Monday, May 31, 2010

Titus Van Rijn

A week ago my training partner Steph and I headed to the Charles Bowles track at Willamette University for Salem's addition of the Titus Van Rijn. The idea is simple: run around a tracjk to accumu;ate as much distance as you can in one hour; the execution is not always so simple!

Last year's Titus Van Rijn did not go as I had hoped, so this year, I made two crucial changes:
1) I invited my training partner out to keep me company, and
2) I convinced the weather gods to keep things 20 degrees cooler than last year!

The track was mostly empty, but the infield was swarming with boys high school soccer players. The oblivious teenagers would often drift on to the inner lane, with ensuing yells of "TRACK!" from us.

Steph had the awesome idea to trade of the lead every mile, which helped the first six miles go quickly. We hit 4.5 miles at 30:15 and I joked that we would have to negative split if we were going to make nine. Steph joked back that she was just fine with eight, so maybe we should run slower. But we didn't slow.

We drifted a bit apart after about 6-6.5 miles and just ran the last 20 or so minutes doing our own thing. I had 20:37 for a 5k to get me to nine miles and I was going for it! I thought it'd be close, but I had 47 seconds to spare and added a bonus 178 meters in that time. Steph also passed nine miles with 10 seconds to spare!!

We did our cool down and then celebrated with a black cherry "spritzer" because neither of us drink a lot of soda.

My total was 14,578 meters for the hour, a good 1K farther than last year!! The only downside is that I now know my Garmin overestimates distance a bit (it was about .25 miles over for the hour+, though not enough to make any real difference.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Roller Coaster

It's been an interesting two weeks, definitely with some ups and downs, but fortunately, I feel like I am back to a good spot.

Two weeks ago, everything was just off. No, not just tired. You can't be an ultrarunner if you can't handle running tired. It was so much more than that. My hips were hurting; I felt like every run was a struggle; my legs throbbed when I ran; and they ached for hours after a run. This training requires riding a fine line of exertion, but I had passed my limit.

Still, these are the most important weeks of training and I felt like they couldn't be squandered. And so even though I wrote on my blog that I might take a few days off, every part of me was thinking,"Just pust through. It is only 20 more days till you start to taper. Suck it up and get it done!" And so that night I did eight miles on the treadmill, and tried to convince myself that was an "easy" workout because half of the miles were "power walking" with incline and not even running. Then on Tuesday, I dropped the kids off at school and set off for a run around town (I was home for the week single parenting while Mac did manly things in Alaska). Sixteen miles of pure misery. More achy, sore legs and complete exhaustion despite running over a minute per mile slower than usual for a run like that. My legs hurt all day afterward. Twenty days no longer sounded like a short period to train but a really long time to be miserable if I didn't do something. And so I took four days off. Yes, four, and there was no cross training, no walking, no lifting, no nothing - just rest.

This is a sport where more is better, where we all continually push ourselves to go beyond what we have done before. That is part of the appeal - to test your barriers and to find the inner strength to do things that you didn't think possible. Ultramarathon training constantly flirts with overtraining, but it feels like that is a bit of a dirty word, something people don't want to admit to. Because in some ways it feels a bit like failing, either physically or mentally it seems like maybe you just aren't tough enough to handle the training load. If a coach made the training schedule, maybe it feels like you aren't meeting expectations. If you made your own (like I did), it fells like maybe you over estimated what you could handle or maybe that you didn't know what you were doing when you made the schedule.

I tried to deny it at first, but eventually, I just needed a break. Yes, I was "overtrained." I think this was from the race schedule, but I don't at all regret piling American River, Capitol Peak, and MacDonald Forest into a one month period. Those races did so much for my confidence and strengthening my racing ability. Rather, I think my real mistake was not taking enough recovery after each race. I think if I had given myself 2 or even 3 days of rest after each race, I wouldn't have needed the rest right now.

The rest went well, and my body healed. It was hard to give up those days of training, but I don't regret it at all. The training at that point was doing more damage than good. I came back fresh and ready to run this week and that is just what I did!

Last Sunday, I paced a friend in the Iris Festival Half marathon and it was great! Yeah, I PW'd (personal worst, haha) by 8 minutes, but still running felt so easy and light (and I helped my friend PR by over 2.5 minutes! - 1:37:26). Monday easy, Tuesday did a double, Wednesday my training partner Steph and I killed the Titus Van Rijn one hour track time trial, typical Thursday and Friday and 32 at Macdonald forest for a great 98 miles! But better yet, I still feel good! I am ready for the last big week before starting to taper! Motivation should be pretty easy to come by as I leave Friday for a R2R2R run in the Grand Canyon!!

Overtraining is no fun and not something that is easy to accept. But at least I know I was training as hard as I possibly could. I did everything my body could handle and then some. And I feel like I have learned from my mistakes. Those things certainly make the idea more palatable. A top ten finish a Western States would also lessen my grief from this stumble. ;)

So anybody else want to admit to a period where they were overtrained? What did you do to get past it? For me, it was simple - time off. But now I am feeling better than ever and so excited for the next month!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Trying To Get Hip

For Valentine's day, Mac got me two sports massages at a local place. After the first one, I thought it was great. Nothing like getting naked and having a stranger touch you! ;) The sports massage was very different than the Go-On-Vacation-And-Get-A Relaxing Massage; she was there to get work done and some of the stuff even hurt a bit. But it seemed to do a great job of working out the kinks and so I have been going 1-2 times a month for the last three months.

Last Monday when I mentioned my hips were A LITTLE tight after Mac Forest, she did an assessment and said my hips were out of alignment and really tight and that I should have some ileo-psoas work. So the massage was mostly poking, prodding and general torture in the region of my hip flexors.

I biked 33 miles Tuesday, (~1:30) and was fine. But then on an easy 10 miler Wednesday, my hips were sore and the right was downright painful. I only did 39 running miles last week (recovery week), but my hip flexors don't feel recovered at all.

What's the deal? Was this too much poking and prodding, a typical reaction, coincidence, or me just freaking out because it is less than six weeks from WS? I can run fine, and I don't really have pain when running, but my hip flexors just feel off and they ache when I am not running. I hate to give up the training time, but I may have to take a couple of days off just to be on the safe side. Any thoughts??

Monday, May 10, 2010

The Cocktail Of Champions

I have invented the perfect post-run cocktail! I think this has the ideal 4:1 carb to protein ratio for optimal recovery and it'll leave you feeling good after your run!;)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

McDonald Forest -Take 2

Finally -after two really cold wet weeks- Oregonians were treated to some weather appropriate for May. And what great timing as this weekend was the McDonald Forest 50k.

I lined up at the start with Ashley Nordell and Darla Askew, and was thrilled to be with these two lovely and talented ladies from Sisters. But I was only able to hang with them for about ten yards after the race started. And even though I have come to grips with my strong race mentality, as they took off, I actually felt relieved. I was thinking,"Good. They can race each other and I can just do my own thing."

After the first aid station, we crisscrossed through marginal trails over rough terrain in the section known as "The Maze." When we popped back onto the road at mile 10.6 RD Scott was there at the intersection and he asks,"Do you want to know about the girls ahead of you?" How could I say no??

"Ashley's about three minutes ahead and Darla is about a minute ahead of her." The info certainly wasn't lighting any fires in me.

The highest point on the course was at mile 18.3 at Dimple Hill. Then there was a long downhill. At Capitol Peak, my mind and my legs were telling me to "Go For It" when I hit the downhill, but today everything seemed to be begging "Just Recover" on the downhill section. Nothing was wrong, I was moving fine, but I just didn't feel like I had that extra gear today. But my biggest strength seems to be keeping a consistent pace and I was doing just that.

I ran most of the way up Horse Trail, a section I walked a ton of last year. I knew my time was going to be a lot better that last year's and I was content to just race the clock today, even thinking 5 hours MIGHT be doable. But then right at the last switch back I saw Darla just ahead.

If consistency is my strength, downhill running is my weakness. I played leap-frog with three or four guys through out the day: I would jump past them on the uphill only to have them blow by on the downhill. It was no different with Darla. I obviously gained on her on the up, but she preserved the lead when we turned down. But after the last aid station there is three miles of runnable uphill (though it doesn't feel so runnable after 27 miles!). I still wasn't feeling any "killer instincts" - Darla is so nice it would be hard to feel any killer instincts toward her even if I did have it in me! - but my natural pace propelled me to the lead.

I finished in 4:54, a minute a half behind Ashley and about the same ahead of Darla. I made up time on Ashley, but I am sure Darla was closing the gap fast on the last 1.25 miles of downhill. All three of us were under Darla's winning time from last year. Everybody just keeps getting faster!

I was really happy with my efforts today. I don't feel like I had the same edge I had at Capitol Peak, and I know that is some fatigue making itself known. American River, Capitol Peak and Mac Forest are 131 miles of racing in five weekends and it is taking its toll! But I am still psyched to go sub-5 hours on a course with 6700' climb (and equal descent). That's 25 minutes faster than last year's time! Good to know the hard work is paying off!

Though taxing, I think the racing has been good, both for some intense training and because I think the last two weeks have helped me figure out how I want to "attack" Western States. And they have certainly been good for my confidence in my fitness and training.

For my reward, this week I get to rest (well, recover, anyway). After that there is only six weeks till Western States!!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

The Family That Runs Together

This was a very unusual weekend in our household as I was the only person who didn't run in an organized event.

Saturday the kids had their second running in the Awesome 3000. The pre-schoolers only run 300 meters, but last year it was one big cry fest for my two. This year was a totally different story. Megan couldn't wait to run and told me in no uncertain terms that she was not tired at the end and that she'll be ready for the full mile next year. I ran with Liam. He got tired about 150 m in but never really stopped running. (Last year he was in tears the whole way but kept running, too. He's miserable, he's tired, but he never stops - I have him pegged as a future ultra-runner!).
I was totally amused by the parents. I am well aware that I have that "Eye of the Tiger" mentality when I race (to put it euphemistically), but that is so NOT me with my kids. But there were plenty of other parents pushing to be at the front when the gun went off. And when we were checking in one mom was giving coaching advice to her son about running on the inside lane and how to pass people! For a while we were pretty sure Megan was destined to be a "math-lete" because she was SO un-coordinated, so it is mostly just great to see her enjoying sports. Both of my kids had solid "middle of the pack" performances and I couldn't be more proud!
Five year olds take on the mile.
The most Awesome part of the Awesome 3000 is the level of participation. There were over 600 kids registered to run in the pre-school divisions and more than twice that in the grade school divisions. None of the runs are timed and everyone gets a medal. It is a great event that gets kids to have fun with running.

This weekend was also THE BIG WEEKEND for Mac, as he tackled his first marathon down in Eugene. Mac is normally a very laid back guy. We joke that when it comes to being a Type A or Type B personality, I am an A+ and Mac is a C. But, OMG he became an uptight psychotic nut-job Saturday night. It was really quite cute to watch, and it made me think he is not so laid back after all.

Starting around 3pm he started pacing around the house. He printed a pace arm-band, then laminated with packing tape, only to decide he wasn't going to wear it. He laid out his clothes, then took out two more shirts, went through a pro's and con's list for each top before finally decided on the one he had originally chosen. He pinned his number on his shorts then jogged around the bedroom in them. Later that night he was walking around the house in his race top and vest.

"What are you doing?" I asked him.

"I am testing my race clothes," he explained.

"You ran a 20 miler in them three weeks ago. What do you need to test?" I asked back.

"Just leave me alone," he responded and sulked back to the bedroom, where I later found him trying to decide what flavor Shot-bloks to take. He went to bed early, but not in our bed because he needed a whole bed to himself the night before a marathon.

Yes, I am making fun of him a bit, but only because I have been there so many times myself! I tried on four sports bras (the same old ones I always wore, mind you) the night before my first ultra and stood in front of the cabin mirror swinging my arms in a running motion to decide which one would be perfect. Nothing like a big race to make you start obsessing like a mad man (or woman)!

But the obsessing paid off! Mac had a "public" goal of breaking 4 hours, but also like me, he is a sand-bagger and really had a "private" goal that he wanted to achieve of 3:48, the time on which his training plan was based.

The Eugene Marathon live tracking web-site was a sucktacular disappointment as it crashed soon after the first half of the pack went through 10k, so I had no idea if Mac was rocking it or bonking hard until he called to tell me the good news - 3:46! I am super proud of him.
I love to race, but it was really great to be on the side-lines cheering on the rest of my family and watching them succeed in their running pursuits.