Training for My First 24-Hour Race

This year I am finally stepping up to the 100-mile distance. My first go at it will be at Outrun 24 this Saturday, April 26th. Then I will run Burning River 100 in early August. It has been my “dream” to run 100s since I started running distance back before surgery in 2012.IMG_2112

Now that I am less than one week out from Outrun and in an extremely boring taper, I have time to sit here and ramble on about what I did to get ready for this insanity.

Originally, I had planned to follow the training plans from “Relentless Forward Progress” with a modification to the prescribed mileage. I wanted to peak at 100-110 miles. As I got closer to peaking though, I became increasingly worried that I would not get an opportunity to run a 50 or 50+ training run, and I decided to attempt 4 weeks at or above 100 mpw with the idea (or comfort, shall I say?) that it would give me that extra little edge. Now, that sounded good, but pulling it off… yeah…

Granted I don’t have a “job, job” per se, but I really do. I take care of my fully dependent child around-the-clock. That’s very literal, mind you. I am up at night every 3 hours to care for him. Just finding time to run 40 mpw can be tricky. A little less sleep, a couple loads of laundry waiting, and an extra hour gets snagged here and there until I banked enough up to chunk into running longer each day.  Determination and prioritizing can turn impossible into absolute reality.  It helps a lot to have a very patient and understanding spouse!

Here’s what the 4-week peak looked like.

Time Period
Count
Distance
Time
Elevation Gain
Summary        37      428.28 74:22:14                   15,307
03/10/2014 8 104.14 18:38:28 4,642
03/17/2014 9 105.57 18:24:24 3,615
03/24/2014 8 100.99 17:38:09 3,799
03/31/2014 12 117.59 19:41:13 3,251

While a lot of the miles in the first 1.5 weeks were slow and easy, the rest of the weeks’ runs included a lot of high-quality workouts when things felt good.  I incorporated a lot of hillwork and occasional speedwork like fast finish long runs, tempos, etc.  Throughout the 3.5 months of training, I did back-to-back long runs almost every weekend generally consisting of 20-30 miles Saturday, 15-25 miles Sunday and occasionally covering 65+ miles over a 3-day period as well as one 4-day period covering 90 miles.

During my peak, I encountered a lot of new little aches and pains and had to be very diligent about staying on top of them and watching for any signs of injury. Near the end of my peak, I really started seeing and feeling the benefits of running that kind of mileage. Running became incredibly organic and natural. My leg turnover was quicker, and there was no mental decision to run… it was all my body knew how to do for the time being! It did take me considerable time to run this much since it was on hilly, grassy, and sometimes very muddy trail, but in my mind, the more time on my feet, the more benefit I was reaping. I think it is prudent to add that almost all of this mileage was completed on either a .12 mi or .25 mi out-and-back. Yes, you read that right!  How’s that for training for a 24-hour race on a 1-mile loop?  I can’t even imagine how completely out of my mind my family must think I am now.  As crazy as it does sound, for me to run this volume, I had to accept my fate on this out-and-back since it meant simply stepping out my front door and starting my watch.  And it worked.IMG_2106

Perfecting recovery and listening to my body during this time was absolutely vital in executing this without ending in injury.  I learned this very early on.  Never had postrun recovery been so imperative in my training.  I followed a stringent nutrient-dense diet, but I didn’t focus much on carbohydrates at all. Considering the volume I was running, I was eating fairly low carb and rarely ever ate on a run unless it was over 4 hours. Immediately after a run, I would rehydrate, eat a bit of complex carbs or Greek yogurt, and wear compression socks to bed and sometimes the only time they came off were for my next run.  I feel like the compression socks and sleeves played a very integral part in postrun recovery.  Other than those few things, it was pretty simple but always concise.  Most runs were done as single daily long runs, but I did chop up a run occasionally when time was tight.

So here I am, just tapering away, having the not-so-fun time of my life, and I have to wait and see if all of this was worth it.  Well, worth what exactly?  If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you probably know by now I’m not in this to finish. 😀  Outrun 24 was originally planned to be a kicker race for Burning River 100 in August.  It didn’t take too long for that to change.  Obviously the primary goal is to get 100 miles and a freaking buckle!  That alone is going to be a massive undertaking, but I’d practically be lying if I didn’t say that I’m really itching to go after the podium.  This sounds insane for my first 100-mile attempt, but I have this belief that if you reach far and beyond, if you believe you are capable of things, you will eventually live it.  It’s been said that the people who win and succeed already knew they would without question but were patient and used failures as fuel.  In other words, if we are ever afraid to shoot beyond the impossible our fear of failure will manifest that reality and we will be living a self-fulfilling prophecy.

IMG_2572No one will argue that the 100-mile distance is a more mentally demanding challenge than a physical one.  Mental… I’m good with that, because I REALLY want this badly and am willing to put a lot at risk to get it.  The only question is does anyone else want what I want as bad as I want it? 😀

I want to do and feel something incredibly significant.

On another note, my teenage daughter is running and is hoping to complete her first ultra of 50k.  My mother and sister are also flying up to run as well and test their limits.  It’s going to be way too much fun!  We haven’t all been at a race together since Pensacola in 2012, and my daughter has never run a race over 5k but has done 15 miles in training for O24.  My mom’s longest distance to date is 13.1, and I believe my sister’s longest distance is 50k.  There’s no telling what kinds of awesomeness will transpire!

Good times!  I can’t wait for this weekend to get here!

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)!

Injury Update

I’ve been incredibly busy since I started really putting in the training time for my ultra.  Between training for 13-16 hours a week, sneaking afternoon naps, caring for my dependant son, and fulfilling my housewifely duties… it’s been nothing short of insane.  All of this on 3-4 hours of broken sleep at night.

My iliotibial band injury has been getting much better.  It still flares up on runs over 2 hours, but I’ve continued to run through pain and have learned to manage it on the trail.  As long as I ice it and take some ibuprofen, the knee bounces back very quickly from long runs.  Granted, I’m certain it would be healing a lot faster if I were not constantly aggravating it, but I’ve ruled that option out at least until after my race in June.  For now, I can live with and manage the pain, and I’m not very concerned about getting through my race with it.

On a more somber note, my compartment syndrome has returned again in full force.  Following a 35 miler during a 70-mile week, my shins started swelling and throbbing only a quarter mile into a recovery run.  I continued to try to work with it last week and finished the week off with a 40-mile run and a 62-mile week where I was just barely sliding through the runs with tight calves and shins.  It was somewhat pathetic, and I really ended up with some poor quality workouts.  This week I’ve shifted into damage control mode in hopes of sparing this weekend’s 32-mile long run.  Next week I’ll be 3 weeks out from the ultra, and it’ll be time for pure recovery.

Obviously I choke all the injury up to quick mileage and distance increases.  I’ve also been doing a lot of intense hillwork during the week which is likely not helping much.  I’ve managed to get through the bulk of training though without much issue until just now.  Being less than 4 weeks out, the majority of hay is in the barn, so taking time to recover at this point won’t be an issue.

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.

Unleash the Beast!

Last Tuesday, 5 weeks out from surgery (exploratory laparotomy), my surgeon cleared me to run again.  My husband and I never expected those words to come out of his mouth.  I’m pretty sure my jaw dropped to the floor and I drooled all over myself.  I think my husband was really worried.  He told me, “I don’t think he quite understands what running means to you!  We’re not talking about a jog through the park!”  I just responded with the only thing that came to mind, “He unleashed the beast!”

Originally, my doctor had told me that it wouldn’t be until November when I could run.  Needless to say, the day he cleared me I came home and bounced into my running clothes and jumped on my treadmill for a test drive.  I didn’t get any stomach pain, but my ankles and knees were really tight and verging on becoming sore.  I felt heavy and slow.  I stopped at a half mile.  (Granted I had put on some extra pounds since surgery which I can definitely feel now when running.)  The next day, I got on my treadmill and ran 3 miles with minor soreness in my joints.  It felt like pure joy to run again.  Over the 5 weeks I was out of commission, I had developed a new relationship with running.  I felt so out of touch with life in general while I couldn’t run.  I obsessed over running constantly (I kinda do that even when I am running, LOL).  Suddenly, now, running is like this incredible gift I’d been taking for granted.

My endurance is fairly zapped, but there are lingering remnants of it.  My leg strength is definitely subpar.  After managing to run almost 12 miles last week, I have slightly sore muscles and tendons.  It’s going to obviously take a little time to get acclimated again.  Dropping my weight back down will help a lot.  I told my 15-year-old daughter to take advantage of me being back to base training and run with me.  So far, it’s been working, somewhat.  She’s even considering training for the Pensacola Half Marathon in November.  We shall see how that goes.

I do plan to still try to run the marathon.  Obviously, I’m not expecting any PRs.   If I don’t feel ready for it by then, I’ll just run the half.  My sister, who lives in hot and humid Mississippi, stepped back to the half marathon.  She was originally going to run the marathon, but she’s had her share of difficulties training for it.  There’s even some indication that my mother also might be attempting to run the Pensacola half!  It would be like a family racing reunion!

This week I think there’s a good chance I can get up to 15-20 miles.  I’m planning to run 5-6 miles today since my longest run last week was 4 miles.  If that goes well and I have minimal soreness the next day, I’m hoping to increase my long run dramatically over the next 3 weeks and begin running 2 long runs a week until I can run a 20 miler.  My muscles and tendons will dictate everything at this point.  Hopefully they will be quite agreeable.  I’ve got my heart set on hitting the trail this coming weekend.  I can’t even begin to express how excited I am to get back out there.  It’s going to feel amazing.  I don’t know if there’s been a night where I haven’t dreamed about running the trails since I got sick.  Anyway, I am planning to do a 10-mile jog/run and just take my time and enjoy myself.  Maybe I can get lucky and coax my daughter to tag along if I promise to buy us lunch!

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!