The madness, excitement, adventure and musings of a runner who can't get enough of it
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Oh, The Weather Outside Is Frightful
My plan was to get up early and go for a run in the early dawn hours because it looks so cool along the lakefront, but that didn't pan out so well. I instead decided to "sleep in" today and ease into my run. After half a pot of coffee, some lounging on the couch with a chick flick on the tv, and playing with Lola for a bit, I finally decided it was time for a run. It was about 10:30 when I turned on my laptop to check the temp outside: 39 degrees. Perfect. Getting dressed and deciding to nix my prior goal of 3 miles, I decided to go for 5 today. Why not. I was all set to go and checked the temp one more time at 11:00: 37 degrees...it's dropped and now there's snow in the forecast. Okay, put on a hat instead of my ear warmers.
Heading downstairs to my lobby, I set my Garmin in a window to link up (which took forever today for some reason) and stretched. It looked awful outside and the ground was already wet. Oh well, still want to shake the limbs out! For a split second I entertained the idea of going back upstairs to my warm condo and getting a head start on my laziness for the day, but the thought exited as quickly as I entered, almost as if it was never even there. The crappier the weather, the more enticing a run is...just to see how I fare.
It was drizzly when I stepped out, but nothing to call home about. As soon as I hopped onto the lakefront path, the drizzle was joined by a brisk wind coming off the lake. Okay, not my fave, but I can deal. I decided to go with my regular iPod today so I could listen to my latest additions to my music library and I had it tucked nicely in the chest pocket of my jacket. Ah, bliss :) The further south I got on the path, the less drizzle there was. However, it was replaced with an all out blizzard blowing in from the east (off the water) and pummeling the left side of my face. As I neared Diversey, crossed the bridge and turned around at my 2.5 mile mark, the snow was now hitting the right side of my face, which I still had feeling in. This was painful. At least, heading out, the left side of my face was numb from the wet chill so the snow didn't hurt, but now I could really feel it! It was like millions of pins hitting my face. I put my hand up to block it for a bit.
The snow was really pretty, even if it did feel like facial accupuncture most of the time. I didn't negotiate most of the puddles, so my feet were now pretty wet (good thing my feet were numb too, so I couldn't feel the chill!). I was completely soaked by the time I reached Belmont on my way back, but I felt great. A much, much older man heading out on the opposite side of the path smiled really big at me and waved with both hands, I responded in kind. I love that. I laughed to myself and felt a surge of energy afterwards. So I capitalized on the surge and kicked it up a notch to squeeze in some 7:30's for the rest of the way. I felt really good, and my lungs were pretty happy, so why not put the legs to work a little more. The power of a smile from someone else is astonishing at times. At this time, it made me feel not so alone in my insanity for heading out in this weather.
Once I passed Addison, the snow felt more like rain and looked like sleet. At least the wind was slowed some. I made it home with a half tank and I'm sure I could have gone and done the route a second time, but I'd had enough of the wind and snow for one day. I couldn't even feel my face, and as I waited for the elevator I was trying to peel off my gloves...I couldn't feel my hands and I had to really concentrate to get them to move! But hey, it could be worse.
Overall, a great run. A much needed recharge after the holiday weekend. I did get in a nice 4-miler on Thanksgiving morning while my casserole was cooking at my mom's house, but it was about 50 degrees and the sun was out with barely any breeze to speak of. Much too nice of weather, and no mud :)
Coming up, the North Face Endurance Challenge in San Francisco...it'll be Mike's first 50-miler(!) and I'll be crewing and pacing him. It's going to be a great weekend, and so far the weather looks promising.
"All it takes is all you got."--Marc Davis
Monday, November 24, 2008
M-y R-unning I-njury
After my BFT jaunt, I felt that old familiar pain in my right shin. For awhile, the pain was something that was always there (well, at least since March of this year), and when it began to dissipate late summer it almost felt strange to be pain free. I know, totally and completely ridiculous. However, when it made an encore appearance a few weeks back, that sinking feeling returned with it. What if I've really done it this time? I saw my PT, Laura, upon return from the BFT and when I told her what I had done she slammed her hand down on the table and shouted at me. Not even kidding! She was miffed. I guess I hadn't really thought much about the mileage I'd been putting in lately, but two 30-milers, three weeks apart, on my "training" was probably not the best decision I could have made. You live, you learn.
So, we decided I needed to get an MRI now that the pain in my shin was narrowed down to a very specific spot (usually a sure sign of a stress fracture...and that means a boot and 6-8 weeks of no running whatsoever, aka hell). I first had to see my doc to get a prescrip for the MRI. He wasn't exactly thrilled with my achievements of late, but he also assured me he was almost positive I didn't have a fracture because I was still walking without any pain, and when I did feel the pain in my shin it was only when I was sitting still. I like to rest easy at night, and I like to get down to the bottom of things without a lot of fuss, so I said I'd prefer to go ahead with the MRI and find out now.
I love coming up with different meanings for acronyms...like BFT, MRI, DNF, etc. So coming up with ideas for MRI kept me relatively distracted. In case you didn't know, MRI stands for magnetic resonance imaging. I've never had one of these before, and didn't know what to expect. Basically, you go into a tube, on your back, for 45 minutes and listen to music while the machine vibrates and clicks around you. Thankfully, since it was my lower leg in question, my head didn't go into the tube, but I was in up to my ribs. I'm terribly claustrophobic and I had my hands clamped together so tightly that my rings were digging into my fingers and I had marks from my fingernails! I didn't realize this as I managed to doze off fairly easily. I was very much aware of how loud the machine was though and it felt as if the entire building were shaking. Oy, I hope I never have to get another one of these. I probably would have needed to be sedated if I had to go all the way in...the tunnel was verrrrrry narrow and I'm pretty sure I would have stopped breathing in it. Elevators still give me the heebie jeebies sometimes :)
An insider's look at my lower legs, from the backside...looks kinda funny!
Two days later, I'm in my doc's office and we're going over the results. No stress fractures! Not even a hint of one. So now I'm confused. What the hell is wrong with my shin then?! There is some fluid build-up in the exact spots I feel pain, on both sides, and it's very clear that my calves are tight. So other than a suggestion to get a few more deep tissue massage treatments, upping my caloric intake, continuing work on my mechanics and following a more conservative training plan, there's not much to do. I'm planning on pacing Mike the last 23 miles of his 50-miler in a couple weeks out in San Francisco, and then the following Saturday there's a Fat Ass 30-miler at McNaughton Park in Pekin. Doc said, "pick one, please just pick one." The temptation to do both is insane. Where does this come from? In a previous life, I would have intelligently weighed the pros and cons, and decided the best course of action. Now, I just sort of throw caution to the wind and do what I feel. You only live once!
In any event, I'll pick one. Most likely, I'll be sitting out the FA30. I will do everything I can to make sure Mike crosses the finish line under the 12-hour cutoff of his first 50-miler! I will carry him on my back if I have to! He'd do the same for me.
I took almost a full two weeks off from running, begrudgingly. I did the stair climber and bike at the gym, and continued with my usual strength-training. Not running absolutely sucks. Well, not running not by choice sucks. I have no problem not running when I've made the choice myself to skip a run, or take a rest week. But when the universe steps in and stops you it sucks. I get in a funk when that happens, and this year has been epic in that department. Obviously, it's high time I start taking a more serious approach to my training. Ultrarunning is no joke, it's no skip-in-the-park 10k where I can halfass my training and crank out a very decent time on race day. I've entered a world where the distance is serious and the resultant injury that can occur due to a lackadaisical training approach is equally as serious. So, to the drawing board!
I worked on a training plan today, based off of something I found on the Santa Clarita Runners' website. It's pretty cool. You enter in your event date and the distance, and it cranks out an Excel spreadsheet training plan you can download. I didn't totally agree with the one that I got, so I tweeked it and changed it from a 5-day running week to a 4-day week, and I changed the weekly mileage range to 20-48mpw. The original plan called for a max of over 60mpw on some weeks...to me, that's excessive. I think 30-50mpw is perfectly doable, at least in training for a 50-miler. Hopefully I can stick to the schedule! I'll change days around as needed, but I plan to cover the alotted weekly mileage one way or another. Of course, easier said than done :)
I'm sitting here with my shin wrapped tightly in an ice pack. It feels good.
Up next: another installment of Team Atayne...this time we invaded the Chicago chapter of Girls on the Run!
"The will to win means nothing if you haven't the will to prepare." - Juma Ikangaa, 1989 NYC Marathon winner
Friday, November 14, 2008
Welcome to God's Country! GC is also known as north central Pennsylvania for those who haven't ventured to this 'remote' part of the country. Remote in the sense that it doesn't have towering monoliths of glass and steel clogging the skyline, but rather towering mountains (or, hills?) stuffed with greenery and trees, even at this time of year. The ground is covered in a layer of golden leaves freshly fallen and the air smells funny. Of course, 'funny' means 'not polluted' to the city girl in me :) PA is the location, the goal: to hike the 42-mile Black Forest Trail (BFT...I have some choice ideas for what "BFT" stands for now!) in the Tiadaghton State Forest; the reason: because it's really freakin' hard and the group we were joining wanted to defeat the trail once and for all. An attempt was made earlier in the summer by Mike and some of the other guys, but extreme heat, serious elevation, and some other factors played into an incomplete. Honestly, I hadn't the foggiest idea what I was getting into, even more so than normal :) Mike made sure it sounded as awful as possible to prepare me, and thank goodness he did!
I flew into D.C. Thursday evening, where Mike picked me up with Jackson in tow. Jack almost jumped out of the car window in excitement when he realized there was going to be another human to pet and pamper him on the car ride home. So, Jack's got his front paws on the center console, leaning against Mike and we head back to Camp Atayne to squeeze in some sleep before our road trip up to PA...well, not before getting a pint of mint chocolate chip ice cream on the way (hey, it was carbo-loading!).
Getting up early, we set to getting everything ready and put into the car. This included making LOTS of coffee. A stop at the REI to get some camp chairs and a few other small items for the trip, and we're off! An aside: I say that a lot in these blogs, "and we're off!" My mom asked me, "do you guys ever not have plans for grand adventures?" Sometimes...but I guess not really :) We kind of suck at sitting still. So, we're off! I have the (tiny) directions in my lap, and Mike's behind the wheel. Seriously, these were the smallest directions I have ever seen...I had to have the paper inches from my face to see them, hehehe.
Driving up to PA was gorgeous, it definitely beats out the grim scenery through Indiana or Ohio. Lots of small towns, and "Americana" as Mike put it. We even drove past the Little League Hall of Fame in Williamsport, PA. A lot of the drive, once in PA, was along the Susquehanna River...that was my favorite part, very picturesque. Around 4:00ish we make it to the campground with just enough time to set up the tent in daylight.
As soon as we arrive, Tonya and RamblinRev greet us. What a character, that Rev! PARidgerunner, Cowanesque, Spikehiker, Blackjackhiker and Trail Goat are also joining us. Six of us were going to attempt the 42-mile BFT: Tonya, Mike, PAR, Cowan, Trail Goat, and myself. We all sat around the campfire and talked shop, ate some chili, roasted marshmallows, and then PAR commenced with the briefing. Wow, talk about some serious organization. The maps and trail description were in color, and they made sense! After the brief, I felt much better about the whole thing. Cowan was going to be our sweeper on the trail...the sweeper follows behind the last hiker/runner until the end...I was very grateful for this, knowing that I wouldn't be alone at any point if the others shot ahead.
At some point, I walked back to the car to get everything organized for the morning so that I wouldn't have to deal with it at 5a.m. in the rain. It was a bit of a walk from the site to the car and I'd be lying if I said I was totally excited to make that walk alone, twice. It was pitch black out, but I had my headlamp. My creative imagination came out of hiding and put all sorts of ideas in my head...a serial killer was lurking in the bushes, a bear was waiting to pounce, rabid wolves, zombies, the kids from the movie "Children of the Corn", snakes, Mike Meyers from the "Halloween" series was stalking me, etc. I made it to the car, though, unscathed, and got to prepping my drop bag with a change of clothes and getting my clothes together for the start of the madness. Mike's car has an alarm that actually works, and silly me locked it with the key fob from the inside of the car, so every time I moved the car alarm went off. I didn't know I was supposed to lock the car from the door locks. Woops! I think the alarm went off every 10 seconds for the 10 or so minutes I was in the car. The guys loooooved that one. The way I look at it, I scared off any predators lurking outside waiting to have me for dinner :) When I got back, Mike went to the car and got all his stuff ready, and packed a massive amount of food in our dropbags...even made peanut butter wraps, my favorite.
Around 9:30, we all decide to hit the hay. Rev is using one of those tent hammocks, and the rest of us are in tents. It was cold, but I somehow managed to sleep really well. Around 3:30a.m. the rain began. At 4:00 Mike got up to go get the coffee ready and warm the car. I slept a few more minutes, then worked up the guts to walk to the outhouse a couple hundred yards away, in the dark...alone. I'm pretty sure a bear was following me, or at least Freddy Cougar. After I changed in the tent, I walked towards the car, passing Tonya who says we're going to wait out the rain a bit, and leave at 6:00 instead. Sweet mother of love, thank you! So, Mike and I sat in his car and ate some breakfast, made some more coffee (the first batch boiled over, oops!), and listened to Bob Dylan to kill some time. Trail Goat was asleep in his car and would be joining us later on, he got in really late that night. The rain kept going, and going, and going... At one point I suggested Mike start his car and let the engine run for a few minutes since we had the lights and radio on for awhile. But noooooo, we'd be fine :) Mike played around with his gear and did his best 'creepy dude in the woods' look...
Now that's pretty creepy!
I think it was 6:15a.m. when we all squeezed into Tonya's SUV and drove to the trail head. Yes, it was still raining. Tonya, Mike, Cowan, PAR and I hopped out, adjusted poncho's and headlamps, took some pic's (hey, PAR, where are those pics?) and then took to the trail. It was dark, cold and wet and would stay this way for another 30 minutes or so. The first climb was a beast, but well worth the view we had. By now we were able to ditch the headlamps/flashlights, and the poncho's, but it was still drizzly and the ground was very well saturated.
Top of the first of three big climbs...
The first aid station (AS) was around 4.5 miles and Rev met us there with water and our drop bags. It was so wet out that there was really no point in changing shoes and socks as they'd be soaked within minutes. Fill'er up and we're off. PAR was a few minutes ahead of us, and Steve was hanging with Tonya behind us a ways. We had a nice straightaway after leaving Rev, so we were able to kick it up and run this portion until the trail spit us back into the woods. We had another big climb between AS 1 and AS 2, but that wasn't the worst of it. Between AS 2 and AS 3 was Naval Run and I would soon meet the Naval and curse it. The last portion before AS 2 was along a stream (or 'crick' as the others liked to call it, hilarious!). Mike hopped across the stream very well, then slipped on something along a log...first one to fall buys the first round of beers!! Woohoo, I couldn't believe he beat me to it :) Blackjackhiker and Spikehiker met us at AS 2, at the base of Naval Run, and refilled our water bottles, convinced me to leave my pack and poncho as it stopped raining and the climb was already hard enough without added weight. As we were about to leave, we spotted Cowan coming down the trail...alone. Tonya called it quits at AS1 due to being sick and for safety reasons.
Thursday, November 6, 2008
Waiving My Sanity
I may die.
Agree to waiver by checking here. By agreeing to this waiver you submit to the terms and conditions as set forth by this event and certify that you have provided true and accurate information as requested through this registration process.
That's the waiver I had to agree to when signing up for the 2009 McNaughton Park Trail Runs 50 Miler. It's official, I've signed up for my first 50 miler!! Come April 11, 2009, I will make a go of it. I can't wait!
My right shin and knee have a twitching phantom pain in anticipation of it. Oy vey!
I now have four months to get my rear in gear. I can do it, now that I have an end-goal...and it's paid for. That seals the deal, when it's paid for. I will crawl that course if I have to, but dangit, I'm going to finish it!
ION: I got my new trail runners in the mail this week...the neon green Brooks Cascadias 3. They rock my socks off! It feels like I'm wearing a cushy sock, they are so light and comfortable. I ran six last night with Beer Runners to sort of break them in. I could run faster and jump higher in them! No, but seriously, they are fantastic. They felt great even on the pavement, so I can't wait to take them for a run on some single-track this weekend.
They are nestled safely in my suitcase, anxiously awaiting the Black Forest Trail in PA. Happy feet!!
"No matter what hurts at the beginning, by the end of the race something else will hurt worse."- Bob O'Connor
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
Signed Sealed (almost) Delivered
Sunday I decided to take my long run into the suburbs and hit a trail. I woke up at 6:30a.m. and drove out to Darien to run the Waterfall Glen trail. It's a 9.45 mile loop, but I keep going back around until it's a full 10 miles. The trail is lovely. It's crushed gravel the whole way, which is great, until it gets into your shoes and starts bouncing around in your socks. The scenary is beautiful, and on this day I only saw a few other runners. Most everyone else on the trail was biking. So, I spent the majority of the time alone, with my iPod. It was a beautiful day out, sunny in the low 60's. It's mostly shaded, but there are a couple sections that run through a wide-open prairie-like area. The leaves have all changed and a lot of the trail was covered in a layer of pine straw and fallen leaves (which lent to that awesome fall smell I love).
The trail rolls a bit in sections, but it's otherwise flat. I didn't push it all that hard, I just wanted to enjoy the run. I averaged 9:00's, finishing up in about 1h:30m. A nice little jaunt in the 'burbs. My body felt great, and I didn't have any issues with my ham's or shin's, which is great! However, I did get a couple blisters on my right foot, just above where I'm healing from a nasty blister from my 50k a couple weeks back. That's so annoying. Why am I getting these blisters all of the sudden now? So small, but so irritating.