Please excuse my ‘resting runner face’ – it is a rest day. 

  Another weekend complete filled with outdoor fun and running. Saturday’s morning run was a scheduled easy 5 that somehow turned out to be rough for me and my run partner. We just weren’t feeling it, but we got it done with a bit of walking and a lot of laughing. Saturday afternoon went far better though, with a hike and trail run. I have really enjoyed getting out in the woods especially this day, since my Sweet Babboo came with me. Ella has enjoyed the trail time as well and is turning into quite the trail whippet!

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Saturday: A beautiful, balmy mid-30’s. Ella is the pink dot. Whippets don’t have a lot of fat so they need coats in the winter.

Sunday I was on my own again so I got to sleep in. When I finally rolled out of bed it was snowing! Yesterday it was just me and the geese.

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Sunday: A less balmy 16 degrees. The geese didn’t seem to mind.

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8.65 miles done and all smiles- plus the sun finally came out!
This run went a lot better since I was able to sleep in and get extra rest. Rest and recovery have always been my biggest challenge and this is at the forefront of my mind since classes start again tomorrow. I have really enjoyed my winter break, yet it never seems long enough. Just as I begin to almost feel like a “normal” person, the chaos begins again. It can be difficult to balance working full time, being a university student taking 6-9 hours, plus running, relationships etc…. It is sometimes a challenge to fit it all in a day.

Well meaning friends (non-runners), have suggested before that maybe I should cut back on my running, that I do too much. I admit that may be.  Running however, is actually the glue that holds it together and makes it all possible. It clears my head and brings focus to my day. While I contemplate the semester starting and my long runs getting ever longer, I know this year will be different. I am confident in my training plan. I am using the 50 mile race plan from the book by Krissy Moehl’s book Running Your First Ultra, which I will review as the months go by. I have also grown as a runner. In the past, I have been too rigid in my need to run regardless of what my body might be telling me. Or I am happily agreeing to extra miles with friends. This year I am not only embracing my rest and recovery days, I am fiercely guarding them as I do my running days. I am honoring my body’s need to recover in direct proportion to the gratitude I have for the running and movement it performs.  Please, do not take offense to my ‘resting runner face’ if you ask me to run with you on a scheduled rest day. The internal battle you see flicker across my face as I politely decline is all too real! I know you didn’t know it was a rest day and believe me I want to run! It is almost impossible for me to say no to a friendly, easy run. I plan this year however, to train harder and smarter so I can run those friendly, easy runs for many happy years to come. 

Happy running!! How do you balance it all?

 

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The 50 miler – Thanks for not asking why

12/31/15: “Congratulations! You are registered for the Mark Twain 100 – 50 miler. Do you want to share this news on Facebook?” I pause, looking at the big blue button and decide what the hell. The news was then quickly spread on Instagram and Twitter. It was so much easier to to spread the news across social media than it was to click the submit button that charged my card and confirmed my entry into this 50 mile endeavor. Plus, I have sat down several times to write about it and then walked away. Why?

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When I texted my run partner the news, I noted that I simultaneously wanted to smile and vomit. That sounds about right for running an ultra from everything I’ve ever read, seen or heard. As the congratulations came across the various media platforms, even though I hadn’t actually run 50 miles yet, surprisingly no one said I was crazy. Instead I had people volunteer for long runs and trails. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for the tremendous support I had. Thankfully though, no one asked me why…

I wasn’t worried about other runners asking me so much as the rest of the population.   Ask a runner why they run and you will get a blank look and then maybe a canned answer. If you get a canned answer, it is because they have fielded this question before and realized there is no one answer. I love running! That is the simplest answer for me and I think it is the obvious answer that everyone sees. Therefore, no one questioned my desire to run 50 miles- at least they didn’t to my face. The reasons why I love running are so intensely personal and varied, as they are with all runners. I could spend hours explaining why I run, the joy and peace it gives me, but there is no understanding it unless you yourself do it.

  • my meditation and spiritual time
  • health: both general and pain management for arthritis
  • helps with depression and anxiety from past traumas
  • friendship and community
  • dealing with everyday stress
  • discovering myself and becoming the best me possible

This is a short list of reasons in no particular order. These reasons listed today are not necessarily the same reasons as to why I started running to begin with. Even still, my reasons are not the same as yours and that’s okay. They don’t have to be. The emotions and feelings are still shared when the run is done and the finish line crossed. Because as you breathe and struggle next to me on the road or the trail,  I share your pain and struggle. I have been where you are and I will gladly come again. We can cheer each other, silently if need be. Even if I don’t look over as I pass you or you pass me, know I have acknowledged you. I have gratitude for you sharing in this with me, this thing I love.

As for why 50 miles? I could describe to you my decision making process that led me to this. In fact, I started a post to do just that.It was well thought out and discussed with my running partner. Or, I could tell you other reasons such as: it has always been something I wanted to do, that I love being outside, I’ve been wanting to start running trails, I want to get a trucker hat, etc. The reality is I do not have a satisfactory answer as to “Why?” Which was why it was so easy to blurt out a quick sound bite across social media, yet so difficult to actually write about. I know the reasons I give today will change and evolve over the next 9 months. This is part of the process of running, the growing that is involved, especially running that far. I am looking forward to this and writing about it.  The best, most honest answer I have today is I am curious. I want to dig deep inside of me, pull that out and take a hard look at it. I want to live. This answer I do not think will ever change and so I run.

Happy Running!!

Today I played

Today I played

We finally got our first good snow today. The weather forecast called for rain in the morning then turning to snow. Suddenly, all of my run partners were weather weenies and Friday became an impromptu long run morning. Except Friday didn’t work for me.  I stuck to my original plan of Saturday and became excited because, not only did I get to run in the snow this also meant I was able to sleep in! Now don’t get me wrong, none of my run partners are athletic slouches by any means! Their resumes include an Iron Man and national level dressage riding among other things. These ladies do not mess around, but for whatever reason I had the day to myself. With all the excitement of a child, I went to sleep Friday night anticipating the beauty of the next day.

It did not disappoint and I awoke this morning to beautiful, fresh snow. I quickly drank my coffee while answering texts from my run partners cheering me on and asking if I was out yet. Observing that there was already several inches of snow on the ground, I put on my trail shoes and headed out the door. It was a winter wonderland!

   

   


 

8.51 miles done and all smiles!
  

There are benefits to living in a smaller town. The pockets of quiet beauty were all around me. With soggy feet and a big smile, I ran taking it all in. I was a child again, playing in the magical kingdom of Narnia. You’re never too old to play or experience wonder. 

Happy running! 

I ran today for my sanity and the sake of all humanity.

After my race last Saturday, I took a planned break from running. The only other breaks I’ve ever had from running have been forced as the result of injuries. I’ve had a great and very successful year that I am proud of. I raced a lot this year and as a result, my body and mind needed this break. I was looking forward to it. Sleeping in, eating and relaxing what’s not to look forward to? The elites do it and even brag about getting “fat”. Add to that the chaos of the holidays, the timing seemed perfect. The original plan was to start again New Years eve, except PMS, holiday stress and general lack of running blues happened. So for the sake of my own sanity and those around me I had to modify that plan.

The first part of the week went well since I was still sore from my race. I enjoyed all sorts of articles about running, while thinking about my 2016 plans.

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What I was reading- Great book!
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This is what relaxing looks like! Zelda, a glass of wine, while reading about running my first ultra.

Running however, is my meditation and while swimming and biking help, they don’t compare. There is something about being outside in the quiet, surrounded by nature or just being with your best friend as you run. You and the road nothing else. It clears the head and centers the soul. It is magical.

Tuesday I started to get grumpy. “PMS and not running do not mix.” I text my run partner. To which she coyly answers, “You could always run a few easy with me in the morning…” She know me too well- knows my need to run. I ask about her run plans for the rest of the week and reply “Maybe Sunday”. Staying strong I again say, mostly to remind myself, how I really need this break. By Wednesday afternoon I was researching ‘taking a break from running’. A quick google search led me to some great articles assuring me planned breaks were much better than the unplanned injury kind and that on average they seemed to last 1-2 weeks. Some even suggested that it could help my performance such as this one from Runner’s World: http://www.runnersworld.com/running-tips/take-a-break-for-peak-performance. The RW article also suggested running a few times a week to help stay in shape. So this is what I based my modified plan on. A short run today and then 2-3 short runs next week that will include some pickups in the middle. This should round out 2015

I made it 6 days of no running at all and I am proud of my break. It was great and I will continue to enjoy sleeping in next week but, in a lot of ways it was really hard for me! Other than a peaceful, quiet 10 mile bike ride Christmas morning, biking to work, walking the dog, and taekwondo, I did rest. I only ran a little over 3 miles this morning and my legs and joints felt great! Mentally, I am recharged as well and excited about the upcoming year. It will be tough, but very fulfilling with great adventures. 2016 training will begin 1/4 with a few weeks of slow build up and then marathon training for April. Now that I know what to expect from a planned break, I will be sure incorporate and look forward to several key breaks in the coming year.

Happy Holidays and running!!!

I whistled up a pack of these demon dogs as if I were atop a horse headed out to a fox hunt, except I ran like I was the fox…

I whistled up a pack of these demon dogs as if I were atop a horse headed out to a fox hunt, except I ran like I was the fox…

The morning was crystal clear and quietly beautiful. The car was packed and I was filled with gratitude to be headed off to do what I love. I was about 20 miles down the highway into a 2 hour drive, when I realized I had left Lucy, my Garmin 305, on the charger at home. Well, that was a game changer…

I had decided last Tuesday evening I was going to go ahead and participate in The Run for the Ranch half marathon in Springfield MO on 12/19/15. The weather was supposed to be nice, mid 40’s, actually perfect for racing. I was excited. It would be my last race of the year and after that I was taking a week to 10 days off from running.

It is an unusual race, in that it is a loop of 3.275 miles. The half marathon was 4 loops, the marathon 8. There was also a timed 6 hour ultra where you complete as many loops as possible in the allotted time. I had several reasons for deciding to go:

  • I like to race
  • 10 am start time meant I didn’t have to get a hotel or wake up at 3 am to drive
  • I could practice pacing because the 4 loops divided it perfectly
  • It was a race I had always wanted to run
  • I could stop at the local running store and pick up a pair of trail shoes… (There isn’t a running store in my small town)

It was the ‘practice pacing’ that really sold me though. I had good luck in the half I ran in November using a “new to me” race strategy (See first blog post: 2016 Running or should I say endurance goals?). I wanted to practice that again with the no guess work, evenly divided 4 loops. So when I realized that Lucy was indeed home, nestled in her charger fully charged and ready to go, I was stunned.

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See? She was  right where I left her, ready to go, when I got home…

The main reason for going was to practice pacing- now what?!? I didn’t have time to turn around to get her and still make the race, so I drove on. My Sweet Babboo assured me everything would be okay and I agreed. It wasn’t what I had planned, but it would be interesting. I had hopes of a timer at every loop so I could mentally track my splits. If not, Sweet Babboo would wait for me and call out my time as I went around which is what ended up happening. (Honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without him!)

3.275 miles is a long time to be running blind. Too long to really make up time. I have to admit it was awful- mentally that is. The race itself was great, volunteers amazing and the post race, well I’ll get to that. But the loops…

“Demons are like obedient dogs; they come when they are called.”
Rémy de Gourmont

I went into it with a good, positive attitude. It is what it is, right? Plus it wasn’t  a big race for me, just practice. I love racing and all in all running is simply fun. Yet, I whistled up a pack of these demon dogs as if I were atop a horse headed out to a fox hunt, except I ran like I was the fox. I have raced a lot this year and I have a good idea about pace and what it feels like, but yesterday everything felt hard. When I finished the first loop and Sweet Babboo called my time of 28:01, one of the demon dogs nipped at my heal. That felt too hard to be an 8:33 pace and I still had 3 more loops to go…

Every athlete wants to quit at least once in a race. The greats are those that can muzzle the dogs and get them to sleep quietly by the fire while they work. I wanted to quit so many times yesterday. I felt alone as the hounds surrounded me. I ran blind and panicked, flailing. I yelled at them to back off and they retreated slightly as I picked up the pace. That was the plan, to try and run successively quicker loops. As I came around again, Sweet Babboo called out my time. I heard 28 again. I was shocked. I knew I had run a quicker loop than that. When I went back and looked, it was actually 26:06. I didn’t know that though and while I was somewhat crushed, I only had 2 more loops to run. So I ran and tried to pick it up some more.

The nice thing about running loop races is that after the first loop you always know where you are. This race though, did not have mile markers so there was a bit of guessing involved on my part. There was the aid station, the construction house and the ladies with the clapper hands wearing multicolored tutus. I have never been so happy to hear such an obnoxious noise ever. Those ladies meant the loop was over half complete. I loved those cheery, lovely ladies!! On loop 2, I had asked a gentleman running what pace we were at. I wouldn’t have bothered him except I noticed that he had just checked his watch. He said something about 8-8:30 is what he had been running at. We started to chat and he told me that 2 weeks ago he had qualified for Boston and was running this marathon for fun. He admitted that 2 weeks might be too soon to run another, but why not? He was kicking ass and I told him so. He caught up to me in loop 3 and kindly told me the pace, 7:40-8. For that moment, I wasn’t completely blind or alone and I was finally hitting a rhythm, but it hurt. “Are you going to drop the hammer on the final lap?” he asks. “Ha! That is the plan, but we will see.” I passed by Sweet Babboo, he yells “great job!” to which I respond “I am dying”, except this loop he didn’t call out a time. There was a slight error in the timing in that the lap button had gotten hit twice. It ended up to be about 27:18.

The 4th loop I was hurting. I wasn’t kidding when I said I was dying. My legs did not have much left. I wanted to “drop the hammer” I really did!! And I tried. I watched Boston guy stop off at the porta potty while I ran on. The hounds breathed around me, panting their hot breath on my legs. My hips screamed as I ran and the dogs said “walk, go ahead, no one would blame you…”. But I couldn’t, I wouldn’t. Don’t get me wrong, I have walked many times in races before, but not this day. This race was to be experienced fully in all of it’s watch less glory. I would not give up.

Boston guy caught up to me on the 4th lap. I was happy and disheartened to see him at the same time. Happy because, at this point a friendly face is always welcome and disheartened because, well, that meant I had slowed down too much. “I saw you go into the porta potty and you still caught up to me.” I deadpanned. He assured me I was doing great and it was almost done. I told him my legs were done and he tried to rally me some with talk of interval training. We chatted for a few more minutes more and then thanked each other for the company. He ran on and I was alone again, but this time the dogs were quiet. I was almost done.

I crossed the line at 1:49:39. Not my best time this year or ever, but the race was hard fought and won. All things considered I may be most proud of this race and I am glad I ran it. Yesterday I faced myself head on and took no crap. I could have ditched my original plan all together, but instead I still tried to practice pace. I learned that while I have a good feel for it, more practice is needed. I learned that Lucy may need to stay at home more often or at least have some sort of covering over her so I can’t read the numbers until the run is complete. Most importantly, I learned that all of the racing I did this year served it’s purpose. The demon dogs could run along side me all they wanted, they would not get me down. They were part of me and I them. Now I think, I will picture beagles frolicking in the fields and rolling in the sunshine. There is nothing scary about that.

*I highly recommend this race! The volunteers were fabulous and post race they gave you hot soup in the mugs pictured above. I promise you it was the best tasting chicken noodle soup ever!

Oh, and I did get those trails shoes – img_10232016 will be fun!

Running always shows you something even if it is simply the joy of being alive. Happy Running!!!

 

One winter I slept in my running tights and sport bra…

“Wearing only the weightless nylon shorts he slept in, he ambled stiffly to the dawn-lit window and stood momentarily, drowsily enjoying the pale orange-yellow glow that suffused the blackjack oaks outside his room… He did not like this early morning business, but the idea of forgoing it, even for one morning, never crossed his mind.” Once a Runner. John L. Parker, Jr.

If you have not read Once a Runner, you should. Especially if you are a runner, have ever run, or even thought of running. Seriously stop everything, get this book and read it. I have read it twice and will read it again whenever I need a quick dose of inspiration regarding running or even just life. It will jazz you up like no other. Unlike Quentin Cassidy though, I do think twice, sometimes 3-4 times, of forgoing my 4:30 am wake up call. I love running, I really do! Especially in the winter, when the roads are quiet and peaceful, but the bed is warm and inviting…So what is a girl to do?

Well for starters, I always hang up my running clothes so that I can find them quickly and without too much thought. My running clothes always have priority space over my regular clothes. This is perfectly normal, right? One winter, like Cassidy sleeping in his run shorts, I often slept in my running tights and sport bra. See, the thing that drives most athletes to constantly seek improvement is not what others think, but what you know and think about yourself. What you feel you are capable of doing and more importantly what you are afraid you cannot do, but are determined to tackle anyway. When my alarm went off, I was already mostly dressed to head out the door and this was very effective towards making that happen. Only once did I suffer myself the humiliation of taking off my running clothes without having actually run. Nobody else knew about it- but I knew. I’m not suggesting that you can never alter a training plan and miss a day. I’m just saying that for even those who are most passionate about their sport, sometimes just getting out the door can be a challenge.

Running partners also help tremendously with regards to accountability. Knowing someone is waiting for you in the predawn, sharing your special kind of crazy, is good incentive to get out the door. But what if your special someone at home doesn’t share your kind of crazy? My Sweet Babboo does not get up until 7 and in the past year I have tried several things so as not wake him while I head out for my morning run.

For a long time, after checking the weather, I would just set out my run clothes in the living room the night before. This worked out fairly well until the table started to get cluttered. The weather in Missouri is very unpredictable, except in the summer where hot and humid is guaranteed. Spring, Fall or Winter however, is a crap shoot. I ran a Snow Glo 5k this past Friday (12/11) in shorts and it was an evening run, so no sun. A week ago, I was in tights. In Missouri it can literally vary from tights to shorts from one morning to the next. So as you can imagine, the spot I had designated for my running clothes was getting out of control with rejected “just in case” long or short sleeve shirts, socks and shorts vs capris. We had decided to turn the spare bedroom into my study for school and with it came my very own running closet.

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You know you are a runner when: your run clothes have their own closet!

Let’s not forget the shoes: current shoes, retired shoes, recovery shoes, race shoes, different drop shoes…

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You will note that all seasons are represented and hanging ready to go. The table is no longer cluttered with various running clothes and I can make last minute changes to my gear without waking my Sweet Babboo. A happy home and win for all.

When you are driven, you will challenge yourself and find a way to set yourself up for success. Happy running!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

2016 Running or should I say endurance goals?

One of the many benefits of being a runner is the amazing beauty you get to see every morning. Usually though, all of the tough questions have been asked and serious conversations occur long before the sun comes up leaving you ready to fully receive the day. Except for when your running partner says this: “So, what are your running goals for next year?”…

My run goals for 2016? Wait, is it that time already? This is the same running partner that already has us doing a marathon in April and a century ride in June. So you can imagine my confusion when this question came up. I mean, isn’t that enough to accomplish in a year? I know why she asks this question though. She know me. She knows I want to get faster and that I love racing. She asks, because she wants to know what kind of crazy she is signing up for in the next year. Fair enough.

So for the last 4 days my brain has been rolling this around because, what are my goals anyway? I thought about this past year and my running, but first a little background. In December 2013, on Friday the 13th, I had surgery on my left ankle. A peroneus tendon repair and micro-fracture to the calcaneous to drain a bone bruise that was not healing on its own. A two for one surgery so to speak. The same amount of time off the doctor assured me. The problem was everyone underestimated the age of the tendon injury and rehab did not go as expected. 2014 was spent trying to get back on the road with some sort of consistency.

The tendon injury, it was finally realized, dated back to high school when I was in ballet. It was never a problem because I was overweight and inactive throughout my mid 20’s to early 30’s. Life happens and in my case events happened that led to depression and my weight gain (another later possible post). The injury did become an issue though, when I decided to take my life back through running. As I became more fit and focused on becoming a competitive masters runner- still working on that- the chain reaction of muscle imbalances and other issues from that injury became more glaringly apparent. My left foot does not always want to flex and follow through. For years it would simply plant itself flat as I ran, because I wasn’t getting the proper proprioceptive feedback. This led to various hip, hamstring, and low back issues. Issues I am still working through two years after the surgery. Apparently, 15+ years of patterns cannot be undone in a year.

My running life is now divided: pre and post surgery. In January 2015, I ran the Houston Chevron Marathon using a deferment from where I was entered to run 2014. Originally when I signed up for Houston, pre-surgery, it was to be run with Boston in mind. Post surgery, as the rehab and injury issues came to light, I ran to complete and for fun. Once Houston was done, I decided in 2015 to focus on the half marathon. I wanted to better my speed and endurance so I could return to a more successful and hopefully Boston or NYC qualifying marathon. That was my main overall goal. My specific goal was a little more ambitious: to lower my PR (pre-surgery) from 1:41:17 to under 1:40:00.

My goal race this year was in October, allowing time for base building and for the first time some speed work. I also entered a race series put on by the local multisport club. The series allowed me to use races for speed work and race practice. My goal race was horrible. Physically I struggled early on with GI issues and mentally I didn’t have my head in it. I had psyched myself out before the race weekend even happened, spending too much time in my own head. I came in at 1:47:55. The overall female, Heidi S., was 49 and came in at 1:25:15… Heidi doesn’t know it, but her amazing race time plus the fact that she is 8 years older than me, renewed my hope and determination after that dismal run.

Two days after my goal race I received an email from fleet feet with this blog post:

http://www.fleetfeetstlouis.com/news/racing-and-pacing-strategies

I was inspired after reading this and I ran another half marathon on November 7th. I ran it not with a time goal, but simply the goal of a better second half with a negative split. With this plan firmly planted into my stubborn brain, there was no more room left for self sabotage and it worked! Not only did I run a negative split, I came in at 1:47:07- faster than my goal race. The best part, it was a much more pleasurable run. Thanks Coach Tim Cary!

It is now November 28th, 2015 is coming quickly to an end and my PR goal hasn’t happened. I may try again in December, but I haven’t decided yet. So for 2016? I think my goals are the same as any runner: Run faster and avoid injury. I still want to drop my half time under 1:40 and Heidi is proof that I am not too old at 41 to have that dream. Again, pre-surgery my running goals were more sharply defined. Now, post surgery, I am just as determined as before, but I have also learned to be more flexible and listen to my body more. I still have the long term goal of being a competitive masters runner and there are plenty of examples that tell me this is also a possibility. So, 2016 will be a year of incorporating more cross training by exploring new things with the century ride (I am new to cycling- that’s another post) and continuing on my journey towards becoming a stronger, faster and more competitive masters runner. I have a lot of possibilities there for improvement. I look forward to pursuing this and researching different ideas. One being, the possibility of a coach to help concentrate my focus and training. Did I mention I work full time and also go to school? These things make planning even more challenging, but the rewards that much greater.