Thomas Jefferson 100k, Piece by Piece

Start/finish and lap-master Sniper

Much like a looped course, or the way one breaks ultras into smaller mentally digestible bites, I feel like my race report should be broken down into pieces as well.

Piece one, Pack..Pack all the things one may need for rain, or sun, hot or cold. I tried not to obsess over the weather forecast the week before.  March weather in the mid Atlantic/south can be all over the place.  It snowed one week and was 70 the next, so I decided to bring something for each weather possibility.

Galoot and Lawst

Piece two, Drive.. Lawst and Galoot swung by the house right around 1pm and were greeted enthusiastically by my tapered dog.  While he spun and ran laps around the yard we packed up the car and were off.  The drive took just about 3.5 hours and we were at our cabin. Piece Three; Sleep This was a really weird taper and even stranger night before…I actually slept.  (Well, I was asleep anyway…my noisy sleeping bag was apparently moving around all night according to Galoot)  Sorry if I kept you up!! Piece Four; Race! This is self explanatory, or should be anyway. Now onto the race lap by lap; Edge (a fellow TrailHead and knower of all things running) had so nicely given up his weekend to come up and crew, even though TJ100k doesn’t really need crewing since its a looped course, it put my mind at ease having him there. Ben, (Cruel Jewel Experience partner in crime) also came up, driving up first thing in the morning he was there by lap 3 or 4 to pace me in!

And we’re off, into the dark!

Lap 1 was in the dark, completely. I had a little nausea to start that would last the first 4 laps.  Probably nerves, excitement, and caffeine.   I wore my HRM to keep myself from going out too fast, full disclosure, I still started out a wee bit fast, but not as fast as I actually wanted.  All hopped up on caffeine, sleep, and tapered legs is always a bad combination for me and if I wanted to start conservatively I would actually need something like a HRM to remind me.  I ran in the dark with a few people until the first aid station.  I didn’t need anything so I kept going, right into the hilly part of the course.  I could see headlights somewhere behind me, but kept moving, I would run most of the race alone until I picked up Ben, and even then we didn’t start seeing people until the last loop or two.  Eventually I came upon the lake and could see the start/finish on the other side, just as quickly the lights came into view, the trail turned away and headed back into the dark.  It twisted back to the lake again, and in the dark I started to worry if somehow I had done a little loop and was back to where I had just been previously.  I kept going waiting to see if I would cross the same bridge again…I didn’t and came into the start/finish in 1:36.  Faster than I had planned, but I felt great! (of course the caffeine had found my stomach by now and I needed to stop at the porta john…   Lap2, back out into the dark again, alone.  I am actually really happy running long races alone.  People ask what I think about, how I don’t get bored..but this is a race, I am thinking about racing.  “keep your heart rate low, nice light steps, relax, stand tall, engage your glutes, relax..” Somehow my brain goes into almost a computer like mode, checking all body systems.  So there is always plenty to keep my brain occupied, never mind all the rocks and roots underfoot that I am trying not to trip on.   Just after the far aid station (since this course is looped there is the start/finish aid station and the aid station on the far side of the park.)  The sky started turning a cool grey.  The clouds hung low, obscuring the sun rise.  There was mist rolling off the trees in the distance and it was quiet and beautiful.  Another trip to the porta john. Lap 2, 1:34 Lap 3.  Now the sun was up and I shed my headlamp, gloves, and buff.  And got some delicious chicken broth Lawst had so kindly made…yum! I took off again knowing that this lap would be about the same effort and pace as the previous two.  It was pretty uneventful, felt good, took some s-caps from the far aid station because I forgot mine and my stomach was still a bit unhappy so I thought perhaps some salt would make it feel better.  It eventually did, though I still stopped at the john at the end of this lap.  Lap 3, 1:32 Lap 4 it misted, and by the end of this loop began to ran hard.  I  felt good and was still running almost all of each loop up to this point. I was happy that time was ticking by so quickly, and actually enjoying the looped course.  Looping around meant no worrying about going the wrong way, after loop one at least, it meant no second guessing turns, and no worrying about running down hill hard and missing an important turn. This lap I finally didn’t stop at the john!! YAY!  Lap4 1:37 Lap 5, it was now raining hard and Dr Horton reminded me to take a jacket!  The RD, Andy Jones-Wilkens also had decided that pacers could start at lap 5, instead of lap 6 as the website had stated.  This was good and bad.  I was in a groove coming out of lap 4, and an added pacer threw me off a teeny bit from my rhythm, even though his company was quite welcome.   I had also been told I had a good lead over the rest of the women so I got a little unfocused and stupidly started slacking off and chatting with Ben.  None of this is Ben’s fault of course, he is an awesome pacer..and actually was helpful in keeping me focused and relaxed in later laps.  We chatted a bit, as the course got sloppier and sloppier, I think it turned into a training run for me..you know, with the usual training run partner it was a slippery slope that I fell into for a loop.  With the rain, and the field trampling over and over the same trails it was getting quite mucky.  This would be where I let the pace sliiiide and the first time I started walking a bit of the hills…. lap 5, 1:49 Lap 6 was mentally tough, and this loop was where I was really lucky to have Ben and his words of wisdom.  I had basically run almost 50 miles with very minimal walking, and it hit me mentally.  The trail also got quite bad and coupled with the realization that I had just run about 5o miles and hadn’t seen anything but clouds and rain and more mud put me in a mentally low frame of mind.  It had been a snowy winter, and cold wet early spring and suddenly I began feeling overwhelmed by all the cold grey rain that seemed endless the last month. By the end of lap 5 we had decided that there would be no more conversation so I could refocus and get my brain back into the race, so very few words were spoken on this loop.  Every time I slipped or rolled an ankle in the mud Ben would repeat, “keep this loop smooth, everything is smooth.”  Loops 5 and 6 had suddenly become mentally tough, I was close, but not that close.  My HRM was wet and felt like it was constricting my lungs..I took it off right at mile 50 and suddenly felt like I could take a deep breath!  Wonderful!  The trail was getting worse, and I was worrying about eating anything because my stomach had finally gotten better and I didn’t want to tempt fate by eating something that may change my good belly vibes!  I finally realized  there were avocados at the aid station and some fat, and calories were what I needed.

TrailHead sign and spread managed by Edge and Lawst

I ate 1/2 an avocado at the end of this lap and felt immediately better.  The mental picture of popeye eating spinach popped into my legs, and I think I had the popeye song stuck in my head for the last 15 or so miles :) Lap 6:  1:54 (oops!) Lap 7  My parents so nicely decided to drive the 4 hours from Chapel Hill to see me run, and showed up right as I was racing out of the start/finish.  I could see them out of the corner of my eye, my mom was picking up her pace to come talk to me! I waved a hello as Edge said, “you have 30 sec to get out of this aid station, shes right on your heels.”  I laughed internally, figures, my parents always have impeccable timing.  They can sense when to show up for the last exciting part of an event so they don’t have to stay too long, but also don’t miss the action. They came exactly when I was heading out on my last loop and I was getting ready to put the hammer down.  Thankfully Edge explained why all I did was smile and wave, and then took them to the 2 other places where they could see me run by multiple times.  Later my dad said he saw that all too familiar look in my eye, the “I want this bad, get out of my way” look and he knew I wouldn’t be stopping for a chat…or letting anyone catch me either. (I think this look is usually reserved for food at the dinner table, perhaps that’s why he knows it so well) This is the lap where my 10 min lead had turned into barely 2 minutes and I had to have a talk with myself.  I had led the women’s field the whole day, which is not unusual for me.  I have a terrible habit of going out too fast when others pace themselves better…and I spectacularly blow up in the third quarter. Typically I psych myself out now in the last second.  I start to doubt my pacing, and what I have left, I begin to think that maybe the other women have been running super easy, biding their time to pick up the pace….and sometimes, many times, this internal self doubt gets too loud and I sort of give up.  For a split second I had that thought, but shook it out of my mind as fast as I could.  I had trained hard, I had run in the snow, the cold, the muck, the ice, and everything in between all winter, I wasn’t going down with out a fight!  I put my head down and ran, and ran, and ran.  Grindstone 100 had toyed with my emotions.  I had mentally thrown in the towel by mile 66 in a puddle of doubt and self pity and I just let the other women go by with out giving chase.  I had let that voice take over, “you started too hard, you haven’t been able to keep anything down for 5o miles..its over, give up…” and in a way I did. I was not going to let that voice win again, this would not be Grindstone part II…I made up about 5-6 minutes the last and final lap and was so proud of myself for overcoming my own demons! Lap 7  1:43 This of course wasn’t the end of my day.  In the usual spirit of my ultra races, I finished feeling swell, but 10 minutes later the ground was spinning and I had to lay down.  I tried to close my eyes and act normal, but I knew it was coming.  Poor #Danton walked up to chat just as I lost my composure….”Hey I wanted to congratulate you on a great race, how do you feel?”  “Like I am going to vomit…” and I did, on my shoes, with #Danton holding my hair like an ultra-gentleman. :) Total distance 62.7 miles, Total Time 12:00:35 and set a new course record!

Its really a Thomas Jefferson cup. Not just because its what I won, but because TJefferson used to have these cups specially made for himself, and now I own one :)

Thank you so much AJW and John Anderson for hosting such a fantastic race!  This race is a must for any east-coasters looking for a spring 100k just to run, or to use as a tune up for summer 100s.  All the volunteers are runners, and most ultra runners so they know exactly how to host a perfect ultra.  There are too many other people to thank here as well.  All you aid station captions, and happy VA faces know who you are.  I am so happy I signed up for this race, just seeing you all again made for a really great race! Of course I was be remiss if I didn’t give credit to my TH friends and training buddies.  Thanks Lynx, Ben, Crash, Burn, Willow, Nate, Pinto, Bounce and everyone else for making the long cold and dark winter runs fun!  Thank you Edge, Ben and Lawst for the A+ crewing/pacing, and congrats Galoot on your first 100k! So glad I got to share the experience with you!

So happy at the finish!

And as always, my two favorite guys at home.  I love you, thanks for supporting me. Check out this little video made by some of AJW’s kids and student, the were running all over the course all day, even up and down ladders!

Taper Wisp VS Recovery Wisp…part 2

Well I introduced you to taper Wisp last week.  She’s a bit of a nut, can’t focus on one thing, energy coming out of her fingers.  I’ll admit, she’s crazy, but also quite motivated and able to get lots of things done.

This week its recovery Wisp’s turn.  She goes to bed early, sleeps in, reads more than usual.  Walks Mr. Emmitt, and does more yoga.  This recovery week she tried hot yoga for the first time.  She though it was going to be unbearable, worried she might not be properly hydrated from her race last weekend and would pass out.  The first 5 minutes she was quite uncomfortable, but after starting to sweat she quite enjoyed herself, finding that the heat helped her loosen up fascia and muscles more than usual.

Happily she isn’t at all sore, mostly just tired and relaxed…free to garden, cook, visit with friends and family, and paint!

While she was relaxing and recovering her mind was open and creative.   This mural sort of came to her while in hot yoga class, and then with a little celtic music it almost painted itself.  She happily spent Friday afternoon and Saturday in a yoga studio downtown painting on their wall. (Can you see the Yin Yang in there?)

Both sides of my running personality are key to making up the whole of me.  The running wears me out, makes me happy, motivates me, and is a good outlet for my competitiveness.  The recovery part allows for creativity, relaxation, and slowing down.

Recovery Week Work Outs;

  • Monday: Rest, yoga, and roll
  • Tuesday: 1 hour on the elliptical and some core strength
  • Wednesday: 1 hour on the elliptical, yoga
  • Thursday 1 hour elliptical, hot yoga 1.5 hours
  • Friday: 1 Hour elliptical, cross train-legs/core
  • Saturday: 1 hour trail run
  • Sunday: 10 mile road run 1:20; lots of planks

As important as the taper is, the recovery is just as meaningful to avoid burn out, and injury!

Oh, and 53 more days until Cruel Jewel!

Taper Wisp vs Recovery Wisp

No one at my house likes the taper, dog must settle for a walk.

I am two days away from my first 100k, Thomas Jefferson 100k outside of Charlottsville, VA.  My peak week (mileage) was 4 weeks ago due to all the snow, ice, and mud we had in the last few weeks. I ran 107 miles.  I would have preferred it to be 3 weeks ago, but what can you do.  3 weeks out I dropped looking at mileage and just looked at hours on my feet since 5 miles with perfect trails does not equal 5 miles running on ice, or slush.  2 weeks out I ran 70 mile, last week 56, and this week ran 15 walked 7.

The 70 mile week was ok, I was having a harder time falling asleep but otherwise I felt good, the 56 mile week I started to feel like I was missing an old friend.  I cleaned, I walked my dog more, I decided to watch all the documentaries I have been meaning to watch…and then there was this week.

I became cranky (hormones are also to blame here) I have had the most amazingly vivid dreams all week. I died in a plane crash, I woke up in someone else’s life married to someone I have never seen/met, I have seen old friends, my deceased grandfather, shark attacks, and the ever present stress dream: showing up to a final never having gone to class.  I would like to think this is my body and brain’s way of recovering, and not just some weird trip I am on :)

I have been so unfocused and ADD-like.  I will start one thing, and while doing that one thing, it will remind me of some other errand or chore and I’ll be off doing that.

Spring is here!

Its spring break at the university here, and my work tends to ebb and flow with the students and professors, work has been slow this week and while it is wonderful it is also making me a little crazy.

Lets take yesterday for example, I woke up at 6:30, but my husband hit snooze and convinced me to stay in bed. I did, and fell back asleep.  I woke to the sound of birds, and my dog sitting on my leg..at 8! OOPS! Took him on a short jog, did some yoga, went to the grocery store, which then took me to the bank.  I got home and opened my front closet where all my running shoes and gear are kept.  It was a mess. I dropped the groceries (making sure the perishables were in the fridge) and started to organize my closet,  I pulled everything out..and found bulbs I had put there this winter…so I grabbed my shovel and headed out to the garden and planted the bulbs.  I came back in and found the closet and all its guts strewn about the front hall…back to cleaning it out.  “Oh, here are those pants I have been meaning to donate, maybe I should check upstairs in my regular closet.”  Which led me upstairs and through all my clothes. This also led me back downstairs to do the laundry, 3 loads of laundry that is.  With a pile of clothes to donate, and now a pile of clean clothes, I was buried in folding for a while.

Oh yea, the front closet..back to that..well, I would be back to that much later because I had to go to work briefly.

FINALLY, I got home and put its contents back neatly; I remembered I had to do some things on the computer.  My computer sits in my kitchen, so of course that meant I started putting the rest of the groceries away…which got me thinking about dinner, I mean it was 3:30 now.  So whats for dinner…? “Oh, maybe I should make some banana bread for my crew this weekend.”  With the banana bread in the oven, I started some photo editing-for this;  but forgot dinner.  At 4:30 I went back to start dinner and take the banana bread out (that banana bread didn’t last..I needed to taste test it, I’m sure I don’t need to tell you, dear reader, what happened to that loaf).  Which means while I am here typing this I am thinking about making pumpkin bread in the back of my mind.

Back to yesterday, I finished making dinner, and editing photos, made some other snacks for this weekend and started laying out my gear for TJ100K.  I spent the next hour messaging friends back and forth about the Cruel Jewel Experience Project.  Meanwhile trying not to get too anxious about tapering and losing a week of quality hill climbing for Cruel Jewel…wait one week, no maybe two if you add in recovery..ugh!

And lets not forget the phantom taper pains.  “My arm hurts..my arm? Random. My ITB is sooo tight, is that a pinch in my ankle? Why is my shoulder aching?”

By now it was 8:40 and D was waiting upstairs for me to put away the computer and phone and just have some quiet time together (and a back rub, YES!!)

Now this post will have to end here, come back next week for the conclusion and to meet my recovery brain…she is 180 from this taper brain that whirls a mile a minute.

A Day in the Life of my Mouth

So recently an old friend from high school contacted me about food.  She’s and active mom, who has been adding running into her workout schedule and wanted to know about what I ate and how I kept my energy up during the day.

She asked how many calories I ate, and I realized I didn’t have an answer for her because I usually just follow my hunger, rather than count calories.  I tend to shy away from anything that is diet-like and favor things that I can do every day during my hectic schedule.

However, after we got off the phone I started getting curious about what I do in fact eat all day so I picked a random day and took pictures..

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Breakfast Smoothie, Walnuts and raisins (a few times a day) Roasted Beets with olive oil, salt and rosemary..

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Mushroom soup, almond butter and banana, blue chips and guacamole, there are the nuts and raisins again.

IMG_20150305_122402_943IMG_20150302_102348_030 Eggs, spinach, mushrooms, garlic, beet greens (from the roasted beets above) and avocado.

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Cruel Jewel Experience Project

Where to begin…

Ok, sometime this winter several of us decided to sign up for Cruel Jewel in GA.  It started as two guys wanting to run a spring 100 before going off for different summer engagements.  It snowballed into to 9 of my favorite training partners signing up. Five people are running the 100 mile while four of us are opting for the 50 mile.  With all these people running the same race four of us decided we would try to document our training up to the race.

What is Cruel Jewel like, you ask? Well, in all honestly the closest I have been to that area of Georgia is Highlands, NC.  Which, it turns out, is rather close to Blairsville GA and the start of the race.  From what I remember its humid, foggy, beautiful and very mountainous.  According to the race’s facebook page the stats for the 100 is as follows;

  • 105.9 miles
  • 33,000 feet of gain
  • Cut off time is 48 hours
  • CR is 25:50
Nate looking worried about his training...

Nate looking worried..

The four of us documenting our training are myself, Ben, Nate, and Lynx.  We all have different training plans, and have different goals so we thought parallel documentation would be quite interesting.  Nate and myself are running the 50, Ben and Lynx the 100….but I am getting ahead of myself….

With about 10 weeks left, I am feeling a bit anxious about my specificity training.  I am racing the Thomas Jefferson 100k, a flat(ish) and non technical 100k in VA so my training has been focusing on long, fast trail runs, getting out on the road, and not nearly as much vertical training as I will need for CJ50.

For comparison Thomas Jefferson 100k will be 7,000 feet of gain in 62 miles, versus 15,00 over the (actual) 56 miles of CJ50.  Its like comparing the proverbial apples to oranges of trail running.   Which also makes me a tad nervous about having enough time to push the uphill training before CJ.

Anyway, so back to training so far.  I peaked at 107 miles as my longest week, and 34 miles as my longest training run…and in the last 8 weeks I have run 25 miles or longer, 6 times.  According to my garmin in the last 30 days I have climbed 13,413 ft, however this doesn’t include my treadmill hiking which is probably another 8,000 feet of climbing over the last month…Yes, I live in a very flat area.

Also, as much of the east coast, we have been having snow every other day.  It snows, it freezes, it melts, it snows again…it makes for very erratic trail training. Some days the ice is very slow going, then there’s the mud and slush, the past week I threw mile counting out the window and just recorded how many miles I WOULD have run with the same amount of effort over the same time period.

Last week looked like this;

  • Monday: 5.5 miles(road) @7:40/3 miles @15%(2,300 vert)/Yoga
  • Tuesday: Surprise! It unexpectedly started snowing during your run. 23 miles(trail) @9:55
  • Wednesday: 5.5(road) @7:37 3×800 @6:00 total of 8 miles
  • Thursday: More snow!? 2 hours 13 miles (trail)
  • Friday: Elliptical 6 miles
  • Saturday: Road (So tired of the trail slop) 15 @7:35
  • Sunday: 6 @8:49 recovery in cold rain

In the next few weeks we hope to get some better training pictures, and videos up.  Until then, run on!

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.