Saturday, October 25, 2014

Long Run 10 Miles

Last week I introduced you to what tapering was. In the mid-week post, I defined post-race blues. Now, without further introduction, I introduce you to tapering madness. 

A runner in the taper phase of training has cut back on the number of miles/hours they spend running. This is to give the body a chance to rest and heal from all the wear and tear the training runs have taken on their body. If tapering has gone according to plan, the runner will come back stronger because the muscles will rebuild to withstand the new level of activity.

This rest time is a good thing.

Taper madness: the extra energy a runner is suddenly given because they aren't expending it running and they don't know what to do with it since they aren't allowed to go run it off. Probably the best way to describe it is being stir-crazy. I suddenly can clean out a cabinet and a closet and rearrange the furniture and cook and bake. Cooking and baking is a sure sign I'm tapering. But I can't go for a run. And I really want to go for a run!

Except for this time around.

The days leading up to my fourteen mile long run looked exactly the same as the weeks before. After that run, the next days of running had slightly less total mileage than before but not by much. The difference was that I only ran fourteen miles. Yes, my coach warned me to not overlook the fourteen while I was doing them but it still was only fourteen and my body was used to way more than that. By Monday of last week my body was catching the signal that something was up. 

I would love to report that I have spent the last two weeks blasting out house projects and so on. That fact is, I spent much of that time being tired, emotional and lacking much energy. All symptoms of either over-training or post-race blues. It wasn't until I ran with a friend who has done all manner of training and racing, mostly for triathlons, that I learned from her that this was also tapering madness. I was so relieved to hear this!

I ran my ten mile long run on a slightly warm but still overcast and definitely windy Friday morning. All the layers I threw on last minute came off within the first half mile. I threw caution to the wind and didn't plan my route. I didn't think about my race. I made some notes about what was hurting but that was about it. I just ran.

On Sunday morning, I went down to Des Moines to cheer the runners in the Des Moines marathon and half-marathon. I had several friends running both of the races. I stood downtown around mile two and watched everyone come through. I saw my friends come through and cheered and high-fived and outright bear-hugged one! This racer, though, caught my attention. I don't know his story but it doesn't matter. At one point, he decided that he could and so he did. 

After I stopped in at Scooter's, which is the new name of the coffee shop my family stopped in last year, I headed to mile 25/12 for the full marathon and half marathon, respectively. I love to cheer and spectate at races! Watching all kinds of runners out there invigorates me. However, what I witnessed this time was a new kind of inspiring. Here were these runners, just a mile from the finish line. What I saw was determination, down-hearted, focused, weary, thankful, worn-out and grit. I saw a lot of grit. People making the impossible happen, the dream alive. They would walk weary but if I said they could do it, they believed and started running. It wasn't me. It was in them and they drew from something deep within that they didn't know they had and did it! 

Tapering this time has not been like anything I've experienced before. The past two weeks have been pretty despondent for me. I came down with a cold the day after the Des Moines marathon and spent the entire day in bed sleeping. I really think it was a blessing since I really, really needed the sleep. But slowly I have started feeling refreshed, which is a good thing since the race is this Sunday. (I still have a cough that concerns me a little in as far as taking down sticky gels and such.)

My friends have poured loved and good wishes on me and I believe them. Thanks for reading along with all these posts. I'll make certain I re-cap this one much sooner than the Superior race. 

See ya in 50k! (31 miles)


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Spring 2014 Post-Race Blues and My New Adventure

If I had ever heard or read anything before about post-race blues, I didn't pay attention. It had never happened to me. I mostly experienced euphoria after my races. The kind of elation that made me talk incessantly about my race and energized me for a least a week afterwards. 

Well, I'm here to tell you: post-race blues is a real thing!

After arriving home late the night of the race, I talked through its entirety to Bill on the phone while he was driving home from their weekend of riding. I needed him to know all the details and he needed to stay awake. 

After that, our weeks were chock full. Concerts, graduations, field trips, a wedding, a wedding reception for Aunt Denise and Uncle Roy, a hare scramble and more. (All of this is a major reason why I didn't blog about my race or anything else after- there was no time to.) Unbeknown to me in all that business was something lurking below the surface as my body tried to recover.

At first, I thought I was just tired from running the race and the fourteen hour drive and having to go, go, go right after. But it wasn't until I was sitting in the parking lot, having gotten groceries, nearly in tears for no apparent reason that I wondered if something was truly the matter with me. I notified my coach of my emotional state, my lack of hunger, my overwhelmed feelings, and my restless sleeping. (Keep these all in mind. They will make a reappearance in another post.) She explained to me that all these things were normal after a race. I was experiencing post-race blues. It was a sign that I really did leave it all out on the course. Yay for me.

Except now what? Coach explained that, similar to postpartum blues, my body was going through hormonal changes from all the effort and I should eat as I can, sleep as I can, and try to carry on normal life as I can and it will all work out. 

There is a lot of relief when you find out you're not really crazy. 

I slowly built my running back up but didn't have much drive in me. I'm okay with down time. I think every runner should have off-seasons. But the thing was, I didn't know what to do after my recovery time was over. I had just raced my two biggest dream races. Where do I go from here? Do I race smaller races and try to get faster? Do I build up this new middle ground of 13 to 17 miles? The first option didn't really appeal to me. I spent too much time tackling tough terrain and climbing stair after stair at Ledges State Park to let that go now. The middle ground was a pretty good option but didn't get my juices flowing enough. What to do? What to do?

Loess Hills
Looks like I had a little trouble staying away from the mud after the races
Then one evening while running with some trail running friends, my coach mentioned a race in Omaha which was to be at the end of October. The distances choices were 5, 10, 20 or 31 miles. She casually mentioned that she thought I could run the 50k (31 miles). I kind of stared at her. She thought I could convert the difficulty of my Spring races into distance for the Fall race. I went home feeling a little tremulous and a little tingly. 

A burning sunrise is good for the soul
A few evenings later, after scouring the web for information and checking calendar dates, I sat all casual-like at the kitchen counter and nonchalantly mentioned to Bill that I was thinking of running this race called the GOATZ 50k, which is October 26 and doesn't conflict with any hare scrambles, homecomings, and known happenings and that is only three hours away and that also a bunch of Turkeys were going and that my coach thought I could do it and I've been wanting to run a 50k and I thought this year would be a good time to do it. (Oh my word- just typing about how I really wanted to do it but was trying to be open and cool about it with Bill still gives me the butterflies. Also, the race is less than a week away now.)

Obviously Bill agreed or I'm being completely defiant, which I'm not but let me clarify my statements in my run on sentence above.
  1. GOATZ- Greater Omaha Area Trail Runnerzs 
  2. No conflicts- If you'll recall, I ran the Zumbro race and it turns out it was the same weekend as prom and we hadn't planned on Audrey possibly going to prom her sophomore year and my mom came down to help out. Etc for all scheduling conflicts.
  3. Seven hours one way for a race is quite a long way and takes a toll on the whole family. After dealing with the stress of Superior, I'm going to take advantage of the closer races.
  4. Turkeys- also known as (Luke really loves to say a.k.a. by the way.) the trail runners group of the Des Moines Capitol Striders. These are my trail running people. They've run the races I've wanted to. They don't think I'm crazy for running trail. They keep inspiring me. I love them a lot!
  5. If something came up and Bill couldn't come with me, I would have a ride to the race with my fellow Turkeys. I don't like driving home by myself after a hard race. I worry about fatigue and being safe.
  6. I wanted to try a 50k but didn't know if I could do it so soon into this new trail running journey and especially this year but my coach really thought I could do it and that's what I needed to hear. 
So this is the part where I got really happy, and smiley, and hand-clappy. And also a little pukey. But mostly happy, smiley and hand-clappy. 

I entered a local 5k race last minute which gave me a nice burst of adrenaline and with that, started planning my Summer and Fall running and racing. 

Written 18 weeks ago 
 Catch up with all my training long runs here: 15 miles, 16 miles, 11 miles, 18 miles, 20 miles, 22 miles, 14 miles  

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Superior 25k Trail Race, 2014

  • If you never tried things that intimidate or scare you, you'd never see how far you could go.- Coach Amber
This is what my coach told me between my Zumbro 17 and Superior 25k races. I was nervous. I was recovering from one race. I was scared for the next. 

This Superior 25k race re-cap is a long time coming since the race was in May.
It's going to be long. I'm going to share a lot. Mostly because I don't want to forget but also because it was and is an amazing run.

This video is from a 50k runner who shared it on the race's Facebook page. The first 2:25 minutes show what I ran up to the Oberg Mtn aid station. The 50k'ers continued further down the trail before turning around while the 25k'ers turned around at the Oberg station to head back.

The race coincided on the same weekend the boys were going to Zumbro to ride their bikes. Apparently (and I do not remember this but Bill says so) I agreed that he would come with me to the Zumbro race but not necessarily the Superior race. As I mentioned, I did not remember this detail and as the race got nearer and I was planning travel logistics, Bill said he would be going to Zumbro (Theilman) to ride and not to the race with me. After much crying and so on, I asked my friend, Jenn, if she would in any way be willing to drive with me to the northern shore of Minnesota for seven hours, be left for four hours or so on her own and then drive me back another seven hours. Miraculously, she said she would love to!! For this favor and for being my dear, dear friend, I am forever in debt to her.
The weather up there is tricky. Near the shoreline it is almost always cool because of the wind off the lake but warms up significantly once away from the lake. You feel that part way up the ski road and of course it was morning. Layers, but how many and what kind? I chatted with a very chatty runner and she was going to wear a wind jacket. I had everything with me but went with what I had on. I shed my long sleeve shirt and gloves not half way up Mystery Mountain. Since I knew there was still snow on the course and not sure how much, I couldn't bring myself to not wear capris. If it had warmed up any more than it did, I would have preferred shorts. As it was, I made good clothing choices. (Seriously, months of training and I'm hooked up over what to wear?)

The race director stood on a ladder to share last minute details. The 50k racers had started earlier that morning and were reporting that there was giant, shoe-sucking mud holes with dangerous rocks in them. Awesome. Really couldn't expect anything else since the week before there was still snow up to four feet deep in some places. 

A section of the trail a week before the race
All the evening before and the morning of, I was nervous. I was trying to be cool but Jenn could totally tell. She made me go to bed but was asleep before me. She sat I while I fiddled with stuff. I couldn't bluff her. However, once I got to the starting line, I felt a strange sense of calm. I was here and I was going to do this. I held back at the start even though this time I placed myself mid-pack. I'm okay with getting passed but there is something to not starting at the back. I knew how I sort of wanted to run the start and stuck to it.

Can you spot me?
We quickly log-jammed once on the trail because of the mud. Running was down to picking through the mud. I walked only a bit because of just trying to not go out too quick but by the second mud hole, I couldn't take it anymore. There was going to be mud all over this course and there wasn't a way to avoid it. Since I had my fair share in Zumbro, I was already over it and shot up the middle and passed probably 10 people. It was a great move. I got to the first camping spot and shed my long sleeves and gloves. I remembered all the gnarly roots and rocks from Bill and my run last fall and said hello to them. Climbed some steep parts, then made it to the overlook to the southeast. That is pretty much the summit of the trail. Whooped and hollered and headed down being careful with my form. Slippery mud, slippery planks over mud. 

The second pair of shoes I trashed in two months time.
The climb up Moose Mtn was an adventure since I've never been on that section. I took it all in. One thing I noticed right away was that the smell had changed to pine. It hit me and, while not refreshing, took on a significance of its own. I always notice changes in scent on the trails. (insert farting joke)

This isn't taken at an angle. This is the angle of the trail. 
The trail was quite steep and I was sometimes face to foot with the person ahead of me. The top of Moose is so different than I expected. Grasses and less gnarly trail. I loved that section and cruised along, chatting with someone from Mpls who was with someone from Des Moines. We headed down and I made a mental note about the trail. Essentially, it wasn't going to be all that fun going back up. A long decent. I couldn't really place where the aid station was in correlation to Oberg Mtn. and the kind of elevation we encountered when my family hiked there a couple years ago. Well, it turns out that Oberg is its own little fun time of a climb.
The man I had been chatting with had passed me but was only slightly ahead of me. We came to a fork in the trail where we were to turn right. There was a big sign with trail and information about Oberg Mountain on it. He turned to look at it and tripped over the most obvious rock in the middle of the trail. He turned head over heels, tried popping up only to go back over again. It wasn't necessarily graceful but it did happen fast. He said he was okay but I've taken a tumble before (not of that magnitude) and it leaves you shaken up for a while. Trail running tip- keep your eyes on the ground.
I got to the aid station and grabbed a gel and some pretzels. I learned from Zumbro that I can shave some time off just getting in and out faster, which is something I've heard and read before as well. I decided I didn't need to hang around anymore and back in I went.
All along the trail are low sections that are covered with planks to keep one out of the water. The Spring had been unusually cold and the snow was still melting so there was a lot of standing water in the low sections. With runners bouncing across the planks, it made them wet, muddy and slippery. Plus, the planks weren't secured at both ends and so sometimes there was a teeter totter effect- me being the lightweight and a guy runner being the heavier weight. Yikes! Well this time I was crossing a plank over standing water when my right toe caught on basically nothing and I hurtled towards the water. Behind me I heard all the runners gasp as they watch me fall. But I didn't fall. I landed upright on my feet. Standing there in the water I assessed the situation and announced that that could have gone a lot worse than what it did and hopped back on the plank and kept moving!

Oh wooden planks. You look so dry and runnable here. 
As I suspected, going back up Moose was a challenge. I hit the stair section and just kept climbing. I knew they would have to end. I kept going even though my legs were on fire. It's interesting but always at the top I have to take a few more steps but then I'm ready to resume running. So I did. I didn't feel like I was flying through this section in the same way as out but kept going. The rocks and roots take on a new face when looked at from a different direction. By now my right knee is definitely making itself known. I pressed when I could. I was on the backside of things and I knew if I could make it down Moose without too much more pain, I could probably endure whatever happened on Mystery. At the top or near the top since I'm not sure exactly where that was, I knew I was finishing this and finishing it well. My mind was a party of "You're doing it!" I was going to leave it all out there even if it meant hobbling for a week after.
Early on, I had challenged myself to not walk or hike Mystery at all coming back- that I would run it. Well, as would happen, I met up with a group of people who slowed to a walk. Some of them were 50k's and I think they earned their walking. I stayed with them for a while. It turns out, my Garmin became more and more out of sync with the mileage. In my mind, I knew the race didn't have four miles more to go, but my watch said so. But I also realized uphill at that point for me was my strength. I could climb/hike/run faster than those around me, so I passed a few people and got going. Downhill was so hard. My knees were painful but I was determined to leave it all out there. I slowed down quite a bit more than I wanted too but kept going. At some points I would realize my knees didn't hurt only to have them immediately start hurting again. Mental? Several people passed me and they probably would have anyway and I tried to not let it bother me. I was still running what I thought was my best race and I wasn't going to begrudge them for wanting to get it over with as well.

I've found that during training runs I can focus enough to pray but during races I can't focus like that. Maybe it's because I want to get a "good' prayer in? Whatever. What I can do is focus on shorter things. During this section while I was trying not to think of my knee, I started on working my way through the attributes of God alphabetically. "A"- God you are Awesome. "B"- God you are Beautiful. "C"- God you are Creator. I never made it farther than "C" because I started having a little worship session in my heart and mind. The man I told you about earlier had shared with me that he was out running because he was on a spiritual journey. He was worshipping the created when he should have been worshipping the Creator. When you see a beautiful tree, sunrise, sunset, vista, or even a cloudy and blown over day with cold piercing through- its all to point to the One who created it! "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth." Genesis 1:1 "For since the creation of the world God's invisible qualities- his eternal power and divine nature- have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse." Romans 1:20 I loved being up there, running up and down those mountains, mucking in the mud, balancing over slippery boards, testing my resolve on rocks and stairs but in my last miles back, I worshipped. I worshipped the Loving Creator who made me and all that I was experiencing.   

Poplar River is breathtaking any time of year
An interesting sensation started once I crossed the bridge until I reached the parking lot- my left (right? don't remember now) butt started feeling flabby. Sort of tingly but more like someone was taking my butt cheek and the back of my thigh and jiggling it around. I'm only believing this is a real running symptom of some kind since just about everything else I've mentioned to my coach, she's come back with an answer. Well, it stopped or I stopped paying attention to it once I hit the pavement. (My coach got back to me and said she hadn't any idea about this so now you know about my weird butt thing.) Also, running pavement after running all that trail wasn't nearly as easy as you might think. I wanted to bolt to the finish line but my body wasn't playing. I just kept going. Amazingly, I hated the finish area. It's tucked behind the condos and I really didn't know where it went. Also, there was about 10 feet of really slippery snow as you go from road to the path and that's just stupid for not clearing that. 

I finished this race in 3 hours, 44 minutes. This finish placed me about halfway for overall finishers, female finishers, and age group finishers for the 25k. I was really happy with my effort. My friend, Jenn, was there to meet me at the end and give me a huge hug. It was so nice to have her there to be my friend, cheer me on and help me out while my brain, emotions and body turned to mush.

Jenn and I
I really couldn't believe I was ran a race that I only hoped I could do one day. A race that made my stomach do flip-flops when I looked at the elevation chart. This race was my biggest dream and I did it!!

A majority of these pictures were taken from other the race or runners' sharing on the Superior Trail race Facebook page.

Superior Trail Race website and Facebook page

Friday, October 17, 2014

Long Run 14 Miles

Taper- verb- to diminish or reduce or cause to diminish or reduce in thickness toward one end (Google search engine definition)

Tapering-In the context of sportstapering refers to the practice of reducing exercise in the days just before an important competition.[1] Tapering is customary in many endurance sports, such as the long-distance running and swimming. For many athletes, a significant period of tapering is essential for optimal performance. The tapering period frequently lasts as much as a week or more. (Wikipedia)

My last run of schedule 22 miles but really 24 miles was to be my longest run for this training period. This week I was to run 14 miles for my long run. (Just to clarify, I've been running five days a week but only writing about the day I run the longest. My total weekly mileage over the course of the last six weeks has ranged from 30 plus miles to a little over 40 miles.) I was beginning to taper. To reduce the amount of mileage so that my body can start rebuilding and replenishing and resting itself before the race.

Fourteen miles sounded wonderful to me. It would still take me some time to complete it but not all day like the last few weeks had. I checked in with my coach to get her thoughts on how to approach it. She said "Annoyingly slow and carefree. Don't overthink it, but also don't take it for granted. The day you think "only 14 miles" is the day you run a painful or "bad run" of 14 miles." Since I had stretched myself during the last two weeks, I was going to be extra careful to not push myself for this run. 

My goal was to keep my heart rate quite low. I decided to split my run into thirds. The first split between 135-140, the second between 140-145, the third split between 145-150. There was nothing new to contend with for this run. It went not necessarily "annoyingly slow" but was definitely carefree. I don't have much to report. I saw bluebirds near the sheep farm I always run past that I've not seen before. 

Not the sheep farm but another view that always takes my breath.

It did occur to me that even though I classified my run as "only" 14 miles, I was still running a half marathon plus. I made a mental note that this wasn't to be taken lightly. Respect the distance, no matter how long. And I want to say just because I'm going for 31 miles doesn't mean your mileage doesn't count. It does. Don't down play it because it doesn't seem to match what another person is doing. 

And so I finished 14 miles by lunchtime. I stretched a little, showered, ate, and got groceries all before needing to get the kids from school. This was fairly significant considering the past few weeks I've barely made it home in time to blend a smoothie before after school pick-up. 

Next week is 10 miles. Next week I'll share another definition: tapering madness. 

Be sure to come back tomorrow for a re-cap FINALLY of my Spring Superior 25k race. I FINALLY got it put together. FINALLY!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Long Run 22 Miles

I woke up Friday morning to temperatures in the 40's and strong winds. What a day to attempt my longest run yet- 22 miles. 

Each week I upload my running data to my Garmin Connect profile and my coach takes a look at it. I shared with her my questions and concerns from last week's 21 mile run and asked for advice on how to approach this week's run. She suggested I make this into another loop run and gave me ideas for how to think through each loop.

I had prepped my running pack and bottles the night before so all I had to do once I got home from taking the kids to school was finish the last few things and head out the door. I've played around with this routine over the last few weeks and discovered last week it was mostly mental that was messing with me getting out the door. I've tried rushing- felt rushed but trying not to rush the first few miles. I've tried being chill, wiping down counters, sweeping, etc. before going out but then struggled to feel in the moment at the beginning. This week I focused on quickly getting necessary things done and then getting out. This worked for me. 

As I mentioned, the wind and the chill was bracing but I have no idea at this point what the weather will be like on race day. So, I beat my chest a few times, slapped myself into warrior mode and headed out. At least that's how I felt. I was guessing that once on the trail and gravel the wind wouldn't be as bad but first I had to get away from the suburban neighborhoods where the wind whips harder.

I stashed my water bottle in the usual spot. I think I've figured out my hydration (and close enough nutrition) for the race. In one bottle is a regular mix of Tailwind. In the second bottle is a slightly watered down mix of Tailwind. I will probably carry a small plain bottle of water in the back of my pack also. Nutrition is a combination of gels, chomps, Honey Stinger waffles and dried blueberries. 

For my first loop I was to start out slow. "Slow to the point that it feels too slow." The second loop was all about finding a groove and feeling like I could run forever. The last loop would be all about imagining how I wanted my last loop of the race to feel. And NO negative thoughts. This was the key for my entire run. I would not let myself question why or how. I would make smart decisions. Having to make decisions doesn't mean I'm uprooting all the work I've put in. I've got to learn that.

About a quarter of the way through my second loop, a friend drove past and once he recognized me, gave me a huge grin. I took that smile and plastered it on my face. I smiled goofy for the rest of my run. Forced or real, I made it stay. No negative thoughts. 

My planned route had me run the hilly gravel roads east of town then dip into the forest preserve for a mile or so of grass and single-track trail. Knowing I will blog about each of these long runs, I always wonder what kind of pictures I'll take and what kind of story will be crafted from each run. I've debated before about taking a video during my run but have never done so, until today. This video is from the back trail at the top of the preserve where I run. I took it with my phone and unfortunately, it might make you a little woozy. Next time I'll see if Ben will let me borrow the GoPro. 

I had debated about not showing you it but my favorite part might be the wall of rain I noticed in the distance at the end. When I saw it, I thought "Bring it!" Might as well add pouring rain to the mix of wind and chill for the next twelve miles but it never came my way. 

While the sun attempted a breakthrough during my first loop, the wind pushed a tight blanket of clouds over it and I didn't see it again. The wind was calmer in some places, to my back in other places, while in my face throughout another section. I kept my layers for the whole run and didn't feel cold although later I noticed my thighs and mid-section were red from the cold and I had to almost immediately jump into a warm shower to turn my chattering lips back from blue to red.

My plan had me running 22 miles for this, the longest of my runs, training period. Last week, when I decided to go for 21 miles instead of 20, I somehow came up with then going 24 miles the next week. I could break it down how it went in my head for you, but let's just say at the end you would be confused. The short story is that I fixated on 24 miles although I gave myself permission to stop at 22 miles if my body didn't feel up to the task. 

I made it to 24 miles! I felt victorious. I felt like I pushed through the imaginary ten miles to go ceiling I created. I remembered how I didn't celebrate last week in going the furthest I had even run, so I celebrated. I was tired but not beat up. And I was definitely hungry! I downed a smoothie and took a nap and forced my sister to bring me a hot mocha, full caff, when she dropped off her kids for the weekend.


Next week is 14 miles. It sounds wonderful.   


Friday, October 3, 2014

Long Run 20 Miles

If the thought of running 18 miles was making me nauseous two weeks ago, well then, let's just call me nervous for 20 miles. Nervous as in, many toilet stops before I was finally out the door. Nervous as in, making up goofy songs and texting them to Bill. Nervous as in I could not settle down for the first four miles.

Me, 4 miles in and I can't crack a smile.
I take in some nutrition and hit the trail to Cambridge. I read and follow many people who run in the mountains and other such breath-taking places. No one would call my gravel, limestone, dirt and grass paths as stunning. I decide that I will have to let the miles be my adventure. I come upon two riders and their horses. Later I pass a mother runner with a little one in a stroller. I notice the Heart of Iowa trail east of Cambridge is the loveliest it has ever been. The leaves are changing and falling in the most beautiful way. I see but all I manage to take is a picture of my Honey Stinger waffle sitting on my shoe while I refill my water bottle. 
This trail is crushed limestone except for the paved entry points.

Heading back to Huxley on the trail, I notice a monarch butterfly following me. I let it keep my attention. And the fields have changed. I have run past these in bitter winter when the beauty was frozen tight. I have run past these in spring when the newness couldn't be contained. I have run past these in summer when the sun's rays dictate that growing is the season. And now I have run past these in flush of fall where the fields surrender their efforts over to fruit. It's a beautiful change. 

Once back on the home gravel roads, I notice not one but many caterpillars scrambling across the road. Where are they going? The podcasts and earbuds are tucked away for this final stretch. It's back to me and my legs and my mind and my heart. There is a lot of headspace time in 20 miles. Where will it take me?

Not a Monarch caterpillar

I'm on familiar territory. I see more butterflies. They are like a gift. I search for them now. I keep running, hoping to see another. I'm 18 miles in and my body does not ache like it did last week. My spirit soars. I will finish 20 miles.

I stick to my planned route and discover I could make it 21 miles. The body wants to be home but the heart says go a little more and I stay out. While my focus is intent on the next mile, my heart yearns for another butterfly. Almost giving up yet treasuring the gift of what I had already seen, I embark on the last mile of pavement. In my fatigue I manage to glance to my left and behold what is growing but a field of purple clover and in it dancing another butterfly!

"There is nothing in a caterpillar that tells you it's going to be a butterfly" Buckminster Fuller*  

Upon reaching home, I ache from the exertion. Rest eludes my body. Neither standing, nor sitting, walking nor laying down help. I hurt. And now the waves of the mental storm rage. That's 21 miles. How will I go longer? How will I not be out there forever? How come I am so slow? They beat hard against me. I try not to give rise to them. I anchor myself in truth. This is the work I'm supposed to do. No change is done without effort, without pain. This is the farthest I have ever run. 

I truly have not embraced that yet. Perhaps because next week is 22 miles. Perhaps because 31 still waits out there. Perhaps because I'm waiting for some brilliant flash when the change lies in the every mile. 

Next week- 22 miles

*I first read that quote while sitting in the DHS office with Mama B almost a year and a half ago. She has moved away and we aren't in touch anymore.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Long Run 18 Miles

There are many things we love about living in our small town of Huxley with one of them being that it doesn’t take long to get anywhere. While this is great for most everything, it does tend to make it a bit tricky to get higher mileage in. Because I’m training for a trail run, I hit the dirt roads and the forest preserve and bike trail for almost every day. I use to lay out a route so that I don’t have to figure where to go next when I’m out. 

My race is a loop meaning I will run the same course three times. I decided that I would turn my 18 miles into a loop run of six miles each. For one, I didn’t want to spend time figuring out how to weave in and out of Huxley. Secondly, I wanted to see how I would respond to doing the same course three times in a row. Lastly, every time I thought about running these 18 miles, I got a little nauseous. I think because I’m now entering "most mileage in a single run" territory. Cutting it into three runs helped me keep breakfast down.

Loop 1: On my way out, I stashed a water bottle in the ditch near a friend’s house. I could have carried it with me the entire time in my pack but I really didn’t want the extra weight. I had a podcast queued up (one ear bud only) and took it easy. Even though I had run this route many, many times, I felt this was my longest loop mentally. I wondered how I would do it two more times but tried to focus on the loop I was on. I was trying something new nutritionally and I think that may have had something to do with it because I did not feel that way after I took a gel. I was pleased that my loop planning had worked out well. 

Loop 2: I popped out my earbud because I was at the end of my current podcast and needed to give my ears and mind a rest. I also wanted to pay attention to what might happen to me physically and mentally during this go around. I did find this loop to be easier than the first. I’m guessing because of the fuel but also because of the familiarity of the route. I was quite conscientious in keeping my heart rate where it needed to be but often got caught up in the running. What surprised me was that I felt like running at the pace I was. I’ve heard a saying that goes along the lines of “Run when the trail gives it to you”  so I let myself enjoy those moments while keeping a reign on the momentum. There was still six more miles to go.

Loop 3: Before I started this loop, I stopped to refill my water bottles with Tailwind and water from the stashed bottle. This was an absolute pain. Each of the bottles on my pack only holds ten ounces. The neck of the bottle is angled which is supposed to make it easier for consuming on the run but is terrible for filling. I love a lot about this hydration vest but this is not one of them. I’ll be experimenting some more in my upcoming runs. Once I got that out of the way and wrangled my headphone cords into submission (Why, why, why must they tangle themselves so quickly? I don’t need answers, I need solutions!) and listened to another podcast. Even though I was still feeling pretty good, I was starting to feel it. It as in everything. My feet especially have been hurting and I don’t really know why other than they have to get stronger as well. This, in turn, caused me to wonder how in the world I would get to 31 miles. These long runs are not only for my physical strength, they are for my mental strength as well. They say the mind is the weakest part and now I was testing that. As much as I wanted to trick my brain into thinking I was really supposed to run twenty and just happened to cut it short at eighteen, I was a terrible convincer. I came to the corner where two other times I turned right to loop it again and this time I got to turn left and head back home. Suddenly I was so done. I was hungry. I was tired. I was thirsty. Thirsty for water. “Hey, look! A water bottle on the side of the road! Can I drink it? The seal is still intact. I’m going to drink this water right now. This label missing, road scuffed, lukewarm water.” It tasted so good. 

I made it home, glugged down a smoothie, threw some ice into already cold bath water, took the chilly plunge for fifteen minutes, before finally taking a warm shower. I don’t even know how long I was out there nor what my average pace or mile splits were. I was done.

Well, it seems like those 18 miles just flew right by didn't they? 

Next week’s run: 20 miles