Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's next?

It's weird to not be tapering for Mountain Masochist this year, after two years of focused training for that race (that's the MMTR finish line on the right). Instead, I find myself listening to my body's signals that it is recovering from Gstone and ready for the next adventure, and having lots of freedom and flexibility with my running. The Gstone training cycle was fun but it was very focused, and now I am in that happy place of "What's Next?"

I say "happy" because I have a lot to be happy about---and grateful for. Many of my running friends are struggling with injury---Heidi, Bill, J.R., Jenny, Annette, and Neal to name just a few. Some are dealing with short-term, post-race tweaks and others are dealing with more longer-term, potentially run-ending injuries. As I wander through the woods in this glorious fall weather, I remind myself of the simple pleasure and gift of being able to RUN without pain.

This was week #3 post Gstone, and I took it fairly easy each day except for an 8-mile marathon pace run (1 mile WU, 3 miles @ 7:40 pace, 1 mile easy, 3 miles @ MP)on Wednesday. Despite feeling great after this run, I have decided NOT to run the Richmond Marathon after all...too much $$ and I want to maximize my recovery time so I can have a good race at Hellgate. I will be at Masochist this Saturday to watch David Horton, Bill Potts, and my VHTRC friends finish and perhaps I'll get out on the course a bit! For a cool retrospective of 25 years of Masochist, check out this video on Clark Zealand's blog

Today I went on an "easy" long run with my buddy Anne Lundblad. Thankfully Anne was taking it easy in preparation for the Shut-in Ridge Trail race next weekend, so we ran one of our fave 17-mile loops out in White Hall at about 8:45 pace and power walked all the hills (thanks, Anne!). We talked about all our favorite topics: motherhood, our daughters, running, our jobs as counselors, race plans, and philosophies about why we run ultras. I always love our runs together since I don't have any other women friends in C'Ville who run ultras, so the miles always tick by quickly as we run and later over coffee. I was hoping Anne would be joining me at Hellgate this year, but she will be crewing her hubby Mark while he races JFK in a few weeks, and then cheering her daughter Emma on at the Girls On The Run race in Asheville on the morning of Hellgate...GOTR is a very cool program for young girls that I would like to bring to Charlottesville--- a great reason to miss Hellgate! Also, check out this link to a great article Anne wrote on "Running Your First Ultra."

Speaking of Hellgate, I am getting excited about this year's race. It will be held on the night of a full moon and I really hope we have clear skies! As I told Anne, seven hours of running in the dark at Hellgate will be cake compared to 12 hours at Gstone!

Another woman I admire, Rachel Toor, has just released her third book, Personal Record: A Love Affair with Running. I have read it and LOVED it. Rachel is an awesome writer and she captures the running life so beautifully in this book. I laughed out loud and cried a bit, too...a fabulous read that I urge all runners to consider.

Finally, I have been sending this link about ultrarunning to my friends and family who scratch their heads about the ultra thing...this interview with MMT and Grindstone photographer Tom Sperduto is excellent and seems to capture the "why's?" of this sport. Plus the photos are cool---some before and afters from Gstone and others from MMT. Enjoy!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Recovering from 100 miles

(photo by Kirstin Corris)

A crucial part of training for 100s and other ultras is the recovery process...not only during the training cycle, but also after the race. I think one reason I was successful at Gstone 100 this year was because I was smart with my recovery after long runs and hard runs. Now that I am in the post-race recovery stage, I have gotten a few emails asking me what I am going to do between now and Hellgate 100K, which will take place on Dec. 13, 10 weeks after Gstone. Here's my plan:

The week after Gstone, I took totally off. No running or lifting. I swam easy one day and walked my dog a few other days, but mostly I focused on sleeping, eating, and hanging with my family (yes, I had to go to work too). I found that I needed at least
9-10 hours of sleep that first week. My legs felt great and besides a teeny bit of ITB soreness, I had no lingering effects from the race, besides the usual endocrine system issues.

A week after Gstone (Oct. 11) I ran easy with my dog on trails for about an hour. I was tired! The next few days I ran about 5-6 miles easy and added a longer run mid-week (about 8 miles). All were run with my HR below 120, except one day when I ran a few miles at 7:40 pace with Bill as he was preparing for his marathon.

I read a good article in the latest issue of Runners World about how to recover from and train for a second marathon 4, 6, or 8 weeks after a first marathon. The article suggests taking a full week off, then running long runs up to 16 miles (if the races are 8 weeks apart) and marathon pace runs of 8 miles with 1 mile WU, 6 miles at MP, and 1 mile CD. Interesting...I think I'll give it a go, just in case I want to run Richmond Marathon on November 15, which is 6 weeks out of Gstone.

So this past Saturday, (October 18), I ran 8 miles with my friend Andrea, who was fresh off finishing third in the Masters USATF Cross Country Championships! This was an easy run for her, but I wanted to run 6 miles at 7:40 (marathon pace) and she helped me stay focused by using her GPS and calling out my splits. We were running on a hilly gravel road so I was working fairly hard, but overall I felt good.

Sunday (yesterday) I traveled up to DC to visit my dad and also ran about 20 easy miles in the Potomac Heritage 50K which is a signature VHTRC event, put on by my buddy Kerry Owens. I had a blast running on my old neighborhood trails and catching up with old friends---Mike Broderick, my pacer from MMT 100, was running his first ultra of 2008, and Mike Bur, a Last Great Race finisher from 2002, was running for the first time in a long time. Afterwards, we hung out at Kerry's and waited for the 50K finishers. Keith Knipling, who was third at Gstone, cruised in for the 50K win. That guy is a freak of nature who recovers really fast---don't try that at home! Here are pics of the PH trail from the 2005 event, from Kirstin Corris.

This week will be more easy running, a MP run on Friday and a long run on Sunday. And a shout out to my bro-in-law Andy Speidel, who finished his first 50K at the Stone Steps 50K in Cincinnati, and to longtime ultrarunner Bill Potts, who ran his first marathon at the Mt. Desert Island marathon in Maine. Wooo-hooo fellas! Great job at trying something out of your comfort zones!!!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Reflections on Grindstone 100

This post is written for runners who *may* want to try Grindstone 100, another tough mountain 100, or for folks who like to read long, tedious race reports. (Those interested in the quick and dirty report of my Grindstone 100 race, check out my previous post, "Sunset, Sunrise, Sunset: Grindstone 100.") If you are interested in the minute details of my experience on this incredible trail, and what I learned from the challenge, stay tuned.

Grindstone start, 6:00pm, Friday, October 3. Click for larger.(photo by J.R. Ankney)

Training Re-cap I described my top-10 race goals for Gstone in the previous post, knowing that anything could happen to derail my plans, but optimistic as a result of a long summer of training (see previous posts for my entire training plan). I focused on climbing, descending, long tempo runs with my buddy Bill Potts and long intervals on the track, with mile weeks topping out at 80 mpw. The only elements I would add, now that the race is over? Longer, steeper descent training (repeats of at least 45 minutes long on steep road or trail), and a few more training runs on rocky, technical trail to condition my feet. That said, I ended up with only one small blister on one toe which I attribute to wearing Injinji toe socks with Body Glide lube underneath, and re-lubing with vaseline at mile 35 and 66.

Bill Potts with me at mile 80, Dowells Draft. Click for larger.

Mental Prep I am a huge believer in positive self talk and visual imagery, and for Gstone I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would feel at different points along the trail and how I was going to handle the negative thoughts that tend to creep in during 100s. When I got sleepy during the first night, I took a caffeine pill and plugged into my Ipod, and this made a huge difference. I got sleepy again during the mid-afternoon while climbing Hankey Mountain on Saturday, so I went off trail, set my watch alarm for 5 minutes, and took a quick power nap. That was awesome! I had a HUGE energy boost from that nap so later in the evening when I got loopy, I did it again. Meeting my pacer Mike Mason at mile 75 and again at mile 89 was a huge mental boost as well, as I had been running alone for most of the race. I could feel my pace pick up when we were together, and he did a phenomenal job keeping me upbeat and positive (though I was a huge WHINER during the last three miles). Finishing a 100 mile race is so much about attitude, and I was prepared to deal with the inevitable low moments as well as the highs with equal energy.

Nutrition Recap I started Gstone with 20oz of Sustained Energy, 40 oz of water in my Nathan pack, and a flask of raspberry Hammergel. This combination has worked me in other long ultras, and it was no different at Gstone. After I finished off the SE, I drank a Nuun tablet and water from my bottle for electrolytes for the rest of the event, and a few solid foods when necessary: scrambled egg and tortilla, PB and J, and chicken noodle soup went down the best. In the last 15 miles, it was hard to eat anything, especially the Powergel that Mike Mason insisted on me eating as we descended Elliott's (something about the sodium to help with my quad soreness). I was cold, tired, and not hungry, but I forced myself to eat it. I also sipped water to settle my stomach. As soon as I was finished with the race, Rusty brought me an ice cold cappucino Ultragen, which Krissy told me to try in a perhaps I'll give it a go at Hellgate in December. Ultragen truly works and helps me recover very quickly from tough workouts and races. Overall, I was pleased with my energy level and nutrition, though I think I needed more protein late in the race to keep me from bonking, and I should have planned for that and for more Hammergel.

Coming into mile 80, Dowells Draft, with pacer Mike Mason and hubby Rusty on the right. Click for larger.

The Trail I broke down the course in thirds and included my live website stats just for fun:

Miles 1-36 I ran in about 9 hours, which is exactly the pace I wanted, despite starting way in the back of the pack. The first five miles were spent in the woods near Camp Shenandoah, on nice singletrack and technical trail as we climbed over Little North Mountain to Rte 42, where AS 1 was waiting:

#1 Station - Falls Hollow 5.71 miles
00 days, 01:09:06 Time to Station
00:12:06 / mile Overall Pace
00:12:06 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
59 / 74 Station Rank

After crossing Rte 42, it was dark and we climbed dirt road and a section of lovely singletrack before popping out onto Elliott's Knob FR, a nasty, rocky, exposed fire road that has a VERY steep grade. It took about 30 minutes to climb this road to the top of the Knob, where I got my number punched to prove I was there before dropping down a few yards to the trailhead. I ran this section with Vicki Kendall and Rebekah, and we had fun going down the next section to Dry Branch, which is a mix of rocky technical singletrack and smooth singletrack...lovely running!

#2 Station - Dry Branch Gap 15.24 miles
00 days, 03:40:06 Time to Station
00:14:26 / mile Overall Pace
00:15:50 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
58 / 74 Station Rank

After Dry Branch, it's UP UP UP Crawford Mountain. There are five---count 'em---five long, hands-on-your-knees climbs along this ridge line before you are mercifully dropped onto the stunning Chimney Hollow Trail---all down, down, down. This trail crosses Rte 250 and links up to the fantastic Dowells Draft Trail, our next AS:

#3 Station - Dowells Draft 22.89 miles
00 days, 05:30:06 Time to Station
00:14:25 / mile Overall Pace
00:14:22 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
49 / 73 Station Rank

I started to pass a few folks here after my conservative start. Mike Mason told me later that he was a bit "concerned" about my slow pace, but I told him it was all part of the plan!

After the AS, we had another wonderful section of singletrack that climbed up to Hankey Mountain to the Wild Oak Trail (known around these parts as TWOT). TWOT then becomes a nice runnable fire road, all downhill, before the third AS at Lookout Mountain, where I met up with VHTRCers Mike Dobies and Marty Lindemann:

#4 Station - Lookout Mountain 31.24 miles
00 days, 07:33:06 Time to Station
00:14:30 / mile Overall Pace
00:14:43 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
46 / 72 Station Rank

After the AS, it was technical, tedious, rocky singletrack all the way to North River Gap AS, a.k.a. the Wild Oak Trail parking area (mile 37 and mile 66):

#5 Station - North River Gap 36.69 miles
00 days, 08:57:06 Time to Station
00:14:38 / mile Overall Pace
00:15:24 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
38 / 71 Station Rank

I sat down here for the first time and changed my socks after lubing up with vaseline---aaahhhh, this made a huge difference and was worth the time spent (at Western States I made the error of not taking the time to lube my feet and swore I would never make that mistake again!). However, the big mistake here came when I forgot to switch out my Hammergel flask for a new one. I would pay for this later, as I was descending Little Bald with nothing to eat and an hour until the AS.

The next section, miles 36-66, took me 8 hours to complete. It meant a very tough climb up to Little Bald on sweet singletrack for 7 miles. The AS was literally on top of the mountain in the middle of nowhere. It was a welcome respite after the long climb:

#6 Station - Little Bald Knob 43.44 miles
00 days, 11:48:06 Time to Station
00:16:18 / mile Overall Pace
00:25:20 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
35 / 69 Station Rank

After the AS was a lot of easy ridge running to Reddish Knob on old grassy fire road, dirt, and then very hilly pavement before turning around at Briery Branch for the return trip to North River Gap. The best part of the race for me took place here, as I climbed up Reddish...the sun was rising above the valley, with views of West Virginia (we were right on the border) and Virginia below. Tom Sperduto took amazing photos of us up here. We also had the chance to see folks coming back from the turnaround and get a sense of how far apart we were. It was fun to greet my fellow compatriots and get/give a few "you look great!" hugs in the process.

#7 Station - Reddish Knob 49.37 miles
00 days, 12:55:06 Time to Station
00:15:41 / mile Overall Pace
00:11:17 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
29 / 66 Station Rank

Coming back to the Little Bald AS, I knew I needed some solid food, but was wary. I had problems in the past with solid food messing with my stomach, but I also needed some protein. JB Basham convinced me to eat his scrambled egg tortilla--- it made a huge difference in my energy level as I descended Little Bald, because I was out of my usual gel and the energy boost came at a perfect time.

#10 Station - Little Bald Knob 59.94 miles
00 days, 14:50:06 Time to Station
00:14:50 / mile Overall Pace
00:10:19 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
28 / 67 Station Rank

I have descended Little Bald many times while running on the TWOT course, so this was familiar fun. I was pleased with my pace and when I came into North River Gap (mile 66) a second time, it was awesome to see Rusty as well as Tom Corris and Barb Isom greet me. I changed my socks again, lubed up, and switched out of my skirt to shorts because I was feeling a bit of chafing. All good decisions and a good use of time, as I felt great climbing back up Lookout Mountain.

#11 Station - North River Gap 66.69 miles
00 days, 17:02:06 Time to Station
00:15:19 / mile Overall Pace
00:19:33 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
25 / 64 Station Rank

The last third of the race, miles 66-100, took me 11.5 hours to complete. The first section, up Lookout, is where I started to feel the sleep deprivation. It was about noon, the sun was shining, and it was getting hot(although in reality it was probably 70 degrees, max). It's all uphill to the AS on rocky trail, and I was alone with no one ahead to motivate me and no one behind to push me. My Ipod battery had died, so now I had to dig deep. My attitude, as they say in school, was "poor". However, as soon as I came into the Lookout Mountain AS and slurped some chicken noodle soup, my attitude adjusted nicely:

#12 Station - Lookout Mountain 72.14 miles
00 days, 18:59:06 Time to Station
00:15:47 / mile Overall Pace
00:21:28 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
24 / 65 Station Rank

Rusty met me up here on his mountain bike, and had to kick me out for sitting too long. The trail ahead was good footing, great climbing, shady, and just right for a little snooze...yes, I did indeed take a 5-minute power nap off the trail in this section. It gave me a huge boost of energy that carried me all the way to Dowells Draft, where I ran into Mike Mason and Rusty, coming up the trail:

#13 Station - Dowells Draft 79.49 miles
00 days, 21:06:06 Time to Station
00:15:55 / mile Overall Pace
00:17:16 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
25 / 63 Station Rank

This was my favorite section of trail. It was like a "marble in a slot" as Scotty Mills would say...smooth running singletrack and all downhill. Of course, it was also the end of the fun, because miles 80-100 are unquestionably the hardest past of the race. It all started with Chimney Hollow trail meandering along a lovely creek bed before the climbing. Then, for the next 1.5 hours, it was climb, climb, climb. Just when you think the trail has switchbacked for good, there was another turn. At one point I sat on a rock and waited for Regis Shivers and his pacer to join me in cursing the trail. This was very cathartic and also hilarious, and gave me a needed boost. I soon left them and topped out onto Crawford Mountain trail, and descended the 5 PUDS (Pointless Ups and Downs) along the ridge. Bill Potts met me on the last descent, and his comment was, "this freaking trail is 20% grade!" Yessir, that's Chimney Hollow!

#14 Station - Dry Branch Gap 86.14 miles
00 days, 23:45:06 Time to Station
00:16:32 / mile Overall Pace
00:23:54 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
25 / 61 Station Rank

Coming into Dry Branch at 5:45 p.m. was nirvana. I sat for 15 minutes and ate Pringles and drank V-8 (I guess I needed salt).The AS volunteers had also cooked some BBQ that perhaps I *should* have eaten for the protein, but my taste buds weren't interested. I predicted that many folks would drop here and everyone laughed, as I am surely not the first to make that prediction. When Dan Lehmann (who was ahead of me before going off trail for 50 minutes) came into the AS, I decided to leave and use Dan and Adam (his pacer) as motivation to get up the mountain. It worked---I climbed with renewed energy and left them behind. The sun was setting and the views of the Deerfield Valley were gorgeous. Soon it was dusk, and I was very happy to be navigating this rocky section with some daylight remaining! Just as it was getting dark, I saw Mike heading towards me. For logistical reasons, we had agreed that he would run from the start and pace me in, and he could not have appeared at a better time. He told me that Kerry was 6 minutes ahead and he wanted me to pick up the pace...but my quads were screaming as we descended Elliotts, and the road was very steep and slippery. Dan and Adam appeared behind us and blew by with words of encouragement, but all I could do was walk. It began to get cold and my stomach, for the first time in 92 miles, was beginning to rebel, probably as a result of a lack of electrolytes and protein.

#15 Station - Falls Hollow 95.02 miles
01 days, 02:43:06 Time to Station
00:16:52 / mile Overall Pace
00:20:02 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
25 / 63 Station Rank

After we left the last AS, Mike told me we had enough time to break 28 hours, but we had to push it. I tried to push, and nothing responded. Actually, I was afraid that if I pushed the pace beyond 20-minute mile pace, I would throw up. So, we climbed, walked, shuffled, jogged, walked, and finally we were behind the camp---but I knew we had a ways to go before the finish. It's like running Holiday Lake 50K and being on the other side of the lake, knowing you are close yet NOT! Once the finish line area came into view, I found myself with new energy and was able to run, run, run up the hill to the totem pole. In the darkness, I spotted my dog Jack whom Rusty had brought to the finish...he leapt up and ran in with me. What a great moment!

#16 Station - Finish 100.73 miles
01 days, 04:32:42 Time to Station
00:17:00 / mile Overall Pace
00:19:11 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
37 / 74 Station Rank

For some reason, the splits have me as finishing 37/74 when it was 25/62. I ended up being second Master but winning the Master schwag since Kerry (first Master) finished in the top-5. Very fun!

In Conclusion... Grindstone 100 was my first where I can say "everything went right." I didn't bonk (except at the very end), have feet issues, or was decimated by the heat as in my other 100s. I found a pace the suited me and stuck to it---I finally experienced what we ultrarunners call "running within ourselves." I learned the value of patience and running my own race, and was reminded over and over again that truly anything can happen in a 100 miler. Grindstone tested my ability to climb, to run fast, to navigate rocks, to run through the night into the next day and night, and persevere through sleep deprivation. Unlike my first 100 where I begged my crew to let me drop (thankfully, they didn't), there were only a few times during the race when I doubted my ability to go on. There were many, many more times when I was laughing, smiling, and having a total blast.

I am not sure I am meant to be a 100 miler specialist like my friends Kerry and Keith, but I sure can see the beauty in the challenge of this distance. Keith said it best: "Going for a run always clears my head, but running 100 miles distills my soul." Amen Brother!

As for Grindstone itself...I am truly fortunate to have been among the first class of Grinders. The trail itself is phenomenal. The event---from the superb aid stations, the excellent course markings and delicious post-run breakfast to the live webcast with splits, professional photographer, and convenient staging area of Camp Shenandoah---will no doubt become a classic 100. Reading the other race reports only confirms that I am not the only one who feels this way! On Sunday after the race, I started thinking about pacing Mike next year...but today I am thinking about how can make up time from that slow slog from the last aid station next year. Sorry, Mike, you may have to find another pacer!

postscript:A newcomer to ultrarunning recently asked which 100 miler I would recommend as her first 100. I told her the most important criteria for training and completing a 100 miler (to me anyway) is to be passionate about the trail and the event. This was the case for all three of my 100s. In each training cycle, I was completely obsessed with the trail and focused on that event for many months. I remember coming home from a Grindstone training run totally giddy with excitement because the trail was so awesome, and I was really looking forward to spending 29 hours on it! Training was never a chore---actually, it was really FUN and racing the course was, as Gary Knipling says, "the dessert." Totally true. I do believe Grindstone is within reach of most experienced ultrarunners because of the generous cut-off time of 38 hours. I fully expect to be there again next year and that many others will be there, too...and I will always savor the memories of being part of the first year of this special event.

Pre-race pics are here.

Full race results are here.

Race reports are here.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunset, Sunrise, Sunset:: Grindstone 100, 2008

Elliott's Knob (mile 9) from the valley near Swoope, VA. Click on the photo for larger.

In 2006, after finishing Western States, I told my husband and ultra friends that I was done with 100s---after two finishes (MMT and WS), I just couldn't find the bliss from pounding the trail for 29+ hours. My body seemed to prefer the "shorter" distances---40 mile to 100K-- and didn't rebel in the same way as it had in 100s. In early 2008, however, a new 100--the Grindstone 100--was announced and would be held on tough mountain trails just 45 minutes from my home. Clark Zealand, with help from David Horton, was going to direct this beast with 23,000 feet of climb. It would start at 6:00pm on Friday, October 3, a start time my sleep cycle preferred and with cool fall weather to boot. I could train on the course all summer (while I was on summer vacation from my teaching job), and taper once school started again. Hmmmm...all the planets seemed to align for this race, so when my husband told me to go for it, I did.

As regular readers of this blog can attest, I have spent the last 15 weeks meticulously training for Gstone. I wanted to be as physically and mentally prepared as possible so I could accept the outcome knowing that I did everything in my power to have a great race. More importantly, I wanted to learn from all my previous ultra "mistakes" to see if I could put together the perfect 100 mile race-- for me.

Here are the top-10 goals that I created for my Gstone race:
1. Start slowly and move my way up the field while keeping my heart rate low;
2. Eat and drink every 10-15 minutes;
3. Pay attention to hot spots on my feet as soon as possible;
4. Take caffeine and power nap when sleepy;
5. Focus on positive self talk and use the mantra, "Make Every Moment Count";
6. Use a three week taper after getting mileage up to 75-80 mpw;
7. Train on the course and visualize running 100-miler pace
8. Spend many training miles climbing and descending to condition my legs;
9. Spend training miles on tempo runs and long intervals for leg turnover;
10.Enjoy the entire experience--the training, the event, the friends, the challenge.

Short version: I was 59 out of 74 runners at the first AS (mile 5) and worked my way to 25th overall, 6th woman, 1st master with my fastest 100 miler time, 28:32. Kerry Owens, my good friend and fellow Master, was between 5-20 minutes ahead of me during the second 50, but I couldn't muster the energy or motivation to catch her. Instead, I chose (wisely, it turned out) to spend 10-15 minutes at each AS in the second half to drink chicken noodle soup, eat scrambled eggs (thanks, J.B.!), and lube my worn feet, so I lost time---but in the end, these "moments" all paid off. My conservative pace allowed me to feel great all night, day, and night with the exception of a bout of sleepiness in the mid-afternoon and nausea in the last 4 miles when Mike Mason (my awesome, awesome pacer) cracked the whip to get me in under 28:00. As I was well under my dream goal of being under 29:15, I was content to walk in the last three miles in order to prevent a nasty episode of nausea at the finish line. Mission accomplished!

(photo at right by Clark Zealand at the Gstone finish line totem pole)

I will be posting a longer report, with pre-race photos and links to more video and photos, later this week after I rest up and clear my thoughts. What do know for sure: My training paid off in spades, as Grindstone was the certainly toughest 100 of the three that I have attempted because of the 23,000 feet of climb, and because it is all runnable (except when you are climbing, and the climbs are relentless, long and come at you throughout the event); watching the sunrise while atop Reddish Knob at mile 50 was a moment I will never forget and will be hard to match by another event; and that I have a group of family members and friends whose support throughout the training and the race meant the world to me.

Thanks, everyone, for your emails, calls, and comments. More later!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Thoughts on tapering from the experts

Last night I attended a panel discussion on tapering for endurance events. It was sponsored by the folks at Ragged Mountain Running Shop, and featured four speakers, each an expert in his/her field: Kim Starr, a popular physical therapist here in C'Ville; Bob Wilder, THE Charlottesville running ortho doc to whom I have referred many ultra friends; Art Weltman, a professor of exercise physiology at UVA and marathoner; and Richard Ferguson, a professor of sports psychology at Averett College and a two-time Olympic Trails qualifier in the marathon. Not a bad group!

Take home messages:

1. Kim reported that she sees lots of runners neglect their flexibility and core strength routine in the last weeks leading up to their race because they are in a taper mindset...they aren't running as much so they aren't stretching, and they aren't lifting as much so they ignore the core workouts. This describes me to a tee, and is something I am being very mindful of this week.

2. Bob reported that during the taper, runners tend to ignore icing and stretching the nagging aches and tweaks that naturally accompany training (and that were attended to regularly during training) and this can lead to tight calves and Achilles on race day. He also shared his personal experience of trying to fit in one more long run the weekend before a big marathon, with disastrous results. The rule of thumb with this crowd was to take at least two weeks of reduced mileage before a marathon. I take three weeks before a 100-miler, with no long runs longer than 2 hours during those weeks, but I still do tempo runs and speed work up to 10 days before the event, but with reduced mileage.

3. Art shared that the research proves that even a little 20-minute jog the day before a marathon depletes glycogen stores. He suggests no running for the last 48 hours before the event, in order to store glycogen fully. He also talked a great deal about the importance of fueling and rest during the taper---increase foods with moderate glycemic index (pasta, cereal), 65% of daily nutrients should be carbs, and increase sleep hours the week before the race (very important for the Gstone runners!).

4. Richard is a big believer in the power of self talk and visual imagery during training and the race. He suggests each night before bed taking the time to visualize running the pace you want, as well as visualizing the course/trail and talking to oneself about the how you feel. These points hit home with me---I use positive self-talk and have a mantra ("easy and light", "take it slow", "make every moment count", etc), and I visualize my 100-mile pace through the course. I am very glad that I ran 95% of the Gstone course in training---this has really helped with my visualization practice.

Many in the audience had questions about marathon fueling and nutrition, as well as prevention of cramping. Ultras make all this easy to deal with since we carry our stuff and/or have crew---the 'thoners have to rely on the race drink (usually junk like Gatorade) and don't even consider bringing their own fuel, electrolyes, etc. Too much to worry about, for me... I love running ultras that demand more self-sufficiency such as Hellgate, Catawba, TWOT. It is an extra challenge that makes the adventure more fun!

Tonight: pack all the gear and get some good zzzzzzzzzz....