Friday, December 26, 2014

Time vs Moment

As I focus on the new year I have to also reflect on the past, and that some moments are more about the people I shared them with and being in the now, than the time on my Garmin. Unquestionably, tutufying some races in the Tough Girl Tutu or Princess Doodle Beans tutu at North Country and a turkey trot became a highlight.

To the non-runner, pace, splits and time are just words that make their eyes glass over or make them look for the nearest exit to the conversation. I love to talk about running, but I honestly try to talk about anything else to not bore people. If it was just about a clock ticking I think most people would quit since that carrot just isn't a worthwhile draw time after time. Where is the long term joy in that? My body just can't take the intensity of "racing" each race when I may have 2 races in one month during the summer months. I am truly average and normal.

Charlevoix Half Marathon

One such race was the Charlevoix half-marathon in Michigan, which my run buddy and I celebrated her 35th year and a new age group. We ran with my friend Lisa that I have known since high school. We were cheerleaders back in the day, and Lisa even ran some x-country—she had some mammothly strong, amazing, cut legs back then that I desired to have. Heck, I'm still working on it!

This was her first half-marathon and something she had been working up to. Yes I pushed a little for her to sign-up. I pushed a little for her training. When it comes to running and people going for an accomplishment, I want them to have it. So yes, I am pushy. I am glad she did it, and was pleased (over the moon) I could be there in her moment. Her running friend had bowed out and we figured it would be much more enjoyable to run together and do what Evie and I do on every training run…talk about anything that pops into our heads. It's a great strategy for someone running their first race with no time goal. There is a PR set no matter how you look at it. The miles will tick by with ease for the most part. I did cost her a couple minutes taking pictures on the rock shore in Charlevoix. But a race along the bay deserves a pause.

National Cherry Festival Inaugural Half-Marathon

When the National Cherry Festival in Traverse City, Michigan announce an inaugural half-marathon this last summer, I knew I had to be a part of it! I may have been one of the first to register—I was that excited. It was my goal to hit a PR and everything aligned for me, until I approached the starting line. My iPod Nano that I had just purchased a couple weeks prior was having issues and on this day would not sync with my JayBird Bluebuds. I was in for a ride of complete misery. 

I am so driven by music when I actually race for time, that I depend on it to make me forget the pain, extreme suffering and the all around SUCK I am putting myself through. I have even read where one athlete called listening to music a bit of a cheat. It's a huge motivator for me. I had to depend on the voice in my head and silently sing to myself. I came in one minute from my personal record and placed 8th out of 35 in my age bracket (in the top 23%). I am looking forward to meeting that course again next year with a working sound system.

And for the record, my new Nano stinks! I have never had 30 hours of play on it. It has to be charged after 6 or less. After Apple checked it out, they claimed nothing was wrong with it. I am looking for a better music device. 

Lesson Learned: Bring a second set of head phones and don't trust an Apple tech that this device really works as promised.

BONUS! We found our favorite
 photo angle for taking selfies!

Another fun visual, I discovered that Evie and I are about .30 in on the video link below. I can't believe I even found this!

Festival of Races Video link

Traverse City Turkey Trot

Why a tutu?

1. Ultra distance running is a masculine sport, and the tutu brings out my fierce femininity (I am not saying that I am going to run in it every time).

2. 26.2 is no joke.

3. 13.1 still … no joke.

4. People respond to the tutu in a positive encouraging way (so far at least).

5. When there is more than one on the course, we are united.

6. I feel like I have to be a badass to pull this off.

7. The thought of a puffy tutu running through a trail makes me laugh…falling in one is even more laughable.

8. It's a reminder that life is too short not to embrace living.

9. Without it I don't think I could have gotten my daughter excited to run in a 20 degree Turkey Trot.

10. Because girls just want to have fun… and some boys too.

The view leaving our driveway to head to the Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day—20 degrees. 

My baby and I after the Turkey Trot. She just may be a sprinter. She loved mile one and not so much of mile two and three. But that last .45 of the race, she sprinted  to the finish with a joyous smile and flexing. When she turned to find me right before the last 0.1,  I was right next her and just said "Go. Go, Go, GO!"  And she did. That's my girl.

Friday, September 26, 2014

A Race Worth the Trip … If You Can Get Back Up

North Country Run 2014 … How I met Sally

I recently read that if you go out 30 seconds too fast in pace during an ultra, that it can cost you a half hour of finish time later. I can vouch that if you fall at mile 25 on "just the right spot of your knee"—according to the medic—after hitting your goal at 5:11, it can cost you 1.5 to 2 extra hours over the next 25 miles.

This year North Country Run was full of light hearted jabs, from the humor or two shirts, a sweat shirt (which at first glance looked like it read "Idiot runner in the woods"), the medal (I don't recall posing for that, but I could have!), and Evie and my own fun to "tutufy" this Ultra and bring a little femininity flare to a male  dominated sport with a 2 to 1 ratio this year.

Yet the humor was lost on my knee that swelled on that second loop to the size of a full head after tripping on a root on mile 25—I kid you not! Dena, our new run buddy, named it Sally after I said we should draw a face on it. And I have awarded Sally the title of Worst All Time Pacer. Infact, Sally is a nag and stayed with me for two weeks after.

I am sure there are many people who would ask why I didn't stop. And I have even heard some unsolicited negative comments about quitting this sport all together, along with "what are you going to do when you are 70?" All from non-runners, so I am not surprised. I have quickly responded that it isn't the running that will get you, its the falling. Let's get that right on today's quiz. And what will I do when I am 70? Hopefully,  I live to be 70 and am running, hiking and still active in my existance.

I asked myself the same question about taking a DNF during the race, and with each fall—which I am going to admit that there were 6 total—I heard the same inner voice say, "Get Up!" Stopping after training for months for this event seemed out of the question. I can't imagine quitting. Quitting at what felt like an "ouch" fall at 25 miles would have been just ridiculous, lazy and not any kind of example I want to set for my kids. I am not saying that I wouldn't take a DNF if I felt a muscle tear or broken bone. That just isn't what it felt like. My quads felt great with little stress for the miles, and my lungs were strong deep into the last 5 miles. But this This was what I worked hard to achieve—for this feeling of strength and to test if I wanted to seriously consider a 100 mile ultra. My goal was to come in at 10 -11 hours and feel good at the end. Sure there was some serging pain time to time, but more when I wasn't running. And I had some special breathing going on to deal with that. shhh shhh whoooo shhh shh whoooo…

As the bulge grew from softball to human head size with 14 miles left … my footing got tougher and speed became a big issue. My doctor later informed me that with so much fluid (blood) in the area of the knee, it shuts down the outer leg muscles above the knee. Really?! I can't guess to when this really started. Too bad that excuse won't fly for this performance. I did Superman it to begin with. He also ended up draining it after the swelling didn't go down enough for a couple weeks and I just needed to get back to training. The condition is called prepatellar bursitis. Basically, a hematoma.

Down hill became more of an obstacle adventure with the last 7 miles where I could no longer rely on my leg to catch me if I stumbled, which I did. Falling on it two more times during that last 14 miles gave me a surge of pain—that I relived 24/7 in the two weeks that followed.

It's Mental 

Unlike last year, this North Country was hotter and 97% humidity. Another obstacle since this has been a mild summer with cool temps and low humidity. I hardly listened to any music and was not in the same mindset as last year. Thinking about my swelling knee sucked some joy away. Every race is different, but this was a leap into unexpected territory.

I am grateful to have picked up a run buddy, actually two for the first 4 miles of the second loop of 25, until one dropped back to run with Evie. Karen and Theresa showed up to pace and partner us thru this. It was truly a mental race where my mind needed to be distracted from my knee. I couldn't of had a better run partner then Karen—the most BADASS runner I know, and who ran Boston with a fractured leg a few years ago. There is no doubt in my mind that her being there wasn't meant to be.

I believe people are motivated in different ways, and I really didn't need a pity running partner. We talked about many things, but not once about stopping. Even though I feel I do very well as a solo runner plugged into a headset, I was relieved in the last 10 miles when she said she was sticking with me to the end. Why not depend a little more on a support system if it is there? I wasn't looking forward to turning on tunes and going it alone in the dark woods and thinking about Sally. I was frustrated that my knee was not cooperating and I was going to blow past last year's time. But this rag doll, was in it to finish it by this point.

A few volunteers in the last couple aid stations wore shock faces with the horror that drew more attention with the tutu. Karen told them I wasn't aloud to look at it. We laughed and kept moving. Laughter—the key to get through most situations when you are framing your imperfections in a tutu.

While on the course Karen asked me what my husband was going to say when he saw me cross. I thought he may ask me why I didn't stop. A question I have no simple answer to. What is the meaning? He actually did not say a thing! Maybe he just knows me well enough. Why ask why?

When Finishing Turns into Winning

As I finished the race and crossed the line at a disappointing 12:02, and the race director asked how I felt from his microphone, all I could say was "Medic!" Not "terrific," or "amazing" … just "MEDIC!" Yeah, it hurt. I won't admit to most people on the spot how much, but pulling that sock off and getting wrapped with ice made me feel like a cry baby even though I wasn't crying.

One of the biggest surprises was that my body felt under used and challenged. I felt recovered sitting in the sideline chair and ate a burger with my kids around me. No GI issues at all which I usually have if I have pushed. Huh. And that 12:02 finish just blew it by 2 minutes to qualify for some 100 milers. That is one crap-wich. I will save getting too overly upset about for another time. Somewhere along the course finishing became the goal—which is all part of learning to be more flexible in expectations as a runner. I have to be prepared to change the plan.

While on the trail in the first 25 miles I had several conversations with other runners. It was one of the most enjoyable 25 race miles I have ever had. I told one that two years ago I fell in love with this race. I just didn't know how literal this day would take it to extreme. It's still my #1 race for a quality, aided course, with amazing volunteers, and nearly flawlessly put on—those roots could use some painting—gasp! HA!

North Country lost a little magic for me this day because I can't undo that fall. In reflection, I won't quit—can't quit— don't know how. 100 miles … you better believe I am looking right at you with my gimpy leg on the mend, and with Sally just a crazy knee stalking memory. Believe it!

The Right Medical Attention and Support

Ironically, through this crazy event I found a great doctor that gets my focused run commitment without looking at me like I NEED to be committed. And you just might have guessed that he is a runner too. I was dreading to retell the one line tale I have had to repeat every time someone has asked. But when I said it to my new doctor: "I ran a 50 mile trail race and tripped at mile 25, and proceeded to finish," something totally unexpected happened…he first congratulated me on finishing! He laughed when I explained the flight of the fall and landing. I can not stress enough how wonderful it is to find a doctor that I feel actually gets it, and supports my lifestyle because he has experience. He assured me that I would be ready to run a marathon in October, and that he had seen the same injury in football players and hockey players.

Two weeks later he drained my knee and said to "amp it up." I am now back to around 40 miles a week. Still tired from the 50, but I am hopeful that the speed will come again and I can continue to break my own records. Whew!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Fierce Relentless Faith

On course and loving the pace.
AMAZING…beaming sun, cool bay breeze, pure gratitude, and giving the bird to mile 20 and beyond, because there was no surrender when I was hot on the heels of hitting my mark at the TCTC Bayshore Marathon. Delivering it in a tutu was just gift wrapping. 

I would have never thought just 4 years ago at my first marathon with a painful 5:04 and a mind monkey circus, that I would one day execute 26.2 miles with such a strong finish and solid state of mind for the entire course. My goal was 4:06 and I finished at 4:08. (Strangely my overall pace was exactly on goal of  9:28 per mile from another calculator, but I didn't realize that when they say run as fast as you can in the last 4 miles, they mean FASTER than 9:28.) That two minute port-a-potty break was mandatory at mile 19. It is just the way it goes—literally.

Fierce Relentless Faith, just like
the tattoo reads
As is, this is a 16 minute Personal Record (PR)! Hill Repeats and months of hard work finally rewarded me after what felt like a disaster of a half marathon just two months ago. My fueling started three days before with white rice to build glycogen storage and contributed to a well rested and ready for take-off engine. (As rested as I could be waking up at 2 a.m. I am getting use to this little sleep inconvenience the night before a race. ) If I sleep well the previous night, I am still going to be alright as I have been learning with each event.

As I placed my tattoo on that morning, I thought about what it meant. Yes, I am fierce. And my faith would be with me in gratitude and strength what ever may happen. I thought about the red matching Fellow Flowers we wore to honor Evie's mom who hadn't been feeling well that week. Yes, Red had their meaning of strength and today it would be fierce as well. These are the symbols I wanted to take with me on this journey when i was alone in my head.

Waiting at the start line among 2700 runners, we chatted with a male runner who hadn't run in months because of a sore back but decided he was going for it since he already had the race paid for and room reserved. We later wonder how HE might be feeling after the race. I didn't see him when I turned around at the half way mark, so I wonder if he dropped. I can't imagine what 26 miles feels like without training for it.

Prerace self talk and prayer: Give us strength to be the best we can be today. Thank you for this amazing day to run in.

Off we go, and I didn't hear the guns to start in this mob as we slowly shuffle to and across the start line.

Our first few miles were a little faster than planned, and I liked it. I was breathing easily. I felt in control and I reasoned if I could push a little speed and slice some padding in, that we would be okay if we slowed later or if I had to jump into a restroom. Plan for the unexpected, seriously. I even brought some TP. All was going well and the small town crowds and some other runners made fun comments and cheers for the tutus. I am telling you, wear a tutu for a good time. It should be in a pamphlet or on a bumper sticker somewhere.

My run buddy, Evie wasn't enjoying the pace so much by mile 6. She lagged behind after a couple aid stations and we began seeing the half marathon runners that were bussed to their start line coming our way. My husband was one of them and putting it all out there for the first time alone. I am so proud of his finish with an 11 minute PR at 1:48. He slapped my time half marathon PR by five and a half minutes.

I saw my childhood best friend cruising along in his first marathon. He had reached the turnaround and was heading back to his three and a half hour finish—ZOOM. A quick high- five in passing gave me a little jolt of speed.

I high-fived and low-fived children lined up with their hands stuck out in rows. We could easily five 3-5 in a row. It reminded me of bike wheels hitting a playing card as a kid, pop, pop, pop, pop, pop. Volunteers were a-plenty and friendly with fun cheers for the tutu. More jolts of energy absorbed from each station.

Mile 11 self talk: You are going to have to work for this.

I had lost my run buddy at about mile 8 and didn't see her again until I was coming back after 13.5 miles. I hollered "Yeah, you are in there!" She said "Just go, go, go!" Completely on my own now, I continued to run strong and count on the GU Roctane every 4 miles. One rule I have—DON'T miss a dose. Poor fueling will kill the race.

Mile 15 self talk: Breath easy. In through your nose and out through your mouth.

At about mile 16 I reflected on how amazing it would be to share this race with my daughter. I look forward to the day she is ready. Running alongside glistening water with her would have sweeten the experience and made it perfection. Several times throughout the race I opened my hand and gave gratitude.

Mile 17 self talk: Fierce. Keep going and get off this course as fast as possible.

I had started to have a little cramping for a nature call and it would go away and come back with urgency. Mile 19, I had to make a port-a-potty stop. It was a choice of run in the woods later or go now. It knocked mile 19 up 2 minutes. I  did surprisingly well making up the time.

Mile 20 self talk flying a mental bird: F%^@ this last 6 miles! This isn't pain. Pain is running another 25 miles up and down hills. 6 more miles...turn it over.

At mile 20 a male runner ran next to me right after an aid station and yelled "Come on Tutu!" I don't know if he was trying to challenge me or encourage me. I hollered back while walked, "I'm GUing!" I quickly got on his heels. A little annoyed I thought, "You Sir, may just be my new best friend." But at last, our friendship ended as I kept pace and lost him.

Mile 22 self talk: Ear phones staying on from this point until the last mile. "Fierce focus. Turn it over."

Golden last mile self talk: Yippee! Enjoy, don't slow down. Don't you surrender!

I was amazed once more by some of the people seemingly keeping pace that started walking on this last mile. All this hard work, crashing. I saw one woman struggling and she started walking and got next to her and said, "Golden last mile. Don't surrender now." I don't know if she started running again or if that helped at all.

On the last stretch Karen, an amazing running coach and runner, jumped out and ran with me to the track just like last year. So glad she did. It quicken my step and made me smile in the moment. She said, "You're right on target. You surprised me! You're early." I immediately thought of Sarah Shea saying similar words at Ragnar last year. Love it. I am 41, not done and want to keep surprising people.

4:08 Finish (9:28 overall pace). Boom. Smashed last year's 4:24. 

Feeling great at the finish, I waited for my run buddy—pacing a bit to keep my legs moving. She was about 24 minutes behind but had a recored time for her 13.1 first half. Good with that, she had changed her race plan to coaching people in and enjoying the run. That's who she is. Time doesn't always matter as much as the time spent with others. I am quite proud of her doing her.

Celebrating after with some pizza and waiting around town for three hours
before picking up little girls from a birthday party, because THAT is how moms roll.
Although, I could write a small post on the surprisingly best restrooms around Traverse City after a
Marathon PR because that is the price I payed.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Inspired Bird

Doing a marathon feels like giving the middle finger to anything that's ever made me feel scared or vulnerable. 
~ Nancy Barlow  

Thank you Nancy for nailing my feelings exactly. That perfectly describes my race day mindset. The bird (a.k.a. the finger) takes flight this Saturday for another 26.2. I am going for a PR and just put together a fast paced collection of tunes to turn my feet over. I am counting on all the hill repeats (50-80 a week) that I used in lieu of some speed work to pay-off. It makes me a little nervous and taper stir crazy, but come race day I know I have to believe to succeed. 

After being completely sick of my music for the past year, I stumbled upon a great new album a couple days ago from Beckah Shae: Champion. Finally some fast pace, positive, and faith supported tunes to keep my feet and heart on fire. The album is loaded to inspire—I'm going to say it—a champion performance! This album is so new there aren't many videos to connect to it. Turbo Style isn't even my favorite song, but dang it just might be a theme song for my blog.

Will it be a Run or Die kind of day? I have wanted to just let it fly and race in a sports bra for a while. It's part of embracing my freedom and exceptance that I am exactly what God wants me to be and shall I say it—worthy. As well as giving the bird to judgement from others. (Let me use my telepathy and send this message: Hey you know who you are and I'm giving you the bird Saturday for 4 hours.) Being such a cold Winter and Spring, this sports bra might be ridiculously chilly alone for this weekend. Plus, I am still testing this it since it isn't my usual bounce proof vest. But so far, no chafing or riding up in the last 10 miler. When I do finally race a bra alone (which I need to work on some other options today), I think it has to be this little Run or Die number pictured at the left. Yes, that's me and my tutu. I don't think my body is there yet (says the judgmental bitch on my shoulder), but then it beckons the question I have to ask myself immediately, "Just when are YOU going to be good enough?"
It's the constant mental battle for especially women. I have physically come a long way from 9 years ago and running only the past 5, yet can beat the hell out of myself within 10 seconds. 10 seconds is all it takes to say something empowering and useful or something shattering to one's self that may take longer to recoup from. Be kind, but push. I know just what to say to bring me down, or push another workout. I know where I respond well, but can go too far like any normal person. You got me, I am too hard on myself. Maybe there should be a new 10 second rule. Say something positive right now... go. I think it's okay to be a little negative or stressed sometimes, if it is to ignite one's self or another to dig deeper. Not everyone responds well to that pressure though. It's the point that one surrenders sobbingly or starts shoving mass amounts of cake in their mouth that it's gone way too far. Regardless, I have 26.2 to pull off a PR. I'm stir crazy on a taper and this leads into a quote that cracks me up to near tears...
Sometimes I feel like giving up, and then I remember I have a lot of motherfuckers to prove wrong.
Truth. Off to find my focused drive to let the bird fly for 26.2!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

33 Levels of Hell

This by far was one of the most hellacious races that either Evie Ultra and I have ever ran. It was a mental exhaustion. But in reflection … I can't stop laughing. 

The Traverse City Trail Running Festival of 2014
I won't put lipstick on it or sugar coat this race in any way, but I will wear a tutu. A white virginal, puffy tutu in my first 50k. I admitted that I am one crazy mother runner, but this 50k was ridiculous! Let's make it clear that being an endurance athlete means, you gotta ENDURE baby.

10 loop course instead of the intended course we signed up for (Hello, we are living in the Ground Hog Day the Movie, there's no getting out now. Besides, everyone likes to count to 10, correct?)

•  95% of the trail made of 100% packed ice with lumps of slippery crystal snow for horrible footing (Think you found a safe spot? Think again.)

•  Rain in the last 7 miles in case it wasn't slippery enough (Even a young man with screws on his shoes said he was slipping.)

• 33 miles instead of 31 (Because 31 just isn't enough and runners always want more.)

I am sure this wouldn't have been quite so bad footing wise if I hadn't left the YakTracs out of my drop bag. That's what happens when mom is sidetracked packing and getting an 8 year old ready for a slumber party. My run buddy and I hadn't realized the course was packed ice due to the late Michigan thaw, the course mainly being a x-country ski trail that had packed down ice, and the fact that we don't live right next to the trail to know any better. This priority of traction issues was lost on us. Most of the surrounding woods outside of the course had hardly any snow left. A warning from the race directors would have been nice. Being such an over packer, I still can't believe I didn't drop those tracs in. But onward!

The one aid station had gatorade, water, Quaker granola bars and gels. I like a little more substance when running long. We were aware of what would not be there ahead of time, and had packed grilled cheese sandwiches, homemade peanut butter cookie, granola bars and coconut water in my drop bag. Food—now THAT I remembered to bring. Why don't more races have fresh cookies? It's so much more personal with fresh cookies. Look to the cookie!

We were in pretty good spirits thru most of the race—counting down laps as we went by the aid stations. People waiting for their loved ones were cheering and smiling. There were no passes (or kills) made by us on this day. Okay, we passed one walker in a shorter distance and that doesn't count. Ice shuffling is exhausting and we covered little ground at a time. Quite a few heavy breathers and people actually racing this thing passed us. One man just kept chanting, "We're crazy...We're all crazy...We're crazy..." And I was thinking, "Yes, I agree with you. Please don't die and slow down."

After our 5th lap (25k done and feeling good) we reflected on running this event a year ago and how hard the 25k seemed then (partially because I ran it with bronchitis, duh). It was after this race that I started hill repeats to prepare for the 50-miler last year. Running a 50k a year ago seemed so beyond my ability. One full year of change—physically and mentally—has completely shifted my perspective. I was even dreaming more about a 100 miler—until this dam 50k. I am going to need a breather to dream again.

At about mile 24 my knees were feeling some pain (a lot), and IT band stiffness from this hard ice tap dance of a run. My spirits got a little low thinking of an injury and I was feeling a little delirious from lack of something. We discussed what stopping would mean and I just could not come to grips with a DNF. Evie said she didn't care either way. I know it's silly, but I couldn't let go. With just two more loops left, there was no way this BAMR was going to let this course beat her. After another gel set in, I was feeling better and continued to run on edges of soft ground where I could. Maybe all that zig-zagging was also getting to me.

During that last loop of hysteria laughter and a few sailor language exchanges, Evie stated I better not bring this one up to run again next year. The answer would be "no way." Well, she blocked out all that pain and suffering a couple days later and talked about next year...Muhaaaaaa. I don't know if anything could quite compare to this lesson of mental toughness. This one will resonate as the winner of the Gold Medal of Nightmares award for some time. I don't think I want another day like this, but then again I am glad I made it through it. I am ready for some sun, warmer temps and some soft earth to run on. I can't consider another ice run for a really long time … unless there are cookies at the end.

A met a woman name Denise, who is running only new races this year. I thought that sounded like an excellent idea.

When wearing a white Tough Girl Tutu, there is one main rule that sticks to my brain: You can't quit!! From funny looks to comments, these tutus were fun and helped keep a smile on our faces and those of other runners. It seems to makes one more approachable. It is obviously not a state of total seriousness. One goal I kept in mind, was to finish this challenge with a smile on my face. If it isn't fun, why am I doing this? Just two friends embracing the struggle through a really long run with the value in just finishing it. If I could pass any advice on for an adventure like this, it would be to run with a good buddy, and you can run through hell on ice (which sounds like a great drink for this race's after party).
8 hours later (last and we don't care): THE END! Being 2 of 4 women in this icy 50k,
we were glad to be done, have a beer in this warming cabin like area, and share some cookies on the way home.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Remedy for One Sore and Crazy Mother Runner

My first half of the year has left me not only disappointed, but bewildered at why I couldn't catch my breath and how I couldn't turn my feet over fast enough to break two hours. A 2:03 is still a a course record for me at The Florida Halfathon in Fort Desoto, and I did finish in the top 27% of my age group—but it just wasn't where I wanted to be. Was it the change from the negative degrees of Michigan's harsh winter to the 80s that got to me? Is the air that different? The prior day's runs in Florida all seemed slow even though my company was enjoyable.

New Hoka Conquest:
Still need to prove themselves to this Dorothy.
I  am inherently hard on myself and I struggle to find out what I have been doing or did wrong. I felt and looked 10 pounds heavier in photos. What is up with that?!! I wore the new Conquest Hoka shoes that I bought for races this year, but had only trained in them up to 8 miles at a time. My Conquests are racer red. Feeling the magic from the Wizard of Oz yet? Although they make me feel like Dorothy, my quads just wanted to me to click my heels three times and go home. I hate to say anything negative about Hoka, but these are not as cushioned as my Bondi Bs I have used for the past couple years. The outside of my quads had an unfamiliar ache by mile 4. It built the rest of the 13.1 miles. I was sore for a few days to follow. I have to take full responsibility for not further testing these shoes before I raced them. I will have to run some more in them to further check if it was just me or the shoes. 

Mental Remedy: Turn up the Volume
Back home to Michigan, this last week's pay back was 56 miles with three one hour 4 mile runs of hill repeats. I have never done three in a week before and usually only train with one session a week. But dam if these Positive Beat Downs don't make me feel stronger, dig deeper, run a little faster on the flats and most importantly—SEE just how strong I am. With the ice finally melted from my familiar slope, I took them outside and sliced through the first session with more to give. Amazing! That treadmill repeats this winter has paid off.

25 repeats = 4.2 miles = 1,248ft total ascent = 54 minutes

I am less apprehensive about injury and overuse now that the prior pain in my leg from Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome seems in control with the CherryFlex that I still take twice a day. For now I am going to keep up these hill drills and see what results. Easier race speed is what I am looking for with better breathing.

And Finally…I realize that this may sound like one Crazy Mother Runner thing to do, but it makes perfect sense to me and my goal list for 2014. I am running a Ultra Trail 50k this coming weekend. I just entered it two days ago! How do I train for a marathon coming up next month? Run a 31 miler and call it good long run.

I think I am trained up for it. It won't be a speed test. Just a sit back and enjoy the journey kind of race.  I am laughing right now, thinking of my pack I need to get together. I am just lucky/blessed to have a run buddy ready for the shenanigans and some gilled cheese sandwiches in the woods! It just may be Tutulicious if our race tutus make it here in time. 

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Turning 41 and I'm Not Done!

I get more excited about birthdays than New Year's Eve. It marks a new starting line and I look forward to enjoying every step—well at least those steps I want to linger as I celebrate my 5th year of running.

It didn't take me long to come up with the title of this post. In the past year I "Rocked40" with many firsts of awesomeness, including these 8:

1) Cranked out my first sub-2-hour half where I thought I was going to burst and just kept on pushing
(I promised myself during that race that I wouldn't demand this sub-2-hour pace again this year.)

2) Set another PR for my full marathon, and finished with more in the tank while happily crossing the line with my best run buddy.

3) Pushed another PR in the half marathon. (I lied about that never again. You should know me better Jill.) 

4) Joined my husband in his first race—a hot 15k.

5) Had an epic event of rocking my first 50 mile ultra and finished a few minutes from second in my age group. Loved every second of that journey and have no regrets for the photo stops—pure joy.

6) Ran RAGNAR D.C. on Team Sarah—BadAss Mother Runners. Met an amazing group of women that continue to inspire, encourage and support.

7) Had amazing and challenging core workouts and long training runs all summer with my best run buddy heading to our first big one—50 mile trail ultra.

8) Ran with my husband in his first half marathon.

There are two words that sum up last year, and I carried them as my mantra in training and spirit. They are Relentless Faith. 

I am adding one word to that this year that came from another mother Ragnar runner when I was spinning around in my head with the Chronic, Exertional Compartment Syndrome verdict. She wrote: "You are going to get through this, because you have some fierce determination..."

I believe that sometimes we just need the slightest nudge from others to correct our flight. This is the mantra and fake tattoo to set the tone for this year's challenges. I have wings!…and wait until you see the one I made my run buddy for her 35th birthday.

Time to Fly 

I am letting Rock40 be the kick-off of this decade where I prove to myself again and again just how high I can go. One time just isn't enough. Truth: I'm always going to want more. But let's keep it simple for this year's expectations:

1) Set 3 PRs—one for each event half, full and ultra

2) Run 2-3 ultras (50k, 50 mile and 100k)

3) Drop the hammer in one 5k since I have never raced one

Shaking it up and tuning it up

Hill repeats: 1x a week. Usually on Mondays, I run the repeats to keep them away from my long weekend runs. They are draining and did I mention I am over 40?! I have to watch ganging the intensity workouts too close together. They are still my "beat me down and make me strong" favorite and hardest training tool. I started this three months earlier this year. I am currently at 20. Because of the record snowfalls, the treadmill is where this amazing event takes place. Amazing, because I haven't crashed yet or called 911. 

The Workout:
Incline the treadmill to 15% and run 0.10 at a level 4. Then decrease to 0% incline for 0.10 at the same pace and repeat. 5 repeats will take 15 minutes–1 hour for 20 with 4 miles covered. It is difficult and some times excruciating. Completely worth it to build power, cardio and a faster recovery. I am keeping a calendar and actually counting the miles this year. When all this snow melts I am looking forward to counting the accent outside–it's entertaining in a nerdy runner way!

155 Push-ups: 6x a week. This is all new this year! Why? The answer is core and upper body strength to power up hills. 

T25 Beta: 2x a week. It isn't as time nor physically demanding as Insanity, but still pushes me in core, cardio and strength. It's enough challenge and variety to keep me interested and happy at the moment. I am very busy as a mother, wife and designer. Getting the time isn't easy, but just hit play. I had been doing this 3x a week, but 2 times is fitting in better. I may be switching back to Insanity come May.

Train Like a Mother Own It Plan: I have followed this before and it doesn't get old for me. I dig the different challenges day to day of interval, zones, negative splits, hilly vs easy runs, mileage, etc. Plus it will roll into the ultra training plan with ease come May. There are many days that I think, "How am I going to do this today?" But I do. It is also useful to have a run buddy on the same plan to discuss and keep it honest with. You can do this!

Diet: I don't talk about diet very much. But it has been a hot bottom for me. I would really like to drop 10lbs -15lbs and am focussing more on food being fuel and what is healthy to building muscle, hydrate and become usable energy. Not to say that I don't sample the yummy baked goods I make. But I am trying to have some extra control and not keep sampling. Also, skipping and cutting sugary snacks and replacing them with fruit, lots of salads and less dark meat. Here is a diet aid that helps at night...drink water or just go to bed.

With my first challenge to PR quickly approaching, it's time to focus and drive.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

A Very Cherry Winter…

I am a runner. Stopping is like sucking the air from my lungs. It is my compass and the place I center. The place where I believe during that runner's high that all great things are possible. I can always do more and be more within the miles and I come back refreshed and grateful. I need to feel that limitless faith like a child.

So when a new verdict came in from an orthopedic surgeon of Chronic Exertional Compartment Syndrome (CRCS), I just kept resting my forehead on my hand and breathing deeply. It is exactly what I thought it was three months ago with my vast internet searching. It is rare, but all my symptoms fit. I am sure it annoys many doctors that so many of us runners self diagnose, but that's the world we live in. To them I say, "get use to it and start opening your mind." We love information. I was told in October by a physician's assistant and doctor, that it certainly was not the case and dismissed and told it was a sprain muscle from over use—not the case at all. Sprains heal or get better with rest. I had already been resting it. I had had this coming on since mid July and the pain was there within 20 minutes of exercise.


These are the symptoms I have had on the outside of my lower, left leg:

Tightness » burning like bacon grease » pain that increases on the outside and moves deeper in the calf =  finally needing to walk a little to release it and stop the pain and start up the cycle again when resuming the run

This has been a roller coaster that I want OFF from.

As defined by the Mayo Clinic, CRCS  is an exercise-induced muscle and nerve condition that causes pain, swelling and sometimes even disability in affected muscles of your legs or arms.

I know some people will think "why not do the surgery and get it over with?" But I want this next year to be a worthwhile running journey and 6-weeks off will hinder that. I think, why not try everything non-invasive first. Being cut should be my last resort. I asked around my BAMRR network (those speedy ladies I ran with at Ragnar DC) and found another runner who had the surgery. Her details made me more determined to put it off as long as possible or at least until the fall if I had to have it done. 

I also received a message from a sport medicine doctor who thought Graston Technique along with myofascial release and neuro unwinding would be helpful. Acupuncture was suggested as well. So with that support, I don't feel like I am off my rocker.

I am not a doctor and am not pretending to be one. But this is my time on this earth and I think people run too fast to surgery and end up with more issues. I may be spinning my wheels in the long run, but putting it off is worth it for me. Reaching out to others has helped me make more insightful decisions.

CRCS would mean surgery with 6 weeks recovery with no running and I was just about to start my marathon training schedule. I asked about alternatives suggesting some like Graston Technique and Acupuncture, and he told me nothing else was scientifically proven. 

The next step would be having the pressure test done on my leg after running on a treadmill in their office with the pain setting it. To perform the test, imagine a big, long, think needle and my leg as a tire getting each compartment tested with the needle inserted. OUCH! I have not done this to date since I have no intension of rushing to surgery. I needed time to research a little more and try at least something.


So what am I doing and what has happened in the last three weeks?

Many runners do all sorts of little tweaks to run fast, more efficient, and in my case trying to run pain and ache free. These are a few things I have focused on more in the last three weeks.

Back to training with no running the day before the long run—just a smaller workout allowed like T25.

 I had custom orthotics made for my shoes and always run in them (been wearing these for 2 months).

Switching shoes out when I feel an ache: I have switched to my Saucony Stability shoes on some runs outside because I can feel them pushing my pronating feet out further than the Hokas. Sometimes I feel like I need it. But the Sauconys feel too firm and even hurt on the treadmill. I still love the absorption of impact with the Hokas and ran 14 miles with them last weekend. 

Foam rolling just about every night (been rolling for 2 months).

Most importantly, I have been pounding the CherryFlex. 1 large tablespoon of the gel from the jar taken twice a day. I don't miss a dose. Although I have used CherryFlex for post exercise benefits, I thought that this would be a worth while effort and I could put it to my own test at a high dose. If it can make horses feel like running again, why not me?

Week one: After building up the CherryFlex for 8 days I noticed a big difference of some soreness and aches instead of the pain that had started in the first two miles and stopped me mid-run before. 

Week two: I was having some completely ache-free runs and others with just a slight ache.

Week three: I have just completed the second week of marathon training (week three with CherryFlex) and have not been backing off from the intensity these last three weeks. I have been pain-free ALL week. It's an astonishing turn of events and I am looking forward to this progression and training season. I still get a strange ache now and then, but nothing to make me come to a stop. That 8 minutes mile just may be within my reach afterall without the pain that has been blocking progress since October. I am doing speed work with the "Own It Plan." This marathon training is on!

Just to illustrate the stress of my training plan, this is what it looked like last week:

For years people have been benefiting by consuming tart cherries or CherryFlex for their high antioxidants to prevent gout flare ups, arthritis inflammation and pain, and reduce muscle soreness following exercise. Other claims on cherries include the promotion of cardiovascular health and providing treatment other than some medications, and even help treat insomnia (because of they contain melatonin). There are plenty of articles online to support these claims on cherries. Believe me, I have been searching! One article by the Huff Post suggested they even aid in the loss of belly fat. Dr. Oz has featured the benefits of tart cherries juice on his show. As far as me experiencing these extra effects, I am dreaming more and remembering my dreams.That is a little strange in its self. I didn't realize that I dreamed of races (and getting lost) and my family so much.

Enjoy my photo of CherryFlex in the snow
because we have a lot of both at our
home in Michigan.
What is CherryFlex? It's just tart cherries including the pulp and skin in a thick paste consistency. I put it on my oatmeal or eat it off the spoon. It's sweet and a little sour just like ripe tart cherries. And, my daughter begs for a taste every time I open it.

Here are the 3 ingredients: Tart Cherry paste, tart cherry concentrate, glycerin

As I stated before, I am not a doctor and this is my personal experience and thoughts. I am not getting paid to write about this journey. I am ecstatic with the results so far and optimistic about 2014. Who knows, maybe it will even help someone else.
If you are interested in trying this, you may order CherryFlex through, email