Winter Patience

Unlike most of the north east, we in the south rarely see much snow, if any at all each winter.  I grew up in northern Massachusetts, so I am no stranger to snow, ice, and cold.  Not that I can say I am envious of the multiple feet of snow my family up north is dealing with currently…so sorry guys!

Instead, last week I heard snow was in the forecast for this week, and got excited!  I was really hoping for some pretty white powdery stuff to coat the forest landscape.  This morning I was greeted with maybe 1/4 of an inch of white stuff, covered in slick frozen ice.  I laced up my shoes and hopped out the door..slipping and sliding down our driveway, patience Rachel!  Faster isn’t always better.

Instead of my usual 1o minute run to the trailhead, it took me a bit more than 15 slippery minutes to arrive at the chosen meet up place.  A few brave (or stupid) souls drove from home, while the rest of us ran from our homes-up slippery streets, through snowy woods…we showed up one by one.

The group was smaller than usual today, many opting to sleep in, or living too far away to get to the trails by foot.  We headed out on a different route, knowing it would take us longer up and down the trails to the “forbidden” trail.  The bridge has long since washed away, so we had to find a way across.  No one wanted to cross the narrow pipe covered in ice, or wade knee deep in the cold water, so we wandered parallel to the creek looking for a narrow spot.  Patience, we will find a way across.  Ultimately we gave up and went back to the pipe crossing.  Only Remus crossed it, the rest of us jumped hoping for solid footing to greet us on the opposite side.

Running in snow is hard work, it was like a fine sand encrusted over with ice.  Some spots were just slick, while others were crunchy, giving way to unstable footing below.   We all worked hard to keep up the pace, steam rising from our breath in the cold air.

Eventually the trail winds back to the creek as it cambers towards the cold water below.  Several times I stopped to walk, or punch my heels through the ice crust.  It was slow going, but still, you can’t beat the beauty of untouched snow in the woods.  We stopped to take a photo by a small waterfall, and admire the winter snowscape.

We wound back around to where we had all first met.  Looking at my watch, I tried to remember to be patient with my time and distance.  After all, sometimes you need a little reminder to slow down and enjoy the trip…not the destination.

A wintery run in NC. Photo credit; Kerndog.

Altra Ambassador; The Sequel

I am proud to share that Altra has invited me to be an ambassador again for 2015!  It is amazing and wonderful that Altra has grown up so fast over the past few years.  I can still remember the first time I wore the Altra Lone Peaks and people were so curious about them they would yell at me as I ran past in races.  I love that they are such a forward looking and innovative company, not willing to just settle, but willing to improve their products and listen to feed back.  Their Halo shoe with its built in feedback system is one of their many shoe innovations I am excited for!

Their zero drop was the first thing that caught my eye, and the foot shaped toe box has kept me coming back.  There is nothing better than having a foot shaped toe box to let my little piggies splay when I run…my feet have never been so spoiled.

Competition; Why Do Some of Us Put Ourselves Through the Emotional ups and downs of Racing?

Its that Uwharrie time of year again when my TrailHead running group spends all of Dec and Jan preparing for their 40,20, or 8 mile trail races in the woods of Troy, NC.  I love that this race is such a big focus for my running group, its so nice to have so many people to train with during the dark and cold winter months.

Uwharrie, for me, was my very first trail race..it was also my very first Ultra, and was also my very first time placing in the top three over all (not just in my age group.)  It launched me into my ultra career (if you can call it that..)  Either way, it holds very special memories for me, but I am not a person that tends to do the same race over and over, so this year I am not running it again.

Several of my friends and training partners are, however.  Some people get stir crazy and have loads of energy, some people get grumpy, others get phantom pains, and of course others get all of the above.   It reminds me of my dreaded taper tantrums, which I have come to both love and hate.  (My husband just mostly hates my taper tantrums,) but they are part of being a competitive runner.  Now when I say competitive runner, don’t misunderstand my meaning, I think everyone can be competitive if they choose…whether its competitive with yourself, with a certain time goal, with people in your age group, or competitive with the whole field hoping to win overall.

Most recently I was talking to one of my friends, Jordan, who is hoping for an overall win.  He has trained hard, recovered correctly, and eaten right.  He has the physical, psychological, and emotional potential to win Uwharrie outright and is currently in that emotional holding pattern right before the race where this imagined weight is crushing him.  The weight is that of his expectations, and of other people’s expectations…but mostly his.  He knows right now that he has all this kinetic energy that is loaded up in his legs to potentially carry him a win, but there is always the unknown that can bring you down and mess up your desired outcome.

We can only control our preparation, and our planning, its impossible to control race day mishaps.  To some people, this lack of control drives them nuts in the 48 hours leading up to a race.  We get moody, we get angst, we can’t concentrate or relax….so why put oneself through this?

My answer:  It makes me feel more alive, it makes the thrill of hitting or surpassing your goal that much sweeter!   Its the same way a terrible defeat can make a later victory that much better.   Do it for the ear to ear grin when your hard work pays off!

Grain free (Vegan option) Super Simple Banana Bread

Disclaimer:  Don’t make these after a long workout, you may just eat the whole pan…like I just did!

(Like always, this was an experiment so measurements aren’t exact)

I was craving banana bread, but after doing Whole30 I have thought more about the types of flour/grains I have been eating, so this is my yummy and very simple attempt at keeping it to as few ingredients as possible.

3 ripe bananas

3/4 cup of almond butter

1/2 tsp of baking soda

1 egg white (or egg replacement like flaxmeal and water)

sprinkle of cacao nibs

Mash the bananas, add in the almond butter and the egg white, stir in the baking soda (I didn’t add vanilla but you certainly could) and add the cacao nibs if you like.  The cacao nibs don’t melt like chocolate, but they do taste like it.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 min (or until you can stick a toothpick into them and have it come out clean.)

Voila!  Really yummy banana bread with only 3-4 ingredients.

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Winter Book List

So I have big plans for 2015.  The last 2 years of ultra trail running I feel like my body and legs have been adapting to the uneven terrain and getting adjusted to the longer running and needing less recovery…or maybe I am just getting smarter about my recovery.

Either way I have borrowed a bunch of books that I plan to read and review over the next several weeks.

The Cool Impossible by Eric Orton

Running To The Top by Arthur Lydiard

The Runner’s Guide to Yoga by Sage Roundtree- she lives down the street from me and seems to be a wealth of recovery/yoga knowledge so I’m really looking forward to reading this one.

Daniels’ Running Formula By Jack Daniels

Another from Sage The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery

and finally Anatomy for Runners by Jay Dicherry

Read on, friends!

Shut in Trail, Asheville NC and a Running Reflection on 2014

As my husband (DK)dropped Emmitt, the wonder-dog, and myself off at the arboretum he kissed my forehead and promised to join us at our planned meeting spot off the parkway.  The day was warm and overcast, but not raining.  I was a bit overdressed for the 50 degrees, knowing it was pretty likely to be much cooler at the top.

Ice frozen from the clouds above 4,000 feet

Ice frozen from the clouds above 4,000 feet

Emmitt and I were both itching to run, having spent the day before driving in the car, and relaxing in the hotel room.   In the car Emmitt has been radiating excitement like an electric current we could all feel in the car, poised at the window and shaking ever so slightly every few seconds as the mountains came into view.

Only 5 minutes in I already had to pee.  I found one of the thickets of rhododendron’s and squatted amongst their tear drop leaves.

The first mile starts immediately uphill, 500 feet of climb in a mile, which isn’t too bad, except that there is no warm up into it.  The excitement of the run ahead got my adrenaline up, but my brain reminded me to hold something back.  As we ascended into the low laying clouds I was enveloped into soft, swirling, warm mist.  It took away any view I would have of the surrounding mountains, but made me feel very content and at peace in the moment and led to some 2014 reflections.

Happy Mountain Runner

I thought back to last year- my first time on the Shut in Ridge Trail, it has been similarly misty, and eerily wonderful, but colder.   There aren’t too many downhills, the portion I ran I gained 4,691 ft and lost 3,174 ft, but I also had my husband pick me up, so I ran a point to point. (My garmin data can be found here.) The downhills are steep and switch-back, but fun to cruise and give your climbing legs a little break.

Emmitt, my wonderdog

Looking down, I saw Emmitt at my knee.  He is usually free to roam a bit when we are on the trails near home, but he stays with in a few feet of me when we are somewhere new.  He’s such a great running buddy, always willing, always excited to explore the outdoors with me.  I feel so lucky to have found a mutt like him, ever the eager companion.  They say when dogs stare deep into your eyes it is their way of expressing their love for you, he’s currently looking up at me with a little doggie grin on his face.   I looked long and hard for a dog like him to adopt.  My husband says we are “two peas in a pod.”  Run, eat, sleep, repeat.

I am filled with gratitude, and my heart feels so full.  We didn’t see another soul the entire run, so I was alone with my thoughts and the smells of the woods; pine and wet earth.

As I roll up and down the hills and along the ridges I realize I am moving at roughly the same pace as I was last year.  That’s a boost in confidence, same place, same run, same time of year…perhaps I am holding off father time just a bit.

I wonder how much longer I have before I really slow down and can no longer keep up with my younger male training buddies.

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Friends at the start of Mitchell

As I ran deeper into the mist I began to reflect on the past year, 2014.  It had started out a bit rushed, having raced my first 100, Pinhoti in Nov 2013,  I had developed hives and and a tired immune system and wasn’t running very much.  I had put my name into the Mt Mitchell 40 Challenge the year before and had not gotten in, I did it again expecting the same result…however, this time I got in.   It would be an interesting test, to begin it was the first race I would run after running a 100 mile race, and the first time DK would accompany me to a race.  With the promise of a “man weekend” I lured him in.  While myself and my two girlfriends did yoga, ate, and raced, our husbands bonded over beer, USA hockey and other Olympic games, and chocolate.

I quickly jumped back into training, but with only a month before the February race, I did a lot of short but intense hill training.  Though I still feel like I am slower than molasses uphill, I approach downhill running with reckless abandon.

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Mt Mitchell Challenge Schwag

I ran the first 20 miles uphill somewhere around 9th or 10th place, but was able to make up a lot of time and catch up to 3rd place on the back 20 mile downhill.  I was happily surprised with some nice pottery and a check for the 3rd place finish.  (I figured if DK could take a long weekend to hang around for me to run, the least I could do was win something good;) )

March was a month of oops, I had won Bull Run Run in 2013, which meant that I had automatic entry for 2014.  Unfortunately, I misunderstood, and when I didn’t see my name on the entry list, I found out that I still had to put my name in the lottery…oops…ok, no biggie, onto Bighorn 52!

Flying on top of Grandfather Mountain

April, May, and June were full of spring running and trips to Boone and the Tanawha Trail for some mountain running.  I had no way to train for the altitude, but I did as much heat training as I could.  I knew the last 5-6 miles drop into a hot and dry canyon, so I would prepare for that in the NC heat!

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Getting excited for the Bighorn start

June was Bighorn, and we traveled to the west with my my TrailHead family!  I did not expect to get altitude sickness, though I suppose the last time I spent any time in any sort of altitude was the summer way back in 1999 I spent a few weeks in Colorado Springs, and I remember just not feeling quite right…I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised.   This was a pretty epic adventure, I forget the exact numbers, but about 10+ people were in the 100, me in the 50, 4 or 5 in the 50k and one in the 30k…talk about orchestrating travel!  It was a blast thought, some of my closest trail friends, and my husband and a few other spouses all coordinated our schedules and made it work!  I will never forget the great adventure we all had that week!  A fun bonus was a staying an extra week hiking in Estes Park, Colorado with DK and some great friends!

July, and August I spent as much time as possibly hill training, which in Chapel Hill means getting on a treadmill, bounding up the UNC stadium, and hill repeats until you can’t count anymore on that 3/4 mile hill in town.  It wasn’t the most inspirational training, but it was good enough for first place at the Jarmin’s Invitational Marathon (the JIM) in Charlottsville, VA.  I love VA running, and the trail community up there, the CATS and CRUT ultrarunners are the best!

The JIM finish with #Danton and David Horton

 

September was full of super early weekend mornings and 4 hour drives up to VA to run along the Wild Oak Trail and other parts of the Grindstone Course, in preparation for Grindstone 100; the race that almost got away!

It wasn’t pretty along the way, but I was still smiling at the finish line of Grindstone 100. Clark Zealand, Drew and Ringo also pictured.

Finally October came and it was time for Grindstone 100.  After the government shut down in 2013 and the cancellation of Grindstone, I was finally ready…and had 2 years worth of butterflies!  Though I had a rough race (GI-speaking) I managed to rally late and held on to 5th place for the last spot on the podium.  Grindstone taught me some hard lessons, for one, I still have no idea what I am doing-there is still a lot to learn.  But what I know is that my perseverance is important for 100 mile success.  No matter how bad it gets if I can wait out the low moments, and get a little food in my belly, things will get better. (Oh, and this would be the first..hopefully not that last DK crewed and paced me in a 100.)

November was when I finally felt like I could take an off season, my two year hunt for Grindstone was complete and I hadn’t really taken an off season since my Achillies Tendonosis in 2012.  This month also brought out the post 100 blues, which seems to be something all runners can relate to.

And now, here I was, back around to December…running through the warm mountain mist with my dog, and soon DK.  What a great year 2014 was, I can’t help but be optimistic for more running adventures, more friends, and more smiles in 2015!

Looking forward to more adventures with my two guys in 2015 (Experimental Forest in Asheville)

 

 

Oh how I Dread-mill..

“27 degrees at 6 am. Turn that alarm off”, I thought!
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“Oh yeah, its treadmill day…maybe a 27 degree trail run would be better..”

It was my off season, up until a few days ago when I signed up to The Thomas Jefferson 100k in March, which means training is back on, and training means getting back on the dreadmill, er the treadmill and doing some hill running.

BIG sigh!

The look on my dog’s face made it even worse, “no fun trail run for me?! How could you, you don’t need to go run in that little room on that boring man made running-thing…take me outside instead, you hamster!”  His eyes seemed to plead, with just an edge of disgust curling his lip.

Its 3 miles to the gym, I figured a few miles in the fresh air would get me ready for what lay ahead.  A friend offered to let me borrow his code to get into his apartment’s gym, and rather than go to mine, I thought I would go there for a change.

Into his apartment complex, “wait a minute, I don’t actually know where his gym is.  Play it cool, act like you know where you are going.”
“Ah ha! There it is…I’ll just run till someone else shows up, I don’t want to take up someone elses time.”
Not a soul was in the gym, the lights weren’t even on.

With a big sigh I stepped onto the belt. “Ok, here we go.”

Minute 0-5.  “I think im gonna walk to warm up, that run wasn’t really a warm up, right?” I got the treadmill up to 15% and started the hike.  “This isn’t bad, piece of cake, lets crank this baby up!”

5-15  Ok, time to run, well really jog, slowly, very slowly.  “Maybe I should shut the shades so people can’t see how pathetically slow I am!”

15-20 Oh good! YAY! walk time again…phew.  Don’t be a wimp, this is a hike not a leisurely walk uphill..focus, focus!

20-30 Grr back to that jog..actually I’m getting a bit of that runner’s high, or maybe its just lack of oxygen..?!

30-35 Oh my gosh, walking never felt so good..walk. walk, walk, walk…My friend walks in after his long run in the woods, I ask him to stand in front of me so I can see him, (and not fall off the side of the treadmill trying to look at him sideways.)  He has had a nice run at Umstead and just finished breakfast out..(Jerk, don’t talk about food while I am on this torture device.)  He smirks, and announces that he’s heading home and tell me to enjoy!  (Enjoy?!  I can see that smirk, I know he knows that I know that we both know it sucks…sorry lack of oxygen there, was that confusing?)

35-45 Well I lost that runner’s high. Help! Dig deep, com’on, you can do it, you are not out of shape! (Or maybe you are.)  Get that finger away from the emergency stop button, cheating will get you nowhere!

45-50..last walk, enjoy it! (how am I so wet? I never sweat this much)..oh, look at that water cooler over there, I bet the water is cold and refreshing…oops…time’s up run again.

50-60 Lead legs, gasp, gasp, gasp…look away from that water cooler…do NOT touch that emergency stop button. Is this what a heart attack feels like? Am I dying or just bonking, getting tunnel vision.  Someone please come into the gym and want to use the treadmill, then I would HAVE to get off. You know what would be really good right now, watermelon, watermelon and that gross sugary purple gatoraide…and a baked potato with lots of salt..and chocolate. why am ! craving chocolate on this thing?

60 woohoo!! (oh geeze, and now I have 3 miles to run home…facepalm)

And done, until NEXT WEEK?

!