Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Looking in the wrong places

 For a while, I felt myself getting burnt out on running and racing.  Mainly racing, but running wasn't much fun either.  I tried all the wrong things - I tried signing up for races that at one time or another were remotely interesting to me - that didn't work.  I tried signing up with a coach to keep me accountable when my motivation waned - that also didn't work.  

I am learning more about my relationship with running and what I need to keep me interested, and the answer is me. I need to stay engaged in the process, and doing the same distance over and over again is not the way.  Yes, Comrades was a bucket list item early on in my ultra running, but even that couldn't get me excited.  Yes, it is a big race for many ultra runners, but the more I thought about the actual details - it is a road race, after all; it is in South Africa, which sounds cool, but the more I looked into the logistics of the travel, the less interesting it became.  I have never had a strong draw to vacation in S Africa, so the idea of running there wasn't doing it for me.  

Long Haul looked cool - I like loop courses like that, especially if I may be going solo - just easier to crew for yourself and you are constantly seeing other runners.  But constantly seeing other runners is actually what I try to avoid. I like long stretches in the woods by myself.  It's easier to manage my self talk late in a race when I am not distracted by someone else.

So, I have changed my focus completely, and I'll be damned if it is not working.  I have shifted into focusing on strength.  For the last few months I have been faithful to my strength work and I can feel it working. I was originally just walking an hour three days a week, now I am running three days a week and walking two. I like the walking - no pressure and I can chill and listen to a podcast.

If all goes well, I will be signing up for a new, challenging goal later this year.  I am doing something different this time though.  I am not sharing this except with a select few people, and whomever may follow my blog.  I closed my Strava account (yes, the data was lost, but I would never go back and look at that anyway. Who cares what you ran two years ago?), and I am not enlisting the help of a coach.

I am going back to old times when I ran and raced for myself.  For a while, I was too aware of people watching my progress, and it changed my focus. I am not externally motivated, and when I found myself trying to do things not to let others down, it caused me to hate what I was doing. There was no more joy in it, no matter how many "kudos" I got.  

This next race is for me.  Yes, if during the event, people want to post so others can follow along, I am fine with that, but I don't think I will be sharing this next adventure.  I don't think so, anyway.  Sometimes it's okay to just do something because you want to and not because others are watching.

Wednesday, June 28, 2023

Healing and Figuring Things Out

 So much has happened in the last few months... I went from battling my usual hip issues and getting very frustrated to the point of saying "f this" and deciding to give up running completely.... to being sidelined for the last three weeks with a pinched nerve in my neck and now being antsy to start running again.  The time off has calmed my hip down, still fighting the nerve pain.  

How did the pinched nerve come about?  A deep tissue massage.  Seriously.  I was WAAAAY overdue for a massage - when I am super busy and stressed at work, and I should prioritize self care, I tend to do the opposite and put it on the back burner.  Evidently the muscles between my shoulders, where I carry the weight of the world, were so tight that when they were loosened up, a disc slipped out of place.  

Three weeks later, and I am slowly on the mend. I also think I may be invited to spend the holidays with my chiropractor and his family as I have spent so much time with him lately. 

So, this morning I walked three miles for the first time in weeks (even walking would cause my neck to throb) and I did a light version of my workout, and so far so good. My instincts are to hit it hard with exercise and make it give up.  My instincts on things like this are frequently wrong. 

Badger is definitely out.  Chewing on whether I want to jump back in and try to make it to Long Haul in January (I really want to do that race), but I am, for once, going to err on the side of caution.  Maybe.  Or I will get frustrated and dive in.  

All I know is that all of this is NOT because I am getting older.  At least that is what I keep telling myself. Meanwhile I am trying not to melt into a puddle on the road, and that is just from walking!  

Stay safe in this heat, and remember, hydration is not just during your run!  Hydrate daily to stay on top of your body's needs.  You can acclimate to the heat, you just have to be smart about it.  Louisiana summers are unforgiving to runners.

Hope to see you guys on the road or trail soon! 

Happy Running! 


Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Training update and upcoming race

 As much as I hate to put this out into the universe, training is going pretty well right now.  My persnickety piriformis has settled down for now and I am  healthy- ish -  - tempering that a bit, because I am pretty tired right now. Lots going on with work and life, and I am doing my best currently not to let that derail my training.  

It's easy to do - telling yourself, "It has been a shit week and I am exhausted. I am going to fix myself a cup of coffee and chill on the porch. I'll run later." Rarely does that run happen, for me at least.  Lately my work days have been kicking my butt, so I have had to be honest with myself that if I don't knock out my run before the sun rises, it will probably not get done.  The next month or so is going to be a challenge, then I should be able to breathe a bit.  Hopefully. 

But, I am enjoying my runs - especially my "long" runs on the weekend.  Currently that is just a 10 miler, but it feels good!  I am even enjoying being drenched with sweat after the run again, but I like summer running.

Click the pic for more info on Old School.

This Saturday (4/1), I am running a new-to-me race, The Old School 20 miler in Ruston, LA.  It is made up of 2 - 10 mile loops, and is mostly single track.  Just what I need to shut my work brain off for a bit and play in the woods! The beauty of trail running is that you can't afford to be distracted or you will find yourself with a mouth full of dirt.  Sometimes you will find yourself there even if you are paying attention. Keeps things interesting.

I am definitely stronger now than I was for Red Dirt (300+ flights of stairs will do that to you).  More than anything, I am just looking forward to getting out there.  There is something about lining up with friends - the ones you know and the ones you don't yet - to run through the woods.  Road races are fine, but there is just such a  primal feeling about trail races that can't be understood until you've been there.

17 weeks until the Badger 100 and if you want to think long term, 40 weeks until Long Haul 100. I am optimistic about my races this year.  I have total faith in my coach, and I am enjoying the mix of speedwork, strength and endurance.  This type of training is completely new to me - I used to just gradually increase the miles until I either hit 100 mile weeks or came pretty close. Now I understand that unless you are a pro that is unnecessary, but like everything in life, when you know better you do better.

I'll do a race recap after Old School for you guys so you can decide if you should put it on your calendar next year.

AND - I was interviewed on a podcast by two other RD's in Louisiana recently - Mike and Brad.  Check it out if you have time or if you want company on your next run.

Happy Running! 



Tuesday, February 28, 2023

Red Dirt 50k Race Recap


Last Saturday was the Red Dirt Ultra, and the first year in the race's 7 year history that I arrived as a participant and not the race director.  After last year's race, it was time for me to hand it off to someone who would care about the legacy of the race, but who would also take the time to grow it and make it an even better event.  That person is Fawn Hernandez.  Fawn is a very experienced trail and ultra runner, and she has a love of the sport that I believe is necessary to have an event that is pure to the spirit of trail running.

Friday evening, Randy and I hung out at packet pickup for a bit, visiting with old friends and making new ones, then for the first time in the history of this race, we went to our hotel room (not a tent or box trailer) to sleep and get ready for the race.  I wanted to see all of my 100 mile friends, so we got to the race site early Saturday morning before the 100 mile and 100k started.  

Ten minutes before the 50k started, Fawn did her trail briefing, giving specific info on the trail and what to expect for the day. She also mentioned the passing of the RD torch and said a few sweet words to acknowledge the handover, and before you know it, the countdown was started and we were on our way.  

The first few miles of this race have a fair amount of climbing and loose sand, so I knew I would take it easy until I hit a runnable section.  Sarah LeBlanc and I ran / hiked together for much of the first 12 miles on the course.  Since my piriformis flared up earlier in the week, causing me to have to take a few days off of running, while taking anti-inflammatories and spending time with the percussion massager, I knew there was a chance that I may not be able to finish the race.  After all, this was just a training run for the Badger 100 coming up in July, and I didn't want to push a minor injury into a major one that may cause me to lose training time.

In the last couple of miles before we hit the MudnGuts aid station at mile 12, I started to notice a sharp pain in my left knee when we were climbing.  I was pretty sure it was just a result of a tight and angry piriformis, but I began to resign myself that I would stop at mile 12 to avoid potential damage.

When I arrived at MudnGuts, Randy was there with my nutrition (Skratch Super Fuel - 400 calories per bottle, 200 - 250 calories per hour), and the aid station was ready to help me and get me on my way.  If you haven't done one of my races, the MudnGuts aid stations are always a highlight of the race. This aid station is filled with experienced trail and ultra runners and they are as loving as they are tough.  They have saved many people's races when they thought they could no longer continue.  Great people.

So, I stopped my watch.  I told Randy about the knee pain and that I didn't want to take any chances.... then I started thinking about getting to see Shipley Cafe (the last aid station on the trail, and another truly phenomenal one - coffee or espresso to order, delicious burritos and more!) or the new section of the trail run on the Caroline Dorman trail that I had not seen yet, not to mention that this was the first year of Fawn being RD, and it was important to both of us that she would be able to put a medal around my neck. 

So I stretched, took a couple of ibuprofen (Not recommending this!  Do this at your own risk!  I take very small doses just to take the edge off when I am hurting.), restarted my watch, and headed back onto the trail. I asked Randy to try to meet me at the next aid station as well, just in case the pain got worse.  Yes, it was a no crew access station, but I claim Founder's Privilege on this one.

I started run / walking again, and no knee pain!  But in a few miles, my lower back started tightening up - what I am sure is all still related to my whole left side being tight from the piriformis flare up.  I ran when I could, walked when I needed to navigate around mud, or just needed a break, and made it to the next aid station where Randy was waiting. I knew if I made it there, I would make it to the end. After this is was just 5 or so miles to Shipley Cafe and 6 or so to the finish line.  Stupid mental games you play with yourself in an ultra.

Between the third aid station and Shipley Cafe laid the new section of trail that I was looking forward to.  Most of Red Dirt Ultra is run on the Sandstone trail which is also an ATV trail from May - December, so it is a wide, not very technical trail.  The main thing you have to navigate are ruts from the ATV tires now and then and a few rocky sections.  

The approach to the Caroline Dorman trail was a dirt road for about .8 miles which seemed longer as it was midday and the temps got up to 80.  Once on the trail, you went from running on packed sand to running on grass, and since this section is not heavily used, the trail was not always obvious.  After a few stops to look for trail markings, I made it to Bayou Kisatchie, where the trail skirted alongside for the last mile or so before Shipley Cafe. Here are a few pics from that section:

My feet were wet most of the day due to water crossings.  Between that and the sand, it wrecked havoc on runners feet.

The water on this trail is cold and clear.  Feels great on tired feet that are already wet from the trail.

Kisatchie Bayou

A washout on the trail. One of the many reasons I was happy I wouldn't have to run this section at night.

Once you finished this section, you found yourself on a cement sidewalk that led straight to Shipley Cafe, where I was happy to get a big hug from Jeff Shipley, the Aid Station Captain and an old friend.  Jeff is an aid station genius. His station was about 25 miles into a very hot loop, and the first thing he offered was a popsicle.  Perfect.  The next thing I wanted was a cold beer.  During a long race like this, about half of a cold beer if perfect - carbs for a quick pick me up, cold, and bubbly to refresh your mouth from the sugary sweet stuff you've been eating at the aid stations.  If you know Randy, you know that where he is, there is usually beer, so I met him at the car, drank my beer, refilled my pack and headed up the road.

This was by far my least favorite part of the race.  It was midday and hot, and this was 1.5 miles of dirt road until we could reenter the trail.  I told Randy at Shipley Cafe that I had decided to walk it in from this point.  I was 25 miles into a race that I was seriously undertrained for (longest run prior was 9 miles), and I really just wanted to enjoy the rest of the race.  

Once I entered the trail again, I played leap frog for a while with Scott - an active duty Air Force member, who was walk/running ahead of me.  He would jog a bit, then stop and walk and I would keep catching up with him.  Eventually, he decided just to walk it in as well and we walked the rest of the race together and visited the whole way.  

One of the beauties of these races is watching people who would never meet otherwise, or who may have nothing in common, become friends.  The trail is the great equalizer. It doesn't matter what you do, what your political beliefs are, or how much money you have in the bank.  On the trail, everyone is equal.

To wrap up a too long post, I finished at 8:40, I think. Nowhere near a pr, but that wasn't the goal, and this is a tough course - about 2300 feet of gain in 30 miles.  I got my medal and hug from Fawn, Georgie, an angel on earth cleaned and worked on my feet, I drank a couple of beers with friends, ate some of Darrins delicious gumbo, and headed back to the hotel to shower and rest so I could clear 9 miles of trails for Fawn the next day.

All in all a great weekend! 

Happy Running, y'all! 


Thursday, February 9, 2023

Some days are harder than others


If the alarm had been going off at 9:30, I wouldn't have been so unhappy about it.

I REALLY didn't want to run this morning. As soon as my alarm went off, I started the mental negotiations.  Here's how it went:

"It's going to be sunny this afternoon, I can run then" (Knowing that this is rarely successful, as I am usually pretty toasted when I get home from work.)

"Maybe I can skip today. It's been a rough training week and my muscles need to rest." (This is true - I am 60 flights of stairs into a 70 flights of stairs week, with 20 miles running left to do before the end of the weekend as well.)

'If I sleep for 20 more minutes, I should still be able to get my run in and make my first meeting" (Which was also true, but it would have made my morning very stressful, and I don't like starting my day feeling rushed.)

In the end, while all of this was happening in my head, I was getting dressed and ready to run.  5 miles later, I am so happy that I overruled my brain this morning and got it done.  Now I just have 10 flights of stairs to do once I reach the office and I'm good for the day.

One skill running has taught me is that I can observe my inner dialogue but I don't have to obey it.  Even during races when the negative thoughts pop up, I can detach from them and continue moving.  Helps in life in general as well. 

Happy Running!


Saturday, January 28, 2023

Run Nutrition

 One thing it has taken me a while to learn is the importance of taking in calories during a run - even a "short" run of 45 mins to an hour.  During 100 milers, I am pretty careful to get between 200 - 250 calories per hour in, but on shorter runs, I tend to be lazy about it and think, "It's just an hour, I'll eat after."

I don't normally eat before a regular weekday run.  I get up, get dressed and get out of the door before my brain can object.  But, I have started making it a point to do a gel (100 calories) before I head out the door - usually with a little caffeine in it and the difference is very easy to see.  My daily runs are better when I fuel before and during if the run is over 30 minutes.

I have tried many gels over the years - it is just the most convenient way to get in concentrated calories and carbs when you are on the move.  I have also done the "all real food" thing before and it works great as well, it is just a lot more work and preparation.  The gel that I have settled on for the last few years, thanks to a recommendation by Fawn, is Huma - energy gels with chia seeds and all natural ingredients.  Most of the other gels out there have ingredients I can not pronounce where as my favorite Huma - lemonade - is made with cane sugar, water, brown rice syrup, lemon juice, powdered chia seeds, sea salt and natural caffeine.  (click the image to check out their website)

It doesn't make sense to run for your health and take in garbage as fuel.

Once I get closer to two hour plus runs, I move over to Skratch Superfuel Drink Mix.  This was a life saver on my last 100 miler.  I can carry a  400 calorie mixture in one of my water bottles, and electrolyte water in the other bottle. I set my watch to beep every 15 minutes which reminds me to drink some of my Skratch, and I know that every two hours I need to be finished with that bottle of Skratch.

Liquid nutrition is just the easiest thing for me. I drink a lot when I run, so it is a no brainer for me to get my nutrition this way.  Once again, Skratch is the cleanest option I have found for this, and it is not too sweet like other products I have used in the past.  (Tailwind used to work wonders for me, but 60 miles in to a 100 miler, and the sweetness would make me quit drinking all together.)

Skratch ingredients:  Cluster dextrin, fructose, citric acid, sodium citrate, lemon oil, lime oil, lemon juice, lime juice.  Click the image above to check out their website.  

AS I HAVE ALWAYS SAID - nutrition is highly individual.  This is just what works for me - for now.  This will change at some point as well, it always does.  These are just two good products that work well for me, and if you are searching for something, they may be worth trying. Like everything in life, the cleaner, purer products are a little more expensive, but like I said, if you are trying to be strong and fit, why would you fuel with garbage?

Enough for today.  I will go over what I do for recovery in another post. Hope someone finds value in this.

Happy running! 

Monday, January 16, 2023

Is your why big enough?


Through my years of running, my why has been fluid.  Early on, I was running to get me much needed alone time while I was in an unhappy marriage.  Running gave me an excuse to go out, alone, and spend time with my thoughts.  It gave me a space where, even if just for a few minutes, I was able to be selfish and just worry about my wants and needs - something I had precious little time for otherwise.

Over time, my why evolved into wanting to spend time with the amazing running friends I had made.  We made some wonderful memories over the years in and out of running, but none of them would have been possible without that core common interest.

I am by nature a solitary person. I love my friends, but I love my quiet time as well.  For the last few years I have evolved into mostly a solo runner.  Group runs have always been somewhat stressful for me because I always find myself forming to someone else's pace or workout and not sticking to mine.  I am a people pleaser by nature (working on that), and I inevitably abandoned my goals to defer to someone else's. Running alone means not having to negotiate pace or worry about anyone else's schedule. I can run super early or sleep in and just take off out of my door. I can stick to my workout or amend it if needed.

I know for some people, running is their source of camaraderie, and that's awesome!  Whether you choose to run alone or you choose to attend group runs, or if it is a combination of both is irrelevant.  As long as you are doing something you love BECAUSE you love it.  Peer pressure or FOMO (fear of missing out) might work for the short term, but to have a longer running career, a deeper why is important.

My why has evolved into more of a "why not?".  I still run and I still want to race long distances because there is no legitimate reason for me not to, and I still enjoy it. (Except when I eat pavement - that part stinks). One of my favorite quotes is by St. Irenaeus of Lyons - "The Glory of God is man fully alive", and I apply this to my life in all ways possible.  

I have been given the gift of good health, determination (some would say stubbornness), and the access and ability to spend hours running.  The way I choose to use this gift is to push myself and test my limits.  This won't change as I get older, even though my limits will naturally adjust themselves.  

The saddest thing for me is to see people with great potential, but without the drive or courage to try to reach it.  Everyone's potential looks different.  Find something that you love and work hard at it.  Find out how far you can go with it.  The worst that can happen is that you are better than when you started.

Happy Running (or whatever it is you choose to do)!