Monday, April 18, 2011

Charleston or Bust!

It all started with a casual conversation with my friend Matt. “Hey, do you want to run a 200 mile relay from Columbia, South Carolina to Charleston? The teams have 12 people so nobody has to run more than 20 miles. I’m thinking about trying to get a team together. Sounds like it would be fun.” I did the quick math in my head. Yep, 200 miles, 12 people, that definitely works out to less than 20 miles per person. I responded “Sure, sounds cool. Keep me posted on the plans.” At the time, I was in the middle of completing three marathons in the last three months of 2010 so running three legs that would average less than seven miles each didn’t have me shaking in my Asics.

Matt is a friend and former coworker who now lives in Columbia, South Carolina. He had already managed to find a few interested local runners that I'd never met before to fill out our team, which we creatively named "200 Mile Lactic Acid Trip."

In early January, all of my 2010 running mileage had started to take its toll. One Saturday, I completed a snowy 13 mile run but felt some pain on the inside of my right leg. After extensive internet research on common running injuries, I self-diagnosed myself with a stress reaction/fracture so I decided to take some time off running until late February. Naturally, as soon as the time came for me to run again, I overdid it. My leg started hurting in early March, so this time I went to the doctor. He confirmed my initial diagnosis and told me to take some more time off. At this point, the race was less than a month away so I knew I needed to be diligent about maintaining my fitness with low-impact cardio exercises like biking, swimming and elliptical training with a few short runs sprinkled in. A week before the race I jogged three miles on the treadmill and still experienced some pain but not to the extent that I wasn’t able to run. I was confident that I could complete the three legs for the team.

On Wednesday, the day before I left for Columbia and two days before the race was to begin, Matt called with some bad news. Three people from our team had dropped out of the race leaving us with only 9 for the relay. Now each runner would run four legs at an average distance of almost 23 miles each. As one of the more experienced runners on the team, I was now tasked with completing four legs totaling just over 25 miles despite the fact that I hadn’t run more than six miles in over three months.

Despite the anxiety, I was excited for the experience and knew that at worst I could run slower and push through the mild pain in my leg. At 6:30 a.m. on Friday morning, Matt started the first leg from the Columbia Historic Speedway headed towards Charleston, South Carolina.

A long distance relay like the Palmetto 200 works like this:

1. Everyone on a team piles into two cars/vans (in our case, a mini-van with five people and a Chevy Avalanche with four people)

2. The first vehicle drops the first runner off at the starting line and he runs to the first exchange zone. Meanwhile, the first vehicle drives ahead of the runner to the first exchange zone and drops the second runner off so he can prepare for his leg. When the first runner arrives at the exchange zone, the second runner begins his leg and the same vehicle picks up the first runner. As the second runner runs his leg, the first vehicle drives to the second exchange zone and repeats the same process. This continues until all five runners in the van have completed a leg.

3. While the first vehicle’s runners are running their legs, the second vehicle drives ahead to the fifth exchange zone and waits for the fifth runner and the van to arrive. When the fifth runner arrives, he passes the “baton," which is a reflective slap-bracelet, to the first runner from the second vehicle. The second vehicle goes through the same process as the first. This continues until all runners have completed a leg at which point the first runner from the first vehicle begins his second leg.

The relay logistics are extremely important. Each vehicle needs to have most of the food and drinks its inhabitants will need for the next 36 hours or so. You must arrive at the next exchange zone before the runner or you’ll lose valuable time. It’s also important to eat at least one REAL meal during the race—your body will hate you if you go 36 hours eating only Clif bars, bananas, energy gels, water and Gatorade. We grabbed a quick lunch at Hardee’s and a quick dinner at Subway during our race. Finally, having access to a hotel room for even an hour during the course of the race is key. Why, you might ask? It’s certainly not enough time to get any meaningful sleep. Well my friends, you need a hotel room because after you’ve run twice and sat in your own sweat for 10 hours, a hotel room provides the greatest shower you’ve ever experienced.

I ran the third leg for our team, starting about 8:15 on Friday morning at a nice steady 8:00 per mile pace for 8.5 miles. My next run wasn’t scheduled until about 4:00 p.m. that afternoon, so I had over six hours to rest between legs—or so I thought.

It was a scorching South Carolina day. The car thermometer read 88 degrees but it had to be about 95 on the pavement with no breeze and no shade. Matt had the longest leg during the hottest part of the day—10 miles beginning around 1:30. After checking in with him a couple of times during his run, we drove ahead to the seven mile mark. As we were waiting, I got a text message from Matt; all it said was “Have somebody ready.” It was about 2:45 at that point and my next run was about an hour away but I slapped on some sunscreen and took one for the team. Finishing that leg meant I ran another three miles in the heat of the day with only about a 40 minute break between runs. Somehow I kept my legs moving and clocked three miles at an 8:30 pace. I regrouped by pouring some cold water on my head and eating a Gu but it didn’t help much. The next leg was a hilly, hot 7.5 mile run through a beautiful state park at an 8:50 pace (notice a trend?). I was beat. I smelled bad. My feet hurt. I was hungry. And then, I showered. It was rejuvenating—I felt like a new person.

I hit the road again at 1:00 a.m. for a 5.6 mile run. It’s quite an experience to run in the middle of the night when all you can see are some flashing lights floating ahead of you. During the nighttime legs, the van would drive up a mile or two and wait for the runner to pass, then drive ahead another mile or two and repeat the process until the leg was complete. When I ran by the van about two miles into the run, I gave a cheery wave indicating that I didn’t need anything and was going to continue on. While I ran, I waited for the van to drive by and give an encouraging honk on the way to the next stop. But the van never came. I was a mile away from the next exchange zone and no van. Then I was a half mile from the exchange zone; still no van. Then, as I approached the exchange zone I had to cross the street. As I did so, I was almost run over by a black Chrysler mini-van—it only took me a second to realize it was “Black Betty,” the name we gave our stinky, trashed rental van. They caught me just in time as I rolled up to the exchange zone at an 8:30 pace.

A big part of the challenge of this type of event is not just the endurance required to run the race, but to do it on little or no sleep. I slept about one hour during the entire race and ate lots of Oatmeal Cream Pies, drank lots of Gatorade and even had a little chocolate milk (the recovery drink of champions!).

My final leg was 3.6 miles at 9:00 a.m. As I waited for my teammate Craig to reach the exchange zone, I chatted with a guy on the side of Highway 17. There were only four people on his team! Fifty miles apiece! It was inspiring and it motivated to really push myself for the final leg. I cruised in at an 8:14 pace, feeling great about having run over 28 miles over the last 25 hours.

When our van was finished with all of our legs, we went to the finish line and waited for our anchor Jenny to cross the finish line. Just before 3:30 in the afternoon, we saw her running over the Folly Beach bridge towards the finish. She crossed the line in 32 hours and 54 minutes. We certainly weren’t first. Thankfully we weren’t last. But we were thrilled because while we all pushed ourselves individually, ultimately we were a team.

Compared to running a marathon, it was equally challenging physically and mentally. But it also felt different and great because we did it together. We went out to dinner that night and told stories and it felt like I’d known my teammates for years even though I’d met all but one of them just two days before.

I almost feel like a veteran even though this was my first distance relay. We definitely did some things right and we definitely did some things wrong. Here are my top 10 tips for a distance relay.

1. Find a hotel halfway through the race and shower. Trust me, you don’t know how great that shower will feel.

2. Get two 15 passenger vans. You can never have too much space. The five runners in our van went through 72 waters, countless granola bars and had five suitcases, two sleeping bags and five pillows in the car. There isn’t much space left once you factor in all of the supplies.

3. Eat at least one real meal. Subway never tasted so good.

4. Bring a change of clothes and pack each running outfit in a gallon size plastic bag. Once you’re done with one, trade it out with your next outfit and SEAL THE BAG. With everything for each run in one place, you won’t be searching through a suitcase for that second sock.

5. Bring plenty of water. We went through two cases of water and had to stop at the grocery store to buy two more cases. You don’t want to be stuck trying to find water at three in the morning in the middle of nowhere.

6. Bring trash bags. By the end of the race, our van was a wreck. The exchange zones didn’t have trash cans so unless we would have thrown our bottles out the window, our van ended up being the trash can.

7. Bring car chargers and radios. Cell phones are the primary means of communication, so you need to keep them charged. However, if you’re driving through the middle of nowhere like we were, a cell signal was nonexistent for hours at a time. Radios would have been helpful to communicate with the other van.

8. Carry plenty of safety gear. Don’t take any chances while running at night. Some runners were lit up like Christmas trees and I wish we’d had more lights for our runners. Good headlamps are vital as well. I highly recommend Black Diamond rechargeable headlamps, they are bright, comfortable and light.

9. Cheer for other runners. It’s amazing how motivating it is to hear a honk and cheer as another team’s van drives by you. Pay it forward and let those other runners hear you!

10. Have alternate runners ready. Things happen. People get injured. Don’t let your training and preparation go up in smoke because of things that are out of your control. This is a team event and you depend on your teammates for success.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day!

Happy Valentine's Day from all of the Koriaths!

Today was a fun day: it marks being 16 weeks AND it's Lulu's 5th birthday!

We celebrated Valentine's Day with our traditional dinner at Some Guys (though had a slight change of location this year to the Carmel one since the original at 62nd and Allisonville is closed on Mondays.) We had a great dinner, topped off with an amazing red velvet cheesecake dessert -- AK definitely approved.

Here is my first belly picture! It may not look like much but it feels like I'm huge. I've completely converted to maternity work pants (which are so comfortable, by the way) and I've only got 2 pairs of jeans that still fit relatively comfortably.

Hope everyone had a great day!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

15.5 week update

AK and I had a routine doctor's appointment today which went great! I got to hear his/her little heartbeat which will always be the highlight of my appointments I'm sure. His/her heart was perfectly normal at 160 bpm, though according to the old wives' tale, that means I can just say "her heart"...but we will see! All my labs from the first appointment were normal, and things seem to be right on track.

Next milestone (well, aside from kicking the morning sickness and wanting to go to bed at 8:30 p.m.) to look forward to in AK's development: feeling the first move/punch/kick. Hopefully that will happen in just a few more weeks!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Introducing the newest Koriath blogger...

Hi everyone! I am very excited to be a part of Keeping Up With The Koriaths! I don't have a name yet, but my parents like to call me AK (for "Another Koriath") until they get to meet me around August 4. (AK is also a great nickname because that's what everyone called my cousin Tomas before he was born in September, except it meant "Another Kyle" for him.)

So far, I think I've been a pretty good baby. I've made my mom more tired than normal. As if she wasn't already practically narcoleptic, she actually took three naps last Saturday, one of which was during the Colts playoff game while friends were over to watch the game!! I don't like when my mom wakes up with an empty stomach so sometimes I have to remind her to eat right away, but other than that, I'm just as happy as could be!

My parents finally got to see me today and hear my heartbeat, which was so exciting. I was trying to take a nap when the lady started poking on me to move around. I wasn't too happy about that -- I might have a little of my mom's grumpiness when being rudely awoken!

My dad is very excited to meet me too! Of course he's crunching lots of numbers in our family budget about how I will impact our cash flow and savings. My dad has quite a running schedule mapped out for the year so I may interrupt that a little bit, but I can't wait until I'm big enough for him to push me in a jogging stroller.

My parents say they are going to wait until I arrive to find out if I'll be a Pi Phi or Sigma Chi legacy, so I'm prepared to be dressed in lots of green and yellow for a little while. My grandmas are so excited to meet me, though, that I'm sure they'll have a stash of pink and blue ready to go!

I can't wait to meet all of my family and friends in August! Please keep my healthy development in your thoughts and prayers!

It's not much, but here is my first picture. My dad got my mom a new Nikon SLR camera for Christmas, so I'm sure there will be many more photos of me in the future!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Dashing Through the Snow

I love running in the snow. There's something so peaceful and serene about running while the snow is falling, hearing the soft rhythm of your footsteps and seeing the tread of your shoes in the newly fallen snow. So this morning when I woke up, it was like an early Christmas present with a fresh thin layer of the fluffy white stuff on the ground. I put on my running gear-- when you've got the right clothing, the cold isn't an issue-- and struck out for the trails at Ritchey Woods.

As I navigated the trails of the nature preserve, I had a little time to think back about the Tecumseh Trail Marathon last weekend. It was such an amazing event, with runners from all over the US (and even one from the UK) gathered near Bloomington, Indiana to traverse 26.2 miles through the woods. Similar to today, I was excited last weekend when I woke up to fresh snow on the ground the morning of the race. However, due to the inclement weather, the course was changed to an out-and-back route from the finish line since the buses that were supposed to take us to the start line refused to navigate the slick, hilly back roads that morning.

Despite the significant, last-minute change to the event, the 575 runners took the news in stride. Everyone gathered at the finish line joking and laughing like we were waiting to start a long training run with a bunch of old friends. About a mile into the race, we reached the start of the single-track trail and, like a funnel, things backed up quickly. Still, it didn't dampen the mood and everyone settled into a single-file line on the two foot wide trail. Soon, we reached a hill and everyone started walking up it. We were still less than two miles into the race and people were walking! I should have already known that this wasn't like the other marathons I've done. With about 3,500 feet of ascent, this course is incredibly challenging. My first warning should have been the bib-- written upside down at the top so the wearer can read it, was a quote from a previous participant.

The course was beautiful. Of course, if you looked up too long to enjoy it, you were bound to trip over a root, rock, or tree stump protruding from the snow-covered trail. If you successfully navigated all of those obstacles, you still had to stay upright on the slick and sometimes muddy trail. And, like the Columbia City Marathon I did last month, runners were advised to wear bright colors as to not be mistaken for deer by the archers and muzzle loaders who were hunting in the area. Fortunately, I'd invested in some new trail running shoes earlier in the week which provided great traction for the entire race. I lucked out with the shoes, as I broke one of the cardinal rules of marathon running: don't run a race in brand new shoes. Finally, there was also the challenge of two-way traffic on a one-way trail near the turnaround point on the course. Trailing runners politely yielded to the runners who'd already made the turn by stepping to the side of the trail.

Unlike a road marathon where you grab a cup of water or sports drink at the rest stops and keep going, the rest stops were more like social gathering spots. There were Oreo cookies, cups of hot chocolate, pretzels and all kinds of other goodies that sound delicious when your body is craving calories. And mostly they were welcome rests from the punishing and never-ending ascents and descents on the course.

After 5 hours and 7 minutes (nearly 90 minutes longer than my marathon PR!) I crossed the finish line feeling a great sense of accomplishment, feeling very connected to the other runners who ran the race, and feeling a desire to do another trail marathon.

After so much fun running through the snow last weekend and a beautiful run through Ritchey Woods this morning, I was surprised that I didn't see anyone else on the trails. Is there anyone else out there who feels the way I do about running in the snow?

What I recommend when it's 25 degrees and snowing:
Nike Thermal Hat - keeps your head toasty
North Face Power Stretch Gloves - keep your hands toasty
Nike Thermal Pants - comfortable, relaxed fit and ample pockets
North Face Windstopper Hybrid Full Jacket - windproof and warm but breathable and lightweight; lots of handy pockets
Mizuno Wave Cabrakan 2 shoes - provide great traction on the slickest trails, strong but flexible sole for insulation from rocks and roots and light enough for long runs

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Chickens, Guns and Tires

This weekend I’ve done two things that I’d never done before in my life. First, I accomplished a goal that I set for myself in January: to run one thousand miles in 2010. Second, I wrote a blog entry. Surprisingly, I feel a lot more comfortable running a thousand miles in a year than writing a blog entry. Why? Because I don’t think I’m a very good writer. I agonize over word choices and it takes me an hour to write 3 sentences. But, I figured I’d give it a shot. I'll try to post some interesting stories about running and our lives in general but this time I'll keep it simple and post a recap of the marathon yesterday for my first entry. So here goes nothing…

The Columbia City Veterans Marathon was my 5th marathon and each of them has been a very unique experience. I’ve run through the beautiful scenery of Anchorage, Alaska, along the Ohio River in Louisville, Kentucky, with 45,000 other runners in Chicago, Illinois and through Fort Benjamin Harrison in my hometown of Indianapolis, Indiana. Columbia City was no exception. Here are the top 3 unique things I’ll remember about the Columbia City Marathon:

  1. The chicken farm at mile 5
  2. Running on opening weekend of deer season in rural Indiana
  3. A flat tire

Shortly after seeing Natalie for the first time at mile 4 (where I'd just crossed the thousand mile mark for the year), I came across the most foul (or fowl) smelling thing I've ever encountered while running. In the middle of a corn field, there was a long, narrow building that must have housed thousands of chickens. I seriously considered holding my breath for about a half-mile. That was my first encounter with a chicken farm and I hope it's also the last. Shortly after I recovered from the smell, I saw Natalie again around mile 9. The plan was to see her next around the 17th mile and then again around mile 20. However, much to my surprise, I saw her as the course passed through town around the 13th mile. Curiously, she was on the phone and told me "There's a slight problem." She said that she'd hit a curb, resulting in a flat tire (see picture to right). Then she pointed to the car, which was sitting in a field about a block away. During the second half of the marathon, I spent a lot of time worrying about the car and how the heck she ran into a curb, but periodic shotgun blasts from the surrounding fields interrupted those thoughts and kept me moving. Thankfully Natalie wasn't injured, the car was fixed by the end of the race and I finished in one piece. My time wasn't memorable but Columbia City ranks as one of the most memorable marathons yet!

In 3 weeks, I'm running the Tecumseh Trail Marathon near Bloomington and, just like the first five, I know it will be totally different than any race I've done before. I'm already excited to find out what great memories it has in store for us!

P.S. It took me about 5 hours to write this.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The most important family member

It has been requested (if I gave you two guesses by whom, I'm sure you'd be right!) that I post a picture of Lulu with our Christmas tree. I contemplated this before posting the ornament post but honestly, I had only wrapped the gifts at that point and they didn't have bows yet. I am certainly my mother's daughter, and I wouldn't dare show our full tree with ribbon-less gifts, so after finishing the bows last night I snapped these photos.

Note that I was waking Lulu from what apparently was a very comfortable slumber in our big chair, though I'm not sure how it's comfortable to lay at almost a 90 degree angle.

Then I put her jingle bell collar on, which made her even more grouchy....

After a few minutes and promises of a treat, she perked up!