Monday, September 1, 2014

Taper Tantrum

All athletes know the week before their event is a tough week both physically and mentally.  

Physically, we have done the training and know we need to rest mix in  some "light training" and get to the start line healthy.  
Mentally, we work on scenarios.  The start, the perfect race, the worst case scenarios and how it will look and feel at the finish.
As you have shared this season with me, you know it has NOT been the season I had planned. Kettle was a perfect storm of what goes wrong and nagging injuries have severely hampered my training this Summer.  But the last three weeks I have chosen to stay away from running and focus on cross-training.  My time has been spent on the bike and in the pool giving my leg strains and nags time off of the hard pounding of running.  So I am heading to Hallucination 100 this weekend in Pinckney, Michigan with my crew member, Jeffrey Kamai (thanks Karrie). The quest for Badwater continues and I need to have an 100 mile finish on my resume to apply. Combined my "lack" of training and lessons from Kettle, this season has put me in a different mindset for Hallucination.  
Here are a list of thoughts that I have going into the race.
1.  I just want to finish under the 30 hour time limit.  I am NOT going to "race" this race.  Slow and steady here because a finish allows me to apply to Badwater next year.
2.  Having Jeffrey there as my crew is a HUGE difference.  Jeffrey knows how to treat me, what to expect, how to work around my emotions and respond to my needs.  It will be a great boost knowing someone will be there for me at the end of each 16.6 mile loop.  Plus, he is driving there and back!
3.  My nutrition and hydration have been dialed in the past year.  I understand how my body works much more this year and what it needs to operate under a variety of conditions.  
4.  The weekend revolves around a party type atmosphere.  It is Woodstock meets Ultra running.  This will be my first time at this race but I already have good vibes.
As Jeffrey and Heather say about my races, the first 50 is usually physical and the back 50 are mental.  It looks like this race might be first 10 physical and the back 90 mental!
As I taper into race week, I am not worried about the training I missed or trying to cram in any workout.  I want to be at the start line as healthy as possible, race smart and finish.  
Something for you to remember when you head into your Fall races, 
It is better to be 10% UNDERtrained than 1% OVERtrained.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

I have WON every race I have entered

"2nd place is 1st loser," Professional Golfer Jack Nicklaus.  

"I have won every race I have ever entered."  That is my mindset toeing the start line of each race I undertake. It does not matter where I place in the official standings from prior events, to set my mind right for what I am about to undertake - "I have won everything, have never lost and I am confident in my abilities."

Over the past two weeks, I have been asked to run at some events, speak at others and be part of a running panel.  Questions have been asked, for instance how do you overcome failed attempts and self doubting statements raised like I am really not a runner and I am not that fast.
I thought I would take this post to let all of you know...
You are a runner
You are fast
You have succeeded
And here is how I explain this.
You are a runner - because you are out there, on the course, pounding the pavement while 98% of America is sitting on the couch.
You are fast - because there will always be someone somewhere that is faster than you and slower than you, race your race.  Again, you are faster than couch potato!
You have succeeded - because you signed up, you trained and you gave it your best effort. Yes, sometimes races do not go according to plan but you learn from those experiences and apply that to your next race.  It is never a failure it is a lesson.  
There have been races in my career that I posted a DNF.  It takes me awhile to work through it but in the end it stands for Did Not Fulfill.  For me, it means there is a lesson that was to be learned.  Find it, learn it, apply it and race again.  Every race that I posted a DNF, I went back to right the wrong, conquer the challenge and turned the meaning of DNF into Did Not Forfeit!  
We are all athletes.  Some are faster, some are slower, some cover short distances others cover longer distances.  We have had races go off without a hitch while others it seemed like we should have just stayed in bed.  Every time you get yourself out of bed, change into your running clothes and lace up your shoes, you win. You beat the slouch, the sloppy lazy devil that begs you to sleep and stay in bed.  I have said this to so many runners, "You are your biggest cheerleader."  Celebrate the small steps on the way to the big race, it will set your mind in a good place on the start line.  It will give you something to remember and encourage yourself when you "hit the wall."  
If plans should go awry, there are always other races and more opportunities.  Find the lesson, apply it and work to be victorious.  
I am starting to gear up for Hallucination, the first weekend in September.  My training takes a turn to log miles and time on tired legs.  Next week I will post my results but my training week shapes up as follows;
Monday-90 minutes on the bike
Tuesday-45 minute Quad busting hill workout
Wednesday-120 minutes on the bike
Thursday-90 tempo run
Friday-60 minutes in the pool
Saturday-13 mile am run, 9 mile pm run
Sunday-18 mile am run, 9 mile pm run
Sometime during the week, Margarita my masseuse will make a visit and work out the kinks I will have put in my legs.

I am undefeated and I have won every race!

One foot in front of the other means you are never going backwards.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

4 + 2 + 1 + 2(1) = 100

At my age I have learned one thing about myself with regards to ultra training, as much as I would like to pound the miles everyday I cannot.  If I schedule a 60 minute workout, that actually means a 10 minute warm up, a 45 minute workout and a 5 minute cool down.  In reality if I want a 60 minute workout that means 75 minutes.  Of course, the 20 and 30 year-old ultra athletes should be doing this already just know that once you are into your 40's it takes a little longer to get the engine up to speed.
Numbers are my thing.  I majored in Economics and spent over 20 years on the trading floor.  I can go out for a run and come home with pi figured to the 20th place.  

But how in the world does 4 + 2 + 1 + 2(1) = 100?

I have planned out my weeks of training and they have a similar theme.  In a seven day week, I have 4 days of running, 2 days of swimming, 1 day on the bike and every two weeks I have a massage.  
As you know, I schedule my run training around time on feet (TOF) and tired legs.  My ultra race experience has shown that I get mentally stronger on the back 50 miles but the wear and tear of the course will take a toll on my legs.  My four days of running consist of a quad busting hill workout on Tuesday, a tempo run on Thursday, a long run Saturday morning and a flush run Saturday night and finally a long run on Sunday.  
Two days in the pool translate to Monday after a weekend of pounding the trails, giving my legs "active recovery."  It always includes time in the whirlpool, it's a nice feeling having the jets work the kinks out of my legs.  Friday is meant to relax and loosen up my legs for the weekend's runs.  Make no mistake about time in the pool is not "splashing around relaxing," I bring my program from last year's Ironman training.  It provides me with drills, speed, endurance and overall aerobic activity.  
Lastly, Wednesday is cycling day.  Due to sunlight hours shortening, I keep my bicycle on the trainer in the basement so I can devote as much time as possible on it.  I was watching the Tour de France this year and the commentators made the point that even on "off/rest days" the cyclists still spend 2 -3 hours on their bicycles just flushing their legs so the following day when they are back racing their legs will respond.  The reason I bring that fact up is although a total rest day is always welcome sometimes my body will feel sluggish or my legs won't respond how I thought they would.  "Active recovery" is welcome and sometimes that extra effort to get out and do something pays dividends on your following training days.  Other times, my body says "nope, not today," and I do not fight it.  There is a fine line between my body saying, "no" and my mind saying, "just sleep."  Some days it is hard to know the difference but I never begrudge my body for taking a day off.  I can usually tell when it is a good decision by looking back on my training log and if time, miles and training sessions have been adding up, I know it is a good decision.  I do not try to reschedule or make up missed sessions.  I enjoy the break, I enjoy the time away from training with family, friends, a drink or a dessert and I know I will be back at it the following day.  I will also check my nutrition and hydration.  There are many times I feel sluggish, slow or my legs are uncooperative and if I think about my eating habits the night before or how much water I drank those are two good clues of what could be missing.
I have saved the best for last...the massage!  It took a little while but visiting the same masseuse at the same salon we built a camaraderie.  She knows how much pressure, where my troubling issues are and best of all...she comes to the house!  Every two weeks, it is time to get pummeled but afterwards I feel so much better.  I highly recommend a regular massage, it is money well spent.
So this week shapes up as follows:
Sunday - long run
Monday - 60 minutes in the pool
Tuesday - hill workout
Wednesday - 60 minutes on the bike
Thursday - tempo run
Friday - 60 minutes in the pool
Saturday - double runs

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tour de Seabiscuitariat

I love Running.  
I love everything about Running, the early mornings, tough workouts, training schedule and regimens.  This past week while recovering from a few workouts, I flipped through channels to catch the Tour de France and two movies - Seabiscuit and Secretariat.  Upon hearing the commentators from the Tour and dialogue from the movies, it made me take a deeper look at who I am because of what I do. 
The Tour de France cyclists forged through all seasons of weather, it struck me that no matter what the conditions they continued towards the finish line of the day's stage.  What drives them to proceed?  Is it the money?  Is it the fame? Can it be the adulation?  Maybe it is a combination of all three. But then I thought about time spent training, the time away from family and friends and the untold sacrifices.  I came to the answer that they enjoy Cycling.  They love Cycling.
The two movies, Seabiscuit and Secretariat are true stories about two horses overcoming insurmountable odds.  
Seabiscuit resonates with me because he is a little horse compared to other racehorses but loved to run and run hard.  The horse went through trials and tribulations but after hard training always came through like a champion.
 Secretariat was a horse that flat out liked to run.  In the final scenes, Diane Lane (who played Secretariat's owner, Penny Tweedy) cheers on Secretariat by yelling during the Belmont Stakes "Let him run Ronnie, let him run."  Which is followed by her quoting a biblical passage from Job 39, "Do you give the horse his strength or clothe his neck with a flowing mane?  Do you make him leap like a locust, striking terror with his proud snorting?  He paws fiercely, rejoicing in his strength, and charges into the fray.  He laughs at fear, afraid of nothing; he does not shy away from the sword.  The quiver rattles against his side, along with the flashing spear and lance.  In frenzied excitement he eats up the ground; he cannot stand still when the trumpet sounds." This really strikes a chord with me because in my world those words are how I feel on race day.  As I pondered this week's blog post and that quote, I thought about how many of us question our ability and doubt our preparation?  I know I do, but sometimes if I am able to get my thoughts out of my brain and relax I can picture myself with that confidence.  All I have to do is remember that I love to run. Somewhere along the 100 miles when I mentally and physically check out, there are times that I recall and replay that scene over and over again. I paraphrase some of the saying, "I can eat up ground 'cause I can't stand still" and picture the shot of Secretariat coming into the homestretch running at full stride and looking majestic as ever.  
Those are the images and music that I had on repeat in my mind during this week's training. The tempo runs I was Secretariat.  The hill workout I was a Tour cyclist going up the Col du Tourmalet.  My weekend time on feet long runs I was Seabiscuit.  Truth be told, I wasn't that fast on the tempo runs (8:40 pace), I wasn't conquering the Pyrenees (6,900 feet)  and I was happiest when my long runs were over.  In reality, none of that matters.  In my mind that is how I see myself and that is how I perform.  So as I build up my physical endurance for Hallucination 100, I am starting to build up my mental endurance as well.  If I could take a mixture of a Tour rider, Seabiscuit and Secretariat to the start line in September, I would in a heartbeat.  Why? Because I love to run!

Monday - am tempo run and pm tempo run
Tuesday - hill workout
Wednesday - swimming
Thursday - cycling
Friday - am tempo run and pm tempo run
Saturday - TOF long run
Sunday - rest

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Am I Hallucinating??

With my pilgrimage into Social Media this year my old worlds have collided with new worlds. Last night I went to an annual Summer party and reunited with some friends I have not seen since grammar school.  Yes Gail, Lena, Mary and Tracey when we first saw each other I thought I had fallen into another dimension.  30 years has passed but we picked right up where we left off and all of you look exactly how I remember you from those days. 
I hate to admit this but I have started thinking about my Fall ultras.  Not only did my Summer racing season not go as planned but also I believe Summer did not go as planned.
Many of you know I am not a fan of the cold, cloudy, rainy or snowy weather.  Well, why do I stay in Chicago then?  I often ask myself that very question.  Give me sun, give me hot temperatures, make me toil in humidity and I am happy.  This Summer has yet to provide a consistent number of days that meet my criteria but maybe those days will happen in December.....I'm just saying.
This morning I was thinking about my next ultra and as I knocked off two loops (9 miles) thoughts turned to the Hallucination 100.  
It is September 5-7, 2014 and is a 16.6 mile loop course held in Pinckney, MI.  I have crew members signed up to assist me and it's loops!  Lessons learned from earlier this year will be put into practice.  Crew members and pacers are a big part of my support.  Loops are an added bonus, that allow me to make adjustments throughout the race.  I will know where to push the pace, know where to scale back, know when to walk away and know when to run...(Kenny Rogers anyone?)  Point being in my ultra career I have learned that loops don't just mean, "Hey I have seen that before."  I now know to educate myself on how to run those loops.  I can dissect the course into parts that suit my strengths and need care for my weaknesses.  
For those who want to take a look here is the race website, Hallucination 100.  I am really looking forward to this race as it has a party atmosphere wrapped around it.  The 100 mile ultra starts on Friday afternoon so those who finish around 24 hours can enjoy the party Saturday night.  
I am keeping this week's blog short and sweet so you can get out there and enjoy the Summer weather (ahem). As far as my training schedule goes here is what I am looking to accomplish.
Monday 9 miles
Tuesday 13 miles
Wednesday Hill work (anyone want to join me?)
Thursday 13 miles
Friday 13 miles
Saturday 18 miles

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Reflect, Renew and Refocus

Running an ultra will take a toll on your body as well as your mind.  Following an ultra it is customary for me to take at least one if not two weeks completely off.  I listen to my body, I know my body and having asked it to cover an ultra distance I reward it with time off.  In the last two weeks, I have been dissecting Kettle and looking for answers to so many questions.  Miles 50-62 I questioned every aspect of why I run ultras, told myself I would never run another ultra again...ever again, found another runner who felt the same way (we walked in the final miles together) and wallowed in the fact my dream of the Midwest Slam ended before it even began. However, time heals running wounds and I made no decisions or took any actions during these past two weeks.   I have slept, stayed off my feet as much as possible and gave in to any food craving that hit me.  Only for two weeks! The third week is active recovery meaning time in the pool or on the bike.  The fourth week I start running and by that time my lower body is ready to go and I can pick up my training schedule as if I was in the second month of training for a marathon.  
As you can guess I am NOT giving up on running ultras but I did take a closer look at the rest of my season and made some sensible changes.  The Mohican 100 and Burning River 100 are off the schedule.  The Hallucination 100 in early September and Chimera 100 in mid November are on the schedule.  This allows me to properly train for running on a technical single track trail. I am excited because a few of my inner circle buddies have said they will join me for those races.  I will have a crew and some pacers and that's a HUGE asset and lift for me from my Kettle experience.  The Hallucination is a 16.6 mile loop that will allow me to adjust each loop and I'll know where to press and where to relax through the course.  A cool detail to that race is it starts on Friday afternoon so when you finish you can join the party that goes on all weekend.
Chimera...well Chimera I have a score to settle with you.  Last year I wiped out on a granite slab at mile 15 and by mile 85 I had to declare DNF.  I know the course, I know how to train for it and I WILL finish it this year.  
It's off to the pool tomorrow and roll the bicycle on the trainer.  I am refocused on my training and my races towards the end of the season.  I know it is a realistic goal and two 100 mile finishes will look really good on my application for Badwater for next year.  We all have plans that go awry and in my case the lemonade was pretty sour.  I let it sit for awhile, thought about what I wanted and how to get it and in the end I have a better plan.  Just remember in the end everything always works out and if it hasn't ?  It's not the end.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Kettle 100 miles .... 100k

When life offers you lemons and you make lemonade, it's a drink but it's still sour.  
Packing up on Friday night, I went over my checklist of what I needed, where and when I would need it.  Drove to my two best friend's house about an hour away leaving me 45 minutes from the race site.  Tossed and turned as we all do the night before a race but I was happy when 3:30 am rolled around and I could start prepping for the day.  
I arrived at the race start/finish area and found a prime spot to park and I knew that would be beneficial once I completed the 62 mile loop before heading out on the 40 mile second loop.
I saw my ultra friends, Darren Fortney and Rolando Cruz both of whom are accomplished runners in speed and distance.  I packed, checked and double checked my drop bag for the 31 mile aid station and set up my "pit stop" when I returned to the start/finish line.  
One last visit to the bathroom, a prayer by the car, a thorough dusting of OFF, a speech by the RD and we were off.
Plan 1 - go out towards the back of the pack, start slow, let my legs warm up and just do a diagnostic check of myself.  All systems seemed to be cooperating and I thought I would start with a 12:00/mile pace and see how I felt.  It was warm.  The last look at my weather app said it was 78 degrees at 6:00am.  No wind and high humidity meant no PRs today just slow and steady.  Up and down early over rolling hills and technical running over roots and rocks meant rolling ankles, blisters and black toenails.  I made it to the 15 mile aid station in 3 hours, I thought good.  Good pace, drank some Heed, ate watermelon, oranges and 1/4 of a PB&J, took some m&ms for a quick sugar boost.  I ran with one handheld water bottle which was half ice and it felt good to hold and spray over my head from time to time.  Something wasn't right, I felt heavy, my stomach was sloshing and I could feel the "salty crust" on my face.  
Plan 2 - slow down to 15:00/mile pace, walk a bit to let my stomach settle and let the nutrients work into my body. Now the sun was climbing in a clear blue sky and I was headed into the part of the course that offered no shade. 
Plan 2b - without an aid station for over 5 miles and I'm in the marsh section that was humid, hot and NO breeze I decided to walk and save energy.  I figured the sun would be beating down and creating some undesirable conditions until 2:00 pm.  So walk with a purpose, jog when I could or run/walk for 2 minute intervals.  Not the best plan, as I was dehydrated (Google apple cider color when running), I was almost out of water, my stomach was doing flips and I was becoming irritable.  I made it to the next aid station and took some time to soak my head with a sponge soaked with cold water, slowly eat what I could and I turned away from the Heed and started drinking cola and ginger ale then it was off to the 31 mile aid station turnaround.
Plan 3 - I walked into Scuppernong aid station (that was the name and I can't tell you how many times I said that name in the next 31 miles back to the start/finish area.  Scuppernong, Scuppernong... Scupper King Kong Donkey Kong what I wouldn't do for a Hostess Ding Dong. 
As you can read, I wasn't in the best frame of mind or shape.  This aid station really showed me how much I rely on my crew and pacers.  I was cheered coming into the station but no one was there for me, personally there for me.  I found my own bag, started to eat a Stinger Waffle, chocolate Accel gel and mix my Gatorade with ice.  I changed my socks, blisters didn't look too bad, rubbed some Body Glide on the hot spots and covered my feet with foot powder. Returned my bag, hit the bathroom and started back.  I think I came in around 12:30 pm and thought, "okay 6 1/2 (in reality it was 7 1/2) to get out here, 7 to get back no worse than 8."
Plan 4 - Miles 30 to 35 turned out to be better points of the race.  I was refueled, had my feet feeling better and mentally I was in a positive state.  But the cumulative effect of poor nutrition and hydration started to take hold. Miles 35 to 45 were back in the hot box of the marsh and positive thoughts turned into thoughts of self doubt and "where the $%&# is the aid station?"  There were fleeting moments of running, a lot of walking (sometimes with a purpose, sometimes no purpose).  I knew I was in a heap of trouble when my math skills left me. I had planned to get back to the start/finish area by 9:00 pm, just before sunlight left the course. My headlamp and flashlight were laid out in my "pit stop" area but I needed them before then, way before then.  I was regularly stubbing my toes on rocks and roots.  Thankfully, I could catch myself before taking a "header" on the trail.  Presently I am limping around waiting for my swollen feet to return to normal and my toenails to fall off to relieve some of the sore pressure.
Plan 5 - 9:00 pm came bringing with it darkness, a light rain and a sporadic windy breeze. Here's how I worked through those changes; darkness - it's still okay because I could make out the trail and I asked to "tag" along with a runner and use their lighting the trail for as long as I could stay with them.  Rain.  It appears every ultra I choose rain will make an appearance. Ultras I have run in Florida, Arizona and California have all had rain, torrential storms.  If you choose to run an ultra and hate rain, check with me that I am NOT running.  The rain did feel good as it was a respite from the beating sun and hot temps.  When a rain front moves in that usually means wind and cooler temps, so now I am wet when the wind picks up and I am cold. WTF???
"Calm down and just work to get to the start/finish," I told myself.  Time was passing and although I couldn't see where I was walking I remembered the terrain and I knew I was close.  I could change clothes, take some time to rest and eat, regroup and assault the back 39 miles. Several runners with lights, music and bright lights in the near distance signaled a change in my race, I had made it!
Plan 6 - It might as well have been a mirage with a second serving of lemonade.  It was an aid station and when I asked a volunteer (thank you for being there), "how far to headquarters?"  "4.7 miles."  That was a dagger *&^%$@#  &^%$@#*  $^^*//*&  ran through my mind. Drank a quick cola, ginger ale and ate some m&ms and started walking.  This was the lowest of the low points for me.  It was dark, I had no light, no energy or lift in my legs and at my present pace I would be out there for another 2 hours.  2 hours!  I kept asking myself, "why do I do this?  Why do I subject my body and legs to this torture?" Sometimes with lemonade you are given a small packet of sugar.  Less than 1/2 mile out of the aid station I came upon a runner and his pacer.  Ray signed up for 100 miles but was dropping to 100k and calling it over.  His pacer, Paul was keeping him on pace and making sure he was eating and drinking something over the last 4.5 miles.  All three of us talked and walked the remaining distance.  Ray and I discussed how we would never do this again but both knew in 2 to 3 days we would be looking for the experience all over again.  As we made progress and saw the mile signs countdown the distance 3, 2 and 1 every step meant getting closer to calling it at 100k. Ray decided to run the last 100 meters, I encouraged him to do so as I was fine with walking it in.  I admitted to dropping from the 100 mile to 100k.  I was congratulated and given a buckle for finishing the 62 miles.  
That left 13 hours to cover 39 miles.  The shape I was in, there was no way I could hold 3 mph for 13 hours.  
100 k in 16:40:50.
Here are some of my post race thoughts:
I will reassess my season as the Midwest Slam is no longer attainable.
The Mohican 100 in two weeks is out.
I stupidly toed the start line when my training was not what I wanted or needed it to be.  I should have also taken the nagging injuries as another sign not to go.
No matter how many miles I log on streets or forest preserve paths nothing compares to training on the course or similar single track technical trails.
I wanted to write this blog in the matter I was feeling and thinking during the race.  So if it seems disjointed, good because that's how I felt.
6 plans meant I was constantly reworking and rethinking my race plan.  In my ultras, I am adapting to ever changing feelings, conditions and results.
Listen to your body, it is okay to "save the fight for another day."  
There are always more races.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Mental Tug o' War

TAPER TANTRUM!!!  Race week is here, let the questioning begin.  Did I do enough?  Did I log enough miles? Will my nagging injury rear its ugly head?  Will I be able to finish under the time constraints?  The week heading into a race is always filled with doubts for me.  I struggle to come to terms with "trust in the process" and let the race play out.  I have had very few races where I toed the start line confident I have done all I needed to do.  I believe there really is nothing to be gained by last minute training runs trying to make up missing training sessions. Better to show up 10% under trained than 1% over trained, but trying to harness the anxiety for good thoughts and restful nights of sleep can be interesting.  This is one of the fun aspects of being an athlete, trying to channel nervous energy and questions into focused concentration and effort at the race.  
My main focus of this week will be visualizing my race and all the different scenarios that can happen.  I feel this helps me prepare for situations that can go right...and can go wrong.  My first visual is usually a mental check list of items I may need that are specific to the area I will be racing.  I do take some time to review the race's website about the course, course and weather conditions and I try to find some reviews from past participant's points of view of what to expect. The next scenario I picture is what will I load into my drop bags and how my transitions at those aid stations will go.  I want to make sure that I have my "go to" nutrition at certain points, have apparel for any weather and any incidentals that I may need.  
The biggest amount of time I will spend this week is visualizing myself in the race.  In my mind's eye, I can watch myself running in the race and picture how I feel, what I'm eating and drinking and what song I'll be singing over and over again.  I will not fool myself by thinking I'll be happy the whole race, have any issues or every planned detail will go off without a hitch.  It's actually quite the opposite, plan for the worst - hope for the best - and let the chips fall where they may.  I do visualize running on the technical, single track trail and mentally getting lost in the beauty of my surroundings.  I do remind myself to be nice and respectful to all the volunteers and to say, "thank you" entering and leaving the aid stations.  I focus on the fact that I am running, running for a long time and that time is "me" time, it is "my time."  It is a chance for me to unplug and enjoy the world around me, to not have a care in the world except to put one foot in front of the other.  
So if you happen to be running today, plan to run tomorrow or are looking at a weekend race, enjoy the run and don't worry about the time or your place or your age group...just enjoy the run and you'll win the tug o' war.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Crunching the numbers

Sometimes life gets in the way of training, other times training is my way of life.  

Getting to the meat and potatoes of training, I have two weeks until Kettle 100 so as life gets in the way, here is how my week shapes up and my thoughts with the training plan.  
Sunday, May 25 -13.5 miles at an aerobic fat burning level. Total time 2:06:27, avg. hr 149.
Monday, May 26 - gave myself the COMPLETE day off.  Napped on & off. Training's working!
Tuesday, May 27 am - 5 mile run. A little tempo, just to make my heart & lungs work.
Tuesday, May 27 pm - 60 minutes in the pool. Non pounding, cross training.
Wednesday, May 28 am/pm - 5 mile runs (total 10 miles), just cruising speed.
Thursday, May 29 am - 5 mile run injected with some speed.
Friday, May 30 am - 5 mile run easy.
Saturday, May 31 - 13.5 miles at aerobic levels.

At night I have planned 30 minutes of ab work, as my core still needs some strengthening.  The back half of any ultra, you always need a solid core to keep your form in a good upright posture. 

I know what it feels like to feel overwhelmed by training hours, to hate yourself for sleeping in and missing a session, to choose everyone else and not be selfish with choosing yourself but in the end I always subscribe to the motto, "better to show up to the start line 10% under-trained than 1% over-trained.  We are now in the season of graduations, friends and family gatherings and as the weather finally warms up distractions from training are in full swing.  So write out your training plan, hang it on the frig, post it on Facebook or tell everyone about it.  It's okay to cut it short, miss a session and take a full rest day.  Listen to your body, it will tell you what it needs.  
I have not had the best training going into Kettle but my mind is focused on the task at hand and I will take the next two weeks to make sure I am on the start line healthy.

P.S. Yes, those are our babies!  Hilo, my Big Kahuna and Kona Bean (ridge on her nose).  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

10,000 to 1

Defying the odds, four runners stopped their race and carried another runner towards the finish of the Boston marathon this year.  It was captured on cell phones and uploaded for the world to see.  It was truly inspiring to see people encouraging people, runners helping each other and the crowd supporting it all.  If you have run a marathon in Boston, New York, Chicago or London you know the sheer size of the spectators that line each course numbers well over one million. Sometimes spectators are lined up 4 or 5 deep in some places and when you are in the last 10k of the race your legs require all the strength and support they can find.  
As the the sunrise creeps closer to 5:00 am, my morning runs have become longer and start earlier. It was on one of those runs, a weary bathrobe was gathering the newspaper on the driveway and interrupted the cross section of my pitter-pattering feet and laboring breathing with a "looking sharp runner."  It caught me off guard but was a welcome refreshment of encouragement.  I enjoy the solitude of running, the peace and quiet my mind and soul acquire when nothing else matters except putting one foot in front of the other.  The clarity of thought that allows me to return with a solution to a problem that vexed me when I left the house.  Alone in my thoughts, stress and troubles fade away and I often wonder why did Tom Hank's character in Castaway leave the island? Grab the volleyball and run around the island, a perfect storm of tranquility, tropics and unlimited miles.
But my inner circle of support reminds me I cannot and could not do it alone.
Dr. T ran her first single track technical trail 50k race this past weekend.  Learning the lesson that if you tumble on the trail, if not for a passing participant there is not a soul around to help you up, dust you off and see that you continue on your way.  
Coach Jeff K (outside of still hearing him say, "walk with a purpose-walk with a purpose") always sums up the 100 miler as the front 50 are with your legs and the back 50 are with your mind.
Heather tells everyone to stay away from me during the first 50 miles as I am cussing, swearing and grouchy - no one is safe. All the while swearing to never do another one and questioning why I signed up for this in the first place.  The second 50 is the polar opposite.  My mind has taken over and in a Michael Jordan-esque state, I am in a zone.  Every now and then in a race I can be heard talking to my inner self.  I become Rain Man, mechanical even robotic not in movement but in mind. Left, right, left, right, left, right, another mile, another aid station, next aid station, another mile and so on.  I believe it is my ADHD or ADD or whatever you want to call it, I like it.  I thrive on it. It is an empowering drug that is best stated, "I like to see how far I can push myself mentally when physically I have nothing left."
In the ultra community because of the sheer distance and duration of races, spectators are sparse.  Most huddle around the start/finish campground and some trek to aid stations to surprise and support the runners.  I will say they are put through a grueling day as well as the runners.  They may catch a longer nap but they snap to attention when their alarm goes off indicating their runner is due to check in soon.  They gather what supplies they think might be needed, pamper their runner for a minute or two, wish them well, pack up and organize for the next visit.  It could be 20 miles down the road or 5 hours later.  Whatever the gap before we see a familiar face it is always welcomed.  So if you are going to venture into the ultra community, we welcome you with open arms.  Embrace the distance, enjoy the race, acknowledge and savor the supportive spectator.  Because when you calculate the marathon spectator in relation to an ultra spectator, can figure out that ratio.
Unless you want to run with Wilson.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

$210 All you can eat buffet

Raise your hand if you run to eat.  Run to drink?  Run to burn off the calories you have eaten, are presently eating or are scheduling to eat.  If you raised your hand to any one of the preceding scenarios, the ultra marathon may be for you...well, sort of.  
As I have made a few more public appearances at run groups, the topic of discussion has been what I eat before, during and after my races.
Remember, what works for me may not work for you but it might give you a guideline.  I hope you are hungry because here we go.
Before the race.
So many runners know the term "carbo load."  Typically I stress carbs before my heavy training days.  Bonk Breaker before the morning run and after it's chocolate milk with Endurox.  Breakfast is oatmeal or cream of wheat with berries. A bagel and a small cup of coffee mid morning.  Pretzel nuggets throughout the morning.  Lunch is ham and cheese on gluten free raisin bread with pretzels and homemade date bars.  Fruit salad mid afternoon.  Dinner varies day to day. Ground turkey spaghetti (gluten free), BBQ pork chops over rice, fish tacos, sushi or grilled chicken over salad but it's always a protein and a carb.  Of course, water, water and more water.  In the days right before a race the menu of items gets reduced to what I know works well in my stomach - plain oatmeal, PB&J on gluten free raisin bread, easy sauced turkey spaghetti.  I do not have an allergy to gluten, my body seems to process it better (faster) and I do not feel weighed down. 
During the race.  
Every ultra has aid stations and most of them offer standard fare but depending on the geographic area of the race you could be treated to some down home hospitality cooking.  I try to stay on a hydration schedule by carrying two water bottles (one for water and one for a sports drink) although eating is a whole other ballgame.  The answer I give is, "what did you eat at your Fourth of July picnic?  That's what I eat."  I can only take so many gels and other endurance nutrition products before my body is seeking solid food.  My point is I eat what my body craves whenever I hit an aid station. The following items I have consumed at different races; pb&j squares, avocado slices, peanuts, m&ms, oreos, pizza, watermelon, payday candy bars, fig newtons, boiled potatoes, chicken soup, chicken broth, meat stew, quesadillas, chocolate chip cookies, vanilla wafers, orange slices, grilled chicken sandwich, mini subs, chocolate covered almonds, chex mix, trail mix, pretzels, pepsi cola, mountain dew, ginger ale and any sandwich on King Hawaiian dinner roll.  I never know what I will feel like eating.  Sometimes, I come into an aid station and nothing looks appetizing other times I am eating everything in sight.  I always walk out of an aid station with a few items in hand it's less jostling on my stomach and I give myself a few minutes to eat.  Of course, there have been times when my stomach launches a protest (details not needed).
After the race.
All runners know the post race meal is one of the best rewards.  Nothing is off limits.  I have asked my body for a huge effort and so I reward it as such.  First things first, my recovery shake of chocolate milk and Endurox.  After a shower, Epsom salts in an ice bath, recovery tights and sandals then it's off to the meal of the century.  Depending on the time, it could be breakfast, lunch or dinner but here are a few items off of my reward meal; Ruth Chris' steak dinner, North Carolina BBQ plate o' everything, Denver omelet and well done potatoes but my two favorites are a Reese peanut butter cup blizzard at Dairy Queen or a 4x4 at In-n-Out burger!!!!!  In the days following the race, I will not discriminate from any food group.  My "binge" usually lasts 3-4 days and my body starts to send signals that it actually misses the nutritionally healthy foods, so it's time to jump back on the wagon.
I am never on a "diet" of what to eat or not to eat, it is everything in moderation with an occasional splurge. The $210 is the average cost of my 5 ultras this season.  Cost per mile for what you get to eat beats a marathon, don't you think?
A new section to the right is "The Fast Lane."  These are friends of mine that are great runners, Meagan Nedlo an Olympic Trials marathon qualifier and Dan Kittaka an artist that burns a 2:39 marathon in between sketches.
This week's workouts
Sunday 2 hour am run
Monday 1 hour tempo am run  1 hour easy pm run*
Tuesday off*
Wednesday 1 hour hill workout*
Thursday off*
Friday 1 hour tempo am run  2 hour easy pm run
Saturday 4 hour early am run  3 hour easy walk/run overnight run
Sunday 2 hour easy run.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

The Flintstone's Closet

Add another three letter acronym after my name, BDD.  I have been told I suffer from body dysmorphic disorder.  I am not sure it's a true case but I think everyone has moments where they are just not happy with how they look.  After a week of inactivity and two decent effort weekend runs, I felt the steps I made forward were in reverse.  I also think athletes are harder on themselves and sometimes we focus on how we look rather than on how we feel and perform.  
The past couple of run club events that I promoted for CW-X, I have been asked about my training, what I wear and how long I recover.  Discussions among different body types inspired this week's blog and I would like to remind everyone to choose what fits and works for you. Collecting product information and listening to opinions is always valuable but purchase products that work for you not just because someone else says that it works for them.  I am a huge proponent of product testing at running stores.  If you hear that your running store's weekly run is holding a product sponsored wear test, make it a point to attend.  There is no better way for a risk free, no cost product trial than to put it on and pound out a 4-6 mile run.  It beats 30 seconds on a treadmill or a quick try in the dressing room. 
For those that remember and for those who don't know, the Flintstones (cartoon version) family that we watched on Saturday mornings consisted of Fred, his wife Wilma, daughter Pebbles and Dino (the DOG-asaurus).  
The next paragraph may be too much personal information, so feel free to skip down.  
My shoe size is an 8 with a width of 4E.  Yes, it is an 8 4E!  Fred Flintstone like and the joke among many of my circles is my foot is as wide as it is long.  It does limit the brands I choose because of width and right now New Balance 890 and 910 Trail are in my closet.  As for bottoms, I wear CW-X. Combine the weight of Wilma and the height of Pebbles and you would be correct in saying I wear CW-X Women's XS.  Yes, Women's XS.  My bottoms I am wearing this season, especially for my races are the CW-X Endurance Generator 3/4 tights.  It is what fits and works and I have no problem announcing it.  As for tops, I stretch the spectrum of many brands but I prefer The North Face tops (Better than Naked) and Sugoi outwear.  Yes, they are always size Small and sometimes (depending on cut) I have to go Extra Small.  In summary, I am 5 foot 7 inches tall and I weigh 122 lbs.
This year I have joined the back half of the first decade of the Men's Masters category (that's 45-49)! I admit that I cannot pound miles like I used to in my thirties and I am adamant that before and after runs I HAVE to warm up, warm down, stretch and ice.  This goes out to all runners that suffer from those little aches and pains, nagging injuries and downright awful reminders that season after season we need to take the proper steps to enjoy our racing seasons.  
Before every run, whether it's speedwork, tempo runs or long weekend runs - warm up!  It could be a quick 5 minute brisk walk, or an easy mile or two jog.  Your body (legs, lungs, heart - basically every organ) needs some wake up time.  Get your workout done and warm down with special care. Walk around for 5 minutes, stretch, rehydrate, walk around some more and stretch again. However long it took you to warm up, double it and make sure that you warm down.  For me, that is an essential part of my recovery formula.  It enables me to repeat long mileage runs and allows me to log 100+ mile weeks at the peak of my training.  As you can see from the column on the right, I have another sponsor - Pacific Health Labs.  As I have posted, nothing better for a post run recovery drink than Endurox mixed with chocolate milk.  It's a serious chocolate shake!
This upcoming week's training schedule is as follows:
Sunday - 2 hour am run, 1 hour pm run (both easy 9:00 pace) *
Monday - 30 minute am tempo run (7:50-8:00 pace), CW-X run club pm run *
Tuesday - 60 minute run  (easy recovery pace) *
Wednesday - marathon speedwork or hill work *
Thursday - day off
Friday - 60 minute am tempo run (8:15 pace) *
Saturday - 3 hour am run, 2 hour pm run *
Two last things you may want to know, first my body usually falls comfortably into a 9:00/mile pace and second the * means 30 minutes of core and balance work.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Competitve Tourist

The Boston Marathon was held yesterday, Monday April 21, 2014 otherwise known as Patriot's Day.  Thoughts, good wishes and a safe trip abound all over the country, the world and the Internet.  The coverage was not exclusive to the marathon but included so much more, the victims and stories from last year, the people of Boston (Bostonians), and the resiliency of the city itself.  I like to think it served as a subtle reminder to all runners that whenever you sign up to compete in a "destination race" please try to absorb and enjoy the "destination!"
In my own athletic career (even in casual travels) I have lost focus on where I was, what I was seeing or what I was experiencing.  I would lock myself in a hotel room, eat and rest until race time....race....return back to the room to recover then travel home.  My life in the ultra community has changed that, certainly people in my inner circle have been major influences as well (Heather, Jeff K, Dr. T and Tracy). 
In Raleigh, North Carolina at Umstead (my first 100 miler) racers and crews had an aura of one big family running 100 miles.  Everyone flashed a smile, shouted words of encouragement and made you feel like you were running around at home.  How did we experience Raleigh?  We walked around Duke University (crashed a luncheon on Coach K's court), UNC (Michael Jordan memorabilia) and feasted once before and twice after the race at The Pit.  Hands down, Big Ed Mitchell BEST BBQ EVER!!!!!!
In Phoenix, after the Javelina Jundred we had dinner out at Roy's Hawaiian restaurant with drinks under the desert sky.  The following day, we walked around Scottsdale to shake out my legs, just make sure you get away from race headquarters in the middle of the desert after a torrential storm and bitter nighttime cold.  On the way to the airport, wait for it....wait... In-n-Out Burger!  We don't have any in the Midwest but I love that place and after 100 miles nothing is better, I mean NOTHING than a 4x4 with fries.  

During the Keys 100, rain was a constant companion.  Don't let the state motto fool you, it is NOT the Sunshine state.  But after that finish, my choice of dinner was a grilled grouper sandwich with a Key Lime pie dessert-mmm mmmm!  It's always a good thing to surprise your support crew with a day of swimming....with dolphins.  They sit around for hours waiting to support you for a few minutes and repeat and repeat and repeat.
  There will be other races.  There will be plenty of chances to record a PR.  You don't have to stop during a race but be in the moment, know how lucky you are to be running in an event in another city, state or country.  In the end remember to take a look around, enjoy where you are, who is with you and savor the memories.
This week is a trial week.  I am fighting a tweaky left knee, so I will back down the mileage and have made an appointment to see a doctor.  That only means more time in the pool and on the bicycle.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Network of Support

Any athlete worth their salt will tell you, they didn't make or couldn't have made it to where they are without the support of others.  It may be family, could be friends or a stranger with encouraging words, support is key to keep an athlete engaged and moving towards their goal.  Thoughts occurred to me this week that made me want to blog about them.
I have a network of support in my world, both personally and athletically.    
Derek, a friend of mine in the athletic world asked me to be a Brand Ambassador for the company he represents, CW-X. In all of my races, I have worn CW-X bottoms and Derek has graciously supplied them to me. Imagine K T tape sewn inside compression bottoms and the support and stability it provides, perfect for me. Support for my legs, stability for my knees and support from my friend.  Thank you Derek. 
In my athletic world, there are groups within groups that provide support and stability.  As you work your way deeper into my network, each group adds to the characteristics of the preceding group. The outer group asks what I am doing, when are the races, how I am feeling and wishes me good luck.  One group inside of them is made up friends that understand endurance sports. They are participants at races, some work in the industry and know the rigors of training for events. We trade war stories, we see each other out on the trails and we follow each other's progress and check results online.  Dig a little deeper and you will find my active supporters.  Here you will find phrases like, "I'll be out there cheering for you", "I'd love to pace you" or "put me down for your crew."  These are friends that want to see what an ultra is all about because they are 80% committed to signing up for one but (secretly I believe) just need the nudge to compete in one. Coach Melissa, Katie, Darren and Tim - I cannot wait to toe the starting line with you and support you in your endeavors.  Finally what I call, "my inner circle" of support.  It is made up of my crew and pacers. During my races, they have see me at my worst and best.  They have quietly listened to me explode early in a race, encouraged me at low points and celebrated with me crossing the finish line. Darnell, or as I call him Darn Elk.  A coach of many, statuesque and proud like an elk and even rode his bicycle alongside of me in my very first ultra.  Tracy, the "mother role" of the group.  She does log training and racing miles with me but always has the supportive smile, attitude and the "magic backpack of whatever you need."  The Drs. Black, Tracy and Richard have reworked plans to crew and pace me at races.  Even staying up through the night when they couldn't make it, to monitor my progress and offer advice to keep me going. Thank you Dr. T for watermelon, it's liquid fruit gold for me during an ultra and also for slogging through a torrential desert rainstorm for 30ish miles.  Swamp foot anyone?  Jeff K. He is my coach, friend, crew and pacer.  Here's how to sum up Jeffrey, "what do you need? I got it for you. Whatever it takes, whatever you need."  His famous phrase to me is, "if you have to walk, walk with a purpose."  Heather, the brains of the operation.  Crew chief extraordinaire!  Heather makes everything work, has whatever I need, whenever I need it and always is in my corner. She let's me focus on training and racing and even packs and plans for the rest of the crew to be taken care of and have all of their needs met. Heather runs the whole show.  I would also like to thank the spouses and significant others of my network.  My crew by supporting me means I am taking them away from their families and loved ones.  I do understand and appreciate that, Thank You.
Bottom line is all of my success in the ultra community is due to the support of others.  Whether you are training for your first 5K or you are a grizzly marathon veteran, say "Thank You."  Whatever group you land in or groups you have it is important to realize you have support and couldn't be where you are without it. 

This week's workout schedule is as follows:
Sunday - 2 hour long run
Monday - 1 hour tempo run
Tuesday - Swimming
Wednesday - Speed workout
Thursday - Rest day
Friday - 1 hour tempo run
Saturday - 3 hour long run
For me, it's not about miles covered but time on my feet.  The weekend runs I usually try to complete within a 24 hour period then really push my tired legs on Monday.  As training builds, runs will become longer in time duration on the weekends and be tailored for the courses of each race. 


Sunday, April 6, 2014

100 Miles of Therapy

How much have you paid for an hour of therapy?  Physical therapy?  Psycho therapy?  Massage therapy?  The costs range from affordable to "you paid how much?"  I consider running to be "my time."  I don't listen to music, usually run by myself (especially during obtuse training hours) to solve a problem, to clear my mind and collect my thoughts.  During this week's runs, I gathered my thoughts for this entry.  When people ask what I think about or what my mantra is during these races, I sum it up with this phrase, "How much more can I take mentally when I have nothing left physically." 
It has taken quite a number of years and many sessions IN therapy to talk about much less write and blog about it.  For much of my childhood my father (hence forth known as my mother's husband) was an unemployed alcoholic abusive monster.  Many days coming home from school, I was afraid to open the door, afraid of who lurked on the other side.  Was he sleeping?  drunk?  passed out?  angry? or a ticking time bomb waiting for me to announce I was home?  It varied day to day, minute to minute.  Battles ensued between the two of us.  He would chase me room to room and around the house or the around the yard.  Being 6 foot 2 and 240 plus pounds with a long reach he had the edge on his second son, 4 foot nothin' and barely 70 pounds.  I won't give you full details but you can imagine when caught I was a rag doll that took the blunt end of cabinets, counters, washing machines, tools, wooden boards, leather belts and if nothing was in reach a fist would do. 
It was our own Broadway drama, starring my mother's husband as the abusive monster, my mother as abused victim number one, all three children as victims two, three and four.  When the curtain came up, the parents were engaged in a screaming, swearing hand to hand battle.  My older brother's role was to take my younger sister to another room where she couldn't see what she could hear.  My role was to step in for my mother while she decided who to call or where to take us.  Every time I was knocked down I got up for more.  I thought to myself, "he can't win, he'll never win.  Get up, drag yourself up.  Whatever he can dish out, you can take."  Over the years, the scenery changed but the plot remained the same.  Being kicked out of two houses, having to split the bills with my mother and paying for numerous expenses a high school student shouldn't have to pay I stepped into professional therapy.  My brother married, moved out and started his life and my sister went off to college and the Peace Corps hoping to get away as far as possible.  I stayed at home until I was in my late twenties partly because I didn't have the money to move out and partly to protect my mother, the battles still occurred just not as frequently. 
I didn't take my first drink until I was in my mid twenties.  Married in my late twenties and divorced several years later.  I had/have issues and trust me, I am always working on them.  Running keeps me grounded.  Running keeps me sane.  You might say I am running away from something, you might say I am running towards something but as of right now I run for me and my time.  There is something utterly relaxing about hearing the rhythmic patter of my feet, my breath and my heartbeat. 
Could it be I am running from a demon, a ghost or trying to win a battle I am incapable of winning?