Race Week!

Is it Spring yet? Nope! It snowed this past weekend (AGAIN!), and I’m thoroughly over Winter.
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I’ve spent countless hours on the treadmill over the last two months, and it’s about time for an update now that I’m headed into race season. Race season? THAT’S going to be ugly! This winter has been rough for much of the country, and Ohio was no exception. I used to not-so-lovingly call that torture device in my basement a dreadmill. No more! I love that thing. Without it, I’d be in trouble! My job is also keeping me pretty busy and active. So much to be thankful for!

As you may (or may not) recall, I’m keeping a paper log this year. No fancy online records, though I have been using my watch or phone to record some of these. I’ve really cut down on how much I talk about running online as well, save an occasional post when I think it might motivate others and myself! It’s been long enough…so here it comes…stop reading now if you don’t care, or don’t want to know just how boring my life really is. 20140303-191258.jpg
By the numbers (for the nerds):
January 2014
Running: 130.44mi
Walking: 65.3mi
Total: 195.74mi

February 2014
Running: 134.66mi
Walking: 63mi
Total: 197.66mi

To some, that might not look like much. To others, it’s a lot! I wasn’t sure either way, so I looked up the numbers for January and February 2013. 137.96 and 108.97 respectively, running and walking combined. Sounds good!

This weekend I’m running my first “race” of 2014. A 50k at Mohican. It’s not a timed race, so I’m not nervous at all. Maybe I should be? Nah!

On April 12th, I will have the pleasure of volunteering at a great race…Forget the PR 25k & 50k. You can find the link on my Need a place to race? page. 20140303-191457.jpg
As a favor to his volunteers, the RD holds a Volunteers’ Race before the event, so we can all run the course, earn our shirts and get a buckle. It helps him out as well…to point out any potential issues the trail may have encountered over the harsh winter. Plus, we get lost so on race day you won’t have to! Isn’t that nice!

I plan to run that day with another friend I’ve really missed seeing this winter. I don’t think we’ve run together at all since October. Good thing we’ll have a lot of time to catch up.

I only have one concern: Big Ass Hill…x2! Where is the setting on the treadmill for this? 20140303-191504.jpg

Oh well…Sunday is fast approaching, and there’s nothing I can do about it now. Happy trails!

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Learning to Fall

The last four weeks have been a struggle. Not just with running…with life. I want to write about so many topics, but I’ll stick to my running and recovery for now.

After North Coast, I didn’t want to run. At all. I was told this was normal…part of the healing process after an ultra. After all, I did it. I met all of my goals for the race and got a huge distance PR…way more than I was expecting. It was OK to take some time off. And that’s where the problem came in. I didn’t leave any.
In a week’s time, I’m running the double marathon at Run With Scissors, a trail course through Hinckley Reservation in Northeast Ohio. I know nothing about the course except for the reports of others, and a few Garmin maps. This should be terrifying interesting. 20131019-125040.jpg
A quick recap…
Week 1: Hardly any running. I managed about 10 miles of walking and a little biking. I was all but convinced my foot was broken. Running on the road for 83.5 miles can do some damage. I iced and massaged, but there was no real swelling. A nagging tightness when I rested…but I could walk without pain. I thought if I could just get my foot to crack, I’d feel better. I paced a 4mi race on Friday night without incident.

Week 2: Time to put in a little mileage. More foot stretches. Finally my foot loosened up enough. Crack! So much better. As it turns out, my Cuboid was slightly dislocated, and it likely popped back in on it’s own. I gave the foot some support with tape and compression for a few days while continuing the stretching exercises. I logged about 30 miles this week.

Week 3: Peak Week? Already? Not good. I’m not ready. I put in as many treadmill miles as I could stand. My “long run” was 25 miles…on a treadmill…over two days. It was the only way I could stand the dread. I wasn’t able to get to any trails this week, and worried I wouldn’t be ready. I knew I didn’t have to run a crazy amount of miles. The race is close, and I’m not going to make that many gains at this point. Maintenance. I just have to maintain cardio fitness, put enough stress on the legs to trigger muscle memory. No time for DOMS, boys and girls.

Week 4: Here we are. Motivation is at an all-time low. I have no goals for this race other than “finish.” I don’t care if I’m dead-last, but I’m fairly certain I won’t be. I ran 15 trail miles on Thursday, and that was a big confidence boost. I left the trail feeling positive and refreshed. Not too tired, and no DOMS on Friday. Perfect. Most of Friday was consumed with the Columbus Marathon Expo, and I did a fair amount of walking around Downtown and the event itself. This week my sleep cycle is pretty much non-existent. I’m not sure the last time I got a good 8 hours…or 6 for that matter. It’s been a while. I should be sleeping right now, but my brain is in this hyper-vigilant mode. It’s not a good place for me. I can’t relax. I feel stressed and paranoid all the time. Maybe I just need to run…

The race is next Sunday. 52.4 miles of trails for which I’m not sure I’m ready. I’ll finish. I recently met a gal who is running her first 50+ race, and it seems we have a similar pace and race plan. I’ll do what I can to encourage her, and that will get me through the race. Now I know why people stack events so close together…there’s no time to fall. You’re always racing. Of course, there’s a danger in there as well…the dreaded injury. I think if you play it smart you can keep it up for a while, but eventually you have to take time for rest and recovery.

This will be my last official race of the year. I have a few other long runs planned…a miles for years run around my birthday, and a FA50k in December that I won’t miss. But really, this is it. It makes me feel uneasy without something on the books. Sure…I have race ideas for the spring. But nothing official…yet.

Maybe it’s my time.

Time to learn how to fall.

Taper Week 1

Oddly enough, the madness hasn’t taken over. Not yet. Perhaps because I don’t know what I’m in for. Maybe it’s due to the fact that I know I can finish this race…one loop is all it takes to avoid the DNS/DNF. But more than likely, it’s the 56 miles that I ran this week…during taper? What? That’s insane.

A year ago, 55 miles would have been a peak training week for a marathon. Heck…I wouldn’t have run past 50.

Two years ago, I was in the midst of training for my first marathon, and my longest run was 18 miles.

I can’t believe it’s been three weeks since the big training run at the lake. I should probably fill you in:
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Suffice it to say, it went well. I joined a fellow runner who is training for the same race. He had started at 5am with two mutual friends, but i couldn’t get out there so early. At 7am, I met the three of them, and we circled the lake once before they left. A little fast for my warm-up lap…they were cruising close to 9:00 pace.

Then it was the two of us for the next two hours. The pace was still fast for me (closer to 10s), and at least once I asked him to leave me and go ahead. He offered to slow down, but that rarely works…the more we talked, the faster we ran. I really didn’t mind.

I knew this would tire my legs faster, but I didn’t have a real mileage or time goal for the day. I packed enough food to be out there through the afternoon, but after that I was winging it. Tiring my legs from the start would give me an idea of what the later hours of the race might feel like. And that seemed like an experience worth checking out.

I had offered to run a “virtual” half with a twitter friend, so made sure to check my watch (and the time) around that distance. 13.1mi in 2:18. Definitely faster than I’ll be on race day. I sent her a quick tweet to mark the milestone, and kept going. I tried not to look at my watch. At all. We were joined by friends throughout the morning and afternoon, which made the time pass quickly.

I passed the marathon mark with Doug, and shortly after, the 50K distance with Andrea. Then my watch died. An expected event, so I had quickly done some math to estimate how many more laps until 40mi. I wasn’t sure I could run that far, but I liked that it was a round number. With about 3 loops to go, I dropped to a walk. I would make it, but this wasn’t a race, and I had already proved to myself this was doable. There was no point in hurting myself, or pushing any harder.

So I finished 40.22 miles, in 1.2mi loops in 8.5hrs. That includes aid stops. Not too shabby. The trail is mostly packed sand and pea gravel, but don’t let that fool you. It’s hard. Harder than asphalt. And I took a beating. That’s the trail…on the right:
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Just over a week ago, I headed out with friends to run what I thought would be a 50K…my last long run. Turns out Mother Nature had other plans…and blasted us with heat and humidity. Everyone that came out put in their very best, and made smart decisions regarding when to call it a day. The trails looked great. And I’m happy that we all enjoyed time together on a holiday weekend. We’ll do that again…maybe when it’s not so hot.
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And then I started the taper. I feel healthy. I’m mentally ready. The only thing I’m stressed about is that other people are involved, and I don’t trust easily. I like to be the one giving…I don’t like to ask for help.But I can’t do this without them. Sure…I have to do the hard stuff (running is hard!), but taking care of a tired and cranky adult all night certainly cannot be fun. It’s a sacrifice. This is where running becomes a team sport. And I’m going to have to get over it.

If you’ve read this far, and plan on being there for the race…even to stop by and say hello…or you’re in the Cleveland area, would you let me know? I’d love to look forward to friendly faces.

NC24 Training Update

I didn’t forget. I’m still here. I’m even still writing. It’s just a different genre than this blog allows, and you don’t want to read it. Trust me.

Most important of all, I’m still training. The big day is less than 6 weeks away. Eek! I’m not ready! And I’m scared. Somebody hold me! I logged just over 60 miles last week, 30 of which occurred between Friday night and Sunday morning. I feel good. Strong. Healthy. But is it enough?

I’ve been avoiding writing about it, just because I can’t believe I’m doing this. And although I usually go into a race with a little “unknown,” this is ALL unknown. Time to do something about that.
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I’ve done a few night runs, the second of which was terrifying…mostly because I was alone and a random truck was following me (that’s what my likely-delusional brain told me anyway!). I don’t have to worry about those factors, so I think I’ll stick to daylight and the dreadmill, unless I can talk someone into running with me at night a few more times. Pretty please?

I need a good long loop run. I’ve put in a few 2-3 hour runs on the track, but I’ll admit it’s a challenge to run loops alone any longer than that. I don’t need to talk, just listen. And my iPod is only going to carry me for 10 hrs. Yikes!

Luckily, today I discovered another local who is running the race. And he’s planning a 12hr run this Saturday! No…I won’t be running for 12hrs. I should mention he’s A LOT more experienced than I am, but even so, that’s not something I feel I need during training to reach my race goals. The good news is I can show up, run a few hours with him! Not only will it be great for me to get that long loop run under my belt, but he’s actually looking forward to having someone to run with! Wait until he sees my pace…he might change his mind.

He’s already picked out a location…a packed dirt path…just about a mile in length. It will keep us away from the regular running crowds and the cyclists on the bike path, but still close enough to the car so I can have my “aid station” set up. I don’t really have a plan for this run…just going to see what happens. And how long I can go. I have four hours solo on my schedule, but with aid and the right pace, I might push that out a bit. And it means I’ll have the perfect day to test out some nutrition options.

Locals: If you want to join me for any of this, send me a message on FB/twitter/text and I’ll give you the details!

The Plan – NC24

Truthfully, I have no plan. Run. Keep running. Stay awake. Keep running.
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All right. It’s a little more than that. I’ve read some race reports and talked to experienced ultrarunners. I’ve even found people who have run this (or this type of) event before (Thanks Keith, Stuart and Rob!).

Even so, I still have no idea what I’m doing.

But I do know a few things, and I’m learning more everyday. So here’s what I’ve got so far. In writing. So I can’t back out.

It would be unreasonable to run a 100mi endurance event without walking. This isn’t exactly the same thing, but outside of a few elite runners, everyone walks. I plan on walking right from the beginning. One of the most common plans I’ve seen is to run 25 minutes and walk 5 minutes. During those 5 minutes you take care of all the other details that you can’t while running: eat some real food, use the bathroom, change clothes if necessary. It keeps you on a regular schedule, especially with nutrition. Although I think that’s a decent plan, it’s not going to work for me long term. First off, the walking interval is too long for me. I’ll never want to start running again! And, over time, those 25 minutes of running will be too long. Too difficult to maintain.
I have seen an alternate plan that sounds more doable for me. Run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute. Having used the Galloway method to successfully complete road marathons, I know a shorter interval will work better for me. And the time in the 5/1 is exactly the same as the 25/5 anyway. Sure. I’ll have to take longer breaks to eat and rest. But I’ll have to do that regardless.

Maybe I should take a moment to lay out my goals for this race. I have a few, they are progressive and all mileage-based. And now that I’ve said them out-loud to another human, and he didn’t die laughing, I feel confident sharing them with you.

Safe Goal: Run 57 laps. That’s right. 57. That’s how many it will take to log 51 (and change) miles for the day. That will represent the longest run I have ever done. Unless I start the day ill or injured, I’m not stopping until I hit that number. Come hell or high water (please no high water!) I will have a distance PR.

Progressive Goal: My original plan was to complete my first 50miler at this event. It was a safe and well-supported course, and I had virtually no time limit. 50 miles in 24hrs is more than doable for most people (even walkers) provided you can keep going…at any pace. After my plans to pace Mohican fell through, I got this crazy idea to run my own 50, and I did. So what’s the next step? 100k (~62mi). It’s the next “regular” distance you can find amongst ultras, and the jump to 100 miles is just a bit too far. I’d be thrilled to complete 100k at this event, even if it means walking (slowly) for the last 12.

Stretch Goal: Now we’re in no-man’s-land. I have no business even making a goal out this far. So here it goes…one more step. If I hit my progressive goal, and I’m still feeling good enough to continue…

I’m going to take one more step, until I can no longer take one more step.
-Gordy Ainsleigh

That’s it. That’s the plan so far. Right now I’m running. Building base miles. Testing out food and shoes. Making lists. I have a pretty good idea of these things already, and I’ll lay that out next week. You can bet I’ll be bringing along my tried and true partners… ENERGYbits, Amrita, and Skora…more on that later.

Time to run!

Overcoming Excuses

If you read this post earlier…you may notice a difference. The original text is below…so feel free to scroll down and catch up. But I wanted to say a few other things…and share how the rest of my day went.

A bit more:
Tonight, I’m feeling completely refreshed. I ran (more on that in a few), I talked with two ladies who really set me straight on a personal issue I’ve been struggling with, and had a reconciliation with a friend with whom I’d had a falling out about a month ago.
I feel alive.
So the kids and I celebrated with pizza and beer (for me).

I do want to talk more about the run today, and some of the things I’m doing while training for this 24 hour monster.

The course itself isn’t challenging…as long as you can handle the loops. I’ll be posting my race goals in a post later this week. The challenge for me comes in the time involved…and the boredom. Just shy of a one mile loop, nothing exciting is going to come from the scenery. So it’s best to practice running in the boredom. That’s when your thoughts can get you in trouble. But I digress…

I’ve decided to go back to HR training for at least the build weeks of this cycle. And here’s why…I need to keep this easy. It’s the only way to stay upright for this long. I know me. Give me a flat road, and I’m going to want to RUN! But I can’t, or I won’t make it.

Here’s my run for today. I ran on the dreadmill…as boring as possible, but it also kept external factors at bay: constant elevation, constant speed, constant temperature. I didn’t use the fan. Oh…and I didn’t eat or drink once I started.

The plan:
1. One hour in Zone 1 at “ultra pace.” Here’s the super scientific calculation for that:
Ultra pace = (Slow-as-sh*t + 30sec) per mile.
SLOOOW. It’s tough mentally. It’s just faster than I could comfortably walk. (My Zone 1 peaks at 147, max HR for this segment was 146)
2. Increase speed to force HR to the top of Zone 2 without going over. Hold for 15 minutes. So far…so good. (My Zone 2 peaks at 162, max HR was 161)
3. Decrease speed back to ultra pace. Keep HR in Zone 1 for 15 minutes. (Avg HR for this segment was 143 – Zone 1)

I’m trying to accomplish two things here. First, I’m training my body to learn my race pace and keep my HR low while doing it. Did I really use the above calculation? No. But I’ll tell you how I chose a race pace when I cover my goals. Second, I’m teaching my body to burn fat, instead of ingested calories. Believe it or not, this is possible. Will I eat during the race? Of course. But I’ll be doing this workout (in a controlled environment) each week without food or water. Of course, both are easily accessible during my run, and I’m watching my HR like a hawk.

I guess we’ll see how this plays out.
Next post should cover race goals. Look for that in a few days!

Here’s the original post from this morning if you missed it.
My recovery time is over…back to a regular running schedule (I use that term VERY loosely!).
I know. I have a million viable excuses to not train this week.

I ran 50mi just two weeks ago.
It’s hot and humid…even before sunrise.
The kids are restless.
I have a million things to do around the house, and to get ready for the upcoming school year.
I need a job. I’m stressed. I’m tired.

But I need to run!

I took two easier weeks after the 50 miler. This was especially tough, as I had no lingering pain and zero muscle soreness. Zero. Simply amazing what the body can do if you slow down and you do the right training!
The first week I didn’t run on any consecutive days, and staggered my runs to get two 36hr breaks. I managed 30 miles on my feet, including plenty of walking.
The second week, I ran no more that 2 consecutive days without taking a rest day. I went back to my hour long runs during the week, and put in 40 miles.

But now that time is supposed to be over. My resting HR is still in the normal ranges, but this heat and humidity is zapping all of my energy. I feel terrible…like a slug…a wuss.

Tired. I feel tired.

I’m going to work on a few things starting today. I’m going to wear my HRM during all my runs this week, just to see what’s going on. Maybe I’m pushing too hard. Maybe not. I need more data. I also need to increase my hydration just a bit. I’m not super thirsty, but I know I’m going to lose a ton of water in sweat the minute I step outside. So a little preventative maintenance there.

And I hope this feeling passes.

Frazzled…Time to Run!

Ok. This week completely got away from me.
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If you didn’t know, I’m headed out of town tomorrow (wow…tomorrow is Friday, isn’t it?) for the inaugural Nike Women’s Half Marathon in Washington, DC. It’s something I didn’t actually plan on happening, but here I am.

Nike has an existing half and full marathon in San Francisco every fall, and this year expanded that series to include a half in DC. Exciting! Of course that meant there was a huge crowd wanting to do this first-time event. Thousands upon thousands. And that included a few of my local friends.

We entered the race via the lottery last year as a group. This meant we’d either all get in or none of us would. I didn’t hold my breath. I didn’t even put it on my calendar.

Then we got the news. We were in! Yeah! Crap…better get it on the calendar and cross off some other things, including a race at Mohican I was meaning to do. And ALL my spring races, It had nothing to do with the distance. The cost on this one was going to kill me. I get it. The race benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. They have to get some money out of my registration fees too. Oh…and did I mention the medal?
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Likely the only way I’m ever getting one of these blue boxes! I can’t wait to see what’s inside!

The distance fit into my 50k/50mi training schedule perfectly. I planned on dropping back on distance in preparation for peak week next week. And I really detest the taper anyway, so I’ve been running through this one.

I haven’t been to DC in a long time, and I’m excited to run in a new city. The course looks nice with lots of sights to see during the event. I also plan on spending some time running in the area Friday and Saturday.
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I can’t wait to meet some of my fellow ENERGYbits ambassadors who are running the race as well…two meetups planned with them over the weekend! I hope to post some pictures from the race-related events and from my runs both here and on twitter.
Stay tuned…the excitement begins tomorrow!
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