Recovery after MCM has been slow going. I took the week after off from running completely both out of exhaustion and for other aforementioned reasons. I finally made my return to running this past Sunday, and boy was it epic! It also happened to be World Run Day, which I wasn't about to miss! My coworker, Diane, who is a seasoned ultrarunner and accomplished trail runner took me out for my first trail run. It happened to be raining pretty hard, but that just made everything that much more fun : )
We started from a school up in Granite Bay and followed the trail for an hour up to a point overlooking Folsom Lake with beautiful views, even in that kind of weather. I wish I'd had a camera! It was completely different kind of experience, and I now understand the intense pull trail running has and why so many prefer it over pounding the pavement. Diane and I kept it easy, walking the frequent hills in true ultra fashion. It was so great to just slosh through the mud and take in the views without focusing on miles or pace. So refreshing and freeing! Toward the end my body wasn't so happy, though. I think my lack of adequate recovery (i.e. stretching and rolling) has caused various parts of my body to tighten up and remain so. Running on the trails with their uneven terrain and hills so soon after MCM maybe wasn't the brightest idea. But it sure was a blast! In the end we completed 10 miles in just over 2 hours and I can't wait to go again (more on this in just a moment). My shoes, however, are trashed from the rain and mud. I think it's time I invest in some trail shoes!
Monday was a rest day. After my epic trail run the back of my left knee has been pretty tight so I didn't want to push it. Tuesday morning I found myself back on my usual 4 mile loop along the American River. When I set out I had planned to take it nice and slow and just let my body set the pace, but a couple miles into it I glanced at my Garmin and saw that I was actually running my usual pace! Afterward my knee was kind of tight but walking around at work the rest of the day seemed to help keep it loose. Today I had a day off from work and had planned on going for a run, but then decided to go to yoga instead. I think my body was craving a good stretch session : ) When I moved back home this summer and went through my old room I discovered a gift certificate for 10 yoga classes at Yoga Loka. During my senior year of high school I got pretty into it, but then it got too expensive and I let it go. Anyway, since my foray back into yoga a couple weeks ago I've decided to try and keep it up for cross-training purposes. Plus, there's a reason I feel so sore the day after a class!
Yoga Loka practices Bikram yoga, aka hot yoga. The class runs 90 minutes and consists of a series of 26 poses done twice. The studio is heated to about 107 degrees and the heat facilitates deeper stretching and injury prevention while reducing stress and tension. It also makes for one hell of a workout! I started sweating the moment I entered the room, and within minutes I was dripping. I arrived a little late and the only spot left was behind a hairy and smelly guy who kept doing headstands between poses. Oh, and did I mention he was only wearing skin tight cotton booty shorts? Niiice. I was actually pleased to find that I remembered most of the poses and could actually get into them relatively deeply (aka close to what I used to). By the end I was ready for the class to be over, but I also felt refreshed. Not only does the stretching leave me feeling limber and loose, but all the sweating gives me a detoxifying feeling. I'm looking forward to my next 9 classes!
Now onto the good stuff. A while back I started thinking about my goals and plans for 2011 (I like to get a head start) and had been debating some big challenges. I feel like 2010 for me has been "the year of the marathon". By mid December I'll have run 6 fulls this year, and to be honest they've left me a little burnt out. Plus, plain old road running has become a little too familiar. So what have I set my sights on? Well first, now that I've tackled several 26.2's, I want to go farther. Enter my big goal race of next spring: the American River 50 Miler on April 9th! AR 50 has become the second most popular 50 miler in the country and happens to be run right in my own backyard (well, not literally, but it starts in Sacramento). The first half is run along the American River pathway where do most of my running now, then the second half takes you into the challenging trails in Auburn. My coworker Diane is an AR 50 finisher and has offered to not only take me on training runs on the course (like this past Sunday) but also to pace me for the second half of the race. I'm excited to do more trail running and to push past my comfort zone and really challenge myself. And I love that it's local so my friends and family can come out and see me!
I haven't really begun thinking about my training strategy for AR 50, but I know I want to run at least one 50k on trails. Enter the Way Too Cool 50k in Cool, CA on March 12th. The date is perfect timing for AR 50 and the entire course is run on trails in Cool, about an hour north of Sacramento. In order to run it, however, you have to get picked through a lottery. So I'm crossing my fingers that I can add this to my race schedule as a training run for the main event in April.
As if this wasn't enough of a challenge, I also have big plans in the triathlon world. Over the weekend I took the plunge and put my name in for my first half Ironman - Vineman 70.3 in Sonoma on July 11th! I've recently become fascinated by long course triathlons and the people that do them (I blame live coverage of Kona) and I desperately want to join the ranks of these badass athletes. It's currently sold out so I'm on the waitlist, but last year everyone on the list eventually got in, so I'm crossing my fingers. I figure with my running background and upcoming ultra training I'll have that leg in the bag. I know I can work up to the bike distance relatively easily, too. I'm just gonna have to really focus on the swim. 1.2 miles is no joke people. Maybe I should invest in some swim lessons? I'll have a solid 3 months after AR 50 to devote solely to swimming, biking, and running, plus I plan on incorporating the first two a little earlier for cross-training purposes.
I'm sure I'll throw in a couple shorter races in between the big ones just for fun, too : ) And who knows what the second half of the year will bring! So, it looks like 2011 is going to be an exciting year, full of new challenges and lots of miles. Go big or go home!