10.3 miles on a september evening

I had planned on doing my long (”long”) run this morning, but when I woke up I was pretty hungry and also I ended up having plans at 11:30, and I’ve found that my runs aren’t very good if I go immediately after waking up, which I would have had to do. So, with some uncertainty, I opted to run later in the day. Now, we all know that when we postpone a run for later, there’s a 50% chance it’ll actually happen – if that. So I got some chores done and watched some tv and ate mac and cheese and was feeling sleepy and content, but only about 50% content. So with some snapchat motivation I headed out into the glorious end-of-September evening and had an excellent run.

I did a 10.3-mile loop that covers a mix of trails, dirt roads, and regular ol’ pavement. I’m sorely (pun!) in need of new shoes, both road and trail, as I’ve been running in the same 1400s for quite a while now and my knees are starting to notice. Plus, running downhill on trails is terrifying in them – they’ve got shallow tread to begin with (being a road racing flat), and I’ve worn out all but the tread under the arch. I brought a light but didn’t need it, except for extra visibility on the last stretch of road. I brought water but didn’t need it; it was weighing me down so I dumped it with about three miles to go. My pace dropped below 9s for the last two miles; I felt like I was flying. I felt new. And I felt like my old self again.

With this run under my belt, feeling as good as I do about it, I’m beginning to feel the tickle of a 50k in my heels sometime before the year is up. No race in particular, just me and the trees. I think this is how it needs to happen. After these past few years of injury and illness and doubt, I think I need to run 50k alone on the trails to prove to myself not only that I physically can, which will be a feat in of itself, but that I can do it without external motivation. To be successful at ultras – not winning, just completing – the drive first and foremost has to come from something within you. External motivation can help, obviously, but if that core nugget is absent, then you’ll be in trouble.

I’m still approaching cautiously, since the threat of a flare is constantly hovering around me, so playing it at safely as I can while making progress is the line I need to toe… for the foreseeable future. But as long as I stay on the healthy side of the line and can run, I’m happy.

– b

PS. Hit 25 miles for last week, highest since in June, before I got sick over the summer. Aiming for 30-35 this week.

A week up north (incl. sandy faceplant) / summer update

Man, I never write on here anymore. Probably because running has just been slow maintenance, building up mileage – nothing exciting, but good nonetheless. I just looked and I haven’t posted since the end of April. What’s happened since then? I’ve been working, sleeping, running 30-40 mile weeks. Two weeks of June were kind of shot from work being busy and moving, so when I went up north with my family at the end of June into July, I decided to use it to kick my running back into gear. I did 8-11 miles a day on the gorgeous trails in and around Sleeping Bear National Lakeshore – soft and just a little sandy, more often than not covered in brown pine needles, rolling enough to keep it interesting, with views of the pure blue expanse of Lake Michigan to the west. The weather was perfect for running, and the still-frigid lake made for an excellent full-body post-run ice bath. I was actually on track to hit around 50 miles for the week, which I hadn’t done in… I don’t even know how long, but my brothers and I decided to race down a large dune. My trail-running ego kicked in and I tried to be Kilian.

I cannot be Kilian.

Right near the bottom, I realized that my legs were pumping too fast and my feet weren’t under me and suddenly WHOMPthud. My face smacked into the deceptively hard sand and the rest of my body followed. My head was instantly throbbing and before I knew what had happened, I was somehow sitting up – I’m assuming I tumbled over my head somehow? Sand was all over me – in my eyes, hair, mouth, nose, and all sorts of other crevices. It would take me days to get it all out. I looked around for my phone – my brand-new, shiny phone – and thankfully it was all right. My family, along with some onlookers (it was a crowded Saturday morning at the dune – great) gathered loosely around. “Well, that happened,” I said with aplomb as I stood up and began brushing myself off. I felt fine, mostly – my neck felt a little funny. Not painful, just… off, somehow. After a few minutes, my head didn’t even really hurt anymore. We picked up NPS Centennial hats, because we are a Super Cool family, and headed back to the condo. By the time we got back, though, I could feel my neck really beginning to stiffen. Still not painful, but obviously not A-Okay. With thoughts of What if you have permanent brain damage now? dancing in my head, I decided to take the day off and drink beer on the beach with my brothers. Punishing, I know. The pain kicked in the next day, on the drive back downstate, and lingered for… five days, maybe? I spent two days mostly lying in bed, icing my neck & upper back and watching Game of Thrones and OITNB (both of which, by the way, !!!!!!!!!!!!!)(it was an EMOTIONAL TWO DAYS). So I’m loading mileage on the back end of this week, but I should still hit 30-35. Just got back from a brutally hot 9 miles. If I hadn’t brought water, I think I actually would have passed out in the shade on a dirt road. Needless to say, it wasn’t the speediest of runs, but I made it back alive and immediately stuck my head under the faucet outside, dousing my head in icy groundwater. Delicious.


Friday night lights – sunset over Lake Michigan, with South Manitou on the right.


Chilly but happy.


Looking west over the lake from Pyramid Point. Take this, ocean, with your stupid salty water and bitey sharks and stingy things.


Taken about 10 minutes before The Faceplant.


Choppy water, grey sky, low clouds.

keep your face away from the ground, kiddos.
peace love and sandy (but not too sandy) trails,
b

Race report: Pinckney Trail Half (and general life update)

After far too long a break from doing any kind of trail race – I think it may actually have been in 2012, though I’d have to check – I finally got one under my belt this Saturday at the Pinckney Trail Weekend. I just did the half, but it went way better than I thought it would, actually – especially since the farthest I’ve run this month, and most of last month, is about 8 miles. But I’ve picked up my pace a bit on those short runs, which I think actually helped.

The weather was pretty much perfect for racing – cool (low 40s) and overcast, no rain, not much wind. I ran into one of my friends from high school cross country who said that she was aiming for around 2 hours, so I decided to run with her even though I expected, realistically, to roll in around 2:20 or something. So we got in the “9 min/mi” pace wave – there were waves, which was different from the last trail races I’d done where there were a couple dozen people – but of course the trail was pretty bottlenecked and congested for the first maybe 2-3 miles so those went by at closer to 11 and 10 min/mi, which I wasn’t thrilled about. But of course it eventually thinned out and I began to figure out a decent pace and pick my way up. Roughly the middle has a couple big hills (for Michigan, anyway), and I focused on actually working the hills, powerhiking up and cruising down. (A couple guys behind me were talking about hills and racing, and one of them said something like, “Yeah, people always get to the top and slow down, like, ‘Whew, that was hard!’ and that’s when you’ve gotta pass ’em and fly down the hill. Classic race mentality,” which kind of made me go Ah yes, this is a race, I should think at least a little about that.) After grinding out the middle hilly miles we hit a really nice fast part, still some hills but very runnable with nice flow. I always love that part on my runs out there, it just flies by. At an aid station around maybe mile 10 one of the guys I know from the running scene in Ann Arbor was working and offered me “Gatorade or beer?” I thought he was joking so I said “BEER!” and was handed a Sam Adams IPA. It actually tasted pretty damn good. The last four miles or so went by pretty quick (with the exception of that one last big hill about a mile and a half out). Also, my calves started cramping around mile 11, but I just kept my stride long and ran it out and it was fine. By then, I was really in the groove of things and I felt like I could go all day (with a pace adjustment, of course!). It was like my muscle memory was kicking in from so long ago. I pushed it the last mile and came through in 2:05:59, which I think was actually one of my fastest times on that loop… which just goes to show how big a role mentality plays in running distances (even just a half), and also that I probably wasn’t working hard enough in the past, because I was in way better shape than I am now  😛  I was 14th woman overall and 3rd in my age group. I suspect I could have broken 2h had I not been stuck for the first three miles. Also, my dad came through at 2:00 flat… had I known he was so close, I would have tried to catch him!

I’d forgotten how much I love being out there for hours, just chipping away at the miles for hours, just getting it done… and the feeling of having a strong, steady pace that pays off the more miles there are. I think only one or two people passed me in the last couple miles (mainly on the hills that I would have run had my calves not been spasming). It’s just the best feeling. Doing this race was so good for me. For the last probably two years, my lack of racing or really running far has been messing with me. I’ve felt incomplete, like I lost a big part of who I am. The race this weekend, even though it was just a half, helped me find that lost part. Before, I was doubting my interest in running long – like I wanted to want to run long, but it just wasn’t there yet. Now that desire is back, without a doubt in my mind. I would have signed up for the 50k the next day had my friends and dad not reminded me that I haven’t been running and that my shin would probably just explode. So there’s one in June I have my eye on. I can’t wait. Waking up too early, having that feeling of “Oh god why did I sign up for this, the bed is soooo comfy,” but getting up and putting on your running clothes and meeting at the start line in the early morning, when the air is cool and dew is on the grass and the sun is just peeking up, then your little group trots off into the woods to emerge five, six hours later, tired and triumphant… then laying on the couch under a giant comfy blanket and falling asleep. So good.

So anyway. I’M BACK! I did a shakeout seven yesterday, and my left calf is still sore/tight where it was cramping during the race, but thankfully my shin feels fine.

Life update time! I’m graduating this weekend, which is kind of terrifying but mostly exciting, I guess. The plan is to take a “year off,” which I put in quotes because it’ll be a year of calc and chem classes to prep for grad school, which I will hopefully be attending next fall (2016) for geology. So now I have to focus on narrowing down my fields of interest and finding a professor to work with (in a town with good trails and a good running community, of course!). But I’m pretty excited about that, and very pleased with my decision to go into geology. The work is interesting and I love the people – they like craft beer possibly more than trail runners and climbers, which is saying something. So that’s good.

Ok, time to go pick up graduation tickets and start packing. Blah.

peace love and long-distance running,
bec

 

In which it is very snowy

It’s been snowing. A lot. Which makes things kind of pretty and quiet for a while, but now we’re in that grey slush-filled stage where everything is just hard to walk in and the sight of more snow falling doesn’t bring about feelings of, “Yay, winter is here!” It arouses more of an internal groan that just escapes into your throat and everyone hears it and sadly nods.

In other words, February.

But yesterday evening, I had seven miles scheduled, so seven miles I would run, snow or no snow. I started out optimistic and headed for the trail I usually take, thinking that even a little snow on the trail would be better than road running. Boy, was I wrong. I must have clocked a twelve-minute mile or slower. Slogging through almost a foot of partially, unevenly-packed snow was tedious and hard work and not at all worth the effort and energy expenditure. In short, if I kept running – “running” – on trails, it would not be even close to a quality run. So as the sun set pink over the snow-covered river, I headed onto a road I hadn’t run on before. I knew it followed the river, so I figured I’d just turn around at about 3.5 miles’ worth of time.

It turned out to be a pretty run. That road is lined with huge houses, mansions in a variety of architectural styles overlooking the river with the city off to the southeast emitting the faint pinkish-yellow glow of light pollution. With the sun set, that glow was behind me, an anthropogenic sunrise, and the dark western horizon lay in front. As I ran along the mostly deserted, and impeccably plowed, road, I passed traditional houses of stone and brick and gleaming modern, minimalistic ones. There was one standalone little log cabin right by the river’s edge. I wondered how it got there – and how long it would last. I passed a few driveways, gated and lined with lights, that twisted up dark hills, into forests and beyond, leading to a fortress of a house somewhere. I imagined a dystopian future in which the dissatisfied plebeian citydwellers marched on this neighborhood, attempting to storm these glittering strongholds.

I hit my turnaround point and turned back, back towards the city. In my return, I went over and under bridges, ran along the tracks, through a tunnel. I never saw another soul – just one hushed black audi rolling along, shiny somehow even at night. I felt myself pushing the pace a little while I was on semi-dry pavement, and it felt good. The last mile was an uphill slog, though, through the barely-shoveled walks in town. After a nice hot shower, I calculated my splits and my average pace on the road was just under 8:30s, which for seven miles is good for me, if I haven’t been running a whole lot (which I haven’t, still, really). Man, I remember when eight miles would be a tempo run of sub-8s. Sigh. I’ll get back there.

After my run, I did yoga and stretches and foot exercises and abs. So productive. And this morning, I just did an easy five. I was a little stiff from my effort last night, but my pace was mainly impeded by the fresh three inches of snow that had fallen sometime between my run last night and 10:30 a.m. today. And they’re calling for more. It’s snowing right now, and has been since early this afternoon. Sigh.

I’m moving somewhere where this doesn’t happen.

happy yak trakking to you!
bec

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The storm at night…
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The Diag
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A
nn Arbor isn’t big on plowing residential streets that well…

January recap

Wow, I just realized I haven’t posted anything since the “looking back” post. Understandable, actually, since I’ve barely run 55 miles this whole month – a winning combo of one f*ckin’ cold week, a few sick days, and (here’s a new thing!) actually having to put effort into my classes. Homework and all that. Who’da thunk it? Also, the whole “balance” thing – aka, hanging out with my friends more than I did last year. Which has been stellar.

I just registered for the Pinckney Trail Half Marathon at the end of April (it pains me to type it), but I ran 11.5 today and felt great so I might bump up to the marathon. Maybe – fingers crossed – I could even make the 50k happen. But I’m not going to think about that too much, otherwise it will become an all-consuming idea and anything less will be construed as failure in my mind. Either way, three of my very best friends from high school cross country are also signed up for the half, so we can train together again. Combining social AND running – look at me go, balancing like a champ.

For the most part, most of my runs have been pretty short but okay, although last Friday’s was a bit of a disaster. I had a great 8 miler on Thursday night, but foolishly deadlifted too much right after, effectively murdering my hamstrings and lower back for the next few days. So running was out until today (well, yesterday, but I was hungry and also wanted to hang out), but thankfully there doesn’t seem to have been any damage done. Oh, also I’m pretty sure my ribcage cartilage has been inflamed for a number of weeks now, but it doesn’t seem to impact running, so I’m calling it Good To Go.

I did have one nice nighttime run, and I wrote this:

There’s something about running at night when it’s snowy that I just love. Everything is soft and muted yet slightly illuminated from city light reflecting off the clouds and snow-covered ground. It’s a slightly surreal feeling, just whishing through shadowy forests, not quite able to make out the trail’s surface, running on instinct and quick reaction. The snow and dark might slow you down a little, but for me, it always feels somewhat ethereal and quick. Like a silent deer running unseen, unheard, through the woods. Simple. Serene.

That’s about it. I’m going to make tea now. And hopefully it’ll stay runnable weather and I’ll, you know, actually run and write about it.

peace love and warm mittens,
becca

 

Looking back at 2014…

I haven’t posted in a while. I could give my excuses (school, Gilmore Girls being on Netflix, not running due to injury, not running due to Gilmore Girls, etc.), but let’s let bygones be bygones, shall we?

I last posted in late November, before Thanksgiving. That’s right around when the semester started to heat up. I ran a little on and off, a few miles here and there, but weirdly enough, my left hip was giving me problems. Not hurting, not really feeling sore – just  tired and weak, like it did back in high school. This is probably because I took so much time off from not only running, but lifting as well. My poor hip muscles had atrophied. I ran about 40 miles in the whole month of December. My motivation is back, but I need to get my hips back in shape (the rest of me too, to be honest). It’s frustrating because cardiovascularly, running is fine. I ran about 7 a few days ago, and there were only two things that prompted me to return when I did: the fear of overdoing it in terms of mileage even though my shin felt okay, and the fact that my hips were blown out. The end of all my runs is uphill, and my left hip was barely firing. My quad felt heavy and dead. I wanted to run more but felt like it would go better if I just amputated my leg then and there and hopped away lopsidedly. I was good and stretched for a long while afterwards, but my hip still has a little remnant soreness today, still.

Thankfully, my hips aren’t actually hurting, at least. There’s no pain, only weakness (throw that on a t-shirt!), so I can grit my teeth and make myself run. It just feels like I’m operating at about 40 percent.

But hey. I can run, and I want to run, which is more than can be said for past me. I’ve written before about how rough the summer was for me, and how I was very fit earlier in the year (January-April) but at a cost to my sanity, basically. Or maybe it was the hormones. (I went off the pill in November and have felt so much better, like the old, happy-go-lucky scamp I knew I was. Which definitely contributed to my shitty summer – I just didn’t realize it at the time.) Only in the recent months has my desire to run actually returned beyond “I’d like to run again sometime.” Now it’s back to how it should be – waking up and just wanting to be running. Just writing this is making me itch to get out for my run. So in perspective, having weak hips is a very manageable and easily-solved problem. Once the gyms open back up, I’ll just start doing my physical therapy things again, which I think is primarily why they weakened so much last month. I don’t know if I’ll be in shape in time to do the local 50k at the end of April, but there are 50ks every weekend. I’ll just find one elsewhere.

So here’s to the end of 2014. Raise a glass to happiness and health. And start the new year off with a run.

Bec

PS. I dyed my hair and got a fish yesterday.

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I think he thought the camera lens was another fish because he got all big.

The overzealous runner

I, like most of you, like running (to say the least). When injury sidelines us, whether for a week or a year, our whole life is thrown out of balance. We get anxious, depressed, irritable – generally unpleasant to be around. So when we’re finally ready to run again, we run the risk of letting our excitement cloud our judgment. Maybe it’s a lack of self-control, or maybe it’s just an overabundance of enthusiasm, but personally, once I can run pain-free again, I go at it 110% and repress the memory of my seemingly distant months of injury.

In my mind, I’ve been back to running for what feels like months and months, but really, it’s only been since the beginning of September. Had I been keeping track of my weekly mileages like a responsible runner, I would have seen that my averages of 20 to 30 miles were far from the lofty 60-, 70-, 80-mile weeks dancing in my mind. Had I been keeping track of things, I would not have run 22 miles two Sundays ago and attempted 26 this past Sunday. Had I kept track of things, I wouldn’t have had to bail on my long run a mere six miles in because of shin pain, hip weakness, foot cramps, and a fun new outer-ankle pain that appeared a few days ago.

To wit: I was so excited to be able to run kind of far (18 miles) with relative ease that I let my mind get ahead of what my body is currently capable of doing safely, which is especially dangerous coming off of a long period of injury. I had this idea of myself as still being in the shape I was in 2012; I couldn’t accept that I’m not exactly in great distance shape right now. Mentally and cardiovascularly, maybe, but my shins aren’t ready to jump into the 45 miles I did last week (a huge jump from 28 the week before).

I spent a while yesterday reading sections on running addiction, overtraining, and shin stresses and fractures (as well as the female athlete triad) in The Lore of Running. While reading each of those sections, I found myself thinking, “Yep, that’s me. Exactly.” Increasing volume too rapidly – check. Vague shin pain – check. Reliance on running for mental stability/happiness – check. (Delusions of grandeur – check.) What I got out of it was a simple message: be realistic and be smart about running. Recovery and mileage buildup takes a long time. I can’t expect to be back in good, safe 50k shape after two or three months of running, no matter how many times I’ve read Eat & Run or To Be A Runner in that time.

So I’m going to bite the bullet of being realistic and aim for about 30-35 mile weeks for the time being. I cringe typing it when I think of my heydays of 70-80 mile weeks, but I’m at a different point in my running life right now, and that’s okay. I’d rather take as many months as I need to safely build back up to higher mileages than push too hard now and end up out of commission for another year.

Because if I’m grumpy for an entire year again, I will have no running buddies left.

peace love and grudgingly being smart about running,
bec

PS. My long run on Sunday turned into a 6 mile run out, then a 4ish mile walk through the woods, which allowed me to take some (iPhone, but still) pictures. The park is beautiful this time of year; pictures don’t do the colors justice.