Thursday, January 31, 2013

January 2013

Week ending 1/6

Tues 1/1 4 miles on Cottonwood

Wed 1/2 4 miles on Cottonwood

Thu 1/3  4 miles on Cottonwood

Sat 1/5 Tiled the bathroom.

Sun 1/6 11 miles at Croft with Ben. I guess I need this down week, because it felt good to do it. 

from Dairy Ridge: New Edition to the Lake Trail to the pool to Palmetto Trail

Total 23 miles in 4 runs

Week ending 1/13

Tue 1/8  4 miles, including 2 miles barefoot

Wed 1/9  4 miles on Cottonwood

Fri 1/11  3 miles easy

Sat 1/12  31 miles at Tsali Frosty Foot 50K

Total 42 miles in 4 runs

Week ending January 20

Fri 1/18  2 miles. After a rainy week and some needed rest, this run showed just how fatigued I was after Tsali. 

Sat 1/19  7 miles at Croft. I was still pretty dead-legged, and unsure what would happen on Sunday.

from Dairy Ridge: New Edition to Palmetto

Sun 1/20  14 miles at Croft with Bristol. Excellent and fun run with Carroll, Gordon, Seth, Scott and Mark. Running Jerry Perry is always fun, and pretty darn brutal. Carroll and I took a little different route back, cutting off a few miles that Seth, Gordon and Scott ran.

from Dairy Ridge: New Edition to Jerry Perry around the lake to Foster Mill to the Lake Trail to the pool to Palmetto

Total: 23 miles in 3 runs

Seth, Gordon, Mark, Scott, Carroll, Ned
not pictured: The Enduro-Dog

It's a dog's life.

Week ending January 27

Mon 1/21  4 miles, including 2 miles barefoot

Tue 1/22 3 miles

Wed 1/23  2 miles. The trend was ominous, matching my energy level and my body aches. 

Thu, Fri 1/24, 1/25  I listened.

Sat 1/26  7 1/2 miles at Croft with Bristol. A really nice run with the B-Dog. An apparently icy creek crossing sent me downstream a bit to cross at the bridge, adding 1/2 mile.

from Dairy Ridge: New Edition to Lake Johnson connector to Palmetto

Sun 1/27 21 miles at Croft. A terrific morning spent running with Cate and Bristol, mostly, but also Scott, Ben, and Susie Snyder, a pro X-Terra racer from Virginia who happened to be at the trailhead at the same time. Not long into the run Scott, Ben and Susie rolled away, and though I was tempted to go with them, did not. Cate and I had a great talk about all those things you talk about when you run for three and a half hours together. We spent five or seven minutes at the car in between laps, at least some looking for my keys which I had slyly stashed in my waist band. 

from Southside: Centerline to Fern Gully to Southside Loop all the way around including the bedrock crossing, then just Southside Loop around. 

Total 37 1/2 miles in 5 runs

Thu 1/31  4 miles, including 2 miles barefoot. This has been an unhealthy living week so far. Felt good to get out and run after three busy evenings.

January total: 129 1/2 miles in 17 runs

Monday, January 21, 2013

Race Report: Tsali Frosty Foot 50K

On Saturday I ran the Frosty Foot 50K in the mountains of western North Carolina. That’s the simple part. The experience I had and gained is a little more complicated. It’s almost enough to say that I laughed I cried I finished.

The data I got from the race timers says something: I ran the course in 6:58:22, came in 112 of 118 runners, and placed 12th of thirteen in my age group. I have never (I don’t think) finished so deep in a race, and I mean that to brag about my finish. It’s hard to recreate the experience on the trail, but I went deep.

To the start: after driving 2 1/2 hours from Spartanburg to the Tsali Recreation Area near Bryson City, North Carolina, I checked in, gathered my gear, and chatted with a runner friend Scott as runners gathered at the start line. One decision I made--not to carry my handheld bottle, but to wear only my vest with a 50-ounce bladder--proved to be more important than it sounds. We headed up a paved road for a couple hundred yards, then turned onto a dirt road into the woods. 

Tsali is an area known for mountain biking that sits around Fontana Lake. I’d never been there, always an attraction to a race for me. To get to see 31 miles of it in one shot--pretty good tour, I’d say. 

The start
First run: We climbed up the dirt road and crested the ridge, turning downhill toward the lake. The woods reminded me of Croft, pines, hardwoods, beech trees holding their brown leaves, the trail contouring in and around draws. I was conscious of staying slow and easy, The woods were wet and the clouds hung low.

The morning was misty, and it rained the last part of the drive. The timer’s data says something else: 53 degrees at the start, with 95% humidity. I found myself in an in-between spot, seeing runners ahead and behind, but I was basically alone. Through that first section I stayed easy, and tried to drink enough. I hit the first aid station (6 miles) in about 53 minutes. I chatted with Aaron Saft, the race director, whom I hadn’t met. I drank a little water and ate a gel. I did not fill up my bladder, which still felt heavy. I joked that I had now finished the first of my five runs that day (four aid stations).

Second run: Through the next section, I started getting passed by one after another runners. In that time, a group of three women caught up to me, and they’d been laughing and talking the entire time. I told them I felt like I was being chased by “The View.” I ran at the head of that train for a little while, then stepped off to eat another gel, and slow down some. They pulled off ahead of me. 

The course had so far climbed and descended gradually, but for longer pitches than at Croft. Already I started to feel bad, and hoped for some chips or something at the next aid station. This one was just stuck in the woods along the trail, accessed from who knows where. They had drink; I refilled the bladder in my vest, and fumbled around with it all. It didn’t matter much: I was drenched from sweat and mist. I ate a gel, and chatted with local bad-ass Anne Lundblad, who was volunteering with a couple of other enthusiastic folks. I asked her if she was ducking me,and that was why she wasn’t racing. She laughed, and off I went.

Fun at the 3rd aid station.
Third run: I was definitely at a pretty low point. I slowed dramatically, and maybe even panicked a little at how much more I had to go. Runners passed me, always cheerfully. Scott rolled by with a group, which raised my spirits. I love the camaraderie--strangers become supporters--that develops almost immediately at an ultra. But I thought about dropping at the next aid station, which was back at the start/finish area, a little more than halfway, but without conviction. I hung out a little longer here--there were chips and pretzels, my favorites during these runs. I told the folks there that I felt pretty crappy, but that the race pullover was too bad-ass not to finish. I had fun there for a good 10 minutes, eating and drinking, and I think they were finally glad to see me go. For some reason I did not fill my bladder, thinking, I suppose, that I had plenty. I turned back up about 20 yards down the trail to go back and snap a photo with Aaron and a couple of the other volunteers.

Fontana Lake, from one of the overlooks
Fourth run: I’d been walking the steepest uphills already, and this section climbed the second of two awesome overlooks of Fontana Lake. The Tennessee Valley Authority lets the lake down in the winter, I was told, as part of the flood control Fontana Dam was built to provide, along with the electricity at the center f the need. The low water level left engineered slopes exposed, giving the lake a kind of industrial look up close, but which left a clay-orange border between the water and the woods. There were several docks left beached, no doubt to float again in spring.

I tripped on the descent from the Mouse Branch Trail overlook, stumbling a bit, but immediately cramping hard in both legs. Up to that point I’d felt the onset of the cramps, and had started consciously drinking more.  About halfway through that 7-plus mile loop, I ran out of water. I was trying to run 10 minutes then walk two minutes, but the terrain wasn’t cooperating. I decided to walk the uphills and run the downhills and flats, which all came in pretty rapid succession.

I was bonking bad. I got discouraged, I walked and cramped, I tried to run more. By the time I got to the last aid station at about 23 1/2 miles, I’d decided I was going to drop. I knew it would only be a mile walk back to the start/finish, and I was prepared to pack it in. I got to the aid station, though, and just hung out. I told the volunteers I was dropping. I ate some chips, and one of the volunteers just dug my bladder out of my vest and refilled it. I handed the vest to him to put back in--my fingers would not work. Another of the volunteers told me to sit down for a while. I did so, fearing I would start cramping. I didn’t, and I relaxed in the chair and drank. Another volunteers (these folks were awesome all day long) brought me cups of water and GuBrew every time she saw me empty. I nearly finished the bladder.

My stomach was feeling a little queasy, but after a while I saw the potato chip bag sitting on the table. One of the volunteers asked me if I wanted him to give it to me. “No,” I said, “Leave it there to lure me out of this chair.” He laughed.

The last aid station
That turned out to be a good decision. I’d been sitting there a good while, watching about 20 runners come and go, all in various states of hurt. I cheered as much as I could, joked with people, and tried to stay positive. I was now able to put food in me, and had not cramped getting up. I finally decided I would continue on, about 7-plus miles to go, and finish this damn thing no matter what.

Fifth run: I high-fived the volunteers, who no doubt had thought I was finished, and set off down the trail feeling remarkably good. My gait was reasonably smooth, and I was moving along at a fair pace. I was still walking the uphills, but with intention. I passed a few runners, and we cheered each other on. 

That lasted a couple of miles, maybe three. Then I was basically alone, a cheerful woman in pink ahead of me working hard, too. I did not learn her name, nor she mine, but her presence was invaluable. “Who’s tough?” I called out a couple of times. “We’re tough,” I answered for us both.  

I walked fast those last miles, but every time I ran I started to cramp. I decided I would just walk (again with intention), though I did try a few more times to run with varying short-lived success. Two guys I had seen all day on the course spectating and helping out came back towards me. They told me I was about 5K (3.1 miles) from the finish; I thought I was much farther, so got that little mental boost. The Fig Newton one of them gave me was another treat.

I was not (that) miserable. I knew I would finish, and I rallied the mental troops to help out. I thought a lot about my dad, and how he “soldiered on,” as he said. “I’m still here,” he'd say when you asked him how he was doing. I thought of a woman I follow on Twitter, YumaBev, who approaches her Parkinson’s with humor enough to write a book about it.  I thought of Dave and Dr. Dennis, whom I met at the Jam in the Park for Parkinsons. Again, life gave me lessons important in running, and I kept going, if only to show them that I could face my temporary difficulties with at least some of the grace and endurance they face their permanent ones. I always say that I am celebrating my mobility by running the Ice Age Trail 50 at age 50, and in part to raise money to find a cure for a disease that degrades mobility. The least I can do is finish.

I got pretty emotional, actually, when I started thinking about the finish of my goal race. I thought about who might be there--my Wisconsin cousins maybe, my mother, my Gorgeous. I went pretty deep, mostly to occupy my time still walking. I learned a great deal about running and finishing. I could have gone another 19 miles to 50 miles. I wouldn’t have gone fast, or run much, but I would finish. I will finish.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Data Dump 2012

January 186 miles in 24 runs (high)
February 176.5 in 29 runs
March 168.5 miles in 29 runs
April 150 miles in 24 runs
May 172 1/2 miles in 25 runs
June 65 1/2 miles in 14 runs
July 53 1/2 miles in 9 runs (low)
August 100 miles in 17 runs
September 89 miles in 16 runs
October 83 miles in 12 runs
November 70 miles in 11 runs
December 126 1/2 miles in 15 runs

Total 1440 1/2 miles in 225 runs
average 6.4 miles per run
  27.7 miles per week

January to May 2012 853 miles in 131 runs
June to December 2012 587 1/2 miles in 94 runs

5 weeks 50+ miles
9 weeks 40+ miles

Longest streak 76 days (January 8-March 24)

        January 6 Harbison 50K 6:22
        March 24 Terrapin Mountain 50K 5:45
        October 27 Nu-Way 5K 1 beer, 1 donut
        November 2 KT Darkness Falls 7 miler 1:06:19
        November 10 Camp Croft 1/2 Marathon 1:55:45
        November 22 Turkey Day 8K 32:20
        December 15 Last Chance 50K 5:01
I probably had too many down weeks, or it took me too long to build back up after the summer. We’ll see how it shakes out in 2013, but setting annual mileage goals is not my gig. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Year in Review, 2012

The past year was eventful, for sure. I turned fifty, ran a bunch, raced some, watched my children grow, loved my Gorgeous. Of course the passing of a parent makes for an eventful year, no matter what. So here are 12 things that helped make my year.

12. Team Fox

Running for Team Fox, whose proceeds benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, has given me a particular purpose in my running. I have always run for many reasons, chief among them my own mental health. Without running, I’m a pretty miserable wretch, grumpy, energy-less, depressed. 

At Jam In the Park
But this year, with my dedication to raising money to fund research for a cure for Parkinson’s has affected my motivation, my racing, and my mental approach. When I wear the jersey, I remember my father, and inevitably I meet people whose lives have been affected by Parkinson’s disease. I have met patients, family members, and friends whose loved ones suffer through the physical breakdown of a disease that gradually diminishes event he most basic functions. I remember how lucky I am (in so many ways), and how grateful I should be for being able to run ridiculously long distances with no other motivation than to do so.
The fund-raising aspect is simple: just click on the Team Fox logo on the right side of this page, and you’ll go directly to my donation page. All donations are tax-deductible, but more importantly, 88 cents of every dollar donated goes to research. Team Fox itself  raised over $6 million, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation has granted over $56 million dollars. I hope you will become part of that effort.

11. Supplements of the year

Performance enhancing drugs?
I’m not huge on supplements, in part because I know that I should be able to get what I need from a healthy diet, and in part because I forget to take them. But these two have been fairly constant in my life for a while. My chiropractor told me to take the iodine to help with Achilles and general muscle soreness. A few drops in a glass of water is all I’ve taken in a day, and to some extent, it seems to have worked. There may be a placebo effect here, but I’ll take it anyway.
The Feel Good pills are for my adrenal system, according to my chiropractor. I have a hard time getting past the bovine adrenal glands that lead the list of ingredients; that gives my family plenty to tease me about. I call them performance enhancing drugs.
      But they work. I feel better when I take them. I haven’t checked for any particular side effects. I don’t moo, and there appears to be no udder development. I am generally more able to recover from runs, and don’t feel like I’m dragging through runs. Said chiropractor told me my “adrenals were wrecked.” 

10. Race of the year

So I’ll name two: Terrapin Mountain 50K in March and the Last Chance 50K in December.
This year’s Terrapin Mountain 50K was the first time I’d run a 50K I’d run previously. Doing so gives me a sense of my training, it gives me a sense of time and pace. I worried this year about feeling too much pressure to hit my splits, and when I didn’t for the first 20 miles I kept telling myself that the 2011 race was perfect, in perfect conditions. This year, in the rain and cold, I told myself, I shouldn’t focus on time but on the experience. But I continued on, with focus and desire, and ended up running the last ten miles faster than I had the previous year. Chatting with ultra-legend David Horton afterwards, I was thrilled when he told me that my time--five minutes faster than the previous year and all made up in the last ten miles--showed that my training was going well. The affirmation was strengthening.
The Last Chance 50K was a different story. I knew the course was very flat, and I also knew I was not as far along in my training as I had been at Terrapin, for example. I started off slowly, and ended up running the same pace the entire race, with just a touch of slowing at the end. The experience was new to me at the distance, and one where I affirmed what I had heard about 100 mile races: you should get to mile 60 feeling like you’ve run too slowly. though my race wasn’t as long, the same pattern applies.

9.  Training lesson: running every day

Though I have surely run every day in my 29 years of running, I’ve never kept track of any streaks, and I never purposely set out to run a streak. After the Harbison 50K last January, I decided to give the streak a shot. After a coup;e of weeks of somewhat extra fatigue, I broke through some kind of barrier, and everyday running was easy, motivating, and remarkably physically energizing. I felt more loose, less tired, less achy. though I stopped the streak after 76 days, ending with the Terrapin race, I think the experience was telling. I’ll go on some streaks again this year, but as before, I won’t be silly about it. Injury, or what feels like excessive fatigue will no doubt lead to breaks. the consistency brought on by the attention to the streak is very valuable.

8.  Training lesson: every 4th week off

During that streak, I would run three hard weeks, and then rest the fourth. I’d read of such patterns in the past, but had never experienced the phenomenon. I had no choice the first month--I was dead-legged for a week. I ran every day, but cut back the mileage to give my body and mind some recovery time. It worked very well.
Partner of the Year, the B-Dog

7.  Training lesson: summer off

In the past, I have had down times every year. Often I would fret about it, feeling unmotivated and tired. these down-times generally came in the deep of winter, often when running was made more difficult by early darkness, cold and rainy or snowy weather, and more busy work times. I would spend my summers off from teaching like training camp. In 2011, though, I had a pretty rough summer, and realized something my brother had told me many years earlier: in the deep heat of southern summers, he would run when he felt like it, and do some long runs in the mountains on the weekends, but without focus. I made that part of my training, and in those 100 degree days of July, I was glad to be able to put my feet up and not feel like I was bagging my training.

6.  Racing lesson: say something funny at every aid station

I’m not sure where this one came from, but I started doing it with purpose in 2012. I have always been a pretty happy runner, and have gotten mad at myself when frustration or fatigue led me to be something of an asshole to the people around me. This year I established my forever goals: 1. love the trails, 2. don’t be miserable, and 3. say something funny at every aid station. Number three, I say, has a lot to do with number two. I have told folks that I paid money to run this race, so why should I take my misery out on others.

5.  Injury-free

At the risk of blowing my mojo, I have been basically injury free this entire year. I’ll attribute that to all of the above training lessons I’ve learned. I’ve had niggles, as they say--achy Achilles, sore hamstrings, tired lower back--but none have kept me from running for more than a day or two.

4.  Running with a Purpose

At the Terrapin 50K
Of course related to number 12, my blog’s tag line started as just something I’d say. But it has become such a great motivation and such a source of perspective that I hope to keep it up after May’s 50 mile race. Paying close attention to my father’s diminishing physical self, and reading more about Parkinson’s disease and its devastating effects, I am more grateful for what I can do, more in the moment with my running, and with less effort, if you will, than ever before. Running with the goal of raising money to help support the search for a cure for Parkinson’s makes the good, the bad and the ugly of my habit easier to take.

3.  Partner of the Year 

Easy: he always has time for me, carpools (though he never drives), doesn’t need to carry water or food, and is never earlier or later than I am. Bristol leads sometimes, follows some times, and gives me a great deal of pleasure.

2.  Family

I am lucky for so many reasons. This one should really be number one. I get such great pleasure watching my children grow up and develop lives of their own. They support my running with humor, and occasionally, when they forget themselves, will tell me, in the words of my 14-year-old son, that my running is “pretty bad-ass.” Little pleases me more.
Vacation lunch with my Gorgeous
What pleases me more is the love and support of my Gorgeous. Besides putting up with me going off to run all day sometimes, and getting home from work in time to go running, she has been able to go to some of my races, and her presence gives me immense pleasure. To finish a race knowing she will be there at the finish to kiss me, to bring me water or food, to take pictures, to generally give me a base that I need, is surely the joy of my existence. I am very lucky.

1. Life gives lessons for running

This year, more than any other, I find this reversal of what many runners talk about--how running teaches us about life--to be more true than I’ve ever thought. No matter the circumstances, losing a parent is difficult. We know EO is better off, we know my mother is well taken care of, we know that her life would have only gotten more difficult as his caretaker, we know that the parent dying is the right order of things. But that is my father, present my entire life, and now gone.
I remember that evening at dinner with him and my mother, the week C and I were heading to the mountains of West Virginia for me to run the Highlands Sky 40 mile race, him ordering a 19-ounce steak bloody rare, the way he liked it, and my mother reminding him to chew slowly and to cut his meat into smaller bites. But Parkinson’s makes such hand-eye coordination difficult. He choked on a piece of that meat, and despite my attempts to do the Heimlich maneuver, he could not clear his passageway, and he passed out in my arms. He never regained consciousness.
That memory will never leave me, and often wakes me up at night, as it does C. But I remember the conversation we were having. He and my mother had spent the past 15 or so years traveling extensively, four months a year, he would crow. But the Parkinson’s made travel first difficult as he fell in an alleyway in Turkey and had to cut a trip short, and finally made it impossible as getting through airports, to hotels, through tours became too tiring.
His answer runs with me daily: “We are satisfied with where we’ve been. We’ve travelled to 30 countries, and seen what we wanted to see.” That satisfaction with what he’d done, at the end of his life (and as it turned out, the very end), gives me inspiration for doing things, for enjoying what I have, for taking nothing for granted and living my life as hard as I can.
  As I’ve said before, running teaches me some things, like to carry water, and to double-knot my shoes. But life, and the living of it, gives me much more than just running. Running is part of my life, not my entire life. And the life-work balance, that's bullshit. There is life, and that’s it. Work is part of it, running is part of it, my beautiful children and the joy they give me, the amazing love of my Gorgeous--that’s all part of it. I could live without some, and could of course continue to live without running, but love--that’s it.