Monday, October 28, 2013

More F's at Autumn Leaves

Last week I wrote about the Four F's of Poor Running. After taking last weekend off to remediate a few of the F's that I was suffering from, I was feeling pretty good going into Autumn Leaves and that let me experience some F's of good running: Fun, Fast times and Friends! Plus, there was lots of great Fall Foliage to boot.

Autumn Leaves 50k/50M is a low key local ultra that tacks place on a 6.25M loop in Champoeg State Park, a mere 40 minutes from home. The loop is 80% paved bike path and 20% trail/grass. It's pretty flat, but with a couple little rolls each loop, such that my Garmin 910XT recorded just shy of 2,000' gain for the 50M. One nice feature is that the loop contains an out and back section so you see everyone on course multiple times. The autumn colors have been splendid this year with our dry weather plus there were lots of crunchy leaves under foot, so the race definitely lived up to its name! But maybe the best part of this race are the RD's - Bret and Gail Henry are wonderful people and such a cute couple. They travel around the country running marathons (and formerly ultras) together. I want to be like them when I grow up!

Last year, I had a good run, but with pouring rain all day and slick conditions I just missed my goal of sub-6:30. I was certainly looking to go under 6:30 this year, but I have been feeling pretty strong all year and though sub-6:20 would be doable. And then right before the race, I learned about the lists for fastest times of the year and saw the leading female 50 mile time for 2013 was 6:19:44, so that was the goal! I am well aware that fastest time does not equal best time since most of the big 50 mile races take place on difficult courses, but if you are running on a fast course, why not try to run a fast time?!

However, my most important goal of the day was to win the costume contest! My costume win streak at this event is almost as good as my race win streak. I didn't win my first year because the RD's thought I looked so good in my orange dress that it couldn't be a costume (I don't know, I guess they are getting old and their vision isn't so good anymore). But Medusa and Cleopatra brought home the big basket of goodies! This year I didn't really have a vision, but perusing the racks at Goodwill, I had a instant connection to a metallic purple and silver swirl shirt. Add three dollars worth of silver polyester from Jo-Ann crafts and a pair of $1.25 sock sleeves from Walmart and Space Girl was born! Woohoo - let's go rock 50 miles!

My Autumn Leaves history 2010-12

Ready for take off, er, race day, complete with matching purple Injinji socks (I've been upgraded by Injinji from coupon-only status since WS! Thanks, Injinji.)

Nothing says "Ready to Race" better than caked on lilac eye shadow and a little bedazzling!

We started at 7am with headlights for the first lap. 200 meters in I was leading the race with no one around. Umm, hello?? But Jeremy Tolman and Ian Little soon caught up and we ticked off two laps together, with Jeremy and I chatting it up and Ian interjecting some commentary on Comrades in his gentile British accent. We joked he could be mistaken for Ian Sharman! Ian was running the 50k so he picked up the pace after two laps, while Jeremy and I hung back. Jeremy told me he had posted on Facebook the day before that his goals were to 1) finish his first 50 miler and 2) not get beat by Pam Smith! Haha. So I guess it was no surprise when he pulled ahead in lap 4. We were already a good bit under the 7:35 pace needed to hit 6:19, so I let him go, but at the start/finish he hit the port-a-potties and I got ahead and managed to stay ahead for the loop as Jeremy was starting to struggle with some nagging injuries.

Ian won the 50k in 3:43, I came through next in 3:49, and Jeremy called it a day when he hit 50k, picking up 4th amongst the 50k finishers. I was a little jealous that my companions were done, but fortunately, I had an awesome running buddy who had agreed to do his long marathon training run as my pacer. I like road running, and I don't want to say it is boring (especially after Killian got lambasted) but after 5 loops of the same thing, let's just say it's nice to have a diversion. So thank you, Grant, for keeping me company. Besides accompanying me, Grant's main assignment was to be "my voice". It's nice to see so many people on course and I really want to give out encouragement, like they were giving to me, but late in the race it is just hard to find the energy, but Grant was awesome giving everybody props. He's such a social guy!

The end of loop 6 was where that cement-in-the-legs feeling started to set in and I stole another F phrase from Amy Rusieki: "Finish this F*cker!" and so we did without the pace slipping too much. 50 miles in 6:11:40, first overall and breaking the course record by 19 minutes (previously held by some lame chick from Salem, OR)! And more importantly, costume contest victory! (which is really all my kids care about since that means a basket of candy for them).

Splits (6.25M):
1- 46:48
2- 45:57
3- 45:48
4- 45:53
5- 45:52 (marathon 3:12; 50k = 3:49)
6- 47:05
7- 47:27 (includes my only stop (~15-20 sec) to drink a 6 oz can of Sunkist before my final loop)
8- 45:52

My kids were pretty happy with the prize basket. Liam said, "Mom can you do this race again next year and win the costume prize?" I told him I had already done this race four times and maybe I should do something else next year. And he fired back,"Well, how many times have you done Western States?" Touche, little man. Good point. :)
The real reason I run this race!

I celebrated with a hot bath, a bag of candy corn and a Jello No-bake cheesecake - because even low carb eating needs a day off sometimes! And being a doctor does not put me above enjoying white trash desserts!
Prize basket goodies that I shared with my own two little boogers.
I am very happy with my race and the way I am running right now, but I am bummed that I wasn't at the 100km World Championships instead of Autumn Leaves on Saturday. One of my New Year's resolutions was to help team USA repeat as gold medalists, but we didn't get the chance. Even though Autumn Leaves has been wheeled and GPS measured multiple times, it is not certified, so I still have to qualify for the 2014 US team. It is in the plan for 2014 (probably Mad City). But the current focus is still on Desert Solstice. This weekend proved I am fit and fast, but now I have to practice getting slow! As silly as this sounds, I had a hard time with this last year and I need to do better in training at hitting paces that are a minute per mile slower than my typical run pace. I know I need that kind of discipline and comfort with that speed in order to be able to keep moving for 24 hours. On the bright side, I can't move anything but SLOW today. :)

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

The Four F's of Poor Running

As I was finishing up my fellowship and beginning my job hunt, my mentor told me that when evaluating an employment opportunity, one must consider the four F’s. As it applied to the job market, these stood for: Fame, Fortune, Fun, and Flexibility, with fame not really referring to actual fame, but more the prestige of the position, respect from peers, ability to help you move up, etc.

Along these lines I have come up with the four F’s of poor running: things to consider if your running is not going the way you feel it should be. They are: Fitness, Fatigue, Function and Frazzled.

Fitness- I think as athletes, when things aren’t going well, fitness is the first thing we question. Yet in my experience, this is rarely the cause of a stretch of poor running. I routinely take two weeks off or very easy after big races with no major impact on my overall fitness. Missing a workout or two (or even a week or two) is unlikely to have a major impact on your fitness. I think fitness may impact your hard workout times by a few seconds per interval or mile, but if you aren’t feeling good on your easy runs and you have been pretty consistent with your training, it is likely not fitness. However, if you are new to running, are running significantly harder/longer, or have taken an extended time off, a lack of fitness may be leaving you a little low on your runs.

Fatigue- I think this is a major cause of feeling “blah” while running, especially amongst ultrarunners, particularly because ultrarunners aren’t good at taking recovery. Heck, we celebrate runners who pack races close together with little recovery! Think of revered feats like the Western States/Badwater Double or the Grand Slam. We hold these types of runners as exemplary “Badass” individuals (indeed they are!), but it does propagate the notion that a quick turn-around is not only possible, but something we should strive for if we want to be “badass”, too. I am not necessarily chasing a “badass” image, but rather I am excited by so many events and I definitely suffer from a bad case of FOMO, which can cause me to pack races closer together than would be advisable. Fortunately, the cure for this is straightforward: take time off. But for neurotic ultrarunners with training logs to fill in, this is often easier said than done! (trust me, I know!).

Function- If you feel “off” when you run, maybe you are having functional issues, either injury or a biomechanical issue that needs to be tweaked (I am sure that is the official PT term!). This is especially true if you are having pain, your gait feels sloppy or unnatural, or your issues seem to be asymmetric, with one side bothering you more than the other. My primary strategy for dealing with injury is ignore it and keep running. ;) That is certainly NOT what I recommend, though! Figure out what is wrong, which may include internet searching or a trip to your favorite diagnostician, and then come up with a plan to address the issue. On the occasions when I can't keep ignoring an injury, I am always surprised by how much just a few days of focused therapy will improve the situation.

Frazzled - Life happens and sometimes it happens even when you are supposed to be doing peak mileage. Don't discount how much the non-running stressors in your life can impact your training. A friend of mine is in the process of moving and remodeling a new house and she said was surprised how much those things were impacting her training. But mental stress takes a toll on your body and leaves you with less energy to put toward physical endeavors. Other things may make it harder for you to find time for training, such as a tough work schedule or children's schedules. And of course, illness can sap your energy and leave you feeling drained when it comes to running. It is important to accept these life stressors and modify training as necessary to accommodate for these events.

Nine days ago, I found myself contemplating something along the lines of the Four F's above, as I struggled through a Saturday morning workout. My friend Mike was doing a 13 mile marathon pace run (6:45) and I agreed to tag along for 8 as part of my planned 22 miler. I met Mike after 7 miles and joined him for part of his workout. 6.5 miles into the tempo portion, I was dying! I managed to finish my 8 (and marveled at Mike for doing all 13) but I felt like I had nothing left to complete my planned run. I walk/jogged 2 miles back to the car and was done at 17 miles. My first thought, of course, was "Oh my god, I am not in shape for marathon pace. I have gotten too slow from running ultras." Fortunately, I was able to do a bit of a reality check: I had a 6 minute PR at the Condor 25k the weekend before, so I knew my fitness was good. But, oh yeah, I had pushed myself hard at that race, not to mention my workout with Mike was only four weeks after Run Rabbit Run - maybe a couple of tiny reasons I was still feeling fatigued. Plus, the workout was the end of my call week - something that leaves me frazzled. 

The week following the bad workout there were two more issues to compound the problem. First, last Tuesday we had another "Life Event", or more specifically, a lice event! Liam's itchy head turned out to be a critter infestation and Megan had a rare bug, too. YUCK! But beyond the yuck, lice is a huge pain in the ass (or should I say neck??). We spent hours shampooing, cleaning, laundering and putting toys and blankies through the dryer on high heat. By the end of the night, we were worked! 
Nothing out of the ordinary here. Just Mac shaving my naked son's bug infested head on our front porch at 9pm.
Then Thursday I fell on a very easy five mile run. Even though the pace was easy, the impact was not and I banged my knee up good. Friday, it was completely swollen adding an improper function to my list of F's. And so last weekend, I did not run a single step despite a training plan that called for 40 miles in those three days. And this week I felt great! I feel like all my "F's" are back in line, and to that I say "F-yeah!" :)

I am hoping this pans out well for a good race this weekend. I am headed to the nearby Autumn Leaves 50 miler. While this race is primarily for training and having fun (I'll be in a costume again), I am hoping for a fast time, especially since the weather should be ideal instead of the usual dreadful rain. While the race doesn't boast of a highly competitive field, I often think the clock is the stiffest competition a runner can have. Last time, I'd say it got the best of me as I ran 6:30:44 to my goal of sub-6:30! I am hoping the good weather and well rested legs are worth at least 45 seconds!

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Ghost Hunting and Condors

Wednesday night, the our family took a Haunted History walking tour of downtown Salem. With the Groupon it was six dollars a person and it came with a free cupcake and drink. I figured it was an easy way to entertain the kids for a couple hours, or at least give them a supervised way to burn off their sugar fix in downtown Salem. The tour was really more of a description of Salem's sordid past including the underground city and the masonic influences. It was really quite interesting. Maybe it got a little hoaky when we got to "communicate with the spirits" but the tour was actually a lot of fun. My ghost "told" me that she was female, that Liam would lose his second tooth this month, but not this week, that I would live past 90, that Liam would outlive us all and that I would break the 200km American record (yes, I asked!). But I didn't ask how this weekend's Condor 25k would turn out. I wish I had because even at mile 13, I still had no idea and if I had put my money down at that point, I would have been wrong!
Megan making contact. Are you scared, yet?

The Condor 25k is in its second year of tribute to Dave "Condor" Bateham, a guy that really encouraged me and gave me lots of advice when I was first getting started in the crazy sport of ultra-running. As much as I wanted to honor his memory, I would have been happy helping on the sidelines of this one as there is still some fatigue in the legs from Run Rabbit Run. But last year's victory came with a comp entry for this year and I am a sucker for free things. And so, I found myself on the starting line feeling completely blah. A friend pointed out a young girl on the front of the line doing strides before the race and noted, "She looks serious."

Well, she was serious and she took off fast. She was strong up the first hill and was even stronger on the single track downhill. At the first aid station (6.5M), Meghan and Dennis told me she was 40 seconds up. The next three miles were gradual uphill logging road- my strength- so that right as we were about to hit the turn to go back down, I came up on her shoulder. She took one look at me and found a new gear! And when we jumped back onto single track she opened up a gap. There were a couple more miles of dirt road and I was closing but I couldn't close the gap. Up Powder House, I could tell she was hurting on the climb, but so was I! Then on the short little bit of trail to the third AS, she looked great. I was impressed with her fight and figured it was game over for me, even though I was only 10 seconds back because it was all downhill to the finish.

Fortunately (or not) for me, I have this inner race gremlin that comes out when I have a number pinned on and I am in the hunt. Also fortunate for me, my competitor was a 5k/10k specialist and the distance was starting to take it's toll. Yes, it was downhill to the finish, but it was basically all road, so I was comfortable. Well, comfortable isn't the right word. I was working hard enough to make audible sighs with each breath, but I wasn't being a downhill chicken like I usually am on steep downhill trail. I passed her shortly after the aid station kicked in for the win in time of 1:55:56, a huge improvement over last year's 2:02:02. It's good to know there is still some good fitness there as I start ramping up training for Desert Solstice. But mostly, I am just happy that I won't have to put up with another year of RD Tia telling me how lame I am for not breaking 2 hours on her course! ;)

With all that, I am pretty motivated to get back into training (and eating right after a day of gluttony today!). However, I haven't been really motivated for my Halloween costume this year. Some of this week's "training" time will have to involve hitting up Goodwill to find something that speaks to me (besides the ghosts of Salem). Any good suggestions??