39 Years, 39 Miles

This will be brief, but yesterday I accomplished something I have always wanted to do, but didn’t feel I had it in me…until now. I know if I have any aspiration to be an ultra-runner I need to experience it for myself in an unofficial setting, that way I can test myself to the limit. There is no course support, no friends or family, nothing but your own support system and a lot of mental digging…only YOU can make yourself move forward. And only you can decide to quit. There’s no one else but you to make that call. But the nice thing is: there’s no clocks, no cut-off points, no pressure to succeed, no fear of failure…

I was inspired to complete my age in miles on my birthday, and decided no matter what I was going to give it my best attempt.  Yesterday was warm, and I knew from the beginning I wouldn’t be able to run all 39 miles outside, as the high was to be 89 degrees and sunny; my goal was to complete 39 miles total for the day, even if it was broken up, but I really wanted to make sure I did at least an ultra distance outside (which is anything beyond a marathon).

I hit the trails with just my Nathan handheld bottle and some fuel and electrolyte tablets. I took it slow and easy the entire time, making sure to drink water often and incorporate walk breaks throughout, and not just in the final miles. I brought an applesauce squeeze pouch, dates and raisins for my fuel, and I have to say I’m learning more and more to love raisins! I also made sure to stay on trails with as much shade as possible, but by noon it was very tough. Any time I hit full sun it was like Krytonite, and I felt like I was draining pretty fast. There was a nice breeze in the early hours but that soon just felt like a blast from a furnace by midday.

I managed to run 28 miles pretty strong, but by this point the heat was starting to get to me, and I start incorporating walking much more than I had planned. But happily I had no joint, tendon or muscle pain. I actually felt pretty strong! I totally attribute that to my new orthotics and my awesome Hoka One One Kailua shows. Since I have adopted Hoka into my life, I never, ever have nagging injury issues. No wonder ultra runners swear by them! My main thing was I had a toe blister on my left foot that hadn’t quite healed from my marathon at Sugarloaf (that entry is coming soon), so even though it was bandaged up, it still was quite bothersome.

I finished 32 miles in around 6:20, but that also included all of my stops to fill water, fuel up, and stand there and contemplate if I could move another step. All I could think of was cold fluids in ice: orange juice, iced coffee (the urge was SO strong to find a Wawa and get a huge iced coffee WHILE on the run), cold soda. By the time I got back to my car, it was 89 degrees. I was doused in sweat, trail grit, salt and my ankles were absolutely filthy with dirt lines. I was completely done with running outdoors, and decided I could finish up my mileage inside.

I got home and grabbed a ginger ale, and then jumped on the treadmill to finish up the 7 miles. I was damned and determined to do this, it was all I had planned for my birthday, and I wanted more than anything to prove to myself I could do this (even if my mind kept insisting this was a silly goal in the final hours). I did a slow five miles and then walked the final two miles…the blister was really getting the best of me, and honestly, I thought about ultra running and that there is NO shame in walking or going slow. Why else do they give 12-14 hours to finish the JFK 50? 24+ hours to finish 100 miles? Because you need breaks, you walk, you do a brief self-assessment. Then you get your bearings and continue forward.

In the end, I finished and felt great, took a long shower and scrubbed the trail grit from myself. The only weird thing I noticed that my appetite was lacking for the day, plus I was dehydrated no matter how much fluid I took in, in fact I barely peed for the rest of the day, even though I drank LOTS of water. But I was proud of myself at the end of the day…I completed the distance and didn’t give up. I proved to myself I do have it in me to complete an ultra. I even woke up feeling pretty refreshed and well-rested. I’m a little sore but not hobbling about at all, so that is a good sign for future events down the road.

Now I just need to figure out a way to keep those blisters at bay!

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Some Goals for 2014 (Notice I Didn’t Say Resolutions!)

I don’t like making New Year’s Resolutions. At all. Let’s face it, they usually don’t stick. But I DO like making goals for myself, and hopefully I can stick to them for 2014. I don’t think that my goals are ridiculous by any means (well, to some they just might be) but I find time and time again they simply aren’t reached. I realize that by spinning my wheels and not really applying myself, I will never reach these goals, but I need to dig deep in order to push myself harder and dedicate myself to accomplishing my ambitions.

With the holidays and a long, much needed vacation, I found I have missed workout days, gained a few pounds, and have totally fallen off the anti-nutrition wagon. I haven’t really shown very much self control, and one cookie more or less equals five within a minute. Obviously that needs to be put back into check. I recently was able to work on my training calendar for 2014 and start looking for races for the second half of the year (the first three are already registered and on my radar), and it got me excited, I started feeling that drive and passion that I used to have for what I do. Time to kick it up a notch!

1) Run a sub-4 marathon again. It’s been a year and a half since I have done this, and in part I definitely blame myself for simply not trying harder. I know it’s in me, I just haven’t tried. Also, in part, many of my races that I have run weren’t really sub-4 material for me…lots of hills and tricky terrain, or in the case of AC, horrible wind that slowed me down substantially. Then again, I ran a sub-4 at the Hatfield McCoy Reunion, so WHAT excuses do I have?!?! I just need to work on it again, I know I have it in me. I would love to win another finisher award when I return to run HM this year. That should be a goal in itself!

2) Run a 100-mile training week. I know, crazy right? But it’s been something I have been wanting to try for many years, and this spring I am going to attempt an 80-mile week and see how that goes. The highest mileage I ran in a week was 72. High mileage weeks have earned me better marathon times in the past, my best finish time was due, in part, to this. The more I am accustomed to mileage, the easier a marathon will be. So I will try for the 100 mile week most likely in the summer as long as I can remain injury-free.

3) Run a couple smaller races…and race them. I want to see just how well I can run a local 5 or 10-k, and maybe just throw in a half marathon for fun if I can. When you run a marathon you have to be a little more conservative with pace and really hold back or risk burn out. So I would like to look for some more local events and see just how well I can do. I am not fast by any means, but I also think I have it in me to do better than I think.

4) Run an ultra. I have been wanting to run an ultra for years, and I am NOT sure this goal will happen just yet, as my race calendar is more important and I need to make sure I can fit it into the schedule. I am looking at six marathons (meaning six new states) for 2014 and while I definitely have a couple months of just solid training time, there usually aren’t too many local ultras that fall into the down-time.

5) Focus more on solid nutrition.  I really want to focus more on whole foods and less on processed. I did pretty well with that for a while, and want to get back to that place. I am looking into a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) for my produce needs, and I am hoping I will be able to secure a membership. I want to snack more on whole foods like fruits, veggies, and nuts and less on things like GF cookies, chips and crackers. I have a real salt tooth and it’s pretty easy to dig into chips and hummus/salsa by the handful, so I need to get myself back into healthy portion control. I do have an app called “My Fitness Pal” that helps me track my calories and activity to ensure I am never under my calorie goals; I never want to under-eat, but I want to maintain a realistic goal for myself to get back to a healthy race weight. The only way to ensure that is by keeping track of it.

6) Drink less. Yup, I admit I enjoy alcohol. I wouldn’t say I am a total booze-hound, but I would like to cut back on the days a week that I enjoy a drink, as well as portion control in terms of servings. It’s pretty easy to misjudge pouring a glass of wine or shot of vodka for that cranberry juice and lime cocktail.

7) Focus on strength, especially core. I am terribly lazy about applying myself and my P90X abs that I once had have gone into serious hibernation mode. My friend J passed on a link to a few 30-Day Challenges that I want to try, one for Core and one for Butt, and many of them are moves based on ones that I did in my P90X and Jillian Michaels workout days. I just need to COMMIT the time, keep track of my progress, and hopefully the results will show!

Sure looks like a lot of goals, and I can’t say whether I will succeed or fail, but putting them down in this blog makes me feel like I now really have some work to do. I hope that I can reach these goals, and perhaps learn a few things along the way. I’m sure there will be a recap at this very time next year!

I wish you all luck as you pursue your own goals for 2014, and may you have a happy and healthy 2014!
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