Why do you run?

Why do you run? I was asked that question after I finished my ultra last week. They had free massages, and of course I took advantage of that! I asked the masseuse if she ran, she said no and asked why I felt the need to run so far. Was it an addiction? I thought for a moment (while she was digging her elbow into my shoulder), it really isn’t an addiction. When I don’t run, I don’t feel like I NEED to run. I mean, I could stop. I don’t want to, but I could. So that just made me think… why do I run?

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The thing is, I feel most confident about myself when I am running. I feel even more confident when I am running far. When I was young, I used to look at my thick thighs and wish they were smaller. Now I look at them and thank them for carrying me 32 miles in less than 6 hours. Like seriously… how could I not be thankful and love my body when it can do something so amazingly cool.

Women have so much pressure to be skinny, or strong, or whatever. We are constantly being bombarded by advertising that is telling us that we need to be something different from what we are. In order to be liked, we have a set of rules to follow and our bodies must fit into a certain set of categories. We also must be able to identify the parts of our body we want to “work on” to make our butts perky, our breasts big, and our bellies flat. That way, we can go to the gym and do targeted workouts to make ourselves fit into society’s definition of perfect.

But many women have tiny breasts, or butts with cellulite, or thighs that jiggle. Whether anyone else notices it, we all have something that makes us self-conscious. In the last few miles of that ultra, I was not self-conscious at all. I was awesome. Every cell in my body… it was f*cking perfect. My poor posture, jiggly thighs, flabby arms and tiny boobs, they were all exactly how I wanted them to be. That body got me 32 miles and I felt amazing for it. When I run, I’m reminded that I have the body I want to have. My body is healthy, strong, and beautiful and I don’t need to work on anything. I just want my body to keep doing what it’s doing.

So, that’s what I answered with. Why do I run? Because it makes me feel confident and really good about my body.

The masseuse answered, “That’s definitely something I can jive with. Maybe I should try running.”

I hope she does.

On the Eve of an Ultra

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If all goes well, by the end of this weekend I will be an ultramarathon runner, a title I’ve thought about for a long time. It’s been years since Western States hasn’t gone through my head nearly daily. I’ve done a lot to bring myself inches closer to that goal, but on Sunday, I will be getting 31.5 miles closer. On Sunday, I am taking the largest step forward I possibly can in making my goal my reality. Normally, I’d assume this would make me nervous… but it’s not. I don’t feel nervous at all. This feels like the natural progression of things, as if this is clearly what needs to happen.

For Colfax, I knew what my goals were, I knew how to play it and what I needed to do to have a great day. This time, things are a little less clear. I have no time goal. I feel like 6-hours is probably a pretty good estimate, but I won’t know much until I get to the trail. The race is made of three 10.5 mile loops, each of which has about 2000 feet of vertical gain. That is a lot more than I am used to covering here in Kansas and I don’t really know what will feel like a comfortable pace. This race is truly a wait and see. My only time goal is to go for a negative split, something I’ve never been able to do in a trail race.

I’ve gotten my gear together, my drop bags, food, and everything that I will need to cover the distance. All that’s left is a few slow miles and two nights of sleep before I toe the line in Omaha. Am I scared? Yeah, a little. But I am not nervous. I know I can do this and every time I think I can’t, I’ll remind myself of why I am here. This is the beginning of my journey to Squaw Valley. However Sunday goes, this is just the first step. I’ve always found that the hardest part of a run is simply getting out the door. Well, here I am, getting out that door.

Getting Ready to go Ultra

Thanks everyone for all of the supportive comments last week after my update. I am in the final week before my race, and to say that I am nervous is an understatement. Running 31.5 miles wont be easy or pretty, but I think I can get it done. I still have some last minute details to get through, and I am not entirely sure what I am going to eat on the course (I know, a little late, right?). Most things I’ve tried, besides GU packets, bother my stomach and I really don’t see myself being able to down GU for 6+ hours.

Last week, my iPod shuffle kicked the bucket on a run. It’s been my running partner for some time now and I was quite devastated when I realized that my sweat had killed it. Fortunately for me, AudioFlood makes an awesome waterproof version of the shuffle. It came in yesterday, just in time to have some music during my race! I’ve been downloading music from the library and itunes to make sure that I have plenty to listen to for the many hours that I will be running in Omaha this weekend.

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So, now I’m pretty feeling ready! At least as ready as one feels before they take on their first ultra marathon…

And since you haven’t seen how Elly is doing for a while, here’s a beautiful pic of her from yesterday.

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Do you run with music? What player do you use? Any song suggestions for my race?

Chicago Training Update

I hate writing training recaps, so I am going to make this one short and sweet. Training for Chicago has been really up and down for me. Unlike the near linear progression I had during Colfax, Chicago has been one step forward, two steps back. Although the training has been hard, I did have a breakthrough race last week (more about that in my recap post later).

I’ve really had a hard time finding motivation and inspiration for this race, but I’ve kind of made a decision. I have been trying to fit myself into a new category, a 6-day-per-week runner, and I am simply not that. So, I have basically abandoned the Hanson’s plan and I am going back to what I did for Colfax… because you know what, it worked. Training is about finding what works for you and sticking with it. I know what works for me and I am going back to that.

Well… this week I took things pretty chill. I was recovering from my races and Longs Peak Summit from the week before. I took a few days off and did some nice slow running.

M: Rest

T: Rest – was still really sore

W: 8 Miles Easy

T: Another Rest Day

F: Worst Track Workout Ever (4×800)

S: 10 mile Long Run

S: 6.5 miles easy

Total: 30.7 miles

Not bad for a first week back after a wild and crazy weekend. My track workout was supposed to be 6 x 800, but I just couldn’t finish it. I felt like absolute crap and called it quits. Usually track workouts are a real confidence booster for me, but unfortunately, this one was just a drag. The long run the next day was pretty great, so I guess that made up for it.

This week I am going to step it up a notch. I only have 6 more training weeks before the taper, so I’m gonna make the best of it. Things are shifting over to more marathon specific work, including a lot more time at marathon pace. I’m pretty excited to hone things down a bit and get myself feeling ready for Chicago.

I didn’t take a whole lot of pictures, so here is a pic from our paddle this weekend:

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And of course, here is a pic of the cutest cat in the whole world:

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How was your training? What is your next goal race?

A bump in the road to Chicago

Did anyone watch Olympic trials last night for the women’s 800 m? It was insane! A crazy fall resulted in a wild shake-up and an unlikely champion. If you haven’t seen it, you should watch the video!

So… my training…

A lot has happened this past week and I should probably go back to my Colfax training to describe the whole story.

While I was training for Colfax, I started having a weird pain and weakness on the outside of my right leg. I thought it was IT-band syndrome or maybe a strained muscle, but this just felt different. I continued to run on it and tried to put it out of my mind. It worked! I ended up making it to Colfax feeling good and healthy, and never felt the pain once during the race. I ended up taking some time off to recover and everything seemed to be fine… so I just forgot about the pain and moved forward figuring that it had healed itself.

Fast forward to my first 45-mile week of Chicago training…

I started to feel the pain again, but this time in my left leg (strange, right?). I again, choked it up to some IT band pain, since it ran on the outside of the leg. However, I was concerned that it was switching sides and causing a lot of weakness below my knee. Last week it got so bad that I was having trouble running. I figured it was time to see someone about this. I mentioned it to a friend and she suggested that I see a chiropractor, since it was likely in my back (the whole switching sides thing).

On Friday morning I made a trip to a chiropractor. I described the pain and he agreed, it was likely my back. He felt around, poked me on my spine and SI-joint and used some weird hammer thing to push things back into place. His conclusion: I probably have a herniated disc on the L5 joint. Ugh!! He didn’t think it is a running injury at all, but does think that running brings out the symptoms. Probably if I were not a runner, I would go along with my herniated disc as if nothing were wrong and never even notice it.

So… what now?

Well, I am going to see the chiropractor for a few visits to try to get everything back into place. He said that he felt optimistic that this would be a relatively easy fix and that I wont need to take time off from running. If he can’t make the pain in my legs stop, I need to go get an MRI to see if the herniation is really bad or if there is some stenosis (narrowing of the spinal chord… something I very much don’t want as a 29 year old). He did tell me to cool it a bit with the mileage until we get this under control and to go back to 5 days of running per week instead of 6. Since speed work isn’t typically what hurts, I can still do that, but I need to stop if I am in pain.

What does this mean for Chicago? Well… I am not sure. I am going to take these next few weeks pretty chill, since the most important thing is making my back healthy. I might need to rethink my goals a little, and that’s okay with me. At the moment, nothing is changing, but that doesn’t mean that nothing will change a few weeks from now. I am going to take things day-by-day and hope for the best.

I did some trail running yesterday and didn’t feel the pain at all and I am going to do a nice easy workout tonight. Assuming that the pain is not there, I’ll go ahead and do my track workout tomorrow. I’m not too upset about this, since I am confident that it will be under control in the next few weeks or so. Timing wise, I feel like this isn’t too terrible. I am still many weeks away from Chicago and have plenty of time to train.

Long story short, I have no idea what is going on, but I’ll let you know when I know!

How as your July 4th? Any fun adventures over the weekend? I’ll post about mine soon.

When Mountains Call

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I was sitting on the side of Grand Teton, with a heavy pack, hurt knee, and a generally tired body when a thin, wiry blonde woman ran by me at record speed. She had a tiny pack with only water and food and she made getting up that mountain look effortless. I had been a competitive runner in another life, but was then just another hiker, defeated by a mountain I would not climb. The girl bounced away and all I could think about was how I wanted that to be me… that one day, I would run the trails, up the mountains, with that same ease.

This was my first introduction to trail running, and distance running in general. I had always been a sprinter and had confined myself to the 400 & 800 m distances. After high school, I had stopped running and it would be years before I would return. In reality, I only made it back because climbing mountains is hard and you need to be in wildly good shape to do it.

I returned home from my failure on Grand Teton and read all that I could about trail running. I read Born to Run, and Eat and Run and was convinced. Eventually… one day… no matter how long it would take me… I vowed to run trails and ultras. For years, I followed the ultra running scene, never partaking, but just as an idle spectator. As I watched, I would run further and further. The evolution from sprinter to marathoner happens slowly and I took my time. I would sign up for trail runs here or there and usually do really well. My heart was in it and it was where I really felt free. As I ran my first trail half marathon, for the first time I felt like that girl, bouncing down the trails, light on her feet without a care in the world.

I ran my first marathon and walked away feeling great. I loved everything about it… the lifetime’s worth of emotions in less than four hours, the real ownership of the race, the fact that it was not easy and I had to work hard to get there. Road marathons are fun, exciting, exhausting, and so many other things… but really, they are not enough. There is something truly special about running through the woods, over hills, while pushing your body as far as you possibly can and maybe even a little further. Trail runs are so solitary, yet you feel so completely connected to nature. That is exactly where I should be.

Four years ago, sitting on the side of Grand Teton, I knew that I could run high and far… but I also knew that it would take time. I have been patient, slowly upping my mileage and base and pushing myself to my edge, never passing it. But I will be an idle watcher no more. I have finally decided to put that fire beneath my feet.

If the world could go exactly as I want it to, this post would be the beginning of an eventual quest towards the Western States 100, the granddaddy of ultramarathons. I can’t tell you that it will go that way, since they have a lottery process that is tough and I may never get picked. Also, it is 100 miles and I don’t know that I could train up to that. I will tell you that this post will be the beginning of a quest towards a 50K and maybe even a 50-miler. After Chicago, I will transition towards running on trail and on hills. I’ve finally grown tired of watching from the sidelines.

So, there it is. I have put it out into the universe. A goal. A dream. It’s a scary one to speak, but really, would it be worth doing if I weren’t scared?

Probably not.

Chicago Marathon Training: Week 3

Alright guys… I have just been a horrible blogger lately. This week, my goal is to remedy that a bit. Despite my lack of blogging about running, I have been running a lot. Maybe even a little too much (IT band made itself known yesterday, so I am backing off). But, even with some squirrelliness in my leg, my runs last week were solid and training is going great. I’ve also made a successful transition to morning running. As soon as the sun comes up, the temps begin to approach 95-110 degrees, so morning running is really the only answer. This means waking up at 5 am (ouch) to be out the door before 6 and off the roads by 8. As my long runs get a little longer, I may have to be out there even earlier. I’ll worry about that when I get there.

I am using the Hanson’s Advanced Marathon Training Plan with a goal time of 3:45. These are my paces:

Goal Marathon Time: 3:45
Goal MP: 8:35
Strength: 8:25
Speed: 7:33 – 7:52
Easy: 9:35 – 10:35
LSD: 9:05 – 10:35

This was my training for the week:

M: 6 miles GMP 4 miles GMP + WU & CD (it was 97 degrees out… give me a break)

T: Easy 6 Miles (9:45/mi)

W: Track Workout – 8 x 600 + 400 Recovery lap + WU & CD (2:34, 2:39, 2:35, 2:35, 2:29, 2:47, 2:40, 2:38)

T: Easy 8 Miles (9:22/mi) – oops…

F: 10 Miles LSD (9:12/mi)

S: Rest (actually, hiking)

S: Easy 6 Miles (9:47/mi)

Total Mileage: 44 Miles

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Beautiful morning for some 600 repeats!

In addition to the running, I also did yoga and body weight strength workouts each day. As you can see, a few of my paces were taken just too fast. I think this lead to my IT band making itself known towards the end of the week. The track workouts were supposed to be between 2:49-2:56, which not a single repeat was. I am having some trouble with not taking track workouts fast. To ward off potential injury, I am taking a week off from track work and taking an extra rest day. I definitely don’t think my IT band is injured, but I could feel it coming on, so I am not going to play around. This needs to be nipped in the bud now.

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I’m seriously not kidding about these temps. 

Last week was also the first back-to-back long run. For the rest of training, my longest easy run is the day before my long run, which contributes to the cumulative fatigue you get through this plan. I gotta say, I liked it! The long run felt natural, but I was definitely more tired than I typically am during a 10 mile run. Also, the long runs are taken quite a bit faster than I am used to. It was nice to go a little faster.

Over the weekend, Frank and I did some hiking and camping with some friends. During the campout, we tried to see if both of us could fit in our friend’s kayak. Success!!

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I think I was trying to wiggle away as he squeezed me a little too hard. 🙂

Next week is going to be a little chiller than usual. I am cutting out a track workout and cutting back the mileage a little to give my IT band a break. I’m going to keep up with my yoga and body weight strength training, but I am going to cut out squats and lunges. During the weekend, I’ll be out in Arkansas with a few friends to climb some routes at Horseshoe Canyon Ranch again. Should be a great time!

I know, I owe you a race recap still…I’ll get that out some time this week.

How was your week? How has your training been going? Any plans for 4th of July weekend?