Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Frigid Infliction

I roll to the side of my bed and reach for my cell phone.  I glance at the time which reads 4:53 AM.  It's time. I throw the down comforter off and my feet hit the cold hardwood floor.  Already knowing it is cold outside I walk downstairs to confirm just how bad it is.  I pull the shades back and feel the below freezing air that is seeping in through the windows.  It is pitch dark out, and still will be even when I finish my run.  To determine exactly what to wear I check the weather on my phone.  My suspicions are confirmed as I learn it is currently thirteen below, but it feels like negative twenty four (I always wonder how they determine the "feels like" temperature).

I want nothing more than to climb back into my warm bed, throw the comforter back over my head and drift back into sleep.  I will myself into dawning my running clothes knowing that once I am out and running I will be grateful.  Dressing myself for outdoor activities at times can require some thought.  It is a fine balance to ensure that I am dressed warm enough, but not to the point of excessive sweating.

OK it is COLD, I've determined that.  I have been very blessed to have Salomon outfit me this winter.  All their products have been amazing and they have added much color and depth to my running wardrobe.  For the warmer days that we had late in the fall I was loving the EXO II 3/4 tights as they gripped me in all the right places.  Now in the thick of winter I have been turning to my Salomon WS II tights that have windstopper softshell on the front and a breathable material in the back.  On a day like today I will wear my Salomon Momentum II Softshell jacket to keep me warm with just one light long sleeve underneath.  If I need a super warm layer underneath I add in the Swift Midlayer Hoody that possesses ever feature a girl could every want from a slit in the hood for my ponytail to built in hand covers.  Enough of being girly and thinking about clothes, time to motivate.

Timber hasn't stirred since my feet set down on the cold floor, he is still curled up tightly in his bed holding out for warmer temps.  Gloves, headlamp, reflector vest and I'm finally out the door.  I stand in the driveway waiting for my garmin to connect to the satellites and feel like the progress bar is moving slower than I am.   The darkness, stale silence, puffs of breath and then the sound of the crackle of cold snow as my foot strikes and pushes off makes the effort worthwhile. As much as I may complain about it, there is something special about running this time of year.  It forces me out of my comfort zone in a different way than heat, difficult terrain or a fast pace. Yes I am cold, but loops that I have run time after time seem altered and new, thus my senses are awakened by the differences that surround me.

It's five in the morning and I am out running.  During the colder months this is my time and the way I choose to start my day. It's now 6:20 AM and many houses have gone from dark to dimly lit. I stare down the dark road and appreciate my simple time.  I arrive home and am greeted by two dogs and a warm house and as I take off my running shoes and my feet hit the cold wood floor I no longer want to climb back into bed.  How do you start your day?

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

El Número Siete

I must admit that by choice I do live a rather sheltered life from the ultra running scene. I do not get Runners World, UltraRunning, Trail Runner or any magazines beyond Vegetarian Times in the mail. Once and a while I will glance at race results to see how a friend did, but would rather hear it from them since position doesn't always speak to how the race went. For me it is too easy to get wrapped up with who is doing what in comparison to what I am doing. Don't get me wrong, it is not that I don't care or I am not interested, I just haven't been able to use all the information that is produced in a productive way rather than an anxiety provoking one.

Yesterday I started receiving emails from friends saying congratulations on #7. I scanned my brain for answers, number 7, what does that have to do with me? Then an email came in from Bryon with the link that would explain. The headline from UltraRunning Magazine read- Roes, Garneau Named Ultra Runners of the Year. Here I am living under my rock in Williston as I had no idea that there was even such a list, let alone that I was on it. As I read the article I learn that a panel of 18 race organizers from across North American submit ballots to determine the list. My attention then moves to the actual list as I scan it up and down, and yes I am #7.

I feel honored to be on the list with such incredible names surrounding me in all directions. I remember when I first started running distances from 3-5 miles I ripped out pages of magazines that were North Face ads featuring Nikki Kimball and Kami Semick. I tucked them into my exercise log for inspiration and motivation. They looked so strong, so focused and so comfortable. I dreamed that one day, I too might find strength and peace through running. I am getting there. 

Now I move to my other feelings, because there is no denying that they were there. Sometimes I get very conflicted about my running. Such a list provokes angst inside me. Surely it is just a list and at the end of the day who cares, although until I find a better way to digest such information I will continue to stick to my Vegetarian Times magazine, but I hope that someday I can look at such a list and not feel so torn.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Three Wise Men

Well my off season has made a quick switch from off to on as January 1st marked the beginning of training for my ambitious and scary race schedule.  This year I have strayed out of my comfort zone and signed up for two major races that require a large amount of travel.  I committed to being as prepared as I could for Western States, so now the fun starts.  It is actually mind blowing to think that I have started focused training for a race that will not happen for over 6.5 months, let me state the obvious by saying that is over a half of year away! 

How will I prepare?  The three men above are large components to getting me, strength and condition wise, from where I am to where I need to be.  They will help me prepare and guide me, but I am a firm believer that ultimately everything is up to me.  I always have a choice.  I can choose whether or not I am going to run the prescribed daily dose, I can choose how hard I am going to push the last interval, I can choose if I am going to cry like a little girl when doing every exercise in the world that hurts, I can choose to sit on the couch and watch chick flicks...the bottom line is I choose.      

Let me work from left to right.  The first time I meet Travis a trainer at Synergy Fitness I refused to tell him my name because I instantly feared him.  This tactic didn't stop Travis. He began calling me Nicki, and it was well over a month before he actually unearthed my real name.   Travis does everything he can to push me and I am so stubborn that I have yet to fold and be defeated.   He is an incredible trainer, motivator and entertainer (i.e. as I do burpees, lunge jumps, rows, squat jumps, push ups, abs etc without warning he can burst into dance while yelling "ALL DAY LONG")  He himself is eager to get into ultrarunning so it is fun to pick each others brains about training.

Then moving to Matt who is also a trainer at the gym.  Matt is extremely calm and can be soft spoken.  I would go as far as to describe him as zen-like.  He has made me do  things I never thought possible.  I am always in awe of his strength when he demonstrates exercises and admire his ability to keep things interesting.  He never yells, but the look I get if I am slacking is enough to get me back into form.  

Finally there is Mr. Bryon Powell of irunfar.com, who is my running coach.  I meet Bryon years ago while doing the Finger Lakes 50 in NY.  We ran together for a bit and I thought he looked familiar.  We chatted for a while, parted ways, and then I smacked myself on the head as it dawned on me who I was in the presence of.  I felt like an idiot because I was a huge fan of his website.  Bryon is, and has been, a great coach for me.  He is very knowledgeable of all aspects of running and is very patient with me and my self doubting/indecisive ways.    The training regime I receive is based on what works best for me and not runners in general, which makes my training focused and easy to incorporate into my schedule.  

These three men are key in guiding me along my journey.  There are so many more people who will help me along the way; my husband, family, sponsors, nutritionist, training partners, physical therapists and perfect strangers.  I am so grateful for everyone even though I may curse them inside my head while I am in the midst of pushing myself mentally, physically, socially and emotionally.  Off we go.

Monday, January 3, 2011


When the idea was proposed I had a full belly and didn't even think twice about it.   I figured if an elimination diet could help shed some insight into my ongoing stomach saga then it was worth the a honest attempt. The plan was two weeks with no soy, nuts or gluten and then items would be reintroduced individually.  I was already a vegan so that piece wasn't difficult, but cutting gluten, nuts and soy out of my diet left me with what to eat?  


Here are some of my thoughts from various days:
Day 1: Seriously my morning has been ruined as I never knew coffee tasted so bad!  I guess I have been using soy milk to cover up the real flavor.
Day 4: Pacing back and forth in the bread/bakery isle today at the grocery store I felt my heart was breaking as I left the store with no items to contend with the satisfaction that I find in a fresh loaf of whole wheat bread.
Day 5: I just ate styrofoam, I mean a really bad gluten free bagel. 
Day 8:  This isn't so bad, I have some figuring out to do, but I am not famished.
Day 10: Thank goodness GU & Shot Blocks actually are free vegan, nut, soy and gluten free.
Day 12 (Christmas): Gluten is invading the world, it seems to be in everything. 
Day 15: Hello gluten free pizza, where have you been for the past 14 days of my adventure?  You had me at hello..

To my surprise I have been eating more than twigs and berries and I haven't perished without my comfort carbs or handfuls of nuts. The process isn't over, but all and all I have had noticeable changes in how my stomach feels.  I have been eager to reintroduce soy into my diet, although I do feel hesitation to go back to gluten despite missing my fresh loaves of bread.  It  has been a process trying to determine the rhyme to my stomachs reason and I am hopeful this experiment will prove beneficial. For now the fun will continue.

If you have any good gluten free recipes please feel free to share!