29 December 2013

More to Explore at 44…

“There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.”
– Sophia Loren

Here’s to another year above ground – clink clink – and what a year it has been! This year I ran two marathons along with nine ultras ranging in distance from 31 to 85 miles. Five of those ultras were at least 48 miles or more. My Garmin says I logged over 1,500 miles and 273,000 ft of elevation gain in 2013. Dang.

Other than when my first child was born, it’s hard to imagine a year full of more change and adventure than this one. I feel incredibly blessed and lucky to have legs that work, mountains to play in, friends to run with, my husband's support and the flexibility of schedule to enjoy the trails. I'm grateful for those I've met in the ultrarunning community that want to keep exploring the wild places and their own limits. I've long felt like a 25 year old in a middle aged body and for once, I don't feel I'm alone in my need to pursue these sorts of physical challenges. There are so many mothers over 50 that are running strong with no thoughts of stopping, I can't help but be inspired. 
Deb Pero* - bonafide Hardrocker
Marvelous Mimi* - Record-Setting Granny
Meghan Arbogast* - The Queen
To name a few.

Just 'cause there's snow on the roof doesn't mean there's not a fire inside.” 
– Bonnie Hunt

I’ve been reading a lot of Year-In-Review blog posts the past couple of weeks but had no particular inclination to post one of my own, mainly because I have already chronicled it thoroughly during the past 12 months. My offseason however – which began three weeks ago – has given rise to reflection as I look ahead to 2014. Not running (along with a birthday and new year fast approaching) leads to contemplation about running and life in general.

It’s clear I’ve tapped into something that has me wanting to explore the limits of what I’m capable of as an ultrarunner. While I don’t expect to run as many ultras in 2014 as I did this year, I really want to see just how well I can perform with proper training. I’m not “a natural” when it comes to endurance running – my large muscle mass is better suited for sprinting. But I prefer the longer distances, so I’ll stubbornly work to make myself better at them. Could I eventually become a mid-packer? It’s anyone’s guess. That’s what I want to discover though -- my potential.

The challenge in 2014 is not just pushing my limits athletically; it's figuring out how to train and race when finances are tight and my future in the workforce is hazy. With no positions locally in my specific field and the closest opportunities an hour away, it seems I need to make a shift of some kind. The kind of opportunities that abounded for me back in 90's and early 00's seem to have disappeared as I've seen nothing in the past three years that resembles them. While I am capable of doing many jobs, the pay has to justify the additional childcare costs that are required. This is why you won’t see me working as a barista at Starbucks or selling shoes at the local running store.

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.
- Wendell Berry

I'm called to work and use my natural abilities, strengths and skills to make a contribution to the culture. I'm just not sure where I will do that, outside of the home. I have a few ideas brewing that I'm going to pursue. I get a lot of satisfaction from taking care of my family and managing the household affairs -- keeping things running smoothly. It may be that this is my calling for now, along with spending more time with my kids.
Hoarfrosted Trees
So, I’m learning how to navigate through this season of my life. As a planner, I'm being stretched to live each day in the present, appreciating its gifts and opportunities, rather than fearfully imagining a future disaster. It’s easy for me to imagine a series of cause and effects that has our family living in a cardboard box under the overpass, as silly as that sounds. Balancing the strong desire to pursue my running goals against the growing need to get back to work has been really difficult. As you can see from my sidebar, I want to finish my first 100 miler in Sept. It’s hard to plan that far in advance not knowing how flexible my schedule or finances will be. So, there’s a few question marks in my mind as to whether I’ll get to all those races this year or not, but I’ll do my damnedest to do so and try not to make too much of it if I need to take a step back. The races aren’t going anywhere.

So what have I been doing these past few weeks of not running? Cycling on a trainer for starters. I’m doing four 90 minute sessions per week, aiming for 90 rpms and ~145 -150 HR. Additionally, I’m doing some core work (planks, situps, bridges) and hip/leg stability exercises (single leg squats, deadlifts, lunges) and various yoga poses to increase my hip and general lower body flexibility. All of this is useful in combatting common running injuries, such as the bursitis I’m pretty sure I had by November.

I’ve registered for some shorter local races in Jan/Feb that will supplement the speedwork I’ll be doing each week. The first race is in two weeks (7 miler), so in honor of my birthday, I kicked off a new season by running easy for 44 minutes and with the exception of an SI joint niggle, felt great. Looking forward to adding some dirt to my workout each week, along with the cycling.

Scenes from today's jaunt around Ute Valley:

Happy Trails,


*Photos courtesy of Chris Black, Mimi Anderson & Meghan Arbogast.

09 December 2013

TNF 50 San Francisco

One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak. 
- G.K. Chesterton 
What's worse than a DNF at 100 mile race? A DNF at a 50 mile. 

I had high hopes of a good day for the first 20 miles or so. I felt great, was running the initial climbs and enjoying the views and some conversation with the other runners. Met several guys that were running their first 50 miler, including Joe Jackson, who works for Outside Magazine. He as well as Samantha got it done -- congrats to both!
Samantha and I warming up at the start
As I began the climb up to the turnaround at McKinnon Gulch (23 miles), I began to worry that my pace may not be enough to skirt the cutoffs. Samantha was returning when I saw her about a mile from the AS. By the time I got to McKinnon, I was only about 45 min ahead of the cutoff. 
Redwood Trees
I was hoping to get into Stinson Beach (mile 28) between 11-12 and I arrived at 12:15. Parts of the descent from McKinnon to Stinson were not runnable for me because of the technicality/erosion of the course, but I ran as much as I could. Jill was waiting for me and after grabbing a little something from the aid table, we took off. 
Picking up Jill at Stinson
My stomach had been a little off during the climb up to Cardiac as well as McKinnon, but the climb out of Stinson up the Dipsea trail pretty much did it in. I kept trying to reset it using the old finger-down-the-throat method, but got nothing but dry heaves. So, I ran the flats & descents and slogged up the climbs, bringing down my pace even more. By the time we got to Old Inn, I missed the 2nd hard cutoff by a few minutes. Blerg.
Had my stomach recovered, I would have been fine continuing the course and finishing unofficially. But knowing that there was plenty more climbing ahead, I didn't think that was wise. I felt bad for Jill, having only a slow 8 miler with me, but she decided to run back to her car at Tennessee Valley and taking the scenic route, managed to get 23 miles in after all. 

I realized afterwards that I was very dehydrated. It's not unusual for me not to pee during a race, since my pee isn't dark when I do. This time, not only did I not pee in 10+ hours, but it didn't become clear until this morning. While the beer Sat night and coffee Sunday morning didn't help, I did drink a lot of water in addition to those tasty beverages. I'm thinking that my nausea may have been induced by the dehydration. Lesson learned: drink at least a full handheld between aid stations, even when it's cold. 

I think the other thing that bit me was just being tired and not able to get adequate training in this time around. I've spent much of the past three months tapering or recovering from several hard efforts and the 5 weeks I devoted to preparing for this race was wrought with difficulties. Kids being sick a lot, lack of childcare and being unmotivated to train at odd hours all contributed to it being a sucky training block. I simply wasn't prepared for all the climbing and still keep a descent pace. I pushed myself more than I had at other ultras, but it wasn't enough. Was my failure due to over racing or over training? Possibly. I won't have this long of a season ever again. 6-8 months of racing is about it for me.

So it was a tough end to a really great first season of ultrarunning. Since I had more climbing at Quad Rock and cleared those cutoffs, I wasn't as concerned with this race. Having done this distance several times before it feels even worse to time out. Finishing within the cutoffs feels like such a low bar already.   

As I've reflected on this race, I wonder if my enjoyment of running 50+ miles will diminish if I am not able to increase my speed to the point of clearing cutoffs. As much as I enjoy the trails, I hate the stress of feeling like I'm going to get pulled. The joy of the day drains when I do get pulled. I certainly don't want to spend money entering and traveling to races that I can't complete because I'm too slow. 

I'm still trying to figure some of this stuff out, but what I do know is that I need a break. I want to remember the season with all of it's joys and not dwell too much on this particular race and it's disappointment. When I start running again sometime in January, I hope to be in a better frame of mind. I'm going to be concentrating on increasing my speed with the hope of having a season of no DNFs.

I was happy to see that Jill got in to Hardrock next year. I hope to help her in some way while I'm there, if I can.

For now, I'm going to sign off of the blog and enjoy some quality time with the family and celebrate the Advent Season. Unless some unexpected inspiration hits, I'll be back to writing sometime early in the next year. 

I love Sufjan Steven's Songs for Christmas and this hymn cover just slays me. Worshiping God is a great way to pull myself out of my navel gazing. I hope you enjoy it too. 

"Christmas is the end of thinking you are better than someone else, because Christmas is telling you that you could never get to heaven on your own. God had to come to you." - Tim Keller

"The Christ child in the manger is forever an indication of the great lengths God will go to reconcile his creation" - Ravi Zacharias

Merry Christmas and Happy Trails,


04 December 2013

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

There's no such thing as bad weather, just soft people. -Bill Bowerman

Damn, it's cold.
T-3 to TNF 50. Finally.

I'm pretty burnt out from training for the past year and can't wait to do something else for a month -- or however long it takes to get the stoke back. Strange things are happening on my runs, even the ones in which I'm feeling good. For instance, about 90 minutes into last week's long run, I just stopped suddenly, because I was done running. I didn't even realize what had happened initially, puzzled by why I was just standing there. I manually restarted myself and finished the run, but it only confirmed what I've been feeling for months. I need a break.

I'm happy my next long run will be a race, with new views, new people and new experiences to drink in. I'm always jazzed at races -- if I could, I'd race every couple of weeks just because I enjoy being there so much. I've never felt the lack of enthusiasm for running in that setting so I'm not expecting it on Saturday.

One thing that has had me concerned the past few weeks has been some nagging hip pain. My chiro-huz has been adjusting me and after putting me through an exam, thought it was probably bursitis. I think he's right. It hurts in that spot every time I run and it's worse after I've done steep climbs or long runs. I'm expecting TNF to be uncomfortable all the way through and that I'll be hobbling for a couple of days until things loosen up a bit. But hey, I'll embrace every horrible minute of it, cause I'm crazy that way.

One thing I realized as my beloved chiro was assigning stretching exercises is that my hip flexibility is terrible. It's so bad that sitting cross-legged is painful. Running has only made this worse. I've begun sitting cross-legged a lot now to stretch things out and it's been improving. I've also started doing some yoga poses that are specific to runners and that's helped ease the pain too.

Once my off-season starts, my initial plan is to focus on doing yoga, core work and strength training to help with muscle balancing to heal the bursitis and keep it from becoming a recurring theme. I also have my bike set up on our trainer so I'll get some cross training in while enjoying some Netflix picks that I've had no time to enjoy this year.  

As I think about TNF 50, I am pretty excited to get to run these storied trails on Saturday. It looks like I may have an author-blogger-adventurer joining me as a pacer for the last 22 miles too. While I think it's silly for an elite runner to have a pacer for a 50 miler when 10k is up for grabs, I'm happy to have the company and allow Jill to have a long run with aid station benefits. Being as I've never run an ultra with bursitis, I'm just hoping to keep the pain management at bay so I can be my normal happy self out there in the Marin Headlands. I want to finish too and well before the cutoff. 

I picked out my TNF outfit and in the spirit of cutting my hair, decided to go hat-less and jewelried, presuming the 40-50 degree weather holds.
In the midst of today's frenzied packing for San Fran, a friend who is also running TNF 50 sent me this course preview, which really got me excited for running the Pirates Cove descent, Matt Davis and Dipsea trails. I'll repost for your enjoyment:

Happy Trails,