Thursday, October 27, 2011

Happy birthday, IT-band injury!

I am approaching my year anniversary of being injured.

A whole year.

Last weekend I went to a wedding with many college friends I haven't seen in over two years. This happened about 7 times: "Not that I stalk you on facebook, but you're like... a crazy runner right?" Besides the one stint in March where I ran a 50k training run, I've been doing small mile runs and nothing like what I'm used to. But, I'm actually quite ok.

I walk a lot to get in my "me" time. I volunteer at races so that I still see the VHTRC folk. I spend more evenings with my boyfriend. I read more and have moved my ambition focus to the fuck-what-am-I-going-to-do-the-rest-of-my-life part of my brain. It's probably a good thing.

Surprisingly, I haven't gained any weight, in fact I've lost a few pounds and my jeans fit much better. It's actually sort of nice that I don't need to eat so much. Even though I hadn't worked out for well over a month, I was still able to do some decent hiking in Colorado. Oh, right, I've been hiking a lot--it keeps me sane. It's like trail running, but slower and you have to carry all your shit with you. (Tip: get hiking poles so that you can control the weight on your injured leg)

So, twitter and facebook friends, I'm still out, yes, but I'm ok. Really. Promise.

Oh, and so that I can be helpful, here's what I would have done in hindsight:
  1. Don't go running with people or a group when you're recovering. A year ago, I quickly completed a 14 mile trail run that I would have half-walked if I was alone.
  2. If something doesn't stop hurting in two weeks, go see a physical therapist. I waited 8 months.
  3. Try to solve the root of the problem first. If I had stopped my minimalist footwear kick and put my orthotics back in earlier, I might have jump-started recovery.
  4. Look for a complete list of activities that will aggravate your injury. I was doing deep squats, jumps, deep squats, breast-stroke, deep squats, hiking... all things that kept my IT band tight.
  5. Have patience getting back into the game. Don't run 30 miles after you've only been back a couple months. (Like, DUH!)
P.S.: My feet look so pretty now!

    Saturday, May 21, 2011

    Nostalgia: MMT volunteering

    Volunteering at MMT this year was a little sentimental. I wasn't very sad or bummed about not running it, especially since I was a little hungover and exhausted. I went to bed at 3 a.m. on Saturday morning thinking "the race starts in an hour" but I was warm in bed and grateful that I had 8 hours of sleep ahead of me.

    Last year I volunteered with Brian at Camp Roosevelt and was finally introduced to VHTRC. I knew no one. I was surprised that as runners came into the aid station--everyone knew their name! After years of road running and never belonging to a running group, this was very odd. The thought of knowing all the volunteers, the race direction, the pacers, and spectator/photo support was foreign to me.

    Doing CrossFit moves at ultra events.... I'm allowed to when Bobby Gill is around.

    I remember meeting people who had run several ultras and finally started to understand how ultrarunners break every running rule in the book. These crazies ran an ultra every other weekend! I remember being surprised that there were so many young people and I was invited to WUS about 30 times.

    Another tattoo picture :) Of course I was showing it off.

    This year, I showed up in my WUS shirt. I knew at least a dozen runners. I knew the volunteers and most pacers--I was running around the camp chatting with my friends all night. More than ever, I was reminded of how awesome the VHTRC/WUS groups are. Even though I had run several ultras and 100 since my first exposure to ultrarunning last year, I felt the same admiration for the runners. I had the same awe when someone entered the aid station in bad shape, but was still courteous to all volunteers and in the end found the energy to stand up and go on. David Ploskonka was especially impressive; he was at Camp Roosevelt for over three hours but he went on to pull through and finish the race.

    I have buckle envy.
    Congrats to all the runners and thanks for letting me be involved in some small way (quesadillias anyone?!). Here are some awesome race reports:

    Doug Sullivan - PRed on the course by over 4 hours!

    Rob Colenso - First 100M finish!

    Kim Love-Ottobre - First MMT finish!

    Dave Ploskonka - A serious fast dude who proved that he can dig deep and finish a bad race.

    Neal Gorman - Impressive 2nd place finish!

    Thanks to Bobby Gill for all the pictures.

    Tuesday, May 3, 2011

    My tattoo isn't pretty and I don't care

    I've wanted a tattoo since I was 15 or so years old. I wanted something meaningful. I wanted something pretty. I've been brainstorming tattoos involving pretty crabapple blossoms (my hometown's name is crabapple in the local Native American language) or snowflakes (that hometown is outside Buffalo). When I got my tattoo last weekend, I loved it because it wasn't pretty. It wasn't supposed to be sexy or attractive. It's just cool.

    Not to mention, it's on my foot, and I'm a runner. So, it's not like these things are pretty to begin with.

    I remember on October 1st last year, sitting by a lake enjoying a beautiful fall day in Virginia. I was drinking a beer and celebrating my 23rd birthday by starting a 100 mile race in just a few hours (I pregame races sometimes). We were talking about tattoos and Brian and I brainstormed a tattoo of the impressive Grindstone elevation profile onto a foot.

    I loved the idea immediately, as long as I finished of course. I didn't like the thought of having a tattoo in recognition of a 100 miler since I was planning on doing several more. But Grindstone was more that that. This isn't a tattoo to memorialize a race, it's a tattoo to remind myself that I can work hard and be dedicated. This elevation profile at one point terrified me. I've never considered myself hard-working, I'm way too laid back, but I thought up a crazy goal and here I was pulling through and doing it. I felt like I had learned so much. This was to memorialize that we can surprise even ourselves.

    I get that it's permanent, and in 15 years I might wish that it was "prettier" or more "feminine." When I voiced these concerns, I got the usual retort from my boyfriend. "You need to re-evaluate what is and isn't feminine." And when I roll my eyes and say something like "but it's not." He'll mumble something like "this isn't 1953" and then starts talking about hot, athletic-bodied tennis players. That wear skirts.

    Athletic women are sexy.

    He'll add "You live the feminist notion that we all create what is feminine for ourselves, that we self-define and derive confidence not from conformity with a dated societal expectation, but from being you." But is the traditional idea of feminine really outdated? At first I think that it is, that we still divide the athletic girls from the girly-girls, but the more I think about it, this is not the case. If it was, there wouldn't be so much pink athletic gear.

     CrossFit makes me feel even less girly than trail running does. It's not a big deal when you lose toenails, but now I also have blisters and rips on my hands. I got my nails done a month ago and realized that they hadn't had polish on them for almost two years. That day I went for a muddy trail run and had to dig perfectly manicured, red nails into the mud in order to get up a hill. I wished I had a camera. I could go on--I don't remember the last pair of heels I've purchased, but there have been several pairs of running shoes since--but I am in a time where I'm re-evaluating what "feminine" means to me. 

    I come from a  family of four girls and my dad. I never excelled at anything involving catching or throwing, and so I understand why I did dance, gymnastics, and cheerleading, but we always did girly things. My mother took me and my sisters to the mall a lot. We got our eyebrows waxed every two weeks. To do or not to do cheerleading wasn't a choice that I made. We were reminded to put lip gloss on every time we left the house. I remember getting a serious talk from my mother about not wearing make-up to school and how I needed to get up earlier. She even paid for indoor tanning. 

    It's funny how my youngest sister and I, once we both moved away from home, have become the opposites of our High School selves. My little sister almost never wears make-up, has hair perpetually in a ponytail, and I had to beg her to just buy a pair of ballet flats instead of being in sneakers all the time. She spends all day studying and rolls her eyes at the thought of going through all that work just for school. She's a relaxed kind of confident about who she is and what she has to offer. She doesn't care about wearing lip gloss anymore either, as do I.

    I've written before about becoming more confident and working through body issues, and while I still think that presentation matters, it's been years since I felt the need to always make sure I had make-up on. I'm not so insecure to worry about being girly or feminine. And yes, slowly the idea of being feminine is less about being a pretty girl and more about being confident. It started off with my being anti-feminine (I'm going to wear a sports bra all the time!) and it's turning more into embracing that I'm never going to feel the need to wear eye shadow again. Which is awesome. I feel much more happy with my new CrossFit sculpted shoulders and arms than I would be with a flat stomach.

    The most incredible thing about who I've become since leaving home is that I've somehow developed some weird determination to prove myself. My mother always encouraged giving up with the going got tough--but I've done everything I can to prove that I'm not that little cheerleader anymore. I'm not delicate. 

    And the traditional idea of being  feminine is actually very unsexy to me compared to my new idea. Confidence rocks. Which is a reason why I'm cutting off all my hair this week. I'm going to rock a pixie cut starting this Friday, something I've been wanting to do for months. I think that, on young women, it oozes confidence and defies traditional notions of sex appeal and femininity--something that I think I'm ready for.

     Yes, I have a new nose piercing, my first tattoo, and I'm cutting off all my hair. Now, who's going to buy me a motorcycle?

    My sister asked me if I was turning into Lisbeth Salandar. I am dating a journalist after all.

    Friday, April 22, 2011

    Inaugural WUS Doughnut Run

    I don't remember why I came up with the idea that the WUS group should run from headquarters to Krispy Kreme and eat 12 doughnuts. I think it was because I was injured, and couldn't run much but since I could eat doughnuts, this was a way to still do a WUS event. The "race" probably doesn't need a report, the pictures speak for themselves. Thanks to Martha and Neal for organizing, and to everyone who came out to run it. Thanks to Bobby Gill and Keith Knipling for taking pictures!

    We started off at WUS headquarters... 15 minutes late and wearing our new WUS shirts!
    The 10k/6 doughnut option runners are off!

    The lonely 5k/12 doughnut runners.
    We're so legit that we had on-trail photographers!
    So many more to go. Anna and I were the first ones there, not because we were fast but because we ran 1/2 the distance.

    Sean couldn't run because he recently shattered his thumb during a tough 50 miler.
    I was totally that kid who's mother always said "Stop playing with your food!"
    Neal ate his 6 doughnuts in the time that I ate two... and had a few more for extra measure.
    Doug decided to make a large sandwich with all 6.
    @ultrarunnergirl and her hubby ate a few doughnuts then went to eat sushi.

    Doughnut running is as dirty as trail running.
    We're done! Everyone told me that I couldn't do it. This is exciting as running 100 miles.
    "The doughnuts are pushing forward my six-pack."

    Saturday, April 16, 2011

    The different forms of fitness

    I have no running planned until August. Nothing. I dropped out of BRR, of MMT, and I'm frustrated with my ITB enough to just, sort of, give up.

    Funny thing is, I feel stronger today (right now) than I did before Grindstone. I don't think I could run 100 miles right now, but I just did 90 pull-ups (with the lightest band) and 45 overhead squats. I had a large part of my skin hanging off of my hands when I was done. I've moved up to Level I at District CrossFit and in just a month and a half of doing the WOD twice a week I've seen incredible improvements.

    I have a stronger core and upper-body than I have ever had in my whole life. Although, my boyfriend complains that my legs are "getting small."  Still, I'm working my whole body and doing workouts with such a higher intensity that I feel strong, faster, and fitter today than I think I ever had.

    I think a huge part of this is also how I've changed my eating habits. I've been trying to wean myself from sugar and I'm eating lots, and lots of more protein. Once I upped my protein my weight lifting ability tripled. Seriously, over just two weeks I was able to go from holing my chin to the bar for 2 seconds to 20, it was freaky!

    Also, since I'm not running a gazillion miles, my appetite has dwindled. I'm no longer the little girl who could down pints of ice cream and eat 5 meals a day. Now, I'm eating little sugar and carbs, and focusing on eating just protein, fat, and veggies and fruits. I'm not strict about it, I get a sweet or a beer everyday and I eat carbs with at least one meal. Still, I eat way less, and even though I'm doing little cardio, I'm losing fat (gaining weight due to muscle mass but my clothes are bigger) and it's awesome.

    Anyway, this post is inspired because I was hanging out after the WOD, and people were chatting about distance running. I tried to describe running in the mountains and I miss it so much. I can't wait to get out there and run another long mountain run. Till then, I'll just day dream about it while hiking/running in Rock Creek Park.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Massanutten Mountain

     How many times have you heard me say I hate Massanutten? For several reasons: the rocky climbs, the rocky flats, the rocky downhills, the downhills too steep and technical to run down, all the roads in the MMT course, etc. I am always complaining about them. I spent all last weekend in the Massanutten mountains; I ran and hiked a cumulative 35 miles. And you know what? I enjoyed it! Me!

    Elizabeth Furnace 50k

    This run started off really well. The rocky climb up Signal Knob wasn't bad since we had to walk it anyway. The trail started thinning out quickly, and the sunrise was incredible. We started early, but getting to see that view made it worth the early wake-up call!

    Boots (a WUSer) and I really started running 3 to 4 miles in, and it felt great. My legs felt strong, the trail felt good, and I was concentrating on navigating the rocks with my small feet. Then, we hit a trail bottleneck, but this was fine since we started chatting with a big group. Soon enough, Mike Baily joined us and we all chatted and had a great time taking a fire road at a good pace.

    Look! Dirty Shoes!
    It was wet outside, and when we hit the big stream crossings that made last year's race memorable, we got soaked past our knees in freezing cold water. After three dips most of us had numb toes. I think these stream crossings should be included at mile 90 of MMT.

    I really enjoyed being on the trails with new friends and soaking up the warm weather. I gave Mike dating advice, we all discussed ultrarunning in general, and about some cool runners. We gossiped and the miles flew by. Soon it was 15 miles, and my IT Band was throbbing. Words cannot describe my frustration. WHY GOD WHY?!?!

    Orange markings on the Massanutten trail

    I told them to run ahead and I walked to the finish. I did some running on flats, and sometimes it felt ok. At 22 miles, I ran into the first aid station, happy to see my boyfriend, more friends, and beer.

    It turned into a way fun day. We hung out at the aid station for a few hours having a good old time, and then at the finish I got some chili, finally talked to a few VHTRCers I hadn't met, tried on club shirts, made inappropriate jokes, laughed at Gary's inappropriate jokes, and I got tortured by the Egyptian Magician. He worked my ITB like it's never been worked before, and showed Tyler how to do it. Also, I gained lots of advice from the other runners, including advice to try the strap. I hope it works.

    That night, Tyler and I went to Clementine in Harrisonburg, VA and Dave Fraizer was there with his lovely fiance. Our coversation went like this:

    "Did you run today?"
    "Did you win?"
    "Did you get a course record?"

    He got more talkative as the evening (and weekend, we ran into them at Breakfast) went by. Overall, it was a beautiful day spent with awesome friends and despite the injury bug, I couldn't frown, or cry, or be angry. I could only smile. (OMG, so corny)

    Duncan Knob Hike

    After breakfast at the Little Grill (best pancakes in Harrisonburg and maybe all of Virginia) Tyler and I headed back to Massanutten for a 12 mile hike.

    See! Rocks, like I told you about.
    It was really warm out and the hike was lovely. We got to help a lost family find their way and also tried to catch some idiot motorcyclists on the hiking trail with our blackberrys. It was exciting. The hike was wonderful except the trail was a stream for more than 1/2 the hike due to all the rain recently. By the end of the weekend, I was sick of having wet feet. They also smelled pretty bad, I'm surprised I still have a boyfriend.

    Friday, February 25, 2011

    Goodbye Results... to start CrossFit!

     Yesterday was my last day at my gym. I know, I loved it to. The clean locker-room, the sauna, the pool with a treadmill, the amazing spin bikes, the awesome instructor, the convenience of it being right across the street from my office.

    I've spent many a lunchtime there doing strength training, stretching, running, biking... it was sad to leave. The membership people sure do know how to send you out right. The complimented my "athletic body" (Whaaa? Me?!), and all yelled out a great farewell as I left. Goodbye Results Gym. I will miss you.

    Now, CrossFit has a bad(ish) rep. It's cultish and intense. But, from what I've seen, it works. The people who I know that do CrossFit have total body physique and strength.

    I've been trying to apply CrossFit ideas to my own workouts: "varied, full body, functional, multi-joint movements." I've been jumping up and down on a block, noticing how I use everything to get to the top and my heartrate spikes. I've been creating circuits of planks, pushups, lunges, and jumps, and competing with friends. I've been using kettleballs, doing cleans, deadlifts, squats, and pullups. Over the last month, I've noticed how much my core strength has improved and  how easy a 25lb kettleball is to whip around and lift up. 

    I decided to focus on full body strength when I realized that I could run 100 miles but couldn't do a pull-up. When I was weeks away from Grindstone, I felt so weak and out of shape. How dare I attempt such a crazy athletic feat when I still got winded running uphill and couldn't lift my body weight?

    The dude from District CrossFit that
    kicked my butt in just 7 minutes.

    I love the idea of CrossFit: fitness for the sake of being able to do more. While yes, my friend who does it has the most amazing abs I've ever seen in real life, the CrossFit workouts are designed to create a body that can do more than just run, or weight lift, or row, or do gymnastics. It's designed to make you good at all of these things, so that you can lift your heavy carry-on out of the overhead bins and run to the next plane. 


    Also, without running or being able to race, I need motivation. I need something to get me fired up about fitness so that when I show up at the MMT start line, I've had months of good training. Every CrossFit workout is a competition. Gymnastics was the first sport I ever did, and I'm kind of excited to be doing some of those workouts again.

    Trail running does require total body strength, and I know that even though pull-ups have little to do with running, it will make me a better runner, a better athlete, and open up doors to new activities, friends, and challenges.

    Monday, February 21, 2011

    MMT Training Run #2

    One of the coolest thing about MMT is that VHTRC hosts training runs on the course over three different weekends in the months before the race. I suspect the real purpose is that more people will drop out and make room for the members that didn't get the lottery. I always forget how little mercy these trails show your feet. After only 25 miles I wanted to sit down and be done for the day. This could be because it took so damn long.

    I was still injured for the first training run MLK weekend, and so training run #2 was my first.

    Now, I knew that my first ultra distance attempt since my 5-month running hiatus was going to be rocky (pun intended). I loved the vibe of this group run, it was large enough and long enough to feel like a race, but it was really low-key and relaxed. We started off in a big group, but this broke up quickly. I settled into a group of 6 or 8 for the first few miles, then it became a group of 4. It was hard to talk on the run because the wind was so strong and noisy that it was difficult to hear.

    The only problem with this section is that it has 7 miles of road. Roads have been death to my IT band, and so I walked almost all of them. Despite the roads, they were still very pretty.

    Thanks Bobby for taking pictures!
    We certainly took our time, taking pictures of the amazing vistas and enjoying the warm, windy day. There are some seriously beautiful views on the run. I was surprised with how great I felt. I took my time on a lot of the trail, walked down steep downhills and roads, and was able to get through most of the run. There were two aid stations, and my boyfriend volunteered at them, so it almost felt like he was crewing for me again!

    I walked into the last aid station, unsure if I should go on. I got through 20 miles at this point pain-free and I didn't want to push it. There was beer, food, and good company, but then I was told the most grueling climb was ahead of me, and so I decided to go on. Last year, I volunteered at the next aid station and people came in constantly in awe of this next section. It took some of the leaders 3 hours to get through, I couldn't pass this up!

    The next climb was a bitch, and to think I'd have to do this after 50 miles! I was nearing the ridge and all I could hear was the wind! Once I got up the mountain I could get in a decent amount of running. It was rocky, but mostly flat. At this point, I still felt good but I was getting tired and my body felt ready to fall apart. I almost blew away with the crazy gusts of wind heading over the mountains. Several times, wind sent tons of leaves into my face, or I had to stop and crouch down. I was a little worried that the wind would throw me off balance.

    But it the wind blew me away and I ended up here:

    It would be totally OK because I would be the tallest person ever and I would beat them ALL at ultras.
    Finally, I found the yellow blazed Stephen's trail (follow the yellow-blazed trail, follow follow...) and I was only 5 miles to the end! Things started hurting (hips, feet, knees) and so I decided to walk to the finish. I also took out my iPod and started jamming to some tunes. My next post is going to be about songs that are really about ultrarunning, you should check back every day this week. Like at Uwharrie, I was passed, but it was by cool friends and people that made me feel better instead of worse.

    I was an idiot, and since I was taking my time I decided to move a tree off of the trail. But, there were pretty rhododendrons right there, so I carried it uphill and set it down where it was cleared. But when I threw it, a branch didn't make it and tore up my leg. Ouch. But, I felt really strong and cool and did something resembling this.

    I loved the Stephen's trail, it was rocky and technical, but it was full of rolling hills down to where food and beer waited for me. I walked, I ran, and I skipped. My legs were torn up, my feet ached, my energy level was at a -2/10. I forgot about how much an ultra can take out of you as I spent the last few days exhausted. But, it hurts so good.

    Monday, February 14, 2011

    From drafts...

    One of my favorite things to do every couple of years is re-read old diaries. They are often hilarious, sometimes pathetic, and I finish each one always very glad that I've grown up. I re-read my freshman year diary for the first time after college graduation and had forgotten about a very painful entry. It started out with
    Last year Mr. Bink [my AP Biology teacher] asked us when we saw when we looked at ourselves naked in the mirror. The answer was protein. What do I see when I look at myself?
    I tore apart my body and found something wrong with absolutely everything. I was too short, my breasts were too small, my arms were too flabby, I didn't have flat abs, I didn't understand what a nice ass looked like to begin with, my thighs were too big... It ended with "What is my body made of? I don't care. I hate my body."

    This little struggle started when I was 11 years old and went from 78 to 92 pounds in one summer. I shot up to near my now 5'2" height. I used to be so skinny, people literally didn't want to be my friend. At this point, I'd been a gymnast, ate healthy for a normal kid, and it was one picture of me in a two piece bathing suit, and I remember so clearly looking at it and thinking I looked fat. Its never been  a struggle with a weight goal, but in every Life's to-do list, or New Year's resolution, I always included body-confidence. I didn't care if I gained or lost 5 lbs, I just wanted to live again without tearing myself apart every time I looked in the mirror.

    This continued all through Junior High, High school, and College. I still wear size 00 jeans and have trouble finding clothes that fit me, yet there's always pressure from everything telling me that I should/could be thinner.

    Since that diary entry, I've run three marathons. I remember finishing the Baltimore marathon in 2006 and thinking that Marathon training should be a part of every eating disorder rehab center. How do you not love your body when you give it a challenge like that, and it delivers?

    After MCM I looked at myself again naked in the mirror before hopping in the shower. No, its still not perfect, but my body not only delivered my 3:30 goal, it killed it and finished 8 minutes faster. My body built up speed and endurance in over 500 miles of training. What is my body made of? Protein. Muscle. And now, I know what it can do. Now, I love my body.

    This draft was written back in 2009. I was keeping it safe in drafts, waiting until the day I could post it, when I truly got over my body images issues. Funny, it still hasn't been published. Instead I published this post, recognizing that I may never get over them, and I should focus on that small breaks I get after running and how awesome it is. So, I wanted to share it anyway, and clear out my drafts folder, because I know that more than half the women in world deal with the same issues. I love reading posts like this on other blogs, and knowing that I'm not in it alone, and so hopefully someone else loves reading this.

    Better late than never: Eagle Run!!

    This is weeks late, but I wanted to post something about this fun run! It was the last year for VHTRC's Eagle Run, and boy am I glad I made it!!

    First, I carpooled with some cool ultra peeps and hung out in a parking lot, happy to see so many people that I haven't seen since Grindstone. We all drove to Gary Knipling's house, where he had a fire ready for us, beer set out, snacks, and I even saw a birthday cake. (Score!)

    Brian, me, and Martha

    After a brief intro we all set out for different distances. I planned to go short and just enjoy being at another event. I haven't done a group run in a long time!

    At the Eagle run, you're on the lookout for Eagles (duh) and I didn't see any. I'm just bad at finding that small dot on the ice across the bay that other people can. I chatted with people (who were still asking me about Grindstone), found a WUSer to run with, and... got lost.

    My little group took a wrong turn, but eventually made it back on the trail. We ran to Gunstor Hall (home of George Mason) and instead of adding a 2-3 mile loop, I stayed back to lay off the IT band. We got a tour of the house (which was warm! it was below 20 degrees outside) and it was a ton of fun.

    We started our run back to the house, which was unfortunately on a lot of roads. My IT Band started to feel a little tight, so I walked the last mile or so. The whole run was pretty slow, with walk breaks, but I wasn't exactly trying hard. My only fear was that my beer was freezing and worse yet, gone.

    Warming up with some liquor
     After the run, we all ate pizza and dessert, stood around the fire, drank beer and whiskey, and had philosophical discussions about things like what-makes-a-100-miler-hard?, will-that-beer-stain-come-out-of-martha's-jacket?, the-@vhtrc-twitter-account, and then I caught up with Jeff Reed who I worked with at my first VHTRC event. It was way fun. Thanks to Gary for hosting!

    On the way back into DC, as we were passing over the Memorial Bridge, a bald eagle flew over the vehicle. At least I saw one!

    ** All pictures from Bobby or Quatro, found here:

    Monday, February 7, 2011

    Uwharrie Mountain Run

    At 6:55 a.m. on Saturday morning, the 40-mile Uwharrie runners were still in the drop bag tent, despite the race starting in 5 minutes. Why? The cold temperatures, buckets of raining pouring down, and... well do I really need another reason? If I was planning on running this race, it would be one thing. I'd have adrenaline, the running would keep me warm, and racing in the rain makes sense. Hiking to a DNF does not! I really, really did not want to start this race.

    We entered the trail almost immediately (almost no road!) and the forest was beautiful. The trail throughout this race was a twisty, undulating single-track that had some technicality through the whole race, but it was runnable and scenic. It had been raining for over 12 hours at the race start and the trail was muddy (but not shoe-sucking muddy), streams were high, and the leaves could have been slippery, but I didn't trip at all.

    I went in almost last, with a pretty good attitude about the run. First, I was just so, so happy to be doing this again. I missed that race tension in the air, the crowded start to the trail, and that energy pushing us all forward--it was exciting. Second, I knew my limits and that I was planning to drop at the turn-around. I'd be happy just to run 10 miles pain-free. Third, if I finished, I would probably be the last person to cross the finish line.

    Hell, I might be the last person to get to the turnaround! But, I was ok with this.

    I chatted with a few people, and then the field spread out. I was alone for hours. With the rain, I wasn't listening to music. I had my usual "deep" thoughts while running alone. Is there a God? What is the meaning of life? What should I do for a living? Should I just go ahead and buy that skirt I loved at Bloomies?

    Then I was being chased down by fast, wild animals--the leaders of the 20 mile run that started an hour later. They were flying! Soon, my first teammate, Sean Andrish, was flying by. I love seeing friends while I'm racing, it really lifts my spirits. I cheered, I shouted, and I wished him good luck. I did a mix of walking and running, walking the steep up and downhills. The running felt really good. Martha Nelson, another teammate, was the first woman in the 20 mile run and looked awesome. I was about fifth in my field... fifth from the end. Definitely the slacker on the team.

    The trail was very wet and I was so glad I had my light WT 101s on. I came to the 14-mile aid station and couldn't believe my luck. 14 miles! Pain-free! I was elated. This run's mood was much worse than the elevation chart. After this aid station I decided to take a walk break due to some tightness that was about 0.5/10 on the pain scale... nothing to worry about. Until I hit the stream crossings. We crossed one stream three times... ice cold and really freaking high. The third time, the water came up to my hips and I went through way slower than I should have.

    I came out of that stream so cold and when I started to run I decided instantly it was a bad idea. The cold would tighten up my IT band, and I might not feel  the pain. I decided to walk to the turnaround from here.

    Getting passed by people for hours SUCKS. They need shirts for runners that say Injured on front, and Usually I'm a better runner than this on the back. Once the middle-of-the-pack 20-milers started passing my walking, cold self, I felt awful. Brian Greeley was already heading back in first place, I told him I would trip the next guy and he told me not to because it was our other teammate, Mike Maason, who followed in minutes. 20 milers passed me, I'd tell them that they were doing a good job, and they would say "you too." Really? Really?! I'm pretty much last. I am not doing a good job.

    This really started pissing me off. As the 40-milers were heading back, they all told me I was doing well, looking good, etc. I usually love that ultrarunners are like this, but at this race, they were all liars to me. I was not feeling well, I was cold, and I know that I did not look well. And some people were worse. They would pass me and tell me to start running. One told me that I should take advantage of the downhill and run. Idiots! Running downhill is the last thing I want to do right now! Soon, I would let people pass me, and I would wince and grab my leg as I did so.

    Finally, a guy passed, and I told him "Good job! Looking great!" and he replied, "I like your pigtails." Awesome. Whoever you are, thank you for complementing my pretty locks as opposed to lying about my lacking performance. I was really downhearted and decided that I'd drop at the next aid. Now that I wasn't running, I was really cold, and didn't feel like hiking 6 miles. Finally, I had purpose. There would be cookies. There would be warmth. I would be done and back with my friends.

    More 40-milers passed me and I looked at them with pity. I got to drop soon and wouldn't have to go swimming in ice-cold creeks again. I was not only way smarter but lucky for the excuse to stay away from those streams. I was walking slowly and worried about how cold I was. Losing a toenail during a race was ok, but losing toes would not be.

    The flags and white tents were in the distance and I was there! Done! I got the aid station and told them I was dropping with a giant smile on my face. My interaction with the aid station volunteers went like this:

    "I'm going to drop!"
    "Why don't you take some cookies."
    "I'm really cold and I can't run anymore."
    "We can give you a blanket."
    "I want to stop now."
    "It's only 2.5 miles to the end you can make it."
    "But, can't you drive me to the turnaround? I'm a 40-miler, I'm already going to drop there."
    "We can send you there with a blanket and cookies."

    I smiled, thanked them, took cookies, and marched off to the turnaround. Really, I wanted to tell them to go fuck themselves for being so unhelpful when I just wanted to get this over with already. I was disappointed and angry, but there were no cars in sight so I realized that they may have hiked in from a road. Then, I saw their large SUVs and pick-up trucks on the gravel road and I was fine with walking. Having them drive 6 miles just for me would severely impact my carbon footprint average for the month.

    Then, I don't know where this came from, but I started crying. I was eating a cookie and realizing that I would go through that stream 10 more times if it meant that I got to chase down the female leader. I would run through a hurricane if it meant that I got to race today and fly downhill and run the flats. I just wanted to recover from all this IT band stuff and be competitive at a race.

    I just dared someone to tell me that I was looking good and doing a good job. I would probably finally stop smiling and yell at them. Then, I would throw a cookie at them, which would be unfortunate because then it would get soaked in muddy water and I would still eat it.

    I got seriously angry again when a couple passed me and I stood off to the side and they asked if "I was going in the wrong direction." I was stunned and said nothing but I wanted to say: "No, I have not gotten to the turnaround yet. Please open your fat mouth so that I can shove a handful of mud into it you stupid cow."

    Then, I heard chanting and cheering. It was only maybe a mile from the aid station, but I was definitely hearing the finish line. Maybe, there was a short-cut and I could make it there by bushwacking. I was really excited... and then I came across a bunch of kids that were hiking, and chanting our race numbers and high-fiving runners. I told them thank you, and that they were sweet. But I was really thinking that these little fuckers should not get our hopes up.  So, soooo not fair. Then, one of the adults joked that "the female leader just passed! Go get her!" and laughed. I wanted to punch him in the face.

    The last mile or so was really, really pretty and I enjoyed being out in the woods. Near the finish, there was an old man walking down the trail playing the harmonica, and I thought that I was hallucinating. Finally, I saw the finish/turn-around. I came in, and people started cheering. I took two steps of a mock sprint and then stopped and said "just kidding" and everyone laughed. I then said that I was dropping out of the race and within two minutes, I was drinking bourbon in hot chocolate and sitting by a fire.

    Getting back to the start was a hassle, but then I finally made it there to find out that our team kicked butt! Brian got first in the 40M, Mike 4th, Martha won her race, and Sean got 7th. Rob was still out there, but was moving along faster than his goal time.

    The race was fun, and even though my emotional chart was more extreme than the elevation chart, I'm glad I did it. I got in twice the miles I've been able to, and I'm definitely healing. Plus, the road trip was probably the most fun thing I've done in a year. I haven't laughed that much in ages.

    FYI, Apple cinnamon gels are evil. One opened up in my purse and got EVERYWHERE. Hopefully I will have awesome pics to add to this post soon. Like, 4 of us in one double bed and me brushing my teeth while sitting on a cot in the hotel bathroom. Oh yes.

    P.S.: Brian inspired a search for bigfoot in the Uwharrie forest: bigfoot-search-begins-nearby

    Tuesday, January 11, 2011

    Preparing for 100 miles

    It seems like 100-milers are the new marathon. Seriously! I have three or four Daily Mile or Twitter friends recently announce they are doing their first 100-miler. And, half of them talk about "training." Of course, whenever I said I was running a 100-miler last summer, most responses from non-ultrarunners were "How do you train for that?" My response was "you don't." You don't find 100M training plans out there... why? Because, if you're gonna run 100 miles, you know what's best for your body; you don't need someone telling you what workouts to do. 

     From June to September, I just ran a lot. There are no 100-mile training calendars because it's not about following a schedule. It's about building endurance and listening to your body so that you don't break. It's about running all night until you want to cry because you’re so tired and still standing up at that aid station to make it to the next one.

    As I look forward to my second 100-miler, I thought it'd be nice to go over my Grindstone training, starting from June 5th, my first 50 miler. You'll see that many of my runs were with my running group (WUS), I went hashing, I did VHTRC races--which are a big party, and did a lot of hiking as part of back-to-back weekends. Running took over many aspects of my life. 

    The key to preparing for a 100M race is getting advice, leaning what works for you strategically on race day, nutrition, and getting the long run in almost every to every other weekend. I did several runs over 26 miles long.

    I had two, minor injuries that were not running related. I rolled my ankle in while I was running drunk at hashing (I sound lame) and I fell in the bathtub and hurt my back (I sound even lamer). Otherwise, I really listened to my body and only ran when I wanted to and when my body felt up to it. This kept running fun and me injured-free!

    I did a good bit of strength training, mostly mountain-man reps, core, and hip workouts.

    I spent 18 weeks preparing for Grindstone, with the first week my 50-mile qualifying race. You can see that I didn't run many miles; focused on the long run, recovering from that, and spending time on the trails.

    Week 1:
    Run 1: 2 miles
    Run 2: 7.5 trail miles
    Run 3: 50 trail miles - North Face Endurance Challenge
    Total distance: 59.1 miles
    Total time: 13:16
    Week 2:
    Run 1: 13.1 miles
    Run 2: 4.5 miles
    Total distance: 17.6
    Total time: 2:57

    Week 3:
    Core workout (30 min)
    Run 1: 10 trail miles - WUS run
    Run 2:10 miles
    Run 3: 13.5 miles
    Run 4: 10 miles
    Total distance: 43.5
    Total time: 7:01

    Week 4:
    Strength training (1 hour)
    Run 1:7 trail miles
    Strength training (30 min)
    Run 2: 9.5 miles - fartlek
    Run 3: 4.2 miles - hashing **rolled ankle**
    One hour doing exorcist stairs reps
    Total distance: 22 miles
    Total time: 6:07

    Week 5:
    Run 1:12.25 miles
    Strength training (30 min)
    Run 2: 6.27 miles
    Run 3: hashing (3-5 miles)
    Run 4: 25 trail miles
    Total distance: 43.5
    Total time: 9:34

    Week 6:
    Strength training (30 min)
    Run 1:6.3 trail miles - WUS
    Run 2:5 trail miles
    Run 3:7 miles
    Run 4: 32 trail miles - Skyline 50k
    Hiking: 7 miles
    Total distance: 55.42
    Total time: 13:45

    Week 7:
    Strength training (30 min)
    Run 1: 8.9 miles - WUS
    Run 2: 3.73 miles
    Run 3:4.78 miles - hashing
    *moved this weekend with my parents visiting
    Total distance: 17.41
    Total time: 3:36

    Week 8: 
    Run 1: 8.94 trail miles
    Run 2:7.5 trail miles - WUS
    Run 3: 6.72 trail miles
    Run 4:31.05 trail miles - Catherine's FA 50k
    Hiking: 9 miles
    Total distance: 63.25
    Total time:18:11

    Week 9:
    Strength training (30 min)
    Run 1: 8.4 trail miles - WUS
    Run 2: 7.1 trail miles
    Run 3: 3.1 miles - Battle for Ballston 5k
    Run 4:26.2 miles - my solo effort towpath marathon
    Total distance: 44.8
    Total time: 8:54

    Week 10:
    Run 1: 6.35 trail miles - WUS
    Run 2: 4.1
    Run 3: 30 miles
    Total distance: 40.45

    Week 11:
    Run 1: 6.35 trail miles - WUS run
    Run 2: 7.74 trail miles
    Run 3: 3.5 miles
    Total distance: 18.6
    Total time: 3:56

    Week 12:
    Run 1: 3.5 miles
    Run 2: 3.73 miles
    Run 3: 7.78 trail miles
    Run 4: 6.43 trail miles
    Run 5: 27.5 trail miles
    Total distance: 48.93
    Total time: 10:51

    Week 13:
    Run 1: 6.5 trail miles - WUS
    Run 2: 9 trail miles
    Run 3: 6 trail miles
    Hiking 13 miles
    Hiking: 13 miles
    Total distance: 45.44
    Total time:15:58

    Week 14:
    Run 1: 8.3 trail miles
    Run 2: 13.5 trail miles - WUS
    Run 3: 7.68 trail miles
    Run 4: 4.18 miles
    Run 5: 38 trail miles - The Ring
    Total distance: 72 miles
    Total time:17:17

    Week 15: 33 miles, 6:49
    Week 16: 32 miles, 6:26
    Week 17, 28 miles, 5:55

    Race week:
    Run 1: 3 miles
    Run 2: 4 miles
    Race: 101.87 miles, 32:06

    Wednesday, January 5, 2011


    Looking at my 2010 goals post I realized that this year was a big failure... in the best way. I got promoted instead of getting a new job, I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do with my life, I'm not out of debt (and never will be with my student loans), and I did not get a marathon PR.

    I did finish my 100 mile race, and last year I said " I would love to do Grindstone on my birthday, but I want to work toward a better marathon PR. ... Its a hard goal to give up, since I said that I'd do it, but I really will one day! Its just not the best for this year." I also said "I love running with all I have, so I'm doubting whether I'd be good at storing my energy for something like a 100k or 100M race." Silly Brittany had decided against something she never tried!

    Seeing as I didn't do anything I planned on doing last year, is there really a point to this post. Do I need to recap my year and outline goals for 2011?

    Why not?

    My Goals:
    1. Start running again. (Kind of important)
    2. Two 100M finishes: MMT and Pine to Palm
    3. Place in an ultra. (I always get 4th or 5th and it's kind of annoying)
    4. Run in all minimalist shoes.
    5. Keep up strength training year-round.
    6. Get out West for a race at altitude (and a vacation).
    7. Don't get injured.
    I think these are good goals. I just need to get my IT Band healthy!

    (Running miles by month. Don't include hiking miles.)
    I said 2010 was a failure, but it really was a great year. I jumped into trail running, ultras, and I discovered something I love even more than road running. I didn't get any PRs, but I reached new distance goals with my first 50k, 50M, and 100M races. I also ran a fast 20k in 1:31. I placed fourth in my first 50k and fifth in my first 100M. I pushed myself more than I ever had, and learned a lot. Not just about trail running, but about what I'm capable of.

    Daily Mile provided a page with all my 2010 stats:

    10 Things I did in 2010:
    1. Ran 1,453 miles.
    2. Burned off 1,066 doughnuts.
    3. Raced 6 ultras.
    4. Raced 3 marathons.
    5. New distance PRs at 101.87 miles (32:03), 50 miles (11:20), and 50k (6:33).
    6. Did one 5k at the exact time as my last (and first) one. Damn.
    7. Learned how to swim.
    8. Got promoted (twice).
    9. Moved into a group house with awesome access to Rock Creek Park.
    10. Lost my anal virginity.*
    *Kidding. That was 2009.