Tuesday, June 23, 2015

NorthFork 50k

It's hard to believe the NorthFork 50k is on Saturday. In years past I would probably be in full on freak out mode right now but leading up to this race I've been eerily calm and confident. When people ask how long a certain race is or how long I went on a training run I always feel like I have to "qualify" it if I'm not doing the longer race or run. How far is your race this weekend "It's just a 50k". yes I realize how silly saying "it's just" sounds when it's a 50k. Perhaps, going back to a previous post, I am still at a point where I have difficulty celebrating myself.

I've been in this position before, a week before a race, but this time I know what to expect for the most part. I know there will be moments of pain, moments of joy, moments of doubt and moments of confidence. I know all the trails, I know all the climbs, I know it gets hot out in the burn area and that there will likely be a thunderstorm at some point in the day. I also know I can finish, all I don't know is how I'll feel getting to the finish.

One of my biggest goals for this race is to conquer the food demons that plagued me a year ago in the 50 miler. While I won't be pushing myself to the same limit as I did then; 50k is still ample opportunity to have some major nutrition disasters and I want to mitigate that as much as I can. I ordered a big box of Raw Revolution bars and am planning on cutting them up like gummies and eating them along the race course. I've already got a few pickles in reserve that I am going to put in my drop bag at the Buffalo Creek aid station (we pass through it twice on for the 50k). Here's what my nutrition plan is looking like:

Stuff to carry while running:

  • raw revolution bars
  • sour patch kids
  • gels (just in case of emergency)
  • honey stinger or GU gummies (whatever is cheapest)
  • nuun
  • salt pills

Stuff to put in my drop bag:

  • sour patch kids
  • pickles
  • protein (either hummus or tempeh wrapped in a cabbage leaf)
  • nuun
  • peanut butter cups
  • honey stinger waffles
The aid stations have a lot of other items to supplement what I'm carrying (chips, M&Ms, sandwiches, ice, etc). I decided against doing the enduralite powder I used last year. That did not sit well with me and I haven't been training with it. I have been using nuun (both running and ultimate) and it's felt really good tummy wise. I learned my lesson with the pickle shortage last year and I'm sure they will taste awesome at mile 24.3. 

The weather is shaping up to be nice. Highs in the 70s, chance of an afternoon thunderstorm, but not to bad. I'm sure it will still feel hot but 70s is a lot better than 90s, especially when there's shade!

Other than nutrition, I do have a time goal for this race. My first 50k, Sageburner, was a tough one. I came in at 7 hours and 15 mine. I think I can get under 7 hours this go around. I have to figure out what that means splitwise during aid stations, but I think I can do it. I've run these trails so many times and I've got some good hard trail runs under my belt leading up to this. My achilles is feeling ready so all that's left is to lace up the shoes and go. 

I know some people (cough cough...mom...cough cough) are worried about me. My 50 mile experience does not inspire a lot of confidence. The Vegas odds might be in favor of me exploding on Saturday. To rest my critics, and the voices in my head, I feel a lot better prepared this time around. Not just because it's not 50 miles, 50k is not something to take lightly, I feel like I learned a lot from last year and have put in a lot of time figuring out how to run smarter and how to take care of my body better. There will be tough points, pain, discomfort, uneasiness. But that's all part of ultra running. I already requested a beer from Ryan at his aid station and hope to drink more than 1/4 of it! All that aside, I am going to listen to my body, make sure I'm eating, drinking, electrolyting and hopefully that translates in to a good race and a good week after the race. LFG  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

To the fella over there with the hella good hair...

Quad Rock 2015 in the books. And to answer Jessi and anyone else who's asked recently what I think about when I run; I apparently think about Taylor Swift songs on repeat in my head.

What a difference a month makes! Despite the race starting at 5:30am the heat was already a factor early on in the race. Great training for North Fork, but oof, I'm not used to such high heat for this race. I swear the "shady" areas I remember from last year turned out not so shady this time around. How I missed May and it's cloud cover. Again, I did not envy the 50 milers I saw slogging their way back up the course, except for Ryan, he strolls along chatty and happy as always as if he didn't have another 20 miles to run.

First and foremost, I finished. Albeit not as pretty as I would have liked. No, no stitches this year. I had a couple "oh shit" almost falls but managed to save it before body connected to rock (I did sort of bounce off a tree at one point, much to the amusement of the person behind me). My achilles held up for most of the race but had a temper tantrum about 2 miles shy of the finish. I rolled in, sneaking by the Catt cheer squad, but sort of awkwardly running trying not to put any weight/pressure on the ball of my foot. Yes I know, not running and resting would have been better. Despite that I do feel 100% ready for the North Fork 50k, I don't think I'd have that feeling if it wasn't for this race.

I'm really happy with my uphill work. I focused a lot on strong uphill running/walking and kept really great form for most of the race. This is probably the first time I've run Quad Rock not hating myself halfway through one of the big climbs. I actually felt strong after each climb. I ran the first down hill pretty hard and then committed to taking it a bit slower for the rest to make sure I wasn't killing my body. All in all it was a really great race. I'm not happy about my achilles, but "thems are the shakes" as they say and all I can do is ice and rest as I get ready for North Fork.

Catt and I relaxing in Jessi Witt's
back yard post race with
Lory State Park in the background.
Catt really killed it this race. We had a great discussion about nutrition and bonking. I was skeptical about his fueling for the race. He's decided to eat V's (his 16 month old son) mushed up baby food pouches. To his credit they sounded sort of delicious and savory, none of the sickly sweet Gu combinations. My concern for him was the three pouches combined only had about 180 calories total (versus one of my bars that had 180 on its own). He did supplement with Vfuel gel which didn't make his stomach feel good but probably helped give him the calories he needed.

I want to acknowledge again why I choose to run despite being injured. In running, and ultra running, there's a fine line between pushing your body past being comfortable and doing serious damage. I wholeheartedly admit that runners often get this wrong. We are usually the first to tell someone else to rest and rehab and the last to actually do it for ourselves. Becca Hall (an amazing runner and winner for the Bucket Hat division at Quad Rock) posted a great article recently from outdoor magazine called Running on Empty. It looks at a condition called Over Training Syndrome (OTS). It has made me think more about the choices I make running, when to run, when to rest, etc. I am proud of myself that despite my stubbornness, I did not put on cleats and play frisbee Monday or Tuesday. It is really hard to take time off when all you want to do is train more and get better, but it's a lot better in the long run and I know this. I choose to run Quad Rock because I knew that not running it would have resulted in me making worse decisions the next two weeks feeling like I needed to get ready for North Fork. The lesser of two evils I suppose.

Final Results: 6:08:39, 127/197 and 39 overall for women. They only had 3.2 beer at the finish so Catt and I hydrated with that and then got real beer on the way home.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Achilles Heel (Quad Rock Take Two)

Achilles heel is a deadly weakness in spite of overall strength. I'm not the fastest runner, but I'm very determined. Sometimes my determination gets in the way of good judgment. Read on...

So if you've been anxiously awaiting a recap of Quad Rock you'll have to wait longer. The race was postponed due to the insane amounts of rain we got in Colorado in May. For the integrity of the trails they canceled the race and rescheduled it for June 14th.

As much as I try to be flexible and not worry too much about planning every detail, I really hate when things get out of sync with my plan. When I go on a run I like to know exactly how far I'm going, or at least close to it. When I am planning for a race I want to have most of my big training runs planned out. It's awesome to be able to incorporate a race as a long training run because you get to practice being in "race mode" and you get a fully aided training run. So Quad Rock was perfect, it was just over a month before the North Fork 50k so I could get in a good long training run in race mode.

Well now it's this weekend, just 2 weeks before North Fork. Not ideal for a race, but not too bad for an aided training run. I had already resigned myself to treating it as a training run and not a race. Meaning no time goals, just focusing on time on my feet running trails. It was tough for me to accept this. Every year I've run Quad Rock I've shaved huge amounts off my finish times. It was exciting to think I could continue with this pattern. But alas, that's not in the cards for me so my goal for Quad Rock is to survive without any gashes on my limbs.

To add another little wrench into the plan, because why not, I am also coming in to this race a bit injured. Perhaps the universe is telling me something or maybe I'm just clumsy, but this is the second year I've hurt myself 3 weeks before North Fork playing frisbee. I thought I was doing it right, not playing a tournament, not practicing, just playing good ol'league. It's no one's fault that I got hurt, but if we did want to point fingers I would probably point them at a certain person who shall remain nameless who pump faked instead of throwing it to my wide open cut in the endzone. Long story short I thought I ruined my knee. Flashes of similar movements from teammates that resulted in ACL tears flashed through my mind. Coupled with a sharp crunch feeling with pain in my knee and I thought my summer was over in an instant.

Thankfully my knee, and as far as I know all tendons and ligaments, are intact. After the fear of an ACL tear subsided and I was able to bend and extend my knee without trouble and walk on it the next day without pain. I did however do something to my Achilles tendon. (My googling and talk with a PT friend leads me to believe it's Achilles tendinitis). This is largely a symptom of a nagging injury I've had for awhile so I can't really blame anyone for this. The abrupt cut and plant on my leg just brought it all to head. A smart person would not run this weekend. A certain smart person weighed the pros and cons and decided to run this weekend and she's going to be super careful.

My achilles heel may be my determination to push through things despite the risks. I was determined to play frisbee league even though firsbee is probably the worst thing to do along side distance running. I was determined to keep running long distances throughout May with the constant rain driving me to put in a lot of long pavement miles on shoes that really need to be replaced. And I'm determined to run the North Fork 50k.

Here's why I'm choosing to run this weekend. I am running the North Fork 50k. Unless one of my legs gets chopped off and I don't have time to get a replacement leg I'm running this thing. Right now that's my last big race until the fall and it's the one I've been focused on since I didn't get in to Leadville. I see my choices as the following:

  1. Run Quad Rock, rest/taper the next two weeks, Run North Fork
  2. Skip Quad Rock, rest/taper the next two weeks plus 5 days, Run North Fork
  3. Skip Quad Rock and North Fork and be sad :(
The only real choice is between one and two and here's why I'm choosing option one. For now the pain is manageable and is actually better when I'm moving versus not moving. The thought of not running at all from today to North Fork is just not something I think I can do and feel ok about North Fork. I would much rather get in a long fast "hike" this weekend and then let myself rest a bit over doing nothing at all. I feel like I can do a better, more successful, job at resting if I do Quad Rock. If I don't do Quad Rock I will be tempted to do things like play frisbee and run on pavement which are two things that I should most definitely not do if I want to heal myself.

I know there are a lot of people shaking their heads at me. Just know that I understand the risks and if I were on the other side I would probably be trying to convince this person to just take the rest of the month off and heal. But my achilles heel is my determination(stubborness) and it may lead to my downfall or it may just be an Achilles Heel that will heal.

Injuries aside, it's supposed to be beautiful up in Fort Collins this weekend and it should be a really awesome race! I'm excited to continue working on my nutrition and power walking up hill and am hoping there's a PBR waiting for me at at least one of the aid stations!