Tuesday, August 4, 2015

maybe running really is mostly mental

Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.
~ T.S. Eliot

Today was the first training run in the program to get me to the finish line of the Long Haul 100. The run was pretty terrible, but I knew it would be. I also know that it won't be the only less than stellar run in the next 24 weeks, but it's good for me to figure out how to keep putting one foot in front of the other anyway. After all, isn't the saying something along the lines of "ultramarathons are 90% mental"? Well, today I really worked on that 90%.

It was only 7 miles, but my day was thrown by the rain and an utter lack of sleep the past few days. Or I was just having a moment and wanted to hide under the covers. So when I got word that the outdoor yoga class I teach was being cancelled due to weather and my running partner text me this morning that she wasn't feeling well, I turned my alarm off and rolled over, welcoming the excuses to stay in bed. Anyway, insomnia and anxiety about my to-do list kept me from staying too long, so I got up, pulled out the laptop, and cranked out some work while the rain continued to do its thing. It was nearly 3pm by the time I made it out the door with my running shoes.

Sunny. Hot. Humid. Muddy. To keep from destroying the trails, I opted for another heart rate training run on the one mile paved loop at Bluff, and sweet fancy Moses was that frustrating! I had to trot along at a 12 minute pace to keep my heart rate in the proper zone, and even had to slow to a walk periodically when it went haywire. Part of it could be adjusting to the new medicine, but I imagine a large portion of it was the outdoor conditions. Despite my best efforts, I can not seem to stay hydrated... not only during the run (I drained my 1 liter bottle before the last mile!), but before and after, as well. In any case, it was a good exercise in accepting - or perhaps more accurately, pushing through - a maddeningly slow pace when I don't want to, because on race day, it will be necessary at times. Again, with that mental training thing.

What I love, though, is that I went into this run with a certain set of expectations, negative as they may have been, and a fistful of determination to finish it anyway, and it worked! Even better, I walked back to my car feeling happy, rather than defeated, and I'm still feeling it. That gave me just the boot in the butt I needed to pull up the Long Haul 100's website, fill out my information, and hit the submit button. So that's it! The first training run is done and I'm in. Next up: 5 miles tomorrow morning.

Stay tuned...

Monday, July 27, 2015

a newfound aspect of training

Despite the airplane's best attempts to keep me away, I've finally made it home after eight days of traveling the south east part of the country. We visited our first meadery, lounged on the beach, rode the intertubes at Schlitterbahn, people watched at the airport, watched the next generation exchange vows, toured a farm, visited a Civil War grave site, did a little beekeeping (yes, you read that right), and ate too many cupcakes. What we did NOT do a lot of, is training, and it was.... wait for it. Wonderful! I did one early morning self-practice yoga session on the beach, and Matt and I did get in a nice 4.7 mile adventure run on some pretty technical trails (pictured below) we found, but that's it. The thing is, I'm not worried about it. In fact, I was just about to write that I'll call this a 'rest week', but for the first time in a long, long while (maybe since I first began running), I don't feel compelled to label my downtime. Not even label, really.... justify it with a label. I read a lot of my Relentless Forward Progress book and studied a lot of the Rock Creek Runner blog, simply because that's what I wanted to do. In retrospect, I think that's what would have served me best these past eight days and I'll likely continue with this 'whatever I feel like doing' program, while channeling all of the information I'm compiling into mental preparedness. The 24 week plan leading up to the 100 miler officially starts one week from today, and at the moment, as I lie here typing this out, I feel like I may actually have a smooth transition into it.

Stay tuned...

Saturday, July 18, 2015

practice makes progress... i hope

Practice puts brains in your muscles
~ Sam Snead

Aside from the three ultras I did in May and June, I haven't run more than six miles at once (and usually, it's more like three) since the Oklahoma City Memorial Marathon. I wish I could say that this was due to taper or rest or whatever makes runners go through a mileage dip, but it was/is medical. Nothing serious... just endocrine related and, as it turns out, has to be managed a little more than I thought. Anyway, my system is starting to level out again and the energy is returning, which means at this point, any struggle I have in running is largely due to having fallen out of running shape. The first step is admitting it, right? Or accepting it? I'm not sure which word is used, but it has to be one of them, and I've chosen to do both and then to fix it. Immediately. And here's how....

So I have this training partner, and she is the most easy-going, totally flexible training partner on the planet (example of said easy-goingness and flexibility in the screen shot below), and we come up with some fairly random ideas to shake up a perfectly normal routine. Things like catching a bus to a town 30 miles away and running back, zig zagging a neighborhood to fit a 15 mile run into one square mile, or running the city with no plan or set mileage, only a debit card to stop for the occasional shot of espresso or bottle of water. Every once in a while, though, we try something out that proves itself useful. Not just useful, really... effective. One such brainchild was heart-rate training.

In the spring of 2014, I approached Wendy (oh yeah... my training partner's name is Wendy) with the heart-rate training plan, a concept I'd read about a few years ago in Rich Roll's book Finding Ultra. To really, really simplify it, you train in a frustratingly low heart rate zone that increases your aerobic capacity and teaches your body to utilize your body fat for its primary source of fuel, rather than relying on so many simple sugars. It's called the Maffetone Method. Truthfully, I just wanted an excuse to run slower because I felt so shitty all the time (again, the endocrine thing, but I didn't know it yet). Anyway, she was all for it because, well, that's how she is. So we did it, and it was fantastic. This type of running was so hard to get the hang of it at first, but once we did, it was very enlightening. We learned more than we ever expected about our bodies and how they react to various stressors in running, as well as teaching our bodies to run very long distances on little fuel and still feel good the next day. The heart rate training lasted for the length of marathon training at which point we resumed our regular running, which just kept getting stronger and stronger. Until it didn't. 

Fast forward a year or so later to yesterday when we met for a swim and had a little gnash about having lost so much running fitness in the past two months after backing down (me because of the health stuff and her trying to heal a nagging plantar issue). So I suggested we try another heart rate run with a full lap around the lake (if, on the off chance someone is reading this and said someone is out of town, "the lake" refers to Lake Hefner). In true Wendy fashion, she was all for it.

Wow, did I forget how hard it is! I think we ended up only running about 6.5 miles of the 10 mile run and walking the rest in - not because of fatigue, but because it got to a point where I couldn't keep my heart rate below the specified 142. I really wanted to just run to the finish anyway, but a) that defeats the purpose, and 2) there's no way in hell I could listen to my Garmin scream at me for being out of zone for another 3.5 miles. All this to say, I'm pretty dang proud of making a plan and sticking with it. It was a practice both in mind and muscle, and so, the progress continues.

Stay tuned...

Thursday, July 16, 2015

coming back to myself

Life opens up opportunities to you, and you either take them or you stay afraid of taking them. 
~ Jim Carrey 

So, I'm sitting here in my 'office' (also known as Elemental Coffee), not working and about to crack open my brand new, uncreased much-anticipated book. I'm hesitant, though. My head isn't in it, and I really need it to be. Well, that's not entirely true. My left brain is totally amenable, but man that right side.... That right side just isn't quite engaged yet, and that is the bit that matters. Oh, the book? It's called Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell. This guy's name is all over the trail and ultra running world, and I'd been sporadically reading his articles for quite some time before losing myself in, well, I don't know what. Life. Lots of good - no great - life, but still. A big chunk of me was swirling out there and it took a long time for me to even notice. Anyway, back to the book. I've recently become obsessed (perhaps more accurately, addicted) to this podcast called No Meat Athlete by Matt Frazier.

Insert plug here: Seriously. If you haven't listened to it, you should. You can be a total carnivore and never want to run a step in your life and it's still good.

Plug over. Back to your regularly scheduled programming.

So, as I said, I've been listening to this podcast and got to the episode called Ultrarunning Basics (episode 9, if you're interested), which, as it turned out, featured an interview with Bryon Powell. It was then that I first learned about his book. Fast forward a few days and our friendly post guy delivers it to my doorstep. Skip ahead one more day, and here it sits unopened, next to my laptop, just waiting for its spine to be cracked.

I think I need to get out of my head first, though... just a quick break.


You know that feeling of fighting yourself and you're not sure of the reason or of what piece of you is fighting what? If not, don't worry about it. You're lucky. Smile and be thankful. I know that feeling all too well, and all too often, but fortunately, I can usually find something to settle the dust. Today that something was a yoga class I had to talk myself into attending. No, I mean it. I was literally sitting in the parking lot and telling myself that even if I don't feel better after, I won't feel any worse. Thank all holy things I'm stubborn because I went in, unrolled my mat, and 60 minutes later, walked out of there drenched in sweat, quads still shaking, but feeling totally resolved. I came home to four dogs (two of which we are dogsitting) and was happily licked clean before sitting down to knock out two blog posts and a social media project for a couple of clients. And now... now I sit here with a glass of wine and an OPEN book that just a few hours ago, I could barely look at.

Oh! I never even mentioned that this book purchase has a purpose! You know that day that I "re-heard" Bryon Powell's name on the podcast? That was also the day that I decided to celebrate my 40th birthday in the best way I know how: a 100 mile trail run. Actually, in the interest of honesty, I wasn't looking for one on my birthday. I just happened to see an ad for it on one of the running emails I get, noticed the date, and thought it sounded like a fabulous idea. We'll see, right? Anyway, I decided that I actually want to train for this and not half-ass it like I've done for all but one (truly, just one) race in my life, and this book feels like the one to use for three reasons:

1) Fate. The universe had to be telling me something by sending me that ad, that podcast, and the inexplicable perspicacity to declare that my goal (which was instantly met with full support from my other half) all on the same day.
2) I trust and appreciate his style. He's experienced and solid in his methods while understanding that nothing is one-size-fits-all.
3) He's plant based. I'm back to plant based after a five year omnivorous stint, and it's comforting to hear ideas and perspective from someone who shares a similar dietary lifestyle.

So, today is exactly six months from my birthday/race day, which means today starts training. Actually, I think it's a 24 week plan, so the set running schedule doesn't start for a week or two, but the head and heart start today.

Stay tuned.

Monday, March 8, 2010

a quick note

Just a quick post to say that I had a GREAT 20 miler yesterday! That's the furthest I've travelled on foot since last October's ultra and I had an absolute ball doing it. The weather was great, with even a few minutes of sunny drizzle, I met several new runners, reconnected with some old ones, and a very artfully prepared cappuccino at coffee afterward. The barista drew pictures in my foam...love that! Follow that up with lunch with my best friend and a lazy evening of Oscar watching, and I'd say it was a perfect way to cap off the week.

Monday, March 1, 2010

what perserverance looks like

10. You get to talk to a lot of nice people because you aren't out of breath.
9. There ain't no shame in looking at a bunch of really good runner's backs~anonymous.
8. It's a chance at trying to force evolution from the ground up.
7. It's an awesome feeling to know that you made someone's day by letting them pass you.
6. You get to spend the time thinking of how you are going to cash in on your calories you just burned.
5. Technically, there are only two places that count in a race; 1st and last-people stick around to see who gets both.
4. Somewhere along the way, you feel the thinnest you have felt in months~almost on the brink of sexy.
3. It's better than watching from the start-you get to see who gets what place in real time.
2. Banana split..banana split..banana split
1. The personal crowd of 10 or less who stick around to cheer your finish...and retrieve your timing chip.

That is a facebook post from Saturday's final race finisher. At 9:00, over 400 runners took off for the annual Beacon on the Bay. It was beautiful out. Chilly, but sunny and little wind by Oklahoma standards. For the first time in years, I wasn't wearing a bib, but as a volunteer committee member I'd intended to be out on the course for an easy 10ish miles checking water stations, encouraging runners, and generally helping where there was need. My plan was to be back at the finish about halfway into the race so I could head home to take care of a few things that have been hanging out on my to-do list. As a side note, it's funny that I even start my weekends with plans because my day never goes accordingly. About five miles into the run, there was a minor hiccup that luckily turned out okay. With that slight set-back in schedule, it wasn't long before I caught up with the course sweeper who just happens to be one of my favorite runners. I welcomed the walk break and planned (there's that word again) to hang with him for a mile or two before continuing down my path. The day was too nice, the conversation too good, and the high from the racers too contagious, and before I knew it, I was at the 25K turnaround agreeing to continue sweeping the course.

Just after 1:00 we skip the keyhole to wait at the end for the final few moments before our last runner crossed the finish line. As she made her way down the final stretch smiling and breathless, the last of the volunteers stood to cheer. Over the years I've seen many race winners, PRs set, and speed goals exceeded, but never have I seen perserverance and accomplishment exemplified quite like this.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

deviating from the plan

So last weekend a small group of us headed south for the Austin Marathon. While the OKC Marathon will always be the most special to me for myriad reasons, I love, love, love out of town races! There is little more exciting than the week-long anticipation, waking up ridiculously early the morning we finally head out (but not so early that Starbucks won’t open within a half hour of driving), and finding that perfect driving music to take you straight to the expo. I have this traveling thing down! Or so I thought…

My plan was the same one that has worked unfailingly many times before. I'd work as late as I needed to on Friday so I could be ahead going into the next week. I'd come home and put my favorite bedding sheets in the wash, put less favorite bedding on the bed, and pack using the packing check list I'd printed out earlier. Henry then gets a little extra play time before unnecessarily setting the alarm clock and climbing into bed to lie awake for the next six hours. Sleeplessness aside, it sounds pretty good, right? It was right up until I realized that I forgot to print out my list at work and somehow thought my memory could be trusted.

He hadn't even started the ignition when I announced that I felt like I was forgetting something. Shoes? Got 'em. Garmin? Got it. Gum, carmex? Of course. Then you're set! I resigned myself to the idea that I had the essentials and settled into the drive, Starbucks in hand. Gloves! I forgot gloves! At this point, we were already in Texas and I was okay with that. Gloves are pretty easy to find. I'd just pick up a pair at the expo. Or two pair, since my hands threaten frost bite at any temp below 70.

So seven hours and two Starbucks later, we meet part of our group at the expo and finalize the dinner plans, pick up our packets, I get experimented on with this rolly thing to the amusement of my traveling companion, and we head out to explore the streets of Austin for a couple of hours. We made it as far as Sixth Street before stumbling upon a little dive called the Dizzy Rooster (which for some reason I kept calling the Fuzzy Chicken, I mean Rooster, Damn it Dizzy Rooster!), with a really great guitarist covering old country songs by request. We ended up staying there until dinner. We were going to run these streets tomorrow, so why ruin the surprise, right? And who could possibly leave this bottle-cap decorated, honky-tonk place with the musician large in both physical and audible presence and his well-deserved tip bucket?!

Fast forward through dinner and we head over to meet one of my most fantastic cousins at this fundraiser she helped organized to pick up her house key. By the time we finally make it back to hers, the clock is inching toward 10pm and we're putting on PJs and getting ready for the race the next morning. And this is where I discover that "something" I was forgetting. "But it was gloves, and you bought two pair at the expo," you're saying to yourself right now.... Nope. I am sitting in the back bedroom of my cousin's house in my PJs at 10:00 the night before the race with a pair of running shoes, a tech shirt, a sports bra, six pair of gloves (as it turns out I somehow packed four pair), and no shorts. "Well, at least my hands will be warm even if my ass freezes off!" I joke to myself. Luckily, I always have yoga tights on hand and wasn't forced to trek through downtown Austin in my knickers.

The race itself was spectacularly hilly, had undying crowd support, and was very Austin-like in its steady supply of live music on the course. I started slowly, which is pretty typical, and concentrated really hard on listening to the two voices in my head. No, I don't need a really strong dose of medication...these are just words that have been said repeatedly to me over the past few months. "Don't hurt yourself. I want to run a marathon with you," says Voice One. It is immediately followed by Voice Two telling me to "Quit charging the hills!" Let me tell you, they don't speak rhythmically, so it's hard to get a steady stride going to these two! In any case, my muscles loosened, I was uncharacteristically careful, and 13.1 sweaty miles later, I crossed the finish line feeling great and only 8 minutes off my PR.