Thursday, July 31, 2008

On the mend...

Biked for an hour with Igor this evening and felt good. That was after a lot of rest this week with a few short swims and two sessions on the Arc Trainer. Dr. Pete was very specific: Hill Workout, Level 6, no hands, keep strides above 140/min, for 30-40 mins... here was me thinking I'm fit - 30 minutes kicked my ass!! Goes to show how mixing it up a bit can help your training. Not that I enjoy going to the gym on a glorious summer evening but throwing in a few low impact sessions (and maybe even some weight training??) wouldn't do any harm.

PT eval for my shoulder in the morning - should be interesting - I was feeling great with the few weeks of adjustments and then I hop in the pool and after 20 minutes my shoulder hurts!! Not happy. I don't really like swimming (when I have to do it) but there's a small matter of 2.4 miles in late November. I probably need to do some specific shoulder muscle strengthening to make long terms improvements. Sounds like weight training.

Anyway, as well as the shoulder I will get my foot checked out. I'm happy to report it's much improved, swelling mostly gone. In fact the pain, well, more of an ache really, now seems to be further up along the outside of my leg. I've been using The Stick to help break up any gunk in there so I think that's helping. But the leg feels sort of fatigued. And while in Target tonight (yet again, I go in for ONE thing and leave 30 minutes later with 3 bags full) I was trying on shoes (see what I mean) and as soon as I put on a pair with heels... boy, I felt that ankle. Which reminded me, again, how stupid I was to go out in heels Saturday night! Seemed like a great idea at the time. We ended up in a cool bar in Duluth enjoying cocktails and hit the dancefloor multiple times. But I would have been better off without the few inches. Live and learn.

Except I won't, of course :)

end of post.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Tuesday Night sans Trails

Much as I would love to be heading to Hyland tonight with the gang for a few more trips up the ski hill I will instead be lying on my sofa with my foot on ice and elevated... but hopefully watching a better movie than yesterday evening - P.S. I Love You (p.p.s. How bad an Irish accent can ya do?).

Diagnosis on the foot is a relatively mild form of peripheral edema - ha, that sounds so scientific. Bascially it's swollen. A few days rest, ice and elevation should help. And I got a massage yesterday to help circulation and have another one scheduled for Thursday. Sue made the comment that all of the tendons around my ankle were very tight as if I had twisted it though I know that I didn't. Just a lot of stress built up over 50 miles I guess.

What I need to figure out though is what's causing it. Similar to the training run on the SHT a few weeks ago I felt the ball of my foot begin to hurt at around 30 miles on Saturday - I was wearing different shoes (Asics vs Montrails) so I don't think that had anything to do with it. I am wondering if my nervousness about triggering plantar faciitis - which I get in my arch - is making me run slightly differently. My foot placement could be affected resulting in more pressure on the forefoot. Just a theory. What I do know is that the top of my foot, just below the middle toes, is much more bruised than it was after the SHT run and the overall swelling is worse.

I will see how the next few days go. I have a PT evaluation for my shoulder on Friday morning so I will ask them about the foot also. I really want to be able to run Afton that night but it's more important to not do anything stupid. SS100 is 5 weeks Friday. 5 weeks holy s**t. Ok - I need to spend longer than 20 minutes in the pool tomorrow morning - yeah, that was all I managed this morning! Still, after a month vacation from it I guess it was a start...

end of post.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Minnesota Voyageur Trail Ultra

I love the sub-heading on the race website "50 Mile Foot Race" - just in case anyone wondered what mode of transport we might be using to cover the distance. 50 miles - on two feet? You're nuts! How often have we heard that?

Yesterday was another amazing part of an ultra running journey that began last year with a trip to Moab for the Red Hot 50K. Running that race with Kami and new friends we met along the way I knew that if I ever needed a reason to run I'd found it. This year has continued to bring new adventures both locally and around the country. Not to mention a few surprising results. At least surprising to me. At some point I suppose I will have to stop sounding like I never expect to do well. But for now, I'll enjoy the novelty of crossing the line first on a wonderful day in northern Minnesota...

What made the race extra special yesterday was having friends in town from Ireland. It was such a buzz seeing them along the way at several aid stations and then hanging out at the end in the sunshine. Along with Kami and Pam, and so many friends from the local trails, it felt like one big family get-together.

And we're off! (Photo taken by Jen Pierce)

I was excited to be running this race for the first time as I love discovering new trails. Though I had an idea of what lay in store for me from listening to stories of people who'd done it several times. The infamous Power Lines were mentioned more than once. Funnily enough they were my saviour yesterday. At least on the first visit. I won't go into too much detail but let me just say that my five bathroom breaks was the least fun part of the day. I have to figure out a better pre-race diet! After 2 stops in the first 10 miles I was glad to have to walk those hills as it seemed to give my digestion system a chance to do its thing... at least for a few hours. The return journey was almost comical at one point when I had to make 3 stops in the space of 10 minutes. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. Or throw up. Or...

Anyway, enough about that. I drove up to Carlton Friday evening with Geraldine and Clive, and got to packet pick-up just before 7pm, running into Jeffrey there. The small town of Carlton was full of life with their summer festival including a 5K race that had just finished. We headed back to the hotel and met up with Kami and Pam. We decided to just chill in our room and nibble on a variety of food (the nutritional content of which I mentally reviewed numerous time on the trail!) while Ger and Clive went for food. An early night for us as we attempted to get much needed sleep. It had been a series of late nights and some particularly long work days for the girls.

Still, 5:45am came way too soon. We got our stuff together, ate some breakfast (will not be eating flaxseed bread pre-race again...) and headed into town. I think folks were a little worried if we were going to make it as we rolled in at 6:55am. No point in adding to the pre-race nerves by getting there too early! Chatted to John and Kevin, and Julie, Steve and others. Great to see lots of the crew from the SHT run a few weeks ago. Took John's advice about starting off with people whose pace I wanted to run as it would be hard to pass on the singletrack that followed the bike path. Not that I wanted to start out too fast but it was a tricky section getting through the rocks and roots so it was good to be in a line of people running the same pace. Through this section I got chatting to Doug (Hansel - bit of a legend by all accounts) who was great company for the next several miles as we made our way to the Power Lines running with several others along the way. I found myself running beside April for a few minutes - I knew she'd had a great time here last year so I was questioning whether or not I should be running with her. Though she was saying she wasn't as well trained this year and as it turned out she ended up twisting her ankle and taking a few spills in the grassy climbs that followed. Of the varied terrain that we covered today the grassy sections on the Power Lines and even the other flatter grassy sections through the woods were my least favourite. I'm probably running the same pace on the grass but it just feels a lot slower.

The Swinging Bridge (Photo taken by Jen Pierce)

It was an incredibly scenic course, my favourite part being the trip across the swinging bridge. I don't like crossing bridges by car but running across a moving one with fabulous views to each side was very cool! I believe I even slowed down to take it all in. I managed to stay on course the whole way though several times I was convinced I had missed a turn. Many of the wooded sections were singletrack and there were long stretches without pink ribbons. At one point I was going downhill at a nice pace and realized I hadn't seen any markers for a while. I began to slow down thinking I might have to turn around and climb back up the hill but luckily I caught sight of the next ribbon. I had cause for another sigh of relief later on when I hit Spirit Mountain. I remembered something about ski slopes in the course information but didn't know if we actually had to climb one. I was following the track across the slopes until I couldn't see any markers up ahead and found myself looked nervously up the ski slope praying that I wouldn't see any in that direction. There was no one close behind me so I continued for a few steps and was very happy to spot more ribbons directly ahead and not up or down the slopes. I've only once before run an out-and-back course and I have to say I quite enjoy it. Every time I would hit an uphill on the way out I told myself how nice it will be to run down on the way back. But I was not prepared to run straight up a ski slope at that point in the race. Enough of that on Tuesday evenings at Hyland!

Back in the woods - my favourite place to be! (Photo taken by Jen Pierce)

Of course the best thing (at least for the competitive minded!) about an out-and-back course is knowing where you're placed at half way. I knew that Rochelle Wirth, last year's 2nd place woman, was running again so I expected to see her first. And sure enough after I'd gotten through the ski area I met her. A few minutes later another lady came along. Then before I knew it I was the turnaround. At 4 hours! I couldn't believe it! Obviously I knew I was doing fairly well from the mileage markers at the aid stations but I had missed the last few and I find it so hard to know what pace I'm doing, especially on a course like this where the terrain changes so much, so I was expecting it to take longer than that to reach half way. I'd met the lead men while still in the ski area. Wynn was in first place at that point, followed by Chris and then Joe. A few minutes later another guy and then John. I counted a few more guys and figured I was in about 11th spot overall at the turnaround.

Everyone was so friendly and they all looked like they were running strong. Wynn shouted to me "No water bottle. Impressive!" - Or stupid I thought to myself! I was well hydrated starting the race but I knew how hot it could get on this course so I had stashed water bottles in both drop-bags along the course. I hadn't picked any up on the way out but planned to take one from aid station 6 to get me through the power lines which I knew would be a slower journey on the way back. I would normally carry one for a 50 mile race but the longest distance between aid stations was only 3.4 miles so I figured I was safe enough. Also, I wanted to keep my shoulders as loose as possible. I'm happy to report no pain at all in my right shoulder/neck area. Dr. Pete is working wonders. Though I expect he'll tell me I'm a mess when I see him tomorrow morning!

At the turnaround I decided to change socks. I'd kept my shoes pretty dry but my left sock was beginning to catch me a bit on my heel and I knew I'd feel fresher if I changed them. Also I wanted to check the tape on my feet. I've been having a few problems with my arches recently. The increase in mileage is causing the slightest hint of
Planters - which I suffered badly from in early 2006. I find that taping my feet gives that added support. I was a bit nervous the tape might cause blisters for this length of a run but it worked well. So I quickly changed socks, grabbed a few gels and a packet of clif-blocks and hit the road again. Easily worth the few minutes, my feet felt great.

At least for a few miles. Before long the ball of my left foot started to hurt and I knew I'd suffer a little for the rest of the race. I don't know what's causing it but the exact same thing happened two weeks ago during the 40+ mile training run on the SHT. I ended up with some bruising on the top of my foot at the base of my middle toes. And sure enough it's a nice purple colour again today. I'm starting PT for my shoulder this week and will ask about the foot. It's quite swollen also which means I probably won't be able to run for a few days. Other than that I don't feel so bad. Must have been the dancing in Duluth last night that worked out a few kinks! That was after my 20 minute ice-bath which I highly recommend. My left hamstring is quite tight but I have a massage tomorrow evening so hopefully that will sort it out. I was pleased that it didn't cramp yesterday as it had done at Afton. It started to hurt a little right around 35 miles but never as bad as Afton and once I'd gotten through the hilly section after the power lines it didn't bother me again.

Because my stomach wasn't feeling good all day I stuck with energy gels (vanilla) and clif-blocks (cola). I think I got through about 6 or 7 gels and 2 packets of blocks. Along with 10-12 electrolyte tablets. I munched on pretzels at the last few aid stations to balance the sweetness of the gels but knew that I was better off not trying to take in anything more substantial.

As I made my way back across the ski slopes I began to meet lots of people including many familiar faces. It was fun seeing everyone out there having a great time and even those who were struggling were happy to exchange a quick hello. Several people told me I was not far behind the next lady. Upon leaving the turnaround aid station I figured I was about 4 minutes behind number 2 and maybe another 2 minutes behind Rochelle. Then again I had no idea how they were feeling - certainly they both looked very strong when I'd met them. I was trying not to think too much about them and instead focus on how I was feeling. There was still a very long way to go. But the section of road allowed me to stretch my legs a little and I felt safe to pick up the pace. I was delighted to be told at the next aid station at mile 28.3 that I was about 2 minutes behind though I knew it was probably a rough estimate.

Refueling at Mile 28.3 AS (Photo taken by Jen Pierce)

This was also where I met Kami and Pam who were running together. Steve and Jim were there too and I think I'd met Julie, Pierre and a few others a bit before this. I continued on through the woods, really enjoying this terrain and having fun meeting people, many of whom I recognized from other races (and blogs!). Somewhere in this section I passed the girl in second place. I chatted to her later after the race - she's from California and this was her first in Minnesota. I also read in the paper this morning that she had won Angeles Crest 100 in 2006. Nice one! The next few miles passed pretty easily and then we were back on the road for the downhill to Beck's Road. It was great to see Geraldine and Clive at this aid station again! I'd also spotted Rochelle up ahead. I was nervous about passing her. It was only mile 32 and I didn't know whether or not I could keep up this pace. A few minutes later, deep in these thoughts I knocked my foot off a rock and THUMP. Down I went, skidded along the dirt on my front and ended up with a delightful amount of mud caked onto my shirt, skirt (I was wearing a running skirt for the first time in a race - dare I say there is something oddly powerful about passing guys while wearing a skirt :) sad or what?!)... cut my chin, my knee and both shoulders! And broke the watch off my wrist. At exactly 5:17 on the clock. But luckily no major damage and once I got back on two feet and dusted myself off I continued on in pursuit of the lead... about a half mile later I passed Rochelle. We exchanged a few words and I got to meet her briefly at the end.

Despite the increasing temperatures as the day went on - I think it hit 80 by the end - we were blessed with a nice breeze through many of the open sections. It did get quite humid in the wooded areas but overall I think we got lucky compared to what I'd heard from other years. All the same I was glad to have my water bottle waiting for me at the next aid station. After cleaning up a little with the help of the wonderful volunteers I headed off through Mission Creek. Before long it was time to attack the Power Lines once more! This time I had company as Matt, who I'd passed just before half way, came along behind me. He was running so strong and it was motivating to have him ahead of me on the hills that followed. I tried to keep him in my sights as we went up and down over and over again. Though he disappeared from my view pretty quickly! (p.s. Matt finished 6 minutes ahead of me which goes to show how strong he was running in the final 10 miles). I have to say, despite the heat in this open section, I do enjoy hills and because my hamstring was cooperating I felt pretty strong by the time we hit the final, seriously steep descent and the aid station at mile 39.4. Who other than Anne F was working the aid station - it was so cool to see her again. We met at Lutsen in 2006 and then again last fall at Glacial Trail. Ger and Clive were here also - they'd even heard about my fall from the radio volunteer!! I gave them my empty water bottle and continued along.

I remembered Doug saying he found the next section tougher than the power lines. A few miles of winding, grassy trail that climbs through the woods. It did seem to go on forever but I was feeling pretty strong by the time I reached the next aid station where I had my last drop-bag. I grabbed a few gels and some water and asked the volunteers how long I had left. I had sort of last track of miles as I hadn't been looking at the signs at all of the aid stations and without my watch I didn't know what time I was at. For some reason I had it in my head that this drop-bag aid station was at 6 miles... so you can imagine my reaction when I was told I still had 8.5 miles to go. Suddenly I didn't feel so strong after all!

Zach Pierce negotiating the rocks on the return trip (Photo taken by Jen Pierce)

Oh well. Nothing to do but put the head down and keep plugging away. As I neared the next aid station my stomach started to play up again. I took a few pretzels here, crossed the dam and hoped that it would pass. No such luck. A few minutes later I was off the trail and into the woods. And again about a half mile later. And again a few minutes later. Enough of that! Though all of this I knew my legs were still in good shape, my foot was no longer throbbing and I wasn't having any stomach cramping so I decided since the next section was mostly downhill I'd try to run pretty fast to make up for the stops and hopefully it would take my mind off things. This seemed to work out well and by the time I reached the final aid station everything felt back to normal. Or at least as normal as one feels after 46.6 miles. I passed one guy in this section, he looked like he might have been having a hard time with cramping. As I turned to ask him if he was ok I completely lost my balance and went flying down face first in the grass. At least I provided a little entertainment as he dealt with the misery of being sidelined so close to the finish.

I'd been looking forward to hitting the technical singletrack. It was such fun even with tired legs. But before entering that section I had to cross the swinging bridge - now full of tourists snapping pictures of the gorge! I very much appreciated the guy at one end shouting to everyone "Runner on the bridge!" I hadn't been expecting to see anyone much for the last few miles so it was a nice surprise to suddenly have strangers cheering me on! Even though I enjoyed the rough trail and all the roots I was happy to reach the rocky section as I knew it couldn't be far now until the bike path. More than once I stole a quick glance behind me. Not that I'd likely have had the energy to do anything about it if one of the ladies had found another gear. Went down one more time in this section but luckily managed to land safely and not impale myself on a root. Rocks, rocks, rocks and then the wooden planks. I laughed, sort of, as I crossed the one Doug had told me a story about earlier - he'd been running the race several years ago and had slipped on this one and landed straddled across it, legs dangling in the water. Ow.

Finally, across the noisy bridge and up the hill to the bike path. I thought I had close to a mile to run on this but before long I saw the edge of town up ahead. Sweet. Another glance back. Empty path. Right turn onto the street and down the hill to the finish line. 8:19:28. Oh My God. How did I get here?

Several hours of fun followed... catching up with everyone, congratulating Joe on his win (7:36:12), meeting new people like Chris from Duluth and Valeria, originally from Argentina and now living just a few minutes from me. Delighted to chat with Tom and Nancy again. They are cool folks. Several other old and new faces. It was really cool to share the day with friends from home. Rosie and Padraig joined us at the finish and we all enjoyed a great feast of lasagna later on, with John's wacky sense of humour for company.

The race was very well organized, with the volunteers doing a wonderful job. We had great conditions and a record number of people started and finished the race. As well as getting well fed we all went home with a lovely piece of pottery. I hope to be back in 2009 to enjoy another day on this beautiful course just a few hours drive from home. For now, time to rest, recover, and train smart for a few weeks before a vacation in New Mexico (got to increase the red blood cell count) and then the BIG ONE September 5th.

p.s. Jen Pierce again took some wonderful photos along the course, capturing Zach's and all of our races. Thank you!! Check them out at this link.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hyland Hills

What a great run we had this evening! Big group of us out at Hyland for a few repeats of the ski hill. I'd run out there recently but had just run the hill twice on that occasion. Tonight - 8 times up that lovely slope! I think it was number 6 that felt kinda good. The others not so much. I guess I was warmed up by then. I should have stopped at that... but you know how it is. Felt the hamstrings get tight. Hopefully nothing to worry about for Saturday. HR got up to 184 which is about as high as it's ever been at sea level. Avg 153 for the 70 minute run. Looking forward to doing this run every week until Sawtooth. Hopefully add on a few repeats each time... maybe even do it in the morning some day next week. Towards the end of the week - I don't think the post-50 miler legs would appreciate it Monday morning!

Really looking forward to Voyageur now. I love running new trails. I've heard lots of stories about how hot and miserable it can be, the infamous powerlines etc... but I'm an optimist and fully intend to have fun up there!

end of post.

The Challenge of 100...

Miles? That's in the plan alright but the idea of trying to do 100 push-ups is equally appealing... I can't remember which blog I read it on first and usually I wouldn't get caught up in chain-mail type things. But this is a worthy challenge, especially for someone who couldn't even do 1 a few years ago. Then I started taking regular Vinyasa classes at Core Power Yoga which involve plenty of Chaduranga poses, and have built up some good upper arm strength. Still, I think I could only manage around 10 right now.

Check out the link in the title. I think I'll start this weekend. That way I might make it to 100 around the same time as Sawtooth... Yeah, I'll finish the run and then drop to the ground and do 100 push-ups by the pool at Caribou Highlands! I'm kidding. Obviously.

end of post.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Do as I say, not as I do

I like to think I am pretty good at advising people when it comes to running, biking etc. I am not a qualified coach by any means but I have a good sense of where people are at and what it will take to get them to their next goal. And always, always, I stress the golden rule of not increasing mileage too quickly and to take rest days, even when you are feeling good. In fact, expecially when you are feeling good. Before you start feeling bad. And I'm a big proponent of the 3-runs-a-week program, filling in the other sessions with cross-training - biking, swimming, yoga etc.

So how is it that I am sitting here on a Sunday night after another big week, including 5 runs, on less sleep than is healthy, and zero rest days?

Following some solid mid-week workouts, I biked 50 miles on Friday, ran 22 miles that night, slept 0 hours, attended a wedding Saturday evening, biked 50 miles this morning, and ran 5 this evening. Yes, you heard me, I ran this evening. Nothing other than plain stubborness. I had a goal of 60 miles for this week and having cut Afton a little shorter than planned I decided I was going to make up for it this evening. The title of the post is beginning to make sense isn't it?

I thought I had run 52 so far this week so I headed out this evening planning to run the mile to Lake Calhoun, do 2 laps, and head home. However, by the time I got to the lake I realized I had only run 51 (only!). The few working brain cells knew than my legs did not need to do 9 miles tonight. So I settled for one lap giving me 5 miles for a total of 56. Good enough. Of course, once I had decided to do the shorter length I upped the pace immediately and got a speed workout in instead. I know, this is the point at which you want to take me by the shoulders and shake some sense into me.

Not a good idea right now. I was back at Dr. Pete on Friday morning to review my spine and shoulder X-rays. As expected they revealed some misalignment at the very bottom and top of my spine, more severe at the top. Though severe is too severe a word to use, if you get my meaning. On a 'phase' scale of 0-4 I am around a 1.5. All in all, my body is in good shape considering all the stress I put it under. Still, I need to get it corrected now. So, while I have some reservations about chiropractic therapy, I am going to make full use of my decent health insurance with a 4 week program of 3 visits a week.

I am following one important piece of advice I like to share... treating my feet to an ice-bath as I sit on the sofa. And honestly, apart from my shoulder which is more of a chronic issue and not the result of the recent increase in activity, I feel great. So I guess I should take tomorrow off? Manyana, manyana.

Goal for this week (in addition to the 60+ miles - which will be helped by Voyageur!): get more SLEEP. I like to think I can function ok on 5 hours. And maybe I can, but I can't continue to perform at the level I want to without more shut-eye. Who do I think I am - the President? I was listening to a conversation on NPR recently about how little sleep Bill and others before him claim to have survived on. Don't worry, George gets a solid 8hrs. Which I expect is why the country is in such good shape. Sorry, I know, I'm not a citizen, I can't vote, I shouldn't comment. I'll shut up now.

Ok. Time to start on that goal. But before I go I had to look up the verse from Ecclesiastes that was
swirling around in my head as I circled Calhoun this evening. I am an impatient person. I wasn't always. But as I've gotten older I definitely have less tolerance for time wasting. This can be a good thing and certainly makes me a very productive person in my professional life. But life is not a straight road that gets you from A to B in the shortest possible time. It has a way of routing you down a few side roads, around the odd roundabout, up and down some hills, and every now and then it sends you the wrong way down a one-way street. Sort of like Mapquest on crack.

What started out as a rather crappy weekend on a personal level ended up being a very memorable one. For 3 years now, Afton has been my favourite place in the world to run and this weekend further cemented that. Follow that up with a beautiful wedding ceremony joining two people who believed that real love was worth waiting, and working, for. And end it with an afternoon on the lake with friends, in the glorious sunshine, trying something new... wakeboarding... and failing miserably but having a ton of fun in the process. The result is a weekend that reminded me how it's the people that surround us - in life, on the road or trail, at the table, on the other end of the phone several timezones away - that bring meaning to it all. And every now and then, having to turn around on a one-way street, while slightly embarassing, is not the worst thing in the world. Because everything happens for a reason, everything has it's time...

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
From The Holy Bible (King James Version)
Attributed to King Solomon

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sow;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate;
a time of war; and a time of peace.

Funny, no mention of a time to rest :)

end of post

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Night Run #2

Until yesterday (Thursday... I am still on Friday time despite it being 9am Saturday...) I had no intention of completing my second night run this weekend. I had thought about doing another one but was figuring I'd find a weekend in August (surely there are more weekends in August that currently listed on my calendar??). Then I saw Matt's email with his plan to run Afton starting at 5pm Friday. A few others were joining through the evening and night. That got the wheels turning... and by 7pm Friday I had both Kami and Eric signed up for it. No mention that Eric and I had just biked 50 miles and Kami had run for 90 minutes in the heat of the day. It's all about training the legs to move when tired, right?

We got to Afton just after midnight and I was delighted to see Matt, Jim, Zach and others in the carpark. Matt had already completed 2 laps and the others had gone various distances. Seven of us soon set off for a counter-clockwise loop. I was happy to have Matt leading the group as I would not have found my way on the snow-shoe loop - regardless what direction I was going. We did push on a little when we got out onto the grassy trail by the final aid station (surprisingly no sign of Nancy & Tom!... you had to be there...). And after a few wrong turns found our way around the rest of the course back to the car park in around 3:30. My feet were bothering me so I taped them up, changed socks, and after a mug of coffee courtesy of Matt (who was ready to call it a night - nice work going 40+ out there!), I was ready for off again. We decided to just head out for a shorter loop given we all have busy weekends ahead. And there's Voyageur next weekend. Taper? Never heard of it.

This time we started out along the direction of the race and followed the course for a few miles before returning to the carpark via a new route. Ended up at 22.5 miles in around 5 hours. And then the hunt for Starbucks... not terribly impressed that Woodbury doesn't open until 7am on a Saturday. What kind of service is that? But we made it back to the cities and refueled our tired bodies (and minds).

Certainly there are many ways to spend a Friday night. But how often do you get the chance to run with friends in one of the most beautiful parks in the country, starting out as the moonlight shines through thick forest, and finishing up as the sun rises over the sleeping prairie, the birds awakening it with their song? Time well spent.

Looking forward to another opportunity to move the legs when tired tonight as we dance the night away at Karen & Tim's wedding!


I meant, Good Morning.

end of post.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Decisions, decisions...

When to run this weekend? I'd been planning a long one at Afton starting at 6am Saturday. Thinking of doing the 50K course. Assuming I can follow it without the markers. Didn't do so well on the SHT last weekend!

But then I saw Matt's email about running through Friday night! I am tempted to head out there for at least some of the dark hours. But I'm biking 50-60 miles tomorrow afternoon so I'm not sure how the legs will feel. I guess I need to start training them to run when tired...

The week has gone well so far. My foot issues from Saturday have lingered a little but I don't think it's anything serious. A little worried the planters I had through 2006 might come back if I increase the mileage too much. But I know the warning signs so I'll just have to watch out for it. My shoulder on the other hand has no intention of letting go. I saw a new chiropractor this week on Pam's recommendation. His first question: So, are you as crazy about running as Pam? Yes, maybe even more so. Oh dear...
Did the usual scans and X-rays and will go back tomorrow morning to figure out a plan. Based on his initial thoughts I am confident he can help. It's been sore on and off for well over a year now but has gotten progressively worse in the past few months to the point where it is really bothering me. Thankfully it doesn't get any worse while running. I feel it more on the bike, which I suppose is good in that in forces me to keep a good posture. Telling myself I am helping it by not swimming. Ha, swimming. I'll get back to it soon. Maybe. The one thing the chiro said immediately was that sleeping on my stomach was not a good idea and I needed to change that. I'm trying...

Ran 8M at the RTA last night. I was dripping after a mile it was so sticky. I had not been down there in several months so it was a nice change, and a little closer to home than Hyland. Had been hoping to do 10M but it was getting dark and I was getting tired. And I'd arranged to meet Carrie for a run this morning so I figured it was good.

In the 9 months that I've lived less than a mile from Carrie we had never managed to run together! So it was nice to get out around the lakes early today. Did 13M. Again I'd been hoping to do a little more but saw a message before leaving regarding a meeting at 8:30am so I had to be back for that. Terrible how work gets in the way... though I can't complain being able to work from home one day a week.

So, biking tomorrow after work and then I'll see how the evening goes and what I end up doing Saturday - early or very early? Either way I'll need to get a nap in afterwards before heading off to Karen & Tim's wedding in Jordan. Really looking forward to the evening, it promises to be a fun filled affair!

end of post.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Stepping it up...

I know. It's not like I don't do a lot already. But I am super motivated after the weekend up north to be as prepared as I can for Sawtooth. Or at least as prepared as I can be with a little over 7 weeks to go! Had a lovely run with Kami last night - 2 loops around Rice Lake sweating it out. Re-energized myself with a delicious Ahi Tuna steak at Pittsburg Blue. Dinner was good but I'd have my reservations about the place - given the prices I think they'd be better off keeping the food high quality and simple and not trying to load up every dish. Way too much sauces and toppings on everything. Wine menu was good though - had a pinot noir from Oregon that went down a treat!

Anyway, back to business. Rode just under 30 this evening with Pam and Carrie. Great to catch up with Carrie - superstar that she is winning the Olympic at Lifetime this past weekend!! The plan for the rest of the week is hills tomorrow, long easy run around the lakes Thursday and long bike Friday. Then a long trail run Saturday morning. Live it up at a friends wedding that evening. And possibly bike long on Sunday - depending how the legs (and head) are feeling. Decided to skip the Annandale triathlon on Sunday. I've been over and back on it but my anti-swimming month is in full swing so I will just head out there to cheer on Susan and Pam!

end of post.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Big week

I guess it had to happen sometime... signing up for 100 miles and not feeling nervous just isn't right. Well, I am now. After a very fun weekend up north with a great group of trail runners I know one thing for sure... I got work to do!

Having run the Moose Mountain marathon in 2005 and 2006 I am familiar with the final section of the trail. But I had heard several times that the earlier sections of the course were much tougher. So I was delighted to have the opportuinty to join Julie, John and others for their annual 'beta' run. We started out at the 50 mile mark and had planned to run 40. I managed to take a few detours and then missed the finishing point... eventually turned around when I realized my mistake and was very pleased to see Tom and Nancy drive into the parking lot just after I got back there. Thank you guys!!

So I think I ended up with about 48 miles. It was tough. Especially the first 15 miles or so. Not that much climbing but very technical. The trail is full of rocks and roots and slippery boardwalks. And I'll be doing that section in the dark. Can't wait. Better still I am told the first 50 miles has rougher sections with much more climbing.

Definitely need to stack up the miles over the next 6 weeks. While at the same time stay healthy. Hoping to make another trip up north in August to check out part of the earlier sections. Need to start running on tired legs. And more hills. And maybe another night run. And somewhere in between need to do more biking. IM Arizona won't be long coming around after Sawtooth...

No, I would not recommend my race calendar to anyone. I am having a great year and would not change any race I've run so far. But I think I'd like to focus more on trails and not do an IM next year. Then again the cross-training is excellent and I am convinced that using the bike for endurance training has helped keep me injury free. I guess I could IM train without actually doing a race... maybe just race a few 70.3's as I really enjoy that distance. Well, I have until July 28th to decide (entry for Lake Placid 2009) so I guess I'll make up my mind somewhere along the trail at Voyageur :)

Ended up being a big week in terms of mileage: 74.5 miles. I think ~56 was my previous highest. I count Mon-Sun so if I were to add on Afton that would be >100 mark. In 8 days. Now, let's try that in 1.5 days...

10pm P.S. Finished the weekend off with just under 30 miles on the bike. Lovely evening for it - or at least it was on the way back. We rode into a little wind on the way out! Felt good to spin the legs. Happy to report no major fatigue after yesterday. Though both feet are a little sore. I have an odd bruise on my left foot just below my middle toes. I had some soreness during the run when stepping heavy on my forefoot. And my small and next to small toes on my right foot are painful when I step on them a certain way. I am guessing the result of overuse last week and nothing too serious. I am hoping to fit in a few easy miles tomorrow evening so I'll see how that feels.

end of post

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Running Easy or Easy Run?

There are days when running easy is hard and days when running hard is easy. Happy to report today was the latter. I had planned to bike this evening as I need to start getting in a few longish mid-week rides but with the rain earlier and work to get done I decided to just run from home by myself. So I set off for Lake Calhoun at 7pm with no real plan. And what do you know.... Lake of the Isles, Cedar Lake (love the trails on the north side), Calhoun, Harriet... darkness, 17 miles later and I am home!

My legs just wanted to run. And 7:40's felt easy. This, after a fun hill workout at Hyland last night. I guess I have recovered from Afton. Just in time for Saturday's training run on the SHT!

p.s. I just realized this week is likely to be my highest mileage ever >60 miles...!

end of post

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Afton 50K

I learned something new about racing today. It's meant to hurt. ALL the time. Not just the last few miles. As someone who swears by negative splits I generally start out very conservatively. Of course on the trail it can be hard to judge pace with the varying terrain, but my motto is to start slow, pick it up around halfway and hammer it home. Today I decided to race from the outset.

Did it pay off? I guess so. Did it hurt? Hell, yes...

With Kami and Pam at the finish
(and Patty's dog Chloe out of picture!)

Even though I was feeling a bit lethargic this week having just got back from a 2 week trip to Ireland which involved long hours at work, late nights catching up with family and friends, a diet of rich food, wine and chocolate, and two triathlons (not all at the same time), I decided on a new strategy for today's race as I figured I had nothing to lose. If it worked, great. If not, at least I'd know I'd tried.

So I took off from the start as if I was racing the 25K. It felt pretty good for the first several miles. The hills were mostly runnable through the early sections. I was very well hydrated as evidenced by the number of bathroom breaks yesterday and through the night (and two more during the race!) and generally don't suffer too much in the heat so I wasn't overly worried if the weather predictions of mid-80s came to pass. Rather than fill up on munchies as I usually do at trail races I stuck with a gel every hour taking the first one 30 minutes in and 1-2 Clif blocks on the hour, along with electrolyte tabs. It was quite a novelty for me to run through the aid stations and not sample a range of treats! I decided not to carry a water bottle given the regular aid stations and also because my shoulders have been pretty bad the past few weeks. Though a massage yesterday definitely helped loosen them up.

A few miles in I was running a little behind a guy who had a beautiful running stride. His upper body hardly moved as he ran. I tried to keep him in my sights for the next few miles, falling back on the uphills and catching up on the flats/rolling hills (I did apologize at the finish for practically breathing down his neck from time to time!). By about halfway on the first loop the field was pretty well spread out so for many miles it was quiet and I know would not have kept the pace up as well had I been alone so I was very grateful to have him as a focal point. Later on the second loop as I found myself doing the same thing with another guy - he was about 20 feet ahead and every time we hit a hill I would make myself keep running until I saw him stopping to walk. There were a few hills he didn't walk at all and I'll be honest I wasn't too happy with him at the time! I hope at some point in the race I was able to encourage other runners in the same way. It is one of the things I love most about trail running - the feeling that we are all part of something larger than ourselves.

By the time we hit the river trail on the first loop I was well and truly warmed up and enjoyed stretching it out along this flat section. My legs were feeling strong but I was a little worried about the various aches and pains I'd felt during the week in yoga. Particularly my hamstrings. The triathlon last weekend was an Olympic distance which normally wouldn't have taken too much out of me but the bike course was extremly windy and the run course hilly, so I'd worked my legs pretty well. Added to that a 45 mile bike ride last Tuesday which felt good until about mile 30. My quads and hamstrings complained for the next 15. Things felt much better Wednesday night during a relatively easy 8-mile run around Medicine Lake but I was sorry I hadn't scheduled the massage earlier in the week as yesterday was too close to have deep tissue work on my legs.

After the flat comes the Meat Grinder - aptly named. This slowed me down nicely but I was able catch a few people so I figured I was still doing ok and I knew that the next aid station wasn't far away and would be around mile 13. After that we entered my favourite part of the course - the Snowshoe Loop. It could be just that I rarely run this section when I come out to train here so it feels like a new trail each year. But also there is some technical single track which I love. The grassy sections are less fun but at least I didn't catch my foot and go tumbling down as I have in previous years... in fact, there were no falls at all this year!

Reaching the end of the first loop in just over 2:13 I was delighted to be told I was second female. And had a good laugh at being told I should try to catch Eve. Yeah, right. It would be all I could do to keep a similar pace on the flat and downhills, knowing I'd need to walk a lot more of the uphills. But I figured at that rate I would make 5 hours, assuming no major issues.

As I set out on the second loop there were a few guys up ahead but after skipping off the course for a bio break I ran alone for the next few miles through the first aid station. Catching sight of my hill-running friend up ahead I managed to keep a decent pace through this section until we emerged out onto the prairie for the Africa Loop. Definitely a few degrees hotter now but thankfully the breeze was still there. This is such a beautiful section of the course - acres of meadow interpersed with wildflowers, the St. Croix below in the distance, and a clear blue sky overhead. Despite not being a fan of loop courses, I could run this part any number of times. And the mile or so of rolling hills allowed my heart rate to settle and my legs to relax before hitting a steep downhill. I wasn't wearing my HRM but I would safely say I was in the low 170s for most of the race, climbing above 180 more than once and dropping into the 160s a few times on the less steep downhills.

Before long we were back at the gravel hill, my least favourite part of the course. Forced to walk much more of the hill the second time around I focused on keeping my upper body straight and shoulders relaxed. I remembered back to last year climbing this hill with Kami and Pam and a Brazilian guy we'd been running with for a few miles. He was living in St. Paul while studying here. By the time I'd recalled our conversation about The Beautiful Game (kindered souls in this foreign land!), I found myself at the top of the hill and back on solid earthen trail.

Feeling like things were going pretty well, I carried on through the short prairie section before heading down Nigel's Hill, enjoying having to concentrate on the technical terrain as I made my way to the river. Just one more climb now, followed by a serious downhill and then a mile or so of flat along the river again. I'd held off looking at my watch for quite a few miles so I was pleased to see 3:44 soon after leaving the second to last aid station. I figured I could make it home in an hour if nothing went wrong.

The Meat Grinder was a killer second time around but the grassy section at the top was almost worse as it wound its way around and around. I badly wanted to see that last aid station! Reaching it at around 4:09 I knew I was in pretty good shape. The last section had taken me around 27 minutes on the first loop. Things continued to go well for the next mile or so as I enjoyed being back on the singletrack. However, as I climbed the first of the significant hills on this section my left hamstring started to cramp pretty bad. I'd never had this happen before and was surprised since it's the right one that has been bothering me. I got such a fright and thought for a few moments that my race was over. I attempted to stretch it but knew immediately that was a bad idea so I sort of shuffled up the hill and once out in the grass again I ran slowly and cautiously for the next several minutes.

Finally it seemed to loosen up and I was able run the section along the creek at a good pace. Searching for that last climb before it opened up into the meadow, I just prayed the muscle would stay relaxed. As soon as the trail began to steepen I started to walk but that made things worse so I tip-toed up the hill trying to stretch my hamstrings as little as possible. A half mile to go. Feeling it relax again I picked up the pace, and followed the trail as it curved around the edge of the woods. A few hundred yards to go, several supporters out along the end of the course. Time to smile! Crossing the finish line is always a great feeling but today really was something special. The 25K out here was my first ever trail race back in 2005. Every step of that race I knew I was running towards something more than a finish line. And today, several hundred trail miles later, that feeling was even more intense.

As always it was great fun hanging out at the end in the glorious sunshine and light breeze. I love the buzz that surrounds these races as everyone catches up on each other's recent endeavours, plotting and planning the next one. Despite the pain and suffering on this hilly course, rarely do you hear "never again"! Congrats to Matt on a PR and to Keith and Julie and all the other now familiar faces. Delighted to have encouraged a few to try it out for the first time, including fellow Plymouth club runners Paul and Eric who ran the 25K. Another Plymouth runner Josh was also out there testing his endurance - a good addition to his IM training schedule. And great to see Patty at the finish - thanks for making the trek out there!

A huge thanks to John for an excellent job in his first year directing this event. Hopefully his pre-race tips ensured no one got lost... Stick to the course. Don't get lost. But if you do get lost, find your way back and let us know you got lost! The medals, awards and finishers shirts that John himself created added to the uniqueness of this wonderful event. Also the volunteers - I can't thank these guys enough for their help and encouragement, they are an integral part of our success.

Needless to say I am very happy with today's race. So many times I have crossed the finish line knowing I had something left in the tank. Those were good days too and I love the feeling of knowing I have room for improvement. But attacking an ultra distance from the outset was a different kind of challenge for me and I'm glad I had the confidence to try it today.

Would I do it again? Sure. Every race? Not a chance. Any day I can finish within a half hour of Eve is a good day. And I look forward to many more good days, knowing there'll surely be a few bad ones along the way (seriously Susan, there will be, I am human). But there's only so much suffering this girl is willing to endure!

2nd Female
14th Overall

end of post.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I'm back

Two weeks without a post. Maybe I've been doing nothing worth talking about? Hardly...

2 triathlon race reports from my trip to Ireland to follow shortly - Mullaghmore June 21 (close to my home in Co. Sligo) and Kilkee June 28 (Co. Clare). If you happen to be contemplating a triathlon which involves an ocean swim you might want to hold off until after you read them :)

Meanwhile, Afton is coming up quick. Not at all ready for it. Still hanging onto my longtime goal of breaking 5hrs but won't be surprised if that plan crumbles in the 80+ degree sunshine. Not that the heat will be to blame. More likely my diet of coffee, chocolate & wine for the past 2 weeks. Complemented by an average 5 hours sleep per night. Taper? Not quite. Fun? You bet.

end of post.