Western States Training: Catch-up on weeks 6 & 7

Oops, time sort of slipped away from me and I missed updating week 6 so I’m adding it in  with week 7.  Again, I’m writing this as a record for myself to look back on, and also as a way to share with you all, so many of the weeks are similar in structure.


Running downhill at South Mountain State Park


The 6th week of training started off pretty great.  The Tuesday workout was pretty typical, overall average pace of 7:50, but the Thursday workout I had a little mental breakthrough.  Running as hard as you can up a hill for 3 minutes hurts. I can get just under a half a mile uphill and on Thursday I was bumping up the number of repeats as well as having a busy week at work and pushing hard and knowing the pain is coming can be almost as much mental as it is physical.  Letting up on the gas is tempting, but at the same time I want each workout to be at least the same overall pace as the previous ones, if not faster.  The workouts are always the same distance in the end, but the speed in the middle gets longer, as the cool down at the end gets shorter. That Thursday I decided that I was just going to be in the moment, not think about the added repeats and how much more they were going to hurt and just run…and I had a much better workout.  My pace dropped to a 7:41 and I ended up with more repeats, and also an extra half mile at the end because I ran my usual cool down loop, forgetting I had added a mile to the hill repeats.  Obviously I should be getting fitter, but that jump was in no way all physical, and probably mostly mental.

That Saturday at the end of the week was also pretty good, it does seem that the pain I experience during the Tuesday and Thursday workouts translates over to my long runs.  Its like once you start to get used the acute fatigue of all out hill repeats, a long run doesn’t feel quite as hard.  I finished the last 5 miles of the long run faster than the previous 15.

Unfortunately I got a 48 hour something and stayed in bed from Saturday night until Monday morning.

Anyway the week looked like this

  • Monday Hour of Trail miles, PM yoga
  • Tuesday 3×3 hill repeats for a total of 8 miles followed by lifting; core and rotational mobility too
  • Wednesday 8 trail miles
  • Thursday 8.5 miles of 3×4 hill repeats, followed by lifting: core and rotational mobility
  • Friday, easy hour with friends
  • Saturday long run with last 5 miles faster
  • Sunday sick all day

Bleeding into

  • Monday sick all day
  • Tuesday, backing off of repeats to 3×3 while I recover from the virus; easy lift, more mobility
  • Wednesday 8 trail miles
  • Thursday 5×3 for 8 miles; lift
  • Friday hour easy run with friends while planning weekend miles
  • Saturday long run in South Mountains State park: 20 miles 4,5000 feet. Run comfortable, unless its a runnable downhill and then run it hard (don’t run the steep and terribly technical sections hard, not worth risking an ankle or leg injury) Finish with a 2 mile hike straight up a waterfall 🙂
  • Sunday, easy road miles with Drew and the dog.

So the take away from this two week block is to be more mindful of being present while running hill repeats.  The benefit of the workout isn’t just the pounding of the legs, or the burning of the lungs…its also training the mind and body to really get close to that edge of suffering, and realizing that its ok. (if you subscribe to the central governor theory, then your brain will cut you off long before you actually do any real damage to yourself by running hard.) I do think when left to my own devices I omit these types of workouts and opt for long slower slogs.  That seems to be the type of pain I enjoy, however, the short, intense training bouts is really what I have been missing.


Waterfalls and laughter with friends


Hope you all had a good few weeks of training!


Western States: Week 5


Just trying to find a little balance this week.

This week I was back to hill workouts.   After a week of rest, I was feeling fresh and ready to get back to training at the start of the week.  However, I picked up 7 more work hours(time on feet) so by the end of the week I was pretty worn out.  I also think because usually after my workouts I have an hour or two before getting back to any work, I am very good about refueling, but this Tuesday after my lunch run/lift I neglected to prepare for refueling properly, and the next few days my runs suffered.  (noted, and week 6 I am going into it with plenty of pre prepared foods and easy crock pot meals that will be ready for me to eat.)

My weeks have turned into a back and forth of early morning runs, and mid day lunch runs.  My body is getting into the habit of early-pop-out-of-bed wake ups, followed by leisurely morning wake ups every other day.  I’m hoping that if I take my time and stretch and eat and do some mobility my body will feel better on my vo2 max days.

  • Monday: Easy 5 trail miles
  • Tuesday: Vo2 max workout 4×3 minute hill repeats.  Tuesdays I had a lot of work as well as this workout, so I ate a big breakfast, did some mobility and then a few hours of work.  I took my lunch break and did my workout and felt amazing! Strava data can be found https://www.strava.com/activities/1383445372/embed/1ba0a9513e78a997dab97f8cf3763eb01aa1d9f5” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>here, It is a hill workout, not sure why my Suunto didn’t pick up the hill.  The hill data can be found https://www.strava.com/activities/1360480160/embed/c97b0dae708ea0a7df47432cf1f8f1b96e280bf4” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>here  from a previous workout.  Unfortunately I went right back to work after only having a very small snack.  By the time I got home at 6 pm I was too tired to make a good meal, and think that the next two days were a result of this silly mistake.
  • Wednesday: Easy-sleepy hour shake out run on trails
  • Thursday: Another lunchtime vo2 workout, but this time my legs were FLAT.  The second I started the first repeat I could tell my body wasn’t recovered.  Do you ever have that feeling of “hollow” legs, like there is no energy in them to contract your muscles.  I tried pushing harder, pumping my arms more, getting my legs to turn over faster…blah.  I just couldn’t move fast enough to get my HR up.  It was frustrating at first, but not every workout can be perfect or faster than the one previous, so as I made my way back to my car I looked back on what I ate and realized my Tuesday mistake.  DON’T FORGET TO EAT ENOUGH POST RUN!
  • Friday: Another easy hour.
  • Saturday: I joined a friend for 15 or so miles, we sort of mindlessly ran around our local trails.  The day was cold, and not really warming up, so after he left I decided to pick up the pace for my last few miles–I was ready to get home and warm up, so I completed the run on non technical trail and dropped my pace closer to a tempo pace to finish up. After I went to the gym and did some strength work.
  • Sunday: Family run day!  We opted to run an hour on the roads.  The steady rain had flooded all the trails, so we just did a slow recovery pace on roads close to home.


Also, Lily Trotters, the women’s compression socks I wear, shared one of my Balanced Movement workouts.  This one I do in the weeks leading up to events.  Its not for strength, its for muscle memory and foot quickness.  Its here.

Western States Training: Week 4 Rest

After 3 weeks of vo2 max workout building, and Refining Ultra strength training, it was time for a recovery week.  Keep the same mileage, take out all the speed and have fun!   Not having scheduled workouts meant that I could do a bunch of random trail running with friends!  After the snow from last week, this week was a muddy and much warmer week and I could get back out onto the trails again.

  • Monday: Easy 5 mile trail run.  The trail was either slick with mud or ice, but it was a relaxed run, and fun never the less.
  • Tuesday: One of my training partners (that I met at Cruel Jewel last May) invited along a friend of hers…who happened to have just signed up for Crew Jewel 100 this coming May.  I thought that this called for a group run with a local trail group, so we met and headed out to the start of Tuesday Hill workout a mile away, which turned into quite an adventure.  After the snow melt from Monday, and a heavy Thunderstorm that ended right before our run the creek had washed away all the bridges so we had to backtrack and cross on the rail road bridge.  None of us are afraid of heights, but if you haven’t crossed a wet, slippery rail road bridge, the thing about it is that its just the wood planks across open air with foot wide gaps in between, and I had to hold onto my skinny whippet dog who kept almost slipping through the gaps.  We met up with the small group and proceeded to run the hill loop, which is mostly just a trail route that doubles back and forth over all the hills in the local forest.  Its not saying much since we live in a rather flat area, I think in 8 miles we got 1,200 vertical feet.  The real adventure was the trek back to the car.  Rather than chance losing the dog through the slats of the rail road bridge, we decided to cross the swollen creek.  The worst part of this is the stream hides many large and small boulder and was freezing and fast moving, so you can easily get your foot caught in the unseen rocks below.  We were in up to our chests, as the dog jumped in, I looked back to see him being swept downstream, and I fell in.  Fortunately he managed to land on a large boulder and jumped out, and Erin grabbed me and we made it to the other side.  The problem now was that we were on the side where we parked, and the dog was on the opposite side refusing to get back into the cold water.  Fortunately Erin’s friend, Sara, had no fear and crossed back over a slippery pipe and carried the dog back over.  Note to self, run from home when it rains like that, and cross the big bridge that never washes away :). Either way, it was fun, and Emmitt and I made a new trail friend.  That afternoon I still did my weight lifting, but backed off on weight and reps as it was recovery week.
  • Wednesday: The three of us headed back out to much drier trails for 5 miles in the woods again.
  • Thursday: The dog was looking a little tired, and possibly sore from his excitement in the creek on Tuesday, so I left him at home and ran 8 miles on the road, focusing on my gait.  Afternoon lifting session at the gym and sauna.
  • Friday: Another easy 5 trail miles with a recovered dog.
  • Saturday:  I am trying to mix up long trail runs with long road runs so I can target both gait focused fast running, and technical endurance trail running.  This week I opted for a long road run.  I met friends who are training for a half marathon, and we did 16 miles at a 7:39 pace.
  • Sunday:  Woke to the sound of rain, but 53 degrees!  It was like an early spring day, and after some procrastination, I got 5 miles done on the road.

Looking to the next three weeks it will be similar, more VO2 workouts, more mobility and lifting as prescribed and put together specifically for Western States and my specific weaknesses by Balanced Movement PT.  Onto the pain!


Western States Training: week 3

Well, week three got off to a great start, the afternoons were warm, it was feeling like spring, my legs felt great…and then it SNOWED!  Now I realize, snow isn’t a big deal for most of the northern part of the US, really snow isn’t a big deal for me…I love it, I was so excited for it! (With one caveat, I love it because in the south its a rare thing..I did not love it when I lived in MA and it lasted 6+ months.)  The problem is when you live in NC and there are only 2 snow plows for the whole area, and no sanding or salting trucks..so everything shuts down!  Not so great for specific training runs…great for snow play, snowmen, snow hikes though!

Monday and Tuesday went off according to plan;

  • Monday: one hour easy
  • Tuesday 8 miles of 3×3 Vo2 hill work. This one felt fantastic!  I keep having to find new hills to run, because living in a flat part of the country a 3 minute hill takes a little bit of searching.  Fortunately there was one a few miles from my gym, so I ran the 8 miles, and went back to the gym for more Refining Ultra lifting.
  • Wednesday: now here’s where it gets interesting.  We were forecasted about 4 inches, starting at 4 am.  Friends and I planned to meet at first light and run some snow miles.  When we woke up, it was raining..boo…but not 2 minutes into our run it turned into snow..yay!  It fell fast!  We were out for an hour and a half and came home to more than 3 inches!  It fell all.day.long; and into the night.
  • Thursday:  I woke to 12 inches of beautiful snow!! Though, it meant my gym was closed, and there was no way I could do a workout in a foot of snow.  SO I went on a long winter hike, I shoveled, I played in the snow with my dog, and did some chores around the house.
  • Friday: still about 10 inches on the ground, but the gym was finally open, so I did my 8 miles of 3×3 on the TM, followed by lifting and the sauna.
  • Saturday: 14 miles of sometimes slushy, sometimes slippery, sometimes deep snow plodding.  To make things fun, Erin and I decided to go on some new trails, and follow footsteps around though the woods.  It was fun!
  • Sunday: by this day my legs were tired from all the snow.  Snow, mud, sand, and other types of unstable footing is both a good thing, and bad thing for training.  Its great because it challenges all your small stabilizing muscles, its bad because it tires you out so much more…it can even be mentally challenging.  I was happy to find that there was plenty of dry road to run, and did 6 miles with my husband on the road.

This concludes the very first training block of 2018.  Starting on Monday its all the same miles, but no speed, and cut back on lifting to absorb the past 3 week of training.



Western States Training: Week 2

I don’t know what’s happening, but this week jumped 60+ degrees to nearly 70 some days, so suddenly I was running in shorts and a t-shirt agian—-though Don’t worry, next week is back to subScreenshot_2018-01-11-14-23-12 freezing mornings.  Maybe this weather is like taking a contrast ice bath/hot tub? Either way here’s my week:

  • Monday: easy 5, but then I went to a evening workout which ended up being a plyometric workout with wind sprits, which, in the moment felt great but……
  • Tuesday….set me up for tired legs going into my VO2 workout. Woops! 4X2 min was haaard. I could feel my legs burning way too early in this workout, so I made a note to remember that while I am in this training block to really keep my rest days easy. Afterwards; more strength base lifting and sauna
  • Wednesday: Another easy hour
  • Thursday: Same as Tuesday but my legs felt much better, and my workout was noticeably faster, another base lifting session.
  • Friday: hour hike in the woods with friends and dog friends and some trigger point and mobility work, followed by Little River Trail Run Packet pickup!
  • Saturday:  Every Jan we host a trail race nearby.  As per usual my duties were Packet pickup coordinator and sweep.  It made for a chilly morning, and a long day, but I got in my 13 miles with friends and really had a blast watching the many local faces enjoy their day in the woods.
  • Sunday: Hus.b.D is coming down with something so I opted to sleep in, hoping It will bypass me.  Easy hour in the woods with the dog, followed by lifting and a warm 25 min sauna…though our Y sauna isn’t nearly hot enough to do much of anything other than warm me up.  My garmin says its only about 109 degrees, or cooler.  Also, I got my back squat up to 90lbs!  A far cry from where I started 6 weeks ago with 60ish lbs and terrible form!  #gains (I believe is the lifting term)

Onto week 3!!

First Week: A Chilly Welcome Back

Jan 1 was my first day back to training after a 6 week off season of minimal running, and lots of heavier strength training.  Unfortunately for my fingers and toes mother nature gave me a chilly welcome back to training.  Christmas week had been a balmy 50 degrees, so when temps below 20, and some days below 10 degrees were forecasted I mentally cringed.

Not being one to allow the weather to stand in my way, I layered up and pressed on.

This is what my week looked like:

  • Monday: Easy hour
  • Tuesday: 6 miles VO2 workout+ Refining Ultra strength and mobility workout and sauna!
  • Wednesday: Easy hour
  • Thursday: 6 Miles Vo2 workout(in the snow; get out the ice spikes!)
  • Friday: Rest
  • Saturday: Carrboro 50k fatass (did half) + Refining Ultra strength and mobility workout+ sauna
  • Sunday: easy 45 min

I feel pretty good about this first week back.  I was apprehensive about how my legs might feel after 6 weeks of not more than 20 miles a week, but the heavy weight lifting and the refining of my gait really made a difference.  While I have certainly lost some of my endurance, I gained much more strength and body (hip) awareness.

In that same vein of hip awareness, I learned where your actual center of mass is.  Do you know where it is in the human body?  I always thought it was somewhere around my navel, turns out our actual center of mass is right near our tailbone…slightly ahead of it.  Making the hips the most important hinges/body movers because they are the closest to it.

Refining Ultra: my 2018 Journey to Western States 100

In 1980, the year of my birth, only 3- 100 mile races existed; Old Dominion in Virginia, Wasatch Front 100 in Utah, and Western States Endurance Run in California.  These men and women were the first pioneers of modern 100 mile races as we know them today, and without their  adventurous spirits, looking to push the limits of the human body, I wouldn’t have this sport that I love .

As I grew, and dipped my toe into running, ultra marathons grew as well…as many others dipped their toes into longer and longer races.  Now approximately 161-100 mile races exist in the continental US, and many more around the globe.

Moving ahead to 2018, I will  be toeing the start line of Western States Endurance Run, and am so excited to finally have the chance to do so after several years of lottery disappointment.  This is the oldest 100 mile race in the US and since its inception it has grown to become one of the most prestigious, and therefore one of the hardest to get into.  With a lottery system and auto entry process for a few elite and other important members of the ultra community, the 360 coveted spots fill quickly.

Why run 100s? Well why not?  I have been passionate about running for as long as I can remember, and have been running ultras for the past 5-6 years and from the first time I heard about the WSER I wanted to run it!  I have run 5 100 mile races, and am still learning how to race them each time I train for one.  Last year I added a coach, Meghan (Arbogast) Laws, this year I am looking to Balanced Movement Studio to help put another piece of the training puzzle in place to become a faster, more solid 100 mile runner.

To share my story, keep myself accountable, and have something to look back upon, I will be posting my thoughts, running, strength training, and other planning online; both here, on my instagram @wisp_kelley on my facebook account under Rachel Bell Kelley.

Through my strength and conditioning sponsor Balanced Movement Studio and their facebook page Refining Ultra we will share my strength and mobility exercises, which will include non-running things I do to get my body ready for 100 miles in 6 months, I hope you follow along and ask questions!

Cheers to big goals in 2018! Let the training begin!bighornme