Saturday, December 15, 2012

50th Annual JFK 50 Mile

2nd Place Female, 13th Overall 
6:17:16, 2nd fastest course time.  

My reflection on my first ultra is a little late in black and white, but has been frequently on my mind since I crossed the finish line.

First and foremost, the people who got me to the finish line: I owe many thanks to Ian Torrence for preparing me for my first ultra.  Ian completed his 18th JFK this year!  

My Mom, Dad, and Super Bee for accompanying me on the many miles of canal training (and Bee on the trails too!).  Wayne Kretzer and Andrew Dumm for making sure I had enough gels.  

Last, but most importantly, my grandparents Pat and Hal Burba for crewing.  I know they were nervous  and that crewing can be one of the most stressful aspects of the race, but they made the day go very smoothly.  I couldn't have done it without them!   

Many have asked "Why JFK?" for my ultra debut.  There are few reasons.  First, it runs in the family.  My Mom has completed JFK twice when I was in high school.  Second, I've gotten to do many a trail run in Flagstaff with Ian Torrence.  Being around several ultra runners in Flagstaff got me to thinking I'd like to give it a go.  

JFK seemed the perfect debut (never mind I was skipping 50k and going straight to 50 miles) because although it starts on the Appalachian Trail, the race is made or broken on the C&O Canal.  The canal would ideally cater to my road background.  

On to race day!  Standing on the start line, I was asking myself "what the heck am I doing?"  I knew I was physically prepared, but how are you supposed to feel at mile 35?  I also knew that if anything held me back, it would be not taking in enough nutrition.

By far the most relaxed starting line
I've ever been on.

I had lofty goals going into the race, as well: a win and a new course record.  A win this year would be a dogfight though.  Probably the best female ultra runner currently, Ellie Greenwood is not a competitor to be taken lightly.  This year, she smashed the unbreakable Western States 100 course record.  

I made sure to stay behind Ellie on the AT and to stay as relaxed as possible.  Most important was to stay on my feet.  

On the Appalachian Trail.

Coming off the Appalachian Trail with Josh Brimhall.
Rocking the adidas gear! 

At mile 21 I made my move past Ellie on the canal.  Ellie and I would change leads a couple times, but sure enough my lack of nutrition intake caught up to me around 29 miles.  I had about 10 rough miles, which allowed Ellie to make up the gap that would stay for the remainder of the race, before I was able to drop my pace back to where it should be.

Grooving on the C&O Canal.

I would have rather not had the rough stretch (I can only blame myself), but if I have to take a positive note from my "bonk" it's that I was able to "unbonk."  I forced down the nutrition and once I hit the road, I was able to bring my pace back down.

Ellie would go on to win a new course record of 6:12, breaking the old course record of 6:29.  I didn't meet my goal of winning, but I did meet my goal of getting under the course record with my 6:17.

With Ellie Greenwood at the finish.

Top Ten women receiving our awards.

My irunfar post-race interview can be seen here.

The women's race was not the only one to see record-breaking performances.  The men's side also saw the top two finishers go under the course record.  Max King made his first appearance at JFK this year and came away with a new course record of 5:34:58, but he had a challenger for the title.  My former adidas-McMillanElite teammate Trent Briney also made his ultra debut November 17th and had much success.  Trent finished a close second to Max in 5:37:56.

A big thank you to Mike Spinnler for putting on an excellent race, and I am glad I chose the 50th Annual for my ultra debut.

With 2013 right around the corner, I have a couple big goal races on tap: Brighton Marathon in April and Western States 100 in June.

Photo Credits: Brightroom Photography and Ray Jackson Jr.


Sunday, May 20, 2012

2012 Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational & US 25k Championships

2012 has been filled with frustrating races...I've been either sick or not fully recovered going into each race, therefore performances have come up short.  On the positive note, I know my fitness is in a good place, so I can't wait to step on the line a hundred percent.

April 29th - Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10k

A PR of 33:23, but not the race I was looking for.  Alvina Begay won section 2 with a huge PR of 32:32!

Watch more video of 2012 Stanford Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational on

May 12th - US 25k Championships

The Payton Jordan 10k too more of a toll on my body than I expected.  My hamstrings were locked up so tight that I contemplated not racing the 25k, even though it was one of my big goal races of the spring.  I decided to race, but from the gun the hamstrings weren't happy.  I had to shut it down by half way.  It was hard to accept, as I was in 3rd place through over half way.

I came away with a 10th place finish, much lower than I was capable of.

Brett Gotcher finished 4th overall, 3rd American.  Joseph Chirlee and Janet Cherobon-Bawcom were the top American finishers.

Pre-race interview with

Brett Gotcher pre-race interview with

Race highlights by

Women's finish line video.

This past week has been spent getting my hamstrings recovered, and now it's time to look forward to the US Half Marathon Championships in June.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Madison Square Garden

Madison Square Garden, New York city.  If walls could talk, you'd hear whispers of prestige and awe.  The blood, sweat and tears of championships won and dreams lost add to the aura.  The countless hours of work and dedication all lead to this one moment.

The Garden first opened in 1879 and has since changed venues four times.  Regardless of the location change, the Garden has been host to everything from political conventions to boxing championships.  What I enjoy most are the competitions held here to determine the best of the best, earning it the status of "the world's greatest sports arena."

Madison Square Garden at night.
Photo by

My first exposure to the Garden was in high school when I competed as a junior handler at the Westminster Dog Show.  Not lacking in prestige, Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show began in 1877 and is "America's second longest continuously held sporting event" with the Kentucky Derby being the longest.

Westminster Dog Show qualifying Junior Handlers at
Madison Square Garden.
I was showing a dog I had just met because my dog was unable
to show for medical reasons.
Can you find me?

To show at Westminster, your dog must be a top-ranking member of its breed.  The purpose of the Junior Handler dividion is to prepare you to become a professional handler.  As a junior handler, your dog is not judged, but instead you are judged on your handling skills and how well you present your breed accordingly.  To enter Westminster, you must qualify with 10 first place wins within the year in the Open division and be 9-18 years old (you have to qualify to compete in the Open division, as well).

Pride N Joys Clean N Up, aka "Chamois."
Chamois was my juniors dog for a long time. She showed so
well she brought tears to my eyes.
This was one of the qualifying wins to show at The Garden.
Chamois is now 14 years old.

Side Pride N Joys Summer Glory TD RN OA, aka "Glory."
Glory was Chamois' mother, my best friend and the best creek buddy you
could ask for growing up.
Here we just earned a new title in Open Agility with 3 qualifying runs, at the National Specialty no less!

It just happens that my next passion would also hold a premier event at the Madison Square Garden.  This year, there was much controversy over the decision to move the Millrose Games to the Armory after 98 years at the Garden.  While the Armory boasts fast times, one of the biggest draws of Millrose is to race where so many other great athletic accomplishments have taken place.  

For example, while he did race at Millrose,  Bernard Lagat, 8-time Wanamaker Mile Champion did not have a presence in the historic Wanamaker Mile this year at the Armory.

Bernard Lagat takes the win.
Photo by

The Millrose Games is not the only sporting event to leave the Garden.  The Alltech National Horse Show began in 1883 and first made its appearance at the Garden in 1926.  Since then it has moved from the Garden a few times, most recently in 2011.  

One of the greatest examples of hard work and believing came in 1958 when Snowman, a horse destined for slaughter, won the Triple Crown at the National Horse Show.  Bought for eighty dollars, the old plow horse nurtured back to vitality by Harry de Leyer, became a legend.

Snowman easily clearing a jump.
Photo by 

Just a couple of the many memorable athletic moments that have taken place at The Garden.

The Fight of the Century.
1971...Joe Frazier versus Muhammad Ali.
In our country at this time, tensions were high and
each fighter essentially represented opposing opinions on the Vietam War.
Photo by

Reggie Miller scored 8 points in 9 seconds in 1995 to lead the Indiana Paces to an upset win over the New York Knicks.  In the final 18.7 seconds, the New York Knicks had the lead 105-99.

Of course great sports accomplishments happen all over the world, but one can't argue against the special atmosphere the Garden has established in over a century's worth of competitions.

Super Bee is glad she doesn't have to be
groomed & fluffed for hours.

Monday, April 9, 2012

2012 Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run

This year, I had the opportunity to race in the 40th Cherry Blossom 10 mile on April 1st in Washington D.C.  The race is part of the larger National Cherry Blossom Festival, which celebrates the blooming of the 3,000 cherry blossom trees that were given to D.C. by Tokyo, Japan in 1912.  

Unfortunately, with the warm weather
the cherry blossoms bloomed a week or two before race weekend.
Photo by National Cherry Blossom Festival.

This year, almost 17,000 runners completed the 10 miler.  Pre-race interview by

Once again, I was number F8....once again spelling fate.  This time however, I took it one step further by finishing 8th place overall.  This was my first race back since the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials, so I was looking to kick off spring racing with an effort outside of marathon pace.  I ended up settling into a pace too comfortable for the distance, but it was still a strong opener.

The start and finish of the race at Washington
National Monument.
Photo by Cheryl Harrison (my Mom).

Kevin of catching some pre-race footage.
Photo by Cheryl.

A lot of times, the elite runners are considering inspiring.  However, I met someone at the Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run who's story far out-shines our stories.  Meet Greg Wagner, who as a three-year old survived a ruptured brain aneurysm and stroke and has since gone on to complete five marathons, twice qualifying for the Boston Marathon (among many other accomplishments).  He was the poster child for Children's Hospital and paced this year's Children's Hospital representative, a 12 -year old cancer survivor, in the 5k.  Greg's story is a great example of how powerful not only the body is, but mainly the mind.

A finish line that won't stay empty for long.
Photo by Cheryl.

Finishing up. 8th place, 3rd American in 56:04.
Photo by Cheryl.

Top ten women receiving awards.
Photo by Cheryl.

It's always nice to race near home, so that my family can easily watch me race.  I was reminded though, that it's not just my family watching.  On the start line, I met a gentleman who has been following my career since high school.  Hopefully, I am still making my hometown proud!

A big thank you to Bill Orr, the Elite Coordinator, for making the weekend seamless and a pleasure.  I look forward to returning to the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run.   

To see more pictures of the race go to  

Monday, March 5, 2012

A Spring in Your Step

It's that time of year again when runners are dreaming of warm weather and fast times...Track season is upon us.  

After a year of marathon training and of staying healthy, I decided that Spring of 2012 would be focused on getting fast again and bringing that "pop" back into my legs.  While I'm not having a full track season, I am stepping away from the marathon (until the fall) to focus on shorter distances: 10k to half-marathon.  I plan to step foot on the track for the first time since 2008 for the Payton Jordan Cardinal 10k.

A big thank you to Eric Heins and Mike Smith for
access to NAU's indoor track.

Unfortunately, this was our last week on the indoor track.
Now it will be outside with the Flagstaff spring winds!

I've realized that four years away from speed work and intensity makes it that much harder to return, especially after coming out of my sweet spot in marathon training.  Training for marathons comes easily and naturally.  I find myself reminiscing life as a first-year at UVa when I was never quite sure I'd be able to make it up the stairs to our 3rd story dorm room after practice.  

I appreciate and welcome a revisit to the intensity.  It will be fun to see how it translates to the roads.  First up is Cherry Blossom 10 Miler.  The cherry blossoms are predicted to be in full bloom and I look forward to the trip back home to see college teammates and family.  

The new 2012 adidas race kits.
Be on the look out for the red and purple.

Super Bee already has the natural balance of
speed and endurance.
Spring racing kicks off this coming weekend with the adidas-McMillanElite men (Nick Arciniaga, Scott Smith, Ben Bruce and Danny Mercado) going for a team title at the Gate River 15k, a US Championship race.  Coaches Greg McMillan and Trina Painter will be racing more locally in the Mountain to Fountain 15k.  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

2012 Olympic Marathon Trials Reflection

It's now a little over a week after the 2012 Olympic Marathon Trials.  Looking back, I'm still torn on how I felt about the race itself, but overall I had a great weekend.

Photo Courtesy Nicole Luque.

We got there on Wednesday, but Friday was by far the craziest day.  We had to drop off our fluid bottles, go through a rigorous uniform check, and attend the technical meeting.  

After all this, Ian Torrence and I did a talk with Katy High School students.  Many of them have been training since September to run the Houston Half for the very first time.  Kudos to these runners, as I never ran anything over 10k in high school.

Ian and I after our talk with Katy Student Run.
Photo by Ian Torrence.

On to race day...

I contracted a cold the night before I left for Houston.  I was hopeful it would pass by Saturday, but as the week went on I got more nervous about its affect on my race.  Looking back, I was definitely disappointed with my race.  I didn't expect to shut down like I did at mile 19.  It wasn't a great day from the gun, but you never know when it might turn around out there.  

I give the illusion of fueling, however we've determined
part of my cause for shut down was due to inadequate caloric intake
on my part.  Rookie mistake.
Photo courtesy Nicole Anderson.

On the other hand, I did run 2:37, my second-best time out of three marathons.  As ugly as it was, it's also encouraging that I still ran under the A-standard on an off-day.     

A large pack approaching the fluid tables early on.  They had
over 40 tables on the course, but their system seemed to work
well.  Photo courtesy Nicole Anderson.

Along the way, it was great to hear my college teammate, Trey, yelling out "Go Virginia, Wahoo-Wa!"  It made me think back to watching Dana (Coons) Thiele go through marathon training while I was at UVA and wondering how in the world she managed it.  Now I know!  I'm grateful to be following in her footsteps as the next Cavalier to represent in the Olympic Marathon Trials.

Dana Coons rocking adidas.
Photo from and Victah Sailer

Congrats to my current McMillanElite teammates Brett Gotcher, Nick Arciniaga, and Jordan Horn for having strong races.

A big thank you to Ian Torrence for being my AS (athlete support) all weekend and for keeping it all in perspective.  And as always, to my parents for being out there along the course cheering me on.  They've been through all the ups and downs with me from the beginning.

It's on to some shorter races this spring before tackling another marathon later this year.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Perfect Practice

It’s only a couple days out from the 2012 Olympic Trials Marathon and I can safely say that 2011 was the year of the marathon for me.  As I’ve been perusing the many blogs and articles on this coming weekend, I’ve seen the word “perfect” bounced around quite a bit.  Usually it’s pertaining to the “perfect race” or the “perfect weather,” but whether it be the 800 or the marathon, getting to that perfect race requires countless hours of preparation.  The catch: that preparation has to count.  
The following sums it up nicely:

“Practice does not make perfect.  Only perfect practice makes perfect.” 
~Vince Lombardi

Oh, how true this is.  Everyone knows how easy it is to develop those bad habits...and how hard it is to break them.  This is where the perfect practice comes in.  If you continually practice those bad habits, chances are greater your perfect race will elude you.

A view I pass almost every day on my
second run.

Back to marathon training.  That’s why we practice taking fluids and fueling every few miles on long tempo runs when you’re tired and hurting, to perfect grabbing and carrying your bottle and most importantly taking those fluids in.  There are so many variables over 26.2 miles.  Our goal is to minimize those variables by perfecting training.

Stephanie and I during a 15 mile tempo
on Lake Mary Road.

Post-15 mile tempo.

The list goes on for everything we can work on perfecting in practice.  I wouldn’t be surprised if for most of us, the perfect practice pertains not to the physical act, but to our mental outlook each day.  I’ve watched those around me have good workouts, but they didn’t perfectly practice believing every day that come race day, they were going to succeed.  Many will be distinguished by this come Saturday, January 14th 2012.

Super Bee has been tapering, too.