Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Thoughts on 2013, 2014 Goals

Well, it's been quite a year!  Although I began running in 2010, and ran my first ultra in 2011, 2013 is the year I feel like I finally hit my stride.  I think I've figured out the best way to train for my body- have a purpose for every run (no "junk miles"), cross train frequently and with variety, and make sure to take rest days.  Thanks to all that, i managed to set new PRs for the 5K, 50K, and 50 mile.  I ran a whole lot of new distances- 100K, 100 mile, 6 hour, 8 hour, and 24 hour.  I ran my first stage race, Chattanooga, in June.  I won races for the first time- admittedly they were small, but a win's a win!  In general, I raced more than I ever had before- about one ultra per month- which I think helped me get stronger and faster.  Plus I no longer cry with nervousness at the start of a race!

Most importantly, I really got involved with the ultrarunning community.  I began running very much on my own, with my only real support in online communities such as Daily Mile.  And while those folks are awesome and encouraging, there's nothing like having a group of local friends to train with and race with.  It's amazing to go to a race in Georgia or South Carolina and see so many familiar faces that it feels like a family reunion.  To actually have people cheering you on by name as you make it through another loop of the race.  To really appreciate the accomplishments of your fellow racers, because you've trained with them and you know how hard they've worked.  There really isn't anything like an ultra for bonding with your fellow runners!

Looking ahead to 2014, I have plenty of new goals and experiences to look forward to.  I hope to celebrate my birthday in February with a new distance PR at Delirium 24 hour.  I will have the honor of running the Boston Marathon in April- although this trail runner is a bit nervous about racing in a sea of tens of thousands!  I may have another 24 hour race in May, and in July I plan on running Merrill's Mile 24 hour.  Two weeks after that I have the Double Cremator- brainchild of the twisted Tim Waz of Lowcountry Ultras!  The Double Cremator is 50 miles on Saturday and 50 miles on Sunday...for that I just hope to finish without collapsing!  Then in August is Homestead 10x5K, another Lowcountry Ultras creation.  You run a 5K loop once per hour for 10 hours, and the winner has the lowest combined time.  I will most likely run the 12 hour at Chase the Sun in September (a new timed race for me), and there may be a trail marathon in October.  In November I will run Mad Marsh 50K, my 4th Lowcountry Ultra of the year, so I can be part of the inaugural Lowcountry Ultras Series.  Finally, I plan to run another 100 miler in December- Bartram 100s.  Plus a few smaller local  races scattered here and there...that all should keep me quite busy!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Holiday Workouts

I've been away visiting family for the holidays, which definitely makes working out more challenging!  It's not that I don't have a ton of options, but I'm a creature of habit, and being in someone else's home, without a set routine, makes it harder for me to stay motivated.  That being said, I think I've done a pretty good job of balancing holiday festivities with maintaining fitness.

When I first arrived I found a local hot yoga studio offering a deal of 10 days of yoga for $10- a super deal!  So far I've gone to four classes, and will end up going to seven classes over the 11 days I'm here- not too shabby.  On top of which I've done three short-to-medium length runs (including one track speed workout) and plan on a longish run on New Year's Day.  I also met an old friend for Crossfit yesterday.  So although I haven't gotten too many miles in, I've been working out every day so I don't think I'm losing any fitness- I actually think switching up my workouts (running->yoga) helps to increase fitness by working different muscles.  

I now have about 6 weeks until Delirium 24 hour, and although I haven't been putting in the high mileage I know some have, I think my fitness is on point.  I plan on continuing with a variety of crosstraining and doing weekly speed work.  I am also doing an informal 50 mile run in Charleston next week, where I will try to maintain my starting pace goal for Delirium.  I have always done well on lower mileage and more crosstraining, so while the temptation to push for more miles is there, I am once again trying to avoid comparing myself to others...if it ain't broke, why fix it?  If Delirium doesn't go as well as I'd like, I will modify my methods for my next planned 24 hour- Merrill's Mile in July.  Until then, here's hoping I'm on the right track!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Speed Work

On Wednesday I did speed work for the first time in months.  It was...not pretty. I went to Lake Mayer for the Striders Speedwork, but only myself and Bren showed up.  Bren is another ultrarunner, who has been doing speed work regularly, and it shows!  He's improved in all his races, and he left me in the dust on this run.  Lake Mayer is about a 1.46 mile loop, so we ran one loop to warm up, then did 3 1-mile repeats, with the extra .46 mile as an active recovery jog, then a final loop to cool down (7 miles total).  I wasn't keeping careful track, but I believe my miles were about 6:40, and they felt harder than they should.  

I don't think I'm completely recovered from Epic 24 hour, but in any case I've gotten slower and I really want to change that!  As I've been concentrating on building up to Pinhoti 100 this past year I've been going for distance, and ended up sacrificing speed.  But I think it's past time to get back to it.  First of all, I would like to run at least a 3:25-3:30 at Boston marathon in April, which will require some decent speed.  But I think doing speed work regularly again will help me for Delirium 24 hour as well.  Getting used to running fast will help make running moderately or slow feel easier.  I also think the discomfort and intensity level of speed work is good preparation for the latter stages of a long race.  Even though I don't expect to be doing more than a 4-5 mph pace at the end of Delirium, the effort required at that point will feel much more intense.  I think getting "comfortable with being uncomfortable" will benefit me for any race.  I don't particularly enjoy doing speed work, but I do love kicking butt in my races, so I'll suck it up and do what needs to be done!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Fatigue Training

With Delirium 24 hour coming up, I need to be prepared for the hardest part of the race- the end!  I have enough fitness to be confident of keeping a decent pace for the first half of a 24 hour, but once the pain and fatigue set in it's a whole new beast.  Running Epic 24 hour was great practice, but outside of an occasional race it's just not practical to actually run all night for training (well, I'm sure some people do, but it's not practical for me).  So how can I practice "running tired"?

What I decided to do was a long, slow run following a night shift.  Friday I woke up at 7:30 am, had a normal day of cleaning and errands, then headed to work just after 6 pm.  After getting home around 3:15 am, I changed clothes and headed out for my run!  Although it was a pretty easy shift at work, I was still up and about for around 20 hours before I began running at 3:45 am.  Obviously it's not the same as running for all that time, but I think it's a decent simulation of fatigue.  I planned on 4-6 hours, depending on how I was feeling, at a very slow pace.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to get together any friends to join me, but I just figured it would make the run more of a psychological challenge as well!  I started out only running around Forsyth Park and down to Bay Street, as these seemed the most well-lit and safest areas in the dark.  I made a point of running on the sidewalks, which in Savannah are extremely uneven- good stabilization practice!  While in the downtown area I definitely saw some people who were just ending their night out, which was kind of surreal.  

I ran a steady slow pace for the first 2:15 or so (about 5.5 mph), but I was feeling mentally fatigued and considered stopping at 4 hours.  But at 6 am I passed a group of women just starting their run.  I asked if they'd mind if I joined them, and luckily they were very welcoming!  They were doing 6 miles using a 2:1 run/walk, which sounded perfect to me.  We ran down to Daffin Park and back up to Broughton Street.  Having a little over an hour of company and conversation really turned my attitude around.  Now I felt determined to do the full 6 hours!

After a quick bathroom break (the only time I paused my Garmin), I was off for the last 2 1/2 hours.  I was feeling a bit of soreness in my I.T. band, and my feet were starting to feel sore from pounding the pavement, so I decided to keep doing run/walk intervals.  I upped the pace a little though, doing a 8:2 run/walk interval.  I called my husband, who agreed to come join me for my last hour of running, which was a great help!  By that last hour my feet were very sore and I changed to a 4:1 interval, but still maintained 5+ mph.  In the end I did 31.19 miles in 6 hours, which I was quite happy with!  I was exhausted afterwards, but after some icing and a good night's sleep I woke up today feeling fine.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

One Epic Run 24 Hour

Friday evening I drove up to South Carolina with my friends Sara and Dawn.  Sara is an amazing runner who runs a sub-3 hour marathon and has been setting new records in the Low Country Ultra races, but hadn't run longer than 8 hours/50 miles.  Dawn is super determined and focused, building up her miles with a goal of 100 miles at Delirium 24 in February- she was aiming for 100k at Epic.  We stayed Friday at a another friend, Tiana's, house in nearby Greer, meeting up with Tim (of Low Country Ultras fame) there as well.  We all stayed up too late talking and joking around, but it was a lot of fun!

Saturday morning we woke up, had breakfast/coffee, and drove over to Croft State Park.  Tim had set up a tent for us the day before, and it was so nice many people thought we were the official race check in.  It was overcast and chilly waiting around, so by the 9 am start we were all excited to get going!  After a quick loop around the campsites to thin out the runners we were on the trail- a technical, hilly 3.1 mile lollypop loop.  I started out running with Sara and Tim- as they're both faster than me I thought it would help me get in some good miles early on.  As it had rained heavily the night before there were some muddy areas of the trail, and with rain forecasted I was worried it would be a lot worse after dark.  But although there were some fairly steep uphills at the beginning/end of the loop, the majority was very runnable flat/downhill.  Technical downhills are a strong point for me, so I wanted to take advantage of them as much as possible!

A lot of the middle sections of the race are sort of a blur...at some point Tim separated from Sara and I, and at some point Sara and I agreed to stay together the entire race.  As it was her first 24 hour, she wasn't looking for a specific mileage, and we were having a lot of fun running together anyway!  I worried I was slowing Sara down, but she said she would have gone out too fast and crashed without my help.  I'm not sure if she was just being kind, but at night I think I was a lot more comfortable running than she was, so who knows?  

Despite the previous forecast, the rain held off all day.  The trail actually got a bit easier with the mud drying up a bit, although as I got tired I was walking more of the uphills.  But Sara and I kept a good overall pace, hitting 40 miles around the time it got dark- just after 5pm (a bit over 8 hours into the race), and then 50 miles around the halfway point of the race.  At night the trail was nearly empty- it was clear many runners had either gone home or were napping in their tents.  It had also gotten very cold, so I changed into warmer clothes and added gloves and a hat during the night, which was very helpful.  At one point it was snowing- the 1st snow I had seen since moving to the south!  I took a few completely walking laps with Sara and Tim during the night, and there were some crazy conversations going on during that time...

A few hours before the end of the race it finally started raining.  I'm very grateful it held off so much longer than I expected, but it really knocked me down psychologically when it came!  I had been enjoying a great trail with great friends for about 20 hours, but at that point I just wanted to be done.  I believe Sara and Tim were feeling the same, and we all had low moments which we had to talk each other through.  I started having stomach cramps, possibly since I had only been able to take in ginger ale for several hours.  Luckily I had been able to fuel enough earlier that I still had energy reserves, but I was getting exhausted and the cramping got worse.  The last lap I did I was doubling over in pain.  Even the sky getting lighter couldn't lift my spirits, since I knew there was still over an hour left in the race.  

We got back to the start after about 22 1/2 hours and 83.7 miles.  At that point Sara and I learned that the 2nd place lady had called it quits, and we were assured we would tie for the win and break the course record.  We definitely had time, and I was willing to do one more lap if necessary, but given the situation we decided to stop there.  Sara was feeling better than me at that point physically, but mentally she was ready to call it quits too!  Tim went back out, as he still had competition for his race, and we saw Dawn go out once more as well- she had already finished 100k but could take 3rd lady with one more lap!

Sara and I waited for our friends at the aid stations, huddled in blankets.  I hadn't been too cold while moving, but once I stopped I was wet and freezing and just couldn't warm up.  At least I was finally able to eat a bit which helped ease the cramping.  It was so exciting to cheer Tim and then Dawn in!  In the end Sara and and I tied for 1st female with 83.7 miles, Tim took 2nd male with 86.8 miles, and Dawn was 3rd female with 65.1 miles...low country ultras definitely represented well that day!

I had been aiming for 85 miles, and I knew I could have done one more lap in time to make that goal, but I was happy to settle with 83.7.  I have big goals for my upcoming "A" race, Delirium 24 on February 8th.  I chose to do One Epic Run mainly as good practice for Delirium, so I wasn't pushing myself as hard as I could have.  I took too much time between laps, didn't take my nutrition as seriously as I should, and walked at some points when I could have run- but I was enjoying such good company!  All in all I think I learned a lot from the experience- my first official 24 hour/first trail 24 hour- and I had a super time for about 20 hours of the 22.5 I ran.  I can't wait to get back out there to make my next race even better!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


It's been a tough couple of weeks, but I finally made it through another semester.  I went to my parents' house for Thanksgiving and had a great time with them and my brother.  Although I was tapering for One Epic Run (race recap coming soon!), I got a few nice little trail runs in.  I ran 3 miles Thursday and 5 miles Friday, with a yoga class Saturday and a 4.5 mile walk on Sunday.  It was good practice for running in cold weather too, with the temperatures up north barely topping freezing!  It was great getting the chance to run with my dad and brother.  My brother is a super trail runner and 3:03 marathoner who paced me for 40 miles at the Pinhoti 100, and my dad is an experienced hiker who recently ran his first half marathon in 2:04- at age 68!  I love that my family is so supportive of my running- although they sometimes think I take it to extremes, they are super proud of what I've accomplished.  I'm definitely thankful to have them in my life!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Pacing Mad Marsh 50k

Yesterday I ran 27 miles at Mad Marsh, and although I wasn't racing it myself, it was one of my best race experiences ever.  I arrived with a "Sherpa for Kara" sign on my back, and didn't quite know how the day would go.  My knee is still not 100%, and as it was Kara's first ultra, a lot could happen. All I knew was I needed to get her to the finish line!  The race is 31.5 miles, 7 4.5 mile loops on an old grassy golf course.  It's almost entirely flat, but having run this race before I knew it was more difficult than it appeared.  

I started the first loop with Kara, since she had told me her tendency in races is to go out too fast- I kept us to about a 10:00 pace, and we finished the first loop in a little over 44 minutes.  But my knee was starting to hurt.  I felt terrible about sending Kara out on her own, after volunteering to run the entire race, but I knew she'd need me more on the later loops and I didn't want to slow her down when she was running strong and steady!  So I filled her water bottle, gave her some electrolytes and Gu, and sent her out for loop 2, while I stayed behind to stretch my leg.  

Kara did well on loop 2, coming in only a little slower than loop 1, and I felt good enough to join her again on loop 3.  I got her to eat a banana and more Gu, but she was nauseated at the thought of eating anything else.  I started to worry about her getting enough calories, but as she was still running well with minimal walk breaks I thought she was okay for the time being.  But as we got close to the end of loop 3 Kara told me she was feeling a bit light headed, so I knew nauseated or not she needed to eat!

At the aid station I grabbed a cookie, a pb &j, and some pretzels, and made Kara eat all of them and tell me which she could stomach best.  She was not happy about it, and after a minute or two needed to run to the bathroom.  I felt bad for making her sicker, but I figured it was still more important for her to get the calories in.  I grabbed another banana and some pretzels, and we set out for loop 4.  At this point Kara was having a bit more trouble breathing so I had us take more frequent walk breaks.  Also she came close to throwing up a few times but we pushed on!  At this point I think we were taking just under an hour per loop.

Kara was feeling a lot better and looking stronger after loop 4, so I thought I'd save my knee a bit (it wasn't really hurting, but just a bit sore) and have her do loop 5 on her own, then finish the last two loops together.  But a little after Kara set off, my friend Emily asked me to come with her for her final loop- she said she was pissed off at the race and could use some company to make sure she kept running!  So I ran out with her, and running faster actually made my knee feel a bit better (I think we were around 8:45-9:00 pace).  After about 2 miles we caught up to Kara, and Emily went on ahead for her last few miles of the race.  Kara was slowing down, but still seemed better now that she was eating more.

On loop 6 Kara's I.T. band started to lock up.  A few times she needed to stop and stretch, but at least her stomach and energy level were betterbthan before.  I tried to distract her by singing random songs and telling stories.  Halfway through the loop Kara passed 24 miles- her longest run ever!  Then toward the end of loop 6 I congratulated her on being an "official marathoner" as we passed 26.2 miles.  I was concerned about Kara's I.T. band and knew she was really starting to hurt, but she was still running pretty strong, just needing more frequent walk breaks.  We reached the aid station and I quickly grabbed more food, water, and electrolytes, and we set out on the final loop!

Unfortunately Kara's I.T. band was getting worse.  She was still determined to finish but as the pain increased I could see her mood going downhill.  She started worrying about being swept, which I assured her was impossible- we had about 1:45 to go 4.5 miles!  We were running at times, but then Kara's I.T. band would completely lock up so she could barely bend her knee- then she would lean down and literally punch her leg to get it to loosen up!  She was in tears at times from the pain but wasn't going to let that stop her!  We talked a bit about random things to keep her distracted, but the last few miles were tough.  I had to play drill sargeant a bit, telling her I know it hurts but you are going to drag yourself to the finish no matter what.  I made her run as best she could whenever her leg was loose enough.  I reminded Kara she was "doing it for the kids" with Cornelia deLange Syndrome, and she wasn't going to quit now!  

We finally made it to the last quarter mile, and Kara was determined to run the last bit.  We ran up the slight hill, and I reminded her how awesome she was and how proud we all were of her.  As we curved around we could see the finish line, and all our ultra friends started cheering for Kara!  I hung back so she could run through the finish line, and she blasted through in a total of 7:15. Her husband and daughters ran up to meet her and our friend April put a medal around Kara's neck.  I was so proud of her!  I've had I.T. band issues in the past, and I know how painful it is, so I know how much Kara had to push through to finish!  Her determination was amazing, and although I think I helped her get through a few low points on the course, the accomplishment was totally hers!  No one can give you that strength to persevere- it comes from within!  I'm so honored to call Kara a friend!  

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Mad Marsh 50k

I'm getting really excited for Saturday- I'll be pacing and crewing my good friend Kara as see runs her first 50k, Mad Marsh.  I ran the race last year, and like all Lowcountry Ultra events it promises to be a big party of most of my local ultra running friends!  I may actually run the entire 31.5 miles with Kara, and I'm looking forward to helping her reach her goal. She's been training really hard, and even delaying physical therapy for her I.T. band until after the race!  Kara's also been using Mad Marsh to raise money for the Cornelia de Lange Syndrome Foundation, which benefits children with a rare genetic disorder, and she is determined not to let those kids down!  Besides being super funny and a dedicated runner, Kara's got a great heart- I think we'll be having some fun times on Saturday morning!

And after all my whining this morning I managed to squeeze in a 3-mile treadmill "hill" workout between classes.  It's amazing how much better I feel after sweating it out.  Wore some old ratty workout clothes, but rocked my Altra Intuitions as always!


"Comparisons are odious"- I definitely believe that.  While I'm pretty good at avoiding comparisons generally, I can't seem to shake the comparison habit when it comes to running.

Lately it's been really hard to find the time for running.  I'm a full time student gearing up for finals, and due to some unexpected financial hardships, I've been trying to work a lot more hours at work.  The end result is I have very little time to run right now, and I'm generally exhausted.  While I'm a prponent of the whole "run less run faster" idea, that depends on replacing running time with cross-training, which I haven't really been doing either (unless walking around for hours at work counts as cross-training, but I'm not counting on it).

Then I see all my friends posting their running miles, and I should feel happy for them, but to be honest, I'm not.  I'm jealous, and it's ugly.  I want to be running, I want to be training, and I feel left out.  I feel unprepared, undertrained, and inadequate.  What makes it worse is that I'm running many of the same races, so it's easy to see their training and feel that I should be training the same way.  I'm worried I won't be able to make my race goals because of this slump.

I know this is a temporary situation, and given all that's going on in my life right now I shouldn't be so hard on myself.  But it's easy to lose sight of the forest for the trees, and every day I can't find time to run hits me hard.  All I can do is try to remind myself that things will get better, and enjoy my runs when I can get them!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

12 Mile Group Run

This morning I met up with a bunch of running friends over toward Richmond Hill.  We ran on the road in a housing development off Ogeechee Road.  The route was a bit over 12 miles, and I figured I'd have to take a lot of walk breaks to ease my knee pain.  I didn't even bother bringing my Garmin.  Surprise!  I ran all 12.65 miles, and only had a bit of mild I.T. band pain in the right knee.  I'm not sure if a slow-paced 12 mile run counts as "rest" per se, but I was a good girl afterwards and iced both knees and took some ibuprofen.  I estimate I was running about a 9:30 pace today.  On Thursday I ran a 7-mile progression run, starting around a 9:30 and ending with a sub-7:00 mile, and my knee was killing me afterwards.  So either I've healed a lot in the past 3 days, or the faster turnover is much more irritating to my knee.  Either way, it's good news for Epic 24 Hour, as I will definitely not be running faster than I did this morning!

Wore my ProCompression socks, Altra Intuition shoes, Underarmor shorts, and Northface shirt and fleece.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Injury Update- Good News

Good news!  Saw Ernie Ledesma (who is super nice and awesome, especially to the running community!), and he confirmed my right knee just has a little I.T. band flare-up.  The left knee is something called plica irritation.  Basically, it's a bit of inflamed/irritated tissue near my knee cap.  The solution for both issues is just rest, ice, and ibuprofen- haha, guess which of the 3 I have the most difficulty with!  But I told Ernie I have a race in 3 weeks and he said I should be fine, and if I want I can call him to come in and get some taping instructions.

I had been hoping to get in a 12-mile group run in tomorrow morning, but given the "rest" recommendation I don't think that's a good idea.  I think I'll still join the group, but stick mainly to walking with some light running mixed in.  At least that way I'll get some time on my feet, and some time in good company!

Friday, November 15, 2013


It's now been 2 weeks since the Pinhoti 100.  I feel like I'm not as recovered as I want to/should be.  My muscles have felt fine for some time, but my left knee starts hurting after a few miles of running. I know it's not my I.T. band, but I'm not sure what the issue is.  I'm going to the Ledesma injury clinic tomorrow, so hopefully I'll get some answers and heal up soon!  The other odd thing is my metabolism.  I'm down about 2 pounds from where I was before Pinhoti, but I feel like I'm always hungry and always eating.  I guess my body just needs it for muscle repair.

I hate recovery time.  It's no secret I lack patience, and it feels like forever when I can't run.  I have another race in 3 weeks, One Epic Run 24 Hour, and I wish I was training harder for it.  I see other people ramping up mileage and here I am barely able to run.  I know if my knee is in pain I shouldn't run, but I hope that issue resolves soon!  If I have to lay off running for now I can cope, but I'd like to get 75-100 miles at Epic.  Guess it's just wait and see!