Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A case of cankles...

A little over a week & a half ago I got tattoos in celebration of my journeys on foot or two wheels. Running and triathlon has changed my life and given me such freedom that I felt it was only right to mark that. So while some may say that I might regret my wings many years from now when I'm 80, I'm just excited to explain why I got them to my grandbabies.

My ankles swelled into cankles from the new ink so I had to take some time off, but last week I finally hit the 1,700 mile mark for the year. A combined total between swim,bike,run & row. It's a few hundred short of my goal, but with 6months of wicked tendonitis I'll take it!

The new year is coming and the 2011 race schedule is starting to weigh heavily on my mind. The desire is to go ultra, though I feel pretty stunted not knowing what this foot will allow me to do. For the first time in three years I don't really have a plan. That said, I'm still enjoying running and cycling for absolutely no other reason than that I love to. Hopefully in 90 days I'll be able to cover my years in miles for the bday run, what happens after that.... I have no idea.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Soft Star RunAmoc Review | First Impressions

As the temps & snow continue to fall the need to keep my toes warm on those crisp long runs has become paramount. Up until these beauties arrived I had been running in a different minimalist type shoe, the Bikila by: Vibram Five Fingers paired with Injinji toe socks. The Bikilas are a great shoe, but if you have to stop in the snow at any point during a run your feet will melt the snow between your toes & around them making your feet wet. Not exactly something you want in sub-freezing or even sub-zero temps.

My hunt for a cozy alternative to the VFFs lead me to Soft Star's Shoes. After speaking with the Elves (Their customer service is fantastic.) at Soft Star, I decided to order the Smooth version of the RunAmocs with the trail sole. In spite of ordering the shoes in custom color, width & over a holiday they still managed to show up on my doorstep within a week.

Upon opening the package I quickly realize that the RunAmoc is well named as this shoe is essentially a moccasin for running.

Eager to try them out I slipped them on & went about the rest of my day running errands. At first the leather upper over my toes made them feel a bit trapped, but as you'll read in other reviews this is something that breaks in over time. Even with my limited usage of them so far I am already beginning to feel them loosen up. They are after all leather. That said, the way the overall fit in the toe box is appropriate given that you don't want to be sliding around which could cause instability and blistering.

As I mentioned earlier, I chose to go with the trail sole. Gravel, rocks, ice and ice chunks are common obstacles during my runs so this seemed to be the wisest choice. If you are used to a KSO or Bikila sole the 5mm Vibram sole on these will feel pretty substantial to start, but as soon as you go down a flight of stairs, climb over a snow bank or clip an eight minute mile on slick packed snow you'll see where these soles really shine. So far I would rank these on par if not markedly better for traction on snow than the VFF models I have. I also find that I spend less time looking at the ground for debris that could bruise the bottom of my foot knowing that the thickness of this sole, even with it's flexibility, has enough protection.

Of course since I live in North Dakota my first opportunity to actually run in them landed on an evening of -1F temps and a fresh inch of fluffy snow. Much to my relief my feet stayed warm & dry during the entire run. Now, running thru drifts or sidewalks covered in over 5inches of snow isn't an uncommon occurrence for me so I am curious to see how well the midfoot-to-forefoot seal (pictured above) will function in those conditions, but I haven't had the chance to test that yet.

I plan on keeping an ongoing review of the Smooth RunAmoc so that the rest of you can get a feel for how quickly they'll wear and what terrain or conditions they are the most functional in. This is just the start. It's looking promising so far. :)

Monday, December 6, 2010

Moving On

To say I've had writer's block...that I've been too busy to post...that I've been shamefully avoiding explaining why has been at my fingertips often but never typed out in the past six months.

So here it is; I have been all of those things and now it's time to move on & let the beautiful journey continue. Before I do here is somewhat of an update or explanation (if you will) of what's gone on, I don't want to forget.

When training for a 100 mile ultra or any endurance event you learn well how to accept a certain degree of pain or discomfort, nudge it to the back of your mind & push onward. July 8th was one of the most enjoyable long-runs I'd ever had, but at miles 6, 8 and 22 something was starting to go wrong in my right foot/ankle. The next week I dropped over 8lbs. with a stomach flu, tried to focus on being thankful for the time in bed to allow my foot to recover without worrying about the missed work & training. The week after I thought I was back to normal...I wasn't.

When you have to take off your shoe 15 miles into a trail run to stretch the tendons over a rock to relieve the pain, you know without question that something has definitely gone awry. While I came away from that run with a lot of great memories, during it I really hurt & felt generally unwell. I wouldn't run on trail again for another 80 days.

Weeks passed instead of miles. Injury & illness persisted. Race plans were forced to change. I handled it gracefully, I handled it horribly. Every emotion possible was felt with the longest lingering being guilt & shame over the fact that I was injured.

Work in the following months was a blessing and a curse. It kept me distracted from the fact that I was unable to run, but also became a good excuse to avoid those I had spent countless hours training with. Thanks again to my Beloved & crew for sticking by me. I have no disillusions of how difficult I must have been to tolerate in this time.

Eventually I started to accept things & began setting other goals. Instead of running Lean Horse, I crewed three of my close friends there.

After 30+ sleepless hours crewing I joined Maggie as a pacer on the bittersweet Argyle road. The pain tried to swallow her whole those final 12 miles, but she fought hard and made it to the finish. This wasn't the experience I had spent months dreaming about, yet it was equally as valuable. I discovered that I'm actually very skilled at crewing & my militant side makes me a talented pacer.

I came away from that event with renewed courage to fight to get back to running and I haven't stopped since. In the process of keeping my activity & cardio levels up I fell head-over-heels with Brazilian jiu-jitsu & cycling all over again.

I plan on competing in my first Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu/Submission Grappling tournament in April.

A few months ago I tromped thru the mud with a few friends at one of the dirtiest trail "races" around. Who says you can only wear your wedding dress once? Since then running has ever so slowly started to come back to me again. Praise God! What the Docs have labeled tendonitis still causes me discomfort on a weekly (sometimes daily) basis,but I am now able to run without notable pain as long as I am in minimalist footwear. So I am also making the transition to that style of running, so far so good!

What's in store for my 2011 race season is really a blank slate. I have a few ideas & hopes, but my motto for this season remains the same for the next, "In His Time". It's all an adventure!

"Give thanks in all things;" 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Friday, June 25, 2010

From Dusk-To-Dawn

"God, The Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places." Habakkuk 3:19

Only two weeks after competing in a Half IronMan I set out on another epic physical journey.

The goal: Run from Sunset to Sunrise. Solo.

The distance: As far as the Lord would allow my legs to carry me. Hopefully farther than I had ever run before.

The Terrain: Primarily gravel roads with plentiful hills & a few paved sections.

The journey began at 10pm with the sun almost entirely set leaving only enough illumination to make out the sillouhettes of tree lines that surrounded the area farmsteads & tall grass lining the roadside. The entire landscape was cloaked in a rich shade of blue, the air was humid & the wind still. It was serene.

I ran without light until I could no longer make out the terrain, then flipped on both headlamps. One around my waist aimed where my footfall would be & the other strapped to my hat casting light straight ahead.

It didn't take long for fear to start tapping me on the shoulder. Running in the dark is not new to me, but this was on remote country roads & I was solo. Every dark shrub off in the distance was startling. It took 5miles before I was finally able to lock into logic.

What was I afraid of? Why? This area isn't really known for animal attacks or strange people lurking in the woods in hopes of a lone ultra-runner passing by. The taps of fear on my shoulder followed by adrenaline spikes became more of an irritant, but a steady reminder to pray. While I may have been running lone the miles between meeting up with my crew for aid, I was never truly alone.

"You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance." Selah. Psalm 32:7

This verse was heavy on my mind, especially as I had earnestly desired to complete the first section of the route roughly 13miles without the distraction of music. I succeeded.

There were many large rollers along this part of the route, but when you can only see as far as the headlamp will cast there is no way to fully grasp just how large the climbs are until your 1/2 way up them. I did my best to remind myself to walk the uphills in hopes of giving my body longevity for the miles ahead. This seemed to work well, but often as I stopped to walk I was tapped on the shoulder & all I wanted was to push past whatever it whatever it was that spooked me so I ended up running a lot of them.

When meeting up with my crew to top off the water in my pack & grab additional fuel I was informed that thunderstorms were forming and heading our way. There was talk of me being pulled early if the weather got bad. I didn't want this. My heart was set on epic.

I continued down the road picking up the pace in hopes of getting myself as far ahead of the storm as possible. Music while it can be a great encouragement during a run can also breed weakness & this training run was all about limiting any emotional or physical crutches so I limited my use of the Ipod to 3miles at a time. If I wanted music I would have to earn it and wait the 6-8miles between doses.

Miles 13-18 passed quickly and the residual muscle fatigue from the 70.3 was getting beat out with every step. Flashes of lightning & the slight rumble of thunder began to make their presence known off to the west. When I turned my head to eye the storm cell moving in I was met with 10 sets of green eyes reflecting back at me. The lightning provided just enough light to make out large black creatures & I instinctively said aloud "Dear Lord, let those be cows." I have never longed to hear mooing in my life. They never did, but I was eventually able to cast light on to the only white cow amongst the solid black ones.

At mile 22 I stopped to picked up more water, perpetuem, orange slices & my rain gear. Jeremy debriefed me on the severe thunderstorms forming around us and we modified our game plan adding in another aid station in case the weather became to poor to continue.

Just as I hit the road again the rain began to fall and I was thoroughly soaked within a mile. I've done plenty of running in rain so this was not about to deter me. Instead of breathing the 85-90% humidity as I had for the last 20+ miles I was now being invigorated by the showers. So far I had only needed music for a total of 4mi the entire run, running deaf in a storm didn't seem wise so I packed the ipod away & used the bag from it to protect my headlamp from the rain.

As I hit the marathon mark I sent a cheer out into the silence that surrounded me & then started climbing the next hill as my quads began to growl reminding me to pop another dose of endurolytes to stave off any cramping. Periods of muscle fatigue would come & go, but I mentally powered through. Thankfully the fatigue of no sleep wasn't causing any issues, yet.

When I looked down at my watch and read 27.5 miles I started looking around for the next turn on my route, I thought I was close. My crew was waiting for me there. The next road sign I saw was 20 streets from where I needed to turn, but my directions card indicated that due to the mileage I should be nearing my turn. 20 streets away is not "near". I must be lost. I stopped to call my husband, no answer. Sent a text, no answer. Signal was close to dead here. With the rain still falling & fuel/water getting low I made the decision to turn around. Within a .8 of a mile I saw a car approaching from behind. My crew. I was not lost, I had just changed counties and this effected the street numbers. So I turned around for the second time.

Having to retrace my steps was discouraging so I pulled out the ipod for a little reprieve. It was now past 4am. & I was beginning to get tired. Jeremy waited for me at the turn I feared I had missed and once I reached it we made the decision that I would have to cut the run short when I reached my parent's farm which was supposed to be my final aid station. Severe weather warnings were now being issued, the skies were beginning to turn that eerie shade of green & the wind was picking up. Thankfully the sun was beginning to rise away from the storm-clouds and the rain stopped, renewing some energy.

With the shorter distance now in mind I picked up the pace. If I wasn't going to make it to the 35-40miles I had set as my hypothetical goal, I was going to haul. My legs were feeling pretty hashed by then, but they still managed to run swift. Finally I was onto familiar terrain again & knew I would at least make my goal, running farther than I had ever run before.

I reached my family's property-line at 33.45 miles & proceeded to run around the house to round the mileage out at 33.5.

It may not have been as epic as I hoped, but it was still epic. I overcame irrational fears, rain & fatigue. Another great night, another blessed run.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Liberty 70.3 | One Breath at a Time

It's another Saturday morning, but this morning starts off far different than most. The alarm goes off promptly at 5am. I instantly jolt awake without a wisp of lingering fatigue. I have slept well. As I eye over my tech gear & mix together bottles of fuel in the hotel bathroom I look up into the mirror to see the numbers 294 on my right bicep then tell myself "Today you will travel 70.3 miles." The concept now mentally stated, doesn't sink in.

The bike gets loaded into the car then my husband & I head to the race start. As we near the Baker Reserve I am reminded of the hills. This would happen many times today, except I would be on two wheels instead of four. I decide to quiet my apprehension by turning my focus to forcing myself to eat breakfast, a bagel w/ cream cheese & a strawberry Odwalla drink.

Entering the park cyclists are everywhere and the transition area is quickly filling. It's a "first come, first serve" method of picking your spot, so I choose the best spot available as close to the bike exit as possible. I don't want to run in my bike shoes any farther than necessary, it's slow & inefficient. Having practiced T1 & T2 in my living room earlier in the week makes setting up my area easy.

I spot Maggie & Cory who have been on the road since 3am. They have come to cheer me on. At this point I am still struggling to get my game face on, but Maggie's contagious energy helps get me focused.

After retrieving my swim-cap from the car and making my way to the lake to get suited up, I notice that I am a bit behind. Almost everyone is already gathered for the pre-race meeting and separating into their waves.

I quickly get lubed up & into my wetsuit, pray with my hubby and then wade out into the water to test my cap/goggle positioning and fill the suit for buoyancy. Everything seems good, the water is calm & warm. A few waves are released then I navigate my way towards others in white swim caps noting that none of them are near my age. I am in the final wave of the half iron distance and it's an odd mix of whatever age groups were left over.

Swim 1.2 Miles| Time 42:38
- :11 from '09 race

Finally it is our turn. 5...4...3...2...1... We are a lively bunch, cheering wildly as we charge into the water.

The first 100 yards are smooth, then the boxing match begins. My feet are stroked, my torso bumped. Any rhythm I had going is disappointingly thrown off. As I pop up to sight making sure I am not the one zig-zagging and bumping into people I notice that the buoy to indicate our turn-around is beyond my sight. Doubt begins to grip me like the weeds uprooted by other swimmers now gathering around my neck. If I don't find my calm again, this is going to be a long 1.2 miles. If the swim takes too long I wont finish the bike in time and they wont let me continue onto the run, all I want is to make it to the run. Prayers/Scripture start swirling in my mind & I eventually hand my doubt over.

When I alternate to breathe on the left side I see a yellow buoy, while a little bummed it is for the olympic distance turn-around, this means I am getting close to ours. I zig-zag a bit but manage to line up perfectly for the turn-around, rounding the buoy. The wind kicks up a bit and I am unable to breathe to the left from this point onward, the smell of gas burning off of the boat motors is horrendous.

Knowing I only have a 1/2mile left I tell myself "chin down, like in jiu-jitsu." and like that my rhythm is back. I start gaining on other swimmers in my wave and other weaker swimmers from the previous wave. Then the olympic distance swimmers & half iron course merge, the olys are fast and even though I am passed this pushes me to go faster. In the last 300 yards I cycle through my mental check-list of what I need to do in T1 over & over.

T1 | Time 2:41
-0:01 from '09 race

At last I reach the shore. I have been laying face down for 40+ minutes making standing, then running out of the water & up the stairs to the transition area pretty disorienting. It feels like my body is buried in a thick fog, legs are heavy, but I manage to keep my head and easily spot the pirate flag where my bike is. My cheering crew encourages me as I transition. The air is cool & refreshing. I feel good.

Bike 56 Miles | Time 3:17:45 | 17mph Avg.
-00:05:08 from '09 race
Fuel| 2 Perpetuem Bottles, 1 HEED bottle & 1 Pkg. of Sport Beans

Glancing down at my Garmin I see the time and know I was close to goal time on my swim keeping me on track to make it back in time for the run. Miles begin to pass & my bottle of Perpetuem has never tasted so good. Dry-mouth was an issue during the swim. It is an odd sensation being thirsty and engulfed by water at the same time.

My mind is focused on fueling & recovering from the swim making the first 15-20miles go by without much thought. A lot of cyclists pass me in the first 20miles. I am not a strong cyclist so this doesn't bother me, but is rather expected. Words of encouragement are exchanged as they quickly move out of drafting distance and I continue on.

Having spent literally 1/2 the time on the bike training in comparison to last year, I knew 56 miles would be rough, but I had tested my self several weeks ago on a 54 mile ride just to make sure I could still do it & I could. It was hard, but I did it. Today I had the energy & adrenaline to push me along and I would ride that roller coaster hill after hill after hill.

Memory had been kind in letting me forget a lot of the hills along the course, but one still stood out in my mind from last year. My heart rate redlined & it took a ton of effort to climb, making me utterly exhausted at the top. The looped course meant climbing this twice. 26ish miles into the bike, I was face to face with it. This time it was different, all of the hills leading up to this one only helped cement my technique and my quads dominated. I actually passed a few people on uphills. When I reached "Everest" it was still difficult, but I was able to charge up it and my heart-rate quickly recovered at the top.

At mile 32 things started to get tough. The groups of cyclists had now thinned out rolling along at their various paces. I could hear no one behind me and barely see the next person ahead. Energy was starting to lull and the hills were starting to take their toll. My average pace started to tick down from 17.2 to 17.1 to 17.0, I wasn't about to let go of a 17mph so I started fighting & fighting hard. My brain & body separated and the internal juke-box started to take over looping thru choruses of the BEPs, "Eye of the Tiger" (Think Sam & Dean, not Rocky) & Sandstorm.

Around mile 40 a familiar car pulled along side me & I looked over to see Jeremy, Maggie & Cory. Energy was starting to peak back up again, seeing them only added to this. I shouted out my stats and told them that I was doing great with only 12 miles left to go, not knowing then that I had misread one of the mile markers.

As I split on to the final leg of the bike course, I am greeted with a headwind. Still battling with everything I had to keep up the pace, I tell myself to ignore it and try to hang on. I would make up the time when I met the turn-around and would then have a tail-wind. Then the skies opened. My tires began kicking up spray all over my backside & my sunglasses started to blur.

Then I remembered just how long the last 10 miles of the bike felt last year, again memory had been too kind. There was no avoiding this. When it felt like I had biked 5miles the mile markers would tell me I had only biked two. The wind would blast, rain would whip & my energy was depleting. It's times like these that running 5 miles feels faster than biking them, but the run would come soon enough.

Those last 10miles were some of the hardest & most inspiring bike miles of my life. I called out to my God for strength & knew without question He heard me. If energy would not come, that was okay, I will give thanks to God in all things. My doubt already handed over, I asked for strength just to race & race well and to glorify Him in some way as the miles passed.

T2 |Time 3:30
+1:48 from '09 race

Entering T2 I was thoroughly soaked for the second time. Rain continued to fall steady as I stripped out of my riding gear into my running gear. My toes were tensed up & balled together making it a struggle to pocket them into the toes of my VFFs. I was exhausted & knew it was best to be patient with myself instead of rush & not do it right so I took more time than planned. Temps were in the low 60s, but I opted to go without my running tank as it would only be added weight when drenched & I didn't want to fuss with it. Then I was off on the run...

Run 13.1 Miles | Time 2:10:23 | Pace 9:57
-00:21:20 from '09 race
Fuel| 4 Hammer Gels & 1 pkg. Sport Beans

Making my way onto the run course I exchanged a few words of encouragement with another runner. She too had been waiting for the run, it was her prime sport, easily evident as she quickly distanced from me.

In the spring I had focused a lot of training on transitioning from the bike to the run. I knew the shin splints & gnarled calf muscles would subside, but it didn't make those first 3miles any easier.

To add insult to injury my bladder decided it couldn't wait another 10 miles, so I found myself for the first time ever using a porta-john during an event. Being able to sit those few moments was a nice reprieve, but I had to get back out there & I did.

Fueling was going well, but carrying the gel flask became an issue. I am used to running with a pack, but had decided to go light with a hand bottle & put the flask into the tiny pocket of my tri-shorts. It started to bounce & I started to get annoyed, so it got shoved into the universal pocket between the ta-tas. This caused a lot of strange looks & laughs from oncoming runners already on their way back from the turn-around, but I could've cared less. You do what you have to do.

The shin-splints & calves finally loosened roughly 5miles in. The 1-2 ft swath of grass beside the running path made for beautiful footing as I pushed to run smooth. If any time was going to be cut I knew it had to be during the run. My pace hadn't been bad in the last five miles, but I wanted to do better.

At the turn-around all I wanted was some music, but there would be none. With only a little over a 10k left, I told myself that this race would be exactly what I wanted it to be & with the words in one of Dean Karnases' books "It's supposed to hurt like hell." fresh on my mind I started to pick up the pace. My body cried out to walk, not because of pain, but because the exhaustion was so high.

Then I started to get annoyed by the kind aid-station workers offering me fuel. This has never happened to me before. Four people in a line all asking me if I wanted to same thing & I having to answer them was more energy than I had to extend. So I began yelling out a stern "no" as I entered a station and trying to make up for it by saying things like "thanks for being here. I appreciate it". Seeing people was nice, but I just wanted to get to the finish.

At mile 8 I was done with the flask & had started to chafe where it rubbed against my chest so I threw it away. Anything that wasn't vital to me finishing wasn't going to be carried.

My body while still calling out to walk would only be allowed when I had to pee. And pee I did, at least 6 times in the final 5 miles. Bathrooms were hard to come by & the rain was still pouring down so I learned something I never thought I'd do, pee on the go. This stung the sores on my feet that were beginning to form from areas where the VFFs were rubbing, but I pushed that behind me knowing that I could hurt when I was done, but not now.

Miles 9-11 I spent with my eyes closed roughly 40% of the time. It was the only way I could zone out & still run swift. Thankfully the VFFs made it easy to tell if I was swerving off course. The internal juke-box switched on again looping thru everything from Techno to Enya, sometimes both at once. My mind was an interesting place to be.

Reaching the campground with only a mile to go I started to lay the hammer down. The smell of the smoke from burnig campfires wasn't going to deter me. I was going to finish strong.

I made my way down the final slope of the course & saw a man in red. From that point on all I wanted to do was beat the man in red. I waited until I was within a long sprinting distance of the finish and began hauling. One stride at a time, one breath at a time, counting to ten & then starting again.

He didn't see what was coming, I passed quickly and gained quite the lead. There would be no catching up. Then I saw the gate & sprinted out everything I had left to cross the FINISH in 6:16:53 resulting in a -00:25:06 PR!!!

I left the race that day 100% spent, 100% joyful & 100% ready to take on the next endeavor. T-minus 68 days until Lean Horse.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Superior Trail 50k Ultra | Race Report

This race will forever stand out in my memory as the 50k that almost wasn't & how God can turn things around.

Last week I was an angsty & emotional pain riddled puddle in the days following a stellar 16mi trail run with the ultra crew. Our final long-run before Saturday's race.

My mystery injury started to creep back into my left leg and both hip joints felt like pins. I made several trips to the chiropractor with some, yet limited relief. On Wednesday I woke up feeling the worst I had felt all week, it hurt to stand straight. The inside of my thigh, quad & hips wouldn't let me forget they were there. I cried, I pouted, I resigned myself to the fact that I was somehow "Injured" and would have to let go of the idea of racing this weekend & may have to rethink my long-term goals if I couldn't get this mystery injury under control. It was a rough. (Thanks again to my Husband & Ultra-crew for putting up with me in this time.)

As a last ditch effort I started taking the prescriptions the Dr. had prescribed earlier for this injury. They didn't work well the first time around, but I was still hoping deep down below the resignation for a miracle.

Thursday morning I woke up feeling markedly better, but not "fixed". I had to decide by noon whether to even attempt to race, so I went out on a test & what turned out to be a prayer run. The run went okay, so I took a deep breath swallowed and decided that I would rather DNF than DNS. My goal was to at least make it to the 50k turn around & drop out there.

This is what happened...

I continued to improve over the next day, despite being stuck in a car for the 7hrs of travel from Fargo to Lutsen. The whole ride up I went over my game-plan. No real race day expectations, but to get to the start and how I wanted to cope if it all hit the fan. After arriving at the resort/race location and talking with Maggie over fueling/gear choices I finally headed to bed. Slept well, woke up relaxed & was actually able to eat my entire breakfast before heading to the start-line.

As Maggie & I walked to the starting line there were muscles, gaiters & hydration packs everywhere. Of course they were attached to runners a few of which we introduced ourselves to. This would happen many times in the next 31miles. I met so many wonderful people!

Like my previous 50k, someone counted down from 10 & then we were off.

The race starts out with a switchback climb up two of the "mountains" at Lutsen. Adrenaline was high so while I felt the toll of the climbs, it was bearable. I made sure to put myself near the back of the pack as I was unsure of how my body would respond to racing and with so much of the terrain being single-track I didn't want to get in the way.

By mile 4 I was ready to start moving up the line, so was Maggie. All of the speed-walk training we have done really shined on the uphills, we gained a lot of ground here. As single track trails are, often there is only enough room for one or two people to pass at a time. Maggie & I got separated several times before the first aid station and I had wait for my opening then push to get caught up with her and the other runners at our pace. We both carried enough fuel/water for 15miles of running so we handed off the extra layers of clothing to our crew at the aid station and quickly passed thru it without taking anything.

Around mile 9 Maggie stopped to adjust her gear, I slowed a little, but kept running assuming that she would catch back up again just as I had when we got separated earlier. Every now and then I would catch a glimpse of her pink bandana in the woods. Then my body said "today is your day, go for it". Eventually the woods got thicker & we got spaced further apart.

Ultramarathons are absolutely phenomenal when it comes to the conversations & encouragement you experience during the event. I felt so blessed by the similarly paced runners I was grouped with during this section. Blue leopard gaiters lady, Dual hand-bottles guy, Defined muddy calf dude...sorry I can't remember your names, but it was a pleasure to run with you!

We reached the next aid station about two miles from the 50k turn around. I heard my husband's distinctive whistle, shouted out that I was feeling great and gained more ground while others stopped to refuel. My plan was to refill my hydration pack & grab out additional fuel from the back pocket when I hit the A.S. on my way back. The 2 miles up to the turn around started out through a super soggy/muddy area and then it was climb time. Again.

Towards the top it was more like bouldering, the rocks were that big. Whatever goes up, must come down & downhill was sweet. I exchanged cheers with the runners I met on their way up. I love out & back courses for this reason, it is so uplifting!

By the time I reached the aid station again I was feeling a few hotspots/blister areas and really wanted fresh socks. Jeremy quickly pulled them out of my bag & before I could even ask him for the vaseline one of the A.S. volunteers handed some to me then proceeded to take my hydration pack & refill the bladder (by this time it was completely dry & I was thirsty). Thank you Sawbill aid station volunteer!

I knew the miles between the Sawbill A.S. & the next A.S. were "flatter" so I fueled up and started hauling. I tried hard to avoid walking as I knew miles of switchbacks were coming and I would be doing plenty of it then. These miles still seem surreal to me. Every stride & every breath was completely in tune with the terrain. I was alone in the woods, just me, my God & the trail. It felt as though I had wings!

Then I hit a few "shorter" climbs on my way to the final aid station and my guts started to tremor. The tremors started to turn into quakes and I found myself to scanning the woods for a discrete spot to drop trou if I needed to or if nothing else toss cookies where someone wouldn't run thru it. I prayed and then prayed some more, I really didn't want to lose any of my fuel that way. Fueling & hydration up until this point was spot on. Thankfully the threat of dropping trou lessened, but the nausea kept washing over me in waves. I would catch up with & then fall behind the same two guys again and again.

Between praying, losing all of the color in my face, lips tingling & taking myself down from tossing cookies I told my mind it was time to take over. I was not about to fall off of my fueling/hydration rhythm. Let me just say that eating when you are feeling like this is extremely difficult, but I did it.

I finally reached the last aid station along the course about 8miles from the finish. My husband met me there and helped me as I struggled to grab a few orange slices to put in my pack, gulp down a glass of cola and transfer what I had left for fuel in my pack into the front pockets for easy access.

A volunteer was asking each runner how they felt before getting on the trail in hopes of catching those really struggling from getting stuck in the woods feeling crummy with a limited chance of meeting the cut-off time. She told me I looked good. I told her how nauseated I was, but that I was going to continue and would get over it eventually.

The nausea & dizziness started to fade as the pop,oranges & sport beans kicked in. A few miles later I again found myself paced with one of the guys I had caught up with & fell behind earlier. Todd kept me company and graciously paced me until about mile 24 when I became strong enough to move ahead.

Then it was "catch up with the lady in the pink shirt". Her form was steadfast and beautiful. I started to make my way up to her pace while dominating the speed-walk on switch-backs and at last we were running together. She was such a blessing/inspiration when that last stretch seemed to go on & on & on. We reached the top of the final climb & I could see the finish from the top of the "mountain" several miles away. I glanced down at my watch and saw that if I picked up the pace I had a chance of finishing under 7hrs. This was all it took to spark a flame under my feet.

Those final miles were hard, passing those I knew were struggling/had been way ahead of me was hard, but I continued on. Exiting the trail onto the gravel road leading to the finish a bystander/epic cheerer told me there was only a 1/2mi left. I zoned out, running as hard as I could, dropping my pace below an 8:30min/mi. Then I heard the cheering, my husband whistling and glanced up at the clock to see I had blown my sub 7hr goal out of the water to finish in 6:32.

I was overwhelmed & I am overwhelmed! To come back from such a crummy week leading up to the race, to rise from the ashes and run the best race of my life is unbelievable. God is so good!

Video of my journey...

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The case of the mystery injury...

Since my last post a lot has happened. 128 miles. Some amazing things, some scary.

I now know that I can bike hills in 30+ mph winds even if I have to literally lean off to one side of my road-bike to keep from being blown over .

I also know that in the same week I can run 11miles with numerous hill repeats like this one...

Only to get back into town 45 minutes later & realize I've got enough left in me/want to run the 11 miles home at close to race pace. Such a great day!

What I don't know is what caused the injury that had me caged for a solid week following a perfect training one. At no point during training did I feel myself tip-toeing injury, so when I woke up Monday feeling kind of sore I assumed it was the normal post long-run muscle fatigue and continued on with my usual light brick.

Overall, the brick went well despite noticing some tenderness in my left leg towards the end. By Tuesday morning I was in bad shape, unable to stand completely upright without sharp pain on the inside of my thigh wrapping up towards my hip.

After that morning I neglected the ambitious side of my brain & listened to reasoning side. This ultimately meant not training at all for 7 days. It was a long seven days.

Eventually my body started to recover, it was slow to start but relatively quick to finish. A visit to the Dr.'s office on day 8 gave me the peace of mind that nothing was structurally wrong and I was given the okay to begin running at my normal speed this week. Which I am doing, smiling all the while.

I still question what brought on this Mystery Injury and how it will effect my race season, but I do know that it was a God given chance to refocus. It's easy to get locked into training, race prep, tri & run talk, etc. And while none of those things are inherently wrong, when it becomes the primary focus, that's a problem. I've had two mottos that have really stood out to me this season. They will both be in permanent marker (sorry hippies, but I'll use it as it doesn't sweat off as easily) on my forearm race day. "Even trashed legs will follow a positive mind." & "In His Time".

Truthfully, I have really struggled emotionally, physically & mentally with being injured. This is a new trial for me as injury is something I try very hard to avoid. It has been a tactical 2 weeks trying to work my way back to speed and distance. I still have to be careful. I am now training pain free, but there is some remaining tension in my left hip that I can't quite explain. I am confident and at peace knowing that it will come back to me, In His Time.

Monday, April 5, 2010

The Feet & The Force

I'm still convinced I have borrowed someone else's legs and am every bit as convinced that I'd like to hang on to them forever. Deciding what was a reasonable recovery coming off of 2 x 26.2 was interesting, why? Well for one that was an epic amount of mileage for me & two my body was pretty much ready to roll the next day. How is this possible? I have no idea, but I'll take it!

With a recovery run, LSD run, a few short bricks & a rest day down for the week I opted for a shorter run in town this weekend. The ultra crew tried talking me into a night trail run of 20+ miles, but I just wasn't feeling it. Familiar level terrain, mileage I felt up to & the chance to wear my VFFs again (something I had been waiting to do all week as my blisters were healing) took precedence. It was the right choice.

The plan was to run 13.1 and I held to that. However, at mile 6 I looked down to see not only Darth Vador but that I was clocking paces between sub-to-mid 8s and I felt fantastic doing it. Weird, this can't be right. Can it? It took about a 1/4 of a mile for me to make the decision to haul my way into a new PR. This was the right choice. Despite several stop lights, plowing into a headwind a good majority of those last 7 miles & wanting to shoot myself the last mile I somehow managed to knock 6 minutes off of my previous 13.1 time which brings my current 13.1 record to 1:56. Heck Yeah! It's been three days, but I'm still jazzed about it. That is all.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Round #2 of the Double Marathon Weekend...

To say that yesterday, day two of that back-to-back marathon weekend, went surprisingly well is an understatement. Many times during the run I questioned who's body I was borrowing for the day because I was shocked to be feeling so spry & strong. An epic run to finish an epic weekend!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Round #1 of the Double 26.2 Weekend

Simply put: today was a very blessed day.

With back-to-back 26.2s this is an epic weekend in ultra training for Lean Horse. After weeks of deliberation I decided on fairly scenic trail for the first marathon (when we would hopefully feel the strongest/spry) and leave the country gravel roads for the second (when we would be on tired/sore legs.)

What I didn't expect was such a good turn out of fellow runners to help pace sections of the trail with Maggie & I, or such comfortable weather, or a body that was agile to the very end. Did I get tired at portions, of course. Did I finish feeling stiff & sorta sore, sure. But can I run a full 26.2 tomorrow, Absolutely. Let's do this!

Here's praying that the Lord will allow me to wake up feeling as jolly good as I do right now. :) One can hope.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Time for Trail...

The last two months I have been battling on again off again sinus issues which has been as much fun as sand in a speedo. Thankfully it seems I am making my way past the sick all week but healthy enough for the weekend long run followed by a solid training week followed by a full week totally under the weather & stuck in bed cycle.

Despite the illness I have had some great training sessions one of which included 18miles of hills with the ultra crew starting at 4am going off of a few hours of sleep to practice running with a headlamp and fatigue. Believe it or not filming in the dark is as black on camera as it is in person so I didn't bother posting that, but let it be known it was done and actually quite enjoyable. :)

Now for this weekend's fun...

With Fargo spring flooding and gravel roads in the country getting a bit dull Maggie (a.k.a. the best running buddy a girl could ask for!) & I decided to hit the trail a bit earlier than planned this season. Much to our surprise & delight over 95% of the snow out at Maplewood had already melted making for a stellar 11 miler!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

13 Miles of Ice

Training since Red Lodge has been pretty phenomenal, my body is responding & recovering well to the mileage/intensity. To say I am encouraged by this is an understatement, it's like the Lord's face is shining down on me.

Three years ago I never thought I would be the type of person to wake up & think "running a 1/2 marathon this morning sounds fun, I'll do that." Yet in the past 1.5 wks I have found myself thinking and doing just that; twice! This is video from one of them...

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Riding & Red Lodge...

This week My Beloved & I set out on our yearly snowboarding getaway/vacation. God blessed us with everything from blue-bird skies, to fog, to a foot of powder that fell overnight. It seems the powder days always happen the day we are set to leave, but thankfully Jeremiah was patient enough to extend our stay a 1/2 day so I could get a few runs in it. Glee.

Some things are better expressed in image, so here's my RLM photo-review...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Fighting For Footing...

Three inches of snow fell Friday evening & with temps in the mid-20's to low 30's Saturday it quickly melted into silty sludge for this week's long run. 15 of the 23.5 miles we covered felt like running in slick sand. What doesn't kill you makes you stronger, right? Still loving every minute of it & thankfully despite being pretty exhausted afterward my body has recovered beautifully. God is good!

And yes, it's okay to laugh at my expression at the start of the video blog. I am. :)

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Hills & More Hills...

Felt surprisingly up to the task of this week's long-run. Praise God the lingering head cold didn't damper the ambition too much. 22miles with a lot of hills & great company, good challenge!

Friday, January 29, 2010

Beautiful | Difficult

Last week I...

Settled more comfortably into the swim/bike/run bricks of 70.3 training.

Ran with Maggie in the thickest fog I have ever run in, loving every minute of it.

Shot the beauty of what that fog left behind the following day.

Donned the VFFs & garnered a sub 9min/mi for 6miles. Despite having heartburn the entire run, I enjoyed every mile.

A blizzard yet again made me reschedule my long run. This meant putting it the day after a full training day w/ a brick & two BJJ classes. The mind was willing, the body protested. The 1st 3miles I had shin splints & calf cramping so badly I was crippled to walking. So much pain I started to route myself back home early. Only to have the Lord bless me with renewed strength to finish the final 11miles at an unusually fast pace.

In contrast, this week I...

Didn't train or leave the house for five days due to illness.

Managed only one swim/bike/run brick once I did get out of the house. Using cough-drops & tissues on the trainer. Doubling my laps because the water felt comforting and other athletes in the pool inspired me. Spent the rest of the day tired, but happy to have trained.

Slept a lot.

The Lord knows what my desires are & what my training plan looks like. So while the missed training is a disappointment, I'm sure in some ways it will be a blessing.

Tomorrow's run (20 hilly miles w/ the ultra crew) will be difficult as I'm not 100% over this bug, but if I have learned anything from working thru illness and pain it is that... knowing what you can handle & how to compensate for areas that are lacking, is a necessary asset for the type of events I am training for. So I embrace it, gladly.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Tired, Hungry & Happy...

Training for my 2nd 70.3 started on Monday. When I say that putting together a training plan for a 100mile ultra & 70.3 two months apart is a nightmare, that is an understatement. Pair that with a growing passion for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and it just doesn't get any easier.

Thankfully the uptick in my daily dose of swim/bike/run/BJJ hasn't been bad. My body while tired still feels strong & I am swiftly reminded of just how hungry training like this makes me.

For now, it's just a matter of settling into a routine I can maintain. I managed it last year and I can do it again. Time management will be crucial, but every mile I put forth I am confident will be worth it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Stage fright...

I thought this video deserved a disclaimer. Today Maggie & I got the chance to run with fellow ultra runners in our area on a new route they had chosen.

The route was great, so was the conversation and while I managed to get stage-fright/ADD filming in front of new people for fear of slowing them down (hurray for fueling speed-walks!) I think we all had a lot of fun. A big thanks to Rick, Joel & Jerry for sharing your long run this weekend guys.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Embracing the Obnoxiousness...

One of the best memories I have of snowboarding with my sister is the time the lift got stuck & we managed to get a second-hand high from the pot-heads a chair ahead of us. We were super tired, didn't know what was going on & in the process of waiting for the lift to be functional again we started speaking to each other by using our mittens as puppets to speak for us. It was quite hilarious then. No, I don't & have never smoked pot. The high I enjoy is a runner's high.

Moving on. Now imagine my delight when I walked into F.O.D this summer to see such wonderfully obnoxious mittens in adult-size, on sale.

Little did I know then that these crazy Pink Zebra Puppet mittens would quickly become one of my most valued pieces of sub-zero running gear and the much needed humor during frigid long runs.

I spent the first five hours of yesterday contemplating whether or not I could actually run due to the conditions outside. A howling 20-25mph wind, -8F temp & -34F to -40F windchill. Ouch. Postponing the run until today wasn't an option as I will be in much need of fresh legs tomorrow when Maggie & I set out on our first long-run with a few other area ultra runners.

To be honest I really wasn't keen on the idea of running in that weather. I wanted to run, but I didn't want to be miserable & peering out the window it looked pretty miserable/cold out there. It took a lot to talk myself into it. I just kept telling myself I only had to go three miles & if I could stand it I would try to make it six. And if I froze to death at least they would be able to identify me by my mittens, because seriously who else would have mittens like that?

Stepping outside the door I was relieved to feel that in areas somewhat protected by the wind it was actually very comfortable running weather. After my second mile I was confident that 6 would be doable, the question then became what route to take.

Sidewalks & paths covered in drifting snow were impassable which left running on the side of the road as my only option 98% of the time. Again, I found it entirely too entertaining to watch the expressions on the face of motorists as they passed me. Some people look concerned, some scoff, some wave. Of course I'm never entirely sure if it's because it's so cold out or because of the mitts. Perhaps it's a combination of the two.

Anyway, I was able to stay partially blocked from the wind and enjoying the run a good portion of the route. Until mile 7.5.

Let me explain: At mile 5ish I wasn't quite sure my chosen route would finish out with the 6miles I wanted, so I made the turn into a neighborhood I often run past, but not through. As it turns out cul-de-sacs & streets that end on the same road they branched off of are the theme of this neighborhood.

The idea was only to add in a block or two, did that happen? Obviously not. I could see exactly what road I wanted to be on, there was just a row of houses between us and too much snow to make a shortcut through someone's yard. Ugh!

At mile 7.5 I became very focused on getting home. I was running into the wind, feeling the need for some fuel, my eyelids were starting to get really cold, eyelashes freezing together, face-mask frozen stiff paired with a new sensation I've never had during a run before: an ice-cream headache. Not exactly my idea of fun.

Finally I made my way back onto the road I needed to be on. Yes, there were other roads I could have taken which would have limited the amount of miles added to my route, but they were narrow & very traffic ladened, not safe.

8.8 miles after leaving home I was back again. Running in the -18F temps last Saturday was cold, but when you factor in the windchill yesterday was most certainly the coldest weather I have ever run in. Would I do it again? Yes. Just not in that neighborhood, lol. Little things like putting chapstick on any exposed area of my face help a lot. I'm also letting my hair grow out again so it insulates my ears & neck.

You learn a lot about what you & the human body are capable of in conditions like that. It's humbling to think that in 8months I will be running in temps almost 100 degrees warmer than what I am currently training in. How my God created our bodies to handle that I just can't wrap my mind around. It's pretty astounding.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The start of a new year! 16miles in -18F

My first run of 2010 kicked off today with a stellar 16miler w/ Maggie. We braved the -18F weather, accumulated a lot of frost & had fun along the way. I'm excited to see what the other runs this year will amount to, but I'm already off to a good start!