Monday, May 27, 2013

So Unfair!

Memorial Day weekend: The unofficial kick off for summer and for Western States runners, a prime opportunity for some hard core training, with a good number of runners participating in the Western States training camp. Amongst the training campers are my husband Mac, aka My Crew, and Dennis, aka My Pacer, while I - the actual Western States Runner!! - am stuck here in Salem covering call.

They ran 70 miles of beautiful Western States trail, while I pounded out 46 glorious miles on the treadmill. They ran through the famed canyons, while I did 5x1200@10% incline (and lost three pounds of sweat in nine miles!). They enjoyed California sun; I got Hotel Transylvania with the kids.

The boys ran 52 miles and still looked like this:

I spent time in the playroom doing 100 squats, 100 lunges, 100 sit ups, 40 pushups (because 100 would never happen) and looked like this:

Yeah, so unfair! 

Happy Trails (or treadmills) to all the Western Staters out there. Not being at camp maybe made me even more excited for June 29th.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

MacDonald Forest 50k (May 11)

The McDonald Forest 50k is the local race for all the Corvallis trail runners (and nearby Salem dirt seekers), and as such there is a lot of speculation and trash talking before the race. Of course, most of that trash talking is done by people who aren’t actually running the race! In the men’s field, Dan Olmstead was so heavily favored, that it wasn’t even worth talking about. Fortunately, this year’s ladies’ field had some good competition for the front spot. And if I wasn’t been aware of who that competition was, I sure knew by race day because I had a couple  of friends who kept sending me e-mails saying things like:

“[RD] Ken [Ward] only seeded you third, though I am not saying I would have ranked you higher.”

“You know Karen DeWolfe’s PR on the Mac course is a lot faster than yours.”
“Even though Laura [Hempel] isn’t seeded, you better watch out for her. She was a Div. 1 college runner and she is super fast.”

With friends like that, who needs enemies?? :) In the spirit of fun competition and jest, I admit I fired back,”No way am I letting a 22 year old Dartmouth 1500 runner beat me in her first ultra!”

No one really ever mentioned Becka Kem with her previous 5:02 McDonald Forest 50k time as her one and only ultra , but I kept informing people that I thought she’d be the one leading the charges. She used to live and run in Salem, so we’ve been keeping up with her accomplishments and I knew she won the Lithia Loop marathon on trails, won the Redding marathon on the road, and crushed the Peterson Ridge 20 miler with a CR.

Anyway, we all had our picks set to determine who might be buying post race beers. Let the racing begin!

Karen and Becka took it out fast. I was content a bit back catching up with Josh Zielinski, a Salemite runner who I met after he bested me by a couple of minutes at the Condor 25k. I soon caught up to Karen and had chance to chat with her before pulling ahead. At one point early on, Mike Rosling let me know that Becka could not be maintain her pace.

“I don’t know,” I warned him. “She is a 2:53 marathoner and she is in good shape.”

“Yeah, but you’re better than that,” he told me.

“No, “ I corrected, “My marathon PR is 2:55.”

“Yeah, but you are better than that,” he answered again.

I wasn’t as optimistic as Mike; Becka was running strong and already had a several minute gap by the first aid station.

Running the ups, but still not keeping up with Becka (Long Run Pictures)
The section known as “the maze” was some bad running for me. I always have trouble in the maze. Lots of twisty - turny trail with uneven surfaces just isn’t my forte, especially when you have to run down. By the end of the downhill to AS2 Karen had repassed me. But I was good to go and blew by the AS without stopping. Karen was the better downhiller, but I could tell I was better on the ups and put a gap on her on the way back to “the maze.” By the time we were exiting about 2 miles later at mile 16, there was about a half dozen runners who had either just passed me or were about to pass me, including a local friend, Sander. And, uh oh, there’s Laura!

Mac was working the AS. Actually, Mac and our minivan were the AS. It was supposed to be water only, but he went all over-achiever style and even made chocolate chip cookies. But I wasn’t stopping for cookies (besides, I had eaten WAY more than my share with Olga and the kids the night before). He had a new bottle for me and I was off on the 1.5 mile uphill slog on the road to get to the high point of the course at Dimple Hill.

Cresting Dimple (Long Run Pictures)

I gapped Karen again on the road and the rest of the downhills were smooth enough that I never saw her again. But Laura came out of the maze a bit ahead and I didn’t think it boded well that I couldn’t catch her on the grinder uphill. Uh oh, I may have to eat my trash-talking e-mail words!

Fortunately, I still had Sander to guide me down the back side of Dimple and I felt nice and smooth gliding down before passing Sander at the bottom. The course makes a small lollipop loop out to Chip Ross park, and right before I was about to leave the “stick” and enter the loop, I saw Becka headed back the other way, meaning she was over 1.5 miles ahead and she was still killing it! Plus, I hadn’t even seen a glimpse of Laura ahead, so I got a bit discouraged thinking about my pathetic age of 38: too old and slow to hang with the “young whippersnappers” ahead of me, but not old enough for the master’s category. I had been ruminating on this for a couple of minutes, so that when I saw my friend Alinna at the intersection, I blurted out, “Why do I keep doing the Mac? I hate this f*cking race!” (sorry to tarnish your innocent ears, Alinna!)

But the funny thing was that I was all smiles and joking around. I wasn’t feeling bad at all and really I wasn’t hating any of it. And I felt like I was running pretty strong. I think I got over it by Chip Ross when I heard I was four minutes down to Laura, because then it seemed like the gap was actually big enough to let it go in my head and just run. Plus, by that time I knew it should be pretty easy to get under 4:50 so I knew I was running my best race on that course, and really that was all I could hope for.  That sentiment boosted me for the run up Horse trail, which seemed easier by far than any of my three prior races here, and I didn’t think my run down ridge trail was too embarrassing. I guess it couldn’t have been too bad, because Laura was leaving the last AS right as I came in.

I caught her (and about 4 other guys, including Josh) on the last little hill - newly added this year with about 100 extra feet of climbing. I did hike a little the very steepest part, but still seemed to be faring much better than those around me. After the top, I was hauling to the finish, feeling great and psyched with my 4:41 finish, a good 13 minutes faster than my last two years. And ahead of Laura, so I didn’t have to take too much crap, but she should be congratulated for an awesome first 50k. Becka, however, broke the course record by 14 minutes (after I said I didn’t think anybody would break it anytime soon since the course has gotten so much harder!) and bested me by 16 minutes, for a 4:24 and a 37 minute improvement! My only consolation was that I didn’t lose anymore time to Becka after the last aid station. See - I just needed another 50k to have a chance!

Pushing to the finish (nice belly!) ( LongRun Pictures)
Anyway, it was a great run for me and also a great ass-whooping. But even better it was a great weekend with friends. I always enjoy hanging out with the Corvallis crew, but this year I got especially lucky and managed to get a fun weekend with Olga, who was visiting from Texas and had a great race of her own at the Mac.

And now that I finished #4, I guess I have to go back to run that “f*cking race” at least one more time for #5.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

How To Be a Bad-Ass Mother (*or Father)

(I started this right after Ellie wrote her article, but like I say below, Bad-Ass Mother's can't do everything, so it didn't get finished in a timely fashion. But since today is Mother's Day and because I am speaking on this very subject at a running store this Tuesday, I had some good motivation to get this done).
A while back, Ellie Greenwood wrote an article about the paucity of women in ultra-running and many people suggested that motherhood may be a major deterrent to participation. Some of the commenters suggested that women who could juggle training and parenting were bad ass. As a mother of two kids, a full-time physician, and an ultra-runner, I am here to tell you it can be done!  Here are my tips to becoming a Bad Ass Mother (or Father!).
Plan your run time
-“Early to bed, early to rise…makes a Mom healthy, wealthy, and able to get in her daily run.” If you are a stay at home mom, you probably have more flexibility with your time, but as a working Mom, the best way to go is to get the run in first thing in the morning. By evening there are just too many things to derail you: tiredness, hunger, working late, kids activities, etc. Get up and get it done!
“But I am not a morning person,” you wail. The trick to becoming a morning person is to go to bed early. If you have gotten enough sleep, it is much easier to get out of bed. Set a bedtime and stick to it. I run 3-4 days/ week at 5 am and try very hard to be in bed by 9pm. Find friends to run with to make sure you don’t hit snooze one too many times.
- Set a regular schedule and stick to it. This not only serves as designated time for your run, but it also helps your family accommodate your schedule. My husband knows not to plan any late night Sunday activities, because I have an early Monday appointment with the track! My kids aren’t surprised when Mom and Dad aren’t home for dinner on Wednesday, because it happens every week.
Lighten your load:
-“Outsource” mom duties. Baby sitters are great parental surrogates to gain a few hours of time for yourself. If you can afford it, consider hiring help to clean the house. Get help with the yard. Yard service is expensive, but neighborhood teenagers are often eager to earn a few bucks pulling weeds, raking leaves and mowing lawns.
-Get help from your spouse. Studies have shown that women do more household chores, even when both partners work full time. While it may never be equal, there may be ways to pass some of the duties off to your spouse. Ask him to get the kids ready for school or cook dinner one day a week so that you can get in a run.
-Raise self sufficient kids. Anita Ortiz, the only mom to win Western States in the last 25 years (and maybe ever), stated that her teenagers made their own lunches and did  their own laundry while she was training. My kids are much younger (6 and 8) and not quite capable of those things, but they are responsible for packing their own backpacks, getting dressed in the morning, and cleaning their rooms.

-Use the kids as Training Tools: Running with a jogging stroller is not that much fun, but remind yourself how strong you will be from pushing that mass all around the city. Older kids can keep you company on their bicycles. And if you have kids, Congratulations!-You birthed yourself a great set of weights for all kinds of strength exercises. Put them on your back and do lunges, stair climbs, and squats. Whenever I do this, I get a GREAT workout because my kids never want to stop and they always want everything to be equal, so I have to do everything with both my 38 pound weight and my 52 pound weight, er, I mean kids.

-Run during kid activities: Two nights a week Liam takes karate. That’s free babysitting (well, its not free, but it is a free perk that comes with tuition). I often drop him off and get a short run in the nearby neighborhood. I have also taken the kids to the park and run laps around the playground. Maybe not a glamorous or highly exciting run, but it can serve to get 5 miles in.

-Get creative: With kids, you may have to get a little creative as to when you schedule your workouts. Consider two short workouts in a day instead of one long one. If you work, run commuting may be a way to get in some of your weekly mileage. I have also done a “Run swap” with another mom, where I dropped my kids off at her house, went for a run, then watched all the kids while she went for a run. I know one mom who rode a bike trainer during her kids’ soccer games.

-”Treadmill” is not a dirty word: I like to say, “If you put the kids to bed and go run on the treadmill for an hour, your friend will think you are SuperMom. But if you put your kids to bed and leave them in the house alone while you go out for a run, your friends will report you to Child Protective Services.” Yeah, sometimes you have to resort to a treadmill. If you are really serious about running, consider purchasing one for your home. I know many parents (including myself) who run on the treadmill while the kids watch TV. But you don’t have to have a home treadmill. Gym treadmills can also be a valuable tool for late night, early morning, or rainy day runs when you just might not have the motivation to get outside. And many gyms have fairly cheap babysitting services.

-Be Ready to Go: Sometimes opportunities pop up that you hadn’t planned for - you get off work early, the kids get invited to a friend’s house, etc. I keep a set of running clothes in my car at all times for just such opportunities.

- Consider Trading Miles for Speed: I’ve already talked about why I like speedwork (and recognize that not everyone agrees). But I also think focusing on speed for one or two workouts a week can be an efficient way to increase your fitness level with less time needed to finish a workout.

Be Realistic
-You can’t be perfect: In our ideal world, we would all cook homemade meals, do lots of volunteer work, take foreign language classes, and have perfectly clean houses. But the reality is we can’t do everything. Pick the things that really matter the most to you and then MAKE THE TIME for those things. If working out is one of those things, then put it on your schedule. And then don’t beat yourself up for picking up take-out or not making your bed! And if you have to miss a workout or two or even a whole week because something comes up, don’t stress about not following a plan to the letter.

-Some is Better Than None: A lot of people get stuck in “All or None” mentality. Maybe you can’t fit in a 45 minute run today, but see if you can do 20 minutes or even 15. Or maybe you can get in a walk or a hike with the kids, but not a run. That’s better than just blowing the whole day off when things get hectic. I also think a lot of people avoid signing up for races, because they can’t commit to doing every training run. But most people could finish an ultra (or shorter distance race) with a lot fewer miles than a typical training plan calls for. Maybe it won’t be your best run ever, but you can still be out there enjoying the trails, the people, and a lot of fitness benefits.

-Don’t wait till the TO DO list is empty: I have a few friends who really want to run a marathon, but they keep saying they want to wait until they are less busy so they have more time to train. We live in a fast paced world, and there will always be too many things on the “To Do” list. So put running on it, too!

-Get Over Mommy Guilt: Ok, I know this is a hard one. As moms we are always worried if we are doing enough and trying to do the best we can to be good moms. But good moms need time for themselves, too. This is not only good for your own mental health, but it is a good example for your kids, too. It is okay for you to have an activity just for you. Your kids will love you just as much when you get back from your run. I promise!

- Don’t compare to Non-Moms: I actually have friends that get up after 8am on a Saturday morning and then go for a run. Other friends take a nap after their long run. But they don’t have kids. You know what, they probably have cleaner houses and more stylish wardrobes. They probably read more books and do more social activities than I do, too. But life without kids is a different world. I am not saying one is better; they are just different. Don’t try to compare; it’ll never match up.

Keep Family First
Yes, you can be a mom and still find time to run and even train at a high level. But don’t get so involved in running that it is squeezing your family members out. Give your spouse time to himself, too, so that he can pursue the things he loves. In our house, that means I run long on Saturday morning and Mac gets Sunday for his long run day. Have a regular date night with your spouse. Every Wednesday evening, Mac and I go for a run and then go out to dinner, often just the local pub with many other runners. But it is still time we are spending together without the kids and it allows for some adult conversations. And make sure you hit all of your kids’ big events, like school plays and piano recitals, even if that means messing up your training for a weekend.

Happy Mother’s Day to All the Moms out there. You are already Bad-Ass Mothers, but don’t let parenthood keep you from your running goals. With planning, dedication, and creativity you can train for and run ultras or whatever else your running goals may be.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Awesome Kids

This past weekend was the Awesome 3000, one of the few Salem events that really is awesome. It is a citywide noncompetitive running event for kids 3 years old through 8th grade and it gets a couple thousand kids out moving on a Saturday morning.
1st and 2nd Graders out on the field lining up to run

Megan was up first and had been strategizing with her friend Stella on how they could do better than last year's casual jog. Megan decided she was sprinting the whole mile, but like her mom, she doesn't really have a sprint so she was out of the gate in about 30th place. By the time they lapped the softball field and came back to the track Megan was in 9th (out of about 100 2nd graders). The 8th place girl looked like she was dying, but when Megan pulled up alongside, she took off and held her place. Megan finished in 7:51. Afterwards I realized it was only a 1500 and not a mile so no sub-8 for Megan just yet, but still a big improvement from last summer's 8:52 mile time. Nothing spectacular, but at least a half dozen people told me Megan would do really well in a longer event. Hmmm, now I wonder where she gets that? ;) Mostly, I just love watching her run. Her stride is so loose and free - nothing like her mom's stiff hip shuffle!

Megan strides to the finish (almost a little too fast for the camera)

Liam does things a little differently than Megan. He started slow and ten minutes later came walking nonchalantly back to the track. He made sure to give every volunteer a high five. He sprinted past kids on the track, said hi, and then stopped to walk. He fired a few finger-gun shots into the sky. When we yelled at him on the homestretch he started his sprint finish...then stopped and just walked the last ten meters, definitely embracing the non-competitive aspect of the race. 13:03 for 1500 meters - definitely not last, but certainly a back-of-the-pack performance. But he had a great time and told me it was easy to do a mile (well, when you do it that slow...), and that is really what matters.

Liam looks around and takes his own sweet time to get to the finish
My kiddos - each awesome in their own way

After a hula-hoop cool down while refueling with an apple, it was off to soccer. Yeah, soccer mom time! ;) I don't think Megan has a ton of natural talent for the game, but she is focused and usually doesn't get too tired by the end, and that goes a long way in U-8 play. The team is 0-4, but most of them have been close and Megan has scored four goals, so she is having a good time. However, Saturday, she was dragging big time in the second half. Tough races and 80 degree weather will do that!

 Lucky for Liam, all he had to do was sit around and cheer. No doubt he was tired, too. Later in the day he got mad at me and had a fit. So he told me he was going to call up the orphanage to see if they would take him, so that he could get better parents. Is is appropriate to bust out laughing when your kid tells you he wants a new mom??
Liam tries to find the number for the orphanage in the phone book. Sadly, there was no listing under 'O', so he will be staying with us for the time being.

In other mothering failures, I am pretty sure I warped Megan against the field of medicine on Take Your Daughter To Work Day. I thought it'd be cool to check out a twin placenta together (yes, pathologists are weird) but Megan just stared at it with fear and told me it was gross...really gross. I had to tell her to get closer three times and I don't think she wanted to take her eyes off of it to take a picture. Fortunately, the other parts of my job were much more appealing, so maybe she'll reconsider.
 Eeew, gross!
 Eating donuts in the physicians lounge, because that is really what doctors do all day. But watch out for the surgeons. They are a bunch of greedy pigs who can demolish two dozen donuts before 9 am! That's the bariatric surgeon. Ironically, that guy would eat the donut right out of your hand if you aren't careful! 
 Now that's better - good clean, sanitary fun!

Otherwise we are just trying to make the most of this glorious weather while it lasts. Sadly, all this sunshine is very hard on my training - just too much I want to do, especially in the garden and it is way too light to get to bed before 9, which for me is important if I am going to get up at 4:30 and still be functional by the end of the week. I am not doing too well with that. Last Thursday on my day off, I laid down to take a nap at 2:30 and I slept right through Liam's karate at 5:30. More mom of the year points right there!

Looking forward to another crazy weekend centered around the McDonald 50k and a visit from Olga!