Daily Chatter

Friday, March 29, 2013

Numbers, Chocolate and Scary Movie Overload

Today is streak day 1055.  I've ran 9255.9 miles. 
That's an average of 8.8 miles a day.  61.4 a week.
I'm tired.
But the only thing that makes me feel less tire is more running. 

Today also marks 50 days before Massanutten.  You might remember that's a little 100 miler that I tried to get into last year.  You know that year that I was in great shape and set a bunch of new PRs.  Yeah, that year.  I didn't get in.  But luckily [insert sarcasm] not getting in almost guaranteed that I'd get in this year.  The year of big changes.  The year of over training.  The year of a loss of fitness.
50 days

Let's just set that aside for a moment. 
Because I only have ONE day before my next training run.
The chocolate bunny
I wish a little bit more of this
 was involved and a whole lot less of
CB won't actually be so bad, it's only 26.6 miles after all.
[insert ultra humor]
 BUT it all happens at night. 
I'm hoping it seems something like this...
But in reality it might go down more like this...
The only thing missing is the vampire that is chasing me.  Come to think of it that might actually get me to run faster but I doubt I'd have much luck staying on course. 
Okay it's clearly a no for the vampire part. 
I don't want to miss celebrating Easter.  The family will all be home warm in their beds dreaming sweet dreams while I am racing around the dark, cold wilderness trying to forget how I just watched
Breaking Dawn Part II.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The HAT Run 2013 Race Report

Whether it's an grand inflatable surrounded by cheering crowded and an energetic band or an intimate gathering of trail brethren in an open meadow and a simple go, every start line begins another opportunity to go places in nature and within one's self that few people dare to venture. This Saturday I again had that opportunity. 
The start line wasn't even a distant thought as I drove the 4 hours toward it.   Being a farm girl from rural Pennsylvania the concept of the need for 8 lane highways is simply lost on me.  As is the need to drive 90 mph while chasing your fellow law breakers via weaving erratically through traffic sans turn signals.  I did arrive safely and felt as though the hardest part of the journey was now behind me.  Tomorrow morning I would only have to run.  Easy.
I was able to get a great night's sleep thanks to a 9 a.m. start time.  The sun was shining and I was eager for the day to begin.  After a quick drive to the Stepping Stone Farm Museum where the race was held, I quickly got my bib picked up and spent time visiting with fellow trail runners.  My ultra running parents were there as usual.  The ones who birthed me into this crazy world of ultra trail running by simply saying they thought I could do it.  I needed to hear their thoughts for Massanutten.  They somehow always make my impossible seem possible.  It is a true blessing to be able to call them my friends.  With my confidence soaring I gathered my gear and walked to the aid station pavilion which we would run through three times during the race, once after about 4 miles again at a bit over 17 and finally finish there. I chatted with several other runners as we made our way to the open meadow with the other 422 runners who would begin the journey together.

The course consists of a short 4 +/- mile loop followed by two 13.5 mile loops. During these early miles the pack spreads out over a short road section before running over open meadows before entering the woods. In no time at all I was warm and wanting to drop my gloves and arm sleeves. If I am lucky enough to get into the HAT for a fourth running next year I will leave my pack in the start pavilion for those first miles. Because in no time at all we were through the start/finish pavilion where I dropped my gloves and arm sleeves and headed out for the first of two long loops.  
As I left the pavillion and made my way back into the woods there was still a steady stream of runners. Although we were moving at a strong pace I felt like I had to play follow the lead while I decided if I really wanted to pass. Shortly after entering the trails came our first creek crossing. This year although there was plenty of water there were also plenty of rocks to cross. So early in the race I failed to do what I had wanted to do, run only this race today. With the rocky, night Chocolate Bunny training run in mind I sissied across most of the creeks to keep my feet from getting too beat up. 
After the first creek crossing there was a short climb that helped remind me just how hilly the HAT course actually is. I focused on simply running and tired to ignore my increasingly upset stomach. Early on I thought my issue was simply nerves but after attempting to take my first GU reality hit and I got to get closer to nature that I really wanted to. Another side note about the course, there are many sections in which a nature call is really not convenient. For the course of the first loop I would lose time dealing with yet another nature call and then run to "catch up" with the group of runners I had fallen into running with. As we got to the upper picnic area aid station I quickly cut through to visit the potty. Losing a lot of time at this stop I ended up catching a new group of runners as I was making up some time cruising down the gravel road section. One of them was actually from the same home town as the super secret spy. Small world. We enjoyed chatting and the distance flew. I was able to ignore an further nature calls until we got to the lower picnic aid station...and again lost time at the potty. This was not encouraging. I felt as though I was losing my fluids then I was taking in. My fingers were swollen and I was sick to my stomach. I took a piece of banana and a few chips and walked out of the aid station.

Feeling a bit discouraged about how my fueling was failing after it had went so well on the last training run, I was not happy to find that the next section included more hills than I really had the push to handle. My energy had bottomed out and over the next 5 miles I put in two of the slowest of the entire race. Conversations with fellow runners, the beautiful scenery and knowing that I still had time to get my things figured out all helped pull me through that first loop.
aka I've freakin got this
When I got to the aid station I took off my pack, sipped on some Gatorade and grabbed some pretzels. The wonderful volunteers tried to encourage me to get moving saying that lingering I would only get cold. I dug through my pack looking for what I hoped I had left in my pack. I did! Pepto tablets! I quickly chewed them drank some water and armed with some pretzels headed out for the final loop hopeful.

The second time around was simply amazing. Yeah my stomach took some time to settle down but not having to get friendly with a tree or duck behind some brush helped to allow me to settle into a groove. Once my stomach had settled I started drinking more and chewing on pretzels. Before I knew it I was catching back up with runners I had lost during the first loop. I ran a new ultra runner, Kate who was on her way to finishing her first ultra. She way running strong and looked great. We chatted as we would fell into running together and then drift apart. This time around when we made it to the upper picnic area aid station I indulged in the famous french fires. Maybe not the smartest fueling option but simply a right of passage during the HAT. On the gravel road section I pushed my pace to make up some time. At the lower aid station I grabbed a piece of banana, pretzels and drank ginger ale and water.

I often forget in my irritating giddy trail chatter that not everyone who runs trail ultras is out there because they are secretly in love with all things nature.  I forget that not all ultra runners agree that smaller is better or that over coming a wickedly challenging trail is better than any bling in the world.  My giddiness became apparent to me when I was talking with Kate along the trails.  I was cheerfully recommending little trail races with awesome trails and unbelievable support, meaning pbjs and warm broth when she told me that she had already signed up for a NorthFace Challenge.  Don't misunderstand.  NorthFace puts on amazing events.  And there are many reasons runners are drawn to ultra trail running.  All great reasons.  I just act like a child with a brand new box of crayons when I get to be out in the woods all day.       
This is one of the "bigger" races that I like to do.  I have yet to take part in any run that hasn't been really well run but the HAT Run with all it's history may be a step above some of the smaller races.  I can only imagine the level of work that goes into making the day seem as flawless as it appeared to me.  Thank you to the race directors, Phil, Tim, Mike and Jeff, the countless volunteers, Maryland DNR, the State Park, the rangers and the families who gave of their day to be out cheering not only for their runners but for every runner who passed.   
Third HAT Run - 6:42:31
aka the finish line
I had stopped looking at my watch after the first loop knowing that any time goals had probably gone out the window when I had finished the first loop at 3:33 I was simply enjoying making up whatever time I could in the last few miles and was zipping along when I caught up to a trail friend who I had lost during the first loop at the upper picnic area aid station.  I knew where was only about two miles left and I wanted to give it everything I had.  I passed runners and tried to encourage everyone to push those final twisty trail miles when I found myself with Kate again.  We left the tree line and headed across that final meadow and up the last hill to the finish and we crossed the finish line together. 
I still had that very unsettling long drive home so I didn't linger long after the race was over for me.  I thanked a few people, chatted with trail brethren I had shared the trail with, grabbed a bite of warm food.  Speaking of food.  There was warm soup, jambalaya (regular and veggie) and a buffet of tasty treats.  Not only was there food but there was music too.  Thanks to the amazing UnderArmor sweatshirts we received with our annual HAT finishers hat we were all warm enough to enjoy a little trail bragging before heading home.  But I couldn't linger for long, I quickly changed out of my wet clothes and headed home.  Stopped along my way as this train passed, I thought how like this train, my journey had many parts to it.  Some parts were not as pretty as others but they were all needed to get me to the finish.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

HAT Run 50k - Fueling and Goals

Yesterday started out innocently enough.  I just had a request from S'ghetti girl  to make brownies.  She was having a friend over after school to watch Rise of the Guardians.  In case you didn't know it is THE all time best movie ever!  [insert tween attitude on the ever]  Jack Frost is so dreamy!  [insert tween swoon]  But I'm not complaining, it's better than her liking a real boy.
 But I digress.  What started as a batch of brownies ended up being a batch of brownies, three loaves of lemon bread, a double batch of chocolate peanut butter no bake cookies and batch of banana oat chocolate chip cookies. 
I sampled them all. 
And then ate something that was much healthier for me.  Elaine Benes would have been proud of my big salads.  So I am thoroughly fueled for Saturday's race after all that goodness.  Now to declare a few goals for race day.
The HAT Run is to be a training run for the MMT 100.  I know that racing can lead to an injury more easily than running a conservatively.  So this race will be a balancing act of priorities.  I need to be able to balance my desire to better my time on this course (6:17 in 2011 6:25 in 2012) and staying injury free for the A race.  With that in mind I give you my 2013 HAT Run goals.

To arrive on time. To start. To finish.
aka: Finish Feeling Fine having Fun
Okay I have been here before so even though I am geographically challenged.  (I am. I have a card. It's a club.)
I have to drive on the "big" roads near DC and Baltimore.  I'm a farm girl remember.  It's culture shock!

My I CAN goal:
Finish in under 7:00 
This year even this goal is questionable.  Training to run for nearly a day and a half (aka 100 miles for me) has been most challenging in lower my pace so that I can continue to go hour after hour.  I will be interested in seeing if I can hold a steady pace knowing that the race is only 31ish miles.
My I LOVE IT goal:
To finish within 31 minutes of my PR.
With a current  course PR of 6:17 my I LOVE IT time would be 6:48.

My I DREAM IT goal:
Under 6 hours. Anything faster than 5:59 would beat my 50k PR.
If conditions are good and my left hamstring stays silent anything is possible.
The biggest goal I have for Saturday is to be able to run as if this is the only race.  All year I have been running with MMT in mind.  Never really running the run/race I was actually in.  I hope on Saturday to set MMT aside in my mind and truly run for the love of this course.  Run to see what I have to give because I know it is still true that on any given day I just don't know what I am capable of until I amaze myself doing it.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Getting It Done

After being greeted yesterday to a white snowy world and the leisureliness of yet another snow day I am happy to report that after a slow start walking in the morning I was able to get a lot of things squeezed in throughout my day. 
With the super secret spy off saving the world I had to work out the always challenging task of finding a sitter but I am happy to report that I will be able to make it to the HAT Run 50k this weekend with fantastic plans to keep the kiddos happy and entertained while I am frolicking in the woods.  Also I not only got am amazing walk in the woods yesterday morning but I was able to get my run in, lift and do yoga in the evening!  All accomplished without feeling like I was neglecting something or someone. 
This morning the world was again a wonderland of white thanks to the remaining snow and thick fog.  But with many things to get done before another racing weekend, LBM and I have had to keep it moving day.  With packing, preschool, prespreation to be shed this after noon I really need to get back to it and get it done.  But if you haven't had enough brush up on last year's running of the HAT Run HERE.  Because tomorrow we will be talking about goals and I think this race may be the perfectly timed to set some serious goals.

Monday, March 18, 2013

At Home

I didn't get much sleep last night.  It may have been the several late nights, the late night runs or just too much on my mind whatever the cause I was wide awake when the call came that there would be no school thanks to a few inches of snow that fell over night. 
As soon as it was light I went outside too take it the beautiful scene but couldn't run since the super secret spy is off saving the world.  It was a great morning for a walk in the snow.  I could still hear the spring peepers in our pond.  They must have declaring their confusion about the weather.  The pines in the woods beyond our house stood dressed in white as they sheltered the few birds that were chirping to greet me.  I walked into the woods and listened to the sounds and breathed in the smells and somehow the day seemed better simply for those moments of quiet among the trees.  It makes me eager for this weekend and the HAT Run when I'll get to spend the day under those comforting branches.  Until then I'll visit the woods and feel at home.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

MMT #3 Training Run - The Last 40

As the hours ticked slowly passed I considered my decision to drive from home to the start of our third training run for the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 in the wee hours of the morning instead of staying at a hotel.  However 3 a.m. Saturday morning found me looking a bit less than rested as I got ready for the dark lonely drive over the mountain.
A warm cup of coffee later I was happy to have found my way in the dark with time to spare.  After checking in and finding my pacer, D I stayed warm in the car as I went over final outfit choices and double checked my pack.  It was not reassuring to see the snow flying in the unexpectedly cold morning air but I knew I would soon be very warm working hard to make my way along the trails so with the in mind I left the warmth of my car to visit with a few other brave souls out in the cold.
D feel free to bust me on photos out of order.  I know it will happen.
After a brief delay to allow a few runners who had encountered some road closures to arrive we were off into the dark to begin the long day on the trails. 
Our day started at the Camo Roosevelt parking area and would run the last 40ish miles of the MMT 100 course.  D and I ran with a group of other runners and almost chatted our way past the sharp right up Duncan Knob. 

Bird Knob
  Looking at my paces and knowing how I felt at the time, it's easy to see that the climb up to Bird Knob was not my favorite.  At only mile 16 of the day's run I used the amazing view to help pull me through the low point and D did a great job at keeping us moving and trying to educate me about the course.
First time up Jaw Bone

These two photos are out of order but I thought it was interesting how the conditions changed throughout the day and the snow line lifted higher in the mountains.  The climb at Jaw Bone is steep but only little over a mile long I actually enjoyed it more the second time through. 
Second time up Jaw Bone
I was happy to make it through all but the final miles without getting my feet soaked in the cold water.  Usually a welcome relief, today the cold was definitely a factor in our day that won't be as much a consideration in the middle of May.  Unless I'm lucky enough to encounter one of their famous thunderstorms.

Oh surprise!  Another climb.
As the miles got longer and what little warmth we had felt from the moment of sunshine waned we began to talk about all kinds of things to just keep our minds off our frozen butts.  Warm food, grilled cheese sandwiches were big matters when you can't imagine eating another sugary snack.

YMX by Yellowman kept me warm and looking good.

I'm thinking, "and this was only mile 36ish today in May it will be mile 90 something!!"

The final miles were on gravel road just as the actual finish will be.  Eager to get warm D and I put in some fast miles as we counted down bridges to our finish line for the day.  The views even from the road were beautiful.  The creek along the road was running fast and high with icicles clinging to the low branches. 
I look before after the run than I did before!
I wish I could say that after running this final section of the race course I know it.  Not much could be farther from the truth.  Even now looking over the turn sheet I am pressed to be able to remember what each section of trail is like.  This worries me.  My lack of ability to remember how trails fit together worries me when the element of darkness is added.  I know on race day, if I stay alert, staying on the course will not be as hard thanks to the race day markings that will be there.  But when I will need to be watching where I put my feet and watching where my next turn will be is...well it is just another fact to consider and make sure I have done everything I can to minimize it's effects come race day.  The next training run should be great practice for that.  It's in the dark.  26 miles on the mountain.  In the dark.  Fun.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Explaining a Few Things

Sometimes I read over posts I have written in the past and wonder if everything I've shared has been understood.  With that in mind, and since I've got a zillion things to do to get ready for tomorrow's training run, I thought I'd do a quick post to explain two things I've said lately.  Like yesterday I said this,  "I needed to remember that I am excited about pushing for the 100 this year. At times I get so focused on how much work I need to do, how intimidating the goal seems, how I feel so unworthy of accomplishing it, that I forget I want to do this because I love it. I love running through the woods. I love playing in mud. I love challenging myself now not waiting until...fill in the blank...there are hundreds of excuses."

I thought I'd expand on the excuses because I am sure there are those out there who are still using some of them and feeling justified in using them.  One of the biggest excuses lately is wanting to wait until I have the body/fitness level I want.  Since this fall it's no secret that not working outside the home has not been good for my waist line.  Maybe it's the stress or lack of it but every eating plan I've tried has only put the smallest of dents in trimming the extra me away.  But waiting until I have the perfect body or fitness level I think I need to accomplish my goals, whether they be to run 100 miles or a 5k would simply be an excuse.  Of course, I need to train to be ready but whether I look like Annette Bednosky or Krissy Moehl or not I need to focus on using the body and abilities I have now or else I might miss out on some great experiences.

Secondly I wanted to explain this question that Gary K asked me when we were talking 100 mile-prep.  We were talking about DNFs.  Gary himself has experienced them.  I explained that I was still dealing with getting past my first ever DNF at LH 70 last year.  Gary reminded me that in a 100 one of the biggest reasons people DNF is that their mind allows them to.  He told me to frequently ask myself, How do I want to feel Tuesday?  And know the answer before I even start to run.
Anyone who has ever DNFed knows what that question means.  In the days following the race you go through a lot of emotions and discomfort but by Tuesday your discomforts are fading and you are left with how you really feel about your race.  If you DNFed it's by Tuesday when you really know if your "reason" was the right one.  I know that by the Tuesday after LH 70 I knew that I had made excuses and left myself down.  So for me this piece of advice will be invaluable as I face more and more ultra distances, How do I want to feel Tuesday?

I want to feel like I left a little bit of myself out there on that trail, I gave it my all and knew I could do it.  I want to feel like a BADASS...probably with really sore legs.

Do you find yourself not doing things because you are waiting for something first?
Do you not go to the gym because you think you aren't fit enough?  Or not buy that outfit because you don't want to be "that" size?  Or not enter that race because you don't think you can "race" it?

How do you want to feel Tuesday?