Monday, April 20, 2009

Bull Run Run 50

"Ultrarunning is not always about success, rather, it is really about dealing with problems, breakdowns and overcoming failure both physically and emotionally all the while moving forward on your feet." ---Cougarbait Eyerly

Last week I read that quote on another blog and immediately posted it on mine, under "This I Believe." And after Saturday's Bull Run Run 50, I really do believe it---the part about problems, breakdowns and failure, that is!

Ultrarunning sucked me into its grip because I love challenges, especially the mental game of preparing for an event, facing my demons during the event and then handing them a sucker punch and finishing strong (or at least before the cut-off). Because I train and race for ultras with the goal of "overcoming failure," dropping from a race is out of the question...after all, what's the point in pushing myself to my limits only to quit when it gets too hard?

On Saturday, I started the Bull Run Run 50 with the intention of running near my best time (9:00:30) despite it being the first hot day of the spring. That was my first mistake...given the heat, I should have thrown my pace goals out the window. My second mistake was not preparing my body for the heat with S caps before the start and one each hour---I relied too heavily on one bottle of Nuun for the first 26 miles. I also relied too heavily on the fact that I ran a hard 35-miler in March under similar conditions with no problems--big mistake! At mile 25, I tripped on a root and fell flat on my face, and had to be assisted to my feet because my legs were cramping. At mile 28, the same thing happened but this time my calves cramped every time I went up a hill. I could feel them being pulled and feared some type of injury would take place if I didn't walk...or stop all together. I also sensed that my body was not responding to the fluids, S caps, and nutrition that I was giving it. In essence, I got too far behind with my electrolytes and it was too late to catch up without suffering a heat-related "issue".

Fortunately, I came to this realization about 100 yards from Fountainhead AS, before I went into the Do Loop, the toughest section of the course at mile 32. Knowing what was ahead of me certainly played a huge role, and I was very happy to take a seat back at the AS and take care of myself. I had no desire to keep moving and was able to get a ride back to the start/finish with Sean Andrish and Steve Core. Both of them propped me up with their own DNF stories (thanks, guys) and by the time we got back to Hemlock, I was ready for food, a shower, and to help my VHTRC friends at the finish line.

The rest of the day was a blast! I love helping runners when they arrive at the finish line. Their emotions are raw, and they are suffering. Some are exuberant, others are dejected. All needed special attention on this hot day and a few worried me a bit, but due to fantastic race preparation, the BRR finish line staff had cold ice water, cokes, Popsicles, and cold towels and ice. I got more satisfaction from helping the runners than I would if I had finished.

So what about "Overcoming failure," blah blah blah? Did I cave too soon? Should I have walked a few miles and taken what the day gave me? Nah. It would have been stupid to push my body that far. Admitting defeat took more courage than sticking it out, and I reminded myself of what I always tell my students, "it's how you handle defeat that defines your character." I am proud of myself for taking the trail back to the AS and admitting that I was sucker punched by the day.

What's next? After a break for the next few weeks for lacrosse games and tournaments and helping out at MMT, I will start my ramp up in mileage for Grindstone. This BRR experience will nevertheless be on my mind as I train this summer and I have a new found respect for the heat, and for heat acclimation. A good lesson for the next race and one I won't forget!

Another thing I won't forget...good friends like Laura (photo by Q).

(photo at top of Bull Run and the bluebells by Charlie Miracle, photo of me around mile 27 by Aaron Schwartzbard)
All BRR information, including great photos and results, are here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Taper Time

If you ask my husband what I like to read in bed at night, he will say,
"Ultrarunning Magazine...over and over again." He is correct. I am a student of the sport and love to get my hands on new training ideas and philosophies. I am particularly intrigued by the taper process, perhaps in part because after months and months of big miles, I am happy to cut back and chill. But I also dread the taper because somehow I find myself doubting my training and months of preparation...perhaps it's just endorphin withdrawal that is causing these doubts? In any case, today's post is on the taper because I am tapering for the Bull Run Run 50 on Saturday (the photo above, taken by Anstr Davidson, shows the glorious bluebells along the BRR course).

Back in October I attended an excellent information session on the taper that was geared for marathoners. I took away some valuable information that has really helped me in the months since. Specifically, I try to stay in my routine (stretching, strengthening, etc) as much as possible but with a cut-back in mileage. This taper for Bull Run is particularly challenging because I raced the Terrapin Mountain 50K on March 28 and had three weeks to recover, train, and taper again. Since many ultrarunners are often faced with multiple tapers since we like to race a lot, I thought you might be interested in what I did since March 28:

1st week (March 30-April 5): Mon: Swim, 20 mins. Tues: OFF. Wed: easy 4 mile/weights. Thurs: easy 5 miles. Fri: Swim 20 mins. Sat: 9 miles with 3 miles hill repeats. Sun: 9 miles with 4 miles at tempo on trails. Total miles: 27 miles

With the exception of the weekend runs, everything was run at recovery pace---very easy. The goal of this week was to recover, eat well, and sleep well.

2nd week (April 6-April 12): Mon:Swim 20 mins. Tues: 3 miles with 3 x 1:00 hill repeats. Wed: Swim 20 minutes. Thurs: 9 miles with 4 hilly miles at tempo (7:10 pace). Fri: Easy 8 miles on trails. Sat: Easy 8 miles on trails, lift upper body and core only. Sun: 8 miles with 5 miles at tempo (3 x 7:20 and 2x 7:05). Total: 36 miles

This was the "work" week...I ran as I felt but could tell I was recovered from the 50K enough to push the pace on the weekend. I still kept the mileage low but the runs were either quality or junk. The goal of this week was to keep the blood moving with quality work but in smaller doses, and to stay sharp by training on the same kind of trails (rolling singletrack) as the race.

This week: (April 13-April 17): Monday OFF. Tuesday, 4 miles easy with a few hill pick-ups. Wed: Swim 20 minutes. Thurs: 5 miles easy, stretch. Friday: OFF, Saturday, RACE DAY!

The goal of this week is to stay sharp with a few short runs, fuel and hydrate well all week, get quality sleep and keep the work and family stress at a minimum. I don't think we pay attention to weekday stressors enough...they can add up and impact our race day in a huge way.

I am helping a few friends get ready for the MMT 100 and am beginning to sketch out their taper period which will start around May 2. Depending on how my plan above works for BRR, I will incorporate a few of my "lessons learned" into their plans. For example, it is time for the MMT runners to start training as much as possible during the warmest part of the day on the rockiest, knarliest trail, to condition their bodies to the heat and their feet to the rocks (they should have been training all spring on rocks, btw).

I also have a few friends in taper mode for Boston, which is on Monday, April 20. Let's hear from some of you folks running Boston and compare how the Boston taper and the Bull Run taper differ!

As they say, we are all "experiments of one." I would love to hear what has worked for you in terms of the taper, and what hasn't. Share your ideas!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

The Best of Ultrarunning for my 100 miler peeps

Grindstone 100 opened entry today.

Bill Potts, my training buddy here in town, signed up. It will be his first 100. He will suffer.

I signed up too. Full moon and the Chimney Hollow Trail...perfect!

To others who are running Gstone, Umstead or Barkley (both this weekend), MMT or any other 100 miler this year, check out Bill Gentry's blog for some perfect ultrarunning quotes and inspiration. Gentry should know...he is old school ultrarunning.

Have an awesome race at Umstead, buddy!