You know those days when you can barely drag your butt out of bed? And 3 cups of coffee later, your brain is still functioning at only half-pace?

That was me today. I am wiped out. Between the trip last weekend, working late, and the run last night, all I want to do is sleep. So instead of spinning like I had planned, I am taking an URD. Normally, I would feel guilty about this and double up some other day. Not today. Tomorrow I am attempting my longest run ever, 20 miles, so I don't feel bad in taking the day off. All I want right now is sweats, and to sit my tired buns on the couch and veg out until it becomes a respectable time to go to bed.

Sweet dreams to you.


Run Through the Desert

This weekend, we were in Phoenix for a company trip and I took the opportunity to get a little running in. I have a college friend out there who recently started training for a marathon so I called him up for a trail recommendation. He ended up playing trail guide for John and me and the three of us did a 14 mile run on the trails that wind through North Mountain.

We started about 10am and in no time it was obvious we were at a higher elevation and in warmer temps. My HR was skyrocketing. My marathon friend was running all the uphills and was leading most of the way. I plan to walk the big hills in the 50k so I was doing the same there. With my HR high, I didn't fell the need to try to keep up. It's not like you can get lost on those trails.

I was tired at mile 5 and knew that wasn't a good sign. But we stopped at a park and refilled our water. I started getting hot, even though the temps were only in the mid-70s so I took off my shirt and ran in just a sports bra. That was the first time I ever did that. It was kinda nice, actually.

It was another 2 miles out and back to the end of our route. We stopped for water again and started the 5 miles back. By this time, everyone was slowing down a little. My marathoner had now slowed considerably and John and I led on the way back, still walking all the uphills. We kept him in eyesight since he wasn't carrying water. *Note: On runs over 60 min in the desert, always carry water. Better to be overburdened than under prepared.

Everyone made it back safely and I downed a liter of water and a bag of pretzels without a problem. John says congratulations. I then realized that is the longest I've ever run. I had never run more than 13.1 so 14 is a new record. I would have been more excited if I wasn't so busy stuffing my face with pretzels (Thank God for salt!).

It was a beautiful run, even if was exhausting. I don't think any of us could have gone farther without more water or food. We were all at the end of our lines. Going to higher elevation and hotter temps affected me more than I thought. But the good things was that even though I was tired at mile 5, I didn't get any worse through mile 14. I shouldn't write this, but the last 5 didn't seem to bad. We did 14 in about 3 hours with a few stops and walk breaks. I was pretty happy with that time. I'm hoping for a sub-8 hour finish at Psyco Wyco and that puts me way ahead of pace.

A sub-8 hour finish seems slow, even for 50k, but this course is brutal. Most of the women's finishing times from last year were over 8, so I don't want to get too ambitious. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be running in just a sports bra. I'll have to save that for the summer race. :)


Bumps and Bruises

I know that "acute" injuries are one of the hazards of trail running, and it's a risk I'm willing to take. And I'll admit I've never been accused of being graceful, but this last bruise was ridiculous. Even for me, even while trail running During our chilly run last Thursday, we were WALKING up a hill and I saw a large branch in the trail.
Brain says "Oh, there's a large branch. Legs, makes sure you step over it."
Legs say "Duh... what did you....."
Down I went and landed with my left knee cap squarely on the frozen branch. It hurt at the time, since the week before I fell going up the stairs and landed so hard I cracked the grout in our tile, and I managed to land on that same bruise. It is starting to turn a lovely shade of greenish-purple, so I thought I'd share. There's a nice goose-egg there as well, but you lose it in the flash.
Clearly, the ballet lessons in second grade never took.


Good Day, Sunshine!

Today has been gorgeous! After this last week, 30 degrees and sunny is a welcome change. During our weekly run on Thursday, my hand-held water bottle froze in my hand and I had icicles on my eyelashes when we got back to the cars! But we had a good turn out and it was a pretty good run. I was cold since I stayed back to make sure some newbies didn't get lost. But I remember what it was like the first time I ran with the Nerds - scary!

This morning John and I were out at Wyco and did a winter loop, so 10 miles. We even were able the Triangle, a section of trail similar to the Bermuda Triangle - runners go in, never to be seen again. OK, it's not that bad, but it can be a very confusing section and the entrance is really hard to find.

We did it in about 2:15 which sounds slow for 10 miles, but only if you've never ran that course before. 2:15 is a solid pace, probably much faster than what I'll average at Psycho Wyco and I don't feel completely wiped out or sore from it. I'm feeling much better about the 50k. I know it will be hard, but I am confident that I can finish and that is my main priority. I'm hoping to get back out and do another loop tomorrow, maybe with an extra 2 miles or so.

My hips have been bothering me since Christmas, so I finally went to a chiropractor today and he adjusted my spine (but not my neck). It feels much better, but my lower back muscles are sore from the adjustment. A little ice and Bio Freeze tonight and it should be fine. John noticed my running form looked awkward at the hips, so probably another reason for the adjustment. I go back next week for another. I used to go in once a month while training, and it really helped. Or if I do yoga, I have absolutely no back problems at all. The trouble is finding the time to practice.


A Mild Case of the Crazies

"Runners often straddle the line between crazy and insane"
- Prefontaine

If you're an endurance athlete, then you've no doubt been called crazy by friends/family/coworkers. You probably enjoy it, after recalling an epic race or killer workout. Maybe you just don't talk about training with non-athletes any more because you're tired of the stares. But at what point do you start to believe it yourself?

While conversing with a friend, who happens to be a cyclist, I came upon the realization that I may have crossed the fine line that Prefontaine talks about. As I was trying to explain my recent cougar sighting, I realized the more I kept going, the crazier I sounded. But I think it's like in Catch 22 - you can be taken off the fly list if you're crazy, but you have to ask to be evaluated. And if you ask to be evaluated, then clearly you are not crazy (bonus points if you've read the book). So as long as I know that training for a 50k race is not normal, then I'm not crazy. Right?

I think I prefer the approach of hanging out with people training for 50- and 100-mile races, or full Ironman races, then my 50k and 70.3 seem completely within the realm of normalcy. And as for my cycling friend, he has done several back-to-back century rides. His response to my ramblings was "At least your adventures are entertaining."

It is what it is.


I Conquered Megerson Mound! Solo!

I finally conquered my fear of getting lost in the Megerson Mound section of trail at Wyco today. It was a great run, but not something I'd do alone at night.

Today was supposed to be an easy day or total rest day, depending on how I felt. But last night at SMP, our 11.5 mile run was cut down to 9 since my headlamp was dying. After taking a Superman-style dive onto the trail, we cut it short at 9. At least only one knee found a rock, the rest of me just got dirty. I ended up finishing the run with headlamp in hand, as close to the trail as my arm could reach and closely trailing John.

Since I didn't get the mileage in I wanted, after John left for the airport (and a nap) I went to Wyco to get a few miles in. The park was incredibly busy and the trail were greasy. I'm pretty sure I heard the trails laughing at me as I slid on my knees down a slope. I love how wild it is out there.

I started at Shelter 10 and took the trails to Fester's Wander where I caught up with two other non-Nerd runners, Bianca and Price. I lead the way through Fester's Wander and Horse Hill (I spared them Hedgehog Hill) and pointed how to get back. They ran Psycho Wyco last winter and are planning on doing it again, this time maybe going for the 20 mile course. I'll have to look for them.

I had a lot of fun running with these two. They both are triathletes, with just a little trail running experience. They were at Kansas 70.3 this summer and were pulled from the course the same place I was. And Bianca also did Ironman Wisconsin this fall. I think they could handle the 20 miles. I told them about the Thursday night run - hopefully they'll come out some time. After we split, I was kicking myself for not getting her number. I bet they'd be great to bike with and I could use some companions on my long rides this spring! It's very cool to meet someone in her 40s still racing like that, who could totally kick my ass. I think I have a girl-crush.

We split at the Archery range and I was still feeling good, so I decided to head back to Megerson Mound since it was still light out. It's unbelievable how different the trails are at night. I made it through, no problems and took the road back from the dam. I hate that part - it's like punishment. I think this Thursday I'm going to try to convince the group to take a slightly different route to minimize the pavement running. If it's just John, Jerry, and me, it shouldn't take much convincing.

My official total for the week was 35.25 miles. Next weekend I'm hoping for a full loop around Wyco on Saturday followed by 9-ish miles at SMP on Sunday, 40 miles total for the week.

It is unbelievable how much easier trail running is on my body. There is no way I could add up this mileage this quickly on the road. My cardio fitness is fine, but the pounding makes my bones ache. The 7.5 miles at the airport make me more sore than the 9 miles we did at SMP, even with the spill I took. Actually, after SMP yesterday and Wyco today, I'm not sore at all. I think I am a full-fledged convert to the trail way of life.


Quiet Night

Last night at Wyco was awesome! With the moon nearly full and all the leaves off the trees, it was really bright. It wasn't too cold but the ground was firm. And no cougar sightings, either!

We had four people show up, which is a big crowd for Thursdays lately. Where are our regulars?!? We seem to have lost runners to the cold weather. It's too bad really, because night running at Wyco with a bright moon is one of the coolest running experiences I've ever had. It's only better when the moon is full and there's a fresh coat of snow on the ground. John and I are going to start sending out reminder emails to hopefully get some of our runners back.

Since it was so bright,we even ventured into Megerson Mound, where I was lost a few months ago. With the moon so bright, it was like running at day time. We made it through without losing anyone and were able to do a full 7 mile run instead of the shorter 5-milers we've been doing lately without the more experienced Nerds. A few more times through Megerson Mound and I might be willing to try it on my own.

We did about 7 miles in 1:25 and I burned about 840 calories. We were a little slower than usual, but that's good since I'm doing another 7-8 miles tonight and a full loop at Wyco tomorrow. If I get 8 miles in tonight and 10 tomorrow, I'll have 36 miles this week. That is my biggest weekly total ever! And it's only going up from here. Next week, I have 40 miles scheduled. I'm starting to feel a little better about the 50k. It will be slow, and probably painful, but I know I can do it.


Back to the grind

With the holidays officially over, I am somewhat relieved to be back into my normal routine. Sort of. Last night I cut my 2-lap run down to one due to an impromptu gathering of neighbors over beer and tacos. It was a sacrifice worth making.

Since I was cutting it short, I decided to do a tempo run. I did the 3.8 mile loop in 32:01, for about an 8:25 min.mile pace. Not too bad considering it was cold out, I didn't warm up, and I haven't done a tempo run in months. Tonight I am doing the full 2 laps I was supposed to yesterday, but at a slower pace.

Tomorrow I am planning on a trip to the gym. I know, I know, it has been months since I've done any strength training so I am expecting to be very sore afterwards. But my lower back has been bothering me since travelling and the only way it will get better is through core training and better stretching. For me, strength training is like flossing - I don't do it as much as I should.

I have also come to the realization that morning swimming probably won't be happening for a few more weeks. Good thing they have evening hours as well. I have good intentions, but I am so darn tired in the mornings. I'm hoping it's due to Holidays Hangover and in a month or so (when we have more sunlight as well) I'll be excited about morning swimming again.

John is putting together my strength training routine tonight and my goal is to sit down and come up with a training plan through February. It's about time.


I saw the Cougar

I saw the cougar. I swear. You can think I'm crazy or it was just a deer, but I am POSITIVE I saw it in the woods at Wyco.
Last Thursday night, John, Jerry and I went for a 7-8 mile run. After the holidays, I was a little slower than usual. We were on our way back and the guys were 1/4 to 1/2 mile ahead of me. As I was running through the Archery Range towards the bridle trail, I saw eyes in the woods. It wasn't far off, maybe 30 yards. I shined my light on it and I saw the outline of a large cat, sitting.
I've seen a lot of deer and coon in my day. The head was too low to be a deer and it had forward-set eyes. It was much too large to be a fox or a coon. And it didn't move. I yelled for John and kept moving without taking my light off it. John started yelling and clapping his hands. I saw it swing it's head around and it moved parallel with me into the woods. It was moving slow and smooth, but too far off to see anything but it's eyes. The way it moved was eerie.
When I met John at a hill, I lost it. We took off and I had no problems keeping up with the guys. John said that when they came through the first time, there was a deer farther up the trail that didn't move. Even when they came close, it stayed still and was looking back toward my direction. He thought it was odd at the time. Was my story corroborated by a deer? Who knows. All I know is that cougar or not, it scared the crap out of me.
If January 1st was any indication of what 2009 will be like, it should be an interesting year, to say the least.