Sunday, February 21, 2010

A run worth writing about. Get comfortable, this is a long one.

Maybe it was the 2 weeks of taper/recovery and the deep desire (and dare I say need) to run. Maybe it was the week long binge of watching the Olympics and being inspired daily by the phenomenal athletes of the world. Maybe it was all the couch time while watching said Olymics and the roots that were beginning to grow from my butt. Maybe it was the glorious sunshine and above (yes ABOVE) zero temperatures we had today. Or the smell of spring in the air and the swarms of people that emerged from their winter caves to celebrate the promise of an end to hibernation by walking, running, skating and sledding in the warmth of the long absent sunshine. Maybe it was none of these or all of these. Whatever it was or wasn't that contributed to my experience of running today, I am grateful.

Because today, my blogland friends, was one of those days.
You know, the reallyreallyreallyreallysuperradicallyawesome kind? Yup, one of those.

Buuuuut, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me back up a bit.

So, last Monday I ran the Frozen Ass 50km (in case you forgot), and a few minutes hours after completing it, true to form, my dear husband asked me "So babe, what's next?" Despite the urge to punch him in the face, I sat and thought about it for a few minutes. I had been totally focused on cramming for this 50k in the past 6 weeks, and my only thoughts were of getting in the miles, staying healthy, and getting to the finish line. But what I noticed during my long runs, and in fact during the 50k, was that I seemed to have a mental/physical block at the 30km mark. Meaning, I was all good until 30km and then things started to deteriorate at an alarming rate. I suppose it could be due to a lack of calories, but something told me it was beyond the mechanics and had roots deeper in my subconscious. 30km was the point at which I seemed to fall apart in my previous marathon training as well, and during my marathon races that is the point I started to fall off pace.

I know that training for an 80km, and then 125km, means that if I am falling apart at 30km, I am screwed. Even during the FA50 the last 20km were a serious sufferfest. So, I told him "What I really want to do in the coming weeks is break through this 30km limitation I seem to have and to really get comfortable with that distance (so I can find the next distance I fall apart at..haha)."

This week I ran a couple of short 5km jaunts and a 9km with D and the boys. I wanted to make sure I was recovered from the race, but my body (and mind) have felt great all week. If nothing else it has been a good excuse to sit on my duff. Yesterday I did a 90min ride with the crew and it hurt, but today I knew I wanted to go for a long run. I worked my butt off to get all my shit list jobs done on Saturday giving me the entire day to do with as I pleased (what a beautiful feeling that is!). This morning consisted of lattes with D, breakfast, and Olympics. I checked the weather and it was -17 with the promise of warming to -2. So, since I could, I waited. And had more lattes, more breakfast and more Olympics. I also filled up my new pink ipod shuffle (a Valentine from my sweetie) with some new music. At around noon the weather network announced it was -3 with a wind that made it feel like -9. Single digits was all I was looking for so I put on drastically fewer layers than I am used to and headed out. I had no set time or distance to run, I was just going to run as long as I felt good. I brought enough food and water for 2-2.5 hours thinking that would be sufficient.

As I started out, I didn't feel especially great, but the sun was out and that was wonderful. After a couple of kms I started to find my groove and things started to pick up. I ran down to the park and up around the college. Then I ran past the Pavilion and noticed the skating rink was super busy. I continued to the end of the trails and up past the dog park. This was about 11.5km, but I wasn't ready to turn around. I decided to head out to resource road and maybe head back that way. Once I reached that path (13km) I decided to head out towards Evergreen Park and maybe to another out and back.

Once I hit Evergreen Park I decided to turn down the correction line and make my way back to the dog park via the dump road (this all sounds so exotic eh?).  I hit the 21km mark at 1:58 which I noted since I remeber hitting it at 2:04 during the FA 50. And today my time included several waits at lights, shoe fixing and one quick pee break in the woods (too many lattes). Aaaand, I was feeling great. My perceived effort level was about a 5/10 meaning I was barely noticing that I was even running.

I got to the end of the dump road, took a pull off the camel back and realized I was out of water. Shoot. I tried calling D, but he was busy studying and his phone was off. Luckily I was pretty close to a Starbucks so I headed there to refill. This isn't the first time Starbucks has saved me! I used a cup to refill my camel back, but I was starting to feel a little spacey, like I could use some food. I had eaten my only fuel source at 16km (a granola bar) and the thought of another 12-15km with no food was distressing. I looked around the coffee shop but couldn't see anyone I knew to hit up to buy me a cookie (I had no money on me). As I scanned the room, my eyes fell on the coffee condiments bar.

Hmmm....sugar packets- that could work- but even better I spied the honey. Perfect! I dumped a big glop of honey into my cup, squirted in a shot of water from the camel back and began to slurp it up through a straw. It was like heaven in a cup. As I was licking the remaining honey from the straw I sensed eyes boring through the back of my head and turned see the entire coffee shop staring at me. Ooops.
I smiled, tossed my cup and straw in the garbage and headed out.

The honey was like jet fuel. Off I went heading back towards home. At one point I looked at my Garmin and I was running 13.6km/hr. But I felt like I was floating. I did pull the speed back again, thinking I might have a sugar crash to go along with this high, but it never came. I hit 30km in 2hrs 50 mins and from there it was a short 4kms home. I decided I needed to make it 35 so I lapped the block a couple of times, finishing my last km in just under 5 mins for a total run time of 3hrs15.

As I was coming down the street finishing up I could have been the winner of the Boston Marathon. I was that happy. I felt like I had broken through a wall of sorts, and instead of it being painful, it was one of the most effortless and enjoyable runs of my life. The smile literally never left my face for 35kms.

Today was a special day. I had a massive breakthrough and the high has still not worn off. As I said in my twitter/facebook status: 

"Dear limitation, I hope it didn't hurt too much when I smashed you into a million tiny pieces today. Warn your friends, I am coming for them next". 

I know that the nature of running dictates that the bitch will be back, and I will suffer. But for today, I am basking in my love for running. And I am burning it into my memory (and my blog) so that the next time I have a tough run I can remind myself that bad days make these great days even sweeter.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Frozen Ass 50km in Pictures

Here is a shot of the day before the race. It was foggy and frosty when we were out for a run. Thankfully Monday was a nicer day.
I had a great sleep Sunday night and woke up before the 7am alarm. Breakfast was oatmeal and berries, 2 poached eggs and a bagel with pb and honey. The waitress seemed a bit shocked at the volume of food I consumed.
We got to the canoe club nice and early and had time to say hi to everyone and use the washroom a few times. It was a nice change to have no line for the girls washroom and a big line for the men's.
We had to cross the bow river to get to the start...
Here we are looking fresh and ready to go
waiting for the start...hopefully the sign in the background isn't an omen!
And we're off...kind of. I insisted we seed ourselves near the back so the deep powder would be a bit more packed down. But it was a very slow start and we had to run through the powder to pass people as we went anyway.
The trail conditions were not great. There was deep snow, ridgy hard pack and ice. There was a bit of clear pavement especially towards Chestermere, but the sun caused more slushy mess on the way back.
The aid stations were great, there were 3, we hit each one twice. The first was 8km out, the second 18km and then the 3rd at the halfway. This was the middle station- there was bacon, which I took, but unfortunately gave me nasty heartburn.
I was filling my pockets :)
Here we are still looking happy...Celine is catching a nap?

Here is Alan's aid station at the half way point. 
We hit the half at 2hrs 23. I knew it would be a longer run back as we tired, but I didn't realize how much longer. The sloppy trails really took a lot out of us. My feet were actually cramping from the uneven terrain. We were both a bit dizzy from running with our heads down and had to take turns in the lead as the follower tended to get the most dizzy.

The sun came out and we removed a layer- lucky for us D came by and took our jackets for us. Here I am on the middle aid station, trying to fix my shoe so my foot would stop cramping.
Things got pretty ugly after this point. We were both deep in the pain cave and it was all we could do to keep moving forward. I love the next shot, it is just before the last aid station and we got stuck at a red light crossing Glenmore Trail. Darin caught us both in the same position, clearly tired.
We waited a long time at that light, we lost the group ahead we were catching, and were caught by the group behind us. At this point neither of us cared. 
A loooong 7km later we heard a cowbell and saw a figure in the distance. It was Alan, who assured us we had just 1km to the finish. We begged him to carry us, but he refused and just ran with us instead.
As we approached the finish Celine's fur baby Wrigley came to greet us
And gave us a celebratory hug!
Here we are, 5:08 later, looking a little worse for wear...
Celine took another nap in the snow
And then we headed in for.....PIZZA!
Actually I was too nauseous to eat, but we did enjoy a visit and some yummy root beer
And Celine took yet another nap...
It was a tough day, but I am very proud to have finished what I started 6 weeks ago. It was a huge bonus to share the day with a great friend. (Even though she called me a few choice names towards the end). Darin was the support crew extraordinaire, running to and fro to check on us, take photos and carry our extra stuff. I think he clocked about 40km himself!
I am less sore than I expected to be, I only feel stiff in my back and am actually looking forward to a little run tomorrow. I will give myself a week to recover and then formulate the next phase of the training program to lead me towards the Blackfoot 80km in May. 
Thanks for all the notes and messages on Facebook! I was overwhelmed when I checked my phone after the run!!!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Just a typical Thursday night...

Doing laundry...

Playing with toys...
Practicing headstands...
Hanging the new hardwear

The tool belt came out...yesssss...!
And relaxing with some wine....
Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Happy Tuesday

Aaah yes, rest day Tuesday.

First off, thank you all so much for the generous encouragement and the food suggestions! I have some new ideas and I am even going to practice on my short runs this week. It looks like it is going to be warm warm this week and all the way through to Monday in Cowtown. I am now wondering if there will be any snow on the trails? The shoes I have been training on are great for snowy/icey/rough trails, but not so good on plain pavement. I am going to wear my new ones this week and see how they go. I may just pull an "Amber" and wear new shoes for my run. If Alan is reading this, he is shaking his head.
I am trying not to stress or over think this. It is, afterall, just 8km more than a marathon, and I won't be running at Marathon race pace so it isn't going to hurt like that. Really, I think it is all going to be just fine.

Speaking of over thinking...Shannon's post about choices, regrets etc. got me thinking. I am a believer in the "we all make the best choices we know how with the information we have at the time" theory, but I am also really bad for wasting energy on things I have done in the past. Even things like something I may have said or did in passing that was 'off the cuff'. When I look back at it I think I might have offended or come across in a way I didn't mean to. I replay this crap over and over and beat myself up for something (another person's perception) that I really don't know even exists and have absolutely no control over.

Anyway, I am working on letting this stuff go. I think part of the type A, perfectionist, goal driven personality that serves us well in many areas, can bite us in the ass when it comes to this.

Hello, my name is Amber and I am an overanalyzer. This is why I run...LOL

Anyway, on to the stats for week 5!
Tuesday: Off
Wednesday: 18km
Thursday: 12km
Friday: off
Monday: 16km
Total: 92km

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Fickle B%^ch that is Running

Has anyone else had this experience of running? Some days she is your best friend, you could spend all day with running. Other days you wake up and she hates you (and you her), and with every step the hatred grows.
I had a week like this. One day I felt great, the next- like a bag of ass. Thanks to Julie for that fine descriptor! Today I finished off week 5 with a 16km movie run. Meaning I watched a movie while I ran on the treadmill. I do this every Monday and it is like a reward for getting through the week. It helps me keep the pace easy and I actually look forward to it.
I am tapering down for the Frozen Ass 50km next Monday. I am ready. I think. I actually froze my bum on yesterday's run- does that count? Honestly I don't know how it is all going to go down, but I have done all I can. I have run every km on the schedule, more kms than I have ever run in my life, and I am just hoping I get through. I want to run the whole thing, beyond that no time goals. Well that's a lie. I would like to be 5:00hrs to 5:30hrs. 10min miles have been doable up to the 40km mark, not sure what will happen beyond that.
The one concern I have is food. I have done a pretty terrible job of eating on my long runs and I have so far gotten away with it. But I know I can't get through 50km on 100 or 200 calories. The problem is I don't like sweet stuff when I run. I can force down one, maybe 2 gels but I hate them. On my 30km run this Sunday I did the first 25km outside and then finished the last 5km on the treadmill. I was starving when I got in so I ate a peice of bread with butter and it was like heaven. It totally fueled the last 5km. So I should be eating real food, but in minus WTF temperatures everything freezes and it is hard to carry/extract/eat the food I do bring. The weather is supposed to be really nice on Monday- like maybe even above zero nice!!! So I think that will help. I am going to pack some salty fatty foods that I think will be more appealing- like nuts, crackers etc. Maybe even a cheese sandwich? I dunno. I don't want too much in my stomach either. These are the things I should have been practicing on my long training runs...oops.
Ah well I will figure something out. If nothing else I'll have good conversation to keep me going in my good friend Celine who is running with me.
Today I got a big treat. My new shoes arrived! Dean from Ernie's ordered these special for me. I am so excited to get out for a run in them. (They are the Brooks Cascadia 5)
Harley saw 4 shoes and thought they were for him. He is excited to get for a run in them too!
Happy training (and happy tapering to me!!!!)

Friday, February 5, 2010

Jasper Recap

Well a week it is. What a busy week!
Anywho...Jasper was great as always. We got up close and personal with some wildlife including a lone grey wolf, many deer and this big ol' daddy.
Thanks to a blind corner, H-dog and D almost ran smack into him! 
Friday I did a run up the Pyramid Lake loop with H-dog. I was blissed out the entire run. Seriously, if I could have been anywhere in the world doing anything I wouldn't have changed a thing. It was fantastic.

Saturday we attempted the number 7 trail to 6th Bridge, but we ran out of trail about 3km from there. The snow was knee deep so we bailed and hiked over to the road. We ran the road a bit (saw the wolf) and joined back up with the trail to take us back. It was a chilly day and we were both under dressed. After a big lunch we spent most of the rest of the day under blankets watching movies. 
Sunday I wanted to do the Pyramid Lake loop again and it started out with the 3 of us. D and HD took a detour to avoid some off leash mutts and we got separated. I continued on but went a different way trying to find the boys. I ended up going up in reverse to what I am used to. This, combined with the snowfall the night before left me with only a vauge sense of where the trail went once I reached the top. I went half way down on another trail but it didn't feel right so I then retraced my steps to the top. I looked around for another trail but couldn't find anything so back down I went. I went all the way to the bottom, crossed a valley and a creek and ended up at a fork in the trail. There were finally trail signs identifying that I was indeed, off course. I was also in an area that I remembered from my map was a major thoroughfare for wildlife, and 'not recommended to travel'. Eek. So back up the mountain I went. Thankfully I was doing my first run with the awesome Leki poles D bought me. I knew I would get back but I also knew I was going to be waaay late and that D would be worried. Indeed, I was almost 3.5 hrs and by the time I got home D was ready to call search and rescue. 
Although it was a bit stressful, I did get a good run in and got to really learn how to run with the poles. It wasn't easy and I tripped myself a couple of times but I did get the hang of it and it really helped in the deeper snow and on the steep ascents and decsents. 
We are heading back at the end of the month. Looking forward to more adventures :) 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Last Week

We had all kinds of good times in Jasper on the weekend. I have a few photos to post but I am too tired to go get the camera and upload them. I ran 6 days in a row last week and broke through the 100km mark for the week. I felt great. Monday I ran and I really felt like I could run forever. Yesterday was a rest day and today I feel like I was hit by a truck. Just soooo tired. It took me until 3pm to get out for my run and it was a struggle. I managed to do the 18km and felt better for doing it but I am pretty much ready for bed and it is 8pm. Maybe rest days are a bad

Last week's stats:
Tuesday: off
Wednesday: 16km
Thursday: 12km
Friday: 17.5km (Jasper trails)
Saturday: 20km (Jasper trails)
Sunday: 20.5km (Jasper trails, I got lost)
Monday: 16km
Total: 102km

Hopefully my energy will be back tomorrow and I'll write about the Jasper fun.