Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Angel Creek 50 Miler race report

So, this is a really, really late race report. Here it is October, and this race was in July. But I've been thinking about it ever since. I wrote some parts of this post right afterwards, and some of it more recently. In some ways it was sort of difficult to write. But here goes.

On July 16, I ran the Angel Creek 50 mile race outside of Fairbanks, Alaska.  Some parts of it went really, really well. And some things just fell apart. Long story short, I scratched at mile 30.  But I'll give you the long story.

The Angel Creek 50 miler was my first ultra, and it was a doozy. The website says it has over 12,000 feet of elevation gain and loss, and it was right. I trained for it as much as I could, given work demands and family stuff. I had to squeeze training around real life. Luckily, my family seemed happy to ride their bikes alongside me when I ran occasionally, which let long training runs do double duty as family time. By the time of the race, I felt well prepared distance wise, but not so much as far as elevation goes. All of the mountain runs I had done had turned into mountain crawls. This race would be no exception.

I took off work the day before the race, and we all drove up to Fairbanks. We camped at Twin Bears Camp, which is at mile 30 of the Chena Hot Springs Road, and not coincidentally, where the race started. We figured (correctly) that staying at the same campground as the race start would make things much easier with an early start time. Twin Bears Camp has several rustic cabins and we were able to pick one that was about 20 feet from where the safety briefing, drop bag dropoff spot, and race start were located. The camp has a kitchen, where I was able to get everything sorted and my Camelbak filled. The only downside to staying at the camp is that all the beds were twin bunk beds, and sleeping in the same room as my husband but in a different bed was a little weird. Not that I slept much. It poured all night long, with great huge buckets of rain, thunder and lightening. I probably spent 3/4 of the night wondering if I would run if the weather was still that bad when I woke up. Luckily, it wasn't, so I didn't have to decide.

The first 15 miles or so was on dirt trails, with mostly rolling hills. Those miles went by pretty quickly, and I kept a good pace. I had figured out the average slowest possible pace to still make the cut off at mile 42, basically 18 minutes per mile. The first 15 miles, I averaged about 13 minutes per mile, and I felt pretty confident about making the cutoff. I knew there were some more difficult miles ahead, though, and kept pushing. I was pretty close to last, but through the first 15 miles, there were two other runners that I sort of leapfrogged with, Travis and Karen. When the terrain started getting steep, however, they pulled ahead for good.

After about mile 15, the trail quickly became steep and my pace slowed significantly. I really have trouble maintaining a decent pace going uphill. I knew this about myself already, though, which is why I worked hard early in the race to stay ahead of schedule. I climbed and climbed, and eventually the trail, such as it was, bounced along the tops of the domes (big round hills) for several miles. That was easier in the sense that I wasn't going up and up for long periods of time, but harder because of a couple of factors. One was that the trail essentially disappeared into a fairly barren landscape of unstable rocks and lichen. This made moving quickly difficult for an entirely different reason: uncertain footing. The other thing that made it difficult, and was decidedly the biggest factor in my DNF, was that up on top of the domes, it got FOGGY.

On top of the domes, where there was literally no trail, there were rock cairns meant to guide hikers/runners through the domes. In addition, the race crew placed little pink flags to mark the course:

I had a Garmin Vivosmart HR, but Travis had lent me his Garmin Fenix 2, which has GPS, and displays a map, with the race course already programmed in. However, we didn't meet up so that I could learn how to actually follow the little map. I was wearing it though, hoping that if I needed it, I could figure it out (this hope was in vain). I probably looked pretty silly though,  with a Garmin on each arm:

I managed fairly well until halfway through mile 23. There was no trail, and the fog had gotten really bad. I had been inching my way along looking for cairns or pink flagging. I got to the top of one hill, found a pink flag, and could not see another flag no matter which way I looked. I walked as far as I could in several directions without losing sight of the flag at the top of the hill, with no luck. I finally decided that the course probably kept going down the opposite side of the hill that it had gone up, and headed down, hoping to find a flag at some point. I didn't. After walking downhill for some time and not seeing a flag, I decided to go back to the top of the hill where I knew there was a flag, and try again. I had gotten almost back up to the top of the hill, and saw a dog coming towards me out of the fog, from across the hill to my left. I sidehilled in the direction the dog had come from, and found his people. They were the course sweepers. They were also picking up all the flagging and were heading down the hill I was going back up. They had already picked up the flag I was looking for.

I had been doing fine as far keeping myself under control and focused on the job until that point. But when I realized all that, I was just overwhelmed. Not only was I happy to see them, I also realized that if their dog hadn't found me, they would now have been ahead of me, REMOVING THE FLAGS I NEEDED TO FOLLOW. I would then have been well and truly lost. At that point, my throat completely closed up, I had to fight to not cry, and that was it. My confidence was gone.

I followed them the rest of the way through the domes and the fog. There were times that it took all 3 of us to find the flags, with one person standing as far as they could from a flag while still being able to see it, and another person going far enough that they could just barely see the person that could see the flag. Even with that, it still sometimessed took several minutes to find the next flag. There was no way I could have found my way through the rest of the domes by myself. The fog was just too dense. In addition,  by that time, I was exhausted mentally, and really struggled to keep going at all.  As we came closer to the checkpoint at mile 30, and down off the domes, the fog dissipated and at one point, the sun even came out. I really wished it had been  sunny for my trip across the domes. I think I would have done much better.

I got to the mile 30 checkpoint with about 2 hours to get to the mile 42 cutoff. If I had been running on a smooth surface, with fresh legs, I could have made it. On a rocky 4 wheeler track on tired legs, and a more tired brain, I knew I couldn't make it in time, so I decided to scratch. It turned out that Travis,  who at the start of the domes was only a few minutes ahead of me, but got to the mile 30 aid station an hour ahead of me, wound up missing the cutoff at mile 42 by one minute, so i'm pretty sure I could not have made it. In total there were 8 people that DNF'd.  I got a 4 wheeler ride down the trail to the road. Just the 4 wheeler ride took almost an hour. I got a ride to the finish, where my family was waiting. I was at the finish when Travis arrived. He reported that because of all the rain, the stretch of trail between  the mile 40 and mile 42 checkpoints had standing water up to his chest that he had to swim across. That made me sort of glad I didn't attempt it.

Only two things that I think should have been  managed differently.  First, more flagging!! That fog can get really dense! Second, the aid station volunteers had radios. And I really think the sweepers should have waited till everyone had checked into the aid station ahead before removing the flagging. If I hadn't found the sweepers, I would have needed that flagging to find my way out of the soup.

There were also things that I could have managed differently. I needed more practice on hills. And I need to work on navigating difficult terrain in general. I go really slowly when the footing is uncertain. I think I'm just pretty risk adverse. I think I need to work on building confidence so I can move more quickly across difficult terrain. That will just take time and practice.

Overall, it was really a fun race, at least the parts that I did. I think I would have done much better if the weather had cooperated. I really hope the weather will be better next year. I'm determined to finish next year.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Wednesday weigh in: Whoops...

So, not only is this Thursday, not Wednesday, I didn't even do a post last week at all. The last two weeks have been difficult, work has been crazy, I've been busy all the time, and not really taking care of myself. I did have some good runs, though!

1. Nutrition: in the toilet. So in the toilet that as of yesterday morning, I was back up to 145.4. That's ok though, I'm back at work on it. I'm looking forward to some forward progress to report on this front next week :)

2. Exercise: In 2 weeks, I managed 2 strength workouts, and 0 yoga sessions. I did run every day, though. In the last two weeks, I've ran almost exactly 60 miles. My longest run was 21.85 miles, at the Alyeska Mountain Run last Saturday. That was so much fun, and so painful!

3. Supplements: I actually did better at this. I've been getting at least my vitamins B, C, and D, calcium, and glucosamine almost every day. Fish oil a couple times. I need to force myself to take the fish oil more often. It's good for my connective tissue, and my IT band has been achy since the Alyeska run. Thanks, Daisy.

4. Sleep: So-so. I got less than 8 hours of sleep 6 nights out of the last 14. I know myself well enough that I function much better with a solid 8 hours, at least. Gotta work on this one more too.

So, there you have it. I think keeping track of how I'm doing like this will help me see trends long term, and what things I really need to focus on. And I definitely know what I need to do this week. Eat right and go to bed earlier!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Wednesday weigh in: week 1

I'm tired, so I'll get right to the point. This week was a bit... inconsistent.

1. Diet: I started out the week at 145. Yesterday morning, I was at 143.2 so not bad, not bad. The only really big thing I had that wasn't part of my plan, until yesterday was Red Robin one night with my hubby.  Those fries though!!!  Yesterday and today, though, I've been travelling for work, either driving or working non-stop. When I'm driving I eat. I use crunchy foods to help me stay awake and alert on long drives. So yesterday,  today, and tomorrow I am "off plan". And then I'm getting right back to it.

2. Exercise: I've got to break this into 2 types, running and other exercise. I've ran at least 1 mile every day, but I didn't get as many other workouts in as I wanted.

  • Thursday: I did a short pover yoga podcast in the morning before work.  I also participated in a local 10k trail run. 
  • Friday: I did a P90X3 workout DVD (Warrior, a full body strength workout) before work, and ran 1 mile on the treadmill after work. I knocked that baby out in 8:45, and was pretty happy with myself. That's the fastest I've run a mile in a long time.
  • Saturday: my day did not go as planned. We spent most of the morning and early afternoon buying a wood stove. Then I had to go to work. By the time I got off work, it was about to rain, so I got in a quick 2 mile run before heading home.
  • Sunday: 10 miles on the coastal trail with my pup. That was awesome.
  • Monday: I slept in. No before work workout. Took a lunch break to run 4.2 trail miles, some much needed stress relief. 
  • Tuesday: I had an early court hearing, so once again, no morning workout. I had to leave the house as soon as my kiddo got on the bus. I was travelling all day, in an area with lots of wilderness but virtually no trails. I managed to find one tucked away behind a National Forest visitors center, and got 1.8 miles in.
  • Wednesday: I stayed at a B&B last night and didn't have an opportunity to workout, plus had to get an early start. Then worked until I got to my next hotel room at 8 pm, and managed to get one tired mile in before it got completely dark. Now I'm updating you guys, and hitting the sack. 
3. Supplements: I mostly got my Vitamin C and calcium in, because I keep themy on my desk in the form of gummies and chews. I only remembered the rest a couple times this week. 

4. Sleep: According to my Garmin, I only got less than 8 hours of sleep Sunday night and Monday night. I NEVER sleep well on Sundays. I need to work on that.

My goal for this week is to try to be a little more consistent.  The only thing I nailed every day is the running. But I've got a busy life, and I know better than to think I should be able to hit all these goals 100%. But I also know I can do a little bit better. 

On a scale of 1-10, this was at least a 9

My piece of Alaska has been pretty rainy recently. This has been one of those falls where you start thinking that it's going to rain until it snows. It does that some years. It rains and rains, then it freezes, and water keeps coming down out of the sky, first as freezing rain, then sleet, then finally snow. The bad part about that kind of fall is that the ground gets so saturated that we start getting big, huge puddles of rainwater everywhere, and things flood. And one day, the puddles and ponds of water freeze. Which means that some spring day, months later, they thaw. And things flood. Ugh.  It's been raining a lot this fall, almost every day recently. It's been driving me crazy.

On Sunday, I woke up, and it was SUNNY. The sky was blue, the birch trees outside my window were glowing in the sun, and I knew it was a perfect day for a longish run. I really wanted to run the Turnagain Arm trail before all the leaves fell, but I knew with all the rain it would be muddy. So I decided on my favorite paved trail around, the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail. This trail runs around the west side of downtown Anchorage, along Cook Inlet, and the scenery is beautiful year round.

There's blue,blue sky and blue, blue water:

There's birch trees with leaves turning a golden yellow, bright in the sun:

There's bridges:

And airplanes, because the trail runs past the west end of the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport runways:

That's a lot of entertaining stuff to look at in one 10 mile run. So off Daisy and I went. We started at Westchester Lagoon (because there are port a potties) and my plan was to run to the 5 mile marker and back. The zero marker on this trail in both directions and the connecting Chester Creek trail is at Westchester Lagoon. So if I ran to the 5 mile marker and back, that would be 10 miles.

We made it to about mile 4.3, and saw this mama moose:

(The bit of asphalt you see inches from Mama is the trail I was on)

See how close to the trail she is? She was calm and eating when we arrived, so normally I might have gone past her, but it turned out her baby was on THE OTHER SIDE of the trail, and to get past her, I would have had to walk between her and her baby, with a very excited dog jumping around and barking. As I stood there considering, with a couple of cyclists who had come up within a few seconds of me, Mama Moose started looking at the dog and put her ears back, and was looking much less mellow. Then I remembered that I only planned to run to the 5 mile marker and turn around, so in another 15 minutes, I would be right back in the same spot again but this time with the moose between me and getting home. I decided to turn around early and head back, and then run past Westchester Lagoon another .7 miles or so, before turning around again and heading to the car, and getting my 10 miles in that way.

I just want to note here that I think when you are running, your heart is so busy circulating blood to your muscles and lungs that it forgets about your brain. This decision should not have been hard to make. But we stood there for probably 5 minutes looking at that moose before I figured out what to do. I mean, really.

Mama moose + baby moose + barking dog = DISASTER!!!!
(Danger, Will Robinson!) 

That's a no brainer. Anyway, we did turn around and follow plan B, and the rest of the run went smoothly. I had Tailwind in my hydration bladder, and drank about a liter, which is less than I should have had, but not disastrously so, given the length of the run. I also had a Honey Stinger Waffle at about mile 5. My times were not bad at all, either. When considering only moving time  (not counting stops to let Daisy poop, or pee, or drink, or sniff other dogs, or stops for me to take pictures or look at moose) my  fastest mile was 9:29 (!!!), and my slowest mile was 10:50. I wore my new-ish Hoka Conquests, without my orthotics. My feet didn't hurt, my leg didn't go numb, and I didn't get shin splints. I think my feet, ankles, and legs are finally maybe getting to the point where I don't need the orthotics anymore. That is something I am very glad for. I felt great throughout the run. I think Daisy enjoyed it too:

Daisy's post-run nap

I think this run was a total success!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Wednesday weigh-in: Ready, Set...

So, a couple of posts ago, I talked about how my weight has creeped up in the last year or so, and how I think it has negatively affected my performance. I made a plan to work on getting leaner and stronger, and that begins today. My goal is to check in every Wednesday and see how it is going. My plan is going to have 4 components: diet, exercise, supplements and sleep.

1. Diet: Research consistently shows that (duh) diet is the #1 thing that affects weight, much more than exercise does. You simply can't outrun a poor diet, as my gradually increasing weight shows. So for the next little while, I'm really going to focus on the quality of my diet, and be very careful about what goes in my mouth.

About 3 years ago now, I lost about 45 pounds using Take Shape For Life. I was so impressed with the results and how easy it was once I got started, that I became a health coach for their program so that I could help other people lose weight. (Disclaimer here: I am still an independent health coach for Take Shape For Life.) Anyway, its worked for me in the past, I know the program, and I like the food, so that is going to be the basic plan I am following. The typical TSFL plan calls for a person to eat 5 of their meal replacements (using Medifast or the new, premium Optavia meal replacements), one optional snack, and one "Lean and Green" meal that you prepare yourself every day. There are over 90 different meal replacements, including your typical shakes and bars, soups, mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, crunchy things like pretzel sticks, and several different baked things, like a brownie, chocolate chip cookie, blueberry muffin, or a cheddar cheese and rosemary biscuit (that one is one of the new premium Optavia meals, and it is to die for).  Besides the fact that the food actually tastes good to me, I like it because all of the meals are quick and easy to prepare, which is super important for me because with my hectic job, I am always on the go. I can stash a bar in my purse, and completely avoid the drive-throughs (totally my downfall) when I don't have time for a real meal. OK, unintentional infomercial over.

The typical 5&1 plan is intended for people that don’t really get a lot of exercise. It can support about 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise, but if you are regularly doing more than that you are likely to find things going badly, because you are simply not taking in enough calories to support the increased effort. Because of this, I am going to be eating more than what the plan calls for. Depending on the day, I will simply be adding extra protein, eating an extra meal replacement or two, or adding an extra Lean and Green meal. On days where I am doing long runs, anything over an hour, I will be supplementing with running fuel in the form of Tailwind and/or chews, Honey Stinger waffles, etc, during my run. I also plan on drinking a high protein shake right after those runs when I can. This is a low carb / low fat / high protein meal plan. While I am on this plan, there will be no sugar, no bread, no potatoes, no pasta, no rice, yada, yada. This is a pretty restrictive plan, but I know I can follow it, because I've done it before, for a much longer period of time. I don't do as well with less restrictive plans, because I'm not all that great at moderation. If I'm going to do something, I'm all in. If I'm going to run a race, it might as well be a marathon or a 50 miler. If I'm going to eat pizza, I'm having 2 or 3 slices. I'm not good at "a little bit". I'm an all or nothing kind of girl.

2. Exercise: Right now, I run. Every once in a blue moon I will pull out my yoga mat and do yoga, but mostly, I run. I need to do more stuff.

I am still running at least one mile every day. Once a week I try to get a long run in, and I try to do 3 to 6 miles or so a few times a week. Now, I need to add strength training and flexibility. For flexibility, I love yoga, and so I plan to add yoga 3 times a week. I will be doing strength training 2 to 3 times per week. I have a little bit of time, about 45 minutes total, that I can use for working out after my 13 year old gets on the bus, before I go to work. I plan to use that time every day before work, except on days where I have to go in early. Sometimes I will have court early in the morning, or like tomorrow, I have to be there a few minutes early for a meeting that starts right at 9 am.

3. Supplements: With Take Shape For Life, each meal replacement is fortified with vitamins and minerals, so that if I am eating 5 meals a day, I don't need to take a multivitamin. But I do take specific supplements. I have low bone density, so I take calcium and garlic (which contains manganese). I take Vitamin D because pretty much everyone in Alaska has a Vitamin D deficiency, a Vitamin B complex, Vitamin C, magnesium, glucosamine for my joints, and fish oil for my connective tissue. I don't remember to take them terribly regularly, and I want to get better at that. Most people's diets, including mine, don't include enough of these things, especially for athletes that are placing high stresses on their bodies, and I think that if you give your body the things it needs to maintain itself, you are less injury prone.

4. Sleep. I am a night owl. I tend to stay up late, but then I am always super tired in the morning, because I have no choice but to get up early. I know good, sufficient sleep is critical both for recovery, and for weight loss. When I am too tired, my body (or maybe my brain, lol) really craves carbs as a source of quick energy, when what I really need is sleep. My goal is to get 8 hours of sleep each night, which means I need to be lights out by 11 pm.

SO... with all of that said, how am I doing today? Well, I went back to bed today after putting my son on the bus, instead of working out. But yesterday I did yoga, and the day before that I did a 30 minute strength training routine (Insanity Max:30 Tabata Power).  Tonight I ran 2 miles on the treadmill at the gym, in 19:23.

Because I overslept, I didn't weigh myself this morning, but based on my weights the last few mornings, I would guess I am right around 145, so I am going to use that. We will see how this week goes. I plan on posting an update every Wednesday, and I will call it the Wednesday Weigh-in. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Gold Mint trail

On Saturday, I needed a place to do a midlength run, and I wanted to take Daisy with me, since she hasn't had a chance to run with me very much. The sun was shining and it was pretty warm out (about 63 degrees), so I decided that we needed to do some trail running. Hatcher Pass is always beautiful, but winter comes early up there. I figured there would not be too many more opportunities to run up there before the snow fell, so that's where we went. 

I decided to do the Gold Mint trail for several reasons. Its beautiful and the first several miles are very runnable, with lots of water for the dog. Also, it isn't very far up into the mountains, so I figured it would still be pretty warm. I was right about that, it was 61 degrees at the trailhead, only a couple degrees cooler than the valley below us. Perfect running weather.

Lots of other people clearly had the same idea I did, as the parking lot at the trailhead was packed and we saw lots of people (and lots of other dogs) on the trail. Daisy had to stop and socialize with every dog we saw, and play in every puddle and stream and beaver pond, so we stopped a lot. 

My original plan was to run to the 4 mile marker and back. We were doing pretty good, but just before the 3 mile marker I stopped and bent over a little to untangle Daisy's leash, which had become wrapped around her leg. (Warning: TMI) Anyway, as I bent over, my mouth suddenly was filled with stomach acid, and I felt like I was going to vomit. Ewww. I hate throwing up worse than almost anything, and I will do just about anything to avoid it. Anyway, I didn't know why I suddenly felt like that, since my bending over wasn't really that dramatic, I started to worry that maybe I was getting sick, and there is no cell phone service out there, and you know, I started being a worrywart. I decided to turn around at the 3 mile marker instead, just in case. 

We made it back to the trailhead without incident, or further stomach issues, though. 

I love this trail.  Like I said earlier, the first 4 miles or so are very runnable. The first mile is wide and gravelled, and then it narrows gradually to single track. 

The scenery is always beautiful, regardless of the season, with lots of mountains, and the trail pretty much follows the river.

There are a few bridges, and some boardwalk:

This run was a lot of fun for both of us, and only a half hour drive from my house. Daisy was a dirty, tired pup at the end of it. Proof positive that it was a good run.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Not quite where I wanted to be... but I have a plan

This summer, I ran several races, and had expectations of my performance for each one. All summer long, I ran, and for each race, my evaluation of my performance was "did not meet expectations". I thought I had set reasonable goals, but was not able to meet any of them except the Trent/Waldrun half marathon in May. On that race, I wanted to be faster than 2:20, and my time was 2:18:18. That was awesome.

In June, I ran the Anchorage Mayor's Marathon, and wanted to be faster than 5:00. My time was 5:26:43. That was a miserable race for me.

In July, I ran the Angel Creek 50, and DNF'd at mile 30.

In August, I ran the Anchorage Runfest 49k, and wanted to beat 6:00. My time was 6:24:01.

In September, I ran A Day at the Beach, a 12 hour race, and I really wanted to get 50 miles, but I knew that everything would have to go perfectly for that to happen. My B goal was to do at least 10 laps, or 43 miles. I ran 41.7.

I didn't have a terrible summer. I did work A LOT, which not only made me fall really behind on blogging, but was part of the performance problem, I think. Other than that, though, it was actually a really good summer and I had a lot of fun. My mom came to visit:

And so did my 21 year old son:

I did a lot of running (I only missed 4 days),  and some backpacking:

I had a lot of fun this summer. And even during my races, I was having fun. Well, with the notable exception of the Mayor's Marathon in June. (You can read about that here).  I think there were a few things going on this summer though, that negatively affected my performance.

Maybe one of the biggest factors was work. I worked A LOT of overtime this summer. There were so many day where my training plan called for, say, an 8 mile run, and I was lucky to get 1 or 2 miles after a late day at work. My job is also super high stress, because the decisions I make have huge impacts on peoples' lives, It is really difficult for me, sometimes impossible, to not work the long hours. And both my family and my running suffer when I do.

Another factor was my diet. As many of you know, I lost a significant amount of weight a few years ago, and I've mostly kept it off, by becoming active, and mostly staying away from fast food and junk food. In the last year or so, though, I've let that slip a lot, and I've put on 10 to 15 pounds. Hauling the extra weight around has to affect my speed.

The other factor, that really is probably a big one, and that I let myself forget when I get frustrated with my performance is that I am really new to running. I ran some the summer of 2014, but 2015 is when I really started getting serious about it. I ran my first marathon just a year ago. And 3 of the races where I didn't do as well as I wanted this summer were firsts in terms of distance for me.

When I ran the Angel Creek 50, I'd never run further than 28 miles. That day, I ran 30 or 31 miles, and DNF'd because I got lost in the fog, and then slowed down so much I could not meet the cutoff.

When I ran the Runfest 49k, that was the first ultramarathon I had ever completed, and the furthest I'd ever run on pavement. I also ran the last 10 miles of that race with excruciating foot pain, and still was less than a minute per mile off my goal time.

When I ran the 12 hour race, that was the first time I had run further than 31 miles, and the first time I had ever run a race for time, and the setup was completely different than I had experienced before. Like really, I should be freaking proud of myself for running over 40 miles. Not beating myself up because I missed 43 miles by less than a mile and a half.

SO, I have a plan. It's sort of got 3 parts.

1. Manage my nutrition and training better. Get more strength workouts in, make time for longer runs, get enough sleep, and get back in control of my diet. That's the physical aspect, and one I can take total control of.

2. Manage my time better. Work smarter, not harder. Find ways to get things done faster, so I have to work less overtime. And sometimes, even if I don't get everything done, leave work anyway. It will still be there tomorrow, most of the time. I've been doing this long enough to know when it is really important enough to stay late for.  This not only gives me more time for my fitness, and for my family, but it will also reduce my stress.

3. Give myself a break. At mile 37 of the race this weekend, I was feeling all disappointed in myself, because I knew I wouldn't have time for another lap. I decided I wasn't going to run any more races until I got stronger and faster. But you know what? Instead of feeling disappointed, I should have been so amazed at myself. I was running MILE 37 of a race, and I was STILL RUNNING. I was still smiling, and I was still enjoying the run. At that point I had run 7 miles more than I'd ever run before, and way farther than most people ever will or could run. Why I let that negative self talk in, I don't know. I have to learn to be kind to myself.

And really, when all is said and done, I had a great summer. I spent time with family, I spent time outdoors in this beautiful Alaskan summer, and I did a whole lot of running. I just haven't had time to blog about it all yet, but I will. I'm grateful for all that I was able to do this summer, and I'm already planning next summer's adventures...

Oh, and there's a trail marathon coming up...

Saturday, July 9, 2016

The Long Run

So, as I said in my last post, I had a really hard time with the Midnight Sun marathon. This really worried me because I have a 50 mile race coming up, and if I have trouble running 26.2, how am I going to run 50? The marathon was supposed to be the next to longest training run for the 50 miler, and it didn’t seem to bode well that I struggled so much.

The following weekend, my plan was to do a 31 mile trail run. I really had a hard time deciding where to do it. I thought the ideal thing would be a 10-15 mile loop, so I could have my own aid station at my car, but I couldn’t think of anything that was a long loop like that. I wound up deciding to do the Gold Mint trail in Hatcher’s Pass. The Gold Mint trail is about 8 miles long, and it goes gradually uphill, to the end where it suddenly goes up the side of a mountain to a bowl on the other side. I thought I could do the first 7 miles or so, then repeat.  I knew from a previous run that the first 4 miles are very runnable and I *assumed* that most of the rest was too. Hmm.

I just never get tired of this view.

I wound up going about 6 miles up the trail, which was a mistake. In the current, fairly wet conditions, a short way past the mile 4 marker, the trail becomes very muddy with large puddles to navigate. In addition there were lots of very rocky areas, streams to cross, and beaver dams to navigate around. I really wasted a lot of time between mile 4 and mile 6, and back to mile 4, hiking instead of running because of the terrain. It wouldn’t have been too much of a problem, except that I had told my hubby how long I thought I would be based on thinking I would be able to run most of it.
By turning around at mile 6, I only got 12 miles of trail, and I wanted 16. On the way back to the car, I  decided to turn around again at the 1 mile marker, run to the 3 mile marker, then turn  around again and head back to the car. That worked out great to get me 16 miles. I was going to then run from  the trailhead to the mile 4 marker and back twice, giving me the next 16 miles, but the last couple miles, it stared raining and didn’t look like it was going to stop. I knew the weather was better down in  the valley, so I decided to leave Hatcher’s Pass and go to the Matanuska Greenbelt, which has 33 miles of really nice trail, but virtually no elevation gain, which is why I didn’t just go there to start with.

I wasn’t planning to take Daisy on this run, because it was going to be such a long run, but she figured out I was going and got all excited,  so I relented. By about mile 2 I regretted this.  Running with her on the leash on the bike path works great. Running with her on leash on a trail, not so much. On a narrow trail, she is right in front of me instead of beside me and her body blocks my view of the trail ahead of me, making it necessary to go much slower, so I can avoid rocks and roots. If I let her off the leash, she is still distractable enough to jump on people we pass and take off into the brush and let us get separated. When I got to the 3 mile mark, I let her off leash, and spent way too much time calling her, looking for her, or waiting for her. I also at one point had to stop her from stealing a sandwich from  someone sitting right on the trail eating his lunch. She really had a good time on this run, and she was a dirty, wet, happy dog by the time we were done.


As I was heading out of Hatcher’s Pass, as soon as I got cell phone service, I called my hubby and made arrangements for him to meet me and get the dog so I could finish the run on my own. All in all, I spent maybe an hour and a half or two hours driving  between spots and waiting for him,  which cut into my running time. I was pretty sure the parking lot at the Matanuska Lake trailhead closed at 10, which only left me a little over 3 hours by the time I got there.

As I was getting ready to run, I ran into a running friend and his wife, and chatted with them for a little while. Turns out he is going to let me use his satellite tracker for the 50 miler, which is awesome. By the time I was actually running it was a few minutes after 7, so I knew I wouldn’t get the 16 miles I had planned. But I took advantage of all the time I had, and got back to my car with just a few minutes to spare,  after running almost 12.5 miles. I forgot to reapply DEET, though, which was a huge mistake. Every time I slowed to a walk, like to go up a hill, the damn mosquitos caught up to me. Those little suckers even bit me through my compression socks. I had huge welts on the back of my calves when I was done.

At one point, I twisted my ankle, and in catching myself from falling, I somehow stubbed my toe or something.  It immediately felt like I had ripped a toenail off. I sat down in the trail and took my shoe and sock off to investigate,  and wound up using my sock to swat the stupid mosquitos away. I hadn’t ripped off my toenail, and there was no visible damage, so I carefully put my sock and shoe back on and continued. For the first minute or so it hurt really bad and I thought I might have to limp back or call for a ride from the nearest trailhead,  but within a few minutes, the pain gradually disappeared and I was fine.

Although there were several things that happened to make this run complicated, from the weather, to the dog, to almost injuries,  I felt really good the whole time. I would up running almost exactly 28 miles, which isn’t the 31 I hoped  but was all I had time for. I stopped because I ran  out of time, not because I was too tired. I totally could have kept running.  My legs were a little sore the next day, but by evening, they were fine and I had no lingering soreness the second day.

I had a 1.5 liter Camelbak with me, and I put 6 scoops of Tailwind in it, learning from my marathon mistakes. I refilled it between runs, and it really hit the spot. I also ate a 200 calorie nutrition bar as soon as I got back in the car at Hatcher’s Pass, to give it as much time to digest before I started running again as possible. The combination seems to have been perfect.

I also changed my socks and shoes between runs. My socks and shoes had gotten soaked at Hatcher’s, and I wanted to experiment with changing halfway through anyway, to see if that was something I would want to do during  my 50 miler. I was barefoot from  the time I got into the car at Hatcher’s until I got to Matanuska Lake, and I think my feet really benefited from the breathing time, and from  the fresh shoes and socks. I will definitely be putting a change in my mile 30 drop bag.

I felt like I learned a lot from this run, and it really increased my confidence in my ability to finish the 50 miler. I think I’m about as ready as I can be. 

Friday, July 1, 2016

Anchorage Mayors Midnight Sun Marathon

It’s all in your head.

First, let me tell you about the course. Except for the first few miles, it’s beautiful. The first few miles, you are running along a bike path along the Glenn Highway, heading out of Anchorage. The bike path is maybe 20 feet or so off the highway, goes gradually but steadily uphill, and it’s probably the least pleasant part of the course. Once you leave the bike path, you run along a street crossing the highway, and continuing for another couple miles towards the foothills flanking the west side of Anchorage. From there you transition to tank trails used by the military. The tank trails are very hard packed gravel.

 You then traverse a very short (less than half a mile) single track trail through the woods, and emerge onto the Chester Creek bike path that meanders through town in an elongated greenbelt, which you follow until you reach Westchester Lagoon. From Westchester, you wind through neighborhood streets up some fairly steep hills, to the finish on the Park Strip in downtown  Anchorage. As an aside, it seems like sheer torture to make you run up steep hills at mile 25 of a marathon, but by that time you know you’re almost done and just want to get to the finish anyway.

I really, really struggled with this race. It was way harder than it should have been. Part of it is my own fault. I was very tired. I stayed up late, then had trouble sleeping. At some point, with all my tossing and turning, I worried about sleeping through my alarm, which made it even harder to sleep. Never mind that I never manage to sleep through my alarm on work days. I’m not sure why I so often think I will on race day. My alarm went off, and I did wake up, a couple hours earlier than normal. With the late, restless night, and early morning, I was exhausted before I even started. The other major physical issue was my stomach. For whatever reason, I struggled with an upset stomach for the first half of this race, and spent an inordinate amount of time in port-a-johns along the course. (TMI, I know. You’re welcome.)

But I think that what really did me in was my own mind. From when we first got out on the bike path along the highway, my brain was stuck being Negative Nelly and I could not shake it. I probably spent 25 of the 26.2 miles thinking about how hard this run was, how running along the highway sucked, how hot I was, how my new hydration pack was too loose and moving around too much, how crappy my stomach felt, and later, how much my feet hurt, etc.
 I do remember having a couple of minutes on the single track trail enjoying running through the woods. And there was a spot around mile 15 that I remember being glad that my stomach had settled down and that I was starting to feel ok. Of course that thought was promptly followed up by “yeah, now that the race is more than half over.” I also spent way more time than I should have telling myself that I didn’t really care that I wasn’t going to meet my time goal, because after all, this is really just a training run. I kept trying to shrug it off and just enjoy the run, but I couldn’t. And by the time I got to the hills at the end of the course, they were just one more thing to get through before the finish and I could stop running.

This was a really weird experience for me, because I generally really enjoy running. If I had the thoughts on every run that I had all through this race, I would hate running!
I really don’t think any of this was due to the race itself. The course really was beautiful,  and aid stations and port-a-potties were every 2 or 3 miles. And once I passed the halfway point, all of the aid stations had orange wedges. I have to say, those orange wedges were little slices of heaven!

I put Tailwind in my hydration pack, and as I have done successfully before,  I made it about half the recommended strength, and planned on supplementing with typical running fuel; gels, sports beans, or honey stingers.  The Tailwind was fine, but with my stomach acting up, I couldn’t manage the other fuel. Even M&M’s they were handing out at about mile 12 did not go down well. I definitely would have been better off this day with the Tailwind at full strength, and only using that. Like I said, though, the orange wedges were wonderful, juicy and sweet, and they didn’t upset my stomach at all.

By about mile 20, my feet were getting very sore, but once I realized that they hurt less when I was running than when I was walking, I just kept running. I eventually crossed the finish line, for which I was thankful.

There was a first aid tent with ice baths for your feet, and I took advantage of that. The ice water hurt and felt good at the same time. After that, since once I was done running, my stomach felt a little better.  I had some cinnamon bread from Great Harvest Bread Company, and half a grilled cheese sandwich from Franz Bread, which went a long ways to restoring me. I was in a much better mood after that.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Lazy Moose

On Memorial Day, I wanted to get some elevation in with my run, and decided to tackle Lazy Mountain. I have intended sometime during the training for my 50 miler to do Lazy Mountain twice in one day. This did not turn out to be that day.

Since it was a holiday, I had the day off work, and really didn’t want to spend it by myself training, even if it was in the woods. Becky had other stuff going on, but I talked Steven into trying Lazy Mountain with me. I knew he couldn’t do it twice, but I thought we could at least summit once, since he had already done it a few years ago. This did not turn out to be that day either.

Lazy Mountain is not a huge mountain, but its name is deceiving. I think it is called Lazy Mountain because when you look at it from a distance, it seems like it is leaning backwards, almost like it is reclining or laying down. In actuality, however, it is pretty steep. From the parking lot, the elevation gain climbing Lazy is 2,977 feet. There are two paths up the mountain. The first is the old trail, that is 2.1 miles long, and goes straight up the side of the mountain. That trail is brutal. It starts climbing immediately, and is very steep. It also can be muddy, and if it is muddy, it is extremely slippery. The first several times I climbed that route, I did not make it to the top.

There is another, newer, trail, the Lazy Moose trail, that is 3 miles long, and winds back and forth across the lower slopes of Lazy Mountain, with lots of switchbacks, climbing much more gradually. The Lazy Moose trail meets up with the old trail probably about 2/3 of the way up, leaving you with still quite a climb to the summit.

(looking up towards the summit from the junction - that's not the summit, its just in that direction. Just further.)

I had high hopes of summiting, but Steven hadn’t done any other hiking this summer, and just wasn’t ready for this climb. I made sure we both had plenty of water and snacks, and that Daisy had water in her backpack, and that we put on sunscreen and DEET, and off we went.

The Lazy Moose trail has trail markers every 200 feet (distance travelled, not elevation), which is really nice. The trail was clear and well maintained, and easy going. A good bit of it was runnable even on the way up, but Steven wasn’t running. We stopped 3 or 4 times on the way up the Lazy Moose trail, taking 2 hours to travel the 3 miles to where the Lazy Moose meets the old trail.

(Steven taking a break)

I kept a careful eye on Steven, because his cheeks got pretty red, and towards the end, he started saying his stomach wasn’t feeling good. He said it hadn’t been feeling good earlier either (which he hadn’t told me before), so I wasn’t too worried about him, but I didn’t push him either. I made sure he knew we could turn around at any time, but he kept going until the trail junction.

When the Lazy Moose trail joins the old trail, it immediately becomes much steeper, and remains fairly steep the rest of the way to the summit. My legs were still feeling pretty fresh, but I run all the time. Steven took one look at that climb, and decided he was done. He’s 12 years old, and there aren’t too many bear encounters on the trail, probably because it is so heavily travelled, so I *could* have let him go back to the car by himself, and kept going. I just wasn’t comfortable with that, so we headed back.

On the way down, he seemed to be feeling much better (after all, downhill is much easier than uphill, even if you are going fast), and he thought running downhill was fun, so we ran most of the way back down. By this time, we had taken Daisy off her leash, and she had a great time. She would run ahead of us, then turn around and wait for us with this expression on her face that was clearly asking what was taking so long.

The views on this hike are amazing, and the forest that the Lazy Moose trail winds through is beautiful. 

All told, we hiked/ran 6 miles, and had a good afternoon together. We need to do stuff like this more often.

I'm behind a week

So, I am behind a week. Not in my training, but in talking about my training, LOL.  Last week (May 23-29), my mileage was supposed to look like this:

Monday: rest
Tuesday: rest
Wednesday: 8 miles
Thursday: 6 miles
Friday: rest
Saturday: 12 miles
Sunday: 10 miles

Total mileage: 36 miles

My training schedule generally has me in a cycle where I am working hard for 3 weeks, then having a recovery week with lower mileage. That recovery week was that week. Even with lighter mileage, I still had trouble following the plan, LOL. I totally feel like Captain Barbosa in Pirates of the Carribbean. The plan is more like guidelines than actual rules.

Gotta watch it.

OK, I got distracted. Sorry about that.

Here's what my week actually looked like:

Monday: Happy Run, with my friend Brooke. We did the short route, since my legs were tired from my 25 mile run the day before. 2.57 easy miles.

Tuesday: 1.25 easy miles in my neighborhood, with Daisy.

Wednesday: I was actually planning on getting my miles in this evening, but then had to go to Anchorage for work unexpectedly. I did squeeze in a quick run on the coastal trail, 3.39 miles.

Thursday: Knoya Ridge run. 8.51 miles.

Friday: 1.02 easy miles, again in my neighborhood with Daisy.

Saturday: Trent/Waldron half marathon 13.1 miles.

Sunday: 3.23 miles at Matanuska Lake.

Total mileage: 33.07 miles. 

Although my mileage was split up differently than prescribed by my plan, I got pretty close to the mileage goal this week. Much better than last week.

Friday, June 3, 2016

On Tired Legs (Trent/Waldron half marathon race recap)

Last Saturday, I ran the Trent/Waldron half marathon in Anchorage. This is the second year I have run it, and I suspect this is one I will continue to run on a regular basis. I’m 46 years old, and I expect that at some point, my running will naturally slow down. The interesting thing about the Trent/Waldron is that the results are age graded.

So, when I ran it last year, my time was 2:20:40. I was 45 years old. There are statistics that predict how much you will slow down as you age, and so when you run the race on subsequent years, they give you an age adjusted goal time. The goal time is supposed to be an equivalent level of performance to your performance when you were however much younger in a previous race. I’m not sure if my explanation is really clear, but there you go. If you beat your goal time, you get a mug.

Anyway, my time last year was 2:20:40. I was surprised when I got to bib pickup to find that my time had been adjusted by an entire two minutes, with the passage of just one year. My goal time was 2:22:18.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to do in this race. I had done the Knoya Ridge run less than 48 hours before this race, and my quads were really sore. I hadn’t done a lot of elevation work recently up until that climb and I was feeling it for sure. Plus, the night before the race it was really hot in my house, and I didn’t sleep well at all, tossing and turning until at least 3 am. I had to get up at 6:30 am to make it to bib pickup on time, and I was really tired. So, I was not in the best of conditions for racing, and I was really unsure how I would do.

The first 2 or 3 miles were really brutal, because my legs were letting me know that they were Not. Happy.  However, once I got warmed up, things got better, and I found myself moving along pretty well. I had figured out ahead of time what time I needed to hit the halfway point if I was going to beat my goal, and I hit that easily.

The course for this race is really nice. You start at Westchester Lagoon, and run up the Chester Creek trail for 6.65 miles, then turn around and head back. The course is mostly through woods, with lots of little bridges to go over and tunnels under roads to go through. I think the bridges and tunnels add interest and make it fun. The outward portion of the course is very gradually uphill, and on the way back, obviously it’s gradually downhill. So on the way back, you feel really fast, which is awesome. I didn’t stop to take any pictures along the way, because I was really focused on beating my goal.

I have been using Map My Run to track my runs for quite some time, but this race was one of the last straws, I think. I have been pretty frustrated with the GPS tracking on Map My Run, and the distance tracking for this race was off by more than half a mile from the very beginning. I don’t think it started tracking my running until 6 or 7 minutes into the run. And it just got worse from there. After crossing the finish line (of a half marathon, 13.1 miles), Map My Run said I had run 9.64 miles. Nope. Not even close. Luckily, the race crew had put mileage signs each mile of the course, and I had my Garmin Vivosmart HR on.  Although it doesn’t have GPS, I was keeping track of my time with it, and watching the mile marker signs, so I had a pretty good idea of how I was doing.

I was still feeling pretty good as I got close to the finish, so I *think* I picked up my pace the last couple miles. As I approached the finish line, there were a few people in front of me, and I all of a sudden got competitive, and had to sprint past them. One of them, an older man, was very encouraging, yelling at me to “dig deep” as I ran by him. I think my breathing was pretty hard and audible by that point, so I think he knew I was working hard. Whoever he was, I appreciated the encouragement. It took a few minutes after crossing the finish to get my breath back.

I was thrilled when I got over to the tent with the results computers and saw that my time was 2:18:18. Not only did I beat my age graded goal, I beat my time from last year by more than 2 minutes. On tired legs.

(post race, with my hard earned mug)

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Knoya Ridge Run recap

On Thursday, I completed my first trail race that involved a significant hill climb. I figure that is a pretty important part of my trainging for my 50 miler, since there is something like 12,000 feet or so of elevation gain and loss.

The Alaska Mountain Runners put on this race, Kal's Knoya Ridge Run. There are 3 choices of length, a 2.5k "Happy" trail with 1200 feet of elevation gain(mostly for the kids), the original 5.6k with 2900 feet of elevation gain, and the "full monty" 8.5k with 4300 feet of elevation gain. It climbs up a hill that I think is actually on military land, and they require you to get the military recreational access pass to participate. The sign up is only on race day, and they say they limit the long race to 100 people, but more than 100 people were signed up for it that day, including me.  The part of this it clearly says in the race information, but I didn't fully process? The listed distances are ONLY THE UPHILL PORTION. The finish line is at the top, and then you go back down on your own. So really, you go twice as far as the distance given.

This race had some interesting quirks. It is named after someone that apparently died climbing it, and they said they spread some of his ashes at the start line every year, so that he gets gradually carried up to the top on people's shoes. Also, there is a bit of a walk from the pre-race gathering area to the start line, on a single track trail through the woods. Some people felt the need to run this also, but I walked until I got to the start line, and the race actually started. I wanted to save my energy for the climb.

They tell you at the start to not come back down alone. The bottom half of the trail goes through the woods, and there is apparently a lot of bear activity in the area this year. I didn't see anything though. I came back down alone, because I didn't know anyone there, and my introverted self wasn't up to finding someone to run with on the way back down.

The bottom half of the course, the part through the woods, was rolling hills, climbing gradually upwards. As we got close to the treeline, though, the trail got steeper. There was one section about midway to the 5.6k finish that was particularly bad. It was very steep, with a lot of loose gravel just waiting to make you lose your footing. I heard someone call it "scree". I'm not a veteran enough trail runner to know if this is an official name. It was ok on the way up, but really scary on the way down. I was convinced I was going to slide all the way down and die.

Most of the course was single track, and so I often found myself in a line of people climbing slowly uphill. People were plenty polite if you wanted to pass them, though. Once you got up on top of the first little dome, and above the tree line, there was just little short cover plants, and lots of rocks. It was mostly uphill, but there were a couple places where the trail dipped back down for brief moments, giving your legs a rest, but then you had to make up that elevation loss in the next few minutes anyway.

When I started, I planned to do the entire thing. By the time I had gotten to the 5.6k finish, though, it had already been about an hour and 14 minutes or so, I was getting close to the cutoff time, and didn't know how far I had to go to reach the cutoff spot, and I was practically out of water, and didn't bring any fuel at all. That would be because I forgot to double the distance to include the trip down, lol.  I only had a 1.5L Camelbak with me, and it was sunny and HOT on the exposed sides of the domes. I decided to stop at the 5.6k finish. I'm pretty confident that if I had been better prepared, I could have gone the entire distance.

The views at the top were AMAZING.

(the 8.5k race continued up the hill to the left)

(looking over Anchorage and Cook Inlet)

They have not listed times yet on the website, and I have only seen a few photos online, none of which I happen to be in. I didn't stop to take any pictures on the way up, but I did take some at the top. (Really, I needed the break to catch my breath and assess before heading down).

The race info said the middle race was 5.6k (3.48 miles), but map my run put it at 4.11 miles. I decided to run all the way back to my car, not just to the start line, and my total distance was 8.5 miles round trip. By the time I got back to the car, I was STARVING and my Camelbak was dry. I was glad I didn't need as much water on the way down as I did on the way up.

My quads got quite the workout on this climb. But I remembered that climbing basically sucks to a certain extent, and then just keeps sucking about the same. As a matter of fact, really the first part of the climb hurt way more than the second half. By that time, my legs had warmed up, and it was just a matter of taking small steps, trying to remember to keep my glutes engaged to save my quads, and just continuing to put one foot in front of the other, and repeat. I can climb uphill without wearing myself out. I just can't do it fast.

One sort of funny thing happened. I was on my way down, and running easily but carefully, and people kept passing me, flying by. I started feeling bad because I wasn't running fast, sort of mentally berating myself for being such a slow runner. At one point, though, I passed some people that had started down before me, and they said something about my socks (I was wearing brightly striped compression socks), and said that earlier they had been trying to keep up with "that lady with the rainbow socks", lol. It was really nice to hear at that moment, when I was feeling bad about my pace, that someone else was trying to keep up with me.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

All I had to do was follow directions...

I have a training plan for my 50 mile race in July. The training plan is designed to make sure I am ready for that race, without over stressing my body. The idea behind the plan is to gradually increase mileage, both in single runs, and in total weekly mileage, so that my body can acclimate, and avoid injury.

The catch?  For the training plan to work, I have to follow it.

So, last week I followed my plan pretty well, and did 22 miles on Saturday at Eklutna Lake, and 10 miles on Sunday.  This is what my training plan said for this week:

Monday: rest day
Tuesday: rest day
Wednesday 10 miles
Thursday: 8 miles
Friday: rest day
Saturday: 24 miles
Sunday: 10 miles
Total weekly mileage: 52

This is what actually happened this week:

Monday: I always run either about 3.25 or about 4.1 miles on Monday, but they are fairly easy miles, in a group run put on by my local running store, Active Soles. 3.25 miles

Tuesday: I don't have rest days. I run every day, because I am streaking. So for me, on rest days, I typically run 1 mile on a treadmill, and use those miles to run fast. 1 mile, in 9:18.

Wednesday: I planned to run 10 miles after work at 4:30. I didn't get off til after 8:00 pm, though, Tried out a trail at an outdoor recreation center that was sort of on my way home. I ran every inch of the trail, and all I got was 1.54 miles.

Thursday: Again, my plan was to run the 8 miles after work. I worked until 9:00. Ugh. Went to Matanuska Lake and ran 4.25 miles. I love those trails, even when I'm tired.

Friday: 1 mile, on the treadmill again, this time in 8:58.

Saturday: I was going to run 24 miles, really I was. I woke up and it was raining. I went and ran a couple errands, then came home, because my husband was going to ride his bike while I ran. He was taking a nap when I got home, since it was cold and rainy, and I took a nap with him. It was chilly and rainy all afternoon, I just couldn't get up the motivation to run for 5 hours in that. I took the dog for a quick run around the neighborhood. 1.25 miles. 

Tomorrow: Tomorrow I am going to do my long run!! 24 miles. The weather is supposed to be better, but even if not, I'm going to have to just suck it up and do it.

Total weekly mileage: 36.29 (counting tomorrow's run)

Yeah. I didn't quite make it. This isn't going to get me to Chena Hot Springs.

I am SO not a morning person, but I am starting to think I may have to get my butt out of bed at 4:45 on Wednesday and Thursday mornings to get those runs in. I have a job that requires me to work late on a distressingly regular basis, and clearly waiting til after work isn't working. Somehow I have to get those miles in. And I've got less than 2 months til my race, so I can't afford to stay home when the weather sucks anymore. After all, I might very well have to run the race in crappy weather. The weather was chilly and rainy for it last year...

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Eklutna Lake trail run

My training plan called for a 22 mile trail run this past Saturday. 22 takes a long time to run, even on pavement, and my pace is somewhat slower on trails. I estimated that it would take about 4 and a half hours, maybe more. Since when I run on bike paths, that gets pretty boring for the family, they don't usually come along. But since this needed to be a trail run, and I wanted some distracting scent for the long run, I decided on Eklutna Lake. As a bonus, this was a destination I thought I might be able to get the family interested in, and get my long run in while still spending quality time with them. We had been to Eklutna Lake before on our bikes and enjoyed it. Sure enough, my husband and 12 year old son decided to bring their bikes and ride while I ran. My 16 year old daughter thought hanging with her friends was way cooler than spending the day with us, but that's ok. I would have thought the same thing at her age. The only hang up was that we are really busy right now, and it took my husband forever to decide to come with us instead of staying home and working. I'm really glad he decided to come with me, but it was fairly late by the time we got there. Good thing for long Alaska summer days!

Eklutna Lake is a long, skinny man made lake, with a dam at one end and a glacier at the other. The glacier used to come pretty close to where the shallow end of the lake is now, but it's been  retreating for a long time, and now you can't see it from the lake. There is a trail that runs 8 miles along the edge of the lake, then another 4 or 5 miles to the glacier terminus. It is a multi-use trail, used by hikers and runners,  mountain bikers, equestrians,  and ATV's, so it is a pretty wide trail, really much like a gravel road. There are multiple places, however, where the trail splits, and ATV's go one way, and pedestrians and bikers go the other, onto smaller, more scenic trails closer to the edge of the water. I always chose the pedestrian trails.

My husky, Daisy, ran with me, with her little backpack carrying extra food and water. After about mile 5 or so, weren't seeing very many other people, so I let her off her leash so she could explore a little. For the most part, she did a good job of staying with me.

The boys would ride their bikes for a few miles, then stop and wait for me to catch up, when they found convenient waiting spots. 

At about mile 10, they decided they had gone far enough, and I went on ahead another mile, then turned around and started heading back. It was a great run with some amazing views:

By the time we had gotten towards the end of the trip, it was getting late, almost 10 pm, and the sun was getting low in the sky. That really brought out the color of the lake.


My Garmin says it took me 4:49:29. I did pause it at mile 12, when we took a fairly lengthy break, but other than that I didn't stop it at all. That's a little over 13 minutes per mile. It does seem like I stopped a lot. I stopped at mile 3.5, where they were waiting for me at the bench, mile 8.15, mile 10, mile 12, mile 13.85, and mile 18.5, at least. There were also several times I stopped to let the dog drink, to take pictures, to call the dog out of the woods, etc. So I *think* that if I had run this by myself with no distractions, I probably would have averaged at least a minute or so faster per mile. But it was so nice to have my family there, and not feel guilty about going to the lake without them, that it was totally worth any time sacrifice. After all, this was a training run, not a race. And anything that makes training miles fun is totally worth it, I think. By the end of the run, I was really tired. As usual, miles 17-20, maybe 21, were really hard. By mile 22 I was picking it up again. I was tired, but not completely done in, which makes me really happy.

Fuel, hydration, electrolytes:

This run was kind of a mishmash of things, but it kind of worked. First off, water. I had two 1.5 liter bladders for my Camelbak. It was a warm, sunny day, about 70 degrees, which is sort of crazy warm for mid-May in Alaska. In one of my 1.5 liter bladders, I put a stick of Tailwind. I know that 1 stick is too dilute, but that was what I had. In the other, I put a package of Gu high energy electrolyte mix. I had my husband carry the extra water in his backpack, since he was biking, and he had the room in his pack, and I switched out the bladder in my running vest at mile 12, giving him the empty to haul back. It actually wasn't completely empty, but there was less than half a liter in it, and my 12 year old had emptied his Camelbak, and we put the rest, plus some extra water from my husband's 3 liter bladder in my son's. Can't have your kids getting dehydrated. 

I know that Tailwind says that when mixed properly with water, Tailwind is all you need for calories, as well as electrolytes. But I found when I use just Tailwind, I get hungry. I think my stomach likes having a little solid food in it. I seem to do better with mixing Tailwind at about half strength and then supplementing with other fuel, but less frequently than I would without the Tailwind. That seems to not only ensure that I am getting some electrolytes, but it has so far worked to keep my stomach from refusing fuel after mile 18 or so, like what happened with my marathons last summer. (Well, except for the PB&J... read on.)

We bought M&M's that were on sale buy 1, get 1 free, and I ate one of them on the way up the canyon in the Jeep, about 20 minutes before starting to run. I ate a Honey Stinger waffle at mile 4, and a Gu at mile 8. I had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich I was going to eat at the turnaround point at mile 11, but with the boys stopping at mile 10, I ran to mile 11 and back before stopping to eat with them. This is the only problem I had. I ate the entire PB&J. It was smooshed, but SO GOOD!! I really should have eaten half then and the other half later. Or eaten half at mile 10, and half at mile 12 maybe. By the time I got to mile 14, my stomach was giving me problems because I had eaten too much at once. At mile 18 or so, I ate a second Honey Stinger waffle. As soon as I got back in the Jeep, I ate the other package of M&M's. I was starving and all I could think was that I wanted a burger, but food had to wait til we got home. By that time, I was all about Kraft macaroni and cheese, LOL, and ate a huge bowl of it with hot dogs cut up in it. Yes, I sometimes have the taste buds of a 12 year old. It totally hit the spot.

So, all in all, this run was a total success. I knew I could run distances on pavement, and now I know I can do it on trails too. All I need now is some elevation, but there's still snow in the mountains. Soon, soon. This run made me feel a bit more confident in my ability to complete the race in July. Plus, family time, plus beautiful scenery. It's all win/win. There was no downside to this trip whatsoever, and I loved it.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

50 miles

So, I have only been running for a couple of years, but I am in love with it. My first "race" was the Alaska Run For Women, which benefits breast cancer, and I walked most of the 5 miles, and never thought I would actually be able to run that far. That was when I still thought I hated to run.

(I'm on the right, and my good friend Charlene, who tried to get me to actually run some of this race, is on the left)

Fast forward a couple years, and my 45 pound lighter body figured out that running can actually feel good, and I was hooked. I ran a couple half marathons two summers ago, and those were fun, but I thought that was probably far enough.

Then winter hit, and I barely ran. I didn't feel tough enough to run outside, and the treadmill sucked. Then spring of 2015 hit, and I felt like I needed a challenge to get me moving again. I had seen Facebook advertisements for the Marine Corps Marathon, and on a whim, I put my name into the lottery. When I got the email saying I was in, I could hardly believe it. I was so excited and nervous I couldn't sleep that night.

I started training, and ran the Anchorage Big Wild Life marathon in August, mainly as an experiment to see if I was going to be able to "beat the bridge", the only time cut off in the MCM. I was thrilled to discover that I could stay within a minute and a half of my half marathon pace for the entire marathon, and finished in 4:57:47. I knew then that not only could I run marathons, I could enjoy doing it. Most of the last 10 miles, I just kept feeling like this was SO. MUCH. FUN. and I just couldn't wait for the chance to do it again.

(crossing the finish line of my first marathon)

Then the MCM day was finally here. That was a tougher race for me, mostly because of my own poor planning. I got lost on my planned 3 mile shakeout run the day before the race, and it turned into more like 4.5 miles. Then I did too much sightseeing on top of the longer than planned run in completely unsupportive shoes, and woke up race morning with my hip flexor hurting.

That dang hip flexor hurt with every step of my 26.2 miles and it seemed like the constant ache drained me, so I walked way more than I wanted to. Plus, I hadn't realized how long the port-a-John lines were with 30,000 people running, and I spent a lot of time standing in line and watching people run by when I had to go. My time in the MCM was 5:36:17, much slower than my August marathon, but I still got it done, and enjoyed it...except for the dang hip flexor.

And... now it's spring time again. I've kept running through the winter, but I'm excited to get my mileage back up now that the weather is improving. And apparently, spring must be the time of the year when challenges excite me. I was thinking about what races I want to do this summer, and it was easy to decide that I'm not going to do many less than half marathon length races, because there are lots of longer ones in the summer, and I only have so many dollars to spend on entry fees. And of course I'm going to do a marathon or two, because I know they are fun. But I already know I can do those. So now what?

And... so now what is a 50 mile race in July. Yep, every time I think that, or type it, or say it to someone, I sort of have to wonder if I'm crazy. But when I told my husband that I'd signed up for a 50 mile race, he wanted to know why. Umm... because. Because the pictures were beautiful. Because it sounds challenging yet amazing. Because I think it will be fun. The easiest answer? Why not??

So, yeah. I signed up for the Angel Creek 50, in Fairbanks.

It's a mountain race, on trails, with lots of ups and downs. If I did the math right after looking at the detailed course description, it has close to 13,000 feet in elevation gain and loss. It will be a huge challenge. But it looks beautiful. Remote and mountainous. The finish line is at the Chena Hot Springs, and I will get to soak in the hot springs afterwards, something I have never done. And it's going to be so much fun!! But now comes the training....