Run and Smile

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

My day started out rough today.

I was angrily shouted at by a guy on a crowded train this morning.  When another man intervened, the two almost came to blows right there on the T.  I was shocked.  Then, as I got out onto the street a few blocks from my workplace, I witnessed a woman angrily yelling at a construction worker who seemed stunned by the situation and was sheepishly trying to get away.  Her friends were able to get her away.  Still reeling from my encounter on the train only a few minutes earlier, I thought to myself (and probably out loud).  WHAT IS HAPPENING?

I hadn't even made it into work and everybody is going nuts.  Everybody's angry.  Everybody's on edge.  Everybody is flipping strangers...on the street!  Is it a byproduct of the crazy racist events of this week?  People are having a meltdown!

It was a chore to focus once I finally made it to work.  I mulled over the crazy events of the morning and I craved a quiet space for my evening run.  Today I was scheduled to do a run-commute (about 6.5 miles) and was planning to do the same old, same old.  After this morning, however, it was hard for me to want to run through crowded Back Bay, Mass Ave, and Kendall Square.  People are nuts today and I didn't want to be around them.

I was tempted to retreat to the forest again, where I would only be bothered by a mountain-biker or two, maybe a scurrying chipmunk, and the one thousand-some-odd gnats floating around below the trees.

I was tempted but made a different plan.  Instead, I decided to stick with the city run but to explore streets just off of my normal commute-- neighborhood streets where I would see real people; tired people in need of a smile.  And, I resolved to smile at them-- any of them who looked me in the eye.  I was in a bad mood but this is what i needed to do; run and use the joy I feel that God has given me (regardless of circumstance) to bring joy to others.  So I ran and smiled and said hello.  And people smiled back and said hello.  It was hot today and the sweat was burning my eyes but the angriness of the morning felt far away.  I extend my run to 10 miles.

Harriet Tubman memorial (South End Boston).

You cannot love God and hate people.

A Quiet Wog Through the Forest

Saturday, August 5, 2017

My current mood.

Here I am, a moss covered bolder making myself comfortable in the middle of the trail.  I have no place to go, nowhere to be-- just enjoying my current chill in the quiet of the forest.

This run took some patience but I had nothing else do to this afternoon so I stuck it out.  I got to the trails just as a downpour started.  I decided to wait it out in my car and ended up napping for 45 min while it rained and rained and rained.  I woke up, ate half the peanut butter and honey sandwich I packed for the run, and waited another 20 min for the showers to pass before heading out unto the trail.  It had been four weeks since I last ran on trails and with the slick footing I took this really slow (a walk/jog pace or a "wog" as my buddy E-Rob calls it).

Even though the rain delayed things, I'm glad I got out there when I did.  I really needed a quiet space today.  The rain virtually made it so that only true nature lovers or those training for ultra marathons were out on the trails.  I saw 3 runners and a bunch of folks at Sheepfold (because there are always a bunch of folks at Sheepfold).  It was nice.  And, after-the-rain leaves everything so green!  In addition to 3's company, I saw a little garter snake which was moving slowly down the trail but too fast for me to get my phone out and take a picture (I doubled up on zip-lock bags today.  My phone is still recovering from the deluge of two Tuesdays ago), the fluffiest squirrel I ever did see, and about 2,000 gnats.  I was swatting and swatting and swatting-- really working my arms as much as my legs on this one.  K ridiculo.

My running calendar called for a cutback week this week and I decided to run no more than 30 miles total.  This would keep me with my personal goal of not running less than 30 miles per week during this training and is a 12 mile step back from what I did last week.  I ended up running 8 for 32 miles.  Things are going really well so far.  I'm behind but managing to get out there and keep training.  Two more months!

Vermont 100 - Volunteer Experience #2

Sunday, July 16, 2017

The Vermont 100 weekend is a weekend to look forward to in my summer.  This is my second time volunteering for the event with last year (2016) being my first and I can easily see it becoming a tradition. Visit the race website for more info on the race.

My friend Liza and I went up together this year and had a blast.  Vermont and the Vermont 100 did not disappoint.  From amazing volunteers, enthusiastic runners and spastic weather, there was always something to see and be inspired by.  Flexibility was key for the weekend...e.g. sleeping in the car to avoid camping in the wet fields with looming clouds above.  Adventure!   We volunteered first at the Friday night runner dinner and then Saturday at Camp 10 Bear aid station from 6am-2pm.  I recognized a lot of people from last year and made some new connections.  I am tired but oh so inspired.

Here are my pictures from the weekend.

Liza and I starting out on the trip up.
photo cred: Liza

Friday was dreary and wet up in the valley

Runner briefing before dinner on Friday

the Vermont 100 also has a horse race. Horse use the same route as the runners

"car camping!"
View from the car

4am start for the 100 mile runners

Camp 10 Bear aid station

Runners approaching 10 Bear

Runner drop bags at Camp 10 Bear

First Week of Ultra-training, Check!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

I love talking running with other runners.  It warms me up; like a wax warmer sending heat and a beautiful fragrance to my soul.

With the first official week of ultra training under my belt, I am feeling motivated and energized.  This is partially thanks to the extra half week of rest due to my sprained ankle and partly to some encouraging conversations from really tough everyday runners.

For me, running is definitely not a solo sport.  It is way more fun to run with others and to share stories and experiences with people who "get it" and have "been there". I am constantly amazed by the people in my clubs; both the road runners and the trail runners.  These are people who hold it down with work and family like everyone else and still find ways to train 40, 50, 80 miles a week with thousands of feet of elevation gain to boot (I'm thinking maybe I'll resuscitate theRunnersRun Interviews sometime soon...there are some awesome stories).  It blows my mind but also makes it accessible.  Like...if they can do it, why can't I?  God made our bodies to do amazing things.  It's just a matter of focusing and finding the motivation to persevere.   With a bit of training and dedication almost anything is possible.

Increasing Mileage

This first week of ultra training was a 30 mile week.  I am training for the TARC Fall Classic 50 mile Ultramarathon on September 30th.  It is about 13 weeks away.  This first week was a fun week which spanned vacation on the Cape and lots and lots of fireworks.  It felt pretty easy to get the miles in.

I hope to run at least 30 miles a week for the duration of the training and to get a few (at least two) 50 mile weeks.  This is a lot of running for me but necessary.  The goal of this training regiment is to RUN MORE.  50 miles in one day is a long way and I will not be prepared if I cannot get at least two 50 miles weeks in training.  Check how I'm doing here.

I feel good now but the real test will be after 9 or 10 weeks of training when the cumulative fatigue starts to hit.  Like I told a friend from my club this evening who I ran into on my run, I'm taking it one training run at a time.  If I look out at future weeks in the schedule, I get overwhelmed :)

Training Plan

I plan to use the below plan as a guide for weekend long runs.  I found it using a random Google search that lead me to the Santa Clarita Runners Ultramarathon Training Schedule Generator.   I'm already a little behind the schedule because of the sprain set-back but I'm okay with adjusting.  The long run schedule seems logical and I will plan to follow the progression.  I plan to do my own thing for the weekday runs. Run-commuting to work (6 miles one way) is a standard weekly run for me and I'm hoping to incorporate a couple of back to back runs per week involving the commute.  Long runs will mostly be done on the trails to mimic race conditions.

Stay tuned for summer running fun!

How about you?
Do you think of running as a solo sport of more of a community sport?
Do you follow a plan when training for a race?

I Fought Mountain and the Mountain Won: The North Face Endurance Challenge Wachusett Race Recap

Monday, June 12, 2017

Yesterday was The North Face Endurance challenge half marathon and 10k (the 50 miler, 50k, marathon and marathon relay were the day before).

This was my first mountain race and my third half marathon attempt.  My friend Liza and I signed up for it together when we found out that it would be the inaugural North Face Endurance Challenge event in MA.   What fun to be a part of the first event!  Except, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting myself into.

Liza and I went to preview the course 2 weeks ago.  The preview served only to sober my thinking on the whole endeavor [and strike some fear deep in my bones].  I'm getting more comfortable with trail running but I don't have regular access to a mountain (nor the desire to run up a mountain) which made training for this race hard.  After previewing the course, I considered dropping out of the event entirely but pressed on to do the half solely for the experience and threw all race goals (except to not get hurt) out of the window.  I knew it would be a difficult day.  Liza had decided earlier on in the year to drop down in distance to the 10k because of her rehab.

Race Day
We left Boston at 5:30 am and after a brief stop at Dunkins, arrived at the mountain at 6:45 am.  Liza and I spent some time eating in the parking lot and getting our stuff together and taking pictures with some of our other friends who were running the races.   The half marathon started at 8 and the 10k started at 9.  I was the only one of the group attempting the half marathon that morning so at 5 to 8 I hugged everyone goodbye and trotted over to join the wave 3 group at the start line.

After all the anticipation built up from the course preview, the course on race day didn't seem that bad.  I think Liza and I may have only previewed the toughest trails!  It took me a while to get my legs to wake up but once I did, the rhythm was good.  The first two miles were on a lot of dirt roads.  We had some long inclines which I walked most of but it still I was managing to keep the pace okay.  Things started to fall apart for me early, however, when I twisted my ankle at a really technical part around 2.5 miles.

I felt and heard the twist and immediately had to sit down on the trail.  I sat for only about a minute assessing the injury and my options.  I was actually enjoying the race and I didn't think the twist was that bad so turning back was barely a thought.  It was only 2 miles to the first aid station so continue on obviously... you can do anthying for 2 miles!  When I got to the aid station at 4.6 miles on the course, however, the EMTs were just leaving to respond to another injury.  I sat there a bit while the aid station volunteers tried to find something to wrap my ankle with but then ultimately couldn't find anything.  I decided to carry on until the summit aid station (mile 7.1) which had a bit more support.  What's another 2.5 miles?  I still didn't want to stop at that point but little did I know the push to the summit would be way harder than anything Liza and I previewed a couple weeks ago.

This picture shows the first section of the big climb up to the summit.  That look, dear friends, is exhaustion, disbelief, and a little bit of runners high maybe.  I had covered about 6 miles at that point, my ankle was bothering me, and it was a full hands and feet experience to get up that thing.  The picture just doesn't do it justice.

Unfortunately, that push was going to be my last.  My ankle was starting slow me down [especially on the downhill] and I started to feel dizzy on the second big steep climb and stopped a couple of times to sit on/lean against the trail and catch myself.  It was hard and I was tempted to take the paved summit road up to the top but I stuck with the official course.

It took a long time, but I finally reached the summit and immediately sat down to get my ankle taped.  It was confirmed.  I had sprained it.  The aid station workers were terrific and took care of me well.  I had pretty much been running on adrenaline on a sprained ankle for almost 5 miles...up and down a mountain.  Once I sat down and had some time to think while being helped, I knew it wasn't going to be wise to continue the race.  I had reached that aid station at about 2 hours and 15 minutes and only had about 1 hour 45 minutes to complete the rest of the course, I knew that if I continued on I would have to do that climb up to the summit again which took a ton of time on the first go, and I didn't think I could handle the descents well enough to make up for the time I was losing on the climbs.  Descending is my strength and the sprained ankle made moving fast out of the question.  Also, once I stood up from having my ankle taped it was really hard to put pressure on the foot.  The adrenaline that got me to the top of that mountain was beginning to wear off.  

I reported to the aid station captain that I was dropping and opted to take the ski lift down outta there.

My first ski lift ride. Sad to drop but excited by the fun experience.
So salty!

Ski lift ride down. Thanks for the ride, Wachusett!
Everyone has at least one drop some time in their lives right?

I was a little disappointed to have to drop out of the race but I think it was the right choice.  My goal race is the TARC Spring Classic 50 miler in the fall so I don't want to do anything stupid that could potentially take me out for a long time and affect my training for that race.  Even with the DNF (did not finish) I had a better time at this mountain race than I thought I would.  Don't get me wrong, I am pretty sure I will never sign up for another one again ever in my's just not my cup o' tea...BUT I didn't hate it.  :)  More power to you mountain runners out there.  It is tough.  You are tough.  I will stick to hiking and/or running the flat trails.  <3

Icing my ankle at the finish line aid station while waiting for Liza and friends to finish

Thanks to the North Face race organizers and volunteers for putting on a good event.  I felt safe and well taken care of out there!  

Also, I'm super proud of Liza.  She's been dealing with injury recovery all spring.  Though she hasn't been running much, she was able to complete the 10k course well under cutoff.  Great job, friend!

What about you?
Have you ever attempted a race that was out of your comfort zone?
Have you ever dropped from a race?

Leave a comment below.  I'd love to hear from you!