Tuesday, June 27, 2017

I wouldn't have listened either.

Now don't take the title of this post as being negative - it is just being honest about the potential good this may do, but I figure it is worth a try.  It's the age old saying, "If one person is helped..."

A few months ago I noticed an odd spot on my shoulder.  I am fair skinned and freckle/burn easily so I am always very aware of any changes in my skin.  After watching the spot for a bit to see what it would do, I decided to get it checked out.  I called a couple of dermatologists on my insurance and the answer was the same - we can see you in six months.  Wow - did I ever go into the wrong business!  Luckily, a trail running friend also happens to be married to a dermatologist, and after contacting them they were able to see me sooner.  Good thing, too, since the diagnosis was that the spot was basal cell carcinoma.  Skin cancer.  It is a "good" cancer to get, if you have to get one at all, but it still has to be removed or it will continue to grow.  The skin immediately around the spot had to be removed as well to be sure they got it all, leading to a slightly larger scar, but also more peace of mind.

Since my doctor is married to a runner, she understood what she was dealing with.  When asked about running post surgery, she just asked me to give her two days of rest because of the increased bleeding risk from the incision, so I did.  The surgery was on Monday, so I moved my Tuesday run to early Monday morning and took the following two days off.  My Saturday long run was a little uncomfortable with stitches in my shoulder, but she cleared me to do it, just saying to refrain from excessive arm movement.  It was a hot, humid slog for a little over 2 hours.  I am not sure my legs were actually moving, much less my arms.

My stitches were removed yesterday so now I am just left with this lovely scar, which will fade over time...

Now that I have had one instance of this, I am 50% more likely to have another pop up in the next 5 years.  All those years outside all day as a kid, and a couple of bad sunburns have taken their toll, but there are things I can do to prevent recurrence as much as possible.  I have begun wearing long sleeved UV protectant shirts and a hat on EVERY run, and I am wearing lotion with sunscreen on any exposed skin every day.  

I anticipated wearing long sleeves to run in south Louisiana summertime to be completely miserable, but I have been pleasantly surprised.  Believe it or not, once you soak through the shirt, even the slightest breeze created by running has a noticeable cooling effect.

So, here is the advice most of you will not heed. (As the title notes, I wouldn't have listened either.)  Consider looking into long sleeved UV tech shirts.  Save yourself any additional sun damage, and hopefully avoid getting a chunk of your skin cut off.  Or don't.  But if you are interested, here are the shirts I found that are a great price and not terribly heavy to run in.  

Happy Running, Y'all!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Decreasing and Increasing

"Minimal" - it is a word I have spent much time thinking about over the last 6 years or so.  At some point in my life, I realized that my life was full - but not in a good way.  My life was full of noise, and stuff, and obligations, and expectations put upon me by others (with my permission).  It was also when I realized that despite all of that,  I felt completely empty.  

It has been a 6 year journey since my divorce to get to a point where I understand where I want to be, and what is worth spending my most valued possession - my time - on.

Finally, I find myself in the last phase of this part of my journey, downsizing my life so that everything I own (except for my vehicle) fits into the smallest space possible.  Through this slow purging of "stuff", I now feel lighter than I can ever remember feeling since I was a kid living in my parents' home.  

Besides cleaning out the physical clutter, I have cleaned out quite a bit of emotional clutter as well.  I have worked hard for the last years to minimize the impact others are allowed to have on my sense of well being.  Slowly, I am able to recognize when someone is being toxic, and rather than soaking in their venom, I realize that their ugliness reflects on them, not me, and I move on.  I have no control over anyone else's happiness, and I have no responsibility for it.  I never want to be the cause of someone else's grief, but I also can not be the cure for it.

So, as I am doing the final de-clutter, in anticipation of moving next week into a small cottage near downtown (in the PERFECT area for running directly from home), I have boiled it all down to this:  If it doesn't have REAL meaning, or if it is not an essential item, it is not coming along.  

I have done the same thing with my social media feeds.  Anyone who is consistently negative has been hidden.  I don't want to unfriend people - I still like them and want to be friends with them, but I will keep that exposure to once in a while when we are face to face.  If I get to the point that someone's social media posts are affecting the way I feel about them, when I know I like them in our face to face contact, I simply hide their posts. My newsfeed is decidedly upbeat now, except for the occasional grump when someone is having a bad day - totally acceptable.  

Years ago, when I would think about what I "wanted", the list had many objects on it.  Now, when I list the things I want out of life, very few if any are things that can be bought.  I still have a ton of work to do, but I am on the right path, and hopefully that path leads through the woods.  And maybe to a waterfall or two.

Happy Running, Y'all! 

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Pinhoti Training - Phase 1 Complete

For the first time - ever - I have an official coach for an ultra.  The first few that I did years ago, I found training plans online, attempted to follow them, and ended up injured.  Then for the next 20 or so, I pieced together my own plans with decent success.  My times consistently got faster, but I knew there was something missing.  For Pinhoti 100 miler in November, I reached out to my friend and mentor, Joe Prusaitis and asked him to coach me.  Joe has been running ultras and race directing them for years.  He knows everything there is to know about the sport, and I trust him completely.

Joe and I after the finish of my 2nd 100 miler
After watching ultrarunners for years and seeing what works and doesn't work, Joe has changed his philosophy a bit, and the new philosophy suits me just fine.  Gone are the weekends with back to back long runs.  Also gone are the 100 mile peak weeks, replaced by a peak of 70ish miles, but with higher intensity workouts.

The philosophy of this plan is periodization.  The training is broken into concentrated chunks where you do one specific workout consistently, until there are no gains to be made from it, then you have a week of recovery and move on to another challenge.  The first few months are focused on building cardio (speedwork).  

I just finished the first stage where I had 5 workouts of:  5 - 3 minute bursts (as fast as you can run) followed by 3 min recovery, over a 60 minute run.  By the end of this phase, I was beginning to understand periodization.  The first of these workouts was tough.  The 2nd and 3rd were easier and my intervals got faster.  The last two, it was tough to maintain my interval speed (7:15 - 7:30), and by the last interval of the 5th one, it was  a slug out.  I feel like I squeezed everything I could out of this segment, and it ended just as I was getting burned out on it, and inching closer to possible injury.  

Now I am in a week of easy 60 minute runs, and looking forward to the next segment of longer speed intervals.

I am committed to sticking to this plan.  It will be a long, sweaty summer, but I think the dividends will be great come race time.  

Check this out if you want more info on this concept.

I'll check in after the next stage of training to give another update.  

Happy Running Y'all!


Wednesday, February 8, 2017

2017 Red Dirt Ultra

Waiting for the start.

  1. sur·re·al
    1. having the qualities of surrealism; bizarre.

      "a surreal mix of fact and fantasy"

      synonyms:unrealbizarreunusualweirdstrangefreakishunearthlyuncannydreamlike, phantasmagorical
      "a backdrop of surreal images"

  2. This is the only way I can describe last weekend for me.  It has been hard to put it into words over the last few days, but I am going to give it a shot, so hang on.

Leading into Red Dirt, people kept asking me if I was nervous, and I would answer them honestly and say "no".  I had been planning this race and working on even the smallest details for a year.  I knew that all of the logistics were covered and I had the best possible people in place to make the race go smoothly.  My team is completely competent and once they were set to a task, I no longer had to worry about whether it was going to be done correctly.  We were ready.

But, in the back of my mind, I was waiting... waiting to get nervous or have doubts; waiting for something unexpected to happen; waiting for some unforeseen kink to show itself.  None of those things ever happened.

All of the planning, meetings, race dreams, middle of the night wake ups while details of the race ran through my head...it all paid off, and the race came off without a hitch.  Or at least without any major ones - there is always room for improvement, and we are working on that for next year.

Instead of being nervous, I was completely at ease all day.  There was anticipation - it felt like my kids were running, and every time a runner finished, there was a sense of pride and relief that they accomplished their goals.  I must say, the finish line hugs were my favorite part - even if you guys smelled pretty bad sometimes.  :-)

I loved every minute of the race, even the set up and tear down.  I loved visiting with the families and crews while they were waiting on their runners.  I loved seeing runners head back out that gate for another loop.

From the first runner to the last runner, regardless of pace or time on the clock, every single one did something amazing this weekend, and I could not be more proud or more humbled.

THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for having faith in me and trusting that we would take care of you.  It was an honor, and I am already looking forward to Red Dirt 2018!  

Course tear down complete.  Time for some rest.

See you guys next year!  

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Finding My Way

For years now, I have told people that I don't know what I want to be when I grow up (I am 46).  Over the last 6 months to a year, I have finally figured it out, and things are taking shape.  On February 4th, I will host my first trail ultra as a race director, the Red Dirt Ultra in Kisatchie National Forest.  I have put on various shorter races over the years for different causes, but this is my first ultra (any distance over a marathon (26.2)).

I have been asked many times over the last few weeks if I am nervous about it, and I can honestly say "no".  This really does feel like the most natural progression for me.  I love the sport.  I love the people who choose to participate in the sport.  I love being out in nature.  I love my friends who are generously offering to give up their weekend to help our runners succeed.

Next Thursday, we will begin arriving at Kisatchie to mark the 31 mile course and get the aid stations set up and stocked.  Runners will start pulling in Friday evening for early packet pickup and I will get to meet these amazing people and reunite with old ultra running buddies.

Saturday morning, we will be out there by 4 a.m. to set up and be ready for race day packet pickup, then we will hold a short trail briefing and they are off at 6 a.m.  Over 80 runners will take off onto a dark trail to attempt to achieve something amazing, running either 31, 62, or 100 miles.  Over 1/3 of the field is made up of folks attempting their distance for the very first time.

This will not be an easy race. I have run the 31 mile loop quite a few times, and it is challenging but beautiful, and incredibly peaceful.  When the runners cross the finish line and I get to put their medals around their necks, or hand them their belt buckles for the 100 miler,  there will be no doubt in my mind or theirs that they earned it.

The journey to this point has been filled with angels, people stepping up to help and offering services for the race that I would have never considered asking for.  So many wonderful people have reached out to be a part of this race, that it is not just mine, but ours.  Everyone that will be out there running and volunteering has ownership in the success of this race.

I am so ready to officially kick off this part of my journey.  The starting line for the runners is the figurative starting line for this amazing chapter in my life, and I am so grateful for the people that I get to share it with.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

What's next? The lure of 100 mile races.

What's next?  It's a tough question when you have run a bunch of half and whole marathons and 24 ultra marathons, including eight 50 milers and four 100 milers.  What's next?  The Grand Canyon?  Check.  (one of the top three most amazing experiences of my life, by the way) Running a 200 miler? .... Nah.  At least for right now, that is not on my bucket list.  Running a harder 100 miler?  BINGO!

After my last 100 - Rocky Raccoon in 2015 - I thought I was done with that distance.  I didn't make a firm declaration - I know better, but I thought getting the 500 mile jacket at Rocky would be the end of that era.  Not so much.

There is something about the 100 mile distance that draws you back.  Besides the thousands of miles run in training, hundreds of squats and push ups, hours holding the plank position....it's the journey on race day that can not be ignored.  The great unknown.  To me and people like me, it is downright irresistible.

The starting line of a 100 miler is unlike any other start line I have experienced.  At least for me, the nervous energy and doubts that fill my mind at shorter distances do not exist there.  In their place is a calm, peaceful feeling.  There is an understanding that what you are about to attempt defies rational thought.  Some people might think you are cool or superhuman for attempting a 100 miler, but most just think you are crazy or self-destructive. At the starting line, you understand that both schools of thought hold a grain of truth.

Many romanticize the idea of running 100 miles and getting a belt buckle.  The reality is far from that ideal.  The question is not if but when it will start to hurt.  The test is how well you can manage that pain and continue to push towards the finish line.  The lesson is who you are when you are laid bare and all of your truth is exposed for the world to see.

There is nothing like the feeling of seeing the finish line for a 100 miler.  All of the doubts, all of the pain, all of the weakness...it all disappears in that one moment.

2016 has been a nice break.  Fairly lazy except for covering 31 miles in the Grand Canyon,  and now I am rested and refocused.

Looking forward to signing up for the AT100 miler as soon as registration opens, and spending all of the summer of 2017 running hills at Clark Creek and loops of Chicot.  Top notch pacers are secured, and race crew is in place.  Now it is up to me to make it to the finish line so that I can wear that sweet belt buckle to my 47th birthday party.

Happy Running, Y'all!


Friday, August 26, 2016

Back to the Basics

I find myself three weeks out from attempting the double crossing of the Grand Canyon with some of my favorite people.  One more peak training weekend and its time for the taper.  And the doubts that inevitably follow.  This is a different undertaking than anything else I have ever done.  This is not a race.  There are no aid stations, just a couple of water sources.  There is no back up plan.  A favorite quote about the Canyon - "Going down is optional.  Coming back up is mandatory."  Unless you want to pay a high price to be rescued via helicopter, you have to climb back out of the Canyon under your own power.

Will I be optimally trained?  No.  With the brutal heat here in south Louisiana this summer, long training runs were no longer just unpleasant, they were dangerous.  I wasn't able to get the volume in running I would have liked, but I was able to do plenty of strength training, stairs, and parking tower runs.  It will have to be enough.  

In starting to prepare for the actual event (three weeks from right now we should be crossing the bottom of the Canyon towards the climb to the north rim), I find myself switching into race prep mode.  Tomorrow, we are heading to Clark Creek for a last big hill workout, aiming for 5,000 feet of gain on Saturday alone with another hill workout on Sunday.  (The total gain for the double crossing is just over 10,000 feet)   Saturdays run is our "dress rehearsal".  We will be wearing the same thing we will wear for the Canyon, carry the same amount of fluids and food, and carry our trekking poles (one of my favorite discoveries - more on that later).

In my prep for tomorrow (and for the big ditch), I am pulling out my tried and true.  I am leaving my Suunto (fancy schmancy running/trekking watch with gps, barometric altimeter, bluetooth capability, etc., etc.) at home, and wearing this:

This is the watch I have worn for all of my ultra marathons, including all four of my 100 milers.  I have never worn a GPS watch on a trail race.  Why?  Well, first of all, for me, it would just add stress.  If I am making a big climb, I don't need to look down and see that I am doing a 20 minute pace.  Secondly, the distance on trails is never accurate, another source of stress when your watch might tell you you have run 50 miles but the actual course tells you that you have 3 miles to go.  Lastly, I always want to minimize the chances of gear malfunction.  The less stuff that can go out or lose battery power, the better.  I have seen people who are so dependent on the data that their devices give them, that when that device fails (they inevitably do), their mental game is shot.  It is hard to come back from that.

So, as you see, my faithful cheapo watch needs a little maintenance, then it should be good for the next 5 or 6 years.  Heading to the jewelry shop today to get the battery changed.  As I hand my watch over to the repair tech, he may see it as a cheap piece of junk (part of the band was chewed off by my cat, so I just trimmed around it with a pair of scissors), but I know that this watch has more value than any Rolex he has ever handled.  And I will smile as he holds it, knowing the amount of times I have had to rinse the sweat, bug spray and sunscreen off of it.  

Sometimes less is more.   This is one of those times.