Sunday, April 27, 2014

Passing of time and a changed perspective...Hyner revisted

It has been a long while since I've had the time or desire to chronicle my running exploits.  Over the past months, I've dealt with injury, a hectic new job, the end of my marriage and the final stressful months of grad school...enough stress to suck the life out of anyone.  I'd like to say that I was able to handle all this with a minor effect on my running, but that would be a lie.

I went into Hyner knowing that my training was woefully less than what I'd hoped it would be.  Prior to yesterday, I'd run exactly two runs longer than 12 miles since October, when I was dealt a grade three stress fracture in my left foot.  Due to this injury, I ended up not running for about six weeks, but decided to hit the gym hard and do what I could to stay strong.  I used to weight train pretty regularly, but I've gotten out of the habit over the past few years...I have to think that rediscovering squats and dead-lifts again has had a huge impact on my ability to tackle some of the climbs that had previously led to lackluster results during races. Another change in my training has been doing some faster-paced lunchtime running with a new training partner that has seemed to have a huge effect on my ability to hold a faster pace for a longer duration.

In the weeks leading up to Hyner, I have had some major successes- taking 2nd female overall in a 10k, 4th female overall and a new PR in a 5k, and then placing at the Mt. Penn Mudfest last weekend.  I was certain this meant that the wheels would come off at Hyner, especially since I had flashbacks to the 10 mile death march I'd endured mid-race last year.

Saturday morning was cool but not uncomfortable.  I chose to start in shorts, a long-sleeved top with a short-sleeve top underneath, and gloves.  I was thrown a loop when I found out that we wouldn't have the luxury of drop bags this year, and I had to change my approach on the fly.  I was planning on starting out in my Soloman Speedcross shoes and then switch out for a well broken in pair of Brooks Glycerines for the final miles.  I decided to proceed with the Solomans and tossed a dry pair of Injinjis in my pack.

As the race was ready to begin, the race director asked for a moment of silence for a fallen runner that had passed away from a heart attack after a race since the last year.  She was about my age, and I did think about that at several points during the race...we never know if we get to run another day, and sometimes it's good to be reminded of that.
The first climb is daunting!

I started the race near the front and settled into a comfortable pace.  I knew I wanted to be in a good position as we hit Humble Hill, which is the climb to the abutment  where the hang gliders take off.  During the first climb, I realized that I was overdressed for the conditions and decided that I'd take off my long-sleeve at the top.  The climb was every bit as tough as I remember it being.  When I got to the top, I stepped off the trail and stripped off my outer layer.  I settled back in behind a woman maybe 10-15 years my senior.  After a few minutes, I knew I needed to pass her, so I called and passed.  She seemed pretty grouchy, but I paid no mind and pressed on.  I rounded Hyner View and arrived at the first aid station.  About a minute later, the woman I'd passed arrived and started bitching to a man that was waiting there for her about how awful her race was going.

Now, I admittedly get snarky sometimes when I'm racing, depending on how much stress I'm dealing with, or if I'm in a particularly dark place during a race.  I must've felt particularly snarky on this day, because I decided in my head that her name was "Bitchy McBitcherson" and it was my goal to make sure I beat her to the finish...I'm still not exactly sure why, but she nary stopped and took off down the trail with me hot on her heels.

The next section of the course is one of my favorites, as there are some long stretches of rocky, steep downhill.  It didn't take me long to overtake my target (making sure to use my best trail manners), and I never saw her again.  After a bit, the race course split off for the 50k loop, and I started a less steep but seemingly endless ascent.  This is where I noticed the strength training paying off.  I was able to pass a good number of people as we all hiked up this section.

At the top of the ascent was the aid station that I foolishly decided to skip last year.  The distance between this station and the next is the longest span on the entire course, and my skipping it last year was the reason for my death march during last year's race.  I made sure to fill up my pack and grabbed all sorts of food to stash in my pack, almost like a squirrel preparing for winter.

As I tackled the middle miles of the 50k course, I never hit a low.  The hollow that had been so painful was fun; I was reveling in the numerous creek crossings that punctuate this part of the race, and my feet seemed to be holding up with little protest.  I did realize at this point that I was still really warm, despite being down to just shorts and a short-sleeved tech tee, so I did something that I've never done in a race- I stripped down to just a sports bra.  Not too much longer after this, I hit the 19 mile aid station that I had lingered at for so long last year in an effort to recover.  This year was a quick stop and then I pressed onward.

As the 50k loop continued, I got to hammer down the section that had been the never-ending climb as I approached the spot where the 50k course rejoined the 25k course.  As I flew down the last little hill, I could see the 25k participants below, and several of them cheered me on as I joined their ranks.

The next few miles were pretty uneventful.  It is a blessing to be on trail with so many great people, as so many of the 25k runners and hikers would step off trail even before I had a chance to ask, cheering me on as I continued down the trail.  This continued until the final approach to SOB, where there was an interesting situation that I'm still not sure how I feel about...

A women was hiking with a boy about 9 or 10.  They had a whole line of us behind them, and she was trying to encourage him on as he was less than thrilled at that point.  I really wanted to pass, but I didn't want to be that asshole that passed the kid, so I stayed put.  None of the people ahead of me were making any move to pass, either.

As we hit SOB, the boy was in tears.  It broke my heart to see it.  I will say I have no idea about the events leading up to his hiking the 25k, but as a mother, I know that I wouldn't want one of my boys to tackle the course until they were mature (like late teens) enough to understand the ramifications of starting a race like this.

At the top of SOB, I grabbed a quick refill on my water and headed out for the finish.  The final section has another good bit of rocky downhill, and I had wings.  At one point, a photographer spotted me barreling down the hill and called out "she's flying" at which point I sang back "I love these downhills"...another man hiking just around the bend heard me and chuckled that I was crazy as I continued past him.

I hit the road for the final approach and was still running strong, passing another five or six people before the final hill to the finish.  I passed two more women on the hill and crossed the finish at 7:20...a good 48 minutes faster than last year's time.  I ended up 5th female in my age group, and just a few minutes from making the podium.

After collecting my finisher's medal, I got to enjoy a lovely vanilla porter and a summer ale, compliments of Yorkholo Brewery.  I immediately began to think about my game plan for next year.  I went into this race with much less training, but much more experience than last year.  My plan of action is now to really start hitting my trail mileage hard, so I can continue to build on this momentum.  My goal for this year was to have a better showing than last year.  My goal for next year is a good bit loftier...finish in under 7 and hit the podium.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Conquering Labor Pain

     After Finger Lakes, I took a break from racing for a bit.  Just prior to that race, I interviewed for a new position and found out right before I left on vacation that I got the position.  This was an answered prayer; night shift was taking its toll, and I was catching myself waking up on my drive home.  My new job was going to be a day shift position AND no weekends or holidays- perfect for racing!  The downside: running at 4am.  I spent the majority of August truly struggling to find the motivation to run, and Labor Pain was fast approaching.
    The morning of Labor Pain, I was hoping for a break in the sudden heat and humidity to no avail.  The humidity was around 90%, and temps were expected to climb well into the 80s- not an ideal scenario for a distance PR.  Labor  Pain is a 12 hour race with a 5 mile loop course, which runners can run as many times as they'd like in that time frame. My initial goal was to shoot for an ambitious 100k, but I knew that the conditions were not in my favor.  I decided to try the first loop at the pace I'd need to maintain for a 100k finish.  I was able to easily finish the loop in under an hour, but I knew that keeping that pace as the temps climbed would be a total struggle.  I made the decision early on to abort my goal and just enjoy the ride.
     One of the big challenges of Labor Pain is the temptation of the start/finish area each loop.  The race is held at a German club, complete with a fully stocked beer garten.  At some point, I decided that 40 miles and a few cold beverages was way better than pushing things too hard.  I had never specifically done a 40 mile race, so I was guaranteed a PR.  Out on the course, I was able to socialize with some of the other runners, as well as some of the volunteers.  Many of the other runners I talked to also decided to modify their goals, but there were a few runners that were tearing up the course!  I finished my 40 miles just under 9.5 hours and relaxed, had a few drinks, and socialized with friends from near and far.  I made a wise decision in calling it a day early; there were a few casualties that needed medical attention due to the grueling conditions.  I may have not accomplished my original goal, but it was still a great day.
     I still had to figure out what I was going to do about my lack of morning motivation- the thought of finishing my runs every day in darkness was killing my routine.  After three days off post- Labor Pain, I decided to take advantage of the flexibility of my new job's hours and decided to run at lunch.  I wouldn't have the benefit of a shower, but perhaps baby wipes and deodorant could pass muster.  My first run was just on the road around the hospital and went pretty well, but I was hoping to find a better solution.  Not living near my job, I was pretty unfamiliar with the area.  After consulting with the running group from that area, I was able to discover a park which I could easily run to.  Friday was the perfect day to explore there, and I am overjoyed at the thought that I now have a solution to my training issues.  The park is great- a stream, hills, a covered bridge AND a functioning water fountain.  The only surprise was discovering that a shooting range is close by.  After the initial shock of sudden gunfire, I settled into a nice pace and was able to easily get 5 miles in with ample time to spare.  Finding a new routine and route to run is like falling in love, and I'm smitten.  Up next: 50k at Blues Cruise next month.  I will be ready!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Finger Lakes 50s- NOT a walk in the park

I went into this race with high hopes after such a strong showing at Dirty German 6 weeks ago, but cognizant of the fact that I hadn't had a great deal of time to adjust to the sudden spike of heat and humidity in the days leading up to the race.  I really only had one significant longer (14ish miles) in these conditions, and that was a gamble considering it was the Sunday prior to race day.  I had the option of not getting a decent heat run in or not taking it a bit easy the weekend before Finger Lakes.
     Finger Lakes was the first time I've ever had the opportunity to race outside of Pennsylvania, so it had the additional challenge of trying to figure out how travel would affect the equation.  We packed up early Friday morning and headed north to Watkins Glen.  Initially the plan was to camp at the race site in Finger Lakes National Forest, but with 2 small children and all the beach stuff we would need for the rest of our vacation, it was a better bet to get a room.  We got checked in and then drove to dinner to meet my cousin and her fiance- my pacer and crew to go over our game plan.
     The race started at 6:30, so my plan was to be there by 6:00.  I got there a few minutes later than I had hoped, but was ready to go on time.  It was already humid, although the heat wasn't bad at that time.  Once we were off, I started to dread my decision to start toward the back of the field.  I got stuck near this woman who kept repeating "I'm a marathoner, not a trail runner".  This was done more as a complaint than as a runner who was looking to try something new.  Considering the amount of people on the waiting list, I was a bit irritated about her attitude.
     The race course was very muddy at sections, slowing my progress pretty significantly at times.  I caught myself thinking how much faster the trail would be if it had been less muddy.  One of the other aspects of the race that is a bit different is the cow pastures that require the runners to open and close the pasture gates.  It was stressed at the start that the gates MUST be closed to keep the cows from wandering into the woods.  I knew prior to the start that the field sections were not going to be my favorite parts of this race.  For some strange reason, I've always disliked running in fields/on grass.  The other aspect of this is being out in the full sun- not ideal as the temperature started to climb.  As I continued, I was struck by the lack of elevation change.  I had expected a bit more than there was, but the frequent mud made this more difficult (in my mind) than some decent hills would have made it.  I even commented to another runner that this took away any advantage that I might have, because I didn't have any steep downhills to fly down.
     This race is well supported, and I was never more than 4 miles without an aid station.  Thankfully the aid stations were well stocked and manned with most of the standard ultra fare-except the potatoes.  I did miss those, and it meant that I was getting tired of using pretzels as my salt source (I don't do salt caps).  The volunteers were fantastic, and this was a good thing, as crews weren't allowed to help AT the aid stations.
     Toward the end of the first 16.5 mile loop, the heat was increasing, and there was a long stretch along a fence row in the full sun.  I knew this area was going to be brutal later in the race.  As I got into the start/finish area, Niki and Anthony met me and got me ready for the next lap.  I decided on a change of shorts, along with new socks and shoes.  I normally sweat a good bit, but I was really sweating at this point. I made sure I was drinking very liberally.  I had the iced tea flavor Nuun tabs in my hydration pack, and this was working well.  As I got to each aid station this lap, I added ice and more Nuun accordingly.  Even with this strategy, I slowed down considerably between the first two loops.
     When I got finished the second lap, I picked up Niki to pace me to the finish.  She informed me that of the runners signed up for the 50 miler, more were dropping down to 50k than continuing on.  This race credits a 50k finish when a runner decides to drop at this point.  Honestly, if I hadn't had Niki pacing me, I might have done the same.  With such heavy sweating, I was having some major chafing on my thighs, and I was becoming very uncomfortable from this.  Despite my best efforts, I wasn't able to stay ahead of this issue.  I walked a lot the last loop, but I was still able to use external motivators to keep me going.  I kept hearing a woman just behind me, so I started to run again.
     Niki has been running with me for years, so I was able to just go when I felt like it, and I didn't need to say a thing.  We also have a great ability to jump around with our conversations, which is perfect when I'm going through high and low points- I can just start talking about something and she'll run with it when I need a distraction.  As we got to the 40-mile point, we decided that I'd really fill my hydration pack with ice, so I wouldn't have to use the last aid station.  It was much easier at this point to keep moving, and this plan worked well.  We headed into the start/finish, where we had to go back out for the last 1/2 mile section.  I had talked about how much better I would feel after seeing my family at this point, and I had already decided to have my older son run me in if he wanted to.
     Edison was thrilled to run with me, but he did slow me down a bit, so there were several runners that ended up passing me.  I didn't care at this point, but he was pretty upset that they passed him; I think I have a fierce competitor on my hands.  I ended up finishing in 12:15, well slower than the 9:50 I'd run just a few weeks earlier, but pretty content I was able to finish.  Out of close to 80 50-mile runners, only 37 of us were able to finish.
   I felt okay after the race, until we stopped for ice cream on the way back to the hotel.  I was just anxious to get back and get a shower, so I hadn't changed after the race.  This was the start of a brutal few hours for me.  As I was eating the ice cream, I started to shiver, which I thought was just a result of sweaty clothes and ice cream.  As we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel, I was shivering uncontrollably.  Even worse, Edison decided to jump out of the truck, and landed on my foot.  I was only wearing flip-flops, and this was a disaster.  I hadn't realized it earlier, but I had a blood blister under my second toe, which popped when he landed on it.  I deserve a huge award for not swearing when this happened.  I made it into a hot shower, still shivering, toe bleeding, and then searing pain from the chafing.  I curled up in bed after taking some motrin for the pain and then realized my shivering was due to hyperthermia- I only shiver this badly when my temperature is elevated.  Once the motrin kicked in, I was more comfortable, but I didn't get much sleep.
     Amazingly, I was able to hike early the next morning in Watkins Glen State Park, numerous flights of stairs and all without any discomfort.  It was a hard race, but well supported, and I'm actually glad I had a harder time than my first 50 miler, because I gained confidence in knowing that I can push myself through the rough patches.  I also learned the value of a top-notch pacer.  I don't think I even would have attempted the last loop without knowing that I had Niki to keep me going.  Next on the ultra horizon: Labor Pains, where I will attempt as many miles as possible in 12 hours.  I'm dreaming of 100k, but I don't really think I can make the time limit, so I'll just aim for as far as time allows.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

A day in the woods, a new distance and two PRs

Toward the end of last year, I decided I wanted to tackle my first 50 miler, so I signed up for the Finger Lakes 50 when registration opened on New Year's day.  Very similar to what happened when I decided to run my first 50k, I ended up signing up for a "practice" race beforehand.  My "practice" race this time was the Dirty German Endurance Fest in Philadelphia.

Leading up to yesterday, I was very nervous about my ability to handle 50 miles, especially considering the difficulty I had at Hyner last month.  I decided on Saturday that it was too pretty a day not to run, and I figured I could work out some of my nerves if I hit the trail for a few miles.  I treated myself to a section of trail at French Creek that I had never run before and realized that no matter what happened during my race, I had the gift of getting to play in the woods all day without having to worry about getting home in time for Larry to get to work, or having to cut it short because I worked later.  The Dirty German would be a day to just enjoy.

Sunday morning dawned clear and crisp, and was one of those mornings that the full moon hung in the cloudless sky well after daylight.  I was up by four, because I had a bit of a drive to get to the race.  Not being confident that I'd be able to drive a manual after 50 miles, I met my dad at his house and enjoyed being chauffeured to Pennypack Park.  Never having been there before, I was surprised at this gem within the city limits.  Check in was a breeze, and I was pleasantly surprised to see several members of my running club both running, as well as volunteering.  This gave me a certain sense of comfort, as my family wouldn't be there to cheer me on until the end; Larry had planned on bringing the boys down to the city later in the day for a few kid-friendly activities, and the plan was for him to show up at the finish around 7pm-when I thought I might finish if all went well.

As the race started, I didn't have the nerves that I've dealt with in the past; I felt a quiet sense of calm.  The 50 mile option had us complete a 3.5 mile loop before hitting the larger loop, and then we rejoined the other runners.  The course was beautiful; I was taken by how old some of the oaks were along the trail.  Their diameter was larger than my arm span, and I kept thinking about how truly tiny I am within the universe.  I was in a good place mentally.  As I hit the aid stations on the first loop, I saw more Pacer friends and settled into a routine with food and hydration.  I ate either banana or fig newton at every station and had them refill my pack every other.  I have been experimenting with Nuun, and this combination of hydration and real food seemed to work best for me.  Every two hours I was also making sure to take some potato dipped in salt, as I felt I needed it.

When I got back to the start/end of the first full loop at the 19 mile mark, I changed into well-worn road shoes.  I have several pairs of trail shoes that I've been experimenting with, but nothing I can wear for really long distances.  I chose to start in my Asics, but I felt hot spots on my big toes that I needed to address.  This was a quick stop and then I was off again.

The second loop went just as well as the first.  I was humbled because one of the volunteers whom I've had the pleasure of running with previously had WON MMT 100 the previous weekend.  He gave me some encouragement, and told me I looked strong- that meant a lot. I knew at this point that I was running faster than I thought I'd be at this point, but I continued to go by feel and keep the pace.

At the next aid station I asked what the mileage was.  I don't own a GPS watch, so I'm never certain.  This station happened to be the 50k mark for the 50 milers, and I was shocked to see my time was 5:48- 33 minutes faster than my previous 50k PR!!  Still, I felt great, so I pressed on.

I started the final loop feeling stronger than I'd imagined I would.  My walk breaks really were pretty minimal, but I did give myself permission to walk a bit when I hit this awful macadam section...I don't mind running road when I'm running a road race, but I've noticed that I get really annoyed with it during a trail race, and more so 40+ miles in.  I had been leapfrogging with a very nice man for a few miles prior to this, and we had some good conversation.  It was also his first 50, and we talked about how much of a high we were both on almost being finished.  It's nice to chat away some miles, and our conversation was a pleasant diversion.

My new trail friend and I stayed together for a little while longer, mostly running, until we hit a little section that I was referring to as "no man's land" in my head.  I had given myself advanced permission to walk a bit here, and it really wouldn't have been bad to run, but it was a rutted, grassy path through a pasture, and I also dislike running on grass for some bizarre reason.  My friend pressed on and I found a tune to listen to.

Music during a race is a first for me.  I'll listen on the treadmill, but I never run outside with music.  Being in uncharted distance territory, I had figured it would be prudent to allow myself this indulgence on the last lap if I desired, but I neglected to put my headphones in my pack.  I decided to just play something through the speaker on my phone, and this worked well.  A little Nine Inch Nails and some Eminem were just what I needed to push a little bit more.  As I came out of the woods and neared the finish, I was almost teary when I thought about what I had just accomplished, but this quickly passed as I heard people cheering for me.  No matter what the race, I typically have a little burst of energy at the finish, and this was no exception.  I probably looked stark-raving mad sprinting at the end of a 50 miler, but it did get me 9:50 instead of 9:51, so that's okay.

Some of my Pacer friends were there to congratulate me, and I took some time to chat and relax.  I had called my husband to let him know I was done early, so he was making his way to the park.  As I turned toward the parking lot, I saw two very important but unexpected people walking toward the finish with lawn chairs: my parents!  I ran up to them, and my dad was in total disbelief.  He knew when I was hoping to finish, so he thought they would have plenty of time to show up and surprise me.  It meant the world to me that they came to see me do this.  My dad was pretty bummed that he didn't get a picture of me crossing the finish, though, and has been razzing me that my watch was broken.
One of my biggest fans

Mom is another big fan!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tackling Hyner

I took a few days to reflect about my experiences at Hyner before I sat down to write, so I could see things with a bit more clarity.  From the moment I knew this race existed, it almost felt like destiny that I would run it, given the fact that I had spent so much of my childhood at a cabin just down the road.  When I ran my first 50k in the fall of 2011, I already had my eye on running the inaugural 50k at Hyner.

As luck would have it, I never got to run the first 50k in 2012, but was relegated to being on the sidelines as a volunteer, about 8 months pregnant.  I knew even then that I would be making my Hyner debut in 2013.

I ended up having to work Thursday night into Friday morning, so I got a brief nap before packing the family up for our journey to Hyner.  We got to the registration about 6:30 Friday night, and then made our way about 10 miles further out to our cabin.  I had invited some of the rest of my family to join us, and they got in much later.  I woke up briefly when I heard them arrive, but headed right back to bed, as I was going on about 3 hours of sleep at that point.

5:15 and I was up, making coffee and finishing my last minute preparations.  I had prepared all of my gear the night before, but did one last check to make sure that everything was in place.  Maybe I should have saved this step for after the coffee...

I arrived at the Eagle's Nest at 6:40, ate a banana and talked with several people that I've come to know from other races.  At 7:30ish, I met up with the online running crew, several of whom I'd not had the opportunity to meet in person before.  I lined up near two of them, Jaime and Marie, and finally we were off.  While I had been nervous in the days leading up to this race, I knew that I had put the training in to really do well.

In the first few miles, I caught up to both Marie and Jaime, pushing on at an aggressive but comfortable pace.  I admittedly was probably being a little too aggressive, as one of the volunteers along the way told me I was in 7th place among the women.  As a middle of the packer, this thrilled and terrified me, and I didn't want to lose ground.  A few more miles in, and I'm still feeling great, and now I'm in 5th place or so.  I met a few great people in these miles, including a woman named Janine who was running a pretty aggressive pace, as well, and a young man that mentioned that he was the youngest 50k runner in the field.

I decided to stick with Janine, as she was going to help pace me to my goal of a sub 8 finish.  It was at this point I made a HUGE error which I would discover a few miles down the road...I skipped the aid station, knowing that I had plenty of fluids, as well as food to get me through to the next station.  Unfortunately, this was the point that the aid stations were most spread out (about 10 miles), and I soon discovered that I had left my snacks in the truck; not in my pack where I swore I'd packed them.

My fluids consisted of Nuun only, so no calories there.  I started to feel the effects of a lack of fuel.  I'm not someone that generally needs a ton of calories, but since starting to pick up my distances after having my youngest son last summer, I have needed to watch this more closely, as I am currently nursing him.  This combination brought me to my lowest point of the race.  I hurt, I had no reserve, and people started to pass me as I trudged along the creek bed.  The young man that I had run with earlier caught up and ran with me a bit.  He was sweet, except for repeatedly referring to me as being "experienced".  I think he was just calling me old.

After a bit, my new friend pushed on and Jaime caught up to me.  He probably saved my race at this point, bestowing me a bit of chocolate to get me through to the next aid station.  As I finally made my way to the aid station, I saw Jaime and my young friend still there.  Jaime took off again, and as I was recuperating a bit, Marie arrived.  I decided that it was finally time to press on, and I was slowly starting to feel a bit better.  Not long after that, Marie blew by looking strong, not to be seen again until the finish.

As I started to regain my strength, I was again joined by my young friend.  We ran most of the race together from this point, chatting as we went.  Not only was he the youngest 50ker, this was his first 50k period!  He knew the last miles of this course well, though, as he'd completed the 25k several times before.

SOB was a welcome sight, because I knew once I hit that point, I would finish no matter what happened.  I climbed with a renewed vigor, and I was surprised that SOB didn't feel as hard as I thought it would.  My young friend had beaten me to the top, but off we went together again.  In the last few miles, we passed a good many hikers, and he started to push a bit harder.  I ended up getting stuck unable to pass, but started talking to an older man running behind me.  He told me that I was really pushing him, and I decided to stick with him instead of trying to catch up to my other friend.  About a mile from the end, the older man wished me well and slowed his pace.  I ran the last mile feeling strong, but reflecting on some of my errors of the race.  Hard to believe that I would ever be thinking this way, but I'd made an error allowing myself to think that this was "just another 50k".

 8:08 was slower than I had planned, but given the circumstances, I was okay with this. As I crossed the finish, I saw my dad, my brother, and my brother's girlfriend, along with the young man that I'd run with for so long. Behind them were Jaime, Marie, and Stacey.  After being congratulated by my family, I got to talk to my new running buddy, that I now knew was named Logan, along with his mother, who thanked me for taking care of her baby.  I was happy to learn that Jaime and Marie had both done very well, improving their times from the year before.

At my low point of the race, I thought I would not sign up for the 50k again next year, but I changed my mind in the latter miles of the race.  I plan on returning to Hyner.  It tried to break me, but I survived.  I know the course now, and I can train there whenever I get up to my cabin.  I will return next year, and I plan on being a force to be reckoned with.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A Tale of Two Cities?

It has been longer than I intended writing this post for so many reasons, least of which is my propensity for procrastination.  Reflecting on February, it has been a lesson in opposites.  There have been some great moments, such as sharing my cousin's first 17-miler with her, and shattering my 10k PR at Shiver with a 48:38.  There have been some lows, though.  I slacked off a bit due to giving in to some external stressors, and I came to realize that I use food as a form of punishment.
I can let go of slacking off for a week or two, but I need to somehow come to terms with the dysfunctional relationship I have with food, particularly being an endurance athlete.  I've written about having dealt with eating disorders as a teen, but reflecting on my eating as of late has led me to the conclusion that I could still be considered to have a diagnosis of "eating disorder not otherwise specified".
When I'm out running alone, I free-think, and usually my problems have a way of worming their way into my stream of thought, allowing me to work them out while I run.  In this respect, all these miles are better therapy than a shrink, because it allows me as much time as I need, rather than a limiting me to an hour.  This is how my eating presented itself recently.  While I never claimed to have a wholly normal relationship with food, I thought I was doing a pretty decent job considering my past and the fact that, unlike drugs or alcohol, where abstinence is possible, I need to continue to have food in my life.
In past, I have had great success in logging my food to keep myself accountable, both from under-eating and from over-eating.  I have been using the same tool again, and I'm almost at my ideal weight, so what's the problem?  My issue is that when I was slacking a bit on my workouts, I began to try and sabotage my fine balance by eating my guilt.  No workout today?  That's okay.  Have dessert instead.  When I got back on track with my workouts, I had this issue hit me front and center as one of my problems to work out.  Why do I do this?  Thinking more about it, I realized it's not just about skipping a run here or there- I punish myself anytime I feel any kind of innate guilt, but why?
Fear.  I've realized that if I don't let myself eat the healthy balanced diet I so want to, I have an out, an excuse for not reaching goals.  At the same time, keeping myself from these goals is a way to absolve some perceived guilt.  I will never have that normal relationship with food that I so admire in some other athletes I know, but for now my goal is to be more mindful when I start doing this again, and then forgiving myself  and moving on.  I have too much in life to rejoice in to be dragged down by this baggage and I'm putting to much effort into training for the races I so crave for it to be washed away by a little guilt.  I'll tackle this the same way I tackle any of my long runs-one step at a time, never giving up.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Tightrope called life

Sometimes I wonder how I manage to juggle all the "stuff" I have going on at one time.  My plan for this weekend was to get to bed at a decent hour Saturday night, as I had worked back-to-back nights Thursday and Friday with very little sleep.  The plan was to get up reasonably early to get my scheduled 22-miler in before noon.  The reality of life had me waking up frequently, listening to my younger son's breathing.  Sometimes being a nurse in a pediatric ICU can be a curse- this has been a bad season for respiratory issues, and I've seen a good number of kids get really sick rapidly.  My little guy ended up being fine overnight, but I was left lacking sleep and not wanting to stray far, just in case he needed me.  Add in snow on the roads, as our development still hadn't been plowed, and I was left with exactly one option:  my hamster wheel.

Now even though I am not a huge fan of having to log my miles indoors, I am truly grateful for having this option when left with no other choice.  Thankfully this was the only time within the past week I had to settle for an indoor run, so I tried to make the best of it.  I have a 10-mile course set on it that is supposed to mimic the Tahoe Rim, adjusting the uphills and downhills accordingly, and I figured it would be the closest thing I could run compared to outside.  Being a planner, I looked at my runs for the next week, which had all been previously mapped out on my calendar, made a few tweaks, and was able to reschedule my 22 for Thursday.  While it is not ideal, as I plan on racing a 10k hard on Sunday, at least this lets me preserve my overall plan.

While I was reworking everything on my calendar, I realized that this planning is a far cry from how I used to train.   When all I had to worry about was my job, sans the kids or my own school work, I could roll out of bed and run whatever and whenever I desired-and my training suffered for it.  I could procrastinate a key workout until "tomorrow", never actually seeing tomorrow arrive.  Now when I train, I'm left writing every run on my calendar, scheduling them right along with work, papers, and my son's lacrosse practices.  This has left me more disciplined, and my training has improved dramatically.  January ended up being my highest mileage month ever because of sticking to a schedule as realistically as possible.  I can feel myself getting faster, getting stronger.  Maybe the tightrope is just what I needed right now, even if I have to tweak it once in a while.