February 2008 Archives

Ultrarunner's credo:

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give me life
give me pain
give me my
self again

- Little Earthquakes, Tori Amos

Chris made an amazing creamy pesto pasta dish last night. Incredible. And perfect fuel for my body: my lunch run today was fantabulous! I had enough energy to maintain a 10:50 pace for four miles (pretty darn good for me, especially while I'm sick!), without taking any gatorade/sports beans/gel/etc. before or during the run. Normally, I like to eat a half-package of sports beans (or two clif shot blocks) before any exercise lasting over 30 minutes. But I'm working on training my body to not necessarily need that.

Little Earthquakes by Tori Amos was the first song my iPod threw at me for the run; it was so perfect for my mood - cranky and feeling out of sorts and needing expression and connection and feeling to flow - that I played it twice. The lyrics I quote above sort of sum up why I run long - long distances give me life, make me feel alive, inhabiting my body, bringing awareness back to me, my self; long distances give me pain, the "good" hurt of stretching my body to its limits and beyond, pushing myself to the brink and allowing myself to come back again; long distances connect me with my SELF. I think shorter runs do the same thing, only it's not magnified as much as on a long run.

After my run, I felt much better: back in my body, with my head back in place, knowing who I am and how strong I am, why I live my life a certain way, and knowing that even though I'm sick and PMSing, everything will be alright - I just need to live through this, run through this.

I've been craving salad in addition to pasta, so I stocked up on spinach/romaine lettuce mix, carrots, apples, almonds, feta cheese, bacon bits and low-fat raspberry vinegarette (my favorite salad!). I go easy on the feta and bacon bits (those are lightly sprinkled on top, for that "icing on the cake" type feeling), but heavy on the lettucs, apples and almonds. Mmm, so good. I can't believe salad is a comfort food to me :)

I get to see Olga on Friday; I'm very excited. Trail Goat is also out for OP50; I'm hoping to get to meet him in person at the race. Is there anyone else coming out to OP50?

I loved this post by BadBen.

Pasta salad

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Eating bacon ranch pasta salad 45 minutes before a morning run doesn't sound like a good idea, but I was craving it, so I ate it anyway.

Turned out to not cause any problems on this morning's 5.8-mile run with Barb (who pushed Ash's stroller). We ended the run at Starbucks; couldn't ask for a better Sunday morning.

I did not get the extra four miles at lunch on Friday; I was exhausted, and with fighting this cold, decided it would be better to rest. (I ended up eating an entire bowl of pasta with chicken and broccoli from one of my favorite restaurants, Sauce. I guess my body is telling me something by craving all this pasta...)

I made it through 45 minutes of spinning yesterday before calling it quits. I can tell I'm not totally healthy. But at least I did 45 good minutes (I didn't slack, in other words). Yesterday afternoon was a fun few hours; I walked while Ash rode his bike to park to play with some friends who are in town, then we walked/biked to the ice cream shop before coming back home. He ended up riding his bike for 1.5 miles! Good job on little 5-year-old legs :)

I ended the week with 19.9 miles and 1.5 hours of cross-training. Considering I'm sick, those aren't bad numbers (although with ZG coming up quickly, I'd like them to be higher...). It's a rest week (in other words, I week that I have Ash on the weekend, which means no long run). I'm hoping this cold goes away this week; I'm tired of being sick. Is it just me, or does this winter seem worse in terms of sickness?

This week, I'm hoping to hit 30 miles (plus one-two hours cross-training); I'm not sure where to fit my long run in. Olga is arriving Friday afternoon for OP50 on Saturday. It looks like either Friday (I'm taking it off, yay!) or Sunday (depending on Barb's schedule). 18-20 miles, woo hoo!

I'm getting jazzed about ZG. I've been researching people's write-ups and accounts of the race in past years to prepare myself for what to expect. I'm starting to think about timing - the only cutoff I have is to make it to mile 17 by noon (we start at 6 am). 6 hours for 17 miles - I should be able to do that. I did 16 in 5 hours on Sunday (of course, I was completely debilitated by the end of that run...but I did recover quickly and well this week!). Thankfully, there's no finishing cutoff time for the 50k that I have to worry about beating.

I'm starting to feel relatively ready for ZG, considering I'm still two months out. The fact that I ran my steepest run ever on Sunday and followed it up with 20 (sick) miles this week gives me more confidence. Of course, if I could be running 30-mile weeks as my rest weeks with 40-mile weeks as my hard weeks, I'd be in better shape. But being a single mom, that ain't gonna happen! I think I'll be able to get in the training I need to be able to finish it without injuring myself, which is my C goal. My B goal (the one I think I'll actually make) is to finish in 10 hours, with my A goal (the one Chris thinks I will - should? - make) is 8 hour finish time. (Personally, I think that's ridiculous, but hey, you never know.)

You're not welcome here

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It's cold and dark in the early morning as two runners, running together for the first time, search for a public restroom one mile into the scheduled two 2.85-mile laps around a park and community center in mid-town Tucson.

Community Center - just off the path (2 minute detour): janitor cleaning the window refuses to open the door to let two runners in to use the bathroom, which they can see, but can't use.

Circle K #1 - just across the street (2 minute detour): no public restrooms.

Circle K #2 (5 minute detour) - off the path, plus across a street: no public restrooms, but Walgreen's might have one.

Walgreen's - across the other street, away from the path, jumping over fences (2 minutes from Circle K #2): restrooms closed, but Denny's might be open.

Denny's - even further down the street away from the path, through an obstacle course of a parking lot and fast-food drive-thrus (5 minutes from Walgreen's): OPEN!

Finally, a restroom - way off the path, but it doesn't matter. Besides, that'll help make the run six miles!

Total miles: 6.25. Before work - yay!

****
So my knees appear to be okay so far this week. I did an ice bath on Sunday after the 16-miler; rested Monday; took a slow easy 2 on Tuesday; foam rolled Wednesday; ran 4.25 at lunch with Paki, climbed 2.75 on the stairmaster at the gym and then foam rolled on Thursday; and ran 6.25 this morning. I can feel it - but in a good way. I've been sick, but so far - knock on wood! - it's been a slight cold. I've been taking care of myself by eating well, taking zinc and trying to rest (although I only got four hours sleep last night).

I'm hoping for 4 miles at lunch today - I'd really like to get a total of 10 today, that'd be awesome - but I need to monitor my health/tiredness. I'll be spinning tomorrow morning, running 3 with Barb on Sunday morning and possibly doing another 3-5 miles Sunday night. I'm really happy with how well my training is going this week. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it keeps up!

Last night, Chris and I joined Barb and other friends at Spirit of the Marathon. After 15 minutes of technical difficulty, it finally came on. I really enjoyed it, even though I've technically never run a marathon, and I don't usually run on pavement, or do races with thousands of people. As a runner, I can still identify with training, preparations and neurotic tendencies shared across the board. All I could think about at the end, though, was the look of pain on people's faces when they hit the "wall." Geez, these people are hurting this badly on a flat, paved 26.2 miles - and I'm signed up for a 32-mile trail run with huge amounts of elevation gain! Yikes! :)

___
UPDATE
Another great account of the run I did on Sunday (only he went farther than I did!), with fanTAStic photos: check it out!

I'm sick. Again.

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After feeling like I was fighting something off for the last four days, I woke up with a sore throat this morning.

But that didn't keep me from my scheduled 2-mile run at lunch today.

My calves were screaming so loud, my body didn't have time to register any pain at my knees. I suppose that's a good sign :) It took the whole 2 miles to really get warmed up; by the time I arrived back at work, I was finally ready to do some running! Too bad I didn't have time to run more.

Spirit of the Marathon is making a repeat stop in town; I'll be heading out on Thursday to check it out!

"You're a little toughie, aren't you?" the middle-aged hiker with a gray mustache, overloaded rucksack, jean shorts and hiking stick - but curiously, no shirt - says to me.

"Yup," I reply cheerfully, huffing my way downhill.

"You go all the way to Douglas Springs?" he wants to know.

"Nope. Cowhead Saddle," which is beyond Douglas Springs. I'm being efficient with my words; I'm too tired to stop and talk.

"Wow, you musta started early!" Admiration fills his voice.

"Yup," I say as I keep chugging downhill.

All I can think in response to our exchange is that I'm the wimp of the group! I am out running with my trail running group; these amazing ultrarunners routinely run 50 to 100-milers. A few have completed the Grand Slam. Me and my measly 50ks are nothing to these men and women. But my 16-mile run really amazes someone else. It's all about perspective.

We started before sunup; dawn broke as we make our way up, up, up Douglas Springs Trail. My friend Barb is unable to run as planned, due to a work obligation; Renee opted out of running the route, due to the large snowfall received in the previous few days. I chose to still run up to Cowhead Saddle, knowing it'd be a great adventure, and since I'd be running with the group, I felt safe.

As usual, I watch as the lead dogs head up much faster than me. Seven men are in the front, three women behind, then me. I try to run; my legs are frozen. Someone said at the trailhead it was 31 degrees. I'm in shorts, a skullcap, a visor, a short sleeve tee topped with a long sleeve tee and my wild paisley gaiters top my shoes. The warmth from the coffee I got at my favorite coffeeshop - Ike's - on the way to the trailhead has worn off. My calves are already feeling it - at only three miles in. I took the previous two days as rest days, hoping that would help me. I don't think it helped. I also don't think wearing knee-high boots with three-inch high heels for six hours on Friday night helped either (but it sure was fun struttin' my stuff (and getting a "shazam!" from a random stranger)).

About three miles in, I stop and stare. There's a waterfall cascading, crashing down rocks. It's amazing. It takes me a few minutes to realize it's the top of Bridal Wreath Falls, which normally has just a trickle. The snowmelt is gorgeous.

More up, up, up. I go from Sonoran Desert Scrub up to Junipers. By 4 miles in, patches of snow appear. By five to six miles in, there are spots where the snow lines the trail, but doesn't cover it. Grasses peek through; the trail is pure mud and water. It's so NOT Tucson running; I'm in heaven. In this section, it's mostly up, but in a nice, rolling sort of way.

Super bowl; Cowhead saddle 009

I make it six miles to Doug Springs, where I am able to make a much-needed pit stop before heading up, up, up some more. I've never been beyond Douglas Springs before. This is all new territory for me. The climb is relentless. At seven miles, the snow is on the trail, along with ice. I slip and slide and work my up further. I'm in a canyon, and it is cold. The stream rushes by me and I am reminded of living and hiking in upstate New York.

Super bowl; Cowhead saddle 007

The snow is six to eight inches deep. I'm amazed; I thought it wouldn't be this deep yet. I expected this up closer to the saddle.

Super bowl; Cowhead saddle 010

I hear male voices ahead - it's four of the lead men. The snow reaches a foot deep at the saddle, and they decided to turn around and head back instead of doing the full 28-mile loop (which I already know I'm not going to do). I decide to head up a little further, till my Garmin tells me 8 miles, then I'll turn around, which ends up being five minutes later.

Super bowl; Cowhead saddle 008

A fifth man passes me; he chose to turn around early as well. A few moments slipping and sliding back down the trail, and I run into one of the co-leaders of the group still heading up. I didn't realize anyone was behind me. He and I chat for a bit, then I head back on down.

Super bowl; Cowhead saddle 011

It's a gorgeous day, perfect for running. I love the streams - so many streams to hop across. I love the mud. I love that this is atypical for the desert, and that I'm out there, enjoying it.

I pass many people heading up, including the strangely attired hiker who is amazed at my early morning trek. His words, "you're a little toughie," though somewhat offensive to me (what, just cause I'm a woman, I'm considered tough for doing this?! And using the word "toughie" is so condenscending to me), still gave me the impetus I needed to keep going. Damn straight, I'm tough!

Then I hit the stairs. For some reason, when this trail was built, the folks building it thought they'd do us all a favor and create steps. For miles. And miles. Steps upon steps. Stairway to heaven.

More like stairway to hell, as my knees start protesting with about three miles to go. I keep pushing myself, "I can DO this," I tell myself. But the stairs hurt. Each step down is excruciating.

I have to walk. I walk 1.5 miles down. I feel terrible. Am I injuring myself? How in the world will I be able to run twice this distance and elevation at the end of April? This is crazy! I am despondent, but I keep going. I have to get down. I may be injuring myself, but I need to keep going. I'll take an ice bath tonight and hope that helps me heal up so I can keep training and get ready. I really need to buckle down for the next six weeks to make ZG a reality. I walk down, down, down, waddling at an awkward angle in order to keep my legs from bending as much as possible. It feels like my iliotibial band on both legs. Crap.

With about a mile to go, the trail flattens and the steps disapper. Grimacing, I start running. I look at the time and see that I'm close to making 5 hours, my goal time. If I don't run (okay, granny shuffle) this in, I won't make my goal time. I force myself to keep moving. I am an ultrarunner, it's what I do. I hurt so badly. I keep going. Finally, I see the end. I clock in at 4:59, yay!

Shovel some potato chips in my mouth, drink some chocolate milk and finish with a white chocolate macadamia nut cookie while talking with a few folks still hanging around before limping to my car and driving back to Ike's, this time for Genevieve's salad, a spinach-and-romaine salad topped with bacon, feta cheese, walnuts and lemon honey vinegarette dressing (I finally remember to ask them to hold the red onion), washed down with a diet coke and accompanied by a soft baguette, as well as great company in the form of Chris, who has joined me. The barista who helped me this morning sees me back and says with a smile, "need a refill?"

After lunch I limp home and force myself into an ice bath. I can only stand it for five minutes before needing to take a hot shower, followed by three ibuprofen.

Typing at my computer now, I feel much better. I am incredibly sore, and somewhat worried about my condition, but I think I just need to wait and see how my knees feel as the week progresses.

I'm looking forward to seeing my son tonight (he was with his dad this weekend); I adore his snuggles. That will make everything all better :)

And I just finished uploading the info from my garmin: 16.22 miles, 4400 ft of elevation gain. Okay, now I know why my knees are sore. That ties the most amount of elevation I've ever done - and the last time I did it, I injured myself! The goal: make it through the next two weeks by taking care of my knees while at the same time still getting the miles and workouts in that I need. I can do it. There's nothing to it!

Streaking

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Mmm...Trader Joe's 100-calorie dark chocolate bars...mmm...my treat for the day. (And it packs more antioxidants than a 1/2 cup of blueberries!)

Okay, dark chocolate aside (which is relatively healthy in small amounts), I actually have been doing really well with the eating thing. My self-control actually exists!

I love training. I'm a somewhat neurotic person by nature (aren't all long-distance runners?!), and training gives me a good outlet for that neurotic energy (otherwise it's directed toward other, more frustrating things, like relationships or work or turns into judgment on myself). I can obsess and feel good about miles under the belt, about hours of cross-training. I love feeling kick-ass. Like last night, I got home late from work. Chris and I were going to head to the gym, but I felt the need to run (I love that feeling). So I went out for a killer fast four miles, then came back ready to hit the stairmaster for 40 minutes. It was awesome.

Streaking: six days in a row of running. I don't usually get that many in a row. I'll work out four or five days in a row (including cross-training), but I don't usually run that much in a row. I did this last week, from Thursday to Tuesday. (Due to Ash and work scheduling, Wednesdays are always a day off - no running, no cross-training.) Plus I got some cross-training (spinning, stairmaster) in there as well. That rocks.

Another thing that rocks: my speed. I'm still slow, but now I'm averaging 10:40 miles (on pavement) on a regular basis (instead of 11:40s, or *gasp* the 12+ per mile I was averaging back in September, coming off the no running regimen of August). 11-minute-plus miles feel slow now. I love that. Of course, trail miles are much slower. But still better than they were.

What happens after ZG? After my big impetus is gone? I've been contemplating it and I think I want to focus on speed. I want to continue healthy eating habits and I want to get faster. I want to run 9-minute miles as an average pace (on pavement). I think I'll spend May, June and July doing speedwork, but then I'll probably scale way back in August (when the bad humidity comes in on top of the triple-digit weather), and focus on cross-training. Once September hits, I'll be ready for the fall race season in the desert. Yay! I'm hoping for another ultra in 2008 - but not sure when. Depends on how ZG goes.

Next Monday marks the one-year anniversary of our first date for Chris and I. We're celebrating with dinner Friday night. I asked for Friday night, so I didn't have to worry about staying up late or drinking too much the night before my long run :) My long run on Sunday should be a blast this week - heading out with Barb and Renee. Not sure yet exactly where we are going, but it'll be 17-20 miles of fun!

So I'm glad training rocks, because work so doesn't. I was so upset on Monday, I found I couldn't eat my lunch! That has NEVER happened to me. I am working on not letting things get to me so badly. I'm leading a new, high-profile project with too many miscommunicating cooks in the kitchen. I choose to look at it as a challenge (as opposed to impossible, which is what it REALLY is). A challenge is fun, it's a game. It makes it easier to handle. And handle it I will.

Happy early Valentine's Day to everyone. I love Valentine's Day. Too bad my boyfriend doesn't. Oh well :) I decided that since he doesn't do V-day, I'll buy *us* a box of dark chocolate, yummy :)

This has become my mantra.

I like to eat. I really like to eat Trader Joe's Jo-Jos. The chocolate kind (chocolate wafers with chocolate filling...mmm...). I like to eat them late at night right out of the box. Before I know it, I've downed six or eight - three to four servings. I like to eat an entire white chicken and broccoli pizza. I like to eat burritos with lots (and lots) of cheese with chips and salsa. I like to eat roasted corn chowder that I learned has 500+ calories and 26 grams of fat per serving (it's a big mac in a bowl!).

I rationalize that I can eat this much, because I'm running so much. The jo-jos have carbs, the pizza has good olive oil, protein-rich chicken and vitamin-loaded broccoli. The burritos pack protein. The corn chowder has corn and, well, some green stuff floating in it. I have a justification for everything I eat.

And I wonder why I haven't dropped much weight since starting this training cycle.

After gaining 20 pounds since my gallbladder removal (70 lb weight loss, then 20 lb gain), I realized I weigh more this time around (that's a "duh" statement!). That means the race is going to be that much tougher. I've lost 5 lbs in three months; if I could lose just 10 more lbs in two months, put this 5'3" woman at 140 lbs (hardly underweight!), I would be in much better shape for ZG. Think about it - 10 lbs times 32 miles and 8000 ft of elevation gain. That's a lot of stress on my knees and my cardiovascular system.

Therefore, I have decreed this week that I will eat better, eat healthier and eat less in the next two months in the hopes that I will put my body in a better position to handle ZG. The biggest problem: I am an emotional eater. So, I enlisted Chris's help; he agreed to be my support system on this, as long as it doesn't make things go sour between us :)

The first week has gone well. Most days I've overcome the little challenges (the jo-jos are calling my name....) It's a struggle, but I keep reminding myself of the bigger (smaller?) goal: eating less now = easier race day. It goes right along with my training: running more now = easier race day. I am totally in the "make the race day easier" mode, so I'm hoping the eating falls right into place.

Wish me luck!

Where I grew up

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Go see where I grew up. The photos are at the end of the post. Such memories!

Man, I can tell resting was just what I needed. I went to the gym last night and this morning, and then I ran at lunch. And my body was so ready for it. Still coughing/wheezing a bit, but man, my legs and body were so responsive, so ready, so full of energy and no pain! It was amazing. Now I just need to figure out how to make up some of those miles from last week...

(I got an award! :) )

Bad and good

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Total miles scheduled for last week: 26 with 2-3 hours cross training

Total miles ran last week: 7 with 1.75 hours of cross training.

OMG, I'm so sick! Sunday's 17-miler turned into 12 hours of sleep instead. Cough, cough, cough. Cough some more. Yuck.

But the good: between this blog and my shop, I was mentioned three times this week. And I made my first sale to a total stranger! I've sold like 10 pieces to various folks I know, but never a total stranger. Too cool!!!

Still coughing, but feeling slightly better, so I'll head to the gym tonight. Hopefully I'll get more running in this week. Chris was so awesome this weekend, taking care of me, traveling to Phoenix with me to see my folks, having a Super Bowl party with me'n'Ash. I can't believe it'll be a year this month that we've been together!

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