Tuesday, December 27, 2011

New Goals, New Races and ChiRunning in Las Vegas for 2012!

I finished my last blog entry with the completion of the Rock ‘N River 50 mile race on October 15, 2011. After enjoying some time basking in my accomplishment, and recovering from the effort, I signed up for the Way Too Cool 50K that will be March 10 in Cool, California, AND I got pulled in the lottery!  So looks like I'm doing it!
 
Suddenly, I realized that I would have to train during the coldest time of the year when my trails are covered in snow, the days are short and snow skiing is much more the priority! 

Check out the snow cover! If it wasn't for man made snowmaking we wouldn't be skiing at all!  My husband Dave on the far left with our friends Mark and his daughter, Elizabeth.

My training buddy Ron assured me that my new goal would keep me running fit for the winter and that this would be a good thing.  Oh, and he did NOT get pulled in the lottery.  He says he’ll run with me anyway.

So, I detailed a training plan and calendared it.  It seems to be even more rigorous than the one I made for myself when I was training for the 50 miler.  It officially starts the week of January 9, but I’m gearing up for it by bringing my weekly mileage back up to 35 to 40 miles per week before then.  I feel very fit and even though skiing is miserable right now, possibly the driest December on record, I’m enjoying my “rest days” on the hill doing laps on the blue runs with the manmade snow.


Oh and also, I just expanded my ChiRunning business to include the Las Vegas market thanks to Mark Wallis, a veteran ChiRunning Instructor, who has been developing the market for several years. He now has a different life direction he's pursuing and graciously gave me first dibs on Las Vegas! I'll be traveling to Vegas in January and again in April! Very excited to do this work in the town that never sleeps!


Here’s my training schedule:

  • All long runs are at an easy pace of no faster than 10 min/mile with average pace of 11:30 to 12:30 on hilly terrain.
  • Mondays are rest days.
  • Saturdays and Sundays are ski days with short runs either before or after with Ron and/or Dave.
  • Long runs will happen midweek, hopefully in the desert where there’s dry dirt
  • Twice per week – BOSU ball work for core stability.
  • Every other day – basic strength: sit-ups, pushups.
Week of January 9one long run of 10 miles (already doing this easily with a 30 mile week) 35 to 40 mile week.

Week of January 16 - Back to back long runs: 12 to 15 miles followed by 8 miles at easy pace on hilly terrain. 35 to 40 mile week.

Week of January 2320 mile run easy pace. 40 to 45 mile week.

Week of January 30 - Back to back: 18 to 20 miles and follow with 12 to 15 miles.  40 to 45 mile week. One short tempo run of 3 to 4 miles.

Week of February 6Long run of 12 miles. 40 to 45 mile week.  One short tempo run of 4 to 5 miles.

Week of February 13Long run of 26 to 30 miles. 45 to 50 mile week.  One short tempo run of 4 to 5 miles.

Week of February 20 – 45 to 50 mile week.  Long run no more than 12 to 15 miles.  One tempo run of 4 to 5 miles.

Week of February 27 – begin taper.

Week of March 5 – continue taper with longest run of 6 to 9 miles.

March 10 – Race day

I'd love to have your comments about your goals for 2012, the races you want to do and your training.  Feedback about my training plan is definitely welcome, too!

May your 2012 be filled with joyful, healthy running, and huge personal success!

GET OUT THERE!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Recovery, Reflections and the ATRA

It’s Friday morning and I’ve had a good week of recovery.  Much to my surprise, the soreness in my quads was almost completely gone by Monday morning.  My body felt as if I had merely run a long run.  I wasn’t debilitated.  My soreness and fatigue had been symmetrical, not isolated to a particular area or muscle group.  I am pleased about this as it is further evidence that I had trained well and my running form hadn’t fallen apart too badly.

Speaking of my form, I saw a short video clip of Ron and I as we were running somewhere around 32 miles.  I was quite surprised and a little disappointed to see how some old habits had returned with the long miles.  My left arm was a chicken wing, swinging tensely out to my side and my feet were splayed through the swing through.  My ankles were low and I was the picture of the classic marathon shuffle!  Ugh.  I guess I really was tired. 

Splayed feet, low ankles and chicken wings!
I guess I did some things right with my ChiRunning technique though as I had not been injured and for that, I am thankful!

I ran 5 miles on Wednesday.  Probably should have stopped around 3, but I was eager to enjoy the trail.  My right hamstring began to tense up and I ended up walking a bit.  I walked yesterday and will do the same today.  No hurry.  It would be nice to enjoy this beautiful fall weather before it snows.  One more good run on the TRT would be wonderful next week.

Last night I wrote a letter to the Board of the American Trail Running Association.  The October issue of the magazine, Trailrunner, had been included in the swag that was provided to the race’s runners. Ironically, there was an article in this particular issue about how the ATRA is working on “providing guidelines for a race-sanctioning system” to “help racers be reassured that the course will be vetted for things like safety, distance accuracy, placement and stocking of aid stations and course markings.”  ATRA President Adam Chase also said, “There’s nothing worse than preparing for and traveling to a race, only to get lost because it was poorly marked.”  



In my letter to President Adam Chase, Vice President Ellen Miller and Executive Director Nancy Hobbs, I told them about my story with the Rock ‘N River 50 Mile – how Ron and I and 200 other runners took a wrong turn, how we felt little support from race management to get on the right course, and how little empathy was shown to the frustrated, angry and disappointed runners who had to abandon goals at the very beginning of a race.

It was good to write about it to someone who has some authority in the trail running community, but mostly I wanted to let the Board know that sanctioning guidelines would be welcomed by this runner.  I wrote:

“I believe that standards in sport create respect between athletes and race organizations and make our commitment and accomplishments meaningful.  Creating guidelines for trailrunning and ultrarunning race sanctions is personal for me.  It's significant that as the representative of our trailrunning community, the ATRA let race organizers know that there is a standard that the trailrunning/ultrarunnning community expects.  I'm counting on you.”

I have had similar disappointment in sport before on a much bigger stage.  In 1982, I tied for fourth place in the Hawaii Ironman.  For those of you old enough to remember, that was the year that Kathleen McCartney passed Julie Moss about 100 yards from the finish as Julie struggled, crawling across the finish line.  It was this dramatic finish that ABC Wide World of Sports used to bring triathlon into the public spotlight creating a new passion in endurance sports.  

I have the t-shirts and the trophies for Fourth and Tenth that year
Another woman and I crossed behind Julie and Kathleen soon after. 

Julie stumbled and fell multiple times in those last yards.
There were 6 women in the top 5 places, two who had tied for third and two of us who had tied for fourth.  When the awards were given during a ceremony with around 1500 people in the audience, race management failed to consider the places and I was left out of the ceremony!  Devastating to my young, 21 year old ego, I left Hawaii in tears and failed to recognize the huge accomplishment of finishing.  Ironically, in October of that year, I placed 10th in Hawaii (there were two events that year) and again, because of a disqualification that didn’t get acknowledged, I was left out of the ceremony! Amazing that it had happened twice to me!  For many, many years, I have struggled to resolve these crushing disappointments knowing that I missed experiencing the significance of my accomplishments and wishing that I could go back and relive them.

So, in many ways, what happened at the Rock ‘N River race last weekend was a completion and validation of emotions and maturity for me of those events in Hawaii 30 years ago.  My return to running and racing this past year has been so much more than the ability to achieve something physically.  Getting lost last weekend proved to be a wonderful experience – I got to enjoy the loving support of family and friends; I got to run the race with my running partner and wonderful friend;  I got to encourage others during the race to keep moving, walking with them, and talking to them;  I allowed all the chi/energy to flow positively in every encounter and experience during the race.  And, importantly, I enjoyed the race despite our poor start and was able to experience the enormous accomplishment.  Everything I set out to achieve with my journey to train for a 50 mile race had come to be and then some.

I’m at peace with who I am as an athlete, but more importantly, who I am as a human being.  


Sunday, October 16, 2011

I FINISHED!

Me and Dave at the finish

What an experience!  And I finished despite the adversity of the start. About 200 of us got lost immediately!!  Yep, that’s no typo, about 200 people missed the pink flagging at one of the first turns.
It was dark and we missed it. 

Ron and I at the start - 6:30 am
Ron and I were running in the middle of the pack, chatting away and just following the herd.  There were no race volunteers to make sure we all turned where we were supposed to.   Half way down the 2000 foot descent to the river, we saw the lead group coming back up and yelling that we were all going the wrong way!!!!  Confusion, chaos described the scene on the steep paved hill we'd all just run down.  Some people didn’t believe them, some tried alternative routes that ended in dead ends, some reluctantly climbed back to the start to find the right route.  After screwing around for 5 minutes, I called Dave on my cell phone, and he found the race director and told her what was happening.  She was nonchalant.  Said she was working on it.  She told us to continue our descent to the river and we would find the trail there.  NOT!!!  Many of us did just that and found there was no trail.  Some turned around, and some, like Ron and I, decided to follow the shore of the American River to a dirt road that appeared to climb up to the trail at the top of the canyon where we could see runners who had apparently found the pink ribbon.

We slid down a shoulder off the road to the river where we began to pick our way through the shore rock and boulders.  It was slow going.  We played catch with a tennis ball and joked about the golf ball we found half buried in the mud.  Ron commented that the people who lost the flip flops that we found were probably worse off than us!  Ha!  We finally found our way to the dirt road leading up to the first aid station which was officially 2.5 miles in to the race.  On our way up, Ralph, a volunteer sweeper, met us and told us we were indeed headed towards the aid station.  We climbed the 1000 feet up the dirt road to find ourselves an hour in to a 50 mile race and only had traveled two and half miles that was not supposed to have any climbing, let alone 1000 feet in the first hour.  It should have taken us less than 25 minutes to get there!

It was like having an hour handicap at the start.  The adversity of running a 50 mile race had been magnified with the demoralizing realization that we might not make the cut off time;  that we might have spent energy that would keep us from finishing;  that Ron would likely not PR or win his age group again, and that I might not be able to finish my first attempt at 50 miles.

The good news for me was that Ron realized he had little chance of meeting his goals so he committed to run the entire race with me.   Little did I know how important his support would be until it started to get tough during those last miles.  I could not have finished strong without him.

The last 10 miles were tough. The ache in my quads was sharp with every step, especially starting to run again after walking.  Ron described it as if someone had taken a baseball bat to them and beaten them hard for an hour.  He was in pain, too and reassured me that no matter how many times you do these things, they’re always tough.

It was ChiRunning at its finest and the ultimate test of that technique, form, philosophy, whatever you want to call it.  The mind-body partnership, that is so critical to really running injury free and efficiently, was being put to its greatest test.  I relaxed into my lean and it was truly easier to run than walk once I got over that initial quad pain.  My quads screamed towards the end, but my calves, ankles, Achilles, back, everything else was fine. My abdominal obliques were sore at the end, a true testament to the use of pelvic rotation to manage my power without using my legs.  Thank you Danny Dreyer for creating ChiRunning!
Approaching an aid station around mile 32 - he always smiles when there's a camera around!

We managed to maintain a 12 minute pace or less over the last 5 miles and finished under the cut off time in 11 hours and 42 minutes. I think if we’d had a better start I could have done it in 11 hours.

Amazing to me, we ended up doing about 52 miles total with the second marathon faster than the first. 

I write this Sunday evening.  My recovery is going well.  I’m sore, but the constant ache in my legs from last night is gone.  Now it’s just hard to start moving, but once I get walking I’m ok.  I'm having some delayed muscle soreness in places I didn't expect, like my shoulders.  Now there's an interesting place to look at my form from a new perspective!

I will write more details about the race including lessons learned and funny moments about the run as I get more pictures from my dad and Carol, but for the moment, I just want to acknowledge how important the support of friends and family was to me!  

My dad was there at every aid station with his dog, Emily.  It was wonderful to see him there cheering me on, just as he has done all my life.  Dave, my husband, paced us in the last two miles when I was really hurting.  He calmed me the night before when my pre-race fears had me literally gagging over the toilet!  Yes, I was that anxious!

I could not have finished as fast and as strong without Ron running next to me, behind me, in front of me.  I admire his attitude and strength, his endurance and commitment to ultra running.  He is my friend and mentor, and we share a special running bond that comes from long runs and races together. His wife, Carol, was tremendous at each aid station! She bought popsicles and we had a special treat that a few other runners got to enjoy, too as she gave them away to avoid having them melt in the cooler.  It was 90 degrees!  An accomplished ultra runner herself, she greeted us at each aid station with a shout of “wahoo!” and seemed to know exactly what we needed.  It was the first time I got to see Carol in action.  She is amazing in her ability to support Ron.  And since Ron was running with me, I got to experience some of that, too!
Carol and Ron at the finish with his 2nd place medal for his age group

All my friends and family who weren’t at the race were right there with me.  My dad had my sister and my aunt and uncle on speaker phone.  My ChiRunning teacher, mentor and friend, Mary, was posting my progress on Facebook.  Her last minute advice about rest, stretching and acknowledging my training got me through the last week of tapering, not to mention the fact that there is a rare time when I don’t hear her voice in my head when I’m focusing on my form!  

And I met new people, and got reacquainted with recent new and old friends, all wonderfully supportive and dedicated to the sport.

It was truly a remarkable day that was about a running race, but it really was more than that, of course.  It was about who I am and overcoming adversities in life that aren't anticipated, and making the best out of it because of strength, commitment and endurance.  It was everything I wanted it to be and more.  From all this adversity came an accomplishment I can be proud of:   I ran 50 miles in less than 12 hours!

I FINISHED!
My friend and running buddy congratulates me on my accomplisment!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Last thoughts, the last week

I felt good last Sunday morning when I woke up.  I felt rested.   I’d had three days of full rest this week.  I lay in bed, flexed my feet towards my knees and contracted my quads and all my leg muscles tightly.  The contraction was quick and strong and the muscles felt taught and ready, not mushy and slow.  It’s almost a reflex to do this when I wake up and seems to be a good indicator of my legs’ recovery.  My body seemed like it wanted to run.  My mind thought it could go along with that idea.

Dave and I drove to the Thomas Creek trail head for the Dry Pond Loop.  There were lots of people out on the trail enjoying the beautiful fall afternoon.  We negotiated around mountain bike riders, hikers with dogs and lots of kids.  This is a run with almost 2000 feet of climbing in the first two and half miles so I wanted to take it slow and not get my heart rate too high where I’d be anaerobic.  By the end of the first mile, I was warmed up and the climb seemed fairly easy.  I walked a few feet of the really steep sections – there are three of them.  Despite my efforts to keep the pace down, we arrived at the top in record time much to my amazement.  I was surprised.  My perceived exertion rate was only 5 or 6.   The time didn’t match my effort.  I guess the rest this past week did some good!

The run down was fast yet controlled.  We sailed through the woods and my body felt light and free! What a wonderful feeling to run this fast again!   It had been weeks since I ran fast!

Sunday was the last day of my training “week”, and like any obsessed runner, I added up my miles to see where I was at.  It came to almost 29 miles including the day’s run.  It was no surprise that I felt so fresh. 

Monday morning came and I read an article about training and recovery by Phil Maffetone – “The training schedule, balancing the catabolic and anabolic body”.  The article talks about the uniqueness of each athlete’s needs and how training should be designed accordingly.  A central theme of Maffetone’s article and approach to training is about rest and how important it is to body sense and adjust training regimens.  Cookie cutter training schedules need to be used with a grain of salt.  For example, mileage may not be as important as the time spent training.  Cutting back on time spent running as opposed to mileage should be as much a consideration during a taper.  Listening to your body’s response to training and not ignoring red flags of overtraining is essential.

As I reviewed my training log, I realized that time spent training was something that was more appropriate for my taper than miles because I was running so slowly.  Even though my mileage seemed to be drastically decreased over the last two weeks, the time spent training on my feet now seemed reasonable for the taper.  I had spent half the time running as I did the week before.  I remembered that when I trained for events in my 30’s I rarely looked at my miles run each week. Back then, time on my feet was a much better indicator of my fitness and ability to tolerate long runs.  And now, my age had not changed what my body knew best.

Monday’s combined walk with easy running around the neighborhood was relaxing.  As I finished the easy workout, my iPod started to play two of my favorite songs – “Sweet Emotion” and “Solsbury Hill”.  I danced on the porch and let my body move to the music, at first tentatively, then freely and uninhibited.  Cars drove by and I didn’t care how silly I might have looked.  I realized how lucky I am to have this tremendous feeling of health and well being in my body!

Tuesday’s rest day felt right.  By Wednesday, I was restless and felt uneasy with the feeling of a growing anxiety about my preparedness.  I decided that I needed to run at least 30 to 45 minutes and do whatever felt right.  I chose a relatively flat four mile run around the neighborhood on pavement.  It was quick, but not pushed.  My perceived exertion was only a 5 or so on a scale of 1 to 10.  The run was reassuring.  My fitness was there, I need not worry about it.

Today is Thursday.  I will not run again until Saturday.  I’ll admit that I’m nervous and a little scared about this.  My longest events have been 10 to 11 hours – two Ironmans and several double century bike rides, but those were 30 years ago.  This would be 11 to 12 hours on my feet in a race, not a training run or as a pacer, but as an older adult who wants to prove it’s possible to be fit, healthy and enjoy a long run.

Tomorrow, I'll drive down to Auburn with my best training buddy, Ron, his wife Carol, and another runner.  We'll pick up our race packets, do some pasta at The Spaghetti Factory and visit the Nike Outlet store in Folsom.  It will be good to spend the day with friends - keep me out of my head.  Dave will drive down later and meet me at the hotel in Auburn which is only 4 miles from the start. 

I’ll let you know how it turned out next week. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

An Unexpected Pleasant Diversion

My student, Alice, ran her first 5K this morning at a local race.  Alice started working with me several months ago.  She was determined to learn the ChiRunning form and hesitantly confessed that she wanted to be able to run a 5K some day.  

Today was the day. 

The Cancer Firkin Sucks 5K Race is a flat, road run with a very slight hill at the beginning.  The morning was cool and crisp.  The perfect fall day for a fun race.  The crowd was a couple hundred runners and walkers, pink was the color for the day, of course, and tutus were everywhere.

T-shirt for the Cancer Firkin Sucks Race
A line of about 15 young women spanned the start line.  The crowd buzzed as the announcer counted down the seconds to the start.  By the way, the black and white photos were not intentional.  I think I pressed a menu button accidentally.  They are kinda cool tho.

The starting line
They took off with speed and energy, some smiling, some serious, some laughing.  I couldn’t see Alice in the crowd, so after the last walkers crossed the starting line I found myself standing there staring after them.  I started to trot at an easy pace and followed them down the street.

That kid in the front was cruising!

I paralleled the course for a block or two, took a wrong turn into a school parking lot, back tracked and worked my way back over to the course.  Eventually, I passed all the walkers and began to catch the runners.  

And there was Alice, running happily along somewhere early in that easy uphill.  She looked great!  She was wearing her long sleeved ChiRunning shirt and a straw hat with a pink scarf – very cute.

I ran alongside her and asked if she wanted me there or not.  She enjoyed the company and the coaching and we ran the rest of the race together.  She was working hard, but was not out of breath and easily spoke back to me.  I kept talking tho so she wouldn't have to.

Alice near the end of the race
By the last mile, she knew she was home free and I ran ahead of her to get pictures of her coming in to the finish line.  She finished well under the time she expected and felt like she had accomplished her goal.  Her first race!  I couldn't be prouder of her!

And, I felt wonderful.  A nice 3 mile trot with lots of people, lots of energy, lots of joy to be running. It was exactly what I needed.  I was so happy to be running!  This is what it’s supposed to feel like!  Easy and joyful.  It was light and comfortable and flat.  My legs wanted to keep going.  That is a good thing!

I will remember this feeling next Saturday!  No taper tantrums today!  Yahoo!

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Week Before the Week Before - Taper Tantrums!

It snowed this week and once again, the mountains are white.  I can’t believe summer is over.  My trails up on the TRT are covered with a few inches of snow and although it will warm up next week, there’s a good chance that I won’t see those trails again until next year.  It might snow again, they're talking La Nina and a repeat of last year.
Mt Rose Ski Area - white again!
Seven days until the race.  Last week I did only 43 miles at altitudes mostly above 7000 feet with over 8000 feet of climbing.  By Sunday night after a 12 mile run on the TRT, I was ready for a rest day on Monday.

On Monday, I carefully plotted out my week thinking that I would run at least 32 miles which would be a 25% cut off my previous week’s mileage.  Tuesday morning came and 32 miles for the week ahead seemed daunting so close to race week.  No worries, I thought, it’s a lot less than last week and 32 miles is nothing!  I asked Dave to drop me off at the Thomas Creek Trailhead and started the Dry Pond loop with the plan to run back to the house.  Only 11 miles.

It was a typical run on one of my favorite trail routes, but I arrived home with the realization that I wasn’t looking forward to another week of long miles.  I was still tired after my rest day.  I seriously needed to back off my plan and rest much, much more.  For the first time in a while, I didn’t want to run.

In the mean time, I was a bit anxious about a sold out audience for a free introductory talk about ChiRunning at the Reno REI, scheduled for Wednesday.  I had anticipated the event for two months and was thrilled to bag what I considered, a highly coveted gig.  It would be the biggest audience I’d ever delivered a talk to about ChiRunning.  I listened to Danny on his audio tapes, talked with my friend and mentor, Mary, one of a very few people in the world designated as a Master Instructor, and practiced the whole talk at least once a day. 

The talk went fabulously well.  The group of 40 people was engaged and fully participated!  People of all ages and running abilities.  I had a blast!  The REI guy was happy and it seemed like the group thought it was worth their time to come out on a cold fall evening.

And I didn’t run that day.  This would be the second day this week that I took off.  I hadn’t taken two days off in a week in months.  Interesting.  When I trained for the Ironman 30 years ago, I loved taking two days off a week.  I needed it to continue with the grueling hours of cycling, swimming and running every day.  What was different now?  I was spending much more time on my feet, why wouldn't I take two days off?  I also realized that my usual strategy of hard days followed by easy days and hard weeks followed by easy weeks had gotten very blurred over the last 6 weeks.  I clearly was taking fewer easy days, doing back to back long distance days and definitely not alternating easy weeks with hard ones.  They have all been hard.

Talking with Mary about my perceived need for rest due to a feeling of deep fatigue left me with the decision not to run again on Thursday, yesterday.  It’s good to have people who can see my circumstances and validate where I’m at.  Mary helped me to see that the miles are “in the bank” and if I didn’t run again between now and the race, I’d be fine.  So Thursday was a third rest day.  And I knew I needed it.  I was realizing that I really need to rest more.

Today is Friday and my mind yelled that I better run, that this really wasn’t a good idea to rest this much.  So, after consulting with my body during a tentative session of body looseners, I decided to run.

So I did 8 miles for a grand total of about 19 for this week in two runs.  I ran a route that has 1100 feet of climb, 4 miles up and 4 miles down.  I started slow and realized I hadn't eaten for about 4 hours and my stomach was growling.  Not good planning.  Hhmm have to keep this one short. 

Trail on the way up towards the foothills, Mt Rose ski area in the background
And I ran it fast, well as fast as before I started doing these insane miles, anyway.  And it felt good.  My legs felt good, but my mind was anxious.  For the first time, I could make the distinction.  I was able to be outside of myself observing the body-mind dance, truly body sensing the truth of my performance and not some interpretation dominated by my thoughts.  Clarity about the truth of the state of my body transformed my experience of the run from my interpretation to what was real.  I could manage my thoughts because I was clear about the state of my body, which was quite happy, actually.  It loves to run.  My mind was what needed to be trained and managed.   I was just anxious, nervous about my readiness to run 50 miles.  I acknowledged it, then enjoyed the run. 

I was having a taper tantrum and it had nothing to do with my body and everything to do with my head!  

It is good to rest tho.  My body is quite happy to do that and I know now that it will run when I ask it to.   But, now I know I need to rest more this week than run.  My mind is the boogey man and I just need to tell it to take a time out when it has a taper tantrum rather than buy into it.  Hmm, daily meditation may be necessary to calm the tantrums:  “I have the ability to accomplish any task I set my mind to with ease and comfort,” a meditation from Wayne Dyer’s book, “Excuses Begone.”

I don’t know if I’ll run tomorrow or not.  I may rest again and then do a short, less than one hour run on Sunday and another on Monday.  Or not.  I may do very little from Tuesday through Friday next week.

I'll just listen to my body and let my mind chatter on, silly thing. 


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Endurance and Dogs

Scroll to the middle for pictures and a brief description of a beautiful run this week!  but first, a brief venture into a book review and what endurance is....

I just finished reading Dean Karnaze’s book, "50/50 Secrets I learned running 50 marathons in 50 days - and how you too can achieve super endurance!"; his account of running 50 marathons in 50 days in 2006.  I was struck by Dean’s amazing generosity, his resiliency and his flexibility to deal with the variety of conditions he and his support crew met each day for more than 7 weeks.  Mostly, though, I was impressed with this incredible athlete’s ability to endure day after day.  His average marathon time was 3 hours and 53 minutes with his fastest time at the New York City Marathon, the 50th and last marathon in his adventure, at an astonishing 3 hours.  Each chapter is about the marathon run that day, but he also cleverly uses it to discuss many aspects of running such as training basics, nutrition, shoes, his sponsor North Face, and running form.  Definitely one of my favorite books about running.

Dean was prepared.  Even with an amazing base and stellar resume as an ultramarathoner, his training leading up to his 50 day journey consisted of 6 months of 6 100 mile, or more races, 5 50 milers or 50Ks, 4 marathons and over 100 mile training weeks.

“Most people never get there. They're afraid or unwilling to demand enough of themselves and take the easy road, the path of least resistance. But struggling and suffering, as I now saw it, were the essence of a life worth living. If you're not pushing yourself beyond the comfort zone, if you're not constantly demanding more from yourself—expanding and learning as you go—you're choosing a numb existence. You're denying yourself an extraordinary trip.”
Dean Karnazes

My journey to run 50 miles has certainly been extraordinary!

Here’s another definition of endurance that I found on Facebook via the "I love to run"  page:


ENDURANCE

The ability to withstand hardship or adversity.

The ability to sustain a prolonged and stressful effort or activity.

 a prolonged and stressful effort or activity.
To undergo without giving in.
To regard with acceptance and tolerance.
To continue in the same state.
To remain firm without yielding.
To la
To undergo without giving in.

To regard with acceptance and tolerance.

To continue in the same state.

To remain firm without yielding.

To Last.


On Wednesday, we ran to Star Lake on the Tahoe Rim Trail – Ron and Ted and Carol and me with the three dogs. 

This section of the TRT begins at the Stage Coach lift on the Nevada side of Heavenly Ski Area at about 7,500 feet and meanders south with steady climbing to Star Lake at over 9,000 feet altitude. Total elevation gain of almost 3000 feet over 18 miles. Beautiful rolling trail with views of South Lake Tahoe and Desolation Wilderness on the west side.

From Left to right - Baily, Juneau and Echo

One of these days I'm going to put my Garmin on Echo and see how many miles he actually runs that day.  I know that we did 18, but between chasing squirrels, flushing grouse and just running wherever, I figure Echo did as much as 30 miles that day.  Amazing for such a little dog - he's tough and I adore running with him.

Juneau is Ron's new dog and is not even a year old yet.  He has some behavior issues, but Ted, the dog whisperer, has been doing some great work with him.  He's learned to run long with us and does quite well.

Baily rests with me on the way back from Star Lake
Baily is the old man of the dog pack - 8 years old and still running the long miles with us.  He runs between Ted and me on the trail.  When I follow too far behind he stays right in front of me and looks back to see if I'm still there.  If he goes too slow, I tell him to move up and he trots up to Ted.  He's happiest when we stay closer together.  That's a cooling vest he's wearing.


west end of Star Lake

The interesting part of this run was that at about 6 miles into it we decided to run to Star Lake which would be another 3 miles.  I didn’t think much of it, what's 18 miles versus 15 for the day?  I decided that the Nature Valley Bar I had in my pack would probably be enough.  Unfortunately, it really wasn’t, but my improved ability to endure and continue to run saved me.  Another milestone for sure.


Baily swims in Star Lake - what he didn't know was that he had 9 miles to run home afterwards!
An awesome day on the trail.  Baily was so tired that Ted had to lift him into the back of Ron's Subaru.  I had to drive Ron's Subaru which really wasn't a problem, but it was the first time and it's a manual transmission.  Ted made sure I missed the orange pylons in the parking lot while I figured out where first was.

When we got to Ted's house, Echo went to bed, Baily and Juneau crashed on the deck and Ted and I had juice, fruit and beer, in that order. 


Tuesday, September 27, 2011

T. A. P. E. R.

Yesterday was Monday, Rest Day.  Today is the beginning of a new running week.  A new friend of mine, David S., commented on my blog yesterday and used the word
“T. A. P. E. R.”   He called it a “mind game” so as I set out on my easy 5 miles today, I wondered what he meant by T. A. P. E. R.   His comment inspired me and I wrote this blog in my head while running. 
 
And so, I thought about my tapering plan for this week during my run.  That, and relaxed ankles, allowing pelvic rotation, short stride and 180 cadence, arm swing on hills, all my ChiRunning mentors and friends, and on and on.  Oh, and of course, cool music on the ipod like Cold Play, Elton John, Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Boston.  I like to multitask. 

This week, the plan is to run between 40 and 45 miles with two long back to backs, but not as long as last week’s.  Tomorrow, it will be a 15 miler out and back on the TRT from Kingsbury Grade to “the bench” towards Genoa Peak with my friends Ron and Ted and probably 3 or 4 dogs.  Then, on Thursday, I’ll do 10 to 12 on the Tahoe Meadows TRT towards Diamond Peak Ski Area.

Friday will be a 5 to 10 miler.  Saturday might be a waterskiing day.  I know Dave wants to get at least one more weekend in.  So somewhere between Saturday and Sunday I will have to find 10 miles.

I fully expected to be a bit slow on my run today even after the day off yesterday.  I just didn’t know if I’d recovered from the 11 on Sunday and the big 50 mile week last week.  Much to my surprise and joy, I found myself trotting easily along my well run route up behind my house to the creek above the green water tower.


If you click on "View Details" you can see my stats.  I LOVE my Garmin!

In fact, it was one of the fastest times I’d done this route that has over 700 feet of climb.  My heart rate stayed below 130 (not sure where that 180 was at the beginning - I think I was adjusting my HR monitor, either that or I had a run of PVC's - let's hope not!) and I easily averaged 10 minute miles with a best pace of 7:32 going downhill.  It was easy.  I smiled as I floated along.  My legs felt light and relaxed.  There was little tension in my right foot, my nemesis, and my constant focus of relaxation during every one of my runs.  How nice to run and enjoy a short distance during this long distance training!

I began thinking about my tapering plan and David’s “T.A.P.E.R.”  Ok, what could that mean to me? (what does it mean to him?) I thought I knew how to taper for a marathon, so I’m really just translating those principles to twice the distance, just higher mileage.  But what’s really intriguing about tapering is the mind game, indeed.  As I get closer to The Day, it's my mind that I have to contend with.  So here’s my version of T.A.P.E.R.  I’d love to hear yours!

T – Talk positively to myself and others about the event - be an inspiration.

A – Acknowledge that I’ve done the work and I’m ready.

P – Pray and prepare for the weather, for the morning’s activities, and my mind chatter.

E – Eat well and mindfully.

R – RELAX and Run like the wind!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Crunch Time

This past week was crunch time.  Less than 3 weeks until the race on October 15.  This was the “I did my homework” week, and the “if I haven’t put in the miles and time by now, it’s too late”, week.   My plan was for two back to back runs, one of at least 20 miles.  Ron, my training buddy, and I decided to do the easy 22 miles from Tahoe Meadows at the top of Mt. Rose at 8500 feet to Spooner Summit last Wednesday.  The gain in elevation would be 2600 feet with 4000 feet of descent.  Two major climbs contributed to the challenge - one up to Marlette peak and the other to Snow Valley Peak.  Tuesday night, I was excited about the run.  The discovery of how my body would perform over the next few days was the unknown and I had some trepidation, self doubt and the usual morning jitters before the attempt of a big goal.

I woke up early Wednesday morning, had my coffee, did e-mails, had a regular breakfast and packed my stuff.  I would bring an 80 oz. Camelback filled with water, crackers, Nature Valley Bars and a peanut butter and honey sandwich.  I would also bring my camera, my ipod and my waist pack with a 22 oz bottle filled with half strength NUNN.  When I hefted my pack it was heavy – I’m guessing maybe 15 pounds.  I decided to bring my 50 oz Camelback just in case I decided at the last minute that the big Camel would be too much.  Ha – it turns out I was lucky I did!

Ron and I met at Spooner Summit at 8 a.m. which is on the east side of Lake Tahoe at the top of Highway 50.  We both arrived within minutes of each other and on time.  Ah, I thought, this is a good start!  Ron and I greeted each other with hugs and howdies.  We were both excited to be doing this point to point run on such a gorgeous fall day on one of the most beautiful trails in the world – the Tahoe Rim Trail.  Ron pulled out his Camelback, an almost identical version of the one I had and exclaimed at how heavy it was.  I said, yes, mine was heavy, too as I reached behind the front seat of my car to retrieve it.  Alas, it was not there!

I had forgotten it at home.  I immediately visualized it sitting there next to the door so I wouldn’t forget it!  Well, thank the running gods that I had brought my other Camelback.  Ron reassured me that he had 100 ounces and could share if we needed to.  Although temps were projected to be in the 90’s in Reno, we were at 9000 feet and hopefully, wouldn’t feel much more than 80 degrees.  Water shouldn’t be an issue.

Leaving my truck at Spooner, we hopped in Ron's Subaru and headed for a quick stop at 7-11 in Incline Village where we bought breakfast sausage muffins for both of us, some cookies and another Nature Valley bar.  Ron’s positive, no worries attitude, cured my annoyance at having forgotten my pack and we were soon on our way up to the Tahoe Meadows near the Mt. Rose summit.

We arrived at the TRT/Tahoe Meadows trailhead before 9 am, locked up Ron’s Subaru and were about ready to start trotting away when Ron asked me if I brought my car keys.  Glad he asked, because I had left them in his car.  Gees, almost blew it again!  Back to the car, grabbed the keys and my drivers license, and put them in my waist pack. The usual jokes about being blond made us both chuckle.

Unfortunately, I had left my camera in my pack at home so I don’t have pictures to share here.  The run was spectacularly beautiful.  The views of Marlette Lake with Lake Tahoe below it are breathtaking from the Tahoe Rim Trail which travels the top of the ridge bisecting views east from west.  Washoe Valley on the eastern side of the Sierras with Washoe Lake, Carson City and to the north the casinos of Reno are clearly visible.  And to the west, the Tahoe Sierras frame Lake Tahoe, snow still gracing the high mountains in the Desolation Wilderness on the west side of Lake Tahoe.

Purple wild flowers carpeted the shoulders of Snow Valley Peak.  The forest, green and lush, appeared as it would in mid-August, not late September!

We did this run in a VERY leisurely fashion.  We finished the 22 miles in less than 6 hours so nothing speedy.  The last miles were downhill and I finished them at a good strong pace.  My average heart rate for the run was only 107 bpm and I didn't exceed 131 bpm.



Thursday, the next day, I began to get ready to go run and realized that I couldn’t find my drivers license.  I searched everywhere and thought that I must have dropped it near my car the day before.  Late that afternoon, I drove up to Mt. Rose and did 12 miles alone on the TRT, the same trail we had started on yesterday, but at a faster pace.  My legs weren’t sore, just a bit tired.  Maintaining a constant 180 cadence eliminated the feeling of going slow.  I was amazed at how easily the miles went by.  ChiRunning at its finest.


Trail in first miles from Tahoe Meadows trailhead

Trail thru green forest at 8500 feet

Diamond Peak Ski Area lift bullwheel seen from trail - aid station site during TRT races

Trail just below Diamont Peak Ski Lift

Overlooking Washoe Valley to the east

Washoe Lake below

I think my brain was pretty fuzzy at the end of that run because I decided to do the lower meadow loop not knowing how far it would be.  Not a good choice to explore trail I'd never been on right at dusk! I guessed maybe a mile and a half and judged that I would have enough daylight left to complete it.  Well, I misjudged the distance and ended up still in the forest in the fading light hoping that the trail would turn back to my car before it really got dark.  Eventually it did, and thankfully I didn’t stumble over anything, no evening critters came out to scare me and I got the miles I wanted that day.  The moon was out when I arrived at my truck.

The next day, I went to the DMV to get a duplicate license and was lucky to spend only 30 minutes there!  Lucky me, they used my old picture and my U.S. Passport hadn’t expired yet. 

Saturday was spent teaching a ChiRunning Workshop to five enthusiastic students who loved the class and were thrilled to see progress in their running form that day.

Sunday, Dave and I drove to the Five Lakes Trailhead off of Alpine Meadows Road and ran an 11 mile out and back with 2300 feet of climb.  Right before I left, I found my old drivers license safely tucked inside my pack where I had put it. It was the one place I hadn’t looked!  I had spent a lot of time trying to find that stupid thing on Thursday morning!!!  ARRGH!  Oh well, now I'll have two

The relentless climb up the Five Lakes trail

View of Alpine Meadows Ski Area from trail (Trail is far left)

Dave


One of the Five Lakes

The week is over and I ran 50 miles with two major back to backs.  It had taken me three days to recover from the 34 miles I had run over two days, but I had experienced the ability to run comfortably when fatigued both in mind and body.  The 12 miles I completed the day after the 22 was relaxed and fluid.  A great accomplishment for the week.  My homework is done.  Now it's time to maintain and taper, then take the test in 19 days.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Moments of Clarity - the week's report

I started my training this past week with what seemed to be a huge goal because it would be a repeat of last week – run at least 40 miles, preferably 45.   In addition, that goal included eating well, sleeping well, recovering well and enjoying it!  My only change this week was to run no longer than 12 or 13 miles which translated to runs no more than two and half hours long.  So the difference would be to sustain these longer runs more frequently during the week and be able to maintain the same mileage.  I thought that if I was successful carrying out this plan, then I could do a long run of at least 20 miles next week with my long distance training buddies, Ron and Ted.

My week began last Monday after an easy walking rest day on Sunday.  Monday was an out and back trail run for 8 miles with 1200 feet of climb at an easy pace.  The long climb up through the sage brush with Mt. Rose rising in front of me seemed restful.  I was amazed that I felt so comfortable climbing.  The more I relaxed, the easier it was. 

Up the rocky trail with a view of a bit of snow on Mt. Rose
 As I flew down the long, gradual decent back to home I had the realization that I could run for a very long time.  This was easy, my legs felt light.  Running this week would not be as difficult as I thought.

 Tuesday arrived with the realization that I must do at least 5 or 6 miles today in order to maintain my mileage if my plan was to do two more 10 mile runs at the end of the week. Also, I would be driving 5 hours to my sister’s house in the bay area to teach a ChiRunning workshop to her and a friend so I knew that I would need to get in a good run before I left.  Once again, I finished an easy 6 and ½ miles with almost 700 feet of climb.  My plan was falling in to place. 

Wednesday was an exhausting, but quite satisfying day of teaching ChiRunning to my sister and ChiWalking to her friend, a courageous woman with multiple medical issues and a serious functional challenge which limited her to walking only.  The suggested changes to her posture and feet alignment were significant as were changes to her cadence and stride length.  By the end of the workshop, she expressed how much easier it was for her to walk hills!  What an awesome reward for me.

At the end of the day, me and my sister had an engaging conversation about family issues and wound up opening a bottle of wine.  When her husband came home, he opened another.  Needless to say, I didn’t get a run in on Wednesday. 

That kind of worried me, but I knew I could make it up.  The next morning, Thursday, my sister and I went for a short, easy run.  I coached her throughout so that she could focus on the lessons she had learned the day before.  Three children later and a few pounds heavier, she is eager to get back into her size 6 jeans!  She loved the run and the coaching and was thrilled that she could run the entire three miles without stopping over hills she usually walked!  It was a great way to end my visit, and a few hours later, I started the 250 mile drive back home to Reno. 

I stopped at Donner Summit and ran a very slow 6 mile out and back over hilly trail at 8000 feet.  I was tired after the long drive and the run in the morning with my sister.  But once again, I could clearly see that I could finish whatever run I set out for myself this week.  My ability to relax when I was tired was improving daily.  When I got home, I stretched for a while.  A trigger point in my right soleus muscle responded well to massage and relieved any mild soreness in my right Achilles.  My feet had felt strong running in my New Balance 101’s.

Friday saw a short 4 mile run completely on pavement and as level as I could possibly find out my back door.  It was slow, but my legs felt strong.  No real speed in them, but that was not the point I continued to remind myself.  My form was in place and I cycled constantly through the ChiRunning focuses:  engaged core, lengthening my spine, aligned feet, soft ankles, floating ankles, relaxed shoulders, allowing pelvic rotation. Over and over. Running meditation.

Saturday morning, I met a woman for the first time through Meetup.com for a trail run on the Tahoe Rim Trail.  It’s difficult to find people who like to run long distance on trails, especially women, so I relished the opportunity to meet someone new and pass the time on the trail getting to know them.  It turned out that she and I have a lot in common – no kids, cats, pilots (she has made a career out of flying and I haven't flown since 1996), and of course, loves to run on trails.  We ran an easy 12 miles on rolling trail enjoying the beautiful scenery and views of the forest and Lake Tahoe.  And of course, I shared how ChiRunning had changed my life and gave her some tips over the course of the 2 hours on the trail.

Me and my new trail running friend, Tiffany

Trail on Tunnel Creek Road with Lake Tahoe in the distance

Today, I ran 9 miles up the trail behind my house.  When I started, I knew with certainty that I would finish this last run of the week with strength, good form, no pain and love every second.  Well almost every second.  The last mile was a bit of a slog.  I actually completed it at a good pace despite my fatigue.  I remember seeing an object silhouetted against the sky sitting on top of a huge earthmoving machine around my seventh mile.  It looked like a hawk, but as I approached it, I could see that it was just an exhaust pipe!  My mind was indeed fuzzy.  Half strength electrolyte solution saved me during that run which was just under two hours.  The temp was in the 80s when I finished.
The trail about a mile from my house
I ran almost 50 miles this week in about fifteen and a half hours.  I did two runs of 12 and 9 miles, back to back.  I slept great, ate healthy, and that unplanned recovery/rest day with two bottles of wine with my sister and brother in law was just the ticket! 

Thinking about doing 50 miles in one day in 12 hours seems absolutely daunting.  But this week was about getting closer to knowing that however I feel I can continue to run. 

The race is four weeks away.