Friday, March 20, 2015

Don't let perfection be the enemy of good - A Salida Recap

First trail race of the season - check!

I was doing some thinking while I was running, I had a good 5:45 to think, and I realized that this was also my first big race since the 50 miler last year. It is hard not to feel a little gooey inside thinking that I was finally back out on a trail doing what I love to do.

Speaking of gooey...the trail was interesting. I have had my fair share of runs on less than ideal conditions and the trails this time did not disappoint. Unfortunately my first thoughts following the race were "darn...15min slower than the last two years that sucks". Fortunately, processing the race with everyone there that weekend I realized that wanting to run a perfect race shouldn't get in the way of all the good that came from this race. Here are my highlights and lowlights:

1. THIS:

Me enjoying some PBR at mile 13.2 with the Absolute Bike Volunteers
This was the best part of the race. You come to this aid stating after running up a road for a really long time, running by this aid station so you can go another 1.5ish miles (half way you have to run around a cone where a guy is standing there watching to make sure everyone runs around the cone) and hit this oasis at 13.2. As I came running down the hill the lady at the turn off shouts "turn here to continue, straight ahead if you need aid....or PBR".  My friend Jill, who was running the half, was really excited that there was a race with PBR at the aid stations. In honor of her I thought, "yes, I am stopping and doing this". I trotted up to the tent, all I had to say was PBR and my new bartender jumped at the task. He filled up a small cup and we enjoyed our drink, snapped a quick pic, and I went burping away.

2. Nutrition

Ok, now the boring stuff. For me, this was super exciting. One of my biggest struggles at the 50miler was food and fuel intake. As you may recall from that recap post my stomach and head had a really frustrating debate about what I could consume without wanting to barf. I decided to try something new for this race, which I had tested a bit on training runs, all solid food. I had gu chomps and honey stinger chews where I agree would be considered "solid", but they have electrolytes and caffine and they fit in my pocket well so they count. I also used Raw Nutrition Bars. I was introduced to these by the folks at Voormi and really liked them. Much tastier than your typical powerbar/luna bar treat. I fueled myself with Raw Bars (one coconut chocolate and one spirulena which turns your spit green) equaling about 500 calories, chomps, and of course M&Ms and potato chips at aid stations. My stomach felt great the whole race, even better, my stomach felt great after the race and I wolfed down an entire meal right afterwards! I may not be able to depend on gels anymore, but I'd like to slowly reincorporate them because they are a great fast fuel. My take away is that I cannot depend on them for my only fuel. I also saved some M&Ms in my pocket to share with Cuz at the end of the race!

3. Finishing Strong

Man the course kicked my butt. I talked to people afterwards and the general consensus was everyone ran about 15min slower than expected. I battled a lot of mud and snow on the back half of the course. I ran conservatively the first half, working on strategically power walking when it made sense. From mile 13.2 to Mile 19.8 there was A LOT of walking. Some of it intentional power walking, but a lot of walking on straights and downhill because it was just so hard to try and run. How I managed to not fall this entire race is a bit of a miracle. I did finish and was able to muster up my energy to hit the town that night with my friend Shelley. About a week post race my muscles feel great. I was even able to play frisbee Monday night.


1. Blisters

Ryan convinced me to wear long socks. The long socks I brought were new and untested. While they provided great shin protection through the knee deep snow, they destroyed my arches. I've never had such bad blisters before (even worse than the post Vegas bad shoe choice blisters).

2. Salt Pills

I forgot salt pills. Considering I usually forget something on race day it wasn't too bad that I only really forgot one thing. However...I really believe salt pills are important for good hydration and I wish I had remembered them, potato chips can only do so much.

Other than those two things this was a great race. I needed a humbling experience to remind myself that I can still finish races even if things don't go perfectly. For my first trail race of the season and my first long race since the 50miler I'm excited for what this season has in store for me.  Next up is a road half marathon mid April and then Quad Rock in May!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Salida Run Through Time Preview

Race season has officially started! Despite the road races I did earlier, I feel like my first trail race of the season marks the start of running season for me.  What better wait to start than one of my favorite marathons: Salida Run Through Time.

Currently the weather is looking awesome. Per the race director there's snow on the course which might stick around this week. I'm ok with that. Snow, mud, ice, rocks to trip on, that's all part of the fun of trail running. It is nice to not have to post-hole, but I can manage a little muck on the shoe. Snow and ice make downhills a challenge which is frustrating. I've become accustomed to running as fast as I can downhill to make up for some slower uphill climbs. The word of warning on the email was "no records will be set" so that sort of sets the tone for my expectations.

My training, as I'm beginning to realize at this point of the season, is minimal but doable. I again didn't get in as many long trail runs as I would like and in all honestly I've been a huge slacker the last few weeks. Largely due to being out of town so much. So it is what it is. I would be lying if I wasn't a little disappointed in myself, but I can't change that in a week so I just need to move forward with the current tools in my toolbox.

My time last year was 5:32. I'm hoping to beat that time. Optimistically I would crush it and get 5hrs, realistically if I run a 5:31:59 I'll be happy and count it as a win. I feel physically stronger than last year. I crushed Quad Rock, but that was with the benefit for several more months of training. That training doesn't carry over to this new year, but I am definitely stronger so I don't think it is unrealistic that if I feel good I can do it. I'm more worried about the fatigue that sets in at mile 18 and if my knee is going to do that weird thing where it hurts a lot from mile 17-20 and then mile 22, and then mile 24...etc.

I am also in a much much better mental space than I was last year. I think I literally made it to Salida and ran the race on fumes in 2014. Said fumes also carried me through a night of drinking and loud closet discussions with Tower. (Yes we literally sat in a closet and had a discussion, I don't really remember why). My brain was all over the place, emotionally I was drained and physically I was unprepared. It's actually pretty amazing that I finished last year in retrospect. Being fueled by stress, WTF am I doing with my life, and pure adrenaline doesn't usually last an entire 26.2 miles. So I'm headed in to this race feeling pretty positive about life in general and pretty pumped to run some trails with some awesome people.

Speaking of awesome people:

I'm extra excited because there's a good crew of newbies joining me. I unintentionally started a mission to convince ultimate frisbee players that trail running and distance running is awesome. I think it's working. There will be an awesome crew running the half marathon and I think they are going to love it! Wait until they see the bounty available at the aid stations: M&Ms for everyone (except for the 2 milers you just get to chill at the finish and drink beers).

It's going to be a great weekend to cap off 4 weeks of traveling every weekend. I get to stay in Colorado, run on trails, drink beer, and be with friends. Woop Woop!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Pride or acknowledging your greatness

It's not always easy having confidence in your abilities and even harder to have pride in them. I get asked pretty often why I run and have some good answers depending on the crowd. What I still have a difficult time with is when people are impressed by what I do. All I do is put one foot in front of the other; I just do it longer than some people and cover a few more miles. In all honestly, this type of attention and praise makes me really self conscious and slightly embarrassed. Being in front of groups is never something I've struggled with when it comes to presenting or giving speeches. When the center of attention is about me specifically it is really hard to put off that same air of confidence.

I don't win races, I don't win my age group (unless it's a 5k in Bentonville Arkansas), and, as with my 50 miler last year, sometimes I just try to get to the end in enough pieces to count.

Catt and I post Quad Rock. I'm wearing one pant leg, one shirt arm, one shoe, and my knee is bleeding...Enough pieces to count says my finisher mug.

Nothing that I do as a runner will show up in my college alumni magazine or get me a running sponsorship. So perhaps it's uncomfortable for me to receive praise when I don't feel like I've done any of the things that warrant it.

We are our own harshest critics and I was reminded of that this past weekend in Vegas. Trouble in Vegas is a low stress, have fun, be silly, drink beer, and get no sleep tournament for the post college teams. It's pretty much the opposite of playing at Nationals, Fright Flight might be the only tournament more opposite than that. So again, this is a tournament that doesn't matter with teammates who put more emphasis on funny groupme posts and eating ground fruit than winning all the games. So it's silly that in one of our games I got down on myself. I dropped two discs in the endzone. Which is uncharacteristic of me. I was so mad at myself. I had to take time on the sideline and throw/catch with a teammate to reset. But my frustration did not go unnoticed by one of my teammates. So now I was in a position on the sideline having to listen to someone tell me, remind me, that I'm a great player and to get out of my head.

Why is it so hard for us to acknowledge our greatness when things go right? Why is it so important for us to acknowledge it when things go wrong?

These knuckleheads won a spikeball set and your hearts!
I feel fortunate for having a new friend/teammate remind me of the bigger picture of my role on the field. It's so important to acknowledge your greatness when things are going horrible in ultimate for two reasons. First: if your opponent sees you down and mentally out of the play that's a big tasty weakness to exploit. Second: if your team sees you down and mentally out they worry about you and not about the right here right now moment of the game. Two drops over the course of two days, 9 games, hundreds of points, cases of beer, is actually pretty good. We won the tournament. Not despite the fact that I dropped two discs, but because I was a fully engaged member of my team. You can't be perfect, but you can be your fabulous self. It's hard to accept praise and harder to do it when you feel like you don't deserve it, but it's so important to acknowledge your greatness and allow others to do the same.

This tournament helped me remember the bigger picture of my role in running and races. A lot of ultra running, especially getting to the finish line, is convincing yourself that you can do it. Convincing your legs, feet, head, arms, stomach, that everything is ok and you just need to keep moving. Unlike ultimate I have no opponent I'm trying to outwit or a team I'm trying to support. I am the opponent and I am the team. I can't let me see a gap to exploit to not keep going. I can't let me see doubt. It's ok for people to be excited, amazed, and impressed by what I do. It's not easy and I work hard to accomplish my goals.

I will still feel uncomfortable being the center of attention and hearing someone tell me how awesome/amazing/crazy it is to run. I come from the land of powder milk biscuits; they help shy people get up and do what needs to be done. But I'm working on being more confident and proud of myself and I can see that only benefiting me in the long run.

Wow you run ultra marathons? Damn right I do, I finish them to, usually in one piece.