Tuesday, December 20, 2011


A not so secret for you all: I'm kind of a shoe moron. I don't follow shoe guides or read up on new shoes as they come out. I tend to run in the same brand and model until the model changes dramatically and I'm forced to find something new. I rarely have more than one pair of running shoes going at a time and when I do it's pretty much never different shoes, just two pairs of the same kind. I don't have a different running shoe for every surface and season.

Now, as you know, I bought a pair of Vibrams in November since they've been peaking my curiosity. I love them still and have figured out how to keep away the blisters they caused at first so they're even better! So that's two pairs of very different shoes at once! Shocking in it's own. I've been running in Saucony Rides (at least, I think they're Rides I'm not even really sure. I usually bring my old shoe with me when I go to buy another pair. See what I mean?) - I love Sauconys as they've always been nice to my feet and legs and also generally nicely priced. The Rides are classified as a neutral shoe - I've made my way down over the last several years from motion control to stability to neutral (I started doing this after college. I used to have an orthotic for my left shoe and when it was wearing out, I realized I didn't want to have to keep paying a ton of money to get new ones all the time so I decided to try weaning myself off of them. Once that worked, I wondered if I even needed motion control, so I took the next step down to see, etc). I've run in the Rides for a handful of pairs, now, and was thinking about taking the next step down, since they seem to not be causing any problems with my kryptonite knee. I think I would have been happy in my neutral shoes had the minimalist craze not started but why not keep going as long as my body doesn't complain, right?

Now, I'm pretty sure I usually run my shoes into the ground - as I complain about often, I'm lousy at consistently keeping track of my mileage so I only have a vague idea of the mileage on my shoes and tend to not replace them in a timely manner. Usually, though, I'll try to buy the new pair and break them in, running on the old pair still a few times. So I don't do a drastic shoe swap most of the time. Well, I came home a couple Fridays ago to this:

Hmmmmmm. There's no toe box on that shoe. 99.9% of the time, my Penny dog is just fine if left out (ie, not in the confined dog space we have in the basement). Since we've been transitioning a new dog, we've been leaving the other two out to roam the house. Like I said, usually fine. The other .1% of the time., something scares Penny (not too hard to do) or makes her hyper or something and she finds something to chew on to comfort herself. Like a favorite homemade quilt that looks like Monet's Japanese Bridge, a nice wool graduation blanket from my college commemorating my four years on the cross country team, or a running shoe. At least she chose the pair without the RoadID . . . And they were pretty much due to be retired anyway. Now, could she have done this the night before a day off? Or at least before a shorter run that I could just wear my Vibrams for? No, of course not! It has to be the night before a super early morning long run. Which means the choice was to either jump my Vibram mileage from 5ish to 16ish on roads, run in the shoes that were already dead going into Voyageur and I haven't run in since (but haven't brought myself to toss yet, either), or dash to Austin Jarrow quick before they closed. Or postpone my run to later in the day, but that's just silly talk!

The problem is that I know Jarrow works during the day and, like I said, I'm a self enabled shoe moron. I want someone who knows what they're talking about to tell me what to buy. I checked to see if Duluth Running Company was still open but they closed an hour before. Not a big problem, I think, I'll just get another pair of what just got chewed up and wait to step down until the next pair.

So I rush myself up the hill and . . . my shoe is not in my size. The new model of my shoe is not in my size. Hmmmm. This is why I wanted Jarrow there. Or Tony or Clint at DRC. I like people who know more about shoes than I do to tell me what a good shoe is. Though, admittedly, as I'm sure you've concluded, that doesn't take a whole lot. But now I was on my own since I didn't know how much the girl working (who was really very nice!) actually knew. Though, in hind sight, she was able to get me the Brooks equivalent of my current shoes with no problem, so I probably should have trusted her more. Anyway. First I decided to try on a pair of Kinvaras (which I thought until recently were called Kinervas) and promptly freaked out. They're so light! I can't possibly be ready for running only in these yet! They feel like racing flats! I have long runs to do! On roads! So I call my poor friend Lisa, who's trying to volunteer at Tuscobia when I interrupt her for my important dilemma :) Hey, it's a long race, and I figured she wasn't going to be flooded with work the first night. So she tells me that Jarrow wears Brooks and has put her in Brooks and she likes them so I ask for the Brooks version of my Saucony Ride. This turns out to be the Brooks Ghost 4. I try them on. They're comfy. They feel like a shoe should. They aren't crazy expensive. The girl lets me know that there isn't really an in-between my Rides and the Kinvaras but Brooks has an in-between (See! She knew things! I could have trusted her!). However, these are also not in my size. So I take home the Ghosts with the intent of doing some quick research on them online before the run in the morning.

I fairly quickly decided they aren't what I wanted. With some descriptions of them as a stability shoe and after comparing them heel to heel with my Rides, I decided it's more shoe than I want, now. Especially if I'm trying to run in my Vibrams more - I figured going from nothing to big heel wasn't a great plan. Happily, I have fabulous friends who are also my same shoe size and who, though the power of Facebook, offered to lend me shoes for my run Saturday, which I took advantage of. After more online research, I headed back to Austin-Jarrow and traded in my Ghosts for a pair of these:

Everything I was reading made them sound like what I wanted. "True" minimalist runners (as true as you can be and still be running in shoes, I guess) turn their nose up at them and they were often described as a gateway drug to minimalist running. Perfect! I figured I'd give them a go and could always order a pair of my Rides if need be and I'll take a look at trail shoes come spring.

I've really liked them so far. They still feel crazy light when I first put them on but then I mostly forget about them. Except when my left foot goes to sleep. For some reason, that left foot is hard to tie a correct tightness in these shoes. They have enough support to help me ease into things more. I can feel when I let myself heel strike too much and am able to change my stride pretty easily but they aren't so abrupt that a single heel strike is bad. It's been a couple weeks, now, and I haven't noticed any rebelling from my legs or knees so I think I'll stick to them for a while. And maybe I'll start researching for my trail shoes now instead of right before I need to buy them.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

24 weeks to Fargo!

Thursdays are run in Vibrams day? I ran in mine again this last Thursday so perhaps I'll start a habit. I did some more trails in light snow, not quite 4 miles worth, I think. I figured it was a good test of warmth since I haven't bought myself socks for them yet. I had my normal running shoes as back up in case my feet showed signs of freezing off right away but somewhat surprisingly, my feet stayed completely warm! Granted, it wasn't all that cold but I was running on/through snow the whole time. So maybe there's a chance of keeping in them all winter once I add some merino wool to my feet. My feet get cold super easy but since Vibrams let them move and flex so much, perhaps they have a shot at staying warm. So far, nothing in my body seems upset with running in them, which is great. I'm slower going downhill, right now, and tried to work on that last time. In high school, I was taught to stretch out my legs and kick out my heel as far as I could, in order to get a longer stride. We used to measure out stride length on flat and on downhills and I was always told that my stride wasn't long enough. I've since gotten rid of that habit but it's still strange to land in Vibrams right when going downhill. I have to think about it too much. My right heel started, well, not really hurting but just sort of feeling the impacts so I know I'm still doing some heel striking. Wearing them definitely help me have quick feet, though.

So . . . the plans for next year start already! Saturday marked 24 weeks to Fargo and time for my training plan to 'officially' start. I'm going to be using one of the plans from Pfitziger's Advanced Marathoning again since it worked so well for me for Green Bay. The plan has the first long run next Saturday at 11 miles. Well, this Saturday I run just over 16. And then I did a two hour run on the SHT today, though I kept that nice and easy. So perhaps I won't be following their long run progression for a while . . . It's exciting to be ready to start a plan instead of being behind. I'm slower than I want to be but there's plenty of time for speed to come.

I'm also trying a different method for logging my runs as well as having my plan written down. I'm using Google Calendar since I have access to it at work, too. It also will send me email reminders for what's coming up the next day. I've been messing with the order of days, though since I'm doing an additional long run and I'm still nailing that down. We'll see how this works!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Birthday present!

I finally jumped on the bandwagon and got a pair of Vibrams! They were on super sale at the Midwest Mountaineering Outdoor Expo down in the Cities so even if they don't work out for running, they'll be worth it for other things. I've been on one run with them so far - I'm being super careful since I want my knee to be happy with them but I've walked around them a bunch, too. So far I love them! They aren't so good with slippery surfaces, though, like hardened, slick snow or frost covered rocks and, I would imagine, mud. There is a new version of the KSOs out that have a sort of tread on the bottom, so those are probably better for slippery, but they weren't on sale so I went with the original KSOs. They are super comfortable on my feet, though, and it's very neat to feel what you're running on. My feet seem to stay much warmer in them, too, since they move around so much more than in shoes. I also suddenly understand my friend Marcus and his quick, short gait going down hills . . . I was, of course, in between sizes leading to almost 45 minutes of trying to figure out which pair to get. I went for the larger size since they were instantly comfortable, with the thought that socks would then fit in them, as well. I'll keep you updated with how they go.

So the big dilemma in my life right now is how I'm torn between the Fargo marathon and my spring ultras. Every time I run trails, that's what I love to be on and what I feel like I enjoy most. However, I have made plans to run Fargo with a friend of mine (hi, Kelly!) and we're going for a 3:30 and hope to go to Boston together. Running with Kelly is super exciting and I still want to get back to Boston and show it what's what or at least not have a miserable race there. Fargo looks like a fun marathon - it's run through Fargo, has lots of music, and it sounds as though there's lots of local support. Kyle will come with and camp and I'm friends with Kelly's husband who is awesome about getting multiple places in a race.

I'm pretty sure I'll be disappointed if I don't go for a fast marathon while I still am in my 'peak years' - like how I say that as though I'm sooooo old? I don't even turn 30 until next year :) I have this one fast marathon from a couple years ago and that's it. I need to do it again - I feel as though I haven't even gotten close since then, though, now that I think about it, I have run within 6 minutes of my PR since then. The only problem is that running a good road marathon requires, get this, road training! How silly. Winter coming will help that, at least, with snow forcing me onto roads more often. There's also the part where I have to get my road head back and I worry that I don't have enough time to do that, though I have 24 weeks come Saturday. So I know some of my indecision/hesitation is coming from fear - and if that's the main part then my only answer is to buckle down and do Fargo.

The other part is that running Fargo means not running the Chippewa 50K hard (if at all) and not running the Spring 50K at all as it's the same day as Fargo. However, again, it's not as though this is my last year to run races. I don't have to do the same races every year. Plus, I'm thinking that some road running/getting my road head back should help with my speed (or lack thereof) in ultras. And running two road marathons (I signed up for Grandma's with the cheap prices since we already reserved campsites in Two Harbors but right now I am not planning on going at it hard, especially if success comes in Fargo) in the beginning of the year could prevent me from running too many ultras in that first half and burning out/injuring myself for the second half of my year.

I plan on keeping long trail runs in my schedule and doing two long runs on the weekend, one road and one trail, as I'm heading back to Voyageur for sure. The trail run long will be secondary and shorter until after Fargo but it'll still be there. So I'm sort of following two different training plans at once and trying to merge them.

Also? I'm excited for track workouts!

So, thanks for listening to me talk things out. That seemed to have helped me quite a bit. Time to go register for Fargo. The next decision is whether running Chippewa at all is a good decision.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Voyageur 50 mile: Part Two!

The sky is falling! The sky is falling! I'm finally finished with part two! So without further ado . . .

The way back was definitely much better than the way out. Loads better. I looked at my watch 5 or so minutes out of the zoo and saw there was still tons of time before the cut off (well, maybe 30 minutes or so? That counts as tons of time) and from that point on, it was golden. I told myself that no mater what, now, as long as I kept moving forward, I would be fine. I wasn't racing the cutoff so everything was a-ok. It might have been a little early to be assuring myself of such things but I don't think it was a bad thought per se - it kept me very positive the rest of the way back. I didn't worry a bit and mentally ran the very model of how you're supposed to handle a long race - aid station to aid station only - without even having to force myself to think that way! I only once thought about total distance left before the last aid station - somewhere around 15 miles left it was forced upon me (gee, thanks, Tom!) but I was able to put it out of my mind :)

Anyway, I stopped at the creek again to do a quick wash off of the mud left over from my fall (festering wound, remember?) and on my way back up I found Kelly and Amanda walking their way back toward me. They accompanied me back up to the Magney aid station, which was nice. Kelly complimented my swift walking speed at that point in the race, which was nice to hear. Strong walking was something I'd been working on. It's tough not to when you have people like Marcus around, who can beat you walking up a hill when you're running up a hill. Punk. Anyway, I was able to do a lot more talking now, too, without feeling as though I was going to hyperventilate, which was good. I grabbed a lifesaver from the aid station (something about this aid station was making me grab things that wouldn't otherwise be appealing) and, saying bye to Kelly and Amanda, continued on my way.

Heading into the Magney-Snivley, I felt much better than I had on the way out. And I know I ran a lot more on the way back even though it was much more uphill. Things just felt a lot better, despite having to focus at times on not choking to death on my lifesaver. Someone caught up with me here and he helped the time go by talking to me. Silly guy kept asking me questions though - half of which I couldn't hear and needed him to repeat only to not feel as though I had quite enough breathing power for sustained conversation. He eventually skirted around me, though, after we traded places a couple of times and then it was on my way down Skyline.

About halfway down Skyline is where Tom Burr caught up to me and we stuck together for a long time after that. Some great things about Tom: He's done this before (both 50s in general and Voyageur in specific), he has a lot to talk about, he doesn't need you to talk a lot back if you don't want to. We ran down Skyline together and into Beck's Road where I lost track of him briefly.

Here I am getting more gels from Dad. At this point, he asked if I wanted more sunscreen. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. Sunscreen? Nah, it's getting later in the day and I'm about to head through Zapp's Loop which is quite shaded. More sunscreen didn't seem necessary and I didn't feel like taking the time for it then, anyway. I headed out down Zapp's Loop only to find myself wanting fresh sunscreen maybe ten minutes later. But probably sooner. Ooops. I passed Tom while he was, um, paused for a moment and he passes me back and disappeared strong down the hill.

So - Zapp's Loop is one of the NMTC Wednesday night trail races. My favorite one, in fact! And it comes with an unexpected (if you haven't done it before) uphill that's riddled with trenchs/ruts/bad footing. I timed myself up it one year and found it's less than 5 minutes up so since then, I've used that as a way to make myself suck it up and push up the hill. Now that it was mile 30-something, I tried the same thing, only with walking fast up as opposed to running fast up. Lo and behold - I caught back up to Tom! He regaled me with all sorts of interesting things (if only I could remember more of them!) as we made our way around the Loop and told me good things about how strong I looked, which was nice. He was great to have right behind me at that point, even if he did seem to think I wanted to hear how far was left :) Coming into Fond du Lac, I finally realized that the green shirted woman I'd seen lots of was his crew (his awesome wife, in fact).

Tom pushed me quite a ways up the other end of Zapp's but then he started asking me questions. And expecting answers! Which brought my breathing way back up and my pace back down. Bummer. I let him by me and focused on getting my breathing back to 'normal.' Up the last hill, onto the Munger Trail and into Seven Bridges aid station. I focused on running the entire length of the Munger until I got to the aid station as long as I was on flat, even ground.

Heading into the Powerlines = ice in hat. I was also smart enough to ask for sunscreen this time and my dad was awesome enough to smear it all over my super sweaty arms and shoulders. What an awesome dad! I traded my handheld for my Camelback again and headed off. It seems especially cruel that in order to even GET to the Powerlines, you have to head uphill. Finally, I broke out of the trail and onto the Powerlines. I took a second to pause, have a sip of water, say hello to the Powerlines (and if you've run with me near here, you'll know that was literal) and headed off.

In case you've missed this announcement since: I now own the Powerlines! I can't believe how well I ran through them. I think when you're planning on moving slowly to begin with, moving slow doesn't bother you? In any case, I felt super strong and had no problems with them at all. Just one foot in front of the other. I even caught two (three?) people going through them! Tom was one of them, so it was nice to see him again, though I was sure he'd catch me again on the way up from Grand Portage. Fun factoid of that section: I have some sort of bug land right on my lips at the top of a hill. I had just finished a gulp of nice, sticky E-Gel and apparently, the bug decided I wanted to share. No go, bug, sorry. I was super excited coming into Grand Portage. I still felt pretty good and nothing gives you confidence like owning the Powerlines :) I knew it was going to be a long haul up to Peterson's but I felt as though I had gotten the heat under control (the extra heat in the Powerlines didn't even bother me!) and knew I had a couple of creek crossing to use for their cooling powers. Not to mention another opportunity for ice in my hat.

Mike's getting ready to join me for a few miles here as I'm getting my water refilled, putting more ice in my hat. Which I never felt, by the way. I figured I'd get a cold head at some point but I never felt the ice up there, even though I knew it was doing good. I'm also informing Dad (to the amusement of the people next to him) that I now own the Powerlines. Hey, it's important information for him to know :)

So then it's on to Peterson's. Ooof. That's a long way up and it was nice to have some company. Mike came along with me here and we talked a bit more than last time (I had more breath heading uphill here than downhill previously . . .). Grand Portage to Peterson's is a section that feels as though it's much longer than it is. You just get off the Powerlines and then keep going up and up and up. Even when it seems like it's leveling off, it's really still going up. Happily, there's a couple of creek crossings, allowing me to continue dowsing myself with water. At this point, I'd ceased to care about how dirty the water I'm pouring over my head looked as I scooped it up with my hat. As a side note, my hat was amazingly not super stinky at the end of the day. It just sort of smelled like lake water instead of smelling as though it had been on top of an active sweaty head for 12 hours in the middle of summer.

I think the worst part of the course might be when you come out onto the ski trails both the first time here and after Gill Creek. Something is inherently evil about ski trails after coming off single track trails. You get onto this nice smooth-ish (comparatively) surface. Nice and wide. Good footing. Maybe the hills aren't as steep. And . . . what's this? I'm still crawling that the same pace I was going before? Surely I should be able to go faster here! Add to that how your pace always seems faster on single track than anything that's wider open and everything suddenly feels very tough. Plus . . oh, yeah, you're still going uphill! I'm moving pretty slowly here, lots of walking. My legs haven't fallen off yet but they're feeling rather tired and not interested in moving very quickly.

Into Peterson's and mile 41.5. And it's Shaun! He was just about to leave when I came in and I gave him a quick hug before booting him out. I also got another hug from Rick who was working this station, too. More water over the head and pose for a quick picture. All smiles! Out I go to 'chase down' Shaun. I was surprised I was so close to him but he seemed pretty sprighty still, so I didn't think I'd see him again. I'm going to skip the part here, where I sent poor Mike running back for forgotten gels. Twice. Only because I wasn't clear the first time that I was going to be picky. And then ended up not needing one before the next aid station anyway . . . Thanks Mike!

Heading out of Peterson's is downhill. Yay! More down to Gill Creek (steep downhill. Ow.) and more water over the head. This water was so cold (or my body was so hot?) that I practically felt my heart stop from the shock of sudden temperature change. Which meant time to throw a capfull straight on my core and than another on my head. Up out of Gill Creek and . . . back onto ski trails. Uphill again. But now it's close enough to the finish to start sort of tasting it, just a little, even if I was still thinking just to Forbay Lake. At one point I promise myself that if I run all the way to the Munger, then I'm allowed to walk the ENTIRE Munger Trail section if I wanted to (which I didn't expect to but the offer was there). I didn't quite make it there, though - it was further than I originally thought. So then I decided that that meant I wasn't allowed to walk ANY of the Munger since it was flat.

And actually . . . Hmmm. I can't entirely remember. I know I had to stop and do something - fiddle with my camel? I'm not sure. Anyway, I walked just a tich but mostly ran the whole thing. And, of course, promptly forgot where it was we turn back into ski trail and thought I had a whole lot longer on the trail that I did. The guys a bit in front of me suddenly disappeared and for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what happened to them because I KNEW we still had to go around the next corner too. Mike speculated a bathroom break and I decided I must have imagined that extra corner. And then we got closer and I saw the magical orange arrows spray painted on the tar pointing me into the trail and lo and behold - I HAD imagined that extra corner. Huzzah! That meant we were practically to Forbay Lake!

Into Forbay Lake and . . . Shaun again? He likes to hang out in the aid stations! I did a quick gel grab and water dunk, Mike ducked out and I headed out just behind Shaun. Headed out onto the longest 2 miles in the world. I was getting really excited here which probably didn't help this section feel any faster. I was still thinking 2 miles to Jay Cooke but allowed myself to think about the last section that would follow. Plus Shaun just kept running! No walking of uphills for him. Except for one where I was sure I was going to catch him. And I sort of did. Sort of. But then he took off again and I was all by my lonesome making my way through trail I didn't remember being nearly as muddy a mere 11 or so hours ago . . .

Coming up to the Highway 210 crossing, there was Shane manning the crossing for us. He was incredibly happy to see me since he was afraid I had dropped and it was nice to see a grinning face. He escorted me across the highway . . .

And there I was at Jay Cooke! I glanced at the aid table first (of course, when this picture was taken!). Then I saw my Mom, Sister and Nephew cheering for me! Well, Mom and Jess were cheering for me, the little guy looked a bit confused. Big smile on my part and a kiss on the head to the little guy who may or may not have recognized the voice of wet, smelly Auntie running at him. Dad was sitting down (I think) and I barely saw him here. I don't remember seeing Mike at all (I guess I saw them all day long and it was time to focus on someone else?). Beeline for the table. I handed my water bottle to Ron with a request for fresh water, please. I'm amused that I barely registered that it was Ron beyond briefly being amazed that he must have finished already and came back to help. Something I didn't even think to question until a different day! Even though he was changed, possibly showered, clearly hadn't JUST shown up and wasn't completely done in looking . . . ah well. Next up was Lisa, brandishing a plastic container of Heed.

She asked if I wanted it dumped on my head. I was momentarily confused, thinking about dumping Heed on my head but realized it was water and, though I wasn't ridiculously hot anymore, it sounded pretty nice. And it was. By the looks of things, though, Lisa was enjoying dumping water on me as much as I was. Hmmmm . . . But! There went Shaun and there was another women who was in front of me but looking like she wanted to leave so I better head out now! And away I went - Lisa yelling "Nice running" behind me. Come to think of, I was still moving okay (probably the same steady as she goes pace I'd been doing for much of the day) and felt alright. One good thing about the heat was that I didn't feel down on myself for being slow at all. Okay. I'm going to stick with Shaun! If for no other reason then to make the woman right behind me think that I'm so full of energy she might as well not even think about trying to catch me on this last stretch.

Last stretch! Less than 4 miles to go! More like a 5K, but I decided to think 4 miles instead. I can run 4 miles! Shaun was flying up the hills like a gazelle but I stayed with him . . . for a couple of minutes anyway and then he was gone for good and put way more ground on me then I want to admit. And then I was all by my lonesome. I knew that woman was back there somewhere and after a mile or so, I started catching glimpses of someone in white just going out of sight in front of me and I entertained fantasies of speeding up and catching her. And then my legs got very, very tired. The evil part of this section is how it keeps going forever. And the roots. And the rocks. And the part where it's uphill. Oh, and how I had no idea where on the trail I really was, just that you don't know you're almost to the Munger again until you come to the bridge. The bridge I was SO SURE was JUST around the corner. Ooof.

I dragged myself onto the paved Munger, determined to run the whole way in. After all, who knew how close that other woman was and I didn't want a sprint finish and I certainly didn't want to be beat right at the end. I made it about 10 feet. Walked some. Forced myself to run again - this time to the end! Or for another 10 feet, you know, close enough. You know that super high armed, arm pumping, determined power walking that you see some people do down the street? That was me. My legs simply wouldn't run any more. But they would walk fast! So walk fast I did! Arms high and pumping! But, by god, I was going to run the whole way in from the corner - a mighty two blocks. Slightly downhill. In fact, I was going to round that corner running! Round it running from a block before the corner! Okay, maybe round it running period was good enough. And I did run the whole way in from there, which shows my legs had more than they thought since I couldn't have run two blocks two minutes ago.

Now, you can't tell in this picture, but I'm grinning like an idiot for that last block. It's a neat finish line, with most everyone who's already finished still hanging out and cheering for those of us in back. And if it feels like grinning like an idiot after 50 miles, then I don't even want to think what it looked like to someone who wasn't just finishing 50 miles :) Anyway! I'm finishing 50 miles! And I'm running my way in! And smiling!

12 hours 22 minutes and 50 seconds. Definitely between 9:30 and 13 hours! So I'm happy. The more I think about how hot it was, the more I can't believe I did it. 109 finishers (I was number 95) and I'm not sure how many started but I heard 30 something or so dropped out. I no longer have any rights to bitch about running in the heat. Here I am, still rather soaked, collecting my awesome finisher mug and red beanie (new favorite hat!) from Andy and Kim.

Despite having requested a chair from Mike back at mile something or other (40 something, maybe?), a chair didn't look nearly as nice as hiking myself onto the cement border at the finish line with my friends. Christi finished almost 4 hours before me and was still there cheering in the finishers! That's how awesome my fellow ultra runners are. I sat until I realized I was shaking. Gee, how could I possibly be cold? I've only been soaking wet for much of the last 10 hours or so . . . So it was into the school to change. Now, I wasn't walking all the way across the gym to the bathroom so I settled for going around the corner to change. And promptly discovered painful chaffing. I highly recommend RE-applying any body glide you may be using if you plan on continuously dousing yourself with water for several hours . . .

Sadly, the finish line lasagna did not look good. I had some sherbert, though, and a bit of chocolate milk. I hung out as long as I could until my poor crew was definitely ready to be done. So it was back to the campsite for a shower and some pizza hotdish (I wasn't very hungry) and bed.

50 miles! I'll be back next year!

Monday, August 22, 2011

From NR: Ode to Dad

In haiku.

Ice in my water

Sunscreen on my sweaty arms

All because of Dad

Waiting in the heat

Friendly face at aid stations

Dad is a great crew

Thursday, August 11, 2011

From NR: My first 50 mile! Part one!

I have so many ways to start this post! So many things to share! Guys - I finished my first 50 mile and let me tell you how awesome I feel! I'm going to take you on a ridiculously long blog aid station by aid station :) In way more detail than you want! But I promise lots of pictures! I'll also be talking about the course as though you know it, but I think that will be okay, even if you don't. Step one, though, is to say a public thank you to my awesome crew - my dad and my buddy Mike. You can definitely do a 50 mile without a crew (especially this one) but it was sure nice to have them.

We all camped in Jay Cooke the night before so that we were closer to the race start. I have a pop-up camper so I had a bed which was really quite nice. I slept pretty well and woke up not feeling tired at all. I had everything ready to go - clothes were laid out with my race number on top (to be pinned on race morning). The bag for my dad to carry was packed and ready to go. So, first step was some quick breakfast (mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, Boost!) and then time to change.

When we got to the start, I wandered over to Kim to check in and attempt to trade in my race shirt. I swore I ordered a medium, but no, even after their warning ahead of time about the small shirt sizes, I didn't double check to make sure. So it was very nice of them to let me exchange!

After that it was time to wander about and chat until the start. I'm in the center-ish here, in the soon to be familiar to you Northwoods jersey, black shorts and Austin-Jarrow hat. I'm running eerily close to my soon to be new pal, Tom. We would spend a lot of time together several hours later as he caught me on our way down Skyline! I came to recognize his wife Nancy's bright green shirt at the aid stations before I knew who she was there for. I also never asked his name the entire time we were running together and ended up having to ask Nancy after I finished. Ooops. Who needs names when you're running together?

Now, how the heck do you start a 50 mile race when you've never done one before and your goal time is anywhere from 9:30-13:00? I opted for slowly and let a lot of people by me until I hooked up with Rick. Perfect! Rick has done tons of these and he'll help me start smart. So I latch on to poor Rick as we head into the single track to Jay Cooke. If Rick walked up something, I walked up. If Rick bounded around a group of slow, unsurefooted runners heading carefully over technical trail, I bounded around a group of slow unsurefooted runners heading carefully over technical trail. I decided if we were still running together after Jay Cooke that I would speak up and let him know to tell me if I were driving him crazy. It was a good way to start, though. He was surprisingly aggressive, passing around a couple of groups I think I would have just waited behind had he not led the way.

Soon enough, we came to the swinging bridge in Jay Cooke where my mom was waiting to cheer and take a couple pictures. She told me to think cold thoughts. A most excellent idea! Sadly, at the aid station, Rick told me he was much too far ahead of where he should be so I set off on my own. Another Rick was at the road crossing so I stopped for a brief hug and then it was off to play tag through the next section with a guy I'd see on and off for most of the first half of the race. The trail was much muddier in the next section than I expected. Funny how you try to go around the mud some in the start of a race just to crash through it later.

Up next was Forbay Lake. I'm caught here with my head rather down which is not good running form, I know. It's rather hard to run with your head UP while you're on trails, though. I do try to keep my head up and only my eyes down, but that tends to bring the head down eventually anyway. But, that's getting off track. So this is one of the few pictures of me (all pictures are by my dad or buddy Mike except for two by my mom) that my dad took where I wasn't smiling like I was having the time of my life. So, grab a gel from my dad's bag and on to the next section.

Running on the Munger is just gross when you get to spend so much time on nice soft trails. I focused on keeping a nice even pace, though, as long as I had flat and smooth. I remember watching the woman in front of me but I don't remember what about her I was paying such focused attention to. I think she might have been wearing a skirt and I was deciding if I liked it? That might have been later, though. I passed a couple of people as we came into Gil Creek - I know I'm good with single track so I figured I would be able to stay appropriately in front of the small group instead of going around them just to slow down. I flew in front of them down Gil Creek but they caught back up on the way up. I know Marcus, don't say a word! I have a handful of things I really want to focus on and one of them is upping my walking speed if I have to walk up something. They (mostly) didn't actually pass me on the way up, though, so I couldn't have been walking up too slowly. I decided it wasn't yet necessary to dump water over my head at Gil Creek but that would soon be the norm.

Here I am coming into Peterson's. This pictures makes it look rather uphill, doesn't it? I don't remember it feeling uphill at that point but I DO remember it feeling downhill on the way back. Most interesting . . . The reverse side definitely felt uphill on the way back, though, let me tell you. There's a few spots that last much longer than the distance between aid stations seem to indicate and Grand Portage back to Peterson's is one of them. But I'm getting ahead of myself by several hours . . .

This is Mike's picture of me coming into Peterson's (seriously, there's a ton of pictures, which is pretty cool and I plan to share them all). For some reason, it really amuses me that he's caught me looking at my watch. Here's why, though - Dad told me here that I was still on my original pace. I had written down for him the earliest times I would be at an aid station so he would have some sort of idea when to expect me with the caveat that I probably wouldn't be on those times and that they'd get increasingly off. I also wrote down distances between aid stations and the amount of time each section would take - again with that "fastest I'd be going" pace. But he told me I was pretty much still on so I looked at my watch in surprise. And then laughed at myself because I had no conception of what the time on my watch meant at that point. My only real goal for the day was finishing and I had such a varied time ability depending on weather, etc, so I didn't try to remember any particular times that I 'wanted' to see at aid stations. I didn't much look at my watch for reasons of race time until I was getting closer to the zoo, just for seeing if it was gel or salt time yet.

Through Peterson's and on to Grand Portage. This might be a good time to mention that I don't like to dilly dally at aid stations - I even had several people comment on how little time I spent in them (or was that just a couple of people saying it several times? It all blurs together). Since I had Dad carrying my extra gels, I really just needed to grab a new one or two from him and get my water bottle refilled at each aid station. And, of course, get a hug if someone I knew was working there! Which is actually a very cool thing about this race and one of the reasons I chose it as my first 50 mile. Since it's right in my backyard, it felt as though I was always seeing someone I knew and that's a nice lift. I had friends at aid stations, friends cheering along the way, friends biking back and forth along the course (Randy! You should post your pictures!) and that can really make a difference in your day. Anyway, it's easier to zoom through aid stations when you don't eat a lot of solid food, too. I ended up eating maybe a couple of pretzels and a couple slices of watermelon total the whole day. And some frozen grapes! My stomach was fine on the gels, so that was good as I wasn't sure if I'd stop being able to get them down or not.

Crossing whatever creek it is on the way down to Grand Portage, it was finally time to start dumping hat-fulls of water over my head at each crossing. Well, I think I started with one hat-full per creek but trust me, that soon became two or three later in the day. Cue the pictures where I start looking more and more like a drowned rat. The pictures where I have a funny looking, misshapen, lumpy head from the ice in my hat will follow shortly. This is coming into Grand Portage when I see Rick K. Again! Big smile for Rick. If I look as though I'm starting to run in the wrong direction, it's because I'm heading for my dad since it's time to trade a waterbottle for a Camelback. I didn't think the powerlines would be all the muddy but I wanted both hands free for grabbing at vegetation, anyway. Plus, I was already sucking down water and I didn't think the handheld would last me through the open-to-the-sun Powerlines.

Let me tell you, the Powerlines are much worse going up from Grand Portage than going the other direction. It seems as though it's much more uphill. Much more. But, at least the temperature wasn't too bad - it was overcast and I decided even if the weather gods were just teasing us and saving nasty weather to come, I would take it! It was definitely nice to know that we don't have to go as far as it looks - when you're coming over the last hill, you can see powerlines stretching forever and ever away and if you don't know you're about to head into the woods and away from the Powerlines, it could look pretty disheartening. I had a white shirted shadow at that point (he seemed to latch onto to someone and follow exactly what they did until they were going too fast or too slow for him. Which seemed a bit familiar to my first few miles . . . ) who wondered allowed if we were almost through, so it was nice to be able to tell him we were. Eventually, I was going too slow for him and I lost sight of him on my way up Skyline. I have no idea who he is and still wonder if he was able to finish.

Coming into Seven Bridges, my Dad tried to send Mike through Zapp's Loop with me. Which confused me to no end - I wasn't planning on having him run with me until the second time through the Powerlines or the way up Grand Portage so why would he be trying to send him along so early? Turns out my awesome dad was writing down all of my aid station splits (which are interesting to look at and I bet they'll be helpful for planning next time around) and looking at my split through the Powerlines, I think I understand why, now . . . I don't think I fully warned them that that section would be much slower. Heading down to Fond du Lac, I tried to stretch out some and ducked around a couple guys (I think one might have been my soon to be pal, Tom, but I can't remember for sure) only to not really speed up all that much (or maybe they decided to hang on to me) but I tried to at least be fast enough to not annoy the guys who just let me around them.

Fond du Lac (no pictures since I had my crew skip this) had the nicest aid station volunteer! She asked what I wanted as I peered at the cups on the table. What I said was "Water, please. For my head." In which I meant that I wanted a full glass and not a partially filled one (why I thought she would have any idea that was what I meant, I have no idea, but my mind was already in it's own little spot) but she decided that meant I wanted the water poured on my head for me, which she promptly did! I was a bit surprised but thought it was quite nice. Happily, I was never tired enough to forget to thank anyone (at least, I don't think I was!). Remembering Shane's comment about my first 50K (he said I was grumpy through his aid station), I tried to make sure I was remembering to be overly polite to the aid station workers which probably meant I was at least being polite since it seems I have a messed up view of things the longer I'm running. I also worried about being short/grumpy with my dad so I tried to focus on that, as well.

On to the second half of Zapp's Loop. I love Zapp's Loop - it's my second favorite NMTC race (well, my favorite now that Hartley is different). I was very glad that I decided to give it a go backwards the weekend before since I had never done it backwards before. It's rather surprisingly uphill at first! Happily, there are lots of river crossings which means plenty of opportunity for happy wet feet and happy wet capfulls of river water. Apparently, this section also meant plenty of opportunity for feeling like crap. Hmmmmmmmm. Not what I was looking for. It was in this section that I started really worrying that I might not finish. Not that I would drop out but that I would be going so slow that they'd pull me from the course. I was not feeling good at all and I wasn't even halfway through! This seemed like a very bad sign, despite trying to remind myself that Lisa hadn't felt good until mile 30 the year before. There was some dry heaving and some swearing and lots more walking then I wanted to be doing. Especially since I was going downhill . . . But my stomach wouldn't let me run so I decided that I would at least walk until they forced me off the course. I did manage to get back to running on the way up but still with lots of worrisome doubts going about my head. I had started the race taking one salt pill an hour and I honestly can't remember when I changed to two but I hadn't gotten my schedule down yet. Later in the race, every time I started feeling a bit nauseous, I would look at my watch and it would almost always be about time for salt or a gel.

Coming into Beck's, I just felt hot and ugh. Which is about what I said to Eve when I saw her but happily, she had my favorite - frozen grapes. Mmmmmmmmmmmm. I don't know why but nothing tastes as good to me on a hot long run as delicious frozen grapes. It became apparent here that Mike would be coming with me at this point whether I wanted him to or not, which meant he was going all the way to the Zoo since I was having Dad skip Magney/Skyline. Which isn't worded quite right - it's not that I didn't want him to run with me, just that I wanted him LATER and I worried this meant he changed his mind about which section to run. My dad has issues with heat and humidity (we're a great team for a late July race!) so I worried that he wasn't doing great and Mike was running now because he'd need to crew later. It was nice to have company as I slugged up Skyline, though. And slugged is the right word - though Mike missed the joys of dry heaving up Zapp's Loop, I wasn't feeling all that great for the part he was along for, either.

So, up Skyline. Happily, I saw Randy here, who took a picture of me gallantly striding up the hill. Even faking feeling good lets you feel good for a bit! That's a long way up Skyline, though - a full mile uphill on pavement. Ew and double ew. Then the turn into the Magney ski trails. This section was crazy slow for me and I was doing a lot of walking/barely running. We were starting to see racers coming back at us, though (actually, I lie, the leader came at us while we were still on Skyline), and that's a ton of fun. Ultra runners seem to generally be very supportive of each other, even when you have no idea who the other person is. It's always fun to see how the lead runners are mixed up, too. I love out and backs! Towards the end of this section, I realized I didn't have a gel with me. There was some mix up and I didn't communicate well enough to my Dad about water bottle/camel exchanging earlier and I forgot to grab a gel, thinking I already had one. I decided I ought to be okay and didn't think about it for a while.

Coming into Magney/Skyline and waiting for me were my friends Kelly and Amanda! They watched in dismay as I drank some Coke (it looked good for some reason so I drank a partial cup) and ran with me until we turned off of Skyline. I chatted with them quite a bit and found myself completely out of breath as Mike and I headed across Spirit. As in sprinting a 5K out of breath and having quite a bit of trouble feeling as though I was getting enough air. More than a bit worrisome since I was still moving rather sloth-like at this point and that didn't seem to bode well for the rest of my race. This called for a full blown sit down in the creek crossing - I decided I was overheating since I hadn't been able to pour a good amount of water over my head in a while. I'm still going with that theory too - especially since, later in the course, even though I was already wet, pouring water over my head made my breath catch it was so 'cold.' So, I plopped myself down on a rock and dunked my wrists in the water for a quick minute, dumped a couple capfulls on my head (noticing the large amount of dirt in each capfull) and then we were on our (still slow) way.

So I'm still hot, moving slowly, breathing like I'm about to keel over, alarming Mike and lamenting my lack of a gel now that I realized I was way overdue for food when I tripped on something and down I went. Clearly there was a giant root there. Or maybe a massive boulder. Or some sort of zombie hand reaching out from the ground. Or, you know . . . absolutely nothing that would cause a normal person to trip. Hm. Now, some of you know that I can make a lot of noise when I fall - the more tired I am, the louder I will be. I think I believe in that moment that more noise equals less pain. By god, I can scare the pain away if I saw ow, shit and damn loud enough! It was one of those horrid slow motion falls where your reflexes just aren't there to stop you even though you're falling so slowly. I landed hard and skidded a bit and swore a bunch and then some more at my right calf that decided to painfully cramp now that it didn't have weight on it and then bopped back up and on my way again. This all thoroughly alarmed the two women coming at me - I had to apologize and let them know I was louder than it actually hurt. Though, it was nice to know that it looked more painful than it felt. So I'm hot, still breathing hard, and now worried about the amount of dirt in what must be massive gouges in my leg and shoulder. Happily, it really didn't hurt all that bad once I got back up and moving. At least, not enough to make me limp more than the first couple of steps.

Coming into the Zoo was nothing short of awesome, cheering section wise. I had Kandi and Tara on the bridge above making lots of noise, random people who knew my name cheering at the corner for me and at the aid station were: Dad, Shelly, my co-worker Karri with an awesome sign, Kelly and Amanda. What a welcoming committee! I zeroed in on Shelly at first and went straight for a hug and then to find my washcloth to get the dirt off my surely festering wounds of doom (because a gash can definitely fester in the 10 minutes it took me to get there. Really). I grab my (clean!) washcloth and started unscrewing the top of the water container. Part-way through this, I realized the poor volunteer next to me has a rather horrified expression on her face but doesn't seem to want to stop me so I let her know that the washcloth was clean. I can only imagine her trying to decide how to stop the crazy runner from dunking her gross, used, sweaty washcloth into the water everyone drinks! Not to worry, though, I didn't even let my hands get wet, I just dipped the washcloth in. As it turns out, of course, my wounding wasn't nearly as impressive looking as I thought it would be once the dirt came off. Ah, well.

So this is where I thank Shelly for helping me wash off! She was being so nice and gentle - dapping at my shoulder so as not to scrape it down more. Well, by this point, I was getting antsy. Like I said, I don't like to spend time in aid stations. I fill up my water, grab what I need from Dad and go on my way. So I tried to convince her to just rub the dirt off fast, though she was rather insistent about being nice to my scraped up shoulder. Somewhere in here, she was quizzing me on how I was fueling. I am very proud to say that I stuck to a schedule and stuck to it well the whole race! A gel on the top of the hour (except for the one I missed coming into the Zoo) and a salt pill at about quarter to and quarter after give or take. It did take a bit to get the salt schedule figured out, but I stuck to it once I did. Happily, I've found a gel that I can take even when I don't really want to, so that helped a lot.

So! Halfway through! Time to head back! And the end of Part One. I hearby promise that Part Two will not be long in coming.

Friday, July 29, 2011

From NR: Voyageur

My first 50 mile is tomorrow!

Weather right now depends on where you look. A high in the low 80s with very reasonable humidity. I asked the weather gods earlier in the summer to bless us with lots of nasty weather if they had the make race day nasty and they have agreed! While we didn't get as much gross weather as we could have, I had a couple of nice long runs in really gross heat/humidity. I've noticed that I feel much more comfortable in heat/humidity, so that is great.

So, I'll be out there tomorrow. I could run a 9:30 or I could be racing the cutoffs if it's really gross out. I figure a 10-11 hour finish is most likely.

Good luck to everyone out there!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

From NR: Grandma's Race Report

It's really become beyond ridiculous, now! How is it possible that I am unable to write a race report in a timely fashion? And then that pushes off any other blog I would write since I can't write a 'normal' entry if I haven't even talked about Grandma's yet.

So here we go - another year, another Grandma's, another crappy marathon!!

Okay, that's not completely true. Lots of things went right this year and I managed to run my fastest Grandma's so far so clearly things could be a lot worse. I just still haven't figured things out on this course, I guess.

My original plans of staying in Two Harbors were scraped the night before and I ended up staying at home. It was the right move, though because I slept like a rock and didn't wake up tired at all, even though staying in Duluth meant being to the DECC before I have to get up in Two Harbors. I caved to Shane's pressure and took the train to the start and I have to admit - it was quite nice and I definitely recommend it to others. Even though there were lots of people, we had still had room. You could stretch out some, I stood up and used their bathroom right before we got there. And best of all . . . the rain was done by the time we pulled in! So I abandoned my short lived membership in the cult of the garbage bag and left my hat in the starting line bag.

I rode the train with Marcus and we stuck together until it was time to take the warm-ups off. It was probably good we lost track of each other during the bag drop off, though, since running together was probably not a stellar idea - we can't seem to run next to each other on pavement without one-stepping. Luckily, we're fine on trails! So I took off along the outside of the corrals to get up to the right spot and got settled smuck between the 3:30 and 3:40 pace groups.

There were a couple false starting moments as the crowd suddenly surged forward only to not have it be the start of the race . . . strange. But soon enough, off we went!

What a beautiful day for running! Nice temperatures, partly cloudy and just a tad too humid. This is definitely my day! I ran what felt super slow and made sure to keep my pace comfortable and held back and ran some beautiful splits - aiming for 8:12s: 8:21 (okay, a little slow, pick it up a tich), 8:01 (slow it a bit), 8:07 (perfect!), 8:07 (beautiful!), 8:02 (okay, a little excited there), 8:14 (perfect!).

And then I missed mile 7. Actually, the problem was that a lot of balloons were missing. Grandma's has this lovely set up where there's these HUGE yellow balloons floating way up at every mile so you can see them coming and you can see the mile points even when the road chalking is covered. Say by a massive water station. As was the case at mile 7 where there were no balloons and thus no way to know when you passed mile 7. So that mile and the next together were 16:19 which is about right but boy I hated not having accurate splits for two miles!

The next two were 8:18 and 8:11 and then suddenly a 8:25. And it was hard. And it was mile 11. So I knew there that 3:35 was probably not going to happen. Now, I make this sound like a knee jerk reaction to one bad split, but I assure you it wasn't that. I love taking mile splits (I just hit the lap button so that I'm keeping a running time as well) and I'm pretty good at staying positive no matter what I see there. Too fast? That's okay, just slow it down a little and it's perfect. Too slow? No problem, just pick it up a bit and it's perfect. Besides, it's really cool to see things like two splits in a row with exactly the same time :) Anyway, I don't necessarily panic when I don't see the number I expect.

However, somewhere after mile 11, it became clear that 3:35 was not in the books so I decided to just relax and enjoy. I had plenty of time banked so I could definitely still cruise under 3:40 and I had a great few miles. There was a girl who seemed to also be going for 3:35 since we were running the same pace that I was waiting to cruise by me but I never saw her. Did I make the right decision? I think so. I think I could have toughed it up a little more later on but I think it was smart to back off here.

Eventually, though, I realized I had done too many long, slow trail runs and probably not enough dedicated pace runs on roads. My legs pooped out too early and my ITBand starting making noise. It's been irritated for a while and I've been mostly ignoring it trying to be nice to it but it likes to rear its ugly head from time to time, especially on roads. With this not being my goal race, I did not want to injure myself bad so that was part of backing off as well.

So I was plugging along as my friends Tonya and Kelly both passed me looking good. I was glad I wasn't miserable and I was happy to see Kelly looking great but I didn't like not feeling capable of running with them and I didn't like looking okay as they went by. Almost as though if I can't run what I should then I should damn well be feeling absolutely terrible. Which is silly but how I felt at the time.

Nothing went particularly slow this year, though. I was always (except for one mile, apparently) moving forward at an okay pace even when walking was involved so that none of the miles really dragged by. Watching Lemon-drop hill approach, I swore to myself I could walk every step up it if I ran the whole way there (you can see it for over a mile away). I ran the whole way up anyway, though :)

With around three miles left, I looked at my watch and didn't think it'd be feasible to break 4 hours with the pace I was moving. This was frustrating since I'd be close. At two miles left, though, it suddenly looked maybe, possibly doable. Maybe. Depending on how much time that .2 would take. About that time, my friend from earlier suddenly showed up - we had both crashed! So it was time to dig down and keep running no matter what and I rather hoped she'd be able to, too. Even though we didn't speak at all during the race, I felt close to her since we were doing exactly the same pacing good and bad.

I was able to bring it in strong with a 3:57 - 30 minutes slower than what I wanted but my first time under 4 hours at Grandma's and I definitely picked it way up the last few miles. To which I say now - if I was able to do so well and bring it in stronger the last 3 miles, what the heck was going on for the 5 miles previously? I was able to find my 'friend' afterward, too - we were putting our clothes back on in the same spot, even! So I went up and asked how it went for her and sadly, she wasn't able to pick it up enough and came in at 4:something.

So - I'm annoyed that I wasted such a perfect day! When are we going to get such gorgeous weather for Grandma's again? What did I end up learning? Something I should have already known - doing enough specific pace work is necessary for a good marathon for me and perhaps I need to focus ONLY on a road marathon and not split myself too many ways. Of course, I'm also ready to swear off road marathons for a while but we'll see how long that really lasts.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

From NR: Grandma's Weather

The weather is looking so promising for Grandma's that I don't even want to talk about it for fear of jinxing things up! After a day or so scare of temperature predictions slowly climbing up and past 70, the predictions have been steadily dropping since then. Right now it's looking to be in the low or high 50's as a high, depending on the site you look at but not much variance in temperature from start to finish. There's a 50-70% chance of rain - one site saying 50% chance of showers and the other 70% for thunderstorms. So there could be some rain. Humidity is higher than I want on one site and fine on another.

But this could all change by Saturday, anyway! I am much, much happier about a chance of rain than gross heat, though. It just makes figuring out what to wear so much more complicated . . . I'm hoping for no rain as we start, anyway, as who wants to stand around in the corrals in the rain with your warm up clothes wet and wadded up in your gear back waiting you at the finish? But again, I would rather that than 90 degrees!

I'm crazy nervous and worried that while I'm in good shape, I don't know that I'm in good road marathon shape. I haven't done nearly enough marathon goal pace specific runs. I would love, as usual, to run somewhere between 3:30-3:40 but what would make me happy is just breaking that silly Grandma's curse of mine. That's something I feel confident can happen on Saturday.

Good luck to everyone racing this weekend! A special good luck goes out to my buddy Mike who is running his first marathon!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

From NR: Superior 50K

6 days to Grandma's! Which means the haunting of weather.com has begun! I'm feeling ridiculously ready right now which makes me worry about still having another week to go. I don't think I've been this raring to go for a race in a while, which I'm going to take as a good sign.

But! Another day, another overdue race report. I don't know why I've gotten so bad about posting about a race on time . . .

The Superior 50K (3 weeks ago yesterday) was awesome! I am very delighted to report that I had pretty much no stomach/nausea issues for the whole race. I decided to try S-caps for the race since everyone kept pushing the salt/electrolyte imbalance possibility on me. For some reason, I'd been very resistant. I was so sure that I had my salt intake figured out with my new gel and I didn't want to experiment with this type of a thing for some reason. Go figure. So finally I decided that it was worth a go and Lisa was nice enough to let me try hers before buying a massive bottle of something I might not use. I now have a lovely massive bottle of my own :)

So the race starts up a tar and then dirt road to get to the Superior Hiking Trail. I was taking it nice and slow from the start even as it seemed as though an awful lot of people were blasting up the hill. Once we got into the single track, I continued heeding advice from Lisa to start slower than I thought necessary and hung out with whoever was in front of me without stressing about any sort of pace so early on. I did decide not too much later that I wanted to go a titch faster, though, so I made my way around a handful of people and then stretched out some. It's absolutely beautiful for most of this course. There were so many lovely views that made me just want to stop and take it in and many places that made me vocalize (usually to myself) how pretty it was.

I was passed in here by Maria and who I thought was Mark but now I'm thinking I have his name wrong. He's very nice and we've been talking at a few races and I should really remember his name AND he reads my blog - I'm sorry! So they cruised along in front of me. Heading down the back end of the first climb, I was on my own but could see Mark's yellow shirt from time to time and could hear him and Maria talking and a group of people behind me somewhere talking - sounds were echoing a bit in the valley and when I started to get a little annoyed at the noise injection itself into the lovely surroundings, I just reminded myself how lonely Chippewa was getting just before halfway when I had no-one around me. Things didn't look nearly so beautiful and green on the way back which is strange but I suppose at that point the sky was darkening for rain and I bet the sun angle probably had a ton do with it as well but the valley didn't even seem like the same place when I came back through.

Up the next climb and on to more beautiful vistas! Up here there were tons of downed trees over the trail that had to be climbed over and dodged around and ducked under. A bit of an annoyance since it would be a nice place to get a rhythm going again, but not a big deal - this is a trail race after all! Let me tell you, though, those trees were much more annoying on the way back and I felt like I almost got stuck trying to get over one. Much more annoying.

The first aid station is at 7 miles and I did a quick peruse of the table . . . peanut butter sandwiches, cookies, M&Ms, gummy bears, peanut butter and M&M sandwiches?? Hm. Okay! So I grabbed a square of that (to the delight of the two girls who apparently made them) and headed out. Amazingly tasty, actually! Where I couldn't quit find the interest for PB&J at Chippewa, the PJMM was a great mix. Mmmmmmmm. After the first aid station, it's nice and easy to get into a good rhythm as the big climbs are over with and things are more rolling. I focused on keeping an even effort level - this meant more control with downhills and figuring out what steepness of hill should be walked. I think I did a pretty rocking job with this, if I may say so myself :) I passed a lot of people in here and actually, I think this whole race noone who passed me stayed in front of me which is rather shockingly new for me in a 50K!

I keep forgetting to look at the winning guy's time but he passed me on his way back ridiculously early. In fact, a lot of people did, including Cristy (she's a friend and also the female winner) so that I started thinking I had read the map wrong. Could these people really be so many miles in front of me already? Yes. Yes they could!

The second aid station was pure chaos. Between those of us heading out and those heading back there were people EVERYWHERE. I didn't want to wait in line for the water coolers so I just grabbed a cup of water to add to my handheld, since I'd be back in a couple of miles anyway, and got the heck of out dodge. On my way to the turnaround, I started seeing more and more people I knew. Shane said he wasn't happy but he said it so cheerfully I wasn't sure I believed him. I was getting worried, though, as I was going further and further and hadn't seen Marcus. The way up Carlton peak (though we don't go all the way up) is tough to run simply because of the boulders you're trying to pick your way through. It's even harder to try to run your way down. So then I got to the turnaround and still no sign of Marcus. Hmmmm. Worrisome. I ask Rick and Wayne about him, though, and was told he was running awesome which made me more confused as to how I would have missed him as we passed each other. Turns out he was in the massive chaos that was the second aid station so that explains that.

That aid station was much calmer on the way back, by the way, and I was even able to pet my second puppy of the day there. I continued chugging along, making good time and catching people when all of a sudden there was a familiar form in front of me. Shane! I picked up the pace to see what was going on. A most unhappy and full of swears Shane was gimping his way along the trail. He would join for the next 8 or so miles as he worked through some painful sounding ankle issues. I was amused, though, as he kept apologizing for talking so much - we might have annoyed a couple of people as we passed, I think, but I didn't mind a bit. He might have slowed me down a couple of places but generally, having someone run right on your shoulder, even if they're not trying to push the pace, can help you push a little more. Especially as we slogged it back up Moose Mountain. That's a heck of a steep little climb, there. And then the damn trees. There were definitely more down over the trail then had been there on the way out. Plus, sometimes it's just nice to share the trail for a while with a friend.

Shane scooted around me right after the trees and I was on my own for most of the rest. I felt good but I knew my legs weren't so interested in pushing much faster so I hung out at the pace I was at rather than trying to pick it up and keep with Shane. Which seemed smart since he quickly booked it out of sight range. I couldn't remember at all how far there was to go (and that lovely valley didn't look nearly the same anymore) so I was trying to judge my chances of a PR and of beating the clearly oncoming rain and wondering if we were close enough for Shane to break 6 hours (we did some talking about our chances of doing so). I did get rained on but only for the last few minutes so it actually felt quite good. Until I was done and my dry clothes were at the condo and not right at the finish line. Oops.

A woman passed by me in the last mile. I let her go for a bit as we caught back up to Shane and they both picked it up with the widening of the trail. But as we came out of the hiking trail and on to the road, I saw she wasn't gaining on me anymore and I decided to stretch the legs out and see what happened. I couldn't believe that I felt good enough to kick it down another notch! Not only were my legs able to move faster but it was downhill and my quads weren't in such pain that they couldn't take it. How exciting! As the woman in front of me made the last turn up a tiny little bump, she slowed way down. I wasn't sure if she didn't know where to go or wasn't sure how far was left or just couldn't take this one last uphill bump but I sprinted past her in the last 100 meters or so.

I'm a bit torn about this - it seems a bit cruel to sprint it out for a 50K finish. If I had that in me than maybe I should have just stayed in front of her in the first place. But then again, it IS a race so I probably shouldn't feel bad about racing it in . . . I don't know. All I know is that it felt awesome to bring it in strong, run a PR on a harder course, clearly have more left (even if it is to the point of having too much left) and feeling as though I could have run further.

So a great race on a beautiful course, a PR, a great weekend with friends and another favorite shirt. I even ran the next day and did a good 20 mile the next weekend.

Next up: Grandma's Marathon! I wonder what weather.com says now . . .

Monday, April 25, 2011

From NR: Chippewa Moraine Race Report

Holy overdue race report, Batman!

When long races don't go as hoped, I think I need a little additional time to be positive about them. Of course, this also means I'm less inclined to write a novel about the race, so maybe it's a good thing for those of you reading, huh?

So, step one. positive things about Chippewa Moraine:

~ I ran a 59 minutes PR. What's not to be happy about with that? Let's just ignore the differences in course difficulty between Wild Duluth and Chippewa :)
~ I ran 20 miles without stomach issues. That's longer than I went in Wild Duluth.
~ Except for the brutal finish hill, I ran every step of the last mile so I clearly had more left than I thought.
~ I saw a deer running through a knee deep swamp hole, had what I think was a Great Blue Heron yell loudly at me and watched an eagle soaring right where only I could see him through the trees.
~ My friends all tore the course up!

Still, I haven't been that disappointed in a race in a long time. I think the bad thing about not doing what you want in a race that goes for several hours is that you have plenty of time to mull things over and try to figure out what went wrong and what you can do to fix it. Sounds more like a good thing, really. I did try to take a step back and managed to get un-frustrated with myself - still frustrated with how the race was going for me but I stopped being down on myself for it. I don't think I did anything wrong per-say with this race. What did I want out of it anyway? I wasn't tapering - I wasn't planning on exactly racing or running very hard. In fact, I did my first official track workout of the year that Tuesday so it's not as though I was resting my legs beforehand. I wanted to figure out some eating and have a good stomach the whole way and just get a good long run under my belt. So really, I wasn't doing so bad. I hit mile 26 and was several minutes ahead of my Half Voyageur time. Again, different course, but still. I was frustrated with my stomach being nauseous and uphappy and with my legs also dying despite not going hard. I think having to walk so much and not swiftly with a nauseous stomach made my legs not want to start going again when they could. Plus the whole tired legs thing.

This was only my second ultra! I did lots of things right and I learned some things for next time. Like peanut butter and jelly on white bread isn't quite what tastes good even when I'm interested in eating it (so maybe I'll have my Dad carry PB&J on bagels at Voyageur?). And my E-Gel goes down even when I'm not interested in eating it. And it's possible to be so sick of being passed that you want to scream at the next person who does . . .

So! I do highly recommend the Chippewa Moraine 50K. It's a gorgeous and very runnable course and well organized. Even with all the rain, there was minimal mud (though there was a spot where they was suddenly a small creek to cross on the way back that wasn't there on the way out). There's tons of water out there and the manned aid stations had lots of food when I went through them (though, apparently, I need to pause and peruse the tables a bit better since I missed banana bread!). The volunteers were, of course, pretty much all great, and there was lots of food at the end so you were bound to find something that looked interesting to eat. It's an out and back course, so you get the excitement of seeing everyone and the first/last 5 miles are marked which was mostly good on the way back in. It's a cheap race if you sign up early and the shirts are comfy and fit.

Up next for big races is the Spring Superior 50K. I want my stomach to behave even better so that I'm not panicking at mile 20 about doing 30 more in a couple months.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

From NR: Trails

Sometimes there are specific runs that I can point to and say "this is why I run" - this is why I want to keep my mileage up so I can do these runs, this is what's special about running. From last year, the first one that comes to mind was a long run with friends on the Voyageur course sometime in late June/early July. My friends were doing 26 miles and I jumped in for 16. It was raining for much of it and we had a blast. There were some accidental somersaults down the Powerlines (not me!) and some mud puddle jumping (definitely me!). We got lost a bit and added a mile to the original intentions but it wasn't a big deal. I'm not saying there's only one run a year like this, this is just the first one that came to mind - some runs just stick out and often, they aren't races and they seem to usually involve trails.

One of my first ones (chronologically) I can remember right now is from high school but not until my senior year. It was the Monday after State and none of us were really ready for the season to be done so about half the State team took off down a trail that our coach tried to take us on earlier in the year. That time, we refused to follow since we were already a ways out and no-one knew where it went or how long it was. Smart move on our part - it ended up being a something just over 10 mile loop (long for us!) and we had to cross several creeks (very new for us!) and one of us (not me!) ended up wet up to her neck from slipping in the middle of a creek. By the end of the run, it was snowing and then the trail kicked us out onto highway 2 and we had several miles of headwind on roads to get back to the high school. It was fabulous, though! We ran together the whole way and just had fun with running - something we didn't do very often.

I had another one of these runs a couple Sundays ago. I woke up needing to do 13ish miles after doing 13 on Saturday (the last weekend was a crash and burn for mileage so I was going for the back to backs again). I was tired from the accidental fast pace from the day before (oops . . . but in my defense, lots of it was downhill!) and I just didn't feel like running on roads again. I wanted trail. And I wanted company. So I decided to wait for a friend to get off of work.

It wasn't raining at the start, though it had been on and off all day. We went out to Hartley and the trails weren't quite as bad as I was worried about - the snow was soft but had grip so we weren't slip sliding around too badly. We headed in something like the right direction for the guard rail loop but 20 minutes later, we ended up on a road that neither of us had seen before. Oh, look! There's a trail head map! Unfortunately, there was no 'you are here' sticker. Not helpful, Hartely. So we ran up the road until we found a mailbox with the road name on it, ran back to the sign, figured out where we were and got back to the trails. Only to be sidetracked when we crossed the Superior Hiking Trail and decided to just take that through Hartley, through Bagley and down Chester . . .

By the time we got back, it was dark and it was definitely raining. But it was beautiful out. There's something special about running trails as the light is disappearing. When we got back, I didn't want to go inside. In fact, if I had brought a headlamp with and didn't have a hungry husband waiting at home, I probably would have worked on convincing Marcus that more miles are better.

Runs like that make me very excited for running this year! I'm already registered for two 50ks, a marathon and a 50 mile and that's just the first half of the year! Though, I am definitely not solidly planning on anything after Voyageur, so my body can relax if it needs it. Very little sounds more fun right now then spending all day out on the trails with friends. The race I'm most unsure about? My road marathon! Right now I'm craving all trails but I know if I don't do Grandma's, I'll probably regret it, so I signed on up :) The problem is going to be making sure I do enough long runs on pavement. And last week's long run probably didn't count since even though it was all roads - I spent a large amount of time running on the nice dirt shoulder . . . It's kind of strange to have Grandma's as a secondary race, though. I know I'll want to taper for it but, like Leslie said today, that would be happening during the time I should be getting longer runs in for Voyageur. I'll figure it out, though. I'm only very loosely following any sort of plan which is also strange if I think about it but I think I'm doing smart things.

Next up is the Chippewa Moraine 50K in three weeks. That is another race I was on the fence about (though with Grandma's, I don't know that I was ever seriously considering not doing it for more than a couple hours). I knew I wanted to do another 50K before doing Voyageur but TWO 50ks? And a marathon? In the space of a couple months? Maybe that's just asking to burn out or injure myself. But then I was thinking (and it was pointed out to me) that I'll be doing over 30 mile training runs for Voyageur anyway - I might as well have a couple of those been supported runs where I can practice eating and such. Right? So I'm not planning on any sort of taper for Chippewa (well, I might take it a little easy the week before) in the hopes that it will keep me from trying to run it too hard and I'll be trying to treat it as a training run rather than a race. Though, honestly, it kind of seems as though there wouldn't be much difference between the two paces for me, right now at this distance! I'll be going slowly either way, I think. But I still need to think 'training' and not 'race' in my head. Then I need to figure out my plans for the Superior Spring 50K and Grandma's. Plenty of time for that, though!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

From NR: Another Letter

Dear Sam:

I know we've barely left February but you're running mileage close to your previous peaks for marathon training already. Feed me more!

Your body.

Oooooooooooh. That's why I'm so hungry lately! I spent pretty much all of last Sunday ravenous. Even right after I ate. There was a brief time after lunch when I was good, though :) Then I looked at my weekly mileage. So, time to add more food! A delicious mid-morning snack is a yummy french toast flavored bagel with homemade apple butter. Mmmmmmmmmm.

I'm feeling pretty awesome, though. I've been looking at various 50 mile training programs online and have been shocked at the low mileage proposed during the week. Since you're doing double long runs, they all seem to have super low mileage and three days off a week. I have two days off and I think I'm about to change that down, even, once I figure out a good way to do it without upping mileage too much at once. So I guess I'll keep going with what I've been doing . . . except I find I'm at a cross roads after this week. I ran 20 miles today and 6 yesterday - I like to count both weekend days since I'm so used to having one of them off :). Now what? For marathon training, once you hit 20 you do something like 20, 12, 20, 12 etc. Or, at least, the plans I've done have you doing that. I've got a long time before Grandma's (15 weeks yesterday) and even longer before Voyageur (21 weeks yesterday) and I should definitely be doing mileage over 20 but probably not for a while, yet. I also just had a step down week and don't want to do another one next week already. So. Do another 20? Drop down to 18ish and lengthen Sunday's run? Do 12 both days instead? I'll have to figure that out, I guess :) But even having this debate at the beginning of March is pretty awesome for me and I'm feeling rather like a rock star! It's exciting to be doing good mileage so early on so the goal is to keep it rolling and keep myself healthy!

Last weekend, I went for a fun adventure and did a long run with my buddy Lisa out at Gooseberry Falls State Park. I am continually amazed at how close to Gooseberry I am, now that I'm in Duluth! Anyway, that was 18 miles on snowmobile trails in mostly beautiful weather and pretty good trail conditions. We ran into 18 snowmobiles (17 on the way out) and every one of them was very nice - slowing down and moving way over to go by us. I ran 5 miles the next day which mad me feel super bad-ass since I'm so used to taking the day after a long run off. I've been slowly transitioning to get ready for double longs - I did a couple weeks of an easy 3 miles the day after and then 4 miles and I did 5 last week and it felt great! This week, I did 6 miles the day before my long run so I'm not sure it really counts but I guess it made me more tired for today so I'll go with it. Of course, I also have friends who last weekend ran a 50K on Saturday and then a marathon on Sunday . . . but I'm surrounded by rock stars like that, so I have to judge my bad-assness within myself, right? So here's to everyone's inner rock star/bad ass - no matter what level you're at!

Friday, February 25, 2011

From NR: Shoes

I promised more regular posting once I got my own computer back, so here you go!

So an interesting thing happened to me on Wednesday . . .

I went to change for group running after work only to find that there was only one shoe in my running bag. Strange. Where did the other shoe go? I decided it must have fallen out of my bag somewhere between my house and work (plausible since my shoes stick out the top of the cinched bag as I bring way too many different layer options with me . . .) but hopefully not between my car and work since that would probably mean it would probably be gone forever. At least it was my 'cheap' shoe - my right shoe has my road ID and my heel lift in it :) However, this meant I'd have to do my Wednesday night run in an old shoe on my injured leg. Well, not that it's injured NOW but it's the leg that always has the injury problems and it's probably not nice to throw it in a beat up worn down shoe.

Oh well, nothing for it. If I tried to go home and look for it, I wouldn't have time to get in extra miles before the group run and it wasn't even guaranteed that it would be at home. I did hold out the small hope that it had fallen out of my bag IN my car, but that was a no go.

So I put on my shoes and could instantly notice the difference between the old shoe and the new shoe and wondered if it'd be any good for me to run like that. I, of course, decided that it's not as though I was running 20 miles and that I'd be fine, even though it felt so weird :) I noticed during the run that the weird part of my leg that's been hurting hurt worse with an old shoe on. Hmmm. Maybe it's just a sign that I need new shoes anyway? After a few miles, I couldn't tell a difference, though.

Here's the interesting part . . .

When I got home, I found the missing shoe under a bench.

I looked at the velcro (for gaiters) on the back of the shoe and noticed it was rather large - I had put a smaller piece on my 'new' shoes then my old ones, hoping to make the velcro strip I had last longer. So I brought the three shoes to better light and compared how the bottoms were worn out. Yup. I had definitely worn two different shoes to work in the first place and not noticed. I wear my old running shoes as walking around shoes and I wear those walking around shoes to and from work rather than scuffing up my work shoes. And both pairs are the exact same model so look pretty much the same.

Which meant the shoe I left behind at home was an old shoe. How I managed to do this is another question - why didn't I notice that I only put one shoe in my bag? Because it hadn't fallen out, it just hadn't been put in in the first place.

Which meant I ran in two 'new' shoes. The same shoes. Which means all that dramatic difference I felt? 100% completely in my head. Crazy.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

From NR: Step back week

Last week ended up being a step back week for mileage. I meant for it to be THIS week, but events conspired to put it a week earlier and I guess that's fine. It's good to be flexible, right? Plus - I've been having some weird shin/below the knee issues that come from improper sitting at work! It's strange having to pay attention to such things, now! I'm already a lot better, though, after paying strict attention to having two feet flat on the floor at all times if I'm sitting at my desk for the last couple of days, so I'm sure I'll be fine.

So my original plan this last weekend was a nice long run Saturday and a short-medium run Sunday. The problem came in that I was waiting until Saturday NIGHT and trying to plan a moonlight run with friends that just sort of fell apart (which certainly had nothing to do with the last minute way in which I tried to organize. Oh, no, definitely not!). This left me without a long run Saturday.

Come Sunday morning, my body wussed out first, as I turned the alarm off and promptly fell back asleep barely waking up in time to call my scheduled running partner to warn her. So we pushed things off another hour only to watch the wind pick up and the snow fly around until we BOTH wanted to wuss out on the run. Happily, we were able to muster the desire to at least get out for a medium run (time constraints prevented a long run). It actually turned out to be quite beautiful out in the woods. The wind was really strong but it was still warm out, so it didn't make it miserable and the woods kept you fairly sheltered. The trees were loud in the wind and the snowmobile trails were deserted since they were all ice - but ice that crushed under your feet instead of glare ice, so very runable. It was one of those runs that started . . . off. I don't know what was wrong but I had 20 different aches and pains though nothing was super sore or really tired at all. I wanted to be out there and yet something just wasn't connecting right so that I didn't want to be out there. So we ran the first half of the run mostly in silence - my running partner seemed to feel similar and I know opening my mouth would have just let out lots of whining from me! By the way back, though, things felt better and I was ready to go further but for that time constraint (a birthday party with friends I hadn't seen in a while so I wanted to go). I was downright babbling on the way back. I should come with a warning label sometimes during runs: "WARNING: Will talk you ear off about nothing in particular if you let her" though I do also have to say that I'm perfectly capable (usually) of being quiet if that is preferred by those I'm running with :) I guess it's a sign that I'm running my long runs at the correct pace if I'm able to talk, right?

Speaking of long runs - my dad has agreed to crew for me at Voyageur! Yay! More on that as the time gets nearer. It's probably not appropriate to talk about Voyageur while there's still snow on the ground, huh?

It really felt like spring was coming today, though. The road I ran on had that dirty look of Spring - no snow, no ice but puddles and all the dirt/grime left behind before the street cleaners come through. Some grass was showing through along the side of the road and you could smell that just-uncovered-grass smell. There was a wind but it wasn't cold and the sun was nice and warm. It's always so cruel to have a taste of spring when you know it's a ways off yet. Last week I ran in half tights! And was comfortable. It felt so nice to have my legs getting wet by puddles spraying up. I've never been so ready for spring before - I'm dying to have nice clear single track back again! Though, I have to say, I would have preferred the snow the Cities got since that would make the trails better (I've heard most are just glare ice) and I'd love to get more skiing in before the end of winter. As long as the trails aren't going to be clear, they might as well REALLY not be clear, is my thinking!