Saturday, March 28, 2009

Terrapin Mountain 50K

A quick look at my race history and you'll see this wasn't my first race in Virginia. And it won't be my last. The inaugural Terrapin Mountain 50K was a blast! (Previously a marathon distance, there is also a half-marathon.) Since running Promise Land 50K in April 2007 - another in the BEAST series of races in the mountains north of Lynchburg directed by either David Horton or Clark Zealand - I've made sure to get at least one trip down here every year. It is a beautiful place to run and a wonderful group of runners, many of whom are current or former students of Dr. Horton's at Liberty University.

Today's event promised to be just as much fun, and criss-crosses part of the Promise Land course so I expected similar terrain. I spent a bit of time looking at the course map earlier this week to get my bearings though with so many loops in different directions and a few out and back sections I was pretty mixed up for most of the day! Add to that no watch and forgetting to look at the mile markers at the aid stations and I spent most of the run not quite sure where I was at. But it sort of went along with my plan of just enjoying the course - and the chance to run in shorts!

Having not really tapered and wanting to be in good shape for Chippewa in a month's time, I made a half-hearted attempt to not race this... I actually lasted all the way to mile 10! I ran with my friend Dorothy for the first few miles - we first met at Masochist in Nov 07 and have met up at the races down here since. I am hoping to see her again at Hellgate if I stay healthy this year - though in the meantime I am trying to convince her to come up and do Voyageur :)

After a few hundred yards on the flat, the race started out uphill so there was plenty of walking for the first hour. Then some rolling hills and after our first visit to Camping Ground AS at mile 4.1 things started to get interesting - I was glad I'd been warned - a quad-trashing 5 mile descent on gravel road to Goff Mtn AS at mile 9.4, via Hunting Creek AS at mile 7.2 where I'd filled my water. There was actually quite a bit of road on the course - probably 10 miles or so. I managed to hold back pretty well on the downhill knowing it was way too early - and still debating whether or not I was going to push it. Climbing out of the AS at a good pace, I decided I'd just let my legs do the thinking. If they felt good I'd go with it. I'd also decided to keep with my more recent 50K strategy of just eating gels and clif blocks and not spending time picking at the AS food. Not that it doesn't always look damn tempting but my stomach seems to do better without it.

We looped back around to Hunting Creek AS at mile 13.3 and continued back along the same trail to Camping Ground AS, now at mile 16.4. Though by now I was forgetting to check the mileage so when I thought about it along the next section I wasn't sure if we'd yet hit halfway. Nevertheless I was now fully in race mode and was really enjoying myself. Along here I met the lead guys on their way back - this section of the course followed the trail ~ 1.5 miles out with a 3 mile loop and then back the same trail to Camping Ground AS for the final time. I could vaguely recollect the course map but didn't remember how long the loop was so I was trying to time it in my head as I hadn't met any women on the out and back section but knew that several of the ladies I'd seen on the registration list would be well up there. I figured it was about a 30 minute loop. I was feeling good but worried I'd pushed it too hard on that last section - I knew I'd passed a lot of people in that section and looking at the stats from the webcast I went from #49 to #32. Nice. But still early... and the climb to Terrapin Mountain awaited me! (Live tracking at a trail race - how cool is that? Although, I won't be saying that if trail racing ever develops IM-style hype!)

It was actually a nice break, walking for about a mile. Keeping a pretty good hiking pace and taking deep breaths, trying to calm the heart rate. By just focusing on how my legs felt I decided to ignore my heart rate and any feelings of breathlessness - which as it turns out is not a bad way to go! Though I suspect on anything longer than a 50K it might be a bit dangerous :)

At the summit of Terrapin Mtn, which is actually not the highest point on the course - we'd reached that on one of the earlier climbs (I think both places are around 3,500ft but I am not sure) - we had to punch our bibs. Presumably to ensure we got the most for our money and enjoyed the views, the hole punch was tied to a rock outcropping off the trail... possibly worth the view if it hadn't been completely clouded over!

Did I mention the mist? It was unreal. Beautiful actually. I mean, I usually love being able to enjoy the views from the trail but the intense mist was equally serene. And it made sure you couldn't see more than 30ft up the trail so you were never quite sure if it was going to climb or descend... but you were guaranteed it wouldn't be flat for long! Overall the course had 7560ft elevation gain/loss. Amazingly enough it didn't rain all day. Driving down from Dulles yesterday afternoon the rain had started to come down pretty hard and it stayed that way through the evening and most of the night. The race started at the Sedalia campground so I had packed my tent. I was having second thoughts seeing the rain but decided to stick with it. The reservations returned after getting the tent up and seeing some moisture on the inside! But some maneuvering of the cover and it was sorted. No wind which made it easier. And somewhere in the middle of the night the rain stopped. Unlike some of the other races this one didn't start until 7am so I got a pretty decent sleep and it was nice to start in the light.

Back to the mountain... the next few miles down from the Terrapin summit were my absolute favourite part of the course. Technical singletrack and the knowledge that the worst climbing was over! Well, actually I didn't know that for sure but figured with only one AS left there wasn't more than 6-7 miles to go and I knew the final 3 miles were downhill so I felt safe enough ripping it up a bit. Along here we went through "Fat Man's Misery" - more like non-anorexic persons misery - a tight squeeze through slick rocks on each side and overhead, on very muddy footing that required wedging myself against the wall for stability. I knew rock climbing was good cross-training for trail running :)

Before long we were approaching the final AS at mile 25.6. The downside of this was that it was an out and back to the AS. Or more specifically a down and up. That half mile of steep descent was pretty cruel knowing the climb back up would be far worse! The next few miles were mostly rolling hills. With a few more creek-crossings. By now my feet had dried pretty well from the earlier ones but still there was no point in trying to avoid them. And the icy water was kind of refreshing. I had to laugh as we came upon a particularly big creek a few miles later - the 2 guys in front of me were hesitating so I went by them and straight through the middle - not such a good idea as I ended up chest-deep in water!! AND caught on camera while doing so...

Not far to go now. Still feeling really good and running every uphill as well as pounding the downhills. Passing a few girls and a lot of guys, I had moved up to 26 at the last AS and felt like I'd passed several more on the final stretch. Once we hit the rocky gravel road that we'd started out on I knew there must only be 2-2.5 miles left. It was a bit treacherous on the slick rock but I managed to keep a good pace. Had only fallen once a bit earlier, not bad! I wasn't going to win the Best Blood award though I might have won the Wettest Clothing award if there was one going.

Finally, the 1 mile to go sign... I saw a guy ahead of me so naturally that propelled me forward... I wish I had a watch on for that last mile as it felt like a 6 min one - not that I would know never having run one :)

5:34:21, 5th female and 17th overall. Well pleased with that. Delighted that my legs felt good all day despite not being completely rested. I have promised myself no running this week, except maybe in the pool. I think it will do me good, and then 10 days of solid training and a taper for Chippewa. But that's weeks away... for now I'll enjoy a few more hours of warmth in lovely green Virginia before heading home to the not very spring-like weather.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Time to Race. Run!

Off to Virgina this weekend for the Terrapin Mountain 50K. First race of the year! Though I am not really planning to race... at least not until mile 25 or so :) The running has been going well the past few weeks and I've been enjoying 2 long runs at the weekends so without any real taper I think a 'training run' approach makes most sense. Though I expect once I'm out there (hopefully) having fun and feeling good, I'll try to push it.

I've been reading the book "Run Less Run Faster" since I think I'm best suited to running no more than 3-4 times a weeks with as much cross-training as possible. According to the 3:10/3:15 marathon plans I should be running my long runs at this point at ~50 sec above marathon pace so I was delighted to feel good while averaging an 8:09 pace for our 20 miler last Sunday. Pam, Val and I started out around 8am and headed down the parkway to Nokomis. Back to my place to meet Tanya and Patty and headed out for another 8 miles. We eased off a little for a few miles but then finished with a 6:30 3/4 mile. Not bad after 16 on Saturday morning with some hill sprints. Best of all I felt great Monday morning.

Cross-training has taken a very enjoyable turn recently with adding indoor climbing to the list! Who needs free time anyway. I called Comcast yesterday to downgrade my cable since I have been paying for all sorts of channels and functions that I have never used. To be honest I didn't even know I had On Demand service...

Of course what I'm saving there is being spent on gas for regular trips to Vertical Endeavors in St. Paul... but that I can easily justify! Val has been going there for some time though not very recently so she was happy to get back into it. It's fun watching her scoot up the walls twisting and turning her body getting amazing reach for a 5'4" gal! We've been trying the same route in the bouldering area upstairs for the past few weeks and yesterday I got another move further so I was thrilled. Of course I have no idea how I'll make the next move but that's the beauty of the challenge.

Hope anyone training for Zumbro 100M/K is getting excited for the race. I'm looking forward to being down there helping out and running a few hours here and there. Hopefully the weather will be a little nice than last year's mid-April treat.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I've been reading this passage on the back of the toilet door at the yoga studio for about 2 years now and finally looked it up this evening after coming home from a fabulous "Yoga by Candlelight" class - the perfect way to end the week...

Our Greatest Fear

Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Spring has arrived. It's official.

Despite waking up to a light dusting of snow it is offically spring today:

The 2009 spring equinox in the northern hemisphere occurs Friday, March 20, at 6:44am CDT, when the Sun enters Aries. It is one of the two days of the year that the Sun moves across the celestial equator, the imaginary line among the stars that lies directly above the Earth's equator circling from east to west. The Sun's crossing of the celestial equator occurs one other time, on the autumn equinox. Both times this crossing occurs, the Sun rises exactly due east and sets exactly due west.

More fun equinox facts at this link.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Primal Consumption

It was suggested to me by someone who shall remain anonymous that I add this to my blog... maybe the new Paleo diet for Irish female ultrarunners?

Also, I have to say I really like Google's artwork!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Irish dirt. And other stuff.

Given the week that's in it I thought I'd scout around the net for some interesting Irish websites. But I spent so long marveling at the audacity of this one that I didn't get to any others.

I've had lots of people ask how we celebrate the day in Ireland. I think my response was a little disappointing: as a kid - not much (I think I went to a parade once in my life - no lack of patriotism, my family just weren't all that into traditional music/dance etc); as a college student - it was a good excuse for an all day session.

These days I don't think I could handle doing anything all day except for running. So I'll celebrate tomorrow with a run around the lakes in the morning and a bike tomorrow evening (maybe afternoon - surely I deserve to finish a few hours early on my National Holiday??). Last I heard it's forecast to rain a little in the evening, so I'll feel right at home. Fifties and damp - genuine St. Patrick's Day weather.

In other, non-green news...

The running is going pretty well. I intended having a lower mileage week but after 18 on Saturday with Val (catching the last of the 100% Irish after an out and back to Nokomis), I went out with Pam Sunday morning for 15, and couldn't help but enjoy yesterday evening's sunshine with another 8. Ah yes, nothing like reducing the mileage by finishing with a 40+ mile weekend.

Feeling good though, no left knee pain at all over the weekend. My right one was bothering me a bit. I've also been noticing that when I step forward in yoga my right foot turns out slightly. So anyway I got it checked out at PT today. Patellar tendonitis is the early diagnosis. Nothing too serious but the PT (new PT) thought it was interesting that while I also walk with a slight turn in my right foot it doesn't happen when I run. So I guess I'll just have to give up the walking.

Really looking forward to the trip to Virgina weekend after next. I just love running down there in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Absolutely beautiful and a great local trail running scene. Nic - not that it will make a difference to your being well ahead of me but I am planning - or at least hoping - to race Chippewa. Terrapin Mtn (VA race) is the training run :)

As well as the running, the cross-training is coming together a little better. For some reason I seem to still be making it to the pool. Hoping that sudden breakthrough in form will just happen I guess. Spin this morning was a little brutal after all the miles yesterday but the instructor Debbie is a good Monday morning energy boost - not OTT but just enough to make it fun. And then the really fun stuff... indoor rock climbing... yes, it rocks! Did a safety course on Saturday and passed the belay test this evening so at least Val and I can take turns now. Though there are quite a few auto-belay routes also. In any case, we've been spending most of our time upstairs in the bouldering area. It's brilliant. A little head wrecking but in a good way. There is a route we've tried each time for the past 3 visits - getting ONE step further each time! We've asked them not to change the route until we crack it :)

Registration for Afton is open. My semi-frozen swim in the St. Croix last Nov got me straight on the list! A good idea in hindsight? Perhaps. But I think I'll stick to the pool until at least May...

Now, it's officially St. Patrick's Day so I'll eat some shamrock and go to bed.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Beyond The Epic Run

"The world is so big when you choose to journey it by running; and so small when you choose to stay at home." - Nicole Roetheli

Went to the screening of this movie at the U this evening with a few of the girls. It was interesting - not quite what I was expecting but definitely worth seeing. Five years on the road - and dirt trails, and sand... a pretty awesome adventure to contemplate. I particularly enjoyed Nicole's honest commentary. As a runner I would have liked more insight into how Serge felt physically and mentally.

The movie will be released in May. More info here.

In other news - how about the finale of Jon Stewart vs Jim Cramer tonight? Reality TV at its best. Though I am kind of ready for the Daily Show to move on. This story has run it's course in this context, we'll get enough of it in the real world...

It was a bit chilly out there this evening but I enjoyed a nice run around Rice Lake before heading downtown. It's right outside the door from work but I haven't run that loop in months. Zero knee pain so I was very happy with that. I guess running multiple days in a row just doesn't suit me! I'll probably shoot for a long one Saturday but it'll still be a lower mileage week which is cool. I'll maybe do a bit more next week and then it's just a week until the 50K in Virginia. No real taper as I'm using it as a training run for Chippewa. At least that's the plan...

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

This is it. Right?

Having just this week made my move to MN permanent (have been sort of on a temp work thing until now) I have obviously come to terms with the winter weather here. But PLEASE tell me this is the last of the sub-zero days??!! It's March. The clocks have changed. The weather people call it Spring...

Still, the blowing snow didn't stop me getting out for a short run last night - it wasn't so bad on the west side of Harriet but the wind coming off the lake on the other side wasn't exactly what I'd call fun. But it was so quiet and peaceful out there that it was worth it. Cutting back the miles a bit this week to see if my knee improves - no pain at all last night in the 5 miles. Will do another short one tomorrow or Friday and go longer at the weekend.

Finally got back to spin class at Lifetime yesterday morning - not having much success making JJ's compu trainer (i.e. bring your own bike) classes these days so I'm going to try to get in the hour class at the gym for a while until it's nice enough to bike outside. Nice enough to bike outside... April? May? Spinning on my own bike is obviously ideal for tri training but since I have none planned for this year I'm happy just to get a good workout on the spin bikes.

Chad very kindly interviewed me for his blog - I don't belong on the same list as most of the runners (e.g. Chris Lundstrom wants to run a fast marathon at some point - his PR is 2:17!) - but it's cool that he's covering ultra/trail runners. Loads of great interviews to read.

Monday, March 9, 2009


I am as fond of a snickers bar as the next ultra runner but I have to say I might have had my last one. I guess this is not a new ad but I only saw it for the first time this weekend.

It's making use of the creative process alright but I only see one word when I look at this and it has nothing to do with chocolate.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

New Stuff

- Daylight savings time (or the opposite, I am never sure): Love it!

- Outer knee pain: Hate it. Due to increasing the mileage waay too quick no doubt (6, 0, 22, 59, 47... hmmm). And a tight IT band. So it's off to the PT this week.

- Indoor Climbing: LOVE it... finally this week I made it over to Vertical Endeavors in St. Paul - awesome spot! Val used to go there a ton but hadn't been in a while (not that you would know, she is like a monkey zipping up the wall!) so we went for a few hours Wednesday night and again today. I am totally challenged by it which is exactly what I was looking for. There are plans in the works for a gym in Edina to open this summer. Very cool.

- Busy work schedule: Obviously a good thing these days and mostly interesting stuff but it's going to be a bit hectic for the next few months trying to fit in a solid training plan around work.

- A clean car: Great while it lasts... approximately once a year I get my car cleaned inside and out. Yesterday was the day. I am guessing it will look nice and shiny for about 2 days.

- Babies: A wonderful thing! (Except when 8 come together... but don't get me started on that one.) Welcome to Siofra Barry (congrats Noeleen & Paddy)!! And I'll have a new niece or nephew this summer, and Karen & Tim just found out their baby, also due this summer, is a girl.

- Race results: Huge congrats to Tanya, Casey & Anthony on their IM New Zealand triumphs this weekend! The photos looked amazing.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Change I can believe in?

Don't worry, no politics in this post. Just looking for a change... despite running a stupid ~60 miles last week (after 3 weeks off) I feel like I am stuck in a rut and just not getting my ass in gear quickly enough this year. Only 4 months to Grandma's!! I've already figured out there is no point in planning to race Chippewa. (I know, I say that now and on the day I'll ignore the lack of training and go for it anwyay. And most likely regret it.)

Before that is a trip to Virginia which all along I'd planned as more of a long training run but mostly a chance to head back to one of my fav running destinations. And just a weekend away at that time of year when it seems like winter has been around for 12 months. Hard to believe I am only just back from vacation!

It's not that I have lost any of my passion for running. Far from it. I would run every day if I thought I could get away with it. But I benefit most from cross-training. The problem is work is a bit crazy and will continue to be so for the foreseeable future... so despite my plans at the start of the week running is always the easiest workout to fit into the day.

The other problem is that my usual non-running activities - yoag/swimming/spin - don't seem to be doing a whole lot for me these days. I feel like I need to hit upon something new that will shock my body into action. It is definitely true that your muscles get used to a rountine.

The other big problem is my diet which has no signs of improving. I talk about it as if it's totally outside of my control. Ugggh. It can only get better, right?

Anyway, that's enough complaining for one day.

In other news... finally posted photos from Aconcagua at this link. A warning: there are about 600 of them!! I combined mine with Igor's (so at least there are some of the summit!) but they are a bit disorganized and I didn't get very far with captions. But anyway, you'll get the picture :)