Friday, January 30, 2015

Holy Hills and Loose Dogs Plus a Bull or Two: Encounters on the Long Run

Last weekend, I needed 15 miles on my long run.  The training plan called for it.  I'd run 13.1 and 14 the two weeks prior.  It was TIME.  For me, 15 miles is a turning point in training.  It is the turn into serious running territory.  A 15-mile run can go a lot of ways.  Not all of them are good!

It turned into a frustrating run of slow and snow and cold, and I pulled the plug at 11.5 miles.  This week, I knew I HAD to get it in.

I'm also coaching 17 people for a spring half marathon.  It's a sweet gig, and I enjoy helping these runners on their journey to 13.1.  Last weekend was actually their first group run of five miles, and thank goodness no one fell on the snowy, slippery greenway.  This weekend, they are running six hilly miles in my favorite running neighborhood.  I knew it would be tough to run six with them and have a break to coach them in stretching, etc, and then have to continue for nine more on my own, so I found a friend who wanted to do a long run today while the kids were at school.

It got interesting when my littlest also told me last night that she has awards day at 12 at school. That gave me a fairly small window to get in 15 miles and get presentable and back to school!

I dropped her off at school the minute it opened and rushed back home to head out.  I had to run at least 3 miles before my friend arrived because she didn't need a run quite as long as mine.  I wound up with a relaxed 3.5 miles in my neighborhood.  Well, relaxed might be the wrong word. There is one dog in my neighborhood that scares me--a large, muscular German Shepherd with an underground electric fence, who never lets me pass without barking at me loudly (and angrily?).  I had to pass her twice.  Shiver.  I always worry that her electric shock collar will have a dead battery....

I realized within the first three miles that my legs were still a bit tired from 5 miles of speedwork on Tuesday and a 7-mile trail run on Wednesday.

My friend arrived, and we headed out.  We passed scary dog again, and she is much less scary with a buddy.  We headed for some country roads near my house.  Country roads = hills and loose dogs, apparently.  We were running happily along when a dog ran out at us. This one didn't stop at the edge of the yard like the one with the invisible fence.  He came all the way into the road and had no collar.  I just instinctively said, "No! Go home!"  And he stopped.  He crouched down and looked like he felt guilty.  We kept moving, but I picked up a large stick to carry.  We went down a side road and knew we'd have to face him again.

We ran on a pretty country road for a while, up and down big hills.  At another house, two dogs were VERY excited to see us.  They came out as a pair, running as fast as they could toward us.  We froze, but their whole bodies were pretty much wagging.  They crossed the road to us, but they just wanted to say hi.  I petted them for a minute, and they were happy.

We continued.  We ran and ran and ran.  Then we checked our mileage.  Five miles???  We've only been five miles?  Whaaaaat?

You know those runs that seem endless?  Turns out my friend was also pretty tired, and we were both struggling a bit.  We walked the big hills and just kept making forward progress.  We did an out and back, so we got to stop and pet the friendly dogs again (well, just me) and deal with the less-friendly loose dog (he was totally crouched in a ditch waiting for us).   We took a different country road for a mile or so and saw two huge bulls looking at us as we ran toward them.  Then we noticed the gate was open to their pen. Wide open.  There was a grate at the bottom of that apparently animals don't like to walk across though, but that was the only thing between us and them.   I freaked out a little and turned back.  I don't really have experience with bulls and grates.  I just know I don't want a bull chasing me.  Country running has its advantages and disadvantages. :-)

We ran back toward my house as best we could.... relentless forward progress.  We got quiet. I turned on my music.  We walked the big hills and the small ones, too.  We finally got back to the house.  I was short two miles, but I had about 22 minutes before I HAD to get into the shower.  Onto the treadmill I climbed.  I finished mile 15 at 11:02 a.m., grabbed a bite to eat, jumped into the shower, and sat down at awards day with 6 minutes to spare.

It was just one of those runs.  My forearm is sore from carrying the big stick, too.  I wonder if it would have worked on the bulls?    :-)

My baby got all A's and B's at the awards day, so I signed her out early from school to take her for some sushi and ice cream!

Monday, January 19, 2015

A Belated New Year's Post: Building a Sturdy Runner

I've been letting my new year's running resolution simmer.  Marinate.  Sink in.  It stemmed from a church service early in the new year.  I paraphrased from a general life application to a more specific running application:

So, this year, I will build a sturdy runner-- one who can run 5K's hard and 50K's gently, one who is equally at home on roads and trails, one who conquers hills and glides across flats, one who is consistent in training and avoids burnout.

I will accomplish this by strength training, training smart, and listening to my body.  The ultimate goal is to run for the rest of my life.  Sturdy.  Strong.  Motivated.  Happy.

I'm carefully building a base.  I just had my one-year anniversary with IT band friction syndrome in my right knee.  It doesn't go away--it flares and it improves in an annoying cycle.  My left knee is a bit better as long as I don't do any lunges.

It's only January.  I've got lots of time.

It's a PROCESS that will take patience.

Monday, December 29, 2014

2014 Running--The Year in Review

It's time for my annual running year in review.  I'm keeping a record of my running life in this blog for when I'm old and can't remember.  It's like my journal.

2014 Running Goals WERE--
1.  To run in new races and places.  (Done and Done!  Chuckanut Mountain in Washington State was the most awesome one.)
2.  To run happy and healthy. (Mostly.)
3.  To tackle some long distances. (Yep.  26.2 X 4 plus two ultras--a 41-miler and a trail 50K.) 
4.  To use running for stress relief and renewal.  (For the most part.)
5.  To enjoy each and every race, even when it's hard, even when I'm slow and to have gratitude for running.  (Not at the Southern TN Power Classic marathon.  Misery after mile 11. Personal worst!)

Overall, I'd say this was a more successful year than 2013, at least as far as my attitude toward running as I come to the close of the year.  I'm definitely running slower, but I've run happier.

The races:

January--No races!  

February-- Dry Creek Marathon.  This was a really fun race with my friend Andrea in a hunting preserve.  It was the most beautiful February day--blue skies and 65 degrees.  The course was a little hillier than expected, but I enjoyed running the first half with Andrea and battling it out on my own in the second half.  One of two trail/unpaved marathons this year.

March--  LBL 23K Trail Race.  This was definitely an adventure.  Grand Rivers, KY had received a 7-inch snowfall earlier that week that just wouldn't budge.   I ran on hard packed snow, waded through slush, and skated on icy pavement.  I was lucky to only fall over once.  The whole time, I focused on being careful and the novelty of running on snow for the first time.  My feet were numb by mile 10 or 11!   I finished this race much stronger than the year before.

Two weeks later--- Greenway Marathon.  This was another hilly race.  I ran a little faster than planned in the first half and paid the price in the second half.  It was in this race that I realized the truth of marathons---once you get to mile 20, you know you are going to be ok.  I struggled in 14-20, but passing that mile 20 marker let me know I'd survive.  My IT Band was not my friend that day.  After this race, I took some time off to rest/recover the IT Band.  One of two road/pavement marathons this year.

April--  Oak Barrel Half Marathon.  I ran this with my husband.  I tried to pace him conservatively, but really 2:16 was about all I had that day.  He had a great race and  could have run faster.  My legs were tired from the above races, as all of these were spaced about two weeks apart.

May-- Viola Valley Half Marathon.  This was another hilly (I see a theme here!) race in the countryside near Manchester, TN.   I ran a total of 3 races within an hour of Manchester (where my inlaws live) this year.   I had an ok race.  I walked on some of the hills.  I can't say I ran strong, but I didn't run terribly, either.

Then my SUMMER OF RUNNING, the best part of my year! 

June-- Run Under the Stars.  Despite some blister issues, I got a personal long of 41 miles!   I had the BEST miles between 30 and 40.   I truly felt like an ultramarathoner. 

Backass Jackal Trail Marathon.  My 2nd of two trail marathons.  I PR'd by 26 minutes over my time the year before.  I paced smart and finished strong.  It was HOT, and I got dizzy/woozy the last 2 or 3 miles.  The 2.5 hour drive home was LONG after that.

July-- Chuckanut Mountain Half Marathon.  My destination race of the year!!!   It was a gorgeous course spent with my close friend Rebecca and high school classmate Stacey.   Our time was slow, but we stopped for pictures often and took our time.  This was my first time to climb a mountain!  It made me realize I want to climb more mountains in my lifetime.  

August-- Wild Thang 9-mile trail run.  The heat got to me.  I felt dizzy and nauseous and my legs didn't work too well.  The one blight on an otherwise great summer!   It fell in the middle of a high mileage month.  I could tell.  August 2014 was my highest mileage month ever.

September-- Stanky Creek Trail 50K.  Another highlight of my year.  I LOVED this race.  I tapered well the first part of September.  This race fell the day after my 44th birthday.  I think I enjoyed every single step, every creek crossing, climbing every muddy embankment!   My first 50K trail race with a strong finish.  Good company on my trip to Memphis and perfect weather, too!

And things started going downhill......

October--  Southern TN Power Classic.  Worst. Race. Ever.  Just three weeks after Stanky Creek, my body was NOT ready for 26.2.  I was ok up until about mile 11 or 12.  Then my race went downhill.... and by that, I mean it continued to go UP and UP and UP more hills.  Every step was painful.  My muscles were tight and sore.  Running simply hurt.  Stomach upset, too. Ugh. Personal worst.  A nice gentleman I met at mile 21 really helped get me to the finish.   I felt like my body was breaking down. It was after this HORRIBLE race, I decided to let the Tunnel Hill 50 miler go.  It was the right decision.  I was very burned out at this point.  

Go Commando Half Marathon.  Two weeks after Power Classic.  I actually had a slow but steady race.  I ran every hill.  I was happy about that.  All of my trainees finished this tough course.  My finish time was 8 minutes slower than last year. Fatigue had compounded in my legs over the last few months-that much was evident.  I knew my body was telling me to back off a bit.  I was relieved to be done with long races for the year.

Halloween Hunt 5- Miler.  I ran this on the week after Go Commando with my husband.  We dressed as "early morning trail runners" (covered in spider webs).  My legs had NADA that day.  I struggled.  I had a few weeks of rest after this one.  I ran just a few miles per week.

November--Farm Bureau Holiday 10K.  I ran a strong five-mile race!  :-)  I enjoyed it until the last mile and the hills at the end.  My time was slower than I expected, but I hadn't run 10K pace pretty much all year!

Turkey Trot 5K.  I had a GREAT race.  27:16.  How I ran just 17 seconds off my PR, I don't know.  Lucas pacing me the first two miles might have helped.  I maintained pace alone that last mile though!   

December-- No races!

Those are my 15 official races for 2014.  I left out two "unofficial" races I did with friends---both were half-marathons on trails.  One was at Rotary Park with Andrea and the other was at Beaman Park with Middle TN Trail Runners.  We almost got arrested for our unofficial "not a real race but with bibs and medals" and lacking park permission, but it was still a fun day.  

What a GREAT YEAR overall.  BLESSED!!!

One of the greatest blessings just kind of fell together in June.  Middle TN Trail Runners formed and quickly became my local trail running family.  My trail brothers and sisters have given me so much support and encouragement as we have run, tripped, laughed, and face planted together (and nearly got arrested....).  With this group, I went on my first night trail run, another highlight of the year.

I'm happy to have had my running community grow much larger this year with new friends from far and near!   I think when it comes down to it, running is really more about the people you meet and spend time with than anything.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Marathon Training Has Begun.... Sort of.

I have had a fun few weeks of running.  Operation Regain Speed has been in full effect.  

On Thanksgiving morning, I ran the Pass the Turkey 5K, a race I helped create, here in my hometown.  I not only passed the (very pregnant) turkey, I was only 17 seconds off my 5K PR from three years ago.  Happiness!!!!

I started out in the middle of the pack, and that forced me to go slower for that first mile.  I think it was around an 8:54 pace.  I ran with a couple of friends in mile 1.  In mile 2, my friend Lucas and I chatted (well, he chatted, I cannot really talk at an 8:40 pace very well) and finished that mile in 8:42.  My legs were feeling great, but my breathing was once again very heavy and ragged.  After mile 2, Lucas jetted ahead to try to catch a friend, and I was on my own.  I thought maybe I would slow down, but I didn't.  At one point, I was running an 8:22 pace.  I backed off a bit.  At 2.77 miles, I was running hard enough to feel nauseous.  Then things got confusing.  Those of us on the course were running blindly.  There were no volunteers or course markers, and we weren't sure where to go.  Some went one way, some went the other.  I saw my friend Ashley take a sharp left turn, and I followed her.  There was probably supposed to be a marker or volunteer there because I finished with exactly 3.11!  My 3rd mile averaged 8:42, and my .11 was 8:25.  I finished in 27:16.  That was a victory for me.  I know I can break 27:00 in 2015.   I'm just happy to see some 8s in my running.  It's been a while. I think I ran only one 8:40 mile in all of 2014 until these last weeks.   Two days later, I ran an 8-mile long run with very tired legs.  Those fast miles took alot out of me! 

I am digging running only 3-4 runs per week, but running harder.  I am still averaging 20-24 miles per week.

I officially started my marathon training plan two weeks ago.  It's a Strength Running 20-week plan.  However, I am tweaking it somewhat.  If I've learned nothing else over the last couple of years, I've learned that a training plan is a mere suggestion, and I know my body BETTER than anyone else possibly could.  For now, I have found a way of running that is making me happy and is getting results. Plus, the marathon isn't until April 18, 2015 anyway, so I'm only sort of following the actual plan.  I may get more serious about it in January.  

My left knee continues to plague me. I started day 1 of the plan with it bothering me.  The plan had me bumping up to 26 miles per week or so the first week, but I didn't.  I ran my runs very easy the first couple of days to help the knee.  For the 5-mile speedwork day, I ran at a park fully on the grass.   It was FUN doing 8 one-minute intervals at 5K pace in the grass.  I had to work harder since the grass was so thick and did not provide energy return.  I managed to run them at around an 8:30 pace though.  Then I eliminated the 3 mile run the day before the 10 mile long run because I didn't want to run that day.  I fast walked two miles on the treadmill on an incline while watching The Tonight Show instead.  Crosstraining!  My first long run on the plan wasn't great last Saturday.  My friend and I were both not feeling great, and we walked a lot.  The plan called for 11, but I thought 10 sounded more reasonable. I didn't keep the long run pace between the prescribed 10 and 11 minute mile pace like I was supposed to.  

This week was supposed to be a repeat of week 1, but I shook it up a bit.   I ran 3.1 on Monday at tempo--a 9:30 pace in a very hilly neighborhood.   I also walked 3 miles that day.  Honestly, I felt bad on Monday, too.  I was about to get discouraged.  I didn't run at all on Tuesday.  Life intervened.  Finally, on Wednesday, I went back to the same park where I'd done the grassy intervals.  This time, I ran on the pavement, but still did 6 of the 1-minute intervals in the grass.  Running in the grass is just FUN!  I still kept the intervals around an 8:30 pace, and I enjoyed the run.  On Thursday, I did strength training and core.  I didn't run at all.  I had to move my long run to today-Friday- due to work, and  I had a much better 10 miler.  I ran alone in 24-degrees and maintained an average 10:24 pace.  That doesn't sound fast, I know.  However, for a training run, it's fairly fast for me.  I didn't stop once.  Many times, I find myself stopping by the car or jumping into a port o john on a long run.  There was no stopping today.  Actually, I ran the first 7 fairly relaxed and picked up the pace in 1/2 mile intervals in the last 3.  It was neat to remind my body to switch gears in a long run.  I hadn't done that in a while. So, I'm at 19 miles for the week (not counting the walking miles), so I may try to get in 2 or 3 tomorrow before or after work.  

So, I guess it's marathon training---lite.  No stress.  No pressure.  Run what I feel like while maintaining a bit of structure.  Strength train at least twice a week. Add some quality to the long runs. 

I wonder if running every other day is really what my body prefers?  Hmmmm.  In Run Faster by Brad Hudson, that's what he suggests for masters runners. He says after 40, our muscles lose their elasticity and ability to recover.    I'm so married to mileage though....  It would be a big switch.  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Shifting Gears and Farm Bureau 10K Race Report

I've had a lot of fun this month.  I'm thankful I gave my body and mind a break from marathon and ultra training.  I've run with renewed excitement and determination for the most part on the track at the local college, on roads, on trails, and just tried to adapt to cold-weather running again.

I feel like I've turned a corner.  

The mental burnout is gone.

The chronically tired legs are gone.  

The stuck-in-slow-pace mode is gone.  

I just needed to wake back up.  In hindsight, I see many failings of my training in the past year.  One area that I neglected was speed, especially threshold runs.  I simply did almost no running at my 5K or 10K pace.  Another area I neglected was strength training.  I didn't really train my core, my hips, my glutes, or my hamstrings on a regular basis.  However, I ran two ultramarathons, four marathons, and five half-marathons, so there's that.  :-)  I'm just ready to shift gears now.  

Reading the book (or devouring it is more like it) Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon: How to Be Your Own Best Coach was so eye-opening!  I see areas in which I am strong (endurance) and areas in which I am weak (strength and speed).  I know what to do in my future training to correct these!  It is THE BEST training book I've ever read.

So, for the past three or four weeks, I've trained differently.  I started doing more strength training.  I ran a 5K time trial on my own in 27:37, which is only 37 seconds off my fastest 5K of three years ago.  I was surprised at that one! I am relieved the leg pain and fatigue when I run are both gone. There were a few weeks between the most recent ultra and the marathon and the half marathon in which runs simply HURT.  

My goal has been to maintain 20 miles per week, and I have. I think that's reasonable.  I can still enter into marathon training for my April marathon with a decent base.  It's just been nice to not stress about the miles.

The one dark spot in an otherwise happy running month has been my left knee.  Patellar tendonitis has flared up.  I used to struggle with it in that knee when I first started running.  I was doing a single-legged squat one day three weeks ago, and a pain just ripped through that knee.  At first it only hurt during single leg squats and lunges.  Then it occasionally hurt during runs.  Then it started  hurting going up and down stairs.  So, I stopped doing squats and lunges.  I'm making sure to warm up well before runs, and I'm aware of it, but the pain is only at maybe a 1.  I'm hoping it just passes as it did before.  I ran through it then, and I'm running through it now. (We runners are like that.)  It got worse for a little while, but now it's holding steady and some days, I don't feel it at all.  When it flares up, I try not to feel disappointed or frustrated, but sometimes I fail and a dark cloud descends on my day. (We runners are like that, too.)  My husband's left knee is weirdly doing the same thing.  Sympathy pains, I guess....

On Saturday, I ran my first 10K race in almost two years.  Since I had run the 3.1 mile time trial at about an 8:54 pace, I figured I would be able to run at or close to a 9:30-9:40 pace.  I also knew that I needed a 9:39 pace or better to come in under one hour.  Running 6.2 miles at a 9:39 pace seemed doable.  

About two weeks before the race, read a couple of articles about the body/brain connection.  They advised that we should run more often without a watch, just listening to the signals our body is sending us, also known as "running naked."  (Regular Google it. Don't Google image it.  Just. Don't.)

Where was I?

Then Coach Jason Fitzgerald from Strength Running sent a "success story" article in which he advised a client to get rid of her watch and run by feel.  Running by feel only, she was able to run faster than ever before and ran a half marathon PR!  The watch had been holding her back.

So, I figured I'd try it in the Farm Bureau Holiday 10K.  I purposefully left my Garmin running watch on the kitchen counter.  I just planned to run hard, but not too hard and see where it got me!

My friend Andrea and I left for Springfield around 8:30 that morning for the 10:00 a.m. start.  We met up with some friends from Clarksville who are also members of the Middle TN Trail Runners club we are a part of.  We dressed festively in honor of the event.  This is my friend Cheryl, Andrea, and me.

Andrea and I did some dynamic warm up stretches (as recommended on Strength Running) and ran about 1/2-3/4 mile warm up.  Without my watch, I have no idea how far it was!  We realized we were only 4 minutes from race time while in the middle of our warm up jog, so we hurried back to the starting line.  Everyone was already lined up!  We found a spot near Cheryl and our friend Jeffrey, and then another runner and I recognized one another from Facebook and introduced ourselves.  It's funny when that happens! 

We started, and I looked down at my empty wrist in an attempt to hit the start button.  Then I smiled.  :-) 

 The start was a downhill.  I tried to hold back and run a pace that felt natural.  I tried to tune into that brain/body connection.  But I'm pretty sure I don't have one.  

Andrea said later that I started out at about a 9:06 pace.  I was aiming for about 9:30-9:40 pace.   But my pace felt right.  My legs felt GREAT. I estimated I was running about a 9:30 pace, 9:15 at the fastest.  Something was wrong with my breathing though.  It was much too rough for a 9:30 pace.  I acknowledged this and tried to slow down.  It was my body sending me a SIGNAL!   But my breathing (and likely my pace) stayed pretty much the same.  

I decided to distract myself.  I picked a lady up ahead who looked like she might be in my age group and made it my goal to pass her.  
In mile two, I ran on her shoulder for a while.  Drafting is not something I'm particularly good at.  We almost tangled up a couple of times trying to run the tangents on the curvy greenway path.  Finally, I dropped her on a hill. ("Oh my gosh, I have just officially won the imaginary race between this lady and me!! And on a HILL!!!")  That made me feel very happy.  I've been doing hill sprints and strength training, and I can actually tell a difference. 

So, I picked out two other ladies to race.  Ummm......
One was younger than me most likely, but one was clearly in that 40-44 age group.  I can spot us!  I was mostly focused on my age competitor. She was shorter than me, sort of muscular, and was running strong and consistently.  I was careful not to let them pull ahead and maintained an even distance behind them.  We got to the 3.1 mile turnaround, and the ladies I was chasing both slowed to walk through the water stop.  Without trying, I zipped past them.  I drank a sip on the go and kept moving. Then almost immediately the shorter lady passed me back!  Oh, it was ON. I ran just behind her through about mile 4, waiting to make my move.  I pulled ahead a bit finally, but she sped up, too! I could hear her crunching leaves behind me, so I couldn't let up.  I kept pushing.  My breathing was more ragged than I would have preferred, but I was having FUN.  Two forty-somethings battling it away on the greenway, no chance of winning the actual race, but an age group place is worth fighting for!

Racing is fun.  Running hard is fun.  My legs felt awesome, it was just the breathing holding me back.  I have simply done way too few threshold runs.  My legs can handle the pace, but my breathing hasn't caught up.  My legs seemed to be on automatic pilot. I could barely feel them.  They were just doing what they've been taught to do.  It was pretty cool.

Finally, at mile 5, that too-fast start and the most likely erratic pacing began to catch up to me.  I really feel like I ran a strong race through mile 5.  I had picked off the three people I wanted to pass.  I wasn't passed by anyone in miles 4-5.  Then it sort of came apart.  Fatigue or lactic acid crept into my legs, and I'm sure I slowed.  Without a Garmin, I didn't know how much.  The good thing is my Garmin pace wasn't there taunting me, shaming me, and making me feel defeated.  (We runners are like that.)  A long uphill segment began.  My legs had begun to tire, so I walked twice on the hill.   At the top of the hill, I had no idea how far was left in the race.  That is definitely a drawback to "running naked."  I didn't know if it was time to leave it all out there yet or if another mile remained.  

The end was a series of turns as we wove our way back to Main Street.  I didn't yet have a visual of the clock.  As I thought about what the clock would say, I didn't know if it would say 56 minutes or 59 minutes or 1:03.  I was definitely hoping for under an hour.  I finally got my visual.  It said 1:00:20.   Can you tell my reaction?



It has been a while since I ran 10K's regularly, but coming in under an hour isn't usually a problem.  

I know it's due to the type of training I've been focused on.  I know what to do differently.  I know how to shift gears.  

But I was still a bit disappointed.  Not terribly, but a bit.  It was a good reality check for me though. Running without a Garmin was a gamble, and it may not have paid off.  If I'd been able to see my pace in that first mile or two, I would have gone slower than the 9:06 pace I apparently started at. But running free like that---- I like it.  I just need to teach my body what different paces feel like with the Garmin, so I can run them better without the Garmin.  

I checked the results that were posted on a wall near the timing tent and saw that the top three women in my age group had all finished between 52-54 minutes.   Wow. Big difference from my finish time. What I didn't know was that I was #4.  My official chip time turned out to be 1:00:14, a 9:42 pace.  That made me feel slightly better.  It wasn't that far off.  

My friends Cheryl and Andrea and I enjoyed a fabulous post-race lunch at a little restaurant called The Depot and then headed for Clarksville.

I'm glad I went.  I'm also very thankful for friends who share adventures like this one with me!  

Sometimes I almost wish I could "just run" and not care about paces or races.  But not really.  I'm too goal oriented.  Too driven.  And I love it too much.  Even when it disappoints me, running is still such a HUGE blessing in my life.  

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Rest. Recover. Reboot.

After a busy year of racing, I'm enjoying a period of rest and recovery.

The week after the Go Commando Half Marathon, I ran/walked/hiked about 12 miles total, and I this week I ran/walked/hiked about 20 miles. I want to maintain a base and not lose a ton of fitness, but I want to also give my body some easy weeks to feel rejuvenated.  My husband and I ran a Halloween-themed 5-miler last weekend (slower than my half marathon the week before--legs just had no juice and breathing was off).  But at least we looked sort of cool.  We went as "early morning trail runners."  This is how I feel every time I clear the trails at Rotary Park!

Now, on to the reboot.  Around Tuesday of last week, I discovered two websites that are going to be influential in my running in 2015:  Strength Running and Coach Jay Johnson.  My friend  Lisa used a Strength Running training plan in the past by Coach Jason Fitzgerald with much success, so I decided to check out his website.  Wow, great information in that site! I spent a few hours reading his views on hill sprints, shoes, body-weight strength training (and more!) and took lots of notes.   In several of his posts, he recommends strength training exercises by Coach Jay Johnson, so I checked him out, too.  There is so much great coaching information available online for free! 

After a year focused on running far (and slow, for the most part), I have been looking to take my training in a new direction for next year.  Both Fitzgerald and Johnson subscribe to the motto: log the miles, protect the body.  They are believers in moderately high mileage plus core work as well as general strength and mobility training.
Honestly, I've been slacking in that area.  I taught a strength-training class at the YMCA every Tuesday for several years until last November.  I thought I would do it on my own, but I didn't make the time.  My IT Band issue started in January.  Coincidence?  I've fought with it for 11 months now.  It gets better, then it gets worse.

Coach Jay Johnson recommends an 8-week strength training program done 2-3 times per week.  I completed week 1 this week.  Fitzgerald has a standard core strength program and an IT Band rehab program of exercises, which I also completed once this week.  Both recommend a lunge matrix pre-run, which I utilized as well. I enjoyed doing these and was a little sore.  Both coaches also promote hill sprints and strides to improve running economy as well as build strength.

Log the miles, protect the body.  I think this is the REBOOT I need to be a well-rounded, healthier, faster, happier runner in 2015. 

Runs this week:
Monday-- Great trail run at Rotary with Andrea.  3 miles.  We pushed the pace more than usual and enjoyed the peak of leaf color.  Does it get any better than this?
Tuesday-- Just 1.5 miles in my neighborhood and then 5 strides in POURING rain.  I had to laugh when it started absolutely pouring. I was soaked in about 10 seconds.  Running fast felt good.
Wednesday--  Track work!  The APSU track finally reopened after a year of closure.  I ran 8 X 200 meters at an average 7:12 pace.  The last one was 7:06 pace.  I was happy with that after a year of slow running.  My happy place:
Thursday-Hiked 2.5 miles at Rotary with Andrea.  We were trying to design a 5K course for an upcoming trail race but ran out of trail!
Friday-5.3 mile run with Michelle in Savannah.  Savannah is one of my favorite running neighborhoods.  Michelle and I conquered the huge hill on Carriage Way, which needs to be a part of my regular routine.   We ended with 5 fast strides.  Very enjoyable run.  And faster than my 5-mile race last weekend!
Saturday--3.6 mile run with my husband at one of my favorite places--the Cumberland Bicentennial Trail.  Legs were tired.  

It was a good running week.

I think I finally know where I'm going and have some idea how to get there.  I'm going to build a foundation, brick by brick.  

Upcoming races tentatively:

Nov. 22---  Farm Bureau Holiday 10K. 
February--  Dry Creek Trail Half Marathon (I did the full last year.  Mostly fire roads.)
March 7-- Tom King Half Marathon  (flat and fast and similar to goal race's course)
April 4--Oak Barrel Half Marathon (training run only---going to support Hubby's PR attempt)
April 18-- Carmel Marathon in Indiana  *** GOAL RACE ***

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Run for the Hills!! Go Commando Half Marathon Race Report

Yesterday was my 4th time going commando in Clarksville, TN.  Each year, I somehow forget how hilly the course is before the next one.  It's kind of like childbirth.

The Clarksville Visitors' Bureau did a FABULOUS job with this race--from the excellent expo, smooth packet pick up, quick shuttle ride to the start, to the finish line goodies (mini Snickers bars and coffee!).  I highly recommend it.  You might want to train on some hills though.  A lot.

My day started at 4:50 a.m.  I was out the door at 5:55 and made it to the shuttle stop at 6:15.  There were two school buses pulling in at the same time to transport runners to the start.  I quickly grabbed my drop bag and water bottle and jumped in line.  Riding the bus to the start in the darkness made me feel like I was running a big city marathon.

I got to the start and used a pristine port-o-potty.  It's nice to be first.  I wandered around the expo a bit, then posed for pics with some other runners by the statue of Wilma Rudolph.  Here is a group that trained with me from the YMCA and a few of my trail running friends.

After the group pic, disaster struck!  On one last quick trip to the port o john, I dropped my ipod in there!  

Oh well.

It was time to start, and it was so nice not to have a time goal.  I figured I'd run it in 2:15 to 2:20, taking it easy.  I did set another goal, however:  don't walk any of the hills.  I told myself over and over:
And I did!

I started at a conservative pace on the flat section and stayed there.  I had three running buddies at first, but by mile four, we had all separated.  That first hill is a beast, as you can see.  It goes up and up and up.  I just told myself to dig deep and get up it.  Almost all of those around me were walking by half way.  I was 4/5s away from the top when I spotted a man having a massive nose bleed.  He was asking police officers, volunteers, and other runners for a tissue.  He was walking on the side of the course with blood dripping off his chin. Luckily, I always carry emergency TP with me, so I ran over to him. I yelled, "I have tissue! It's kind of sweaty though."  He turned around, reached a bloody hand out for it, and took it.   My son has had massive nose bleeds regularly since he was about 4 years old.  I could relate to his predicament!  So, I paused for a couple of seconds to hand a bleeding man tissue and ran every step of the rest. I think it still counts. 

The downhill side of that massive hill was fun.  I tried to open up my stride and not "put the brakes on" with every step.   

The back side of this course starting around mile 8.5 is really challenging.  It feels kind of like this:  

But it's probably more like this. 
The best part of that section, though, is that you get to see all of your friends!  It's an out-and-back, so you can see the leaders as they are finishing as well as pretty much everyone ahead of and behind you.  I tried to shout a quick "Great job" or other encouragement to as many people as I could.  I caught back up to one of my original pace buddies around mile 9 or so, and we ran together for a while.  By mile 11, my legs were getting tired, and I had to dig deep to make it up the relentless hills without walking, especially the last two big ones. I was counting steps on the last one... 20...25...30...40...just 10 more steps....  Whew!   I made it up ALL the hills! 

I jogged it in to the finish, totally spent.  My finish time was 10 minutes slower than last year on this course (when I also made it up all the hills), but it was still a victory! My goal was attained.  After that marathon fiasco of two weeks ago, I needed this.  I needed to know I could run up big hills.  I needed to know I could run 13 miles nonstop (other than walking 3 or 4 steps at two aid stations to drink).  It was a GOOD DAY.   

All of the people I trained for the race finished as well.  I was able to see each one of them and share in their victories!  This is a really tough course for your first half marathon.  Or your 25th!  But hard things are worth doing.  

Friday, October 17, 2014

"Have To's" vs. "Want To's" in a Runner's Life

Burnout seems to be inevitable for me at least once a year.  Last year, I wanted to get faster, so I followed a really challenging training plan from July-November with lots of speedwork and lots of miles. I did set a new half-marathon PR, but a marathon PR eluded me, and I was terribly burned out by mid-October.  I followed that plan religiously.  My "have to's" involved five runs per week and running when I was absolutely exhausted.  I was too scared to tell my coach at the time that I was falling apart.  He was so nice and encouraging that I didn't want to disappoint him. Major fail on my part.

This year, I decided to focus on running FAR, not fast, and really emphasized trails.  I ran a trail marathon in February, a road one in March, a road half in April, another road half in May, a 41-mile ultra in June, and a trail marathon two weeks later.  I ran two trail half marathons in July, 166 training miles in August, a trail 50K in September, and a road marathon in October.  The trail 50K was my overall goal for the year, but I somehow talked myself into signing up for a 50-miler in November. 

In August, I really began to notice I was struggling,  I did a 9-mile trail race and felt like I could barely finish.  I backed off mileage in September, and my 50K went GREAT on rested legs, but I only ran 52 miles in all that month (with 31 of them at the same time!).  My marathon three weeks later on still tired and sore legs was awful.  My hamstrings and glutes were tight and cramping. My IT band hurt.  Apparently, it takes me more than three weeks to recover from a 50K hard effort.  Lesson learned.  Since then, I have decided NOT to run the 50-miler in November.  It feels so good to just let it go.  

I could keep digging this hole.  I could keep putting in running (very slow at this point) and walking miles, so I could eke out a finish at the 50-miler in November.  But I don't WANT to.  My motivation and energy left me sometime in September---maybe at that 50K finish line.  I'm sick of the "have to's."  
  • I "have to" get in at least 40 miles this week!   
  • I "have to"  get in one more long run of 24-25 miles!
  • I "have to" get in one 40-mile weekend before this 50-miler.
  • I "have to" run at least one more back-to-back.  (Good grief, how I hate back-to-backs!)
I debated on whether to let this race go for weeks.  I knew I no longer had any desire to do it, but I didn't want to be a quitter.  I didn't want to disappoint a friend running it with me.  I didn't want to leave my roommate for the night in a tough spot.  A wise friend put all this stressing out into perspective for me though.  "It's only running," she said.  Yep.  I'd forgotten that.  Yes, it is a HUGE passion in  my life and a big part of me, but it really is "only running."

Sometimes, a DNS is the smartest thing for your body.  I'm listening to my body.  It needs a break.  It needs a period of time where the running is because I WANT TO and not because I have to.   I'm excited to allow myself some real recovery time and to do some short races in the upcoming weeks.  I want to have fun for a bit.

I have tentatively planned my spring schedule, and it's much gentler than what I did this year.  (Learn from your mistakes!)

I have an early spring road marathon planned.  I have a late spring trail marathon or ultra planned (debating which.)  Then I have time to recover and a destination race sometime in late summer or fall. I'd like to have some 5K's, 10K's, 15K's, 10-milers, or half marathons in the mix, too, without overdoing it.  I've forgotten how to run fast. 

I thought I could run a marathon or ultramarathon every month (or even two in one month), but I can't.  Right now, my body just can't handle it.  I have friends who run a marathon or ultra every weekend, but they are not ME.  All those long, slow miles have worn me out and made me slower.

I'm excited to finish out the rest of the year just doing what I want to.   Tomorrow is the Go Commando Half Marathon.  It is a "want to."  I'm an ambassador for the race, and I trained several individuals for it.  I have no idea how my body will react, but I'm just planning on taking it gently as a training run.   I read recently that "A grateful heart can run forever."  So, I plan to just RUN GRATEFUL.  

After tomorrow, I doubt I'll go above 10 miles for a while--unless I WANT TO.  Next weekend, my hubby and I are running a costumed 5-mile trail race to celebrate our 17th wedding anniversary because we want to!  I will be thanking God for my husband and this gift of running.  There are enough "have to's" in the world.  Enjoy the "want to's"!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

The Boulevard of Broken Dreams in Winchester, TN: Southern TN Power Classic Race Report

"I walk a lonely road....  Don't know where it goes
But it's home to me and I walk alone...

My shadow's the only one that walks beside me.  My shallow heart's the only thing that's beating. Sometimes I wish someone out there will find me.  Until then, I walk alone....

Check my vital signs to know I'm still alive
And I walk alone.  
I walk alone."
                                                         ---Green Day

Very appropriate lyrics for my 18th marathon/ultramarathon today in Winchester, TN!   My goal going in was to just have a solid, smart training run for my upcoming 50-miler.  I *hoped* to come in under 4:50, but I was fine with under 5 hours.  Three of my last four road marathons have been 4:56-4:58.

Three weeks ago, I had a GREAT trail 50K race.  I ran my heart out on that course.  I was so pleased with the results.  Since then, the legs have understandably been sore and tired.   I ran several shorter runs in the first two weeks after that race as part of my recovery, took some Pilates/yoga classes, and biked a little.  I tapered from running on Thursday and Friday of this week.

My family and I traveled to Winchester on Friday night and made it to packet pickup only five minutes before it closed.  Then we went to my in-laws house in a nearby town for the night.  I managed to get about four hours sleep.  

My stomach had been uneasy on Thursday evening and Friday, but I figured it was all the carbs I was loading with.  I'm normally a low-to-moderate carb eater.   However, this morning after my normal oatmeal and coffee, I realized it was still not quite right.  Ugg.

I got to the race, and it was a chilly 37 degrees!  I hung out in my car as long as I could.  I saw lots of folks I knew at the start, which is always nice.  I kept this jacket on until about mile 14! 

The race started and the first four miles went by great.  Those were really scenic miles.  I was running relaxed, chatting with a friend for a couple of them, and for most of those early miles, my Garmin was on 10:35 pace every time I looked down.  (In hindsight, I wish it had been 10:45 or 11).   I realized quickly that I needed a pit stop at mile four, and had to wait in line for just a minute or two at the port o john.   I got back on course and ran another 10:35 mile.  Around mile 6, we ventured onto this busy five-lane boulevard.  Many of the businesses had "Boulevard" in their name, which made me think of the above song.   At that time, though, the "dream" of a solid race wasn't broken. Yet.  

Mile 6 contained a long, gradual uphill.  So did mile 7.  And mile 8.  They don't look like much on the elevation profile, but they were definitely hills.   I still maintained that 10:35 pace my body was defaulting to.   I was taking a gel every 40 minutes and drinking regularly.   At mile 8, I realized I needed another pit stop.  

Things started to unravel a bit in miles 9 and 10.  I started defaulting to a 10:40-10:49 pace.  There were many hills.   Around mile 11, I started feeling really sick.  I slowed down and walked more.  My legs were suddenly very tired.   I struggled through miles 12 and 13 and got to the half-way mark at about 2:22 or 2:23.   I had been expecting 2:18-2:20, so I wasn't that far off at that point.  

Miles 14-17 went from bad to worse.  I felt like someone was hitting me in the stomach with a baseball bat with every step.  I was nauseated.  My left ankle (my bum one) had started to hurt.   My hamstrings and glutes were cramping and my fingers were swelling.  My body was just not cooperating.  I had zero energy.  Looking back, I don't think my stomach was digesting the gels and electrolytes.  I think they were just sitting there, not doing anyone any good.  It was a fight to run at all, and I walked a bunch.  I walked alone.  I wondered how I would ever finish 26.2 feeling the way I was.

Around mile 18, "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" actually came on my iphone.  I laughed.  I was out on some random country road in Estill Springs, TN walking alone, feeling terrible,  probably needing my vital signs checked.  :-)  

I finally told myself, "Let's just end this running charade and walk it in during the last 8 miles."  Just after I made peace with that, an EMT rode up on a bike.  

"How many are behind you?" he asked.

"A few, I guess.  I'm sure I'm not last."   He rides away and I think, "Oh, Dear Lord, could I possibly be last???"   It was a very small race, and quite a few had passed me in my struggle.  I thought I knew of at least two who were behind me, but then I wondered if they had a bad day, too, and maybe DNF'd, and I was truly Dead Last Finisher.  

There was a man up ahead, and I made it my mission to catch and pass him.  That meant running again.  He was walking as much as I was.  I finally passed him, and he said lied, "You're looking good."   I rebounded a bit for mile 19, but by 20, I felt bad again and had to make another pit stop.  I thought, "How am I going to stand this stomach/ankle/muscle pain another hour??"  The stomach pain was by far the worst.  I asked the mile 20 aid workers for Tylenol to take the edge off, but they didn't have any.   I actually used my Bradley Natural Childbirth breathing for a little while.  It was MISERABLE--the most miserable I have ever been in any race.

Losing time at that pit stop allowed the man to catch back up to me.  As he passed me (we'd gone back and forth a few times throughout the second half), I said, "We should just run this together," and it turned out to be the BEST THING I did all day.  

He stopped running when I said that, and we starting walking side-by-side.  His name was Jer. He was an incredibly nice 58-ish year old from Winchester and  a great talker.  Since he lived in the area, he pointed out his running routes, the road to his house that we passed right by, and told me all about Tims Ford Lake and all the local landmarks.  He told me about his four kids and his job at the Air Force Base.  We talked about our favorite races and our PR's.  We ran the downhills and some of the flats and walked all the uphills.  I've said it before in this blog:  Suffering shared is greatly reduced.   We were both struggling, but we kept our minds off of it.  I didn't even notice my stomach pain (much) in those miles.  

At around mile 26, my buddy George appeared on the course to run me in.  He had finished over 30 minutes earlier and always comes back for me in races.  Jer and I had picked up another runner who was struggling around 25.5.  George and I ran a little ahead of them to the finish, but the three of us finished within seconds of one another.   I'm not sure I've ever been that relieved to be DONE with a race.  It was 10 minutes slower than my previous slowest (my first) marathon.  A personal worst.

Jer was absolutely a blessing to me today and saved the latter part of my race.  He told me later that no, it was I who had saved him.  George was a blessing, too.  Seeing so many friends before, during, and after the race was nice, as well.  It wasn't ALL misery, but I can't say it is what I'd call fun!

I couldn't really stomach any food at the finish line and even chocolate milk (my favorite) was iffy.  I limped rather pathetically to my car and headed back to my in laws.  I spent about 20 minutes defiling their bathroom, then took a shower and felt semi-human again.  Semi.   Let's say it was a long two-hour drive home.

The really, really, really bad ones make us stronger, right??

Race hydration/nutrition today:  Tailwind Raspberry Buzz, water, a bit of Gatorade at aid stations, Huma Chia gels, one Gu Vanilla with caffeine, 1/2 banana.  (almost exactly the same as in Stanky Creek 50K)
 Post-race:  Chocolate milk at the finish. Then I choked down a Hammer Recoverite Vanilla shake (from Stride Box!)  mixed with tepid water from my car on the drive back to my in-laws.  

Monday, September 15, 2014

A Stanky Race Report: Tailwind, Tylenol, and a Terrific Trail 50K

Yesterday, I ran my first trail 50K at the Stanky Creek 50K in Bartlett, TN, to celebrate my 44th birthday, which was on Saturday.

My friends Christie, Harriet, and I drove to Memphis on Saturday afternoon, easily located Nesbit Park for packet pick up, had dinner at a nice restaurant, and settled in for the night at the Fairfield Inn.  It would be their first trail 25K.

I had been looking for a beginner-friendly 50K trail course.  I've run 3 true trail marathons and one that was partly trail, partly gravel road, and I felt ready for the next step distance-wise.  I initially planned to run the Stump Jump 50K in October, but after finding out how many people I know who are faster than me who didn't make the time cut off due to the difficulty of the course, I decided that wouldn't be a wise first 50K.

Stanky Creek, formerly the Bartlett Park Ultra 50K course, is very runnable with little elevation change.  It is a 7.4 mile loop run 4 times, plus a short 1.5ish  loop done only at the start.   Here is the elevation profile of the main loop that we repeated:
It's easy to see why I picked this as my first 50K!   I figured it would take me 7:30-8 hours.

Pre-race pic of us in our Middle Tennessee Trail Runner shirts  On the back is a quote by John Muir: "Of all the paths you choose in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.":

The 50K started at 7:00 a.m.  The weather was just about PERFECT for Tennessee in September-- 56 degrees at the start and about 78 at the finish.  I put myself in the back of the pack.  The 1.5 mile loop went quickly, including a beast of a hill I hiked up.  I purposely went out GENTLY.   A quick trip back through the parking lot, and we started the first 7.4 mile loop.  I immediately noticed the course looked very much like my hometown Rotary Park, where I have done many, many training runs. I felt right at home!  The first 7.4 mile loop seemed very long.  I ran with a girl named Amanda for about one mile, then no one.   I was careful to take in carbs every 45 minutes early on.  I started with my favorite Strawberry Huma Chia gel and consumed Skratch lemon lime hydration.  Both are very gentle on the stomach.   In the last half of the loop, some really fast 25K runners began passing me.  I was happy to see Adam from MTTR in 5th or 6th place.  We crossed this creek near the end of the loop:

It was definitely an odd color, but it didn't seem "stanky" to me.   Both shoes and socks got very wet. The hardest part was getting up that hill on the other side.  It was steep and muddy and now my shoes were wet and muddy, so finding a foothold was tough.  I had to plant my hands in the mud to get up it that first time.   The loop ended, and I was back in the parking lot at my little personal aid station.  I grabbed a couple more gels and refilled my bottle with Skratch.  

Loop 2 was probably my toughest of the day.  At this point all the fast 25K people started passing me.  My left ankle and Achilles and knee all started to hurt.  My knee felt like it had a catch in it.  I tried not to think about it.  My ankle and Achilles had hurt on all trail runs lately, so I wasn't surprised.  I just wondered how bad the pain would get.   I ran this entire loop alone.  I was starting to get a little lonely and lose focus. I knew I had a LONG way to go.  I knew that I needed to just run one loop at a time, but my legs were feeling a bit tired.  I decided that I would turn on my music after finishing this loop. I was also getting blisters on the side of my big toes from the wet Ininji toe socks from the creek crossing.  I decided that sacrificing a few minutes to re-Body Glide my feet and put on dry socks would be worth it.   Preventative care is important!   I hit the 13.1 mark at 3:04:30 by my Garmin.  I was happy with that time.  

At the end of loop 2, around the 15-mile mark, I stopped by my chair and began struggling to get my shoes off with my gaiters still attached (not very effective).  I finally unhooked the back of my gaiters at least.   I got my socks off, applied glide, and began the painstaking process of putting a new pair of toe socks on.  This is not something that can be done quickly. You have to make sure every toe is perfectly aligned in its rightful place.   I also switched the Skratch for some Tailwind with caffeine and took two extra-strength Tylenol (perfectly safe if you only do it once in a race.... except for the part of masking pain and potentially making an injury worse.).   While I was sitting there, I got to see my friend Harriet finish her first trail 25K!  I took off for my 3rd loop very slowly.  Everything had stiffened up in that 4-5 minutes in the chair.  In about 40 steps, I noticed something wasn't right with my sock.  I stopped by someone else's chair and took my shoe off AGAIN to discover my pinky toe wasn't in its toe hole and that portion of the toe sock was all bunched up.  That would have driven me crazy over the next 16 miles! I fixed it and was off, having lost 5-6 minutes off the clock.  Oh well.....

Let me just say Tailwind Raspberry Buzz is the  It has enough calories that you don't really have to take in anything else.  At this point, I'd had about 4 gels, so I was ready for a little break from them.  I started sipping on it and also had a small 1/2 cup of Coke at an aid station. I also turned on my music for the first time of the day.   

Early in loop 3, I was surprised to see my buddy and race director of many of my recent Kentucky races Steve Durbin at an aid station as well as the infamous Lazarus Lake, writer/ultramarathoner/legend.  He's the RD for the Barkley Marathons and author of several books.  It's crazy how small and close-knit the trail and ultrarunning community is!  Steve and I chatted for a minute about my upcoming races. He's the RD for my Tunnel Hill 50-miler in November.  Also at the race were several awesome runners I've met at various trail races over the years--Jen, Anthony, Robin, Shannon, Rob.  It's great to be a part of the trail running community and see familiar faces at races.

I don't know if it was the dry socks, the music, the Coke, the Tailwind, or the Tylenol, but the 3rd loop went well and my spirits were good.  Sipping that Tailwind was a nice break from the gels and really did give me an energy buzz.  Thanks to the Tylenol, everything stopped hurting, and I just felt HAPPY out on the trail.  I ran mostly, hiked the hills, and just enjoyed myself.  At the 20-mile mark, I texted my husband for the first time that day to let him know I was alive.  Getting to 20 miles was another boost.  There's something magical about the 20-mile mark.  I crossed the creek a 3rd time.  I knew I was going to finish this thing, and I was excited! 

I didn't stop by the chair (the chair is not your friend!) after the 3rd loop.  I powered on through with my now wet new socks.  I texted my friends to let them know I was starting my final loop.  They had gone back to the hotel and showered and to lunch after their 25K and were coming back to get me.  I did some shaky calculations and figured out that if I pushed a bit, I could get a trail marathon PR on my way to finishing this 50K.  So, I pushed.   My half marathon was 3:04:30 and my full marathon was 6:09:38.  I'm not sure how that happened, but those are pretty even splits.  I thought I might slow down after the marathon point and just hike it in, but I was feeling too good.  I kept pushing.

It was neat when I passed the 27-mile mark.  I was in new distance territory on a trail.  I began to wonder if I could finish this in under 7:10?   In those last miles, I passed 9 people, most of them men.  People were just done, and I was coming to life.  Mile 28 was my 3rd fastest of the day.   This same thing happened at my June ultra.  Those later miles were my best miles.  I had a couple of small cups of Coke at an aid station, but I was just drinking water in my bottles.  I choked down an Accel Gel around mile 27 (strawberry kiwi) that tasted wonderful, but the consistency was tough to swallow.  It contains protein and tasted just like sweetened condensed milk (if you like that sort of thing).   It did seem to give me a burst of energy though.  I was singing out loud and just clicking the miles off.  Happy trail selfie:  

In Mile 28, I realized that I was not only going to finish this thing, but I was going to surpass my original "best day ever" goal time of 7:30 by A LOT and was on track to beat 7:10.  I felt strong and empowered and proud of myself.   I had been in the woods running primarily alone for almost 7 hours.  I had gone through a low spot and came out of the valley.  Though I would finish HOURS after the winner, it was a victory for me.

I crossed that darn creek one last time, scrambled up the mud hill, and was on the finishing stretch. I knew if I pushed, I could make it under 7:05.  I came out of the trail to the cheers of my friends.  7:04:32.  I ran as hard as I could down the length of the parking lot on legs that already had 31.3 miles on them.   I crossed the finish line of flour at 7:04:48.  Whew,  

It was a GOOD DAY.  The looped course worked well for me mentally as it broke the race up into chunks.  I'm so glad I chose Stanky Creek 50K as my first!  My friend Jen and I at the finish:  

I'm glad I spent some time in the dirt this weekend.  I think 44 is going to be a good year.