Monday, May 23, 2011

96 Miles in Three Minutes

Here's some blips from my running week. Last week my schedule called for five days of running, whereas the weather man called for 5 days of rain.  Fortunately I got lucky with some gray days and even sunny days.  My workouts included uphill repeats, downhill repeats, some tempo and some easy miles for a total of 96 miles.

*Disclaimer: Some of the footage is bouncy and I apologize, I am not yet a trained professional.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Week Long Tale of Running

It is Monday, a day of cross training or rest, and I have this brilliant idea that I will do a short video of each of my runs this week.  I think the end result maybe interesting for myself and others to view.  I am wondering if a clip of video 30 second to a minute long of each work really represent my efforts?  As you maybe aware I am in the midst of training for Western States and I am finding these peak weeks to be fun, yet daunting and tiring at times. There are moments where I find myself feeling like I should ask if you have seen my "giddy up," although I know that this is part of the process.  

Stay tuned and we shall see what the daily workouts bring and what the days look like strung together at the end of my training week.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Limits, Restrictions, Boundaries, Threshold…

While watching Kilian's Quest Seasons 1 and 2, a series of trail running/ski mountaineering adventures that track Kilian Jornet, I found myself feeling captivated, inspired and in total awe. After watching the trailer for the upcoming season I found myself with similar past feelings, but I also found myself calling into question the concept of limits. 

Do limits exist or are they simply contrived in our heads?  If we can move beyond putting limitations on ourselves and others, can we gain more power from within?  Think for a moment about what you are capable of and then watch the trailer for Kilian's Quest Season 3

Have your "limits" changed?  Are there no limits if you truly commit yourself?  Sometimes watching others achieve what we thought impossible helps us go beyond what we thought was possible.  One step at a time, be in the moment and challenge yourself to call into question what exactly you can accomplish.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Leona Will You Be My Friend?

As I trained all winter it seemed like my first ultra of the year, Leona Divide would never arrive soon enough. Then about a month out from the race I got sick, regrouped, and then got sick again.  I missed two long runs and I felt like my running confidence and ability was declining.  Once back on my normal training schedule what I deem my typical pace seemed hard, and my motivation was lacking.  As I packed my bags for California I worried extensively.  I was about to literally fly across the country and had doubts about my ability to compete at the level that I desired.  

As I arrived at my hotel in Palmdale, CA at 3:30 AM EST I was very behind on sleep and nutrition.  On Friday morning, once I woke from my short sleep it was off to the grocery store to buy some food.  Two grocery stores later I was feeling like Palmdale didn't believe in gluten free anything.  No gluten free bread or cereals, no Lara bars, no soy yogurt, etc. but no worries because this city had every fast food restaurant you could imagine.  I knew I couldn't leave another grocery store empty handed so I picked up three simple things, natural peanut butter, corn tortillas and bananas.  Since my options were rather limited during my time there I will simply say that my daily nutrition was the dichotomy of stellar.  

Later that day around lunch time Nick Yardley and I traveled to the start of the race to run the first few miles of the course before racer check-in.  Since my favorite Julbo glasses called the "whoops" broke in transit, Nick graciously lent me a pair of Julbo Ultra glasses to wear.  Despite being "a little" big on me, the transition lenses were amazing.  Hoping to shake the legs out meant I had to be running, so off we went uphill.  Within the first 2 minutes my heart rate was sky high and no matter what the pace it wasn't recovering.  Despite feeling like something you might find stuck to your shoe, I continued to climb up the first portion of the course.  Eventually we slowed to a walk and continued on to check the course.  Once we finished soaking up some vitamin D and taking in the sights we started down and it felt like a roller coaster ride.  It was fast and easy and I let my momentum take me. 

In general I felt rather atrocious, especially during my run, so I panicked. Luckily a good friend reminded me that Leona was a stepping stone for me, a chance to practice pacing, patience, fueling (which I had worked out with my nutritionist Meredith Terranova) and to test myself in the CA conditions. I needed to stay focused on my plan. With this in mind I knew I had to get some sleep and believe that the new day would bring a new feeling.

Saturday morning brought gusty wind and cooler temps. My plan was to wear my Salomon S-lab hydration pack until mile 16 where my first drop back would be. Sticking with the S-lab theme I wore my XT S-lab shoes, with my Drymax trail socks, since I wouldn't need a very aggressive outsole. As Jimmy Dean started the race I let Michelle Barton, last years winner and course recorder owner, dictate the pace. She took off like a bolt of lightening and I followed about 20-30 feet back. My intention was to let her set the pace without me pushing her from the gun. About 1.5-2.0 miles in the wind really began to gust in all directions and I pulled up next to Michelle. We chatted and ran together for about 13 miles and then I realized that the person I was talking to immediately behind me was not her.  I looked back over my shoulder and didn't see her, but hearing another female voice I realized that I needed to focus on myself and my race.  

As I pulled into the third aid station I swapped my pack for an identical one that I had loaded up with fuel and took off without hesitation. I had just run down a four mile single track of magnificent switch backs that I knew I would have to return on very late in the race. After that nice treat of downhill single track I crossed the road and it was time to climb again. The views were breathe taking and the nature of the course allowed me to catch glimpses of were my closest competitors were. Despite only having about 30 seconds to a minute lead I kept my pace comfortable and took it stride for stride. This trend continued until aid station number 5, which was mile 23.7. At this station the crew captain informed me it was approximately six miles until the turn around and then six miles back to him. To put it in even simpler terms for me he said "just a half of marathon till you see us again".

I told myself that wasn't a worry and continued on my way. After a brief protected climb out of the aid station I was on a dirt jeep road that was very exposed. I knew I could potentially put some time in the bank on the downhill so I let my legs go. I passed 4-5 men on the downhill and enjoyed their faces. As I reached the turn around at mile 29.5 I filled my pack, peed and prepared myself for the climb. I began running up the road I felt like I wasn't moving forward and as I picked up my head I saw the next female, Paulette Zillmer who was about a minute back on me. Rather than focus on her I focused on a runner about a third of a mile in front of me and slowly closed the gap. My energy was still solid so I ran every step until I reached my friends again after running my "half marathon". I reloaded on salt and was on my way. It was now time for some fun downhill single track, where the hardest part was passing participants that were coming towards you. When the trail would double back or open up I would look back to gauge my lead and no sign of any other males or females behind me.

Photo: Andy Noise
I had the confidence in myself that if I could still be in the lead once the climbing was over I could outrun someone if need be on the downhill.  I focused on completing little sections of the climb at a time rather than the entire thing.  Before I knew it the climb was over and I was approaching the final aid station.  

Photo: Andy Noise
As I ran into the final aid station I slowed down and then ran past and towards the downhill, but as I did this I heard yells "wrong way, do you really want extra miles?" I stopped the train and turned myself around, that was close. After a short climb I had reached the downhill which really felt like a huge relief and reward. The first mile down I ran a 7:10 and then knew I could do better so clocked my next mile at 6:48 and was loving it.

I enjoyed every step of the descent down into mile 42 where it was time to climb again. With not much left in my pack I knew I needed to replenish before the long climb.  I did just that and said to the aid station crew in what I thought was a playful way "it's all downhill from here!" They all panicked and started explaining the upcoming climb to me.  I giggled, thanked  them and took off running again.   I told myself if I ran the first two miles and had a solid lead I could consider power hiking (really those terms don't even apply to me, I am a slow snail when it comes to walking/hiking). I made it my two miles and knew that I had no real reason to walk so I continued to run with the incentive of the rewarding four miles down to the finish line.
I crossed the line at 7:37:56, was greeted by the race director Kiera and her crew and was pleased. Sure, winning was icing on the cake, but I stuck to my nutrition plan, took good care of myself and gained what I see as valuable experience for the future. A huge thanks to the RD and her wonderful volunteers, they put on a top notch race.