Monday, May 15, 2017

2017 Glacier Ridge Trail 30K

It's been a minute since I've posted anything, but I can't not post an actual race recap. 

Real quick backstory: last summer/fall I went through another awesome ultramarathon training cycle only to NOT go to my goal race because my husband was in a horrific cycling accident (Google Grade 5 AC separation and try not to vomit).  I ended my "season" with one last angry long run and threw myself back into what I called maintenance mode until it was time to train again.  Then, just my luck, 2017 started off rocky for me health-wise... I had an strange long lingering virus, then bronchitis, and one of the worst IBS/colitis flare ups I have had in YEARS.   I wasn't able to ramp up my training as planned and just when I thought I was getting somewhere, I mentally said "meh".  So, I opted not to travel across the state to run a poorly trained for 50K and instead decided to register for the GRT 30K.  This was a great decision!!  Go me!

The course:  If you read my recap last year on the 50K, then the 30K is the same course only it turns back around at the 2nd aid station at Route 528 around the 10 mile point.  It's not exactly an out and back because the 30K takes a shortcut trail on the way back to the Start/Finish to cut the additional mileage it would have otherwise.  I still found the course to have been long (about a quarter of a mile), but I am certainly not complaining!  Trail runs are never exact and I love that.  Extra time on the trail for the same price!  3258 feet of elevation gain.

Training:  I've been doing more "listen to your body" and less "my training plan says X so I must X or die".  I think this mentality has served me well because I am over 2 years injury free now and have no nagging aches or pains or anything.  Every now and again my hip will bother me, but I can usually peg that on a slip on the trail or extensive running/sliding in super muddy conditions.  Some foam rolling and maybe a day of recovery and I'm back at it.  As far as a specific plan goes, I'm doing a bastardization of a plan from Relentless Forward Progress the build stamina and mileage for a goal that's still a few weeks out.  I am also big on the MYRTL routine.  I think it is a key to my injury free status.

Race morning: Up before the dawn.  The 30K had to be checked in by 7:45 for an 8:00 start, so we left around 6.  I wanted to get there in time to pick up my packet, hit up the bathroom a time or two, chill out, you know, standard stuff.  Breakfast was my typical Ezekiel toast with peanut butter and a cup of coffee and I ate a banana about half an hour before the race.  I was happy that this year they ditched the ankle strap timing method.  Those things bother me because I'm always afraid it will fall off and I won't know when/where.  They can also be hard to adjust for comfort.

Weather: PERFECT!  Upper 40s to start and mostly cloudy.  It warmed up a bit by the end of the race and the sun made some appearances.  I was fine in just shorts and a T-shirt from start to finish.  I did get really warm when the sun was out and I was pushing during some hard times.  But really, you can't ask for better.  Everyone that was there for last years pouring rain and mudfest commented on how this was a treat.  The trail was in awesome condition.  There were a couple of mushy spots, but they were few and far between.  Like I said - perfect.

Race - First 10 miles: When the race started (which caught me by surprise as I was messing with my pack), I was a bit concerned because it seemed the majority of the field of 96 people just bolted out.  The very front of the pack literally looked like they were sprinting like it was a 5K road race.  It was a bit unsettling for me to find a comfortable spot and pace and my heart rate was jacked up already.  (My "goal" was to run this via effort/heart rate as much as possible since this wasn't a final end of season goal event but more of like a hard trail long run test.  If that makes sense.)  Thankfully, once we got away from the parking area and off the bike path and actually into the woods it was easy to calm down, breathe, enjoy my surroundings and find my place, so to speak.  I ended up in a small pack of people going at a pace that I thought was great and I was in my happy place enjoying the absolutely gorgeous trail.  The hills came - oh did they ever, but this year I was not surprised by them and I was delighted to learn that my fitness has grown leaps and bounds.  This definitely did not feel as rough as the year before.  Where I am most proud of myself is my improvement in the downhills.  Yes, most people walk/power hike up the steepest of hills or even every single hill but where you can lose out on a lot of time (and waste a lot of energy) is on the descents if you are timid about it.  This year, very unlike last, I practiced bravery and bounded down those hills as boldly as I could.  I passed quite a few people on the downhills, and because I have grown stronger in my hiking as well, I did not usually get passed back up the next big hill. At the first "Fluids only" aid station at a road crossing just under 5 miles in, I stopped to slam back a cup of plain water.  Sometimes chugging my Gatorade makes my mouth feel weird and I like to wash it down with plain water at the aid stations.  Around 6 or 7 miles in, I had lost my original group and was now with a new group but still hanging on to a good pace.  I wasn't slogging along, but I wasn't going all out, either.  It was just a nice pace for the day.  Going up the last big hill and rocky part before the oh-so-glorious descent into the aid station/turn around point we lost a couple of people from the group.  Around this point the fastest of the racers were coming back through on their way to the finish.

My family was waiting for me at this aid station just like they were last year when I did the 50K.  I told them I didn't want to linger long, I was feeling good and I liked the group I was with, so I just stole some quick hugs and kisses, grabbed a cup of M&Ms off the table and went on my way.  I managed to start my way back up the hill right behind the same gentleman I came down the hill with, so that was cool.

The last 8.9 miles (according to my Garmin): Well, there's no avoiding the fact that that oh-so-glorious downhill before the aid station is an oh-so-OMG uphill immediately after.  As I said to my trail friend ahead of me "I'm not going to think about it, I'm just going to keep munching my M&Ms and climb".  And that's what I did.  When we finally hit the top and hit that rocky "flat"ish part, we started running again and I still felt pretty good.  Things felt wonderful - for a while.  I realized that I was now well over the halfway point and that gave me a boost.  The sun was coming out more often now and it was warming up a bit. Right now our little group was being lead by the guy I followed up the hill and he made the comment "well, this used to be fun".  And someone behind me asked "When?".  Then I said, "about an hour ago" and we all had a good laugh.  We were slowing down, though, and admittedly we were walking a bit more than before.  I noticed my heart rate had fallen well down into my "easy" range and while I was tempted to ask for the lead to charge ahead, I didn't because I was enjoying the company and honestly I didn't see a point.  I didn't have anything to prove, I was already doing much better than I thought I would on parts of the trail I thought were crazy hard last year, so I just hung in.  Somewhere around 14 miles our kindly leader said "I'm going to let you go ahead, I need to take it easy from here".  And so it was down to just us 3 women.  I lead the way for a bit, increasing our pace until my heart rate got back up and we got to the fluid station.  Again, I stopped and chugged some plain water.  The awesome person at the aid station helped us cross the road and get back onto the trail. This time one of the other girls lead.  We kept up a nice pace, going faster than we had in previous miles.  We passed a few people along the way, which is always a nice morale booster toward the end of a race.  The lead girl fell off pace and let me and the other by.  I let the girl behind me pass because I could tell she was in a much stronger condition than I was.  At this point we only had about 2 miles to go and we passed a couple more people.  I started letting myself push a little bit harder, but I still reigned it in on the last couple of hills.  I kept reminding myself I'm doing this for a greater purpose and I didn't want to be reckless and hurt myself.  I was able to keep the girl in front of me in sight (her bright purple shirt helped) for a while, but eventually she must have kicked into high gear for the finale because I didn't see her again.  I felt really good coming through the last bit of the trail.  Then I hit the bike path and bleh... after miles on my legs gravel does not feel good to me.  I passed another guy during this part, he cheered me on saying "wow, way to hang in!".  My legs felt better once they hit actual pavement.  Now it was my turn to be passed - by the winner of the 50K race.  Amazing!  He made a beeline for the finish and I did the best I could to do the same behind him.  Hey, I got my pace down to 6:33 for that final push, so I'm not feeling bad about it at all! lol

Cruising to the finish! All smiles!  Yay, trail running!

And with that, I finished the 2017 Glacier Ridge Trail 30K.  Great course, great event, great people.  I'd do it again.  So, now I've done the 50K and the 30K.  I guess I'll have to do the 50 miler sometime to have the trifecta of medals.

This medal is huge!  Then again, glaciers are usually huge, huh?

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Glacier Ridge Trail Ultramarathon 50K

After a successful 6 months of buildup and training, I made it to the starting line of the Glacier Ridge Trail Ultra 50K on May 14, 2016.

Did I really wake up early for this?
The GRT Ultra takes place mainly on the North Country Trail and Glacier Ridge Trails within Moraine State Park and the adjoining Jennings Environmental Center.  There are three available distances: 30K, 50K, and 50 miles.  The day begins with the 50 miler, and the 50K starts an hour later, and then the 30K an hour after that.  They had hard caps on the amount of participants in each race distance to prevent overcrowding the trail.  It was an interesting experience for me, as my last race had around 30,000 people and this one around 50 (for the 50K, slightly more did the 50 miler and the 30K was the largest race, I think).  I was able to stroll in to check in and get my timing chip and line up just a few minutes before the race started.  There were no corrals, no big blow up start line decor, and other than a quick course briefing by one of the Race Directors, no fanfare before the start.  It was oddly calming.  There was so much room to move around, and seemed like hardly anyone was there.  I even had to nudge my kids off the starting area as they were counting down "3....2....1..." to get us going!  I started my Garmin a little late because I was unsure where the start line actually was!  hahaha

It was a little chilly that morning, but I was fine in shorts, a t-shirt and thin arm sleeves.  The forecast predicted rain and the dark clouds were looming over, but nothing was coming out of the sky (yet).

I tried to start off in the middle to back of the pack because I could tell there were some of those hot stuff trail dudes that were itching to move up front and being this was my first attempt at both an ultra and a trail race period, my goal was to just go slow, keep feeling as good as I could as long as I could, and finish within the cutoff time.  That's another difference in trail running versus roads that I love... There's not a lot of hangup on your time or your pace or your splits or all that obsessive crap.  Sure, the people that are going for the actual win take more note of that, but for us mortals?  Just cover the distance in the time allowed and don't get (too) injured or die. Enjoy the scenery. Rock on.  You win.

I wore my hydration pack and carried my preferred drink mix.  I also had a nutrition plan that included Roctane, Clif Energy Food in Banana Beet Ginger (this stuff is frickin awesome!  highly recommend!), and real foods like fig bars and craisins.

There were a few training runs held on this course in the weeks prior to the race that I was unable to attend (hello work schedule conflict), but I can see how that really would have helped.  I was really unfamiliar with the course, but thankfully it was very well marked! I will not lie, though, when I say that this course was a lot tougher than I anticipated in places.  The weather had a LOT to do with that.

About a mile or two into the trail, the sky started opening up.  The rain went from drizzle to downpour and back and forth pretty much the rest of the day.  This made the wooden bridges and especially the rocks and large tree roots very slippery.  In places that were already softened from the spring thaw, water/mud was pooling.  I was running behind two friends who graciously took me under their wing for a few miles and guided me through the course, showing me where to plant my feet to keep from going full on in the muck and warning me of obstacles and huge climbs ahead.  I wish I remembered their names (I believe one was Mary), but they were a Godsend to me during the first 10 miles.  They not only assured that I didn't bite the dust (or muddy, wet trail, if you will), but that I didn't pull my famous "go out too fast" thing.  Their strategy was to walk most of the hills and run the downhills and flats.  This was perfectly fine with me, and I think these early slow miles are what helped me finish, even when I was alone and things got very tough.

At mile 4.7 is the first aid station, but the smallest one, only offering water and Gatorade.  I took some plain water and moved along with the small group I was travelling with.  The miles between this aid station and the next at 10 miles were harder than the last few.  There was a significant climb, slippery spots verrry close to the lake (you could seriously fall in if not careful), and a really rocky patch where a girl ahead of me slipped and cracked her face open.  The conditions were getting more slick as the miles went on and the rain continued.  People fell, dropped water bottles, etc.  Here's another thing about trail runs:  People give a shit about people.  If someone slips or drops something, people around them stop, pick them up, make sure everyone is ok and has their stuff together, and then the miles move on.  No one is worried about the 30 seconds that might mess up their precious BQ or podium win.  I absolutely loved feeling part of something wonderful during this experience!

At mile 10 was the second aid station, and the first station I was able to see my little crew consisting of my husband and kids!  I felt fantastic at this point, and after checking in at the tent as directed I met everyone with smiles and hugs.  I took a Salt stick (as I did at every aid station from here out), finished the Clif food I had been working on, and drank some Gatorade.  I also gave my husband my trash and he replenished my stash.  We also put my iPhone in a Ziploc bag because I forgot before the race and had just spent the last couple hours outside in the rain.  Oops.  I realized I kinda had to pee and noting the open porta potty at the aid station, I made a pit stop before continuing on.

Just out of the woods and to the check-in tent at the mile 10 aid station. It was a requirement to check in at each aid station even if you had your own crew or were just going to pass through.  This is how they kept track of everyone.

I was sort of hoping to stick with the group I ran with, but when I got out of the porta potty, I had lost most of the people, and the two friends I had been right behind looked like they were staying at the aid station a bit longer.  I wanted to keep moving, so off I went to unexplored territory on my own!

After this aid station, there is a fork in the race course.  The 50 miler and 50K both turn one way, and the other way is reserved for just the 50 milers to make their second loop into a different area.  The race director made it very clear that people get lost here every year and to please stop and read the signs if you have to.  So, I did.  Last thing I needed to have happen now that I was going at this alone was getting lost.. lol.  I made the correct turn and went on my way.

From here on, things got progressively wetter and muddier.  After a pretty decent hill climb, the trail was mudpit after mudpit and I started to encounter 50 milers (and eventually some fast 50Kers!) on their way back on this section.  Everyone was so great - lots of "looking good!" "keep it up!" "great time!" "stay strong" "great job!" etc was exchanged here.  <3  Then, I found myself on my own.  It was both exhilarating and scary to be on my own.  The control of the pace and whether to walk/run was my own responsibility and being a newbie, I could only hope I was doing it right.  I was really diligent about making sure that I wasn't getting lost because there are several trails that intersect in this area.  The scary part was because this area is known for being a habitat for an endangered species of rattlesnake and we were warned several times about them!!  I have encountered some snakes during my training runs, but only harmless little garter snakes.  I would surely shit my pants if I saw a rattlesnake, and I hoped that the chilly and wet weather conditions kept them off the trail.  I was looking, though!  Didn't see any!

The next aid station was within the Jennings Environmental Center at around 15.2 miles.  Since this was a kind of confusing interchange (you go through a gate and kind of off the trail to the aid station and then back on in a different direction), they had people there to guide you.  My guide ran with me, clapping the whole way as he briefed me on where the potty was, what they had at the aid station, where the race course led from here, as well as asking me how I was feeling and if I needed anything.  Another gentleman at the aid station quipped "dear, you do not look nearly dirty enough!" to which I replied, "yeah, I'm sure that will catch up with me on the way back"... little did I know then how correct that was...  The volunteers here were just fantastic!!  I had my little family crew waiting for me.  I was feeling wonderful (like, I couldn't believe I'd just covered over 15 miles wonderful), so I didn't stay as long at this station as the last.  Just a salt stick, some Gatorade and some hugs and high fives with the kids and I was back to it.  People kept telling me how strong I looked and how I just had the biggest smile on my face.
Approaching the Jennings aid station and high-fiving Tori and Vince.

Garrett's turn.  Look at that huge smile on my face.  I swear I smiled all day, aside from those couple of hard, lonely miles.
The GRT race course is in a caddywompus lollipop shape - you go out, make a strange looking loop (that's the Jennings/rattlesnake territory), and then find your way back.  After the Jennings aid station, you make the last bit of the lollipop and then pretty much go back the way you came out.  Sounds easy peasy enough, but here's what I didn't account for until it hit me:  How awful trail conditions would be after a few hundred runners stomped on the already soggy ground on the way out.  The return trip became more and more difficult as time went on.  The first time I ran through this area it wasn't too bad, and it was relatively easy to find ways around huge pits of mud... either by running on the edge of the trail, hopping on rocks or branches, etc.  Not so much on the way back.  Everything was so slippery.  Between the fancy footwork and/or being literally stuck in mud and general fatigue, I was starting to feel the miles as I came into the next aid station at approximately 21.3 miles.  My hip flexor and knee were also feeling tweaked due to all the slipping and sliding and climbing.

Coming into the aid station at 21.3 miles.  You can see the miles wearing on me at this point.  See the guy in red behind me?  That was the winner of the 50 MILE race.  Holy crap.

This was the same aid station as the one at 10 miles (remember, the course is going back exactly the way it came out now).  My family was there again and could tell I was not as fresh and chipper as earlier.  I took another Salt Stick, and also some ibuprofen and again traded off my trash for some new fuel, this time choosing fig bars and craisins.  I also had my husband crack me open a coke (real stuff, not diet) and I drank about half of it before feeling like I wanted to vomit.  One of the race director/aid station guys came over and asked if I'd been eating enough.  Being a total noob at this stuff I said "I don't know".  He walked me over to the table and I got some peanut M&Ms.  Then he asked how many times I'd refilled my hydration pack to which I gave him a dumb look, I'm sure, and said "uh, none, but I had it filled up when I started".  He gave a wide eyed look, felt how much my pack weighed, turned to my husband and said "she's not drinking enough, she's dehydrated".  Then he said he wouldn't feel right letting me leave the aid station until I drank more and they refilled my hydration bladder.  So, I did.  Then, finally, I was on my way again.  This would be the last time I'd see my family until the finish since crews weren't allowed at that first (and then last) aid station.

Of course immediately after this aid station started a big climb and then that really rocky spot I remembered from before.  I kind of felt a little better after refueling a bit at the aid station, but this spot of the course really zapped me.  What would follow in the next few miles was just a really bad time.  The course was so slippery and muddy and after trudging up hills you really long for the sweet fly down the other side, but because it was so slippery I couldn't fly down the hills like I wanted to.  Every time I'd really pick up the speed, I'd feel like I was going to faceplant.  There was no traction, even in my Cascadias, and a lot of times I'd "ice skate" for a bit.  It was scary territory for me - I certainly didn't want to get injured - so I started to walk a lot more than I'd like.  This really spiraled negative thinking and anger in me and admittedly, I walked a lot of miles 23-25+.  I guess it didn't help that I was all alone (seriously, I hadn't seen a single runner since the last aid station) and in the pouring rain.  At one point, when I about fell face first into a pit of mud I started crying and yelling "I just want to run!!".  I started talking to myself and the trees saying crap like "yeah, Nichole, real fucking great idea!  just run in the woods in the rain!  Yeah, the mud will be sooooo fun! fuck!"... etc.  Yeah, maybe I was a little delirious..haha.  I'd hit walls in other races before, but this was different.  I don't even know how to explain it.  This was definitely the worst section of the race for me, though, both in performance, mentality, and spirits.  In the distance, I saw a guy ahead of me and he was sliding around as well.  I saw him get a couple of branches and fashion himself some trekking poles to help with the conditions.  Smart!  If I thought I could do that I would have!

Then something happened.  I have no idea how to even approach this, but around the marathon distance point it was like the "wall" went away.  Any little ache or niggle I had was gone and I started feel good again.  WTH?  I picked up the pace a little when I could and was running again.  I stopped caring about dodging the mud pits and slop and instead, just ran right through the middle of those bitches.  And laughed!  I passed the guy that was ahead of me eventually, and I sympathized with him over all that sliding around in the miles before.  I was happy to be feeling better.  I was leaping over rocks, my posture was back to normal, not slumped, and it was like a supercharged second wind.  I've never experienced this in any race I've ever done - EVER.  I wish I knew what caused this!  Right before the trail let out to the road crossing and the final aid station, a volunteer along the trail said "just keep smiling, you're doing good" and that gave me a boost too.

The last aid station, the little fluids only one, brought on my last stop of the race.  There were only two people at the aid station.  The lady said a lot of people had been complaining to them about the mud.  I guess I don't understand complaining to a volunteer about weather conditions, but ok.  I just laughed and said "well, there's nothing you can do about it!".  The guy there wanted to take my picture, so I posed real quick for one.  I hope that one gets published somewhere because so far of the photographers that took pics along the course I have not found one that got a pic of me!  It was like I was never there!  So weird!  Maybe I looked really bad!  haha I finished my cup of water and said "well, I guess I gotta finish now".  The photographer said "you only have around 4.7 miles to go - you can do it".  I crossed the road and got back onto the trail for the last leg of this run.

Edit 06-07-16: I found it!  See, I was there!!
Me, hanging out by a trashbag at a road intersection of a trail with a cup of water.  Still smiling just past the marathon distance!
Photo courtesy of Bill G. @

I was still feeling great and thankfully the feeling stuck the rest of the way.  I kept plowing through the mud pits.  I did pass a few other guys on this leg - I believe they were 50 milers - and as was the norm earlier in the race when you encountered someone else, encouragement was exchanged, which at this point of a long ass day was great.  In the last couple of miles the trail widens a bit and was less muddy, which was such a treat.  Then, before I knew it, I came to the end of the trail and turned onto the gravelly bike trail (think kind of North Shore trail-ish) that lead to the finish.  Just off the trail was a 30Ker walking with her family.  We cheered each other on, and I started picking up the pace as much as I could now that I was out of the mud and the rocks and the roots and all that.  As I rounded the turn off the bike path and onto the parking lot area that was the finishing chute of sorts, I could see my kids waiting for me. Well, two of them.  Vincent had enough of being outdoors and was in the car playing games.. lol.  Victoria and Garrett were there and they said they wanted to run with me to the finish line!  This made me smile even bigger than before, and my oldest and youngest ran their mom into her first ultramarathon finish.

Running with Victoria and Garrett leading me into the finish.

Aside from feeling very wet and chilled from stopping, I felt really good after finishing! Certainly no worse than either marathon I ran, probably better.  I was given my medal (huge heavy awesome thing), and the Race Director shook my hand and talked to me about the race and wanted to take pics of me and me with my family.  Here's something else different about small trail races as opposed to road shows.  When do you ever get that kind of personal treatment from a race director?  She even thanked ME for participating in the race.  What?  No, thank YOU for allowing me to do something freaking incredible!

My favorite race medal yet!

Inside the pavilion they had a cracking fire to warm up by, and lots of delicious food.  They also had hot tea and coffee - much appreciated on this type of day!

Just a little mud.
My recovery from this race has been unbelievable.  I'd compare it to my last marathon or even better.  I felt like I could definitely run just a couple of days later and for the last couple of days I've felt back to "normal" just like any other day in the life.  Amazing!  Honestly, the worst thing has been post race blues from going from training for something really epic to having to take a break and also not have another race registered for.  No worries, I'm starting a big lifting plan for the next few weeks while I gradually build back my running and then... we'll see what happens in the fall.  I'm already eyeballing 2017 races too (since trail runs are so small, they tend to fill quickly so you have to register way early).

Something I haven't done (well too much) with this race is go over all the things I "did wrong".  I finished an ultra, few people do that crazy stuff, who cares about the details, really.  Yeah, I really need to get stronger on more technical trails so it isn't such a shock to the system.  Yeah, if I was really concerned about finishing faster I would have kept better track of the time I spent at aid stations - after looking at my Garmin stats I spent around 25 minutes of time at aid stations!  But sheesh, I was spending time with my kids and just having fun.  I'm not going to beat myself up over that at all!  I finished an ultra!!

I was just in awe and amazed by the whole experience.  First of all - I finished an Ultramarathon! I know I keep saying that - I think I'm still trying to process that myself!  WTH has gotten into me?  And trails??  Who am I?  Well, I can say this:  Finishing this race really trumps anything I've done before.  In fact, I've said this several times recently, but I truly doubt I'll ever run a road race again.  Maybe as a training run or as something just to do, but to set a marathon or a half or anything else as a goal and train for that?  No thanks.  The gratification just isn't there.  I will more than likely head to MCM at some point (not this year - I'm looking forward to more long trail runs), but I think I've found my "thing".  What can I say - I love really going the distance and I like a challenge and I love being in the woods!

Post race with the family.

So, I ran a trail ultramarathon.

Ok, so I guess before I get into the nuts and bolts of this I should add some backstory.

After MCM, as you know, I felt simply amazing.  My recovery was next to nothing and I was ready to tackle something else.  My thoughts turned to what I wanted to do in 2016.  Honestly the thought of trying to train for the Pittsburgh marathon was not motivating at all.  I just didn't want to deal with it, plus I have psychological issues with that race weekend.  I also really wanted to do something totally different this year.  Truth be told, running had gotten boring for me.. doing the same old thing it seemed, season after season.  I was also getting stressed with the whole aspect of "needing" to get faster and faster all the time or else it was a "fail".  So, I figured since my last marathon went so well and I felt so damn good then ffs I should just do something daring and run an ultramarathon.  I set my sights on the J.C. Stone 50K in March.  In my mind (then), it was perfect because I could start training early, get a big race out of the way early and then have a nice block of "off time" before starting to train for MCM again in the summer.  The week of Thanksgiving 2015 (a mere month after MCM) I started training.

Another new thing for me this year is paying my hard earned money for a training plan/coaching.  This was pretty awesome (pats self on back) and I loved every bit of my plan because it was so varied.  I did long runs and easy runs, of course, but I also did 1 or 2 workouts a week consisting of hill repeats, tempo runs, tempo interval runs, 800s, fartleks, timed heart rate runs, etc.  Later I would come to be very thankful for the hill workouts, especially.  I also (and go ahead and crucify me, I don't care) run/walked every long run.  I did 20:1 intervals.  Anyway, my training went great!  Most importantly I stayed injury-free!  I blame this on being made aware (well aware) that "canned plans" out of books and on the internet are pretty much crap in the sense that they aren't meant to be followed to the letter by every single person that reads it.  They can be fine guidelines, yes, but when you have a plan that's yours and someone to guide you through it things can (and will) change - and that's fine!  I moved workouts around, changed some pacing, even skipped (gasp) a long run!  And I'm alive to tell the tale!  OMG!  Back to the story - a couple of weeks before JC Stone, I had some turmoil happen in the personal life.  In the midst of all this, I had a heart to heart and a realization that I really didn't want my first ultra to be North Park lake loops.  Now, I'm not bashing that race at all - I still plan on doing it one of these years - but I'm saying for me, myself, and I, that I would do a great disservice to myself if I ran a route that I've run a million times over and am honestly very sick of and said "yep, that's my ultra!"... particularly if it turned into a one-and-done thing.  And so, after much debate and research, I registered for what would be the most amazing race ever, hoping that I could train hard enough to make the cut off time.

My training changed from progression of speedwork to preserving my base (I was back to hovering around the 50 mpw mark) and staying injury free, while working on elevation gain (here's where those hill workouts came in handy).  Fun fact:  I've achieved more elevation gain in the last 2 months than I have in all the years I've been running combined.  No joke.  The North Shore "trail" is a pancake.  Start at Millvale and go to the jail and back (12 miles) and you'll have gained.... 14 feet.  The south side isn't much better but I think you can get 30 there.  North Park lake loop? A whopping 138 feet per loop.  Hardly hilly at all.  I thought Pittsburgh was hilly?  Anyway - Marine Corps Marathon: 562 feet.  JASR 30K? 467 feet.  Still not hilly compared to a race that has about 4000 feet of elevation gain.  So, I had some work to do.  First, I had to get comfortable on trails.  The North shore and other rail trails don't count as real honest to shit trails and I'd only been on real piddly other ones before.  But now I can tell you I've hit up Boyce, North park, Rachel, etc and am always thirsty for anything new and different.  The harder the better, really.  Gimme dem rocks and roots and water! Second, I had to work on that climb.  Trails are where the big hills are and I got to them every chance I could.   My long runs also got, well... longer.  During marathon training I'd get my 20 milers done in 3 hours-ish or less.  This training cycle had me doing long runs of 3 1/2, 4, all the way up to 5 hours!  I also had to integrate hiking workouts (not just slow moseys) into my training to get more time on my feet on more rugged terrain and yes, climbing more hills.

Something else I had to do, and I have to say this really helped me more than you can imagine is cutting off running social media (except Strava).  I didn't use my Garmin for every single workout and only kept a log on my computer.  I also didn't feel the need to mention every strength workout or core training.  No more yammering about my runs everywhere to everyone and especially no DailyMile.  I find DailyMile to be very irritating - kind of akin to being the Facebook of running.  It just really got on my damn nerves so that had to go.  Being free from having to report to people and feel pressured into keep up with everyone really took the stress off my training.  If I had to take a day or two off, I didn't have to qualify it or worry about what everyone thought.  If I was running slower, I didn't feel, again, like I had to qualify it or be ashamed of it, etc.  I also broke my FOMO streak.  There are people out there that really love to run all the races and do all the things.  I think that's great and I totally get it and at times I'd like to as well.  But I really can't afford to pay for race registrations out the wazoo.  I'd rather spend money on other things.  And my work schedule is really limiting to not just my training, but racing.  I work Tuesday through Saturday - night shift.  When most people are getting up and out to do their early running, I've only been home for a couple of hours.  It's tough, but I make it work.  I'm hoping to have a better schedule soon, but time will tell.  Bottom line:  I need to worry about me, not what every other person in the local running cliques are doing.

My "extended" training cycle went great.  Funny thing about trails - they really are better for you than roads.  After road 20+ milers I'd feel it, no matter how "easy" I took them.  5 hours on trail?  I felt tired, yeah, but I was totally fine.  My recovery from all my trail runs was miraculous.  And when I'd get back on the road for an easy run or speedwork in the days after?  That came so easily.  I absolutely loved the trails for how they made me feel.  I can honestly tell you that I am a trail convert.  Roads just don't hold the same thrill or sense of accomplishment.  In fact, I do not have the desire to train for a road race any time in the near future.

So, the long runs came and went and taper seemed to fly by.  And there I was - 24 weeks of training, nearly 1000 miles logged.  I did 17 long runs over the half marathon distance, 12 of those over 16 miles.  I ran the longest runs of my life in time, if not yet distance (my longest run was 24.5 miles).  Most importantly I came into this race INJURY FREE.  It's now over one year since my last injury.  There has to be something to a "real" training plan, "real" trails, and hell, just me finally being "real" with myself.

Speaking of being real, I think I'm going to be real about the fact that my race recap is going to be a separate post.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Overview of Where I've Been and What's Next

Hi!  How are ya?  Not gonna lie, I've been drinkin' tonight so pardon the slurred speech and the beer muscles.  At least I'm not to the point of listening to Hick Hop (yet) so we're good.  j/k... I was reading a hilarious thread on Reddit and Hick Hop is on the forefront of my hilarious thoughts.

This shit is awesome.  Sometimes I buy beers just for the graphics on the label.  Sometimes it works out... others not so much.  This one is a winner, though.

Anyway, I'm really not going to go back to structured blogging, but I wanted to write down some things... talk about what happened especially over the last few weeks and what I'm looking forward to.

First of all, I'm really enjoying some downtime.  That said, I really get annoyed with the downtime.  I'm not really on any sort of "plan" - be it running or lifting or whatever - and while some days that's very liberating other days it pisses me off because I want that goal/that purpose/that drive for a true end result.  but it is what it is... pretty soon I'll be bitching about fitting all my runs into my life schedule again so I'm trying to chill and enjoy.

For all intents and purposes 2015 is done for me, as far as training/running goes.  I may... just may.. do a five mile race here in the coming weeks but if I do I will not all out race it.  I'm just itching to do something.

So, my final thoughts on my training cycle and MCM are this:
I loved the training plan I chose.  Funny thought:  this was just a free plan offered by the Clif Bar company.  I was attracted to it by the low mileage (since I was coming off an injury and still run/walking for those first few weeks), as well as the 2x weekly speedwork.  I also liked the fact that it was 4 days per week running with the flexibility to add easy miles and/or cross training on the other days - which I did take advantage of and was running the standard 5 days per week by the middle of the plan.  I only modified it slightly - it scheduled 2 runs of 19 then 21 miles and I thought that sounded stupid, so I just did 2 20 milers.  And the tempo runs I made true tempo runs, not race pace miles sandwiched inside a warmup and cooldown (that is NOT a tempo run!).  In general, I think it was a nice, well rounded plan that was super flexible so that it could "grow with me", so to speak, as I fully recovered from my stress reaction and felt ready to take on the longer/harder stuff.  I did hit 50 miles a week at peak, which as you know is short of the 55 I was at before, but really.. that's not too shabby in the world of casual marathoning.

I did not follow the nutrition plan that came with the running plan because I was trying to follow the Racing Weight book.  Which was a fail for me, like I've posted before.

I felt totally prepared for the race, but in the end it was the mind over matter issue on top of the awful weather that did me in.  I pulled the classic "go out too fast" scenario and then faded and couldn't mentally get over myself in time to really bring it in.  BUT - I still pounded out a 9 minute PR, and achieved my B goal of a sub 3:50 (A goal was 3:45).  I also didn't walk a single step of the Iwo hill or any of the rest of the race, which was a big positive over last year.  So, even though the race didn't go as planned, I consider this whole cycle from day 1 of run/walking to feeling awesome in the days AFTER the race (seriously - easiest recovery ever) a huge success.
Thinking of buying this pic... it's one of a whopping 2 that I like.  The rest look like I'm about to die, give birth, am smelling a raunchy fart or just simply hate my life. Plus this is one of those cool "both feet off the ground" pics and I actually look like I'm totally focused and owning that shit.

What's next?  Well, like I said right now I'm in that limbo point.  I'm not training for anything, I'm just taking care of myself and staying fit.

I am planning on tackling some different things in 2016.  I absolutely plan on MCM again.  I want to get into the lifetime club so bad.  My "goal" early 2016 race is actually pretty early in the year so I'll be starting a training plan by the beginning of December.  I've enlisted the wisdom of a coach/someone who is a more seasoned and talented runner than I'll probably ever be.  One of the things that has been brought to my attention is that supposedly I am doing my running journey a huge disservice my consistently running my "easy" and ESPECIALLY my long runs (unless there is a prescribed workout within the run) too fast.  Now, I've been running by a heart rate range that I'd calculated and thought that was good enough but I'm told I need to run "slower than that slow".  So, it's going to be tough but I'm gonna try it.  I've been kinda trying out the paces on the runs I've done this week and I still ran every one (of the three I did) faster than the plan! I guess I need to take some time and focus and hone in on what it's supposed to feel like.  Of course, once winter rolls in it's easier to go into turtle mode anyway to prevent death by ice patch.  But, anyway, I'm looking forward to a different type of training, different type of plan, and different race and a different goal.  I know this is gonna sound bad, but running has gotten a little boring as well as frustrating for me and I need a change in perspective to keep me motivated.

I also - and this may be a shock - will not be doing an intense weight training plan in between or during running cycles.  For the last two years I've done that and I've gained some serious muscle (I'm no Ronda Rousey but I could beat a bitch down, just sayin'), but the honest fact is I'm bulkier than a runner is meant to be.  I really noticed this in recent pics.  So, I need to pare down and I will be following a plan tailored for endurance athletes and running functionality.  This will be a lot of core work, hip/glute strength and some upper body.  I won't be doing hours upon hours of curls and benching and shoulder presses and all that because I need to focus on other areas.  And the core work takes #1 priority.

I was kind of inspired by one of my favorite YouTubers  to do a 30 day vegan challenge but my family is totally against it.  I guess I'll think of something else to do like the Yoga challenge I did last year (that's kept me doing at least some form of yoga on the regular all year!).

Well, that's all that's on my mind right now regarding the current status of life.  In the coming weeks I'll be cleaning up my nutrition a bit again (I've been on an OMG eat all the crap I couldn't have during marathon training binge for two weeks and that's not real smart with the holidays coming at us), but other than that it's just keep on moving and loving life. :)

He wanted to take his own damn selfie.  What a brat.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Marine Corps Marathon 2015

Short version: I had a stressful trip, was tired for the race, the weather was too warm and humid, and I ultimately went out too fast, hit the wall like a boss, but still managed both a PR and a sub 3:50.

Word vomit version:

We ended up leaving Pittsburgh much later Friday morning than I'd hoped.  That, on top of extended stopping along the way, led us to check into our hotel late.  More stress got heaped onto my plate by my card company claiming that I never put in a travel notification so my card got flagged at the hotel desk.. How embarrassing!  We had to stand there and call the bank and jump through freaking hoops to get them to clear my card so we could get to our room.  Jagoff bank!  So, by this time it was too late to go to the expo.  This ticked me off because I like to go to the expo on Friday so that I don't spend too much time on my feet the day before the race.  Well, I had no choice now.  We went out to eat, stopped at a store to get some things we needed and then drove around to see some sights in the dark before heading back to our room to get some rest.

The kids... oh my.  Of course this would be one of those phases they all decided to check into where they can't get along, don't listen to direction, and pretty much don't care about anything but being as loud and obnoxious and rotten as possible.  They were like this quite a bit during this trip and it didn't help my focus.  NOTE:  I'm not blaming the kids for anything regarding my race performance or whatever, I'm just making a standard parental observation.  There were moments of "who's child are you?" that happened.  Every parent experiences this.  Unfortunately, this took place on race weekend.  Thanks for keeping me on my toes, kids! ;)

Anyway, Saturday morning I woke up early to meet up with my friends from the Facebook MCM & 10K group.  We met at the Smithsonian and ran a short loop around the area (which formed a penis shape on the gps map, which is always worth a giggle).  It was a good time, even though it was quite chilly as we waited for everyone to arrive!  Oh how I wish this weather stuck around for Sunday!  I was so happy to finally meet people and put some real faces to names and pictures on the internet.  Our group really does have a great bond and I think it's awesome how we share a love of the most awesome race in the whole damn world.

MCM & 10K Club 2015

After my shakeout run, I headed back to the hotel and got ready to go to the expo.  The expo was... the expo.   It was super crowded, hard to get around, and I definitely didn't get to see or do all that I had initially planned.  It was just too much and we decided to just call it a day and leave after we got some ice cream.  This is the first expo I've ever attended where I walked out spending NOTHING.  At least packet pickup was a breeze.  And I saw Jeff Galloway!  He actually ran the race the next day with his wife as well.  Such an inspiration!

Hell yes I wrote "For the Horde" on the official MCM pace car!  Because I am a nerd.

For pre-race dinner we went to a place that was recommended in my FB group called the Lost Dog Cafe.  I was really touched by the story behind this place and really wanted to try it.  The owners also run an animal rescue and everything is based on that.  Even most of the menu items have animal names so that was cool.  I got plain spaghetti and garlic bread, but I wished I could have indulged in what the rest of the family had because it all looked so good!  I hope to get back there some day because what little nibbles I had were pretty tasty.

Later that night at the hotel I discovered I had forgotten raisins for my traditional night before snack of oatmeal, chia, raisins and honey.  Boo.  Then I got to bed hours later than I wanted to.  And of course tossed and turned all night long, looking at the clock at least once an hour...

I was damn tired when the alarm went off at 4 a.m. but I got my ass up and moving.  I went over my list and made sure I had everything and put on some extra bodyglide.  I drank some gatorade, grabbed my PB sandwich and a banana as well as a big bottle of water and headed down to the Metro.  I was shockingly calm.  Tired, but my nerves were calm.

I just want to say here that a lot of people in the past days have bitched about the security lines and the race start and whatever but I have to say I had NO issue at all.  I was on the Metro at 5, and comfortably situated with some people I met up with at Runners Village shortly thereafter.  I got right through security and hung out in the rain for the next two hours chatting, taking pictures, and using the portajohn.  Guess I'm lucky I'm an early riser and know that extra sleep isn't worth extra stress.

Dark and empty parking lot at Runners Village sometime around 5:30 a.m.

One thing I noticed as I was waiting for the right time to head to the start line was that it was humid.  Very humid.  88%.  Yuck.  It was around 60 degrees too.  I knew a suckfest was ahead and there was nothing to do but hold on for the ride and just run.  Another thing I noticed was that my stomach was wonky and I had to crap like every 15-20 minutes.  Oh, and as luck would have it, I got my fucking period too.  This was a perfect morning!

So, anyway, as the sun rose and me and my new best friends parted ways to head to the start, my stomach finally felt stable, thank goodness.  My mood was not the greatest, but it could have been a lot worse and I do credit the guys I hung out with for keeping my mind off my own bullshit for a while.  I easily found my way to my corral (Expected Finish: 3:40-3:59) and enjoyed the opening ceremonies.  The prayer.  The motivational talks.  The flyover.  The National Anthem.  Amazing.  I ditched my throwaways just before the howitzer fired.  It was around 2 minutes before I crossed the start.

I said it last year and many times since:  MCM is crowded as fuck.  And yes, there are corrals, but it's a guarantee that there will be people walking right out of the gate that started near the elite corral.  I was prepared for it this year and I wasn't going to let myself get as crazy over it.  Notice I said "as crazy" because come on... it's frustrating not being able to run as you trained to run for whatever reason.  But this year I kept my cool and didn't weave around nearly as much as before.  I had some form of patience.  Well, that was until I caught up with the 3:45 pacer and his surrounding group and started joining in the conversation and antics...

My first miles ticked off within the range I'd given myself for the race.  Easy peasy.  Then, before I knew it I was in this big mob of a group and this pacer is flying.  I mean like fucking flying.  To be honest, I was enjoying the sights and sounds and company and not paying a whole lot of attention, but my Garmin started ticking off sub 8 minute miles - 7:48, 7:52, etc.  And this was the uphill part of the course!  On one hand I was thinking "too fast, Nichole, you will never make it at this rate" but on the other I kept telling myself that I felt great, it felt easy and I was having so much damn fun why stop now?!  So I just kept with the herd.  Other people also commented:  "That guy is nuts!", "WTF is he trying to bank so much time we'll be able to walk from the bridge to the Iwo?", and other such remarks.  I laughed with them and agreed, but even as more people (the smart ones) dropped back, I had this do or die mentality that kept me glued to this dude.  Many times I second guessed myself and what I was doing, but I kept telling myself that I'd be a loser and a quitter if I pulled back, so I didn't (well at least at this point of the race).

I will say though, nothing against this pacer as a human being, though.. he was really fun and at least talked a lot, which is a quality I enjoy in a pacer.  He cracked me up sometime around mile 8 or 9 when he announced that he had to pee and handed off his sign and balloons to some random guy in the group and said "Hold this, I'll be back", and we were essentially pacerless for a while until he caught back up.

The Blue Mile.  What can I say about this?  It's one of those things you have to be there for.  But it is one of those things at MCM that remind you that this race is not really about YOU, but about something so much bigger.  Weaving and distance be damned, I will position myself during the Blue Mile so I can look at every picture and high five/say thank you to every family member, child, volunteer holding out those big beautiful American flags.  During this mile time/pace/PRs don't fucking matter.

I first started realizing I was truly screwed at the half marathon point.  A well meaning spectator was cheering and yelling "You're halfway there now!", which as a marathoner you know is bullshit.. the halfway point of a marathon is 20 miles.  You need 50% of your energy for that last 10K.  Upon assessing my personal status I kinda realized that I probably was down 50% of my energy at the half marathon point... not a good sign.  But, I kept forging on.

The Mall.  I love running this!  From the sights to the crowd, it's just great.  My family was here as well.  I needed the psychological boost and I was thrilled to see them.  I also saw Bart Yasso who is seriously one of the coolest guys ever.

Unfortunately I really started fading during the last part of the mall headed toward the bridge.  At the mile 16 marker I realized that I was really starting to feel like I was "working"... again in a marathon that's not a good sign.  It was getting ridiculously hot, someone said the humidity was nearly 100% and most certainly by 18-19 miles I was starting to feel like crap.  I knew at this point the Bridge was going to be a bitch and if I wanted a chance of hitting my goal of not walking up the Iwo for the second year in a row, I had to say farewell to the (now very small) group I was running with and pull back.  For some silly reason during this race I decided to fuel differently (took my GU at different mileage points and carried a water bottle I never had before).  I know, dipshit move and one I will not make again.  And BTW taking GU early didn't help any, in fact I think it made matters worse.

Mile 20.  To the Bridge and over.  I was really starting to struggle.  My pace dropped a lot (I saw some 9:xx miles) and I just mentally checked out.  I told myself even if I ran the rest of the race at long run pace I'd still glide in at a great time.  The thing that irritated me was that I had no doubt that I could cover the distance, the stamina was there, it's just that my legs (quads and calves mainly) were just cramped up.  Seriously they were SO damn tight.  And then I got smacked with a big dose of reality....

There on the bridge I was about to pass another runner.  This runner was a double amputee running on prosthetic legs.  I got my head out of my ass (at least for the moment) and thought to myself "whatever whining and bitching I've got going on has nothing on this dude.  talk about a beast!".  As I went by him I said "You are my motherfucking hero!", and I forged ahead and off that damn bridge.

As I entered Crystal City I must have really looked like shit because a guy yelled out "about 4 more miles, ma'am!".  I know he meant well but I wanted to kick him in the dick.  4 miles is forever at the end of a marathon.  But I did somehow manage to find a second wind and I was back to running at my intended race pace again.  I ate some orange slices that were handed out.  I was sad to see that there was no water sprayer this year in CC... I really could have used it.  Getting to the turnaround point seemed to take a long time and I was starting to get pissy again.  My quads were really bothering me and I felt like I was just going to ride the pain train the rest of the race.

My pace slowed a bit again, but I kept pushing as hard as I could while keeping some kind of control going so I had the energy to take the Iwo.  For the second time, I had to say no to the donuts at mile 24.  I was hot, miserable, and nauseous and I really thought they would just bounce back out.  Even those last orange slices I ate weren't sitting well.  I had one last GU in my belt and couldn't even bring myself to take that either.

And why oh why is mile 25 the longest mile of the race?  seriously!

Somewhere near the Pentagon stood a guy dressed as a nun yelling "The End is Near" among other things.  It was hilarious and a much needed mental boost.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw the mile 26 sign.  I knew all I had to do was take the Iwo and put myself on cruise control for a minute and it was all over.  I started up the hill strong but then it became a battle to get my legs to move forward.  My pace really slowed (I was down to around 10:30 by the time I got to the top) but I DID NOT WALK ONE STEP.  I didn't walk a single step of this whole race, actually.  Right before the top of the hill a Marine yelled "only a bit farther ma'am, you got this! Oorah!".

I really tried to sprint once I got to the top of the hill.  I really did.  But, it just was not there.  I still gave everything I had left in the tank and cruised to the finish line.  I was elated to find out later that my time was 3:48:19.  I executed this race very foolishly and not at all like I'd planned and I still got my PR, and a big one at that.  I happily got my medal from a young Marine who I then asked for a hug.  Which he obliged.  :)  Then I got my picture in front of the memorial, hooked up with my family (who actually saw me finish this year!), ate some watermelon and went right for the beer tent.

Beer is good and stuff!

The kids and I taking a post-race selfie.

In the hours and a day or so after the race I did a lot of negative talk and kicking my own ass for the silly things I did (not sticking with my own pace at the beginning, fueling differently, etc) and doing a lot of "I wonder what my time would have been if..." shit, but I quickly got over that.  I PRed MCM!  On a humid day when I was tired and not feeling well at the start!  On a day where my brain just decided not to work!  I got to experience something freaking awesome!  AGAIN! And uh... did I mention that PR?!?!

I ran almost a quarter mile less this year - woohoo!

This is now almost a week from race day and I've been feeling back to normal for several days now.  I only had some general soreness for a day and a half afterward and that's it!  No nagging aches or pains and NO INJURY! This has been the easiest recovery EVER!  I can't wait to run again (Tuesday is the plan) and I can't wait to run MCM again in 2016!  I'm committed to running this race for as long as they will let me in!  I love it that much!  One day I'll get those donuts... one day!

Mission Accomplished!
Best Medal Ever.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

I Made It To Taper and I Quit Blogging

So..... we are now 21 days out from the Marine Corps Marathon 2015.  Actually since it is almost 10 pm it's less than that, but you know what I mean.

It's taper madness time!!!!

You know, I don't even remember where I left off with all this.  All I know is that I have not blogged in a long time and for many reasons.  Let me try to explain.

1. I started a new job.  This past week was actually my last week of training before I start my real shift and real duties on my own.  First off, I work for the government now.  Not going to say too much regarding which department and doing what given the circumstances, but it's a job that is very rewarding and also can be intense and stressful.  I go to bed at night KNOWING I've helped at least one person in a positive manner that day. My training schedule has been early daylight hours, which means to get up and run I've had to be out during the 4AM hour.  I'm really glad my training is over now and I go on my later shift because I have been DEAD TIRED.  Instead of turning on my computer and blogging at night I've just been crawling in bed with a cup of tea and zonking out.  Hopefully now I can regulate myself again and get some rest... at least I hope - I'm running a marathon in 3 weeks!

2.  We bought a house.  And we've been working on the house (it had more things that needed fixed than we originally planned on) and going from house to house and the schedules have just been wild.  This has also greatly contributed to my not having much energy for the interwebs these days.  I'm so thrilled to have a permanent city of Pittsburgh address again, though.  This time it IS permanent.  Well.. unless the kids grow up and decide to move off and we decide to say eff it and move to the Jersey shore or something.

3.  Blogging was starting to really eat at me.  I never got into blogging to "create a brand" or start a business or make money or get sponsors or be in some odd clique of online "experts".  I don't do linkups or product reviews (unless I buy something on a whim and want to let you know about it) or generic template posts.  I never wanted a format or a solid focus or whatever.  I know I've said this before but I started blogging when blogs were just pages of word vomit on the internet - way back in the early AOL days and beyond - pretty much opening your diary to the world.  It was never about advertisement or gathering groupies or making yourself out to be a know it all on a given topic.  Sometimes you'd find someone you jived with that had similar world views as you (like you both really love goth rock or Manic Panic) and you'd check in every now and again.  But that's it.  Yes, I'm showing my age but I don't care... In these modern days, blogging is just fucking weird and I was starting to get stressed about posting and sounding a certain way and being nice.  I was putting pressure on myself because of what other people think!  I'm sorry, that's fucked up.  The last thing I want to be in real life OR on the internet is fake.  I'm not cool with that even a little bit.  I'm a total WYSIWYG person and I really don't give a crap about what people think.  I swear a lot, I'm extremely judgmental when I feel the need, I'm cheap when I feel it's necessary (a lot), I know some shit and am a total dumbass about other stuff.  I love exercise and I love whiskey.  I hate fashion and branding but I'll always wear Oakleys and Doc Martens and Urban Decay makeup.  I'm not always nice.. in fact I can be quite venomous and mean and I am not someone you want to piss off.  If that's not good enough for today's hip and trendy blogging world, then fuck it.  I only wanted a place to log my fitness journey.  I can do that on Strava.

4.  In the same category, running specific social media was stressing me out.  I came to the realization lately while I've had other things to occupy myself other than obsess about running that wow... people really obsess about running!!  Like it's their job and they're headed to the Olympic trials and every decimal point of every gram of food or second of pace really means something.  And that's a big thing for me - people really obsess about PACE!  holy shit!  It was starting to stress me out and I was starting to over-analyze my training and I was starting to fall into some bad patterns.  I really have had to turn inward and "run my own race" even through my own training plan because I know myself and I will push myself until I literally break by obsessing.  One of my resolutions already for my next year of running/fitness is to not be so damned obsessive.  Running is not paying my bills!  It's a fucking hobby and what keeps my middle aged ass in shape!  I'm sure this energy is better used trying to make the world a better place somehow...

5.  This is the biggie.  I found out via the grapevine and my own personal observation that I have a nice little internet "fan"/stalker/creeper person.  What's really shitty is this person is someone who has quite an online presence.  I started noticing things on different areas of the internet some weeks back.  I'd post a workout, they'd post the same thing later that day or the next but they would be a second faster or a mile longer or 5 mins longer on their core work.  I thought it was weird at first but shook it off because come on, training plans can be fairly similar.  But it kept happening and kept getting weirder.  And if I would mention my run was rough, they would have the most awesome run ever or make other insinuations and jabs in my direction!  It started to become clear to me that they were forging ahead in some strange copycat/competition with me.  At first I just rolled my eyes, but then - after having it confirmed through someone else - I just got pissed.  Newsflash:  I don't run to impress people.  I don't care about your pace or mileage and you really shouldn't give a shit about mine.  I work my training plan for my goals and my happiness and I suggest everyone do the same.  I really don't get why anyone would try to make themselves feel better by being "better" than someone they never met before on the internet, who isn't even in the same racing categories as they are and who has vastly different goals.  Again, unless this is your full time job that supports your family... that's just... silly?  But, I'm not going to play along so I'm strongly considering privatizing everything from my blog to my Dailymile to everything else.  I've already locked up my Strava for the most part.

So other than that Ms. Lincoln, how was the play?  LOL

Well, my training has been AWESOME.  I finished up my second successful 20 miler yesterday in the pouring ass rain and wind.  I'm pretty confident I've got a good race ahead of me as long as I can keep myself healthy and injury free over the next 21 days.  But we'll see, right?  Also - a highlight of my training has been breaking some records (unofficially, of course)!  I bested my EQT 10 miler time during a tempo run.  Granted, I felt my pelvis break at exactly 6.67 miles of that race and went on to finish anyway but I've been wanting to kill that time for a while to prove those weren't my best running days totally gone to shit after the cycle of injury started.  I beat my time by a mere 20 seconds, but considering the fact that this run had a warmup and cooldown too and included the climb up Troy Hill Road at the end really made it great.  I really did flip my Garmin off when I saw my time and said "Fuck you EQT - fuck you!". Hey, I get a little nuts after a hard run before the sun comes up.

Oh, I think I've epically failed at the whole Racing Weight nutrition plan.  I still don't know how in the living hell to cram as many carbs as I'm "supposed to" in the course of a day down my throat.  Not without neglecting all other nutrients or without getting awfully bloated and shitty feeling.  I think I got it totally right on two whole random days.  Yes, I seem to have energy for miles and miles of running like that and that's awesome.  But I don't like eating like this or feeling like shit or having a bloated belly after even not being able to eat all that.  WTF?  It made me fall into bad eating habits (shovel those carbs in by eating crap!) and I just... no.  I'm not a fan.  In future training cycles I will go back to my old ways.  I'm glad I gave this a try but I just don't think it is my thing. And I do realize this is my issue, not the plan or Fitzgerald's or anything else. This plan just doesn't fit my life, my tastes, my family, my goals. I tell Nick all the time that after I cross the finish line in DC I'm going on a fucking meat bender.  I want meat and protein shakes and protein bars and cheese.. OMG I want a fuckton of cheese.  On the meat.  Maybe in the shakes.  I've made a cheesecake protein shake before and it was awesome.  OMG I want it so bad.  I'm so damned tired of carbs.  I never realized how low of a carb diet I usually eat until starting this plan.  I just want served a buffalo.  Thanks.

More about after the finish line:  Now I'm gonna knock on wood here because I still have to GET TO the finish line and then run 26.2 miles to cross the damn thing... but if all goes well and I make it through October in one piece I have my end of 2015/beginning of 2016 (realistically 2/3 of 2016) training calendar set.  I will be taking my running and fitness in another direction.  I want to overcome some things that are long overdue and I want to go on new adventures and try some new things.  At first glance it looks like the only repeat race I have on my schedule is Spring Thaw.  No, I am not even entertaining the notion of a Pittsburgh marathon weekend race.  I have another goal Spring race, but I'm not talking about it yet.  My goal is fun and challenging myself.

Well, that's all I've got this evening.  Don't know when I'll post again, but stay healthy, happy and free my friends!  Cheers!

Let the taper madness continue!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Marine Corps Marathon Training - Week 6

Lacking in general updates and slow to even post a recap this week.  I'm trying to acclimate to a major shift in schedule and trying to live out of two residences (or at least sleep at one, and work at/gradually move into another).  So I really do apologize if I'm not up on responses anywhere on social media and for my just lack of being with it.  I promise once things settle down I'll be more with it.  Right now I'm looking longingly at my bed and it's just 7 pm...

So, this week in training went really well for me.  It was what I believed to be the first "hard" week of my training plan - long tempo, more 800s, and a long run over the half marathon distance.  Here's what I did!

Monday: Super easy and just awesome recovery run.  Beautiful sunrise.  One of those mornings you're just thankful to be alive and part of the world.  After I ran outside I went to the gym and did my upper body and core workout.

Tuesday:  Tempo.  It sprinkled a bit for maybe a minute but then it was just humid and gnarly.  However, I was able to pace myself pretty well this week so I guess it didn't bother me as much as I thought.

Wednesday:  Lower Body and core lift session at the gym.

Thursday:  5x800m repeats.  I did a 1 mile warmup, equal recoveries for time, and a cooldown for a little over 7 miles total.  It was fall-like cool out this particular morning (48 degrees when I got up!) and with that my legs seemed to want to run like the wind!  When I felt like I was going slow, I was still going faster than intended!  It always cracks me up the first couple of times I run in cool weather because the effort/pace thing just doesn't line up! haha  So, I guess some people would say I "failed" my intervals since I ran a few too fast, but you know what... these days when I feel this awesome are a blessing to me so I'm not gonna feel bad for it!

Friday: 30 minutes on the treadmill turned into a nice little 5K (3.15 miles, actually).  I felt really good!  Afterward I did 30 minutes of core work.

Saturday:  Long run - 14 miles.  I was a little nervous in the days before this run because I haven't really ran long in a few months.  But the morning of the run I woke up excited and positive and set out to have a good time.  My plan this week was to slow down my run a bit because just running by a straight set heart rate was freaking me out because my pace was consistently faster than I expect.  And I'm not sure that running all my long runs at a pace that would automatically give me a marathon PR if I held that is a good thing.  So what my plan included starting slow - at the very bottom of my heart rate range, barely above even a recovery run.  I ran at that effort for a few miles, then increased a few bpm to a more moderate/easy effort.. then the last few miles I ran at what I may normally try to hold right out of the gate.  This worked really well!  While my first couple of miles were slower than I'd normally run them, I didn't have any major crashes or slowdowns and I felt very strong the last few miles like I could go much farther and faster.  I think I'm going to do my long runs this way more often.  Maybe on the cutback weeks I'll do them the old way, but for now I feel better doing this.  Could I run all of them as hard as before?  Yes.  Absolutely.  But I don't think there's any benefit to it, really, when time on my feet - especially with a newly remodeled bone is important.  And also I do 2 hard speedwork runs a week.  I don't think pushing pace any more than that is healthy for me, either.

I wore my daughter's flower power Bondi Band to give me a boost!

I do want to mention that I tried 2 new gels during this run.. Yes, I like to live dangerously... lol  At mile 5 I took a Lemonade Roctane.  It was probably the most fake thing I've ever tasted.  It was gross.  At mile 10 I had a Double Expresso (and yes, they spell it like that...) Clif shot.  I've never had this flavor before and I love my Espresso Love GU AND this stuff said it had a whopping 100mg of caffeine in it, so I figured I'd give it a whirl...  First of all, the taste could be best described as the thick, strong, old ass coffee at the bottom of a pot at a 7-11 that's been sitting there for like 6 hours.  Way bitter and strong and thick...  BUT - if you can get past that taste, OMG this stuff is a kick in the pants!  I felt like someone lit a fire under my ass and I kid you not I looked down at my watch and realized I was running a 7:11 pace... over a bridge near the end of a long run.  LOL talk about having to put the brakes on!  Just wow... even though it tastes like crap I kind of want to try it again to see if it has the same effect.  :P  It might be a while though because I just stocked up on a whole bunch of gels at REI... we'll see.

Sunday: Rest.  But I walked 7 miles.  Here's another "thing" you should know about me.  When I get stressed out and pissed off I walk.  I literally just like to walk... and walk and walk and walk.  I got really pissy and frustrated Sunday afternoon while working on the new place and went out for a walk.  I walked all over the place from Troy Hill to the North Shore, the stadiums, casino, etc.  I even did Rialto, since I'll be living right by it and wanted to see what it was like on foot rather than car.  I don't think I'll be running Rialto on the regular, I'll tell you that.. lol  Anyway, I really didn't time/pace the walk and I did stop several times, including a run into a store for water, but according to my activity tracker I went 7 miles while I was out.  haha.  Don't worry, I won't add it to the weekly total, but it does amuse me what I'm capable of when I'm really not thinking about it.

Really cool squirrel that came near me on my walk.  He just seemed to have an attitude and I liked that.

This week I ran 35.41 miles, so you see just barely even half a mile more than last week.  I'm still happy with the slow buildup right now, because of the increase of speed training.  In fact, this week that just started is another cutback week already.  I'll have a shorter tempo and shorter long run, but I am adding another 800 to my interval day.  Everything in moderation, right? :)