December 28, 2012

The New Year

Wow, I haven't posted on here since September! That's crazy talk. Straight up.

With this coming new year, we all have new goals. I want to get back on this 'blogging' horse for all of the races I have scheduled for 2013! I would also LOVE to be an efficient swimmer. I want to get an unassisted pull up (strict and/or kipping) (I basically want to not do everything assisted at crossfit and be a badass). I want to stop making excuses. I want to take pride in myself and be a confident, strong woman.

I just amped up this crazy big race calendar for 2013, so hopefully I will be posting on here more to keep track of everything and my experiences! I still enjoy going back through the posts every once in a while and reading about what my training was like for various races, so here we go on this crazy journey again with the first stop: Chilly Cheeks Duathlon; and my A race this year being Boulder 70.3 in August!!

First thing to do on my race tour to Boulder, I gotta get this swimming thing down. A few friends from Anchor (my box) all went to the pool a few weeks ago and helped me with some pointers, so now I really just need to get the mechanics down and get to swimming laps and laps and laps. The other side of that coin is that I have the Big Sur Marathon at the end of April and need to start amping up (really just start running period) my running to successfully complete the race. I'm nervous and excited to get back into running. I'm anxious to see if I can improve after being in crossfit for some odd months...and hopefully that will keep the ole running injuries at bay. We shall see...time will tell.

It's been difficult trying to construct a schedule to accommodate swimming, running, crossfit, work, and the dog. I'm also going through a little turmoil right now which just makes me want to crawl into fetal position and stay there until everything calms. Changes are hard, especially when your strong base is in a different state.

Cheers to a new chapter and a new year, and happy holidays everyone!

 

September 17, 2012

Identity Crisis

I really should start thinking of a new name for this blog since there has been minimal running happening since my June race flop. My main workout activity lately has been crossfit, with a little cycling thrown in on occasion.

I bought some bike shoes Labor Day weekend so I could start riding like a real cycler (new word?). Everyone warns you to practice clipping in and out before you get going because it's inevitable that you will fall at least once while adjusting. Well...I fell on my first try using them, even after practicing! Luckily it was a baby fall… I came to a stop at a light and had un-clipped my right foot…but stupidly I leaned to the left, I guess thinking I un-clipped both shoes. I fell, then the bike came down on me. I have a pretty bruise on my knee, but mostly it didn’t cause any damage. I had a good laugh at myself after that…as it took me a minute or two to figure out how to get up with the bike sitting on my still clipped in leg.

And then, on Friday I went to Crossfit after work, after being sick for a week and a half. During that week and a half off, my hip joint started bothering me again. So when I got to Crossfit, the workout was squat cleans, running, kettlebell swings…all things that hurt my hip. I ended up almost bursting into tears with anger, pain and frustration, so my coach modified the workout so I could use the rower instead of run and use the super light kettlebell. Slightly embarrassing. He had a chat with me afterwards about how I need to see a doctor and find out what the problem is so he can help me strengthen and get rid of it.

So off to the doctor I went. I explained my situation to the doctor about the fifty miler training, how I haven't run since June, how the pain was gone then randomly reappeared. She made me do some leg movements and we eventually found exactly where the pain resides. It's a hard to describe the location since I don't know all of the hip/butt muscles, but it's something back there that feels like it connects to my back.  Her basic assessment was that it's a muscular issue, probably just really inflamed. She gave me anti-inflamation meds and a muscle relaxer to help me sleep at night and get comfortable. It's mildly better, but I haven't been able to work out so far. A couple days after the appointment, I visited my crossfit box to explain the situation to Coach Tony and Coach Jesse and get their opinion on how to proceed workout-wise. It's hard to commit to going into crossfit for your workouts when you know you won't be able to do 90% of the movements. They were extremely understanding and told me to keep coming while I'm hurt and they will modify everything for me. Today will be the first time I go in for a workout since Sept 8th... and it's been almost a week since my doctor appointment.

I'm starting to get antsy and anxious with my inability to do things like ride my bike or start buidling up my running base again. I crave going out to the trails and getting back out there like I used to. Maybe it's because I've been reading everyone's race reports from ultra and it makes me just really miss the whole process.  I even pulled up UltRunR and saw that there are quite a few other people that are having/had hip pain and were inquring about cause and any relief. It's strangely comforting to know other ultra runners had/have the same issue from the high miles.

So all in all, I hope this is something I can just strengthen over time through crossfit, cross training on the bike, and eventually...get abck to normal running.

Such a tease to live by these mountains and not be able to play in them.

August 20, 2012

Crossfit and Re-evaluating Goals


Going to Crossfit three times a week is much harder than I originally thought it would be. It’s taxing on the body, of course, but it has been surprisingly taxing on the mental front as well. I’m doing movements that I learned over the past two weeks and I’m not completely confident in myself. It’s hard to trust yourself to do repeated rope climbs when you can’t even remember if you ever did them in middle school gym class. When you’re dangling from a rope 20 feet in the air, you want to be sure of yourself. Never mind that you might be slightly scared of heights too! 

Saturday marked my first full week of being a real crossfitter, not an intro learner (not meaning to say I’m not still learning and considering myself a beginner).  On Monday, we did the usual warmup and about 15 min of our gymnastics: practicing handstands, ring pushups, tripods, overhead squats, kb deadlifts…and then we moved on to the WOD: three rounds for time of 10 box jumps, 10 knees to elbows, 10 box jumps, 20 pushups. I managed to get through it in a weak 8:17. Arm workouts in general have never been my favorite. I’m bad at them and severely lack upper body muscle, and so I used to just skip working that part of my body out. Thank God I’m forced to work out my upper body now. I’m tired of wobbly turkey arms! BRING ON THE ARM WRESTLING! Just kidding.  

I skipped Wednesday’s workout because I just really wasn’t’ feeling well. I began working at the office on Thursday, and I was pretty tired by the time the end of the work day rolled around for Friday. After much debating, showing up super early to the gym, then driving home (it’s like five min away), then deciding last minute to go back to the gym…I got in another WOD. We did gymnastics again, this time I managed a handstand on my own (FINALLY!), and then the WOD was as follows: 20 min AMRAP (as many rounds as possible) with the rounds being one rope climb, then rowing 250 meters. Then rope climb. Row 500 meters. Rope climb. Row 750 meters. Rope climb. Row 1000 meters….you get the idea. I was in a sucky moody…drained, exhausted, and still feeling under the weather…but crossfit don’t care. You show up, you get it done. That’s it. No whining to your coaches about it, no making excuses for your performance. I tried to suck it up as much as possible but the workout has been one of my least favorite so far. I almost cried. Coach Tony kept trying to motivate me, seeing that I wasn’t at my best and I felt like I was letting myself down and allowing myself to cop out by going half steam. I made it completely up the rope on the first climb, then halfway or a little more each other time. I made it through 4 rope climbs and 415 meters out of what was going to be my 1000 meter row. It. Was. Hard.

Since I skipped Wednesday’s WOD and I’m signed up for three visits a week, I decided to go in on Saturday.  We did a chipper. The good news was we didn’t do the gymnastics, which kinda tire out my arms before we even get to the WOD. The bad news was it was a super challenging workout. 

Saturday’s Chipper:
50 wall balls, rx 14/20# ball, used 10#
45 sit-ups
40 air squats
35 ring dips, mine modified with an assistance strap
30 double unders or 90 singles, I did 90 singles
25 push ups, mine modified
20 walking lunges with 25# plate
15 push press, rx 55#/95# or something, weak me did 35# and struggled
10 box jumps
5 sumo deadlift high pulls

My time – 17:59. When I say I struggled, I mean I S T R U G G L E D. Big time. By the time I finished 50 wall balls, I felt like my life was over. The situps were a very welcome break. I’m good at those and they don’t use your arms or legs. The 40 air squats were difficult considering wall balls are squats too. 35 ring dips…..come on. I have a hard time doing 10. 90 single jump ropes were okay for me, but I noticed the sweat flying off of me.   Again, I suck at pushups and these were difficult after the wall balls and ring dips. Walking lunges were okay on my legs but my arms were severely struggling with that 25# plate overhead. I wanted to get those over with ASAP. The push press is where I had the hardest time. Tony stood there the entire time I did those 15, making me redo a few because I couldn’t get my elbows straight. These just completely disheartened me. I felt so sad that I had such a hard time lifting 35 pounds above my head. Box jumps were uneventful other than Tony was still standing right there cheering me on, then by the time I got to the SDHP I was the last person still going and only had five moves to knock out and I would finally be finished. Everyone started egging me on and it was surprisingly nice to have everyone rooting for me. They were fairly easy to get through, I’m much better at the lower body movements. It’s gratifying to complete really challenging work outs like that, but in the heat of the moment all you want to do is lay down. At least I know I’m getting my money’s worth!

On the other side of the coin, I haven’t ridden the bike the past few days. It took every ounce of my energy to make it to crossfit, that I’ve been too tired to ride the bike. And don’t even ask me if I’ve been to the pool to work on my swimming. That hasn’t happened either. And neither has running unless it’s been part of the crossfit warmup.

I’ve been thinking more about my fitness goals lately, now that I do feel a little stronger and muscley. I have Big Sur Marathon at the end of April, and I want to start running again very soon so I can work my way up safely.  I thought about using that race as a benchmark for a fifty miler training, because it’s still something I really want to accomplish but I’m just not sure. All the fiftys around here are pretty challenging…

Then there’s the prospective goal of a half ironman with several sprint and Olympic triathlons in the spring leading up to a 70.3 in the summer. I love riding the bike, I’m okay with the running aspect…it’s just that gosh darn swimming I’m not sure about. I’m not very confident that I can teach myself how to effective swim 1.2 miles while also training for running, biking, and maintaining crossfit. Maybe instead I should shift my efforts to looking at some cycling events and running events…just leave out swimming altogether. Complete a century ride, etc…

In other news, we were watching a marathon of ‘I Won The Lottery’ or whatever that show is called where they follow up on how some lottery winners spent their money and how it changed their life….tooootally makes me want to go buy some lotto tickets. I think the CO lottery is up to 50mil or something! We could do a lot of outdoor things with that money!!!!

…Only in my dreams…

August 07, 2012

Building A Better Body

After the fifty miler attempt and numerous injuries over the past year, it was obvious to me that something needed to change. I knew I wasn't doing the best job developing my muscles and keeping my legs balanced to support all of the miles I was putting in. It was just a matter of time before my body said enough already. I haven't put my dream of crossing a fifty miler finish line out of my mind; it's merely been postponed for a little while until I can get everything back on track.

Yesterday marked the fourth of six intro workouts at Anchor Crossfit. We learned a ton of kettle bell moves and some shoulder press moves. When my alarm went off at 5:40am, I had a hard time convincing myself to hurry up and put on my workout clothes and head to the gym. I'm constantly sore somewhere on my body and knowing I'm about to head to another workout leaves my enthusiasm lacking that early in the morning.

As with running, it's best to convince yourself to head out anyway. And as usually with running, I haven't regretted it. I'm still at the very beginning of knowing everyone who attends Anchor, but the familiar faces I see every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning help put me in a good mood. I feel like this is the start of a very great thing. On Friday, I will complete the last intro class and then I will be able to sign up as a real member. I never thought I would get into the crossfit community because I was intimidated and because financially it just seemed unwise. To put the membership fees into perspective I think of it like this: I'm changing my body for the stronger, getting pretty close to individual attention ensuring I do the workouts safely and properly, I gain encouragement from the members and coaches, and I actually enjoy the sweat sessions and seeing myself change for the better. That's priceless.

Mentally, I welcome the break and new challenge that comes from doing the exercises at crossfit and the different disciplines I am trying to develop for triathlon training. As I was saying in my last post, I was looking into getting a road bike to work on my cycling skills for a future triathlon. Well, on Saturday, R and I went back to REI where they fitted me for a bike and I got to test out the Novara Carema Pro outside the store and on a trail by the water. It was so much fun! I loved the bike and we brought it home with a new helmet, dual sided clip less pedals so I can ride without clipping in for now and build up to getting the shoes that clip, and of course, a pair of padded cycling shorts! BEST BIRTHDAY PRESENT EVER! 

So yesterday I decided to take it out for a spin. For an hour. Of pure bliss. The best kind of exercise is the type that leaves you wanting to continue even when it's time quit. I need to figure out the gears and shifting...that's for sure...but I'm hoping once I join the Rocky Mountain Tri Club I will have a ton of people to show me the ropes. My hamstrings are still a little sore, and now my arms and shoulders are also sore...so I haven't been to the pool to practice my freestyle since Thursday. Maybe tomorrow...today I will probably head out on the bike again for just a little bit, then making some whole grain homemade pizza for dinner! Eventually I'm going to have to get over it and dedicate some serious time to figuring out this swimming thing. Otherwise, how do I expect to do a half ironman?!

Alright, off to ride!

July 30, 2012

Hooray Fitness!

New things are brewing and it's getting very exciting over here!

First off, I signed up for Big Sur International Marathon at the end of April. It's a race I've always stared at in the magazines with pictures of the beautiful coast. It won't be a race to make good time, but instead a race to simply have a good time. It is definitely not flat and who would want to whiz past the gorgeous views anyway. (Though I do HOPE I am able to increase my speed from my marathon debut at MCM).

I've finally adjusted to life here in Colorado, just to have it shift again. I've been enjoying my leisurely mornings of sleeping in, making coffee and lazily lounging around the house until I need to clean, do laundry or cook. There has not been much exercising going on. I think I am slightly mentally scarred from my past year of running to convince myself to get back out there and tackle some miles.  Instead, I've been eyeing the cross fit gym that is just a couple miles down the road from the house. Since taking one cross fit class long ago in Macon, GA, I have been interesting in joining the cross fit family but I just haven't been able to commit. It's a lot of money and it never seemed to fit in with my racing schedules. I know you can technically pull up the work outs yourself and manage, but I KNOW I have crap form and I want someone to be there to tell me to squat lower, hold the bar here, etc...

Well, I finally have a job that will begin sometime in the next week. Yay money! This will afford me the opportunity to indulge myself with cross fit classes, buy a bike, and join an indoor pool so I can hone my freestyle swimming skills.  So today, my alarm went off at 5:20 for me to get dressed and head to the gym for my 6am Crossfit Elements Part One of Six intro. We covered air squats, front squats, back squats, overhead squats and burpees, and after we got a hang of everything we did 10 min AMRAP of 5 front squats, 5 burpees, 5 overhead squats.

10 min feels long when you already did tons of practice squats and burpees and then all of a sudden have to throw a workout in after. I completed almost 10 rounds, just shy with 3 overhead squats remaining. I more than held my own, being the only girl in the intro group and narrowly missing the lead amount for completed rounds in our group. Not that that is what cross fit is about, part of what I love about it all. You do it for yourself, you are your only competition. It felt SO good to sweat like that and feel like I was actively moving towards building more muscle and changing my body...which has gotten slightly soft over the past two months I've taken completely off from working out O:) Plus, what a great way to finally meet people in our town! I get to go back again Wednesday morning for part two, pretty excited.

So why would I want a bike and to learn how to competitively swim? Well...I just finished reading a book called Finding Ultra, by Rich Roll...a great, great book about a man who turns forty and decides to change his life around and accomplishes some amazing feats of endurance. He does some Ironmans in the book. Previously before reading that book, I read another book...one of my favorites, The Long Run. Such a great book and very inspiring. He completes an Ironman. I am now reading Heart of Iron and I am quickly moving through it because it is just so good. The things this man is able to overcome and accomplish...just wow. So in the very beginning of the book, he is describing competing as a special interest registrant in the Ironman Championships.

These themes start to get into your head a bit when you are looking to workout again but aren't entirely sure of jumping back into the ultra running scene just yet. Since we moved here, I've been wanting a bike so I can cross train and just recreationally ride. That somehow took on a new life when I started reading Heart of Iron to me just browsing online at the half ironman list in the USA. Then I noticed one that is driving distance, 8 hours, from here in Lawrence, Kansas. And it's in June...so it provides ample time for me to build up my body through crossfit, get endurance on the bike, and become a better swimmer all before the try season rolls back around next year.

So long term goals to work towards, Big Sur Marathon and Half Ironman Kansas.
Short term goals: work on swimming, biking, and running endurance. Keep straightening up my nutrition.

Registration hasn't opened yet for Kansas, but I'm pretty convinced that I will sign up when it does!

July 16, 2012

Reflection

Well just when I thought I was getting back into keeping this thing up to date with the last post, I fell off the writing horse again and into a sloth-like state.

I haven't been running. Like...at all (but I was doing Crossfit Endurance). And that's okay. In fact, it's more than okay. I think it is exactly what my body and my mind needed after the chaos of the past two years:

Started running July 2010
Ran first half October 2010
(seems like a big gap here but I did a few small races)
Ran first trail half September 2011
Ran first marathon October 2011
Ran first 50k May 2012 (wow...after typing that I just realized how soon ago that was...seems like longer)
Attempted first 50 mile June 2012.
Shortly after the 50 mile attempt, I vowed not to run for at least a month to let my body finally heal and give my mind a break from all the torment I have put it through.

It's been a whirlwind running career in my opinion. My first half marathon I ran a little under the weather and a little down in the soul when I hadn't seen my dad or stepmom on the course and missed my mom and friends at the first cheering spot.

I injured myself during my first trail half, twisting my ankle twice. Once at the 6 mile marker with a very audible POP, dusted myself off and kept running only to twist is again at mile 11 at which point damage was definitely done. I had to take off a good stretch of time to let that heal...all before my first full marathon. Needless to say, I ran the marathon but I wasn't in the best condition I could have been, physically or mentally. Life lessons.

The 50k in Bear Mountain was a true test to me. I wouldn't take it back for the world because I saw great inspiration at that race through many of the competitors, and I made a great running friend who motivated me to cross that finish line.  The drawback was that I picked an excruciatingly difficult race only a month before my 50 miler. Very challenging ups and downs left my knee shredded after the race and it definitely took a toll on my training for the month leading up to North Face.

North Face was a completely different beast. Had I not been injured (story of my running life...) and had I not been up to my shins in mud from the downpours of rain the night before the race, I think I would have completed the race with flying colors. I don't doubt my ability anymore. I will always remember how clumsy I am though. I fell more than once that day, as I suspect many people did, but two of the falls resulted in damage to my other ankle and my knee again.

What I am trying to get at here is that clearly I needed a break. Big time. I almost think I needed time away from thinking of it all, strategizing, planning out each run and what to eat, where to go, what to wear, on and on more than my body needed the recovery. I needed a break to reel my mind back in from so much negativity that started circling with each perceived failure. I say perceived because I don't consider bad runs failures anymore. Looking back now after my month plus of reflection, I learned something from every single run. Every trip over a root, every mis-ingested gel, every ill-timed outing. I am now a wealth of running information thanks to all of those blunders and successes.

I am now ready to take all that knowledge back out onto the road and start again. But I want to do things the right way this time. I've been reading Finding Ultra by Rich Roll. I guess you can say I drank the kool-aid on this one because this guy has me convinced that I need to change a few things about my lifestyle. First up and probably the most difficult, I need to alter my diet. Less meat focus, more veggies and fruits. Less processed foods. Time to think more about what I am getting out of everything I'm eating and how it is impacting my body and training and general well being. He makes a very strong case for the plant-based lifestyle, but that's something that I will have to eeeease into, if I ever make it there fully.

Rich Roll also talks about his journey to compete in Ultraman, an intense three day competition that is invitation only for a few lucky competitors. It's insane: day one entails a 6.2 mile swim, followed by a 90 mile bike ride. Day two is a 170 mile bike ride, and Day three culminates with a 52 mile run. Pretty insane (I hope I got those amounts right...). He went from barely active at all in his life to all of a sudden training for six months for this beast of a challenge. His coach taught him how to change his thinking and concentrate in the immediate on changing his lactate threshold (which I know mine is not good at all). He ran for months only in the Zone Two, keeping his heart rate in the aerobic zone. This eventually allowed him to run for much longer, and eventually longer and faster.  It is essential for endurance athletes.

Since I am just getting back on the horse, that's how I intend to start. Slowly, small runs in my Z2, building up time but keeping it in the zone. After I get a job and a paycheck, I also intend on buying a bike so I can cross train and keep my muscles balanced.

I still want to incorporate Crossfit Endurance into my fitness regimen. We'll see how it goes. So far I have Big Sur International Marathon on my list of registered races, April 28, 2013. I've been wanting to run it, so I am extremely excited I was able to register.

Happy trails!




June 28, 2012

Back To Sweating

We are finally getting settled in our new home in Commerce City, CO. It's been pretty hot lately, but I'm grateful that the heat is sans humidity, making it a little more bearable for the humans and the dogs. The dogs are enjoying the backyard and an early morning walk from yours truly after I get my workout in.

I've started waking up at around 730am to get into the Crossfit Endurance beginners routine a friend emailed me. I'm still a little wonky and achey for getting back into the high miles of running, so I figured that CFE is a good alternative to keep me in shape since I don't have a bike or a gym membership. Must make due with what I have.

Yesterday was my first CFE day. 10 pushups, 20 sit-ups, and 10 box jumps for three rounds NFT(not for time). Then I did a short quarter mile run around the block. I had to do girl pushups because I literally have zero muscle in my arms...and I feel the burn today. I coasted easily through the sit-ups, but I also feel a mild burn today in my abs. My legs feel fine from the box jumps. That's good news I guess that I retained some amount of muscle from a month off of no running or working out after the fifty miler training.

Today I woke up early again and went outside for my running day of CFE: 10x100m, walking back to the start after each rep for recovery. It sure did feel good to run some. I knocked this out fairly easily, then went home and took the dogs out for about a half mile walk.

I'm trying to remember that I need to ease into things and not pile on tons of work out activities, but I feel like I'm not doing much. It took a lot of restraint today to not go lift some weights or do some lunges or squats or ANYTHING after only run/walking two miles.

Tomorrow I am doing five rounds NFT of 10 pushups (ouch already), 20 sit-ups, and 15 lunges. Then I'm supposed to have Saturday and Sunday off but I'm going to see if I can convince R to head to a trail somewhere and he can run and I can hike or something.

Yay getting back in shape and losing the flabbiness I've started accumulating! Now to find close by trails that remind me of the tree covered ones of VA...one of the only things I miss about the area.

June 07, 2012

NFEC 50 Mile Recap

Before the start with
my coffee
I'm going to start with the week's forecast leading up to the Saturday race. It rained on Tuesday, then was sunny for a bit, and then the forecast called for rain on Friday. I went to work with a little bit of a drizzle that quickly gave way to seemingly nice weather. It fooled me into thinking maybe there wouldn't be any rain as predicted. As I started my drive home from work, the sky opened up and dumped an ungodly amount of rain. It took a small break when I got home, then proceeded to downpour the rest of the night. Tornado warnings kept flashing on the tv and I grew increasingly anxious about the trail conditions. I've been out on the PHT enough times to know what it looks like after a decent rain. Muddy. And this was about twenty times more rain than I had seen before any of my training runs out there.

To say I was concerned is an understatement. I had a very bad feeling about things, but went about my preparations for an early bed time and an early rise to get going for the race.

At least I had a fantastic meal of baked chicken parmesan, whole wheat spaghetti with baby spinach, delicious asparagus, and garlic bread.

I woke up at 3:30am and got dressed and head to the race parking lot. I had my pb&j, a little piece of bagel, and coffee, a momentary freak out, and then before I could panic anymore the race was under way. At least I got close to Dean K on the way through the arch for the start!

Waiting for the Start

And we're off!
Not even a tenth of a mile into the run, everyone could tell the muddy day we were in for. The course takes you out a tiny bit on a 'trail' then you duck back to the open field where you see the spectators again about a mile in and then head down the paved road for a bit til you duck onto the gravel road at Algonkian where the baseball diamonds are...it eventually leads you to the PHT and the first aid station.

I stuck with my coworker for a little while during this portion until we approached the PHT. I almost slipped on a bridge that we crossed because my shoes were already wet and getting muddy. Not a good start to things, slipping only two miles into a fifty mile race...

The trail crosses for a little loop that I haven't run before with another slippery bridge and a double back to bring runners back to the aid station. By this point I was pretty much bringing up the rear of the pack, already having popped my tylenol for some minor pains I was starting to feel in my knee and hip. I stopped at the aid station for some pretzels and kept on my way to more familiar territory. I felt a sense of comfort in hitting the trails that I recognized.

The feeling didn't last long.


I thought Bear Mountain was the toughest race I would encounter for a while, but this proved to be a completely different type of challenge. While Bear Mountain burned my hams and calves and made me question the meaning of life, DC made me feel like I ran ten miles when I had only covered five. Muscles I didn't know I had were aching from the balancing act that was required the first quarter of the course.

Fifty miles is hard enough on a nice clean, flat trail. Factoring in heaps of mud that keeps trying to suck the shoes off your feet, makes you slip repeatedly, cakes onto your shoes so you have virtually no grip at all...well that's just not good at all. No good for your muscles, no good for your pace, and no good for your attitude and confidence level. I challenge you to find one person (who wasn't in the top 15 finishers) who didn't have a flicker of doubt of finishing in their mind at some point on Saturday. 


Yes, this is the trail...
I've run almost all of the course route before and have never seen this section so overrun with grass. I literally couldn't see where I was stepping, which creates a bucketload of problems when I knew this section has tons of roots and rocks along the bottom. I snagged my foot on a branch and tumbled forward a bit but luckily caught myself, though I think this is when things truly started to head south.

I made it to the next aid station feeling a bit defeated. The volunteers were so great and tried to pep me up by telling me not to worry myself with the first hard cutoff time, keep at it, that I was doing great, slapped a freshly made pb&j into my hand, filled my water and off I went after spending too much time standing around. I did pep up just a bit and started to run a little more than I had been...trying to get into a groove I wasn't able to find for the first eight miles. I had 6.7 miles until the next aid station and a lot of work to do. Eventually I came to what seemed to be a stream crossing with no way across but to wade across the waist-high- water. Not exactly what I wanted, and although it helped to wash the mud off my shoes, it also water logged them and brought on more weight and more possibilities for blisters.

Not very far from there I finally saw three people in front of me. That breathed new energy into me and I started to pick up the pace in pursuit of some company to run with. We griped together about how awful and muddy the morning was, and eventually we came to a small jump in the trail over a little stream of water. The two runners got there first and both immediately fell and slid into the water. The guy offered to help me across and I stupidly decided to go to the side where there was a tree that I thought would offer me support to get across. I ended up falling too, mildly hurting my wrist, definitely hurting my leg/ankle, and certainly hurting what little was left of my confidence and desire to continue. I let out some cuss words and shared sentiments with the other two runners. We managed to carry on and played rabbit for a while until I peeled off in front, not to see them again for miles.

I finally got close to Riverbend and passed a few injured and limping 50 milers...right about the time that the 50k leads were starting to come up from behind. They offered encouragement as I pulled to the side to let them pass, and I continued to make my way to Great Falls. I was just ready to get there, change my shoes, and see my boyfriend and best friends for a boost.

I started to feel like a runner again right before heading past the visitor center at Great Falls. I was finally surrounded by other runners and could feel their energy and excitment as they came in to the next aid station, ready to start their loop. I saw my friends and immediately felt overcome with emotion and sadness. I changed my socks and shoes, treated them poorly because of displaced anger, and had a chat with the aid station volunteer about the cutoff time. He told me if I really pushed the pace, I would make the cutoff and be allowed to continue into Great Falls for a second loop. I didn't WANT to continue...but I'm too stubborn to quit and I took off chasing a faster pace to continue the race.  That didn't last long. Soon I hit a long slow uphill and started walking and eating some crackers. I turned from the Old Carriage trail onto the Ridge Trail for more of an uphill, a bit of a downhill, a turnaround, and back across to the other side of  the Rdige Trail to a very oddly placed aid station. The route dead ends there and runners turn around and head down to the River Trail, but it was a bit of chaos at the station and I tried to get in and out quickly. My leg and ankle on my right leg were starting to seize up from all that uphill work and I had to start walking the River Trail, which bottlenecked with runners forced to walk the rocky sections, and bound around tourists who didn't understand that a race was happening. This is around the time I realized I wouldn't make the cutoff, and that it would be better if I didn't make it anyhow. Everything was hurting, and I know myself well enough that if I had made the cutoff, even if by mere seconds, I would have gone into GF for a second, and third loop...eventually dragging my leg behind me in the mud to get to the finish line, doing much more damage in the process.

When I came into the aid station, the volunteer told me I missed the time and I walked off to where my boyfriend and friends were waiting with their signs and beaming smiles of encouragement. I wanted to just curl into a ball on the ground and sob until the disappointment disappeared, but I tried to put on a brave face for the ride home.

I ended up crying in the car anyway, and had spurts of crying for the next day. After a tearful goodbye to my friend who drove all the way from Norfolk to not run with me, Helen, Jake, Ryan, and I shoved our faces and drank our little hearts out to try to cheer me up. Cotton Candy Vodka and Sprite is delicious, in case you were wondering.

I'm still finding it hard to deal with Saturday. I know I probably sound insane to people who haven't been through this sort of thing...like why is it so hard for this girl to cope with the fact that she didn't finish an insane distance race...and I'm okay with people not understanding. I'm nursing my wounds, letting my legs and pride heal, then I'll be back at the grind, adding muscle and strength to my body before starting the long road back to the start line and finish line (hopefully) for Bear Chase 50 Mile on Sept 30.


I will bounce back.


*TNF group puts on an incredible race. It's not their fault I had a poo time. The volunteers were so sweet and encouraging, the course was very well marked, the aid stations were well stocked with goodies. My only small gripe would be about the location of the Great Falls aid stations. Otherwise, I would most certainly do this race again, and I encourage first time ultra runners to try it out.*

June 01, 2012

Less Than 24 Hr to Go!

I'll wanna be sedated! (Get it...?! Like the song...)

Tomorrow is the big day: Exactly 18 hours from now. HOLY YIKES!

Fully commence freak out mode!

Launching in

3

2

1

AAAAHHHHHHHHHH!

Seriously, this could be the biggest lead up to anything I've ever done ever in my life EVER.

12 hours of pure delight. Pain. Frustration.Worry. Joy. Tears. High fives. Sweaty hugs.

Finishing 50 miles in a 13 hour time period will undeniably be so emotional for me. I expect to cry during the race, as I come in to the finishing chute, as the medal is placed around my neck, as I see my friends waiting and cheering for me.

Humorous things I expect to happen based on my training runs: hallucinating that a tree is a horse, having ridiculous songs pop into my head like "I Will Survive" and Flock of Seagulls' "Ran So Far Away" and "I Would Walk 500 Miles" or my personal favorite from the last few miles of Bear Mountain, 98 Degrees "It's the Hardest Thing I'll Ever Have to Do".  I'll also randomly laugh at myself for doing something stupid, ie - not paying attention and tripping on air. I'll try to crack jokes with those around (if there is anyone around me...).

I also asked my friends to provide me any mantras they think will help. My personal favorites are to just scream "WOOOOOO" (which I seriously will do!) and tell myself that I am a robot (in a robot voice). I seem to cuss a lot too as a way of coping with the hills and/or pain. I like yelling at myself "COME ON" too. Not sure why, but it seems to help me :)  I know everything is going to hurt eventually, so hopefully I will be able to just accept that and keep pushing to get to the end and sit down sooner.

I will load my friend's newest mix (dude is SUPER talented, go check him out...DJ Wizdom) onto my phone for some tunes, as well as hold on to the tunes that never fail to get me into a rhythm:

Golden Jubilee from Boy & Bear
Making Me Nervous from Brad Sucks (love love love to run to)
My Racing Thoughts from Jacks Mannequin
Release Me from Jacks Mannequin
Walk Away from The Script
Scotland from The Lumineers
Anything from Fitz & The Tantrums
Most recent CD from Foo Fighters

Then here's this info of my projected times....

Run down of each Aid:
Mile 4.8: Sugarland @ 6:00am
Mile 8.1: Fraser @ 6:45am
Mile 14.8: Great Falls @ 8:30am
Mile 18.9: Old Dominion @ 9:30am
Mile 21.7: Great Falls @ 10:10am  (HARD CUTOFF 10:42AM)
Mile 25.8: Old Dominion @ 11:00am
Mile 28.6: Great Falls @ 11:40am
Mile 32.7: Old Dominion @ 12:30pm
Mile 35.5: Great Falls @ 1:10pm (HARD CUTOFF 2:59PM)
Mile 42.2: Fraser @ 3:10pm
Mile 47.9: Sugarland @ 4:40pm
Mile 50: Finish line @ 5:10pm  (Earliest Estimation is 5:00PM, Don’t get antsy til 5:50PM, but maybe 4:30 just in case I sneak in early somehow)
I'm very excited to get this started. I feel so lazy from not running much after Bear Mountain, and I'm anxious to see how my body has held up with all that time off. I just really hope I can complete the distance safely. So much work has gone into preparing for this one day. I think i will eventually go into Race Surival Mode where you kind of tunnel vision everything out but the task at hand.

I'll try to provide a race recap faster than I did for Bear Mountain, but it might take me a little time to wrap my head around everything, and it will take me even longer to write a recap if for some unforeseen reason I DNF.

Wish me (and my poor pacers who have to deal with a grouchy Steph) luck!


May 15, 2012

Race Recap: Bear Mtn 50K

I've been procrastinating on posting this since I just don't know where to start, and I've been trying to wrap my head around the entire event. When something kicks your ass THAT hard, it's difficult to know how to process it all. I find myself on a rollercoaster ride of opinions towards this particular race.

I decided on Wednesday or Thursday that I would head up to Bear Mountain, NY and sign up on race day morning for a bib to the 50K race which had plenty of slots still open. I considered 'camping'...really sleeping in my car...but I was eventually persuaded to Priceline negotiate my way into a cheap hotel in the surrounding area. Boy am I glad I did that.  I nabbed the Candlewood Suites hotel in Nanuet, NY for $50 a night, and decided to stay Saturday night as well instead of driving the 4.5 hours home after the race (another genius idea). The Candlewood was everything I could have hoped for. It's an extended stay type joint, so the room was very spacious, nice bathroom, full kitchen, and comfortable enough bed. There was an issue with the thermostat that I couldn't quite get right...but I was pretty pleased with my experience there.

I took a half day on Friday and drove up to NY making really decent time. I checked into the hotel, and set out to find a pasta place for an early dinner. Turns out, although Nanuet is only about 30-45 miles away from NYC, it's a pretty small town with not that many options (that I could find). I ended up at the Red Lobster...the first of many mistakes.

What I wanted to eat for dinner...
I don't know why I expected Red Lobster to have more than one option of pasta that didn't also have a giant portion of seafood...but I was stuck with ordering Cajun Chicken Alfredo, or something like that. It was basically a bunch of oily pasta, big chunks of chicken, smothered in this gopped up mess of 'alfredo'...

And why would I show up to a restaurant alone and want to actually be left ALONE? Ohhh no....the people at Red Lobster in Nanuet, NY do not like that. They see you sitting by yourself and immediately want to know what you are donig in their small town. I told the spacey waitress that I was here to run a race. She made this uncomfortable comparison of me to Forrest Gump. Then seemingly tag teamed herself out of the conversation and left things wide open for the busboy to come chat with me. Frequently. The entire meal. 'Oh a race? Where?' 'I've been to Bear Mountain, are you running around the lake? (the lake is like ground zero there)' 'Oh 15 up and 15 back? 15 minutes?' 'Yeah I always wanted to hike the AT...' much nut flexing going on from this guy... and to round it all out, when I was finally finished eating and about to escape this disaster of a meal...'So I don't know what your plans are later, but I'm free if you want me to come over...'

Must have been a slow night for them...





In the morning, after a not so restful night's sleep, I made some coffee and oatmeal, gathered my things and head out for the 20 min drive to the shuttle location. In the fog.  I am terrified of driving in fog. No joke.

Parking was super easy and the lot had ample room. It's a short ten minute ride from the parking lot to the race start/finish, and I was registered in no time...with over an hour to kill before the 7am start. Everyone there was so incredibly nice, it made me feel okay making the trip up there all alone. I chatted with one woman (who quite frankly was a little crazy to tell me the course wasn't that steep and not that bad...LIAR), and then had a very bizarre moment when I went to take this picture (after some dude walked up to me because he thought I was some girl he knew in Saratoga...):

Don't you love the color combo of hot pink, neon orange, LSU purple and gold?! I know I do.

So this woman is standing there when I'm goofing off about my color combo with the photographer and we somehow get to chatting about me coming from DC, etc...when she asks, 'Do you write a blog? Because I think I read it the other night! Yeah, something about a girl from DC coming to run this 50K but is really doing the NFE DC 50miler?' (I definitely paraphrased that...because I have the memory of a goldfish and cannot remember verbatim, but you get the jist...I'M FAMOUS YALL!!!) Okay, I'm probably not famous...I really do think it's probably just some crazy coincidence that this woman read some other woman's blog and it just sounds like me. There are a million running blogs out there...but then again there are only 250 ish Bear Mtn 50k-ers, not many of which were women....just saying. (SHOUT OUT to the girl if she in fact did read MY blog before the race and then somehow came back on here again AFTER the race!)

Now that my celebrity story is out of the way, I'll get back to the race.

The temperature was mild but very humid. The first mile or so is slightly uphill, if my memory serves me right, and it's pretty rocky. Lucky for all of us, it rained pretty much all week to provide wonderful muddy, slippery rocks. I was cracking jokes with anyone around me who cared to listen until my shin splints magically appeared out of nowhere. I couldn't help but think, seriously? I thought I was done with that whole phase of things. I walked it out...a bad omen for the next 30 miles. I guess that's what I get for wearing my sportivas out of the blue when I had been recently running in the speedcross. I quickly found myself in the very, very back of the pack, with just one person periodically behind me. We played rabbit a bit in the beginning before we became fast friends.

Another hill. Story of this race. In front of me, 'Santiago' (we think that's what his name was...I'm pretty sure). He was in front of me, I was in the middle, and Jo was behind me.

I stopped briefly to take a picture of some trickling water, but the photo really isn't that great and it was just a waste of ten seconds. I was probably only doing that to catch my breath. I was a whimp at this race.

This picture happened shortly after, only a few miles into the race. I was already starting to drip sweat, and I was quickly realizing how tough this day would really be. I will never, EVER (probably a lie) complain about the 'hills' here in DC (ask me on June 2). These were nonstop, brutal, hamstring burning, soul sucking hills all freaking day. Miles and miles. And rocky descents I couldn't really enjoy running down.



It was about four miles to get from the start of the race to Anthony Wayne Aid Station. Pretty much all of that 4 miles is uphill. After I came into Anthony Wayne with Jo and Santiago, I grabbed two very small pb sanwiches (definitely not enough) and some water to wash it down, and chatted a bit with the volunteers. There has been a woman following us for pretty much 3 of the 4 miles into the aid station who I thought was the cutoff person. So I'm making us rush and run so we don't get cut off (this actually might have happened with pulling into the second aid station, my memory is crumbly about this part). Either way, we hustled for nothing. At the aid station, I learned that not only is she not the cutoff person (she was the sweep (a sweep is the person who runs behind the very last runner in a race's distance to make sure no one is left out on the course (her name is Lea and she's quite lovely))), and that there wasn't really that hard of a cutoff time. They wouldn't be kicking us off if we came in right after 10 hours. That was great news. Jo and I marched out of the aid station and up the road before turning back into the woods for more single tracking. Santiago said he would catch up with us. I had already been having tummy problems by this point, making it undesirable to eat my gels even though I knew my body needed the intake. It's a very tough spot to be in.

Jo was so sweet to talk to me the entire ten hours we were together to keep my mind off of the pain and disappointment I felt in my body. I really felt betrayed that I could do almost everything the same as my training runs, but just have an off day where my stomach doesn't cooperate and I can't seem to get it back on track. She gave me some tablet to chew to see if that would help (it didn't), I drank more coke at the aid stations...ate a banana (or threw it away...don't remember), I tried everything. I put more nuun into my pack, etc etc. So frustrating. Somewhere after the second aid station I really had a strong desire to call it quits. I actually wanted to quit AT the aid station, but I was hopeful that my nutrition would get back on track and make the rest of the day more bearable. And there was the fact that I didn't let Jo quit when she mentioned it, so the payback was that she would not let me quit. Then I told her my Rosaryville attempt story and that cemented my fate to her that I needed to cross this finish line and get a 50K completed. We chatted about her husband and kids, my boyfriend and friends, the big move coming up, the races she's completed...

Eventually we hit around the halfway mark and the first of the marathoners came whizzing by. It was bad timing because the course leads you to a spot where you have to rock climb a bit to the 'top'.  Around this area we had seen Santiago a few times behind us, but he eventually dropped out from a knee injury (I think).

This is the 'beautiful' view from the top. More like bogus. Lies again. All you can see is trees and more trees.



I swear we got to the 'top' of the mountain about three times over the course of the race. I wasn't thrilled about it. You get to the top, start to head down thinking you are done going up for a while until BAM all of a sudden you are heading back up steep ground and find yourself with another lacking view.


I considered taking a nap at this shelter one of the times we reached the top. But alas, we kept moving.  After this, we found ourselves FINALLY on runnable land. Kind of. The course goes to an area where it's a tiiiiny single track in the middle of a ton of thistley bushes. Luckily I had my calf sleeves on that offered protection, otherwise it just would have added to my unpleasant demeanor that was building.

It started to seem so much nicer of a route for a little while, and we came to another aid station. This one was rockin! There was a chick with a hot pink wig on and people cheering! It was a sight for sore eyes. Jo and I chatted with the volunteers a bit while we shoved our faces and gulped down coke and water, and joked a bit about missing the 10 hour cutoff and if we would receive a medal. The consensus was that we should just keep moving as fast as we could and yes, we would get a medal for finishing, even if it was after the 10 hr cutoff. We were actually riiiight on target to make it at exactly 10 hours.

Until Timp Pass happened. From that previous aid station to the next aid station was the longest 2.5 miles ever. We went down the most ridiculously steep downhill ever, then found our way to what runners had been telling me about all morning. This awful steep, long uphill before the finish. I do not exaggerate when I say I cussed many a time on the way up, as well as having to stop to catch my breath and calm the hamstrings. It. Was. Awful. I have no other way to describe it other than the entire time up I just kept thinking who the hell would put a course through here. If I recall correctly, there is the illusion of the top at a certain vantage point, only to get there and realize the climb is still not yet over. I wish I had pictures of this section just to show how hard it was. Jo peeled off from me during the uphill in pursuit of making the actual cutoff time. I really hoped she could make it there in time without me holding her back anymore.

You would think that with all that effort uphill, you would be granted the privilege of a downhill....but you would be sorely mistaken. While I am much more comfortable on trails than I used to be, I am not quite there with my technical skill to fly down a huge, long downhill where the only place for your foot to land is on this rock or that rock. Not all rocks were created equal, and not all of them were stable. And they definitely weren't dry. I walked the entire way down and made it to the aid station feeling completely depleted, but happy to know that the biggest hill was behind me and I was only a few miles from the finish.

I grabbed just a few pretzels and continued on my way hopeful to stay in front of a few 50k stragglers I managed to pass in between these aid stations. I even ran a little bit.  Then I came upon a photographer who informed me there was just one more little hill and then I would be home free.

I made my way back through the beginning parts of the course, coming to a fork in the road and came face to face with a very angry racer. She and a few others (I think the crazy lady from before the race - the one who told me this was not that hard - was among them) had taken a left when they were supposed to take a right. She seemed happy to see me for the fact of knowing the right way to go, but then went off on this temper tantrum about how she ran three miles in the wrong direction. I understand the frustration, but honey, I am not the one who told you to go left. She took off in front of me, and I was happy to be alone again to finish up. I went through that same rocky section we ran in the first mile, then you come off the trail and onto paved road where I broke out into a gallop to get to the red arch.

So much mud.
There were just a few people out waiting for their friends and loved ones to finish their distance (presumably the 50 Miler) but a few clapped when I came by and one man said a simple 'Bravo' that almost sent me into a fit of sobs. I was exhausted, felt defeated, I was happy to almost be done, and I was overcome with emotion to finally finish a 50K. When I got to the finish line I was so close to an ugly cry but I didn't want my pictures to be any worse so I toughed it out, had my name announced as I crossed, a medal draped over my head and I found Jo sitting and waiting.

Photo Courtesy of Jo
I waited with her for a while for her husband to finish the 50 Miler and I found myself overcome with emotion a few times while watching a couple gentlemen cross the finish line in tears of happiness from their accomplishment. I know that will be me in a few weeks, tearfully completing something I have trained so hard for.



Bear Mountain was seriously a bear of a mountain and I have no desire to rematch for a better race time. My take aways from this race are that I did well to not fall. My technical ability has vastly improved from six months ago and I feel much more comfortable out there. This is great news for the much less technical NFE DC. I also want to remember how difficult it was to push through a few really tough mental parts of the race. I want to remember that undoubtedly at some point during an ultra race, you will face a time where things just aren't going right, or everything is hurting, or your mental toughness is cowering in the corner. If you keep putting one foot in front of the other and just keep moving, relentless forward progress, it will eventually pass. The issues rarely last all race. On June 2, I need to remember that I am prepared for this distance, I have the capacity in me to push through whatever springs up, and that in the end it is so worth it.

I didn't sleep well the night of the race due to muscle stiffness. Then on the drive home my knee flared up in a painful fit. I even went to the doctor, and he told me I just had inflammation and to give it a week to cool off. I didn't run all week. In fact, I didn't run until yesterday. The knee is better, my hip is a little wonky, but it will all heal up soon. I'm finally in taper...and I never thought it would get here.






May 04, 2012

Who knew I was spontaneous?!

"Pushing your body past what you thought it was capable of is easy; the hard part is pushing yourself even further...past what your mind wants to let you. That's what ultrarunning is all about; introducing you to a self you've never known." - Rex Pace

Making yourself go for a run when you aren't feeling well is dedication. Or stupidity. I can't decide. I don't know why we are splitting hairs...it can be both. I blame Nike because they're all like, 'just do it', and I'm like, Nike, I'm sick.

My training as of lately has seemed to come unhinged from sickness and laziness. Training for the 50 miler has made me lazy. I can get my butt up to do my long run, but I have a huge struggle getting in my weekday runs (other than Wednesday when I force myself to go to Great Falls).

I took last week pretty easy...which probably wasn't the BEST idea I've had, since I think I deemed the week before that 'recovery week' and that I would buckle down after that. I did a weekday walk, but I did manage to get myself going for a long run. Just one though, not the back to back :/ It's incredible how guilty that makes me feel just typing it on here. Anyway, this is the way the weekend unfolded. I had Friday off of work, so I decided that since Helen's bachelorette party was that weekend as well, I would get up SUPER early, go run my 20 something miles, shower, pick up the girls, and drive to Norfolk for the festivities. The way it really unfolded is as follows:

Got to Sterling late Thursday night where a friend graciously let me crash so I would be 10 min away from the trail instead of over an hour away. Work up at 4am to take him to the airport, went to the trail to discover I still do not have a headlamp, and I don't know where I'm going on that part of the trail...so I had to wait it out til it got light outside. I did not eat enough Thursday night, OR Friday morning....this has SUCH A HUGE IMPACT on the run. At least this time out on the trail I was dressed appropriately for the weather. I had on my compression sleeves, tight shorts, a short sleeve shirt, arm warmers, a long sleeve shirt, ear warmers, and gloves. Sounds excessive but it was really cold in the morning, and windy after the cold wore off. Windy + Sweaty = Still cool outside. I also wore the new shoes to see how they would fair for a long run. Jury is still out. I really want to get behind these spiffy shoes, but the fact of the matter is, my feet hurt after 18 miles regardless of the 'extra' cushion they provide in comparison to my sportivas. I could also feel more of the rocks under my feet than the sportivas. They do have an awesome grip though...  I'm resigned to the fact that no matter what shoes I wear on race day, my feet will hurt no matter what by the 30 mile mark. Just have to tough it out. I did notice that when I got really tired and my feet were hurting, if I walked a little and waited it out, the pain would subside for a bit...then come back, and kept doing that tango. That's semi good news.  So I think the final mileage hovered around 23 miles. I cut it short because I thought I was running late.

Then on Saturday, my tummy was in a fit from the bachelorette night one, and it was going to rain, and I'm lazy...and I said no thanks to my ten miles.

I'm a jerk to myself.

To top it all off, I was pretty sick going into this past weekend, and I still haven't quite shaken it off. My throat is a little unhappy, but being sick does not keep me from my long runs. Just my short ones, haha.

I don't think I did much of anything this week. Tuesday I ran up and down the stairs in the apartment a crapton and then went for a little stroll outside. Wednesday, I went to the trail at Great Falls and (early) head out on my own for a bit (not sure how far) then did the chunk of CCT and Difficult Run for 6 miles. I'll attach photos later...when I put them on my computer. I gave myself the night off last night (are we surprised?) and picked up my bridesmaid dress from alterations, pretended to pack up more of my room for the big move at the end of the month, and packed my bag for this weekend.

WHICH FINALLY BRINGS ME TO WHAT'S HAPPENING TOMORROW: Today I am heading up to Bear Mountain, NY. It's by West Point, so I'm kinda excited to drive by there and see what I can of the area.

I'm going to have a moment of honesty on here. I've been feeling a little claustrophobic with the way things have been going lately. I've been doing my training, but I've also been so involved with things going on for other people, plus stressing over job things and moving things and finding jobs in Colorado etc etc etc, that I just felt like things were closing in on me. Needed an escape. I'm also due for a 31 miler this weekend per my training schedule, and lo and behold, Bear Mountain, part of the NFE series, is this weekend. The 50k still has about 200 spots open, and I was assured that if I show up on race day, I will have no problem securing a bib. I'm making the 5.5 hour drive up to a little hotel about 20 min from the race site, going to enjoy the small town charm of Nanuet and carb load tonight...get a good night's rest, get up bright and early, and get my ass kicked by a race that has the words MOUNTAIN and BEAR in the title. Allow me to use those words in a sentence, 'Man, that is one BEAR of a MOUNTAIN'.

Anyway, the elevation chart is super ridiculous and I have told myself not to look at it anymore because I'm getting kinda freaked out about the whole thing. Some people (read, most) don't understand why I would want to drive all the way to NY to run a race that has 5 out of 5 stars for difficulty, 5 out of 5 stars for being technical (rocky, unstable footing, hard to navigate, etc), a course that is probably 10 times more challenging than what I will face for my 50 miler here in DC...but in my opinion, it's the best kind of training run.

If I run my longest training distance on an insanely challenging course, won’t that make me better prepared? Yes, my quads and hams, and calves for that matter, will all be angry for a little while because of the steep up AND down on the route, but when I get to NFE DC I can say, 'THIS is nothing. You should see what I did last month!' Plus, while the back to back runs do a great job of simulating what running on tired legs will feel like for the last 15 miles of my 50 miler, so will this challenging 31 miler. As a fellow VHTRC member told me in an email (he is running the 50 miler), "Good luck to you as well--this'll be one hell of a training run for you.  NF DC's going to be a walk in the park after this.  (Maybe more of a run in the park?  But I digress...)...'

I'm nervous, excited, a little scared...I will need to watch my footing very carefully. I will not PR this race (haha jk I WILL PR, but just because it will be my first completion of a 50k), the goal is to finish and not get hurt. It will be an extremely valuable lesson in mental toughness, and I hope I rise to the challenge. I also think I am making the climbs out to be way more steep than I hope they will be...I love overestimating things and then getting there and thinking, 'oh hey, this isn't as bad as I thought!' (but seriously, I hear the course is one of THE toughest on the east coast.....yikes.)

It's supposed to be extremely beautiful views when you get to the top, so I'll be sure to take some photos when I can (if the 50k goes to the top...not really sure). It's going to be an adventure to race a trail I've never been on before! SO EXCITING!

When I get back, I hope I can buckle down on my weekday runs and finish out this final month of training. I've learned a lot of what not to do and will be able to apply everything to the next 50 miler in September.

Sidebar about my packing, I got into my running drawer the other day...now I know what people mean when they say they have too many race shirts. They are just smarter to notice their accumulation as they go instead of my method of waiting until you need to pack your belongings then get shocked at how one could own so many running shirts...that they feel they need all of...

Anyway, Happy trails (or roads) to everyone I know racing this weekend! Enjoy yourselves, push yourselves, and celebrate your achievement when it's done!

April 22, 2012

The Elusive 100 Miler

Okay, so maybe it isn't elusive...but it felt like the right word to use at the time. Probably the word inevitable is better to use.

Let's start from the beginning.

Tuesday I skipped my four mile run and instead walked eight blocks to buy wine and planned to have some intimate calf time with my lacrosse ball. My right calf was just sooo unhappy with me. BUT it will all be okay. Even though I didn't ACTUALLY use the lacrosse ball....I did use the wine, however. Heh heh.

On Wednesday I decided to go to Great Falls Park/Difficult Run area to meet up with the DCCS trail group. The plan was to get to GFP early, get a head start on my 10 planned miles and meet up with everyone in the parking lot when I was finished. Not so much. Rick also got there early, so we chatted for a bit til I eventually peeled off for my 'head start' which ended up only being a 15 min lead. In the rain. While I'm already sick. Needless to say, I did not complete my 10. Hooray me! I did complete five miles, five very...degrading miles. You see, I already mentioned my stupid calf pain...and apparently there is no such thing as a flat trail...and three days of trail running a week (plus two days of road running) sure does take a toll on my already fragile leggies and my mindset. One of the main problems occurred (has been consistently occurring?) when I was heading up a steep climb. I wasn't bounding up it like the rabbits that were the other members of the group. I was like a hippo huffing and puffing my way up to the top, stopping to gasp for air, hand on my hip, finger raised to tell the world to hang on a sec. Because, duh, hippos huff AND puff. You better believe it.  Makes a girl feel a taaaaad out of shape. Me feeling a tad out of shape should sound completely ridiculous to me, but when you are looking down the barrel of a 50 mile 'gun', it seems a little more realistic. I think I can make it 50k, pretty doable in my mind. It's that last dang 19 that seems a little iffy for me, adding in the time limit. The funny thing is, at 15 miles left I think I can coax myself to just finish. Something about that extra four miles...I hear the last 15 are all mental anyway.

If you know me and my past history of races and major phobia of their time cut offs, you would laugh hysterically (okay maybe not hysterically...) and try to convince me that I am just silly to worry about the 13 hour cutoff for this fifty miler.   I have obsessed over other time cutoffs only to not even come close to needing to worry about them. But, as always with a new distance, it's on my mind. This is not a walking race (not that anyone should want to walk 50 miles. that would take forever). I know it's acceptable to run the flats and downhills and walk the uphills, but there are a lot of uphills...and remember the hippo? Doesn't seem to bode well for me. I have just about six weeks left. SIX. WEEKS. How did that even happen? And then you combine that with the fact that I've sucked at running this week.... S.T.R.E.S.S. Plus, while at BRR I witnessed new ultra runners come in three minutes before the cutoff...yikes.

I'm also worried that my garmin won't hang in there for 13 hours. What if it craps out half way and I'm flying 'blind' time wise?

Part of me feels confident that I will finish this race. But then there's that weak part I'm always fighting that says I am not trained enough, I'm out of shape...

I tried to trail run on Friday, but about two ish miles in I decided it wasn't worth it to cause more tension in my calf and ruin my weekend long runs. LACROSSE BALL. Also, I've almost convinced myself that I am not taking in enough calories to support the mileage change. I'm working on that.

I decided that my body obviously is trying to tell me that it needs a recovery week. So I rearranged my schedule to reflect this week as recovery, next week's long runs will be 26-10, then 0-31, 24-10, 13.1-14, 10-6, race. So no more recovery weeks until it's time to taper. The shining element out of all of this is at least I am comfortable and confident on trails now! I need to see if I can find a cheap trail shoe with more cushion than my sportivas. A friend recommended the Montrail Masochists, so we'll see. She runs 100s in them. I love the sportivas so much, but they are not for long distances. It seems like there is virtually no cushioning in them. I tried my pair of Cascadias 6 again and they just will not work. Ever. Not even for a short trail run. They suck.

So on a different note (not really...just a bad segway), I was doing some research for my man...since we signed up for the Bear Chase 50 Mile run in Lakewood, CO on Sept 30. It will be his first attempt (and completion) at a 50 miler, and it will be my second attempt (and hopefully second completion, lord willing the NF 50 goes well!). He's as eager as I was when the training plan was fresh and untainted with my sweat, blood (yes, blood), and tears. Oh so many tears...

Anyway, he wants to find some trail races that fit into the training schedule. So I got to lookin. Then I got to thinkin. As I was looking for a trail marathon around Sept 8 and a 50k around Aug 26, that I never actually finished researching because I found the Hardrock 100 which is a well known 100 miler, (seriously, don't you just love run-on sentences? Again, supporting the fact that my mom is right. I should not be a teacher), I started thinking about all those crazy trail ultra runners I know. I look up to all of them because they have far surpassed my mileage goals and keep encouraging me to think about going even farther. So when I came across Hardrock 100, I had also been texting with K. I jokingly said, 'what will you ever do if I say I'm doing a 100 miler?' Bring Bring (that's the phone....). She called me immediately. 'YOU BETTER CALL ME THE SECOND YOU SIGN UP SO I CAN COME PACE YOU. THERE, OR LEADVILLE, WHEREVER.' (which btw I do aspire to attempt the 50 and 100 of Leadville. Probably before Hardrock, because Hardrock has some interesting rules about registration).  Interesting reaction, and not one that I expected at all. I expected her to scoff at the idea of so many miles, call me crazy, etc. Have a normal reaction. But no, I think she's adjusted to my madness, and with that easy acceptance, I allowed myself to fully consider the hope of one day competing in a 100 miler (don't freak out, Mom). I would LOVE a belt buckle, but one that comes cheaper and with less hoopla than WS100 does. Though, I'm not saying I wouldn't do WS100 IF I ever qualified, got accepted by the lottery, and could pay the $350 or whatever the outrageous fee is, plus the cost of travel...

I love this new community I've found myself in. I've researched ultra/trail running groups in CO and I am so excited to join them out there and learn so much from everyone (seems I will be one of the younger folks in the pack). One of the best things I've learned so far is how individual this sport is. What works for one will not work for all. And with that individuality, and the lonely environment of running for over 6 hours, I feel so welcome by everyone and so included.

What's not to love about ultra running?

In finale, I bring you to something I read from NoMeatAthlete.com when he was training for NFE 50 Mile in 2010, with eight weeks remaining.

"Only eight weeks left until I run 50 miles at the North Face Endurance Challenge in Washington, D.C. ! Sometimes that's exciting; other times it makes me want to soil myself. I have this terrible fear that somehow I'm going to wake up on race day morning completely unprepared for the distance..."


Yup, that's what I think too. Good to know I'm not alone with those thoughts. 


Also would like to share this: http://www.hawaiianshirtray.com/training-exercise/50-mile-training-program/


"Here is the secret to a successful 50 mile training program; push tired muscles.  You need to get comfortable pushing muscles that have not recovered from yesterdays long run.  Keep this in mind, during your 50 mile training program you will never be as tired as you will be when you are actually racing.  So, when you are pushing tired muscles during training, you need to tell yourself when you start to cry-babying, that this is not even close to what it will feel like on race day."


Yikes, so much to look forward to!  :D


Happy trails, everyone!



April 16, 2012

Sacrifice, Dedication, Fulfillment


Where to begin with such a long and exhausting weekend. It sure doesn't feel like I had Friday off, I guess since I volunteered all day instead of relaxing like I really need. This week seemed to really wear me down with work and running. In fact, I felt so exhausted that when Thursday rolled around, I gave myself the day off from running. Friday and Saturday I had committed to volunteering for the 20th running of Bull Run Run (50 miler) starting at Hemlock Overlook in Clifton, VA. If you're looking for a 50 miler, I highly suggest this one. I haven't run it myself, but after spending two days with the volunteers, club members, and race director, I am 100% sure that it is a race I will do within the next few years. Everyone is so genuinely friendly and they want to help you and get you what you need to cross that finish line. The entry fee is small and you get such great treatment and an intimate environment that you won't get with other races...like say the North Face Endurance that I signed up for. I'm not saying NF won't put on a great show, I just mean to say that the members at VHTRC are really incredible. To think I have been intimidated by them since I joined the club...I've missed out on opportunities to grow as a runner, train with some great people, and have ears to bounce my training plan off of. They gave me running advice freely, and we just as generous with their encouragement...exactly what I needed.

Anyway, enough of my love affair with the group. So Friday, I didn't run. One of the women I was volunteering with chatted with me about the trails I run and I told her about my debacle the other weekend at Algonkian Regional Park and how I couldn't find the trailhead (I love run-on sentences). She drew me a map and told me instead of starting from ARP, I could go down Seneca Road, park there and immediately from the parking lot is a trailhead. So I got home around 930pm, rested a little to wake up at 5am and head to Seneca Road to run 16 ish miles before going to Hemlock Overlook to volunteer at noon.

When you go down Seneca Rd and park, there are two options. A gravel road will lead you straight down (curvy and downhill) to the river where you can pick up PHT by turning to the right to head downriver towards Great Falls. The other option is across from where you park, there are some connector trails that will eventually lead you to PHT and Great Falls. I chose the connector trails in the freezing 40 degrees that was Saturday morning. It's a pretty hilly route to get to PHT, but it sure did turn beautiful once the sun came out.





Just so pretty with the haze over the water and whitetail deer everywhere. I was trying out my new hydration vest instead of my handheld Nathan or my camelbak. I love my camelbak, but it just isn't cutting it for my long runs anymore, now that my miles have gone way up. The way this training has been going, I am eating a lot more gels while I'm out on a course than I would for a marathon. I also want to carry other food alternatives with me so I can experiment with nutrition options for race day. You can't do a 50 miler on Gu alone! Enter the Nathan Women's Intensity Hydration Vest:


So this thing ended up being incredible. I can load so much stuff in here! There is a 70oz slide top bladder, a small zipper pocket on the right strap that holds plenty of gels and chapstick for easy accessibility. The left strap has a drawstring pocket that easily fit my phone with extra room. On the back is the compartment for the bladder, which still has a liiiittle bit of room if you need it, but there is also a pocket on top of that which held some granola bars, my key, more gels, my nuun tablets, my long sleeve shirt when I got hot...the visor even fits in there. The straps are comfortable and very adjustable. My only minor complaint is that the mouth valve can be a little difficult when your hands are frozen or you are a million miles into a run because you twist it to lock or unlock to take a sip. Very minor. I think I got it for only $65 at runningwarehouse.com.

So back to the runs: I ran from Seneca Rd to the beginning of Great Falls Park, then turned around and came back. Hills, hills, hills. Originally I thought Great Falls would be the toughest part of the 50 miles, but now I'm not so sure. There are flat parts on PHT, but there are also steep ups that drained my legs. I would get to the top of a climb and just want to find a rock to sit down, haha. I'm so lazy. I ran into Kate on my way into the Riverbend Park section and we chatted for a bit before heading off in different directions. That helped breathe new life in to me, at least for a little while. After the turn around my hip started to hurt, but seemed okay when I pulled over every once in a while to stretch it out. I learned this weekend that it is not uncommon for ultra runners to do what I've been doing, push through the pain then do something about it down the road after a race. It isn't recommended, but it's understood haha. I got good advice about stretching it out and what not. So eventually I made it back to the area I was supposed to turn onto the connector trail to go back to the car...the only problem was that I couldn't find it. Eventually a big group of hikers told me how to get to the gravel road and up up UP I went to finally get back to the car. I am SO over going uphill now. Exhausted, sweaty, and 18 ish miles later (my garmin died on me) I crawled into my car and drove the hour to Hemlock. It's funny how you can spend four hours completely alone with no music, part of the time hating being out there but somehow convincing yourself to keep going. At times when I didn't feel like running I would repeat DK's quote: 'Run when you can, walk if you have to, crawl if you must; just never give up.' I could run the flats, so when I got to those I just told myself 'run when you can, you can run this flat part.' Just keep moving, keep your momentum. One of the greatest lessons I've learned about ultra running so far is how to get myself through the parts I don't want to do...how to keep myself going when I only have myself to rely on.

The whole approach to ultra running and planning for races is so individual. You can't cookie cutter a plan. You have to realize that you need to tailor things to the way you are feeling and what your body says it can handle. If you need a break, you need to take the day off. Need not feel guilty about missing a run because your body tells you to.


Once I got to Hemlock it was so great to be right by the finish line watching people complete something I have been on a journey to complete in 7 weeks. The first male finisher completed BRR in 6 hours and 24 minutes. THAT'S ABOUT AN HOUR SLOWER THAN MY MARATHON TIME. Sigh. Truly incredible to witness. The first woman finisher shattered the woman course record by 17 minutes. 17 MINUTES! That's HUGE. She looked so at ease about it all too. From the first finishers, to the people who came in two minutes before the cutoff, it was just so great to be there cheering , congratulating, and witnessing people's different reactions to finishing. It was also interesting to see how some people (the seasoned ultra runners) seemed like they just finished a 5k with the way they were walking after the race, and how some people (like how I assume I will be) were hobbling all over the place...looking like they actually just did 50 miles. One of the VHTRC members told me that when he first started doing ultras, he had a similar experience to mine. Tired all the time, legs wiped out, muscles sometimes feeling like they are okay but the rest of your body not seeming to adjust on the same schedule. He told me to expect 18 months before everything catches up and makes the adjustment, but that the exhaustion will go away. After all, pain is temporary, right? It was so good to hear that eventually everything will fall into place and the runs will seem to get easier. He also told me that my most important runs will be the Saturday runs in the 20s with the Sunday runs in the 10-15 range. It will best simulate race day conditions when you hit mile 38 and your legs are tapped but you have to keep going (He said the straight 31 miler with no Sunday run is also important, but not as much as the 26/12 will be).

I witnessed this on a smaller scale this Sunday. After doing the 18 miles on Saturday and standing most of the rest of the day...I went to Rosaryville on Sunday for a 10 mile loop. Ouch. My legs after the 18 miler alone felt way better than if I had done the miles on a road. But it's still effort on your legs regardless, especially with all those hills. When I began running on Sunday, my legs felt like complete jello and did not want to participate. Rosaryville also has plenty of hills for a ten mile loop and it was miserably hot to make things worse. Just over all it was an incredibly taxing run, mentally, physically...everything. In those ten miles, I managed to completely drain my 70oz bladder and was dripping sweat, head all the way soaked. Gross. Good indication (unfortunately) of what the race will feel like in the 80s. I felt a little wobbly after that but still not nearly as bad as when I did my marathon training. My muscles are pretty sore, but workable.

I feel like I've come such a long way.

"The last five miles . . . was perfect misery, none of us having scarcely strength to put one foot before the other, but I tell you the cheers we rec'd going through the streets of Washington seemed to put new life into [us] . . . ."

- Corporal Samuel J. English in a letter to his mother after the First Battle of Bull Run, July 21, 1861