Tag Archives: Ultramarathon

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.

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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Orange Mud Vest Pack, Single Bottle; First Thoughts

Last summer I was lucky to borrow the double barrel vest pack and try it out on a night run.  Though I have many friends who love it, it just wasn’t for me.  I didn’t need to carry that much water for races, and at 5’3″ and 100ish lbs It was wider than my back was.  (I made a comment about the vp2 at the bottom of this review last summer.)

HydraQuiver Vest Pack 1

View of the back, those vertical pockets hold gels and bars nicely and I was able to grab them while running.

I waited and waited and waited, all the while knowing that the single bottle vest pack was coming out, someday!

Luckily I will be running The Cruel Jewel in GA in a week and that will be plenty of time for me to give it a full test drive.

So far is has the same great things I love about the regular Orange Mud hydraquiver.  It feels comfortable, the bottle stays put, it has the usual expandable shoulder pockets, but with so much more!

The Single Bottle Pack now has two more pockets on either side of the bottle, they hold several bars each and the opening is at the top so I can reach back and grab a bar out rather than take it off and have to unzip the pocket like in the single bottle Hydra Quiver.

The great thing about this pack is the extra front pockets that are made of the same stretchy material as the shoulder pockets.  So far I have managed to shove an ipod and a shirt into the front pocket.

I have worn it with a shirt, with out a shirt, up stadium steps, down stadium steps and in the woods and usually in the middle of the hottest part of the day.  I have had no chafing thus far, its quite comfortable.  It took me a little bit to play with the straps.  First I tried to adjust the straps in the front and then the side, but it made the pack sit a bit awkwardly.  Once I tightened down the side straps first, then tightened the front strap, it fit better.   Although it does fit, I am just on the edge of it fitting.  I have broad shoulder for someone my size, and a larger than usual chest cavity   If a woman my size with smaller shoulders were to try this on it would probably bounce and slide around.  So I would like to see maybe a more gender specific VP1 made.

Adding onto thoughts on a smaller size of vest pack or female specific pack, the straps on the sides (that go under my arms) are long for larger people,  so I am left with straps that dangle almost to my hips.  I haven’t quite figured out where to put the tail end of these straps; should I cut them off, should I roll them up and stitch them to the pack?  These are things I will have to figure out BEFORE my race!

Come back in a week for a more in depth review if you are curious, and please post any questions you’d like answered!

Cruel Jewel Tapering, April 23-May 4

Feet in the grass, and these cloud shorts make me happy!

Well that’s not your typical week cycle, I know, but its sort of how this week went.  I felt a tweak in my calf last Wednesday, tried to roll it and stretch it and work it out…I thought I had, but 7 miles into my usual 20 mile workout I had to quit with pain in my calf that traveled down to my Achillies tendon. Very SAD face 😦

I have had Achillies Tendonosis before (that’s what its called once your tendonitis has been ignored for so long that the tendon is no longer getting blood flow and is sort of rotting apart..) EW, I know.  I should know better; well I do know better, now.  So I stopped right away on Thursday, ran some very slow. short, easy miles on Friday, hiked on the treadmill on Saturday, followed by some balancing and leg strengthening exercises, and then was talked into warm-not-quite-hot yoga with my sister for 2 hours.

Enjoying a morning walk with Mr. Emmitt

The yoga actually helped immensely, I just get so bound up sometimes.  The heat and the humidity, and the last 40 minutes were longer held stretches.  It seemed to help me a bit.

Trying out my new Vest Pack from Orange Mud with my best bud.

However, it wasn’t enough, I could still feel the tendons in my lower leg snapping against each other when I went up and down stairs.  So I did what every injured runner on their third day of injury (during what is supposed to be their peak week of training);  I threw myself a huge pity party.  I slept in so late that my husband; the connoisseur of weekend sleeping in,  insisted that I was in bed too long. I listened to 4 podcasts, cleaned the house, and then got back into bed and binged on netflix while Emmitt the dog happily joined me for a pity party snuggle.

I know, right, totally self indulgent there.  I think I just needed one of those days to just lay around.  No major house projects, no going out, no plans, just quiet.

Monday I felt much better and got in to see my massage therapist, who really I only get to see in desperate times, and this was one of those times!  He started working on my left calf, gentle at first…and then I could tell he was getting frustrated.  There weren’t “knots,” each muscle and tendon in my lower leg; calf, ankle, shin, foot were pulled tight, like..I believe he said a guitar string and he was having a hard time loosening anything up.  He spent more than 1.5 hours just from my knees down.  I am very grateful for his strong hands and determination, I left feeling so much better.  I was able to run easy on Monday afternoon, and then nice and speedy on Tuesday.

Since I missed out on TWOT last weekend, hence the pity party, I decided I was just going to try to run Umstead as fast as I could repeating ever hill at least twice around and aim for 20 miles in 2:40 or less.  I was so close, 2:41…but my hips were finally open and my ankle could move again! YAY!

Of course everything tightened back up again later in the week, not as badly as before, but still the nagging calf tightening, which has traveled to my ankles, pulling something out of line so my ankle is locking from time to time.

Very easy day at the stadium, focusing on form and soft landing.

The rest of my training isn’t much to mention.  I had a few good runs, and a few runs I had to cut short because the stabbing calf pain came back.  I am really starting to worry that this won’t be resolved in time….but still trying to stay positive!

I don’t want to complain or dwell on it though.  The weather has been beautiful, I have less than two weeks of tapering. I got to garden, do packet pickup for the race we TrailHeads put on in May; Philosopher’s Way Trail Race.  That was fun, despite the single track trails being closed due to wet weather.  (it was kind of a shock, they had never closed the trails due to rain before, and we didn’t have much actually.)   It was fun to run the double track though and cheer on runners.

Goofing off with friend, Katie at Philosopher’s Way Trail Run after packet pickup duties were done. (Mr Emmitt looks confused)

Other than that there’s not much to tell.  Just taper, roll, rest, eat, repeat.

Sorry for the lack luster post.

Hope you all are having a happy spring full of sunny training!

My first 100! Pinhoti Report

My first 100! Pinhoti in Talladega National Forest

I need to start with a great big thanks to my crew and pacers! Ringo,Lynx, and ET! It was really so fantastic to have them there and have their help and support…and thanks to all my friends, family, and treahead crew for sending your vibes, texts, emails and facebook posts!

So where to begin, in the beginning maybe?  So May 1980, I was born,…no wait, that’s too early…

 

Ok this summer 2013 a trailhead and I decided it would be fun to try to see how many miles we could do in a week…we started with a plan to build up, and take appropriate weeks off so we could max out and not get injured. A few weeks into this plan, I realized that with all this mileage..why not sign up for an actual race? Makes sense, right? So will a little help and a lot of butterflies Lynx signed me up for Grindstone…(yes, that’s right…couldn’t actually hit the “enter” key myself)

Fast forward past my 150 mile week in the July heat, and on to October.  You all know what happened to Grindstone In October…or what didn’t happen I guess.

Anyway, in a panic I emailed around looking for another race, and Todd, the RD of Pinhoti  graciously let me sneak into his race at the last minute. 

So there I was, at the starting line this Saturday thinking about my 6 week taper and wondering if my legs would even remember how to run, never mind how to run fast.   As Et snapped some prerace photos, Lynx tried to guide me to the front of the starting line. Burn wished me good luck and told me this had better be the last time he saw me until the finish..and went to the back of the croud.  I could see Ringo and his excitement for me off to the side as he gave me a thumbs up….

And we were off!


The start is very reminiscent of Uwharrie Mountain Run.  Start down low in a forest parking lot, pop onto a road for barely even time to register it, and then (in this case) quickly into very narrow single track.  In the bunch of the narrow single track I got pushed pretty far back and stuck behind lots and lots of guys. This frustration of walking all the puny hills and my overflow of annoyance from Grindstone probably wasn’t great for the smart pacing at the beginning. The trail was dark and narrow, there was quite a drop off to the right and it was steep on the left.  The only way around anyone was to wait for the water crossing. To my shock people were stopping and waiting their turn to hop on each rock over the water.  (this is a trail race right?) I knew there were 15+ water crossings throughout the race so I plunged right in and around several people. I heard someone yell at me for cutting, and then someone also exclaim what a great idea it was to go through the water…(again, this was a trail race,right?) unfortunately I let It all boil over and went too fast, by sunrise I had put in my headphones and tried to cool off.

 

After finally getting around several herds of people I was able to run my pace, 8min-:9:30 min pace…oops! But at the time it felt very comfortable. I try to run on feel, I know when my heartrate is getting too high and when to walk, and it wasn’t getting high enough for me to walk. I got through aid station 1 not wanting to stop because I was afraid I would get caught back up in the slower groups again, but had to get some water because I was trying to make sure to drink one bottle between each aid station (they were all roughly 4-6 miles apart) The first 15 miles I cruised quite happily, Mostly all by myself, which I like during races.  Otherwise I like to chat, (yes I know, shocker there) and I stop actually racing.  I realized I really liked that I could see my crews smiling faces every 5 or so miles, it helped the miles tick along and was helpful to break up the race into smaller parts mentally. By the third aidstation Lynx started to inform me something about #2 was more than an minute back…wait, #2? As in who was #1…oh crap! I had just assumed I was so far back that I was stuck in a huge gap between the middle of the pack and the front of the pack, I did not realize I was the front of the (women’s) pack.  That knowledge always messes with my head at the beginning of a race and I panicked a bit. I thought about the pace I had been running (now about 50k into the race) and how much farther I had to go, and how could I hope to hold people off, I thought about some of the rude comments that had been made at me earlier and hit my mental low…only 50k into the race.  Of course this is also the section where I wouldn’t see my crew for 15 miles (there were still aid stations in between, but no crew)  I slowed down, A LOT, and slipped back to 4th women.

 

I also have a sinus infection, and this was where the pressure in my head became unbearable. Its worse on my right side, and felt like it was going to pop my right eye out.  Luckily the crew had my neti pot and I used it as soon as I saw them…oh sweet relief! (but not until mile 45 or so)  Mile 35-41 is the highest climb in Alabama but was much less technical and had more switchbacks than Grindstone had so it felt mentally easier and I had crested the top much quicker than I had anticipated.   At the top I was rewarded with a really beautiful fall colored view, my crew plus the other crews, and a little bit of pavement,  Lynx joined me and we started down the other side of Bald Rock.

This of course was a public park and there were lots of people out enjoying the day. As a matter of fact I had to give my quads a break by using my arms to lower myself down on the rocks (this section was a bit like the top of grandfather mountain, lots of big boulders.) We happened upon a 3some. Two adults and their very adult mother,(maybe in her late 70s) who fell, right on her hip onto the rocks! Yikes! We all stooped down as visions of ambulances danced in our head. She insisted she was ok, and on we continued.

 

I finally got to my netipot and picked up Ringo.  Somewhere along the way with Ringo the sun set and the night came, and I got out of my funk.  Theres not much to say for the next 15 miles. This is where I will explain the single compression sock, i stared to get a small blister and decided it was time to attend to it. Unfortunately wet compression socks are impossible to get off, and even worse trying to get back on.  Lynx’s with his quick thinking grabbed a regular sock of mine and put it on. I had already wasted 5-10 min messing with getting it off, so we just left it that way. Back onto the singletrack there was a lot of up, a lot of dark, and at some point I could no longer eat solid foods so I could only drink,,,so needless to say there was also a lot of peeing. Lots of good storytelling from Ringo, he kept me moving, kept my spirits up and kept track of my calories forcing coke, dates, and ginger ale down my throat to keep me from bonking.  What more could you ask for from a pacer. Oh…and he also kept my ego pumped up (thanks Ringo! this is my Ringo plug…he pushed me just enough, but not too much because he was aware I was close to bonking while he counted just a handful of calories I could get down)

 

Lets fast forward to mile 85.  To my wonderful surprise the last 15 miles were mostly on jeep roads and a little single track, a field, and around a track to the finish. My pace went from a single track slog, to a11:30 min mile. And with Lynx’s encouragement we started reeling in people left and right. (we went ultrarunner hunting!) We were moving so fast we actually missed Ringo and ET at the last aid station we ran into a guy coming the wrong way, somehow he got turned around and was bonking and confused, we made sure he followed us to aid station 95 where his crew was.  (lynx will add in red because at this point i was coasting in on fumes and too much caffeine..  I don’t remember too much)  From here we went on to some single track that was low on the technical side but high on the Alabama-Deep South-Banjo scale. Came out of the woods to a lake and ran on a built path through the middle. Dropped the 100 miler who had been behind us, shortly caught up to another. On to the road and ET and Ringo were in the car with words of encouragement. As we ran “the longest road in the world,” I pointed out the lights ahead, sure signs of another runner. Passed him a couple minutes later.-Lynx

Lynx got a good chuckle too because I did ask if we were on the right course (it was very obvious to anyone that we were)Finally after some obnoxious road and lots of lynx poking I could see the lights of the high school track just around the corner. I was so excited! I turned off my headlamp hoping to run it in without blinding everyone.  Of course when we got onto the field, we couldn’t see the reflectors without our headlamps illuminating the way.  I looked down at my watch to see 22:58 crap!!…I decided I needed to go under 23 hours so I sprinted (or at least it felt like I sprinted) across the finish line.  As I crossed there was a woman, who looked quite familiar smiling at me, holding a sign…things did not register until after and she came over…it was Sidetrack’s MOM! She stayed up to come watch the finish and have us over for tea.  I missed the tea, I passed out on her guest bed,(there is a funny pic of me passed out with a grin on my face) and then puked in her guest bathroom….I was happy, and excited, sick to my stomach, tired as hell…but so alive and so proud of myself!

All in all the race was really well organized, all the marking kinks have been worked out.  No getting lost, not once. There is something like 80mi of single track, a few street crossings 10-15 mi of wide trail, a handful of annoying pavement to the finish, and a 1/2 of a lap around a rubberized track.  The leaves weren’t quite peak, but they were well on their way, there were plenty of nice views, rolling hills, and not too technical trail.  I would say it is a great race, I really had fun, perfect weather, beautiful sunset, and even a shooting start or two.

I havent mentioned my dear friend ET much to this point because I only saw her a few minutes every 5-10 miles, but I know how important the driver/crew is and I am so thankful that she came! Not only did she get to each aid station, but she organized and set up and rolled with the changes as they came…she took very good care of me and she took a lot of excellent pictures!

Thanks for sticking with me through my 100 mile ramblings! wispy

I wore my new FAVORITE shoes Altra Lone Peak
My Lululemon shorts that have been discontinued
My hot pink cep socks that I ALWAYS wear for races (which I must say are awesome! no lower leg/foot swelling at all!!)