Tag Archives: health and fitness

Weaknesses, Ambivalence, & a Great 10k

I’m at a week (and a half) in recovery mode: Last week I tried to get a bit more sleep (success), not work a ton of extra hours (moderate success), and ran only 23 total miles. I was feeling a lot more optimistic about the rest of Winter training and going into the Spring racing season. Especially after running the Back On My Feet Mardi Gras 10k on Saturday without falling apart (although it wasn’t without cramping).

The course was .20 short. Whoopsy. Mile 5 was slow because we ran into the 5k..bod and weave isn't in my repertoire.

The course was .20 short. Whoopsy. Mile 5 was slow because we ran into the 5k..bob and weave isn’t in my repertoire.

With honesty I’ve concluded that some of the discomfort and bonkyness I experienced at the LA Marathon wasn’t from having a cold (although that was the biggest contributor and certainly exacerbated things), but also was an illustration of several weak spots in my training and other habits that all reacted at once to the stress of 26.2 miles, on a hilly course, while fighting a lack of rest, a high level of stress, and illness over the past few months while also running at a (for me) high volume.

IMG_0030

Screen shot from thumbnail…used without permission…is marathonfoto really never going to decide to charge a reasonable prices for downloading images?

Also, side note, I’m on my second “rest day” in a row (because of logistics and weather), so it’s plausible I’ve entered a reality distortion based panic where I can’t stop eating, feel 20lbs heavier, and am certain I’m out of shape. You know, the usual.

What are these training weaknesses? In no particular order here are the things I’ve pin-pointed, which if given some attention, it’s realistic to expect I would run (and generally feel) much better:

  1. DIET: True, I maintain a diet that more-or-less keeps me  more-or-less feeling good, and out of the hospital. Having faulty guts  means that I eat much “better” than the average person. But there are several areas where my vices rule me: lots of sugar, lots of coffee, lots of wine. If I just halved my consumption of those three things , I might wake up looking like Shalane… or at least, I’d reliably be able to button my slacks instead of trying to make leggings work-suitable. us-olympic-marathon-trials-results-team-amy-cragg-shalane-flanagan
  2. STRENGTH: I’m as total weak-ass. Figuratively and quite literally. I have very little strength and gave up my weight lifting habit once my weekly mileage went over 40. So, that was like 4 years ago, and now I have all kinds of hip, back, and core issues when I run… because those areas are so damn weak! And, as suggested, I think my ass is pretty wimpy too.
  3. SLEEP: Poor Jorge can share hundreds of anecdotes illustrating how much I struggle in the morning. I’ve been like this my entire life. Doesn’t matter how early I get to bed, my brain, mood, and body take FOREVER to wake up in the morning. If I sleep less than 8 hours (and who has time for THAT?!) it’s worse, and for me sleep debt seems to accumulate very fast and I almost always develop a fever, or catch whatever virus/bacteria is going around – this is what happened in Jan/Feb first the flu then the cold. I was logging only 5-6hrs of sleep per night from Thanksgiving until I got back from LA and said….NOooooooo I can’t take this anymore!
  4. STRESS: Productivity and stress have such a weird relationship. High productivity increases overall stress, but also decreases it… but then if overall stress gets too high then productivity slows down – creating more stress! GAAAAH! This is my life.

    This counts as a whole week's worth of ancillary work, right?

    This counts as a whole week’s worth of ancillary work, right? (and to be clear: this is me NOT Shalane.

  5. CLARITY OF GOALS: For the first time, outside of wanting to break 3:10 in the marathon this year, I don’t really know what I want from running in 2016 … which makes it hard to focus, do the supplemental work, drink less wine,  plan training, and choose races. Which brings me to my next point.

I’m still waffling like crazy over how to proceed in terms of racing and training. More specifically, I can’t decide whether I should go run the Catalina Marathon on March 19th, or stay home and run the Cary March Madness Half Marathon on the 20th (already registered). I registered for Cary on New Years Eve (it sells out within minutes most years), and then last month, very impulsively I entered a giveaway for an entry into the Catalina Marathon. I was really excited when I won! As it says in my entry post, I ran the Eco Marathon in 2013, and LOVED it. I also managed to finish as the first female, and 7th overall… which was an awesome experience. I wrote about it here.FullSizeRenderWhat I failed to consider in my impulsivity, was that this race is 5 weeks after LA and 4 weeks before Boston, and although it’s a comped race entry, I still need to FLY TO CALIFORNIA, which ain’t free. If the weather and sea conditions cooperate I don’t need accommodations because my bother, SIL, nephew and I will go out to the island on their boat. I usually take 36 or so hours to not be sea-sick, but I mean, who sleeps before a marathon anyway? Not me! The bigger concern is running with “sea legs”, basically then you feel sea-sick, but while you’re on land, running a race that is 26 miles with like 4,000ft of elevation gain. Awesome?

Note: not the actual boat.

Note: not the actual boat.

I honestly feel ambivalent, I can get on board with going and with not going. The biggest appeal is an extra visit with my family . I feel too awkward to ask to defer the entry, because, you know. Contest. But I also feel like a douche if i don’t use it. I need to make a decision so I can figure out how to train…

I can’t decide what to do. 

Thanks for hanging in here with me, now it’s time to CROWD-SOURCE this, yay!

What do you think? Catalina: yes or no?  (follow-up question, am I stuck being a jackass no matter how I handle this?)

Reduce training volume by 20% to make time/energy for supplemental work: yes or no?

Give up candy and wine: just kidding, don’t answer this one.

*AB

Which Results Are The Important Ones?

I ran the LA Marathon yesterday, and although what follows may seem to have a dreary tone, I’ve got about a hundred things that when I think about them they make me laugh, so overall I’m in a good place. There was a seemingly unending and hilarious series of small and large calamities leading up to this race, most of which I’ll leave out of this post in the name of talking about some other things. But before I get into it, I have to upfront thank my sister-in-law and mother for journeying to the finish line, Meredith for traveling from San Francisco to spend the weekend with me and my crazy clan, and Erica who was probably the sole reason I made it to the start…because I set my alarm for 4:30pm, not am. Which means if I’d been at my brother’s house, and not a hotel in downtown LA, well, there’s no way I’d have made it on time!

One of the things about running that drew me in and has kept me plugging away is the allure of predictable success. The premise that if you complete x, y, z actions (training details) then you can expect x, y, z results (faster races). The challenge with this concept is that  you have to maintain a sort of aerial view of your training and racing in order for this rule to be supported. There is a constant temptation look at single races and workouts and get sucked into flip-flopping between thinking you’re either the inevitable next member of the olympic team or you should give up running forever, because there’s obviously no hope for improvement.

Another challenge of the a+b=c theory of running is that how we define success, our rate of improvement, the ceiling of our abilities, and how much we can manipulate our daily life to support training is highly fluid. That is, all of these things vary across people, and within each of us across time.

Since my first marathon in 2010, if you’re looking from afar, I have slowly increased the volume and intensity of my training cycles (I’m not going to get into specifics in the name of, trying to be succinct -probably a futile effort). For the most part I’ve seen a positive relationship between these increases and increases in my performance across distances on race days. But, if you take a close up view, this journey is riddled with full-stops, breaks, bonks, DNS’s, and (one) DNF. Admittedly, I’m a little stuck in the myopic view right now, I’m feeling a bit desperate for a breakthrough or at least some unquestionable evidence (i.e. marathon PR) that overall my performance is still improving, or unquestionable evidence that I need to change the way I train.

My current marathon training plan of choice is the Pfitzinger 12 week 70 miles per week training plan. That is, you begin the first week running a total of 55 miles, and at the peak of the cycle you have 4 weeks at 70 miles.pfitz Like most plans out of a book (read: not individualized) this one has weekly elements that target improving lactate threshold (tempo runs), VO2 Max (intervals and goal pace runs), and your glycogen storage and fat utilization (total volume, long runs, medium-long runs). That is to say, each week you spend some time running hard, running at or near goal marathon race pace, running easy, running tired, and put in as many miles as you can without flirting with diminishing returns. Hopefully the outcome is that you end the training cycle with your training and racing paces faster than your previous training cycle, or the start of this one. 

I’ve now “completed” two cycles of this plan.  The quotations are required because in the first cycle, last fall, right as the first taper week began I got very sick with colitis and diverticulitis complications. Then, this cycle for the LA Marathon I had the flu, and had it bad, during the second peak week, then 5 days out from race day developed a cold which began moving from my sinuses to my chest about 36hrs out.

The weather report for racing in LA was not ideal. In Chicago “unseasonably warm” in February means 40 degrees, in SoCal is means 90. But with the early start (6:55am) and running toward the ocean I really never felt hot. In fact, coming down the last couple of miles into Santa Monica, there was a dense fog and I felt rather cold. That said, I also wasn’t running very hard, or fast…Ok…at that point I wasn’t really running at all.

The LA Marathon course is NOT an easy one. People kept telling me it was mostly rolling hills. Those people clearly don’t know what “rolling hills” means. The course alternates between intermittently shoving you off cliffs, and long never-ending moderate inclines. But this could just be my bitterness and resentment talking. Even if you’re feeling at the peak of your game, I suspect it would be challenging to run an even effort or even pace on this course.

Unfortunately, for this race my strategy moved from “target a 3:10 finish and run smart” to “don’t die and/or quit running forever” within the span of a week. The highlight reel of my performance yesterday is as follows (with mile splits for your amusement):

  1. Struggled to slow down for first few miles because options included either blowing out your quads barreling down the hills, or blowing out your knees and hamstrings trying to slow down (do I have that backwards?) — oh and the constant certainty that someone was going to fall.  (7:17, 7:10, 7:18)
  2. Spent 10 miles feeling responsible for some mans BQ because he wasn’t wearing watch and the course clocks SUCKED, and he kept asking me about my pace (note: he was totally nice about it and non annoying). TRANSLATION: my modified race plan to run 7:30-7:45’s and prevent bonking due to chest cold? fail)  (7:19, 7:35, 7:30, 7:15, 7:22, 7:26, 7:15, 7:16, 7:13) *he later took up with the 3:15 pace group as they passed us -phew.
  3. Halfway. Coughing a lot. Shirt full of snot.(7:31, 7:29, 7:08, 7:24)
  4. Mile 17. Chest discomfort. First walk breaks. (7:41, 7:44, 7:37)
  5. Mile 20. Longer walk breaks, chest discomfort spreading. Made friends with a very hungover 2:30-something marathoner. (8:09)
  6. Mile 21 – stopped for a beer with new friend (9:18)
  7. Soon after – abandoned by new friend because he had to pee/saw something shiny – decided to start jogging
  8. Mile 22-25 my diaphragm didn’t seem to be working properly, lots of abdominal muscle spasms and cramps. Lots of stopping to feebly try and stretch them out.(8:53, 8:31, 9:27, 7:57)
  9. Mile 25+ stop to see Meredith, Mom, and Teresa (my SIL) (9:15)
  10. Mile 25.5 to finish – maybe 10 full stops, hard to stay upright for the abdominal cramping. (FOREVER)
  11. Stupid cold. Lame immune system. Running is hard.
meh.JPG

For once I perfectly expressed all my emotions: “meh”.

I’ve got two marathons coming up in the next 9 weeks. First, Catalina Island, which isn’t (perhaps obviously) a race at which I’m going to be looking to PR at, I love Catalina and I’m lucky to have a brother who goes there often with his trawler, so to the degree that it’s not insane to do so, I’ll be training around that one. Then, Boston, where I do want to go out looking for a PR. But I’m stuck.

Which data do I look at to decide if my current goal of running 3:10 pace is reasonable and/or if I’m training properly? Do I look at those workouts where I hit the training targets reliably, or do I look at the fact that 3 times now I’ve gone out at 3:10 pace in a marathon and 3 times I’ve bonked. (Boston – hypothermia/med tent/3:19, Bayshore – DNF at mile 20, LA – well…the above).

While it’s true that in each of these cases there were variables that affected performance: wet/cold weather, proximity to the previous ordeal, and moderate illness (in that order), I also don’t feel that I’ve had a very strong half marathon performance in the past two years where I feel like I can confidently say I’m ready for a big jump up in marathon performance.

What say you internet running (experts) friends?

*AB

All The Unicorns

I don’t think about “work/life balance” much. But I do think each day about what is a priority that day. Some days, like last Monday, working out in the parking lot after work was a priority, as what not sitting in traffic for two hours (motivation comes in many forms).

Parking Lot Workout 1

Other days working late, or getting home early to have time to hang out with Jorge take priority. Now, to say I’m not a big proponent of the concept of work/life balance is not the same as saying I don’t practice a rigorous level of goal setting, because I do. I like to identify Unicorns (capital “U”), and then figure out the benchmarks. For me the Unicorns I chase are a small pack and they are broad, more like long distance targets or even guiding principles than they are items that can be ticked off a list. Here’s a limited sample of them, (those I feel comfortable sharing on the internet) in no particular order:

  • Legacy Unicorn: By the time I “retire” (I know, hilarious notion, isn’t it?) I will have contributed and seen a paradigm shift wherein it is generally accepted that the way people with I/DD and other disabilities are treated today is horrifying. This has many, many facets to it, one being that the “able” population will no longer find it acceptable to objectify disabled people for their own benefit (don’t know what I mean? watch this TED talk by Stella Young), and it will be generally accepted that people don’t have disabilities, rather they are in a disabling environment and technology is failing them.
  • Family Unicorn: I’d like to shape up a handful of wicked awesome humans. Contributors to society and such.
  • Running Unicorn: Two words – sub-three.

Sometimes we make great strides in our chase of Unicorns, other times, well, other times this happens:

unicorn is pissed

This year’s running has not gone much as I’d planned it out back in December. At the start of 2014 I had no fewer than 27 races penciled in. I had a “perfectly reasonable” rationale for each and every one, but I won’t submit you to reading about that. Only a few weeks after the Boston Marathon in April, I was on the verge of some potentially serious injury, and also, I just was not enjoying running, at all. Not enjoying the training process is the worst possible running injury.

Being goal driven can sometimes produce some hard-headed behavior. So I kept plugging away and had a couple decent experiences.

1) I bagged at 10mile PR at the Soldier Field 10mile.

soldier field

Ken, Toddy, AB (me), and John. Post SF10 finish, pre beer(s).

2) I was brought on (excitedly) as a brand ambassador for Bibrave.com, and then was fired during my back-off period from running. Just further proof of how much I dislike how the industry around amateur running has evolved. To further my annoyance they publicly posted (Facebook) the separation as if it were my choice. Nope, fired. Moral of the story, don’t expect any ads for ANY product on this blog in the near future. I think it was my complete and utter disdain for “Twitter Chats” that did me in (even if I was at work during their weekly one).

At least I got a cool photo in the jersey....

At least I got a cool photo in the jersey….

That said, I’ll definitely still write reviews for their website, because it’s a great idea, and I generally like people who pursue careers involving their passions. But I won’t be faking it for a bunch of totally unnecessary products along the way.

coasters

Yup, it’s true. I used Pinterest to make something, exactly once.

Then in the first week of June, I couldn’t do it anymore, everything hurt, and I was starting to hate running. So I stopped, well, I still ran about 15miles a week, but it was always impulsive. In 9 weeks of taking it easy I was able to re-focus at work, and at home. I also made coasters and gained 9 pounds.

Exhibit A on the left is my currently, +5% of my body weight back in 9 short weeks, on the right is me before taking the time off from marathon training.

Exhibit A on the left is my currently, +5% of my body weight back in 9 short weeks, on the right is me before taking the time off from marathon training.

As often happens, motivation to start prioritizing some running kicked back up once I ran out of time to procrastinate. I registered to the RnR San Antonio marathon last Christmas (actually, it was a gift), and it is now only 16 weeks away!

Now that I’ve started a proper training cycle again, I feel like it’s a new year, not August, very strange. I’d like to be running 60-70 miles a week average with peak training weeks closer to the 80 mile mark for Boston 2015, and also have a good routine of ancillary/supplemental work going. I am very far from there now, but it’s possible that, with smart training this cycle, I can be there for the Boston 2015 training cycle this winter.

I usually design my own training plans, using a few favorites (Hansons, Daniels etc) as general templates. But this time around, I don’t have the capacity to spend so much time each day planning workouts, which I guess is to say: I don’t want to. This why I mentioned work/life balance – in my case when training for a goal marathon, training becomes a series of very intrusive and distracting thoughts that interrupts everything else I do. Right now I want to keep the momentum I’ve got going at work and on a few other projects (reading list, more sleep, more cooking etc) so I am using the Pfitzinger 18/55 plan. It’s both a relief and a source of stress to relinquish control to following a plan from a book (can’t afford a coach…wuhwuhwah). I am adding extra easy miles here and there as I want to, but otherwise I’m choosing to let the balance fall toward running is a priority while I’m running, work is a priority when I’m working, and so on.

Two weeks down, 16 to go til’ San Antone.

Chase those Unicorns my friends!
*AB

 

 

Kittaka and the (never-ending)Trail

I haven’t successfully made the time or had the patience to do a race-recap of the Chicago Marathon yet, it’s pending, and in the meantime I want to share with you a race re-cap from another race and another runner.

Over the past year I have made huge changes to my running, it’s reflected not just my race times, but also in how I think about running, how I race, how I train, and how I think about running in relation to the rest of life. Running doesn’t fill  a distinct compartment in my life, it is just a  part of it that is sort of woven in.

The biggest factor to all this change is that I developed an insatiable curiosity for other runners,  what they are doing, thinking, and feeling when they train and race, and what do they do with the rest of their time? I am most curious when it comes to how runners who are more developed (read: have more experience, are wicked fast) than I am and how they reflect upon and frame their workouts and races, good or bad.

One of these runners is Dan Kittaka, I’ve not had the chance yet to complete a run shoulder to shoulder with Dan, but I’ve been a mile and growing behind him for a couple of group runs, and have with no exaggeration, never heard anyone say anything about him that was less than totally inspiring.

I was happy in early September when Dan decided to test out his hand at a person running blog, kansai kudasai. He already writes for his work blog, and I was following him on Dailymile.

One of his goal races is the legendary Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon  in Japan, which has a  qualifying standard of sub 2:30, and also has strict cutoff times during the race. If you’re not on 2:27:40 pace through 20km you might be pulled off the course. I have no doubt Dan will get there, his current marathon PR is 2:31:42 and he knows how to train smart.

At about the same time Dan began blogging we had what I thought was a hilarious Twitter exchange regarding not being able to navigate, or stay upright, while running a trail race. I immediately asked him to guest blog a race re-cap.

So without further blathering on, and hero worshipping, here you go (take notes, there are some serious wisdom kernels in here!):

Race Recap – SCOTT Cougar Mountain Trail Run Series: #2 – 13/14 Mile  by Dan Kittaka

First of all, hats off to the race organizers, Seattle Running Club and Northwest Trail Runs for putting on a high quality event!

 After getting lost in my first ever trail racing experience during the inaugural Paleozoic Trail Run 25k due to poor course preparation (Rich Heffron recapped on his blog here), I was disappointed, but figured it had to be some sort of freak inaugural event snafu. I had promised myself to study the course map before my next trail race which of course I tried to do, but when the map looks like this it can be hard to remember all of the turns. Particularly if it is in a venue where you’ve never run before!

 Thankfully, the courses (and where they split) were very, very well marked. Turn directions were clearly marked with flags. Flags on the right leading into a turn indicated a right turn and vice-versa. This system was intuitive particularly in the latter stages of the races when brain function was a major challenge. In addition to the turns, long, orange ribbon, “confidence markers” were used on straight or straightforward portions of the course in order to indicate that you were in fact still on course.

Look at how green it is!

photo credit: Seattle Running Club 

While I can’t help but smirk a bit at the name of the park, Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park was a fantastic venue for novice trail runners (me) featuring mostly dirt, single track and wider trails and switchback ascents and descents.

 I flew into Seattle the night before the race, joining my sister, Rachel, my dad, and Rachel’s friend, Kian. I was meeting Rachel who had spent the last two weeks driving from Memphis to LA, then up the Pacific coast to Seattle. Rachel and I would continue her road trip, turning east and south ending in Minnesota for our brother, Jonathan’s undergrad commencement a week later.

Upon arrival to the race site, we were greeted by, Seattle Running Club President, Win Van Pelt. Win offered up some pretty helpful advice, the one tip I really remember was this: make sure, particularly on descents that you toe out a bit to help prevent you from rolling your ankles. I would proceed to roll my ankles pretty badly at least 2 or 3 times as I tend to run toed in.

After a short warm-up jog, Rachel, Kian, and I got our bibs on then headed to the combined start area for our instructions. While we arrived early enough to use the 5 or 6 porta-johns that had been dropped for the event, there wasn’t really enough once the bulk of the participants had arrived. In total there were 249 finishers for both events which puts it at just about 41 people per toilet which is not enough 10-20 minutes before a race! This is my only gripe with the overall production of the event. I ran into the forest to “tie my shoe” just before the start. 

After the instructions, we were off. Rachel and Kian were running the 8 Mile while I chose the longer 13 Mile option to get in a nice longer run on the hills of the Northwest (I had also looked at results and figured I’d have a pretty good chance at winning). Both races started together and used a little flat, grassy loop to string out the runners a bit before sending them out onto the trails which was absolutely the right thing to do.

A colorful parade

photo credit: Seattle Running Club

 During the instructions, race organizers had communicated something to the effect of, “The 13 mile course is at least 13 miles long, but we don’t actually know how long it is.” I’m sure this statement would have driven some folks absolutely mad, but given that I had very few expectations other than that I would be running for somewhere around 90 minutes (my best guess) this didn’t really phase me at all. I had a sneaking suspicion that the pedestrian sounding 1:46:41 course record was an indication that this run wouldn’t be a walk in the park. All of this to say I started the race at what I thought was a conservative pace.

 Within the first mile, the front of the pack had strung out significantly with the speedy Joseph Gray (winner of the 8.2 mile race) leading from the gun. I found myself running with 5 or 6 guys who I suspected to be racing the 8 miler for the first 10-15 minutes or so of the race. I was impressed with the agility and speed at which one older runner displayed on the single track (I believe this was 54 year old Michael Smith who finished 4th overall in the 8.2 mile race).

About 10-15 minutes in we started to hit some significant switchback climbs on the single track. I decided that the wisest course of action was to not panic (about losing contact with the other racers) and run by feel (hoping that if they were running the longer course that I would be able to catch them in the later stages of the race). So I focused on running the hills with quick short steps and a high cadence. These climbs were pretty long. I’m not sure exactly how long, but when I would be running the downhill switchbacks, I had plenty of time to feel well recovered so I imagine the downhill sections took 60-90 seconds to run while the uphill sections had to be anywhere from 2-4 minutes of climbing.

At the end of each climb, I made sure to open up my stride and surge in order to shake the legs out of “granny gear” and help keep the pressure on. It can be easy to relax a bit when nearing the end of a steep climb, but I believe it is best to actually surge into the flatter section ahead. This shakes the tension built up in the muscles while running uphill and reminds you to keep running hard. You use different muscles running uphill versus on the flats so while mentally you might feel like the climb took a lot from you, at least some of your running muscles had a break while climbing and should be ready to roll once you’ve hit more flat terrain (at least that’s what I tell myself).

At the first point where the courses split, I was able to verify with race volunteers that the runners I had let go ahead where all running in the 8 mile race. I was in the lead of the 13 miler! I ran more comfortably for a bit until on one of the climbs I spotted a bright blue shirt no more than a minute behind me.


My blue shirted nemesis is just visible in the distance

photo credit: Tim Harris

 It was hard to tell how close this other runner was, but at a few points he probably was no further than 10-20 seconds behind me. For the remainder of the race, I focused solely on making sure I didn’t get caught. I would begin to create a gap on the climbs, but would lose much of that cushion on the descents. I decided the determining factor would be speed on the flat sections of the course. Having just run 1:15:41 at the North Shore Half Marathon back in Illinois, I was pretty confident in my ability to run the flat sections. 

Quite a few places on the course we shared the trail with the 8 milers. This got a little hairy a few times due in part to my total inexperience running on single track. I feel a bit bad about how I got around some of the other participants. This was the only issue I had on the well marked course well that and not knowing how far I had run. 

About an hour and twenty minutes into the race, I figured based on effort and my current fitness that the finish had to be coming up in the next ten minutes or so. I continued to push through the climbs and run the flat sections as hard as I could in order to break the runner behind me. The climbs kept coming. Before each one I would tell myself that this one was probably the last one. After about five or six big climbs this trick sort of stopped working. I was getting tired and this was turning into a pretty long run. 90 minutes came and went. 

I kept running. Each time the course flattened out I would surge hoping there wouldn’t be any more ascents and that the blue shirted runner behind me wouldn’t catch me. Finally, I started to recognize the area we warmed up in around the start/finish area. Bursting into the clearing where we had started the race, I stopped the clock at 1:49:44.8. I had managed to hold off Seattle residents John Berta (2nd in 1:50:27) and Patrick Mcauliffe (3rd in 1:50:35).

I hadn’t taken advantage of the aid stations thinking that this was at most going to be a 90 minute uptempo  run, and I immediately felt the effects of not hydrating or fueling on the course after finishing. I became lightheaded and sat down in the middle of the start/finish area for a few minutes before dragging myself over to where Rachel, Kian, and my dad had camped out with some of the other 8 milers. Soon I was feeling better and after a bit they proceeded with handing out awards to the top finishers, Rachel and Kian placed as the 2nd Female and 3rd Male in their race and received Cougar Mountain Trail Run Series pint glasses while I received a similarly branded Mason jar mug, a nice souvenir!

 I’m still a total noob at trail racing. What is the appropriate way to pass another runner on single track during a race? (Running in the same direction and opposite directions).  (AB here, I appreciated when a man behind me on a single track night race -see my next answer- said “when you’re ready I’ll pass”, I followed his example the rest of the race and successfully didn’t sprain an ankle or shove anyone into a tree…opposite direction? I don’t know, “Zena Warrior Princess” battle cry?)

What are some of your favorite trail races? (AB again, to date my favorite trail race is the El Chupacabre de Noche in San Antonio, I wrote about it here)

Your turn!

Running is hard

Training for the Chicago Marathon (which, FYI, is this Sunday) since completing the No Frills Marathon last month has been a little challenging. Nothing hugely or meaningfully catastrophic has occurred, just lots of hiccups. To put it another way, I haven’t been bitten by a bear, just by lots of fleas, and scratching them is tedious and I’m tired.

I’ll catch you up on my training and some of the multiple flea-bites while also bringing to you a message I’ve wanted to deliver for a long time:

RUNNING IS HARD!

This is what Meredith and I say to each other when one of us “overreacts’ to a bad workout, or when the weather is conspiring against us, or when some ding-dong or another makes some remark that minimizes our efforts. It can be an extremely validating and calming thing for a runner to think about.

DM 10-8

Running.Is.Hard. This is my Daily Mile entry from this morning.

Running is hard for some obvious reasons, such as, it takes a lot of energy to run. I don’t mean that a prerequisite for being a runner is that you’re a crazy-eyed-always-moving-fast-talking-knee-shaking sort of personality, I mean, actual energy must be exerted to move your body overground at a more rapid pace than you’d normally take to say, transport yourself from the car to the grocery store.

When your goals begin to move past running for fitness, or “to eat”, to wanting to get faster and stronger, sometimes workouts can be so challenging (read: HARD) that you don’t realize that they were a breakthrough session until much later. This is my Daily Mile entry from about 2.5 weeks ago, I was totally “meh, typical fair” about it until I got the flu last week and missed my final chance for a goal-pace test run.

Running is so hard, that it becomes impossible to talk about your life without talking about running, or running without talking about your life.

Running is so hard that it becomes impossible to talk about your life without talking about running, or running without talking about your life.

Pet peeve alert: I HATE it when people say “I run so that I can eat/because I love food”, in fact, I call B.S.. Eating is TOO EASY and running is TOO HARD for that to really be the behavioral contingency at play.

Running is also hard for some reasons that you may not think about, and that people actually lie about. Here’s one example, speaking of food, if you want to get better at running, you cannot eat all of the cupcakes, or even any cupcakes, on anything that resembles a regular basis. In this case “cupcake” is equal to the following (not even close to exhaustive) list: donuts, frappachinos, brownies, cookies, pizza, soda, bagels and all the ridiculous toppings, pretty much everything on “Pinterest”, anything Racheal Ray put cheese on recently, mimosas every weekend and beers everyday, bags of candy corn, adult-head-sized cinnabons, or brunch 2-4 times per week. I mean you can, but good luck running that off, and good luck not puking or hating running while you try.

Running is even harder if your diet is crappy.

Last Monday, running was hard.

Last Monday, running was hard.

Running is hard because even though running marathons, indeed running any race distance, has become a wildly popular, there is still a lot of discouragement that you’ll face based on a misunderstanding of how the human body best operates. “You’re tired? Oh you shouldn’t run”, “You’re stressed? You should stop running so much.”, “Oh, XYZ hurts? You definitely need to stop running”. There are probably 100 comments that could be added to this list, and the fact is, that running helps make nearly all of the BETTER, not WORSE.

A thing that makes running hard is that you learn how to decide when you run even though something hurts, because the running actually helps it heal.

Two weeks after the No Frills Marathon: A thing that makes running hard is that you learn how to decide when to run even though something hurts, because the running actually helps it heal.

Running is hard because as you start achieving your goals, and start getting faster, people make assumptions. It minimizes a runner’s hard work when you attribute their successes to a god-given talent, saying, “oh, they’re fast”, the same way you’d say “oh, they have brown eyes”. When I was in high school and college, in New Hampshire, I had this one 5 mile loop that I ran hundreds of times, and no matter how hard I tried, I never could finish it in under 48 minutes. That’s how frustrating it was, I remember that it wasn’t 45 minutes, or 5o, but 48 that I got stuck on. The last time I ran that loop was about 10 years ago.

The other side of the counter-intuitive decision making to train through some injuries and illnesses, is that other required backing off. The flu, and colitis flare-ups for example, which means this was actually was my last solid workoutbefore Sunday's race. Running is at its hardest when it's unpredictable. But  I do know, that after this workout, next time I go to NH, I breaking that 48min barrier!

The other side of the counter-intuitive decision to train through particular injuries and illnesses, is that others require backing off. The flu, and colitis flare-ups for example, which means this was actually was my last solid workout before Sunday’s race. Running is at its hardest when it’s unpredictable. But I do know, that after this workout, next time I go to NH, I breaking that 48min barrier!

My first 10k, where I felt like I was running like the wind, my pace was over 9 minutes per mile, it has taken me almost 15 years (of on and off effort) to get my 10k PR pace down from 9:16 to 6:39, and a whole hell of a lot of runners are faster than that.

Like this one:

Hearing what the pro's have to say should be a required element to training.

Hearing what the pro’s have to say should be a required element to training.

Running is hard, and to master it (whatever that means to you) takes a lot of practice, strategy (I don’t just mean for the workouts, I mean to manage it with all the other parts of life too), and patience. There is a cultural oddity in this now HUGE population of runners, where, even though a runner is training hard, and making improvements they should be (and perhaps really are) very proud of, they will look at another runners bad workout and say “oh, man, you’re shitty run is still faster than my best mile!”. I know that the intent of comments like that is very positive. But I always cringe, because running is just too hard for people to self-deprecate like this.

Running is hard because contrary to what MANY people will tell you, you can tell very little about a person's running by how many mile they log each week.

Running is hard because contrary to what MANY people will tell you, you can tell very little about a person’s running by how many mile they log each week.

Comments like that minimize the efforts of both runners, the faster one and the slower one. Because at an equal effort, runner A might run a 5 minute mile, and runner B might run a 12 minute mile. It’s still EQUAL EFFORT. What I’m saying is that it is OK for someone who usually runs a 7 minute pace to come back from bad run that had a pace of 8:45 and call it a bad run. And it’s ok for a runner who usually runs an 8:45 pace to come back from a run that had a pace of 8:30 and call it the most amazing run ever. And neither runner should feel at all shy about either statement. Because running is hard enough! One of the hardest things for new runners to understand is that above all else running and training (especially for the marathon) is all relative.

So whether you run a 14 minute mile, or a 4 minute mile, you better own that ability, or I am going to internet slap you silly!

Running is so hard that even if it’s their favorite way to pass 20 minutes or  several hours, and even if they are relentlessly pursuing a goal they are passionate about, nearly every runner really REALLY looks forward to a day with no running now and then!

See? Haaaard.

See? Haaaard.

*AB

El Chupacabra de San Antonio Night-timeTrail 10k


El Chupacabra de San Antonio is a trail 10k/5k race that begins at 9pm, and so is run entirely in the dark. I’d been looking forward to this it all year! I was last Friday night 7/26/13.

The race is held at McAllister Park in San Antonio which hosts something like 15 miles of trails. There are paved paths, single track style dirt trails, and also wider trails. The terrain of the trails can get pretty technical because it really only has a couple hundred feet of path that go in a configuration that in any way resembles straight. Some sections are very rocky, others are hard-packed (though, not surprisingly, very dry) dirt. The park has just enough density of tree growth that during the sunnier, hotter hours of the day the temperature is very noticeably cooler (less hot would be a more accurate description) than outside the park.

McAllister park
This was the hardest 10k, perhaps one of the hardest races, I’ve ever done. But it was also a bit exhilarating, as I find all trail adventures to be. In a nutshell; take a fairly technical series of trails, then race on them, then do so at night…also make it 90 degrees with high humidity.

I ran a 10k race last summer, Jalapeno Del Sol, put on by the same group (Run In Texas), and the course, I think, was nearly identical, except for being run during daylight hours. Even so, based on my tendency to not have great command over my body’s general trajectory (read: I’m comically clumsy), and the fact that I got lost or off-course in no less than 4 (FOUR!!!) races last year (one of which was an even tougher 10k trail race in San Antonio, and is my only DNF. Read a bit on it here), my father suggested that perhaps I should go attempt to navigate the course on a practice run the day before the race. I did so, and managed to get pretty close to the race route on my 8mi run.

Chupa course map
I was also reminded how running on trails is so very different from the pencil straight, pancake flat lakefront trail in Chicago. Specifically, I was reminded when I wiped out in the last mile of the run. I came close to falling on many other occasions, so I was far more fatigued when I finished than I normally would be after a moderate effort 8 miler.

Yes, those are inmates walking puppies. I'm showing the dirt in my teeth and you are correct I have exactly zero abdominal muscles and very pale skin. But my shirt weight about 50lbs by the end of my warm-up so it had to go.

Yes, those are inmates walking puppies. I’m showing the dirt in my teeth and you are correct, I have exactly zero abdominal muscles and very pale skin. But my shirt weighed about 50lbs by the end of my warm-up so it had to go.

I was in San Antonio for 5 days to help my folks move, so it wasn’t exactly a leisure trip.

It wasn't a very well organized operation.

It wasn’t a very well-organized operation.

But I did make a new friend, I let him borrow my super excellent new pair of running shorts.

My great-grandfather's Winchester rifle wasn't the only skeleton in the closet I found.

My great-grandfather’s Winchester rifle wasn’t the only skeleton in the closet I found.

Anyway, between looking forward to the new type of race experience, and being ready for a break from the activities associated with moving, I was all dressed up with no place to go hours before the race start.

Ready to hunt.

Ready to hunt.

My father picked up my race packet for me the day before because his office is basically next door to the sponsoring running store, and I was surprised when he said there were over 600 people registered. Which partially explains why there was such a great race shirt.

You escared, mang?

Hey mang, you escared?

I’d assumed, because it was made pretty clear that this was a “no prizes awarded fun run” that there would be a very small turnout. But 600 people trampling through that park is a lot! Based on the results posted, I think there were just over 500 finishers between the 5 and 10k events.

The finish line.

The finish line.

As I mentioned, I have a serious deficit when it comes to navigating race courses, especially if I am leading or find myself alone. Therefore, I was really nervous about getting lost during this race. As it turns out, this was perhaps the best marked course I’ve ever run. There were chalk X’s to indicate “don’t go that way”, orange tape on trees, and glow sticks visible from probably 30 meters hanging from tree limbs to indicate “go this way!”. There were also mile markers with blinky lights, and volunteers at the trickier turns (there are several full-on U-turns and such things that could be hazardous when you don’t know it’s coming, you know, because it was PITCH DARK). These course Marshals were excellent, they communicated clearly and simply (when racing I have an IQ of about .4), and they also gave encouragement that wasn’t annoying (no one said “you’re almost done!” for example). I really can’t say enough positive things about how this race was executed. There was a SNAFU with the timing and results, because people downgraded from 10k to 5k without reporting it. But the race director and timing company were super polite and responsive and sorted it out.

So tired.

So tired.

Figuring out how to run this race, I mean, how to actually perform the act of running at a high intensity, took the first mile and a half. I tucked in behind a man who seemed pretty stable on his feet and just watched what he did as best I could without wiping out. I quickly realized that running on trails in the dark is a lot like driving a motorcycle (a hobby of mine I don’t think I’ve ever talked about here). When you’re on a bike, if you feel ANYTHING that isn’t normal, you lose traction, you corner improperly, or you shift wrong, your immediate reaction is to pull in the clutch to maintain control (well in some circumstances you actually accelerate, it’s complicated, and I’m just trying to make a metaphor here so go with it). When nighttime trail running if you feel anything out of the ordinary, like your foot lands wrong or catches on something, your knee elevation is like the clutch. So every time I landed weird, or felt off-balance my reaction was “high knees! high knees!” , and it seemed pretty effective. Just before mile 2 I vocalized that I was ready to pass and my unwitting coach let me slip past, but not without saying “I wish you were taller so you could catch the branches instead of me”.

There were several pretty elaborately costumed runners.

There were several pretty elaborately costumed runners.

I know I already gushed about the course support, but the other runners were great too, everyone had spot-on etiquette and a great sense of humor, I didn’t witness a single act of jackassary, a totally unknown phenomenon to me!

Waiting to start. I'm in there somewhere. People were friendly here too.

Waiting to start. I’m in there somewhere. People were friendly here too, and even self-seeded appropriately!

It really wasn’t possible to look at my Garmin during the race, because doing so meant losing my sight and taking a definite stumble if not fall. Because of all the hazards to run over/under/around, the constant twists of the trail, the tunnel vision caused by the headlamp, and the really hard effort level, if I hadn’t seen the finish line clock I would have told you I’d just run a 38 min 10k (which would be a 2min road PR for me). I think I said to my father that I couldn’t feel my face, or something equally as weird, after I finished. It took me a full 3 to 5 minutes for my breathing to return to normal, so bizarre, normally it takes under a minute.

Not only did I not get lost, I also didn’t fall!!! In the last mile (which merged with the 5k course), I stopped to help 2 different runners who fell hard, paying it forward because I was feeling sore from my own tumble the day before.

Chupa sign

In the end, I didn’t get the trail massive 10k PR I was hoping for, but I ran my heart (and legs) out, had a lot of fun, and really hope I can do this race again next year!

1st Overall Female  48:44

1st Overall Female 48:44

I’m not shy about the fact that I dislike gimic races such as The Color Run, the Pretty Muddy Series, and the Glo Run or whatever new attempt at cashing in on the running boom has cropped up this month. But, a night-time trounce through the woods with a mythical beast theme? I’m all over that!

*AB

The Sagal Strategy (among other things)

A few weeks ago I started using Daily Mile, are you on there? If you are, find me and  friend me (for a short-cut just click on that orange icon to the right of this post). If you aren’t you should seriously get on there, your Facebook (FB) friends, and real-life friends, may not want to hear about your training runs and races in extreme detail, but your Daily Mile (DM) friends do! There are a lot of examples of how social media can reinforce or set the occasion for different behaviors but here’s just one:

WFG on DM

See, total validation for weaknesses, some pats on the back for the ol’ ego, and also encouragement to persevere. All at once, and all from seriously accomplished athletes. I got to share my new 10-mile PR with people who get it (you’re FB friends will just say “wow, I don’t even like to DRIVE ten miles, harharhar!”), and I also got to admit where I’m struggling to people who get that, too (you’re FB friends will just say “You run so much you can eat ANYTHING!” – fellow runner’s know better).

That particular DM post was from Saturday’s race, race number 3 of my 4 races serial-racing accidental experiment that’s now underway (race 3 is tomorrow, and race 4 is 9 days after that).

I’d been toggling all week between thinking I’d be able to follow an aggressive pacing plan (because, seriously, I should be able to run 10mi at a faster pace than I’ve run a half-marathon), and thinking I should not even go because I was undeniably wallowing in the depths of over-entitled self-pity over the iliac-psoas “injury slash-“complete GI/Immune system malfunction”-slash-chronic weird rib pain-slash-“oh now I appear to be bloated enough to float down that Ganges” thing that’s been happening.

But go I did with my trusty training and travel-to-races (sometimes really crazy ones) buddy Meredith.

We look really unsure of ourselves, here. Hanging in the parking area...

We look really unsure of ourselves, here. Hanging in the parking area…

Truth be told I really did feel like crap. I was having all kinds of GI issue’s that even I don’t feel like discussing, I was tired from a night of mild fever and general discomfort, my stomach was all sloshy, and I wasn’t exactly feeling fleet of foot.  So all stirrings of race strategy went away and I tried to just enjoy seeing friends and meeting a couple new ones in our little start corral.

Whilst chatting with said run-buds I noticed that Peter Sagal was standing right in front of me, I confirmed with Erica that it was indeed him and then got way too awkward to say hello. Then he popped into the first corral, and I had my race plan.

I would try to catch up with, and then beat, Peter Sagal.

Good form, sir.

I made a few assumptions based on what I know from his Runner’s World pieces, the fact that he schooled me at the F^3 Half Marathon in January, and that knowledge that he’s blown away my own marathon time with a not-dissimilar training strategy. I then decided he’s probably just a touch faster than me and considered that he’d have a 2min head start with the corral separation, but that would push me to keep plugging away, so I was game.

Yes, it was a totally one-sided, likely unfair, and probably creepy, competition scenario to set up.

(Read this article about how the muse of this post took his marathon PR from a 3:20 to a 3:09, still one of my favorite RW articles, and you all know how opinionated I can be on this subject.)

It turned out to be a great strategy, having a target to look for got me thru miles 2-7 when the undeniable little jolt of excitement you feel at a race start wore off. I finally caught sight of him just past mile 7 and it took me until about the mile 8 marker to get within passing distance.

Obviously I’m not so annoying and socially clueless as to say “Hi, Mr. Sagal, I’m a huge fan, blah-blah-blah…” mid-race. He’s a witty intellectual, who’s also a celebrity, so I’m sure he’d have been gracious, or subtly insulting enough that I’d have totally missed the point, but still, I’d want to punch me in the throat, so I refrained and trotted along.

I finished with a time of 1:09:37 which is a PR by over 5 minutes, and was good enough to place 3rd overall (female)!

So there you go, a new, totally legit, tried and true race strategy. I hear by coin the “Sagal Strategy”, which I predict will become as embedded in the runner’s lexicon as the infamous “Yasso’s”.

After I’d caught my breath and gotten some water, I turned and saw Mr. Sagal finish. In my metabolically altered, post-race mental state I practically pantomimed a mugging in sidling up to him to say “Mr. Sagal! My goal was to beat you and I did!” or some such poorly executed, expertly idiotic, expression of admiration and gratitude. It was all rather rude and embarrassing but I’m operating on the assumption that people randomly approach and say weird shit to this guy on a regular basis. But I did feel stupid as we drove home, so of course, I turned to twitter.

PS tweet

Really, my point, because I do have one, I just like to take the long road, is that often an element of success, whether it’s in running a PR, learning a new skill, or developing yourself professionally, is to aim for a target you know you can reach, if you focus, filtering out sometimes even signals from your body and brain (sloshing stomach, general grumpitude).

The next few weeks of training involve some weird scheduling conflicts (e.g. yet another race on Monday night, traveling to Texas next week, etc.), but hopefully I can tick off everything listed.

Training block #3

There you have it. Hope you had a good week!

*AB

2013 Training and Racing Plan

It’s totally reasonable to expect a training/racing plan post to go up in late December for early January (and perhaps I did one and forgot?). As we enter the seventh month of the year, I’ve still been slightly less than committed to my racing plans and training strategy. Mostly because I want to be smart, and successful, when I hit the fall racing season.

What that really means is I don’t want to be miserable for my fall marathon(s). For those of you who are not runners, I’m sure you’ve assumed this but let me be clear: 26.2 miles is an ETERNITY of MISERY if you are under-prepared, injured, or anything less than 100% committed on race day.

A sub 2:45 marathoner in Chicago told me over the winter “A PR race is always easier to manage and less painful than a bad race”. For example, in my own experience, my 3:17 performance at Boston this year, even though I had some discomfort that held me back at times, was by far more enjoyable and seemed to go by much faster than the Chicago Half Marathon when I ran it last year in 1:38. If you do the math you’ll realize that the latter race was half the distance but run at the same pace. And, I swear, it felt like I was out there for just as long.

Another example, if you were reading Fluency’s Folly last fall you might remember this:

Slightly injured, burnt-out (mentally), under-trained = looong and tantrum filled marathon.

Slightly injured, burnt-out (mentally), under-trained = looong and tantrum filled marathon.

I ran a 3:26 at Chicago 2012, but I swear, it felt like I was out there for 8 hours, just China Town felt like I was on a treadmill. Bad race experiences, of course, can happen even when you are completely prepared, there are dozens of variables that can individually effect a marathon performance. I think it’s this sort of gambling scenario that keeps runners coming back to chase their own definition of marathon mastery.

I’ve had some success doing 2 marathons within 2 months (last year, Boston then Midland). This fall I’m attempting 3 in 3 months, with the last one being a doozy:

I know, you've seen this screenshot like 17 times now. Sorry, nerves.

I know, you’ve seen this screenshot like 17 times now. Sorry, nerves.

Racing review of 2013 so far:

I’ve run 4 half marathons, one being a PR where I felt as good as I could ask for (read about it here). The first one (here) I wasn’t race fit but still race a controlled race and was satisfied, the last two, I was emotional, not fit for them, and overall not pleased with how they felt (go here for a recap of the First Midwest Half). I’ve also done a 10k where I hoped to break 40 minutes for the first time, but failed, and had to admit I was injured (read about that here), I ran a 5k, totally impromptu, and was shocked to break 20 minutes, but it wasn’t without discomfort. Finally, in June I ticked two items off my running bucket list: Ragnar (fun recap post here) where I felt awful when running, but could probably be convinced to sign up again, and the Mt. Washington Road Race (HERE!) which brought me full-circle with my post-Boston events emotional roller-coaster and confirmed that I do in fact, love to run, and do, in fact, want to keep working at it.

Training review of 2013 so far:

Boston training went great, I hit most of my targets every week, and after a lot of time spent staring at my training log, and thinking back to how key workouts felt, I think I’ve isolated where I crossed the line from having some tight back/core/hip muscles to have pulled/pissed off muscles. It was while doing 800 repeats in March, I remember hitting descending splits and being stoked about it. I remember having 3 to go, and tension growing in my right lower back. I remember it hurting, and I remember making the choice to push through and get my split. Then, I remember searing pain 3/4 of the way through the penultimate 800. And then limping slowly through the rest of the workout and the cool-down.

I survived the rest of training, and still hit a massive PR in Boston. I’ve run between 30 and 45 mi per week most weeks, I took the week between Ragnar and Mt. Washington completely off of all exercise, I didn’t even walk the poor dogs. I’ve been seeing a totally awesome chiropractor  (Ryan) for the past 6 weeks or so and I’m learning a lot, but mostly, I’m learning the value of doing the ancillary work that elite runners and coaches are always talking about.

I returned to a structure plan 2 weeks ago, which included some flirtations with speed and tempo work, after at 15mi long-run effort today, I’m ready to commit to saying that I am officially “in training” for the fall.

Here’s what I have planned for the next two weeks.

training block #2

Beyond these next two weeks I’ve only just plugged in the key workouts I think I should be doing, and will fill in everything else as I go, based on how I’m doing. I’ve been trying to research how to best handle the recovery and preparation for the serial marathons…it’s a little overwhelming to say the least, although I’m ok with not racing hard at the No Frills marathon, and at Catalina, I’d really rather not do any walking, or feel like I’m unprepared to race should a perfect day present itself.

Planned races:

Bastille Day 5/8k (5k): Chicago, IL. July 11, 2013

Waterfall Glenn Xtreme 10: Darien, IL. July 13, 2013

Burgers and Beer 5k: Chicago, IL. July 15, 2013

El Chupacabra De San Antonio (10k): San Antonio, Tx. July 26, 2013

Zooma Half Marathon: Chicago, IL. August 10, 2013 **

No Frills Minocqua Marathon: Minocqua, WI. September 1, 2013

Bucktown 5k: Chicago, IL. September 15, 2013 **

The Chicago Marathon: Chicago, IL. October 13, 2013 **

Carrera de Los Muertos (5k): Chicago, IL. November 2, 2013

Catalina Island Eco Marathon: Catalina Island, CA. November 9, 2013

** = Goal Race (PR effort)

So there you have it. I’m sure I’ll add a few 5 /10k’s this summer and fall, because I’m a sucker, and there are so many good races every weekend! I could also continue with more detail about how I’m thinking about my training and race selections…but I’ll save that for later, this post is long enough.

What are your goal races the rest of this year?

Do you go to a chiropractor and/or massage therapist as a part of your training?

Got any research on ART, Graston, foam rolling, and the like you’d be willing to share with me (email me?)? I’m coming up peanuts…(stuff procured from the Graston Technique website doesn’t count).

Tell me, tell me!!

*AB

Ragnar Chicago 2013 … Rookie Relay Yogger

Several months ago a friend of a friend’s brother, Colin, whom I (with said friend) drunkenly recruited to join my running club/team/mafia, and who did so, asked for people to join his 10 runner Ragnar Team, the “San Diego Yogging Club”.

sandie yogging

Did you follow that?

If the moniker is lost on you here is a video to jog your memory (or is it yog? I’m not sure, it might be a soft “j”)…the first 30 seconds are the important bit.

Anyway, I signed on and kindly asked (begged?) my ladies Meredith and Erin to join too. They did. Duh. And so we became part of the Van 1 News Team.

Friday morning at the last "major exchange".

Friday morning at the last “major exchange”.

Van 1

I’ve only had about 4 good, solid, enjoyable, (tolerable?) runs in the last 7 weeks, so in the week leading up to Ragnar I was trying really hard to muster up a positive attitude…with very limited success.

Ragnar specific "training" literally began on the trip to Madison. (Mere taking on fuel, and me working out a calf sized knot...)

Ragnar specific “training” literally began on the trip to Madison. (Mere taking on fuel, and me working out a calf sized knot…)

Once the rapid fire team meet-and-greet was done, and joking immediately began, I was excited. Finally.

colin

I'm not sure what I was doing...

I’m not sure what I was doing…

Meredith started us off.

Meredith started us off.

This is my favorite exchange picture...Erin was amazing, she didn't complain a single time (I complained nonstop), and she picked up a FIFTH leg sbout 23 hrs in to sub for an injured yogger. Amazing.

This is my favorite exchange picture…Erin was amazing, she didn’t complain a single time (I complained nonstop), and she picked up a FIFTH leg about 23 hrs in to sub for an injured yogger. Amazing.

I was the 5th runner (the last for van 1), and when it was time for my first leg to begin, the enthusiasm I’d drummed up, sadly, had waned.

AB's first leg

The incoming yogger literally gave me a push out of the exchange chute. I ran decently, but significantly slower than planned. I was surprised to find that time went really fast, there really didn’t seem to be any down time between exchanges. Even the time between finishing my run and when it was time for our van to start again for our second round of runs when by quickly. This really surprised me.

I seem to be taking a page out of my running book from last summer because I got lost in the last mile of my first leg of running. The entire Ragnar course was marked clearly and accurately (as far as my experience went anyway), but by design it does require you to give up a lot of control. Basically you’ll see a sign telling you where to turn (or stay straight, whatever the case may be) and then you just keep running, sometimes for miles at a stretch, until you see another sign indicating that you need to turn. When I saw the “One Mile To Go” sign, it happened to be at a side-street, and my automatic reaction was to turn…

Whoops. I figured out my no-brain mistake pretty quickly. An elderly man was out for a walk, pushing his walker along, I sidled up to him and asked if he’d seen any runners go by: “nope” he said, “no runners here”.

I added just over a quarter-mile to my run. Dummy.

AB finish leg 1

The best part of Ragnar was certainly the exchanges, I enjoyed each one, little mini races, in quick succession. It’s a running geek’s paradise. My personal experience was just like most marathons, where I downright terrified at the start, and then smitten with running for the first 30% of the event, then for the middle 30% I am more or less clinically depressed, and then for the last 30% I’m totally focused, goal oriented, and smitten with running again.

From about a mile into my second run, until about 90 minutes after my 3rd run, I hated everything about running. I even fell down (for the 4th time in the last month…not sure what that’s about), and sort of sat in a heap in the middle of a side-walk for a minute or two, debated whether I or not I could just remain there. Forever.

It was all rather pathetic really.

My 4th and final leg of running was just fine, enjoyable even.

I’m a nutcase.

I really didn’t fully have all the logistics and rules of Ragnar clear in my mind until excessively late in the game. There are several not perfect little quirks. Like the need for lights and reflective gear when the sun has fully risen (Mr. Safety Casey here had to start running just a few minutes before the cut off time for safety gear – 6:30am – but safety makes no exceptions, apparently)

safety casey

By hour 20 we were all exhausted (duh?):

tired yoggers

Last I heard we finish 33rd out of 438 teams…so that’s pretty good.

that's a wrap

I’d definitely do a relay event, possibly even this one again, but I really want to train for it. Which had been the plan but my body and my spirits just didn’t allow for it. It’s the same as with marathons, you have to register and commit to them so far before the actual event date that you just don’t know what will unfold.

channel 4

I haven’t run since Ragnar ended last Saturday, hell, I didn’t even walk the poor dogs until tonight. I haven’t engaged in any other form of exercise either. I’m flying to New Hampshire tomorrow (Friday) to run the Mt. Washington Road Race on Saturday.

I wish I felt like this about it:

Bootleggers Karaoke the week before Ragnar.

Bootleggers Karaoke the week before Ragnar.

…But I’m not excited at all about the race, I’m extremely disappointed that I’m totally out of shape for it because I have wanted to do this event since college.

When I get back I need to sit down and take a serious look at the intense fall running I’ve set myself up with and see what kind of plan I need, and if I can even face it.

*AB

Spartan Race Winner!

This is my first giveaway/contest ever, so indulge me as I milk this, and , OK, I can totally see why bloggers like doing giveaways. This was both very anxiety producing and fun…which is a lot like running.

spartan_race_hdr

I received four submissions to compete for a free entry to any Spartan Race in the continental US. I am totally in love with all four, so it was utterly unreasonable for me to select a winner myself. Instead, I used the power of Facebook and my running buddies (thank you Bootleggers!).

In no particular order here are the submissions:

Entry 2

Entry 1

Entry 4

Entry 3

I can totally relate with the first one (Seth), I think the baby is simply awesome (Katie), Grumpy Cat made me snort (literally) with laughter (Jasper), and number 4 might be the most adorable thing I have ever seen, and, she’s totally nailed why I think people want to enter these races (Jennifer).

So: Seth, Katie, Jasper, and Jennifer, THANK YOU, so much, for entering! I don’t know what it will consist of yet but I am going to send you all a token of appreciation for entering!

AND THE WINNER!

It was some seriously impassioned war-fare between GRUMPY CAT and THE BABY, but in the end the baby won by ONE VOTE!!!!

Entry 1

Congrats, Katie, for winning the first ever Fluency’s Folly contest! I can’t wait hear all about your Spartan Adventure!

*AB