Summer has been flying by pretty fast, hard to believe that it’s almost Labor Day already! But that also means race season has finally arrived for the majority of us who were sane enough to avoid summer races, and many runners are just starting their training for their respective events. There are only hundreds to choose from in any part of the country, and the Northeast is no exception.
I figured I would post a quick entry to sort of bring things up to date for me, as this fall will be INCREDIBLY challenging for me, but also exciting!
The Ultra that Wasn’t
A couple weeks ago I did my first timed event, a six-hour trail run on a 10k loop, as many as you could handle. My goal, initially, was a 50k, but after the first loop, which I found to be hilly, challenging and far more technical than I had anticipated, I only managed to run a 40k within the time limit. It was an absolutely beautiful course in the woods, with lots of ascents and descents, but also a lot of rocks, roots, and very few smooth running surfaces. The temperature was also quite humid and warm, so I had my Camelbak for the duration of the event. We were also able to set up a “base camp” of sorts, with food, water, Gatorade, chairs, anything we needed, so at each loop I took a few minutes to get my bearings, fuel up, and prepare for the next loop. My friend M also ran the event with me, and she did her longest run ever that day, a full three loops, which was close to 19 miles. I was very proud of her, and was happy that she did the final loop with me. I had taken a hard fall during the third loop (I swear I tripped over nothing and flew like Superman for half a second before landing with an oof! on the group) and I was feeling dirty, bruised and demoralized. I don’t think I could have done a fourth loop without some serious moral support from M, and she really came through for me. I swear I walked a good portion of that last loop…I felt like I walked more than 50% of the time anyway, I was just not taking risks with the terrain.
We finished at as the clock hit 5:36. I was so happy to strip the Camelbak from my aching shoulders and see Chris waiting for us at the finish line. It felt so good to be done; I couldn’t get over how much harder trail running was compared to roads. I felt slow, clumsy, and inadequate. But fortunately I found the trail runners to be kind, friendly and supportive. If (or in my case, WHEN) they passed, they always said kind words of encouragement, there was little arrogance to be found that day. I also saw a LOT of people were quite banged up and bloody at the finish line. One guy looked like he might have broken his nose. I can’t even imagine how he kept running and how lucky he was that he didn’t knock himself out cold in the woods. Trust me, you’re running around in a whole lotta nothin’, as beautiful as that may be, it’s still very, very isolated and could be a long time before another runner comes along if you suddenly are injured. I felt as if I ran a good portion of the event all on my lonesome.
We stuck around for a short while and I actually won a raffle prize (running socks I have yet to use!), and then the biggest surprise: M and I actually got age group awards. I was floored. I have to laugh a little in hindsight, as who knows if there were only three in my AG to begin with, but I think there were actually a few more. Hey, a medal is a medal and I was happy to receive one even if I felt like I performed terribly that day. I also was so happy to meet one of my supportive Twitter buddies, Beth, that day. It was so cool to finally meet her, and we exchanged info once we parted ways. I truly hope we can cross paths again!
I should say, too, recovery was ROUGH that week. It took me a good five days to feel I could run pain-free. Usually I bounce back from road races fast, but this time it was painful to even WALK the next day. I hurt in places I didn’t even know existed, since trail running uses muscles that road running totally ignores. All I could think all week was “OH. MY. QUADS.” It was like the Montana marathon recovery all over again.
Dietary Changes for the Better
I had been having a lot of GI issues the past few weeks, and rather than see the specialist right away I figured I would just sort of keep track of when I had distress and what possibly could have triggered it. I came to the conclusion that it was probably dairy through process of elimination and some detective work, so I decided to take dairy out of my diet. It wasn’t that incredibly hard, but I did love things like cheese and sour cream and it was somewhat hard to part with them. I made some substitutes, and found that certain meal replacements (like a veggie and hummus sammy for breakfast instead of egg and cheese, or guacamole instead of cheese and sour cream) were actually still pretty substantial and satisfying. I even learned how to bake my chocolate chip blondies with vegan substitutes (yes, chia seed eggs are a thing). So I’ll see if this does the trick with my GI issues and if things continue I may have to bite the bullet and see the specialist. But so far so good!
Race Challenges Ahead
While I am not an official ultrarunner yet, I soon will be come hell or high water. On my birthday in May I ran 39 miles, and that may technically define me as an ultrarunner, I have yet to complete an event that consists of an actual sanctioned ultra. This fall, I will have a pretty hefty amount of events on my plate, and fortunately they will actually benefit my other events as training runs…so not too many ridiculous high mileage weekends if I can help it! And trust me, I love my rest days and down time like nobody’s business.
September: Full marathon (trail, but an “easy” rails-to-trails course like North Central Railroad Trail was in MD)
October: Trail 50k, 12-hour endurance trail run, full marathon (road). All in a three week time period. Because the Pope is visiting Philadelphia in late September (SO much more of a cluster than that sounds I promise), the 12-hour was moved to mid-October, right in between my 50k and marathon, so why not, right? But that also means my goals for the 12-hour will probably shift a bit. I initially wanted to run 50 miles but think after my six-hour expectations were crushed, I need to be more realistic with my approach. My goal is now 40 miles, and anything after that is a bonus. I can see that being a very attainable goal over the course of 12 hours, and will just have to see what this course looks like before I can determine its difficulty and whether or not I need to adjust my mileage goal that day. I plan on not going full speed ahead but enjoying a little downtime between loops. Considering I have a 50k the weekend before, and need to recover for a full marathon for the weekend after, I HAVE to shorten my mileage goals a bit anyway. This is not a heart-breaking decision by any means.
November: A full marathon and then a 39.3 mile weekend with a half and full marathon in one weekend…a Goofy Challenge of sorts. These are all occurring over the course of 8 days. So…yeah.
After that, a much-needed holiday break is on tap until January, where I will be running two marathons in one weekend in early January. Or more like run/walking them…but earning the new state medals nonetheless. So December will be some back-to-back long run weekends to get myself prepared for that.
It’s a bit daunting to see this all on paper, but I will say I have been continuing my steadfast training and making sure I get plenty of rest and downtime with friends and family when I have free time. I haven’t felt too burnt out just yet, and made sure to schedule some time off so I don’t have to jump right back to work the day after an event.
New Blog to Bring Out my Snarky Side
Lastly, as previously announced, I am working on a second blog with one of my girlfriends, which you can check out here. It’s finally almost up and running, and we can also be followed on Twitter as well. It’s kind of tough to separate my gluten-free/celiac/runner side from the “self-loathing hipster book and video game nerd” side, but I am doing my best to keep these things separate with the Twitter accounts and blogs. I’m really hoping to see it grow as time goes on. Reading is a huge passion of mine, as much as running, and it’s fun to be able to share my thoughts with readers on things I’ve been “forced” to read.
I will be sure to post updates once these races are complete, and in the meantime, I am very much ready to bid farewell to summer and welcome autumn with open arms.