September 29, 2011

Bugs as Protein

The main thing I took away from this is that it's not always a fun, spiritually fulfilling experience. You don't always have your best performance when you want your best performance. Sometimes the day just plain sucks and you have to say screw it and keep going. - Dirty Running

Yesterday was not the best running day for me. I was coming off of the excitement from Monday's run, which I hoped would be enough to carry me through the miles. I didn't account for being extremely frustrated in many aspects of life, completely drained and exhausted, super busy at work and socially, and on top of it all...sick.

Despite feeling completely exhausted and not able to 100% breathe, I decided to go run anyway. Yay going against my better judgement! It's what I do best (this can be applied to not just running)!

I pulled into the Mt Vernon Trail parking lot, and much to my happy surprise I saw toons of very attractive men running topless. Makes me sad that winter will come soon enough and I will no longer get eye candy while I'm out and about. Anyway...I was sitting in my car, pouring water/gatorade mixture into my camelbak like usual. I went to put the camelbak know the mouth part you bite to suck water out of? Yeah...that popped off and the liquid started spewing all over my right side of my body and on the ground. Yay. I'm usually clumsy, but when I'm sick I turn into CRAZY clumsy. It's ridiculous.

I finally started running down the trail and headed to that little cut-over patch that brings you across traffic and to Arlington Cemetery. The bugs were infatuated with me and my gatorade-y goodness...and I can't blame them (except now that I have a buuunch of bug bites all over I'm a tad unhappy). This is not to mention the one bug that decided to go all Magic School Bus and fly up my noise...never to be seen again (BLEH).

Let's just say overall that the run did not go well. What was supposed to be 7 turned into a very slow 3, my legs still tired from the Monday 6. One of these days my ankle will return back to completely normal size and not still a wee bit swollen like it seems to want to stay.

Tonight, I go again for 6 or 7, then I plan on watching Run Fatboy Run and drifting off to sleep. Saturday, waking up SUPER early to go for 20 miles, then a quick shower, chugging soooo much caffeine, and a 4.5 hr drive to the Poconos, PA to watch my AWESOME friend finish her first HALF IRONMAN!!! Already very, very proud of her...

...and looking forward to a nap while she busts her butt on those miles :)

In the meantime til I can tell the internet world all about my first ever 20 mile run, here's a little something I found on Dirty Running's blog:

"The first question which you will ask and which I must try to answer is this, ‘What is the use of climbing Mount Everest?’ and my answer must at once be, ‘It is no use.’ There is not the slightest prospect of any gain whatsoever. Oh, we may learn a little about the behavior of the human body at high altitudes, and possibly medical men may turn our observation to some account for the purposes of aviation. But otherwise nothing will come of it. We shall not bring back a single bit of gold or silver, not a gem, nor any coal or iron. We shall not find a single foot of earth that can be planted with crops to raise food. It’s no use. So, if you cannot understand that there is something in man which responds to the challenge of this mountain and goes out to meet it, that the struggle is the struggle of life itself upward and forever upward, then you won’t see why we go. What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for."
--George Mallory, 1922

Wise words that I think can be applied in so many ways...especially to our racing endeavors.

September 27, 2011

So I have these zebra pants....

Yeah, how awesome are those?!?!

Thanks to, I will be looking fabulously ridiculous as I run my 26.2 miles with my Semper Fi Fund shirt on. I think the red shirt and the zebra bottoms make for a winning combination! Plus, everyone should spot me pretty easily!

This past Friday I attempted 6 miles to ease back into my training schedule for MCM (33 days away!). It. Did. Not. Go. Well.

Like, at all.

It took about an hour and a half, at least. Meaning, I walked 90% of the downpouring rain. So much fun, oh so much. The problem this time WAS NOT MY ANKLE. It was my freaking leg muscles. It felt like I had never run before in my entire life, which of course would worry anyone that is only 33 days away from needing to run 26.2 miles.

Yesterday, I apprehensively laced up my shoes, complained to my roommate, and finally got myself out the door to attempt the 6 miles again. My reasoning now being (maybe stubborn) that I will continue to pound out the 6 miles until they get better and I am happy with the results. My training schedule says 5, I did 6 and I kicked butt compared to the 6 from last week! I'm not where I was time-wise before hurting the ankle, but it's definitely a good start to making my way back, and I am thrilled to go that far mostly pain free!

Today is 7, which shouldn't be too bad now that I've found my determination again. I'm a bit under the weather, but hopefully that won't slow me down too much.

Now it's just waiting to hear if I'm going to Italy for 60 days and missing MCM, or if I will actually get to cross that start line after all!

In other news, still planning out next year, and it looks like after MCM, my next A-race will be the DC RnR full in March to try and qualify (as much as I want to raise $500 to run the 50 if I don't qualify), then after that my training will be entirely devoted to JFK 50.

What up 2012?! Bring it.

September 21, 2011

Yeah, I'm a big cry baby.

Recap of Philly:

I stuck to my word and did not run, except for a little sprint at the end when I saw Helen and Jake coming up by the finish!

Sadface. It's hard to go to packet pick-up, and the expo and feel all of that energy and nervousness from other runners, and know that you will not be part of it the following morning...and keep a happy face for those around you who have nerves and worries of their own.

Plus side: My friends ROCKED it! I am so unbelievably proud of all three of them and can't wait to share more experiences like this with them. I'm so glad I got to be part of this big moment and cheer them on along the way! And I made a new friend! :)

I got home Sunday night with the hope of running a few miles on Monday. I went after a doctor's appointment (thanks dr for reminding me that no matter what races I miss, there will be dozens of others to choose from), and headed out to Mt. Vernon Trail, crossed over to the path to Arlington Cemetery and ran down towards Iwo Jima and Rosslyn. It was about a 3 mile loop, and I walk/ran...about 40 min time.

I got home, played with the dog a little, and I think while I was playing with him I MUST have laid on the ankle wrong and mild pain has been there since.

Tuesday: I came home from work (wore my brace all day), found out my Semper Fi Fund charity shirt had come in the mail, got SUPER excited about that, changed into my running gear and headed out for what I hoped would be a few easy miles around the neighborhood.


I got about a mile out from the house when the pain started to become more than just dull. I knew it was smarter to just walk and head home, so I hung my head in shame but said I would be strong and hold it least wait til I got inside.


I whimpered most of the mile back to the house, almost full out crying in the residential areas where no one was around to see me. I got inside, grabbed some ice for the ankle, and tried to dust myself off and put myself in a better mood.

Then my mom called.

I sobbed like a little baby. There's something about my mom calling that always brings out my raw sadness. It's always been extremely difficult to hide my emotions on the phone or in the presence of her, and this was no exception. I cried about Philly. I cried in disappointment at my current running ability. I cried that I had received the charity shirt and was dismayed that I would not do it justice or even be able to wear it at all come Oct 30. I cried at letting down the people who generously donated money to support me. I told her not to come in case I couldn't run or didn't make the cut off time. Thankfully, she listened to me through all of this crying, and simply told me she would be there no matter what.

Today I see things a little more clearly. I knew then, and I know now, that this ankle is not the end of the world (running wise) for me. I know it's temporary so long as I don't make things worse, and I know that my goals are still obtainable. It will never be easy for someone to come so far and get so close, and get injure...sitting and waiting for the day that they can regain the physical level they were once at.

I am left here to keep adjusting and reworking my training schedules, adding on new workouts to accomodate the new 50 Miler goal for next year. Having a goal so far out helps to remind me that I have time when I look at the big picture.

Tomorrow I am going to try again. My ankle has been feeling better today, and I will try to wear the brace when I go out for the miles.

I just have to try and stay positive until then.

September 16, 2011

Cheer Me Up Post

This post is a little, 'Hey Stephanie, Isn't life GRAND?!' kind of post...just what I need today.

I am officially, (like RIGHT NOW) deciding, I will not be running the Philly RnR Half this year. And while it saddens me to go to a race and just watch others whiz by, I get excited at the fact that I can be a support crew for Helen, Jake, and Rob on their first ever Half Marathon. (And I absolutely LOVE watching the elites do their thing, which you mostly miss when you are racing yourself. They are just so gracefully fast!) I believe that everyone should have someone they know in the crowd cheering for them at their first major race...not just some random cheerleaders or spectators.

It's a hard pill to swallow, and I've been trying to gain perspective on how in the long term skipping this race will lead to great things down the road.

Scenario. I'm at a bar, all sadface about realizing I will not be racing this weekend. Then a friend comes and asks how crazy I am. Hm. What an odd question, eh? I could answer this many ways. I say halfway. Find out I'm all the way crazy because he proposed running the 50th anniversary race of the JFK 50 Miler in November 2012, and asking me was the only convincing I needed.


June 2010: Began running
October 2010: First race ever - Jazz Half Marathon
September 2011: First trail half marathon
October 2011: First full marathon - Marine Corps Marathon
September 2012: First 30 mile trail race (First ULTRA!) - Iron Mountain Trail
November 2012: First 50 mile race - JFK 50 Mile

Now, to go about this 50 mile race over a year from now, I will attempt to make the qualifying times to get in the best spot possible. Otherwise, you bet your sweet self I am raising that charity $500 and running this anyway. At least, that's the plan. The course goes through the AT and C&O, and also back roads. Should be a good time, good combo of terrain!

So in the scheme of things, skipping this half marathon is not the end of the world. It is the beginning to so many other things that I need to keep my ankle healthy for. Do I feel a little like this ankle injury has given me too much time to think/reflect/come up with potentially really awful ideas? Maybe. But I have already done more in the past year as a runner than I ever imagined just because someone asked me to run that first race. How is this any different? Maybe I can change my name to Stephanie Ultra Walker. Heh heh.

Will I potentially back out after I experience my first 26.2 in a little over a month? Maybe, but unlikely.

Time to educate myself on proper nutrition, training plans, etc to get me exactly where I need to be a year from now!

Disclaimer: If you are reading this and feel the need to tell me this is impossible/stupid/irresponsible/ anything negative, please save it for someone else, or talk about me behind my back because I do not want to hear it. Thanks.

Why I think this is a brilliant idea:

September 15, 2011

Listen to your body.

Life is a series of experiences, each one of which makes us bigger, even though sometimes it is hard to realize this. For the world was built to develop character, and we must learn that the setbacks and grieves which we endure help us in our marching onward. - Henry Ford

It's now Thursday.

It's been five days since I unfortunately rolled my ankle.

I argue over the fact of telling people how it feels, or what I think may happen come Sunday morning when the gun is ready to go off. I am exhausted with hearing the 'you should do...' and 'you shouldn't do...'.

This past Saturday I had the best race experience I've ever had, and could ever imagine. I never thought that a lack of spectators and hours on an isolated woodsy trail could make you feel so alive, liberated, and stupid happy. I am smiling in every picture from that race, and it's not just for is pure enjoyment. I will never regret this race, no matter what happens from here on with my upcoming road don't ask me if I would make the same decision again, because I would in a heartbeat.

This picture, thanks to Runner's World, shows EXACTLY how I feel. I've been reading different opinions and advice on what I should do, etc...but it always comes back down to my desire to get back out there ASAP, without causing more damage.

I am now brace-less, no longer hobbling, but there is still a slight bit of pain. The swelling is almost completely gone, and the only thing that still seems to be crushed is my spirit. This is my first running-related injury and because of it, though it has only been five days, I feel like a caged animal. I get home from work and I'm not sure what to do with my time I would normally spend running. I'm getting sick of crunches and arm work :) I am envious of every runner I see around the city. I've been bargaining with myself and my ankle that if it just zips back to shape, I will put more effort into my training. I will stop complaining so much...on and on. The quote about setbacks helps to remind me that this (hopefully) is just temporary, and will serve to make me stronger in my desire as a runner and in my ability...hopefully.

Tomorrow we leave for Philly, and I will be bringing all my running supplies/clothes just in case I find myself feeling okay for a lovely, slow 13 miles. If I can't run this race, then I will be the best cheerer out there for my friends, and I will look forward to the trail races to come, and MCM in 45 days.

I will miss wearing my flip flops and vibrams around the office when I'm healed though...

September 12, 2011

Lessons on Trail Running


5:45 AM, alarm goes off and I spring out of bed and hurry to dress, brush teeth, pack up and get out the door. I feel tired, still groggy from the late night before, and we head to Starbucks for a little pick-me-up.

After stopping for coffee, my amazing friend drove me to Fountainhead Regional Park for packet pick-up and the race. She listened to me whine the whole car ride about how nervous I was, how I thought I might throw up, more nerves....on and on.

8:30 AM was getting closer, and at 8:20 they gathered all the women racing to be serenaded by the VA Happy Trails Club men members, singing what else, but Happy Trails To You...

The timer wound down, and with a simple "Ready, Set, GO" we were off for a lap around the parking lot, then onto the paved road for a mile uphill before turning onto the actual trail.

I felt like everyone was booking it up the paved road to give a little cushion time, since running on a trail takes longer. We all turn onto the trail, and game on, women are single tracking behind each other, being nice and asking to pass when needed. Not going to lie, a good chunk of women blew past me, and shortly after starting on the actual trail, I tripped on a rock and miiildy rolled my right ankle (but didn't fall).

After about half a mile, the crowd had significantly thinned, and I tried to find my groove to settle into. I found one of the girls I ran with on the practice run last month, and just followed behind her. We hit the Do Loop, with the amazing, ninja photographer waiting for us.

The Do Loop is known for being 'hilly'. People like to claim it has 'rolling hills'. They are rolling STEEP hills in my book. Steep in the sense of, who the hell RUNS up these?! I was still following my new friend, and we made it through the Do Loop okay, hit the aid station, and I decided that I now found my confidence to continue on ahead alone. I left the pack I was with, and about half a mile later, fell.

No one in front of me, no one behind me....I'm not even sure what I tripped on, but down I went and POP goes my ankle. The shock wore off, I picked myself up, wobbled a little, tried to wrap my head around the pain and checked for broken bones or blood....none luckily. Just an unfortunate roll, I thought to myself (as well as some cuss words and a little disappointment at fallnig only 6.5 miles into the race). I took a few steps, decided to walk a little, then decided it didn't hurt THAT bad and I could try running on it.

At about mile 7.5 you hit a spot where you cross over the paved road to go into more trail/woods. At that spot they have two volunteers making sure you head the right way, and checking off your name on a clipboard to account for you. They told me I looked awesome, I chuckled and told them I fell back there and they didn't need to lie to me! I considered quitting the race, thinking that I promised a friend I would stop the race if it got dangerous or I thought it would interfere with my MCM. I thought very briefly about quitting, and decided that I am stubborn enough to continue on....what's the worst that could happen?

I got to the point where you reach the parking lot and cross over to the other chunk of the trail, with 5 miles left. I glanced around for my friend so I could tell her I was okay, that I fell, but that I would finish. I didn't see her so I ducked back into the woods for what a volunteer claimed would be the easiest 5 miles of the course. You lie, YOU LIE. Immediately I passed a graveyard (how fun....). Then you hit this GIANT hill. Literally. I do not know who is running up this. You are insane. My HR spiked, I was breathing reeeally hard...and just trying to make my way through 5 more miles to ice my ankle and be done! The five miles consisted of giant, long hills, then a little flatness, then more hills, and the downhills had too many rocks for me to feel comfortable soaring down. I made it to the aid station, chugged some gatorade, noticed my fingers had swollen to sausage size, ran down a hill, across a bridge, through a stream, and finally I was on my last leg of the race.

Then I fell. Again. Same ankle. This time, more pain. No bouncing back easily...I hobbled some steps, cussed, got pretty upset, then decided hell or high water you still have 2 ish more miles til you're out of the woods, literally. Again, I was all alone out there. I decided it was probably a great idea to just walk from that point on. I had enough time and wasn't worried about getting kicked off. Then my running friend came up from behind and stopped to walk with me for a little bit. We shared stories of our ailments and she went on to run ahead after seeing another girl suck it up and run through the pain. Once I was left alone I decided I would try to run the flats as much as I could, just suck it up and block out the pain...I found my grit. I pushed through the pain, finally made it to the finishing area and got so excited to be there that I sprinted the last tiny bit, not wanting everyone to see me hobble the end.

I finished in 3:12, and I know that had I not gotten hurt, I would have definitely come in well under 3 hours. I'm still extremely proud of myself for completing this first ever trail half marathon, and digging deep when I needed to rely on myself to get through the pain.

Next year I will try again. Out of all the races I've been in or watched, this was hands down the best. Everyone was extremely supportive, women cheering each other on as you passed, kind words from everyone, and accountability for the participants. For a race consisting of only 206 participants and run by a small trail running club, I felt like I was running with people I had known my whole life...encouraged, welcome, supported.

I could not be more grateful to my best friend for driving me to and from the race and sitting there waiting for me to finish. After the race, she (and her fiance and friend) went above and beyond and helped with my dog, catering to my request for ice, etc. They were all so understanding, and didn't make fun of me when I finally broke down and cried in pain and disappointment, wondering how this will affect my other races. You know a true friend when they do all that, paint your nails while sitting at home with you since you can't do anything else, drinking beer and chatting about the attractiveness of Disney cartoon men.

We'll have to see how I recover over the next few days to determine if I can run/walk the Philly Half, or if I will be a cheerer for them while they race next weekend. Either way, I look forward to what's ahead, knowing I have what it takes to endure.

Toughness is in the soul and spirit, not in muscles. - Alex Karras

September 06, 2011

4 Days and Counting Down!

My normal countdown leading to Marine Corps Marathon has been temporarily put on hold while I have my mild panic attack about the Women's Trail Half Marathon THIS SATURDAY (Not that I don't know that the MCM is 54 days away)!

I don't think I've ever had more anxiety for a race before, including the looming MCM. I guess it has a LOT to do with the cut-off time of four hours. Normally, I would not scoff at a 4 hour cut-off time for a half marathon...I know I am completely capable of that on a road race, but for the trail race, it has me in shambles. Or maybe it has to do with the fact that I've only ever run on this challenging trail one other time, and not for the full 13 miles. Or maybe it's that I consider myself very, very inexperienced in trail running. Or maybe it's because I know after the miles add up, my feet like to shuffle, increasing my chance of tripping/hurting myself. Or maybe it's that I know how draining this will be on my legs, and I know I have a half marathon road race the next weekend (running just as a training run). Or maybe I'm just plain scared.

The race will start at 8:30am, everyone heading out at the same time. Just 240 women, all out to reach the finish line before getting kicked off. I recently looked at my practice run time, searching for some glimmer of hope to ease my growing nerves...but alas, all I found was more anxiety. I stopped clocking the run after 7.2 miles, at the cross over for the other part of the trail. We hit the 7.2 in 1:51...not very promising. Granted, I am trying to remember that I had a completely bum toe, and was following a very slow someone for most of that run, but it still isn't doing much to reassure me. Even the fact that I completed 18 very painful and mentally draining miles this past Saturday is not enough to ease my mind. I've decided, I'm going to just make sure there is always someone with in my eye sight. I DO NOT want to get left behind to navigate alone, and possibly get lost....especially in the Do Loop...that part was really confusing for me.

I am confident in my mental strength to get through the run, I just hope that 18 miler left enough juice in my legs for the trail! This isn't to say I'm not completely over the moon that I am even racing in it. I am extremely excited! I think part of me really enjoys the after part of a run/race when your legs are completely spent, ponytail dripping in sweat, salt crusted face, sense of accomplishment pulsing through you. Knowing you left everything out there. Knowing you deserve that beer. :)

And apparently, they call your name as you come into the finish. How fun is that?! You don't get that with the big races!

I really commend the Virginia Happy Trails Running Club for putting on this Women's Trail Half every year to encourage women to take up trail running. It's a cheap registration, fun quality shirt, and really great people. Stumbling upon this race and participating in the practice run totally opened me up to trail running and has brought me to sign up for two other trail races this year.

Here's to hoping the weather and my legs hold up!

September 01, 2011

I promise I will stop signing up for races... some point :D

Eventually, there has to be a lull, a break in the endless training and races, but that won't be until at least March June. I don't think I was fully aware of how ambitious my running plans have been until I was at a running happy hour this week talking about my upcoming races and my training plan. Some folks looked at me like I had ten heads, between the back to back trail race and road race as part of training for MCM, or the amount of miles I plan on putting in for a long run (22) before tapering, or the fact that I've already signed up for another full marathon in March (apparently that's a short turn around time from MCM for some people to wrap their heads around).

Old me would have started second guessing these decisions, start questioning if I made the right decision signing up for second races without ever completing that first one. But, the new me knows (mostly) what I am capable of, the determination I have, and the understanding that I am not running for first place, or to create an awesome log of PRs. I am running these races out of sheer pleasure. I will enjoy these, and no amount of scoffing at my plans can or will change that.

Now, do I have a mild addiction to signing up for races? Probably. But the good news for me is, there is no anonymous group for that....yet.

This brings me to my schedule:

This Friday: Whopper run of 18 miles!
Sept 10: Women's Trail Half Marathon (I have NEVER been so excited for a race!)
Sept 18: Philly RnR Half Marathon
Sept 24: 20 miles, ouch!

Oct 1: 14 miles
Oct 2: Get my lungs ready to scream for Erin's 70.3!!!
Oct 8: 22 miles
Oct 15: TAPERRRRRRR! 13 miles
Oct 22: 10 miles
Oct 30: MCM!

Gotta figure out what to do with myself for a little while.

Life after MCM looks a little like this:
Nov 20: Fountainhead 10 Miler, #4 of Backyard Burn Series with EX2
Dec 4: Hemlock Overlook 10 Miler, #5 of Backyard Burn series with EX2
After Dec 4 - Jan, SERIOUS downtime. No really...
Mar 17: Suntrust Rock'n'Roll full Marathon, DC
May 20?: DC Tough Mudder
June 20 ish: hopefully the EX2 Off-Road Half Marathon

In conclusion, I need to buy trail shoes sometime in the semi-near future.

Also, pretty glad my birthday party was much less attended than intended because that means there's a free bag of ice in my freezer just waaaiting to be used for an ice bath tomorrow after my 18. I need to map out an extra two miles, and change my route so I'm not starting from work. I'm actually not THAT frightened at the distance, I'm more worried that it's either a fluke that the 16 went so well, or that this 18 will bite me in the ass when I go to the Trail Half (have I mentioned I AM SO EXCITED?!). Or that I will actually throw up (I'll be prepared with food to eat after the run this time). Or that the pain at the end will get the best of me, but hey that's what foam rollers and icyhot are for ;).

But the awesome part is I am in the best shape I have ever been in. And Marine Corps Marathon is NEXT MONTH!

Sidebar: Go buy The Long Run, seriously, this is my absolute favorite running book, the man's journey is just incredible.

“We do not believe in ourselves until someone reveals that deep inside us something is valuable, worth listening to, worthy of our trust, sacred to our touch. Once we believe in ourselves we can risk curiosity, wonder, spontaneous delight or any experience that reveals the human spirit.” - e. e. Cummings

Getting in Shape

Getting back into shape is a S T R U G G L E! I get into a good groove, nice routine for a couple weeks and then BAM. Sickness sweeps over t...