April 30, 2011

Vineman Week One


Sorry friends, I got a little lazy in posting this : / My first official week of triathlon training came and went. It was definitely a bit all over the place, but I tried to fit in what I could, when I could. After figuring out a game plan to get me ready for 70.3 in July, I looked at my work schedule for the week to figure out which workouts I could fit on on which days. I got in my first couple swims, a new strength workout, a couple faster (for me) bike rides, and did my first run since AR 50. Although my weeks usually run Monday-Sunday, I'm including the previous Sunday in this weeks' workouts, partly because that's when I decided to kick-off training, and partly because it involved my first bike fall, and I thought you'd like to hear the story : )

bike: 20 mi, avg 16.6 mph.
I set out for my first ride of this training cycle after work, intending to go about 17 miles. I was cruising along, passing people left and right, and feeling really good. I was using going clipless for the second time and could really feel the difference it made in both pedaling efficiency and my speed. Before I struggled to maintain 15mph, and here I was cruising along at 17-18mph! I sort of zoned out and before I knew it my Garmin beeped 10 miles, a bit further than I had planned, but oh well. I turned and headed back, only to find that I was headed into a headwind that caused a dip in my speed.

About 3 miles from home I decided to stop for a moment to get a sip of water, so I pulled off to the side of the trail. I unclipped one foot and set it on the ground, then, as I went to grab my water bottle from my bike, I must have tried to set my other foot down (that was still clipped in) and down I went! I fell on my left side, my bike on top of me. I was more stunned and embarassed than anything, so the first thing I did was look around. Luckily for my ego, only a lone woman was walking a ways away. I tried to get up, but my foot was still clipped in and was now underneath my bike, so I had no leverage to get up. After nearly a minute of struggling, at which point the woman passed me, I finally just took my foot out of the shoe, leaving it clipped to the pedal! Nothing hurt, but I did notice some long red "scratches" on me thigh but they weren't bleeding. I had some nice chain grease on my legs, too. I dusted myself off then headed home, both annoyed at my fall but also relieved that I got the first one out of the way. And at least I wasn't moving at full speed! The next day I discovered a huge, ugly bruise underneath the scratches on my thigh that over the course of the week turned some lovely colors : )
it had to happen eventually...

other: 50 min strength workout
A while back I'd bought a couple new workout DVDs from Amazon, and now, months later, I finaly tested one out. The workout is called Core Fusion: Body Sculpt, and is a combination of yoga, pilates, dance, and the Lotte Berk method. It's segmented into 5 focused workouts of 10 minutes each, targeting the arms & shoulders, glutes & hips, abs, and thighs. It uses mostly your own body weight for resistance, but also small hand weights and even props like a chair. I'll do a full review soon, but I can say that I didn't love it. The workout was a bit hard to follow and I didn't feel like I got in a very good workout (to be fair, I'm comparing it to Jillian, who kicks my ass every time). I did feel the burn in many of the moves, but I wasn't very sore the next day, for whatever that's worth. I do think I'll use it as a quick routine to add on a light workout day, but I don't think it's enough to stand on it's own.


run: 4 mi, 9:36 avg pace.
After getting a massage and visiting my sports chiro, my legs were feeling pretty good so I decided to head out for my first run since AR 50. I had also bought a couple more pairs of my beloved Scott shoes that I wanted to break in, and I figured the fresh cushion would be good for my legs. I planned to keep the pace easy and the run short. But from my first few steps, I knew it wasn't gonna be good. I somehow managed a decent pace, but I was hurting and miserable, so after I decided that my body just wasn't ready yet. Frustrating, but not the end of the world. Quick anecdote: I paused my Garmin about .25 into the run to try and stretch things out, but forgot to restart it again until nearly a half mile later. Because I am a numbers junkie and a tad Type A, when I finished the run, despite my legs hurting, I hopped on my bike and rode around my block til my Garmin beeped 4 miles. I couldn't run any further, but I wanted my watch to give me credit for my entire run! I think I'm a little crazy, too : )
new, old, new

swim: 1,000 yds, 30 min. 
  • 10x100 yds (~20-30s recovery)
After finally finding a gym to join with a pool, I went for my first swim after work. There were only a handful of other swimmers there doing some sort of group workout, so I had an entire lane to myself. I didn't really have a workout planned, so I just ended up doing 100 yd repeats. 4 straight lengths of the pool leaves me pretty out of breath so I took short breaks in between sets. I enjoyed the swim as a change of pace, but I also realized how much work I have ahead of me, and it was a little bit daunting. I guess you've got to start somewhere though, right? I finished just as the sun went down and the pool glowed aquamarine.

Instead of working out I spent the day celebrating my mom's birthday! I had the day off so we went to lunch, went to see the new movie Water for Elephants (definitely recommend it - not as good as the book, but still good!), then went out for a delicious dinner. Happy Birthday, Mom!
stuffed peppers nom nom nom

bike: 16 mi, avg 16.2 mph.
Another bike ride with a slight mishap - ok, maybe I'm being overly dramatic. Anyway, I headed out after work, only to have my Garmin beep a low battery warning just a few miles in. My first thought was wtf!?, I just charged it! Then I figured it might still last a while. I had planned on going for 20 miles, but I was annoyed by the watch's mysteriously drained battery and decided to cut it short. Not surprisingly, just after I turned around at 8 miles it beeped again and then turned off. Over the next mile I kept turning it back on, where it would record a couple tenths of a mile before shutting off again. I drained it of every ounce of battery juice it had, and finally, at 9.6 miles, it refused to turn back on. Perhaps you may have caught on, but things like this really ruffle my feathers. I'm a total Type A who's obsessed with numbers, so when my watch first gave the low battery warning, I seriously considered turning around. But after an intense internal debate, I decided that would be lame and I still needed to fit in a ride. Since I turned around at 8 miles it was easy to figure my distance, but my speed is only based on the first half of the ride. Oh well, I've let it go. I like to think this was a big step for me.

swim: 1,200 yds, 35 min.
  • 200 yds warm-up
  • ladder: 50, 100, 150, 200, 150, 100, 50 (~30s recovery)
  • 200 yds cool-down
Thanks to the Easter holiday I had the day off and decided to go for an afternoon swim. It was a gorgeous day, and with only one other swimmer I nearly had the pool to myself! In an effort to switch things up a bit to stave off boredom I decided to try a ladder workout. I started out with a longer warm-up, then got into the main set. The longer intervals were hard, especially the 200 straight, but I powered through. I think my biggest issue with swimming is that I get out of breath quickly and panic, then my form falls apart. I'm hoping this is something that improves with time! After the ladder I still felt pretty good so I added on an easy cool-down in 50 yd increments. Followed the swim with a great family dinner to celebrate Easter!

swim - 2,200 yards
bike - 36 miles
run - 4 miles

April 26, 2011

Triathlon Training Plan

This past week I kicked off training for my biggest triathlon endeavor yet, the Vineman 70.3 in July. I've struggled with putting together a training plan, partly because this is very unfamiliar territory for me (well, two-thirds of it is) and because my constantly changing work schedule makes it hard to plan and accommodate a set schedule. Also, I'll admit that as I was scouring the web for training plans and resources for beginners, I became a little intimidated and was afraid I'd bit off more than I could chew. The majority of the plans advocate 4-6 months of training to successfully complete the 70.3 distance, and most of them also strongly suggest that you have several Olympic distance races under your belt and that you have a decent base in all three disciplines before starting their plan. Well folks, I definitely don't fit those requirements! While I do have a strong history and base for running, that is only one part of three. My cycling experience is negligible, and my swimming is admittedly pathetic for someone with aspirations to swim 1.2 miles in just under 3 months.

I allowed a little bit of doubt (and quite honestly, fear) to creep in and I seriously asked myself if I have what it takes to do this. And while the jury is still out on that one, I won't be backing down that easily. I admit, I do tend to jump in head first, taking on one challenge after the next, often giving myself little to no time in between - case in point: running my first 50 miler and then starting long-course triathlon training a week later. I'm sure many people even think I'm foolish for taking on the half iron distance with only one triathlon under my belt, and a measly sprint at that. Not to mention that I'm giving myself just 2.5 months to prepare.
80 days and counting...
And while I started to doubt and freak out a bit, I was reminded of how I felt back in January when I was trying to wrap my head around running ultras and trying to figure out how to train for them. Similarly, much of the info I found declared that it would takes months and myriad miles to tackle such an extreme distance as 50 miles. And while I certainly did work my butt off, I did it my own way, without a structured training plan, and in less time than the "experts" claimed I should (granted I was coming off marathon training). And so I've decided to take a similar approach to my triathlon training. My big goal for the season is of course to successfully complete the Vineman 70.3 race, but along the way I hope to also complete my first Olympic distance race, find more balance in my fitness routine (no more "all running, all the time"), and hopefully see my body and overall health benefit from the complimentary relationship swimming, cycling, and running share.

If one good thing came out of this brief phase of doubt and panic, it's that I'm no longer as naive about how much of a challenge this race will be and how much work it's going to take to conquer it. But, I WILL DO IT. I truly do believe that I will cross that finish line on July 17th, and in the meantime, I'm ready to put in the time and work so I can give it my best effort. Coming off such a long and arduous running training cycle my body and mind are ready to change things up and after just the first week I'm already enjoying the new workouts. And although I'm inexperienced and a total tri newbie, I'm not going into this blind. Like my ultra training plan, I have a general outline and certain key factors I plan to incorporate into my training, but I won't be assigning exact workouts to specific days in advance since a more flexible and short-term plan fit my work schedule better. And so after rambling in much longer than planned, here goes:

the rule of three
Three sports, three times a week. This is my goal, and I'll be loosely following the set-up of this plan. However, I also want my schedule to be flexible since life happens. Swimming gets priority, followed by biking and then running. At the moment I'm really not running at all, but I hoped to add it back in gradually very soon. Until then I'm focusing on my weaker disciplines in the pool and on the bike. If you looked at the plan I'm using as my guide, you will notice that to follow my rule of three I'll have to incorporate "two-a-days" in which I run and swim on the same day, probably morning and evening respectively. I can already anticipate that this will be a challenge for me, perhaps more mentally than physically, but I'm going to really try to stick with it. As far as specifics go, 2/3 workouts in each sport will probably be shorter and more intense with one longer workout (primarily biking and running). I hope to work up to 55 minutes of swimming, 4 hours of biking, and 2.5 hours of running

open H2O & masters swims
Hands down my weakest leg of triathlon is swimming. It's the single biggest factor that was causing me to freak out about Vineman, and so it will also be the discipline that requires the most work. I only allowed myself to freak out for a bit and then I went and joined a gym and started swimming. So far it is hard, much harder than I anticipated, but I know with practice I will see improvements. The gym is only 10 minutes from work and is open late so I can go after work which fits well with my schedule. I plan to swim at least 3 times a week, focusing on both form and endurance. In another week or so, when I hopefully feel semi-comfortable in the water and my chance of embarassing myself is minimal, I plan to also attend a masters workout once a week. I think it will be fun and beneficial to have a structured workout and be able to get some feedback on my form. As my training progresses and I get closer to race day, I also plan to replace one swim a week with an open water swim. Anyone who knows anything about triathlon will tell you how crucial these are to race day success. For me, the biggest benefits are being able to practice swimming without walls to rest on, learning how to sight effectively, and getting used to a wetsuit along with getting used to things that lurk in an open body of water : )

I may be a novice but I'm not a complete fool, and so brick workouts will be a common occurrence in my training. For those of you who don't know, a brick is a back-to-back workout, usually either a swim immediately followed by a ride or, more commonly, a ride followed by a run. The idea is to prepare your body to effectively switch disciplines and shorten the time our bodies need to start feeling more "normal". Personally, I plan to do far more bike-run bricks because I think it's the hardest transition in triathlon and will hopefully allow me to run a strong half marathon. When I was training for my one and only sprint last summer, I included a couple bricks and was glad to experience the heavy, jello-like legs beforehand so I knew what to expect and how to work through it. Since I'm not running just yet due to my knee issue, these will be something I add in after a few weeks of "base building".

tune-up races
I have at least one, possibly two, shorter distance triathlons that I plan to complete as tune-up races to practice race day strategies and execution on a smaller scale. These will also act as long training days for me and give me a good idea of where I'm at with my training. So far, on my calendar I have a tentative sprint in Auburn, although I may be nixing it because it is ridiculously expensive ($130 for a sprint?! are you kidding me?). Then I have my first Olympic distance race that falls about a month before Vineman which will be perfect for assessing my abilities and mentally preparing me for the big race.

strength training + yoga
In the last week I've started doing some strength training, including a nice little reunion with the sometimes-scary Jillian. I'm really digging the good sore feeling I got after and I would love to continue to incorporate this into my schedule. Although it would certainly be beneficial, the challenge will be fitting it in with the rest of my workouts. I'd also love to fit in some hot yoga once in a while, but this may end up being wishful thinking. I guess time will tell!

And so friends, there it is. Of course a lot of this may change as the weeks go by, but that's kind of the idea. A flexible schedule is what I need right now, but I feel like if I can stick to these key factors I will be prepared come race day. If anyone has any tips, advice, etc. please let me know since it's pretty clear I barely know what I'm doing! I'll be back tomorrow with a recap of my first week of training : )

April 23, 2011

Recovery and Reflections

After months of training AR 50 came and went. I've spent much of the last two weeks recovering and reflecting and am finally putting these thoughts into written words. I'll start with the recovery, which has been no joke after putting my body through such an extreme endeavor. As I mentioned in the recap, I was in a lot of pain immediately after and for the next couple days. My whole body was sore, even to the touch, and I was so stiff that getting up to do anything was a challenge. Thankfully, I had the 2 days following the race off from work and I spent most of them in bed or on the couch.

Four of my toes ended up discolored and two were severely damaged with fluid built up under the nails. They were so tender that I woke up several times at night from the pain from the weight of my sheets on them. To relieve the pressure I was constantly draining them with a needle (sorry if this is TMI!) but they continued to fill back up and both toes swelled up. Then I went back to work and had to wear shoes which was pretty bad. I didn't even make it through a full day before I was in toe socks with flip flops...should have taken a picture of that! Anyway, I soaked them in hot water with epsom salt and continued to drain them, and I'm finally pain free. The nails are still discolored, however, and probably won't be sticking around for too long : / I think 4 at once is a record for me!

My right knee has also had some lingering issues which are still preventing me from running. It feels like a tightness in the back of the knee that prevents me from straightening it all the way or locking it out and is painful if I try to. For the first week after AR I was limping quite a bit so I went in to see my sports chiro that Monday. To him it didn't seem like an actual injury but rather some tightness and inflammation that should get better with time. He told me to try running by Thursday and see how it feels. Well later that week I could still feel it when I was just walking, so running was a no-go. I did go for a bike ride, however, and it seemed to feel fine during the ride (although a little more sore the next day). Anyway, it started feeling a bit better as the days passed but I still didn't quite feel ready to run so I made another appointment with the chiro.

This time he worked my leg a bit more, really digging into the muscles, and I left feeling much better. Right before the appointment I'd actually went for a deep tissue massage, too, so later that day I was feeling pretty good and ready to try running. From the first few steps, however, I knew it was going to be a struggle. Just a half mile in I contemplated turning around, but I kept going thinking that maybe things would feel better as I warmed up. No such luck. The tightness in my knee forced me to run with an awkward gait which caused some pain in my hip. To top it off, I could feel some inflammation in my other knee (basic "runner's knee" kind of pain). I felt tired, sluggish, and discouraged and the 4 miles seemed to take forever. And so here I am, two weeks out, and I'm still unable to run. I don't consider myself injured yet, but I don't want to make things worse, either. Instead I'm kicking off my tri season with lots of swimming, cycling, and strength training and will add in running as soon as I can. I'm trying to cut myself some slack, but at the same time it's really frustrating that I can't run now that I want to.

On to reflections. To be honest, I haven't really thought a whole lot about AR 50 these past couple weeks. I'm glad I did it, and I'm proud of the accomplishment, but it didn't linger in my thoughts for very long. Like I mentioned in the recap, the way I felt after wasn't quite what I expected to feel. It reminded me a bit of post-marathon blues, actually. After working toward this goal for so long with all this anticipation, it came and went and then it was just back to the real world. I guess I felt a bit letdown, like I should be walking around with a sign that said, "I just ran 50 miles!!" Not in a cocky way, but because I'd felt like this big achievement would change me and here I was walking around and going about life as if it hadn't happened. I don't know if any of this is making sense, but I hope that my fellow runners have had similar feelings and I'm not just crazy.

It's been helpful to look forward, which for me means the start of my first real triathlon season. I'm ready to change things up and take on an entirely different kind of challenge. I'm really enjoying cycling and I finally joined an awesome gym and went for my first swim last night! I'm still in the process of figuring out my schedule/training plan for my goal race, Vineman 70.3 in July, but I should have a post up soon with more details. Despite having no structured plan yet, I kicked off my training this week, just winging it and doing whatever I've felt like, and so far so good! More to follow...

How long does it usually take you to recover from a race? Ever experienced "post-race blues"? Who else is gearing up for the triathlon season?

April 17, 2011

Boston Fever!

Mention Boston to any runner, and you probably won't conjure up thoughts of one of the oldest and most historical cities in the United States. More than likely, they'll be thinking of perhaps the most famous and prestigious road race in the world - the Boston Marathon, taking place tomorrow (well today, for those east coasters). Nearly every runner dreams of running Boston. To those of you there this year, congratulations! Soak it all in - the crowded start in Hopkinton, the screaming Wellesley girls, Heartbreak Hill, and the cheering crowds on Boylston Street. As for the rest of us, I'm sure we will keep dreaming : )
In the running world, "Marathon Monday" is basically a holiday (and a real one in Massachusetts!). A number of friends, both blogger and non-blogger, will be running tomorrow so I plan to catch as much of the action as possible. I'll also be pulling for an American win from hopefuls Ryan Hall and Kara Goucher. If you're interested, you can watch the marathon live on TV, follow your favorite runners via text, view live web updates, or catch free online streaming of the race. The excitement is in the air, and one day I hope I can experience it first hand. But for now, I'm wishing all the runners good luck from California!

April 15, 2011

AR 50 (Race Report)

I keep putting off writing this race report, for no better reason than I don't really know how to put this whole running 50 miles experience into words. Saturday was hands down the hardest and most painful day of my life, but also one of the most rewarding. I started running at 6am, and around 5:30pm I finally crossed the finish line after covering 50 miles. It took me 11 hours and 29 minutes to finish, but the road to get me to that finish line in Auburn began far earlier than that. I first signed up for AR 50 back in December to test my limits and challenge myself. I'd completed 8 marathons, and while they were never easy, the challenge had become familiar. I needed something bigger, harder, something seemingly impossible to strive for. After experiencing a bit of burnout from so much road racing in 2010, I was looking for something different, and trail running fit that need. My coworker, Diane, is an avid trail and ultra runner and planted the AR 50 seed in my mind, and so, just a few months ago, I began my journey toward 50 miles.

Nearly 500 miles and countless runs later, I found myself toeing the start line of my first 50 miler, in the dark, surrounded by 600 other crazy runners. But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. My day actually started a couple hours earlier with a 4am wake-up call. Not surprisingly I hadn't got much sleep that night, so I was still half asleep as I went through my pre-race routine and got everything ready. I did some last minute trigger point, made a pb and banana sandwich, and put my drop bags together for my folks to bring. Around 5:15 Diane picked me up and we were on our way! The start was conveniently about a mile from my house so we got there with plenty of time to spare. Diane had somehow got both of us access to the VIP bathrooms so we got to hang out inside a warm office and use a real bathroom before heading back out into the dark and cold and making our way to the start.
a cold and dark morning waiting for the 6am start!

I don't really know what was going through my head as I stood on the levy in the dark, waiting for the race to start. I do remember thinking that is was going to be a loooong day : ) Diane recognized people right and left and was busy chatting while I just stood there, equal parts nervous, excited, and anxious. Finally, at 6am on the dot, we were off! With so many runners on such a narrow levy we were pretty far back so it took a couple minutes to actually cross the start and start running. My plan was to stick with Diane for as long as possible, both for the company, and because I felt like she knew what she was doing. The course initially took us in the opposite direction for a short 1 mile out-and-back that brought us down onto the bike trail where we would spend the next 27 miles. As we passed the start again and passed underneath the Sac State bridge we had our first spectators cheering us on. My dad had come out on his bike and road along side us for a few minutes which was great. We kept things conservative for the first few miles, going nice and slow. Diane had planned to do intervals of 7 minutes running, 1 minute walking, but her watch was messed up so we decided to take our walk breaks at each mile mark. Although we got a little caught up in the excitement and missed our first few walks!
 still dark...
 me and Diane a few miles in

I though this early stretch on the bike trail would be tough for me mentally because I've trained on it so much, but it ended up not being too bad. Not only were we going in the opposite direction, but we were down on the bike trail - in training I usually run up on the levy. We hit our first aid station at Watt Ave around mile 5. It was water only so I skipped it but used the opportunity to take my first of several Gu and salt caps. The next couple miles were pretty uneventful but it was quite peaceful to be running along the bike trail so early, the sun just up and the promise of a beautiful day ahead of us. Around mile 6 we decided to pull out our iPods for the long stretch ahead of us, and the music made the miles go by much faster. Poor Diane, however, had technical issues with her shuffle for nearly the entire first half of the race!

I realized I needed to pee soon after, so when my watch beeped 7 and Diane started walking I darted into the bushes to take care of it. Diane managed to get pretty far ahead and had started running again, so I kicked it up a bit to catch up, finally reaching her at the next aid station, William Pond Park, around mile 8. This was the first aid with food and such, but I didn't yet feel like eating so I refilled my water and then continued on past the groups of spectators gathered at the park. I kept an eye out for my coworker, Erin, who said she would be out at the park cheering, but I didn't see her. But I was pleasantly surprised to spot her about a mile up the trail cheering me on, giving me a huge boost for the next few miles : ) Unfortunately, around this point my left knee started giving me some problems. It was the same dull pain underneath my kneecap that I experience when I run in old shoes. Nothing excruciating, but a little disconcerting only 10 miles into a 50 mile race : /

The stretch between William Pond and the next aid was the longest of all of them (about 6.5 miles) and I was eager to have it behind me, so I just tried to zone out to my music and enjoy everything around me. We kept leap frogging the same runners, since everyone was on slightly different interval schedules, which made for some nice company and camaraderie. A couple different training groups were out on the parkway, too, and would cheer us on whenever we passed them. I was also eager to get to Sunrise, the next aid, because my parents were going to be there. A little smile crossed my face when my Garmin beeped 10 miles, both because I was glad to finally be in the double digits, but also because that meant I was just 1/5 of the way there! Another smile at 13.1, thinking that in the scheme of a 50 miler, a half marathon was just a drop in the pond! Mile 14.6 brought us to the Sunrise aid station where I refilled my water and grabbed a cup of Gu brew (I don't quite remember when exactly I was eating a Gu and taking a salt cap, but I took one of each approximately every hour). I looked for my folks, but was disappointed when I didn't spot them among the spectators. I shook it off and continued on, and a few minutes later I came up on another group of spectators and there they were! I smiled and swerved over to them to ditch my arm warmers and then quickly hurried along.
coming into Sunrise, mile 14.6
From this point on the aid stations averaged about 4 miles apart, so I started to break up the race into the sections between them. One thing that was extremely frustrating during this first part on the parkway was how rude many cyclists were. First off, the bike trail was supposed to be closed for the race. Obviously not everyone can be aware of this, nor would it be easy to regulate, but many cyclists that I passed weren't even courteous. They would come barreling around a corner going much faster than the 15mph speed limit, without so much as slowing down a bit to make there way through the throngs of runners. A couple even had the nerve to tell us to get out of the way! Not only was it disrespectful, but it was also dangerous. I know not all cyclists are assholes, but the ones out there on Saturday gave the rest a bad name. Ok, rant over : )

I was eager to get to the next aid station because then the course takes you up on the Hazel Bluffs and changes things up a bit. Soon enough we arrived at the Nimbus Overlook aid station at mile 18. Again, more water, Gu Brew, and another Gu. Then it was up the long hill on Hazel Ave. and onto the trails for a bit! I could see the runners ahead of me on the hillside in front of me hiking up the hill and before long I was there. It was a steep hike but quite beautiful, surrounded by green grass and overlooking Lake Natoma and the water gushing from the dam. The next 9ish miles was the only stretch I had never run before, so it was nice to be in unfamiliar territory and not know exactly what was coming. This next section had us going up and down, partly on the bike trail along the lake and partly up on the Hazel Bluffs. My watch hit 20 miles and for some reason, that felt like a big milestone. I felt great on the trails up on the bluffs and cruised all the way to the next aid at Negro Bar, mile 22.4. At this point the day had warmed up and I was going through my handheld in the 3-4 miles between aid stations. It was around this point that I also started eating a boiled potato or two with salt to supplement my Gu. I think I also downed a cup of Sprite here that was surprisingly refreshing!
heading toward the hillside
Before I even started this race, I had it divided into two - the first 27 miles along the bike trail leading up to Beals Point, and then the last 23 on the trails up to Auburn. Mentally I was eager to get to Beals and get going on the second (and more fun!) part, to pick up my pacer and have some new company, and to see my parents again. And for some reason, I felt like Beals was a lot closer to the finish than it really was (just over half way). Physically, my body was ready for a change of terrain. I underestimated how my body would handle the first half on the paved, flat bike trail, and my knees were definitely feeling the effects. This last stretch on the bike trail kind of sucked though. Many more rude cyclists, lots of hills, and not very much shade. I was still listening to my music which was helpful, but I desperately wanted this part to be over.

Just past mile 26 there were balloons signaling the crossing of the marathon point. This made me smile, while at the same point reminding me just how long we still had to go! I also spotted a local running friend of mine, Tim, who was out doing his long run. It was great to see a friendly face and get some words of encouragement before I continued on toward Beals. Not long after we finally reached the biggest aid station of the day, Beals Point, at mile 26.5. Beals marks the first spot to pick up a pacer and have access to your drop bag, but I waited to do both til an unofficial aid station about a mile and a half further. I refilled my bottle and grabbed a couple more potatoes then we were on our way. From Beals we finally hopped on the trails, and around mile 28 we hit Cavitt school where my folks and my pacer, Marina, were waiting.
balloons celebrating 26.2!!
 Beals Point, mile 26.5
I had told Diane that I would be a bit longer here so to go ahead of me since I'd have Marina with me the rest of the way. It worked out great, though, because I basically ended up getting paced the entire race! I had planned on changing into my trail shoes at this point and was so glad I did. My road shoes weren't feeling as fresh as I wanted and my toes were pretty tender from some downhills. My trail shoes are a bit more fitted and for some reason this felt great. I also realized I was chafing a bit on my bra line, so I lubed up a bit more (although I would later discover the damage was inevitable). Marina was great right from the get go, holding my fuel in her pack and asking me what I needed. I decided not to switch to my Camelbak since I was comfortable with my fuel belt and handheld and didn't want the extra weight. After a couple minutes we said goodbye and got back on the trail! Not far from Cavitt I was surprised by a friendly face coming up behind me, none other than my ultra buddy from Way Too Cool 50k, Ron. He looked great and went on to kick some butt in his first 50 miler!

 coming into Cavitt School, mile 28ish
changing shoes was a bit of a challenge!

The next few miles are little blurry. Marina was very chatty which was great and kept me distracted. My legs were tired and walked even the shortest hills, but it felt good to be on trails with the terrain to focus on. Fueling had become a little difficult at this point because Gu was starting to sound less than appealing. At that point I'd consumed close to 7 and my stomach was getting a little grumbly. The miles continued to tick by and I mentioned to Marina that everything after the next aid station (31.6 miles) would be brand new territory for me having never run longer than 50k. When we got to the aid at Granite Bay Marina went about filling my bottle for me while I grabbed some more soda and potatoes. I tried to stretch a bit here, too. While my left knee felt great now, my right knee had locked up in the back to the point that I couldn't really straighten my leg out. I had told Marina I didn't want to stick around the aid station too long though because needed to keep moving to stay loose.

And so the 50k mark came and went and I kept moving along. Time and distance sort of took on a surreal feeling, alternately passing quickly and then craaawling along. I kept taking it one aid station at a time, and only focusing on the 3 or so miles to cover in between. The trail continued to wind around Folsom Lake and we had our first "stream crossings" of the day - in other words, I got to soak my sore feet in some nice cold water as we walked across : ) Soon enough we hit my least favorite section of rocky ups and downs. I despise this part mainly because I can't get into a rhythm. It's frustrating mentally and tough physically to have that start-stop. The downhills were just as hard because not only are they quite rocky and technical, but my legs were also a little unstable at that point and I was afraid they would buckle if I took a wrong step. The next aid at Buzzard's Cove (34.6) came up pretty quick though and I decided to breeze through it, only stopping to refill my bottle. Somewhere around here I also popped another ibuprofen (my 5th of the day, had take the others earlier in the race), hoping it would help with my knee and the rest of my body.

The next few miles are a blur, but I do remember stubbing my toes a lot and seeing a lot of butterflies. We ended up having a perfect day with great temps (if a bit warm) and the drier weather we'd been having made for great trail conditions, unlike the last time I was out there. It truly was a beautiful day, and I tried to take in the sights whenever I could. I wish I'd taken more pics but I couldn't muster the extra energy : ( Marina took over my fueling for me, telling me when to eat, take a salt cap, or drink more fluid. I was getting awfully tired at this point so it was great to worry about one less thing. One thing I do remember on this section is wanting to find a bathroom! Obviously I could have just used a bush, but I figured I would wait til the next aid then decide what to do. My stomach was still grumbly from all the strange things I'd put in it all day and I was drinking a ton of water, so I literally sighed out loud with relief when I came up the hill to the aid station at Horseshoe Bar (mile 38.1) and saw a port-o-potty! While I hit up the potty Marina filled my bottle and after I grabbed a potato, poured a cup of water over my head, and then continued on, feeling like a new person after using the potty : )

I got a bit excited after Horseshoe because the next aid was a big one - Rattlesnake Bar. Once again I'd get to see my parents, but it also meant only 9 more miles to go - single digits! The stretch between was less than 3 miles, too, and I got a bit of a second wind. A small train of runners formed on the single track and it was nice to have the company. It seems that in trail running, sometimes it's just nice to have some feet to follow : ) I knew when we were close because I could hear all the people, and yet the trail kept winding around! Finally we emerged and came down the hill to cheering fans and volunteers with food. My parents were right there yelling my name so I made a beeline but before I could chat I knew I needed to find another bathroom. I made another pitstop and felt much better, then headed over to the aid station to fuel up. My leg was hurting pretty bad at that point, and stretching just didn't seem to help. Again, I didn't want to stop for too long so I said goodbye to my parents, who I would next see at the finish, and then headed back out for the final miles. I couldn't believe that I'd already run 41 miles!
 Folsom Lake at Rattlesnake Bar
coming into Rattlesnake Bar, mile 41
 leaving Rattlesnake, only 9 miles to go!

The next 3 miles were rough. My legs were heavy, and I finally admit out loud just how tired I was and how much things hurt. I started to think how crazy this whole thing was, and how crazy I was for wanting to do it. I told Marina how I figured I'd do this 50 and eventually want to do a 100 miler, but how double the distance seemed insane...ha! The miles dragged on, mainly because I was moving so slowly at this point. We reached the power plant and crossed over the river, and I found myself retelling my story about running this stretch solo and being terrified of mountain lions. Needless to say I felt much better having here with me that day. I told Marina that the rule for the next several miles was to run when the trail was flat or downhill. I'd let my 11 hour goal go, but I still wanted to get the damn thing over with as soon as possible. Plus, it hurt far less to run, even at a shuffle, than to walk. We finally stumbled upon the next aid at Manhattan Bar (43.9 miles) which was a relief since that meant just one more aid station left! This one was small so I did the essentials then moved along.
had to stop for this view!

Things continued to suck over the next 3.6 miles. I had trouble getting myself to keep going, and the miles were totally dragging. It wasn't a matter of finishing or not at this point, I just wanted to be done and was getting frustrated with how long these miles were taking! Somewhere along this stretch I had Marina move in front of me which was a huge help. I just focused on following her feet as I shuffled along. On the bright side, this really was a beautiful section, not that I was paying a whole lot of attention to that at the time : ) For some reason, in my mind the race had a third and final section that was somehow different than the trail section - the 3 miles hill, known famously as "Last Gasp". I desperately wanted to reach that hill, if only because it meant I was that much closer to the finish.
After several miserable and never ending miles we reached the base of the hill and I began the hike. The first 3/4 of Last Gasp are quite steep and even a hike left me gasping (pun intended) for breath as my legs burned. I knew that certain sections of the hill were runnable for me, so I was determined to run when possible so I wouldn't be on that damn thing all day.
smiling for the cameras, but still miserable : )
at the bottom of Last Gasp
I was expecting to see the last aid station at the base of the hill, but it wasn't til almost a mile later that one of the guys came trotting down to greet us and ask us what we needed. I gave him my bottle to fill and when I reached the aid station it was ready to go. I also downed a cup of coke for a final sugar boost before heading out for the final 2 miles. I did manage to run a bit over those last couple miles, and each time my heart felt like it was going to explode! We just kept hiking up that thing and before I knew it, with about a mile to go, I could see and hear the finish line in the distance. Marina kept asking me, "Can you believe you're here, at this point, about to finish 50 miles?" And honestly, I couldn't. I just wanted to get there! Finally I made it to the top of Last Gasp and I had one final short but steep climb to conquer. I'd let go of my original goal, and my new one was to finish in 11:30. I'd been checking my watch on Last Gasp and knew it was going to be close... At the top of the little hill there was a short stretch and then it turned onto the grass for the final stretch to the finish. I gave Marina my bottle and fuel belt and we split as I took off down the finish chute, giving it everything I had left (which was not much).
coming down the home stretch!
As I approached the finish and heard my name called out, I suddenly got choked up. The emotions of the day suddenly overwhelmed me, and the fact that after such a long and grueling day, after so many weeks of training, here I was, crossing the finish of my first 50 miler. I stopped on the other side and couldn't catch my breath thanks to my unexpected outpouring of emotion. I collected my sweet finisher's jacket and spotted Diane and Marina waiting for me and gave them both a hug. I had come in just under my goal with a final time of 11:29:38, more than good enough for me! I was more than spent, my body ached, and I was beyond tired. We waited for my parents to find us then took a few pics before heading to a spot on the grass where I could collapse. My feet were a mess, my stomach still unsettled, and I felt like a total zombie from being so tired. I drank a beer and hung out for a bit, watching others finish triumphantly, but after a while I got chilled and was so tired and hungry I said goodbye.
my fabulous pacers Marina & Diane. thank you!!
 my crew, aka mom & dad : )
AR 50 finisher!
relaxing post-race
That night was the most miserable night of my life. After showering I managed to eat a burrito (the first real food I'd had since 5am) but it didn't sit very well - my stomach was a mess! Every part of my body ached... I mean everything. My knee had stiffened to the point that I could hardly straighten it, and my toes were so tender they couldn't be touched. I was exhausted, and yet I couldn't get comfortable enough to fall asleep because everything throbbed. I took more ibuprofen which mercifully allowed me to finally fall asleep. Five days later I'm feeling much better, but my knee is still tight. I saw my chiro about it and it doesn't look like an injury, just some tight muscles/tendons that are restricted motion.

I also owe some huge THANK YOUs: To Diane, for getting me into this crazy lifestyle, helping me train, and for sticking with me the first 28 miles. To Marina, who deserves an award for best pacer for getting me through those trails and to the finish. To my parents for always supporting me and my crazy running habit and for being my fabulous crew that day. To all of my coworkers for their words of encouragement and advice. And to all of YOU for following along this journey, for inspiring me, and encouraging me.

I still haven't really processed this whole experience, and it feels a little surreal. At the same time, it almost seemed a bit anticlimactic. Yes, it was quite an adventure, but for some reason I thought I'd feel a lot...different after. I don't even know how to explain it. Yet here I am a few days later, back to work, with only lingering soreness to remind me of an epic day. I don't know what I expected, and maybe this is similar to post-marathon blues. I'm sure I'll have more thoughts and reflections in the coming weeks, but this post is long enough already : )

April 11, 2011

AR 50 Week Fourteen


Finally, my last week of ultra training and race week. After 14 long weeks of early morning runs, good days and bad days, a few awesome races, some epic trail runs, and nearly 500 miles logged, AR 50 finally came and went. It was an incredible experience that I will never forget, full of fun, nerves, excitement, doubt, determination, pain (oh, the pain!), and elation after crossing that finish line after 11 hours, 29 minutes, and 38 seconds. The rest of the week I obviously took things easy and only ran once to keep the legs loose. Otherwise I tried to rest, hydrate, and relax as much as possible. Ironically though, this ended up being my highest weekly mileage ever (I guess 50 miles in one day can do that!).

4 miles, 10:12 avg pace. Easy afternoon run with my dad along the river. Warm day, but a nice breeze kept me comfortable. Starting to notice that allergy season is here - couldn't seem to get in a good, deep breath. Kept the pace easy and legs felt good.



Rest. Had planned on doing another short, easy run to shake out the legs before Saturday, but woke up feeling exhausted so I decided to take the day off from work and running to really rest up for the big race.

Rest. Although trying to control my nerves and not freak out about running 50 miles almost felt like more work than a run!

50 miles, 13:45 avg pace, AR 50. I think the word epic describes it best. Looking back two days later, it all seems surreal... did I really run 50 miles??? I did, I finished, and I'm still trying to make sense of it all. Hands down the hardest and most painful day of my life. Working on the race report, hope to have it up soon!
coming down the final stretch...

Rest (obviously!). After a miserable night spent tossing and turning thanks to my aching body, I somehow managed to wake up pretty early to go spectate at a Fleet Feet race, Zoo Zoom. My dad was signed up for the 10k, while my mom (fresh off her beginner's running program) was doing the 5k. Although I looked like a cripple and was still in a lot of pain, it was great to be out there cheering everyone on. I saw a couple speedy coworkers place in their AG, got to see my mom finish her second 5k with a big smile, and cheered my dad on as he smashed his previous 10k time. Very proud of both of them, and glad that running has become something we can share as a family. While it was fun spectating, it also made me really want to race a 5k and 10k!

Total: 54 miles

April 8, 2011

here goes nothing!

In just about 8 hours I'll start running, and somewhere between 10-13 hours later, I'll finally stop, having covered 50 miles from Sacramento to Auburn. AR 50 is finally here, after months of training and planning. All this week I've been trying not to focus on it, but I think the reality (and enormity) of it all finally hit me today, and I've been a ball of nerves ever since. Once I get going I know I'll relax a bit, but it's these final hours leading up to this crazy endeavor that have me a little tightly strung.

Physically, I feel adequately prepared. I probably didn't train as much as others, and in hindsight of course I could have done more. But I'm trying to focus on what I DID do: I got in some quality training, including some generous time on the trails and the course itself. I've hit my highest mileage months ever, watched my average pace drop resulting in a spontaneous half PR, and ran in all kinds of crazy storm weather. Physically, I feel as prepared as I could hope. If anything is going to be my downfall tomorrow, it will be my head. I can't let myself get psyched out or wrapped up in the numbers. 50 miles is a loooong way to go, and I can't get hung up on that. So my plan is to focus on simply getting to the next aid station. There are 12 total along the course, averaging about 3-4 miles apart. And since the first half of the race is along the bike trails on the parkway and the second half is on single-track trails I'll be treating each part as a separate race with a different game plan for each one.

gotta love those last 3 miles, aka Last Gasp!

To be honest, I'm more nervous about the first half, which may seem kind of strange. Physically it will be far easier: flat, paved, easy to navigate, earlier miles. But mentally I'm a little nervous. I've run much of this stretch in training and I know just how far things are. I just don't want to psych myself out that early in the race. But I'm hoping that the excitement of the day and the company of the other runners will make the first half fly by. My parents will be out there as will a few friends, and I plan on running with my coworker, Diane, who is also running the race. Oh, and this crazy guy will be out there as well : )

The second half I'm imagining will be more of a physical challenge since I'll have essentially run a marathon (and then some), but the technical terrain should make it a bit easier mentally. I'll also be picking up my pacer, Marina, around mile 27. Before hitting the single-track I'll be changing into my trail shoes and swapping my fuel belt for my Camelbak. Again, I'm hoping these swaps will make it seem like a whole different race. I'm kind of interested to see what happens once I hit 31 miles (the longest I've ever run) and still have another 19 to go...

I know I'm going to finish. The course cut-off is 13 hours, and as long as nothing tragic happens, this should be plenty of time. But of course, I do have some goals:

A goal: sub-11 hours
B goal: sub-12 hours
C goal: finish before cut-off

If I have a good day, I know I can finish around 11 hours. But ultimately, I'll be happy just finishing - after all, running 50 miles is no small feat, no matter how long it takes! And so I'll leave it at that and say goodnight - 3:30am is going to come very early!

See you on the other side!

April 5, 2011

AR 50 Week Thirteen + March


Another taper week cutting back on miles to give my legs some rest. I finished March off with my highest mileage month ever (148.2!) and welcomed April along with some nicer weather. I did my first evening run of the season, struggled through a hot tempo run, and did my last "long" run before AR 50. Oh, and I also threw a huge surprise party on Saturday! So not a whole lot of running, but a busy week nonetheless. And let's not forget that AR 50 is now less than a week away!!!!

5 miles, 9:16 avg pace. It seems that spring is finally here, and that means one thing: evening runs! I am so not a morning person, but out of necessity I've been doing most of my running in the morning before work. But now that we have a little more light in the evening and warmer weather, I can finally start doing some runs after work! I used to always be an evening runner and I've really missed it. I always feel so much more energized as I'm enjoying the last rays of sunlight and can sort of decompress after a day of work or whatever. This was my first evening run since probably last summer, and it was great. I was tired after work and almost skipped it, but I made myself get out there and brought along my pup, with plans for an easy 4 miles. As usual, once I got going I was feeling good, so 4 miles became 5.


6 miles (4 tempo), 8:32 avg pace. Although spring means better weather, it also means warmer temps. And here in California Mother Nature like to jump from one extreme to the next, giving us day after day of rain and wind only to turnaround and give us temps in the 70s. I don't do very well running in the heat, and while I'll admit that mid 70s isn't exactly hot, my body is accustomed to far cooler temps and needs a little bit of time to acclimate to this new, warmer weather. Anyway, Wednesday was my day off so I set out around 6pm for a tempo run. I don't know if it was the weather or something else but my legs felt super heavy and this run ended up being a struggle. I had to take a short break every mile or so, and while I manage to stick pretty close to my goal pace (8:15/mi), I got slower on the last two tempo miles. Here are the deets:

mile 1 - 9:06
mile 2 - 8:08
mile 3 - 8:07
mile 4 - 8:13
mile 5 - 8:15
mile 6 - 9:21

When I finished my last tempo mile I actually stopped and sat down. My tempo pace really kicked my butt and I needed a minute to rest before cooling down. I managed to finish successfully though and was glad I pushed through it.


10 miles, 9:01 avg pace. This was my last "long" run for taper since AR 50 is this coming weekend (excuse me, ummm what?!). I wasn't going to have time to do it over the weekend so I took advantage of starting work later than usual and ran my usual 10 mile route there. I started out around 9am and it was already quite warm out. I managed to maintain a relatively consistent pace in the low 9s and even ran a few sub-9s, but the warm weather got to me and the run felt like more of a struggle than usual. Finished up right at the store and hurried to clean up, then it was on to an 8 hour shift...

4 miles, 9:17 avg pace. Squeezed in an easy run before a very busy day. I haven't been able to mention it on the blog until now, but for the past few months I was planning a surprise party for my parent's 30th anniversary and this was the big day! Everything came together perfectly and I ended up pulling it off. My folks had a great time celebrating with all their friends and family and I could finally breathe easy and enjoy the party : ) Stay tuned for a post with more details and pictures!
 perfect weather for a party!
 1981 ♥ 2011
the fam
Rest. Had thought about an easy run after work but I was exhausted from the party on Saturday. I figured I'm in taper and my legs could use the extra rest!

Total: 25 miles



Week Thirteen

Total: 148.2 miles

March was another month with some heavy mileage and the peak of my training. I ran my first ultra, Way Too Cool 50k, and had an amazing time, finished under my goal, with a smile on my face, and a little something left in the tank : ) At 31 miles, Cool marked my longest training run before AR 50, and was a great confidence booster. I took a couple days to rest then it was back to training, feeling surprisingly good. The following weekend I was back on the trails running the last 22 miles of the AR 50 course as part of an unofficial training run. Although the weather was ugly and the trails were a mess, it was great to experience this part of the course before race day.

I also bought myself a new toy I'd been eyeing for a while: the Garmin Forerunner 310xt! The watch still remains nameless but will be making it's big race debut at AR 50 (thanks to it's 20 hr battery life) and then getting a whole lot of use during my upcoming triathlon season! Meanwhile Mother Nature was having a bit of a tantrum here in California with seemingly endless storms that put a bit of a damper on the running community and made training a bit of a challenge. But I'm proud to say that I braved the weather, including hail and thunderstorms, to get my training in, only chickening out once to go to yoga instead ; ) I finished off the month with my first two weeks of taper for AR 50 and still managed to end up with my highest month of mileage ever!