Thursday, June 24, 2010

Life & Training

I'm exhausted today and in a very bad mood.  I overslept and wanted to oversleep some more. I was late for work. My boss is pissing me off. I asked for less ice in my iced latte and instead of cheering me up it pissed me off more because they filled the whole cup up with ice and I paid $4 for it. I even bought a really cute skirt and shoes on sale, and I'm still not happy. So, I took a deep breath and realized that I've been really just building my base so far this year, and now I feel like I'm training again.  For those of you either training for your first big, long distance race, or dealing with me, I thought I'd summarize the (read: my) body's reaction to training.

I remember reading that you should add your weekly mileage in minutes per night of more sleep. So, if you run 60 miles a week, you should sleep an extra hour every night.  This is why I can get 8 hours of sleep and still be exhausted. But trying to run 60 miles a week, sleep 9 hours, and work 40 hours, is rather difficult. Running 120 miles, sleeping 10 hours, and working 40 hours is impossible. And no, sleep cannot be substituted with coffee.

While overall, training will give you more energy, it doesn't happen on days you run 12 miles before showing up to the office so expect to feel worn out. But, I can feel it on a rest day that I have more energy.

Get ready for your appetite to spike. You will be hungry All. The. Time. Plan to have food ready:
  • Before running.
  • After running.
  • Breakfast.
  • Mid-morning snack.
  • Pre-lunch workout.
  • Lunch 1.
  • Lunch 2.
  • Dinner.
  • Dessert.
  • Midnight snack.
I find that when I don't adequately prepare, I get hungry and irritable, and leave the office 6 times a day for a crappy snack. So I claim a spot in the fridge and keep a lot of food at work.  A person my height/weight will only burn 1300-1400 calories if they weren't active... about how much I burn on a run/strength training workout with recovery. So, I make the joke that I'm eating for two.

MESSED-UP LADY SCHEDULE (men: skip this)
My PMS stage (a week or two before the start of my period) is blown out of proportion. I'm twice as irritable, I need my food cravings, I'm so, so, so exhausted all the time, my work-outs suck, and I can't schedule a race during this time. Also, my periods are much more frequent. They are really early, which is better than being really late I guess. Yesterday mine came 5 days early.

A good thing! Yay! I feel so great about my bod during training. Even if I don't lose weight, I am so impressed by how it handles everything that my negative body issues disappear for a while (remember this post?). If your libido dies away, you're over-training.

With the impending 100 mile race, my new, challenging running partners, and my feeling out of shape and slow, I've stepped it up the past few weeks. I'm strength training more. I'm focused on my pace. I'm trying to fit in more hills. And, I can feel it. On Tuesday, I ran with some elite ultra runners and talked with Matt Woods (who won the North Face 50 miler) over pizza. His peak weeks are 90-120 miles, with a full-time job. I asked him how stressful that was, and his response was (paraphrased) "You have no life. I tried to fit in a few group runs and a movie night so that I kept my sanity. That was the extent of my social life."  It doesn't sound promising.

Monday, June 14, 2010

The Omnivore’s Hundred

Since the only thing I like more than running is eating, I was intrigued by this list of 100 things every omnivore should try. I say I would try everything once, and at first, the only thing I crossed off was "whole insects" until I realized that I've totally accidentally eaten bugs before--that counts, right? I've eaten a lot of French, Indian, and Asian dishes, where I had no clue what I was eating (especially the Indian food), so I may have more bolds than I think.

Here’s what I want you to do:
1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:
1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries

23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava

30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV

59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake

68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers

89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor--that sounds so good.
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Sunday, June 13, 2010

What I learned from my first ultra

I think my first ultra was a success, solely because I learned so much. I finished and had fun (my priorities), and I have a ton of room for improvement.

When I first read that time on your feet was all that mattered, I didn't really consider it an important point. First, I did not put in enough miles, and then I missed a key, big, long run due to family plans and my inability to find a good trail in Western New York. I honestly can't believe that I finished (and felt great after) a 50- mile run on this training, since my IT band injury:
I put more into my weekly mileage for MCM, for goodness sake.  I had a lot of setbacks, I had to recover from Boston (it took a lot out of me), I hurt my foot, I was really, really busy last month, and I needed to re-build my mileage. I had some good long runs, did some training in the mountains, and ran two marathons as prep. My training focused on only running about 3-4 times a week: a long run with a few days off to recover, and a few 10-12 mile runs. My focus was solely on endurance. I was really focused on recovering fully to keep from getting injured and introducing myself to trail running. I was only over 50 miles one week--the week of my double-20 miler.

It wasn't the lack of mileage that hurt. Honestly, I felt really good throughout the race and I wasn't sore, and doing so on such a low mileage is crazy. Maybe it was the cross-training and strength training. It was time on my feet that I wasn't prepared for. The longest I had been on my feel was the 32, 6-hour long run I did in March. Other than that, my long runs kept me on my feet from 3-4 hours tops. I was on the course for over eleven. On the trails, I did the mileage, but I ran uphill and took no walk breaks. In the future, I will focus on time on my feet and make sure that I run my long runs at my race pace, not 2-4 minutes under it.

My "moving time" for the race, according to garmin, was 10:13, meaning I spent over an hour not moving. This had to do with Dani and I running together and stopping and waiting for each other for bathroom breaks, but I clearly spent too much time at aid stations. Granted, the volunteers were great but didn't help us much. We had to find our own bags (my first time at Great Falls I couldn't find mine), pour our own drinks, etc., but I need to learn how to do all that more efficiently.

If I'm not ready to spend 12 hours on my feet, I should avoid it. I wish I went out a little harder, while it was cooler, because once I hit that 10-10.5 hour mark, I really wanted to just sit down already. It was a very long day. I paced myself, but next time I'll keep in mind that I'm racing. That when I walk uphill, I need to learn to start running right away. Also, not to take my time, but march forward. There were also some tricky, rocky sections that I just did my best to get through, but I may have taken it a bit too easy.

Clearly, there were some stomach issues. I'm gonna try to limit my fiber intake the night before, no matter how much I say I'm used to it. I think I did a great job hydrating that day but it really did get hard to eat after awhile. I would like to try some new products and strategies, but I need to make sure I take time to prepare for it on my long runs. I am signed up for three 50ks in July to work on my eating and aid station habits.

In prep for Grindstone, I am going to do hill workouts until my head spins, get in more time on my feet during my long runs, learn what my stomach can and cannot take, recruit a crew, convince Dani to pace me, and do my best to get out on those mountains. Knowing this course and having experience on the trails was probably the key to my success and me not pulling my hair out from nervousness the day before. I need to stimulate race conditions more and get my uphill charge down. I will keep up strength training and make sure I stay healthy by slowly adding miles and making sure I recover. I have 3.5 months to prepare for my "A" race of the year.

Monday, June 7, 2010

North Face Endurace Challenge: The Musical

If it ain't rough it isn't fun, fun.

I sang this little Lady Gaga line, when my new bonded-for-life-best friend Dani fell into a stream at mile 5. And it all started there. I met Dani at 8:00 the night before the race (we were supposed to meet at 7-7:30, but I was late, as usual) and we made our way to our mutual friend Brian's friend Jeff's place to sleep there. Despite the four of us really not knowing each other, the camaraderie of all of us running a 50-mile course the next day had us talking until past 10:00. No one slept well, and it was at 11:30 when it really hit me how long 50 miles is. I was terrified.

After 3 hours of sleep, I got up to shower and shave my legs. I like to shave fresh race morning to minimize chafing, but I will never do this again for a trail run. After being covered in bug spray, dirt, sweat, dirty pieces of ice, submerged in streams, smacked with grass and weeds lining the course, covered in sunscreen, and for 11.5 hours, I have really bad razor burn/rash/infection and its stingy. I bought a giant tube of antibiotic soothing ointment for them Saturday.

Me & Jeff

Back to race morning, I love having friends at a race and this was the perfect course for it since its out, three 7ish mile laps, and then back toward the finish. I got to pass my friends a lot and gain/give encouragement. At 5am the race started and it was already in the low 70s with 80% humidity. I had several Hammer gels, my handheld waterbottle, and a light waist pack with salt tablets, tissues, and some extra food.

Dani and I started running together, and talked about everything we could think of. We kept a steady pace, walked uphills, and took it easy. We had a ton of fun. We both love Glee and so started talking Glee, leading to Lady Gaga (its amazing, you only have to talk about her to get your pace up! You don't even need Bad Romance blasting through earbuds to get energy).

I took my first (and only!) fall around mile 7.5.  So far, my average is a fall per 10 miles when trail running. So, I stood up and said "oh well, one down and four to go!" My stomach was funny feeling and I took my first ever poop in the woods. I was very glad I had tissues in my little pack. I was hydrating super well and eating a little at every aid station. I wanted to go out easy, since all that mattered was finishing in under 13 hours today.

The course was meticulously marked. There were two dead birds on the trail and I pointed out the "road kill" since "Wardian must have just blasted through here." (If you don't know who Mike Wardian is, google him. Right now.)

The first 14 miles flew by and all of a sudden we've been out for three hours. Dani and I were constantly laughing and singing, and throwing out awesome Glee quotes (did you know dolphins are just gay sharks?) and we got to the Great Falls aid station to find that Brian already lapped us. "Whatever" Dani says "he can worry about getting a good time. We're having so much more fun."

At Great Falls aid station

I ended up not using about 89.6% of the things in my drop bags, but I loved the dried fruit and the Imodium and crystallized ginger saved my life. Ultrarunners are truly amazing people. When you passed someone they'd tell you how great you looked instead of being pissed about getting chicked. On the loops, there were out and back sections, and Dani and I tried to cheer on everyone. We had started singing Disney songs, and totally forgot that this was not ok on busy sections. We were singing some I'll Make a Man Out of You on the swamp trail, and when we came up on more runners and stopped singing, they asked us to please continue. (A Girl Worth Fighting For was another fun one from Mulan, except I had the beef, pork, chicken... yum part in my head for another two hours).

Now, I can't sing. And when I'm running, its probably 10 times worse. But I'm used to running with an iPod, and I was having way too much fun to stop. We hit Mile 25 and started singing Bon Jovi's Living on a Prayer.  We even took each other's hand at take my hand, and we'll make it I swear (oh yeah, there were dance moves involved too).  I figured these were all strangers until I got a comment on Daily Mile that Orla enjoyed this particular rendition.

The volunteers thought we were crazy. One group asked us if we were on drugs. "Shhh... don't tell anyone!" Something other than salt was definitely in those tablets I got from Jeff. We were outside the bathrooms and when Dani ran in to use one (yes, there was one part with actual toilets!), she asked me to hold her 1/2 eaten potato. I did so and waited diligently for her return: a sign of true love (slash some awesome teamwork). When I made fun of her for eating a potato while running, she decided she didn't want it anymore and threw it into the woods and instead, it hit a tree and broke into pieces--most of which came right back at us. I think we stood there holding our stomachs from laughing so hard for about 45 seconds while brushing off pieces of potato. That gets taken off my time, right?

Smiling at mile 27(ish) 

Mike Wardian passed us twice, and I never imagined I'd be singing showtunes while this happened. The second time we started a little "Mike! Mike! Mike!" chant and he waved back at us. We had way too much energy. There was nothing else I'd rather do all day than run trails at this point. I was putting forth minimal effort, and as it got hotter the humidity lowered and the sun was really hot in some places, but we were mostly in the blessed shade. I was putting ice in my hat at aid stations and it was pure heaven to have ice water dripping out of my hat instead of sweat. Around Mile 33, I stopped for a big toilet break and told Dani to go ahead. This was my last one for the day (thank goodness), and from there on out I was on my own.

I immediately missed the companionship and so I took out Lady Lola (my awesome new iPod) and threw on the quick playlist I made up while I finished my last lap. It was great to head back to the start after Great Falls, and I felt so great with a ton of energy. I was ready to kill the last 15 miles in just over 2 hours and finish in 10.


A couple miles in, my right foot started to ache. The bad ache, that mimicked the one that was bugging my left foot a month ago. I took it a little slower, and just enjoyed the hills at Riverbend. These are fun since they do down and then shoot right back up, so you gain some momentum to half run up them. There were a lot of people walking and limping at this point, and I tried to encourage them all. One guy was leaning up against a tree and when I asked if he was ok, his only response was "Its just these hills" and I said "Yeah, they're fun aren't they?!" They're rooty, and a little rocky, and steep. They started to bug my knees on the downhills and by the early 40s I was no longer running down them and so tried to start running up them.

At Mile 40(ish) my dull ache caused a sharp pain with one step and I stopped running immediately. Bad pain bad pain bad pain (why don't runners get safewords when the trail is beating our feet?). I decided to take a good half mile walk break and tried to determine if I could finish the race walking within 13 hours. After I started running again, it was fine for the rest of the race. Within a mile I had a really bad ankle roll-in. Since I was alone on the trail I just shouted a whole bunch of curse words and trekked on. I came upon a runner and his pacer within a minute and realized they could probably hear me. I told them I was ok. I was still walking and it meant I would start running again. After that break, I started running, and kept going till the finish. I was out of water, and had no idea where the next station was. When I finally came upon it, it was like heaven. I chugged water, sucked down gels, and knew I was so close to the finish.

I never thought I wouldn't finish, but I really had to dig deep. 11 hours on your feet is tough! At one point I stepped in mud so deep I had a good inch caked me to my foot. Luckily, there was a stream within a mile. The trails were pretty muddy! I just watched the miles build on my Garmin and when I hit that last aid station before the two mile loop, I saw that there was 4.1 to go. A lot of the loop was on asphalt (which sucked) but I saw Jeff and Dani on the way out and that lifted my spirits. A lot of this section was also in the open and it was about 90 degrees at this point. I sucked down water (with nuun tablets) like my life depended on it and just did not stop running. I would not let myself walk this close. I could finish before 11.5 hours if I kept running.

Coming through that last aid station and knowing there was 1.7 miles left before I was an ultrarunner was really emotional. I may have had to keep down tears.  I was appreciating the trail, the heat, the fatigue, and I didn't want to stop just yet (Why not a 100k today!? Kidding.)  I had a guy right next to me and U2's Beautiful Day was blasting through my right ear. Our little conversation went something like this:
"This trail is really beautiful."
"It was beautiful 10 hours ago."
"Ha! But really, when you're at that point where your body is totally spent, yet still moving along. There isn't any effort, just that easy cradle movement, and the sun is coming through the trees up ahead." I gestured ahead and gave a long, happy sigh. "I just love running."
Long pause and then he looks over with a smile.
"Me too."
"Well of course, what else would you be doing out here?!"
We came through to the finish together, and I pulled in front of him with my fastest mile split of the race. I had a ton of energy still and while that meant I should have ran harder (that, and I wasn't sore the day after... and I'm still not sore), my point was to have fun and finish. I wanted to revert back to that place where I went for distance instead of time and had fun with running and signing up for an ultra helped. That, and knowing I had more to give makes me more confident about tackling a 100.

My friend Jody finished the marathon right before me, and so I'm on his finish footage in the purple hat. I think the part with his kids running up to finish with him almost makes me cry!

Once again, the twitter support was overwhelming and a huge thanks to: all the volunteers, every runner who gave me encouraging words, Jeff for a room nearby and a drive to the start, Dani for keeping me laughing, Brian for making me sign up for the 50 mile instead of the 50k, Dani's friend Nick for driving me home, Rick for taking pictures, Tyler for the Espom salt bath and beer, and finally to my feet for not falling off after 11.5 hours.

  Dani & the best sign ever