chiro did a number on me that caused some serious damage that took a couple months to reverse.  So, I went to MiTi , not quite realizing how bad I was hurt.  I took a DNF after finishing the bike, which was absolutely agonizing.  I did not do a race report because I didn’t love the race, in fact, I thought some of the logistics were a total nightmare, especially for those traveling solo without a “crew” to help before/after the race.  I didn’t run any of the course, so had zero knowledge of the run segment.  And I don’t like to put negative things out on the net.  I’ve heard nothing but LOVE for the MiTi race, I’m definitely in the minority when it comes to not liking it.  And I didn’t want my lack of love for the race to look like I was just salty over a DNF.  The DNF had nothing to do with the race.  My body was not happy & it was NOT the day to tough it out.

Next.  I was signed up for the Dam2Dam Century Ride in Wabash, IN on September 9th.  I spent most of August recovering from the “incident” with the rogue chiropractor but still went to ride Dam2Dam with a friend, just as a fun ride.  It was fun alright.  After a full night of rain, the roads were very wet.  We left the Y in Wabash a bit ahead of the main group and were dressed in long sleeves & cool weather gear due to drizzly rain and cool temps.  We didn’t even make it out of town.  Around mile 1.27 (of a 104 mile ride), I came down a hill, hit a set of wet railroad tracks.  I went down.  Bounced my head off the pavement and the tracks.  To say that I was “dazed & confused“ from the fall is an absolute understatement.  Concussion. Nothing but sleep followed for weeks.  Thanks Loki, for being such a great cuddle & nap partner.  My family had zero idea what was happening with me.  I didn’t really understand either.  I slept for 20 hrs a day for weeks and everyone, except Loki, just thought I was crazy. PSA …. WEAR YOUR HELMET.  You never know when you are going to take a hit.  That’s why they are called accidents, we can’t predict when they will happen.  My helmet looks like someone tried to knock me off my bike with a baseball bat.  I had scabs on the back of my head for THREE weeks.  We won’t talk about the rest of the road rash.  My helmet probably saved my life.

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So I’m still messed up from the concussion, and I’m now 2 months “post concussion”.  I have issues with memory, counting money, temperature control, sensory issues with loud noise (if you have children, this is non-stop), visually I am bothered by bright and flashing lights, colors, and movement.  Its very easy to get overstimulated (and cranky). I’m tired all the time.  I spend most of my day just waiting to go to bed where its quiet, dark and warm.

I’m improving.  But the progress is slow.  I was planning to attempt to qualify for Boston at the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon this last weekend.  It was quite obvious, as the race approached, that I would not be able to sustain the necessary pace.  I can get in a solid 2 hours of running, at or below the required 8:45/mi pace.  But after the 2 hr mark, I just want to close my eyes and lay down.  Whether its lack of fitness for the training I missed.  Or the constant overstimulation of the bouncing people (myself included), bright colors, and constant movement, I  know not.  I only know that I currently do not want to run more than 2 hrs.  That’s what I feel good with and that will be my limit for a while going forward.  I did run Indy this last weekend.  I did finish.  I started slower than the 8:45/mi goal pace & tried to run happy.  But I was not happy.  It was just too much.  I finished.  I ran my 2 hrs.  Then when I wanted to stop, I ran/walked the last half of the race with a HUGE positive split.  I don’t have many rules when it comes to endurance sports but I do have one.  Don’t die.  So I’ll never push myself to the point that I feel like things are dangerous.  Finisher SWAG below.  Loki is wondering why I went to Indy without him and didn’t bring him anything better than this.  He is not amused. But Indy is still a great race.  I’m glad I got to finish something and end the year on a positive note in that regard.

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So, what’s next?  I don’t really know.  I’m registered for a few things.  But I’m going to take some time off and see if I can heal my brain.  Its no fun feeling like this.  I want to get better & I’ve just recently been enlightened regarding the current concussion protocol, so I’ll move forward with caution so that I can be the best PERSON I can be in the future.  I hope you all are having a stellar year!  I’ll catch you on the road soon enough.

** Cheers ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

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Ironman Lake Placid – 20th Anniversary – Race Report

I’ve been MIA for months & months.  Not racing.  Not socializing.  Just training and going thru the motions of life as a busy working parent.  The buildup to Ironman Lake Placid was the longest I’ve ever done without interspersing races to alleviate the boredom.  I usually run 10-12 marathons per year, in addition to racing 3-4 half ironman distance TRIs.  In 2018, I did one marathon prior to Lake Placid.  1 Olympic triathlon.  1 half iron distance triathlon.  Then IMLP on July 22, 2018.

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I trained for 25 weeks.  I had a couple cycles within the training plan, a little time off here and there to manage life. I did the best that I could, on all fronts, with this volume of training.  I hit most of my workouts, not necessarily as prescribed but usually managed the time or distance requirements, with a few exceptions.  I had a coach.  Do I recommend having a coach?  Yes.  Have I ever had a coach before, or felt like I needed one?  No.  However, the added volume required for this distance necessitated a clean buildup without any BS or extra workouts.  I didn’t want to mess this up in case I never had the opportunity to do it again.  As it was, I waited over 9 years to sign up for my first full iron distance race.  I didn’t want to blow it!

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Pre-Race!  Ironman races require packet pick up, pre-race meetings and bike check-in, all before race day.  As a result, this adds to the cost of the trip and the $$ that you’ll spend while visiting the area.  Lake Placid is one of the most expensive venues on the Ironman circuit.  If you are heading to Lake Placid, save your pennies and some dollars too!  We arrived on Thursday for the Sunday race.

Friday – Early morning practice swim & the Bacon Meat & Greet by Lake Mirror. Both were optional.

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Mirror Lake is very clean and clear.  Some of the best water I’ve swam in to date.  There is a famed cable that runs between the buoys.  If you can get on the cable or close to it, there isn’t much need to site on race day.  This makes the Lake Placid swim fast, if you can use the cable!  Beware, the buoys are connected to the cable.  If you are swimming over or “on top” of the cable, then be prepared to swim under the buoys!

Packet pickup & pre-race meeting – Mandatory.  We did both of these things on FRI.  Packet pick up was quick but did have a few extra steps, like weigh in.  Volunteers weighed each athlete & wrote the weight and which scales were used on the back of our bibs.  If there was a medical emergency, like dehydration, they had our pre-race baseline.  Scales used at packet pick-up are then transferred to the medical tent for consistency purposes.  Serious stuff.   Also serious, the pre-race meeting. Don’t miss it.  They have several and each venue is different.  This is where they give new info, tell about changes to the course, or make note of places that are dangerous.  And maybe, just maybe, Mike Reilly will make an appearance to toss out a few words of encouragement and motivation!

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Bike check-in is also mandatory, the day prior to the race.  I’d highly recommend taking the bike for a short spin before checking it in for the night.  Lots can happen in transit.  Make sure you don’t need any last minute adjustments before race day.  Lines for bike check-in were long.  We waited probably 20 minutes to get to the point where they took our bike, put it against a white screen, then photographed it.  Then it was returned to us, we waited another 15-20 minutes to get into transition, where each athlete had a volunteer escort them to their transition spot.  Then we said goodbye to our bikes.  Hung our Bike & Run bags on the hooks.  And walked away.

View of bikes, all racked in the Olympic Oval.  Source:  Ironman Lake Placid Facebook page

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View of my bike, seat sitting on #628.  Not a lot of room for the bikes since we didn’t have a normal transition set up.  Volunteers in T1 would go get the bikes off the rack & bring it to the end of the row for you.  Then there were “bike catchers” after the bike segment who would take your bike back to its transition spot.

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Race day!  The clouds were dark and rain was on the way!   We dropped our nutrition with our bikes.  Pumped tires.  Put our clothes & shoes in the “Morning Bag”, dropped it on the hook below our run/bike bags.  Then headed to the swim start.  It was a wetsuit legal day.  Meaning water temp was 76.1 degrees or below.  Happy Dance!!!  2.4 mile swim, here we come!

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Pro field took off at 6:20am.  Age groupers had a self-seeded, rolling start beginning at 6:40am with the goal of having everyone in the water by 7am.  2 loop swim course.  Between loop 1 and 2, athletes had to exit the water, run across the beach & re-enter the water.  Photo source:  Ironman Lake Placid Facebook Page (I don’t think this is the 2018 start).

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A couple things about the swim.  I don’t want to scare anyone but I think its important to address.  Mirror Lake is possibly the best water I’ve ever swam.  Until race day.  The water was still awesome but the athletes were VERY aggressive. I was at the back of the 1:11-1:20 group.  I thought I’d swim about 1:20.  I swam a 1:16. Maybe I should have been in the middle of this group, instead of at the back, but it shouldn’t have mattered much.  The people around me beat the crap out  of me.  Plus we were constantly passing swimmers who had started ahead of us, and who really wanted to swim the line.  It was total carnage.  I heard of people being punched (purposely), I head of lifeguards threatening to pull swimmers who were being too aggressive.  I saw swimmers hanging onto boats & rafts before we even got a couple buoys into the swim.  I saw a green swim cap on the bottom of the lake and am guessing the poor soul’s goggles were under the water, somewhere near the cap.  It was rough.  I erroneously assumed that if I held my line (which wasn’t even on “the line”) then I’d have clear water on the 2nd loop.  Well, I didn’t.  And it was worse cuz then we were passing the slower swimmers.  I gave up my position and navigated myself out of the way.  I lost 2+ minutes on that 2nd loop, I’m kinda mad about that.  But maybe it was the right thing.  The swim is supposed to be the easy part.  Relaxing.  Fun.  I was just mad and felt like I should have taken boxing classes to prepare.  IF by chance you are  not a strong swimmer, please swim very wide to avoid the crunch.  Apparently the swim gets crazy like this every year due to overcrowding.  My friend said she swam wide and was fine. So take note, swim wide.

Out of the water.  Run maybe 3 blocks to transition.  Grab Bike bag.  Go to changing tent.  Volunteers may be available to help you get changed.  When I was there, the tent was full and the volunteers were busy.  I got ready by myself, then ran out of the tent with my bike bag.  Wrong.  Don’t do that.  Thankfully a kind volunteer outside the tent offered to take it for me!  Run thru transition toward bike.  Yell out bike number.  Volunteer gets your bike & brings it to the end of the rack.  Run bike out of transition.  Mount bike at Bike Mount Line.  Transition 1 – 7:25.

On the bike.  Yikes.  Here come the mountains.  And the rain.  Hello rain.  Pelting rain.  Off for 2 loops – 112 miles total.  According to Ironman, each loop had approximately 4,182 feet of climbing, so total climbing on both loops = 8,364 feet.

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This was my weakest area.  I knew it. I’m a poor climber.  I rode every hill in my area, many, many times.  But nothing can compare.  I suffered.  I didn’t go fast.  I couldn’t go fast.

Downhill out of Lake Placid.  Toward the Olympic Ski Jumps, then the Keene Descent.  The infamous Keene Descent, which consisted of the majority of our descending for the entire loop, was something I was actually looking forward to but the pelting rain, and crazy winds took the fun out of it.  I’m a good downhill rider but I was upright, holding on for dear life, hoping the wind wouldn’t blow my wheels off the road surface.  Upper Jay.  Wilmington.  Out and back on Haselton.  Yay, got to see the family on Haselton because we stayed out that way!  Hello family!  Goodbye family!  Thru Wilmington toward Whiteface Mountain.  Turn on 86.  Detour thru the Whiteface Mountain Ski area.  Back on 86.  Goldilocks “hill”.  Momma Bear hill.  Baby Bear hill.  Papa Bear hill.  Just finished the “3 Bears” which wasn’t near as bad as some of the other “unnamed” hills.  Big hill up Northwood Road, back into Lake Placid.  Pass Lake Placid Lake.  On to loop 2.

Aid stations on the bike were every 10-12 miles.  Water, Gatorade, potties, bananas, oranges, Cliff products.  Medical support was usually in this area too.  Roads & intersections where we had turns were staffed by police or volunteers.  Some spectator support interspersed along the course.

It’s a tough bike course. Also breathtakingly beautiful.  This was one of my favorite areas going toward Keene.  My friend Elina G took this photo.  The entire area is amazing and definitely helped pass the time on the bike.  And I was on the bike forever.  7 hrs & 35 minutes, which was 35 minutes longer than I had even predicted.

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But I finally got my axx over the 3 Bears on the final loop and was headed back toward transition.  I cried a few tears.  It was about a minute of ugly cry.  I was so grateful to be headed toward my run shoes.  I wasn’t unduly chafed.  I wasn’t hurting.  I was just ready to get off the bike.

Rolled up to T2.  Dismounted at the Bike Dismount line.  Volunteers took my bike.  I walked to my Run bag.  Walked to the changing tent.  I was barefoot and there were a lot of rocks.  And I was tired.  Into the changing tent a volunteer helped me with sunscreen and getting ready to run.  She filled my bottle and mixed my Tailwind.  Then I was off & running. Yes, finally!  Lake Placid was my 50th marathon so it was a bit of a celebratory run for me.  T2 – 5:23

Two loop run course.  26.2 miles total.  Out & back course so I got to see all my friends multiple times.  Run out of town was awesome.  Downhill, my favorite!!  Saw Leslie B spectating.  She got this photo!  Thank you!

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Lots of people spectating, drinking and having a huge party along the run course.  Past the crowds, past the Olympic Ski Jump, out toward River Road.   Quiet, peaceful.  Nice views.  Some hills.  Ironman listed elevation as 1,604 per loop.  So that was a total climb of 3,208 ft.  To be honest, it didn’t seem that bad to me.  But then maybe I was just THAT happy to be off the bike.  There were some hills, yes.  Some big ones.  I would run part of the hill, then walk the rest of the way up.  My general strategy was run to the aid station.  Aid stations were every mile.  Walk THRU the aid station and make sure I got enough ice, water, coke, oranges, etc.  I really was in survival mode.  Keep moving. Keep the sugar going in to avoid low blood sugar.  I had a couple twinges in my quads while running.  Each time, I stopped immediately and took some salt capsules.  I was very focused on what my body needed to keep moving.  That was all that mattered.  I knew the finish would eventually present itself IF I just kept moving.

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Run was finally coming to an end.  That 2nd loop was a bit of a celebration for me.  And then once I got back to the big climb to get back into town, I was just happy knowing I was almost done.  I walked up the giant hill.  With all the spectators yelling and cheering.  Turned the corner for more climbing.  All while walking.  Then everything flattened out for a tiny out and back along Mirror Lake Drive.  Then into the Olympic Oval for the finish.  I was really cruising at this point.  I know everyone says to “take it all in” and not go too fast at the finish but I really just wanted to be finished.  I passed a lot of people on the carpet toward the finish.  I did have to slow at the finish because of a lady in front of me.  I knew I could pass her but then I knew she would probably be upset because she might not get her moment.  So I slowed up but then finally was finished.  Done, Done, DONE!!!  Yes!!  That’s me in the back with my hands up as Mike Reilly called my name.

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And just like that I’m an Ironman!  5:00 marathon for #50.  New York was my 30th state too in my quest to run a marathon in all 50 states.  I’m an Ironman.  A dream that was 9+ years in the making.  14 hrs & 5 minutes was my official time for the full day.

Lots of SWAG:

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Ironman Lake Placid is a great race.  This was the 20th anniversary and they have a rich tradition with Ironman.  I liked the race a lot.  Its difficult to set up a race of 140.6 miles and have things go pretty smoothly.  And I think overall the process from start to finish was smooth.  There were 2092 finishers and many who were not able to finish for a variety of reasons.  The distance is not something to take lightly.  It takes something more than being fit and a good training cycle to finish something like this.  It takes heart & courage.  And luck.  There are so many things that can go wrong that have nothing to do with the athlete or their preparation.  I’m very thankful that I was able to finish something like this.

The training cycle for the 140.6 distance is long.  And not so fun.  I was very thankful my friend Julie M was going thru this at the same time because she was my sounding board or “complaint department” when I was tired or grumpy or frustrated or just needed to talk.  Thanks, Julie for ALWAYS being there.  So happy that we took this journey together, even if we took different paths to get to the finish line!  Julie M  YOU ARE AN IRONMAN!  Congrats, girl!  So proud of you!!!

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And that’s a wrap!  Thanks to hubby for managing the house/dogs while I was training and racing this cycle.  Thanks to mom for coming on the trip with me and managing the kids when Julie & I were out and about doing Ironman things.  Thanks to Julie’s hubby, Joe for all he did for us in Lake Placid:  getting our bikes, entertaining the kids, driving the parents/kids to the finish.  Thanks to my coach Diana S for dealing with my hectic schedule and putting together a plan to get me to the finish without blowing me up before I got to the race.  Thanks to the Masters Swim coaches (Dave & Bill) at Jorgensen YMCA in Ft Wayne IN for making me a decent swimmer who can apparently take a beating.  And lastly, thanks to Ron K from FNA Outdoors in New Lenox IL for keeping me rocking & rolling on the bike for the last 5+ years.  Nobody can be an Ironman without an awesome bike … that also works great!

Thanks to YOU for reading this long report.  And if you made it this far, you might be wondering if I’ll be doing anymore Ironman races.  If you talked to me while I was training, I for sure said “one & done”. Yeah, well, I think I’m going to go to Louisville next year with some friends.  So yeah, I think I’ll do it again.  I have a few months to change my mind but I’ll probably sign up for Ironman Louisville, October 2019.

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Next up:  Dam to Dam Century Ride in Wabash IN (9/9/18) and the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon (11/3/18).

** Happy Racing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Grand Rapids Triathlon 70.3 & The USAT Athena/Clydesdale National Championship – 2018

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The Grand Rapids Triathlon is held the 2nd weekend of June in Grand Rapids, MI.  This year, the race was on June 10, 2018.  The GR TRI has also been the host of the  Athena/Clydesdale National Championship race for the last several years. 

What’s an Athena?  An Athena or Clydesdale is a classification by USAT (USA Triathlon) that is defined by the weight of the athlete.  The athlete must be 165(+) lbs as a woman, or 225(+) for a man.  This type of classification is not found in all triathlon races.  Ironman races will NOT have an Athena/Clydesdale division.  Most other “non-branded” triathlons will follow USAT guidelines and offer it as an option.  If you are an athlete who meets the weight requirements you get to CHOOSE if you want to race in that division.  Its not a requirement.  You may race your normal age group, if you want.  If you choose to race Athena/Clydesdale, you are pulled out of your normal age group and added to the Athena division for which you qualify.  For Nationals, the divisions were:  39 & Under, 40-59 and 60+.

Is there an advantage to racing the Athena division?  Depends on the race.  This can be a very competitive group of athletes.  Just because an athlete is 165 lbs or more, does not mean they are not fast.  We all come in a different package.  We have different strengths & weaknesses.  We are individuals.  I think options are good.  Over the last 10+ years, I’ve seen so many of the non-branded races disappear and get gobbled up by the big dogs.  I like to support non-branded races so that we have more options.  As a result, I felt like it was also important to support the Athena/Clydesdale division at Nationals because if we don’t race that division, it too will disappear.  So, I raced Athena at the USAT National Championships in Grand Rapids.  Race Review below.  Feel free to discuss your opinion on the Athena/Clydesdales division in the comments.  I know its controversial and I’d love to hear your opinion. 

Grand Rapids Triathlon Race Review

I needed an early season 70.3 this year to prep for IM Lake Placid in July.  The early season race that I did a couple years ago (Cutting Edge Half Triathlon 70.3 in Effingham, IL) was no longer in operation.  My options were Grand Rapids or the IM 70.3 Wisconsin in Madison.  Grand Rapids was closer.  Non-branded.  Cheaper.  And home of the 2018 Athena/Clydesdales National Championships. It was an easy decision for me to try Grand Rapids and I am so glad I did! 

It was a 2.5 hour drive to Grand Rapids from the Ft Wayne, IN area.  Straight to packet pick-up.  Plenty of free parking.  Decent sized expo.  Several vendors.  Organized packet pick up & race meeting.  Lots of SWAG.  Race number tattoos!!  Plus a separate area for the Athena/Clydesdale athletes to go for packet pick up and weigh in.  Yes, we all had to weigh in to participate in the championships.  Since my predominant distance is the 70.3, there aren’t a lot of non-branded races that offer that distance.  Therefore, I race Ironman more often than not.  In Ironman, as mentioned above, there is NOT an Athena division.  So I haven’t had much opportunity to race this division.  I was not surprised that I had to weigh in but I was surprised that they had the scales behind a privacy screen.  Everything was very nicely done & respectful in regards to recording our weight.  If we did not weigh in at least 5 lbs over the minimum (170(+) at the expo), then we would have to reweigh on race morning, in our race kit.  Shoes off for the weigh in!  They were very determined to make sure that everyone met the weight requirement.  Not an issue for me.  I did not have to reweigh on race morning. Smile   Photo below from GR TRI Facebook page – if you are one of these lovely ladies in this picture, let me know so I can tag you!

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Race morning.  There were various parking areas around the race site in Ada, MI.  We parked at the Amway Headquarters, then put our transition bags on our back and rode to the race site.  Maybe a mile or so.  The other option was walking or being dropped off, if you had spectators/shepras.  Spectators could take a shuttle but no bikes on the shuttles!  We did ride to the race site in the dark but it was drama free on closed roads which were partially lit.  The weather was cool & overcast.  And there was nothing but smooth water looking out at the inlet of the Thornapple River where we would be swimming. 

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Transition was LONG and narrow.  Very long.  The 70.3 athletes were positioned closest to the “bike out”.  Good news for us.  Transition spaces were not marked individually, just a series of numbers per rack.  First come, best spot!  I got an end spot!  Leslie B’s mom got a picture of a few of us setting up transition.  I’m in the rear right of the photo, my side/back is to the camera.  I’m in a navy & orange kit.

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Team Stella Fly got this photo below of transition, from the front.  I was down the line much further, past the yellow port-o-potty.  This might be 1/3 of transition.  Maybe.  I was WAY past the potties.  But great shot! 

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Swim started at 7am sharp.  1.2 miles.  The Athenas & Clydesdales were in the first wave and we had fresh, calm water ahead of us!!  Of course, it didn’t take long for the 2nd wave to catch up but it was still nice.  5 minutes between each wave.  Start is below (from the GR TRI Facebook page):

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Heading toward a yellow buoy hidden by the trees.  Maybe I’m in there somewhere?  Photo courtesy of GR TRI Facebook page.

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Out of the water in record time (for me!!), even though I swam a little extra.  Smile  Straight to the wetsuit strippers.  Such a nice perk!  I love races with wetsuit strippers.  Since I hurt my back a couple years ago, getting in and particularly OUT of my wetsuit is a real challenge.  The “strippers” really help me so much!!  Thank you!!!!

Long dash to transition, then THRU transition.  Trying not to crash into anyone from the shorter races who were leisurely walking thru the area before their races.  Heart rate was definitely up by the time I got to my spot!  Wetsuit & swim cap down.  Goggles …..ooops, lost my goggles somewhere.  Helmet on.  Glasses.  Shoes.  Go, go, GO!  Out of transition.  Bike mount line.  Plenty of room but its always important to focus on getting on the bike, clipping in correctly and not rushing too much and hurting yourself or anyone else.  I’ve seen so many accidents on or around the bike mount line over the years.  And the people who do the flying mounts, well …. good luck, I’m just going to move to the side and safely mount my bike.  I’m not “flying” anywhere.  Winking smile 

Bike course is an out and back.  56 miles. Lots of volunteers.  Most roads had police or volunteers to direct traffic.  Thank you!!!  A few hills.  2 aid stations (that we hit 2x).  Headwind going out.  Tailwind coming home.  6 miles of VERY rough road at the turnaround.  OUCH. 

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Slow first half.  Faster 2nd half.  My legs were toast the entire time. Quads were BURNING.  I had a poor bike split.  Whether my back is to blame.  Or my training volume for Lake Placid.  Or maybe something was just off, not really sure, but it was a tough day on the bike.  I wasn’t 1/3 of the way into it and both feet were numb & my left hip/glute/hamstring were screaming at me.  I had to be VERY careful when I dismounted my bike and ran back into transition on numb feet.  I was wondering how long the feet would stay numb.  It was a very odd sensation, one I haven’t had before, but alas it passed once I put on my run shoes & got going.  So thankful!  Awesome volunteers below as we were approaching T2.  Pic courtesy of the GR TRI Facebook page.  I just love FB, don’t you?!?!

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I hustled thru T2 as much as possible with numb feet, dodging people who weren’t in as big of a hurry as myself.  But it wasn’t horrible.  Bike back on rack.  Helmet, glasses off.  Shoes on, slowly cuz well, my feet where NUMB.  WTHeck?!?  Race belt.  Visor, no, I don’t need the visor today.  Go, go, GO! 

Out of T2 & onto the run.  Thank the good Lord, I’m off that damn bike.  I have a love hate relationship with the bike.  I love my bike.  Its good to me.  It’s a great bike.  I just want to be better.  A lot better.  And I don’t really understand why its so freaking hard for me?!?!  But I’m running now.  2 loops.  Out and back course.  Aid stations every 1.5 miles.  4 total aid stations on course, which we passed 2x.  Lots of support out there.  Lots of food. Ice.  Water.  Coca Cola.  2 hills, which we passed 2x.

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I like loop and out/back type courses specifically when I have friends racing.  I did get to see several people on the run, some I saw 2x.  I was motivated to not let one of my fast teammates pass me on the run.  So I did push a bit faster than I probably would have normally, just trying to get around that first loop before he passed me to finish.  I made it.  Whew!  Overall a great day.  It was overcast most of the day which helps me a lot.  I melt in the heat.  It wasn’t cool but it wasn’t hot.  And I had the overcast skies on my side. 

Overall, I thought Grand Rapids was a top notch race.  I’ll definitely go back.  I was impressed.  Great area.  Well organized.  Lots of support and volunteers.  Vendors.  Lower fees than branded races.  GREAT swag!  And I was fortunate to be part of the Clydesdale & Athena National Championships where I placed 2nd in my division!  WhooHooooo!

SWAG – Race Tank, Finishers Visor, Event poster, Athena/Clydesdale National Championship water bottle, Quench Gum, HexArmor Cold Rush cooling towel, plus a few other things from the expo.  See photo below.

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2nd place Athena – 40-59 Division.  Me, Leslie B & Nikki W on the podium.  My friend Andé from IL, also got 2nd (with a MUCH faster time) in the 39 & Under Division.  Great to see old friends & make some new ones!

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Up close.  Green medal is the finishers medal for the GR 70.3 with the Clydesdale/Athena National Championship lanyard.  USAT medal for placing top 3 in the National Championships.  2nd place plaque for my division from GR TRI. 

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The Grand Rapids Triathlon is partnered with MI Titanium.  They offer a Double Down Challenge for anyone who does both races.  I guess I’m headed to MI Titanium now on August 19th.  Gotta get that Double Down medal and check out the MI Titanium race.  I’ve heard great things and am looking forward to another race with this group.  Hope to see you there!  Like Grand Rapids TRI, there are a lot of distances & options to choose from, even Aquabike & Duathlon if you don’t like to swim!  See you in August!

Next up:  Ironman Lake Placid on July 22, 2018.

Happy TRIing ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Muncie May Triathlon – Muncie, IN

It can be a bit challenging to find an early season triathlon that gives you everything you want and more!  I registered for the Muncie May Triathlon this year after my beloved Pokagon Triathlon was discontinued.  This race is put on by American Multisport & is in Muncie, IN.  This group puts on several triathlons throughout the year, of varying distances, with races taking place at the Prairie Creek Reservoir.  This is the same location as the IM 70.3 Muncie event that is held each year in July.  Great way to check out the venue in a low key setting.

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The Muncie May event is in mid May, May 12th for 2018 and May 18th for 2019.  One of the first open water events in the Midwest.  However, the Prairie Creek Reservoir is on the shallow side so the water heats up quickly with a few nice days.  The race this year was wetsuit legal with water temp around 63 degrees.  That being said, many events at the reservoir are NOT wetsuit legal, so watch for current info on their website & Facebook page

So what’s the scoop on this race?!?! 

The Muncie May TRI is a great event for athletes of  varying abilities.  They offer an Olympic distance, Oly relay, Sprint, Sprint Relay, Super Sprint, Duathlon, Du Relay, Sprint Du, Sprint Du relay, & Aquabike.  That’s a lot of options and I hope I didn’t miss anything! 

Race starts at 9am with a race day packet pickup option.  Therefore, you can easily drive in the morning of the event if you are within 3 hours of Muncie.  Packet pick-up was easy & quick.  Body marking on site.  Practice swim area open and available to those who want it.  And the water is usually pretty calm.

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Small intimate venue at Prairie Creek Reservoir.  Indoor bathrooms & showers.  On site parking.  If you’ve only been to the Reservoir for the IM event, then go back for an American Multisport event.  Totally different atmosphere.  Small parking area.  Small transition area.  Very low key race at the same great venue. 

Races start at 9am.  Super sprint first, then sprint, then Olympic.  I did the Olympic and the times estimates were a bit off as to when we got in the water.  They waited for everyone in the previous category to get out of the water before the next group got started.  Safety first!  Then we self seeded and got into the water in pairs.  Very easy.  No drama. No fighting.  Nobody swam over the top of me.

Once we hit the water, it was noticeably rough on this particular day.  The wind was really blowing and the current in the water was pushing us off course a bit.  Tougher swim that usual at this venue.  The swim was counter clockwise too, opposite direction of the IM event.  1.5K swim for the Olympic, which is 1600 yds.  I swam 1800 though just for fun, or maybe I had trouble staying on course with the wind & waves.  Smile

Once out of the water, there was a short run to transition.  Small transition but it wasn’t chaotic.  Smooth sailing in and out.  Then on to the bike course which had some new pavement!  Olympic distance was a 2 loop bike course.  The wind which gave us some hassle in the swim was in full force on the bike.  Yes!  Love a challenge, right?  A few tiny hills but only 577 ft of ascent on the two loops and a total of 25.3 miles. 

Back to transition for T2.  Just as easy as T1.  Not crowded.  Easy in and out.  On to the run which was an out and back course for the 10K.  Same route as the IM event in July.  Small rolling hills.  213 ft of elevation gain for the 10K.  Warm.  Its always warm. There is a bit of shade on the back side of the out/back but overall, its usually sunny in this area.  Make sure to not forget a hat or visor.  This venue is good about having ice due to its notoriously warm runs.  So ask for ice, even if you don’t see it out.  I did and they did have some in coolers.  Took me an extra minute at a couple of the aid stations but it was worth it because I heat up fast. 

Overall a GREAT race.  I’ll definitely be back.  Registration is open for 2019 and I’m considering registering early for that event.  I’m also looking at my calendar to see if I can fit in another American Multisport event before the year is out.  Lots to choose from between now & September.  And bottom line, if we like our “non-branded” events, we need to support them by showing up and racing so they stick around for years to come.  Too many great races have been discontinued because of lack of participation!  So let’s race American Multisport!!

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Other than a great race, they also provide great SWAG.  See below for the pullover & finishers medal.  I’m wearing the pullover right now.  Lightweight & perfect!

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My next race is the Grand Rapids TRI.  Another “non-branded” event.  Sprint, Oly, 70.3 & Aquabike in each distance. Still time to register!  Race is on June 10th.  Hope to see you there!!

** Give it a TRI ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Tobacco Road Marathon Race Review

Its been six weeks since the Tobacco Road Marathon but I still want to review the race for those who might be interested in putting this on their future calendar. 

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The Tobacco Road Marathon was on March 18, 2018 in Cary, NC.  Close to Durham & Chapel Hill.  The race venue is the Thomas Brooks Park & USA Baseball Fields.  Race is  traditionally held on a Sunday and requires travel to the area on Friday or Saturday to pick up race packets.  Small expo at a local hotel.  Easy & fast, in and out.  A few vendors, like my favorite girl, Gypsy Runner

If your traveling with the family, there isn’t a lot to do in this area (or maybe we just didn’t know where to look?).  Beautiful area though.  New neighborhoods.  Nice homes.  Cute boutique like shopping areas.  Nice.

Race day started bright and early like always.  Getting to the race site required some planning.  There was a local pick up area in Cary called NetApp, where people could park & get shuttled to/from the race site.  There were a few onsite parking spots that required pre-purchased parking passes.  Then there was runner drop off at the venue.  Fortunately, my daughter now has her license.  GASP!  She was able to drop me off, then drive back to the hotel with her little brother, then return to pick me up.  This race would have been challenging, logistics wise (as a mom with kids & no other adult to supervise), had she not been able to drive.  I’ve taken them to a lot of races & I usually pick a hotel on the race course or close to the start/finish so they can sleep in at the hotel, then come to the race when they are ready.  This race started at the park, then ran to the American Tobacco Trail, stayed on the American Tobacco Trail, then ran back to the park for the finish.  You need access to a car to get to packet pick up and to/from the race.  No shuttles for local hotels.  No way to spectate without access to a car.

On to the race!  The important part, right?  Please note that the majority of these photos are courtesy of Amy at Gypsy Runner.  I wanted to ring the PR bell, so knew I couldn’t waste time with photos.  Thanks, Amy for always helping me out!  I love seeing your smiling face at expos and out on the marathon courses! 

We got to the race early.  The race started at 7am but the parking areas shut down at a certain time.  I think they wanted everyone in the parking area by 5:30 so that the shuttle buses could come/go without issue.  It was cool.  Probably upper 40s at the start and while we were waiting.  I rarely take throw away clothes but did this time because I wasn’t planning to check a bag.  The plan was to run the race, finds the kids, leave.  We were headed to Disney World for Spring Break & this was just a pit stop for momma to grab another state! 

The race started promptly at 7am.  Start/Finish area was easy to find, just down from the row of port-o-potties.  It was still dark when we started the race but the area was well lit around the bathrooms & the start/finish area.  Photo courtesy of the Tobacco Road Marathon Facebook page:

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We left Thomas Park with an incline to get out of the park and onto the road.  Key to remember because that’s a downhill to the finish line!  Couple other rolling hills in the 2.5 miles from the park to the American Tobacco Trail.  Then the marathoners had 21 miles on the ATT.  Very few turns.  If you are ever afraid of getting lost, this is the type of race for you.  There was never any question as to where to go or where to turn.  It was very well ran, volunteers were great.  All road crossings were patrolled. 

The race was advertised as fast & flat.  As a Midwest gal, I know flat.  Any race that claims to be flat, will probably have more hills than I can get when I make an effort to FIND hills to run.  I wasn’t sure what to expect with this race.  I will say that it was pretty flat.  There were a few rollers to/from the ATT.  Once on the ATT (where we ran 21 of the 26.2 miles), it was pretty flat.  This was an old rail trail.  So the inclines/declines were not visible, you’d just feel it in your legs.  On a slight decline, you could feel the load lighten and the pace got easier.  On the incline, you couldn’t really “see” it but you could tell you were going up because it took more effort to hold the pace.  But honestly, I heard some people complain post race about the elevation, Garmin showed 735 ft of gain, Strava showed 819 ft for the entire race.  Small gains & losses over time.

The ATT was a mix of crushed limestone and asphalt. Mostly tree lined with giant pines which provided a break from the wind and the sun.  Temps started in the upper 40s but climbed to the 60s while we ran.  Humidity was low to non-existent.  I don’t do well in heat & humidity so while I did notice that it was getting warmer toward the end, it didn’t effect my performance.

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There were 9 aid stations on course, most of which we hit 2x since the trail was an out and back.  All stations were well stocked with fluids, food items & there were port-o-potties! 

On the ATT, we headed out to the north initially, then flipped between mile 8 & 9.  Then headed back south, past our point of entry until another turn around between mile 18 & 19.  As always, that last turn around always feels great.  I also am a huge fan of out and backs, particularly when I know people running.  Watching the other runners makes me happy. I like to encourage them, cheer for the fast people at the front & it distracts me from the task at hand. 

Not a ton of spectators.  Logistics put most spectators at a trail head that intersected with a road we were crossing.  Some dogs.  A few signs.  But everyone was enthusiastic & encouraging. 

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I really liked this race.  I picked it for a few reason.  Fast, flattish, few turns, smaller number of runners & the fact that most of it was on a rail trail which would feel a lot like my old training runs.  Some people run better on Saturday mornings with their friends than at big venues with long waits & a bazillion spectators.  I’m probably more of the Saturday morning girl than the “wait & shiver for 2 hours before the major marathon” girl. 

I knew I wanted to try to run faster since I’m not allowed many races this year.  I’m in the midst of training for Ironman Lake Placid.  When I run less races, I’m faster.  No brainer there.  And my back is feeling the best it has in several years.  I’m not 100% but to be honest, this is probably as good as its going to get.  Also, it was important to plan and execute a race strategy, just to know that I can do it.  After Lake Placid, I’m going to take a break and then see if I can qualify for Boston.  This race time was not anywhere what I need to run a BQ but it was all about planning & executing. 

I did have a snafu leading up to the race (pulled something in my foot) so went with Plan B vs Plan A, in the name of being smart & facing down a lot more training for Lake Placid in the next few months.  I started with the 4:10 pacers with the plan of running away from them before the finish.  I figured I could easily gain a couple minutes and drop into a 4:08 before I hit the line, if I was smart.  That’s really the hardest part, being smart.  And patient.  The first half of the race feels so easy, its hard not to just go with it and run faster.  Well, take my advice, going faster than the plan is a good way to blow up.  I used to run less races & try to go faster but I always blew up.  I would go out too fast!  Every time.  That’s really how I started running more races.  I decided that I worked too hard for ONE race, for it not to end in the result I wanted.  I decided I could run  A LOT of races and have a A LOT of fun, and  really my times weren’t any slower than going out too fast & blowing up. 

Anyhow, shout out to the 4:10 pacers.  They did a great job.  I even dropped back 2 different times to get something out of my FlipBelt.  The one pacer checked on me both times & basically “yelled at me” to close the gap & regain contact.  I will say that the added pressure that someone was waiting on me did help to make sure I didn’t fall off pace.  They even told the runners to start floating away from them as we got close to the finish, that a pacers job was to finish alone, on time, with all their runners ahead of them.  Smile  I had already started moving ahead after we got off the ATT in the last 2.5 miles.  That was the last thing I heard them say as I was pulling away.  And I was able to ring the PR Bell at the finish!  4:08:09 was my chip time.  Good day!

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Overall a great race.  There were 1088 full marathoners that started the day, 884 finishers.  The half started 2277 runners & 2202 finished.  Great race, if you are looking for a fast run.  Since most of the race is on the trail, the camber of the road is not as much of an issue as in other races.  Not too crowded. Just enough aid & support.  Low entry fee!  Definitely a good one. 

This was my 27th state, 49th marathon.  My 50th marathon will be at the end of Ironman Lake Placid.  Now that’s going to hurt.  LOL!

** Hope you are all healthy & running happy ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

2018 – New Goals

My primary goal is to run a marathon in every state.  However, I also love triathlon.  I’ve been meshing my love for running and triathlon for many years now.  I believe my first triathlon was in 2004 and then I really started doing more events in 2007.  However, Mr. Michael made his appearance in 2009, shortly after I caught the Ironman bug.  Little man is 8 now!  Time flies …..

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As a working mom with two kids and a hectic life, Ironman was put on hold.  I didn’t even ride my bike for several years after Michael was born.  I ran.  Because that is something I can do anywhere, for any amount of time and it helps me relieve stress. But the time on the bike was just too much for me as a working mom with a new baby.  So my bike sat on the trainer for 1309 days without seeing the light of day.  I rode occasionally for workouts but never outside. Once I dusted off my bike, I decided to focus on races that I could manage with the family, job and my other responsibilities.  I decided that I would “specialize” in the 70.3 distance.  Not register for an expensive race and haul all my gear unless it really counted.  It had to be worth it for me to be away from the kiddos.  Once Michael arrived, that’s kinda how life went.  Cut the crap.  Keep what’s really important.  I didn’t want to lose sight of myself but I also didn’t need to run every 5K in town unless there was another reason to go, like when Aby started running.  Aby’s first 5K below in spring 2011.  This race had free daycare for Mr. Michael.  So freaking awesome (Ringing In Spring 5K, Valparaiso, IN).

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This was also the time that I really started embracing the long run.  Michael was a crazy baby.  He was not happy unless I was holding him and to be honest, I just needed to get away sometimes to clear my head and leave the screaming behind.  I loved my little man but yes, I needed a break.  To this day, I see women who refuse to leave their babies to even go for a run, and I cringe.  Most mom’s need time away from their babies to think and reflect.  I could never do that while pushing a jog stroller, constantly handing the little one snacks, stopping to pick up juice cups, etc.  There were times that I ran with the stroller because the choices were treadmill or stroller run.  I’ve also ran plenty 20 milers on the treadmill for lack of other options.  I did what I had to do but honestly, I cherished my solo long runs more than anyone could possibly imagine.  Through this time, my love for the longer distances really developed.  Hey, the longer I ran, the longer I had quiet time, it didn’t matter if I had to run in the dark to get it.  Eventually, I cut most other distances to focus on the marathon.  Best bang for my buck and the marathon is ALWAYS a challenge.  I didn’t want to leave the kids unless it counted.  So I pared down my races to the distance I felt was worthy of time away from the kiddos. 

Enough chit chat.  Now, what’s the big goal for 2018?  I’m sure you’ve already figured it out.  Ironman.  I registered for Ironman Lake Placid, July 2018. 

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My first, and quite possibly only, full Ironman.  Yes, I’ve been waiting for this since 2008.  Yes, the time is finally here.  In case you’re not familiar with triathlon type races, this is a 140.6 mile event.  2.4 miles of swimming, 112 miles of biking, 26.2 miles of running.  There are non-branded triathlons which cover the same distance; however, Ironman has made a name for itself as offering some of the best triathlon races in the world. 

I picked Lake Placid almost by default.  I wanted a race that I could drive to so that I didn’t need to ship my bike.  I wanted a race that was not during XC/Football or Track/Baseball season.  That really narrowed things down.  Lastly, I wanted a new state.  The marathon at the end of the Ironman counts as a state for the 50 States Marathon Club.  This made the outrageous registration fee a little more palatable.  I get to tackle something new, a bucket list item per se, but I’m also still moving me forward in my 50 State goal.  Win, Win.

So if you’re in Lake Placid, NY over Ironman weekend, look for me.  I’ll try to post more as my training gets under way.  Until then, if you need me, I’ll probably be riding my bike.  You will find me at a couple warm up races this spring/summer.  But everything is in prep for the big day in Lake Placid on July 22nd:

At some point, I’ll figure out post IM season.  But for now, this is it. 

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Cheers to a Happy, Healthy 2018.  I hope that you get to try something new and move something from your bucket list into the DONE column. 

** Life is All About the Story ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

The Huff 50K Trail Run …. 2017 Edition

Saturday was the annual Huff 50K Trail Run.  Huff is known for bringing something new and unique each year.  The 2012 race brought epic flooding.  2016 brought 6 inches of fresh powder to the start and then added freezing rain atop the snow (and us) for the entirety of the race.  2017 will go down in history as one of the coldest years on record.  Temps at the start were below zero with wind chills, then plummeted further thru the day for an average of –13 to –15 “feels like” during the bulk of the race.  It was a long day for those who were able to finish and there was a large number of runners who had to drop out, or were not allowed to continue after the completion of the first loop, due to weather related concerns.

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The Huff 50K offers a 1 loop “fun run” of approximately 11 miles, a 3 person 50K relay & a 50K trail run.  I’ve ran, and managed to complete, the 50K every year since 2013.  I’ve had good years & bad years.  Ones that were tough because I wasn’t up to par physically.  Ones that were brutal due to weather like 2016 & 2017.  I love this race and will continue to run it as long as I am able.  It’s a great way to end my racing season each year.  Its close to home.  And  love that we can pick up our packets the morning of the race!  Win, win, win!

This year, due to the cold temps, I left my phone in my check bag.  My iPhone has a very short battery life & the cold kills it almost instantly.  None of the photos you see in this post are mine.  Thanks to Tadd B, Stacey H & Sara P for sharing their photos so I could add something visual to this write-up!.

Pre-race with Tadd B & Pat H.  I’m the one in bright orange. 

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The race started at 8am for the 1 loop runners.  At 8:20 for the 50K runners.  The course is different for each race.  For the 50K race, there are 3 aid stations on each loop.  Located at miles 4, 8 & 14.  Then the warming tent at the start/finish which is also the half way point of the 50K can be used as an aid station.  Other than the aid stations, there are only a few road crossings.  This is not a race that you can cut short in very many places if an injury, illness or other issues result.  I heard some criticism from some who were not allowed to go out for a second loop of the 50K due to time & weather issues.  I can say from a safety standpoint, it was imperative to have runners off the trail by dark.  Then if we add in the weather concerns, the second loop of the 50K was cold. Really cold.  Plus the trails were drifting from the blowing wind & snow.  It was a bit of a challenge.   I had to have my face covered almost the entirety of that loop to avoid frostbite. Our bodies were burning extra energy to try to keep warm, in addition to the running, so fueling was a huge issue.  And the volunteers at the aid stations were FREEZING trying to support us.  More respect needs to be given to the race officials and volunteers for these races.  Nobody wants to cancel or shorten a race.  Its bad publicity, especially in this age of social media.  However, they are liable for each and every runner.  They have to do what they think is best for everyone, runners & volunteers included.

We had about 3” of snow on the ground.  Flurries during the race. Roads were iced over with a little snow on top.  It was a much better situation running wise than the deeper snow and freezing rain of 2016.  However, it was still a tough race.  Tough but beautiful.IMG_5751

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Lots of hills.  Lots of slipping and sliding.  Running for most of us was slow going.  I was amazed by the varying degrees of dress.  I was focused on keeping my face covered to avoid frost bite, yet there were people running in shorts, or less.  The conditions were dangerous.  I wouldn’t recommend running with exposed skin when the temps are below zero. 

Sara & I in the pines on loop 1.  One of my favorite areas. 

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Pure joy as we cross the half way mat (after I stopped to put on my yaktrax). 

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And then the wind hit us.  Cold.  Strong.  Blowing us around.  Trying to cover the tracks of those before us.  Time to put our heads down and just run.  The yaktrax were a welcome addition to loop 2.  They helped A LOT in the areas that were packed down and in the slippery areas.  I wish I had worn them for the first loop but thought the snow was probably too deep for them to do much good.  I’ll definitely wear them for all snowy trail runs going forward.  My footing was a lot better after I put them on. 

The wind made the temperature drop further but I was warm.  My clothing was perfect:  Athleta Polartec tights, Injinji over the calf compression socks, thin Under Armour Long Sleeve Infrared tech shirt, Nike Pro Hyper Warm Fleece Lined 1/2 Zip, Saucony Vita Run Vizipro jacket, ear band, hat, balaclava, lined gloves with a an extra pair of throw away gloves that had hand warmers inside.  I used the throw away gloves with hand warmers at the start for a several miles, then again on loop 2 after a lengthy stop at an aid station.  Only difference between loop 1 & loop 2 was that I had to keep my face covered the majority of the second loop due to the added wind. 

Best Aid Station Ever at Dock Lake.  Team Tritanium ran the aid station again with the Huff Couch.  Two fires were burning.  Smores, gluten free chicken noodle soup, homemade sweet bread, plus the usual ultra fare. 

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But really the best part is always the finish.  My 5th Huff 50K is in the done column.  I hope to be back for #6 in 2018.  See the finishers medal and cool handmade soup mug below.  Lots of fun. 

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Finisher stats:  50K – 118 Finishers, 57 DNFs; 1 Loop Fun Run:  139 Finishers, 5 DNFs.  Relay – 24 Finishing teams, 5  DNFs, 3 DQs. 

As always, a great race.  If you are going to run in the winter, I’d recommend layering up and minimizing exposed skin.  There will always be people running with very little on but honestly, that’s just not safe. Be smart & enjoy the beauty of the season.  Running is a great way to get out and enjoy the winter months and keep those Winter Blues away!

** Happy Running ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Wildwood Trail Marathon Race Review– Wildwood MO

I ran the Wildwood Trail Marathon in Wildwood MO on Sunday.  It was my 47th marathon (or longer).  I’m a runner who loves to run.  I love the trails and the serenity.  However, I’m not a real trail runner.  Let’s not squabble over the fact that “if I run trails, then I’m a trail runner”.  You know what I mean.  I’m a road runner.  I enjoy the road under my feet.  A solid surface that does not move.  One where I probably won’t trip over something that I can’t see because its covered by a forest of leaves.  One where sharp rocks don’t jut out at every step.  One where if I fall, I won’t stress about sliding down the bluff in the process.  Road runner.  Yep, that’s me. 

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Now that is has been clarified that I’m a road runner, my report follows. 

The Wildwood Trail marathon is self described as scenic & fast.  Good for road and trail runners, experienced and beginners alike. I’ve ran a lot of road races, plus my fair share of trail races.  So I feel well versed and able to give a realistic point of view.  Scenic, yes, in spots.  It’s a beautiful run thru the woods.  This race, unlike others I have ran, consisted of a lot of rock based trails.  Most trail runs are on dirt trails.  Wildwood has a lot of rock.  Not to make this too simple but the bluffs are made of rock.   The dirt wears away & only rock is left in spots.  Second pic below shows it well.  That looks like a well worn dirt trail, right?  No.  Its solid rock.  Somewhat smooth surface in some spots.  Jagged rocks sticking out in other spots.  Pics below are from the Bluff View Trail.

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The race started at a school, right off the Hamilton-Carr paved trail.  Then we hit a crushed stone & dirt type trail called the Al Foster Memorial Trail.  This lead us to the first detour, the Bluff View Trail which was about 2 miles into the race.  That’s where things started to get interesting.  The trail (seen above) was 2.5 miles of single track, some slanted to one side or the other, winding up the Bluff for an awesome lookout.  The Bluff View Trail provided some of the most scenic views of the day to the Crescent Valley below.

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After climbing the Bluff Trail, we made a small loop & returned the same way we went up. I must say that after staring at the course map for days, I really didn’t understand it.  But thankfully, the race was marked very well and there was never a question as to where we were headed.  Course map below.  One note, it would have been super helpful if the course map had mile markers.  For those of us unfamiliar with the area, we never really knew where we were at any given moment.  I had the map in my head but as you are climbing, climbing, climbing and maneuvering the switchbacks, everything is very focused.  It would have been great to know that I just had to manage the climb/terrain until mile x, then I would get some relief. 

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December can be tricky but we had a beautiful day with the sun shining on us.  Made me happy.

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Dry trails.  Leaves cushioning the rock.  And a few breathtaking views.  After the Bluff Trail, we hit the Rock Hollow Trail with the infamous Zombie Heights.  This was by far the toughest section (on the map it’s the tall section of zig zags, middle of the map) and I was zombie like, just watching the ground and trying to navigate the terrain.  Rock, switchbacks, lots of technical sections, all on a single track of rock and/or dirt.  We spent a lot of time hiking in this section for safety reasons.  My legs felt good but I can only go as fast as I feel safe.  I’m not a super coordinated person.  I’m not exactly clumsy but I do try to be careful.  So we saw a lot of 20  minute miles in this section.  Took forever to get thru it.  This was approximately mile 6 through 14.  Pics below of this section show the varied terrain.

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After Rock Hollow and Zombie Heights, we had a nice flat section back on the Al Foster Memorial Trail heading to Sherman Beach.  Easy terrain.  Well packed.  Fast section. 

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Sherman Beach was a hot spot.  By the time we got there, a lot were already headed back to the finish.  Lucky them.  But this was an important area.  First, the only port-o-potty on course was here. It was also the 3rd & 4th aid station.  And this is where the cut-off happened.  Once passing thru the Sherman Beach aid station (mile 15.5ish), there was a 7.5 mile loop.  We had to be back to that aid station by 2:30pm or we wouldn’t be allowed to finish.  Technically we had plenty of time.  But if we ran into a section of 20 min miles, then the cutoff was in jeopardy.  I must say this is the first time I ever really thought about a cutoff (in any race) and it was stressful! 

Leaving Sherman Beach we had a short section of flat, well groomed trails.  Then we hit the tunnels.  Concrete, manmade tunnels.  I had to bend over and walk thru them, they were short in height and long in length.  A volunteer on a bike told us that he would see us in 2 miles, once we hit the tunnels.  Must say this might have been the longest 2 miles of my life.  The tunnels lead to the Cedar Bluff Trail.  Obviously a short 2 mile jaunt.  Not as technical as the Zombie Heights but we had to be on our toes. And we were apparently rushing because of the cutoff.  Both my run partner & myself fell in this section.  Hard.  Blood & bruises the result. 

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Once we were back to the tunnels, things got much better.  We hit a network of trails by the Meramec River.  These trails consisted of dirt & sand.  Well groomed.  Lots of people riding bikes, walking dogs & hanging out.

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And then eventually the Stinging Nettle trail which was a sand trail taking us back to the 4th aid station at Sherman Beach.  Well AHEAD of the cutoff.  Smile   Tamyra below on the Stinging Nettle trail.

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After Sherman Beach, there was an easy, flat run back to the finish on the Al Foster & Hamilton Carr trails.  Photographer caught us in this section.  Yep, I’m dirty.  I fell down somewhere along Cedar Bluff.

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This marathon was approximately 25.77 miles.  If you are a 50 States Marathon Club runner who is trying to run all the states, don’t use this one for Missouri or you’ll be short & it won’t count.  Trail runs are always questionable in distance since you go where the terrain takes you.  Very normal. 

So, was this race scenic & fast?  Yes. Obviously scenic.  But its also one of the faster trail marathons that I’ve ran thanks to several flat sections where you can run faster.  Good for beginners & experienced runners alike?  Maybe.  The flat sections help a lot.  But there was a lot of technical spots too.  Anyone can do it.  But they really have to be invested in it.  So yes, good for anyone as long as they are committed & ready to go the distance no matter what the trails present.

Overall, great race.  Great volunteers.  Only 4 aid stations.  Stocked with trail running basics:  Coca Cola, Ginger Ale, peanut M&Ms, cookies, pretzels, oranges, pickles, electrolytes, Hammer gels.  Water & Heed (a Hammer product).   This was a cup free event so everyone needed a handheld, water bottles or collapsible cups to utilize the fluids on course. 

Small event.  I had read before race day that there were 209 entrants.  Not exactly how the results panned out.  I’m not sure if everyone was listed but they show 89 finishers.  I was #81 (6 hrs 30 min).   3 DNFs.  8 DNS. Winning male:  2:52.  Winning female:  3:44.  So it was apparently a fast race for some.  Smile Cutoff was 8 hours.  Last finisher was 7 hrs 51 min.

SWAG:  Beanie, Hammer gels, Hammer Endurolytes, sample pack of Biofreeze, finishers medal & FREE race photos.

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That’s a wrap on this marathon!  If your interested in trail running, I’ll link to some of my other trail runs below.  The hardest I’ve done so far is the Eugene Curnow Trail Marathon in Duluth, MN.  That race is the warm up for the Minnesota Voyageur 50 miler.  God help those 50 milers.  They are tougher than me!  My second hardest trail marathon was the Dances with Dirt Devil’s Lake Trail Marathon in Baraboo, WI.  Easiest trail run/ultra was the Lakefront 50K in Chicago.  If you  need a fast 50K time, go to Chicago.  Race is on a paved path along Lake MI.  Fun.  Easy. 

Trail Race Reviews (minus the 2014 Huff 50K, which apparently I didn’t write up?!?):

Next up the 2017 Huff 50K on 12/30.  Then I rest. 

Happy Running, all!  ** Amanda – TooTallFritz

Indianapolis Monumental Marathon – 2017 Edition

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This was my 4th time running the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.  I ran the inaugural race in 2008, then also 2015, 2016, & 2017.  This is somewhat counterproductive to my goal of running a marathon in every state; however, Indy provides a race that is worth repeating.  Plus, Aby is at the age where she likes to run this race with her friends, after Cross Country season, so I go because it’s a huge affair between my friends & Aby’s.  In my world running is about fun.  I try not to have such a singular focus on a long term goal that I forget the core reason for my running.  So I’ll probably run Indy at least one more time, next year.  Aby is a senior next year and who knows where the world will take her after that.  If she wants to go back to Indy, we’ll be there. 

Expo was easy and fast, although crowded in the early evening.  We were in and out pretty quickly.  There were lines to verify the timing chips and lines to get pre-ordered race items, but otherwise pretty smooth.  Lots of vendors.  Everything looked busy but everyone seemed to be in a good mood.  Outside the expo the city was bustling and Indy really shines at night.  View from our hotel. 

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The race didn’t’ start until 8am on Saturday morning.  This was sleeping in for me!  The hotels surrounding the Capitol Building are within a 5 minute walk.  We stayed inside until 7:30, then walked over to greet friends & get ready to run. 

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A few things about 2017 that were different from previous years.  One, it was the last year of a 4 year medal series.  The race sold medal holders to include the medals for all 4 years, then there was a special star that 4 year runners picked up at the finish.  I was missing 2014, no star for me.  But it was cool.  And Indy has just announced that they will be starting a new 4 year series next year with a slightly different set-up.  Here is a picture of the display for the 2014-2017 medals from the Indy Monumental Facebook page.

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The second change for 2017 was the implementation of a corral system, in an attempt to ease congestion at the start.  Start below.  Photo courtesy of Gypsy Runner.

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The start was congested.  Not a lot of signage as to where the corrals started & stopped.  I’m guessing the majority of runners had no idea which corral they were in when the race started.  Some races stagger the start to ease congestion,  allowing a slight pause of maybe a couple of minutes between corrals.  This was a rolling start.  No breaks between corrals.  Gun went off, we all started moving.  First mile was slow.  First aid station turned into a total standstill.

The half marathon runners turned off around 7.25 miles.  The majority of the runners do the half, which is common at most races.  I actually like the first part with the half runners because it forces me to go slower than I might if the road were wide open.  Smile   But after they turn off, usually I start pushing the pace.  Indy traditionally has great weather.  This year was no different.  It was in the upper 40s at the start, in the 50s with a breeze when we finished. No sun.  Perfect conditions for a great race.  Indy is usually one of my fastest races of the year, this year it was my fastest.  It’s the weather and the flat course that helps me out each year.  Makes it easy to keep coming back, right? 

Lots of aid stations.  Donuts, beer shots, pretzels, cliff gels, bananas, orange slices.  Indy takes care of their runners.  Course is flat with a few slight inclines.  Lots of volunteers and police to help keep everyone on course.  I do think they changed the course slightly this year.  I don’t know that for a fact but there were a few times that I felt the course was different or we were running in a different direction than we had in years past. 

Not a lot of pictures.  I had been sick earlier in the week and wasn’t feeling awesome during the race.  I was just following my friends, Julie M & Amy (Gypsy Runner) and just ran all the way to the finish with those lovely ladies.  Yes, I let them pull me the majority of the race.  Sometimes we feel good.  Sometimes we don’t.  Gotta roll with whatever the day brings.  And it brought me a finish in 4:24 with 2 great friends by my side.  #Thankful

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That’s it for the 2017 Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.  SWAG below. Side panel of shirt in the last pic.

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By the numbers.  The race just seemed so much larger this year!  Maybe because I wasn’t feeling great.  Maybe because there were 3 of us running together.  Maybe because the roads weren’t in great shape this year and I was floating around a lot.  But here are the stats.  In 2016 there were 4237 marathon finishers, 4679 this year.  In 2016 there were 8154 half marathon finishers, 7972 this year.  In 2016 there were 2762 5K runners, 2727 this year.  So the only race that showed a significant increase in numbers was the marathon distance.  But only 400 more runners.  Not a huge increase.  I think I just felt “off” and was more protective of my personal space this year.  Smile  Regardless, I love the race & I plan to run again in 2018.

2008 race report HERE.  You’ll find more of an insight into the emotional aspect of my second marathon rather than a review of the race.  Oldie but goodie. 

2015 report HERE.  2016 report HERE.

This was my 46th lifetime marathon if you’re counting.

** Happy Running, All ** Amanda – TooTall Fritz

Atlantic City Marathon, Atlantic City, NJ

The Atlantic City Marathon in New Jersey was Day 2.  The second marathon for our double marathon weekend.  2 Marathons.  2 Days.  2 States.  Totally normal, right?  Maybe not, but this was an easy double if you ever want to try one.  We picked Atlantic City because it was a short 2 hour drive from Dover, DE where we ran the Monster Mash Marathon the day previous.  The drive was so short that we even detoured thru Philadelphia to fulfill a childhood fantasy of running up the Art Museum steps like Rocky Balboa!  Super exciting.  Then hey, stopped over to see the Liberty Bell too!

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Some people thought we were crazy for actually running up the steps.  It was fun!  There were only 72 steps and it probably loosened us up after running the Monster Mash Marathon!  Good news, we weren’t the only crazy people, some even had the Rocky Theme song playing.  Obviously, we weren’t too serious about this double.  Its not our first.  We just go, run, have fun and keep things light.  As for the steps, had to do it.  Who knows if I’ll ever get that close to Philadelphia again.  No regrets, right?  I would have regretted not running up those steps!

On to Atlantic City.  Packet pickup was at Ballys.  We parked in the garage.  Posted parking fee was $22; however, they reduced the fee for runners to $5.  Thank you!!  Small expo.  Easy in and out once we figured out where to go inside the hotel/casino.  Dinner in the hotel/casino.  Checked into our hotel by 8pm.  Tip:  We stayed at the Sheraton by the Convention Center.  It was about a 10 min walk to/from the race start/finish.  No smoke. No gambling.  No hoopla.  Less $$.

Race started at 8am so we got to see the sun come up while we were waiting to start.  It was steamy.  Humid.  Warm.

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As we awaited the race start, it was different than most races I’ve ran.  There was a start line and a gated corral.  The pacers were inside the corral.  Alone.  We were all crowded outside the corral wondering what was going on and when they would open the gates.  They opened the gates right at 8am.  It was a mad rush for some to get in where they wanted to be, others were climbing over the fence. Most just lined up as they entered the corral.  Somewhat chaotic.  Not an issue for us since we were planning a leisurely race but I certainly see that it could have been an issue for some.  Eventually, we were all in and ready to run. 

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We started the race heading north on the Boardwalk for a short distance, then a quick left on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, then a quick left on Bachrach Boulevard.  Mile one.  Decent sized race.  Some spectators.  Decent Streets.  Views of the water at every glance.  First the Atlantic, then various bays & channels.  So many that it was hard to keep up with which body of water we were crossing and/or passing at any given time.  Foggy morning due to the heat and humidity but not so hot that we were miserable.  Just warmer than most prefer. But it was beautiful.

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Soon we entered a long tunnel.  There were lights so it wasn’t dark.   Runners were whooping and yelling to hear themselves in the tunnel.  Kinda cool.   Thru some neighborhoods, up a couple highway ramps, then back to the Boardwalk, this time heading south around mile 7.75, passing the strip of casinos. 

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Aid stations were spaced about every 1.5 miles.  Lots of volunteers.  Police.  Bicycle escorts for the winners.  Well marked course with plenty of course marshals enthusiastically directing runners. 

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We ran south on the Boardwalk til approximately mile 13, then turned off heading South for an out and back on Atlantic Avenue.  Busier road on the inner side of the Casinos.  Sloped because we were running on the side.  Lots of shops and restaurants and beautiful homes.  Took Atlantic Ave until it ended in Longport at the Great Egg Harbor.  Awesome aid station in that area that had mini Swedish Fish.  Yes! 

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What I can’t stress enough about this race are the water views.  Even when we were running in neighborhoods down seemingly normal streets.  If you look to either side at a cross street, you’ll see water.  I enjoyed it.  Not beach front running per say but the area is surrounded by water.  Atlantic Ocean to the left in the pic below.

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Beautiful homes, buildings, churches.

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Thru the streets and neighborhoods until mile 23 when we hit the Northbound Boardwalk to finish the race.  Start and finish were both in front of Ballys.  By the end, I didn’t love running on the Boardwalk.  Softer surface, yes.  But the lines of the various boards made my dizzy.  I tend to put my head down and “just run” when I’ve had enough.  And yes, I was ready to be done by mile 22 and in the head down mode.  Once I hit the Boardwalk, too many lines.  Too much motion.  Too much heat.  And I was “almost” tired.  We had more traffic on the Boardwalk to dodge since more people were out and about.  I was happy to finally see the finish!

Great after party.  I saw lots of beer flowing if you like a beer post race.  There was a band.  Gender specific, long sleeve tech shirt!  My favorite!!  Great medal. 

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Good race.  More runners thank the day previous but still small.  832 half marathon finishers.  609 marathon finishers.  Flat other than a few bridges.  Good double with Monster Mash because both were flat and not to physically taxing, other than the mileage.  Bling from both days is below.

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Next Up, Indianapolis Monumental Marathon on November 4th.  My 4th appearance at this event.  Its definitely one of my favorites.  Crossing my fingers for cool, crisp weather and a fast race!

** Happy Running, All ** Amanda – TooTallFritz **