Sky Runs

Taking the long way round

Month: February 2015

And the Streak Goes On

I’ve never been a streaker, neither the naked kind nor the running kind.

And while I have no interest in taking off all my clothes and dashing outside (especially in this weather!) I’ve sometimes been intrigued by long-term run-streaking and its gateway drug, REDFAM (Run Every Day For A Month), though I could never see myself putting on running clothes and getting sweaty just get one mile in to maintain a streak- I’d spend more time getting ready than running! I’ve always preferred to run at least 4 miles or 40 minutes in one go, and it’s only very recently that I can stand to run only three miles at a time- usually it’s the second run of the day and/or me running to get somewhere. Just another funky runner’s quirk.

When I started running a decade ago, I was, at best, an every other day kind of runner. I always needed at least a day to recover from any kind of effort. By five years ago, I could manage two days on, one day off, and three days straight would be pushing my limits. Over the last couple of years I gradually built up to four, five, even six days without a break, but as recently as last March I became Little Miss Crankypants when I hit nine or ten days of continuous training.

Less than a year later, it’s late February and we’re in the home stretch of my first REDFAM. I didn’t set out to do this. Even though my current training plan doesn’t have any scheduled days off for February, any of the easy days can be taken as a rest day or used for cross-training. But now we’re in the final week of February and my last rest day was on January 30th, and before that I had completed a 20-day streak (about twice as long as I had ever run before). Even after back-to-back long runs this past weekend, I feel like I can carry on with my usual training for a while longer. All of my runs have been at least 3 miles or so, and I’ve run twice on about half a dozen of the days so far.

I don’t really know how this happened. I’ve had some difficult moments, like last Friday, the day after a long-ish session of very cold early morning speedwork, when I felt moody, but my short run and pool running class later in the day left me feeling much better. My muscles aren’t screaming at me or demanding a break, and it doesn’t seem to take me as long to get that warmed-up feeling at the start of a run. My body is working differently now, and while I can’t pinpoint exactly what is doing what to me, I’d like to give shoutout to my coach Michele Yates’s Rugged Running training plan, as well as the products and services provided by my sponsors Carbo-Pro, Runner Clinic NYC, and Tiger Ellen LMT of Knot It Out Now Massage.

But as one streak continues, another comes to a close. I started a pushup challenge on January 1, an idea I got from a runner I met last year. The concept goes like this: do one pushup on January 1, two on January 2, and so on, adding one pushup per day of the year until you are doing hundreds of pushups a day, up to 365 on December 31. But as I got into the low 50s I started to feel that the pushups were starting to detract from my main focus of running and strength training- so I’d take a day off here and there and make up for it the next day- easy enough to do now but it will be far more difficult to make up later- especially when I’m tapering , recovering and running for 24 to 30+ hours at the races I have scheduled for this year. I took the weekend off while I was running long and exhausted after getting home, and did a total of 150-ish yesterday (in sets of 15-25), which is a huge enough accomplishment for my spaghetti arms.

Week in Review 2/16

Monday: 7 miles easy to moderate on the treadmill

Tuesday: AM: 10 miles of intervals and strength workout. PM: 3 miles easy. Acupuncture

Wednesday: 4.5 miles easy with some hills, 1-hour MELT class

Thursday: AM: 11 miles with intervals. PM: 3.5 miles easy to moderate and strength workout

Friday: 3.5 miles easy and 45-minute pool running class

Saturday: 18.5 miles moderate to hard to easy

Sunday: 22.5 miles easy, lower body massage

Badwater Choices

The news came as a shock.

 Hello Sky!

Congratulations! We are pleased to inform you that you have been accepted to compete in the 2015 Badwater 135 Ultramarathon, presented by AdventureCORPS, Inc. You are part of a select group who will participate in what is recognized across the globe as “the world’s toughest footrace.”

Then… PAY NOW!

Shiiiiiiit. Who applies for the baddest of the badass races and forgets about it?! Seriously. I know, I did it “just to see” and figured I had no chance, since I’ve only completed the minimum three 100 milers required to apply. I thought I should start getting my name out there so that the organizers would eventually let me in. In any case, it wasn’t in my race plan, as July was supposed to provide a mid-season break with no racing.

But something happens once you get into a race like Badwater. The “can I do this?” mindset takes over, and since ultra runners tend to have short memories and optimistic outlooks, the answer is invariably “YES I can!”

But… The money. I won’t be prepared for this. It’s only five weeks after TGNY 100. TSP won’t be able to come. I don’t have a crew.

And but… If I turn it down now will they ever let me in again? Couldn’t this be my year of really big races? With the new nighttime start rule it will be cool at night, right? Will I regret it if I don’t go? Am I ever going to be better ultra-trained, with the same motivation and means to do this?

I put off making a decision as long as possible. I kept silent as I watched friends Facebook-announce their intentions to run Badwater to hundreds of likes and unanimous congratulations. When I asked TSP what he would do in my position, his reply displayed an appropriate level of maturity: “I wouldn’t have applied if I wasn’t planning to run it.”

I wrote out a check and put it in an envelope and carried it around for a couple of days. I researched nighttime temperatures in Death Valley in July and was alarmed to find that my guesstimate of, oh, around 50-60F was off by at least 40 degrees. I decided I needed to start re-reading Scott Jurek’s book, which I read so long ago I forgot he started it off by recounting how trashed he got from underestimating the Badwater race.

By Friday morning I’d had enough of self-doubt and took the plunge off the deep end. I dropped my check in the mail, posted something on Facebook, and went to work on preparations for the Millrose Games. By the time I checked in again I had enough offers of help to make at least two crews. Poof! My first big worry– vanished. Next up is the logistical challenge of setting dates for travel and booking hotels, flights and cars. And stuff like reflective vests and sprayers, ideally two I’m told. Oh crap, I just want to run. What did I get myself into this time?

No turning back now

No turning back now

Week in Review 2/9

Monday: AM: 4 miles easy to moderate. PM: 2 miles for running mechanics test

Tuesday: AM: 13 miles intervals, strength workout. PM: 3 miles easy to moderate

Wednesday: 3 miles easy, 45-minute pool running class

Thursday: AM: 10 miles with very short intervals. PM: 4.5 miles easy to moderate, strength workout

Friday: 3 miles easy

Saturday: 10 miles with VO2 max intervals, strength workout

Sunday: 14.5 miles with hills, 1:15 easy yoga

Training Takes No Holidays

Since I was already out of town pacing for Rocky Raccoon, I figured why not extend the break from the cold a little longer. I spent the week in Miami and the Florida Keys, ruining my diet with every variety of fried conch fritters and Key Lime Pie encountered, but I held up my end on the training front. After the first day, when I put of my run until late in the day and felt anxious about it the whole time, I woke up early every morning to get my workout in before the temperatures rose and it was time to go sightseeing and do other fun stuff.

... to this

… to this

Back home on Sunday, I completed my first proper long run in a while, 3 loops and change in Central Park with clouds, cold and wind. Reality bites.

 Week in Review: 2/2

Monday: 5-mile tempo

Tuesday: 11 miles long intervals and strength workout

Wednesday: 5-mile tempo

Thursday: 7 miles short intervals and strength workout

Friday: 4 miles easy

Saturday: 8.5 miles short intervals and strength workout

Sunday: 20 miles mostly easy

Pacing at Rocky Raccoon

Winter officially arrived with the threat of a record snowstorm in NYC that didn’t turn out to be all that and a bag of chips, but still managed to shut everything down, including my gym. I made up for it by doing stair sprint repeats in my building’s stairwell, destroying my calves in the process.

So the timing was perfect for a getaway to anywhere warmer, and when I heard that my friend Yoshiko was in need of a pacer for her sub-20 goal time at the Rocky Raccoon 100-miler, I couldn’t wait to pack my bags. I’ve been curious about the Rocky Raccoon race for some time, as it’s supposed to be one of the “easier” trail 100s, run on a relatively flat but rooty 20-mile loop course.

I flew out early on Friday just as another bout of snow started to drop, experienced a few stressful fight delays but eventually got lucky with my connections to Houston and hit the road to Huntsville with crewman Ken and Jackie, who was also running. We did the usual pre-race stuff: picked up supplies at Target, at went to packet pickup and the pre-race briefing, had an early and excellent dinner at Lindo Mexico, picked up more supplies and attempted to get to bed early.

Saturday morning Ken and I got to sleep in since we had enough cars to go around. We headed to the start/finish area in time to see our runners come through after their first loop. Yoshiko was right on schedule and looking strong. The weather was mild, with the threat of rain holding off during the day at least. Of course, mild weather for running = cold for me to stand around in, so I was ridiculously bundled up out there.

After the first round

After the first round

Apparently in previous years crews were allowed to drive out to the further aid stations, making the job a round the clock one, but this year there was a new rule: no cars at aid stations. From a crewing perspective, that meant we had plenty of time to go and do other important stuff, like eat and take naps. Ken and I went out to pick up some more supplies and coffee and donuts before going for lunch at Bennie J’s Smoke Pit, the real deal Texas BBQ.

Pre-pace meal

Pre-pace meal

We came back to wait for our runners to come from their second loop, the last time we would see them before we started pacing into the night. Yoshiko was behind. I asked runners who knew her and had been near her earlier if they had seen her and was told she was coming soon, 5 to 10 minutes behind, they both said, even though they were about 15 minutes apart.

The hardest part of crewing for me is the waiting. I am the extremely anxious one standing at the edge of the course, neck craned trying to spot my runner, worry mounting over each minute of lateness. Yoshiko arrived about half an hour behind her 20-hour schedule looking a little flustered- her hands were puffy and she had gotten very dizzy on the course: sodium imbalance, possibly too many electrolytes. She didn’t seem to be dizzy anymore, so I told her to stop taking electrolyte pills and to drink only plain water and to eat non-salty food until the swelling started to go down, and gave her some ginger candy and coke to calm the tummy. It was too bad, she said the dream of sub-20 was gone, but she would still finish.

Crew city

Crew city at Rocky Raccoon

After our runners left Ken and I went to the car for a nap before we came back ready to pace. I slept solidly in the back seat for close to two hours, then dressed and readied up for the long night. As I waited for Yoshiko there was a little rain, it got dark, and Ian Sharman came in for the win. Yoshiko was not far behind and we headed out after a brief break for her.

I had forgotten that I’m still pretty uncomfortable running trails in the dark, especially with my crappy headlamps that just got crappier. Due to a baggage snafu at The North Face 50-Miler in December, the headlamp I had dropped off at the designated aid station after sunrise never made it back to me, but a staffer from the race production company’s Dallas office kindly offered to give me some of the other headlamps that were never claimed, and it just happened that he was coming down to Rocky Raccoon to volunteer. I was hoping for a Petzl Nao but instead I got two older but usable headlamps, each with their own flaws. Worried about relying on an unfamiliar piece of gear to do something important, I mostly stuck with my old backup headlamp, a Petzl Tikka with a cover that keeps popping off at the wrong times.

The course was not quite as rooty as I expected, in that the roots were spaced apart pretty nicely, but that is the thing that lulls one into a false sense of security, and with my crappy light source it was very hard to make out exactly where all the roots were. I fell twice in the early miles- the first time was an easy slow-motion tumble that I brushed off as no biggie, but the second came with a hard smack to the right knee, the kind that forced me to walk it off for a few minutes as I questioned my fitness for this treacherous overnight pacing gig. I knew I would pay for this later with swelling and discomfort, but at least I hit a new spot near the top of the kneecap, not further down where it had been hurt a few too many times before.

Yoshiko had asked me to run in front of her early on, but I kept getting too far ahead and I didn’t like that feeling, so after about 12 miles I asked her to go in front and I would pace her from behind. This worked out better as we could stay close together and when the trail opened up a bit we could run side-by-side. We came back in to the start/finish after around five and half hours which was good, it meant we were not losing much time on each lap. Yoshiko wasted no time getting out of the aid station as I was still fiddling with my gear, I’d catch up to her in a bit. It was still warm-ish so shed most of the excess clothing I had carried (windbreaker, buff, gloves and the outer layer of socks) but I kept my poncho just in case.

Even though our second loop together took a bit longer, it went by quicker because we were chatting more and we knew it was the last round. We had a bit of pouring rain, enough that I was glad to have the poncho handy, though of course as soon as I put it on the rain would ease off significantly. Once the sun started to rise and we hit the last stretch, Yoshiko took off at a fast enough pace that I wondered whether I should have pushed her harder earlier on. Her hands had still been puffy throughout the night, and given the uncertain risks I felt more comfortable keeping her company and making sure she was safe and taken care of.

The course became downright lovely in the daytime, and the roots were much easier to spot, though I’m still unsure of whether this will be one for me to race, as I still managed to fall (lightly) one more time after the sun came up. The organization was really terrific, with well stocked aid stations and kind volunteers and all the good stuff you’d expect from a well-run 100 mile race, including some very cool awards.

Week in Review: 1/26

Monday: 6.5 miles easy to moderate

Tuesday: AM: 3 miles easy out in the snow. PM: 17 x 1 minute stair intervals

Wednesday: AM: 5 miles walking. PM: Pool running class

Thursday: AM: 7 miles short intervals. PM: 3-mile tempo and strength workout

Friday: Off

Saturday-Sunday: 40 miles pacing

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