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!

I did not realize when I went to bed last night that we would be getting actual snow, so waking to a white Cape May was a real treat! It’s no secret I am not fan of winter, but snow- especially when it comes in runnable bite-sized pieces – gets a pass. Running in the snow is just plain magical and the fact I was not expecting it made it all the more delightful.

Even better than the snow was the low wind. Sure, it was in the 20s, but with the white stuff as a distraction and the biting wind taking the morning off, it was all too easy to crank out 5 miles. I’m already having a hard time grasping the reality that the ultra is a mere 16 days away and juxtaposing the winter wonderland of today’s run with the palm tree dotted one that awaits really tweaked my brain cells. The happy outcome of that, though, was that I *finally* stumbled upon a name for the run – Flee The Freeze Florida 50. Done!

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I set out on my run and headed into the state park. Dressed in many layers, I felt pretty comfortable and asked myself something I have many times in the snow – “why does it feel warmer, at the same temperature, when it is snowing versus when it is not?” I exhaustively researched this question (read: mentioned it in passing to a friend and did a quick Google search) and have not yet found a satisfying answer, but it appears to have something to do with the lack of wind (obviously just when regular snowing, not in blizzard conditions) and increased humidity. No matter what the cause of this (possible) illusion, I was enjoying looking down at the flakes sticking to my top layer while still being able to feel my fingers.

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I did not see another soul out today and only caught glimpses of some hardy wildlife in the non-frozen portions of the ponds. The only tracks I saw were those of bunnies, who were apparently reveling in the silence of the morning because they were everywhere! I let my mind wander for awhile with the thoughts of tracks and how they are so easily left in snow. I liked thinking about how the way my footfalls are recorded and can be observed varies widely from a snowy winter day to a dry summer one. I do the exact same activity, and on one day it is easy to determine I was there and on another it would be nearly impossible. Something about that and the passage of time struck me as interesting and I chewed on those thoughts for a few miles.

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Continuing with the passage of time theme, here is a rare sight this time of year and a most unlikely one in summer – an empty parking lot. Even on the coldest days, there is usually at least one car in the lot – but not today. And not only were there no cars, but no visible asphalt or white painted lines. It’s like the canvas was wiped clean, waiting for the artist’s inspiration to strike.

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Snowy woods give me a combination inviting/foreboding feeling. The reality is peaceful, silent and lovely, but too many books and movies trigger a sensation of danger. And it’s not an actual danger feeling (I don’t feel scared) but more of a fictional danger, the fun kind that you can almost enjoy, like a haunted hay ride or scary movie. The fact I am already running doesn’t help reduce this sensation! I feel like the Big Bad Wolf might be hot on my trail or quietly stalking me, vanishing and reappearing at will.

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As I run in snow, I like looking at the way it accumulates on different surfaces. On the ground or a car or on top of a frozen pond, it looks like a solid blanket. But when you see it collecting on smaller and warmer things, I like how it seems almost granular, like sand.

 

 

 

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There have not been too many runs in recent weeks that I was sad to head into a warm house at the end, but this was one of them. Mother Nature must have sensed my reluctance and kindly turned the snowflakes into their wetter, weirder, not-so-magical cousin sleet, which I was happy to escape from. I am sure it was just her having my back and had nothing to do with the rising temperature. Thanks Momma Nature!

What are things you love about running in the snow?

PS Don’t forget, this Saturday I will be running loops at the South Cape May Meadows Preserve from 9a-12p. Come join me for a few miles!

Time For Some Social Winter Running!

Hello from the land of winter running! We’ve been in a rough cycle here in south Jerz for the past few months – it is either brilliant blue skies and mind numbing temperatures (this past Saturday my long run was 18dF with 20mph NW winds. Lovely.) OR mild winter temperatures in the 30s-40s but pouring rain (2 Saturdays ago I enjoyed that scenario. The best! <– drips with sarcasm). Everrrry once in a while, we are blessed with sunny skies and normal winter temps (3 Saturdays ago, I lucked out with that. The best! <– no sarcasm). The only thing we can do it is put our heads down and plow through it – but it sure is nice plowing through it with company, hence my post today! Two runs I want to invite you to:

1. Saturday, 1/17- I will be running what is pretty much my last long run for this training cycle (hellooo taper!). I have been increasingly lonely on my long runs (the bleak winter landscape is not helping. Nor is the icy cold rain) and thought of an option to encourage people to come keep me company which is to do this last long run at The Nature Conservancy’s South Cape May Meadows Preserve. Although not everyone wants to run 18 miles, most of you would run at least one mile (and likely many more!). The preserve boasts a one mile loop that is just perfect for this sort of thing –  I will run it ~18x and you can come join me for as many or few miles as you like! Or you can just stay cozy in PJs all day and binge watch shows on Netflix, which is what I have been dreaming of doing with my Saturdays in February. BUT if you choose to join me, come on out any time between 9am and noon and wait anywhere from 1-10 minutes, at which time I will appear and you can hop in the run for as long or short as you like! This is a lovely loop trail, which features hard-packed sand and plenty of birds to look at. And don’t give me, “ohh, I can’t keep up!”. I am not exactly racing here, people. To give you an idea, my long runs are averaging 9:45 pace, with 10s early on and closer to 9:30s near the end and I can be flexible on that (to go slower, that is, I am not trained to go much faster). The weather is not looking frightful, which is a small miracle, so consider coming and joining me for a few nature-y miles!

 

2. Saturday, 2/28 – Have you ever done a running relay? Ever wanted to? Well have we got the run for you! The 46 mile Cape II Gate will be taking place at the end of February and is a total blast. We did it a few years ago, but schedules conspired against us to participate again until this year, when the stars aligned! This run is the best way to dip your toe in the relay waters – the structure is very loose and it is quite relaxed in terms of team sizes, number of legs, etc, when compared to something like the Ragnar series. Each runner must run at least 1 mile/leg, but other than that, it is pretty free form! Our team (or teams, depending on how it goes) can be as large or small as we like and people can run as much or little as they like, in as many or few legs as they like.

In addition to being free form it is also literally free! There is no cost to this event, as it is a fat ass, but each team must register with the event coordinator through a team captain. If you would like to join our team, please message us or comment on this post and we will add you in! Important information to include is how many miles you would like to run and how you would like broken down into legs (for example, you might want to run 10 total miles for the day, broken into two legs of 7 miles and 3 miles. Or you might want to run 10 total miles in just one leg. Or you might want to run 4 miles, broken into three legs of 2 miles, 2 miles, 1 mile. Sky’s the limit on the combinations!).  Please let us know within the next week or so if you would like to participate – or feel free to create your own team! The more teams, the merrier!

To get you in the mood and further explain the relay, click here or here for a few race reports. I’ll also leave you with a few pics from our last go at Cape to Gate – our team was “Happy Penguin”, named for our mascot (a beach toy the seasonals at my office found the summer before and who was a mascot on this and other adventures) who joined us the whole day, including for brews at the end!

 

Have you ever done a relay?

2015 Running Resolutions

Nothing like a new year to get you excited for the possibility of running adventures! 2015 is shaping up to be a good one- I have the ultra at the end of January, hope to do Cape to Gate 46 mi relay with friends in February, am registered for my first real trail run with Lil Sis in April, have a trip planned to Utah in June and Running Momma is contemplating a full in the fall! I’ll continue to write for Exit Zero and help organize the Great Cape May Foot Race and the Schalick Alumni Run and CIR group runs. If all of that manages to work out the year will be fantastic and doesn’t even count the things that will happen that I have no idea about (here’s hoping those surprises will all be good ones!). I know this whole paragraph comes off as too giddy, too psyched, but what can ya do? It’s just what comes out!

As for specific running resolutions/goals, here’s what I’m planning on/hoping for:

1. Run a race at the 5k, 10k, half marathon, marathon and ultra distances
This one feels possible because if all goes as planned, the hardest one is getting checked off at the end of this month, yippee! I also tend to shy away from 10ks, but am already registered for one in April, so that will happen. That leaves 5k (hope to do some with Running Momma), half and full marathons. The half and full have a few possibilities – I’d run with RM if she registers for Philly full. But I also figure that it would be a shame to not fully wring out every drop of the endurance base I have right now and might train for a half or full later in the year. Who knows??

2. Run in at least1 new country and 2 new states

Lil Sis and I will be going to Utah for a sister trip in June and neither of us have that state. We will likely fly into Nevada, so hope to grab that one as well. If we are extra ambitious, we may try to get to Four Corners and really go to town! I have no international trips planned as of now, but there’s a whole lot to go in 2015 so here’s hoping.

3. Start a NJ county run list

This is one I have been wanting to do for awhile – there are 21 counties in NJ and quite a few I have not run in. Rules will be the same as state and country – must complete 3 miles in one stretch (or 30 minutes if you don’t have a GPS watch).

4. Volunteer at least 3 times

It just feels so nice and cozy when you do.

5. Run a race in Cape May Point

It is not clear to me how I have managed to live in the Point for over 3 years and never run a race in my hometown. There are plenty of opportunities – I can think of at least 3 races off the top of my head and know of a 4th that is being added this year.  I have to make it happen for at least one of them!

6. Make an effort to add to my bird run list

I keep a loose list of birds that I have seen on runs – the main rule is that I must see or hear the bird on a legit run. I can’t just be out walking around, see a bird I need and start jogging in place, lol. I am keeping, for the first time,  a year list (all the birds a person sees in a year – no matter what activity they are doing when they see/hear it). I know it is early days and some of this is enthusiasm because I just started, but already I have been looking for birds more than usual on runs (and elsewhere).  Turns out I am a girl who loves checking things off a list, who knew? Ok, everyone knew, I LOVE LISTS!  Since I will be looking at birds closer than normal, I am also going to formalize my run list (right now it is in my head, in my running travel journal and on various scrapes of paper in field guides) and try to get new birdies on it. If all goes well in work and personal travel, 2015 will bring trips to Florida, Delaware, Nevada, Utah, New York and Maine so lots of good runs to find birds on!

8. Keep growing CIR

Every year, we do a little more and I hope 2015 will be the same. It’s been a pleasure to run and laugh with you for the last two years and I’m looking forward to more of the same in 2015!

What are your running resolutions for 2015?

2014 Through The Rear View

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At the end of last year, my friend Kim posted on FB calendars that you use to mark off the days you ran. I loved the idea but just figured I would make my own low rent version. I kept it at my desk at work and every day would fill in the blocks (on a separate sheet, I would write down the mileage, just seemed too cluttered for one page #decluttereverything). I know there are oodles of fancy software programs and apps that will track all of this for you and while I generally am pro technology, there is something about tracking and planning runs that I prefer to do old school (this also explains why my training plans are printed out and stuck to the fridge). I think for me it is just more satisfying to color in a box than click a mouse. Anyway, the results are these:

I ran on 228 days in 2014 for 1,548.08 miles. I did not tally them til after the last run because I wanted to just let it reflect what it was and not let those numbers guide me at the end to some predetermined total. But damn if I don’t wish I randomly ran 1.92 more miles to get to a nice, even 1,550! Ahh, well, there is always next year! And it’s good for me not to get so wrapped up in arbitrary lines in the sand, something I routinely struggle with. I have no idea where that fits on the grand scheme of running mileage for me since this is only the second time I have tracked it so closely (in 2012 I ran 1,781.59, a year in which I trained for both an ultra and a marathon). It was extra easy doing it with the paper chart and I plan to do it again in 2015.

At the beginning of 2014, I wrote the following resolutions. Time to check back in and see how I did!

1. Run in at least two new countries

PARTIAL CREDIT I got the one that I knew I would, Belize, which was so awesome! I hoped that a second on the resolution list would help encourage me to get somewhere else, but never quite made it. Once we were in Belize we did wind up taking an unplanned day trip to Guatemala and I really wish I had been able to sneak in 3 miles that day! Must go back!

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Placencia, Belize, post run

 

2. Run in at least 2 new states

NOPE! Oh, so sad, not even one new state! It’s getting harder to wrack them up since I think I am up to about 35. I did run in quite a few states this year (Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Alaska, Florida, New York) but alas, none of them were new. Excellent runs tho!

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St. Paul Island, Alaska

3. 12 bibs in 12 months

PARTIAL CREDIT I only managed 7 – but they were all great! I especially enjoyed our mom-daughter runs (the 5ks and the Philly Half!), which we plan to continue in 2015.

Philly Half shirts
Philly Half shirts

4. PRs in 5k, 10k and half marathon

NOPE! Ohh, so cruel! Never even managed to race a 10k or half-marathon so that was a non-starter. I legitimately tried to get a PR in the 5k but did not come close. I think the fastest I ran was 21 seconds slower than my PR so still lots of work to do there. People think marathons and ultras are rough but the real pain for me comes from trying to run fast for shorter distances!

5. Continue and expand CIR runs 

YUP! We had a great time with our Brewery Runs, not the least of which because the weather was so dang nice this summer! It actually was not as hot and humid as I like, but that cooler weather translated into such great running weather. I felt lucky to expand my running buddy circle to include Sue, Debbie, Alice, Lisa, David, Doug and Inga while still enjoying the company of my old standbys like Lil Sis, Em, Rochelle, GD, Diane, Meg and Running Momma. We also had a day with the Beat The Census monarch run in October.  The pinnacle of our CIR runs, though, was absolutely the Mugsmas Run! Super fun night all around!

Mugsmas 2014
Mugsmas 2014

6. Volunteer at at least 2 races

YUP! I volunteered at the OC Tri/DU and OCNJ Half Marathon and was on the race committees of the Great Cape May Foot Race and the 3rd Annual Schalick Alumni Run. Racing is super fun, but cheering others on and organizing events for others to enjoy has charms of its own that I can’t get enough of.

7. Add yoga to the mix

NOPE! GD and I went to a few classes in the beginning of the year but then they were unexpectedly cancelled and I never quite got enough oompf to find new ones. However, Lil Sis and I took an awesome class in Belize that was delightful, so perhaps there is still hope yet!

8. Complete Jantastic!

YUP! Got through all three months of Jantastic and really enjoyed it! Since I will be taking time to recover after the ultra and not sure what I will do when it is done, I can’t really predict Feb and March so am skipping it this year. But I will definitely do it again because it was so fun!

One of the most enjoyable things about looking back on a list like this is thinking about how much that happened that I could not predict. I would not have guessed that I would have spent my birthday on a small island in the Bering Sea handling auklets or that I would now be a columnist with Exit Zero or that we would all survive running though a polar vortex winter (there was a few runs times I thought we were all goners and it would never be warm again). It’s fun to put together goal lists but equally fun to see what gets thrown your way (although admittedly it’s better when its good stuff that comes flying versus an injury or the like).

I’ll be back in a few days time with the 2015 Running Resolution list but until then tell me about your hits and misses from 2014!

Happy New Year!

 

Ultra Update – The Longest Long Run

This weekend I ran the longest long run of the cycle – 31 miles. Sometimes people ask why you would top out at that distance when the actual run is 50 miles – wouldn’t it make more sense to go further? Well, yes and no. Yes, because you would have more experience with the distance and presumably be able to mentally handle the big day better. But no, because the general thought is that the amount of effort it takes to cover that many miles beats your body up pretty badly and at some point you do more harm than good when it comes to prepping for race day. Your body uses an enormous amount of energy to run that long, depleting the tank, and many micro tears occur in your muscles (don’t worry, they are perfectly normal and even happen in everyday life – but this is stepped up a notch or two). It would be one thing to run that far and then spend a few weeks recovering. That is not what happens in this scenario, though. Instead you have to walk the fine line between preparing your body for 50 by continuing to train for another month and going overboard and preventing it from being recovered by the time of the race. Folks smarter than I think that running a 50k (31 miles) is where that line is for a 50-miler so I happily accepted that and got ready for a very long training day.

By getting ready for the big day, I mean that I spent the week leading up to the run doing my best impression of a whirling dervish. When I originally planned the 50 mi, the date was going to be the first week of Feb. But after consulting Sherry and settling on Florida for the location, logistics called for the date to be shifted a week sooner, which meant that the training had to be shifted, which meant the 31 miler would now take place 2 days after Christmas. Perfect timing! NOT.

I am a Christmas procrastinator, which translates into lots of last minute shopping and baking like my life depended on it. In the week leading up to the run, I baked 4 kinds of cookies, a pie and 2 cakes. I shopped and wrapped, I wrangled two rabbits (we watched Laur’s Lola this week, who was an absolute sweetheart. Keebs on the other hand – well, let’s just say that even though he is old and rickety he was very concerned with everyone knowing he was the king of the castle), ate an enormous number of cookies and enjoyed lots of fun social times.

Come Friday night, though, I was fried. I had two meltdowns, one with GD and one with Laur, that mimicked almost exactly what you would see with a toddler. I was just plain tired and nervous and worried about the run. I have done this distance before, so I knew it was possible, but I had not done with a lack of sleep and general lack of preparation. The night before a long run I usually reserve for a quiet night in, when I set out my nutrition, monitor the weather, get Garmy charged, fill up the Shuffle, eat a good meal and get to bed early. This year, there happened to be a party that I really wanted to go to – one that I had volunteered to bake a cake for and that was about an hours drive away.

I did my best to drink enough water through the day but I definitely did not stay off my feet, I hastily hooked up Piper (oh, news alert, I got a new Garmy!! My bff Garmy’s battery can’t quite hang with the miles so for a Christmas present to myself, I grabbed a purple Garmin Forerunner 220 and tried her out on this run. Bottom line: IN LOVE but kinda feel like I am cheating on Garmy), I added whatever I could manage to the Shuffle and headed out the door. I came home after the party and tried to decompress but I was so worked up it was hopeless. I woke up the next morning feeling nothing but dread.

My body felt tired and creaky and maybe like it was getting sick. I tried to focus but it was not happening. The only two things I had going for me were: 1. Lil Sis was being relentlessly positive and encouraging through conversations and texts and 2. The day was perfect – it was the most ideal weather for running no matter the day, but especially in December and especially on a training cycle that has been dotted with dreary, rainy, windy days. Saturday dawned bright and clear – upper 40s-low 50s and barely a hint of wind. It was incredible.

I started my run and within a mile thought, “huh, this might be ok”. From there on out, I figured that every mile I got that was a good one would reduce the number that would inevitably be torturous. But you know what? The bad miles never came!! Unexpectedly, inconceivably, some way some how, this turned into one of the best runs of the cycle. When Piper hit 30 miles, I cried because it was then undeniable that there would be no bad miles! 31 came and though I felt the kind of pain that naturally comes with those miles in my shape, I was triumphant! One of Lil Sis’ last texts that morning read, “You got this. Go run the f$#& out of those 31 miles!”. I hit stop on Piper and yelled, “I ran the f$#% out of that!” It was a sweet moment that only got better when I opened my phone and saw messages of encouragement from friends. Turns out, Lil Sis rallied the troops to tell them I was having a rough go of it and she asked them to text me cheers. Already an emotional live wire, I sobbed for a few minutes with happiness and relief, relieving the pressure that had built up over the last week thinking about this day and feeling grateful to my friends for helping me through it (I am pretty sure text ESP must have played a role). Oh, long runs, how I love thee.

When I was telling people about my plans, some of the same questions came up over and over so I thought I would answer them here, in case you too are wondering about them! It’s also a handy way for me to refer back to this run when planning future ones.

Where did you run?

I ran a loop course that started and ended in Seaville. I did not have time to create a new one so I used the same one I did on the last training cycle. I had not run this area in some time so it felt really fresh and fun! It went like this:

31 mi

 

What do you think about?

I did the run in 5 hrs and 12 minutes so the short answer is everything, lol. Specifically, I thought about wildlife (lots of good sightings that day – a bat, Bald Eagle, Red-tailed Hawk, Eastern Bluebirds, Dark-eyed Juncos, all sorts of fun winter birds like that), my job and what I want to do on different projects in the new year, our upcoming Florida trip and what we will do with the time when I am not running. These are roads I have run on quite a bit (when I run at lunch from work) and I called up memories of past runs and also of the last time I did that whole loop. I listened to podcasts and thought about the topics they discussed. I also tend to think about food early in the run, before the nausea sets in later, and oddly crave food I never regularly eat and have no taste for after the run. I have mentioned that before – does that happen to anyone else? On this run, I thought about pot roast (?!?!).

Later in the run, it gets harder to think complicated thoughts and a lot of what goes through my mind is focused on what is happening in the moment –  thinking about what hurts and if it is getting worse, what feels good, how much water and food I am ingesting and how I can battle the nausea. I also start looking forward to water stops – I don’t really even stop, it is just something fun to look forward to (side note: the version of “fun” late in a run differs substantially from regular life. I can’t imagine normally thinking, “oh my gosh, it is going to be so great to take a swig from that water bottle on my desk!”). Around Mi 26, I knew there was going to be a Wawa with a bathroom, which I looked forward to more than you can imagine. Not only for the actual bathroom but for the hand dryer that would warm up my fingers. The anticipation was fantastic, but the warmth being restored to my fingers even better!

What did you eat and drink?

Please note the following is not what I think you should eat on long runs, just what I did. After years of experimenting on myself, I know what does and does not work for me. You are likely different!

Pre – The night before I ate a spinach salad with avocado, hard boiled egg and salsa, a large bowl of whole grain pasta (yes I know what they say about pasta and that it’s not the super run food it’s been made out to be, but it works for me and my belly and has for 20+ years so I’m sticking with it!) with broccoli and veggie sausage. I also had some anise bread from the Bread Lady. As a snack before bed I had raw almonds and a 2 granola bars. That morning I had a toasted cinnamon raisin bagel (from my Brooklyn stash in freezer, thanks Anne! – and I toast because it seems to reduce the sloshing feeling I can get from eating too much before a run – must evaporate out some of the water) with honey and about a cup of dry cereal. I sipped on water for the few hours I was awake before starting to run.

During – I set 16 ou. water bottles out at miles 5, 10, 15, 20, 23, 26 and 29 and drank 1/4-1/2 of each. I hate carrying water with me so I always set out beforehand (and pick up after). I ate a GU, a mini honey Stinger Waffle and half a Clif Z bar, which totaled about 250 cal. I know most people recommend far more than that, but I just can’t seem to stomach more when running. That is why I front load my calories the night before and morning of – it seems to work better for me. Nutrition and hydration felt spot on – I never came even close to bonking so I was pleased with this.

After – I was not really hungry the rest of the day, but within a half hour of finishing I ate a Clif Bar. I got home and ate a plate of leftover turkey and some cottage cheese. A few hours later for dinner I had a spinach avocado salad, veggie sausages, protein pancakes and an apple. I ate almonds and 2  granola bars for a snack. I drank water with Nuun and then plain water to thirst. I went to bed at a normal time, but I slept poorly, as I often do after a long run that ends late in the day. I think my body is just still too keyed up.

Why would you do this??

This post is already too long and there isn’t really a satisfying answer to this question anyway, so I generally give my stock response: I like the places my mind goes when the run gets realllly long (it can be good and bad places, but they are only accessible when enough miles have passed). I like the person I am when running and hope that by going out there and logging those miles, some of her will rub off on the “not running” me. She worries less, is more generous, and better able to live in the moment.

So there you have it! A training run recap that lasted almost as long as the run :) Don’t worry, you ain’t seen nothing yet, I still have the 50 to go! But before that, one more month that will build on the confidence that I felt that day, which I know will help plow me through the upcoming tough weeks.

What do you think about on long runs?

Christmas 2014 Run

For many years now, one of my holiday traditions is to go for a run Christmas morning. It does not have to be long or intense, just a few miles where I can take a minute to be grateful for whatever that year happened to bring – or work through emotions on years where I am not so grateful for what the year brought! I think for a lot of people, Christmas is an emotional amplifier. Feeling great? Excellent, this day will be a blast. Feeling blue? Watch out, it’s gonna hurt worse today. Rough years for me have included ones where break-ups were not yet far enough in the rear view (a meltdown at Lil Sis’ ex-boyfriend’s parent’s house on Christmas Eve years ago is one that still makes me shiver with humiliation today).

I am happy to report, though, that 2014 has been a good one. My nearest and dearest are happy and healthy, I have roof over my head in a neighborhood I adore, a job I love, a training cycle that is going smashingly, memories of adventures past and anticipation for those to come. Was there heartache and pain? Of course – every year has its share of those, too. But when the good vastly outweighs the bad, like it has this year, I call it a win.

Because I had my longest training run scheduled for the weekend after Christmas, the training plan called for just 3 easy miles on Thursday morning. As soon as I saw that number, I perked up. Three miles would not be at all hard to convince Lil Sis and GD to run with me! Lil Sis was dog sitting in a really cool old house in Marmora and we had already planned to have a sleepover on the Eve with her so throwing in a 3-miler the next AM seemed like the perfect was to start celebrating! Without too much trouble, I convinced them to lace up and we headed out on a warm and cloudy morning.

Not much makes me happier than sharing miles with these two, especially at the same time, which does not happen often. They both worked out some kinks in the first few minutes but it wasn’t long before GD started calling out birds (all the normal suspects but in a high quantity!) and sis started cracking jokes, so I knew we’d be just fine.

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We made our way to a park trail that I often run at lunch (my office is really close to where we were staying) and were delighted to find this Charlie Brown tree decorated with one lone ball. It was a cheerful sight on this dreary morning (I hesitate to call it dreary, though, because the mild temps were so lovely!).

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I have run past this mailbox umpteenth times and the mannequin legs have started to look normal to me. So I had no idea what Lil Sis was referring to when, in the middle of a different sentence, she interrupted herself to yell, “What is that??!” We could not resist a quick pic and take a moment to love on the quirky people of south Jersey. The flavor of this place is just my favorite.

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At the end of the driveway at a nearby house was this poor Olive Oyl. Seeing her on Christmas morning, I could not help but think of all the toys that were going to get discarded and replaced by shiny new ones in the coming days. And not in a, “oh my gosh, it is so much waste, we are going to be piled under our trash soon!” but more of my inability to accept that inanimate objects don’t have feelings. My mom and I share this – it’s so hard to throw out toys or figurines or anything that we think can feel the rejection. Reading, and falling in love with, The Velveteen Rabbit as a kid did nothing to diminish this feeling – quite the opposite. So I felt for poor ol’ Olive that morning. Luckily, her expression showed she was taking it like a champ. The fact she isn’t real also softened the blow, lol.

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Later in the run, Lil Sis and I decided she and GD should act out the inflated animals (and props to this homeowner, many others had their fans off and their inflatables looking oh-so-sad in a heap on the ground). I thought it would be a cute pic, Laur was psyched to have a quick break :)

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We wrapped up our miles, and headed back into the house for showers and packing. We then headed to our folks house for a day of present exchanging and delicious food eating. It was a pitch perfect Christmas Day and it all started with a great run.

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Hope you all had a merry Christmas! Do you run Christmas morning?

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?