Week 2: Sprint to the Summit 12k

My second week at elevation can pretty much be summarized by this number: 5,062′. That is the amount of up I have climbed in the last seven days.  No wonder why my ass is sore!   I’ve managed to meet this awesome group of runners: the Wasatch Mountain Wranglers. Between the runs during the week and the Sunday runs out of the Park City Running Company I’m starting to meet some really amazing folks.

Earlier this week I went out water testing with Nate one the guys from work.  We went up into the Summit Park neighborhood.  He brought me by the trailhead and said he’d never done it, but had always been curious about it.  Little did I know I’d be running it TWICE this week on Thursday and once on Sunday.

IMG_3420Thursday I met the Wranglers at the same trailhead Nate had pointed out two days earlier.  I have to say this, despite my absolute slowness there is always at least one person waiting at the intersections.  I try to keep one of them in view, but sometimes I just can’t go any faster.  Charlotte on the other hand, I think, would much rather be with the fast kids especially now that I bought her a cooling coat.  However, sometimes letting the fast kids go has its perks. Like when I run up on them and ask them why they are stopped.  They all pointed. “SNAKE!”  Yep, sometimes it pays to be slow.

After being tortured with overhead squats at CrossFit on Friday and going out to the mountains on Saturday (which will be it’s own post), Sunday I was back at the same trail head only this time for a “race”.  It’s more of a potluck fun run, but the course was IMG_3471marked and we get times and bibs so I guess you could call it a race.  Having been out there on Thursday I knew that some of the sections of up were going to be brutal.  I tucked myself and Charlotte into the back and watched the fast kids scamper off.   Man are they fast!  I saw one of their splits just above mine on Strava.  His per mile time? 11 minutes.  Mine?  16:45.  Sigh.  Charlotte and I managed to hang with a couple of the Wranglers until the 12k/5k course split.

I had given a ride over to a bunch of folks from the Running Co. and Linda was one of IMG_3474them.  She is an experienced road runner who has just come over to the dark side to trail running.  This was her 5th trail run.  She and I stuck together for the rest of the course encouraging each other along the way.   Team Caboose!  It was nice having someone to chat with along the way.  She’s a super interesting human with lots of stories to tell.  I hope I get to spend more time with her out on the trails.

We chugged long on the trail going only as fast as the other could go.  We joked that maybe we should have pulled the course markings as we went along to save them a trip.  When we hit the road to the finish line we finished it together.   She even managed to win an award for her age category!  Granted, almost everyone else was gone, but I’m damn proud of that 7 miles.  Probably the hardest 7 miles I’ve ever put in.

Each run is slowly getting better.  I won’t say easier, but better.  My lungs don’t necessarily want to explode any more.  I will take that as progress.

 

 

 

 

My 1st week at Elevation

I survived my first week at elevation granted with battle wounds, but the same could not necessarily be said for baby trail dog, Charlotte.  She and I rolled into Park City on Tuesday both of us thrilled to be out of the car.  She immediately got dropped off at dog day care for her temperament test.  What better way to see her true colors than after being cooped up in a car for a week?  I had a couple of days before I had to start work which was good.  I think after a week in the car and the constant go just sitting still for a little while was nice.  Oh wait, that’s right I don’t sit still very well.  While I was waiting for the apartment to open up I took the mountain bike off the back of the car and went for a short ride.  I thought my lungs were going to explode out of my chest.  Ah, yes, 6800′ in elevation…

Tuesday after I got everything unpacked and picked her up from doggie daycare I thought it would be good for us to go on a short (flat) walk.  Charlotte had other ideas in mind and shot straight up a trail.  Nearly 500′ in straight up later she had enough.  Note to self don’t let her pick the trails.

Wednesday morning I showed up at CrossFit.  Not only have I not been going to CF at home due to my school schedule, but sure let’s add on the elevation.  Nothing says pain like your first day back in the gym.  Wednesday night at Park City Running Company a running group met.  Charlotte and I showed up knowing full well we were going to struggle.  While the “big kids” threw down a 7+ mile run she and I did the truncated course of 4 miles.  Both of us huffing and puffing on the uphills.

Thursday was CF again.

Friday after work she and I headed out on a trail run.  We wound up missing a trail, had to bushwhack for a while, and then I wound up eating dirt.  My elbow and hand are black and blue while my leg looks like I got into a fight with a cheeseIMG_3361 grater.

Saturday she and I headed up the mountain.  I wanted to hike up until we couldn’t go up any more due to snow.  She had other ideas in mind.  3 miles into the up she laid down in the grass and said “I’m done.”  I’m going to have to get a cooling coat for her.  I wound up carrying her 1/2 mile downhill until she caught sight of a ground squirrel she couldn’t live without and promptly used me as a launching pad.  We found a patch of dirty snow on our way back down the mountain and the promptly threw herself in it.

IMG_3370Sunday we went out with the Sunday Run group from Park City Running.  My plan was to do the 10k route.  We were slow, but there was a sweeper behind us who had to keep her heartrate down so I didn’t feel awful about myself.  (I lie, I felt awful that she had to wait for me.)  When we got to one point in the course there were two chairs and what a view!  Wow.  A bit into that route the woman I was running with realized that she needed to get back so we truncated our course.  On our way down the mountain Charlotte decided to cut a switchback while I went around.  Yep, you guess it, I ate it again.  We wound up doing a little over 5 miles though.

Totals: 6 days

CrossFit: 2

Runs: 5

Total miles 15.2

Total up:  3,596 ft

 

Sonofabitch

**Disclaimer: Yeah, yeah, yeah I know I shouldn’t have hiked/run the mountain.  However, some things in life are worth it and this is one of them.  I wound up coming home, taking a shower, taking extra asthma meds, and crashing for 2 plus hours.  I will pay for this, but totally worth it.**

0400 this morning my alarm went off and I bounded out of bed.  I can hear you now, why in the hell would you bound out of bed at 0400?? I was going to go climb mountains.  More importantly I was finally going to get to show Sainted Mary Shenandoah!

0500 I was on the road making the two hour trek out to the mountains.

IMG_58150650 We both pull into the parking lot having basically followed each other the last 15 miles to the park.  As she got out of the car my jaw hit the floor.  She was in shorts.   It was 40 degrees at the base of the mountain and the top is always at least 10 degrees cooler.  I relayed this to her.  Thus started the “Sonofabitch” hike.  As she attempted to call her husband to let her know we got there I let her know that we probably weren’t going to have signal until we got up the mountain a bit.  We took a proof of life selfie, though, that I promised her we’d send him later.  This btw is why I normally hike with my spot device it let’s my loved ones know I’m ok.  However, it only seems to work when you turn it on (oops).

0700 We rolled out of the parking lot.  We were within the first 5 cars in the parking lot.  This is why we were starting early.  I joked with her that we should enjoy the quiet because in a few hours the mountain was going to be crawling with a two types of people: 1.) The “let’s take Mom for a hike” people even though Mom never hikes and would much rather be at home taking a nap or 2.) The “I’m taking the kids out to the mountains” also known as “Dad has no idea what he’s doing” with all the Dad’s who brought the kids out to the mountains, alone, so that Mom could have some peace.

We hit the rock scramble and ran into a couple of 20 something guys who were obviously struggling a bit. “They don’t have mountains where we are from.”

“Oh yeah, where’s that?”

“Florida.”

I snickered.  They followed us for a little while, but in the end I think the combination of a heavy nights drinking and the elevation just slowed them way down because they didn’t keep up.

Mary popped into the lead and immediately headed off course.  “Um, where are you going the course goes that way.” (points to blue blaze going in opposite direction and straight up)

“Sonofabitch.”

We laughed.

IMG_3983As we ascended the mountain the clothes that we had taken off at lower levels came back on.  I think I must have taken on and taken off my layers at least 7 times as we traversed different climate zones.  As we neared the top the temperature bottomed out.  Then we came around the corner and got pushed forcefully back onto the rocks.  The wind was hollowing.

SONOFABITCH!

There was definitely no lingering at the top to enjoy the view today.  As we headed back down to the trail split to take the fire road back Florida boys were finally summiting.

IMG_3003Mary and I headed jogging down the trail that leads to the fire road.  The creeks were raging due to all the rain we’ve had in the last couple of days.  We stopped at one of them and washed the salt off of our faces.  As the trail widened, ultimately turning into the actual fire road only then did we start to see any people.  First it was a trickle but by the time we crossed the last bridge before the pavement to the parking lot a deluge.  As we jogged past them in my head I was sorting them by type.  Mary turns to me and says, “You were so right.”

IMG_43141100 Parking lot.  We were both rungry.  After a quick change of clothes and shoes for me (and a “I need to plan better.” comment from Mary) we were off to lunch.  Yeah it was a good day.

Just like Pooh

Knowing that the trails were going to be stupid sloppy and wanting to get some time in with Pinup Ginger we arranged a meeting spot half way between her house and mine.  Ten minutes before my alarm was set to go off I got a text message that said, “My son was up twice with accidents in the night.  I’ve gotten no sleep and I’m exhaaaaaaasted.”  Poor thing.  I was not about to drag a tired mama out on a run she would be miserable on.  However, I had been dreaming all night about running along the river so I was going no matter what the GD pollen count was.

As I drove towards Old Town I realized that I forgot my watch.  I wear it religiously as it keeps me honest about the calories I earn.  I didn’t even consider turning around and getting it.  The pollen has been awful and I wasn’t even sure how the run today was going to go.  All I knew is that I needed this run, badly.

I wanted to get at least 6, if not 8 miles in today so I parked in front of M.E. Swings.  That way I would have incentive to run both directions, down towards Jones Point (my favorite spot in all of the DMV) and back to coffee and Rise Bakery gluten free baked goods.  I set Strava to record and started off.

As my feet started to move my brain began to be like Pooh.

I thought about all of the school work I had yet to do.  I thought about everything that I need to get done before my internship.  I thought about how I probably shouldn’t be running and hoped that I wasn’t going to give myself hives.  I thought about one more thing and then with that thought my brain went quiet.  I like it when that happens.  It’s rare, but it’s so peaceful.

As I headed towards Jones Point the river was bulging out of its banks with the rain and the high tide.  The trail was awash with debris, natural and man made, from the river.  I like Old Town early in the morning, the only other people I encountered were other runners.  We waved at each other as we passed.  As I hit Jones point there is always this wave of quiet that washes over me. I don’t know why that spot, tucked almost right under the Woodrow Wilson bridge carrying 8 lanes of traffic is always so spiritually peaceful.  I stopped, took a couple of photos and headed back towards food!

img_2907I had completely forgot that on Saturday mornings Old Town does their farmers market. The flowers drew me in.  There was no way any produce was going to survive a 3 mile run back to the car, but I stopped and smelled the peonies.  Glorious!  So many flowers have had the smell bred out of them for looks.  Maybe that’s why I like them so much.  They are flamingos in a flock of pigeons.

The last mile or so more people were on the streets.  It wasn’t me and my fellow runners any more.  As I reached M.E. Swings I smiled because I knew that there was going to be gluten free deliciousness in my future.  I stopped Strava and didn’t give it another thought after I saw my mile count as all I was focused on was coffee (and food).  One blueberry muffin and a latte later I opened it up just to see how I did.  I wasn’t running for any other reason than to run.  I saw not one but two sub 8 minute miles.  Wha???  How is that possible?  Even stopping to take pictures and enjoy my time on Jones point I still averaged a 9 something mile.  Huh.  Must be the shoes I think they have rocket boosters.

Oh, PS, I did learn a very valuable lesson today, do not look down at herringbone brick work when you run, it makes you nauseous.

 

Shiny!

When I run my brain has similarities to a petulant four year old.  If it has new things to look at (roots, rocks, new scenery) it’s distracted and happy.  When it runs the same trails over and over not only does boredom set in begetting whining of “are we there yet, why are we doing this, this sucks, etc” but it also allows me to stay hyper-focused on all of the things that I am trying to escape from, which is counterproductive.

A couple of weeks ago I saw that a local mountain biking group had been working on expanding a trail system in a local park (completely sanctioned) that previously had no trails in it.  Oh shiny!  After beating STATA into submission and working on a paper with those statistics for nearly 12 hours straight on Easter and another 6-8 hours in the last two days my poor brain needed a break.  Charlotte and I headed to the new trails.

The great thing about running new trails is that your brain absolutely cannot focus on anything other than the next 4-6 feet in front of you.  It can’t focus on anything else (finals, papers, projects, internships, you know, life things) and there are some days that that is exactly what you need.   Even Charlotte seemed happy that we were running some place with new smells and new puddles to play in.  I guess baby dogs get bored too.

img_2808We wound up running several miles of trails both within the park bounds and some of the bootleg 4 wheeler trails that follow the high tension lines.  Honestly, I don’t know why they just don’t turn it into green space like they do out West, but that’s a fight for another day.  The best part was, though, there was not a single solitary thought that went through my head other than what was on the ground 4-6 feet in front of me.   Ok, ok, I’ll admit it this was also kind of a problem as by the time we got back to the car I had to take my inhaler (thanks pollen count), but mentally I felt so much better.   Both of our moods had improved remarkably.

I’m interested in exploring this new network of trails to see just how many miles I can now rack up. Shiny!

Trying to stabilize my asthma

A couple of weeks ago I had a regular appointment with my asthma doc.  You know the one that yells at me regularly when I do stupid shit.  It is in her job description (at least I think so.)  Anyway, we started having a discussion about my asthma, grad school, and how all of my papers have something to do on the impacts to respiratory issues.  That’s when she brought up the idea of immunotherapy (aka: allergy shots).

“There are no upper or lower limits to the effectiveness to shots, you know?”

I told her that I hadn’t considered it because her predecessor had said in adults they were only 25% effective.  She quickly dismissed this, told me to look at some of the studies, and then said that if I was interested we’d have to do a new round of allergy testing as my last test was 10 years old.

“Honestly, at your age your asthma should be stable.  It’s not.”

We covered the protocol required for me to have the allergy testing done and scheduled it for the following week.

If you’ve never had allergy testing done before, it starts with numbering of your back followed by a series of “scratches” done on your back with various items that folks are notoriously allergic to (cats, dogs, various trees, dust, etc). Then anything that shows some signs of reaction, but not enough to make a definitive call , they then stick more serum under your skin to see how it reacts.

I shared these pictures with a friend of mine.

“Ok, so what are you allergic to?” they inquired.  I rattled off all of the things.  They were appalled.  “Wait, aren’t you a trail runner?”

“Yep.”

“Don’t you do Spartan Races and CrossFit?!”

“Yep.”

“What???”

Pretty sure that is my asthma docs feelings on the whole thing too.  Now we wait for my serum to be developed. Hopefully, this will help because I am not about to give up any fun outside.

Asheville Half: 2016 vs 2017

Last year Jewel and I ran the Asheville Half together. It was such an amazing race experience that we decided almost immediately that we wanted to run it again.  We even managed to recruit GardenerGirl and one of Jewel’s friends to run it with us. What a difference a year makes on a whole host of levels.

IMG_2309Let’s start with the temperature.  Last year it was 60+ degrees out we were in shorts and tank tops.  This year it was only in the 20s.  For this little asthmatic who already suffered in the cold and now has massive issues in the cold this didn’t bode well.  I gave serious consideration at not running at all, and then at mile 8 when I got cold, due to the wind, I gave serious consideration to dropping.   There were just not enough layers in the world to keep that wind from biting through me.

Then let’s talk about the race experience.  The race last year gave us quite a bit of swag.  We got gloves in our goodie bag and a finishers blanket. This year, when we could use the gloves we didn’t get any and instead of a blanket we got a metal finishers cup.  Honestly, the swag was on the reasons why we decided to run again.  Have to admit I’m a little disappointed this year.  Even the expo didn’t have nearly as many vendors as last year.  I know it seems petty, but come on now.

As for the running I knew I was going to be on the struggle bus.  Grad school has been sucking the majority of my stress bandwidth making my runs challenging. Combine that with the temperatures and all I wanted to do was finish in one piece.  My time this year definitely showed the impact that school and the temperature had on me as I finished nearly a minute per mile slower than I did last year.  Given that I gave serious consideration to dropping at mile 8 the fact that I finished at all is a miracle.

Even though it was cold I have to say that the spectator support was amazing.  While not IMG_2337nearly as many folks were out this year as last year, the ones that were out really brought their A game in terms of signs.  My favorites made me laugh which is always a good sign, especially when you are on the struggle bus.

There are two things I learned from this race: 1.) Cold weather is definitely off the table for me.  Anything over 4 miles in below 40 degree temperatures is just completely off the table.  I just can’t generate the body heat to keep me warm nor are my lungs happy.  2.) Road running is most definitely not for me it just doesn’t make me (or my body) happy.

 

Escalante: Scientifically proven to improve my running

It’s no secret I’m an Altra Running girl.  The overflowing basket by my door is filled with Lone Peaks and Torins of many generations.  I have my running shoes, then they get down graded to my wear around campus shoes, then they get downgraded to yard work shoes with their final destination when they are well past worn to the recycle bin at the local running store.

Recently I acquired a pair of Escalante.  I’ve been doing more running on pavement lately and I wanted to try something beyond the Torin.  (Hey in my defense don’t ever knock a shoe that you love.) From the moment I put them on my feet I was in love.  The dreamy feel of the knit made me feel like I was walking on a cloud.  I’m going to have to buy another pair of these just for dashing across campus.

Then I actually ran in them.  My GPS watch tells me my per minute foot strike.   The running clinics I have participated in and many articles all say that same thing, as a runner you should aim for 180 as your number.  In my Torins even when doing “speed work” (I’m slow so speed is relative) my average number is around 162 plus or minus 5.  My first run in the Escalante doing the same speed work? 179.  I couldn’t make this up if I tried.

I took them out for a spin a couple of days last week and they were ever so dreamy.  My first run I was only going to do 2 miles and I wound up doing 3, including one down the shoulder of a 4 lane highway because I didn’t want to turn around at the 1 mile mark.  Then I took them out on the streets of Annapolis.  If you’ve never been there many of the streets and sidewalks are “paved” with brick.  Brick is awful to run on.  I finished a 4.5 mile run over mainly brick streets and felt great.

Overall, I’m highly impressed with this shoe.  I’d better go order another pair for school.  I don’t want to ever take these off my feet.  Now, if we could just fix my lungs….

 

Running on empty: School Edition

“Honey you really tempt me, You know the way you look so kind, I’d love to stick around, but I’m running behind. You know I don’t even know what I’m hoping to find. Running into the sun but I’m running behind.”-Jackson Browne

To quote the dear Jackson Browne, I’m running on empty.  School has been kicking my ass this semester.  It’s not just the five, yes five, classes I’m taking, but it’s the group projects and individual homework load.  There are a couple of classes I’m struggling with (one of which is BioStats, surprise surprise), but it’s nice to know I’m not the only one struggling.  My classmates and I are all in the same stress filled boat (as sick as that sounds).  How does this relate to my running?

There is a limit to the amount of stress your body can handle. Once you’ve hit your limit you can’t handle any more.  You’re done.  It doesn’t matter the kind of stress that it is; your body doesn’t recognize that running stress is different than 4 hours of Biostat homework stress.  It just recognizes it as stress and because my system already is duct taped together (thanks asthma) I have to be even more careful as it doesn’t take much to take the whole system offline and no one has time for that kind of bullshit right now.  What this translates to is a change the direction and focus of my workouts.

For now, anyway, I’ve had to temporarily suspend any dreams of increasing my per mile pace or even training for another 50k.  Why?  Again, only so much stress to go around and since work is paying for me to go back to school (and I have to keep a B or better) my focus absolutely has to be on school.  School stress>running stress.

This does’t mean that I’m not running.  It also doesn’t mean that I’m not ‘racing’.  Although, to be fair, with my slow times I’m never racing; the only person I’m trying to beat is myself.  It just means that I need to be mindful in my workouts.  It means I run for the joy and not for the X number of miles or the X pace.   It means that since I’m already running on fumes I need to experience the joy of working out.   It means that if I want to go to yoga instead of running, that’s ok.  It means if I want to go climbing instead of running, that’s ok.  It means that if I need to sit at the dining room table for 6 hours and work on a paper instead of working out at all that’s really ok!

It’s hard because I like to push myself.  I like to improve over my old time.  I like to see and feel those tangible results.  However, I also realize school>running and breathing>not breathing.   I’m working on embracing this shift.  It’s a work in progress.

 

Joyful double digits

It’s been two months to the day since I’ve done a double digit run.  I’ve been trying to be super careful coming back in an attempt to, I don’t know, NOT break me again.  With the Asheville Half Marathon coming up I needed to start ramping up my mileage to ensure that I was going to be able to crush last year.  Ok, ok, crush may be a bit too harsh of a word.  Let’s try: I want to do better than I did last year.

Em is back and I couldn’t be more thrilled about it.  I love running with her.  Not saying I don’t love running with all of my friends, but Em is my favorite (shhh, don’t tell anyone else).  When she asked if I wanted to go for a run I unequivocally said HELL YES!  I told her I needed to do 10 miles, but I wanted to go “my slow”.  Her slow and my slow are very different creatures.

We decided to do an out and back on the C&O Canal, but we parked further up river from Georgetown.  Fewer people and less hassle.  Today was one of those golden days of running.  Not too hot, not too cold.  My lungs were super happy.  Honestly, the miles flew by.  Even with a couple of stops along the way, one for a SUPER cute 9 week old puppy, we still managed to finish sub-2:00.

Today’s run was exactly what I wanted it to be. Joyful.  We gossiped, we laughed, we spoke of all sorts of winding topics, but at the end of it all I felt was happy.  That, my friends, is a good thing.