Sunday, January 25, 2009

January 23-24th - "Horse Trails"

Friday, Jan 23 - After staying up until 2am Thursday night, cleaning for my daughter's 14th birthday sleepover, I knew my training schedule would be out of whack. There was no way I was getting up at 4:30 or even 5 to do strength training. When I did rise from my slumber, there was still trash to take out, a horse to feed, etc. I got dressed in my running clothes thinking I could do at least a quick 5 miler after I did these last few chores. Alas, time ran away from me and I needed to head to work. But hey, I was still dressed in my running clothes! Knowing that the temperatures were supposed to climb into the 50s I decided to go to work just as I was, and maybe slip out in the afternoon for a short run. So yes, I show up for work in my running tights, shirt, and shoes. It was so nice to be able to run in just a long sleeve tee and my tights after days of layering and freezing. My run took place along the bike trail. It is a converted railway - 44 miles long. I head west out of town, an uphill climb to the highest point on the trail. Next to the bike path is a horse trail. It is dirt and gravel and has many ups and downs as opposed to the gently sloping bike path. Of course that is my choice for running. I feel good, despite the lack of sleep and try to push my pace. Feeling competitive, I see a woman ahead of me on the trail, and push to pass her before my turn around point. Success! Then I continue on, climbing to the highest point on the trail. I turn around at 4.1 miles and head back. With the slightly downhill grade, I feel like I'm flying. I pass the woman again, he,he. I'm back at work in 1 hr 14 min. It was a 9:30min pace out and 8:30min pace on the way back - what a difference the downhill makes! I did some rebounding, leg and ab work Friday night, so my daughter could enjoy her friends without a hovering mother.

Saturday Jan 24th - After seeing my daughter's friends off, it was time for my last long run before the race. I really wanted to push for 30 miles, but I was an hour behind schedule getting started. The balmy 50s of Friday were gone, the highs were in the 30s and breezy. I headed back to the horse trail, starting at the western end of the trail and traveling east. I know this is going to be the more difficult direction to start, because when I turn around midpoint I will have to climb for 15 miles. But it will be a good test of stamina and pushing through fatigue. As I near the parking lot, it starts snowing and blowing, and I'm thinking 30 miles in this? I pull out the heavy duty hat, gloves and rain jacket, slip on the backpack and start down the trail. Within 1/2 mile the snow quits and the sun comes out. Within a mile, I have stripped off the jacket and hat, opting for the lighter weight head band. I estimate my pack with the water to be almost 10lbs. My pace is pretty fast for a long run, but I'm feeling pretty good. I reach the 6 mile mark in just over an hour and keep telling myself to slow down. I'm fueling with Hammer Gel, and a trail mix of pumpkin seeds and Reese's Pieces (I know, not the healthiest mix). Each hour, I make sure I eat something. I try to remember to drink often, but it's hard when it's not hot. I pass the half-marathon point at about 2:25, which is okay. I think I'll run to where I know there's a port-a-potty along the trail and see what the mileage is there. I pass a girl who had passed me earlier. She's walking and trying to call someone on her cell phone. She looked a little upset, and I was wondering if she bonked. I decided to check on her when I turned around if she was still on the trail. Because the garmin always seems to short change me on the turn around trip by 10th of a mile or so, I run past the 15 mile mark and turn around at 15.29 miles. A cold blast of Artic air hits me in the face! Argh, not only will I be going 15 miles uphill, but uphill into the wind. At the port-a-potty stop, I switch back to my hat. Now, I realize it's just a matter of counting down the miles. 5 miles back to the town. In town, it's five miles to the highest point on the trail. Friday, it seemed easy, today it's one foot in front of the other, and walking many of the uphills. From mile 22 to 25 I was at the wall and didn't see anyway through it, except to keep moving forward. Finally I climb to the high point and have a brief down hill break. I hit the marathon mark at just past 5 hours. Now, I'm having to fight negative thoughts - things like "I'm so slow" Then I remind myself that I'm doing this without a day of rest, having run 25 miles in the last two days. I eat and drink this little bottle of 5 hour energy that I bought at the 7-Eleven, just in case I really needed a kick. I didn't know if it would work or not. At mile 27 is the other port-a-potty on the trail. By this time the sun is sinking fast and the wind is picking up. I'm freezing. I sit in the port-a-potty, taking my time to stay out of the wind. My hands are going numb from the cold and I'm almost in tears. Finally, I start back on the trail and am walking while I try to put all my extra layers back on. I put my rain jacket back on and pull out an extra pair of gloves for my hands. My fingers are so cold, I'm having trouble trying to buckle back the straps of my backpack. Finally, I get situated and start to run again. I'm warmer, and feel a surge of renewed energy coming back. I pick up the pace and finish the last 3 miles at a pretty good clip. It's 6 hrs and 5 minutes when I get back to the car, 30.5 miles, and almost dark. I did it! Now it's taper time.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

My life before WW and running

I will never forget the day I looked in the mirror and saw a stranger staring back at me. "I don't know who you are," I said to the face in the mirror. This photo is that face. Believe me, I didn't want to post this picture, but I need to remember where I've come from and what I've accomplished. It is my driving motivation to keep setting new goals, and to push my body to its limits. I weighed 274lbs in this picture, and I was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired. Despite normal blood levels, I felt like my thyroid problems were still there and would never go away. Dozens of diets and thousands of dollars on programs, books and supplements yielded little or no results. Sure, the diets worked for a while, but I got tired of plateauing and eventually gave up, eating what I wanted since it didn't seem to matter anyway. In my reading, the concept of wheat sensitivity kept cropping up. A large percentage of those with hypothyroidism have also been diagnosed with gluten intolerance. It was worth a shot. I could give up wheat for one week, maybe even one month. In three days, my sleep apnea went away (ask my husband - the snoring stopped). I didn't wake up once with my heart racing and me wondering if I would make it until the morning. In one week, I had lost 10 pounds. Amazing. Maybe this was the ticket to health and wholeness. But the truth was, I also had eating issues. I tend towards addictive behavior, and obsessive compulsiveness, both of which I needed to get under control. It wasn't just what I ate, it was how much I ate as well. When a friend at church starting going back to Weight Watchers and having success, I decided to join her. At the first meeting, the Teri, the leader, was talking about excuses - making excuses for why we can't lose weight. She even mentioned hypothyroidism as a possible excuse. I immediately raised my hand and said, "Well, I have hypothyroidism (she probably thought I was going to get mad at her), but I'm not going to use it as an excuse anymore. It may be harder for me to lose weight, but I will do it this time." And I never looked back after that. I got up to exercise, even when I didn't want to - no excuses. I passed the desserts, even when I didn't want to, and I haven't eaten wheat since, (except the tidbit at communion). I wrote down scripture verses that would motivate me, and I prayed everyday that God would give me the strength to see the race through to the end. I started hiking on the Appalachian Trail, a stone's throw from our house, and the rest is history. I lost the weight in one year and four months. Some may say I traded one addiction for another - running. Perhaps, but it's more than that - I feel transformed from the inside out, and I've been given an opportunity to encourage those who face their own obstacles, whether it be weight or anything else that life throws at us - we can overcome, we can do more than we ever thought possible and we can all be winners. God speed.

Jan 20-22, 2009 Snow, Cold & Treadmills

Tuesday, January 20th - It was single digits when I woke, but there was snow on the ground. Granted, one inch is not much to get excited about but so far this year it's the best we've got. The graveled mountain roads were covered, so it was my first chance to get out and run in the snow. Despite the fact that I was told to run both trail and roads in regular running shoes, I knew that this occasion called for the Salomon Trails - warmer, waterproof and better traction. Today was the "mountain vs. woman" routine. I start at the bottom of a 2.5 mile mountain road that climbs 1000ft to the top. If I run the whole way up, I beat the mountain, and the mountain wins if I have to stop or walk. Normally, I do it twice. Eventually, I'd like to do it 3 or 4 times - that would get me in shape for some of the more vigorous trail races. I decided to forego the yaktrax on the way up, so I clawed and pulled myself towards the top. Even with a little snow I could tell the difference, every step seemed harder. "I'm still running," I kept telling myself even as my pace slowed to a dismal 4mph, then to almost 3mph. "I'm not moving fast, but I'm still running," I said as I made my final push to the top of the mountain. The snow was thicker here with icy patches, and I decided for the trip down the mountain, the Yaktrax were in order. Downhill grades are easier on the lungs but harder on the legs. Part of me wants to put the brakes on, the other part wants to just let gravity take over and do a freefall. I'm starting to feel the Yak trax under my feet, so I take them off and decide to do a side road instead of a double "mountain vs. woman." Aside from the hose of my hydration bladder freezing and the ice framing my face and clinging to my hat, scarf, and hair, it ended up being a great run. Some Garmin statistics - 13.2 miles, time:2:38:37, avg speed 12min/mile, max speed 7:30min/mile(I always love this calculation) avg heart rate 109bpm, max 158bpm.

Wednesday, Jan.21st - After teaching three classes at the homeschool coop, I decide to forego the outdoor run, and do a little treadmill work at the gym. I start with a 1/2 mile warmup, walking on full incline (15%) at 4mph. Now, it's time for the real workout. Each mile, I start at 9:30min/mile and build to 7:30min/mile, trying to hold the fastest time for as long as possible, before I drop it back and start all over. This is my best 5k time. Eventually, I'd like to push it to 7:00min/mile. 9:30min/miles feel like coasting after the 7:30s. I do this for 6 miles - it gets harder with each mile! Then, I do a half-mile cool-down at 9min pace. A quick and fun hour long workout. A guy comes into the room while I'm running - "You training for another marathon?" he asks. "Something like that," I respond. I do some ab work to cool down.

Thursday, Jan. 22nd - More treadmill work, this time on the home machine which I'm about to throw out the window! The incline won't adjust, you can only increase your speed, and the thing won't turn off once you've started it. The only way to quit is to go 100 minutes or pull the emergency key out of it's slot, at which point you lose all your data. The treadmill has many affectionate nicknames like the "dreadmill," and the "hamster wheel." I just call my treadmill "you worthless piece of junk." In all fairness, this was given to me by some dear friends and it worked great until I started running 3 and 4 hours on it at a time. I think my sweat short-circuited the electronics. Anyhow, to survive long distances on the dreadmill, I watch movies - usually inspirational ones, if they're about runners, all the better. Today I watched "Running Brave," about Billy Mills winning a gold medal in the 10k at the olympics. Then I started watching "Without Limits," about Prefontaine, but I don't know if he ever won anything 'cause I had to pull the plug to get ready for work. At 85 minutes into the run, with a pace of 10:42min/mile, I decide I need to go to the bathroom, only I can't get the thing to stop. Okay, I think I can make it 15 more minutes. Then Billy Mills is running his olympic race. He speeds up, I speed up. He wins with a final kick! He's stopped running, but I can't! I can't even slow back down. Fortunately the 100 minutes arrived, and I was able to take my potty break. I lasted another 84 minutes, pulling the plug at the climax of "Without Limits." 17.2 miles, steady pace of 10:42.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday, January 18, 2009 - The Roller Coaster

It takes me an hour to get ready for a trail run in the winter. Not only do I have to decide what and how many layers to wear, I have to make sure my gear is in order and my water and fuel supply fresh. Gear checklist: first aid kit, mini-survival kit (if I fall and break my leg and it takes them two days to find me), extra food while I'm surviving, knife, headlamp, flashlight, whistle, compass, water purifier, etc. If I'm going to be gone all day or the weather is questionable, I also carry an extra jacket. Now to get dressed - base layer, cover layer, running tights, running pants, knee pads (average falls per run = 2), gloves, hat, scarf, orange vest, wool socks and shoes. I feel and look like the Michelin Tire Man ( argh - it makes me look 20 lbs heavier)! Finally, it's after 3 pm and I still haven't left the house. So much for a long trail run. I decide to "run" my old friend the roller coaster, thus named for the series of 13 hills with elevation changes from 300 to 700 ft. I'll only be climbing 3 hills out and back. When I first started losing weight, I hiked these hills to get in shape. I considered it a major victory when I made it to the top of the first hill, walking. Today I want to see what damage the ice storm did to the trail. I come to the creek and it's frozen, even the waterfalls. Now I just have to jump across it, without falling through the ice. Fortunately, the water is low right now. Next is the climbing part - it seems harder than I remember - I haven't been on this section since November and the beginning of hunting season. I also can't seem to get the rhythm on the technical (i.e. rocky) sections, and my downhill "sprints" are like tiptoeing through the tulips. But no new downed trees. By the time I get to my turn around spot it's been an hour and a half. Looks like the headlamp will come in use after all. As night approaches, the trail becomes silent, the only noise is the landing of my shoes and my breathing. I've become one with the woods, a mere extension of the roots and rocks under my feet. "Now, if it would only snow." I think. As if on cue, flurries dance about my head. I smile as I negotiate the last hill toward my car. It's good to be back on the trail.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Saturday, January 17, 2009 - 5k race day

It was zero degrees when I got up this morning. What kind of weather is that for a 5k race? Why am I even doing 5k races when I'm trying to run 100 miles? It's all about speed. Without these races I would be tempted to do all long slow distances. So I put on 3 top layers, 2 bottom layers, gloves, smart wool socks, a hat, a bandana (i.e. snot rag) and headed for the race site. There were probably 100+ other crazy runners out there. We're standing there at the start trying to stay warm while this young man is giving us instructions. Right in the middle of his talk, he strips off his top down to his bare chest (remember it's single digit temps) and puts a tank top on to run in. That's crazy! Finally we start. There were these cards strewn along the path that you could collect to win a door prize. I did manage to stop long enough to scoop one up. Both my hands and my feet went numb early in the race. Then about halfway through my hands started to thaw and they burned! The pain was pretty intense, almost enough to make you cry. I stayed with a group of runners most of the way through the race. With about a mile to go the lady that always beats me starts to pull ahead. There are two women close in front of me. This guy pulls beside me and says "You can catch those two." and I say "She always beats me." He says, "Come on, I'll help you. She always beats me too." So we try to pick up the speed but then my quads are trying to cramp up. Now there is another woman behind me, who was on my tail. I'm like come on legs hang in there, but they really hurt. Eventually the guy pulls away, I'm pushing around the track for the finish and the woman behind me passes me. With my quads cramping I couldn't catch her. Finish time: 23:47, my second best time. I think I was in the top ten women. I got a Book-on-CD about natural cures for a door prize. The Garmin says my heart rate jumped up pretty high in the first mile then settled down into a more acceptable range. I think I need to start slower and finish faster!

After going to the bank and grocery store, I figure it's warm enough (in the teens by now) to do the rest of my scheduled run - I did another 10.4 miles for a total of 13.5 miles on the day. I ran from VA into WV and then back into VA! Two states in one run. My legs, hands and feet did fine on the longer run and I did it faster than I expected (10:13 avg. pace) so I was pleased. I actually got hot and had to start stripping layers. My hair did freeze as well as my water.

I used sport beans and hammer gel today.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Sunday, I had the brilliant idea to go check out the race course at Lake Anna. I loaded up my car with my pack, my shoes, gloves, hat, bars and all the other accessories I thought I might need. I got the directions off google map and headed to the lake. About two thirds there, I realized I needed gas. Then I realized that with all the gear I had brought for running, I forgot my purse. The needle was getting down to the big E and I was a little concerned. But, I was almost to Lake Anna so I figured I would worry about it later. It was quiet at the lake, in fact I was the only car parked in the lot... I had a trail map of the loops we would be running. How hard can this be? So I put my pack on and headed down where I thought the race was going to begin. The first thing I discovered was a nice big hill going into the campground. Well at least we would be running down the hill on the way back. Then the trails headed into the woods. Since the ice storm on Thursday, the temperature had climbed above freezing and the trails were now muddy with lots of horse piles to avoid. I missed one turn right off the bat. Turn around, try this trail. The name is right, so I'm back on track. At the next intersection I never could figure out which way to go. Finally I just ran the section backward. There were signs "Caution: Steep grade ahead" You crested the hill and down you went only to climb up another steep hill and do the same thing. A regular roller coaster. I ended up back where I got turned around before and this time was able to find the next section. I finished the loop with no mishaps (only two little tumbles). Eight miles in 1 hr 50 min. That's slow. How much time did I lose looking at the map? Oh, the fun of being directionally challenge. I ran the short loop next and finished 4.7 miles in 1 hr. A little better, but not much. How many loops can I run in 8 hrs? Should I just do the short ones or try alternating? Can I make 31 miles? All these questions were running through my head as I loaded the car back up. Then the pressing problem of the gas came back. I scrounged and found $20! Now I just had to find a gas station. But first, to get out of the park. "Please Lord, let the gate be open." (That's another story, getting locked in a national park is quite the experience). Once through the gate my prayers changed "Please, Lord let me get to a gas station." Fortunately my prayers were answered shortly, and I had a successful trip home.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Well the trail run was just as I expected and more. I started in the dark and had to weave my way to the woods and cross the creek to get to the trail head. It was slow going in the dark and the ground was really wet and slippery. All the creeks were fuller than normal with slippery wet rocks. Then as I started to climb and the sun rose, I entered a winter wonderland. There was a 1/2 inch or more of ice on the branches. Sometimes the trees formed an ice tunnel that I ran through. But there were also trees down everywhere. I had to stop and either crawl on my hands and knees under the limbs, or crawl over. Sometimes I had to do both. A couple of times my feet got tangled up in the vines attached to the trees, and I had to extract them. Still I pressed onward. On a really steep climb, there was ice all over the trail. Knowing I would have to run back down this section, I put on my Yaktrax. This was crunchy ice, like someone spilling buckets of ice cubes on the trail and the Yaktrax worked great on that. Finally, I came to a great ice wall, 10 feet tall and covering the trail. I didn't see away around it or through it - the branches were hanging down from the bent tree like a glass jail. So I turned around and plowed my way back home. 10 slow miles total.