Ultra Update – The Doldrums

I started this post last week and never found time to finish it so I figured I’d leave what I wrote then and add to it…

Remember that time I said training was feeling easier than expected? Yeah, those were the days. Just as in races, when you can go from feeling in top of the world to the lowest lows in a matter of miles, I find the same thing can happen in training. I was cruising along, even being so bold (dumb?) as to tell a running buddy (Hi Inga!) that I could not believe how good I was feeling after a 24mi/8mi weekend. And I was, I really was feeling fantastic! But then came last Saturday. Oh, boy, last Saturday.

Looking back, it was easy to piece together what happened. Generally, when I have off days, they are a result of some combination of three things: poor fueling, not enough sleep or too much stress. I am good about eating – some would argue (perhaps myself included) that I am too robotic about it, not leaving enough wiggle room in my diet. But that is fodder for another day  – in this case, I don’t think that was the issue. That leaves lack of sleep and stress, both of which have been present since my mileage has crept up. To be clear, by stress I don’t mean the “OMG, I am freaking OUT, my life is a disaster, I am a nervous wreck!” variety (though that sometimes can be the case as I do love me a good freakout – just ask Lil Sis). It is more of the variety of having a very long work week, with a lot going on. It was all good, enjoyable work, but a week that saw me dipping into overtime every night. I combined that with less sleep – which is my fault as I know I am far enough into training that it is time to get more disciplined about it. By this point, I need a solid 8.5-9 hours a night and I have been teetering in the 7 hour range.

Fast forward to Saturday’s run. I knew I was in trouble when it was 10:45a and I had not even started the 18-miler yet. That is very odd for me – I usually like to get up, eat and let my stomach settle for an hour or so, and get out the door. In winter, this usually translates to starting around 8:30-9ish. That morning, I was just sluggish and unmotivated. The cold, dreary day with 20+mph winds didn’t help either (side eye to Mother Nature). I finally got cracking and it was rough. But then it got better and from about miles 5-8, I thought, “oh, good, I just needed to get into my groove”. Hahahaha, not so fast there, Davis. By mile 10, it was no fun again and the last 2 miles felt like they could have been 200 miles. I finished the run and went home, where I got a hot bath and then promptly feel asleep for a few hours. A nap is never a good sign in my world.

And picking up the story now, a week after writing that bit…

I had no appetite but made myself eat the rest of the day and hit the sack at around 9 pm. I woke up 9 hours later feeling a ton better and had roped my running bud Alice into meeting me that morning to squeak out 10 mi. Thankfully, Alice’s bright spirit buoyed my bedraggled one and the run was far easier than I anticipated.

Over the last two weeks, I have played with fire. My body, and particularly the part known as “my legs”, is very tired. This point in a training cycle is like mi 16 of a marathon. You have gone so far but still have so much to go that it feels like it will never end. It is a delicate time, because I know I can’t necessarily trust what my brain is telling me, ie, “stop running! wouldn’t it feel good to just NOT get up and out? to stay cozy beneath the blankets? to laze around on a Sunday morning?”. The brain takes a conservative approach – by trying to convince a person she is more tired than she is, it can prevent her from actually going too far and over training. But for the body to adapt to higher mileage, it needs to be stressed (in a smart, thoughtful way – read more about that here) and pushed so that the physiological changes that will make it possible to endure the goal race occur.

But how to tell the difference between your brain’s version of tired and “real” tired? That is tricky and where experience comes into play. I know the warning signs to look for that, for me, signal over training. Two big ones are consistent lack of appetite and an inability to sleep easily, despite being bone tired. Neither of those have been a problem (lack of appetite occasionally happens to me the day of a long run but returns with ferocity that evening or the next day). And though my legs have a buzzing tiredness to them in general, they feel really good on the runs themselves (minus that ugly, ugly day two Saturdays ago). My pace has not slowed and this week, while in a recovery period where runs are shorter, I have even noticed a natural drop in those times.

So I feel confident that the tired legs are just the normal by-product of a long, hard training cycle and not something I need to be overly concerned about. I have upped my sleeping time, paid even closer attention to caloric intake and given myself a myriad of pep talks, which have resulted in a really good training week. I have also been making more plans for the trip (plane tix booked today!) which has increased the excitement factor and helped make it feel more real.

Coming up this weekend I have the grand daddy long run for this cycle, which I am equally excited for and nervous about (another good sign – feeling motivated!). I am hoping the insane number of Christmas cookies I plan to consume (for real – the holidays are a time of year I legit indulge) will fuel me to a satisfying Garmy beep at the end of the run. I have not yet heard of Christmas cookies = smart, quality training food, but I am nothing if not an experiment of one. Snickerdoodles in, 31 miles out!

What are your signs of over training?

What I Saw When I Ran Wednesdays

For those of you who read food blogs, you will often see a “What I Ate Wednesday” post. Same idea here, except it will be what I saw when I ran on Wednesdays. So take a peek at what my orbs observed and then add your own experience!

After more runs in a row than I wish to acknowledge, Wednesdays run was wind-free (well, mostly. At this point, I am putting anything less than 20mph in that category!) and was so pretty. I am still in the habit of getting up and doing my runs in the morning, but the lack of light (enjoy it now, this corner of the earth, the solstice is just around the corner and I will be eagerly lapping up those extra minutes of light like a starved dog come next week!) is making it hard to get up as early as I should. Sunrise and I have become very good friends, which isn’t too tough when it is at such a respectable hour (nearly 7 am!).

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I made my way around the park and TNC meadows preserve this fine morning, enjoying every calm, relatively mild temperatured moment. I have been struggling a bit with fatigue in training (finally! stay tuned for a post on this) and this morning’s run felt downright luxurious because of the weather and low mileage (5 mi).

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I tucked into the trails and saw these bottles stashed along the side. Sitting so pretty, fully unopened to me indicated only one thing – someone’s make-do aid station for a long run! I have had water bottles swiped too many times to leave mine out in the open like this but I love that some people still have not had to deal with the agony that comes from discovering someone has made off with your hydration (that sounds like hyperbole, but believe me, when it is all you have been thinking about for miles and it is not there… it’s not a good day).

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In one of the fall Exit Zero columns (November, I think?), I included a picture of persimmon fruit laying on the ground, ready for wildlife and runners alike to enjoy. All that remains now, between the scavengers and the ravages of decomposition, are vast piles of seeds. Mmm, I can still taste your tropical deliciousness, persimmon. Until we meet again…

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This is apparently “follow up on Exit Zero column pics” Day because I also noticed around the park and TNC preserve vast swaths of cut phragmites. In one of my EZ pics from December’s issue, I presented phragmites and cattail duking it out for territory, with cattail being the preferred plant to promote native flora diversity. Humans are helping this along by cutting the phragmites and leaving areas of cattail so that it has a leg up in this on-going battle. Go, cattatil, go!!

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I wound my way back home, sorry to see this run end. The bright sun and inviting clime buoyed my tired legs and were just the thing I needed to plow through these mid-week miles. If I could get a couple of long runs with these conditions, I would be one lucky lady, but at this rate I’ll take anything that is not freezing rain with gale force winds!

What did you see on your run today?

What I Saw When I Ran Wednesdays

For those of you who read food blogs, you will often see a “What I Ate Wednesday” post. Same idea here, except it will be what I saw when I ran on Wednesdays. So take a peek at what my orbs observed and then add your own experience!

Wednesday’s run was brought to you by the letter “W” for wind! We had a nor’easter pass through on Tuesday and ever since wind has been the name of the game – and even prior to, as last weekend was also quite blustery.

I walked out the door to be greeted by the neighbor’s landscaping blowing sideways. You know what the number one thing that I notice about winter pictures is? They are way more enjoyable to look at then live through. I love the way this photo looks – the color and motion of the beach grass is hypnotic in a way – my eyes get a little lost in the image as I stare at it, warm and cozy in front of a computer screen as I type. But when I was snapping it, it was more, “oh my god, look at the grass! That is not a good sign!” and “Come on Garmsters, find those satellites so we can get this show on the road!” and “How can my contacts already be dried out?!?”.

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I confess that I am someone who is endlessly curious about the way other people live and they way their houses look. One  of my favorite things (only things?) about winter running in such a sleepy community is that I can snoop check out vacation rentals because no one is in them this time of year. Don’t worry, I am not a full blown intruder, but I have been know to look in many a window to see what the inside of these places look like. This little cottage caught my eye today and a peek inside the windows and out back revealed just what you would guess from the front – a sweet lil cottage by the sea, with miniature rooms and small beds and teeny kitchen appliances. So adorable – and the deck out back was nothing to sneeze at either. Even though I live here, I still like to pretend that I am a would-be vacationer looking for a place to rent and this one would fit my bill!


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Along the side of the cottage were these mushrooms, holding on in the freezing temps for all they were worth. Mushrooms are on my list of organisms to get to know better (they are such fun guys, lol <— #nerdalert) because unless it is shelf fungus (the only one I have managed to learn and retain), I have no idea what it is. This species was on the creepy side – large, dark in color (almost looked like it was “rotting”) and with a serious shine. I don’t think they were actually wet, I think that was just a characteristic of whatever species they are. Very cool.

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For flags, I bet a windy day is like the best day ever. They get a chance to stretch, show their colors and proudly flap away. I like to imagine the US flag humming patriotic songs all day. I also picture its voice sounding like Sam Eagle from the Muppets.

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I must have been a glutton for punishment because I was just letting my feet lead the way and they took me down to the concrete ship, which involved running into the headwind. I assume they were thinking that it also meant a turn-around where suddenly there was a tailwind, which I have to admit was pretty great. I took a moment to look at the bay, which was churning and swirling, teen angsty- style.

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I headed back home and got ready for staff meeting followed by a retirement party for a biologist who has worked at our program for 31 years. It was a great night of stories and laughter and left me with that happy/sad feeling, where I felt so lucky to have had him (and everyone else) as co-workers yet melancholy thinking that I won’t be seeing him anymore. I haven’t quite shaken that  gnawing feeling that time is passing, whether I like it or not. Carpe diem with a side of worrying I am not seizing it enough is where I am at this week.

What did you see on your run today? Do you worry about time passing or just enjoy the ride?

Ultra Update- The Course

 

If all goes well, this will be a circle of happiness and relief!
If all goes well, this will be a circle of happiness and relief!

We have a winner! After months of waffling, I finally committed to a route for the DIY 50. Is it a coincidence that I grabbed onto Florida like it was a life raft from a sinking ship just as the weather got colder? I think not.

Thanks to my wonderful friend and long-distance running bud Sherry (who you may remember from Philly 2012 or this Cape Island Spotlight) I have 50 miles of everything I was looking for. She created a course that is flat, in a mild climate, and along the coast  (where I always love to be). Bonus is that Sherry reports that it has plentiful drinking water and toilets so that is a worry I can scratch off the list! It is primarily a bike path so someone could even ride beside me if they were so inclined. It is point-to-point (no endless loops, yes!) which can be run in either direction, so that if there is a strong headwind one way or the other, the start line is flexible.

After much debate, emailing and frequent checks of Kayak.com to look at flight prices, we are set for a date of January 31st with a rain date of February 1. I originally planned for the following weekend, but that was pretty arbitrary and would mean we would not get to see Sherry and Scott, who will be out of town. I see her so rarely that I just could not see going all that way and not getting to hug her!

If schedules allow, the crew winging it south will be me, GD, Lil Sis and Liz. We are hoping for good weather so we can soak up a few days of good weather before having to leave FL for the purgatory of a northeast winter. GD and I will round out the week by tooling around south FL and then he’ll have to drag me back to Jerz, just in time for February. Joy!

Anyway, huge thanks to Sher for creating the route. It’s amazing how much local knowledge informs these things. I know that plenty can still go wrong but at least me asking at Mi 35, “oh, this road is not open to pedestrians?” will not be one of them!

Follow this link if you are interested to see what it looks like for yourself.

While plane tickets, hotel rooms and car rentals are important next steps, the main issue on my mind is what to call this thing! The last go-around, we went with Kashi Classic. This time, I want something to reflect the locale. Ideas??

Help me name the course! What should we call it?

Running in Tully, NY

I spent the middle of this week up in the SUNY – Syracuse area where I was honored to serve on the defense committee of a woman named Michelle, who conducted a Piping Plover research project in NJ and MA in 2012-13. I really enjoyed seeing her project go full circle, from the very beginning to the very end, and Michelle made me very proud.

Em (who was a crew leader on the project and a friend of Michelle’s) and I left the office Tuesday after work. It took us just this side of forever to get to Michelle’s place, since we hit Philly rush hour and got slowed down in a horrendous blizzard with white-out conditions up in NY. Ok, ok, it was not so much a blizzard as it was light sleet, but Em and I are not exactly confident drivers when it comes to ice and hills combined (the consequence of living in flatsville at the temperate coast) so we *might* have been going a tad slower than the average driver and we *might* have gone out of our way to avoid a steep hill near her house. But nevermind, we made it there was was welcomed into Michelle’s oh-so-quaint and wonderfully cozy log cabin. Two days of plover talk while staying in what felt like a magical cabin in the woods? Yeah, it was pretty great.

I ran Wednesday and Thursday mornings on decidedly hilly terrain and I am pleased to say that I enjoyed it! It was very cold each morning but the fresh eye candy was enough to make it feel like a fun challenge. I chose each morning to go down this hill in the following picture instead of up – still not sure if that made sense since it meant the hill I went up to get back to the cabin, while less steep, was way longer. Either way, it was something different and that is always a good thing!

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I have never seen so many barns in such a small area, which was just awesome. They were in various state of repair and disrepair, so that each had its own personality. Some of them came with a lovely whiff of cow manure, for example. Since I am from Salem county, this made it feel very much like home.

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It happens every year – one day everything is just hunkered down for winter. Although it is a long and slow process, the change from summer green to fall colors to winter browns always feels to me like it happens overnight. Seeing trees with no leaves and all the roadside plants, like this unidentified number below, with their winter colors on really drove home how close to winter we are. The 20dF winds blowing in my face also made this point, albeit in a less subtle manner.

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There were some flurries on the second morning of running, which was the colder day, and they had me chanting “Florida, Florida, Florida” (update: this week I figured out that I will definitely be doing the DIY 50 in that gloriously warm and palm tree dotted paradise).

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I noticed on the first day this little cemetery off the road and took time on the second run to check it out. Considering my unease with death (“nooo, I don’t wanna go!”) it is a little odd that I “enjoy” (as much as you can) exploring cemeteries. My hands were no longer blocks of ice (thanks miles, for warming me up!) so I took a few minutes to look at the headstones. Most of them were from the 1800s, with the requisite super sad markers of infant mortality. I am glad we manage to keep more babies alive these days, but do wish we would have kept that century’s tradition of putting the age (down to the month!) on the headstone. Saves doing a lot of pesky math! Just kidding, I love math…but I also love efficiency.

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As I rounded my way back to the cabin, I passed this “closed for the season” farm stand. In the heat of summer, it’s hard to grasp that the cold temperatures will ever descend and vice versa. But this playful mural reminded me that spring will come again and until then, it’d be best to just enjoy the day I am in.

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Got back into the warmest, loveliest cabin to this feline face. Michelle and her bf have an adorable dog and this giant cat. As hard as I try, I am generally not a cat person or a dog person (though I do like each, it is hard to picture myself actually owning one). I am solidly a rabbit person. GD, on the other hand, is solidly a cat person (though he is now also a Keebler person) and we have often talked about getting a kitty. I do worry that I would not bond with a cat but this big mama represented the first time I imagined that could be possible. I could not get enough of her! She had so much personality and was the right mix, to me, of people friendly and aloof. If we could just clone this girl, I think there would be hope I I could become be a rabbit person with a side of cat.

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We left the hilly peaceful woods and made our way home Thursday evening, back to milder temperatures and the flat peaceful beach, just where I most like to be.

Have you ever been to upstate NY? Are you more of a beach or mountain person? Cat or dog or other?

Race Report – Running Momma’s Philly Half 2014

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Running Momma finished her second half-marathon last week in a time of 3:10.40!! Gooo Mom! Here we are, a week later, and we caught up with her to hear about her race. A lot of the small details were left in because recaps are useful tools when you are preparing for another race (ie what worked, what didn’t) and this is where she can come to read hers. Read on to see what she’ll reflect back to in the future!

Pre-Race

Expo and Dinner

I got to the expo kinda of late – we got a late start because of a funeral and there was a lot of traffic. We could not get close to the convention center so dad just dropped me off. I told him not to meet me because it was still crowded and Laur was not in the city yet so I figured I would just do my thing. I got excited as soon as I saw the arch but it was late in the day so I think a lot of the vendors were already packing it in. I did find the Saucony booth and told them how much I hated the Guide 7s- I am sure they went right back and changed that (*laughs*)! I got new socks, GUs and my bib. I was getting a little lonely and just then your father and Lauren showed up anyway! I had already walked around about an hour so then we looked for your friend Fonso and his wife – they had very cool tights! (editor’s note: my friend Fonso and his wife Shayna are the US distributors for Ultrafit Activewear USA – check them out, their tights are like nothing you have seen!)

We went back to hotel (Courtyard Marriott, highly recommend) briefly and then to McCormick and Schmick’s for dinner. We had a great meal. I did not want to do fish so I got chicken – they served it with linguini but I can’t handle pasta the night before a run so I did mashed potatoes. We went back to hotel, I laid out everything then checked and rechecked it about 5x. I was pretty tired by then – it was about 830-9ish so I just got in bed. Dad wanted to chat but Laur and I were ready to sleep! I slept ok for the first few hours but then work up and could not fall back to sleep soundly for the rest of the night.

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Race Morning

I got up at 430, got a shower and had Cinnamon Harvest Kashi cereal, dry. Probably had 1/2-1 cup – I was eating as I was getting ready. Dad got up for a shower and Laur just got up and dressed (editor’s note – who here is surprised that Lil Sis was the only family member not to shower that morning? *crickets*). We went outside and started following everyone to the starting line. It was craziness, so many people! This was the first year we had to go through security, so that took some time. We started walking towards the corrals – I was supposed to be in blue but we wound up in a faster corral, one or two ahead of blue. It was just too hard to get thorough all the people so we just started in one of these.

Race

Miles 1-6

When we hit the start line, I began running – I often walk first but we had do that to the start line so I started running when we crossed the mat. It was a beautiful day and we just went! In the first few miles, you could actually hear the waves of people coming up behind you as they went by. It really felt like an actual wave coming through you, around you. It definitely would have been better to start in the right corral! Lots of people were yelling, “Go Running Momma!” And people really liked the back of the shirts, we got lots of compliments as people passed us. Soon we were on Chestnut, where we saw your dad, who took pictures.

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Miles 7-13.1

Around the 7th mile I started my Shuffle and Purple Rain was playing so I started singing along, which made Laur sing. Apparently the only words we know to that song are “purple ran” and singing just those two words the rest of the race became a joke among us.

I really enjoyed getting to the 10th mile. Laur and Chris started a game where every mile Laur would yell the miles and we would respond with “check!”. So Laur would yell, “one!”and we’d all yell, “check!” on and on. Then we’d cheer at the last check, and repeat again each mile. It was fun.

Mile 12 I started really hurting, my foot was really hurting. Just like last time, I knew I would not stop but it just hurt and I had to deal with that pain. I felt better at this point than I did three years ago – last time I felt like I was going to die, but this time was much better! I powered on, but mile 12 to the end feels so long! I never walk across a finish line so I kept going. You two were like, “let’s hold hands” but I was really focused on getting across and was like, “what?”. But I finally heard you and we did it! (editor’s note: we crossed the line and all jumbled together into a tearful hug. It was awesome!)

mile 10

Post-Race

We hung out at in the finish area for probably an hour, stretching and talking. Last time I felt woozy after so this time I ate some Shot-Bloks nibbled on a Clif Bar and that made a difference. Glen really helped me lay down on ground and cradled my head so I could just lay and stretch for a minute. When walking back to hotel, my legs felt like lead and my feet really hurt. It was hard to get up curbs. But once I walked for a little bit, I felt better. Got a shower and packed up at the hotel and I said, “this is good, I am starting to feel hungry”. We grabbed lunch at the hotel to avoid walking more. I had beef barley soup and half turkey sandwich and of course my coffee which I could not wait for, it really tasted good!

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Nutrition

1/2-1 cup dry cereal before. I had 4 GUs during the race, which was perfect. I drank a sip or two of Gatorade at most stops and towards the end I also sipped water in there. I usually also have some rice as a snack the night before a race but without a microwave I had to skip it.

2011 vs 2014 Differences

First of all, you will never have that feeling of the first one. I was SO excited 3 years ago… I was excited this time too, but it was not the same feeling. I thoroughly enjoyed this one though – I felt like my body remembered what it was like. My training went so well, even with some switching up of runs but I was able to be flexible and change things so I did not miss much. I also stretched a lot more after each run and it made a difference – 15 mins afterwards versus 5 mins. I liked protein shakes after runs this time and that really seemed to work out well. Not working also meant that I could take naps – I am not generally a good napper but being able to lay down and just relax for a short period helped a lot.

Race Lowlight

Probably when my foot started hurting again at the end and I thought, “oh, here we go again!”and my piriformis started kicking in too. I had a few cramps in my hamstrings on my right side (left foot is bad foot). My operated knee was fantastic. At about the 8th mile, I got a quick shot of pain in that knee and it did scare me! I knew nothing bad happened, but I thought, “oh please don’t let this be a tear!” . But it was just a tweak and was totally fine. Whew!

Race Highlight

Oh my god, there are so many. Just looking around and seeing each of you by my side was great. You and I working through telephone poles and Laur saying, “wait, isn’t this a walk break!?” (editor’s note: when we were tired in the last two miles, we started playing “just run to that next telephone pole!”…you should also know that Laur did not train for this race so enjoyed the walk breaks. Her secret was to replace miles with margaritas. Worked like a charm!). Then “Purple Rain” and Laur singing. The combination and support of both of you was amazing. Just you saying, “ok, let’s get to next telephone pole” and having you as my coach along the way and then coaching me that day was just fabulous. And then Laur making calls and Facebooking during made me laugh!

It’s just emotional for me – never in the 20-something years that I watched you two run, until 4 years ago, did I think I could do this with you. So it’s just really emotional for me that I can. Coming across the finish line holding hands was like a dream come true. And having Dad and Glen waiting for us with big smiles and the Liz and Sean and the girls coming to cheer was great.

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How do you feel now? What does the future hold?

I had a tough week, endorphin-wise – they weren’t there! I felt really off all week – my mind was just filled with all sorts of things. For three months my life has been running and taking care of the family (editor’s note: my grandparents live with my folks) and now I have to start looking for a job and I really miss the running.

I ran Friday. I left Paris (editor’s note: her Garmin) at the house, she had given out on me like, “I am done, I am exhausted!” but she needed to be charged so she stayed home. I was thinking, “what am I going to do next?”. I really liked the mother-daughter 5ks this summer, those were great. I might try a 10k, I seem to do fine with more distance. When I was training 5-8 miles, I was feeling really good.

I will run all winter. I like Parvins in the snow and running in the cold. I don’t go out as much when I am not specifically training for something, but I will get out.

I am not sure for next year and a full. Some of it will depend on what I am doing for work. Having done the half-marathon twice (and I will again, it’s a great distance and I love Philly) I want to do the full . My age won’t stop me, it will be more related to my schedule. We will see how my employment situation shakes out and go from there. Part-time work would be really good.

Overall it was great, I would encourage anyone to try a distance run to challenge themselves and see what it is like. Don’t be afraid, as long as you have done your homework and trained, you can toe the line ready to go. Enjoy it! That is really important.

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So that’s that! Congrats mom!!! If you have any questions for Running Momma, please put them in the comments!

 

Ultra Training Update

I like how I am calling this an “update” as though I have mentioned ultra training in more than passing and have been regularly telling the internets how it is going, lol. The bottom line is that I have been training for a 50 miler for 2.5 months now but never quite managed to write a post about it and probably could have continued on that path were it not for Winter Storm Cato (sidebar: for the record, I am not in favor of naming winter storms but will do it out of respect to forecasters, for whom my admiration has grown since reading Storm Surge: Hurricane Sandy, Our Changing Climate and Extreme Weather of the Past and Future by Adam Sobel. Excellent read, highly recommend!). Nestled next to the (relatively) warm sea, Cato for us has been just a rain/wind event – but it lasted all day with nary a break. I am still without proper running rain gear so decided to swim instead. Alas, the pool was closed and so I found myself with extra time on my hands and thought, “huh, this might be the perfect time to talk about that ultra”. So here we are.

I ran a DIY (yup, just like on HG, “do it yourself”) 50-miler once before, in May 2012, and it was fantastic. I am not yet ready to commit to a 100-miler (and even a 100k sounded daunting a few months ago but seems less so all the time) so I thought I’d go another round with 50. I knew that I wanted to train for long runs through the fall and settled on a 5-month plan that would have me ready to go in early February. I searched Ultra Signup for a suitable option, but none were what I was looking for – namely: flat, in a warmish area and on an interesting course. Ultras as a rule are often in breathtaking locations with tons of hills/mountains/elevation gain (aka “vert”). Training for a race like that in south Jersey requires way more time on a inclined treadmill set to than I’m prepared to give as well as a healthy dose of delusion. There are some flat ultras out there – but they tend to be looped courses, where you run x miles y times. I would not mind two big loops but more often these loops are as short as a mile or around 5-10miles – but either way I was not feeling running one loop 10-50x.

It wasn’t long before I determined I would be DIYing this one too. I will eventually do a sanctioned ultra but honestly don’t mind this version either – there is so much freedom in designing a course, in picking a place and a date that it is hard not to enjoy the process (aka perfect for a control freak like myself). I have considered a myriad of options and STILL have yet to finalize a location, which is really odd for me. I love to plan, plan, plan but on this one, I feel pretty relaxed. I think it is because when I was considering what next to train for, it was the idea of long training runs on Saturdays that got me excited and not so much the race itself. I’m apparently drinking the “all about the journey” Kool-Aid.

At first I thought I would go to Oregon, as it is the last west coast state I need for my run list and where one of my favorite running buddies, Melissa, lives. She moved out there a few years ago and has taken to trail running like a fish to water. She came up with some awesome course options, which were quite gentle in terms of elevation, but still too intimidating to me. I thought I would try to work in some hill training this cycle (like heading up to PA a few times) but life has been too busy for that and alas, the hills and I are not meant to be.

The next contender was somewhere on the Gulf Coast (in AL, MS or LA). We have another friend, Allison, who while not a runner, is someone who recently moved out of Jersey and who would be great to visit. It is flat and warm there but after playing around with maps and courses, I determined that we just didn’t know the area well enough to plan an interesting course that we could also be sure would be safe (ie not on highways with no shoulder).

Finally, I worked my way down to south Florida. It’s flat, warm and a running buddy couple, Scott and Sherry, live in the area. Not only would it be great to see them, but as accomplished runners themselves, they can offer help with my course questions (ie “is that bridge open to pedestrians?”). It is also desirable because it is an area GD is familiar with, having traveled there often on bird trips, and would be easier for him to navigate. Plus, if we decide to tack a vacation onto this, we have lots of options in terms of just kicking around the area (Sanibel! Ding Darling! The Everglades! The Keys!) or can hustle over to Miami to catch a short flight to somewhere more exotic (Honduras is high on our list right now).

I’m fairly well settled on Florida at this point – now I just need a course, plane tix, hotels, and car rental. No sweat, lol! It’s looking like GD, Lil Sis and Liz (crew member/spectator extraordinaire) will be coming, so no matter what, good times will be had and some sort of photo shoot will result from it (please see below from previous races: sexy tractor shoot and sexy fountain shoot).

LKJ KC sexy tractorIMG_3264

I am following the same plan I did last time, which is one from Relentless Forward Progress. I am sure I am going to regret typing these words, but it feels so much easier than last time! As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, 20 miles no longer feels like a big thang. I am not overly tired, sore, or beat up. I still have the hardest months to come, but so far, it’s nothing but smooth sailing. As a bonus, I have been doing my runs in the morning (I generally run midday this time of year, to take advantage of the brightest and warmest part of the day) and that has been helping me deal with my dislike of winter and all that comes with it (cold temps, less daylight) as I get to enjoy a little more daylight (usually would be sleeping ) and can start the day by raising my core temperature. It is helping me enjoy my least favorite time of year a little more.

Now that I got this whole novel out of the way, I can update more easily (and succinctly…oh, nevermind, who am I kidding?) in the future. One of the reasons I had put off this post was that I had never started writing about it and then there was so.much to say! Now that is out of the way and I can update more regularly.

So that is that! Thanks to Cato, this is the first run I have missed in this cycle, but I just plan to tack those miles on to tomorrow’s run so they are not lost to the abyss. More miles = more time to think about what I am thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!