Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Taper Week 2 - Getting Antsy

It's hard to believe this is week 2 of my three-week taper for the Ice Age 50K already.  It's getting close.  For so long I have thought of this race in terms of being "out there," so far in the future that it wasn't really worth thinking about.  Now however things have changed.  It can't be said to be in the distant future anymore; in fact it is right around the corner. It's only 11 days away!  I am at that point where whenever I think about how many days are left until race day, my belly does a little flop.

So far week 2 definitely seems different from week 1 of this taper.  During the first week, the days were defined by aches and pains.  I sure felt a lot of them.  I don't know if they were just ghost pains, or the creaking and complaining of a body insulted that is finally trying to pull itself back together again after a lot of long training miles.  In any event, if last week was characterized by physical markers, this week seems to be defined by mental ones.  I am getting antsy.

Physically, I am starting to feel pretty good. (Knocking on wood.) Mentally, though, I am kind of wishing that race day were here.  More than that, I am plagued with this feeling that I should be doing something.  I don't know if it is because of the reduced miles; cutting out of all cross-training, strength-training, and yoga efforts; or the fact that I just seriously have more time on my hands, but I keep thinking there is something that I should be doing.

Training-wise, I am done.  I did the long miles, I did the short miles.  I did the best I could not to hurt myself while logging all those miles.  Last week, I cut down to 70 percent of maximum mileage for this training cycle.  This week, I am down to 50 percent.  That means yesterday's short run really was short - three miles!  Next week, I just plan a couple of easy, three-mile runs and then that's it.  Done.  For better or for worse.  Done.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Run Away to the Bay - Recap Up to a Point

This past weekend was the second annual Run Away to the Bay, a 55-mile-ish relay from Oshkosh to Green Bay.  This is the one that I wasn't going to do last year, but then did at the last moment as I got pulled onto a team that needed a replacement.  (To read about last year's event, whose review will be much more detailed than this one, go here.) This year, I actually planned on running the relay, but somehow due to double-booking by a certain someone (that would be me) I was only involved with the event through the completion of leg 4 - so shy of the halfway point.  So, that's where my story ends. Here's where it begins...

A while back my Wednesday morning running peeps started to put together the idea of a team for Run Away to the Bay.  This all seemed rather funny as Peep A.'s involvement with the team would be limited, seeing as she was actually the race director for the event.  No matter, however.  When this group of gals comes up with an idea for a fun running day, I like to be a part of it, so of course I signed up without much thought.  Unfortunately for me, I should have given it a bit more thought because I failed to take into account that my family had already purchased tickets (last year!) for the broadway version of The Lion King at Appleton's Performing Arts Center for that same day.


Okay, there was no need to panic. Showtime wasn't until 2 p.m., which meant that I could run during the morning hours, jump off close to the halfway point of the race and still have time to have lunch, shower, and get myself show ready.  And, that's what I did.  What a day.

I wasn't the only one making our team a bit discombobulated.  Out of the five of us, only two of us were going to be in it for the long haul on race day.  I was leaving before the halfway point.  Peep A. would start things out for us by running the first leg, but then would have to leave to resume her RD duties.  And, Peep E. had a prior commitment for the early morning hours and would have to join in the fun just about the time I was exiting.  Whew.

For me, race day started at 7 a.m. when Peep C. picked me up for the drive down to the start line.  Getting ready for this relay was a bit odd for me, seeing as I wasn't going to be around for the whole race.  There was no need to think about clothes too much, no need to pack extra things to wear.  No need to think about a day's worth of food and hydration.  From a preparation standpoint, knowing I wasn't going to be driving along the whole day made things a heckuva lot easier.

C. and I got to the start of the event with plenty of time to connect with Peep A2, who was meeting us at the start, and see Peep A. off and running for our team.  Then it was into the car to get to the first exchange point.  For some reason, though, I ALWAYS get lost in Oshkosh.  I don't know why. I really can't explain it.  But Oshkosh won again Saturday as I got us turned around on our way from the start to exchange 1.  We only got lost the one time, though, which was a bonus.

At the exchange point, I got myself ready to run, was convinced I had everything, and when A. got there, I took off in a blaze of speed.  Okay, not really.  Since I couldn't run at all in the afternoon, the plan was for me to run legs 2, 3, and 4 straight through.  That would give me a bit over 15 miles for the day and it would give my teammates time to drop off A. at the start again so she could get to work, as well as enough time to go and pick up teammate E. too.  There were a lot of logistics involved in these first few hours.

Even though I had 15 miles planned, because this was a relay I didn't think about my run in terms of "long run."  I really struggled to keep my pace down to a 15-mile manageable pace.  I was shooting for 10:30 pace, but every time I would look at my watch, it would say closer to 9:30 - or faster!  While this was a big ego boost for me, I also knew I couldn't run that for 15 miles.  Also starting out, I forgot to grab my Clif Blocks as I left the exchange.  Who needs those when running a relay, right?  Oh, right.  Not just running one leg; running three legs.  Oops.  Luckily I remembered before I got too far - and also lucky for me that everyone seems to know the RD - as I was able to ask someone coming out of the porta potty, which was past the exchange point, to find my team and ask them to drive by with my Clif Blocks.  They got the message right away and before the first mile was done, I had Clif Blocks in hand.

Once I settled into a somewhat manageable pace, I started thinking of nutrition strategy.  Yeah, I know.  Maybe would have been better to think of that beforehand.  And, I did!  I had sort of thought maybe I could eat one block every ten minutes to keep a constant level of food in my system.  But because I didn't have my blocks from the start, that didn't work out.  What I did end up doing was eating two blocks every 20 minutes.  This seemed to work out well for a couple of reasons.  First, this guaranteed a nice walk break every 20 minutes and I was really happy with how that worked out. Secondly, I think that having that steady but small intake of blocks really helped keep my legs moving.  I noticed even later in the run, that my leg turnover didn't seem to be suffering all that much.

I can't say my stomach was completely happy with me, though, because there were a couple of points during the event that I did feel a bit nauseous.  However, I tend to think that had less to do with the blocks and more to do with the fact that it was warm for one of the first times this season - and I wasn't used to it.  That, and I ran out of water somewhere during my second leg.

All in all, though, I am happy with how my legs went.  It was weird running through the exchange points, though, and NOT handing off the slap bracelet to someone else.  I just cruised through and would grab some water or Gatorade.  The volunteers at each stop asked me, are you glad to be done?  Um, not yet.

The three legs I had were relatively flat. There might have been a couple mild inclines in there, but nothing too noteworthy.  I tried to run in the dirt along the side of the road as much as possible to save my legs from the concrete where I could.  The highlight of my legs included running along the shore of Lake Winnebago, which was beautiful, and then into Neenah with its nice paths and sidewalks.

I had several people ask me what I was doing and they all seemed rather impressed that it was a relay from Oshkosh to Green Bay.  I don't know that they got that I was part of a team or they just thought I was doing it solo.  Some of their reactions would suggest the latter.

I made sure to refill my water bottle at each exchange, but as stated earlier I ran out of Gatorade during leg 3.  It was fairly warm that day and besides the water issue I hadn't thought to wear a hat, so I was grateful when I ran past a team I knew parked on the side of the road (waiting to cheer someone on, I assume) and was able to get a little water to squirt on my head. That felt wonderful, so am very happy they were able to help me out.

As a testimony to how unprepared I was for this event, I had no idea how long my individual legs were; I just knew they all rolled together to make 15 miles.  Mentally, I feel I held together nicely, though, despite running solo the entire way and not having music to distract me. I really just enjoyed the day.  The miles seemed to tick by, and I had a nice rhythm going.  Run 20 minutes, walk a minute or so to down a couple of Clif Blocks.  Switch hands with the water bottle every mile or so, and whenever the legs ended, I got to walk through an exchange point.

It was a hard effort for me, but an enjoyable one somehow.  I was pleased that for the most part, pace-wise I was more worried about going too fast than too slowly.  That was nice for a change.  My left hip did start bugging me around mile 5, but then disappeared again after a few miles.  There were a few other aches and pains along the way, but I didn't let them bother me.  I just kept telling myself I am tapering. Things are bound to complain a bit.  In the end, I am happy with the way things went.  I wouldn't say I got too tired until almost mile 13, but then I just had two more to go.  Those two miles were punctuated with more walk breaks, but what are you going to do?  I had just run 21 miles the week before, so all in all, I think it went okay.

Getting into the exchange after leg 4, though, I was so happy to see my teammates all there to cheer me in to what would be my finish.  And, it was nice to see C. and A2 fresh and ready to run.  Peep A. showed up briefly as well and with E. there too it was our one chance to get a team picture.

I was also happy to see my family there waiting for me at the exchange, too.  It's so rare when I have anyone at the finish of one of my events.  In fact, it hardly ever happens anymore.  More times than not, my parents are watching the kids and they are either not there at all or off playing somewhere.  Hubby is usually running the races himself, and we always miss each other at finish lines.  Saturday, though, my parents just caught me coming in before they had to leave for work, as well as Hubby and the kids.  With so much love, it was a nice way to end my part in the relay.

After saying bye to my teammates, the family and I headed out - onto our next great adventure, the Lion King, which as an ending note - was really good.

So, a very incomplete race recap.  I can't say anything about the second half of the course or the after party.  But, by all accounts that I have heard, things were just as good as last year, if not better.  The after party on Green Bay's waterfront was especially a hit, I hear, and I am a bit sad I missed it.  But that's okay, just incentive to do the race again next year!

In the meantime, I am enjoying this taper thing.  Went out for a three-mile (3!!!) run this morning, and it felt really good.  It was a nice spring day here with rain and everything. I thoroughly enjoyed getting soaked in the warm shower and jumping through puddles.  Hope the rest of taper is just as good!

Happy Running!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Taper Week 1 - Aches and Pains

Thank you to everyone who has helped me on this journey towards running my upcoming 50K.  With your words of encouragement and support, I actually feel like I can do this thing, despite all the negative self-talk that is going on in my head right now.

It's hard to feel super confident about a race of this magnitude when you haven't done anything like it before and when lesser goals can still prove difficult.  Marathons are still a challenge for me.  Trail running too is not easy, seeing as every third time I hit a trail, I literally hit it - usually with my knee, hand, or shoulder.  Recovery after long runs is slow and painstaking.  And, I still seem prone to injuries - real or imagined, I am not sure at this point.

I am at the end of week one of TAPER, and this week has been defined with twinge watching.  What's that, you say?  That is where every little twinge, hint of a twinge, or echo from twinges past cause near freak-out mode in the mind of the twinger.  (That would be me.)  Not only am I questioning every little ache and pain, I am experiencing what I hope are sympathy pains for friends who have actual injuries.  A metatarsal stress fracture? A pain in my foot.  IT band issues?  The side of my leg hurts.  Etc.  I am that pathetic.  As I told a friend of mine, at this point, I just want to show up at the start line of this 50K hale and hearty.  After that, let the chips fall where they may on race day.  But, if nothing else, I want to show up to the race in good shape.

So, to counteract all the negatives shooting through my head right now, I am trying to list the positives. In no particular order they are:
  1. I did get through my long training runs injury-free it seems *knocking on wood*.  With any luck, the rest of taper will allow me to heal any remaining woes before race day.
  2. Even though I have never run an ultra before, it isn't like I have never spent a long time on my feet.  The Pikes Peak Ascent took me 5 hours and 20 minutes, and the 24 miles I completed of the Jungfrau meant I was on my feet for 6 hours.  And, both of those were while climbing up significant mountains.
  3. Climbing.  While I may not be the best runner in the world, I am actually a halfway decent hill hiker.  Those climbs that others dread don't wear me out usually and I find them a nice break from running.
  4. I love the trails.  No matter how miserable a run might possibly be, being on the trails while doing it is like applying a nice, healing balm over the wound even as the knife is being dug in deeper.
  5. Friends.  I actually know a lot of people going down to do this race this year, and I am really excited about that.  Spending time with friends and sharing this experience with them makes it all worthwhile.
  6. I have come a long way, baby. Running 8.3 miles on Wednesday, I was reminded of just how far.  Because while those miles weren't fast, they were steady.  Finishing those eight miles I felt much like I would have finishing half the distance several months ago.  And, that is really something. 
So, still two weeks until the big day and the doubts - and excitement - are building.  In the meantime, tomorrow I am running a relay - slowly - for Run Away to the Bay.  With any luck, I will finish my three legs - and 15 miles - in good form, and then I really can sit back and relax in relative ease until the 50K.


Saturday: 21 miles on the Ice Age Trail (5 hours on my feet)
Sunday: 2-hour yoga workshop
Monday:  4.5-mile run/walk
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 8.3-mile run
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Rest

Total Mileage: 33.8 miles

Thursday, April 25, 2013

31 Miles

What business do I - an average runner - have running an ultra marathon in two weeks?  Good question.  One that I have been asking myself over and over and over again this past week.

Recovery from last weekend's 21 trail miles has been slow and this is the first week of taper madness, so I have had a lot of time to think.

31 miles 

That is the distance I will attempt to cover at the Ice Age 50K Trail Run.  I haven't written too much about it here, probably because every time I do think about it I ask myself that same question - what am I doing running this?

Is it because I felt I needed a challenge?  That doesn't make sense.  I have only run four slow marathons - three finished and one DNF'd - so it's not like I feel I have conquered the marathon distance and now need a bigger challenge, not by any stretch of the imagination.  

Is it because I wanted to spend more time out in nature, but in a controlled, course-is-marked kind of way?  (I am not in my comfort zone just, you know, going out in nature.)  

Or is it peer pressure?  Everyone's doing ultras these days.  Hmm, maybe.  I have a lot of friends, and a husband, who run ultras.

Mostly, though, I think the answer is that it just seems fun.  31 miles fun?  I know, it seems crazy to me, too.  But, really, ultras just seem more laid-back, more in line with the lifestyle I am interested in leading.  I am obviously not a fast runner, and I even enjoy the (more than) occasional walk break.  There is just something that seems to feel right about ultras and, specifically, trail ultras, versus shorter road races.

So, like someone dating someone new for the first time, wondering if this is the one, I look forward to this first ultra attempt with a mixture of dread, anticipation, anxiety, and excitement, all rolled into one.  Will this be something for me?  Or, will I do it and then thank my lucky stars I never have to try that again?  I guess I'll know in a few weeks.

The weird thing is that I already think this might be the start of a beautiful thing.  You see, I have already told Hubby that I want to take a break from racing after my marathon in the fall before I start training for this very 50K again next year.  I know I will be slow this year, and I am already curious to see if I can improve my time in 2014.  How's that for optimism?

And, even if it all falls apart, and I am thanking my lucky stars and all that, the plus side has got to be that marathons will seem easier in comparison, right?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Ice Age Training Run Recap

So, my mom asked me tonight now that my last long run is done how do I continue to prepare for my first 50K.  My response?  Pray.  Partly that answer was given tongue-in-cheek, but after yesterday's last long run before taper, I am starting to think I really should have gone to church today.

Yesterday Hubby and I decided that we would go down and join the Milwaukee area running club - the Badgerland Striders - in their 35-mile training run on the Ice Age trail.  This of course is in preparation for the Ice Age 50 Mile event coming up in a scant three weeks.  Have I mentioned that I am running my first ultra there with the 50K event?  Crapola.

I have not been able to get a lot of time in on the trails this spring, so the idea was to go down, try to get my last long run in before tapering for the 50K (somewhere between 20 and 25 miles), and hopefully build some muscle memory or something.

Me after the run. Can you say "done."
The training run was an eye-opener in a lot of ways, to say the least.

The training run started from the Nordic trailhead in the Southern Unit of the Kettle Moraine in La Grange, Wisconsin.  Since this is over a two-hour drive for us, that meant getting up at 3:45 a.m. to have breakfast, get dressed, make coffee (for me) and get out the door.  By 4:40 a.m. we were on the road, stopping only to pick up a friend also doing the run.  And, after getting turned around on our directions once or twice, we finally rolled in to the parking lot at about 7:20 a.m. with the run scheduled to start at 7:30.

This was just a training run, so it was fairly loosely organized.  The number of cars in the parking lot was no clear indication of the number of people there.  I suspect a good number had gotten an early start on the trails.  We signed in quickly, hit the restroom, got our stuff organized, and then it was time to gather at the trailhead for some last words.  Since I was still fiddling with my handhelds and second-guessing if I should take only one or both, I missed those last words, which were no doubt wisely said, but I imagined they contained some helpful tidbits like how to not get lost on the trails, etc.

After I finally decided that I needed the two handhelds and tracked down the event coordinator to ask about how not to get lost on the trails (follow the signs that say N2 - not N1 - and then the white arrows), I finally got underway.

The course for yesterday's training run consisted of one almost 10-mile loop on the nordic ski trails (thankfully not covered with snow) and then a 25-mile out-and-back.  The only water drop (an unmanned station with water and Heed) was going to be located at 9 miles out on the out-and-back, meaning we would hit it twice.

Originally, I had intended to do two loops on the nordic trail to get 20 miles and then, if I had anything left over, head for the out-and-back for some extra miles.  Really, though, all I wanted was five hours spent on my feet regardless of mileage.

So, that was my original plan.  At the last minute, though, I reconsidered my plan and decided to do the out-and-back section instead of the nordic loop. I decided this for a couple of reasons, but mainly because I reasoned since I am going to do the nordic loop twice during the 50K, I didn't want to do it twice yesterday and then be bored by it.  (Get out of town! A 10-mile loop in a trail ultra can't be boring, can it?) The out-and-back section is actually part of the 50-mile course, which means I won't see it on race day.  And that meant that if the training run really went in the toilet for me, I could at least comfort myself with the fact that it wasn't part of my race.  (See, there is a method to the madness.)

Since most of the 50-mile runners were doing the 10-mile loop first before hitting the out-and-back, I was on my own for about the first 10 miles of my run.

Starting out, the temps were cool but pleasant, the sun was looking like it might actually make an appearance, and the trails were nothing short of breath-taking and peaceful.  It was the first real spring-like day we have had this year, and I felt really blessed that I could enjoy it out on the trails.

That was the upside of things.  The downside of things was that as far as the running went yesterday, I was really off.  I can't explain why, but I knew within the first three miles of yesterday's run that it was going to be a slog.  My legs just felt heavy.  I don't know if it was the series of races I have done in the past weeks, my training progress to date, the fact that I didn't sleep well, or what, but I really was struggling.

To make matters worse, my stomach wasn't too happy with me.  Perhaps it was the early morning that threw me off, or it could have been the decision to have lentils the night before for dinner, or perhaps the coffee I had nursed all the way to the run that morning was to blame.  Whatever the case may be I started out feeling none too perky.  Nutrition-wise, I clearly didn't think things through as well as I would have liked.  I brought my faithful Clif Blocks with me and planned on eating two blocks every half hour alternated with dates.  I don't know why that sounded like a good idea at the time, but it did.  And, it wasn't too bad.  So, at thirty minutes, I had two blocks, then three dates, then two blocks, two dates, and then I was down just to blocks.  Why eat so often?  Mainly on the advice of an Intro to Ultras book I had recently read.  Did it work?  Sort of.  I thought I was doing okay, but since my day was off anyway, it is hard to tell.  After the run, an ultra friend of mine listened to my list of food intake and seemed to think I was a little light on the calories, so I might try to figure out how to tweak this while not introducing anything too new come race day.

So, add to the heavy-legged feeling and the stomach woes the fact that this trail was just plain HARD, and I knew I had the makings for a really crappy day.

As I have said, the trail itself was challenging.  Starting out, we headed out on the Nordic trail for about a mile and half before branching off and getting on the Ice Age Trail itself.  This part - while beautiful - is quite technical.  Any section that didn't have us going up or down some hill or other had us picking our way carefully, eyes glued to the trail, through rocks, roots and downed tree branches.  I have never known a trail to be so exhausting just for the amount of focus it takes.  I really envy those runners I saw who were just flying through these sections, obviously really confident in their footing.  Since my fall last summer (and now a winter away from trails) I feel I was too cautious by far.  In fact, for myself, I really looked forward to the brief welcome respites from the technical sections - a nice, long stretch through a pine-needle carpeted forest and another along the sandy paths of a lake.

Somehow, despite such a rocky start, I made it to the water drop at mile 9 and was able to refill my bottles. Around that time I got a sort of a second wind.  I continued past the water drop but with three and a half miles to go before the official turn, I knew it probably wasn't the wisest choice to head to the end.  My progress was just so slow that second wind or not I didn't want to get into a situation where I went grossly past those five hours I had hoped to run.  So, somewhere between a half mile to a mile past the water drop, I turned around and headed back.

This is about the time I started seeing other runners, either folks who were just flipping fast or folks who had started out early.  As I left the water drop for the second time, I ran into two gentlemen who had gotten an early start on the trail.  We exchanged pleasantries and then went our separate ways.  Heading back, after going up and over a series of switchbacks, I hit a smooth portion of the trail that followed along the side of the lake.  I really struggled here for some reason, and it is here that those two gentlemen caught up to me.  But, seeing as they were going a decent pace for me and were walking the hills, I naturally just fell in with them, and I am so glad I did, because they ended up pulling me along for about six miles.  They were chatty fellows and I was amazed to find out that one of them holds the record for the number of Ice Age 50 Milers completed - namely 27.  They were a great source of information and helped boost my confidence that despite how I was feeling yesterday, I would still do fine during the race itself.

Finally, getting back to the start area, I noted I had 18.2 miles on my watch with only 4 hours 25 minutes run.  That really bothered me.  Given the distances given for where the aid station was located, and knowing I had failed to start my watch at one portion, I guestimated my mileage to be closer to 19 miles or maybe even a little more.  But it bothered me to have less than 20 showing on the watch, so for better or for worse, I headed out and back on the nordic loop for an even 20 miles on the watch.  It was probably the longest two miles of my life but I did it.

In the end, I am guessing I did about 21 miles in about five hours, with the possibility being great that I am slightly low-balling those numbers.  My pace was appalling compared to my average street running times - an average 14:30 pace on the watch.  I don't know why it was that slow.  Was it really the trail, which was very hard?  Or was it that I just had a bad day?  I guess I am not going to worry about it.

I keep thinking back to what a friend once told me - that if a training run isn't boosting your confidence about meeting your race goals then it isn't doing its job, and I have to say I am having a hard time deciding whether this did its job or not.

On the one hand, I am really happy I got out on the trails and was able to see what I am in for.  It was hard, but now it won't be a surprise come race day.  I think if you haven't run the Ice Age and you get out there expecting it to be like a lot of other trails then you are in for a bit of a shock.  It's just so technical in parts.  I am also glad that I chose not to spend my time on the nordic loop.  From the few miles I saw of it, I have a good enough feel for what it will hold (plus, I am familiar with it from the half marathon I ran there two years ago).  Compared to the more technical parts of the trail, it is pretty benign, and knowing that that will be the bulk of my race makes me very happy indeed.  Also, I am happy that the time I did spend on the trails yesterday consisted mostly of a part of the 50-mile route - so not even on my race course.  So, no matter how hard yesterday was, at least I can tell myself that at least I won't be dealing with that come race day.  That happiness is bolstered by what my two gentlemen friends told me - that the portion I had run on the training run was actually one of the most technical parts of the 50-miler.  Oh, I know I have some tough portions coming up on race day, but at least I will have had a taste of some of the hardest the Ice Age can throw at me.

I won't dwell on the non-confidence builders, but they include how long this took me (it's hard to imagine spending upwards of two or more more hours on the trail) and how horribly my gut did.

In the end, though, I guess I feel I just had a bad day, so I am not going to dwell on it.  I did it.  The longest long run is in the bag.  The hip I worried about so much didn't peep too much so that is nice.  Now it is time to taper.  I knew when I signed up for this that it would be hard, and I imagine that was part of the allure.  (Well, that and I just want marathons to seem easy in comparison.)  Now I am just curious for race day to come and to see how it unfolds.

Nordic trail looks benign enough.  No pix of the technical trail, though.
If you are in the neighborhood and interested in trying out one of these training runs.  The second - and last - one is next Saturday, April 27, starting at 7:30.  It will be 19 miles and leave from Nordic going to Emma Carlin and back.  Should be fun!  Go to for more information.

Happy Running!

Friday, April 19, 2013

"I Give Up" Is NOT an Option ... Friday Roundup

I wish I had a dollar for every time I said to myself "I give up" when it comes to running, because by
now I would surely have a tidy stack of ones that I would (no doubt) apply to new running shoes.

Just this morning, I heard that little whisper in the back of my head - I give up.  

Now, there are two things that will make me feel like throwing in the towel with running: not seeing any improvements in my running and an injury.

For the most part, I have made peace with the first one.  At this point, my running is what it is.  I feel like I have been walking a fine razor's edge between injury and maintaining my running ability such as it is for a couple of years now, so I really don't expect to see any improvements.

So, today's frustration comes from the latter - the dreaded injury.  Let me preface this by saying that I KNOW that any injury I get from running at this point is my own fault.  I probably needed to take some time off from this sport a year and a half ago already - but I didn't.  There were too many fun goals on the horizon that I didn't want to postpone.  So, the fact that I may be on the edge of virtually falling apart, I get that.  Still, I feel that I have been on the positive side of that balancing act for a while and now - being so close to goal - I am going to be majorly disappointed if things disintegrate at this point.

To make a long story short, a couple of weeks ago when I ran the Trailbreaker Half, I noticed that I was experiencing intermittent pains on the front of my left hip.  They came and they went, and it was very random in nature.  They started up in the first couple of miles, so I don't think it was because I decided to pile on 18 miles that day.  (Although I am not completely dense; I admit that certainly could have exacerbated the issue.) Since then, I have run five times, including two longer runs of 10 miles or so, and in all those runs I only experienced that sensation once more on a short three miler a week ago - until yesterday.  Yesterday evening, while my daughter and I were jogging from our car to the planetarium to catch a show there, I experienced that same sensation twice.  Like I said, random.

So, last night I started foam rolling and icing, because that is all I know how to do.  I iced again this morning and that is about the time I heard that little whisper I know so well - I give up.  That was quickly followed by the negative self-talk of Why are you doing this to yourself?  It's too hard. You're not good at it.  Why would you have an injury?  You don't run as much or as hard as others.  It must be your body obviously cannot take it. 

It's so easy to get depressed and down on yourself when you have thoughts like this.  But then I ask myself, what would I do if I couldn't run? If I gave up on this running lifestyle that I have really taken to?  Would I stop running altogether, or would I just stop training for race events?  Would I give myself over to cross-training?  Could I find a new exercise/meditation love?  Or, would I just sit on the couch, slowly gaining weight and losing fitness until I ultimately lived up to the negative stereotype of the middle-aged, stay-at-home mom that I am?

The truth is that I don't know what I would do.  I am in so deep with running that to stop doing it would probably require a serious intervention.  You see, despite the fact that I am no good at this sport, despite the fact that I constantly seem to suffer from one ache or pain or another that I don't understand, despite all the frustration that comes with loving something that doesn't seem to love me back quite as much as I love it, I won't give up on it.

So, in the meantime, I will keep doing what I know how to do: foam roll, ice, compression, and ... RUN.  I will hope for the best.  I will pray that I can get through this long training run tomorrow and then I will kick back and make full use of my taper.  I will try to get through the 50K.  Then I will rest again for a few weeks before tackling marathon training.  I will hope I get through my fall marathon.  And, then, only then, will I really take the break I think I need.  With any luck, this will all go according to my plan, and if it doesn't, then I will deal with it (probably less than gracefully - let's face it, I am not that good).  But, I won't give up.


Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Iola Trail 15K Run
Monday: 5.5 miles run/walk
Tuesday: Yoga
Wednesday: 5.75 miles (trail)
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Rest

Total Mileage: 20.55

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Iola 15K Trail Run Recap, Trail Run, and More

Monday morning I started writing a post on my Iola 15K Trail Run experience from the day before.  Looking back at what I started to draft, here is what I read:
I want to write up the Iola 15K race report while it is still somewhat fresh on my mind, but I am a little distracted by the live feed of the Boston Marathon I have playing on my computer right now.
Nice, huh?  At that moment, I was watching the elites battle it out for first place.  It would be many hours before I would learn of the devastating news from the finish line and then sit glued to my computer waiting to hear the fate of friends running the race.  Thankfully, no one I know was hurt by Monday's attacks - at least not physically.

Since Monday I have tried to get back to the Iola post at least twice with little success.  Every time I try to start, I get distracted by thoughts of Boston again and it seems almost trivial to write about something else.  Who cares about what happened during a trail run when there are so many more important things going on?  But, I guess since I don't really have any more thoughts or pearls of wisdom on the past few days' developments, no more insights, no answers, I guess the best I can do is get back to what passes for normal for me.  So, despite how awkward it seems to me to start writing about the insignificant happenings in my running life, I am going to try to get back to that.

And, for now, that means a bit of backtracking....So, here's my week in review, I guess:

Iola 15K Trail Run

So, the Iola 15K Trail Run in Iola, Wisconsin.  The only word I had for it upon completing the race
was "intense."  This is a run that would be considered hard even if the trails we ran weren't snow-covered, which they were.  The race would be a challenge even if while running those snow-covered trails you weren't blinded by driving snowfall, but we were.  Are you getting the picture here?  So, what makes the race difficult even without snow to deal with?  Well, the answer to that is short - unless you choose to make it long, which I do - namely: hills, hills, and more hills.  In fact, I would go so far as to say, Holy Hills, Batman!  Yes, they were that bad.

I didn't quite realize what the lay of the land would be until about four days before the race, when I found out that some friends of mine had decided to do the 5K event BECAUSE of the hills.  Ruh roh.  Not that I would have switched events.  After all, I have a trail 50K in a few weeks, so if I can't handle nine miles on trail (even with hills), then I guess it would be best to know now.  But, finding this out did dampen my enthusiasm a bit.

A further buzz kill was finding out two days before the event that Iola - according to a friend who cross-country skis out there - is somehow a snow magnet.  When other places are bare, Iola has snow.  Good for skiers, I guess.   Not so good for runners.

Heading into this run, my expectations of what I could do were low, and I was okay with that.  The idea was to simply get out there, practice race day strategy of slow running and hill walking and enjoy the trails.  After all, I hadn't been on a trail for a run in almost six months.  Whoa.  Did I just write that? SIX MONTHS!  I didn't realize winter lasted that long here until I did the math on that equation.

So, here's what greeted us when we arrived.  The trails we would be running - actually a series of nordic ski trails - were hard-packed with snow.

The race started at 10 a.m. and would consist of a 5K loop, which would eventually circle back to the start/finish area and drop off the participants in that shorter event, and a 10K loop.  Heading out, the course soon took us into the woods on what would be an absolutely beautiful trek through the now winter wonderland.  The hills started almost immediately, and I soon found I wasn't the only one choosing to walk them.

I have to say I was a little worried about the footing at first, but for once I was wearing exactly the right shoes for the job.  A few days before I had ordered a pair of Saucony Xodus trail shoes to try - with the idea that I might want to wear them for a trail marathon later in the year.

They have ridiculously huge lugs and a large stack height, but they only boast a 4mm drop, so similar to the Cortanas I wear for road running.  After kicking around in them for a couple of days, I was actually debating whether I should return them due to a little slipping on the heel when this race cropped up.

As it turns out, seeing as I chose not to wear my winter boots for the race, the Xodus were the only shoes I had that would even come close to being compatible with the snowy conditions.  So, how did they do?  I cannot sing the praises of these shoes enough.  To say they were the perfect shoes for these conditions is a gross understatement.  Those huge lugs dug into the snow like claws.  In fact, after the first tentative run down a hill, I started to attack the downhills with abandon.  I had full confidence in these shoes to keep me from sliding.  The one thing they could not protect against was ankle turning, which is too bad, because I seemed to do that a lot.

While the snow wasn't bad to run in because it was so well packed, running over everyone's footprints - where the snow had been churned up - wasn't so pleasant.  Contributing to the ankle turn situation was the driving snowfall we were treated to for the last 10K.  It got so bad that at times I couldn't see where I was putting my feet. For some reason, I seem to have a tendency to turn my right ankle when I land on it wrong, and I counted no fewer than 18 ankle turns on Sunday. In fact, I was so convinced I had done some damage that I was pleasantly surprised when my ankle didn't swell up like a balloon after the race.  One particular fallout from this situation though was that I started at some point to run more on my toes because it seemed to prevent (control?) the ankle roll a bit. So, this past week, I have been dealing with sore muscles on the sides of my lower legs - all those little balancing muscles, I guess.  Ugh.

In the end, it took me 2:02 to finish 15K, so not a stellar performance by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, that time is only three minutes faster than my half marathon PR.  With such a slow time, I missed the kids' run, which was disappointing.  However, Hubby - who was not impacted by the snowy conditions since he starts hitting the trails again as early as February - got back in time to see them each to a second-place finish in their respective age groups. Hubby won second in his age group, which was awesome, as was the fact that he finished 8th overall.

All three of them won cheese.  I, on the other hand, remained cheeseless, even as I said cheese for the camera.  Ah, the irony.

Despite my lack of personal performance, I can say that the Iola Trail Run was as beautiful as it was challenging, and I look forward to trying it again in a year when the conditions are what pass for normal spring weather around here.

Getting ready to leave the race, the snow still coming down hard.
Roads getting home after race.  True to what my friend had said, though, once we got away from Iola, it cleared up.
The Morning After

So, after running Iola on Sunday, I had a rude awakening Monday morning.  All those little muscles that work to keep you upright on uneven terrain suddenly were heard from.  Ah, the soreness.  I guess I could have stayed home and rested, but what I really wanted was to feel normal movement again. I wanted to experience a run where I didn't feel like I was struggling to stay upright with every stride, so I laced on my shoes and headed out.  Back at the ranch the weather conditions looked like this:

I am not sure how I feel about running in the fog.  It was kind of neat, but on the other hand I imagine these aren't the safest of conditions.  Good thing for road ID.

I ended up logging about 5.5 miles for this "recovery" run, but it was S-L-O-W.  In fact, I took numerous walk breaks, which were slow and leisurely enough that I could text with a friend and check Facebook.  What did I do in the days before the fancy phone revolution?

Back on the Trails Again

After running Monday and yoga on Tuesday, I woke up Wednesday still feeling like those little tiny leg muscles didn't like me.  (How rude!)  But, it was time for the Wednesday group run and, lucky for me, they were taking a little field trip to the local state park for a trail run.  This is the first time I have been on a trail locally this spring, and it felt really good!  The trails were still a little muddy in some sections, but okay in others.  It's good to be back on trail and off the road.

Going Forward

I don't know if this last week of cramming time on the trails will help me for my upcoming 50K or not, but I am hoping to continue this trend of - if nothing else - building muscle memory for this race by doing my last long run on the Ice Age Trail itself this weekend.  Wish me luck.

Happy Running!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Warning! I am letting my cynicism show...Boston

If you are a runner or even just minimally connected to this ueber-tech'd world we live in then you know that two explosions rocked the finish line of the Boston Marathon today, even as runners were still streaming in to what was possibly the highlight of their running year.

I am sickened by what has happened, but not particularly surprised.  Why should I be?  This type of random shit seems to happen in all arenas of human life: sports events, movies, schools, businesses, people's homes, what have you.  It's hard to understand how anyone can be so disrespectful of human life, that some statement might be so important to them, that the loss of life and this kind of chaos is worth it to get the message across.  Really, are we that much more civilized then the other creatures of this planet?  I am starting to think we are not.

What strikes me the most is that for many of us running is our relaxation, our meditation.  It's our therapy.  It's how we DEAL with this type of shit.  Running is what we do to escape all the chaos in our everyday lives.  Maybe it's what we do when we are feeling down, when the pressures and depressing news of the day get to us.  It helps us unwind, it helps us feel good about ourselves and our own humanity.  It helps us feel closer to a more natural, living, vibrant part of ourselves - or at least what we consider our potential selves.  It brings us to our happy place.

To have something like this at an event that celebrates our very abilities as humans - our athleticism, our own personal victories and our humanity - is devastating.

I really envy the people who take something like this and can see the good in it - those who see not just the horror of what has happened but the overwhelming goodness in the people who respond - those who step up and help.

Maybe I am too cynical, but what I see is a world where people playact at being mature, who cannot put aside their wants and desires to work toward the greater good of the whole.  I don't know who did this, of course, or why, but in the end is it just going to turn out to be a more violent version of what we see everyday?  People taking sides, defending their opinions in overriding volumes, while sweeping aside with a tired turn of the hand that which matters most to others? When will we as a race - the human race - grow up and see that respect and working together is more valuable than our petty differences?

I am lucky in that I know quite a few local friends and fellow runners who were at Boston today and no one in that circle was hurt.  Others were not so lucky.  My heart goes out to them.  As someone who, it once was said, carries the weight of the world's worries on her shoulders, this sadness is a heavy burden.  I think to lighten the load a little I will try to keep in mind that those people I envy are no doubt right, goodness does outweigh evil in this world. I just wish the "good" people could be a little "gooder" and the bad people not so loud.

This week while running I will no doubt be thinking about Boston quite a bit, and I will be grateful that despite such sorrow running still is what brings me to my happy place - and ain't nothing going to change that.  I hope, if you are reading this, you feel the same.

Where I squeezed in my yoga mat to stretch
this morning after my run, so I could
watch the elite runners in the last hour
of their Boston race.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Winter is Still Here and Friday Roundup

Captain's log, stardate 66744.1.  

It's a strange planet we've landed on.  According to our records and local lore, seasonal temperatures and meteorological forecasting should reflect spring - a time of warming trends in the weather pattern and gentle, growth-promoting rains for the local flora. Instead, we have found nothing but icy conditions and persistent snowfall.  It's almost as if we've gone back in time....

Have I just outed myself as a nerd?  I still miss the fact that I cannot watch Star Trek.  Sigh.

So, this is the sight that greeted me today for my run.

In need of a short four-miler before heading to a meeting for our running club, I really wasn't sure which way to go....outdoors - treadmill - outdoors - treadmill?  I actually dressed for a run outside this morning but after discussing it with my two wise backseat sages on the way to school, mentally I opted for the treadmill.  Because, as the two sages said, I wouldn't want to slip before my race Sunday.  (Yes, my children may never learn to make a real living, but they will surely know the ins and outs of a runner's concerns.)  However, after dropping them off I decided I was already dressed for outdoor success, so I might as well suck it up and get to it.  Plus, after a friend texted me about how my last blog post had convinced her to take her run outside this morning rather than doing the treadmill, I thought it would be the epitome of wimpiness for me to hit the mill.

So, out I went, and it wasn't so bad.  The footing actually turned out to be pretty good, and the snowfall was pretty.  I ended up following the mapped route I had made up for Wednesday's club fun run.  I am not usually the map meister so this was my first foray into running cartography.  I didn't do too bad if I say so myself.  I did have to cut the run short, though, as I was running late (ba dum bum) for my meeting. So, in the end, I logged 3.45 miles.  But my average pace was 9:35 or so.  Not bad.

While out trekking through the snow, I decided that if nothing else the white stuff was good for one thing - footprint photographing.  I have had no fewer than three people advise me to do this, but for as long as this winter has lasted I have not remembered to do so.  So, today I did.  The idea is of course to see how your feet are landing.  I am not exactly sure what I am looking for, but I know things are not supposed to look like they are on a single line.

My prints are the ones front and center in the picture. See how I look like I am running on a
Here I am trying to not run on a balance beam, but as you can see I don't gain much.
One nice thing I came up with this winter were my SmartWool running sock mitts.  A great use for old socks - just cut off the heel, cut a small slit for your thumb and you are good to go in relative warming comfort.

Of course, speaking of SmartWool and the like, I am really hoping this is the last day for wearing this type of clothing.  As much as I like it, its time is past as far as I am concerned.

After getting home after the run and a latte badness at my morning meeting, I was really looking forward to some leftover homemade soup, so it was unfortunate that I accidentally gave LG my portion of soup while I ate his.  You'd think a person would notice this before they were done eating, but I didn't.  It's a good thing I made a huge blender full of smoothie to go along with it!

Spinach, baby kale, carrots, celery, kiwi, ginger, frozen mixed berries, frozen strawberries,
frozen pineapple, banana, cherry juice and water.

Saturday: 18-mile run
Sunday: 2-mile walk with Miss Dog
Monday: 60-minutes elliptical
Tuesday: Rest (core work)
Wednesday: Run/Walk 1 hour and 40 minutes
Thursday: Rest (core work)
Friday: 3.45 mile run

Total Mileage: About 32 miles

Thursday, April 11, 2013

When Weather Impacts Running...or When It Doesn't

When it comes to foul weather, runners seem to fall into two distinct camps.  You have your runner who would argue that since you can't know the weather come race day, you might as well suck it up and run in all weather types in training.  The other camp, however, would argue why suffer through a bad training run, possibly making yourself sick?

I can see both sides of the argument and consider myself falling somewhere in the middle.  While I used to avoid runs in the rain or snow, a group run outside with friends in sleeting rain a couple of years ago cured me of my need to have fair weather while running.  I guess I figured if I could survive those conditions, I could survive anything.  Now, if need be, I can run in the rain, snow, slush, or heat (not that it seems we'll ever see any of that again in Wisconsin....longest winter ever...), but I don't necessarily seek it out.  In fact, as I have become more relaxed about running - and more adept at juggling my training plan - I do tend to look more for fair weather windows and plug my running into them.

However, I know there are others out there who would most likely run even if hail were falling from the sky or blizzard conditions had visibility down to zero, and that's why, when the venue for yesterday's monthly fun run for our running club emailed to say they had lost power and most likely would have to cancel our event last night, I almost panicked.  All I could think of was that other fun run cancelation we had several years ago (because of a blizzard, by the way) and remembering the shit that we got over it.

If you recall, the weather looked something like this for most of yesterday...

But some people will run in anything, so that is why when a new venue was found it seemed like a good idea to keep the run on, and I am glad we did.

As predicted, despite the icy conditions and the threat of more precipitation, we still had almost 50 people show up for the fun run.  Driving over to the run and watching the ice fall from the trees and power lines, seeing all the downed trees and taped off roads because of them, and watching raindrops hit my windshield, I could only shake my head at the tenacity of my fellow runners.

And I smiled, because I am happy to consider myself one of their ranks, knowing that if I didn't have to volunteer at the fun run I would have been out there with them, following the route map given to me, dodging falling ice, and scanning the road for icy spots.    

Happy Running!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Spring in Wisconsin Can Be a Fickle Friend

Ah, Northeast Wisconsin, where the sounds of thunder rolling through the area overnight don't result in a morning filled with the smell of wet earth and the sight of new buds and bulbs awakening from their winter's sleep.  Rather, one is greeted with the sight of ice: ice covering the ground, ice covering the trees, ice covering the cars.  Windows are iced over, the garage door is iced shut, and area schools (well, not ours for some reason, but many!) are either experiencing a two-hour delay or are closed altogether because of power outages.

While this event is very beautiful in its own way....

Love how everything is perfectly encased in ice.  Listening to it all creak, though, is pretty crazy.
Poor little tree. Hang in there!
Frozen grass - LG's favorite part of this weather fiasco. does have its inconveniences.

Frozen sidewalk - what helped me decide to run inside today.

For us, we have gotten off rather easy.  Our power still works, luckily, and our school did not close.  Aside from the fact that our garage door was in fact frozen shut (a matter my husband solved with WD-40), our day has gone on more or less as usual - so far.

The one snag in the morning was that after looking outside at the mess, I opted not to join my Peeps for the Wednesday Morning running group. While I was saddened by that, I reasoned that it was for the best.  Aside from the possibly slippery footing, I am still a bit sore from the 18 miles on Saturday and was kind of wondering if I could run at all.  I thought I would give it a shot at the indoor track and see what happened.

On the schedule for today I originally had a modest four miles with another 10 scheduled for tomorrow. Since I have a trail race on Sunday, though, I thought in an ideal world I would flip-flop those two days and get the 10 over with today.  Heading to the track, I thought if I could run an hour, I would be happy.  That would then give me enough time to drive over to the coffee shop and meet the Peeps at least for the post-run Kaffee Klatsch.  As it happened, things turned out better than I could have anticipated.

I got to the track and decided that I would approach this run very conservatively.  With that in mind, I thought I would just try to do a run/walk with my chosen interval being run three laps and then walk .75 of a lap.  That way, I figured I would probably be getting close to 3 minutes of running and 1 minute of walking.

Starting out, I was pleasantly surprised that things felt okay: not great, not terrible, but okay.  Given that I was feeling okay, I was a bit disappointed with the idea of stopping after an hour to do coffee, but meeting up with everyone seemed more fun than running in circles so I was determined to stick to that plan.

Surprise, surprise, though, because forty minutes into my run who comes in but Peeps A. and El.  They apparently were the only two at the coffee shop, which had lost power, and with the conditions as they were they opted to head to the track as well.  I got in another hour of running with my Peeps - for an hour and forty minutes total - and then enjoyed a decadent mocha from the coffee shop downstairs with Peep A.  A great start to this icy day!

Happy Running - safely!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Shh, really, I am not taking steroids!

So, I finally went to see the doctor yesterday - well, not really the doctor - a nurse practitioner, actually. And, one not even associated with my doctor as far as I can tell, but just someone they randomly assigned me to because my doc was booked.

ANYhoo, despite the fact that the cold I developed three weeks ago is long gone and the sinus infection-type malady that ensued has disappeared, I am left with the lingering aftereffects of said mess - namely, my left ear continues to feel plugged up and my hearing on that side is muffled.

The diagnosis?  Eustachian Tube Dysfunction.  Huh?  Yeah, some people have dysfunctional families; I apparently have dysfunctional body parts.  So, after a nice chat with the NP about what was ailing me and a confirmation of the fact that there seems to be no infection present, that is what I ended up with.

So, the cure?
  • Afrin nasal spray, but for no more than four days because it can cause rebound congestion (the packaging, by the way, says no more than three days)
  • Combo anti-histamine and decongestant, which I had considered anyway, because I think I have some allergies going on
  • And, Prednisone - a corticosteroid

Now, being someone who eschews ALL forms of medication as much as possible (you might recall during my sinus infection I finally succumbed to the pain and took a decongestant for a couple of days), I went into a kind of waffling-induced fog at this conclusion.

I understand the NP's reasoning.  I am relatively young, after all, fit and for these intents and purposes healthy enough.  And, I reasoned, I do have a race this weekend.  Maybe being on a steroid would help my performance?  Or, maybe it could help rid my body of any lingering inflammation that I am no doubt dealing with from all the training I've been doing.  This could be a GOOD thing was my first thought. (By the way, I am just kidding about the improved performance thing.)

Then, after I actually filled the prescription, I started reading the possible side effects: loss of sleep, manic behavior, indigestion, depression, skin rashes, brittle bones, tendon rupture (okay, those last two probably won't happen with only a week's use) and depressed immune function to name a few.  This is where doubt started to creep in. I mean, I want to believe in the medical diagnosis and whole-heartedly embrace the route to wellness that was prescribed.  After all, most people would without question, right? Why do I have to be the one to question everything? I think what really got me was the immune suppression.  I am surrounded by sick people right now; the last thing I need is a malfunctioning immune system.

To make matters worse, I also made the mistake of going online to see what other people's experiences are with Prednisone.  I know, I know.  Shame on me.  No one should ever do that, but it's too late.  I already did it.  Unfortunately, the horror stories of what this drug does to people far outweigh the "yippee, it worked for me" stories, at least insofar as I could find.  

So, in the end, I am left with confusion.  I have a call in to the NP to discuss this all again.  After all, I am not in any pain, and she did say this would most likely go away on its own; it's just a matter of time.  So, I am thinking maybe I just live with being a little deaf for a while and hope for the best.

In the meantime, I have completely lived up to my Hubby's view of me.  You see, every time I am sick enough to go in to the doctor, Hubby tries to talk me out of it.  This used to irritate me, thinking that he just wanted to save money or something.  But, I kind of get it now.  Hubby's problem with me and doctors is that I go to see them, and then invariably I opt not to follow the advice they give me.  So, really, what is the point?

Oh well. I guess for the interim, I will let food by my medicine, as Hippocrates said.  Today was off to a good start with a beautiful smoothie.  I guess you could say I am drinking my lunch.  Carrots, celery, apples, bananas, frozen blueberries and peaches, as well as ginger and a glob of almond butter.  Filling and good.  Cure all for what ails me?  I can only hope.

Happy Running!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Trailbreaker Half Marathon Race Report

Yesterday, I headed over to Waukesha, Wisconsin, (outside of Milwaukee, more or less, for those not in the know) for the Trailbreaker Half Marathon and ended up with 18 miles for the day.  

The whole decision to run the Trailbreaker was very last-minute in nature.  Seeing as I actually had 20-22 miles on the training plan, the idea of doing a Half Marathon was actually not very well timed.  However, as luck would have it, it was one of my fellow running Peep's birthday yesterday and seeing as she wanted nothing more than a bunch of folks to head down and do this race, I just couldn't pass up the opportunity.  Leading up to the race, I couldn't quite figure out how I was going to get my miles in - or even if it was a very good idea to try after being sick - but I left the how, what, where and why's for later, packed a bag for all possibilities and just trusted I would figure it out.

So, yesterday morning the alarm went off at 4 a.m. - a very rude awakening after two nights of very little sleep. After a quick breakfast and coffee making, it was time to hop in the car and head to our first rendezvous point to meet up with three of my running peeps.  From there it was on to rendezvous point #2 to meet up with two other running friends before continuing on to the race.  We got to Waukesha just after 7 a.m., which was perfectly timed for the marathoners' 8 a.m. start. 

The Trailbreaker Marathon is in its 21st year, but has somehow remained small.  Yesterday's marathon race only had 184 finishers.  (The Half had 588.) Now maybe this is because at one point this marathon was listed as one of the top 25 toughest marathons in the USA, but the fact is that if you want a marathon with a lot of crowd energy and support, then you might want to look elsewhere.  The Trailbreaker has more of a home-grown feel to it, but what it lacks in crowd and spectator support, it makes up for with the fact that it offers a very personal feel.  I think the volunteers and race personnel actually care what you think.  They are truly happy to be putting on this event, which raises money for the local parks system, and it shows.  

There is quite a gap between the start of the marathon and the half marathon.  While this was a bit inconvenient for our crew, four of whom were doing the full marathon and two of whom (including myself) were doing the half, arriving for the start of the full offers a distinct advantage.  Since most of the half marathoners have not arrived by 7 a.m., parking was a breeze as well as everything else associated with pre-race activities.  Packet pickup was wide open, there were no real lines for the bathrooms, and the huge (and warm!) building offered ample room to spread out while waiting for the start, which was located right outside.  (Things would be very different when the Half started.)

Given that I had so much time before the start of my race, I opted to try to get in at least six miles beforehand.  Since I was a little worried about getting lost if I tried to head out on my own, I decided I would just tag along with the marathoners, trusting that if I followed the course I would be able to find my way back. So, after picking up our race packets, shirts, and goody bags, I got myself ready to run.  While Peep El. hung out at the car, waiting for the Half Marathon start, I left off my number and timing chip and then lined up with my fellow Peeps doing the marathon.  But not this kind of "lined up"...

The start of the marathon (and half) has you heading out of the park opposite the direction the race actually goes.  You then cross a bridge, make the turn onto the path by the river and then start heading out on the out-and-back course.  The first couple of miles follow the river as it wends its way through town, before cutting away from it and eventually spitting you out onto the Glacial-Drumlin trail somewhere around Mile 3.  This was where I left my friends to enjoy their marathon.  For me, it was time to head back for the start of the Half.  I was a little worried about being on my own to find my way back, as there had been a lot of little twists and turns and the course wasn't emblazoned with flashing neon markers (like I had secretly hoped).  Luckily, police and/or volunteers were on almost every corner, and I was able to ask for directions once when I needed them.  

The race course does not follow the exact route back to the start/finish area as it did going out.  Instead of crossing a bridge and going back down the far side of the river, which results in you overshooting the start area and circling back, the homestretch keeps you on the same side of the river as the finish.  The result is that you lose a mile on that section.  The result for me was that instead of getting in six extra miles before my event, I only got in five.  As it was, I got back to the car for a quick change of clothes and a snack with about 30 minutes to spare before my race start.  Waiting in line at the now congested bathrooms, however, sucked away most of that time and before I knew it it was time to go.

My fellow Peep El. and I were particularly well matched for running the Half together yesterday.  With my extra miles and El.'s PR at a 5K race the night before, neither of us had the freshest of legs.  Despite that, though, we started out well enough.  In fact, too well.  Although we had sort of planned on doing a run/walk for the event, we ended up running the first seven miles basically straight through except for walking through the couple aid stations.  It seems we were both thinking we were following the other person's lead.  Once we figured out that neither of us was really in charge and that neither of us really wanted to be going that fast, we slowed down considerably.  At Mile 7, we finally decided to go to the run/walk strategy that had always been intended and opted to walk a minute every mile.  That quickly became walk a minute (or so) every half mile, as we - finally - just collectively burned out.  Like I said, we were a good match yesterday.  

Here are the splits:

1- 9:54
2- 9:54
3- 10:08
4- 10:48 (waited at intersection)
5- 11:59 (waited at intersection)

Half Start:

6- 9:47
7- 9:42
8- 9:53
9- 10:54 (first aid station)
10- 9:50
11- 10:20 (finally decided we were doing the wrong pace)
13- 11:39 (about where we both crapped out)  :)
14- 10:58
15- 12:58
16- 13:06
17- 11:57
18- 12:22

18.1 in 3:17:46

Despite the burnout, I have to say I really enjoyed the Trailbreaker and especially the course.  The first three miles fly by somehow with the course following the river and wending its way through a nice part of town.  From about mile 3 to 11, you are on the Glacial-Drumlin trail, a paved converted trestle trail, which is pleasant to run on.  It's a bit more scenic than town, and the smooth path didn't have any tripping hazards you had to be wary of.  If there was any downside to the trail, it would be the monotony of it after a while.  I mean, this stretch is STRAIGHT (that's right, I mean all caps straight).  Of course, to keep it positive, it was flat, too, and that part was nice.  There were three or four aid stations on the trail, most of which you hit twice.  They had the usual Gatorade and water, but also orange slices, which I tried for the first time and found really good.  I'll have to keep that in mind for my ultra.  

Although El. and I slowed down quite a bit, I think this race is a really good one for someone looking to PR a Half Marathon.  As stated, the course is flat and pretty straight for the bulk of it.  Also, as I am a fan of breaking things up into chunks (it helps me handle the distance better mentally), it should be noted that this race is ideally suited to that: three miles along the river and through town, four miles out on the trail, four miles back on the trail, and then just two miles to the finish.  It's all manageable somehow.

Since I didn't do the marathon, I cannot personally attest to how that went.  I know that this year's course was altered from what they normally do, due to ice on the Ice Age Trail.  Go figure.  I guess it was living up to its name somehow.  So, the marathon didn't actually go on that more technical trail or go up the tower, as I thought it would.  I have actually decided that I liked the event well enough that I would consider doing the marathon one year when it follows its normal course.  I would have to do some serious stair training, though.

So, all in all, a great event.  The rain that was forecast held off until our drive home, only spitting out a few pleasant sprinkles during the event.  After finishing the Half, El. and I got changed and then checked out the lay of the land.  A need to prioritize what was important to us had us missing out on the free massages offered; we opted to have free beer and watch for our friends at the finish instead.  There was just not time to do it all.

Once our marathoning friends were done, it was time to head out of town.  On the way home, we grabbed some lunch in Pewaukee at the Good Harvest Natural Food Store and Cafe and drove out to the tower that the marathoners had missed out on for a look see.  After that, it was time for the long drive home, dinner, movie with the family and then finally sleep.

I don't think I have ever done a race that resulted in such a long day of driving, racing, driving, but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.  It's definitely not the easiest way to go about things, though, and given the givens if I have a choice I would rather stay at a hotel the night before a big event.  But, seeing as I didn't care what my results were for this race, I didn't mind the logistics involved with getting there.  And, the chance to spend some time with friends was worth it.