Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Outside Looking In

 don't have so much about running this week - not that there hasn't been much of it; there has, but little of it has been noteworthy. My "best run" (amd I use those words loosely) lately was the MTC Shirt Run last weekend. I have been wanting to do it for over a year and things just didn't work out until now. My foot could have fallen off at Umstead or Hampton and I wanted that shirt bad enough that I would have stumped my way through the 15 miles from Mangum to Ellerbe. It was a lot of fun though - I "ran" with my friend Sharon (who triumphed with a buckle at Umstead) and Jim drove around handing out bottles of water and taking pictures of everyone. To top it off, there was pizza at the end, and Jim had thoughtfully brought some other restorative beverages.

I had an interesting experience the other night, which has obviously stuck in my head.

I found myself in the middle of a conversation with a couple of friends who were trying to set up a single friend. They were tossing around ideas of potential matches, and I was offering up opinions, since I also knew the non-present people being suggested. Apparently the single individual was tired of having to go places alone, and wanted someone with which to go out to dinner or a movie. Somehow or another, my single status got pulled into the conversation, and my response was that if I wanted to go to a movie, I'd just go. The rest of the conversation is irrelevant at this point, it's enough to say that my response (or the action itself) seems to be unusual.

Why? What am I supposed to do, sit around and hide until I have company? Yeah right...

I didn't think twice about taking off alone to Boone last year, for the races done "alongside" the Highland Games. Didn't really know anyone else going, but that just wasn't a legitimate reason for me to NOT go. I wanted to run the Bear, was signed up for the marathon again, and got a road bike a month beforehand and decided the week before to enter the Grizzly. I had at least one friend essentially tell me I had lost my f---ing mind, and I'm not saying I disagreed (particularly halfway through that damned Grizzly).

It ended up being one of the best weekends I'd had in a long time. Met a bunch of really cool people that I still keep in touch with, and I am really excited about seeing them up there again this year.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

It's a tailgate party... with some running.

The last couple of weeks have been... well, they've been there. The first week after Umstead I didn't do much outside of work other than sleep and eat, and a lot of both. Last weekend I started to go stir crazy - went to spin class Sunday morning and had to fly out that afternoon to NYC for work. I got in early and boredom sent me to the hotel gym and the treadmill. The rest of the week was basically a repeat - work all day, sneak in a few miles, head out for dinner and drinks with my coworkers (it's a vicious cycle, but I felt less guilty about all the food by at least pretending to run a little). By Thursday afternoon, I was worn out enough I took a nap in the airport terminal. Friday I drove up to VA to be part of "Team Awesome" at the Virginia 24-Hour Run, to raise money for Relay for Life and the American Cancer Society. There were 12 of us, and over half the team was made up of some no-joke, high-mileage-in-a-hurry runners (no, I am not one of them).

A few weeks ago I wasn't sure how I'd feel after Umstead - injured or burned out were high on the list of possibilites, but last week I wasn't feeling any of that. So.... the goal was 50 miles. Timed races are more fun than they sound - there's no such thing as a DNF, no one is going to laugh at you for walking as much as you want (though this can be said of most ultras), and they tend to have a pretty laidback atmosphere. Some friends talked me into my first 24-hour race last year by presenting it as basically social hour with a bit of running here and there.

It was windy and muggy most of the day - mid-April is just not a good time for 90% humidity. The warm temperatures were at least a happy change from this cold winter stuff. Shortly after full dark the cloudy skies opened and we went from dry trails to 4 or more inches of water standing on the trails, plus rain blowing sideways from at least three directions. After the storm passed and the skies cleared, I did my last two laps with my buddy Jim, and on the very last one we didn't bother with headlamps - the full moon was more than enough light and made for a good ending to a really long day.

What surprised me the most was how tired I got, and how quickly. The course at Hampton is FLAT, so unless you put yourself on some sort of time or distance schedule for run/walk breaks, it was hard for even a lazy runner like me to find a legit reason to slow down for a minute or two. The first two laps were good - got the typical aches and pains from not being warmed up, but those passed after a couple of miles. And then it went downhill.

Everything hurt, but I wouldn't say any of it was balanced or symmetrical. My right shin hurt, my left quad hurt. The hamstring started grumbling. Then my left calf and right quad... it was annoying, but ultimately by 10 miles in I felt like I'd already done 50. The only comfort there was that I had so recently seen this level of pain, and knew that as sore as I was, it wasn't going to get any worse. It wasn't injury pain, it was muscle pain and fatigue. Nothing to do there but keep moving and keep it easy. And keep up with the ibuprofen...

Things got better when I switched from chocolate-covered donuts to real food, and I maintained a state of steady discomfort for the rest of the day. I had a couple of really good laps right around 7pm - I like to run at that time of day anyway, it had started to cool down some and the rain had picked up (but not yet become torrential). The storm was interesting - lightning strikes visible in multiple directions, thunder  immediately following, and then the rain - hard enough that despite my hat and headlamp, I honestly had trouble finding the trail. Caught up with another runner, and our two lights got us through the worst of it.

It was a 24-hour race, we are not going into time because that is not pretty. A lot of time, though, was spent parked on my ass at our Team Awesome HQ, doing my part to make sure that the obscene amount of food we brought and our crew fetched did not go to waste. I am listing out what I ate for a couple of reasons: 1) When I do fess up to my strange hobby, the most common question is what do I eat. 2) I am either embarrassed or impressed by what I did manage to eat, and still can't decide. And I'm sure the list is missing something. Probably several somethings.

Total mileage:

52.5 miles (double marathon). No, it didn't take 24 hours, and I actually left the park shortly before 2am on Sunday after sitting around for a while (we started at 7am on Saturday).

Fueled by:
8 or more chocolate covered Sweet 16's (mini donuts)
1 Twinkie
1 chicken and cheese quesadilla
4 cheeseburgers
2 slices of white pizza (with spinach)
3 pieces of fried chicken
1 cup mashed potatoes
1 biscuit with honey
1 banana
4 mint Oreos
2-3 Ghirardelli double-chocolate brownies with peanut butter cups
salt and vinegar Pringles
Wavy Lays (way too many)
grapes (no clue how many)
48oz+ of Dr. Pepper
4-5 small bottles of Sunny D
at least one tube of Nuun tablets
3-4 gallons of water? (just guessing)
several cups of Dunkin Donuts coffee
One ice-cold Yeungling at the end of the night

Don't get into an eating contest with me. It might not be pretty.

Oh, and FOUR blisters on ONE foot. One even had the pleasant manners to pop up in the same spot as the blister I had a Umstead. Ouch.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Yeah, I'm *that* girl.

OK, so first things first. Whoever said running is an inexpensive hobby is a damned liar and should be taken out behind the building and slapped around. I guess it is if you are intelligent, but if you trip enough times (like I do) then eventually you will fall and hit the Stupid Tree (like I apparenly did). Some people go after speed, some after distance, either way, it's going to cost you. Ask my Umstead crew about all the crap I brought that weekend. Little do they know how much was left at home... 

Anyway. 'Tis the season for REI dividend checks, and the accompanying "20% Off One Item" coupon. You could tell it was the last weekend for the coupon - REI looked like Toys R Us on Black Friday tonight. I went in after a camp chair. I don't have one, and I look like a dork showing up with a lopsided rusty beach chair to some of these events (ie, Hinson Lake last year). I did the math and my coupon plus dividend check would score me a nice chair, plus a Clif bar or two for next weekend.

As I parked, I started thinking about Umstead (I know, shocker). Part of what did me in was the cold, and there wasn't enough clothes in my box o'goodies to fix that problem. It is spring now, and maybe the winter stuff would be on sale... So I headed for the clearance racks. I was muddling over some North Face (OMG I've gone granola snob) down jackets thinking about how I do at some point need to acquire a winter coat (I don't actually own one) if I plan to continue bouncing around in the woods on Horton adventures (not for the race itself but before and after). I was trying one on and a very nice sales assistant came over and asked me what I was looking for. I told her I needed to find a heavy layer to keep warm, that last weekend I was the coldest I had possibly ever been in my life and it sucked. Of course, she asked where I was, and replied, "The Umstead 100." A few more exchanges go on - she was a volunteer at the tent on the airport spur during the afternoon. I remembered her, and said so. Apparently I seemed vaguely familiar to her, so I said, "The kilt. I was the one with the kilt." Guess the fame extends past the runners.  :)

It was hysterical. She said something about totally remembering seeing me that day (I think she ticked my number on two laps, actually) and we went on talking about how chilly it got and how flat-out frigid it got overnight. It was awesome - she completely got what I was after and I am now the happy owner of a synthetic down jacket that weighs all of maybe 6 ounces, but will trap heat even if wet, and will take layers over and under. Yay!

I still got my camp chair. And my Clif bars, too. And actually, the jacket is made by REI, so I guess I failed at being a granola snob. Bummer. I've still got my eye on that heavy down coat though.

Only 5 months till registration opens...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Four days out

Is it four days? Or five? I'm going with four, I stopped moving on Sunday and today is Thursday.

It seems like it was so much longer ago... or at the least that I didn't run 84 miles last weekend (I still have a hard time fathoming that distance)

Today my weight is lower than it was before the race. The food binge has started to slow down some (finally, I was starting to run out of food and am too lazy to go to the store). I have zero pain or soreness left. My left foot still feels a little odd, but I'm no longer thinking I need a medical opinion. In fact, the main problem right now seems to be related to me kicking the sidewalk at a perfectly stupid angle last night when I went out to get the kids for dinner. I may nor may not have done something similar in the past to know what the sensation is... *cough, looking the other way*

Last night was the first night I didn't crash before 11. This morning I was up at 6:30, but that was because my 5-year-old woke me up at that time calmly and politely asking for tissue. Still half asleep, I was fumbling around for the tissue box as I asked why. In the same calm way, he told me his nose was bleeding. Yep, I'm awake now...

And right now I really just want a nap. That's the only thing that seems to linger - the fatigue. I usually get by on 5-6 hours of sleep a night. The week before the race, I took melatonin and slept 9-10 hours a night. This week, no melatonin - but 9-10 hours is not a problem.

I can't wait till next weekend - 24-hour ultra "relay." I am trying to stick to the advice I got about taking the next couple of weeks off, knowing I have that coming up. I managed to survive 84 miles without any damage, now to make it through the spring and fall the same way...  :)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Umstead 100 - 84% done.

So first off, wasn't it Yoda that said, "There is no 'why'" ages ago? Don't look to me for reasons why me or anyone else tries to run 100 miles (or any distance, for that matter). As I've heard, for those who don't understand, there is no explanation; for those who do understand, no explanation is needed. I know, in some way, that I ran 84 miles this past weekend, but it doesn't seem real. Who in their right mind...?! Anyway.

I first got involved with this particular race by volunteering (aid station and pacing) in 2009. I was 2 weeks past running my first marathon, still very new to running, and it was like someone had dropped me on a distant planet. One that just happened to be the planet I was apparently stolen from at birth. I knew someday I wanted to run it. I went back in 2010 - paced again, and stayed in HQ overnight taking care of the finishers and runners who had come in to thaw or tend to an issue. I arrived on Friday, left on Sunday, and slept maybe 3 hours the entire weekend. It was already on my calendar for 2011, but this time I was going back to run it.

This is not a race report, I'm not going to do a lap-by-lap rundown, discuss the crazy dude or the tree that fell. I may or may not do one of those, I've already made a list of what went right and what went wrong, but that's more for internal consumption. This is just some of the post-race musings.

1. Sunday afternoon I told my mom I would likely survive any zombie attacks. I couldn't outrun them, but they'd zip past me, thinking I was one of them - just the slow one that would starve because there would be no brains left when I got there.
2. I used to think I ate like a horse. During the race, I ate like a miniature Shetland pony with its jaw wired shut (which ultimately led to the crash and burn). However, since getting home on Sunday morning, I have eaten like a plague of locusts. I'm not kidding, I think I'm inhaling at least 4000 calories a day. My fridge was full Sunday, and now I'm scrabbling.
3. Also tied to the nutritional failure, my internal sodium balance is all botched up. Monday I topped out at something like 10 pounds over prerace weight due to water. So despite my 4000 calorie intake (oh wait, 4500 today, I got into the Ben and Jerry's) I've dropped 5 pounds today.
4. My left foot feels like an elephant stood on it. The soreness from pounding on my feet for 84 miles is gone, but the top of my left foot is just... odd.
5. I put shoes other than flip flops on today for the first time since the race. My Uggs were a bit tight, my running shoes were pissing off the elephant's footprint. And then I decided to go to spin class so I put on cycling shoes. I didn't exactly strap them on tightly so we'll just be happy my feet stayed in them during class. I'm glad I don't have to get dressed to go to an office these days.
6. None of my toenails feel right. *sigh*
7. Epsom salt soaks are great. Unfortunately I had to wait till Monday night to get one, because there wasn't a snowball's chance in hell of me being able to get myself out of the tub on Sunday. Getting out of BED was hard enough.
8. All the kids in me neighborhood think I'm some sort of rockstar. This cracks me up. On the other hand, when one of the dads at my son's T-ball practice last night saw my Umstead 100 hat and asked if I had ever run the race he did a double-take and looked surprised when I replied yes, but only 84 miles. The other two dads had similar reactions. That was even funnier.
9. Bugging the hell out of SportKilt and getting my kilt shipped to me overnight delivery was the best thing ever. Everyone knew who I was (particulary odd for someone who doesn't like being the center of attention, but it was fun).
10. And finally - I really do like lap courses. It was like a reset button every time I came into the start/finish. I felt as good starting Lap 3 (37.5 miles done) as I did at the beginning of Lap 1. Bizarrely, I never got the typical Mile 18/19 slump of grumpiness.
11. There is a limit to physical pain. I found it.Somewhere along the way the pain in my quads and feet got to a certain point... and then stayed that way. How many people actually want to FIND that point so they can then chase it down again?

On the positive side, my IT bands do not appear overly hostile. And even better, the hamstring that plagued me so badly last fall is as quiet as it was preinjury.

Ancient History

So here's the backstory about why even making it to the startng line at Umstead was a big deal.

I essentially started training for the Umstead 100 last summer. My friends showed up for long runs on Saturdays with water bottles and gels, I brought Mt. Dew and cheeseburgers. After we'd run 5 or 6 miles on Sunday they would go home, I'd go put down 40 miles on the bike. I went to a 24-hour race, intending to run 20 and see what it felt like to run in the middle of the night when I was tired - I finished with just over 50 miles. I had a really good 40-mile trail race in October, finishing nearly 2 hours faster than what I expected (my theory on expectations is a long story best told elsewhere).

And then I got imjured.

My mileage went to hell, I got a DNF at a huge race in November that was supposed to be my qualifier for Umstead, I landed in physical therapy and wasn't allowed to run anything uneven, hilly or fast. The mileage went further into hell, dragging along with it my hopes of getting to Umstead.

In January I landed another pretty little DNF. I tried to console myself with the fact that I *did* manage to get in close to 50 miles despite my pathetic weekly training of 20-25 miles a week for 2 months. It didn't work.

In February, I finally finished a race - the Uwharrie 40-miler. Impressively, I managed to finish faster than I expected (my goal was beating the cutoff, but I met a great friend along the way who kept me moving). It was cold and wet and crazy fun.

Things got better. After a week off, my mileage started to go up. I was back on trails, and hills, and all the other stuff I hadn't been allowed to do. I came out of my antisocial rut and started running with friends sometimes. I went back to running during lunch at work. My training peaked over a three-week period of 50-65 mile weeks (last year, this kind of mileage contributed to the injruy). My very last really long run of that training was a ridiculously hilly road marathon. I set a new PR and won my age group. WTH?  That was enough to convince me I had a reasonable shot of making it some distance at Umstead.