01/22/12

The Inaugural Wilson Creek Frozen 50k

Hanging out at the start with my homeboys, Calvin and Bobby!

4 weeks ago, I ran my solo 50 miler. One week later, I ran Leon’s Fat Ass 50K. Now, two weeks after Leon’s race, I ran Wilson Creek Frozen 50k (which, as it turns out, would be the hardest race of them all, yet I enjoyed every minute of it!) So, in less than one month, I did all of that!!!! And, I feel FINE! I think that says a couple of things about me right now.

1. I am learning to race more conservatively, so that I don’t bonk, but give a steady, strong effort the entire time and then recover better. 2. That I am getting more experienced at these ultra distances! 3. That I am well on the right track for my training for my first 100 mile race at Antelope Island Buffalo Run in March!

My husband, Wayne, my 11 year old son, Wayne Jr, my best friend, Bertha and I all arrived together at the race start at about 6 am. Seeing the flood lights on the road, the people already directing traffic, the ambulance and fire department vehicles there in case of emergency, the covered tent for the packet pickup, the cozy fire-pit to get warm around, all the volunteers, etc just had me in total awe of my two friends, Emily and Davina who had chosen this big endeavor as their first venture into race directing! It was obvious upon arrival that they had thought and rethought out the details, down to the very last item and had done an amazing job setting this race up and doing it well! I knew all of the racers (more than 200) were in for a great day, with the two of them in charge!

Now race directors can control many things, but they cannot control the weather (try as they might!) The race is called the Wilson Creek Frozen 50k. In the past week, the Melba Idaho area has had snow, then several days of rain. The temperature on race morning was about 35 or so and a little humid. We had all been warned that we would not be finding any part of the course frozen, but would encounter more than our fair share of mud. And, we weren’t disappointed!

Now, when I raced Big Horn in 2011, I encountered insane amounts of mud that slowed everyone down! This was like Big Horn but WORSE! The mud was slippery, thick, clay. The kind that sucks your shoes right off. One of my pals, named Robbie told me he lost a shoe 8 times and even ran in his socks for a couple of miles before giving up and quitting the race, since it was so difficult! I would say at least 20 of the 31 miles were muddy, maybe a bit more. The 20 mile loop is a very challenging section, with or without any mud. The mud just turned it into a slog-fest! I looked down at my feet around mile 10 or so and almost laughed. They looked twice as large as usual. The mud was so thick, it just clung to the shoe and made it look like I was wearing snow shoes — snow shoes made of MUD! I teased some of the other runners (I use that term very loosely since I honestly saw everyone near me walking, slowly, looking exhausted from the effort, through the mud for miles) that I should have trained for this race by strapping two concrete blocks to my feet and then trying to run, since that’s pretty much how it felt. I didn’t let it get to me, though! I have learned to roll with the punches at these ultras! The weather will bring you what it does. Same with the course. You can’t control it, so don’t fight it! Put a smile on your face, adjust your expectations and pace accordingly and keep moving forward!

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It was like a big reunion of all my running buddies as we milled around waiting to start! I think I got about fifty hugs and “good lucks!” before we even hit the starting line! I have the best running friends in the whole world! I have never met a more loving, fun, kind-hearted group of people in my life and I was excited to get to share the trails with them at this race! The Daily Miler gang came out and truly represented, too, all giving me hugs before the start! Ben B.Calvin , Bobby H. , Emily B. (as awesome race director), Andrea S. , Rachel C. , Mike C., my husband Wayne (doing his first trail race EVER!), Otto , Randy and my goofball running buddy, Ryan A. , who totally made my day when I saw him wearing shorts and these crazy, orange and pink striped knee socks he’d borrowed from his 8 year old daughter!!! That was hilarious! I’d also later on that day, get to hug Les A.! It was like a big Daily Mile PARTY!

Ryan working the socks!

Just before they called us to the start, I wished my son and husband “Good luck” in their 10 mile race that would start two hours after ours. I had them both on my mind that first 20 miles, hoping they were having a fantastic time!

Here’s a photo by Michael LeBowitz from the LongRun Picture Company of my two guys finishing up their race with smiles! I love it!

 

With so many runners at the start (the 20 milers and the 50kers started together), it was like a slow-moving human train on the single track trail up the first big climb, a steady stream of headlamps as far as the eye could see. I enjoyed hearing the chatter from excited runners all around me. I’d passed my buddy, Jon just before the climb started, as he high-fived us, while he waited to jump in at the tail end and serve as one of the sweepers of the race, making sure those in the back are well looked after. Jon is known in my group as the “fun guy!” – always doing crazy stuff like running in the winter without a shirt and this day he didn’t disappoint – nearly blinding me with his alabaster skin! hehe!

I caught up to my friends, Otto and Randy after a mile or so and felt so proud of myself for being near them already! In the past, they were both always pretty far ahead on the climbs, so I felt really happy to see that all the hard work I’ve been doing has improved my climbing ability a bit! The three of us were in silly moods and the conversation was light-hearted and fun. I would teasingly pull ahead just a bit and say, “And Christie pulls ahead, CHICKING both men and the crowd goes wild!!” throwing my hands up in the air!!!! Otto, pushed me on the head as he bolted by and said, “Not so fast, there, Missy!” The three of us were like a bunch of little kids at recess and it was a nice way to start the race.

Otto took this picture of me during the race. It’s one of my faves from yesterday! The scenery was beautiful out there!

I never looked at my heart rate during this race. Instead, I just focused on how I was feeling and kept my effort consistent, steady and strong! I made sure to eat about 50 calories or more every half an hour to keep my energy up. I carried my two hand bottles with 22 oz each and made sure to keep drinking every few minutes. It was quite a workout packing all that mud for miles and miles (many of those miles UPHILL!) so I was very thirsty and kept sipping throughout the race.

I’ve definitely had more than my fair share of experiences with bonking in the past. I have gotten much better at avoiding it these days and for that I’m thankful! I never struggled at all with the bonk at this race and believe my constant fueling paid off keeping me physically and mentally in the game — even if it was a very slow pace with the added effort of the mud.

The weather had other surprises for us on the course, too! Crazy winds, hail, sleet, snow, and believe it or not — a little sunshine and blue skies by the time I finished, too, just to keep things fresh and interesting! I had one wardrobe malfunction on the course! Don’t worry! It was just a windbreaker incident! I’d just bought a new windbreaker at Old Navy the night before and about 6 miles into the race, I looked down and the zipper seemed broken! The top of the jacket was open and the bottom was too, whipping in the breeze, but the zipper held steady right in the center. Argh! I pulled to the side, trying to fix the problem, the winds and the cold getting fiercer as I worked. Maybe 15 people passed me here, but I knew I had a long day ahead of me of nasty weather and that I really needed my coat to work, so I tried not to think about it. After a few minutes, I looked up and my friend, Conner was passing by, too. He saw my predicament and likely the frustrated look on my face and came to my rescue! He had me grab the jacket from the bottom, holding it tight together, while he worked the zipper and he got it unstuck!!!! Then I was able to actually zip up my coat again! I gave him a big hug and thanked him and would later tell him, “Every time the cold winds blew and I was warm I said a silent, “Thank you, Conner” during the race!!!! I also told him that I had definitely chosen the right person to pace me at my 100 mile race, since he helped me out when I really needed it and he could be counted on as a friend. He said, “You just wait! I’m like that! I’ll take good care of you!” 🙂 Yay for awesome friends!!!!!!

After the jacket was zipped, Conner and I stayed together for a few miles, chatting. It was lots of fun catching up and knocking out a few, slow miles together heading up the mountain in the storm. Conner is part of Team in Training and had come to the race with some of his friends from that group, so at the first aid station at about mile 8, he waited for them to catch up, so he could offer them some encouragement and run with them (what a good guy!)

Miles 8 – 18 are pretty challenging. Nearly all mud. It also involved the climb right up to Wilson Peak, the highest point we reached during the entire race! The winds had picked up and were really intense and icy as we slowly climbed towards the summit. I smiled and said, “Way to go!” to everyone coming back down the hill towards me. The person behind me finally caught up and said, “Aren’t you Christie from Daily Mile?” I grinned and said, “Yeah, that’s me!” He said, I’m Matt G.!” It made me happy to meet another one of my online pals from Daily Mile! It had started to snow by the time I reached the summit. The views were amazing!!!! You could see the red rock canyons, the outcroppings of unusual rocks everywhere (some of them reminding me of those at Stonehenge!), the mountains in every direction, sagebrush and wheat-colored long grasses covering most of it. I didn’t see the wild horses, as I often do when I come to run in the Owyhee Mountains, but the natural beauty of the area, still blew my mind.

I saw Otto, just ahead of me again, crouching down at the tower on the top, looking really cold. I asked him if he was ok. He nodded, but I was a bit worried. After using the hole punch at the summit to prove I’d done this loop (and getting it STUCK to my race bib since it froze from the cold, though thankfully, a kind hearted fella helped me out. I think it might have been Matt G again! – Thank you! I’d still be up there since the hole punch was attached to a wire, hooked to a pole!), I headed back down the mountain, eager to get done with the first 20 mile loop!

It was like a miracle occurred once I got off that tough, rocky, muddy, steep, windy section, too! The next section of trail was sandier, so it was less muddy and it was less windy, too! I actually broke into a RUN for the first time in many miles and it was a great feeling to stretch the very, sore legs out! That mud was a serious workout! Unfortunately, more mud and lots of steep sections with rocks were ahead, but I was in good spirits, so I didn’t mind. It was lightly raining, I was warm and I was listening to some music, enjoying the day and excited to see my husband and son and see how their race had gone!

I was alone for much of this section. When I passed the body of the dead Raven on the trail, I thought of my friend, Tony, who had mentioned this very sighting earlier in the week. He’d said, “I was out there alone, on the eve of Edgar Allen Poe’s birthday and spotted this dead Raven. It was a bit creepy!” I said, “Nevermore! Nevermore!” as I passed the corpse!

I could hear the cowbells and the cheering of the crowds of those blessed souls out there cheering on the runners as I got closer to the start/finish area, where I would complete my first 20 mile loop (which was really closer to 20.5 I think.) A grin spread over my face and I picked up the pace. As soon as I checked in, I headed for my drop bag. My friend, Holly, who owns the local Pulse running store, quickly jumped in to help me! She was a doll, taking my hand bottle and filling it up with my Mocha Frappuccino that I’d saved for this section. I also grabbed my lunchable that I’d put into a zip lock bag and dropped off the headlamp. That’s when I turned and saw my husband and son, just glowing with pride in their new scarves (the finishing prize) waiting for hugs from me! I was so proud of them both and gave them kisses and told them, “Great job!” I also got hugs from Mike and Les, who had also finished their races and were looking pretty pleased with themselves! Then, I quickly took off to do the final 10.8 mile loop to finish up my race.

Now, I’ve ran that loop many times in training. I normally adore it and consider it a fairly fast section and had been looking forward to it all day. But, the mud monsters had gotten to that section too and that was discouraging. I just walked the first 3-4 miles since it was also really slippery and muddy. I took that time to eat and drink and will my legs to keep on going. I have gone longer distances, but after the crazy mud for so many miles, my hips, my glutes, my hamstrings and my knees were just spent! There was very little pep in my step.

Randy caught back up to me here. He’d apparently been at the aid station when I checked in and out. It was nice to see him and have some company, since it seemed I was the only person out on the course. I did find out later that many people DNF’d or chose to drop down to the 20 mile distance after they’d done the first 20, since it was so challenging. So, very few actually went on to complete the full 50k they’d signed up for. It really was THAT tough of a course! But, I was proud of myself for never even considering that. I like to finish what I start and felt that every obstacle I encountered out there was just another opportunity to improve my mental strength for the upcoming 100 miler.

Randy said his hips hurt. I told him about my aches and pains and together we slowly slogged along. Somewhere in here we started talking about how awesome hot baths are when you’re sore (despite the fact that everyone advises ice baths.) Clearly, we were both eager to be done and looking forward to rewarding ourselves back at home with some rest and relaxation!

Randy and I came into an aid station. I have to say each and every aid station and every volunteer was way above average!!!! We were treated well, by smiling friends. I enjoyed the warm soups, the peanut m and ms and the orange slices at the aid stations, then quickly got out. I’d say, on average, I spent between 1 – 5 min max at any aid station — usually 2-3 min. I didn’t dilly dally! I got right back into the race. That’s how I ended up without Randy, when he saw his pal, Jenny, at her aid station and they started chatting. Jenny’s my pal, too, but I had a race to run!

My favorite part of the 10 mile loop is along Wilson Creek, through the red rock canyons and up on the ridge, on single track, looking way down at the creek as you climb high up. It’s breathtakingly beautiful! I’d been running about 8 hours when I hit this section and it was finally warm and sunny! That was the first time all day I took my gloves off. I closed my eyes and just smiled, listening to the gurgling of the rushing waters. It was so peaceful and I was happy.

I caught up to a lone, male runner here. Wished him well and passed him. I was running strong again and just enjoying the moment. About 3 miles from the finish, I heard croaking. I looked all around the trail expecting to see a toad or frog, but I didn’t see one. I kept hearing the sound, though and finally I looked UP! It was a black bird soaring in the baby blue sky above me and sure enough — he was CROAKING! I burst out laughing!!! I have since googled and learned that black birds can sound like that, but I didn’t know that before! It was about here, that the runner I’d passed got a second wind. I’d slowed down to a steady, brisk walk and he was feeling good, so he passed me. I could make out 3 other runners way up ahead and watched as one by one this guy passed them all! Impressive! It inspired me to pick up the pace and get back into a run again, too, though my pace was much slower than this guy’s had been. And, one-by-one, I, too, ended up passed those three ahead of me, who were finishing up the 20 mile loop.

Once I heard the cowbells and the crowds again, joy just flooded my body again. I always get a second wind when I see the finish line and the crowds!!! That’s when my legs get renewed energy and I feel them churning faster and faster! I saw my friends, my husband and I saw Ryan taking pictures and I just threw my arms in the air and ran like a lunatic across that finish line, laughing and smiling, enjoying the moment! My Garmin says I reached a 5:38 pace at the finish!

Michael Lebowitz from Longrun Picture Company took this final kick photo of me! I love it!

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My overall time was 8:55. I had done both loops in training and, based on those (done without crazy mud), I’d expected to come in around 7 – 7:30 hours, but given the circumstances of the course, I felt that sub 9 was a great accomplishment, even if it was quite a bit slower than I had expected to do. I was given an adorable light cheetah-print scarf and got a ton of hugs from all my friends! When Ryan ran up to say good job, he was sporting the same snazzy scarf and called us twins! His wife, Michelle cracked me up and took me aside and told me she’d told the race director earlier that that particular print wasn’t very manly and that when Ryan finished he’d begged for one. hehehe!!!!

I finished 4th female overall and 1st in the 30-39 age group! My trophy is totally freaking adorable! It’s a wood block with an empty shotgun shell casing stapled to it! Out at Wilson Creek, there are always tons of those on the side of the trail, so I thought that was a perfectly fitting award and I’m going to display it proudly!

I love my sweet new animal print scarf and 1st place AG award from the race!! Sweet BLING for sure!!!

My shoes AFTER most of the mud was cleaned off!! You should have seen them earlier!!!!!

It was an awesome day and I’m so happy I got to take part of the first official Wilson Creek Frozen 50k!

Elevation Gain: 6,037 feet of climb. Average Heart rate: 158. Max Heart rate: 203

01/14/12

Chasing My Two Waynes

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I’ve been dying to run at Table Rock for ages! It’s this huge hill, with an entirely flat top, with a cross that shines at night for miles. Back when I was going to BSU and used to do a little bit of running, I would often run facing that cross in the dark and wonder about it. Back then I never went up to it, either. I wasn’t totally sure of the way and it never occurred to me back then to run on trails. So, it was pretty cool today to finally get to head up there with my 11 year old son, Wayne Jr. and my husband and see it firsthand.

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I will admit right away that it’s harder than I expected! It’s a pretty steep climb up and it’s fairly technical, but I truly enjoyed myself! My son is preparing for his first trail race, which he is doing with his daddy, Wayne, next Saturday. I’m very proud of both of them for working really hard to get ready for this tough 10 miler! They were both doing an awesome job kicking some booty out there today!

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Jr made me laugh a ton when he’d run downhill, since he runs like ME — “woo hooing” and squealing the whole way. He’s kind of like that Geiko little piggy on those commercials “Wee Wee WEEEE!” 😀

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I do admit to feeling the sudden urge to take off like a lunatic in the last mile when the path was less technical and had a nice, gentle downhill. I just relaxed into the descent and found my legs churning, passing groups of walkers who screamed as I flew by them like a super hero (or some mean old crazy lady who had no respect for others.) I’m sticking with super hero, though! I heard one gasp and say, “Oh my WORD! How does she DO that?!” I passed another man heading uphill on a snowy section of the trail and he said, “CAREFUL! Don’t fall!” and I just grinned! I have fallen on trails many times, but only ONCE on a downhill when I was going crazy fast and that’s when I hit a patch of black ice two years ago. It hasn’t happened since.

I hit the car and then headed back up the trail to find my fellas. It was a good run! It was fun to be out in the daylight again!!! I even brought the camera!!!!! And, just for the record, I let Jr lead us the first 4 miles and the last .25 mile when I caught up with them again, so I don’t think he cared that much about my crazy insanity when I took off a bit no matter what my husband claims! hehe

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1,075 feet of gain. 127 average HR. 189 Max HR.

01/12/12

If at First You Don’t Succeed, Try, Try Again!

Exactly two years ago this month, I lined up with my best friend, Bertha and about twelve others on a freezing cold January morning, under a velvety black, early morning sky for Leon’s Fast Ass Recover From the Holidays 50k.  It was my first ultra. I’d done exactly one marathon about three months prior to that and had only been on a couple of trail runs. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and felt very unprepared!

I found myself at that starting line because I’m a good friend — a very good friend! Bertha had heard about the race just a month prior to it and had begged me to join her in doing it. Being the conservative, schedule-following, “no-surprises-for-me-thankyouverymuch” runner that I am, I quickly told her, “No way! That would be insanity to jump into a race of this distance without a proper buildup!” (We’d both taken our training down several notches after our October marathon and I was certain it was impossible to do something so difficult on so little training!)  I couldn’t sleep that night. I kept hearing her, happy, excited little voice in my head saying to me, “What if it’s FUN?! Won’t you pleaaaasse do it with me?!”  So, early the next day, I called her up and said simply, “Ok.” when she answered the phone. “What?” she said.  “Ok! I’ll do it with you! I don’t think it’s very smart, but I can’t say no to you when you really want something, so I’m in!”  Her delighted squeal told me I’d made the right decision – at least as far as the friendship was concerned.

So, we got in a couple of training runs on our local trails, attempted to learn about eating while running (which was so much different than our marathon training) and began taking potty breaks in the bushes on our runs when we quickly realized that there were no actual bathrooms available during trail runs apparently! I should have practiced that last one a little bit more!

When Leon (the race director of this free, no-frills, no awards, no timing or race bibs or t-shirts or aid stations race) said, “GO!” we all took off.  Bertha and I quickly noticed we were way out of our league.  Most of the other runners looked fit and fast! We kept our own pace and brought up the rear, with the race director by our side, since he was certain we’d get lost on our own if he didn’t help us out (the course was not marked at all!)

It was cold! The climbs were brutal and Bertha and I broke the one rule of the Fat Ass race, “No whining!” We whined our heads off to each other, swearing we’d never, ever, ever do anything like this again! I will admit, that when the sun rose and we were high up on a mountain, looking down at the city of Boise below, we were swept up in the moment and did enjoy the pleasure of being out in nature.  But, overall, it was a very challenging day for both of us!

Something very bad started to happen to my stomach around mile 18 or so. My pal, Emily had given me this amazing recipe for trail bars that she swore were THE secret food of ultra marathoners! I remember mixing a cup of honey, coconut, cashews, chocolate chips and other various delicious items together the night before the event. I made a huge pan of these “miracle” treats and wrapped up a few to take with me at the race.  The only problem? Eating something so heavy and sweet, when I wasn’t used to digesting things like that on a run, caused a really unpleasant side effect.  As my stomach whirled and swirled, I realized that I needed a proper bathroom ASAP! But, there were no bathrooms to be found. In fact, where we were running, there weren’t even any trees or big bushes! Just sagebrush. You could see for miles around, it seemed and all I could think about was how humiliated I’d be if another runner caught me with my pants down doing my business!! I’m a rather modest girl as it is, and the thought of someone seeing me like that just mortified me! So, I held it. And held it. And got sicker and sicker and sicker. And slower! I was doing everything in my power not to poop my pants! I was doing a sort of shuffle walk, eyes wide, fear on my face as the race director, Bertha and I slowly got through the miles.

Finally, I couldn’t handle it anymore! I told Leon that I needed a bathroom – that I needed to quit the race and go home! The funny thing about quitting a trail race is that there are often no easy ways to get OFF the trails — so I had to struggle through a few more miles – all the way to 23.33 miles, in fact overall, before I was at a spot my husband and five kids could come rescue me and take me home.  When I climbed in the car, I said to my husband, “My legs are fine. My head is fine, but my stomach is a mess!!!” and then I started to cry. I never quit things I start! It’s not really my nature. I’m a devoted, intense, focused girl when I start something and this was one time, I just didn’t know how to handle the situation and still finish.

Not finishing this “unofficial” race got to me. I became determined to prove to myself that I, could, in fact, finish an ultra marathon. I signed up for my first official one in April of 2010 and did, in fact make it to the finish line there — tears coming down my cheeks while I crossed the line,  as I repeated to myself, “I did it! I really did it!”

The following January, I showed up again to do Leon’s Fat Ass 50k – more determined than ever to finish what I’d started the year before. Believe it or not, there would be no finish that day either! Bertha and I quickly got lost from the group and ended up adding a bonus 5 miles by the halfway point. So, we were 20 miles into the race, it was super cold, my  husband and five kids had set up an aid station at the halfway point and had been waiting for hours to see me. They were worried sick and they were tired and wanted to go home.  My husband would not allow me to head back onto the snow and ice-covered trail to complete the last 11 miles. He wanted me safe and sound back at home. So, with a heavy heart, I got into the car and again, cried on the ride home for not getting to finish what I started.

 

The next morning, I went for a run and did 11 miles – my own symbolic way of “turning in late homework” to the teacher. But, it still bugged me that I hadn’t finished the race again.

Just this last week, I lined up again at Leon’s race for the third straight year in a row. Many of the faces from that first year are now faces of good friends and instead of feeling fear at the start, I had confidence in myself.  I’m a much stronger trail runner now than I was two years ago. I’ve ran 3 marathons, 2 official 50ks, 3 50 milers, and many 20+ mile training runs on trails and am in training for my first 100 mile ultra. I have more experience under my belt. I have learned how to eat, drink and use nature’s bathroom when I need to without giving it much thought! I am also more familiar with the trails.  I knew from the beginning this time that my final result would be a good one!

I chatted with friends through the first 10 miles, then relaxed as the group spaced way out and I had some time to think – to reflect on how far I’d come since that first run two years ago. I smiled as the sun rose and warmed my face. The icy January winds whipped my long, dark hair all around my face, my nose dripped like a broken faucet.  The views of the Boise Foothills  — the naked, tan, undulating curves — spread out in all directions as far as the eye could see – a lovely desert picture-postcard of beauty.

I finished the race this year! I picked up the pace and sprinted towards my husband, who waited in his car at the finish area. A smile as wide as the sea spread over my lips as I hit “stop” on my Garmin. I’d done it! I knew I could!

Hard-won achievements are sweeter than those we get with little effort or struggle. Trust me when I tell you that if there’s a goal you’ve been trying to reach, a goal that has eluded you time and time again — don’t give up! Remember what your mama used to say: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again! You will get it if you keep making the effort and giving your best!

01/9/12

Homeschool Recess

I promised the five kids we could visit the park in our neighborhood if they focused and did well on their schoolwork this morning. The older three rode their bikes, the 6 year old held my hand and walked and the 4 year old rode her tricycle. Savannah, the youngest, quickly put me in my place, too, “Mama, I want you to be behind me, ok?” So, that’s where I stayed — hot on the three wheels of her little, red tricycle for the 3/4 of a mile to the park. No matter how slow you think you walk at a comfortable pace, just trust me when I tell you walking behind a 4 year old on a trike is quite a bit slower than that!!!!

Her zest for life was pretty contagious. She said, “Ohhhh, look at the pretty sunshine, Mama! This is a great day for a bike ride!” She’d stop and stare – at the trees, a cat, the dog doo on the trail, the manhole cover, the clod of dirt she was sure was much too big to ride over. 4 year olds are full of questions, enthusiasm and time. They are never in a hurry the way we grownups are.

The kids enjoyed the time at the park and I walked laps around the swingsets before taking a ride on the swings myself – letting the warm sun kiss my cheeks and the light breeze blow my long hair back from my face, my legs pumping hard as I rose higher and higher towards the big blue sky, clear and wide like the ocean before me.

Guess who ended up pushing the trike back home when running sounded more fun than riding? Savannah actually offered to let me ride it myself. I don’t think my rear end would fit in that tiny seat, but it was nice of her to offer…..

01/8/12

Using Training Logs as a Key to Long-Term Success

When I started working out in May of 2008, I kept track of my runs and workouts on my regular wall calendar. I’d come home from a 30 min walk/run and write it down on the calendar, along with how far I’d gone. I did the same thing when I would go for a bike ride or do a Pilates DVD.  By October, I was several pounds thinner, getting fitter and taking my training more seriously. That’s when I decided it was time to start using a log book.

That first log book was simply a regular school notebook. I think I’d bought several during back to school sales for about a quarter each – nothing fancy! But, it was just perfect for my needs. I pulled down that wall calendar and moved over every single workout into the log book, so I’d have a permanent record of what I was doing to refer to. I had already been in the habit of recording my daily weight on the calendar since I was trying to lose weight, so I added that to the log book, too.

My journey from a size 14 to a size 4 is well documented thanks to my records that I kept. When I would hit a plateau, I was always encouraged when I’d pull out the log books and be able to flip back several pages (or to a past journal) and see just how far I’d come since I started!  It gave me perspective and renewed energy to keep training hard and eating better so I’d continue on the path to my goal weight. “Keep doing what you’re doing” I’d often say to myself after being reminded of my past success since the rewards DID come in time if I stuck with it!

The most important thing I got from my training logs was the ability to gain information about myself, my training, injuries, etc. just by turning back a few pages (or pulling out a past log book and comparing notes.)  I have always written down race times, the training I did as I prepared for each race, my weight, etc and any injuries or big life events that might impact everything else (such as a move, a vacation or an illness.)  When I got trochanteric bursitis in my hip, I felt foolish when I pulled out the log books since it was clear I had increased my pace and distances too quickly for a body that was just beginning to handle the pounding of long distance running.  I paid the price because I wasn’t taking the time to reflect on the bigger picture of my training at the time. It was right there for me to examine and make smarter decisions, but I chose not to do it.  These days, I try to get perspective from my log books at least once a month.

My husband has often found me sprawled on the bathroom floor, with several log books open at the same time as I try to compare notes from the same training season for different years or from season to season. I can get pretty absorbed in the data I keep and honestly find it to be like a great big puzzle that I’m trying to fit all the pieces together for.  I want to be a healthier, faster, more accomplished runner and sometimes I feel like reading my log books is a bit like reading tea leaves as I try to predict the success or failure of an upcoming race from the information I have gathered! 🙂

Here are some tips to get started on using a training log as a long-term key to success!

1. Keep it simple (you don’t need anything fancy and you don’t have to fill pages each day. I typically spend less than 5 minutes a day writing in mine.) And, as I said – a simple, ordinary notebook works just fine. I keep a pen with a clip attached to the front so I’m always ready to log a workout at a moment’s notice!

2. Put it somewhere you’ll actually see it often! I keep my log books in my master bathroom cabinet. When I wake up in the morning, I pull mine out and log my morning weight. After a workout when I’m ready to shower, I pull it out again and log the workout. At night I log my bedtime weight.  Having it in a place where I see it often makes it easy for me to remember to use it.

3. Decide what you want to keep a record of.  My log entries have evolved over time. These days I keep track of: The date, morning weight, day of menstrual cycle, any illnesses, injuries, workouts and how they went (weather, gear, who I went with, what pace, distance, the average heart rate, max heart rate and best pace for the day were, the elevation gain, how I fueled and hydrated, and weight after workout to determine dehydration) bedtime weight and on days where I really have a lot to express — I use it like a diary and just write out my private thoughts, hopes, dreams and feelings.  My log books are private. I don’t share them with anyone. I’ve teased my husband that “If I should die before I wake, throw my journal in the lake!”  Don’t be afraid to bare your soul to your log book. It’s really rather soul-cleansing to do so.

3. Occasionally document bigger things! I always write down race times, my splits (which are fun to refer to later, side-by-side when I race the same race the following year), and about every six months or so, I take measurements of my full body and note them in the log. I’ve been doing this since 2008 and it’s really motivating to go back and see how much fitter I am than when I began. I highly recommend keeping a similar set of data if you are just starting out, are on a weight loss journey (the changes in numbers will astound you later on, I promise!) or for those who just enjoy keeping good records of your fitness level. When I do full body measurements I usually record: My current weight, the “fat percentage” on my at-home scale, then I use a soft tape measure and check and note the measurements for: neck, bicep, wrist, bust, rib cage, waist, belly, hips, upper thigh, lower thigh, calf and ankle.

4. Write down your goals! A log book is a great place to DREAM BIG! You can then refer to that list throughout the year, to make sure you are working towards those goals!

I believe using my logs as a tool in my training has helped me to keep from over-training, to help me ramp up when I needed to push harder, to give me info that an injury seems to be right around the corner so I should make adjustments and helped further motivate me to stay on track with my training in order to reach my long-term goals! I hope that others will find it a very helpful tool as well!

Here are some sneak peeks into my top secret pictures of my personal stash of log books to give you an idea of how to set one up as well. You will now all be privy to why my 3rd grade teacher gave me a “D” in handwriting as well.  Ha!

P.S. I’m amending this write-up to mention that, I do, in fact use more modern, technical ways to document my training as well, since many people will prefer to use those methods in their own lives. I have used www.garminconnect.com since I got my first Garmin in November of 2008 and thoroughly appreciate the data it saves for me and allows me to examine and learn from. I also adore www.dailymile.com for the great motivation from fellow athletes!  So, no matter how you record your journey (or if you’re like me and you use a whole ton of different methods since you can get something unique from each of them), I do encourage you to start keeping track of what you’re doing! It’s a great tool no matter how you go about it!!!!!

01/3/12

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Do you ever feel the need for reassurance that you’re good enough? It’s certainly an area that I struggle with!  They say that running is 90% mental and only 10% physical. So, no matter how many repeats you do, how many uber miles you rack up on your long runs, how often you hit the trails or the roads — ultimately, it’s what’s going on inside your mind that will determine your success or failure!

This past weekend, I was faced with a couple of questions I had about myself. #1 – Could I run fifty miles without a pacer (since both times I’ve done fifty miles this year, my good friend, Ryan was by my side to get me across the finish line.) And, #2 – Did I have it in me to run a fifty faster than 11 hours (the time that the Western States 100 Miler requires to qualify for an entry into their lottery.)  Now, the first one was important to me since I’m training for my first 100 mile race that’s coming up in about 12 weeks.  At this point, I have not asked anyone to help pace me and even if I’m lucky enough to sweet talk someone into that role, I’d still need to run the first 50 miles solo, so this question was a valid one. The second one was just something I was curious about. I have no plans to try and enter the Western States Lottery next year even if I was running a 100 mile race that was considered a qualifier (the Buffalo Run 100 miler is NOT one.) But, since this elusive sub 11 hour time limit is sort of the equivalent of earning a Boston Qualifying time in a marathon — it intrigued me and I wanted to know how close I could get to it.

So, being the sort of determined, do-or-die girl I am, I up and decided that I was going to run 50 miles solo on the trails on December 30th to answer both of those questions about myself.  Could I do it? I figured the 50 solo had a high probability of success since my training has been going well and I had finished two 50 mile distances earlier in the year. The second goal I knew was a long-shot since the weather forecast predicted rain and possible high winds (and I knew the trails were already muddy from the rains earlier in the week) and I wouldn’t have any other runners or the push of a time cut off to make me really run a race-pace effort on my own.  Still, I figured, it would be kind of fun to see how close I could get.

So, with these two goals in mind, I headed out from my home at 5:20 am on Friday, December 30th to the nearby Pole Cat trail – a nice little 6 miler in the hills with about 782 feet of elevation gain per loop (for a total of 6,253 feet of gain for the entire 50 miles.) My plan was to run it 8 x, then do 2 more miles in the parking lot for a total of 50 miles. I’d loaded up my car with everything I would need to self-support my effort. I had a full Nathan pack with 60 oz of water, a few peanut butter sandwiches, Cheetos, Ruffles, trail mix, a ham, turkey and cheddar and swiss Lunchable, peanut butter-filled pretzels, a Sour Apple Power Aid, several Mint Chocolate GUs, some bananas and some Cherry Coke and Mountain Dew as well as a few S Caps and Ibuprofin. I had also packed a duffle bag with several clothing options after studying the weather that was expected for the day. I had a windbreaker, two long sleeved shirts, a short sleeved shirt, two pairs of gloves, an extra pair of tights and underwear (you can never be too prepared), a knit hat, a ball cap, and an extra pair of shoes and socks.  I also had Body Glide, sports tape and my Mp3 player and a head lamp and a Nathan Quickdraw 22 oz handheld water bottle.  I was ready!

On my hand, I had written “Do or not do. There is no try.” – a Yoda quote my pal, Dennis shared with me last year that I felt would keep me in a good mental place if I got discouraged out there. I gave that message one last long look and then was ready to get going.

I drove to the trail head in the dark, enjoying the solitude of the early morning hour under the stars and the velvety black sky.  I climbed out of my car, put on the Nathan pack, the headlamp, started the Garmin and headed out for my first loop! It was lightly raining, a bit windy and sort of chilly out. The city lights twinkled and glowed against the pitch-black darkness below me as I ran in the dark.  Though, my legs had felt rested and ready before I started, once I began my epic journey, I started to feel rather fatigued. Very quickly, I realized it was due to the fact I had not trained with such a full Nathan vest in several weeks. I’d gotten in the habit of using my handheld bottle and my back and shoulders were no longer used to packing so much weight.

I kept a sharp eye on my heart rate the first loop, feeling confident that reining it in on the first loop would benefit me later on since I’d have been conserving my energy for the long journey ahead. I walked quite a lot of this loop, especially on the uphills to keep my heart rate under the 168 max I’d determined (my heart rate often hits over 200 on the climbs even when I’m just power hiking them if I do so forcefully.)  Though, it was a new experience to be totally alone in the dark on this particular trail, I did not feel any fear whatsoever. I felt at peace, purposeful and excited!

After the first loop, I traded the Nathan for my handheld and dropped off my jacket, gloves and headlamp and picked up my mp3 player.  I had quite a selection of songs on there. A whole range of genres from country bluegrass, to rock and roll and pop! Lady Gaga, The Beach Boys, Taylor Swift, Queen, Alabama and Shania Twain got me through many miles and kept me feeling positive and relaxed for the journey.

For some of the run, I did turn off the music and just tuned into the sounds of nature all around me. I loved the twitter of little birds, the soft pitter patter of the raindrops as they gently fell from the sky, the whoosh of the wind as it blew past my face, and the smacking sound of the sticky mud as it sucked on my shoes as the trails got muddier and muddier throughout the day.

When my friend, Frank, showed up about mile 32 or so, right in the middle of our conversation as we ran along, we spotted several deer on the ridge not more than 30 feet from us! They moved, gracefully, quietly away from us and we both just grinned at the perfect trail moment! That’s one of the things I never stop falling in love with! Seeing wild animals in their natural habitat, running freely, makes every run that much sweeter!

It was fun when my friend, April, also showed up to run just a bit with us. The conversation was great and I could hardly believe I’d gone over 42 miles by the time they’d both said goodbye and headed on their ways. Having my husband and five kids waiting in the parking lot after that loop also meant a lot to me! Having the encouragement and support of your family when you’re on a personal mission really does make you feel pretty loved and looked after! The yummy chicken noodle soup they gave to me made it even better!

In the final solo loop, I encountered a storm unlike any other I’ve experienced in the last 3 1/2 years as a runner! As I was making my way up the mountain, I stared in awe at the beautiful pink and gray skies as night was falling. I noticed some thick, dark clouds in the distance and as I made my way along the ridgeline, was mesmerized by the lightening  flashes I started to see in the distance.  It was breathtaking!  Then, just moments later, the storm was right on top of me! Winds at least 50 mph knocking me to the ground as I tried to keep moving forward, a fierce, relentless hailstorm, pounding at my face and body, covering me in an instant in white, lightening all around.  It was so harsh, I was forced to get down by a bush and cover my hands over my face to keep it from being beat up by the sharp, icy hail, that cut into my skin like a thousand tiny knives.  I stayed in that protective position for several minutes, knowing the worst of the storm wouldn’t last very long. As soon as I was able to, I got up from the ground and started pushing forward, through the winds, the torrential rain and repeating to myself over and over, “Keep moving forward! Get OFF this mountain!” Knowing my five young children and husband were down below, likely worried sick, helped me dig deeper than I’ve ever dug before and find strength and speed that I didn’t even realize I had as I splashed through the trail that had suddenly become a moving river and just splosh sploshed my way back towards the final miles that would reunite me with my loved ones. Every footfall was like stepping into an icy, river and the water went up to my ankles, but I pressed on! I was shivering and cold but determined and never wavered! When I got to the last mile, I picked up the pace and when at last, I could make out the parking lot in the dark, I started to sprint straight towards my husband’s dark figure, waiting there to hold me and comfort me.

The worst of the storm had passed by the time I reached my family.  My children surrounded me with hugs and praises, then joined me as I made the final loops around the parking lot to reach my fifty mile destination! It couldn’t have been any more perfect than to have those who love me the most in this life join me for this special moment! When the Garmin showed it was nearly time to finish, we all sprinted together until the Garmin beeped the good news that the final mile had been completed!  Whew! It was such a sweet relief to hit that stop button and feel the pride wash over me for accomplishing another huge goal in my training! I couldn’t stop smiling and my husband said, “Looks like someone is ready to run her first 100 mile race to me!” I couldn’t agree more! I’m READY!

For the Geek in me, who loves to play with the data I get from the Garmin after one of these types of runs, basically, here’s how it went:

Loop 1 (including a 5-7 min stop at the car for aid after the loop, plus two bathroom breaks) – 1:35

Loop 2 (including the 5-7 min aid station stop for mp3 and to drop off head lamp and jacket/gloves and fill up a hand bottle and one bathroom stop) – 1:27

Loop 3 (including aid station stop and one clothing change- and a change of the right sock since the wool one was rubbing funny on my right foot and starting a blister.) – 1:24

Loop 4 (including aid station stop that was also my lunch break so it was a bit longer.) – 1:28

Loop 5 (including aid station stop) – 1:17

Loop 6 (including aid station stop and finding my friend, Frank on the trail to run a half loop with. We also bumped into my friend, April along here, so I had two friends along. Forgot to eat/drink as much here and picked up the running pace with the chatter. Aid station stop was also longer since two friends had stopped by – one had left a little snack to perk me up (Thank you, Randy!) and my good friend, Ryan had left a note of encouragement on my car (Thank you, Ryan!) – 1:18

Loop 7 – Said goodbye to Frank who had to head back to work and ended up walking nearly the entire loop with my buddy, April as we talked. I don’t think either of us realized the conversation was so enthralling we forgot to run nearly the entire time! My husband and five kids were also here by the end of this loop, so we stopped to enjoy soup, snacks and hugs and take a couple photos. – 2:05

Loop 8 – (Starting to get dark, winds picking up, grabbed headlamp and windbreaker and headed back alone into the hills. Insane storm with blinding, sharp, hail, lightening, downpours of rain came as I was on this loop. So bad, I had to crouch down and cover my head for the worst of it since I could not see and the winds were knocking me back to my knees each time I’d try to stand up. Crouched for somewhere between 5-9 minutes, then ran like a crazy lady through the mud, puddles, dark and stormy night to get back to my family worrying and waiting in the parking lot.) 1:32

Last mile and a half (turned out each earlier loop had a little bit more than 6 miles, so it added up over the course of the 8 loops and left just 1 1/2 miles at the end.) – 30 min.

Finished the 50 miles with my three older kids (ages 12, 11 and 9) and my husband, as they walked loops with me in the freezing, cold, gravel parking lot, over and over. Sprinted to the final “finish!” — Total time: 12:50  (definitely not the 11 hours I had hoped, though the Garmin says my “moving time” was in fact 11:20, so, on less muddy trails, with less locking/unlocking my car and more help with aid and a bit of urgency of a race, I think it’s a possibility I could hit the elusive sub 11 hour 50 miler on the right course. 🙂  In my first 50 miler, my time was 13:57 with less than 5,000 of gain. In my second one, my IT band went to heck and I was forced to limp the last 36 miles with a total of 10,000 of gain and that was completed in 22:47, so this new time of 12:50 with an elevation gain of 6,256 feet was really a huge PR for me by over an hour on my best time!!!  And, I did this one without a designated pacer! I didn’t even bump into my first pal until after 32 miles and when asked how I was doing I had replied, “I’m still in the happy zone!” And had felt really great!

I feel like I practiced my hydration, electrolyte intake and fueling and did pretty well on that (other than the two loops with my pals where I got distracted and had a slight loss of energy, which was easily remedied once I got some food/drink into me at the next aid stop.)  I found that holding back the first mile was a smart strategy and I felt strong right up until the final mile (and said to my husband, “I feel like I could still run another 50 miles!”) I found that I ran my best when listening to my mp3 player and will use that in my 100 as a way to keep me moving forward with a positive mental attitude.  The song that spoke to me most that day was Natasha Bedingfield’s song “Wild Horses”   I felt like a wild, stallion, free and happy, as I ran in the mud and the rain, the whole trail to myself and my thoughts.

Back in June, when I ran my first 50 miler, my husband took a little video of my buddy (and pacer) Ryan and I, asking how we felt after doing 50.  This was Ryan’s 3rd 50 in only a few short weeks and it was my first. Our answers are pretty amusing!


When I finished up the run, got the kids loaded back into the Suburban and started to drive us all home, I had one resounding thought in my head “Yes! I AM good enough!!” Sometimes I think we need to put ourselves to the test and see what we’re made of. The praise from friends and loved ones is meaningful and important – but what is paramount is how you see yourself! The only opinion of you that really matters at the end of the day is your own! So, be your biggest fan! Believe in yourself! Hold that head up high and get out there and give it all you’ve got in the quest for your big dreams! You can do it! I believe in you!!!!!

I will leave you with one of my all-time favorite quotes for those days when you start to wonder if you’re “good enough.”

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who are we to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so other people won’t feel insecure around you… And as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

Marianne Williamson

(This was shared again with me by my very good friend, Ryan today when I expressed some of my self-doubts to him on our morning trail run and I really felt it was exactly what I needed to hear and thought it was worth sharing with all of you as well!) Thank you, Ryan for reminding me to hold my head up high, to dream big and to never doubt myself!