My First 50-mile Training Run

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Sunrise at the dam

Sunday morning at 3:30 am my daughter and I were packing our bags and hydration packs so I could dutifully cross out the “50-mile training run” scribbled on my makeshift training plan.  My longest run prior to this one was 42 miles 2 weeks ago, and it was a tough run.  My daughter didn’t join me on her bike for that one, and I ran it on sections of very boring railtrail for the only reason that it gave me the opportunity to use my car as an aid station at 21 miles.  Needless to say, the difficulty I had that day made me somewhat nervous about doing all 50 miles.  For about a week, I contemplated shortening the 50, but as it came closer I was burning inside to do it.

My husband dropped us off at the trailhead about 5:30 am, and we began to make our way down the trail into the darkness.  It was pretty cool during the predawn hours, but it wasn’t long before the humidity set in.  The trail meanders alongside the river, and as the sun rose behind the clouds, pockets of fog settled along the jetting edges of the mountains where they meet the water’s edge.  We both were feeling good, goofing off, taking photos, and doing what a silly mother and daughter do.

We passed the first dam at about 6.5 miles, and it was light enough that we didn’t need the headlamp anymore.  We continued on down the trail with its very boring, long and straight sections that seemed relentless.   For the first 20 miles, I only took 2 GU’s since I knew we’d be eating real food soon.  It stayed pretty cloudy and seemed to threaten rain at any moment but never lived up to it.  Things were pretty uneventful.  We passed a couple of ladies out doing a run/walk routine which we ended up playing leap frog with for several miles.

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Ice cream break!

As we got closer to the city, the early bird runners started etching out the closer miles from the trailheads.  Just as we hit the paved section of trail into the city, the sun decided to make its grand appearance through the clouds.  We stopped at Subway right off the trail and ordered subs, half for now, half to take with us, and of course some cookies for the trip!  We refilled our hydration packs and brought along an extra liter of water.  Mallory had to have ice cream which she couldn’t even finish, and after I drank a Red Bull, we headed back out for the longest section of our trip, the 15-mile out and back.

After covering the 3-mile section of paved trail, we were back onto the crushed limestone trail and its slow, long grade up Decker’s Creek.  Mallory was having a hard time biking the grade.  It had been a good while since she’d been out on a long bike ride and was not very conditioned for it.  To top it off, she was getting increasingly nauseated from eating too much which I had forewarned her about.  She was going slower and slower and eventually was stopping from time to time to dry heave.  We were making very little progress.  Eventually, everything came up, and she took the whole experience amazingly well for a 16-year-old girl!

Even though she felt much better after throwing up, she was still having a lot of difficulty climbing for so long and progress was slow.  I, on the other hand, felt very good, but I did my best to wait for her to catch up and give her walk breaks.  The canopied trail provided nice shade from the afternoon sun, and the creek was beautiful and alive with is gushing rapids.  It was a rather gorgeous day for a long run.

About 29-30 miles in, I became increasingly worried about having enough water.  Mallory ran out of water in her pack as she had drunk a lot early on during her “episode” which I didn’t realize.  I refilled her with half of the 1-liter bottle, but we still had a long way to go and it was only getting hotter.  I checked my pack and realized I had only consumed about half a liter of my 2.5-liter reservoir, but with 20 miles to go in the heat and humidity and only half a liter to spare, it would be cutting it very close.  I had just located a stream and very precariously climbed my way up to it to fill our bottle when a really nice older gentleman cycling by stopped and took notice.  He kindly refilled our bottle.  He had passed us coming up the trail earlier and noticed Mallory was having a hard time.  He gave her some seasoned cycling tips that ended up making her ride a lot more enjoyable.  We were very grateful.  Both of us were feeling somewhat rejuvenated afterwards, and the trail was beginning to flatten out.  Mallory was feeling a good bit better for a time, but by the time we came to our 15-mile turnaround, she was questioning the return trip.

The sky was beginning to fill with chunky, thick blue clouds, and rain almost seemed inevitable which would have been a welcome event.  We crossed over a little trail bridge and sat on the ground to eat the rest of our subs.  Mallory asked me if it was possible to DNF this one.  I reminded her we only had 15 miles or about 3 hours left, and I told her she had to make an honest decision:  Was she quitting because of physical pain, the type of pain where injury is at stake?  Or was it because of mental anguish, boredom, fatigue?  If it’s mental, I said to suck it up. I told her that if she chose to bail, I would understand because I would know that she couldn’t make it.  She elected to finish and probably in large part because she was worried about letting me down more than any other reason.

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Trail entertainment

We started the 15-mile trip back, and I was feeling great.  My legs were alive and full of energy, by belly was happy with its cheesesteak sub, and we were cruising along the first few miles without missing a beat.  There were only a few miles to go before it was almost all downhill grade and easy sailing.  I told Mallory to go ahead of me for half a mile and I’d catch up.  We maintained this pattern for the rest of the trip home, and she was having a blast.  I put my headphones on for the first time and started knocking out half-miles with speedplay.  I’d catch up to Mallory who sometimes provided entertainment with a song and dance, walk for a short time, and then cruise along almost effortlessly downhill.  Coming uphill, I did have some minor right hip twinges/pains that were totally new to me, but for the most part they had seemed to subside and hadn’t gotten worse.  We ticked off miles quickly and ate one of our Subway cookies every 5 miles.  At mile 45, I called my husband and gave him our ETA for our pickup.

As we got closer to the city, around mile 46, we were passed by some runners doing speedwork while I was taking a short walk break.  Mallory said, “Go get ‘em momma!”  I laughed, and said I’d see what I could do.  She rode ahead and I slowly started to reel in the slower runners one by one until I caught up with Mallory again.  Without stopping, I pointed at the two faster guys still up ahead, and she beamed back at me and took off in front of me.  I quickly realized these guys were really cruising, and it was going to take a hell of an effort to not only catch up but to pass them.  Initially, I thought there wasn’t enough left in these 47-mile legs to push hard enough, but before I had time to think about it, the beast kicked in!  I finally caught up and “chicked” the last guy running about a 6:12 pace, and it took me a half-mile to do it.  I caught up to Mallory, and stopped to catch my breath.  Only 3 miles were left, and I was ready tIMG_0005o bring it in.  Legs still feeling good albeit a little fatigued from all the speedplay during the return trip, we knocked out the last 30 minutes in no time.

Coming around the bend to the trailhead and my 50-mile endpoint, I could make out my husband standing at the trailhead waiting for us!  It was the perfect end to what turned out to be a great day for a spectacular run.  I think my daughter learned her share of lessons on this one and was also a great bonding experience for both of us.  I recognize that it’s not so much the racing aspect of running that I love, but all the good and bad times that lead up to the races that I truly run for.

Now it’s time to recover and heal some post-run lingering twinges before resuming training for a couple weeks.  Then it will be time for taper and race day!

Training for 50-Mile Race

I’ve been training to run the second day (October 12) of the multistage event, The West Virginia Trilogy, which entails a 50k, 50 mile, and half-marathon over the course of 3 days.  I thought I’d post a little bit about how I’ve been training for the 50 miler.  I wrote my “base” training plan based off those in the book “Relentless Forward Progress,” and then modified them to fit more of my style of training and race specificity.  I do tend to slightly modify my training plans from week to week, but generally I do not skimp on mileage but instead increase it or add harder workouts depending on how good mentally and physically I’m feeling.

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Post Highlands Sky 40 I built base mileage back up to about 50 mpw before I really started training again.  Since I had such a strong base coming out of HS40, I gave myself 11 weeks to train for Trilogy 50 mi.  The original plan was to peak at 70 mpw, but the volume was feeling so good with no sign of injury that I ended up hitting 100.  It really felt like the more volume I did the better I felt physically and mentally with running.

During the first 3 weeks of training while my weekly volume was still below 65 mpw, I focused on different types of hill work with some speedwork mixed in.  Then I switched gears the following 3 weeks and concentrated on sheer volume that included long runs of 42-50 miles and peaking at 100 mpw.  For the remaining 3 weeks, I will be dropping mileage down to 50-75 mpw and concentrating again on hillwork, mostly endurance-type climbing, speedwork intervals, and fast-finish long runs with one run of over 40 miles.  Then it’s 2 weeks of taper and race day!

Most websites, books, people, etc. will always stress not to run the race distance in training.  I strongly disagree with this idea.  If you want the body to do something well, you’ve got to give it a rinse-and-repeat scenario.  You want the body to say, “Oh, yeah, we’re doing that again… okay cool!”  Granted a lot of people do not have time to go out and run 40, 50, 60 miles, but oftentimes time can be scrounged for if the desire to do it is strong.

Anyhow, it always bugged the crap out of me when I was marathon training how often I heard this nonsense about not running the distance (especially since I had been running 20-26 mile runs on weekends for fun before marathon training).  Well, if I were training for a 50k or a 50 miler, then running 26 miles becomes pretty standard practice.  So… now it’s okay since the race got longer?  The logic behind it is that it increases chance of injury and recovery can be prolonged afterwards, making some of the following runs suffer or be missed completely.

IMG_0007The benefits to the body and mind of running the race distance in training, in my experience, are quite underestimated.  For one thing, the confidence gained is immense, and this in itself can make for a superior race.  I don’t think that all of these race-distance training runs should necessarily be done at goal pace by any means, but I do think that a large majority of them should, and running the distance should be done as often as humanly possible.  Certainly some people will get injured doing this but, in my opinion, it’s a risk worth taking.  The principal of pushing the body to the overreaching point to further advance your fitness can be well achieved by race-distance runs.

Now obviously once you pass beyond the 50-mile training run it starts to get a little crazy to run the whole distance in training.  I’m tentatively planning to do my first 100-mile race next year, and will I train the distance?  While I don’t want to say it’s not impossible (as I certainly would love to!), I highly doubt it.  At that distance I think back-to-back long runs with one of the runs being in the 50-65 mile range would be what I’d shoot for.  For me, I do believe that any race distance under 80 miles, I would run the distance at least once in training.

Different things work for different people, and I’m still learning what works best for me, but I think the most important thing here is to turn off the computer, put down the books and magazines, and lace up and go find out through constant “trail” and error.

Now go out and get some miles!

Tale of Two Long Runs

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My daughter and I headed to Pennsylvania on Mother’s Day to do a 35 miler on the Great Allegheny Passage.  I did consider that an out and back may not have been in my best interest with my ITBS, but I couldn’t resist the urge.  The GAP, as it’s called, is really a unique rail trail.  The towns you encounter along the trail provide very accessible services to trail-goers.  In fact, most of these towns are dubbed “trail towns.”  There are very long sections where you are in the midst of wilderness and only encounter the long-distance cyclist.  The river rapids and waterfalls along the Ohiopyle/Confluence section are absolutely beautiful.310071_4744779749059_1089079875_n

We went out 17.5 miles, and when we turned around we decided to stop in the trail town of Confluence and see if we could find some grub. We ate at a little BBQ shack almost right off the trail, and they were really nice and had some excellent food!  My ITBS felt pretty nasty after we left there but loosened up a lot over the next couple miles.  Then I felt great like I could run forever.  We easily cruised through the last 10 miles and finished in around 7 hours.  Everything went just right. It was by far one of the best runs I’ve had in a very long time, and we both completely enjoyed ourselves aside from the fact that it was pretty cold and gusty.

So last week, we mapped out our next bike/run on the GAP.  This time I was reaching for 40 miles.  We would start not far from where we turned around the previous week and continue to head east.  This section started at Markleton, PA and ended a bit past Meyersdale, PA.   To add yet another element, we decided to start the run at 4:30 am.  I had never run in the dark before due to the fact that I’m quite a weenie when it comes to that kind of thing!  So I felt it was time to face my fear, and the way I see it, if I’m ever going to run a 100 miler, I better get used to running at night!

I donned my headlamp and packed a backup flashlight and LOTS of batteries 😉 and we headed off into the dark trail.  Within a mile or so, we were completely isolated in the woods.  It was somewhat freaky to me the further out we got.  Around 5:20 am, the hue of morning started to glow in the sky, and I began to feel so much better.  I survived!

Strangely, things began to fall apart for me near mile 12.  I was overcome with a headache, fatigue, nausea, and heavy, unresponsive legs.  I sat down and mulled over the possibility of turning back.  I ate a gel, took an electrolyte tab, and drank some water.  We kept slowly moving forward with plenty of walk breaks.  I started feeling much better by mile 15, though the dead legs and fatigue still plagued me.  I was in such a funk that I missed a lot of the scenery, though it was very gloomy with the constant threat of rain.  I tried to keep focus on the task at hand.

The trail coursed through woodlands with scenic waterfalls and river views and into open Pennsylvania farmland with breathtaking views of the Allegheny Mountains.  It was almost like we were running through completely different states as the landscape changed.   Just before the town of Meyersdale, we crossed the Salisbury Viaduct, a 1,900 ft long train bridge converted to a trail bridge.  It looms high over the railroad and freeway below and offers some spectacular views of mountains and windmills–truly fascinating.947104_4780678966517_1046234287_n

We passed by Meyersdale and proceeded to our turnaround at mile 20, and for the first time that morning began to encounter other people on the trail.  We stopped in Meyersdale and grabbed some Subway.  There’s nothing like a breakfast sub and cookies at 9:00 in the morning after running 20 miles!  It seems that I can eat just about anything and run.  We headed back out on the trail.  I was feeling a lot better.  But it wasn’t over yet…

At mile 34-35, my daughter realized she had a flat tire.  Me and my optimistic and procrastinating nature had yet to get us a small pump for the bike.  It was bound to happen eventually, so it didn’t really bother me at all.  Being a Sunday, bike shops that we knew of were closed; the only option was to get busy walking.  By the time we got back to the car we had gone almost 41 miles and had been out for 11 hours.  My feet had multiple new blisters, which I’m hoping my new Injinji toe socks will remedy in the future.

All said and done, it was a heck of an experience, and we both learned a lot and enjoyed ourselves.  There were many difficulties throughout the day, and those were what made it so worthwhile.  We both can’t wait to get back out and do it again (with a bike pump this time)!

C’ya ITBS – Hello 20 Miler!

My 3-month hiatus with ITBS seems to be finally coming to an end!  After taking off from running for 3 weeks, doing Insanity workouts daily, and incorporating a glute, quad, and adductor strengthening regimen to my lifting routine, I eased back into every-other-day short runs.  I skipped the stretching and foam rolling.  I increased my daily intake of fish oil, glucosamine/MSM/chondroitin, and anti-inflammatory foods.  Things seem to be resolving.  I am taping my knee and wearing my ITB brace on all my runs for now until the residual in my knee tightness subsides.  I am still getting some mild waxing and waning pain after 5-8+ miles, but I’ve found if I walk and stretch my quads, I can start running again pain-free for quite some time until I need to repeat.

The biggest factor here, obviously, was identifying the cause.  In my case, it was running too many miles too fast on rugged, snowy mountainous terrain.  Once I stopped, it was just all about waiting for time to heal it.  No doubt that the strengthening exercises could have played a part in recovery as well, and I plan to keep doing those preventatively.  Now, I just have to be careful not to overdo it and continue to baby the leg until all the tightness is gone.  I no longer have any pain or stiffness after runs or when I’m in bed.  I am continuing to ice it after runs.

My mileage for the previous two weeks:  21 and 33!  I ended the week last week with a 20 miler with  mild elevation gain of 1200 ft.  Wow, did that run kick my butt!  It’s amazing how quickly the body un-adapts (is that a word?) and re-adapts to stressors!  I ran it exceptionally slow to baby my leg, since I just wanted to be out there moving as long as possible, regardless of time.  I knew it was going to be somewhat trying for me since I hadn’t been on a good long run since mid-January and indeed it was!  I found myself walking quite a lot the last 5 miles!  I was good and sore the next day, and my recovery run yesterday was a little rough but loosened everything up nicely.

In 5 days I’ll be doing the training run for my 40-mile ultra in June.  I got a feeling it’s gonna be tough on me this weekend!  But what doesn’t kill you makes you run faster!  Ha!  I’m going to try to be careful with my mileage this week and preserve my legs (and IT band) for the stress of the training run…. Right?

Running Cooper’s Rock

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After a wild desire to run up and down snowy ridges a few times a week, my left Achilles and right IT band were screaming at me.  I cut my mileage way back and have tried to just focus on getting everything feeling good enough during the week so I could make my long runs on weekends.  My IT was really bad last week, and I had intended to do an easy and relaxed 20-30 mile run this past weekend.  Yah, well intentions and actual outcomes tend to differ greatly. I went out to Cooper’s Rock State Forest to do my long run.

Boy, was I unprepared and naïve (aka dumbass) about running Cooper’s Rock.  It only took me 7 miles to realize 30 was out of the question.  Boulder hopping, climbing over and under trees, sliding down muddy rocky descents, slippery roots, and ankle-deep water flows were the dominating characteristics here with some bad ass elevation changes to boot.  What’s not to like?  There was nothing even remotely close to easy.

This one almost completely destroyed me!  It didn’t help much that I had only gotten a couple hours of sleep the night before.  The trails were incredibly technical and extremely rocky.  Footing was totally questionable.

Descending into the valley on the playful singletrack trails was incredible.  Water was rushing everywhere, and the streams were overflowing with violent torrents of water plummeting over enormous rocks.  I felt so alive.  Everything seemed to be going great until I reached the valley bottom and began to make my first ascent.  At one point, I was literally moving up a long, steep climb on my hands, moving from one slippery rock to the next.  All the snow was melting and gushing down the trails creating some very hazardous conditions.  My quads were on fire.  At 7 miles, I was at a really dark place in my head.  I sat down in the mud and began to question why the hell I was out here torturing myself so badly.  I was hungry, tired, in pain, and had lost a brand new pair of arm warmers.  Damn it.

When I got to the top of Cooper’s Rock I found myself demoralized, wasted, and just craving home.  The moment of funk hit me so fast and so hard.  I sat down, ate, and drank for a while and just decided I couldn’t go any further.  All I wanted was a really cold beer.  I began to head to my car which was a bit over 3 miles away.  I ended up detouring some on my way back down some gorgeous trails, and the amazing and beautiful views and scenery on the trails brought back some mental spark.  I finally got back to the car and sat down and stretched out my legs.  The number on my watch began to haunt me, “13 miles is not what I came here for.”  I pulled myself together and told myself I had about 2 hours of running left before the sun would start to crest the horizon, “I’ll go an hour out and come back,” I thought.

I headed back out for my second descent.  Initially, I felt good and strong. Suddenly, with every step my IT band felt like it would seize up and shatter.  By the time I got to the bottom, it was beginning to get pretty dim in places, and one thing I am not too keen about (to say the least) is running in the dark.  It literally scares the piss out of me.  It didn’t help any that I was somewhat confused about where I was.  My map was pretty pathetic.  I had a grueling ascent coming back out and wasn’t even sure how long it was going to take me to get out or where I really was.  It made me a pinch nervous, but then again, it totally took my mind off the pain I was in.

I finished up with a bit over 19 miles (yes, in daylight).  Not bad!  I felt like a million bucks when I got home, cracked open a cold beer, and began to nurse my wounds.  I was sore as crap, cut, bruised, and covered head to toe in mud, but I had accomplished what I set out to do.  I felt like I had conquered the world.

This run taught me a few things.  Firstly, I tend to overestimate what I can tolerate and push the limits way too often.  Unlikely that will change since that’s what I’m always looking for.  But it’s definitely been tearing my body down, and I’m barely staving off some significant injury most of the time.  I just don’t know how to do things any other way.  I also realized that I run so much better on real food than I do with gels.  I think gels work great for me when I’m really just cruising along at marathon distance/pace.  But for the hard distance or long distance stuff, I feel much better on real food.

Two days later and my quads are still sore like hell but I’m still full of cloud 9 juice.  I will attempt to run today for a few miles.  At least my IT band seems to have some forgiveness for my masochism and is behaving as of now.  I’ll definitely be using this run in the near future as I get closer to my ultra in June.  If this run can’t prepare me for an ultra, nothing can.

These are the kind of runs that make running so worthwhile – the ones that shatter me and I make it back home with a story to tell.

And yes, it was fun.

Snow, Ultras, and a “Crew”

WIMG_0009inter has finally made its presence known to us.  It’s been mighty chilly and snowy lately.  I enjoy the different challenges
winter brings to running.  I had a blast this week running 10 miles on trails near my home in 3-4 inches of snow (some areas of drifted snow were knee deep, yikes!) while climbing 1,500 feet.  Taxing, yeah.  Fun… You bet!  I actually even managed to keep my feet relatively warm and dry by putting a plastic bag between 2 layers of thin socks and wearing gaiters.  I felt like my Salomon Crossmax shoes did exceptionally well in the snow, mud, and icy patches.  These shoes have yet to disappoint me.  However, I think for muddy or very slippery descents, the Salomon Speedcross would be even better.

I ran my first 30-mile training run (or was that just for fun?) a couple weeks ago.  I just really took my time and wanted to enjoy being out there more than anything.

There will be a time soon enough to focus purely on training.  So I lollygagged some here and there and took some photos.  I ended up wasting a good deal of time trying to adjust my new hydration pack.  I bought the Nathan Endurance Vest to use for my runs over marathon distance, and I really, really love it, but I’ve just had issues getting it adjusted just right.IMG_0008  I’ll figure it out.  So, I did a 15-mile out-and-back with 1,966 ft of elevation gain.  Took me a little over 5.5 hours.  I felt really strong almost the entire time.  I hit one spot of funk around mile 21-22, but by mile 24, I was completely mentally rejuvenated and had a very strong finish.  I felt really good about this one.  By the way, I discovered the magical powers Almond M&Ms have on my long runs!  Those things will definitely be accompanying me on every ultra run!

I finally decided on my first ultra race for next year.  I’m planning to run the Highlands Sky 40M held near Canaan Valley, West Virginia on June 15th.  I figured it’d be a pretty good entry into ultra running.  I definitely did not want to do anything “flat,” but neither did I want to destroy myself on monstrous climbs either for my first ultra.  The HS 40M has an elevation gain of 5,474 ft which I feel I can train for quite reasonably.  I definitely need to do more training on technical trails in preparation.

I’m ready, I’m ready!

Another awesome development is that I have a “crew member” in training!  Oh, yeah!  I’ve finally managed to get my daughter interested in fitness.  She bought herself a mountain bike just so she could accompany me on my long runs and provide support.  How cool is that?  It definitely eased my husband’s apprehensions about me going out for 40-50 mile runs.

Last week my daughter actually went running with me.  I told her we’d go however far she could run and just have a good time.  We ended up doing 9.5 miles!  What??  I was thoroughly impressed.  There was plenty of walking involved, but I was just out for the active recovery aspect post my 30 miler.  However, she did really well considering that she almost never runs.  The best part was that she actually ENJOYED it.  I would have enjoyed it a whole lot more had I known just how freaking cold it was going to be.  Regardless, I was thoroughly impressed with her perseverance and determination to hang in as long as she could.  We had a great time, and I feel she will be a great asset and companion for me in the long, long days ahead.  (Now she can feel honored to adorn the pages of my blog! LOL! j/k)

Weight lifting… yes, I was cleared to resume heavy weight training!  I’m more than a little nervous about it, but I’ll take it easy (err… try to take it easy) and see how it goes.

Sub 4:00 – Maybe?

The feel of winter is slowly moving in.  It was a cool 34 degrees when I woke up this morning.  I love winter.  All the leaves are starting to change and have made for some really amazing trail runs which I feel so blessed to be able to enjoy.  On last Saturday’s 26-mile training run, the trails were absolutely breathtaking.  The trail was completely blanketed with leaves that were almost ankle-deep in areas.

It’s 3 months post surgery.  It almost feels like a whole lifetime ago.  While my legs still lack some of their previous speed, there’s noticeable improvement with every run.  I’m running an average of 55-60 miles per week and plan to max out around 65-75 before the marathon.  This is so fantastic!  Whenever I have previously tried to cross the 55-60 mpw threshold, I always had to back off due to minor injuries.  I never have been able to sustain a weekly mileage over 50 for very long.

I’ve been doing extensive hillwork and lactate runs.  I think these workouts have made a considerable difference and quickly pushed me back towards my previous strength.  I have mixed in some speedwork here and there, but with my core still feeling somewhat weak, I haven’t tried to push myself too hard yet.  I know I’ll be able to speed things up again when the time is right.IMG_1301

The marathon is a little over a month away now, and I’m feeling really good about it.  I think I’m probably looking at a 4-hour finish.  If I’m really lucky, maybe a sub 4:00.  I think a lot of it is going to have to do with how well I handle the humidity in the South.  I think I do pretty well in hot and humid conditions, but the weather has been anything but hot and humid since I came off my 5-week running break.  All my recent runs in the last 2 months have been in extremely pleasant weather.

Saturday’s 26 miler felt so good.  Everything went incredibly perfect.  I took it nice and easy.  The only mistake I made was a logistical one.  I planned out and backs on 3 different trails, and it just so happens that I apparently wasn’t sane when I arranged the most difficult trail for the last 8.3 miles.  I ended up climbing and descending for the final 8 miles.  It definitely slowed down my finish time and made for very sore quads the next day.  Needless to say, I was pretty pleased with my finish time of 4:02 especially considering the terrain at the end.  I think running a sub-4:00 in Pensacola is definitely not out of reach.

This week I’m not doing any long runs over 15 miles and will do a 23-mile run next week followed by a final long run of 24 miles before tapering off for the marathon.
I’m so ready!

Back to Business

The past couple weeks I’ve been able to dramatically increase my mileage.  I almost feel like I’m back to normal with regards to running.  The best part is that I’ve had absolutely no sign of compartment syndrome since getting back on my feet.  At times, I still feel like I’m a pinch slower and struggling with endurance a little, but I keep reminding myself that’s expected at this point.  Five weeks of no running is nothing to be shrugged off.  Mentally, however, I feel rejuvenated and ready to really challenge myself again.  That time off may have been the perfect tool to renew my motivation.  I do still find myself sore from the surgery and am still unable to do plenty of other things.  But everything is coming full circle pretty quickly.

The Pensacola Marathon looms overhead, about 7 weeks away, and I decided I am going through with it and running it.  I brought my weekly miles back up almost to my pre-surgery level and am feeling pretty confident.  I’ll run three 20-26 mile runs before the marathon with plenty of 10-15 mile runs throughout.  My endurance post-surgery is my main concern at this point.

My surgeon cleared me for certain calisthenics like pushups, leg raises, etc., but something just doesn’t feel right in my abdomen when I do them.  Very unfortunate.  Oh, well, I’d rather be safe than sorry and hold off on that for a while longer.  I’m not going to push it.  At this point I can’t even imagine how long it will be until I can resume weight training.  I am anxious to get back to where I was.  Things just aren’t the same.

I got some new sweet kicks!  They’re hybrids but really more of a trail running shoe (Salomon XR Crossmax), so I’m not sure if I’ll marathon in them or not, but I probably will!  They do quite well on pavement or any kind of surface it seems.  I’ve had them on gravel, asphalt, dirt, etc.  Best of all, the bottoms of my feet aren’t aching 10 miles into a run with these!  After the marathon, I want to do much more distance trail running.  I might run a 10-mile trail race in early October just to get out on some unfamiliar trails.  I am hoping to find an ultramarathon of 50k to 50 miles to train for at some point next year.

Last week I successfully pulled off a 40-mile week.  This week I’m planning to do 45 with an 18-mile run this weekend.  I am so ready and excited to get out and put in a real distance run.  Everything is feeling pretty good, and though I’ve been fighting off some minor shin splints, I think I’ll pull the marathon off just fine.

It might be time to move on to a new favorite brekkie… my beloved chocolate-peanut butter oatmeal just wasn’t as good this morning as it usually is.  What’s with that?!  I’m thinking pancakes are in proper order.

Recipe for Disaster – Bring it On!

After last Saturday’s 20-mile run, I crashed really hard.  I was exhausted for days following that run.  I felt pretty apathetic towards diet and exercise in general and just wanted to sleep all week.  I was even fairly depressed.  I got on my treadmill Tuesday for a 5-mile jog, but my shins got extremely tight and began throbbing less than half a mile into it.  I jogged and walked for a while, determined to get some type of mileage accomplished, but I finally gave up and hit the couch.  The same thing happened again Wednesday.  I was completely bummed out.  It felt like my mind and my body were just powering down.

After doing some research and talking to my sister, I stumbled upon this article titled “Endocrine System Depletion,” by Succeed! Sports Nutrition.  That article really put things into perspective for me as far as what I was going through.  I realized I recently had been experiencing other symptoms that could be attributed to endocrine depletion as well.  This is a nasty bag of worms right here.  I can be pretty tough when it comes to physical grit, but when we’re talking about hormones and chemical imbalances, that’s a hard battle to fight.

So now I have a new strategy in need of development.  So, where do I even start?  I was already forced to drop my weekly mileage way back this week.  Maybe I should try to decrease my weekly mileage down to 30-40 miles for 2-3 weeks while maintaining a weekly 20 miler and slowly work back up from there.  It might even be helpful to incorporate a recovery day before and after my longest run.  Another thing I realized is that I’m often running my long runs really hard.  I can really tell the difference in fatigue and mental status whether I’ve run it hard and fast or not.  It takes me a couple days to really recover if I’ve given it 110%.  If I take it easy, regardless of how far I ran, I can feel ready to get on my feet the next day.  I probably just need to slow down, enjoy the run, and focus on the real purpose of the long run – adaptation.  We will see how I feel after my long run today.

I still have this plaguing compartment syndrome, possibly more aggravating than ever, to work with.  Obviously, cutting miles and resting a whole lot is going to be the protocol for treatment, but that’s just an avenue I’m not willing to take just yet.  It’s going to have to get me completely down and out before I’m willing to cut back as much as would be necessary to resolve it, I think.  I do realize this injury could be a major issue for the November Pensacola Marathon, and I’m going to have to do something about my legs before it gets close to that time, but I just prefer to keep putting it off as long as possible.

All of these issues almost seem like a red flag, honestly, in which I’m setting myself up for an inevitably huge crash and burn any day now.  I feel like I’m tiptoeing around the edge of physical limits!  Bring it on!  What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger… I hope!