2009 in Review

It's that time of year when everyone is making their Top Ten lists and reminiscing about what ups and downs the last year brought. So it is in that spirit that I decided to recap and review what 2009 looked like for me.

This year was my first year of real trail running. I had never run more than 13.1 miles at once before 2009. After really enjoying shorter trail runs, I decided to try my first ultra. And second, and third, and fourth! I also travelled to race this year and I had a lot of fun with that. I only squeezed in a few triathlons, but I think this year I did better on quality of triathlons instead of quantity. The great thing about training and racing is the people you meet. After 2+ years in Kansas City, I finally met some great friends and training partners. All of those weekend long runs and rides, morning speed work sessions, and night runs would be much less fun if I was always by myself.

Here's a few highlights from 2009:
  • First ultra: Psycho Wyco 50k in Feb
  • First 40 mi race: Free State in April
  • First full 70.3 finish: Boise in June
  • First AG podium: Danskin Sprint Triathlon in September (3rd place AG, overall 36/1700+!!)
  • First 50 mi race: Heartland in October (9:20, 2nd female, 8th overall)
  • First time withdrawing from a race due to injury: KC 1/2 Marathon

I had my first real injury in 2009 - a sustained bout with plantar fasciitis which started in August and peaked during Heartland. That meant after the 50 miler, I had another first - injury forced rest period. No running for a month! I was going to run the Kansas City 1/2 marathon, but gave up my bib number since I was still limping from Heartland. Not all firsts are good ones. But I did get to see my friend KM in her first Boston qualifying run!

Overall, 2009 was a good year. I maintained a decent biking base and have put in a lot of maintenance time on the trainer this fall. I increased my running base, which really paid off at the Danskin Triathlon. That was the first race where I felt I actually put together a solid race and it showed. (The $4200 Trek Madone also helped) Heartland would have been much more enjoyable if I had dressed warmer and if I didn't have PF. But given the circumstances and my injury, I'm very proud of my time at that race.

As fun as it is to look back, I'm more excited about looking ahead. I feel like this is the first year where I have actually shown improvements and it makes me excited to see if I can go faster. Unfortunately, I may have to back off of ultras until I get my foot completely healed. So far in 2010, I'm pacing a friend for 20 miles in a 100 mile race and travelling to New Orleans for another 70.3 to try to go under 6 hours. I'm also hoping to set a new 1/2 marathon PR this spring. My Vibrams are on their way so next year, I can add barefoot running to my list of firsts. I definitely want to keep travelling to race and may start looking for trail runs in exotic locations. If 2009 was my year of going farther, I'm hoping to make 2010 my year for going faster.


Don't Eat the Yellow Snow

We are back in WI and I already got one run in. The temps here are a little bit colder and there is definitely more snow, like 12+ inches on the ground. My goal is to get 4-5 runs in this week, just enough to break a sweat most days and keep some cardio fitness. The snow makes things interesting and I wish I had screwed my shoes before we left.

We went out for a little over an hour today and even ran a short amount on some trails. I wish I had my trails shoes, because that was the best part of the run. My foot is still a little tight but doesn't hurt. I'm hoping that barefoot running will help strengthen my feet so this doesn't become a reoccurring issue.

We got a call on the Vibrams and... they're back ordered until January. The first place we ordered from appears not to exist, so we canceled the order through our credit card and put in an order someplace else. I picked out the all black ones instead of the blue/camo combo but then we got a call today and the black ones were back ordered even longer, so I'm getting the gray/purple combo, which was my second choice anyway. At this rate, I might actually have a pair by next Christmas.

No riding or swimming this week, but really my only goal is to NOT gain the usual 5 pounds that family holidays seem to include. Which would be easier if I wasn't addicted to Christmas cookies...


Fun runs!

This has been a good week for running! On Wednesday, the gang above went out to see the Christmas lights and put in about 6 miles. Afterwards, we went for burgers and beer. The run was good, the food was great, and the company was even better! It's nice to have a social run as a break from regimented training.

Thursday night, John and I went out to Wyco for the weekly run except we were the only ones! Actually, it was kinda nice. We only did 4, but I put in a fast four and it was the best run I've had out at Wyco in months! It reminded me why I love that park so much.

Then today I finished a hellacious project at work and had my 40 hours in, so I took off at 2:30 and went for a run during daylight hours during the week! And the sun was out!! Since KM was out of town this week, I didn't do any morning speedwork. So today I did mile intervals this afternoon. Actually, it was 10 min intervals since I don't have a GPS and 10 min increments is easier to keep track of than 8. Other than I could have used another layer, I had a great run. I came home and stretched and now I'm debating if I should spin or not. Tomorrow I'm spinning 2 hours, so maybe I'll skip it. It's almost Christmas, why push it?

Next week we're up in WI, so no swimming or spinning, but I am hoping to get at least 5 runs in, including a long run of 10-12 miles on Monday. Of course, Friday will be a rest day. Merry Christmas and safe travels!


My first Christmas gift

Woo Hoo! I got to open 1 gift early and it was a pair of Vibram 5-fingers! Actually, they were my husband's pair since he wanted me to go to the store to try them on. We did, but unfortunately they didn't have anything in my size. I originally wanted the KSO Treks, but they only make those in men's sizes and the smallest men's size was still too big for me. The KSOs were fine and fit, but they said none of their stores had anything in a women's 39 in stock.

We went home and John searched online for the KSO in a women's 39. There was only ONE store online that had a 39 KSO in stock and it was in the blue/camo combination above. Not my first color choice, but given my other options (i.e. none) I told him to go ahead and order them. So hopefully sometime next week I will be the newest owner of Vibrams!

I'm pretty excited. I don't plan on doing any trail running in them, but I do want to get some barefoot running in. I'm hoping the stretching, cross training, and running barefoot will prevent my PF from coming back. John took his out for a short run today and said they were awesome. With all of the barefoot (and I'm including Vibram wearers in this category) runners I know now, we may be able to organize a barefoot run this spring. Wouldn't that be a sight?4-6 runners all barefoot or in Vibrams. I will post more pictures once I have my feet in them!


In the holiday spirit

The Christmas season is officially here! And in spirit of the season (and since I'm on my second glass of wine for a Tuesday night) I decided to skip the training (which is going quite well) and do a holiday-related post.

Over Thanksgiving, we made the 9 hour trek up to WI, the Land of Beer and Cheese (and the best holiday cocktail ever, the Brandy Old Fashioned. That could be another post in itself!) My parents own a Christmas tree farm, so we picked out a 6-footer and hauled it back to KC. This is me with my oldest niece and nephew with me by our tree.
Keegan is "helping" cut it down.

This kid is such a sweetheart. I love that when you get him laughing, he laughs so hard he practically hyperventilates and chokes. His laughter is absolutaly contagious.
Portland, John's cat, also got a brand new holiday sweater! He just loves it, can't you tell from the picture?? My cat does not wear holiday sweaters. That's just humiliating.

Our neighbor Mark has an Air Stream out back he sometimes uses while he's gutting his house. After a few micro brews we brought back from WI, I decided it looked like it needed a little holiday spirit. With the help of some elves, I took the liberty to decorate it for him. There is a light bulb out, so I'll have to pick up a new strand for him, but I think it looks quite festive!

Our house got a lit wreath, also brought back from WI. We haven't bought lights for the house yet, but keep meaning too. I did put a nice Christmas bow on the flamingo.

And finally, the tree. Decorated and lit, you can barely tell it's not straight! I put the Rat Pack Christmas CD on, made myself a Brandy Old Fashioned, and put up decorations. Tonight, it's a bottle of wine and I'm baking Christmas cookies. Next week, several of us local runners are getting together for a running tour of the Christmas lights. I'm just a ball of Christmas spirit (or spirits, apparently)!
(If you're interested in the Christmas lights running tour, let me know and I'll give you the details!)


You can call me Grace

Since it appears we are officially into winter, I substituted my Saturday outdoor ride with a 90 min trainer ride in the garage. We don't have a basement in our house and we have a very large garage that we keep heated to 50 degrees in the winter. Add in a small TV and a stereo, it makes a great place for me to ride in the winter.

I brought in this month's issue of Triathlete magazine and read part of that for the first hour. Side note: If you're a triathlete and you don't get it, I would highly recommend picking up this issue. The Kona recap and articles on Chrisse Wellington and Craig Alexander are awesome! It is the perfect thing to read while on the trainer. If this issues doesn't motivate you to work a little harder, I don't know what will.

So I finished the Kona section after about an hour. I wanted to get another 30 min in, so I started a progressive interval set. I've been doing 1 min big chain ring, 1 min off, increasing the time in the big ring by 1 min up to 5. At the 5 min interval, I sit for 2 min, stand 1, sit 2, and then work back down to 1 min on, 1 off. It's a hard set that always has me dripping in sweat.

I made it to the last 2 min interval, when all of a sudden, I was falling over! Holy S%*! WTH?? I fell to the right and while I was able to get my foot unclipped, not in time to catch myself before falling. I landed on our roto tiller (the down side to being in the garage) and cut my hand, which I didn't notice at the time. I couldn't figure out how in the hell I managed to fall off a trainer. A trainer! It's not like I was on rollers!

I put my bike back up and looked for damaged. Everything seemed OK. Luckily, I landed on the roto tiller and not my bike. At least I was able to break her fall. I checked the trainer, everything looked OK, other than I was on a very uneven part of the concrete floor. Apparently, I didn't have one of the spindles locked off, a bad habit from using my trainer as a bike stand in the summer. I think the combination of loose spindle, uneven floor, climbing out of the saddle worked the spindle loose until my bike fell out. I tightened everything back down and then put the chain back on. That's when I noticed my hand was covered in blood. Chain grease is an excellent coagulant. I couldn't tell where the blood was coming from so I figured it wasn't a big deal.

I decided that was a good sign that I should be done for the day. Since I was already dirty, I made some adjustments to my bike. I dropped the front stem down about 1/2 " and re-adjusted my aero pads. I also moved my seat up and forward slightly. For some reason, my seat tube always seems to slide down, no matter how tight I get it. I think I need to start checking it before every ride. Otherwise, it eventually falls all the way down and it takes a few miles to figure out why I'm so uncomfortable! D'oh!

I'm amazed at what a difference 1/4" to 1/2" can make. I'd like to drop the bars down more, but that is going to take a little more work based on the fittings. I should probably adjust to the new position before getting any more aggressive, too. I'm still looking at getting Ultegra components for the rear but I'm on the fence. If I decide to upgrade then why spend the cash on components now? We'll see. Part of me just likes to tinker and get my hands dirty.

Today I'm running, so at least if I crash there won't be any lawn tools for me to land on. Lesson learned: keep sharp-edged objects out of the crash zone while spinning. Maybe trying out my neighbor's rollers is a bad idea...


Under the moon

If you haven't done any running at night this week (or very early in the morning) you're missing out. With the full moon on Wednesday night and relatively clear skies, night running this week has been amazing! Add the crisp, winter temps and I have had a great week of running. In the mornings, it has been so clear and bright that the moon was casting shadows and you didn't need a light.

Wednesday and Friday KM and I met for 5 miles before work. Wednesday's run we just ran 5, no Garmin or watches. This morning we did (3) 1/2 mile intervals with 1/2 mile rest between at 7:15/7:12/7:15 average paces. The last one about killed me. Was it not recently that we were doing full miles at those paces?? I suppose it has been 2 months since our last speed session. Yikes. I'm blaming the week-after effects of too much food in WI and the colder temps on my sloth-like feeling. This morning was my first run this season with the temps in the teens.

Next, I want to do a running Christmas lights tour. I want to wait another week in case more people put up lights this weekend, but what better way to get in the Christmas spirit? If we get some snow, that would be perfect. My absolute favorite runs are when it's about 25-30 degrees out and snowing. I love how quiet and calm it is, just the sound of your heart beating and your feet crunching through the snow. It's like the whole world belongs to you. If it is at night and the moon is full, well, that's just running perfection.


Next Stop: NOLA 70.3!

After unsuccessfully attempting to put together long-term training plans, I realized that without a race date I wouldn't be able to make or stick to a training plan. So I signed up for the New Orleans 70.3 on April 18th, 2010. And then went for a tempo run.
My main goal for this race is to keep my fitness up over the winter and have a reason to actually spend some time in the pool and on the trainer. I'm also hoping for a sub-6 hour race, which is a realistic goal. At Boise I was 6:12, and the course in NOLA is much flatter and faster. If I stick to a training plan, taking off 12 minutes shouldn't be too hard. The biggest variable will be the temps. If its in the upper 80s, I could have some issues acclimating at best and serious GI issues at the worst.
The word is that my friend MO is also signing up and we have discussed having a friendly little wager. Since he is much faster, we are going to be competing for AG placement. I think that is a more level playing field. So far, the punishment for the loser has not been set.
Here are some of the ideas for the loser so far:
  • has to cook a meal of the winner's choice
  • wash and detail the winner's car
  • group trail run where the loser has to wear an "outfit" of the winner's choosing (there may have to be some ground rules with this one)

Any thoughts? Other ideas? It's too early to start the smack talk, that will have to wait at least until after the New Year.


Just in Time for the Holidays

I love the holidays and I love my family, I really do. But I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks all of the "together-time" can be a little overwhelming. Drinking a lot, eating more, and spending 18+ hours in the car is a lot to handle over a 5 day weekend. And that isn't even including the family part! The good news is that running shoes and clothes don't take up much room and I'm finally up to 60 full minutes of running at a time. I will maintain my sanity this holiday season. I will maintain my sanity this holiday season. I will maintain my sanity this holiday season.

This week, I ran 18 miles. Not too bad! I can tell when I don't stretch. That seems to make all the difference. I just need to keep doing yoga and listening to my feet/legs/back. Today I ran 7 miles in 60 minutes with MO and it was awesome. Other than I feel like I'm really out of running shape, it felt so good to move my legs again! I couldn't have kept that pace up for much longer, but man, it was a damn near perfect run. KM and I are going to be resuming our weekly run/rant after Thanksgiving. Maybe I'll be back in good shape sooner than I had hoped.

So enjoy your holiday! And if your family is like mine, don't forget to take your running shoes. :)



Well, I am happy to report that I have now ran over 5 miles without any pain! Woo hoo! This weekend, I'm going to run for an hour and see how that goes. I may try for 6-7 miles on Thursday, depending on the weather. While it's nice to be working upwards, I am feeling out of (running) shape for sure. Although I've noticed whenever KM and have an "easy" run, we never actually take it easy. I think we both like running fast too much. That's why she's a great friend and running partner - she never lets me slack off! I need to keep adding miles. I read today that it's only 11 weeks until Rocky and I've promised JB to pace. It will be my first time pacing, her first 100 and I definitely don't want to disappoint. I would love to offer her 40...

I finally joined a pool and have had some fantastic pool workouts. I put in 2500yd on Saturday, with some hard sets in the middle, sprints towards the end and a couple hundred yards of breath control. I was getting some funny looks at the end of my sprints. Apparently I was the only person swimming until my lungs were screaming. It's a good feeling. :)

I am still procrastinating on signing up for NOLA. I'm waiting for life to settle down a bit, but I should know by now that never happens. I should just take the plunge. That's what all this swim training is for, right?


Does this count?

Does sprinting through an airport with a carry-on count as speed work? If so, I put in my first speed session since Heartland on Sunday. As I was running down the terminal, I realized how much I miss running fast. At least it didn't hurt my foot.

I've only run once since last Thursday, an easy 4 miler with KM (formerly KT). I haven't been on the bike in about a week or done any swimming. But I've been logging 10 hr days at work consistently. Tonight I'm joining a community center so I'll have a nice place to swim (and do yoga). If the weather is decent this weekend, I'm going to try 5 miles on the trails and hopefully put in 30 miles on my bike. I still haven't signed up for New Orleans 70.3 yet. Maybe I should - that would force me to put together (and follow) a training plan, work be damned.


Steady Improvement

I am up to 4 pain-free miles! Woo hoo! I'm hoping next week to try 5!

I have to admit, this injury has been very humbling. It's hard to go from running for 3-4 hours at a time to running 3 or 4 miles. On my first 2 runs, I had to stop before I even broke a sweat. In the long run, I know that resting and rebuilding slowly is the best thing to do. But in the short term, it's driving me batty.

As a distraction to my non-running abilities, I'm planning my upcoming triathlon season. It is a good distraction. Right now, I have my sights set on 2 half-Ironman races: New Orleans in April and Branson in September. Yes, I said Branson. I plan on catching the Andy Williams show afterwards. Small races are fun and I'll sprinkle some in as they fit, but my priority is going to be going sub-6 at New Orleans and *possibly* sub-5:30 in September. Hey, what's the point of dreaming if you don't dream big? And after training for a 50 miler, the time commitment for a 70.3 isn't that bad.

I think I found a new pool and they also offer yoga classes. The best part is I can do a 3-mo membership, so I won't get stuck with a gym that I only use in the winter. I take that back, the best part is if a kid craps themselves in the kiddie pool, I won't have to get out of the lap pool.

This weekend, I'm in NOLA for a short trip, so I'm going to print out the bike and run course to take with. From what I hear, it should be flat and fast. I'm going to go back to daydreaming now...



I am still trying to rebuild my mileage after this stupid foot injury. I am up to 3 whole miles of running before my calf and foot get tight. I know, I know, I am a rock star. 3 miles. Wow. I am so frustrated with this injury. The absolute worst part is that running is my sanity. To be stressed out and not able to run is just awful. I like to run until I'm exhausted, and I always feel better. Now I barely break a sweat. I miss the quiet, too.

I am taking the minimalist approach to healing - I'm trying to strengthen my foot and increase my flexibility instead of having to rely on orthotics, night braces, etc. I think overall this is a better approach, it just means I have to rebuild slowly and let my body adapt. I've been trying to stretch at home and do yoga. I think when look at pools, I'm going to find someplace that also has yoga classes.

Over the weekend (and after a *few* libations) I offered to pace JB, another area ultra runner, on her first 100 at Rocky Raccoon in February. Apparently, I'm optimistic when I've been drinking. I did tell her to only count on me for 20 miles, and I think that is a very realistic goal by Feb. If I pick her up at mile 60 or mile 80, I assumes I can keep pace for 20 miles. I wish I could give her 40, but hopefully she'll have another pacer to help. Here's a picture from the night in question. No, I don't plan on running in my Wicked Witch costume.

We have finally had some decent weather this weekend and I was able to get 25 miles on my bike on Saturday and Sunday. I'm planning on a 4 mile run tonight. Hopefully the warmer weather will help my calf tightness. I'm working on my racing schedule for next year, hopefully I'll have that sorted out in the next few weeks.



Everybody out of the pool! Some little kid shat themselves and forced the rest of us out of the pool. Watch your step! Someone stepped in it and drug it all over the pool deck. Since the pool was closed, there were about 20 8-year olds in the locker room who all just HAD to shower. *Giggle, giggle* I saw her butt! I am looking for a new pool and I can now cross that one off the list.

I ran for the first time in two weeks today. I ran 2 miles and then walked a mile home. So far, no foot problems. I might try to do 3-4 miles tomorrow. Everything felt tight; foot, calves, hips, back and shoulders. And it felt painfully slow, but I am recovering and probably should not be putting in any hard miles just yet. I'm going to do yoga before bed.

I'm looking at the New Orleans 70.3 in April, which means I need to start training soon. I'm waiting to sign up until November. We'll be in NOLA for the weekend and I want to take a look at Lake Pontchartrain before I pay the fee. Next season, I want to do 2 half Ironmans, one in April and possibly the new Branson race in September. By the end of the season, I'm hoping to try for a 5:30. I know a sub-6:00 is just around the corner and I'd like to set my sights a little higher. It should be good motivation to workout this winter. The trainer is my friend.


Stir crazy

This whole "can't run because I'm injured" thing stinks. My foot was slowly getting better. On Thursday I went in for acupuncture, which was an experience in itself. I don't know how much it helped, but I did notice that on Friday the swelling in my foot was completely gone. None. I could once again see the tendons and veins in my feet. They had disappeared for a few days and were replaced by puffy, bruised skin. That was a good sign.

On Friday, it only was mildly sore when I put weight on it in the morning and was fine later in the day. Then on Saturday I walked a few miles while watching several friends run in the KC marathon and 1/2 marathon (including KT, who ran a PR and qualified for Boston with a 3:32!! She is back to being referred to as my Wicked Fast Friend! Go KT!). By the end of the day on Saturday, my foot hurt sitting or standing or completely elevated with no weight on it at all. Crap. Two steps forward and one step back. John tried to massage my calves and feet and my calves were so knotted, it hurt his hands. I've been stretching and doing yoga at home, slowly gaining back some flexibility.

It's feeling better today, and I think this weekend I may try to run 2-3 miles or until my foot hurts, whichever comes first. Tonight I'm biking around the airport, just to be outside and get my HR up. I don't like doing nothing. I need to run. I've swam a few times since Heartland and I'm trying to find a new pool for winter. Biking tonight should help, but I love to run. I miss throwing on my shoes and cruising through the neighborhood or hitting the trails and running through the trees. Absence makes the heart grow fonder...


Heartland 50 Miler 2009

I knew it was going to be a good race venue when we got to the packet pick-up/pre-race meal. The Mennonites had set everything up in the kitchen of the Cassoday (pop. 99) Community Building and we waited in line with runners, crew, volunteers, family, and friends. The topic of conversation was the aid stations. A brief argument ensued between the Lapland and Ridgeline volunteers and ended with "Them's fightin' words!" I was disappointed we didn't make it to Ridgeline during the 50.

We started in the dark, the 50 milers lined up behind a line of white flour in the road, the 100 milers about 50 yards back. It was cold. Temps at the start were 36. The weather had said low of 36, high of 45. Sunny most of the day with winds less than 10 mph, so I wore light-weight capri length tights, my favorite thermal shirt and a hat.

It started out cold and it stayed that way. Right after the sun came up, the afternoon front moved in and the temps never got above 40. I was hoping my PF was hold off most of the day, but like the weather man, I was sorely mistaken. It started in about mile 3 and never improved. I started popping Vitamin I at mile 5. By mile ten, my legs were numb and I was wearing my water bottle around my wrist so I could pull my frozen fingers inside my shirt. I was now focused on covering as much ground as fast as possible, since I knew my foot would be hurting.

We ran with the course, walking some uphills, coasting on the downhills, and flying through the flats. I had a random mix of songs float through my head over the course of the day. First song: The Who "I can see for miles". I wonder where that one came from...

For some unknown reason, our friends Shelly offered to come and crew for us over the last half of the race. All I can say is that having a crew is like having an angel. They give you what you need, before you can ask. They lift your spirits. They believe in you, even when you're hurting and you want to quit. Thank you Shelly.

There were 5 brutal miles heading into the turn around, mostly uphill and completely into the now 20 mph winds. When we finally got there, it was such a huge pick-up. Shelly met us with food, salt, and more ibuprofen. She refilled our bottles and gave me my extra sock to wear on my hands as gloves. I never like to stay long at aid stations, so we were quickly off again. We left and my watch said about 4:20, which was well on track for a sub-9:30 finish, which was my top goal. I would have been happy with sub-10.

Up ahead, I noticed a woman running. Hmm, I know we have about 5 miles mostly downhill and with the wind at our backs, maybe I can reel her in. I slowly accelerated to 9:30 min/mi but she was still pulling away. Holy crap! At least I know when not to give chase. I settled in and kept on. She was clearly a better runner than me.

The cold was taking it's toll. Now it was the Killers "cuz heaven ain't close in a place like this..."

My hip flexors were tight and it hurt to stand up straight. My hamstrings were to tight and it hurt to bend over. My quads were screaming, my calves in knots, and each step on my left foot was agony. A blister had started to form under my right pinkie toe, which compared to the rest of my legs, barely warrants being mentioned. I was walking more, and trying to start running again after each walking break had me in tears. John had pulled away, so it was just me and the beef cows. I asked one if she'd give me a ride, but she just started at me blankly. I decided beef cows were ill-mannered compared to dairy cattle. A Holstein surely would have given me a ride, and if not she would have at least had the manners to give me an answer.

I had mixed feelings coming into the last manned aid station. There were "only" 8 miles left. There were 8 miles left. 8 friggin' miles. I tried doing the math in my head if I was walking at a 15 min pace and "running" at a 10:30 pace, and there were three big hills until the last downhill section, how many penguins did I have left?

I trudged on. Now, the song "Just put one foot in front of the other" from 'Santa Clause is Coming to Town' was scrolling through my head. If the Winter Warlock could do it, I could too. I started bargaining with myself. Just get to that light pole, then you can walk. Just get to that fence, then take a break. Just get to that piece of horse crap in the middle of the road and then try to stretch.

Where were the turtles? I like talking to the turtles on my runs. There were no turtles. They were probably smart enough not to be out in this weather. I pretended I was running with KT. I pretended I was running with MO. I pretended I was running with Meeka. I was having long conversations in my head that made no sense. Barefoot Josh would hate all this gravel. I hate all this gravel. Will that pick-up truck give me a ride? I kept hearing footsteps and it freaked me out when no one was there. Then I heard footsteps and it freaked me out that some guys WAS there. Where in the heck did you come from? Last time I turned around, there was no one within sight, which typically meant 3 miles or more.

Finally, I saw it. The Cassoday water tower, which was where the finish line was located. I estimated I was less than 3 miles out. I thought about cutting through the fields, but that required climbing a fence, which required me to pick my leg up more than 2 inches off the ground. Nuts. Gravel road it is.

The last 3 miles were into the wind and some of the coldest miles of my life. Cold as a witch's tit. The Wicked Witch of the West. The Wicked Witch had flying monkeys. I wish I had flying monkeys. Then they could carry me to the finish and do my bidding! Or at least get me a beer! Oh, what I would give to have flying monkeys as minions.

Somehow, somewhere, I found the energy to run the last stretch of pavement in, to the tune of honking horns, cowbell, shouts from volunteers, and more cowbell. The cowbell is a wonderful thing. By the time I crossed the finish line, I was shuddering and my lips were blue. I was crying. Not from joy or relief, but of cold and pain.

The put us in a tent with blankets and a heater. Even with socks on my hands, the last windy section had robbed me of all dexterity and Shelly had to help get the socks off my hands. 9:20 or so, second place female and 8th overall. I didn't really care, I was focusing my attention on the chili in front of me. Every fiber of my body was exhausted and cold. Then I scarfed down a cheeseburger. A wonderful, warm, greasy cheeseburger.

Afterwards, I found out the woman that beat me is a serious ultra runner from AL. She's on Fleet Feet's Ultra Racing team, won a 100 mile race 2 weeks ago, was 3rd female at Badwater this year and 3rd female at Western States. She has won multiple ultras and has some PR times I can only dream about. Pretty cool, my first race against a serious runner. She was in sight for at least 30 miles of the race.

We stopped a few times on the way home and I had to use the handicapped stall so I had the grab-bars to pull myself up. Back at home, a couple ice packs, a bag of popcorn and a few pain killers later, I was ready for bed. Too bad every time I moved, I still woke up in pain. I was in tears trying to get out of bed on Sunday. At least I have gained back the use of my legs since then, although my foot still hurts to put weight on it.
Now that I have put a few days between me and the race, I'm really happy about my time. I still think it probably would have been in my body's best interest to have dropped out, but I know I would have regretted that, too.
I'll be taking some time off from running to let my foot heal and then slowly getting back into it. I won't commit to any more ultras right now, but I won't say never, either. Time to heal. Time to rest. Time to relax.


Questions and Answers

When I woke up this morning, I wanted to die.

As any ultra runner can tell you, 'Why' is something I hear often. I never have a good response, but 'Why not?' is how I usually respond. Until this race. Until 50 miles on hard-packed gravel in sub-40 degree weather with plus-20 mph winds.

When I woke up this morning, I was crying from the pain in my legs just trying to stand up.

Part of this race was to see how far I could go and how fast I could do it. Everything is subjective. Any good engineer will tell you the correct answer to every questions is "It depends." If I didn't get plantar fasciitis in the last two weeks... If the sun had come out like the weather had predicted... If I had worn thermal tights and gloves... If the race was on single track instead of hard-packed gravel... The if's don't matter. I can go 50 miles. And I can do it in 9:20. But that doesn't begin to tell the story.

When I woke up this morning, I swore I will never do this to my body again.

And I mean it. I'm not swearing off ultras, but I will stick with only single track trails, no gravel or pavement. I will not race if injured, I will drop out when my body tells me to. I will listen to my body, no matter what hurts and how small. I will not push through, because "it's only my foot." These legs don't feel like mine. These knees and hips don't belong to me. I am not disappointed in my body, rather, I feel the opposite. I failed my legs by not listening. What is a DNF? The reality is that I am done racing for the year. The reality is I won't be running for a month. The reality is I need to see a doctor and have x-rays to make sure I haven't done serious damage. The reality is I didn't listen.

Heartland wasn't all bad. In fact, I surprised myself. I'm waiting to write a full race report until I can get some pictures. But I felt it was important to put in writing how much this hurt. I'd like to think that I deal well with pain and I know the difference between discomfort, soreness and pain. And other than two major jaw surgeries, this is by far the most painful thing I have ever done. In the future, when I'm thinking about running through something else, I have a written reminder that I need to honor my body or I will pay the price.


One last post...

...before we leave for Heartland.

Status update: I ran 2 miles on Tuesday night, no foot pain. I woke up Wednesday morning pain free as well. This is good. I'm still wearing flats to work and I've been stretching every night. Hopefully I'll be OK through the race.

Race weather: High of 45, low of 36, partly sunny, 30% chance of rain, 10 mph winds and gusts up to 20 mph. It's a little colder and windier than I would have hoped, but still better than in the 80s. I think I'm going to wear tights, long sleeves, and possibly a hat to start with.

My motto for this race is PPP: Patience, positive, perseverance. I've never run through the prairie before and from what I've heard, the openness can be daunting. So I need to be patient with the course, stay positive about my goals, and push through those last miles.

There's nothing left to do except pack and relax. The weekend is almost here.


Final Countdown!

The Dali Clock feels appropriate. Four days from now I will be in the middle of my first 50 mile race. Yikes. I can't believe the 12 weeks of training have already flown by. I have mixed feelings, especially with my recent PF development. But I feel much more positive about this race than the last two ultras I did. I'm excited, but at the same time, very nervous. This is uncharted territory for me. I think I need a break from racing because I can't stand being nauseous all the time.

I have a plan. I've looked at the course. I'm borrowing a Garmin and we just might have someone to crew! That would be fantastic! I think having a familiar face at the turnaround will be a huge psychological boost. Fingers crossed she can make it... If not, I'm prepared to run it solo. The weather looks a little on the cool side, but I'll take 40s over 80s for a race this length.

This has been a good training cycle for me, the best of any race this year. The biggest thing I've learned is that I'm capable of much more than I originally thought. An 8:05 pace at the end of a 20 mile run? Yeah right. A 7:16 pace for a 5k at the end of a triathlon? That's a pipe dream! I never would have thought I could do either. Which is why I'm excited for this race - I get to see what I'm capable of. Why is it always easier to be negative and to be hard on ourselves instead of having a little faith in our training and determination? My most important race strategy is to stay positive and focused.

I'm going to go out for a 1-2 mile slow run tonight to see how my foot feels. Hopefully, I've taken enough time off that 2 miles won't do any damage. I've also learned that while I like to train and to race, I depend on running to stay sane. I will gladly be cutting back on my mileage after Heartland so I can get back to consistently running. Life makes more sense when my body is in motion.


Plantar Fasciitis

Oh, Plantar Fasciitis, how I loathe thee. You are the thorn in my shoe, the sting in my step. Because of you, I watch the leaves change from the couch instead of splashing through their bright color, breathless, like a child. I have befriended the ice pack and abandoned my stilettos. Have you no mercy?

With a little over a week until Heartland, I have been forced into tapering early. This is my first bout with PF and hopefully my last. It is a cruel joke, after successfully training for 10+ weeks and running some of the fastest miles of my life, that my left foot is hobbled. I pushed my body too far and now I’m paying the price. At least I am close enough to the race that I can’t gain much physically by running, I can only do harm. The psychological damage from being forced to sit still has yet to be determined.


Have Helmet, Will Travel

Grab a cocktail or cup of coffee, this is going to be a long one. I took a weekend trip to WI for all of my favorite things: friends, family, beer, triathlons, and tattoos. I'll explain.

First things first. Somehow I managed to pack all of my racing gear, including bike shoes, pedals, wet suit, and water bottle, into a carry on sized duffel bag. My helmet wouldn't fit, so that was my personal item. I received some strange looks and a few questions. I think I'm going to start travelling with random objects more often. It was hilarious.

I decided to rent a bike instead of shipping mine. But the only thing the Trek store rented out were the Madones. Darn, I had to pick up a $4236 bicycle to race with. John made the comment that if I finished on the podium, I could keep the bike. He later clarified that AG podium didn't count, but if I beat any of the elites (who weren't injured) that I could also keep the bike. Please make a note of these statements for later.

After picking up the bike, my friend AM and I enjoyed a Berghoff Oktoberfest beer and then went to the Great Dane for food, drinks, and to meet up with CZ. CZ recently did Ironman WI. What a stud! I love getting to meet other virtual tri friends! This is what I had for dinner: WI Cheddar n Mac, served with a pretzel and I had the Devil's Lake Red to go with it. That would make any German happy.

Cheese curds, of course.

CZ, me, and AM after dinner.

I had to share the bathroom at AM's with her turtle, Tattoo. I've never taken a couch-surfing vacation and to be honest, I had a lot of fun.

We drove to the race site on Saturday. Here is a pumpkin on top of a silo. You do know what a silo is, right?
I don't have any pictures during the race just yet. I forgot to check the weather and had to buy a long sleeved shirt when I realized it wouldn't be above 65 until after noon.

As for the race itself, the start was cold - 52 air temp and 72 water temp. The water wasn't actually that bad. I heard there were about 1750+ starters. The elites went off at 7, my wave was at 7:43. I was nervous as always and I don't know why. I hadn't really trained for this race and was just doing it for fun. At some point, I hope the sweeping nausea before a triathlon will go away. Nerves is one thing, not being able to stomach food is another.
I started close to the front of my wave since I knew there were a lot of first-timers I was looking to avoid. No offense, but it's natural to freak out during your first open water swim and it's not fun for those who catch a thrashing arm or leg in the face. I found open water and cruised. The swim was point-to-point, which I've never done before. I came out in 12:59, or 1:38 min/100m, my fastest swim split to date by over 20 sec/100m. I think that means I stink at sighting.
T1 was slow - 3:56. I struggled trying to get my long-sleeved shirt on over my wet body, but I'm glad I did. I grabbed my rental bike, whom I named Chip for the day, and took off. I could easily launch into a side bar about how amazingly awesome it is to ride a $4200 bike, but I'll save that for later. Chip and I had a good time and great ride. I was passed by only 1 person and did the ride in 37:44 (19.7 mph). Sweeeeet.
T2 again was slow (2:45). There was a cluster at the dismount and I got stuck behind some slower moving women. Oh well. On to the run. I left my shades on and took off. 3 miles. I was excited. With the distances I've been running while training for Heartland, 3 miles is nothing. I skipped the first aid station and just started passing people. I stopped at mile 1.5 for Gatorade and kept on. I was feeling well, so I decided I'd pick up the pace at mile 2 and run hard in. Just like speed work with KT, I told myself. Run like Meeka. The run for me was huge - I didn't get passed by a single person and that never happens. The run is usually my weakest area and it says a lot about my training that I showed that much improvement. I finished strong and my watch said 1:20. Nice!
I hung out until AM finished and cheered on the other finishers, which was a lot of fun. A few bottles of water and I was looking forward to the blueberry pancakes we were planning on afterwards.
Me and Chip, post race. Check out that hair!

Since when I returned my bike, the racks were empty and I didn't see anyone from my AG on the entire run, I checked the results on a whim.
I had to look twice. Three times. Really? I couldn't believe it - AG 25-29, 3. Kevern 1:19:57. I sprinted all the way back to transition to find AM and tell her the news. My first podium finish! Can we stay for the awards ceremony? Pretty please?? Of course!

It wasn't just the bike, either. My swim time was my fastest ever and I set a new PR in the 5K of 22:32 or 7:16 min/mile. I am still in shock. My fastest run pace in a short-distance tri before was 8:30. I knocked over a minute off my pace. I owe SO much to my training partners KT and MO for how much I have improved this year.
So final stats: 1:19:57, 3/179 in my AG, 36/1711 finishers total. If you remember what my dear husband said, you'll remember a podium finish meant the bike was mine. I would argue that I have photographic evidence, AG or not. Besides that, I beat 3 of the elites!! I'm currently in negotiations for new carbon wheels and an upgrade to Ultegra components for my bike since I know $4200 is a lot for something you have to pedal.
The story isn't over just yet. I mentioned tattoos earlier and I wasn't just referencing AM's turtle. In celebration, I got a new tat on my left wrist. It's a good time since I'm done swimming for a little while.

I also met up with my parents and little brother for dinner, and my cousins later that night. Me and BM went out the breakfast before she dropped me off at the airport. That is what I call a successful weekend.

Bring it on, Heartland.



I'm off to WI for the weekend to race with an old high school friends and more importantly, hang out. I'm looking forward to the trip and glad to get away. It's been one of those weeks where life feels upside-down and I don't know how to right myself. I haven't been swimming or biking and I'm feeling a little low on running miles too. Ce la vie. Time for bed.


Rump Shaker

I consider myself fortunate that I have a husband with whom I share so much in common with. We're both civil engineers, so we can share work stories, we both love to drink beer, work on our house, and we both like to run. But sometimes togetherness goes too far.

Before we even started trail running or ultras, we had decided our runs together had to be limited. Different paces and different goals made for some unpleasant runs. We used to run at the same time, just different routes. If we ran together, it was usually because I had a tempo run and he had a recovery run scheduled.

Once we started running longer distances, we started running together again. When you're out in the woods for 4+ hours at a time, your spouse should be welcome company, right? Well... It reminded me why we didn't run together. John runs by his Garmin, I run by my body. Usually, half the run was spent by "You're going to fast, you're going to blow up" or "This pace is too slow, it screws up my stride." But my all-time favorite was a comment he'd make while I was leading and usually after he had stumbled or tripped: "Your legs are so muddy I can't see the trail!"


So the Limited Runs Rule was reinstated. We agreed upon running together every 6-8 weeks. John doesn't really like people, anyway. I've been doing a lot of running with KT and MO, besides the Thursday night Nerds run and solo recovery runs.

But recently we made a discovery as to why we have the Limited Runs Rule. John said after a Thursday night run, he realized why he couldn't run behind me and always seemed to trip. My ass blocks his line of sight. Those were his exact words: "Your ass blocks my line of sight." To which I promptly replied "On behalf of my ass, I apologize. And that is exactly why my ass and I don't want to run with you."

Now for the gentlemen that may be reading, you should never tell a woman that her ass blocks your line of sight, no matter how large or small the rear end in question may be. A better way for him to have said that would have been "I can't follow you because I just can't take my eyes off your behind and that's why I trip all the time." No damage done. But "Your ass blocks my line of sight" implies that maybe you should be wearing a WIDE LOAD sign on your posterior.

So of course, after this conversation I became a little self conscious of my bum. Do I need a WIDE LOAD sign on my rump? Does it get in the way of other runners? I've lead the Thursday night run on a number of occasions; has my butt been the cause of trail mishaps that I wasn't even aware of? Maybe I could use this to my advantage during races, I'd just have to position myself at the front of the pack and I could box out my competition. Those skinny runner girls won't know what hit 'em! I got junk in my trunk and I'm not afraid to use it!

My ass and I have politely decided to retreat to the back of the pack on group runs and appropriately play the caboose. Heaven forbid my bottom causes other runners undue stress.

For the record: My ass is a size 6 and has covered more miles than I can count. I also used 10 different words for "butt". Any other suggestions?


We're getting close

We did something unexpected this weekend. After our run on Saturday, John and I went home, showered, and took a nap. I forgot how nice it is to do nothing, even if it's only for an hour on a Saturday afternoon. Between work, the homes tour, social events, and training for a triathlon next week and Heartland in a month, I feel like I haven't sit still for more than 5 minutes in the last few weeks.

My schedule is starting to wear on me. I need more than 7 hours of sober sleep, especially on the weekends. Key word: sober. I'm limiting myself to 1-2 drinks a night until Heartland, mostly so I can get some quality sleep. But the running has been going well. I took a week off speed work due to a sinus cold, but I've been getting all of my long runs in. I'm hoping after the tour I can catch up on some sleep and take a few naps.

Right now, I'm averaging 30-35 miles between Saturday and Sunday. This weekend, John, MO and I ran on gravel roads between De Soto and Eudora. It was great Heartland training - gravel roads and no shelter from the sun. We did get to see two Lamborghini's at the gas station in De Soto. Go figure. By the end it was hot and humid, no shade or breeze and the loose gravel was taking a toll. When we were about 1.5 miles from the end, I decided to pick up the pace. I ran the last 1.5 at an 8:05 pace. That made me pretty happy for how hot it was and how much we had already ran.

Sunday, MO very politely put up with me for my second weekend run, which included much more walking than normal. Either way, we were on our feet for another 2.5 hours. This was the first Sunday run where I actually felt fatigued before I even started. John slept in, which made me a little jealous, but I am glad I got that run in. One more weekend of solid running, two weeks of consistent training, and then I start to taper.

After our run this week, I think I have a game plan. Assuming "normal" temperatures, I'm going to run the first few hours at around a 10 min/mile pace walking a few minutes every half hour or so; hopefully that will be about the first 15-18 miles. Once the sun is up and temps have risen, I'll pull back a bit, hopefully to about an 11 min/mile, but I want to take advantage of starting in the dark and the cooler temps. At the turnaround I'll reevaluate and adjust my pace. The last 4-5 miles are mostly downhill, so I'm hoping to pick up the pace at the end.

That being said, I know if it's hot and humid, I'll be walking a lot and running closer to 11:30 or 12. If I overheat, I'm in trouble so my main goal is to prevent overheating at all cost. I think the key for this race is just listening to my body and responding appropriately. If things go well - great. If not, it's just another learning experience. Either way, I've been having fun with Heartland training.



What a fantastically exhausting weekend. It started with several margaritas and a few unnecessary gin and tonics Friday night. Saturday morning came much too early, but MO and I managed to put in 17-18 miles on the trails with headaches and nausea. We called the run early but still put in 3:20. How sick is that, we "only" ran for 3 hours and 20 minutes. Geesh. I'm starting to believe all those people who call me crazy. By the way, Garmin lies. It was very unreliable in overcast weather and dense trees. We did a minimum of 17.

Back at the ranch, John, MO and I worked on our patio and yard the rest of the day. Lucky for MO, we pay in beer and BBQ. With the KC Modern Homes tour fast approaching, we have a lot of work to do but we're making good progress. For house updates, click here. If you're in the KC area, consider yourself officially invited.

Sunday, I basically repeated, sans tequila. I ran 15 miles in town, got breakfast with John and the neighbors, and went back to work. Our neighbor bought a smoker, so Sunday night I ate enough smoked meat that it started coming out of my ears. Today I rode and worked again. Needless to say, 32 running miles, 20 biking miles, and a newly-landscaped yard later, I am exhausted. I already showered and brushed my teeth and I'm just waiting to climb into bed.

KT and I moved our morning speed session to Wednesday since in our minds tomorrow will be like Monday and we usually run on Tuesdays. I'm sure I would have been too slow in the morning to keep up, so I'm glad to take tomorrow as a rest day. I'm hoping Wednesday night to head back to the climbing gym. Between the alcohol, running, working, and inhaling dirt, dust, and debris, I'm feeling a little stuffed up. No more beer until this subsides; hopefully it doesn't turn into a cold. Another reason I'm heading to bed and it's only 9:01 pm. Sweet dreams.


Feeling like a sloth

I feel like a sloth. We've been really busy at work and today was just one of those days where I left the office and my brain felt like mush. I'm pretty sure some may have spilled out of my ears. I should have done something tonight but I didn't think I had the mental capacity to safely ride in traffic and it is an off day from running. So here I am, Corona in hand and waiting for the weekend. Thank God for 3 day weekends.


Rockin' week of running

I managed to total 52 miles of running this week, and I'm pretty sure that's my highest weekly total in the history of forever! Yesterday I did 19 on the trails according to Garmin, so probably a little over and then today I went out and did another 13 on the roads.

I did the 19 with a friend, MO, who let me use his Garmin 310XT and I think I fell in love. That thing is awesome! I loved the vibrate alarm and mile splits. It will be a while until I can buy one since I just picked out some very pricey patio furniture. Ah, home ownership.

Today's run was even better. I left at noon to get some full-sun running in since there is absolutely no protection from the elements at Heartland. My legs weren't completely tired, so I took the first hour of my run at a good pace. Right on the hour mark, I felt the fatigue from yesterday's run set in and I slowed down on the back half. But that is what the second of back-to-back runs should feel like - completely fatigued. Since my longest run is only 24 miles, I'm preparing for the 50 by doing back-to-back long runs on the weekends. By the end, I felt it. I walked up one hill about 2 miles from home and ran the rest in. No 310XT today, so I tried to map out my run on Google.

Worst case, I ran 12.5 miles, but that is taking straight roads (which I did not) so it was probably closer to 13. My overall time: 1:52. For reference, my personal best in the half marathon is 1:56 something. My split at the turn around was 1:01 and that was at 7.5 miles. I'm starting to think I need to try for a new PR in the 1/2 marathon. I knocked out 7.5 miles at an 8:30 min/mile pace the day after 19 on the trails. I know I'm not setting any land speed records here, but for a Midwest farmer's daughter, that's pretty damn fast!

My next task is to see how much sweet-talking/bribery is needed to borrow the 310XT from MO for Heartland. That eliminates the pacer dilemma and would give me some peace of mind about pacing myself through the first half. How many cases of beer do you think one weekend of the 310XT is worth??


Where have you been, my love?

After pulling out my dusty gear bag and brushing off my shoes, I took advantage of my early morning workout and spent yesterday evening at the local climbing gym. I always feel nervous going someplace I'm not familiar with, and the rock gym is one of them. In my two years in KC I've only been there once. I was worried my shoes may not fit right or I wouldn't be able to complete the most basic route or it just wouldn't feel the same as it did when I was in college.

Somethings you don't forget, like how to tie a figure eight knot or how tight your shoes should be. But I had forgotten how much I love climbing. The bouldering area was fairly empty, so I took my time familiarizing myself with the routes and trying to gently awaken the seldom-used muscles in my arms and shoulders. After an hour of fairly continuous climbing, I stepped back to enjoy my surroundings.

My heart was pounding, veins pulsing, and sweat was slowly building on the back of my neck. This is what I love - the thrill of finishing a hard route, the adrenaline of almost, almost falling off the wall, the indie music in the background that mixes with the smell of chalk and salt, the gentle "puff" when you sink back into the thick crash pads. The skilled climbers are mesmerizing, as they move fluidly through an overhang route, gracefully and politely defying the forces of gravity. I see beauty in strength, and strength in the human form.

There is something I love about the fatigue, as well. I can't explain it, it is an exhaustion combined with adrenaline that produces an overwhelming feeling of content. I like to climb until my hands, arms, shoulders, and core have nothing left to give. When the tingling fingertips and twitching muscles can take no more, I head home. Happy, and wondering what kept me away for so long.


It's true, I am a total spaz.

I hate Mondays. Every Monday I feel like a kid with ADD. I can't focus and I don't get much done. In my state of complete distraction, I decided to look up some info on Heartland. I printed off the course map, elevation chart, and aid station list with mileage. I read the information guide. I looked up all of the entrants. Other than one 26 year old, I am the youngest runner in the 50. The next youngest woman is 32, after that 38 and most of the women are in their 40s and 50s The winner from the last two years is not signed up. I didn't recognize any other names in the 50 and only a handful in the 100. There's another 27 year old in the 100, but John and I are among the 4 youngest runners in both races. Ultras are definitely a case where old age and treachery triumph over youth and enthusiasm.

Since that wasn't enough to get me to quittin' time, I pulled out the aid station sheet and started making a pace sheet. For several different paces. The good thing about this is that it required me to use my calculator so at least it looked like I was working. The bad thing is that then I started to freak out. So I opened up my training log spreadsheet (yes I know, I am also a total dork in addition to being a spaz) and started looking at my training schedule and how much time I have left. Halfway through and I'm much lower on my miles than I had hoped, but I justify that with the fact I'm running well and I'm healthy. And 40 miles a week is nothing to sneeze at (for me).

Should I get a pacer? If not a pacer, maybe at least someone to crew for John and me. A friendly face at miles 17, 25, and 33 might be nice. Who would want to crew? I don't need a crew. But it would be nice...

And on and on. Luckily by this time it was almost 4:30 so I could head home. But I officially had my first case of pre-race jitters and the race is about 6 weeks away. If I didn't have a goal, I wouldn't care. My official goal is a sub-10 hour finish. My unofficial goal I will not speak out loud or actually put into print. I bet you're wondering what all is on my pace card. Even John doesn't know that one. Like I told a friend, while the first goal is to finish and have fun, it's hard not to daydream about winning the Olympics.

An easy 8 mile recovery run wasted all of my nervous energy. I should go to bed early, tomorrow is another early morning ass-kicking with KT.


My Adventures with Speedy Gonzales

After a 5 day rest period, I jumped back on the running bandwagon with full-blown enthusiasm. If you know me, then you know I don't sit still very well. It's amazing they don't actually tether me to my desk at work. I'm waiting for someone to ask about my frequent trips to the bathroom one of these days. Give me a break, I'm well hydrated!

Last night I pulled on my Elixirs and went out for an "easy" 6 mile run around the Village. I was feeling great and my quad felt fine, so I picked up the pace a little. "Run like KT" I thought. KT is my "wicked-fast friend," AKA "the girl who likes to take her pants off," AKA "Speedy Gonzales". I ended up blowing past my neighbor and made it back to the park by our house before I looked at my watch.


49 min from my front door to the park, which is about 6 miles. The first mile was around a 9/mile, after that I don't know where the mile markers are, but John has measured it with the GPS and I think it was about 6.5 miles total. What I thought was an easy, fun pace, turned out to be about 8:10/mile. Nice! Maybe some of KT's speed is wearing off on me. (For the record, I've never seen KT drop her pants. She just gets embarrassed when I call her wicked-fast).

Then this morning we met for 5 miles and she thoroughly kicked my butt. I keep my mouth shut and try to keep up while KT gives encouragement and counts down by tenths. "Great job! 0.4 to go!" We did 5 miles, approximate splits: 8:10/7:20/8:30/7:30/9. Clearly, I was dying by the end. But did you see those 2 miles below 8 min?? Training is so much more fun when you see improvement. I've done speed work before, but I think this is the first time where I'm working hard enough for it to pay off. You can't slack off when there is someone else with you.

So two fast runs in less than 24 hours and no problems with the quad. I'll take it easy on hills yet this week. More noticeable is that an 8:10 pace is now pretty comfortable (for runs less than an hour). I used to dream about running that fast consistently and sub-8s were pure fantasy. I think I'm well on track for Heartland, even with 5 days off. In comparison, last season I clocked a 7:58 mile once, and I was ecstatic about that. I think I'm getting better with age. :)


Aw Nuts!

It serves me right, taking a rest day last week and racing instead. I hurt my right quad on Friday and figured it was just a little sore. "A little sore" had turned into the feeling of someone hitting my quad with a hammer every time I go up stairs, climb hills or push big gears on my bike, or do anything that requires pressure on my leg. It ranges from mild discomfort on the stairs to near-stabbing pain when I was trying to climb some big hills. Needless to say, my bike ride tonight was cut short.

This sucks. I have been injury free for well over a year, other than mild tendonitis in my knee which I have under control now. I know I should rest, but I don't want to take time off. I'm really enjoying the building phase and I don't want to lose the speed or endurance I've gained so far. Oh well, to push on would be worse, so I am icing while typing and will probably wrap it later. I've skipped high heels so far this week, and I cut my last 2 workouts short. I guess it's good timing for a recovery week. Hopefully with a few days of RICE, I'll be back at 100% soon.


Psycho Night Race 2009

Friday, Aug 7 was the Psycho Night race out at Wyandotte County Park. This is a little bit of a sentimental race for me since it was my very first trail race last year. A lot has changed.

Before the race started, I wandered around chatting with the folks I knew and some I didn't. I taunted Barefoot Josh (knowing full well that I would never catch him unless something bad happened and I would never wish that on another runner). I also talked with some folks from Topeka and some people that were at the Rock Creek night race where John and I ran an aid station. John and Danny were manning the only aid station on the course, cooler of beer in tow. He didn't want to risk falling and making his wrist worse since it's not quite 100%. I think he just preferred to drink beer and watch other people run. :)

Here's Brett and I, pre-race and sans-spouses.

I know this course well and I was hoping to run it in under an hour. My time last year was 1:08, but last year's course was much dryer and more runnable. Rocky downhills are my forte and I was hoping to use that to my advantage. The mud would make things more difficult, so I tied my laces tight and double knotted my shoes.

I saw no less than 5 people lose at least one shoe. I thought it was funny, but I'm sure they weren't as amused. Coming into the Triangle, Danny said I was 2nd female and John told me I better pick up the pace (funny guy). I was passed by one girl, but she was having a hard time in the mud. On the road, she would have cleaned my clock, but between the mud and the rocks, I passed her again not far outside the Triangle and didn't see her until the finish line. I talked to her afterwards and she was visiting from Utah. Her quote of the night: "I thought I had run trails before, but I hadn't run anything like THIS!"

I picked up the pace a little and caught up to a group of guys that came down from Leavenworth. I passed them on a hill, but they hung close. I started calling out warnings for rocky sections and where there were good lines through the mud. Afterwards, they came over to say thanks and we chatted over beer. They said the may come down for a Thursday night run sometime.
I finished in 1:05, which is a good indicator of how muddy it was. I was running much faster than last year, but there were more sections that I had to walk due to mud. I never did catch Barefoot Josh, but I think I came close. ;) I had a lot of fun and met a ton of new people. Hopefully I'll get to see some of them again.

Thanks to all the volunteers and especially Dick Ross at www.seekcrun.com. All photos are courtesy of Dick.


Trail Runnerversary!

This was something I saw on Dirt Doll's blog so I have to give credit where it's due. But I thought it was a cute idea.

Yesterday was my trail runnerversary! Last year, I did the Psycho Night 10k as my very first trail race. I read my old race report before Psycho Night on Friday and my favorite part was the quote: "I think I am going to try to find a trail marathon next year and see where that takes me." Ha! It's a year later and I have completed three ultras but still no marathon.

Last night I ran the 10k and John ran the aid station since he's still healing from his wrist surgery. I'll have a full-fledged race report with pictures later (spoiler alert: I was second overall female on a really muddy course). But I ran well and had a lot of fun. I met some awesome people and saw some regulars. We were home and in bed by 11, which let me get 7.5 hours of sleep before...

getting up for 20 miles at SMP! Ok, I only did 18 since it was so hot and humid. My right quad was protesting having to run the last 4 days in a row, especially with hills on Wednesday, and fast downhills on Thursday and Friday. I iced my knees when I got home. Tomorrow morning I'm meeting some friends for a 30 mile bike and 4-5 mile run afterwards. The bike should help.

It's amazing what sticking to a training plan is doing for me. Thanks to KT and some quality runs, I'm getting faster and running consistently has my endurance up. And Heartland is still 2 months away! I'm excited for this race. I'm finally making some consistent gains in my training and seeing it pay off. My motto for Heartland is No Excuses, and so far I have none.



Roasted veggie pesto with whole wheat pasta! What a reward for a hill workout with KT. (Hubby's response to dinner: Where's the meat?)

We put down 5 miles of hills around SMP this afternoon in just a tick over 40 minutes. Not too shabby! My vampire strategy of sucking her speed seems to be working! Don't worry, she has speed to spare. The funny part was that after the run, we both needed to urgently find a restroom. You know a good friend when you make urgent potty calls together! Ha! Any true runner would understand, hence, runners make the best friends.

I bought some plane tickets to head up to WI to do a triathlon with a friend from high school at the end of September. She did her first tri a month or so ago and did her second a week ago. I think she's bitten by the bug! I'm so excited that she has fallen in love with it. She didn't believe me that doing something that HARD can actually be FUN. We've talked more in the last few months than we have in the last few years. I love that we've been able to reconnect over triathlons.

The race is just a little sprint, so I'm doing minimal training since I already have some bike and swim in my Heartland training plan. I haven't decided if I'm taking Thelma (my bike) but I'm leaning toward yes. I'm hoping to convince Ma and Pa to make the trip down from the Village for the race, too. They've never seen me race before.

Runs are going well. I haven't hit 100 miles yet, but after this weekend I will. Friday night is the Psycho Night run (10k), so I'll probably run that, 20 on Saturday, and another 6 or so on Sunday, besides a 30 mile bike with friends. I love it!


Running Observations

I had a good weekend of running - I did 18 on super-sloppy trails at Wyco on Saturday and 11 around the Village yesterday. I was running solo both times, which I realized I miss when all of my runs are with others. Here are some of my observations, ramblings, and musing from my runs this weekend.
  • If the saying "Women don't sweat, they glow" is true, then I am a freaking light bulb!
  • I see more wildlife when I'm by myself on the trails. While I didn't see any box turtles this weekend, I did see 20+ deer and a bobcat. It was the first time I have seen one in the wild. I wish I had a camera, I was less than 20 feet away from it.
  • Hammer gel in espresso flavor makes me gag. Literally.
  • You're not a hard-core trail runner until you've had an eye glued shut by running through a spiderweb.
  • If you give another runner out on the trails a GU, you will make a friend for life. (Thanks Rick, the last half would have been brutal.)
  • Ultra runners are really just people who hate their toenails.
  • Sometimes the rhythmic monotony of pounding pavement can be therapeutic. Especially when you don't have to worry about eating spiderwebs.
  • Like your mom always said, go to the bathroom before you leave the house, even if you don't have to. Otherwise you could end up 8 miles out, squatting in the bushes in a very upscale neighborhood, hoping no one sees you bare-bottomed and watering the vegetation. Not that I would know anything about that.

My hamstrings are a little tight, but I'm feeling and running well. I'm ready for back-to-back double-digit runs. It's always exciting when you're exploring new territory.


Proof is in the Pudding

I had an awesome ride tonight! My favorite part: After riding past a parking lot, I picked up another cyclist who was trying to close the gap between us. I periodically saw him getting closer. (I always look both ways before blowing a snot rocket. How considerate of me.) We approached some small rollers and I kept pushing the pace. I was watching my speed and secretly hoping to break 20 mph for an average. After the second uphill, he still hadn't passed me. I assumed he was letting me pull him since we were riding into the wind that brought tonight's thunder storm. I rounded a corner and glanced back, a little irritated that he would draft that long without even saying hi. Except when I looked back, he was gone. I dropped him completely. We were on a closed loop at the airport, so there was no place for him to turn off. I guess uphill into the wind was too much for him.

After Boise, I did some pretty major adjustments to my riding position and it seems to have improved my power transfer significantly. It's hard to explain. My biking hasn't been much or consistent, but it feel like I'm getting more out of each pedal stroke. The last two times I rode, I was well above 19 mph and tonight I averaged 20.2 mph!! I can't believe a seat and handle bar adjustment makes that big of a difference, but that's the only thing that's different. I need to get out for more than 25 miles and test this new speed over some more distance. I haven't even flipped my aero bars down yet, either. That is next season's goal.

But here's my Captain Obvious thought on riding position. The most "correct" riding position is based on men and the majority of people working in bike shops and fitting bikes are men. But since women's bodies have different proportions and geometry, doesn't it make sense the optimal riding position for men is not the optimal position for women? I can't be the first person who has thought of this. Women-specific bikes are more than just the dropped top tube like every Huffy I owned growing up. You would think the fairer sex could get a better fit, too. All I know is that after throwing bike-fitting guidelines to the wind and finding what's comfortable, I've increased my average speed by over 1.5 mph with only 25 miles a week on the bike. The proof is in the pudding.


Trail Nerd Lovin'

I write about the Trail Nerds often and I run with them at least once a week. So here is a photo of one of our group runs a few weeks ago. Pre-run, of course. If it was post-run, we'd all smell too bad to stand that close to each other. Here's the line up: Bad Ben (behind the camera), The Girls (left to right): Erica, Lisa, Me, KT, and Sophia. The Boys: Jason, Johnny K., Mike from FL, Brett "Snap Snap", Barefoot Josh, Dan, Mike K., Dr. Mike, and Jared. Shane showed up after the picture was taken. Fun people, fun run. The Thursday night run is starting to take on a life of it's own. Funny how the numbers have grown since we started going out for beer afterwards...

Saturday night, John and I swapped our running shoes for some volunteer shoes and leis at the Rock Creek Night Race. We held down an aid station for the 20k and 30k runners. Note to self: Even volunteers need flashlights at a night race. I was impressed with how great the runners were. Everyone said please and thank you, and only one person threw any trash on the ground and that was only because he missed the garbage bag. Trail runners really are a class act (even if they do sometimes smell bad). This was the first time we have done an aid station and I had a new-found appreciation for volunteers that can fill a bottle without slopping it all over the place.

The Saturday night race meant we were up kinda late (I know, I know midnight is not that late) so I slept in this morning. And I skipped my run this afternoon. Bad Sam! I haven't quite figured out how I'm going to make up those miles just yet. Tomorrow's bike ride may turn into a brick workout, which I'm a little excited about. It's been a while since I've done a brick. I'll just chalk today up to additional rest and worry about the miles later. Lesson: always run first thing in the morning on the weekends, then it is done and can't be skipped.

Saturday morning I did get 15 miles in and I'm starting to feel a little more rested. The last three were the strongest finish miles I've had in a while. Maybe a little more rest today wasn't a bad thing since I didn't really take any time off after Psummer Psycho. I'll have to check my totals and adjust this week. I think I'm down somewhere around 460 miles to go!


Morning Miles and Heartland Training

This morning I did something that would disgust John. While he is travelling for work, I woke up at 5am and met a friend for a 5 mile tempo run. It was probably closer to mile repeats, but it's been so long since I've done any type of speed work that I'm counting it as a tempo run. We warmed up a mile, did the second mile in about 8:05, took an easy mile, did the 4th in 8:30 and then cooled down. (I'm guessing at the times, KT was wearing the Garmin, not me. I just tried to hold it together while she said "Only .4 to go! You're doing great!" I must have been huffing hard enough that she knew I needed a cheerleader.)

I'm hoping this becomes a weekly thing. KT is trying to qualify for Boston, so I'm hoping by running with her, I can absorb some of her speed through osmosis. I will gladly donate some of my endurance to the cause. We both need a little motivation when it comes to speed work, so I think this is a good thing.

Heartland is 12 weeks away. I set a goal of 500 running miles before the race, which averages out to 42 miles/week for the next 12 weeks. Being the dorky engineer that I am, I created a spreadsheet to act as my training log, which counts workouts and mileage per month, and also totals the running miles and tells me how many I've done and how many I have left. Right now, I have 21 miles down, 479 to go. You probably can't see much, but if you click on it, you should be able to see the numbers.

I'm planning on doing the Jackson County Triathlon again, partly to keep me motivated to bike. I love riding but for some reason I tend to blow it off. I'll train through that race, but I plan on using it as a recovery week with reduced mileage. Same for the week of the Modern Homes Tour since I know we will have a million things to do to get the house ready for the tour. I am determined to go to Heartland with no excuses.

That last comment is an ironic segue into the fact that I'm 2 miles short from this weekend already. I ran 12 instead of 10 on Saturday, which aroused the tendonitis in my knee, so I took the Sunday off. Gee, maybe I should have stuck to my original numbers. I'm less worried about the miles than the tendonitis. I would prefer to do all of my running without Vitamin I.

I am considering running in the Rock Creek 20 mile night race this Friday at Lake Perry. I'm not sure if running 20 is a great idea so soon after the 50k, but it would let me take Saturday off and do 4-6 easy miles on Sunday. It's tempting. I know a few folks heading over there, so it could be a good time. If I had someone to run it with me, I'd do it for sure. I won't be racing it, it will be a training run in the dark. Any takers out there?