My Own Solo 50k

I got lost last week on a trail run with my friends. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been lost on a run, just the first time I got lost when I didn’t have anyone with me. ¬†The fact that I didn’t know how to navigate myself back to my pals bothered me all week. I told my husband that I needed to get out there on the exact same route and run the whole thing alone just to prove to myself that I could handle trail running and myself out there. ūüôā ¬†I’ve never done a single trail run solo. ¬†Today was my first plunge into that experience and being me, I jumped in with both feet and made it a 50k!

It was foggy and cool when I started running at 6:11 this morning. I ran through the Boise foothills and enjoyed the wildflowers in all their glory. It was like a rainbow of yellow, purple, white and an occasional splash of pink! The birds were out in full chorus and they greeted me as I went along, finding my way on the trail. I did not bring my camera this time. I was on a mission to improve my overall pace in preparation for Big Horn 50 miler in four weeks.  Leaving the camera at home did help with that, although I did take a million mental snapshots!

Turns out, it wasn’t a fluke that I got left last week. I really do just suck at uphill!!! The Boise foothills are loaded with steep grades climbs and right from the get go, it’s up, up, up! I decided to focus on my heart rate and do what I could – as well as I could for the duration. ¬†The strategy worked! Even though I walked/hiked nearly every single uphill I encountered, my strengths at the flat and downhill evened things out fine. ¬†I ate well, used nature’s bathroom regularly (too regularly darn it. I wish sometimes that I had a bladder of steel instead of such a¬†wimpy¬†one that demands to be emptied nearly 3 times an hour! Ugh!)

I did have some odd encounters on my solo run. ¬†Turns out the trail I was repeating is open to vehicles. ¬†It was a creepy feeling when a truck with two young guys leering at me drove by slowly. We were miles from anyone. It kind of frightened me. ¬†I also found two different tents set up out in the middle of nowhere. ¬†One had 8 horses tied up outside. The other had a big¬†Labrador¬†dog. ¬†In all cases, the people were likely not going to do me any harm, but it did make me rethink my original plan of running this loop of 15 miles twice. ¬†I decided, instead to drive the 5 miles to the usual trial heads I like to visit with my friends and get 16+ miles done there. ¬†So, that’s what I did!

I had such a nice second run, too! I’d have to say it was my favorite ¬†of the two. I ran up every mountain I could find. I didn’t get lost and I loved the single track trail. I also encountered a zillion cyclists, runners and dog walkers, so didn’t worry one tiny bit about being afraid. ¬†The higher I climbed, though, the less I saw anyone. It was pretty cool being wayyyyyy up above the city, sitting on a huge rock munching a salted potato at lunchtime, while looking out over the city spread out way far below.

I saw lots of wildlife today! I saw so many different birds – tiny blue ones, yellow ones, hawks, sparrows, quails – just all sorts of them! I had a blue-gray snake surprise me on the path today. He was flicking his tongue and I leaped over him. I saw the tiniest chipmunk baby! It couldn’t have been more than 3 inches tall, but it was a fast climber!

Though the first part of my run was really chilly, foggy and overcast, as the hours went by in my second run, it got bright and sunny and HOT! I ran out of water about 4 miles from the end. I had to slow my pace to a walk to make sure I’d be fine with waiting to get water and not overheat. I felt bubbly and strong right to the end. I made small talk with the people I passed on the path (always of course mentioning that I was on the tail end of a 31 mile run! haha!)

I listened to music for part of this run. That was a rare treat! It was SO MUCH FUN! When I reached the tops of the mountains, I spun in a circle like Maria in the Sound of Music! It looks a lot like that scene when you’re up high in the foothills — just green, green, mountains as far as the eye can see. I also stopped to dance for Y-M-C-A and Whole Lotta Shaking Going On. ¬†I felt happy. I was having a ball. I felt like ME!

Just about 30 miles in, I passed some of the only shade I saw all day and a little bubbling stream. It was so lovely and inviting. I couldn’t help but sit right down, take off my shoes and socks and cool my feet. Ahhhhhhh. I also sneaked out the camera and took a few photos of my happy moment.

I really had a great time. I worked hard out there, accomplished what I set to do and finished with the feeling I could have gone on another 20 miles (which is good since Big Horn will require that!) ¬†I will definitely have to schedule more “solo” runs in the future. Turns out, it’s pretty wonderful to just be alone, to be the boss of where to turn and what speed to go and how long to stare at the pretty flowers. ūüôā

Stats: 31.3 miles. 8 hours 10 min 32 seconds. Ave pace: 15:40. Elevation Gain: 6,388 feet (GO ME!) ¬†Average HR: 153 (This is my goal range for Big Horn. It was just the right amount of push without overdoing it so I could go on and on and on….). ¬†Ave moving pace: 14:15. Moving time: 7:26:07.


Jogging With Jr to the top of my Nemesis

My 10 year old son, Wayne Jr volunteered at my race on Saturday. He stood at the finish line cheering, handing out cold water bottles and giving the racers their medals. He saw the determination, the looks of accomplishment and pride and the joy on their faces. He told me today he wants to be a marathoner one day, too. That made me so happy.

Jr joined me last Tuesday for a 3 mile easy run and he joined me and his Daddy yesterday for a 3 mile jaunt to the grocery store and back. This morning when he saw me getting on my running shoes, he begged to come along again. Of course I said yes. This time I took him to the nearest hill to my house – the one I refer to as my Nemesis. ¬†It’s really less than 90 feet in climb, but it feels pretty challenging when you’re running it. ¬†Jr huffed and puffed, but he made it to the top and then back down again. ¬†Turns out, I’m not the only one in this family who adores downhill running. ¬†I heard him saying, “Weeeeee.. this is FUN, Mama!!!” ¬†The wind was blowing, which felt heavenly on this warm spring day. ¬†There was the scent of cherry blossoms and lilacs in the air, the birds were singing and the sky was blue. ¬†Having my little buddy along for the journey made it all that much sweeter.

Stats: 3.52 Pace: 13:55 Time: 48:56 Average Heart rate: 141  Elevation Gain: 90 ft. Best pace: 6:32 (sure do love those downhills!)


Training to Race or Racing to Train

Ea-sy Pea-sy. Nice and Chee-sy. Ea-sy Pea-sy. Nice and Chee-sy. This was my mantra today. After doing two tough 15 milers in the mountains (with a total elevation gain of about 6,000 ft between the two) within 3 days of each other this past week, I was expecting to be pretty sore. ¬†Surprisingly, I feel fairly spry! ¬†I do have a little soreness in my quads and hamstrings, but not too much. ¬†I think the biggest lesson I learned about doing two 5 hour, long climbs so close together, is that by keeping my heart rate fairly low on each of them, fueling good and not overdoing it, I have recovered very quickly. ¬†That was the goal! Well, one of them. ¬†With Big Horn 50 miler only 7 weeks away, I’m trying to accomplish a great deal in training in a short time, without overtaxing my body or pushing myself into an injury. ¬†I think this current method is exactly what I need right now — gentle pace, long distances, lots of time on my feet and plenty of practice on the climbs and descents.

Today was the first chance I had to get in a recovery run. The marathon and half that I’m directing is happening this Saturday, so my husband and I have been in “GO” mode the past few days as we finalize details of the race. It’s pretty thrilling to see an idea that I had come to life (and a little scary, too!) ¬†The medals and shirts are ordered, the race bibs are getting their timing chips applied today, we’re finalizing the menu for the after-race party and ready to start buying some of the supplies and food and I’m feeling ready to show up at the starting line in my tutu and sing in front of a crowd for the first time in many years when I do the National Anthem. I have jitters! I’m excited! I’m terrified! I can’t wait!

Today, I really wanted to focus on keeping my heart rate in the “easy” zone for full recovery. ¬†That was tough! I always get a heart rate spike when I start running. It’s usually why I run so slow the first mile. I think it’s my body adjusting to movement after not running for a day or so. Whatever it is, today I kept seeing numbers like 174 in the first half mile, despite a very snail-like 13 min pace! (My max, by the way, is some number over 200. Not sure what it is, since I haven’t done any proper testing and just use the numbers the Garmin has actually recorded on workouts thus far. 200 is that number at the moment, though I didn’t feel I’d given my all and probably had another gear or two left when I did that. I’d imagine my top is about 210.) Anyways… seeing 174 when I was aiming for something closer to 140-145 wasn’t good, so I forced myself to slow down and then slow down again until I was practically running in slow-motion. ¬†Even, then my numbers weren’t making sense, so I walked. That’s when they quickly returned to about 120-130 and I was able to pick things up gently again until I reached the target zone.

I felt pretty good. The sun was shining, there were beautiful tulips and daffodils dotting my neighbor’s yards to make me smile. But… it really was a struggle to run at an actual recovery pace. This might sound silly, but I find it much easier to run a mountain, long run or a speedwork session than a recovery run. ¬†I like the challenge of pushing myself and holding back is harder – at least mentally, for me. But.. I know that my body really needs these sessions at times, so I had to repeat to myself, “You are training to race not racing to train.” many times to keep it in check. Turns out, that meant, walking a bunch. I didn’t want to. I felt fine and a little silly walking when I wanted to run faster, but I did it and I’m glad. ¬†Learning to control your impulses and listen to the wisdom inside your head of others who’ve shared good advice is a hard at times but can be the difference between flaming fast and then fading in a race (or along a training path to a bigger goal) or improving gradually, getting stronger, building up the muscles and the mind and the legs until race day, when you’re chomping at the bit and ready to roll – and do what you came to do.

Now, Big Horn 50 is a different kind of beast than I’ve ever ridden. ¬†It’s muddy, the elevation at the start is higher than I’ve ever been in my life (I live at 2500, train up to about 5,000 at times, and the race starts at over 9,000!!), there are creek crossings, steep downhills (almost 11,000 of elevation loss in the race and only 6,000 + of climb) and – I did mention it’s 50 miles, right?!! FIFTY MILES! Have I lost my mind?! Mmmm… I’ll take a raincheck on that question and let you know when I get back from the race. ūüėČ ¬†The longest run I’ve ever done is the Orcas Island 50k, which turned out to be a total distance of 32.67 miles with 8,000 of climb and loss. ¬†That took me 9 hours and 40 minutes. ¬†I have a 15 hour cut off for Big Horn to run 52.65 miles. ¬†That cut off scares me more than the distance!

So, I’ve got a couple of big challenges in front of me right now: Directing my first race at the Lake Lowell Marathon and Half Marathon this upcoming Saturday and running my first 50 mile trail race at Big Horn on June 18th! ¬†Time to think positive and give it all I’ve got for both!

Stats: 4.52 miles. 13:09 pace. 59:28 total time. 31 ft elevation gain ( ha ha ha – super flat). Average HR: 144. Recovery Run. Felt: Eager to go faster and further!!!!!


I’ve Been a Runner for 3 years now!

It’s May! This is my running anniversary month. 3 years ago, I hadn’t exercised for more than a decade. I was overweight and unhappy. I decided to buy myself a pair of running shoes as my Mother’s Day gift, then printed out the Couch to 5k program and started very slowly running/walking 3 days a week. My dream was to run a marathon by the time I was 40. I’m 38 now. I’ve ran 3 marathons, 2 ultra marathons and many other shorter races. I’m training for my first 50 miler. It’s pretty thrilling to see that big changes can happen if you just try! ūüôā Happy May Day!

I tended to carry a lot of my extra weight right in my stomach and upper body. I think my “muffin top” shows in this photo, even though I’m wearing a loose shirt. After five babies, I just could not seem to get my body back. I thought I was destined to be a size 14 forever.

Running up my third marathon in October – healthier and so much happier!


No Steam in the Engine

You ever have those days where despite the weather being perfect, you just don’t want to run? That’s me today. It took all sorts of willpower just to get out the door today. I felt tired. A bit sore still from my tough half marathon on Saturday. And, the big one – still incredibly out of shape and sluggish. The scale has become my enemy again – I’m up 5 lbs this year from where I was at the same month of last year. Ugh! It’s funny, there have been days where I didn’t consider it a big deal to run 20+ miles with friends, and yet there are days like today, where 4.5 miles feels like an eternity.

The phrase I repeated to myself over and over today was, “Miles not minutes.” I also decided when I set out today, to keep my eye on my heart rate – making an effort to keep it at the low end of “easy” for my particular heart rate range, which I created using my max heart rate and then doing the calculations for the various stages to focus on: Easy, Anaerobic Threshold and Vo2 Max. My as-of-yet measured max is about 196. I think when I do speedwork again, I’ll likely see something over 200 – but it’s in the ballpark. So, my easy range is 136-159 (60 – 75% of max), my anaerobic threshold is 174-181 (85 – 90 % of max) and my Vo2 max is 181-196). Most of my runs, since I started measuring my heart rate a couple of months ago, are in the 155-165 range. That seems to be a really comfy zone for me. I’m still figuring all of this out and likely am misunderstanding at least some parts of it. That’s ok. Trial and error seems to be my method. ūüôā Today, I focused on keeping my average heart rate around 135. It meant lots of walking and painfully slow jogging, but it seemed like a good idea — a chance for my body to keep recovering from this weekend’s race.

I printed up two new training plans in the middle of the night when insomnia was ruling my sleep schedule. One is a Smart Coach plan, that I know will help me get back into the shape I was in last Fall and help me improve my speed at races. The second one, which has huge red text, is titled, “50-Miler Training Plan.” I’m trying to decide which one is really the one for me. I feel kind of goal-less at the moment. A ship without a course. Mentally, I need a race – something to strive for to give me my drive back. I had hoped to work on breaking 4 hours at the marathon this year. I’m really not feeling confident that it’s the right goal for me right now — maybe never. Not sure. It seemed possible last year, but I’m just not sure at the moment I can see it happening – and I don’t even have a race in mind to attempt it. Most of my pals are ultra runners. Many have already knocked out a 100 mile race this year. They amaze and surprise me with their abilities. Secretly, I want to be like them too… eventually. I’ve knocked out two 50ks now in the last year. Is it time to make the leap to the next level – 50 miler? I’m feeling the pull. I’m considering it. I think I’ll toy with it for another couple weeks and see what I decide.

Stats: 4.53 miles. 13:26 pace. 1:00 time. Felt: Fatigued, Blah. Average Heart rate: 135.


Gallowaying Into the Wind

I’ve gained 4 lbs this past month while recovering from the ankle sprain that’s left me unable to run for several weeks. My pants are tighter. ¬†It’s amazing how quickly extra weight can pile back on when you’re not active. Having spent several years of my life as an overweight Mom before becoming a runner three years ago, it’s a feeling I am all-to-familiar with and wish to avoid ever truly experiencing again. ¬†Though my ankle is not healed entirely, it doesn’t seem to bother it to run, so after watching the scale rise to numbers I hadn’t seen in a couple of years, I have been more-than-eager to start building my mileage base back up to normal so I can watch those numbers go back down instead of up.

Today I woke to 35 degrees, 15 mph winds and gray skies. Though it was chilly out, I couldn’t wait to get my run in! I always put my Garmin watch on over my long-sleeved shirt before heading outside to test the weather. That sometimes becomes an issue if I underestimated the wind or cold since my left hand then is left exposed to the elements, while my right hand gets to tuck back into my long-sleeved tech shirt or jacket, getting cozy. This was one of those days. The wind was bitter against my skin and I regretted not bringing along my gloves. I realize I could solve the whole problem by just stopping and unstrapping the watch and fixing it – but once I get running, I hate to come to a complete stop for almost anything, so I’m stubborn that way and suffer because of it.

I felt pretty strong starting out and realized I needed to pull back if I was going to comfortably run the entire loop. So, I decided to use the Galloway method today to keep things in check as I carefully build my base mileage and pace back up to my pre-injury levels again. I walked a full minute after each mile and that seemed a really good balance to make me slow down a bit and take it easy.

Stats: 4.36 miles. Ave pace: 10:04. Time: 43:52. Ave HR: 165. Max HR: 181.