28 February 2010

Weekend of Running

My weekend was very rewarding in a physical sense - full of amazing runs!

Saturday I met Iliana to do a long run in Central Park. We originally intended to run long with Tony, but icy roads everywhere kept us in the plowed Central Park. I felt quite good, and Iliana wanted to stop after a little over two loops, and taking it easy was probably smart, esp. since we had an overnight run planned. Running loops in Central Park was better than I expected; we had good conversation, Iliana is very patient with my ice fears, and I ran into three running friends in the Park.

I spent the rest of the day getting my hair cut, doing errands, walking around. Iliana picked me up at seven for our journey to Jersey. The original plan was to run 40 miles point-to-point on the Paulinskill 100 Miler course - which will be Iliana's first 100 miler. However, two feet of snow was going to make that difficult, so we opted to run on the South Mountain Reservation (where I ran last May's and will run this May's South Mountain 100k). 

Iliana, Rick (the RD for Paulinskill, Watchung, Muddy Marathon, and many other local races), Tom (also running Paulinskill), and I began running across the snowy trails up to the top of the mountain. It was fairly challenging (esp with the snow), and I found myself laughing hysterically as I repeatedly slipped.

There was a long straight path where you could run covered with snow that led to a paved loop. The snowy path was slippery and challenging, so we mostly stuck to the paved loop.

Iliana was doing her 10min run-1min walk, and Tom began on the snowy path (until he realized how crazy it was) and Rick and I ran around the paved path. It was a lot of fun; the temperatures were fairly warm, I was feeling quite good, like I could run all night. The moon was full so we didn't even use our headlamps.

After a little over two hours, I must've stepped in a puddle. But wait, my legs were really wet and there were no puddles - what? Suddenly, my back, my legs were soaked. The straw fell out of my Nathan bladder and I was suddenly soaked. "Augh!" I screamed, pulling off my backpack.

I quickly evaluated the situation; I was totally and completely soaked. I could change my shirt, but my pants, underwear, socks were totally soaked. I let Rick go ahead, ran in the opposite direction on the loop until I found Iliana. Her piriformis and ITB were hurting, so she wanted to go to the car and just go to sleep.

We hiked all the way down to the car which was pretty miserable. I was completely soaked, hiking through snow. When we got to the car, with my teeth chattering, I wondered why I should even bother going back. I had an extra pair of pants, extra running jacket. I borrowed a sports bra and socks from Iliana; I didn't have underwear but figured I'd be fine.

When I got to the top, I was ready to run again. I was bummed at my problem, but felt fairly good. Rick and I ran together for a few more laps until he decided to leave. I said goodbye and then ran in the opposite direction until I found Tom. Just having met him that night, we easily chatted about races. He was quite interesting.

However, the lack of underwear was making me miserable. Let's just say I was experiencing some pretty horrid chafing. I finally had to stop, and Tom decided he'd leave as well. We hiked down the mountain together.

I probably would have stayed out a few more hours if I had been wearing underwear. Lesson learned? Pack extra underwear.

This morning I finished my weekend of run with a 2hr run, weight lifting, and a yoga for runners workshop. Now I'm ready for bed.

I can taste the fun I'll have at Umstead 100 Miler; I can't wait! 

27 February 2010

Why I Run Ultras: Two Videos

Sometimes, between the bills and the subway being late and the snowfall and the annoyance with stinky, sweaty sports bras, I forget why I run.

These two videos remind me of why.

UltraRunning from Matt Hart on Vimeo.

25 February 2010

Bigelow Tea Social

I feel bad because I never properly blogged about the wonderful Bigelow Tea Social I went to last month. It was a really fantastic night, and I was surprised at what a great time I had.

I'm a pretty big tea drinker. I like the ritual of it; the steeping, the pouring, the sweetening of tea. I love the whole process and enjoy every delicious moment. I hate getting tea on the go and drinking it out of a paper or styrofoam cup. I guess for that reason, that's why I like.

I'll be honest - I wouldn't say I was a dedicated Bigelow Tea drinker before the event. I have some really delicious high-quality loose tea, but when it goes for boxed tea, I have a few favourites:
I must admit, I've always been a big Celestial Seasonings fan, especially after I visited their tea factory in Boulder (which is actually a lot of fun; even my non-tea-drinking-at-the-time-ex-boyfriend loved it!). However, I learned a lot at the Bigelow (including at how Celestial Seasonings Teas are not tightly packed and won't last long), and how they tend to use tea crumbs instead of full leaves (which obviously have a fuller, richer flavour).

We started out the night chatting with Cindi Bigelow, the granddaughter of the founder. We had tea, and I tried the most amazing tea -- Constant Comment! I can't believe I never had this before, and must admit it's now one of my favorites! I also tried a Vanilla Tea, which while it was good, I went back to Constant Comment. (Yes, I had two cups of it!) There were also tea sandwiches (which I've never had before, and I must admit the cucumber and butter sandwiches were not as fab as I thought (I'm not the hugest butter person) but were quite dainty. The scones were phenomenal and I loved them.

We chatted about tea, about how we prepare it, the history of tea. Then we began to do some taste testing, trying different kinds of green tea, black tea, peppermint, chamomile. I was won over by the high quality of Bigelow Tea, especially with the richness of the flavours which greatly overshadowed the much weaker teas of their competitors. 

After, we had wine, chocolates, desserts, and of course, more tea. It was a truly lovely night.

We were sent home with various samples and a tea book. It was a really lovely night.

23 February 2010

Pot at the End of the Umstead 100 Rainbow

Right now, I'm really focused on Umstead 100 Miler. I want to go sub 24 so bad I can taste it, but I also know it depends upon so many different things. If I'm having a good day, I KNOW I can do it. So many little things - chafing, blisters, upset stomach, electrolyte imbalance - turn into much bigger things in a 100 miler. I'm doing everything I can to be prepared - but the day of, we'll see what happens.

Using the sage advice of others on the ultra list, I have developed a plan to go sub 24.

I must run the first 50 miles in anywhere from 9 hours to 11:30 (depending on who you talk to). I'm hoping to do it in around 10ish.

The RD sent me an excellent race report that I've used to help develop my race plan. Each loop is 12.5 miles, and I need to run appropriately to finish in sub-24.

Lap 1: 2:20
Lap 2: 2:30 (Total time: 4:50)
Lap 3: 2:35 (Total time: 7:25)
Lap 4: 2:45 (Total time: 10:10)
Lap 5: 3:00 (Total time: 13:10)
Lap 6: 3:15 (Pick up pacer!) (Total time: 16:25)
Lap 7: 3:25 (Pacer!) (Total time: 19:50)
Lap 8: 3:40 (Pacer!) (Total time: 23:40!)

Obviously, it's going to be really tight, but I'm hoping I can make it.

The RD and others say if you want to finish sub-24, you need to bucket in enough extra time - so 10 hours for the first 50 miles, 13 for the next. Seeing as I've only gone sub-10 hours once in a 50 miler, I know it's going to be really, really tough. However, I have on my side:

  • Intense training
  • 5 Hour Energy Shots
  • My mom, dad, and sister crewing me
  • My sister pacing me for one loop (I wish she could do more because she's not afraid to beat the crap out of me when I need it but she's not an insane runner like me!)
  • Kelsey pacing me for two loops (who is totally awesome!)
I can't stop thinking about Umstead...counting the moments down...it's going to be a blast, amazing, insane fun - and one of the toughest things I've ever done!

22 February 2010

George Eliot Quote

It's never too late
to be what you
might have been.

Special thanks to Pomsey for filling my mailbox with this great quote and love on a day when all seems to be a giant stressball.

17 February 2010

Race Report: Dances with Dirt 50 Miler: Green Swamp

I had an absolute blast in last Saturday's Dances with Dirt Green Swamp 50 Miler. At one point, kicking water in the air, running, laughing, I said to the other woman I was running with, "I'm having so much fun!"

Going into this race, my biggest worry was the negative consequences that could occur if I ran into an alligator. My brother had one when I was younger, but it was smaller and in a tank. What if I ran into an enormous alligator? Everyone warned me they ran very quickly and basically, they could eat me  quickly. 

My love for 50 milers convinced me to do this race, over my fear of alligators. I think they're the most fun distance! Marathons are way too fast and painful, 50ks are fun but you're just starting to get into things when they end, and 100 milers are WAY too longer. 100ks are also fun. But 50 milers - they're the perfect distance. They're short enough that you can do the run, eat a great big dinner, have a mellow night out even. I LOVE 50 milers.

I almost didn't get down to FL with the crazy snowstorm - my flight was canceled and I flew down to FL a day late. Even driving across Florida was stressful - I feel like I didn't fully relax until I started running.

Florida was struck by a cold wave. At the start, it was 34. I decided to go with my favorite pink running skirt, tank top, with my warm black running top from EMS on top, gloves, and pink visor. We all shivered in the tent by the start, warming up by the heater.

The 50 milers started at 5:30a.m. The first 8 miles or so were quite dark, so we ran with headlamps -- and consistently got lost. Miles 1-5 were white ribbons, and 5-10 were orange, and the orange were SO hard to see. Running in a big pack, we still got lost several times.

We started out running on fairly flat trails and sand. I was glad I wore my gaiters. We were all chatting with each other, and one guy was RUNNING AND SMOKING! He was a runner who also smoked cigarettes; so bizarre.

Around mile 3 or 4, we got to our first water section. There was no way around it, and it was a bit of a shock with the cold temperatures. We ran through it, complaining, and my shoes made that soggy sound for a while afterward.

I hooked up with a nice woman, Kim, and we ran together until Mile 23 (when I had to stop to pee, argh). She ended up winning the race - go Kim! We chatted a lot, exchanging ultra stories, talking about what we find attractive in a partner (Her boyfriend is an ultrarunner!), splashing through the mud.

The trails were often completely full of water, and we tried to avoid it (Hey, I wasn't taking any chances with the alligators) if it was easy; if not, we splashed right through. Because the trails were quite flat, we were able to run most of the course. I had a huge smile on my face and at one point said to Kim, "This is so much fun!" I was having a blast.

Some of the 50k runners and relay runners ended up blasting past, and I ran with some nice 50k runners for a while. The relay runners kept getting lost and missing the turnoffs. A lot of the time, I ran alone, which is fine with me. On beautiful trails, I don't need anything else. It's a test for me. It's my meditation. It's my happy time. It's the time when I'm my true whole self.
Around mile 24, I saw two hunters with very large guns. Guns frighten me, and I nervously said hello and acted friendly. Shortly after, I saw a water moccasin. I only knew it was that because two guys near me told me; despite their friendly-sounding name, they are quite poisonous.

At one point, I had to climb a fence. I looked around for the ribbons, thought, "Are you kidding me?" when I saw the ribbons on the other side of the fence. So many times in races when you realize you have to cross streams ("Are the trail markers REALLY over there? Oh no...") it's the same feeling. It wasn't too hard, but it was a little ridiculous around mile 24 (and then you have to climb over it again on the way back!).

I joined up with this nice guy and we chatted a bit, and then we took the wrong way, following some stupid Verizon flags in the ground (instead of the ultra flags, which were almost the same colour).

The worst thing about having a relay at the same time is watching the relay runners blast by you and feeling slow...and when they see you at the aid stations. I was covered with gu, blood, sweat, mud, snot, and eating like a maniac. They stared at me as I inhaled pretzels, peanut M & Ms, snickers, my powerbar chews, gels. "Oh YUM!" It made me aware that I was clearly not normal.

Around mile 32, I saw the hunters again...this time dragging a bloody dead boar. Not the best thing for a vegetarian to see, especially when her stomach is upset.

The race started to get painful - I pushed past the pain and my stomach felt queasy. I ate pretzels, jolly ranchers, forced myself to eat. When you don't eat, then you bonk, and then it's over. It's hard to balance eating with nausea. At one point, I laughed to myself: "Of course I'm nauseous. I'm eating gu and snickers and m & ms and pretzels - that's not the best combination." Not to mention the fact that I was also running at the same time as eating.

The terrain was lovely - very runnable. I've never run so much in an ultra. An aid station mistakenly told me I was second woman (which I doubt, especially when I passed two women in the last ten miles). Still, I pushed forward, passing people.

At a mile to go, I pushed as hard as I could. A relay runner was struggling and his teammate began jogging with him (barefoot). I passed him. His teammates were infuriated. "You can't let her pass you! Get her! You can get her!" No way. I was so determined - I pushed and pushed and grimaced --

and finished!

(I finished ahead of him!)

It wasn't my best 50 miler - 10 hours 16 minutes - but it was a lot of fun. As usual I met all sorts of awesome, wonderful people. I had fun doing what I love most - running. 

After, I learned I was 3rd woman overall, 1st in my age group (To be honest, I was the only one!), and 7th overall. I feel quite good about that!

I highly recommend this race. From what I've heard, other Dances with Dirt races are even harder, but totally fun. When a race is insane, sign me up!

10 February 2010

Do I need music to run?

People have asked me repeatedly about if I listen to music when I run. "Not usually." They're shocked...I enjoy the thoughts in my head. Running is my practice, my form of meditation.

I am so distracted - at work, I have coworkers who are chatting in informal meetings, conference calls, to each other, so I'll try to block it out by listening to music or will even listen to NPR for background information while working. At home, while cooking, my cat will be meowing, NPR will be playing, and I might be on the phone. I'm always on the go, with too much technology (post to Twitter, catch up on email, what's the latest on Facebook) - so quiet running is one of the best times for me to clear my mind and relax. Music is great to motivate you and keep you going - but my mind is what gets me out there in the first place.

Some people on the ultra list have been talking abt headphones lately and I found these posts particularly poignant:
From Chris Owens:

"I can't believe you ran X miles, I don't even like driving a car that
far.  Do you listen to music while you run?"
"what do you think about while you're running?"
"same things I think about when I'm not running"

From John M:
(Things you can hear when NOT wearing headphones)

Owls from several directions as dusk settled in and hunting areas were
claimed for the evening.
Coyotes after a thunder storm in Palo Duro Canyon.
The waterfall whose presence slowly gained volume for forty minutes before
we rounded that last bend in the trail on the Olympic Peninsula.
The wailing of baby (?) cougars impatient for mom to return.
Those last snorts of a wild boar just before I grabbed a limb to swing into
the nearest tree.
Mockingbirds in the tall grass prairies of Oklahoma.
Footsteps padding along behind, so many many miles.
Wing beats of a Bald eagle lifting off just a few feet away.
Wind rising and falling in the bristlecones at Great Basin.
The silence of Death Valley.
A red-tail hawk startling me with obvious delight screeching on a winter
morn as I crossed "his" frosty field--reminding me I was only a visitor.
Soft voices, murmured greetings and encouragement way far dark in the night.
Seals barking mixed with the bells of the bouys as the waves of an incoming
tide rattled rocks along the beach.
The rumbles of thunder outside of Trinidad as thunderstorms chased us off
the trails of the Rockies and back into Kansas.
Frost breaking as I ran through the knee-high grasses of Chip Ross Park,
rustling loud enough I had to stop to see who was coming up behind me.
T'was just me.
Those many frogs in totally joyous disharmony that went to silence as I
left the woods and started along their pond's edge.
The Rufous hummingbirds: one?  Six?  Three?  I heard, but never saw.
A singly curious Winter wren, one note to play was all he had, but one note
was played again and again as he perched on a branch not three feet from
where I had paused on the way down Mary's Peak.

Run gently out there.

03 February 2010

It All Comes Back to Running

After a fairly easy 3 hour trail run during which I felt like hell, I fell asleep in the car ride back to NY. (No, I was not driving!) I came home, showered, ate, puttered a bit, and passed out. I slept a solid 11 hours, dragged myself out of bed for work (late), was fairly useless for 3.5 hours, then left to go back home to sleep. I slept another 3 hours, got up, ate, and passed out for another 10 hours. Then I worked from home, and decided to skip my Tuesday weight lifting/elliptical for 1hour/1 hour run. I needed to rest.

I'm not a creature who likes to rest. It was a little difficult, but I kept busy with relaxing, drinking chamomile tea, catching up. Today, I feel heaps better, and was able to do my Tuesday workout routine no problem (though I know yesterday I would have had great difficulty).

Sometimes it's hard to step back and realize what's best...I know Umstead looms close ahead, and I know the cut-off for a sub-24 100 miler will be very, very tight, and I know, I KNOW if I'm having a good day I can definitely achieve it. The problem is, with running, you never know if you'll have a good day until it happens.

At VT100, I was on target for sub-24 for a while. At mile 70, I was slipping off it a little, but I could see 24-and-change. And well, we all know what happened when my feet had that horrid allergic reaction to the socks...

Iliana and I have been talking about upcoming races. It keeps changing, but I think this will be 2010:
  • February 13: Dances with Dirt 50 Miler (Green Swamp, FL)
  • March 27-28: Umstead 100 Miler (NC)
  • April: Boston Marathon
  • May 1: Miwok 100k
  • May 8: Bear Mountain (probably not, but I'd love to do the 50 miler)
  • May 22: South Mountain 100k (I do love those fatasses, baby!)
  • June: Ultimate XC
  • July: Maybe, Maybe, Maybe Vermont 100
  • August: Possibly pacing Iliana in Leadville!
  • August: Burning Man 50k
  • October: Javelina Jundred
  • November: NYC Marathon (If I'm in the States...)
  • December: Agua y Fuego 100k in Nicaragua
It's a pretty tough schedule, and a lot of money in plane fares. I'm hoping I can use my frequent flier miles to go to Nicaragua and/or AZ for Javelina...

So many races, so little time.

How did ultrarunning become such a passion? I think as my last relationship slowly disintegrated, I embraced something that always loved me back (well, except when I was trying not to cry in the bushes in the VT50 or crying during the Watchung 50k blizzard in 2009). It's tough, but running is the one thing I always come back to. I read some old letters I wrote when I was 16 and I was obsessed even then (scarily!). I look around at the mess in my apt - Endurolytes on the bookshelf, a pile of clothes for tomorrow's run at my feet, running backpack next to my Coach bag, my cat snuggling with my wicking socks...my life is full of contradictions, but really....

It all comes back to running.