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?


Awkward Encounter

(Warning: May not be suitable for young readers.)

With the weather as gorgeous as it was, I decided to do an easy 12 miles around WyCo yesterday afternoon. John recently had minor surgery, so I was on my own. No big deal since it was the middle of the day in broad daylight and I'm getting to know WyCo like it's my own backyard.

There had to have been hundreds of people at WyCo. There were parties at every single shelter I ran past. I saw three inflatable bouncy castles, three pull-behind BBQs, and at least 50 motorcycles. I felt like an interloper cutting through the festivities and trying to refill my water bottle.

At shelter 11, I needed to stop to refill. There was a retirement party here, several grills going and lots of people laughing and eating. As I stepped up to the water hydrant, I had an awkward encounter with a pleasant-looking black gentleman that went something like this:

Him: "I can get you a cold one."
Me: "That's OK, I can just refill here."
"No sweetie, let me get you an ice cold one. It's no problem."

I walked over to his cooler where he pulled out a cold bottle of water for me.

"What I really wanted to show you was my apron."

The front of his apron had an iron-on decal of a black Angus and hand-painted words that said Where's the Beef? I laughed a little and then he picked up the front flap of his apron.

Under the flap was an anatomically correct, giant black penis and balls. Giant. There even was a few pieces of black yarn to represent pubic hairs. I was slightly shocked.

I tried to laugh and not act too flustered. I made a comment about how nice a day it was for a cookout. To which he replied "Your headlights are looking nice, too."

At that point I was sufficiently uncomfortable enough to turn and run up the hill. The only comforting thought was that even after 6 miles, I knew I could out run this guy. I guess I should have listened to my mom when she told me never to talk to strangers.


Psummer Psycho 50k - 2009

I've thought a lot about this race report since I finished the race and I've been struggling with it. This race was not a good one for me. It was a great race - great volunteers and the best race t-shirt I have earned. I love running at WyCo. But for me personally, it was a low spot.

I knew it was going to be hot and humid. I also knew my longest run since, well, I don't even want to admit, was only 12 miles. So before the race even started I was in a bad place mentally. I knew it was going to be brutal and the chance of me dropping out after 15 miles was a real possibility.

I swore that I read somewhere the start time was 8:30. We showed up to the park at 7:55 and parked a quarter mile away since the place was packed. It turns out the race actually started at 8. We hustled to the start and took off at 8:12 by my watch. I didn't get my laces tied tight enough and later paid the price dearly. Way to go, starting off frazzled already. John didn't get certain sensitive areas lubed up and he also paid the price. Needless to say, my head was not in this race.

The first half of the first loop was fine. We saw several people who obviously weren't drinking enough and were in a bad place. Twice we heard sirens and we found out later 2 people went to the hospital with heat stroke.

About halfway into the first loop, John and I had a little "disagreement" which resulted in me getting ticked off and dropping a few f-bombs, which is pretty out of character for me. That completely sapped my energy and lowered my mental state even farther. At that point I just wanted to go home. By the end of the race we were fine, but that little argument was a serious blow to my energy and psyche. When we're clicking together, it's great. When we're not, it is utter disaster. Maybe that's why you don't see many husband-wife running teams. The last 3 miles of the first loop were awful and I had all but convinced myself I was quitting after 15.

Dropping out of a race is something that I have thought about during every long race. Wouldn't it be nice to stop? But it's not something I ever take seriously. I also have grand delusions of setting new course records or qualifying for National Championships or securing my place as Supreme Empress of the Universe, so I know my mind tends to wander across the full spectrum of possible, if not plausible, outcomes. There were no grand delusions during this race, but the temptation to quit was following me around like a Great White shark that could smell blood in the water.

I saw a few familiar faces at the finish/aid station and that gave me a desperately needed pick-up. I gorged myself on cold Mountain Dew, and took off again. Less than 1 mile out of the aid station, the Great White shark was back. You can still turn around. No one will fault you. The sun had come out and the humidity was brutal.

The aid stations were awesome, as always. The second loop all I could do was run from aid station to aid station where I could refuel, cool down, and get some positive energy from the volunteers. Bags of ice on my neck and head were exactly what I needed to keep my core temperature under control. Hot/humid weather is a weakness of mine and I'm fully aware of it. My stomach was on the edge the last 8 miles, and threatened to go over with little provocation.

We shuffled most of the last loop. We caught up to Jonette, who has kicked my butt in the last two ultras I ran. I stayed behind her for a mile or so, still trying to figure out how I caught her. It felt weird to pass, like I was begging the Trail Gods to strike me down where I stood. This is not a position I should be in. She is an awesome runner. Once I passed her, I had to just keep my eyes ahead and keep moving. Relentless Forward Motion. At this point, I had picked up some resolve to finish as best I could.

When we made it to the Triangle, my already mushy brain started throwing me some curve balls. Like why was the polka "She's too fat for me" in my head? When I tried counting hours on my hands (because I could no longer perform simple math) the numbers didn't make sense. Then I realized I actually only have 5 fingers on my left hand, not six. I wonder if I could strap box turtles to me feet and have them carry me in. The humidity was really getting to me.

Between not having my shoes tied tight enough, and having to break for other runners on the downhills early in the race, I had picked up some of the worst blisters I have ever experienced. My feet felt like hamburger. I considered cutting off both pinkie toes; they were doing more harm than good at this point.

The last 3 miles again were awful. John took off, so I was by myself. Then, on one of the uphills, my lower intestines churned and cramped and all I could think was "Oh Sh!t". Literally. For a while I debated trying to find an area to stop, but with a few miles left I thought that may lead to some chaffing I would rather not experience. And poison ivy and nettles on my bum did not sound like fun either.

I don't want her, you can have her, she's too fat for me.

The last two rocky downhills made me grunt in pain, but at least it was a distraction from the lower-intestine issues that were not going away. I kept hearing phantom footsteps behind me. I noticed this at Free State, too. Maybe it was a Trail Angel sent to give me a kick in the pants, but every time I turned around to check no one was there.

I finished in 7:08 on the clock, 7:01 by my watch. I gave my water bottle to Sophia and hobbled as fast as I could to the nearest porta potty. Disaster averted. Somehow I finished 3 minutes faster than my winter Psycho Wyco time and was second overall female. I don't feel like I deserved either one.

This was a learning experience for me. The Dark Side of ultra running, if you will. I clearly still have a lot to learn, which is what will keep me coming back. If I take anything away from this race, it has to be that a negative outlook will ruin a race much faster than bad weather or inadequate training. And always double check the start time of a race.


Friendly Reminder

In my email inbox today, I received a reminder email from Active.com that I have a race coming up this weekend. Does anyone else find that a little odd? I know it's a generic mass emailing, but does anyone really "forget" they have a 50k race coming up? Maybe they should stop sending silly emails and reduce the fees for signing up online. Active.com is approaching Ticketmaster in how absurd the charges and fees are.

Once again I'm going into a race unprepared. I blame it on the house. Before we owned a house and started remodeling, I was training consistently and still able to rest on the weekends. Now with a house, more friends and neighbors, and actually living with my husband, I devote much less time to training. Ah, life. I'm looking at Psycho Psummer as a fun run to enjoy the recently weed-wacked course and as heat training. If it goes well, I'll run hard the second loop. If not, I'll be happy to finish.

But for the Heartland 50 miler, I have a plan. I recently met another runner who is similar age and running capability (except she's fast) who is trying to qualify for Boston this fall (did I mention she's fast?). I've talked to her about doing tempo runs or speed work together once a week. So that instantly increases the amount of quality runs by about 1000%. I'm hoping if we start off with 5 mile tempo runs I'll be able to keep up with her.

I also found out that the downtown airport road is once again open, so on Mondays I'm going to take my bike to work and ride after work 22-26 miles. All that is left is to swim on Wednesdays and use my weekends for back-to-back long runs. I may be running by myself more, too. As a morning person, I'll get up and out the door faster than DH and much less likely to bag an early morning run if he's out of town. Funny how that works. I'm also considering a pacer for Heartland, other than DH. I have a time goal in mind and if I can work towards it, a pacer on the last few miles might be really nice.

I'm committed to racing Heartland and racing Heartland well.


Face Plant!

I took a tumble today, and it was a good one. John and I were 4 miles into a 12 mile run, coming down the backside of Fester's Wander, a gorgeous section of single-track trail at WyCo. My right shoe caught the remnants of a small tree stump, and I took a Superman dive down hill. My water bottle flew out of my hand and I landed face down in some nice, soft dirt. Soft dirt still hurts, by the way.

Lucky for me, my left shoulder caught a tree root that was raised in the trail, which stopped my downhill momentum, but also left my shoulder raw and sore. A little more speed before I caught my foot and I'm pretty sure I would have gone @ss-over-teakettle the rest of the way down. I had enough forward motion that when I landed on my face/arm/chest that my feet were in the air and threatening to go over. After I finally came to rest, I got up, brushed off, grabbed my bottle and took stock. My left forearm was cut and bleeding (barely a flesh wound), left shoulder raw and bleeding (superficial at best), left shin and knee scraped raw (no real blood); no real damage done. I decided if I stopped for too long, I'd get too sore to finish the run. I kept moving.

We finished the run, and after a few miles my hip stopped throbbing. I washed everything that was raw at the next water hydrant. Turns out mud makes a good coagulant. I finished the run feeling pretty spectacular. Hopefully I'll feel as good at next weekend's race and avoid any spills. Tonight, I'm pretty bruised up and my shoulder is a little sore.

This just goes to show you, that no matter how much experience you have or how many times you've been on a trail, if you stop paying attention you are going to fall. The Trail Gods will laugh at you, as well as your running partner. If they're a good partner, they'll ask if you're OK before they start laughing but they will laugh, nonetheless.


What a great way to start the weekend

Last night I went on the usual Thursday night run at Wyco park and it was a drastic change from last week. We had 9 people show up total, 4 were newbies that had never been to Wyco before. The entire 6.5 mile route has been recently weedwacked and it was fairly dry. Add to that the much cooler temps, and it was a fun, fast run.

After the run, 5 of us went over to Ben's place for spaghetti, home brew, and bad TV. It was the perfect start to a 3-day holiday weekend. Although I'll admit, 3 of Ben's beers and I had a headache this morning! But it was well worth it.

The rain this morning was a welcome cancellation of our running plans, but I intend on heading out for a spin around the block tonight, 6 miles at least. I'm hoping to run 1-2 loops tomorrow morning and hopefully get a 20-30 mile ride in on Sunday. It's nice to have a weekend with no visitors and nothing planned.