Friday, November 20, 2009

Feelin' Good

Been enjoying a runner's high the past couple days.  I've put more mileage in than I have in a long time.  Wednesday evening I ran the approximately 10mi Land's End loop at Clinton Lake.  The guys (Nick, Jim B., and Justin) were nice enough to let me lead.  Ok I didn't really ask.  I just got in front.  I wanted to lead since I figured I would be the slowest and wanted to set the speed.  The run felt great!  I did get a little clumsy toward the end (a good indication of fatigue) but was able to keep up the pace anyway.  I'd forgotten that Clinton has some pretty decent hills out past 3mi.  The leaf-covered, mud-slicked hills were challenging in my New Balance 790's.  I love these shoes!  They're light and built for speed, but not built to propel efficiently through mud.  Despite their limitations in slippery mud, I would be hesitant to wear anything else since I've become so accustomed to the lightness of the shoe.  It's hard for me to go back to the collection of big clunkers I have lined up in the hall at home.

After Wednesday night's run, I wasn't sure I'd be able to do the planned 9mi with Coleen on Thursday on the River Trails.  But by run time my legs felt fine.  I figured I'd do a 4.5mi warm-up loop then see how I felt.  I had it in my head that we would run slower the second loop but when we started, I noticed we were going just as fast, if not faster.  But with all our chatting, I stopped thinking about the speed and let my legs do the work!  The river trails are pretty nontechnical so it's easy to run without thinking about running.  Before I knew it, we were done with the second loop!  I felt great!  I was really surprised that I ran 9mi at a decent pace the day after a 10mi run.  Seems like I'm finally getting back in shape.

Now, I'm thinking about running Sander's Saunter 10k this weekend...AFTER I'm done with registration duties of course!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hills: The Saga Continues

Mental Battle
When I woke up yesterday, I did what any normal person does first thing in the morning, checked Twitter and Facebook.  I saw many exciting comments about a beautiful layer of snow on the ground, so I eagerly peaked out the window to find...a bunch of wet and no snow.  Drats!  Must be those sneaky KCers who got the sticky snow!  My level of motivation for the day plummeted into the basement somewhere and I didn't feel like going down there to get it.  I didn't feel like going anywhere as a matter of fact.  I daydreamed of staying indoors all day, snuggled under my favorite (and only) blue microfiber blanket, IMing with the Nickster from the comfort of the couch.  But alas, I had things to do.  1) Class, 2) Hill Repeats. 

Class, hmmmm, I could just skip it, right?  Nobody would care if I didn't go to class.  Oh yeah, I guess they would.  There's only one other student in class and when I told my professor I wouldn't make the first day, he canceled class.  I would be in deep doodies if I just skipped class.  I guess I gotta go to class.

Hill repeats, hmmmm.  Not only would I have to run around in the cold rain, but I'd also spend an hour and a half driving in the rain to SMP and back.  That sounds PARTICULARLY unappealing.  Not being able to fit into my pants sounds unappealing too.  This isn't going to be the only crappy day this winter.  I'll turn into a big slacker if I start off like this!  But it's really gross out!  I think I'll just stay in tonight and be guilty. 

Luckily, my friend Coleen texted me asking if I would be attending the run.  I responded indecisively, hoping that she was also feeling indecisive, leading us BOTH to decide to call it off which would ease the guilt.  Alas, she was DECISIVE!  She would be going and reminded me that if I started wimping out early it would begin a pattern of wimpiness that would carry through the rest of the season.  I caved to reason.  I still wasn't enthused about the run, but knowing I'd get to hang out with Coleen and my friends made it seem sort of ok. 

Wrapping it Up Quickly
I ran 4 Ogg Rd hill repeats + 1 walking cool-down hill.  I didn't walk at all (on the four).  I was still dead last by a long shot, but I don't mind.  Four hill repeats with no walking is already a big improvement.  Speed will come later.  Jim Megerson met up with us on the third hill.  Haven't seen him in ages so was happy he came out.  The run wasn't so bad.  I got pretty hot so the cool air was nice although I could've done without the spitting rain.  I get very cold after running in the winter and it takes me forever to warm up.  After a 45-minute drive back to Lawrence in a super hot car, my lips were still blue.

Definitely glad I went running.  Still would've preferred no rain.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Smell of Happiness and other Foresty Tales

The Run
My running companion-to-be, Renee, called me as I was sitting in the parking lot to tell me she was running late and to go on without her.  Normally I would have waited, but for some reason I felt like I needed to leave as soon as possible to get in as many miles as possible.  Plus, I thought it would be fun to listen to some music while I ran.  When I got on the trail I was immediately happy that I decided to wear my jacket as it was pretty chilly near the water.  I was glad to be out, but nothing was syncing.  My legs were crampy, my head was fuzzy and my headphones were irritating me.  I decided the iPhone was stupid and I didn't know why I was carrying around this silly gadget and not just enjoying nature.  I stuffed the headphones in my pocket with the phone.  I refocused on trying to get all my body parts cooperating with each other.  It was like a room full of kids whining at me, Legs: "Laurieeeeee, we hurt!", Ears: "Laurieeeeee, WE hurt.  It's cold!", Head: "Laurieeeee, I don't work for at least 2 hrs after you wake up!"  After the past few days of awesome running, I knew I would have to hit a wall at some point and this was it.  I recalled how my legs were cramping during my fast run on Thursday and knew I was paying for all that speedwork today.  I also thought back to the good runs I've had and they never happen right after I wake up.  I resigned to having a crappy run and decided I'd just do 5.5 instead of 8, so I could take walk breaks and still have time to get back before meeting for trail maintenance at 9.  

Something interesting happened at 2.5mi.  The sun peaked over the trees and gently warmed my face.  At the same time I smelled something...familiar...something pleasant.  It seemed to evoke happy memories, but I couldn't remember what they were.  I sniffed and sniffed but I couldn't remember.  I decided that sniffing happiness was sufficient to calm my curious mind.  I thought about what the smell could be.  Was it something special about this weather, this season?  Maybe it was the smell of crushed, sun-bathed leaves mixed with soil.  Whatever is was, I LOVED it!  I wanted to tell everyone in the world I loved THEM (and I hadn't even been drinking)!  I found myself speeding up a little even though my legs still hurt.  At least my head was in the game now.  The need for speed went about as quickly as it came, but the happiness lingered.  I enjoyed walking the last mile, high on happiness and absorbing the tree-filtered sun rays.

The Trail Work
I was dressed and ready to try my hand at some trail work.  I became worried when I looked at my phone to find that it was 9am and I saw nobody waiting around in the parking lot.  Indeed, a closer look at Mike Goodwin's e-mail revealed we were meant to meet at the parking lot outside the Corps of Engineers building not at the trailhead.  As Renee and I approached the correct lot, we saw a group walking down the road so we chased them down and they slowed to greet us.

I pictured Mike Goodwin being a tall, 30-something, dark-haired, forest ranger looking guy.  It turns out, Mike is a 50-something, 5'6"ish man and he's tough as nails.  I liked him immediately.  Despite knowing that we'd be building a bridge and cutting new trail, I still managed to underestimate the physical demand of the tasks at hand.

We started out by unloading lumber and tools from Mike's truck.  I didn't have such a good hold on my first load, a couple water-logged 2x6 beams.  They tumbled out of my feeble arms and one whacked my leg on the way down.  I might be the world's easiest bruiser, so I knew this one would be a beauty.  I walked it off and went back for more wood and supplies.  Once we got everything unloaded, Mike set us to work.  Somehow the big burly men got the east task of building the bridge while the ladies were assigned to bench cut the new section of trail, remove root and vegetation and cut back overhanging limbs.  We were armed with loppers and pulaskis.  Mike showed us how to bench cut the sloped parts of the trail.  I was a little nervous to try this part, because it involved REMOVING dirt and I was afraid I'd mess it up and ruin everything!

Once I got the hang of it, I had a blast slaying the dirt and roots with my big axe (I think I'd make a good horror movie villain), but I felt a little bad about hacking up the roots and wished the plants a speedy recovery.  Bench cutting was fun but draining.  The pulaski weighs 10-15lbs so swinging it plus cutting through the dirt was definitely a workout.  It went something like this.  Swing, swing, swing, swing....swing, swing...swing...pant, pant, pant...swing, swing...pant, pant...swing...pant, stand...ohhhhh look branches...lop, lop, lop...hmmm no more branches...ok...swing, swing, swing...etc.  Levi joined us after he finished up his 18-mile run and a little later Derrick Shackelford, a runner from Kansas City, came by too.  I think it was a successful day!  Renee and I tried to stay until noon, but our tummies weren't having it.  We took off at around 11:30 in search of sustenance.  We found it at Mirth.

Can't wait for the next trail maintenance day.  We can only hope it will be as gorgeous as today.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sometimes Fast

Tonight Nick and I planned to run about 10mi at Clinton Lake but we ended up cutting it short because Nick was having tummy trouble. We walked for a mile or two until Nick decided he needed to take care of business, so to speak. I was glad he did, 'cause I was gettin' darn cold walking along the lake. When we started up again I was frrrreeeeeeezing. I found myself running faster and faster to try to warm up. After a while I realized I was going pretty fast (probably sub-8) and was feeling good. I decided to see how long I could keep up the pace. Turned out I held onto it until the end, although the lungs started complaining going up the last winding hill on the blue trail. I feel pretty good about the run. I even venture to say I might have given Nick a run for his money at the end. I, therefore, proclaim tonight's run a success. We traversed about 5.5mi overall, the first few a slow run, 1-2 walk/jog and about 1.5 ass-hauling. Even though it wasn't 10, I still feel like I earned my veggie burger and fries!

Shoe Dream Addendum
When we arrived home from dinner and collected our things from the car, I found that an important pair of items was missing.  My shoes.  A huge wave of YOU'RE AN IDIOT hit me as I recalled placing my running shoes next to the truck while I changed and saying to myself, "Laurie, don't forget to put those in the truck."  I'm what some refer to as absent-minded.  Unfortunately I'm not a professor.  I didn't feel like making another trek out to the lake last night and decided I'd trust in the natural goodness of my fellow humans to not steal them.  Besides, if someone wanted to steal my mud-caked shoes they were probably needier than me.  The only other potential scenarios I could work out in my mind were, a) a park officer would throw them in the trash (which I could easily recover) or b) a park officer would take them to some sort of lost and found.  The ideas were permeating my dreams as I slept.  That's when you know it's time to wake up.  I dreamt that when I returned to the park in the morning, the shoes weren't there, so I walked over to the trash can.  The trash can was filled to the top with running shoes that all looked similar to mine but weren't.  Ohhhhhhh the terror!  The dream gave me a good laugh on my drive home from the park this morning with shoes in tow.  They were right where I left them!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hills Hills Hills

I'm not gonna lie.  Hills are not my specialty.  I'm decent at running your typical small, rolling, blip in the trail that is common here in KS, but if you're talking something longer than say 0.05-0.1mi, I'm pretty useless.

Today was my second Tuesday hill session with my friends at Shawnee Mission Park.  The idea is that we kick our own a**es by running Ogg Rd a few times to improve our hill running skills.  Out here in Kansas, it might just seem like something that will improve your overall running, but when you go out to Colorado and realize the "hills" don't go back down you realize how important this skill is.  Now if I had to guess, I would say Ogg Rd is about 3/8-0.5mi long, and it's up hill all the way.  The last portion of the hill is especially steep and has reduced me to a walk 100% of my 5 or so past attempts.  

Today my goal was to run the whole thing at least once.  Conquer the beast!  Last time I went out my stomach was very uneasy and I never could manage it.  I blame an oversized lunch complete with potato salad for my tummy trouble that day.  Today, at least my stomach felt fine.  On my first ascent, I discovered that in the absence of queasiness, my main problem was not my legs but my lungs!  I kept up with the gang 'til about half way up the road when I noticed my chest screaming, "slow the f down!!!!"  I slowed down, but I still managed to run all the way up!  Mission accomplished.

Now I didn't really hammer down the goal I set for myself.  I was determined to make it up that hill running the whole way, but I never said to myself, "Laurie, from now on, you are going to run that hill the whole way, EVERY time."  With that in mind, and with my still-burning lungs in mind, I decided to walk the top of the second hill.  By the end of the second hill, I had resigned to head home.  Not only does running long hills hurt, it makes me crabby too!  As I was slogging up the second hill, Julie (who had arrived late) was on her way down and decided to cut her hill short and walk up the top with me.  Even at a walk, she was seriously kicking my butt.  Before I knew it, she was 20 ft ahead of me!  I was feeling useless and weak.  

When I reached the top, discussion had begun about whether to run another Ogg hill or to run "Caleb's Secret Workout".  I had planned on wimping out of another Ogg Rd but felt I should try something new if I had the chance.  It turns out most of us had run this before, although it had been a long time and we didn't quite remember the quirks.  When we started out, we scoffed at the ease of the course.  This hill is nothing, we claimed!  So we went to the top of the hill, thinking the next hill would be more vicious.  We ran 4 or 5 hills until we finally spotted a formidable mass in front of us.  I had been hauling myself pretty easily up the previous hills, sprinting even.  My lungs had calmed down and these hills were child's play compared to Ogg!  The final hill put my sprint to a halt about 3/4 of the way up and I didn't mind.  I finally felt like I got a decent run in.

On our way back we realized that the course was actually not so short.  And for that matter, it was not so easy if you kept a good pace.  I decided I liked this workout.  About 10 hills including out and back, all of which you can run, with one challenger.  I liked feeling like I was getting something done, and I liked not feeling useless and weak!  It also occurred to me that part of my problem with Ogg Rd has been that I haven't been warming up at all before I go for it.  Next week, I'm gonna try a short run on the mountain bike trails to loosen up my legs and lungs before I go tearing up another half-mile hill.  I'm also looking forward to augmenting those Oggs with some of Caleb's secret workout!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Running and Friendship

The other night on my way home from a run I was thinking about friends and how I'm lucky to have so many of them.  I would say the majority of my friends are people I know from the running community.  I'm a pretty shy person (although most of you probably wouldn't realize it), so I didn't have many friends growing up.  And when I stopped to think about how many friends I have now, it was shocking.  Ever since I got into running, specifically trail and ultrarunning, my network of amazingly supportive friends has grown exponentially.  One running friend in particular, has influenced my life and the way I interact with people.  Debbie Webster might be one of the most positive, fun, loving individuals I've ever known.  From the day we met, she's always treated me like family.  And I'm not the only one who gets the special treatment.  She spreads the love around to everyone she meets!  Her personality is infectious, in a good way!  As a person who is prone to being sort of grinchy, i.e. not going out of my way to make friends, not being the type of the person to express my feelings and not being the type of person who hugs everybody, I think I've made some good strides (not all the way there) in degrinchifying myself.  I'm 100% into the hugs now, but I would say I need to make improvements in reaching out to people.  I owe a lot of what I've become over the past couple years to Debbie and all of my wonderful running friends who never cease to amaze me by the lengths they will go to support their fellow runners...or anyone!

Sarah Mueller, a friend who I was extremely honored to pace in her first 50-miler on Sunday, surprisingly captured the thoughts that had been running through my head over the past few days in her race report.  "I know our ultra-running goals seem silly and arbitrary to some (and maybe they are), but I also know that ultras give us a chance to practice being the best versions of ourselves, versions we hope show up in "real life," too. Versions that are OK with being humbled, know how to accept help, know how to give help selflessly, know how to go beyond our limits, and know how to encourage others to do the same."  I just wanted to let all you runners know that you're awesome and I'm so lucky to have you, and thank you for helping me be a better person!


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Out of Retirement

Slippery Slope
Well, I've been out of the racing scene for a while...not that I ever really "raced".  I paid for food and shirts and hung out with friends, got a little running in too.  My last and longest race was back in April, the Free State 40 miler.  It wasn't my best race.  I felt sluggish and the mud on the course was brutal.  A few weeks before that, I ran what I consider to be the toughest race I've run so far.  The Rockin' K Marathon.  It's not the longest race I've done, but it's definitely the most difficult course I've run, even more so than the infamous Psycho Wyco.  It was a very slow race for me (6:30-something) and I struggled with tummy problems for most of it.

Crash and Burn
After those two races (which were bleh) and heading right on into finals, then sickness, the negatives just started piling up, and I worked myself into a running depression.  Realizing that I didn't have enough time to train for ultras while I was in grad school was a difficult pill to swallow.  It's hard to take steps back when you've only gone forward.  So I finally came to terms with what I had do -- run when I could until I finished grad school classes.

Silver Lining
When I received an e-mail from the Kansas Ultrarunners' Society, announcing that registration for this year's Rockin' K had opened, the wheels in the ol' noggin began turning.  Rockin' K is in April, meaning I would have 4 months after finishing class to train.  Sounded perfect to me!  So, after a nearly year-long hiatus, I will run my next race -- and hopefully show it who's boss this time.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Running Buddy

My best running buddy happens to be my boyfriend, the Nickster.  I like running with him 'cause I like spending time with him, of course!  So it bums me out when we can't run together, like say...because he hurt his back.  I like running and I like Nick, and it's no fun when I can't have both together!  Ok, that's all I have for gross feeling-expression time.  :)

Friday, October 2, 2009

Rockin' the Trails

Ok, so I have a collection of lots of brightly colored, non-matching running clothes.  Why, you ask?  Because I buy whatever's on sale and that usually consists of hot pink and electric blue as you can see from the picture.  To complete the ensemble I've added my leopard print Moeben sleeves, given to me by my dear friend, Coleen Voeks.  Oh and we can't forget the backward headlamp (it wasn't dark yet) and neon yellow water bottle.  I didn't leave the house intending to look like a runner/hair band member, but I totally succeeded (plus I forgot to bring  a hairband)!  Rock on Trail Hawks!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

What's Your Style?

I was recently inspired to try changing my running style after reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  There were parts of the book I liked, parts I didn't like, parts I was indifferent about.  My favorite parts were actually the ones that talked science.  The assertion toward the end of the book is that humans are physically designed to run.  It was a very convincing argument, although I'm not 100% convinced because it didn't address every question swimming around in my head, but I didn't intend for this to be about evolution, so I'll save my questions for another day.  What I'm really heading toward here is the physics of running in a loose-conceptual sort of way, not in a solving-equations sort of way.  The book asserts that today's mainstream running style is wrong and has lead to an increase in running related injuries over the past several decades.  I'll refrain from dropping statistics, because I'm always skeptical of them.  You can represent anything you want, any WAY you want, depending on how you collect or present statistical information.  So I'll just discuss the reasons I think this argument (and its solution) is valid based on my own engineering perspective.  The argument is that we should be running on the fronts of our feet not on our heels.  Here goes:

Think about trying to maintain your balance if you lift your toes off the ground and just use your heels.  This is unstable and will have you wobbling around.  Now what if you lift your heels off the ground and balance on the front of your feet.  Much more stable.  For flat surfaces, running on your heels doesn't make a huge difference in stability (i.e. you probably won't fall down).  The amount of time your heel actually spends on the ground is small and there are generally no disturbances that would affect your stability in this short amount of time.  However, if you run on an off-road trail where there is uneven terrain and obstacles such as rocks and roots, there are many opportunities for disturbing the stability of your heel-balancing act.

Shock Absorption
If you had to take a guess at which part of your foot would more effectively transmit shock to your knee would you say heel or toes?  Well your heel has a straight line of sight to your knee.  For your toes to do the same thing your foot would have to be vertical, which as far as I know, is only done in ballet?  Now think about what you would do if you were running barefoot, or maybe try it.  Your body wouldn't, in a million years think to run on the heels of its feet.  The reason we run on the heels of our feet in shoes is that there's a giant wedge under there that makes it unavoidable.  Then you might ask, well if there's a giant cushy wedge there, why should I worry?  Well, the giant cushy wedge absorbs SOME of the shock but not all of it.  When you run on the front of your feet you absorb shock with your leg muscles.  You want your legs to be like springs, not like hammers.

So the only thing left to talk about is experience.  I've tried it out for a few days now.  I bought some New Balance WR790's which have very thin soles for trail shoes.  Most importantly, they have a very low heel, which makes it easier to practice this style of running.  (You're gonna have a hard time running on the front of your feet with big heels unless you're going uphill.)

Observations So far

  • Less ankle rolling (stability)
  • Tired leg muscles (shock absorption)
  • Harder to maintain running style when tired.  Heels want to go down.
  • Takes time to build up speed and distance since you're using muscles more. (You're not gonna be a rockstar runner overnight.)

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Mound

Today was an ohhhhkay run.  The weather was great of course.  We ran out at Clinton Lake for the Trail Hawks beginners' run, although, there haven't been any beginners the past several weeks.  Nick and I met up with Jim Beiter at the Corps of Engineers trailhead at Clinton Lake.  Nick wanted to explore some section of trail we haven't run on, to scope out a course for a potential race in November.  We started out fast.  Too fast for me, but I kept up as best as I could.  I didn't realize how hilly the course ahead was going to be, but I should have guessed from the name, Saunder's Mound.  The trail was beautiful, albeit a bit jungly.  The grass was as tall as me on the sides.  Once we got to the top of the mound, we were graced with a beautiful view of the lake.  We decided to travel down a trail that traversed the other side of the mound, heading down toward the lake.  This section was especially jungly.  I ended up just walking down with my arms in front of my face to keep the grass and sunflowers from smacking me.  The trek paid off, because the trail ended at a narrow section of shoreline.  We briefly threw around the idea of having a race course run along this shore but all decided that it was too narrow and we didn't want people to fall in the lake.  We ran, or in my case ran/walked, back up the mound, and when we got back up noticed another fork of the trail that went down the east side of the mound and wrapped around to the north.  We hooked back up with the trail we came  out to the mound on and made our way back up the hill to the parking lot.  We'd only run about 1.5 miles at this point so we got back on the white trail to go out for a couple more miles.  Nick and I ended up doing about 3.5 overall.  My leggies were tired after the hills and the quick pace at the beginning, so I was ok with running less than usual.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

I Heart Fall

It's been a great week so far.  I think much of the greatness has been fueled by this amazing cool weather, marking the beginning of fall.  I don't know what it is about fall, but it puts me in a constant state of excitement.  I feel like running everywhere I go.  (I also feel like wearing plaid shirts, drinking hot apple cider and making pies.)  It's an amazing time for running.  You're not burdened by the heat and humidity of summer.  You're not ultra paranoid about ticks.  The spiders are starting to go away.  It's an amazing transition between the heaviness of summer and a different sort of heaviness that comes with winter.  It's light and floaty!  With winter comes the cold which is alright with me, but KS winters are sort of wet and fickle.  If you're not trudging through snow (heavy on the legs), you're trudging through mud leftover from melted snow (heavy on the legs), or you're running through mud and freezing rain (heavy on the legs and miserable).  If you're lucky, you'll run on a day that's just bitterly cold and the trail is frozen (not heavy on the legs, but hard on ankles).  In abrupt conclusion, I want to run!!!  Can't wait to run with the ladies tonight at Clinton Lake!

Running stats for the week:
Sunday - 3 around campus/downtown
Monday - 4.5 at Clinton Lake
Wednesday - 4.5 at Clinton Lake
Thursday - 4 at Clinton Lake?
Saturday - volunteering at Shoreline Shuffle and running after?

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cool Run

I went for a nice run tonight at Clinton Lake with Nick and Levi.  It was cool and lightly raining.  Perfect for me.  I loved running in the mud, something I haven't experienced in months.  We ran 4.5mi?  Great night and great running companions.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

I say no to the pain

We've all heard, "no pain, no gain."  But is it true, and if so, for whom?  I've always sort of operated with this in mind, at least with respect to running.  But as I've discovered, sometimes things get in the way of lofty training goals, like life.  So why, if for many people, running is supposed to be a form of recreation, do we still find it necessary to "push ourselves".  Well for the record, I believe it IS true that people can get large gains from pushing themselves hard, enduring physical and mental anguish.  But what is the benefit we get out of the effort?  A new PR?  Winning a race?  Completing a longer distance?  A brief period of elation due to an accomplishment followed by another long period of anguish building up to the next brief period of elation?  So I thought to myself, why can't I have both "no pain" and "gain" or at the very least "no pain".

I was thinking about this on my run around campus and downtown this morning.  My goal was to run whatever speed was comfortable, without chest pain or side cramps.  At one point, I couldn't find a speed slow enough, so I walked for a while.  After I began running again, I merged paths with another runner, a stocky 40-something woman.  My ego told me, "Surely you should be able to outrun her.  You're taller, skinnier, younger..."  I told my ego to shut the hell up.  For one thing, you can never judge a runner by appearances.  I once got my butt kicked by a woman who must have been 4'7".  And for another, I didn't wanna go messing with something that wasn't broken.  I felt fine at the pace I was already maintaining.

So now the question is, will my running improve if I use this approach?  I believe the answer is yes.  As with anything, we improve with practice.  I might not see the big gains I would get from pushing myself harder, but like I said in the last blog, I don't want running to be a job for me.  It's gotta be fun.  It's my hobby.  Yes, I'll forgo the excitement of a big achievement to just be content if it means I also forgo the emotional and physical lows.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Long Time No Blog

I'm back people! Hasn't been much to talk about lately as I haven't been running much, but I'm back into it. At least I'm trying to be, when I'm not swamped in homework. I went through a running funk for a while. Battled being busy with school, sickness, probably some other excuses too. All of these hurdles, of course, set my running way back from where I wanted it to be. I was training for a 50 miler, which I didn't end up doing, because I was under-trained. The summer pretty much consisted of me being bitter about running and my inadequacies with respect to it. I think I'm finally clawing my way out of it. I know my life is gonna be pretty busy until I'm done with grad school and I know sometimes I'm gonna be sick and won't be able to run as much as I want. So my goal is...not to set goals for myself. I'm not training for any races. I'm not setting a weekly mileage goal for myself. I'm gonna run when I have time. I feel so much better about running when I don't feel controlled by it. It's not a job for me anymore.

Recent running log:

3ish mi Sunday - ran around campus, then through downtown, then home
2.5-3ish mi Monday - ran Clinton Lake in huaraches with Nick and Levi (Levi went farther), fun, feet were a little tender after but feel great now, Nick said it was 2.5 but the Garmin is always short on trails
4.5 mi Wednesday - Clinton Lake with Christy and Rachel, the guys (Nick, Gary, Levi, James) got ahead of us (me, but Christy and Rachel hung around) pretty early, great run and fun dinner after
4 mi Thursday? - Gal Gallop tonight at Clinton Lake

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Blog Slacker

No time for race reports and run updates right now. Maybe not even time for runs. Wrapping up semester and have tons to do. Not even enough time to form complete sentences. You'll hear from me again mid-May.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Free State: Almost There

Monday, enjoyed a super 4-mile run with Christy "Hawk Mama" Craig and Leila on the Sandrat Trails in Lawrence. Leila is the sweetest, most beautifulest golden retriever on the face of the earth, and we're pretty good friends. Anyway, we were supposed to be running slow, because it's taper week, but we were feelin' good and cranked out 10 minute miles. It was a great run - perfect temps, sunny, and great company.

On a totally unrelated-to-running note, after the run, Christy gave me her Lawrence hair stylist's card. Looking forward to going, but holding off for a bit as I've just spent a buttload of money - booking hotels for PCT 50 miler and tanning so I can look like a decent, non-vampirish bridesmaid at Tanya's wedding. Maybe I'll get over it when I receive my federal refund check, which might be in the mail today!

My Wednesday night run was the polar opposite of Monday's. It was probably the warmest day of the year so far, about 80 degrees. I was leading the group for about the first 1.5 miles but eventually got frustrated with the spideys and their webs and let Christy lead for a while. Soon after, I totally bonked. My legs felt like lead and didn't wanna move at all. I had plenty of water to drink. Not sure what the deal was. Maybe I should have taken salt before the run since it was so warm? Who knows? All I know is that it was making me crabby. All I could think about was how much I was gonna suck at Free State on Saturday. The forecast is for similar temps on Saturday, so I would have to deal with these same conditions, and I was clearly not handling them well.

I plodded on and eventually finished the 5.5 miles, grouchier than ever. Walked past everyone who had finished already, not saying a word, to clean off my shoes and legs in the spigot. Nick's dad was over there, so I talked to him for a bit and eventually started feeling less grouchy. I headed back over to the group to chat and discuss plans for our post-run dinner. We've decided on a new restaurant tradition for our Wednesday night Clinton runs - 23rd Street Brewery. Apparently they have $1.50 beers on Wednesdays. This doesn't impact my opinion, as I don't care much for beer, but the food is actually quite tasty. My spirits were raised by the delicious veggie burger, fries and good company. Also, Nick's dad offered to pace me for the last 20 miles of my race this weekend, so I might take him up on that!

Today, my legs still seem a little heavy and tired. Hopefully they'll recover over the next couple days and the race will be fabulous. I still can't wait, even though I'm dreading it! This will be my longest race yet, and looking at my statistics, I've never DNF'd a new distance. I'll try to keep up with my stats!

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Waste Away

Saturday, a bunch of trail runners got together to beautify some sections of the North Shore trails at Clinton Lake. There are several access points to the trails from campgrounds, and these areas accumulate the most trash. Gary got our morning started off right with baked goods and coffee. What a sweetheart! So, pleasantly full of scone, Gary gave us assignments. We split up into four groups--Nick, James and I were assigned "west on white" detail. This stretch is the closest to the campgrounds, hence the filthiest. The high density of trash limited the distance we could cover. We only made it from the first to second set of stairs, about a quarter mile. We DID manage to collect 6-7 bags of trash. Some interesting items we found included, beach pails, a giant gear (perhaps from a transmission), and three raccoon skulls. We got a super archaeology lesson from Christy who taught us how to tell the age of animals by looking at their skulls.

After we all returned with our spoils, we headed out for a sweeping run to admire our work and pick up any overlooked items. Beth Hilt reluctantly led us on the run and pretty much ran the snot out of us. She kept trying to get out of her duties, but we wouldn't have it. We ended up running about 5 miles altogether. It wasn't one of my best runs. I don't know if it was the humidity or the scones that were doing me in but it wasn't any easy run. Ah well, I still can't wait to run Free State!

P.S. Forgot to mention. I'm looking like a blind person in the pic above, because I had just undergone eye surgery the day before. Gotta protect my expensively altered eyes!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wonderous Wednesday

Last night's run was fabulous. Great weather and great crowd of folks, including three Langs! Nick's dad and uncle were in town and graced us with their presence. Good thing too. Uncle Steve got a great pic of this cranky copperhead that just missed a taste of juicy Nick leg.

Coleen, Christy and I fell back from the guys about a half mile into the run. We talked briefly about doing 10 but realized we probably didn't have enough daylight to finish the distance without headlamps. I felt great the whole time. This was the first run in a few weeks that's felt really good. Too bad I have to taper for Free State now. I really wanted to get more training in before my longest race!

In other news, Mr. Gary Henry has officially founded a new trailrunning group, the Lawrence Trail Hawks. He's given everyone swell hawk names. We counted last night as our first official group run. Soon we will complete our charter and begin collecting dues. All excess funds will go to the Kansas Trails Council to sustain the trails we use and love.

Gary asked me to be the group's treasurer. Of course I told him I'd help in any way! It's my understanding that we're holding elections, so nothing official yet. But I'm excited to be part of the new group. Looking forward to a logo so I can start buyin' Hawk gear!

In other other news, I've been thinking a lot about my wasteful behaviors lately. Of course I love the environment, but I never thought I PERSONALLY was doing anything to damage it. I mean I don't litter, I don't leave the lights on all day. What else is there? But I started thinking about how much waste I generate and it really took me aback. I thought about all the plastic grocery bags I use, all the paper napkins, all the paper cups. Then I thought, WHY do I need to use so much? So I've begun to watch what I use and throw out. I don't grab 5 napkins at Einstein Brothers, use one, then throw them all out. I grab one and use one. I bought some reusable grocery bags at Dillon's. I also realized I need to start bringing a coffee mug to Einstein's (my morning haunt) instead of throwing out a bunch of paper cups every week. Just trying to do my part and hoping to make a slight impact.

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Gym

I ran at the gym today, because I wasn't feeling the cold/rain combo. Christy was going to join me but she had a long day and needed to rest. I ended up running 5 miles on the quarter mile indoor track at the KU Rec Center. Woo. Exciting. I remember it being more fun last time I went, when Christy was there, gabbing with me. I wanted to run 10, but of course my tummy got upset at exactly 5. I really need to figure out a better diet. Seems like my stomach causes most of my running unhappiness. I'd rather have tired legs, I think! Any dietary suggestions? Do I need to go vegetarian? Vegan? Bacontarian?

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Slow Day

Well, missed my long Saturday run this weekend. Planned on 20-30 but it didn't happen. It all started when I forgot to take my allergy meds Thursday morning. I realized later that day when I was at the vet with Roxy. Uh ohhhhh. Yup, I'm allergic to all things furry. I thought worst case I'd be kind of sneezy for a day while the drugs got back to work. But Friday afternoon I started getting all headachey and stuffy. I took a nap after class and woke up feeling worse. Oh no! I still had my fingers crossed that I would get better overnight and be able to run in the morning. That didn't happen! I woke up feeling pretty bad, so Nick went out to run without me.

When I finally got out of bed around 10, I thought, "Maybe I just needed some sleep. Maybe I can go running now!" I got my answer when I walked the 20ft to the kitchen. No. I was diiiiiizzeeeee! It felt like my brains were sloshing around in my head. While I didn't run anywhere, I did manage to get some laundry and cleaning done. I had to take a break every 5-10 minutes because I kept getting dizzy. The fun part came around noon when I developed a splitting headache that wouldn't let up all day. I eventually agreed to take some ibuprofen around 9pm. (I whined to Nick all day about my headache but didn't want to take anything for it.)

Well, I felt much better this morning. No headache, less dizzy and no cough. So I decided I should at least try for a run this weekend. Within the first mile I developed a bad headache...the kind that hurts with every step. I was starting to think this running thing was a bad idea after all! Well, I wouldn't say it turned out to be a great idea, but it wasn't horrible the whole time either. The headache let up a little which made it easier to deal with the dizziness. Nick was super nice and ran extra slow with me. We also took frequent walk breaks! We were travelling about the same speed as I would be going at the end of a tough 50k, except we were only running 6 miles.

Ah well, I was glad to be outside after being holed up all weekend. Too bad I didn't get some exercise on the really gorgeous day!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Recovering Nicely

Went on my first run since Rockin' K today. 6.5-7 miles at Clinton Lake. Felt great. Was pushing hard to keep up with Gary the first 4 miles. Nick, Debbie, Lisa and I split off from the group at that point and turned back from an abbreviated version of the normal 9.5 mile run. I thought maybe since Nick ran 50 miles on Saturday, he might run slower than Gary on the way back, but he decided to run FASTER! That over-achieving jerk! I kept up until the last half mile, but he started to really haul some booty, so I let him show off.

Afterward, Debbie, Nick and I enjoyed a margarita and dinner at On The Border. We tried to get Lisa to come, but she's quite studious and insisted she had to do some writing. We'll peer pressure her next time!!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Rockin K Marathon - Kanopolis State Park, KS

For some reason, I never got excited about this race. I was definitely excited to go on a road trip and hang out with friends, but I wasn't psyched or even nervous about the race. And I'm ALWAYS nervous before a race.

My first mistake of the day was not taking the mandatory pre-race poo. I thought I heard the race director say there was a toilet at the manned aid station, so I figured I'd wait til I got there to go. In the meantime...I ran. I ran with Coleen for a while but before I knew it, she was smoking me. I KNOW Coleen is in better shape than me, so I decided to get realistic before I killed myself trying to keep up with her. I ran with Nick, Mircea and Mark Inbody after I split off from Coleen and the girls. We hit our first aid station at about mile 7 I think. It was the unmanned aid station, which featured...water. I didn't need water. I needed to go potty. I was wishing I'd looked at the course information more carefully! The thing is...this course had almost zero trees, so going outside was more complicated than usual, and I decided to hold it.

I was thinking the manned aid station was probably at mile 9 or 10, so I kept running, running, running. Wellll, it wasn't until mile 13 or so. I grabbed some snacks and chatted with volunteer extraordinaire, Karen Henry. I asked her about the toilet and she told me there was some sort of camp toilet that had already blown over. Alas, I was feeling too cowardly to check it out, but I didn't have to go so bad anymore, so I decided to continue on. On my way out of the aid station tent, I saw Stacey Amos and Angel Clark and chatted for a few minutes, then I was off. I don't know where they came from, but when I was gabbing I saw Nick and Mircea leaving the aid station. They must have stopped to get stuff from their drop bags.

I decided it was time to get going. About a quarter mile out, I was feeling pretty good and passed a couple guys. About another quarter mile later, the debilitating nausea kicked in. I tried running but mostly resorted to walking, slowly. I wanted to be done with the race and convinced myself I'd drop when I got back to the aid station in a few miles. A few things helped get me back on track. One: James Barker caught up with me and I was happy to see a friend! Two: Tricia, a friend of trail nerd Katie Spaeth caught up with me. I had just met her the night before at the pre-race dinner and enjoyed chatting with her. She was very positive and it helped keep me going. Three: I didn't wanna be a pain in the @$$ and make a volunteer drive me back to the start line.

I did, however, spend a good 15 minutes at the aid station before convincing my lazy self to leave. I had about 8 miles to go, which didn't seem far at the beginning of the race, but seemed like forEVER at this point. The nausea subsided a bit but never went away completely. I was running a lot more than I did on the Big Bluff Loop (aka hill hell) and eventually passed a couple. A little later I caught up with Tricia and her husband, chatted with them for a bit, then went on ahead since they were walking.

When I got to the BIG water crossing, I didn't know what to do. I didn't want to go around to the beaver dam, but I wasn't sure how deep the water was. I decided to go ahead and test the waters and turn around if it got too deep. It turned out to be about waist high, which was managable, but QUITE chilly. I complained to myself about the cold for a bit until I remembered that I was uncomfortably warm before I got in the water. Well I got going and not paying attention and before I knew it I was surrounded by the wrong colored flags. Soooooo, I turned around and about a tenth of a mile later I saw some people making a sharp turn. Aha! Well, at least I hadn't gone too far off course.

The last few miles weren't too bad. I walked the uphills, and ran the flats and downhills. As I was approaching the road to the finish line and thinking of the steep hill I had to get up, I wondered if I would walk it or not. Well I ran it. I'm pretty good at the whole finish line thing. It's the other 99% of the race I have trouble with. I finished the race in 6 hours and 35 minutes...waaaaaaay slower than I was hoping. I have to say, I think this was the hardest race I've ever run. Harder than the three 50k's I've already completed. Still undecided about running it next year, but I'll say the volunteers and race coordinators were great. Stacy Sheridan made everyone feel like family, even newbies like me!

After the run, I changed, grabbed some food and hung out in the Corral Shelter with my nerdy friends for a bit. When Debbie, James and Sophia decided to leave, I decided to ] take a nap in Nick's truck...until I looked at the time. I realized I did NOT have time for a nap if I was going to get to the only accessible aid station to see the Nickster. Seeing Nick was definitely more important! It was a win-win-win deal: I got to see Nick, Roxy finally got to leave the truck and run around at the aid station, and Nick gained a running partner (Rox). Well, Nick did a great job. I can't believe he went out for that second loop! I don't think I could EVER do that 50 miler! He's a stud.

The End

P.S. This is the worst race report I've written, but please forgive me this one time. :)

Sunday, March 22, 2009


Went for an 11 mile run with Nick on the Sandrat Trails. Heel hurt in my Inov8's, had tummy problems. Cut it short. Ran 3 miles, walked 3. Bah humbug. The end.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Just a Marathon

For several days, the forecast predicted rain and thunderstorms all day Saturday. I was nervous getting up this morning, thinking of the 30 miles I wanted to run today. Last Saturday was challenging due to the mud, but I managed a very slow 20 miles. I was thrilled when I woke to find the forecast had changed completely, leaving the chance of rain at 10%. I was still worried the trails might be muddy, but we were pleasantly surprised to find them dry and totally runnable.

I tripped several times at the beginning of the run, which is usually an indicator that I'm going too fast. So I paid heed and fell to the back of the group. Well it turned out I was just at the back of THIS group and soon another group of folks caught up, including Debbie Webster, Julie Toft and Mr. Gary "Too Many First Names" Henry. Before I knew it I went from being at the back of the group to leading the group. My attempts to slack were being thwarted!

I preferred to not lead, because Nick and I planned to run 30, while the rest of the group was running 20 or less. I needed to reserve my energy for the extra 10 miles and didn't want to hold anyone back in the process. My attempts to relinquish my leading throne were not successful. The rest of the group claimed to like my pace so I continued on until we reached Land's End (a big open area where the blue and white trails intersect). Coleen commented a few times that I was really haulin' ass, but I reminded her she had run 30 miles the day before, which skewed her speed opinion.

Once we reached Land's End, Coleen turned back to do 10 and the rest of us continued on. Did I MENTION Coleen gave me some totally kick butt leopard print
running sleeves?! Because she did. Now that I've gotten you all sidetracked I'll get back to running. We were doing it. Running, you perverts!

We kept on at a good pace until we reached about 11 miles or so. The rest of the group broke off to finish their 20 mile run, leaving Nick and I to our own devices. I decided to slow down a bit at this point to avoid burning out. Plus, it was a gorgeous need to speed through, ignoring the wonderful scenery. It was 60ish degrees and overcast. The air felt amazing on my skin. The grass was growing. The frogs were croaking. I just wanted to go, regardless of speed, and see everything this spring-infected trail had to offer. (Spring is one of the few kinds of good infections. Laughter's a good one too!)

The springy bliss eventually faded. I was becoming fatigued and the sun started peeking out of the clouds, making me regret wearing a long sleeved shirt. On our way back to Land's End, Nick asked if I wanted to go back on the white trail and call it a day. This would be a compromise, giving us about 26 miles instead of 30. I agreed to his proposal. It would just be a marathon but still my longest training run.

Now when I say my bliss was gone, I don't mean I was unhappy. In fact, I was in a state of contented exhaustion. I was still happy to be on the trail on this beautiful day, but my legs required some convincing to keep up this running stuff. We were taking more walk breaks and it was getting harder to end them. I began to wonder how I've ever completed an ultra. The simple answer is, aid stations and volunteers. You need stuff (you can only carry so much), and you need encouragement (someone who isn't as tired as you).

Once we finally reached the last section of trail, I decided to pick up the pace. I thought Nick would try to pass me, so I kept running faster and faster until I was full out sprinting. He didn't pass me. And I said, "In your face!" Actually, I don't think I said that, but I'm thinking it right now.

After the run, the day continued to be awesome. We spent most of the afternoon basking in the sun on lovely Mass St (if you've seen me lately, you know I can use quite a lot of basking). So the Laurie votes are in, and they all agree, this Saturday was so far, the best of the year!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Wednesday Night Run

Throughout the fall and winter our Wednesday night group runs have been at the Sandrat Trails by the river in Lawrence. Because of the trail's proximity to bustling downtown Lawrence, they are also followed by dinner and drinks on Mass St. The equation is simple...RUNNING + FRIENDS + DINNER + DRINKS + MASS ST = PURE AWESOMENESS. Long story short, we all look forward to Wednesday night runs.

Tonight the air was cool - a bit chilly if standing still, but the perfect temperature for running in say...shorts and a long sleeved shirt. Christy, Coleen and I hung back from the group, maintaining a more reasonable pace than Nick and the speed demons. We had a great time chatting and running. I hadn't seen Coleen or Christy in a week or more. It doesn't seem like long for typical friends, but we're ultrarunner friends. We spend long, sometimes grueling hours together running and discussing whatEVER. Summary: I love my running friends.

The run was great, and after, we went to Zen Zero for some tasty tasty Thai food. We had a fabulous time eating, boozing and discussing everything from gloomy Seattle to statistics.

Next on the fun list: 20-30mi at Clinton Lake starting Saturday morning, 7:15am

Wow, that was barely about running at all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

You are My Density

When 6:30pm
What Run
Where Sandrat Trails, Lawrence, KS
Why Fun?
How (Far) 6mi

All day I was longing to get outside and run run run, but I needed to work work work. I didn't think I would get out, because Nick was supposed to attend a meeting of nerds. The meeting was canceled, so we decided to go running. By the time we left to go running, my excitement had waned, but I knew I should do it anyway.

I think I kept a pretty constant pace the whole time, but the air was thick and warm. Every once in a while we'd pass through a refreshing pocket of cool air but they were few and far between. When I started whining (internally) about how dense the air was, I reminded myself of how difficult it was to run in the thin thin air of Colorado and decided this was the lesser of two evils. For all you Colorado transplants, I'm not insulting your beautiful state, I just suck at running there.

It was a good run. Not awesome. But glad I did it and happy to have my running partner with me!

P.S. It seems like I'm repeating myself myself a lot today.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Renewed Energy

Today's run started off a little rough, like the last two. I was crabby from the start. I was wearing a new running skirt for the the first time, and it was more form fitting than what I typically wear. I felt like my gut looked huge and this made me crabby. What can I say? I'm a girl. As soon as I started running I felt my skirt flapping around and could tell my rear was showing. Well the little shorts underneath were showing. My uncomfortableness and crabiness escalated.

Nick and I started off slow. I was feeling heavy from my lunch of veggie burger and fries. Before long I developed a good case of heart burn. It seemed like a would never get out of my running funk. In addition, the little shorts under my too short skirt were starting to "migrate" so to speak. Not only was this uncomfortable, but I'm sure a good portion of my rear was exposed to view. Fortunately by this point, we were in the woods and there were no runners behind us. After a while I discovered that I could adjust it so it didn't flap around so much. Uncomfortableness managed.

FINALLY, about halfway through the run, my heartburn went away, and I started feeling better all around. I wasn't exactly speedy but I definitely had more energy. The last couple miles felt great. Once we got to the levee I started speeding up. Nick said we should try to catch a couple running ahead of us. Unfortunately the guy sped up quite a bit so we didn't catch him, but we sprinted past the girl about 100 or so yards from the end. It's not about racing people for me. It just helps to have a moving target for motivation to run faster.

Overall I was pretty happy with the run. I'm out of my funk, but I'm hoping for an even better run next time!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Saturday Morning Run

Today was another "off" day for running. Don't get me wrong. It was a beautiful day and I enjoyed myself thoroughly, but it was muddy and I was sloooooow.

I fell back from the group after about 2.5 miles. The mud and hills were taking a toll on me today, but it didn't discourage me from my goal to run 20. I shuffled along and after a few minutes my sweetie fell back and decided to run with me the rest of the way.

While the thick sticky mud exhausted and frustrated me, I relished in splashing through the puddles of water lying over the less sticky stuff. Nick was entertained when I stopped to splash around in every stream crossing. He said I reminded him of Roxy (his dog).

Towards the end, Nick and I ran across our friend Lisa and her dog Chaz. I struggled to keep up with Lisa, but I was grateful for the renewed challenge. I kept up with her until the last quarter mile or so, then told her and Nick to go on ahead. I was beat and walked most of the way back to the car.

Overall it was a fun morning. I'm definitely pooped now and hoping for a better run next time. Next Saturday I'm trying for 30 which will be my longest training run. Gotta get ready for the Free State 40 miler!!!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

So, I'm officially trying to stay more current on my blog. I'm not sure that statement applies since I've only posted one blog entry. But you get the idea. To restrict my wandering mind, I'll try to differentiate between running and school. What else is there, really? Besides my weird observations. Maybe I'll add that as a category!

Running was going great until approximately yesterday. I ran a 20miler Saturday before last. Wish I had run more than 10 last weekend, but I wasn't feeling toooo bad about it. Yesterday's run was definitely a smack in the face though. I went out for my usual 6 mile Wednesday night run on the Sandrat Trails in Lawrence. I wasn't happy about the cold as I had been getting used to the recent mild temps. As we started our run along the levee, I said, "I wonder when I'm going to reach the point, where I'm happy about coming out here tonight, because I'm not there yet." At this point in the run, I was still cold but assumed I'd get over it soon and be a happy camper.

Well, long story short, I never got there. I DID warm up, but as soon as I did, the feeling was replaced with that burning in the lungs...the kind I usually get after sprinting. Well, we were running at a decent pace but far from sprinting. I couldn't shake this feeling the entire time. Shortly after we entered the trail portion of our run, I fell back. Mary Ann and I were falling behind the main group. She asked me if I was running slow because of her. I ensured her I wasn't. She was getting farther away and waited for me once, but I told her to go on ahead.

Nick and Roxy came back to run with me along the levee, and I was grateful for that. It took my mind of wallowing in self pity over my bad run. Nick reminded me that everyone has days like these. Indeed!

I was glad to be done with the run,'s not about the run! It's about Free State! I thoroughly enjoyed my post run vodka tonics and quesadillas!

I'm feeling a lot more comfortable in my second semester of grad school. I'm back in the groove after my 3 year hiatus between undergrad and now. At least the physics concepts come easier. Math is math. I have a test tomorrow in calculus of variations. This will probably be my most challenging course this semester. The class is definitely geared more towards math majors than engineering majors. So the material is presented rather abstractly. And...I have to do proofs sometimes. Ick. I'm hoping for a B in the course. REALLY hoping. C's in grad school are not allowed. So, I'll be studying all afternoon and evening for my test and am hoping to ace it. (Since my homework grade is so bad right now.)

I don't like littering. I want to find people who litter and punch them.

I don't like the Watchmen. Watching it actually made me angry.

I DO love Nick's petsies, Roxy and Tuk.

I DO love the sunshine.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Psycho Wyco 2009 50k Report

Pre-Race Paranoia

Leading up to the race, it seemed like I found infinitely many things to worry about. I paced Nick for 25 mi the week before and wasn’t used to doing long runs consecutive weekends. What else? I had what I assumed was a bone spur on the back of my left heel which had become inflamed over the past few weeks. Also my knee was kind of sore. And finally, the warm weather and rain had me freaked out about the mud. I realize know that I was just reliving the terror of my first 50k, Psycho Wyco 2008.

I was extremely undertrained for the event, but I finished, nonetheless, in 8:30-something. My longest run before I undertook the infamous Psycho-ness was maybe 12 miles. I was also plagued by an unhappy IT band. The race ended in me walking and crying the last 5 miles of the race.

Back to the more recent past…I was really whiny leading up to the race. And Gabe Bevan put me in my place. I told him I could tell he had kids, because I felt like he had put me in a corner. So from then on, I just directed my whining at Nick. He told me to stop worrying and that I was gonna do great.

So, the morning of the race I was super nervous. An inspection of my heel showed that the big bump on the back was blue and bruised. I had Nick fix me up with moleskin and tape hoping to relieve some of the current pain and prevent a lot of future pain. It still hurt when I put my shoe on. I was imagining the shoe sucking mud at Wyco grabbing my shoe and continuously trying to wrench it over my heel.


Danny Miller asked me how fast I would be running the first loop. I told him maybe 2.5 hours. He said he would run with me the first loop. That lasted for about 10 yards. Thanks Danny! I started off nice and slow, letting a herd of people pass me. The first few miles are notoriously difficult when muddy. Fortunately it was somewhat firm—not yet the shoe-ripping-off mud pit. I ran on past the WyCo triangle aid station the first loop. I think I heard people cheering at me, but I didn’t stop to see who it was. I completed the approximate 1 mile loop and ran on past the station again.

I hooked up (not "hooked up") with Gary Henry after the WyCo triangle. I’m used to seeing him from time to time during the beginning of a race. He usually starts behind then runs ahead to take pictures. He stayed true to form this time.

Getting close to the north side of the lake, we all discovered the course was covered in a thin layer of ice, which became problematic on hills. It took me a while to realize the extent of the slipperiness. I’m not used to tiptoeing down hills, but after my first fall I found it was a necessity. Fortunately, I landed on my ample behind, so I was fine! My only injury was a bruise to the hand.

Gary and I engaged in nerdy banter until we reached the surprise! aid station around mile 5. This was a new and welcome addition to this year’s race. I didn’t stop long, but I grabbed some pretzels. I was surprised to find them filled with peanut butter. I didn’t know such a thing existed! Gary and I began our walk up the short stretch of road to the next section of trail. We discussed academic pursuits. When we got back to the trail, Gary told me to go on ahead. He’s usually much faster than me, but he ran 100 miles the week before, so I wasn’t totally surprised he wasn’t a speed demon today. Actually, I was darn impressed he was running the challenging course that day.

The first part of this trail is a gradual downhill which was nice, followed by a steep downhill. The steep part was pretty scary with the ice. We all went very slowly down the steep hill, which is run in reverse in the summer. We tried to tread on the leaves as much as possible and grab onto small trees for support. I learned I was STILL not being careful enough, when I slipped and landed on my behind for the second time. Now I was wishing my shoes were screwed. I didn’t expect the ice at all.

The next section is a series of short steep climbs. I had a bit of trouble with the climbs because of the ice, and my bruised hand was making it difficult to grab hand holds to help me. After the climbing, I was at the Amos family aid station in no time. A bunch of my friends were there so I was really excited. I ate a cookie and maybe some Pringles (they ARE my favorite after all), and headed back to the starting line to finish my first loop. Of course, still walking up the hills and tearing like a crazy person down the other side of them. I KNEW there wasn’t any ice on this side of the lake. And, miraculously, I managed to avoid falling on my rear for a third time in a single loop. That’s pretty good for me! Dick Ross was taking photos on the way down the hill to the start/finish line and commented on my race number, number one! I was pretty psyched about it. It wasn’t one of those deals where you get number one if you won the race the year before, OBVIOUSLY. I was just the first to register! But it was fun to show off anyway. I remember Bad Ben being there and saying something like, “You’re number one in our book!” That’s the kind of support you get from trail nerds. I ran down to the shelter to check with my crew (Nick) and to grab some food. I told him everything was feeling fine, grabbed some snacks to go, maybe snuck a kiss and was off on my second loop.

The first half of the second loop was amazing. It felt twice as good as the first! I’m not one for self flattery, but I just wanted to yell, “Oh yeah! I’m the s***!!” Not because I think I’m superior to others, but because I’m in way better shape than I was a year ago, and THAT feels awesome! So, really, I was just trash talking to younger me…in my head. It was getting a little muddy on the course, but it wasn’t awful. My shoes weren’t threatening to come off yet, so I was happy.

I came to the triangle aid station and saw Coleen. She asked if I needed anything, and I said, “No, I just want a hug!” So I got my hug and ran down into the triangle. It was mildly slimy but I was still able to maintain a pretty good pace. Actually, I was running much faster than I expected I would be during my second loop. I was excited that I was feeling so good, but worried I was running too fast. I figured what the heck, I’d be forced to slow down through Fester’s Wander (it is my bane). But before I get ahead of myself, let’s go back to the triangle. It was fun. On my way out I stopped at the aid station quickly and grabbed some fruit snacks, said hi to my friends again, and took off running.

As I came closer to the north side of the lake, as expected, I found the thin layer of ice on the trail had melted. However, as I shuffled quickly down the hills this time, I pondered the validity of my “no ice” assumption. But taking my normal reactive approach toward running down hills, I decided to continue on at the same reckless speed until nature provided some evidence to the contrary. It did. I fell on my rear again, hitting my hand on a rock. I glanced at the fresh cut on my hand, stood up and resumed my run down the long, long hill at a slightly reduced speed. At the surprise! aid station I stopped to ask for some antibiotic ointment for my hand and the helpful volunteers rushed around and had me fixed up in no time. The wound wasn’t severe enough to really require a band-aid (they gave me one anyway), but I figured the antibiotic would be a good idea in case I came in contact with any pesky naturey bacteria over the next few hours, orrrrr the more likely case being…I accidentally peed on my hand (I don’t think I did!)

So I kept on going, up the road, through Fester’s Wander, all alone at this point. Just me and the iPod. I’ve been meaning to put together a list of good running music, but I never get around to it. So I sometimes end up listening to slow depressing music, which isn’t horrible if you have all day to burn. I can’t run 8 minute miles all day! I was looking forward to getting to the Amos aid station. I was still feeling good and enjoying the beautiful nature, but it’s nice to be reassured every once in a while that you’re still in the same universe as everyone else. I announced my arrival to the Amos aid station as I walked up the uneven hill toward it, “Number one is here!” Debbie filled my Nathan Pack with water and I think I grabbed a few snacks to munch on. I felt a little sick to my stomach, but I knew if I kept eating regularly and drinking plenty of water, I’d be fine.

Then I was off to finish my second loop. The mud was starting to loosen up my shoes a bit and I could feel my socks were getting stretched out. Finishing my second loop, I saw my parents at the finish line. I said a quick, “Oh hi dad and mom!” I wasn’t expecting them to show up quite so early, even though they ARE early to everything—just not typically 3 hrs early. I ran down the hill to see the Nickster. Mircea and Lisa were with him. They had already rocked the 10 mile race. I don’t recall what pleasantries were exchanged. It seemed like I was rushing around all day. Weird. Anyhow, I told Nick I wanted to change my socks, so he fished some out of my drop bag. I wasn’t expecting any help with the shoe removal and sock exchange task so was surprised to find Nick struggling with my shoelaces. It was a blur of activity. I’m not sure how it all worked out. I know I untied at least one shoe and put on a sock. And I also remember Mircea putting one of my socks on me. I commented that I was pretty sure nobody had ever put a sock on me since I was baby. It was a unique experience. So I tied my shoes nice and tight, said my farewells and took off for my final loop.

I knew this one was gonna be tough. The mud would be at its worst, and my legs would be at their worst. My goal was to run as much as I could and perhaps finish the loop in under 3 hrs. I could tell I was starting to get a bit delirious when I had been running for a while and couldn’t remember if I had crossed the street on the way up to the triangle. It turns out I hadn’t when the question first entered my head, which is good! I wasn’t losing chunks of time at least! There were only one or two muddy sections I walked, in addition to the hills. I said hi to Coleen and Christy on my way into the triangle and saw Willie Lambert leaving the aid station and heading into the triangle as well. I was surprised to see him, thinking, even on a bad day, Willie can kick my butt. Well Willie HAD run 63 or so miles the weekend before and he DID have a bum foot, so I guess it could be in the realm of possibilities. But, I’m still skeptical. I think he must have stopped for a nap.

Willie told me to go on ahead of him on our way into the triangle which confused me again. I said, oooookaaaaay. The triangle is very twisty-turny and it was very slimy, so I resorted to shuffling along the course. You could see the slide marks where people found that running was ineffective in certain areas. That was my shuffle indicator. *Slide marks!* *Initiate super shuffle mode…and maybe grab a tree!* I finally made it out of the triangle and decided to stop at the aid station for a snack. All I had was Gu and that didn’t sound appealing. There was Christy, waiting to cram food down my throat. I said, “Christy, I’m not gonna lie. I’m more tired this loop than the last.” I wasn’t sure what I wanted to eat, so she made the decision for me. She gave me a bunch of orange slices and sent me on my way!

Not long after I left the aid station, nature began calling. I looked behind me to see if anyone was coming. Nobody was, as far as I could see. So I made a super quick pit stop. Long story short, Willie was closer than I thought, and I suppose he got a good mooning as I stood up and scurried away. So I was back to running and before I knew it, I was eating fruit snacks and trying to get up that big hill. You know the one, the big one. The big one after the triangle. Ohhhh, figure it out! I soon realized I would not be able to propel myself up the mud slicked slope while stuffing my face with fruit snacks, so I put them in a pocket for safe keeping and continued walking like a duck up the hill. The duck walking was a useful technique for getting up muddy hills without sliding back down. I could go into a physics discussion to explain why this works, complete with free body diagrams, but...for the sake of brevity...I will return to the tedious details of my run. Soooooo, I got up the big muddy hill and down the really long hill (without falling this time). Exhaustion began to hit me as I was running across the wide open field at the base of the really big hill. I told myself I needed to run all the way across it until I got to the next hill, then I could walk. I wasn't listening to me, and decided to run about 2/3 of the way across instead. Willie passed me as I walked. Not surprising. I was tired on my uphill approach to the 5 mile aid station. I smiled weakly and said hi to the volunteers as I grabbed an orange slice and continued my walk up the road.

Shortly after I re-entered the woods, it hit me, a big wall of something! I was exHAUSted! Sure, my legs were a little tired, but that didn't bother me too much. I was "wanting to lie down in the cool mud and take a nap" exhausted. I immediately regretted not drinking coke at the last aid station. So I stumbled up the hills like I was on a death march and dreamt of the Amos aid station where I would drink a whole gallon of coke (I didn't end up doing that)! I still managed to shuffle along the flat parts. In this same location a year prior, the batteries in my MP3 player died and I began to cry, and I didn't stop crying until I finished. But there was no crying this year! At this point, I really was beginning to get delirious. I kept "seeing" people. There was a man with a yellow shirt sitting on the side of the trail. Translation: I saw a yellow sign and some tree roots. Then I saw a person crouching at the top of a hill who I assumed was waiting to take photos. Translation: I saw a large rock.

Finally I was back to the Amos station and there were my friends and Nick the crew! I was so happy to see everyone! Debbie asked what I wanted and of course I said, "I need coke!" Kyle asked if I had taken a nap in the mud since the whole left side of my body was covered in it. I told him, "No, but I wish I had!" Debbie and Stacy loaded me up with sugary treats for my last leg of the race, and I took off.
The coke and the social interaction seemed to wake me up. Plus, I knew there were only about 2 miles left in the race! My excitement was building, even with the huge hills to climb. My excitement was building with each step. Finally, I got to the road crossing and knew I was within spitting distance of the finish line. Really long spitting distance maybe. I opted to walk the relatively flat, but hopelessly mucky section leading up to the last very short hill. Once I got to the top of the hill, I sprinted like a crazy person down towards the finish line!!! I was elated when I saw the clock reading 7:28. I never imagined I would finish in under 7.5 hours. I would have been pleased with sub 8, given the conditions. Anyway, I had a huge grin on my face (in contrast to the, "I'm trying not to cry in front of everyone" look I had on my face last year) and enjoyed the plethora of finish line hugs I received. I couldn't have done it without the encouragement and help from my friends and all the volunteers!