Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Where I Stand

Almost an entire year has gone by without a post and so much has happened that I don't even know where to begin. I guess I could start big and go from there.

I started out the year with fifty-plus mile weeks in preparation for my upcoming ultra race, my first, Holiday Lake 50k. It was quite an experience, I learned a lot just in training about myself and about my bodies strengths and limitations. The race itself was also a huge learning experience. I finished, exceeding my goals for the race, in 5:29:41. I started dreaming up other ultra races and how to better my training when ten days later I found out I was pregnant. I was, to be completely forthcoming, a wee bit devastated by the news. For some reason I was convinced that running with three was possible but that running with four was just inconceivable. I figured my running would fall by the wayside as the pregnancy progressed and be another thing I failed.

And then at six weeks nausea and worse set in. I took days and days off and felt sorrier for myself than I can ever remember feeling. A remark made by my husband, certainly with no intention to offend, forced me at seven weeks to wake up, stop feeling sorry for myself, and move on. I returned to my running with less vigor but I was pleased to find that I could still run despite a few days off. I had for the past year stuck to a strict running schedule always hesitant and a tad bitter when in need of a rest day not on the calendar. So forward I ran throwing out schedules and not even bothering to record mileage. And so I continued to run (with my doctor's blessing and enthusiasm) and the baby continued to grow, and together we became a wonderful running couple. I fervently listened to my body and responded to it's requests for hydration, rest, walk breaks, whatever it seemed to ask. I continued to race enjoying the social aspect and the self evaluation that came with my attempts.

I kept thinking I would stop running at some point, but I only felt better the further along I got and so I kept on moving, usually feeling better the days I ran than those I took for complete rest. I started to think about my postpartum plans. I wondered how quickly I would return to running after the baby arrived, should I follow a Couch to 5k program, I wondered? I worked out a tentative race schedule for 2012 and impatiently awaited for baby, I was convinced he would come early.

But despite my various attempts at labor induction he came late, six hours after his due date had come and gone, he finally made his debut.  I fell. In love. Immediately. He was not our first child, he is not even our first baby boy (he has two older brothers and a sister). But you see I had planned those babies, had their names picked out months before they were born, anticipated their eye color and was just overwhelmed with the amazing thing my body was doing. This time around baby had no name, I assumed his eyes would be brown and I felt a tad bit deceived by my body in getting pregnant for the first time without any help or warning (our first three are the result of infertility drugs). So I didn't expect to be so overcome with love for this child, it hit me hard, but I love being in love and I feel blessed. And I of course, took a few more days off.

But at six days old (and of course cleared by my doctor) I went for a run with my husband, a short 1.5 mile run. Slow and a tad uncomfortable, but I was able to run the whole thing. But seeing no need to rush I took another week off and went back out for three miles. Not quite so slow or uncomfortable. And since then I've been somewhat on the run. No need to do any programs, my running has returned far faster than I'd spent most of my pregnancy fearing. I've not seen all of my speed return but I'm already up to eight mile long runs. I've even run a few 5k's. I've completed a new and adjusted 2012 race schedule and I know I still have a ways to return to and surpass where I was headed when I found myself with child this past February but I'm ready and willing to go the distance.

First up, Mountain Junkies Frozen Toe 10k, January 7th. To get there I need more time on the trails, a little bit of hill work, and a slightly further long run but I'm pumped.


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

2011 Holiday Lake

 *I wrote this on Tuesday, February 14, 2011 to submit post-race. However, before editing the file for submission it was somehow lost in my computer. I just found it in a recovery file in my recycle bend on my computer. At this point I think it's probably too late to submit it to Dr. Horton.
Tuesday, February 14, 2011 
Holiday Lake 50k
            When I began running eighteen months ago, all I wanted was to be able to run a 5k without walking.  When I met Chelsie Viar in March of last year I had managed to run several local 5k races and had just signed up for my first 10k.  When she told me how she had just run a 50k in Appomattox, Virginia a few weeks before two thoughts immediately went through my head; this girl must be crazy how does anyone run 32 miles consecutively and secondly, I want to be able to do that.
                As the year progressed and I ran longer races and shorter races faster and trained harder I began to seriously consider registering for Holiday Lake.   In late December, I joined a group of runners to run the ‘loop’ at Hoilday Lake. I had stomach issues and unparelled anxiety (that were most likely related) on my longest run to date but I finished the training run in 3:17.  Convinced that I could make the overall cutoff of 8 hours I officially submitted my application for what would be my first 50k.
                When I finally committed to running Holiday Lake I had a little over seven weeks to train. I began to increase my mileage and training commitment.  I began waking at 5 a.m. to run and keeping a log on the fridge to encourage me to reach my weekly goals of 45, 48, 50 miles. I had the good fortune of training with seasoned ultra marathoners: Debbie Grishaw, Alicia Roberts, Todd Thomas and of course, Chelsie Viar.  They were all priceless sources of advice.  Fueling, training, mileage, injuries: they’d seen it all and kept my nerves in tack for the most part over the training period.
                The week after my first 50 plus mile week I ran the loop with my husband Todd in 2:44.  The following week I ran it counter clockwise in 2:30.  With less than two weeks to go I felt ready.  Two days later, shin splints.
                I asked myself weren’t shin splints for newbies?  For runners who weren’t meticulous as I about mileage increases? I backed off of training and began to worry.  I bought new shoes.  But with a week to go until the race it got so bad I couldn’t run without a great deal of pain for the first several miles. I started chewing Tums for extra calcium and biting my nails.  Ok, I was a nail biter before the shin splints but the condition definitely didn’t improve this bad habit.
                The week of Holiday Lake I ran 3 miles and two of those my shins hurt. I tried to ignore the pain and bought tubes of Icy Hot from Sam’s.  At the pre-race dinner the night before the big day I was quiet and more anxious than ever.  I was as unsure of myself as an adolescent when I set my clothes out that night.  Instead of hitting the sack like I ought to, I stayed up late into the night eating a box of Honey Nut Cheerios and reading up about ultra marathons in Tom Noakes book “The Lore of Running”.  Tired and antsy one thing stood out to me, he suggested running comfortably and relaxed for the first ¾, let loose the last quarter of the race.  The last 8 miles I told myself and fell into a deep sleep.
                The alarm went off at 4:30 a.m. and we were in the car by 4:40.  We stopped for coffee and doughnuts for the one hour trek to Appomattox, VA. We went from check-in to the restrooms that morning and before I knew it it was 6:30. At the start line there was singing, photo ops and good cheer.  I stood there freezing in shorts just waiting for the starting gun.
                My husband and I started in the far back.  We’d made a plan. (OK, I'd made a plan that he'd agreed to follow.) We would run the first three miles at about an 11:15 pace, a warm-up.  Then over the course of the rest of the first loop we’d work up to an overall 10:30 pace, rounding out the first loop in about 2:45.  We hoped to negative split the second loop.
                The first few miles were tolerable. No pain, a nice and easy pace. If it weren’t for frozen toes it would have been great.  My toes ached from the cold until, at 3 miles, they began to warm-up.  Then they began to throb.  It was the worse mile of the entire race and yet I remain thankful for the pain. 
                That’s because at mile 9, when I was running well and ahead of schedule, my IT band in my left knee starting bothering me. By 11 miles it was bad.  I began letting it affect me mentally. ‘Why am I doing this’? ‘I’m not an ultra runner why don’t I just stick to 5ks?’ ‘How am I going to finish?’ But still I trudged on.
                At aide station 3, approximately 12 or so miles into the race, my husband started to pull away from me.  Angry that he’d abandoned me and our well thought out plan I started to fall even further behind.  Then I spotted the first person coming towards me, into their second loop. “Good job” I said.  I said it to the next person and then the next.  They all looked so strong.  I started to wonder what they had that I didn’t.  Were they in pain?  I started to pick up the pace and think about how strong I was rather than my weakness.  I continued to serenade the runners who blew past me with “Good job” and “Great job” and finished my first loop in 2:44.
                Still on target for my goal time I headed back out for my second loop barely stopping to refill my Nathan bottle my mental strength gaining with each step in unchartered waters.  I treaded along until just past mile 18 when this finally went from a ‘long run’ to a ‘race’.  I passed Liane Axe who said “Good job, you’re 23rd female.” You can be top 20 I told myself and picked up the pace, but just slightly.  In the next two miles I passed 3 girls.  And my husband.
                Finally in race mode, which suits me and my personality, I started to feel even stronger.  At aid station 5 I grabbed two PB&J quarters and some pretzels and allowed myself a brisk walking pace up a steep hill to enjoy them.  I’d made it past the last point in the race to be pulled in under 3:45. 
                From A.S. 5 to A.S. 6 I was starving.  I had given up on the Chomps I’d brought for fuel and was ready for more real food.  At A.S. 6 I grabbed more PB&J quarters, crackers, Pringles and m&m’s.  I knew I needed to answer my body’s call for real food or suffer the consequences.  Besides I was headed into the last quarter of the race, the last 8 miles.  It was time to unleash my goal plan.
                Several things worked well for me at this point. I had never run over 23 miles before that day so with every step I was running further than ever before and running well. Secondly, the further I went the more people I passed.  I know that sounds bad but it was after all a race.  The pain in my knee was also dulled or I’d become immune to it.
                The creek crossings were invigorating, similar to pouring ice water over your head during a run on a hot day.  At 26 miles I started to think I could pull off a finishing time of under 5:30.  From A.S. 7 to the one mile marker I began to slow despite my best efforts to run strong and steady.  At the mile marker I was relieved; I knew I had a mile left in me.  You always have a mile in you. But it wasn’t until I made it out of the woods and onto the road that I was overcome with emotion. 
                Bless Dr. Horton for that downhill finish.  When I came out of those woods I ran that .6 like I’d not run for over  5 hours.  I ran that .6 like my knee never hurt.  I ran that .6 like I was running a 5k, not a 50k. And then I saw the crowd and the finishing line. And then I saw the clock.  I was going to make my goal time by seconds.  And so I gave it all that I had and crossed over the finish line and into the open arms of Dr. Horton.
                For the next 24 hours I could barely walk, but I didn’t care.  I took the ice bath which was worse than running over 30 miles.  I couldn’t stop thinking about what I’d done.  And I loved recounting my adventure to anyone who’d ask or listen. 
                My knee is still sore and achy.  But I registered for Terrapin anyways.