Tuesday, November 3, 2015

GOATZ 50k, Year 2, The Training

Hey there! 
I just completed my second 50k trail race. It was the same race as last year's, the GOATZ 50k. You may recall from last year that I blogged about each long run and then the race. And now, surprise, an entire training season, well, actually two seasons have come and gone! Sometimes life happens that way. Read as you please. 

I knew within a couple days of finishing last year that I would want to run the 50k distance again. As a reminder, that's 31 miles. Previously, I hadn't raced anything longer than 17 miles and the jump to 31 was significant but still I knew I liked the challenge. There was something very scary and very compelling at the same time about it all. After much reflection and a muddy trail marathon in the spring (nope, haven't told you about that one), I decided that I needed to re-visit the GOATZ race. I wanted to see if I could be stronger and faster and I needed the same race to do it at.

The season of training went well. I saw the earth turn green and warm. Summer training is my favorite. I think in part because the wardrobe is so easy. I don't have to decide how to layer as I do in the spring or late fall. It's a tank and shorts every day. The humidity is it's own creature. During some runs this summer, I felt as if I've hardly run a day of my life. But because I've run through nearly all of the coldest days of the past two winters, I would take sweat stinging my eyes, clothes drenched, salt caked skin any day. I stuck to my training plan and strength routines as best I could. I could tell the hill repeats were working as I cranked out a personal best during the 4th of July 5k race my mom and I did. It only served as fuel for the fire. I was getting stronger. I was getting smarter. And I might just be getting faster even though I hadn't been working on speed primarily. 

Two hour long runs turned over into longer and longer runs. I took my legs and my racing mindset over to Dubuque and ran the Mines of Spain half marathon. My goal was to do better than last year. I kept my heart rate low and my pace patient. It helped tremendously that I knew the course so I knew where the difficult sections were. At one point I passed a guy walking and I implored him to run now because very soon he would be down to a crawl up a short but steep climb. Later he told me I was correct. I raced smartly and had a faster time than the year before. This is a great park and a really great race.

The 13.1 miles of the half marathon spilled into 15 miles and then 18 and then 20 miles. Each time the mileage jumped up, it caught me a little bit. I wanted to run it and I wasn't scared but I didn't want to run it alone. The other five days of the week when it was just me and my heart rate monitor and watch I was fine. But on long run days, the aloneness caught up to me. I marvel looking back at it now. I did do plenty of solo runs but even those were with someone in someway. Julia would be out in the heat and humidity and we would text each other about how the weather was killing us or how sweat had just shot out from my forehead and blinded me for a quarter of a mile. I would park at my friend's house for miles of hills and then chat with her afterwards in her cool air conditioning. By the time Anne and I would meet up, we'd already be sweaty but it didn't matter. We needed each other to talk through what life was throwing our way or to be each other's cheerleaders and confidants. I dragged her and Kristy out of their warm beds in the wee hours to run in the dark. The dark is not scary when you can only hear the banter of friends. When I danced a little too closely with lightening (a strike about 50 yards away), Angie flew to my rescue. When I needed to beat back the demons, Amanda helped navigate me around the very same lake I would run in a few weeks. We later moaned and laid about, eating far too much guacamole while Margot "helped" me foam roll. My mom congratulated me via Map My Run where she and I could see each other's progress. Dawn met me for a morning of barefoot drills at the track. I don't know if she liked the drills or ended up thinking I was nuts after experiencing it for herself but it doesn't matter, she was with me. I would say I ran with the high school cross country team but rather I got out of the way as they moved past like a herd of gazelles- so young, so swift, so free. I met up with Turkey friends and made new GOATZ friends as we conquered the hills of the Hitchcock Nature Preserve. I was not alone.

I'll insert a bit about other goals I had for this training cycle. After some experimenting this Spring, I worked on finding a balance for food. I needed food as fuel and as enjoyment and I needed it to be functional for the whole family. I didn't become strict about it. I didn't freak out. I didn't count calories or other things and I didn't step on the scale once. I have lots to say about this but I won't and these were my main guidelines. Because every major race I have done in the past two years with distances greater than 13 miles has found me down to a walk because of knee pain, I worked diligently on foot strength, honing my running form and strengthening my core. When I was done with my run, I wasn't done for the day. I used many exercises from Eric Orton's book, The Cool Impossible. All of these things were small adjustments, little tweaks instead of giant swings which tends to be my norm. I didn't need to reinvent running or eating or anything else. What I needed to be was more mindful and it worked.

In comparison to last year's 50k training, my body endured the training better. My friend, Jessica, said it most likely would as my body would get stronger over time. My family is happy to report that for the most part, Mom did okay. She wasn't napping nearly as much as last year and more cookies were made although she did go to bed early and one time fell asleep despite the camper being packed full with six boys. In the toughest of weeks when the training was highest, I was able to recognize it and give myself more of a break (only one meltdown). Thankfully, most of my long run weeks alternated with very busy family schedules for the most part. It did help that I kept a training journal. It's not perfectly filled out and still has good portions of blank spaces but the act of writing down my training, what I need to work on, what I ate, what the weather was, race outcomes, or whatever helped. I could see the big picture. When a run was just terrible, I could look back and see that it was okay to not have a perfect day every day. I could write down inspirational quotes or Scripture to help keep my perspective in check. I will continue to journal because it has been so helpful. 

By the end of October, I felt I was strong and ready to tackle 31 miles. 

Me and hill repeats. Breathing over smiling.

I can't help but stop and take pictures of my trail. I have about 50 of them. Here's one.

Oh the potential each day holds.

When the second run of the day hurts, it helps to take in the view.

Wet, grassy feet are difficult to stuff into toe socks. I should know that by now.

Celebrating the annual Kaelman and my mom's first 5k! 

How now, er, black cow? 

This humidity probably represents some sort of life lesson. To me it mostly means humidity. 

I don't know about you but when I watch the Trails in Motion film tour with my husband, I like my taxidermied friends to be there too. 

The Turkeys representing at Mines of Spain

Race day concentration

You never know what you'll see on a run.

The littlest trail runner and his dog.

Why, yes, Mindy, we'll gladly meet you at 5 am for 6 miles in the dark. And a selfie? No problem. 

This is what 5 am looks like.

This is the Coke can I saw a couple miles before the lightening encounter. Ha!

Miles of smiles when you have a matching running friend. 

I can't even tell you how happy I feel to be strong enough to run with this group. 

See? I'm happy. I'm running. 

Nebraska, we will meet again very soon. 


  1. I didn't know you had a blog! I want to thank you for all those texts on those hellish hot runs this summer. It helped knowing you were out there, too. I was just telling my friend today about that super cold day last winter when we had planned to run & decided to was too cold. I went to my basement & you went to the gym & we both put in far too many miles on the treadmill texting our progress to each other. So glad I met you! Hope to run with you soon!

  2. Whew! I am SO GLAD you took the time to write all this out! I'm rarely satisfied with a summary; I want the details! I also appreciated your macro- perspective, giving us an overview of an entire season of running, as I often feel like I get bogged down in those details I love so much and forget to poke my head up to look around to see what the big picture looks like.
    And your legs in that pic of you going downhill, tongue out? KILLER quads! I was wolf-whistling over here!


Thanks for reading. Kind comments are always welcomed!