Tag Archives: Running

Western States Training: Fast Forward to 6 weeks left

The last few weeks have flown by as I have been feeling like I needed to play a lot of running catch up….and therefore neglecting this blog.


As you may know if you have followed this blog March was mostly spent bedridden healing from a concussion.

April was a jump start back into training with Bull Run Run 50 as a training run.   It all felt great for about a 50k, I was on pace to better my previous time, and then the brain wheels fell off.   I started feeling like I had tunnel vision and just kind of weird.  Fortunately Sophie Speidel caught up with me shortly after I hit this unhappy place….if you don’t know her, she’s a really fast masters runner from VA.  She was also using BRR as a training run, and her wise words helped reel me back from pondering a dnf.   I switched mentally from the mindset of “race if you can,” to “you have only been back for 2 weeks, if you finish this 50 miles it will be a great training run to have under you” and decided that hiking/running it in was the new goal.    My take away from BRR was twofold.  Spending a month in bed isn’t great for racing, but if you have been consistent with your training in the months leading up to inactivity you can still cover the miles–just maybe not perhaps at the race pace you would have liked.  Thanks coach Meghan Laws for keeping me in shape!  The second part was that maybe using races that I have previously won as a training run isn’t my thing…there was too much expectation going into the run already knowing that I had finished it almost two hours faster 5 years ago.

Once I got over my little BRR ego burst, the rest of April went pretty smoothly.   The weekend after BRR I was back to 20/15,t then 30/20,  then 40/10 on April 28.  This run was an interesting run, super fun, quite the adventure.


Promise Land fell on the same day, so I thought to myself “what a great opportunity to run long, and maybe see some friends running, and use the aid station at the top of Apple Orchard Mtn.”  Bethany Patterson had recommended this route for WSER training months ago, and I finally had the chance to get up there and run that section of the AT.

I woke up that morning and drove the 3 hours up to Lynchburg VA, arriving mid morning and ready to go!  The run started at the James River bridge and went up into the James River Wilderness before climbing through the Thunder Ridge Wilderness and then up to Apple Orchard Mountain at 4,208.   There is an aid station near here, but I had a hard time finding it.  First I was taking in the view from the top and continued down Apple Orchard Mtn, when I realized I was supposed to take the gravel road down from the peak instead….then I saw markings for the race course, and headed down that the wrong way for several miles….finally I got it right, 22 miles later—just as the aid station was packing up!  So much for watching my friends run, but I was super happy for the water and coke they supplied me with before they packed up.   Because I had been noodling around at the top for so many hours, I was off my projected time estimate, so in order to get back down before sunset, I hopped onto the Blue Ridge Parkway so I could ZOOM back to a slightly closer-to-my-car trailhead.  After a few miles of very runnable slightly downhill road I caught the trailhead at Petites Gap, gaining me more daylight speedier miles.   From Petites Gap there was just under 10 mile back to the car.   I choose this section of the AT for its gradual climbs, and more runnable trail.  The AT can be notorious for slow going rocky, rooty miles….this section was quite runnable.   I got back to my car long before sunset, hopped in and got home by 9pm.   Just in time for bed!  Things I learned from this trip.  I don’t always read texts well when I’m running.  I should always drop water.   DONT FORGET YOUR WATER FILTER.   <—  that!  My husband so lovingly bought me a water purifier, I brought the bottle, but forgot the filter.  There was a lot of running water and pretty falls I could have filtered for water.   Oh well, I had several backup plans, like…get a ride from the aid station worker,  hitch-hike?  Ask a through hiker for their filter? Not the best options, but I never felt like I was actually in trouble.  Plus my (new) phone has a long battery life, and plenty of cell service up on the BRP.  I finished with 38+ miles and 8,434 ft of gain (and descent since I had to come back down the same way) and happy adventure legs!


The following weekend was a family vacation to Hilton Head Island where I relaxed, ran a little, chased my nephew around, and caught my niece’s chest cold….blah!  Good thing the rest of this week has been recovery!



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!

The Lonely Road of the UltraRunner

I read lots of articles daily about running, as I am a person who has sole focus when I commit to a thing.  Articles about hill training, or long runs, or pacing, strength training, about doping, and all sorts of other things that make up our wonderful sport.  But few on what happens when you really commit yourself to a training plan and a desire to excel in a field.  What happens when your training plan no longer allows you to just show up and run with your local running group because you have an important workout the day that they all meet, and the usual 5-6 mile jaunt through the woods isn’t what’s on your plan for the day?  Want the real world truth?


Solitude is what happens.  If its an LSD it can be hours alone with your thoughts.  Perhaps if its a speed workout you’re brain is too occupied trying to remember how many laps you have done in the mile repeat, and then how many mile repeats you have just completed, oh… and don’t forget keeping an eye on that pace/split you are supposed to hit.  In reality those brain occupying, pain inducing workouts are becoming somewhat of a relief to my over-thinking solitary brain.

Do I miss my social running buddies, yes.  Do I feel guilty when I show up at coffee or a morning run on a rare day that I don’t have an important workout and I am greeted with “where have you been,” “you do still exist”–of course.  Do I wish I could be everywhere and have everything– don’t we all?  Instead I have traded in my early morning social runs (so I am not a night time zombie and can actually have a conversation with my husband) for mid morning runs–or even sometimes sneaking in an after work run.  I have prioritized getting adequate sleep, and recovery (and of course work and family.)   And yes, I miss you all!

Do I regret this?  Not really.  I’m not driven by overstretching myself and trying to squeeze everything in.  I don’t feel compelled to give into the societal pressure that tells me I need to do everything, please everyone.   I realize I cant.   When I’m all in- I’m all in.  I’m a person that when I choose to focus on something important to me I am able to let go of regrets.  I realize that most of my life is a consequence of choices I make, and the rest I can’t control–so what is there to regret?

I thrive on single minded-ness.  When I have a few things on my plate that I put as much of myself into that I can.  And I do.  Spreading myself thin doesn’t make me satisfied.  I don’t want to be a jack of all trades, I want to be a master of few things that are important to me.  So right now running, running fast, and uninjured is my free time desire so my single minded-ness has altered my journey onto a path of solitude — for the moment.

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Oh how I Dread-mill..

“27 degrees at 6 am. Turn that alarm off”, I thought!

“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?


25, no 26 worst questions to ask a runner;

questionsI saw this somewhere and it made me laugh, so I thought perhaps I would take a stab at illuminating you non runners.

1.  So you like jogging?  This is that question that every runner cringes at.  Jogging, don’t ask us if we jog!  As far as many of us are concerned, that is a dirty word.  I will not dignify this question with an answer…..like I jog!

2. Why do you pay so much to run a race?  Now this is a good question, I tend to work all of my race fees out in miles, unless its a race I am running for a more sentimental reason.  Anyway, here is what goes on in my head.  $150 for a 100 mile race is a steal, right? That is $1.50 per mile.  On the other hand, a half marathon for $100..that is NOT a bargain!  Don’t RD’s do their price per mile math?

3. Did you win…hmm…well, usually no…but on occasion…so technically this is a valid question.

4. But don’t you get bored?  NO. Don’t you get bored sitting in a cube all day? Don’t you get bored commuting to work?  Don’t you get bored watching tv?  Those are more appropriate questions, I am too busy feeling alive to be bored.

5.  How far is your marathon? (Please look up the definition of marathon.)

6. Cross train? What is a cross train?  Ok, legit question, cross training is something one does to stay fit in other ways.  Sometimes its something an athlete does in their off season (whats an off season?) Sometimes its all an athlete can do when they are injured.  Swimming, biking, yoga, (crying?)

7. How do you hurt yourself running?  Um, well..people can hurt themselves doing just about anything.  I think the more important question is how can you stay unhurt while running!!

8./9. What about your knees? Oh this is my all time most annoying question..can you agree with me runners?!  My knees? My knees are fine!  My leg muscles are strong and they support my knees.  I think my knees are the only things that don’t hurt.  I may be the only one in my family whose knees don’t hurt (and I’m also the only runner in my family…well that’s interesting, isn’t it?!) What about all those non runners that get knee surgery all the time?  hmmm? Perhaps they ran once and hurt their knees..huh?

10.  Isn’t it unhealthy to run so much? Yes, and my uterus fell out also.  Everything in moderation, as if I could achieve moderation.

11.  Is running safe at your age?  I have to say I have never had to answer this question.  Mostly because due to my running I look 10 years younger than my actual age….thank you running.

12.  What are you doing?  Clearly I am being chased, I was just lucky enough to be wearing shorts, running shoes, a running bra and this convenient hydration pack.

13.  Do you need a ride? This one is great, especially when running in the rain. (see above answer)

14.  Don’t you get lost?  Well, no actually, not if I am prepared and follow the trail blazes.  As a matter of fact, I lived in Baltimore for 7 years, and during that time I would get stopped constantly by drivers asking for directions to so and so’s house. (Sorry I don’t know where your friend lives.)  Hello? You are in a car, you can easily carry a map, oh..and there is this GPS thing you can get now, oh ya, and a phone!  So there, the runner directing the driver…is that like the student becoming the master?

15.  You mean you have fun running?  This one gets me, every time.  Obviously I do, I run 100 miles…I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t find it fun, would I?  I often want to respond with, “you mean staying up till the early morning, drinking until your liver hurts, waking up in a fog hungover, is what you call a fun party?”

16.  Why would you need so many running shoes?  This is always my husband’s question…shall I answer?  Well that one is for trail, those are for races with trail and road, those are just for road, those are my track shoes, those I won race x in, those are for really muddy races,  I ran my first 100 in those (can’t you see that I wrote Pinhoti 22:50 in sharpie on the sides of those?!)those are a bit worn, but I can still hike in them…don’t touch those, they don’t make them anymore!

17. Do you really need another pair of running shoes?  Did you not read the above question?! YES.

18.  You’re going to run in the rain?  Yes, and referring back to #13 No, I do NOT need a ride!

19.  Isn’t it too windy to run?  Bring it on! Just another challenge! I mock you wind!

20.  Isn’t it too cold?  I didn’t make the weather, I just run in it.

21.  Isn’t it too hot? Ahh its never too hot!  Bring it on!

22.  Wait, you run outside?  Where else would one run?  Oh, the hamster wheel…that is just a tool to use when I need a mountain to climb, and its so flat I can see for miles around.

23.  Don’t you get tired?  We are all human, and humans get tired, how is this question relevant?  Oh, because you think I am a SUPER human! 🙂  Sorry to disappoint you, yes, I am human, I get tired too.

24.  Wouldn’t you rather sleep in?  That’s what off days and tapers are for!

25.  Are you fast?  Well….I don’t like to brag….but if you are asking me these questions, then as far as you are concerned I’m freaking Meb.  Oh, you don’t know who that is…?

And I had to add this one last one in.

26.  100 miles!? I don’t even like to drive that far!  Funny you should say that, I don’t either, its so boring sitting in a car for that long…but I do like to run that far!

Run on friends!

Summertime Training

Well its almost August and I can’t believe how quickly this summer is going.  Most of my summer has been filled with swimming, eating, friends, work, and of course lots of training.

I signed up for Grindstone 100, or more accurately, a friend signed me up as I was having trouble actually pressing the enter key on my laptop.  100 miles in one day, I am super excited, and nervous all at the same time.  I have been reading blogs, planning nutrition, and logging miles ever since.  Because there is no terrain near where I live, a friend has come up with a plan to mimic several miles of climbing.  Typically we pick a hilly route, run 15+ miles and end up at the gym, then we get on the treadmill at a 15% incline and walk/jog for 2-4 miles, and finally we finish up a few more miles back to our cars.  Its interesting to notice the change, when we first began this workout, the treadmill had to come first, and it was a struggle to maintain an even heart rate for even 2.5 miles, the hilly trail miles came after and it was a struggle to just get to 18 or 19 miles.  Now this workout happens twice a week and the treadmill portion either comes at the end of the long run, or (if we are short on time) we make it a two a day and do a second run in the evening on tired legs.  I know it doesn’t take the place of actual hiking miles, but it will have to do.

As for races this summer, there was a challenge thrown to me by my husband.  He has been watching me log all these long slow, slow miles, and got it into his head that he could finally beat me in a race…so he challenged me to race him at a local 4th of July race.  Four on the Forth is a great local race put on by the Cardinal Track Club.  Last year I ran it in 25:46 and placed third female overall, this year with the fear of my husband beating me, out of nowhere I ran a 24:58, placing second female overall.  I guess lots and lots of miles made up for my lack of any speed work whatsoever.  Though my husband did not beat me, he did PR by nearly 2 minutes!

4 on the 4th Me photobombing my training partner at the starting line

My “training partner in crime” (shown above with me photobombing him) of course smoked the race, he ran a 5:44 pace after running 11 hard trail miles before hand. Needless to say that I only ever see the back of him when we train…but its great motivation for me to run faster!

This next weekend I will finally get out to the mountains of western NC for some good climbing, no more flat-landing this weekend!