Monday, December 9, 2013

This person is under reorganization

So, I happened to read on another blog that one of the big rules of blogging is that you should never apologize for your blogging.  Really, I skimmed over that part, so I am not exactly sure what the details were regarding that little tidbit.  However, I will take it to mean that I should  not - yet again - apologize for being MIA in the blogging world.  I guess, if I could imagine for half a second, that the handful of you who might actually read these words would have missed me, then maybe I would feel more inclined to ignore those words and say sorry anyway.  But, since I really feel like I am tossing my words out into the ether to scatter where they may on deaf ears and blind eyes, I ain't gonna worry too much about it.

The truth is that I have felt a bit disconnected lately, even withdrawn from life as I have known it.  I don't think this is a bad thing.  It's not a depression or sadness that encompasses me. I look at it more as a reorganization.  With the change of seasons and preparation for that long winter's sleep, it is a good time to reflect on what has been accomplished, what I want to focus on and look forward to when hibernation is over, and make sure that my life in general has some kind of focus.

It doesn't help, though, that after a long and fun year of feeling like I could do anything I wanted to running, I now sit here unable to run a step.  Yes, after successfully running four marathons and a 50K, one slow, easy day in the cold, has left me with a sore IT band? Vastus laterlis muscle?  Who knows.  Let's just say the side of the my hurts.  I am really bummed about that, of course, because who likes setbacks?  Not me.  What makes matters worse is that I am such a disorganized individual that I cannot even focus on a proper plan of attack for rehabilitation.  I am surrounded by folks who - if they happen to get hurt - draw up a recovery plan that would put most of my training plans to shame for their level of precision and focus to detail.  Me?  Well, I just sort of flounder.  I don't know how to recovery from things on my own.  Oh well.  So, enough of the bad news. I'll worry more about this later.

In the meantime, life goes on.  Family life keeps me busy, holiday preparations keep me busier.  Hopefully I can get more back into the swing of writing a bit more.  If not, I guess that's just the way it goes sometimes.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Please Let Me Like Spin Class

So, I went to my first spin class in about five years this morning with the thought of just moving my legs. I need to try to get the blood flowing and work out some of the kinks that remain after Saturday's marathon.  The result?  I was kind of bored.

This is not a good thing, as I am really counting on building off of my summer of awesome bike rides and keeping the fun going all winter with some spin classes.  However, I just couldn't get into it. Of course, part of the problem could have been that I wasn't getting into it.  I mean, I wasn't lifting my bottom off the saddle when called for.  I wasn't sprinting past that imaginary rider in the distance.  I wasn't climbing Mt. Everest on demand. About all I was doing was rotating my legs round and round and round.  Occasionally, I would stop my rotation to stretch out the backs of my legs a bit. (They got really tight during the run Saturday.)  And, the only butt lifting I did was to ease the pressure because it was sore!

So, spinning, spinning, spinning. About five minutes into the class I noticed that things felt pretty good. Ten minutes into this class I tried to pick up my cadence to at least get it to 90 RPMs. By 15 minutes into the class my mind started to wander.  At about 20 minutes into the class I recognized that I was bored.  By 25 minutes into the class I recognized that my butt had been sore for about 15 minutes and I still had 20 more minutes to go!  Ugh.

Anyway, I made it through the class, such as it was for me.  As everyone dismounted, I noticed that there were exactly THREE bikes in the class that had somewhat cushy-looking seats, kind of like my road bike at home.  The three lucky riders of those fine pillows of comfort hadn't been balancing on the knife's edge of hell like the rest of us.  Upon questioning a fellow spinner how one rates one of those seats, I learned that I needed to get their early.  So, to that end, for the sake of my "end" I think next time I will get there about a half hour early to stake out my seat.  All's fair in love and spin class, right?

Maybe by then, I will feel ready to tackle those imaginary hills and sprinters.  Or maybe I will just revisit the rowing machine in my basement. Decisions, decisions.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Backwards Green Bay Marathon Race Report - A PR!

You can do anything you set your mind to, but you have to really be willing to take the chance.  That is the lesson I learned yesterday.

Yesterday, on a gorgeous fall day, I ran my fourth marathon of 2013, fifth actually if you want to count the one that came with the 50K I did in May.  After a series of marathons that - time-wise - go something like this: DNF, 5:38, 5:50, 8:05, I really needed something better - anything better - for my own peace of mind. I know that a couple of the races I have chosen over the past year have been harder than the norm....Jungfrau Marathon in Switzerland, Moose Mountain on the Superior Hiking Trail in Minnesota.  And, I also know that the others were done while recovering from injury or while injured....Disney Marathon, the Green Bay Running Club Ultra.  And I accept that.  But the truth is that I have had a pretty decent year of running lots of miles, and I felt that I should have something better in me, even if it is only moderately better than my 4:55 PR to date.

So, with that in mind, I set out to run yesterday's backwards Green Bay Marathon - the MBG - a fun run for goodness sake with the intention of PRing.  To that end, I decided that I would shoot for a 10:15 to 10:30 pace and I would carry my own water so as to minimize water station stops. I wasn't going to do the usual thing of making excuses, or allowing caveats. I wasn't really planning on stopping at 15.5 (the "ultra half" alternative to the full route), even though I told people I might.  I just thought I would lay it all out there, follow my plan and take a chance.  After all, the whole point was to see if I could do it.  If I couldn't do it, what did it matter? It would just be information to work from.

And the result?  Well, since my watch's lap memory was full, all I could do was read my current pace at any given time.  No distance or time was recorded.  I did make a note of my start time and finish time on the watch, and I am depending on reports from my friends whose watches recorded the distance as being a bit long.  For the distance I ran, I finished in 4:44, so adjusting for the longer course, I believe I finished the marathon in about 4:39.  Woot! Either way you cut it, it is the new PR that I craved, and I am thrilled with it.

So, how was "race" day?  It was good.  Getting up at 4:45 a.m. was a bit tough, and I felt tired.  After breakfast and getting myself organized, I made a quick stop through the Starbucks drive-thru and then headed towards Green Bay.  I was happy to get there with about 25 minutes to spare before the scheduled start, so I chatted with my friends and used the restroom, grabbed the route reel with the turn-by-turn directions and got ready to go.  In the pre-dawn light a couple of pictures of the group were taken, the national anthem was sung, and then we were off.

From the get-go, I tried to keep my pace on an even keel.  I really was determined to stay between the 10:15-10:30 pace.  And that was hard to do. With everyone starting off together, I was so tempted to keep up with my faster friends, to talk longer, or to drop back with my slower friends, to talk longer. But, in the end, I decided that MY goal was important enough to me that I would run alone if need be.  So, I did.

During the first half, I was mostly on my own.  I ran with one friend for a short time before she pulled ahead, so as not to influence my pace too much. A couple others I kept catching up to at aid stations and then they would pass me as they took off.  Other than that, though, I was pretty much on my own.  In a way, I had my pace goal to keep me company.  If I hadn't been so slavishly devoted to that 15 second chunk of time on my watch, I probably would not have handled the solitude so well. But keeping an eye on the watch really kept me occupied and it was that that got me through that first half. In a way, I am glad that my time was not recording on the watch.  I couldn't spend my hours doing mental math and worrying about whether or not I would reach my goal.  All I could do was focus on my current pace and soldier on.  I might have to do that for my next race too.

The first half of the race went by pretty quickly.  Carrying my own hydration pack, I didn't stop at the first aid station and I kept my water stop at the second to the barest minimum.  I was determined not to lose a lot of time at these.  Between miles 10 and 13, it really got rough.  I was starting to feel tired and mentally knowing that the "half" was almost done - a distance I have run many times made it hard somehow. I resisted the temptation to look at the time at the halfway point.  I didn't want to get discouraged if my half split was too slow or too fast.

Between mile 13 and mile 15.5, where the true turnoff for the half event was, was even worse, and it might have been too tempting to turn off at that point if a running friend hadn't decided to keep me company.  RdL had run a 50-miler the weekend before and had another marathon planned for the following day.  He had planned on running with someone else until he found out she was only doing 15 miles, so that's how he ended up by my side.

Having someone run with you like that when you are trying to maintain a certain pace can be a little strange, and at first I kind of wondered if I would like it.  By the end of the event, though, his presence became invaluable and I question if I would have been able to finish as strongly as I did without him there. I tend to think I would have allowed myself more walk breaks.

Moving past the turnoff for the 15.5 mile ultra half, I feel like mentally a load had been lifted.  I couldn't quit now and I was happy to not have that option anymore. (Okay, I could have turned around but that wasn't about to happen.)

From the 15 mile point on, the course morphed from flat-as-a-pancake terrain to a gently rolling landscape. Read: hills.  I didn't expect that.  Who knew they had more than one hill in Green Bay?  Running with my ultra friend, however, was a good fit, as he seemed perfectly happy to suggest walking up the hills (something I would have done anyway).  It's nice not to be made to feel guilty about such things.  And, in this way, running amicably, taking in the beautiful fall colors, walking hills, and chatting about this and that, the miles ticked away.  Catching up to another marathoning friend, one who had done a faster marathon two weeks earlier, we added a third to our little group.  I couldn't think of a better way to spend a day.

With the last aid station behind us at mile 21, things got a bit easier before they became much harder.  I wouldn't say that I had fueled or hydrated THAT great during this race.  But, too, I wasn't really that hungry or thirsty for some reason.  I was still maintaining that 10:15-10:30 pace, but to be sure the average was slowing down a bit with the walk breaks and the now much-appreciated stops at the water stations.

Leaving that last water station, I felt almost a bit euphoric, and my pace wanted to pick up a bit.  I would glance down and see 9:30 on the watch and knew that I needed to slow it down because the last few miles would be the hardest, and they were.  One tough thing about running the marathon course backwards is that, while I would have been perfectly content to live on in blissful ignorance as to my place on the course, in fact we were passing spray-painted mile markers.  So, at a time when the miles couldn't go by fast enough I was reminded at each one exactly where we were ... mile 5, mile 4, mile 3, etc.

With three miles to go, I decided to take the one and only Gu I had brought with me - the salted caramel Gu.  Normally, I am not a fan of Gu.  I had been eating my Cliff Blocks throughout the morning, but with three miles to go I decided to pull out the Gu.  For one reason, I needed the walk break.  For the other, I thought the sugar might help pull me through the last 5K.  Since Gu does not settle well on my stomach, eating one at this late juncture was not a bad bet as I could be assured any upset wouldn't occur until the finish.

The last three miles went by in a blur.  It was literally one foot in front of the other.  RdL and I had been tracking two ladies for the longest time.  In fact, I was behind them approaching the halfway point.  With about three miles to go, RdL suggested we catch up to them, follow them for a mile and then sprint past them at the finish.  Although I laughed at the time, we did in fact manage to reel them in and run past - although no sprinting was involved - just as another pair of runners reeled us in and passed us to finish before we did.

I can't remember a race where I have felt I needed to dig so deep.  I thought I would get emotional just from the sustained effort, but I managed to quell that.  Instead I thought of all the things I was grateful for and all that I was running for....ticking them off in my head one by one: running for those who didn't have the health to run such a distance; running to set an example to my kids of not quitting; even running for a running friend of mine who couldn't make the fun run and would have loved to be there.  There is a lot to be grateful for when running a marathon.

Getting near the finish line, I jokingly asked RdL have we gone 26.2 miles yet.  My attempt at "are we there yet?" humor.  To my surprise, the answer was, yes, a little bit ago. I'll tell you at the end.  What?!?!  All I could do was shake my head and add to my list of gratitude the fact that we did not go around Lambeau Field this year (like we had the year before) because, according to the event director, "it adds too much mileage."

Finishing and receiving hugs from my friends who realized I had reached a PR was wonderful.  Finally taking off my hydration pack, which I finally realized does not combine well with the St. Christopher medal I typically wear (rubbing along the collarbone), felt amazing! My collarbone wasn't the only thing aching, though.  I couldn't believe how sore my legs were, and the first thing I did was take up the massage therapists there on the free massage offered.

So, that is my race report.  Today I am still feeling happy and pleased with the results from yesterday's run, although I am also dealing with the residual soreness.  I have a feeling I will be dealing with that for a few days.  But no matter.  With this event done, I finally feel I can sit back and relax a bit before thinking about my next goal.

Happy Running!

Friday, September 20, 2013

School - Sick - Race ... Beating the Usual September Cycle

Ah, there is nothing that says Fall Marathon like two sick kids in the house.  How many years have we approached fall goal races, which as luck would have it take place about three weeks after the school year begins, with some germ or bug terrorizing us?  The timeline of course is set up to make us fail.  Train all summer in the warm, outside air. No one gets sick for about three months. School starts, the kids start mixing and mingling with all those other kids, and before we can say "cover your nose when you sneeze" one or the other of them has picked up a nasty hitchhiker of a bug.

This year, we seem to have two different bugs in the house - one for each kid.  I could be worried about how that would impact my big race. I could lament about how this always happens, and gnash my teeth.  But I won't. Because I have figured out how to beat the dreaded school starting-sick kids-fall race cycle. The key? I will tell you.

It's not a magic pill.  

It's not some special herb.  

It's not through manipulations of diet or exercise routine.  

It's not more sleep, vitamins, or lemon water.  

The secret for me was .... 

Shh .... 

Come closer ....

Here it is...

I already ran my goal race.

Yes, folks, I do believe it is that simple.  By scheduling our goal race in either August or the first weekend of September, I think we have finally figured out how to not get sick for our big race.

You may call this cheating or think it is throwing in the towel.  I prefer to think of it as a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" type of thing.  I mean, if your kids were constantly getting sick in September, wouldn't you eventually stumble upon the idea (even if just by accident) of saying screw it and race in August instead?  You're welcome for that handy tip.  Now, if I ever do actually figure out how to keep everyone healthy in September, I will let you know.

In the meantime, I can care for my kids without that selfish, niggling feeling of "gee, hope I don't catch this."  I mean, don't get me wrong, I really hope I don't catch either of these bugs, but now at least I won't have to worry about it undermining all the training I have done this summer on top of just making my life a living hell.

So, that's my life in a nutshell.  Besides feeling like I am living inside some germ factory, it's race weekend here locally.  I won't be running the Half or the Full, but I am scheduled to be on a relay team I threw together at the last minute with the help of some friends.  A big five mile segment is all I can expect to run on Sunday, and at this point that is a good thing.  With the kids sick, I haven't run since Monday and I have no expectations of running before Sunday.  I could hit the treadmill, but I am so not a fan that I think I would just rather take the rest days.  We'll see. In either case, five miles on Sunday will be about all I will want to handle.  The saddest part to this weekend is that the kids will miss the kids' run for the first time since I think they could walk.  Their streak is coming to an end.  I guess it had to happen sometime.

If you are racing this weekend, have fun! And stay healthy!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Running as Exercise?

I am always surprised when I hear someone say that they hate running but they do it for the exercise.



For me, I could completely say the opposite: I hate exercise but I do it for the running. There, I have said, and I feel so much better.

I thought of this today after a friend expressed seeming dismay to my lamentation that I should really start some strength training after I shared this on Facebook:

What? she said. You don't do strength or yoga? Not at all?  The answer was an unequivocal nope.

Well, maybe it was somewhat equivocal...I am constantly starting strength and yoga programs. But I am constantly stopping them too. They just don't keep my attention or capture my interest.  Truthfully, if it weren't for the fact that I feel they could help my running I wouldn't do them at all.  And, truthfully, if it weren't for the fact that running is kind of exercise in disguise, I probably wouldn't exercise at all.  At least not consistently.

I have to say I feel pretty darn lucky that I found a form of exercise that I can love. The fact that I don't really consider it exercise is just a bonus.  In fact, if someone were to ask me if I exercise at all, I would probably laugh it off and say no.  Oh, well, I might think to add, I guess I do run a bit.

So, if running isn't exercise, what is it?  Here is my short list of Running Is...

~ Meditation

~ Time with friends

~ Excuse to indulge in crazy coffee drinks

~ A confidence booster

~ A safe, non-destructive way to blow off steam or vent frustration or anger

~ A time to reflect on what I am grateful for

~ A means to spend time in nature

I am sure there are more, but I did say that this was my short list.  What does running do for you?

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Moose Mountain Marathon Race Report

So, how to begin this report....I am not sure.  There are so many elements to this past weekend and they all interweave in strange and wondrous ways. It's hard to really grasp what to include and what to leave out.

I guess I'll start by telling you all that I did successfully complete my goal race of the Moose Mountain Marathon, and it only took me 8:04:23.  Yes, you read that right.  Eight hours, four minutes, and 23 seconds.  The scary part is that I am actually happy with that time.

It seems like lately every race I do I describe as "the hardest race I have ever done," but Moose Mountain is definitely, unequivocally, without a doubt, THE HARDEST RACE I HAVE EVER DONE.  The folks who organize it seem to think they have the hardest marathon in the northern hemisphere even.  And, after running it I ain't gonna argue with them.  Now, the confusing part in telling this tale is that while this was THE HARDEST RACE I HAVE EVER DONE, doing this event I felt the strongest I have in a long time.  This was the easiest and most comfortable I have ever felt going 26.2.  Clearly, I am at odds with myself.

So, let's begin.

My weekend started with a six hour drive to the north shore of Minnesota - north of Duluth - on Thursday.  There were to be two parts to my weekend really.  Part 1, which I will gloss over, was supporting my husband in his race.  See, while my BIG goal was to simply do the 26.2, Andy's big goal was to do the 100-mile version of this event.  This was to be his second 100-mile race and it was one that would leave him questioning why he does this to himself.  Part II, of course, is my marathon.

Part I - Crewing

The start of Andy's race was to be at Gooseberry Falls State Park in Two Harbors, Minnesota.  After arriving Thursday evening and checking in to our motel, Andy and I decided to take about an hour's walk along this gorgeous walking path right outside our door.

The path had grassy little offshoots like this one....

...which led to a gorgeous beach on Lake Superior.

Eventually, though, we had to get back to our room to eat the rice, sweet potato, and zucchini dish we had packed from home in a cooler, before heading to the mandatory pre-race meeting for Andy's race.

Mandatory 100-mile pre-race meeting. With the exception of one year, this race has been going on since 1991.  For the first time ever, they met their cap of 200 runners.  178 would actually start.

Andy in front of the all-important elevation profile of this event.
The awards table - just to show us what we wouldn't be getting. lol
The pre-race meeting took about an hour and was filled with all sorts of fascinating information on course markings, crew instructions, what to expect at the aid stations, etc. 

After the meeting it was time to head back to the room for final preparations and a good night's sleep.

Friday morning dawned bright and clear, the promise of a beautiful day - unless you are endeavoring to run 100 miles.  It was going to be a warm one with temps in the 80s and high humidity.  Despite the temps, warnings of high bee activity had Andy dressing a little warmer than he probably would have otherwise just to protect himself a bit more.

After a brief recap of the previous night's announcements and a final check to see if everyone was there who was planning to be there, they were off!

Once the runners started, I had about four hours to kill before Andy would get to the first crew-accessible aid station at mile 20.  So, I went to the motel and checked out, drove up the coast a bit to take in the views, stopped at a gas station to use the restroom and buy water, and then finally headed to the aid station still with about two hours to go until Andy's projected arrival.  Kicking the seat back in the car and setting my phone's alarm, I attempted to grab some zzzz's, but that wasn't working for me, so I grabbed my chair and Andy's crew bag and walked to where everyone else was waiting for their runners.  And, I waited.  Once Andy got there it was the usual activity of fetching and filling and making sure he was good to go.  I could already tell he was a bit in awe of the course and was feeling the heat, but he was making good time and seemed in good spirits.

Crews lining the trail leading to the "T" intersection of the Superior Hiking Trail where runners were going through.
The rest of Friday was spent crewing for Andy as best I could at the three aid stations I had time to go to.  Also during that time I picked up our friend Doug O., who had arrived in town to be Andy's overnight pacer.  We grabbed lunch and met Andy at a couple more aid stations, before I finally dropped him off at the mile 43 aid station to wait for Andy.  He would eventually be able to start running with him about two hours later.  That was at about 5:30 p.m. on Friday, and the last time I would hear from them until about 1:45 p.m. the following day.  For me, though, it was time to head north to the hotel at the race finish where I would pick up my packet, hand over my one drop bag, grab some dinner and attend my own pre-race meeting.

Part II - Marathon

After setting three alarms and getting a so-so night's sleep, I woke up Saturday morning to another picture-perfect day.  Luckily for me, my race day was not to be quite so warm as Andy's, but it was still warm.  I outfitted myself with my new Pearl Izumi shirt, a running skirt, and calf sleeves.  I wore my new pack with its two bottle holders, placing one bottle in the holder and carrying one in my hand.  Maybe I am a masochist but I really don't mind having a handheld.  The pack was great though for carrying my extra bottle and everything else I needed.

The shuttles were waiting for the marathoners in front of the hotel, and at 6:45 we began the half hour drive to our start.  At the start, pictured below, we had about 45 minutes until the race began.  Despite picking up our packets, bibs, and timing chips the night before, we were required to check in once again as we got off the bus.  This was a safety feature to ensure that they knew exactly who had started the race.  They took this quite seriously, as during the pre-race announcements they went over the names of people who had not checked in about three times.  Finally, satisfied that they had everyone they were going to have, it was time to start.

Not pictured here, but exciting nonetheless - FOUR porta-potties.  A boon when we had been told to be prepared to go in the woods at the start because there wouldn't be potties.  :)
Me before the start.  See that road behind me?  Starting out on that for about a quarter of a mile would be the smoothest footing we would have until about the last mile. 
The start was an informal affair.  There was no national anthem.  In fact, the closest we got was the approximately 200 participants partaking in a group wolf howl.  After the announcements were made, we were told to line up behind the car that would take us down the dirt road to the trail head.  There was a verbal countdown from ten or five (I can't remember), then a "Go!" and we were off.

It would be impossible for me to go through a blow-by-blow, mile-by-mile reporting of this event.  First of all, there were no mile markers, just orange flags along the trail and stern instructions to watch for the Superior Hiking Trail markers.  For me, mentally, I was prepared for a hard event.  I knew it would take me a long time, but I wasn't sure how long.  I just determined before getting underway that I would take it from aid station to aid station.  There would be three of those during the marathon, with my first section being about seven miles, then five miles, five miles, and finally seven miles to the finish.

For once I didn't really start out with a plan as far as running, walking, etc.  I decided I would just let the terrain decide for me.  When I could run, I would; when I had to walk, I would. 

Starting out along the dirt road, I think the idea was to string the runners out a bit before funneling them all onto the trail head.  As it was, though, it wasn't really enough time to thin things out, so by the time we reached the trail head there was a bit of a logjam as everyone filtered on to the single track.  Once there, you could really only go as fast as the person in front of you until about a half mile down the trail when it widened out a bit for a brief span.

So, like I said, I don't really have a blow-by-blow.  What I can tell you is that this was the most challenging terrain I have ever run/walked on.  It was rocky and there were tree roots everywhere.  There were uphill climbs that seemed to go on forever.  There were downhill descents that had me lowering myself with my hands on rocks or grabbing trees.  This race simply consisted of a series of going up, up, up over peaks, running along the exposed bluff at the top for a while, then going back down, down, down.  We would run along the bottom for a bit before starting the pattern all over again.  Some of the names of the peaks we scaled were Carlton Peak, Britton Peak, LeVeaux Mountain, Oberg Mountain, Moose Mountain, and Mystery Mountain.

The climbs were tough, but once you got to the top, the views were amazing!  

There was a bit of a drop-off factor, so you wouldn't want to go running up to the edge to take a photo, but I didn't find it too terrifying.

Here was the elevation profile:

The worst climb by far was from the Temperance River up to Carlton Peak.  That was serious, watch-your-foot-placement, step-up-rocks climbing. The others were just steady climbs, and to be honest I was kind of impressed with how not intimidated I was by the climbs.  I guess after hiking to the top of Pikes Peak and attempting the climb up the Jungfrau, the Minnesota mountains just weren't that scary.  The hardest part with them was that there were so MANY climbs; they just kept coming.  You would think you had almost reached the top, when you would go around a bend and find that it just kept going.  However, the good news was that compared to a fourteener, for example, I knew that the peak would come sooner rather than later. 

Like I said at the beginning of this long, discombobulated post, I felt really strong for the day.  I took it easy on the runs, repeating to myself over and over easy-peasy lemon squeezy - something my kids have taken to saying lately.  I just wanted to keep my run easy, and it was.  I ran all the flattish sections I could, most of the downhills that weren't slide-on-your-butt steep, the occasional boardwalk sections that had you going through swampy areas, and even some mild uphills.  I felt amazing throughout and managed to run up until the finish - except for when I was walking.

And, there was a lot of walking.  I didn't take too many photos of the trail, but I cannot overemphasize how difficult the footing was.  Here is a picture I took (more of the flag marker in the distance), which shows some roots.  However, this turned out to be nothing compared to other sections that awaited us.  Whole swaths of somewhat flat sections that you still couldn't run on because the roots were so thick there was no place to really put your foot.

Many uphills were so steep and rocky that you really were just reduced to climbing up at a snail's pace.

Then there were the parts of the trail that had loose rock or that were so overgrown that it was hard to believe we were on a usable hiking trail.  For all that, though, there was AMAZING beauty along the way.

Rushing rivers that we ran alongside.

Gorges that we passed over high up on a bridge.
Idyllic lakes that we passed.
I think I liked the nature of this particular beast because it was constantly changing.  You never had a chance to get tired of running because sooner or later there would be some section that had you walking.  Tired of walking over roots or rocks? A clearish section would appear that would invite you to dance over the obstacles.  For every uphill you were tired of scaling, there was a descent waiting for you.

Coming into the aid stations was something to look forward to, and you could hear them long before you got to them. The volunteers were amazing and it was almost embarrassing how well they took care of us marathoners, knowing that they had the 100-milers out there who were the real rockstars.  But they just look at this trail as hard, and regardless of goal they wanted everyone to succeed.  So, to that end, as soon as I walked into an aid station, my number was checked off by one of the ham radio volunteers and someone was coming up to me asking me what I needed.  My bottles were whisked away and filled, food was pressed upon me, ice was offered - even a shower from a hose when the day got hot.

At my last aid station, when I mentioned to a volunteer at the food station that I wondered how my husband was doing on the 100-miler (I hadn't heard from or about him since the previous day!), he took off to the ham radio volunteers with his race number.  A couple minutes later he came back and informed me that Andy had gone through the previous aid station five miles back a half hour before.  I was so excited to hear he was still on the course (when so many had already dropped out) that that gave me a boost.

Nutritionally speaking, I ended up sticking mostly to the Cliff Blocks and Gu Brew I was carrying with me.  Blocks every 45 minutes and Gu Brew whenever I felt like drinking.  At the aid stations I did grab some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, potato chips, orange slices and bananas.  Also, coffee poured over ice was my drink of choice at the first couple of stations.  Delicious!  Finally, with about three miles to go, my stomach started growling at me and I broke down and ate the dark chocolate Snickers I had stashed in my pack at the last minute.  I don't think I had ever tasted anything so good!

Approaching the final miles of the event, you can hear the river behind the hotel (where the finish line was) long before you actually got there.  We had been warned about that, so I didn't give that much thought.  We had also been warned that it would feel kind of funny coming out of the woods after so many hours only to finish up on the streets leading into Lutsen's resort area.  And it was.  Following the line of cones down the street, watching the ski lifts operating (not sure why), and running around the cars and pedestrians was a little strange.  It allowed for a bit of time for reflection, knowing without a doubt that the event was coming to a close.

I wasn't sure how I would feel finishing up such a long event.  While this hadn't been my longest race distance-wise, it was time-wise; so coming in to the finish line, I felt that it should have been a really emotional, I-can't-believe-I-made it type of moment.  But it wasn't.  The fact was that despite being tired, I felt great.  I had been more positive during the race than I can remember being in a long time.  I felt strong. I had no great aches or pains.  My mind boggled at how my quads, hammies and various other body parts held up to the ups and downs.  (I can only credit all the biking and hill work I had done leading up to the race.) It was just a really great event for me.  I was never even bored!

I do wonder if I could have done a little better.  Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled with the eight hour finish.  Optimistically, I was hoping that I could come in by 7.5 hours, but pessimistically I thought closer to 9.5 was going to happen.  Eight hours?  That was phenomenal for me.  Despite that, though, I spent a lot of the race feeling I should hold back a little because I had read in a blog how the last two climbs were brutal.  When I made it through the second-to-last climb though and realized this was it, one more to go, I realized that I shouldn't have given so much credit to that one report.  Carlton Peak was by far the hardest for me.  Moose and Mystery Mountains were a walk in the park by comparison.  I knew then I could have pushed a little harder.

In the end, though, when you have fourteen hours to finish an event, and the scenery is so amazing that you just want to take it in, then why push things?  I wasn't out to PR this race.  A PR wasn't possible, so why not enjoy it?  And I did.

Finish line
So, finishing my race, I grabbed a bite to eat and took a quick shower (love staying in the hotel at the finish line).  Back out at the finish, I was able to greet my husband, who managed to finish this race under very hard conditions.  While he is still a bit shell-shocked, I think, by what he went through, I really did enjoy my race, and I would recommend it to other people who want a tough challenge or who are just prepared to spend a day out in some AMAZING surroundings.  For the marathon - with a fourteen hour cutoff - even a decent walker can finish with time to spare.  Looking to do the 100?  Well, that is a different story.  In this year's race, over half of the folks who started ended up DNFing.  Probably because of the conditions. Even more challenging, time-wise, might be the 50-mile event.  With a sixteen-hour time limit on their event, they definitely have the tightest cutoff with which to contend.

Someone asked me if I would do this event again, and I have to say I hesitated to answer that one.  I think I would.  The problem with that idea is that if I do do it again, I would feel pressured to beat the time I had this year.  And, the fact is that I enjoyed just being able to ENJOY this event.  So, if I do do this event again, it will be after I have trained much harder and can beat eight hours, OR it will be with the idea that I just want to spend another amazing day out on the trails. Both are possibilities.
"A footrace through the reaches of dark and
ethereal northern boreal forests. Not for
the faint of heart or the weak willed. Each
and every single footfall is greeted by earth
bound by roots and littered with rocks.
A challenge fit only for champions.
The ultimate test of man and woman.
Thus giving rise to its eternal name...
Rugged, Relentless, Remote - SUPERIOR."

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Six Days Until Race Day. Bring It On!

Yesterday's eight-mile long run was the last one before my Moose Mountain Marathon, and to say I am glad to have made it this far in my training is the understatement of the year.  As usual, training did not go exactly as planned.  All the hills I had put on the schedule for myself exasperated a running injury I got about halfway through the cycle.  While originally I had thought it was the formation of a neuroma, I can't completely discount a simple stone bruise.  Regardless, the result was that running was painful, and running hills was completely out of the question.  Add to that the brilliant idea I had of throwing in a full marathon halfway through the summer and that inconvenient injury magnified itself to full-on hindrance.

But I got past that.  I took time off when I needed to.  I cross-trained by riding my bike.  I saw a PT. I learned to tape my foot.  I started running again with tape.  I caught up to where I needed to be on the plan.  And, I reintroduced hills.  Things went well.  Almost too well.

In fact, unlike most other pre-race taper runs, the runs I have experienced in the past couple of weeks have gone amazingly well.  I have had a couple that were less-than-stellar due to heat, but really I haven't had that worn out, blah feeling I usually get leading into a race and that has me a bit concerned.  That's why when a friend told me I earned a few karma points during yesterday's long run, I started wondering if I could apply them where to I wanted to - namely to my race.

Yesterday's run wasn't supposed to be that big of a deal.  Eight miles after weeks of double digits will seem easy to anyone at that point.  So, really, I didn't care what I did with it.  I got to the PaceSetters training run early, intending to help the organizer for the day.  And, although I was there by 6:10 a.m., I found that everything was firmly under control and there wasn't too much for me to do but make some announcements before the event.  After the runners took off, I hung out with the kidlets who were stuck there playing games until Dad got back from his run.  They didn't mind, and for me that just meant getting to stand around talking to people, also not bad.  By the time I got around to starting my run, I had been standing on my feet for over three hours - also not a bad thing.  Time on my feet, right?

So, starting my run, I decided to follow the training run course backwards to catch a couple of the water stations we had set up.  Four miles at faster-than-usual pace (I was feeling good!) were broken up twice by stopping to gab with the water station volunteers.  My plan originally was to turn around at the four mile mark and head back.  But then I changed the plan to go a little further out and take a different, shorter route back to the start.  I do so prefer loops over out-and-backs.  As fate would have it, though, just past the second water station I passed going the other way a lady who was our last 20-mile runner for the day.  I cheerfully said hi as I passed but saw from the answer I got - and the fact that she was walking - that she wasn't doing that well.  I made it past her and around a corner before I decided I should turn around.  Heading back around the corner and seeing that she was still walking, I made a decision that I normally would not make.  I decided to strike up a conversation and see how she was doing.

As it turns out, she was not doing very well.  It was her longest run ever, she hadn't run very much in the past month, and this was to be her first marathon.  Her calves were hurting and she just seemed like she was questioning this whole madness that is marathoning.  So, normally, I would have wished her good luck and kept going, but something stopped me.  Instead, I ran and walked the four miles back to the start with her.  I kept up a whole no-doubt annoying patter the entire way, too.  I urged her to run every now and again, and she did.  I tried to give her some encouraging pep-talk like conversation.  In other words, I did what I could to help her not give up on this whole crazy endeavor.

Why did I do it? I am not sure.  Probably for the same reasons I told her.  There have been plenty of training runs and races where I have been the one bringing up the rear.  There have been plenty of events and training runs where I have been dejected and wondered why I was doing what I was.  And, not very often, but every now and again, I have had someone who literally walked and talked me to the finish.  And, looking back, I am grateful for that.  Because it's in finishing that you know you can do it.

So, good karma?  Who knows.  I can't help but think (with an amused smile) that this lady may have gotten up this morning cursing me and my cheerful attitude, the fact that I encouraged her to run when all she wanted to do was a shuffling walk.  But what's done is done, and I feel I made the right choice.

If she is like me, it may be several years before she knows exactly why she chose to do this event, or she may never know.  If nothing else, however, she now knows she can cover 20 miles and even run a bit when her brain is telling her to quit, and hopefully that does count as something good.

So, in the end, my eight-miler turned into a nine-miler with a lot of walking in the second half.  I am okay with that, though.  It was a good run on so many other levels.  Otherwise, during the run, I did wear my new Pearl Izumi Ultra Inside Out Short-Sleeved Quarter-Zip shirt (love the long name) that I ordered from Road Runner Sports, and I have to say I loved it!  After calling to talk with a customer service rep last week, Road Runner Sports was nice enough to contact PI and ask for an expedited ship date and they delivered - literally! The shirt was extremely comfortable and I do plan on wearing it now for the marathon.  Being as cheap as I am, I am not 100 percent sure if it was worth $65 but it will hands-down be better than anything else I have for a hydration pack.  There should be no chafing along the neckline at least.

So, six days until my marathon.  I am looking forward to it and a bit in awe of the challenge that it represents for me.  Time to start getting prepared for it!

Friday, August 30, 2013

Oh-Dark-Thirty ... Literally

Well, color me surprised. It's dark in the morning.  I guess I should have known this. After all, when my friend and I made plans to ride together last week, I pored over the Internet looking for information on what time sunrise would be, eventually finding a handy little site called that gave me an exact listing of sunrise times by date for my zip code.

Last week, I educated myself on the subtle differences between civil twilight, nautical twilight and astronomical twilight (all listed on that site) and determined that while sunrise wasn't until about 6 a.m., civil twilight was about a half hour earlier and would ensure that we would be able to see while biking.  And, indeed, we could! In fact, last week I was really left with the impression that everything was fine, and maybe I had gone a bit overboard in worrying about that pesky little light situation.

So, when this week rolled around, I didn't really give much thought to sunrise, twilight, or anything of the like.  I figured, so it will be a bit more gray out.  As a nod to that, I chose to wear my Nathan reflective arm sleeves with my neon yellow short sleeve tech shirt, even though it was already 73 degrees at 5:30 a.m.  What I should have realized was, of course, that as the summer season marches relentlessly towards its close, sunrise, twilight and all that get pushed back about ten minutes each week.  Oops.

So, when I actually opened the garage door this morning and got on my trusty hybrid to ride, my first thought was It's dark.  My second thought was Wow, I really can't see anything.

Getting on my bike, I realized I couldn't see my computer thingamajig to reset it.  I actually had to stop my bike, tilt it a bit towards a neighbor's outdoor porch light, and still even then I was forced to put my face right up to the device before I could vaguely make out the fact that I had successfully reset the thing.  Additionally, I couldn't see my gears.  This wasn't that big of a deal since I can mostly change gears by feel, and the range I use is small enough that no big changes are required anyway.

The dark - or the threat of storms from the night before - seemed to keep the usual one or two cars and handful of runners and dog walkers I had gotten used to seeing in the early a.m. all summer off the streets.  So, not only was it dark, it was lonely. I have to say the ride to the school to meet my friend was a bit creepy and weird as a result, and I was a bit relieved when I saw her pinpoint bike light in the distance heading towards me.  A ghostly "good morning" from the dark greeted me and circling around we could actually begin our ride.

I would like to say that this is the point where things settled down and the ride became normal, but it didn't.  It was still dark, and I don't have a headlight on my bike.  To be deep-down truthfully honest, I kind of liked riding in the dark.  It was a neat feeling knowing that no one else was about.  I guess I have that type of personality.  That didn't mitigate the fact, though, that I still couldn't see the pavement, and without the influx of visual cues one would normally receive, I felt like my balance was thrown off just a bit.  I definitely felt shakier on the bike and couldn't help but notice those tiny little ups and downs in the landscape (not to mention potholes) more than I normally would.  It felt kind of like trying to do a balance pose in yoga with your eyes closed versus open. World of difference, at least for me.

I am not sure when the sky started brightening (I was concentrating so much on the road and really gabbing too much), but certainly by the halfway point it was light enough to feel normal again.

Then the rest of the ride did go pretty much as usual.  The first half was easy peasy, or should I say easy breezy since the wind was at our backs?  Turning to head back - as usual - we were greeted with a bit of a bitch of a headwind.  And, - as usual - I slowed down significantly, which is too bad, because my legs felt pretty fresh this morning.  I'll blame it on the heavy hybrid.

In any case, it was a great ride, and I feel like I got a good workout.  After joining my parents and friends for sangrias last night and only getting six or so hours of sleep, I'll take it.

I am strangely really happy to have made it to the start of the kids' school year being able to do the early a.m. rides, and to be honest I will miss them.  Rolling out of bed to exercise has never been easy for me, but I have enjoyed the rides.  In the meantime, though, there are new biking challenges on the horizon.  After all, I want to see how far into the cold weather I can get. October? November? We'll see.

Note about shoes: Running trails yesterday, I think my trail shoes and I may have come to some sort of workable agreement.  I figured out a new way to tie them and I wore my thicker SmartWool socks, and one or both of those seemed to prevent the shoes from slipping.  In any case, I am happy.  I think they will work out for the marathon. Of course, I still plan on putting other shoes in my drop bags, just in case.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

96 Percent Humidity...

...That is what the weatherman said this morning, and I have decided that is at least 30 percentage points too many.  When they say that the humidity level is hovering around the "oppressive" mark, one should really consider themselves forewarned.

These past two days now I have run in "oppressive" humidity.  And, while I like to give my running friends a hard time on Facebook if they say they are bailing because of it - postponing runs, using the treadmill, etc. - and while I like to say this is good for acclimation purposes, the truth is that running out in this weather just sucks.

I have been lucky in a way because this week is my second week of taper, so while I did want to get out there and run I didn't need a lot of miles.  Just four to five miles each day was on the plan. Even with such a modest schedule, though, I found myself wishing I could go shorter.  It's not that I was tired or worn out or not wanting to run, but the heat and humidity conspired to create a feeling of nausea both days that hit me later in the run both days.  Not a very pleasant feeling. Combine that with just a general feeling of blah and a flash flood of sweat poring from my skin, and really I just felt crummy.

Not a great picture, but it does show how sweat-inducing the weather was.
Oh well, it is done!  Two runs closer to race day! My last long-long run was done on this past Sunday, running the trails at High Cliff, and because I forgot my Cliff Blocks for the first two hours, it was an interesting experiment in running on empty.  What did I find? Mainly, that I like eating something every 45 minutes or so.  After about an hour and a half of the run, I could really feel the lack of food - mostly when we stopped to take a photo and then I started up again. I have to say I felt a little woozy.  It was probably just a blood sugar crash, but it was a weird feeling.  By the time we got back to the car at the two hour mark, I was fairly ravenous.  Instead of eating the blocks, I opted for the banana I had brought and a Kit's Organic bar (both originally intended for a post-run snack).  I needed real food.  After eating and slugging a bunch of Gu Brew, we headed back out for another half hour or so to finish up.  That was interesting, because while my tummy felt a bit funny for the first ten minutes or so - probably really needed to digest - after that I felt great! I could really feel the food hitting me. I had more energy, was happier, and generally ready to put a smile back on my face. So, the lesson learned here is twofold.

1) I do like having my Cliff Blocks every 45 minutes or so, and I don't foresee giving them up anytime soon.

2) I could possibly give up the blocks if I could find the right solid foods to eat.  Both the naner and bar I ate settled well and if I could find more foods like that, it might be a better way to go.  Time for more experimentation - after the marathon, of course.

And, since we're talking about food, here is what I had for lunch yesterday.  I don't know why I took a picture of it, but since I did, you get to see it!  Wish I had more of this for today!

Tofu, tomato and avocado sandwich with Veganaise and sprinkled with turmeric. Yes, I am weird.
And for further amusement, did you know they make all sorts of dog toys now with Star Wars themes?  My son insisted on buying this one yesterday, but luckily I was able to use my magical mom powers to say "no."  Ooh, I had to add an edit.... I just realized this looks a bit like the clip I saw from the Miley Cyrus debacle circling the Webnet now.  (And, no, I have not watched the performance beyond that clip and have no intention to.  Who cares?)

On Weather Watch

It's that time again, the time when I enter the 10-day weather watch window for an upcoming event.  I am not exactly sure why I like to watch the forecast so closely. I am not obsessed with it as some people have assumed. Generally, I only think about it once a day. In fact, I would venture to guess that once this post is done I won't think about it again until tomorrow morning when the local weather on the news reminds me to check the 10-day for Lutsen, Minnesota.

What has given me a bad rap is that I post the daily weather during this 10-day stretch on Facebook for all my friends and family to see.  I don't understand why they think I am obsessed.

I can't remember which race I started this little tradition with, but I had so much fun with it that I did it for another one.  Now, a major race can't go by without someone asking me if I am going to post the forecast or not.  I am still trying to figure out if those folks are serious or not.   I have been teased about this "obsession," admonished, and lauded.  It all depends on, I have come to figure out, if people have a horse in that particular race (namely themselves).

I have had folks ask me why I WASN'T posting the weather for an upcoming major event. The answer in that case has usually been that I wasn't running it.  I mean, I am not the local running club's weather guru, a weather forecaster by trade, I don't even play one on TV; I just post weather updates on races that interest me personally.  In any event, the fact that I post now is more for the amusement of others, as well as myself.

For the Moose Mountain Marathon, however, I have to say, I really am interested in the weather. More than any other race I have done, the forecast will impact what I wear, what I carry with me, what shoes I choose, and what I pack in my drop bag. (Yes, the marathon has drop bag options!) This will be such a long race that I will need to be prepared for every possibility come race day and maximize my packing and drop bag potential.

The shoes are the major concern since I am not too enamored of my trail shoes in general, and I don't feel super confident in how they perform on wet rocks.  If it rains, I may opt for my road shoes and hope for the best.

So, with that in mind, let the weather watch begin!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Can't We All Just Get Along?

Today was the Wednesday group run's last day of "summer" running.  Next week with the start of school the group will move to a 9 a.m. start for the run, versus the 7:30 a.m. start we have been doing.  I am really looking forward to this shift, because for me it means that I can make the run with regularity again.  For the better part of three months, with summer school and then no school, I have mostly had to bow out of the Wednesday runs.  The timing just didn't work out for me.  However, with the school year starting, that will no longer be an issue.

With the end of season comes a kind of changing of the guard.  While I, and another lady who runs regularly during the school year, will be able to make it, two others who are teachers and can only come during June, July, and August have had to say their good-byes until the next school vacation allows them to attend.

While this is all bittersweet, it reminds me that this is part of what is so lovely about running.  More than anything else in my life - any hobby or circle of friends - running has allowed me the joy of being able to get to know a wide variety of people from all walks of life.  There are teachers, engineers, politicians, retirees, stay-at-home-moms.  There are hunters and vegetarians; Republicans and Democrats. Any polar opposites you can think of, they are represented somewhere in the running community.  And, while I may not agree with everything a person does in his or her private life or understand everything that he or she may stand for, if we can run together at an amicable pace, then typically we can get along just fine.

Runners and the running community is my "tribe," if you will, the group of people with whom I get along most.  There seems to be something about tying your running shoes and heading out the door that allows a person to leave everything else behind.  When we are all huffing and puffing in the chill winter air, or gasping for breath in a summer sauna, there is only one thing that matters - do you love running? And can you talk to and accept other people who love running too? For the most part, the answer is yes.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Time for a Break?

It seems to me that the most successful runners, who I know personally, have a certain ebb and flow to their training plans, which gives their bodies a break once in a while.  It has also not escaped my notice in recent months that I have been tired - not only in body, but mind and spirit as well.  All this combined had led me to entertain the need to take a break from running after I complete (hopefully!) my marathon in a week and a half.  In fact, I had really embraced the idea.  I was relishing taking some time to NOT train for anything, to NOT having a race goal, to really just running for fun and as the whim struck.  Then maybe, with any luck, I could come back smarter and stronger.

Okay, that was a couple months ago.

Then my foot got hurt.

So, I didn't run.

So, I cross-trained.

Then the foot started feeling better.

And, suddenly, I am left with this feeling that I don't really want to take a break anymore.  Maybe it was the fact that I got a small break there with the foot injury.  Maybe you don't really know what you have until it's gone. Maybe it was the blog I read this morning that outlined all these kick-ass trail races lined up like ducks in a row on the blogger's race plan.  Suddenly, though, I don't want to take a break. Rather, I want to start looking for races to do.

So, where does this leave me?  Obviously, the whims of a runner - at least this average runner - can peak and wane at a moment's notice, and to be honest I am not sure if I should follow this peak to see where it leads or stick with the original plan and take some time to really consider where I want things to go for me in the next year.  Try to go longer? Try to go faster? Or just run for fun?  No right answer; no wrong answer.  Time to think.

In the meantime, I did decide that I didn't want to completely bail on the Fox Cities Marathon this "hometown" race.  I have done the marathon once and the half marathon a number of times. With it being two weeks post-Moose Mountain, though, I never did sign up for an event this year, thinking I would wait and see how I felt.  But races wait for no man, or woman, and I was surprised when both the full and half events filled.  Not one to be left out, I am in the process of throwing together one of the most quickly assembled relay teams I have ever taken part in. Should be interesting!

In other news, I went ahead and ordered the Pearl Izumi shirt I had been eyeing, but now there is a very real chance I may not get it in time for my trail race.  When I got the email confirmation this morning saying the item would be shipped on Tuesday, September 3, I called them up and cried foul!  Well, not really, but I did ask if there was a reason for the delay.  Apparently, the item comes directly from Pearl Izumi and they are in no hurry to send things out.  So, I did what any self-respecting runner (with no real self-respect) would do, and I asked the customer service rep to please contact the company and let them know that their customer is desperate to receive said item by Wednesday, September 4.  I am sure it will have no impact, but I did what I could and if it somehow helps the shirt get to me sooner, so much the better.  I mean, it is all about my happiness, right?  Now, watch.  I will get this shirt on time, wear it, and wonder what all the hype was about.  It's pretty rare when I buy something without due consideration, so it would serve me right to have the one time I don't do a ton of research on turn out to be a bad buy.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, August 26, 2013

On-the-Fly Training

So, I slowly seem to be developing a style of training for my running that I can live with.  I like to call it On-The-Fly training.  The basic idea of it is that you have a vague idea of what you need to accomplish during the week to come, so then you just look at your calendar at the beginning of the week and plug all the elements in to where they fit.


So, for example, this week I know I need to work in two moderate-length runs (I am in taper, after all), one of which I would like to be on trail.  I also need a long run over the weekend, and one or two bike rides.  If it fits, I could also throw in a recovery run today, but that is not a huge deal breaker for me.

So, looking at my week, here are the factors that influence when I get to do all this stuff, in no particular order.
  • Weather - While I will run through most weather, including the current heat wave we seem to be experiencing, I will not run in a thunderstorm if I can help it.  Scattered storms today, and storms possible most of tomorrow.  Monday and Tuesday runs seem unlikely.
  • Parental Availability - I am extremely lucky that my parents, fondly referred to as the GPs, live close to us, are retired, and love to spend time with their grandkids.  They are almost always willing and able to watch the kids when needed, and that is especially important now when the kids are still on summer break. Of course, that all being said, they do have their own lives and volunteer quite extensively, so as the years go by, I find myself checking their calendar more and more.  GPs available most of the week.  Yay!
  • The husband's running/work schedule - When you live with someone who works full-time and whose hobby is running ultramarathons, you have to learn to be flexible.  While the husband mostly gets up before the crack of dawn to do his workouts and runs both weekend days, he is also flexible and accommodating.  (This is how marriage works, right?)  Coming down to crunch time with his 100-miler, though, my main concern is are there days he is running or biking to work?  Since he is also in taper mode, his schedule is not too much of a concern this week. Hurray!
  • Anyone else want to run with me - More and more, I am liking the group run thing, so if someone says they want to meet to run, I will try to juggle things around to do that.
So, as for this week, since the rain is persisting this Monday morning, and I don't think the kids will like playing on the rain-slicked play equipment at the park, a recovery run is most likely out for me today.  That's okay.  I can also partake in recovery cleaning or recovery errand-running or some such.  The main thing is just to keep moving this day after my long run.

There is a group run Wednesday and a friend who wants to run trails Thursday, so there are my two mid-week runs.  Since we have family coming in from out of town on Saturday evening, that influences when my long run will be - most likely Saturday morning.  That just leaves two days to plug in bike rides.  Since tomorrow is stormy, that leaves Friday.  

Easy peasy! And, just like that, a week's worth of training is scheduled.  A week on either side of this one could look completely different, but that's the beauty of the On-the-Fly just doesn't matter.

As disorganized as this may seem to be, the past couple of weeks, On-the-Fly has been working for me quite well.  It seems so much more stress-free not being so rigid in the days I do things, and I think I am to the point where my body can take a bit of spontaneity in the training plan.  As long as I listen to what it is telling me, that is, and  I am getting better at that.

As for this past weekend, the family had a good - albeit NOT stress-free - bike ride on Saturday. We ended up taking a roadtrip to Two Rivers, Wisconsin, where we biked the Rawley Point trail for six miles from Two Rivers, through Point Beach State Forest to the lighthouse on Lake Michigan.  It was a gorgeous ride on crushed limestone paths, which twisted and turned through the trees, crossed bridges, and went up and down small hills.  The scenery was wonderful, the ride nice, but the company not so much 100 percent.  At about the three-mile mark, E. decided she was going to pitch a fit because she wasn't enjoying the ride anymore.  So much for hoping they would have fond memories of biking.  Oh well, at least the first half of the ride was nice.

Rawley Point Trail in Two Rivers
Yesterday's long run was meant to be 12 miles or two to two and a half hours on trails.  As it turned out, it was both.  My friend Amy and I managed 12.22 miles in just under two and a half hours.  That's not bad considering I didn't stop my watch while taking pictures, etc.  We headed over to High Cliff State Park to run the bridle trails there, and it was really quite nice. While I have run some of the horse trails, I hadn't run the outer loop of them.  I didn't realize how scenic or hilly that area was.  I definitely will want to be running those a bit more in the future.

View from the bridle paths.
A hot and humid run in the fields. Nice breeze, though!
Happy Monday!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What to do, what to do, put some mustard in my (running) shoe...

Woke up this morning
Feelin' sort of blue...Woo, woo, woo
Caught in a bind
Don't know what to do...Doo, doo, doo

It sounds like a bad country-western song, but sometimes these types of cheesy non-lyrics are true...true, true, true.

It's getting towards the end of summer, and I have been hearing a lot of "I'm bored. There's nothing to do" from the kidlets.  While I have gotten used to hearing this song and dance from them, it's rare when I wake up with practically the same thought going through my head.  In my case, however, it's not that I have nothing to do, it's just that I am filled with a restlessness of spirit that probably has to do with my marathon in two weeks.  (This always happens to me, so at least I am learning to recognize it.)

As I start slowly backing off the exercise routine a bit, giving myself an excuse to ease up on the duration of my workouts, my brain seems to go into overdrive.  Now is actually a good time to start thinking about the race, because there are a lot of race day details I need to figure out - how long might this race take me? What kind of stuff should I pack in my hydration pack? What and how many food items should I carry? Extra clothes? How can I get my hydration pack to sit better and not chafe? Should I buy a new shirt to help with that? Do I need bear spray?  You know, the usual questions.  The problem is that my "restlessness" manifests itself in a certain lack of focus that seems to impact all aspects of my life - including race day preparations.

So, I wake up in the morning thinking to myself nothing to do, when if fact I have a ton to do. So, to help me get myself organized, here is my short list of immediate needs (race-related, of course):
  1. First and foremost, figure out the hydration pack.  I recently bought an Ultimate Direction AK race vest, and I really like the idea of it.  The problem is that the one and only time I wore it, it really chafed my neckline terribly on one side.  Now, granted, that first run with it was a 15-miler on trails and monster hills (so, closer to three hours worth of running) and it was humid that day - so lots of sweating.  Except for the chafing, I really liked the vest.  I use Ultimate Direction bottles anyway, so I like that I can carry two of them tucked into chest pockets.  They are easily accessible and it makes it easy to monitor how much I am drinking.  Anyway, I need to see if I can adjust the straps to get a better fit.
  2. Look into buying a new shirt. I have my eye on a Pearl Izumi Ultra Inside Out Quarter-Zip Short-Sleeved shirt.  (Not too picky, am I?)  A friend of mine recently wore that shirt for the Leadville 100 and gave it two thumbs up.  My husband also owns this shirt and likes it as well.  I like the idea of it, because I think the higher collar will help with my chafing issues, plus it has patches on the shoulders that supposedly help hydration packs stay in place.  The problem is that they are expensive.  (I was kind of hoping for a well-timed sale.)
  3. Enough food to finish. Although I originally equated this race with my 50K seven-and-a-half-hour finish, after seeing the race results from last year and running some trails recently (and paying more attention to how long that takes me), I am thinking this could take me upwards of 9.5 hours to finish.  So, I need to exactly determine how many Clif Blocks, Gu Brew blend, etc., etc. that I need to take.
  4. Find some gloves.  I have heard from a couple of sources that there are spots where you actually need to pull yourself up hills (or hold yourself back going downhill) using trees. If that is the case, I want some hand protection.  I think a pair of garden-variety (sic) gardening gloves would work, but if I could find a pair of cheap gloves that would double as cycling gloves later, that would be great.
  5. Make a final determination if I am going to wear my Saucony Xodus trail shoes or not.  I have been told I need trail shoes for this race, but these slip a little on the heels when I run in them.  Unfortunately, I don't have a good back-up plan, as those are my only trail shoes.  If I choose not to wear them, I would go with my Cortanas.  If I do decide to wear them, then I need to put some velcro on them so I can attach some gaiters. Decisions, decisions.
So, those are the big - and immediate - concerns.  Once I get these big questions figured out, I can probably start to relax a little more about this race.  And, we all know how important relaxing is to race preparation.  If you don't know that, check out this article: Tapering: The real art and science of coaching by Greg Wells.

In the meantime today, though, I need to ponder whether to go to the farmer's market or not.  I really like getting my produce from there in the summer, but the Saturday market is always such a zoo.  Wednesday's market is a bit more manageable.  The kids sure do like these little gems, though:

Ground cherries!
Later today, it's off to another bike riding adventure with the kids.  This one will involve my parents' car, a bit of a roadtrip, some amazing scenery, and two whining-dragging-their-heels kids who will claim they hate to bike until they are actually doing it.  But, a few miles of adventure is worth a bit of whining.  My hope is that despite the negativity we as parents field doing some of these activities that someday they will look back on these memories as some of their fondest ones.

From our last biking "adventure"...