Monday, February 28, 2011

Those Nagging Injuries

As many of you know, I injured my tailbone several weeks ago.  I wish I could relate some interesting account of the event which led to this injury, but it was simply unamazing (probably not a word).  This might actually add a layer of comedy to the whole situation.  Most people injure their tailbones by falling down.  Pretty easy to imagine during the winter in KS, eh?  So I will attempt to paint a picture of this most unmomentous occasion.

I am a total weanie about being cold while I'm standing still.  When I'm waiting for people at group runs in the winter you can forget about me being social.  I will stay in my car until the last person arrives before I tear myself away from the heated cabin.  Ironically, I heat up very quickly when I'm running.  Before you know it I've got my jacket tied around my waste and my hat and gloves stashed in my sports bra.  One time I even took my shirt off and ran in a sports bra and tights.  If you're guessing that I suck at running in the summer, you'd be correct!  Ding ding ding ding!

Well this was one of those jacket-around-the-waste days.  One of the guys I was running with needed to stop and retie his shoelaces, so OBVIOUSLY I decided it would be nice to sit in the snow.  1) I did not consider the depth of the snow before sitting down and 2) I had no knowledge of what this trail looked like without snow.  Sooo there was a sharp rock under the shallow snow where I decided to sit, which was perfectly aligned with my tailbone.  Lucky.  I remember thinking, "Darn that smarts!"  I moved my booty off the rock and took some deep breaths before getting back up.  I just assumed this experience would be like...when you hit your shin on something and you curse for a minute or two then feel all better.

The soreness didn't go away as we finished the run and driving home was one of the more uncomfortable things I've experienced.  I think the day after was the worst in terms of pain.  Who knew the whole body revolved around the butt?  Everything I did hurt.  Lying on side.  Ouch.  Lying on other side.  Ouch.  Lean forward.  A little better.  Learn farther forward.  Ouch. 

The good news is that my state was greatly improved over the first week.  The bad news is that it hasn't improved much over the past couple weeks.  I mean, it's not excruciating, it just hurts enough to be highly irritating.  So my doc friend tells me it's probably broken.  So I say, "Should I not run my race in a couple weeks?"  And he says, "You're not going to do any more damage.  If you can deal with the pain you can do it, but your butt will take longer to heal."  Hmmm.

Now I have a dilemma, because this isn't my only race coming up. 
So my current course of action is to try to take it sort of easy.  I'm not ready to throw in the towel on any of these races yet.  I'll try to stick to shorter, slower runs over the next couple weeks to reduce the amount of impact being trasmitted to my booty.  I'll take the 3 Day race one day at a time and might just do 1 or 2 days.  If I HAD to pick a race to not compete it, it would probably be Rockin K.  I could still volunteer and have a blast out there.  I really want to do Jemez.  I think it will be great training for Leadville and would really boost my confidence going into the race.

How annoying is it to have an injury that bothers you both when you're inactive (sitting too long) and too active (running too much)?!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Run Out Those Frustrations!

I had high hopes for running earlier in the week.  I don't remember exactly why I didn't run on Monday.  I wanted to go to the grocery store and cook dinner maybe?  Tuesday I had to leave work early to take care of some bs, which caused me to miss my planned run with the girls in KC.  It also meant I had to work late from home to prep for a meeting the next day. 

Most of this week's grief has been caused by...ohhh never mind!  The bs mentioned above.  I don't want to get myself in hotter water.

So my first weekday run was last night.  My legs were feeling 100% post-race.  Nick started out in front but before long had to step off to the side, because our new dog had to use the trail facilities.  I took the lead and after a few minutes was feeling the burn.  In my lungs.  I thought about slowing down, but my legs really wanted to go that speed.  So I said, "Ok legs.  Have it your way.  Let's go!"  I also figured, "Hey, we're only going 4.5 miles.  I might as well give it all I've got."  Honestly, I didn't feel like I was going that fast.  I just figured my lungs were being lame.

I think I did pretty well at keeping the same pace the whole time when Roxy Dog wasn't causing me to trip over my own feet.  She usually runs ahead, so I know she's pooped when she's running next to me.  I don't think it was my pace that was the problem but the fact that she had run 3 days in a row.  She's not a young pup anymore but she can still run 5-10 miles pretty easily.

Well it was just a fabulous run.  We gave new Lawrence Trail Hawk member, Chris, his hawk name.  Giving someone a hawk name involves asking many probing questions.  We found out that Chris had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.  We all agreed that was pretty badass so set about coming up with a name based on this awesome achievement.  Kilimanjaro Hawk?  Too long.  Kil Hawk?  I liked that one because it was my idea.  Kili Hawk?  Sounds girly.  Finally Micah came up with Summit Hawk.  And we all loved it.

When we got to the final section of switchbacks which always seems like more of a pain than it looks like, I decided to power up it.  I always feel like the slower I run up hills the more torturous it is.  So why not just get it over with?  Clarification: I do not use this philosophy in ultra running.  I also like to run the last section pretty fast.  After the switchbacks the trail is flat and straight.  I've always worried that I would trip and fall on my face running the last section but it never happened until last night.  Fortunately, I didn't fall on any rocks and the trail was moist and spongy.  Thank goodness for falling on the blue trail.  The white trail, which is parallel to the blue, is dotted with quite a few rocks.  I often have visions of myself falling face first into rocks and losing a bunch of teeth, but it hasn't slowed me down yet.  I hopped back up, said I was ok, and finished up the run at a good clip.

Gary was hanging out at the trailhead when we finished and commented that we were running along at a good pace and that he was glad he turned back at the road.  Nick said I splintered the group going up the switchbacks.  Well I guess my lungs weren't joking around then!  Anyway, feeling pretty good about my speed.  And looking forward to Coleen (newly certified RRCA running coach) getting my butt into gear for some short distance PR's: 5k, 1 mile and 400m.  I also owe a lot of my current fitness to my trainer, Whitney.  I even have a slightly noticable bulge where my hamstring is now.  Crazy.

Monday, February 21, 2011

2011 Sylamore 50k

I was already excited at the end of my work day on Thursday.  I had wrapped up a meeting with some customers and had NO more meetings for the rest of the week.  I would also be leaving work early Friday to head down to the race with some of my best ultra friends.  What more could you be excited about?!  Oh yeah, it was 70 degrees outside.  My happiness was slightly deflated when I had to spend my evening cleaning the house and packing for the race instead of sipping a margarita on a street front patio downtown then walking to Sylas & Maddy's for ice cream.  I guess when it's nice out I feel like doing every single nice weather activity at ONCE!

Well Friday was pretty awesome too, and when Nick picked me up from work I had that going-on-a-road-trip giddiness.  That stuff rarely lasts more than an hour in the car.  And most times the trip never ends up being as exciting as you've built it up in your head.  I'll admit that after 2 or 3 hours in the car I was wondering, "Are we theeeeerrrre yet???"  I've never driven by Branson before, but I'm still pretty confused about what and where it actually is.  I saw signs for what seemed like hours.  Meanwhile, the side of the highway was dotted with an never-ending stream of businesses, gas stations and homes, which made it seem like we were driving through a very very long small town.  I still have no idea whether Branson is a city or a small country in Missouri.

We caravanned with a couple of lovely ladies: my oldest (not talking about age) ultra lady friends, Debbie and Coleen.  After what seemed like an eternity, we arrived in Mountain View, Arkansas, ate at Pizza Hut then headed to our hotel to meet up with the rest of our posse: Deb, Stu and Paul.  We settled in, chatted and giggled.  Ok, the guys laughed and the girls giggled.  Don't want to offend those male egos.  I think we turned the lights out by 8:30.  And not long after...after we were done laughing about farting stories...silence came.

We got up dark and early at 5am!  I was already pretty excited.  More excited than nervous actually.  And I was literally bouncing around by the time we were getting ready to drive to the start line.  We arrived 1.5 hrs before the start and we spent most of that time discussing our trips to the bathroom.  "I think I need to go again."  "I've gone three times!"  The general consensus is that ultra runners were raised by very impolite wolves, who promote discussion of farts, poop and chafing.

We finally saw Micah arrive, a runner from Lawrence who would be doing his first ultra!  It suddenly occurred to me, that as newly elected president of the Lawrence Trail Hawks, it was my responsibility to gather everyone together, grab a stranger to take a photo, then exclaim "Picture formation everybody!"  I learned this from the previous president, Gary, who takes a photo at every group run.  I think he'll be proud.

I ran with Debbie, Deb and Coleen from the start.  We started off on a flat road and after a quarter mile or so we went up a big hill.  I thought we'd walk but everybody just kept running.  It was like a game of hill chicken.  Nobody would walk because they thought nobody else wanted to walk.  I tried walking for a few steps but nobody else joined me so I started running again.  Once we got to the top of the hill we turned onto a dirt road and got a nice downhill section.  We soon arrived at the infamous water crossing, which was reportedly at a record low this year.  In the deepest section, it was a little over my knees.

Right out of the water crossing, we began our trek up a steep hill.  We walked of course.  Sections of the course reminded me a lot of trails from home.  Sometimes I thought of Clinton Lake.  One time I actually felt like I was heading toward Land's End except the drop off was on the wrong side.  Sometimes I thought of Perry Lake and there were even a few spots that reminded me of WyCo (minus the mud).  The trail conditions were great.  There was very little mud and it was confined to the few miles around the river.


I remember thinking, after the first aid station, that I was surprised to still be hanging with the girls.  In case you don't know, I run with some pretty tough chicks.  Just two weeks earlier I was on a training run with them and lagged behind most of the way.  Well I suppose my legs were pretty fresh after taking a week off running for a tailbone injury and a very light pre-race week.

I was even more surprised when I accidentally dropped Deb and Debbie after leaving the 2nd aid station.  We had started an unofficial leader rotation.  I think the Double D's had both lead for a while and eventually I stepped up, although I was worried I'd just slow everybody down.  Running order is an interesting thing.  For the same speed, I always feel like I'm being pushed harder when I'm following somebody.  When I'm in front I feel more comfortable and sometimes even run faster.  Well the gap was growing between us and the Double D's, and I thought about slowing down but Coleen reminded me that it was a race and it was ok to run ahead.

So we went on but after a while I did realize that I was breathing pretty heavily and decided I needed to back off a little on the pace.  I started to let my breathing dictate the pace since my legs felt pretty solid. The course is an out-and-back, so it was easy to size up our competition.  And say hi to people.  We started counting the number of women who were ahead of us.  1, 2, 3, 4, and before we knew it 15!  I haven't been in many ultras that HAD 15 women total.  And we definitely didn't feel like slackers.  Just speaks to the awesomeness of the ladies who were out there.

We reached the halfway point at 3:15, and Coleen mentioned that we could finish in 6:30 with even splits.  I thought that was pretty unlikely, until Coleen started leading out of the aid station.  She was a machine and I was hanging on to her heels for dear life.  If anyone could get us to the finish line with even splits it was her.

It turned out Coleen was the perfect running partner.  I kept thinking, "There's no way I'm going to keep up with her.  I'll just hang as long as I can."  My thoughts were grounded in a good deal of statistical evidence.  I have never beaten Coleen at anything.  Maybe a 10k once a few years ago?  Anyway, she generally kicks my butt at any distance from 5k to 100mi.  The only advantage I have over her is in sprinting, and that is pretty much useless in an ultra.  She ran hills I probably would have walked.  I told her later that I felt like I was cheating, running behind her, because I probably wouldn't have run those hills.  She replied that she ran them because she thought I would give her a hard time if she didn't.  I guess sometimes lack of communication pays off!  Maybe there is some benefit in bottling up your feelings in an ultra.  If I told Coleen I was getting tired, maybe she would say she was tired too so we would both agree to walk more instead of run.

Coleen started having trouble about a mile out from the last aid station.  Her calves were tight I think.  Since I was feeling the urge to visit the facilities, I agreed to go on ahead so I could go to the restroom at the aid station and not lose too much time.  Well it turned out she was only a few seconds behind me when we reached the aid station, so she graciously grabbed some food for me and walked while I took care of business.  Once we started running again Coleen was going like she was on a mission.  She had her headphones on.  I started doubting myself again and thinking I wish I had some awesome tunes to listen to.  By the time I asked her what she was listening to, thinking maybe she could sing to me to share some energy, she wasn't wearing her headphones anymore.  I was obviously clueless.  I was feeling a little spacey the last 10 miles of the race.  Not particularly tired, just fuzzy.  I ate and drank when I started feeling off.

The last 6 miles didn't last nearly as long as I was expecting them to.  The trail was also much less hilly than I expected it to be.  I guess I didn't study the elevation map very carefully, but I was really expecting a BIG climb.  Actually I was looking forward to it.  I wanted a walk break.  Before I knew it, I was back at the water crossing.  Coleen started crossing as I reached the other side and I shouted words of encouragement at her.  I was really looking forward to crossing the finish line with her, but she urged me on ahead.  I asked the volunteers at the crossing how far the finish line was, and they told me it was a little over a mile.  At this point, that seemed like a long way to me.

I felt bad leaving Coleen behind after she had pushed me for so long.  She had even filled my hydration pack for me at the last aid station so we wouldn't lose time while I took a bathroom break.  But knowing Coleen, she would probably smack me around if I didn't try my hardest.  After all, it was a race, as she had pointed out to me.  So my first goal was to finish strong.  My second, to catch that dude in the yellow jacket.  And my third, to catch the chick in red who was ahead of the guy in yellow.  Hint: Two out of three ain't bad.

Before I knew it I was at the dirt road that was mostly up hill.  I walked the hill, meanwhile keeping yellow shirt in my sights.  I wasn't sure I could catch him, but before I knew it I noticed him turning the corner to get on the paved road and head down hill.  When I reached the road, I realized I had no chance of catching "chick in red".  Yellow shirt also had a good lead so I tried my best to close the gap between us.  I was getting pretty close to him toward the finish line, so I decided to sprint it in.  I felt it would only be fair to warn him that I was about to pass him, but he couldn't match my pace.  We joked about it at the finish line.  He felt that the crowd should have warned him that I was sneaking up on him.  I think my time was 6:26-ish,  but I haven't seen the official results yet.

Coleen finished just a minute or two behind me.  Micha finished in 6:55, and the Double D's finished just under 7 hrs.  I have to say the race was definitely a success.  The course was beautiful, the weather was perfect, and I was able to push myself the whole time without crashing.  This wasn't a 50k PR for me, but if you take into account terrain, I feel like it effectively is.  My 50k PR was 6:07 at Lunar Trek.  It was neither as hilly nor as technical as this race.

Micah crosses the finish line at his first ultra.

So when I think about what went right and what went wrong, here's what I come up with:

Positives

  1. Coleen set a great pace.  She is awesome!
  2. I've been practicing walking lately.  I've been setting the treadmill to max incline and walking as fast as I can for 10-15 minutes.  A suggestion of Coleen's.  Although I could not match her HOUR.  I think I would shoot myself on the treadmill for an hour.  Besides, speed walking is a lot harder than you might think.  I also walked with my coworkers at lunch time.  I have a coworker who can walk a 35-minute 5k!  So many ultra runners take walking for granted, including me, until recently.  But practicing walking will teach you how to walk efficiently, and that definitely helped me on those hills.
  3. Strength training.  I've been working out with a personal trainer 1-2 times per week for the past couple months.  Like so many runners, for a long time I only ran.  But a strong core is also important, especially for trail and ultra runners. 
  4. Great weather.  I prefer cool weather.  I suck at running in the heat.  I think it was in the upper 50's to low 60's, which was pretty good for shorts and a short-sleeved shirt.  A few degrees cooler would have been nice too, but I really can't complain.
Negatives

  1. ???
  2. Ok, I guess my mileage has been pretty low lately.  Maybe I could have pulled off a better performance if I spent a little more time running during the week.
Debbie and Deb at the finish line.

P.S.  Sorry I didn't post more pictures.  I didn't actually take any except for this one of the Debs.  But they do exist!  I'll post them when I get more.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Who's Behind the Stuff?

Today my boyfriend, Nick, informed me that our landlord would be showing our house in a couple of days.  Of course, this sent me into a house cleaning flurry, which only happens when people are coming over.  But "showing the house" means we have to clean the WHOLE house.  After that initial housewarming party, you really don't have to keep that second floor tidy, because nobody ever goes up there right???  Well, it's been a year and a half since that housewarming party and we're moving out in July, so I guess it's time to tidy the whole place up.

I tend to freak out when faced with daunting tasks like, having to clean the house in two days AND pack for an ultra trip (Sylamore 50k in Arkansas) at the same time.  So grabbing a glass of wine early on was definitely a good choice.  I should point out that if child services came by our house on a typical day and we actually had children, they would probably be taken away.  One glance at the pile of dirty running socks and shoes piled in the middle of our living room - the location in which most living rooms have a coffee table - and the box of cheezits resting serenely on the couch would send most people running away. FYI, the cheezits belong to Nick.  I don't eat junk food like that!  Unless...Nick buys it and it's sitting on the couch saying, "Eat me.  I taste nothing like cheese but you know you want me."

So there I was.  Cleaning.  I grabbed some clothes to wash from the landfill of laundry that extends from our bedroom to the "closet" which is a totally different room than the bedroom.  Once I sort of organized the upstairs to the point that I could do no more, i.e. there was still a landfill of laundry that would not fit into the washer or laundry baskets, I headed downstairs to tackle the kitchen.  Since I've been healing from a bruised tailbone and I didn't run or work out last week, I did a lot of cooking.  I like cooking.  I do not, however, like cleaning the kitchen after I cook.  Sooooo, there were a lot of dishes.  I washed them.

By the time, I started putting things away in the office, I was feeling pretty good.  I had been carrying the wine everywhere I went.  Walk 10ft.  Bring the wine.  Go upstairs.  Bring the wine.  Go downstairs.  Bring the wine.  I walked by our entryway, glancing at our hallway full of shoes.  I'm not kidding.  We have a HALLWAY FULL OF SHOES.  Mostly running.  So I started thinking about what these potential new tenants would think about various aspects of our living quarters, such as:

1.  Ok, I already mentioned the hallway full of shoes.  Here it is.
2. The wall of jackets...at the end of the hallway of shoes.  I didn't use to own so many jackets.  But Nick got me hooked.  I blame him.
3. Cabinet full of water bottles.
4. Office loaded with fantasy/sci-fi books, Magic the Gathering and pewter models of dragons.  I'll cop to loving fantasy and sci-fi but the dragons and games are Nick's.
5. Bags scattered around the house.  I think every ultra runner has plenty of bags on hand.  We have a lot of baggage!  Shoes, clothes, food.


So my conclusion is, people will probably think we're very nerdy people who are very addicted to running and being outside.  And that's just fine with me!  It does make me wish that I could be there to see the looks on those faces though.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Need the Miles

It's been a slow first month of the year.  My mileage has been low and I just haven't had much of interest to write about.  I completed two long runs in January: 25 miles at Coleen's Fat Ass, and a 20 miler with my friend Sarah on the North Shore Trails at Clinton Lake.  The Fat Ass is a casual run at the Prairie Center in Olathe.  There's a 3.2 mile loop of trail.  You can do as many loops as you want.  And everyone brings snacks to share inside the Prairie Center museum, which is filled with taxidermied (not sure that's a word) animals native to KS.  There's always a new surprise in the freezer every time we go out there.  Last time there was a beaver.


So I haven't done many long runs and I haven't been running much during the week either.  Some of my slacking was due to weather, some was due to other commitments, and some was just slacking.  So yesterday I got together with a group of friends and we cranked out 32 miles on the country roads outside of Gardner, KS.  Our friend Darin crewed for us out of his truck so we didn't have to do a bunch of short out-and-backs.  What a dear!  I was feeling a little anxious about the upcoming 3 Days of Syllamo toward the end of the run since I was getting pretty stiff and sore, but after a good 7 miler today, I've decided to attribute yesterday's performance to a tough session with my personal trainer Friday evening.



Today's run went pretty well.  My legs weren't too sore and I was able to keep a decent pace.  Ironically, I injured myself out on the trail today, but it wasn't caused by a running accident.  While we waited for a fellow runner to tie his shoes, I decided it would be nice to sit in the shallow snow.  This was a bad idea.  I landed directly on a small sharp rock and bruised my tailbone.  So walking and running feel fine!  But sitting is rather intense.  Hope it heals up soon.  I have a desk job!

Finally, in other news, I was elected president of our local trailrunning group, the Lawrence Trail Hawks.  I'm pretty excited about my new role.  I know it will be challenging but I'll do my best and hope I leave a positive mark.  Lately I've been planning for my debut as race director of the Pi-Day River Rotation Half Marathon.  I'm getting all my ducks in a row: purchasing awards and t-shirts, verifying course measurements, planning for packet pickup and of course, thinking about the 12 pies we need to make for post-race snacking.  Mmmmm.  You know you want to come!