Burning River 100 (8/2/14)

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Race morning started off appropriately. My clock was somehow behind by 10 minutes. I didn’t even realize it until we were about to leave the hotel. I hadn’t eaten yet and wasn’t really hungry. My husband drove me to the start and was insistent on finding me something to eat, but that 10 minutes had me feeling uneasy about stopping. We arrived at the start line about 30 minutes before the start at 5am. We dug through my crew bags and fished out a bag of mixed nuts. Breakfast!IMG_2506

Burning River 100 was more than just a goal race to me. Training and preparing for this actually began back in 2013 with the running of Highlands Sky 40 mi and WV Trilogy 50 mi. These were just stepping stone races towards what I termed my “Year of 100s.”

After multiple logistical complications in the last two months leading up to the race and even almost coming to the point where I was probably going to have to DNS, my husband stepped up to the plate and became my crew. Him crewing for me was a logistical feat all of its own.  We both knew this time a finish was certain barring any injury especially since I had my failed 100 mi attempt at Outrun 24 driving me. The 81 mi I did at O24 in April taught me the tools I needed to run BR in a time I could be happy with. My biggest fear was that I would be running without a pacer, and I would be forced to face my fear of running alone at night.

Once the race started, we headed out across the field from Squire’s Castle and onto road for quite some time. I actually don’t remember a lot about the early miles of the race.
I was cruising along at a comfortable speed but much faster than I anticipated holding throughout the race. I wanted to get the first quarter out of the way and get into my stride. I took advantage of the fast road mileage at the start and came into Polo Fields (13.6 mi) in 2:13. The course changed to easy bridle trail, and I found myself still running way too fast and constantly trying to slow myself down. IMG_2514Somewhere after this point I met David Corfman who has quite an extensive 100-mi resume. David gave me excellent advice and “coaching.” I was so fascinated with his expertise and willingness to share his experience with me that I ended up running almost all but the last 10 miles with him as well as the very seasoned ultrarunner, Keith Straw. The good conversation, jokes, and stories made the entire day fly by.

My husband met me at Shadow Lake (24.38 mi) for the first time since the start. I ate a few aid station snacks, gave him my headlamp, filled up one of my bottles with Red Bull, and drank Ensure. Then I was off again. By the time I got to Oak Grove (39.73 mi) where my crew was set to meet me again, my toes were starting to blister from the Hokas. When I arrived at Oak Grove, my daughter had come with my husband. It’s so awesome to have family crewing, but it was so hard to not stay and visit with them!

 

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Keith Straw, Me, and David Corfman

Anticipating mud after Oak Grove, I put on my Speedcross. My poor swollen and blistered feet were not happy. I really enjoyed the trails from Oak Grove to Boston even though my feet were in bad shape. It started to rain a little and thunder, but under the canopied singletrack, we all stayed relatively dry.

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Oak Grove – 39.73 mi

At mile 54.59, Boston was my next crew meet. I came into Boston, and saw so many familiar faces! Boston was booming with people, crews, and spectators. I wanted to stop and greet all my friends, but I knew I had major foot surgery to do here and it was going to cost time. I grabbed some aid snacks and found my husband who had brought our teenage son along this time. It was lightly sprinkling. Nervously, I ripped my shoes and socks off to reveal massive blistering on both big toes. I lanced the biggest one with scissors and taped it with Leukotape. (Surely, I’d regret that tomorrow when I tried to take it off. Leukotape is some serious stuff!).

I knew there was no way I’d get away with wearing the Hokas at this point and resorted to my back up shoes which were my daughter’s street Reeboks which were a good half-size bigger. After eating a couple slices of pizza my crew brought, drinking a Red Bull and an Ensure, I headed back out again. For the first several miles, every step was blister torture. I was concerned that I had made a huge mistake popping that one. After some time, however, the pain slowly subsided. The shoes were comfortable, and while they lacked any manner of tread, I instantly knew they had saved my race from many long hours of suffering.IMG_2520

Time passed really fast between Boston and my next crew point at Pine Hollow I (72 mi). Other than taking a fall that could have been really nasty, everything was going pretty good. I was starting to have some thigh chafing but felt it was nothing a big slab of Aquaphor couldn’t fix. I ate just a little from the aid station and took time to lube up extensively. This was the last time I would have crew access until mile 91 at Botzum. It was starting to get dark. I grabbed my headlamp and was physically feeling okay but starting to hit my first mental low. It got dark really fast during the Pine Hollow loop, and about a mile out, I realized my headlamp was dimming and I had forgotten my spare batteries. I contacted my husband and asked him to meet me on my return to Pine Hollow with batteries. By the time I got back, it was very dark. I grabbed two sets of spare batteries and changed my old ones out. I set out into the dark and regrouped with Dave and Keith.

We arrived at Covered Bridge I (81.96 mi), and I was still feeling physically pretty good but a pinch tired mentally. I started wanting to just be done. The singletrack Covered Bridge loop was somewhat demoralizing for me. There were often muddy sections, and the road shoes I was wearing were not performing well at all. I had to really hold back and watch my step. My blisters were screaming at me on every downhill, and I was afraid I’d slide right down every decline with those shoes on. I was very appreciative to have company on this section, because I know I would have been really freaked out running it alone. That 4.45-mile loop was the lowest point of the whole race for me. It seemed like it took an entire lifetime and required so much more focus than I was prepared for.

I was so relieved when I left Covered Bridge II and hit road. It was immensely uplifting. Soon I would get to see my husband again at Botzum (mile 91). I was running down the road and turned onto towpath as I neared the Botzum aid station at mile 91. My husband texted that he was there waiting for me. I finally heard cheers from the aid station. I wondered if those were cheers for my friends who had gone on ahead of me. I stopped for a moment. I had been alone for a little while running in the dark. The sky was decorated full of stars, and I turned my headlamp off and took a second to take it all in. Soon I would be only 10 miles from the finish. “This is it,” I told myself. I came into Botzum feeling a little tired and woozy, but I was so pepped up again to see my husband waiting for me. I downed a Red Bull at Botzum, grabbed a flashlight, switched GPS watches, and headed out for Memorial Parkway.

During the stretch between Botzum and Memorial I had multiple lows. It was a long mental rollercoaster. At many points I asked myself, “Why push so much? Won’t you be happy with just finishing?” Yeah… that sounds good but is so not true. I just kept running with whatever I had left and reminded myself to clear my mind. I had spent too much time dawdling at Botzum to walk much now. I didn’t have time to spare anymore if I was going to get that sub-24. I already felt like the podium was out of question, but I still had sub-24 within reach. This section was very runnable. I kept looking at my watch and finally forced myself to quit when I realized only seconds separated my glances.
IMG_2515I finally came into Memorial where my husband was waiting for me again.

I arrived at the aid station feeling so renewed. It seemed like I would never get there. From here it was home-free! I ate a few snacks and left my iPod and one of my water bottles and headed onward for the final 5.59-mi stretch to the finish. I honestly don’t remember a whole lot about the run to the Finish except that I gave it my all. I was feeling a lot more highs than lows and started seeing the finish in my mind. I was climbing steps on the trail and found myself suddenly thinking how much fun I was having. I had speed back in my legs and felt like I was flying though the dark almost effortlessly!

I emerged from a trail onto the road which I knew led to the finish. Finally cresting the hill my eyes filled with tears, I could see it. My husband ran towards me from a sidewalk and ran beside me for the last quarter mile to the finish. It was incredible. The moment I had been dreaming, training, and craving for the last 8 months was real. I crossed the finish line in 23:20:01. I placed 25th overall and 4th overall female. It was done, finally. I had missed the podium, but I had my sub-24. The first few words out of my mouth I think were along the lines of, “I don’t know if I’ll ever do that again.” Yeah, that’s a load of crap, and I’m sure my husband knew it!

There was some degree of suffering, but it was not as bad as I had anticipated. I was more than prepared for the mental anguish. I was prepared for the blisters and chafing. I was apprehensive but prepared to face my fears of running alone at night. I was prepared to let nothing come between me and that finish line. I set three goals for myself. First, I wanted a podium, crazy, but I am driven, and so far it’s not been a bad thing. My second was finish sub-24. The third was just to finish at all costs.

There is no way I can properly express my enormous gratitude towards my husband for helping me pull this off. The effort it took on his part alone was incredible. He not only managed to take care of our 3 teen kids, one of which is severely disabled, but was also there for me hand and foot every time I needed him. I am without words enough to describe how grateful I am.

I once read somewhere that running 100s changes or takes something away from you every time you do it. I don’t think it took anything from me other than I have little desire to run anything less than 100 now. I gained a true sense of patience and calmness. I experienced more human emotion than I knew was possible during the last 10 miles and again during the last 2 miles. I don’t know if I’ve ever cried twice in the same hour for two completely different emotions. Seeing the finish line of a 100 mile race is an experience unlike any other I can describe and know of no other way to duplicate that. It’s incredibly addicting.

EQUIPMENT NOTES

Hoka Stinson

I starting getting bad blisters all over my toes by mile 40. Maybe these would be better if they were a half to whole size larger. The toebox is a bit narrow for my feet and not good for long, long miles – very unfortunate for what they cost. They do drain well, surprisingly, but I’m not too impressed with their performance in muddy conditions.

Salomon Speedcross

This would have been my shoe of choice from mile 40 onwards, but my feet were so blistered and swollen by mile 50 from the Hokas, they only aggravated the situation. I dearly missed being able to wear lugged shoes during the singletrack sections at night.

Reebok Dual Turbo Fire

I brought these shoes as emergency backup. They are my daughter’s running shoes and are a half size bigger than mine. I didn’t foresee using them, but they were the only thing comfortable enough with the swelling and blisters. I wore these from mile 54 to the finish. They certainly changed my outlook on paying a lot for shoes. Having that extra room for swelling makes a huge difference. This was the first time I had experienced this degree of foot swelling especially this early on in a run.

Skins A400 Compression Shorts

These shorts stay put… period. They don’t ride up and are nice and cool considering the length. I do not particularly like shorts this long, but these perform so well. The little back key pocket felt like it was irritating my skin after 60ish miles, and a little Aquaphor solved this for the rest of the race. I did have to constantly reapply Aquaphor to my inner thighs which wasn’t surprising, but the chafing was much less than I had earlier this year at Outrun 24. They wick sweat really well. In the future I think I will consider changing into clean clothes around mile 50-60. I’m a very, very salty sweater, and the accumulation of salt becomes somewhat abrasive after so many hours of running. For now, these shorts remain my choice for long distances.

Socks

I started out in a really cheap brand of thin polyester socks that I have been running in for years. However, I speculate if these enhanced my blister issues in the Hokas. They don’t wick water as well as other socks, and once they got wet they probably fueled the blister fire even more. I will probably not attempt to wear these over 50 miles again. I switched to my thin Injinji toe socks at mile 54 which not only helped keep the tape on my toes but definitely helped keep new blisters from forming. I have yet to say anything negative about Injinji socks. Had I worn these from the start, I likely would have prevented a lot of issues early on.

LED Lenser H7.2

I truly love this headlamp. For the price, you really can’t beat the features. It’s extremely adjustable both focusing and dimming, and very bright on the highest setting at 155 lumens. There is a rechargeable model, but I prefer batteries. I only changed batteries twice, but easily carried 6 extra AAA batteries in my bottle pocket for backup. It’s not that comfortable to wear for a very long time directly on skin, so I always wear it with my visor, and this works really well. I forget I even have it on.

LED Lenser flashlight

I didn’t grab this until I didn’t even really need it which was about the last 10 miles. It would have helped a lot on the singletrack at night. It’s a little heavier than I like, but it’s pretty bright. It was awkward trying to carry it along with 2 bottles, and I think a second headlamp worn at waist or chest level might be a better choice if I am carrying two bottles.

GPS Watches

My poor Garmin 305 battery has just about had it and is only getting about 5 hours now. While I would have liked to have recorded the whole run, I would have had to carry my mini USB charger and worn my pack. I didn’t see the need to wear the pack and felt like I could eliminate a lot of extra weight by carrying bottles.

I switched watches constantly with my husband and went between my 305 and my daughter’s Forerunner 10. This set up was plenty good enough to keep an eye on my pace and distances between aid stations. Since I was calling/texting my husband about 7-10 miles before I needed him, this helped me give him a good idea of when he should arrive and eliminated a lot of long waiting on his part.

NUTRITION

I still have yet to have any stomach issues whatsoever with running. I’ve been really lucky, because it seems this is a huge problem for a lot of runners. I honestly didn’t pay a whole lot of attention to eating and just ate what I wanted, when I wanted. I carried one bottle of water and one bottle of HEED or Red Bull at all times.

My crew gave me several Ensure Plus’s, a sausage biscuit, and 2 slices of pizza. At aid stations I would generally take a couple S-Caps, refill my bottles, and mostly ate lots of M&Ms and cookies, a little pizza, and a few salty potatoes. I carried one gel for backup and never needed it.

FINAL THOUGHTS

  • Running a 24-hour timed event prior to Burning River was an excellent way to prepare me for the challenge. It will test your mental fortitude at 3am when you have to leave the comfort of the aid station every lap. It’s also a great way to test drive all kinds of nutrition and gear in a scenario that you would not otherwise be able to easily recreate in training.
  • Aid stations are huge time drainers. They suck you in especially at night and become harder and harder to get away from. While they can be great mental/physical rechargers, they have to be used efficiently and strategically. Have a plan before you arrive.
  • Any minor issue or irritation realized in training is significantly magnified over such a long distance.
  • Focusing on running from station to station works. At mile 85, it seems like the end will never come, but by mile 90, the light at the end of the tunnel appears, and I found a new energy I didn’t know I had.
  • Finding new friends and good conversation can make the miles fly by.
  • Be prepared for the night…seriously prepared. The comfort of having others to run with at night cannot be underestimated especially if you’re not used to being alone in the dark. It can get weird at night! I did not have a pacer but was very lucky to have the company of 2 other runners throughout most of the night for which I am so grateful. My husband told me about a terrified runner who came into an aid station at night who said she’d never run at night again.
  • 100 miles is not really that far; just keep moving!

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Outrun 24 Hour Trail Race (4/26/14)

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First and foremost, I must thank my family for putting up with and supporting me through all the long, long hours I spent training for this event. I could never do any of this without the support and understanding of my husband. I have learned so much from his incredible patience. You are all at the heart of my running. And I thank my daughter for her help along my miles of training. Many water bottles did she fill! I apologize in advance if I’ve shortsighted anyone inside or outside of this writing. It’s hard sometimes to write these damn things and remember everyone and everything 😉IMG_2232

On Saturday, April 26th, I was mentally and physically prepared to toe the line at Outrun 24 in Kirtland, Ohio alongside my mother, sister, and daughter. The course is a 1-mile trail loop consisting mostly of limestone and 65ft of elevation gain per mile. My mother and sister flew into Pittsburgh where my daughter and I picked them up and drove on to Ohio. We went straight to the race HQ to pick up our packets and set up our tent. It was pretty breezy and chilly with a light drizzle.

We left our tent for the night and checked into our hotel in Mentor. We scattered our gear across the room and made last minute shopping lists. After grabbing some grub and some more supplies we repacked everything and were in bed slightly before midnight. We got up around 4:30am and headed out to the race around 6am. We ended up with plenty of time to organize our tent and supplies. It was a chilly morning, and we all dressed in layers we could peel off as soon as the sun broke the tree line.

IMG_2201I wasn’t sure which shoes I wanted to wear because, unfortunately, near the end of my peak in training, I discovered that it was likely that my new Salomon Mantras were causing problems with my right Achilles. There was only 2-3 weeks left before the race, so I figured I would just have to keep switching shoes all day and hope for the best. I brought my Salomon Mantras, Salomon Speedcross 3, Sketchers GoRun 2 (which are usually my treadmill shoes), and my old Salomon Crossmax. The trusty Crossmax would, in the end, get me through another 10 miles with a bum ankle.

I started off with my Speedcross, since they are my most comfortable and quickest shoes. I love the height of these babies, and I’m having a really difficult time finding anything else that feels as good as these. I knew that my feet would be irritated by them around 10-12 hours and planned to switch things up near mile 50-60 since I wanted to slow things down a pinch at that point and ride the clock.IMG_2212

At 8am we were off! During the first couple miles, my compartment syndrome flared up in both legs but was a great deal worse in the right leg. So after mile 3, I stopped by our tent and stripped off some layers and let some of the swelling abate. My legs were feeling a good bit better by the next lap and the pain resolved there on out. I was maintaining a quick pace fairly effortlessly and decided to stick with it and get to mile 50 as soon as possible.

It was a lot of fun each mile wondering if I would run up on one of my family members grinding out their own 50ks. I would come up on one of them and slow down or walk and talk with them at times. It was very motivational! At times we would catch each other in the tent and would take a break and talk. My heart truly melted for my sister. She hit a really dark place later on and was very upset because she wanted to help me at night and knew she wouldn’t be able to. I wanted to stay with her and console her so badly.

IMG_2202The nature of ultrarunning… it can bite!

By mile 26 or so, I began having serious problems with chaffing from my shorts. I had tested them plenty of times in training and never had any issues. I was stopping every 3-5 miles to slather Vaseline on my thighs, but the damage was done and was worse every mile. I was mentally prepared to deal with this for the rest of the evening and ended up cycling through different shorts throughout the day to find something comfortable, but it was really too late.

My pace crept up higher and higher as the day went on, and by the time I crossed 50k, I had set a new 50k record for myself. I considered that this might not be a good thing, but I was feeling incredible and had plenty of juice left. It was then that I decided I would push myself to find my limit, and if I crashed at some point, then I would at least know what I was and wasn’t capable of. I was more afraid of a half-assed attempt and walking away from the race wondering if I could have done more. That’s a position I am done being in. It’s risky, but I want to be utterly destroyed when I finish.IMG_2208

We had grabbed Subway sandwiches to eat at the race. I do love some Subway when running. I had a meatball sub which wasn’t my first choice but worked out pretty well, and I ate the first half while I checked off miles 27-28 and the second half sometime later in the day. It was a big boost, but it was a bit too much food for running 9:20ish paces. I had to slow down a bit and let things digest.

I had reached 54 miles a bit over 10 hours into the race. I was slightly ahead of my projected targets.   I was in 8th place overall and sitting well with a 4-mile lead as first female. I was in a comfort zone and felt it was time to put on cruise control. I changed into the Mantras which was possibly my major mistake and headed back out to hit my next target. I felt 100% other than my feet being somewhat sore from the Speedcross, but I knew this was going to happen and was ready to handle it.

Around 7:50pm, almost 12 hours into the race, I was 10th overall, with 60 miles and still holding 1st female. I was very comfortable with my pacing at this point but the Mantras and my chaffing were becoming just short of torture. The Mantras started feeling like running with concrete blocks strapped to my feet, and I started feeling some stiffness in my right ankle which, at the time, I didn’t take to mean anything. The downhill section was becoming slightly painful. The uphills still felt really amazing. I looked forward to hitting the grade up every lap. The one “major” hill, which is really short and not really steep, I had decided to run every lap early on in the race and then only run as much of it as I felt good about later in the race. This worked out good, and I never regretted running it even later at night. Downhill was the only problem.IMG_2199

Around mile 65, I ditched the Mantras and went back into my Speedcross. I put pants and long sleeves on, donned my headlamp, and headed back out into the impending nightfall. By this point, I had chaffed so badly that I was bleeding pretty good. It was still something I could tolerate the rest of the race, but as you ladies out there know, downhill running and “leaking” are pretty common problems! The INTENSE burning I had with this combination every mile brought me to a whole new level of mental toughness! Not a lovely thought but bluntly true. Regardless, I was green for go. The chaffing was beginning to cost me time in an effort to stay lubed up, but luckily at this point I had time to give.

Almost 15 hours in, my right ankle rapidly deteriorated. I was about 71 miles in and still 10th overall. I had a comfortable lead on 2nd female at this point, but I was growing increasingly worried about the ankle making it through the night. I was staying very alert and never tired or exhausted whatsoever. I had a lot left in the tank to give. I stopped and changed into my old Crossmax. Throughout the next 9 miles the ankle got stiffer and more painful. I found myself walking a lot of the downhill section at times and then becoming cold with sweat. I added a thicker jacket and gloves and found myself sweating too much when I would run. The jacket was on and off throughout these miles. By mile 80, the ankle had become so bad, I could barely walk and found myself dragging it here and there. It was extremely stiff and wouldn’t flex any at the joint. When I attempted to run, it would slap the ground. I knew I had to make a very difficult decision at this point. Feeling this might be my last mile, I scanned the sky and the stars and tried to absorb every last second of the moment. I listened to my breathing and my scampering pace through the loose limestone, the bugs, and the distant voices at the aid station ahead. And then it came, the warm tears chilling my cheeks… this I would not forget.

I grabbed my mother who was acting crew for me through the night and asked her to walk with me. She had noticed something amiss earlier in the night. I could barely even keep up with her at walking pace. We talked throughout what would be my last mile, and we decided it would be ridiculous to try to continue only to go home on crutches. With 19 miles left to 100, I was out. We went to the tent where I tried to find ways to make another attempt and change shoes, but I could barely get any shoe back on my foot. My ankle was red and swollen. I broke into tears and my husband called me to console me and urged me not to try to continue. He had been texting me paces, splits, potential projected goals at different times and watching me on the camera at the lodge throughout the whole race.

At 81 miles and 19 hours and 8 minutes, my run was over. I turned my chip in with tears of anger. It was honestly one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. My mom wrapped me in blankets in our tent and I sipped on a beer while we waited for my sister to pick us up and take us back to the hotel. She had gone back earlier in the day to take a nap.

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Mom and Mallie getting their medals

After a short nap, Lacey and Mallory headed back at 8am Sunday for awards and breakfast. I was so frustrated when I tried to get out of bed, and any weight I put on my foot sent sharp, shooting pains from my ankle to my hip. I wasn’t going anywhere. Mom brought me breakfast in bed, and Lacey and Mallory returned from awards with plenty of junk food and flip-flops for me!

Mallory ran 34 miles to secure 1st in her age group and picked up her 50k medal! Lacey literally grinded out her 50k earlier in the day like a real trooper. She’s the one that got us all into running, and she’s almost like my yoda. My mother, a tank, cranked out 32 miles throughout the day and was still good on her feet all night long while crewing for me! I’m so incredibly proud, impressed, and honored to have shared this experience with them all. Thank you all for everything you did to help me at O24!

All said and done, I ended up with 3rd place overall female with 81 miles and 19th place overall. What should feel like an achievement, feels like a deep, wailing emptiness that needs resolve. It sits bitterly with me, and I can only channel all my negative feelings into greater determination and deeper drive to strive for more. Every night I go to bed, every morning I wake up, all I feel and think about is what needs to be done next.  Over the past couple days of reflection, I feel like I’ve broken beyond some mental barrier and am aware that I am capable of so much more than I thought. If this race has done anything at all for me, it’s made me more obsessive and more competitive than before and taught me not to stick limits or boundaries out there for myself. I didn’t follow rules; I followed instinct. I learned to run with my heart and soul, and that may be the most incredible realization I have ever come to in terms of running and racing.

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Recovery methods include ice and beer

Maybe I didn’t find the answers I was looking for (or was I looking for any?), as if going far and beyond what most think is humanly possible would bring me to some sense of meaning. It really only made me ask more questions but more relevant questions. And while I still cannot truly answer the most trivial question of all as to why we run, I can say this, because I have to. It is like I can feel life slipping away when I’m not running; it becomes void and vague. It makes the everyday grind of chores and trivial problems turn to appreciation, calmness, and acceptance just because I know I will run again.

As a side note: I feel the necessity to mention how wonderful and energizing it was to see, talk, and spend time with other runners out there at all levels. I learned so much from everyone I talked to, watched, and followed. Okay, so I might have stalked at times! It was heartwarming to watch everyone out there giving it their best shot and moving one step closer to their goals while meandering between doubt, hope, desperation, and glory. It was very humbling.

I hope to be back next year to experience it all again. There’s nothing quite like it. All were amazing runners at a very well-organized, fun race. Thanks to volunteers and the race director for putting up with and taking care of us all through the day and night! Oh and for Burning River… I’ll see you really soon with a vengeance!

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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!

West Virginia Trilogy – 50 Mile Race (10/12/2013)

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Elevation profile for WV Trilogy – 50 Mile

In training, I ran my first 100-mi week and for several months maintained a weekly volume around 75-90 miles.  Then I spent the last 2 months upping the intensity and decreasing volume – a lot of elevation gain and a lot of speedwork.  The last month of training was difficult.  We had just moved to our new house, and I was so completely distracted.  I ended up doing a somewhat of extreme taper without even intending to do so, but it paid off.

My daughter and I drove down and stayed at a cabin about 45 minutes away from the race headquarters.  She was volunteering at the last aid station.  The fall colors were coming in fairly nicely, but the constant drizzle and overcast sky didn’t do any justice.  We showed up for the pre-race briefing at the Mountain Institute near Spruce Knob.  It was incredibly remote!  I found my friend, Jennifer, who was running all three days.  The WV Trilogy is a 3-day stage event with each day being 50k, 50 miles, and finally 13.1 miles.  Jennifer had run the 50k that day and shared her thoughts about the course.  She looked really good and strong for the following day’s 50 miler.

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Pre-race briefing

I slept pretty well that night, I never felt anxious or nervous. I didn’t actually know what to expect from myself other than knowing I’d finish.  What I really wanted to do was to race it all-out.  I toed the starting line at 6 am with Jennifer.  There was a chilly spitty drizzle and plenty of mud.  I was feeling pretty good, and my legs just wanted to go.  Before long I realized I had completely left Jennifer.  She obviously was going to be taking it easy since she still had one more day of running ahead of her.  Realizing that, I figured I’d just keep trudging forward.  However, I greatly missed her company all day long.  We climbed up to Spruce Knob and what I’m sure would have been a spectacular view was completely obscured by the dense cool fog.  Daylight was making its not-so-grand appearance.  I dropped my headlamp and jacket at the first aid station which I would later regret.

Once we hit the woods and onto singletrack, my legs took over.  I was completely absorbed in the moment.  I followed behind a couple of pretty fast guys for some time, but eventually I realized that I was cruising along way too fast and dropped my pace.  I was finally all alone and would stay that way for the remainder of the race.  I just stayed focused on getting from aid station to aid station.  I was feeling really good and fast by the time I came into aid 2, but things started to drastically fall apart for me between aid 2 and 3.  I couldn’t stop fantasizing about being at home.  It was all I could think about.  I got very, very cold in the windy mist coming across the ridge, and I had foolishly surrendered my jacket at aid 1.  I was mentally crushed.

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Really cold and not into this!

I felt tired and aid 3 seemed like it would never come.  I told myself to get to aid 3 and if I really wanted to quit then nobody would hold it against me.  I was getting miserable and had no desire to be out there whatsoever.  I felt somewhat renewed when I started seeing people coming back out of aid 3 which is at the turnaround point of an out-and-back section, so I knew I was finally getting close.  I also knew at this point that I was making good time, because I knew aid 3 wasn’t that far away and these were the front runners heading out.  I only passed one other girl on my way down the switchbacks to aid 3.  It was then that I knew I couldn’t quit.

When I reached aid 3 they told me I was 2nd female, so I knew I wasn’t delusional, though I was starting to feel that way!  I grabbed a few snacks and got out of there.  I was a little regretful that I didn’t take the time while I was at the aid station to work on my right foot and change socks and shoes.  On the way there, I had inevitably gotten my feet really wet, and my right insole had buckled and folded and was severely blistering my foot. I had never had this issue before with my Speedcross.  Only halfway into the race, and my foot was in serious trouble.  I ran on it until every step became torture.  I finally stopped and jerked the insole out after trying to readjust it several times with no luck.

I was really pushing the pace hard all the way to the next aid, and my foot was feeling much better!  I was taking a huge gamble, running up long, steep hills and burning my legs.  Then there came what I called the minefield which was a long stretch of slippery, rocky trail along a stream where missing a beat at the pace I was holding was a surefire twisted ankle!  Still feeling pretty upbeat coming into aid 4, I was in and out quickly after refilling my peanut butter cup supply.  The trek to the next aid station seemed like forever, and I was getting a bit tired and running less.  There was a LOT of steady climbing on this section, and I was starting to crave the finish.  When I finally arrived at aid 5 my mind was really tired.  I wasted a good deal of time hanging around there for a while messing with my shoe, drinking soda, refilling my water, and snacking… delaying the IMG_0002inevitable.  With only one aid station left, I headed back out into a beautiful pine-canopied section of trail.

This nontechnical section started off with a really easy grade through canopied pine trees and was perfect for grabbing some quick miles. Eventually my opportunity to “make a run for it,” faded and I was going up and up again, and I was getting really tired.  I told myself I had to hurry up and get to the aid station so I could see my daughter!  I don’t remember much on the way to the last aid station other than giving myself redundant pick-me-up talks and fishing through my iPod for “that” song (whatever it was!).  After what seemed like centuries, I heard people!  There it was, my fabled aid station… or was it a mirage?  Coming into the aid station, I was greeted by everyone singing “Happy Birthday!”  It was fantastic!  My daughter was having a blast, and it was so rejuvenating to see a familiar face! (Yeah, running 50 miles in the mountains is a fantastic way to spend a birthday, by the way!)

The last 4 miles to the finish was actually a bit of a memory blur other than initially getting a little lost for about a mile. There was one last climb to be had for the final mile, and what a climb it was! I grabbed sticks to use as trekking poles to help me just keep a pace of any sort. Finally, I could hear the finish line! Checking my watch, I was indeed going to come in under 12 hours which was originally my ultimate goal. I crossed the finish line in 11:52:58… exhausted, relieved, accomplished, complete. I finished 2nd female with the 1st female being almost 2 hours ahead of me! It was an incredible adventure and learning process.

Post-race recovery was really fast. I wasn’t very sore at all the next day, and 2 weeks later I was back to running 40 miles a week. I chalked a lot of this up to the volume I ran prerace. It was back to the drawing board for 2014. I already knew exactly what I was going to do. It would be the year of 100s. Now I just had to convince my family that it wasn’t such a crazy thing to do.West Virginia Trilogy 50 mile - 2013

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!

Highlands Sky 40 (6/15/2013)

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I’ve had a heck of a time writing lately.  I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on running Highlands Sky 40 and am not even sure how to describe how amazing it was.  There’s really no way to recreate the experience.  There are quite a few really awesome race reports, and I definitely could do no better.  The good news is that I finished (9:36:05) better than I had anticipated, though I really had no clue what to expect.  The course was just purely breathtaking!

The scenery of HS40 changes so dramatically and the course is highly technical (FUN!).  The aid station workers and volunteers are absolutely wonderful.  They really make the event a top-notch race.  I think it’s a race everyone should run once in their life, if not twice!

My husband and my son went with me and stayed in Canaan Valley the night before and after the race.  The prerace briefing and dinner was a lot of fun and the homemade beer was fantastic!  We were bussed to the start line the morning of the race, and I met my very good friend, Jennifer, there.  We had talked about running together and had basically agreed to stick together for the first half and then feel things out from there.  If one of us had lots of juice in the tank, then go for it!  The first 15 miles was pretty much steady climbing and tromping through thick black mud which was determined to eat your shoes off your feet.   Shortly before mile 20 where drop bags were, nature called!  Yah, well, I was half expecting that since I wasn’t so honored that morning.  As luck would have it, we ran right past a park restroom.  Seriously!  So while I got down to business, Jennifer went on ahead to the aid station.

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By the time I got to aid #4, Jennifer had already changed shoes and was fixing to head out.  I ended up eating more goodies than I should have, and it took me longer than I expected to change shoes and reload my pack.  I wasted too much time.  I felt really, really good coming out of the aid station.  I put on some music and planned to soak up some quick miles on the straight stretch of gravel road ahead and possibly, if I was real lucky, catch up to Jennifer.  Time flew by on the Road Across the Sky.  It felt so good to get some speed again after the first sluggish 15 miles.  I finally caught up to Jennifer and stayed with her.  I figured it was a good idea since it would help me keep my pace in check and not knowing what the second half of the course was like.

We talked and laughed for hours and hours.  We both felt really good… almost too good!  Most of the time, it seemed more like a leisurely long run than a 40-mile fell race!  The only time I felt slightly rough was in and around the last 2-3 miles, but it was more of a mental fatigue that would come and go in waves.  Only having 2 hours of sleep the night before might not help.

Approaching the finish line and hearing the cheering and clapping – everything melted away.  Flashbacks of the challenges I took on as I dove into running, fitness, and a better life less than two years ago, and then only a year ago when I dreamed of running my first ultra and becoming fitter than I had ever imagined possible, and remembering lying in the ICU this time last year, crying and scared, deeply aching to run again.  Then when Jennifer and I crossed the finish line together, hand-in-hand, a moment happened for me: I had come full circle… again.

I’m so grateful to my very supportive and patient husband… following me around and making it possible for me to do the crazy outlandish things I thrive on.  I can’t fathom what my world would be like without him.  He’s my backbone and a deep part of who I am.  My very sweet and innocent special little boy, who so intently listens to his momma’s long-winded stories and enjoys being toted around on road trips.  And, of course, my daughter, who gladly joins me for long running escapades on weekends filled with mixed emotional bags and uncertainty and never doubting.  Now that’s a support crew.

Next year, I have every intention of running HS40 again, and I have little doubt that I can run it faster.  I felt so good at the end and still had fuel left in the tank when all was said and done.  What’s next?  I’ve signed up to run the 50-mile day of the West Virginia Trilogy in October.  I’m taking 4 weeks to do some much-needed leaning out as it seems my training for HS40 added a tiny bit of weight to me.  I’ll be hitting the weights hard and building up my base mileage again before I start serious training in August.1014368_4897708532183_409331775_n

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.

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?