Sunday, March 22, 2015

First 100 Mile Race Report NJ Ultra Festival

NJ Ultra Festival - 26.2, 50K, 50M, 100K, 100 M - March 21st, 2015.

Finished 100 Miles - 27hr :55 min. 25 people set out to do the hundred miles.  Only 9 finished. 
Only 3 woman.  2 finished (including myself).
Pacers: Nate DaSilva, Chris Paulson
Crew: Jen Paulson, Margot Sherwin, Richard Sherwin

 This is a long, drawn out post that will probably only interest those who geek out on running blogs, but if there are two things to take away from my first hundred experience they are this:

Our amazing crew right after the finish - I owe this race to them.

1. It is really all in your head.  "The first 50 is run with your body, the second 50 is run with your heart/mind." So true.
2. If it was not for my crew and pacers, I would not have finished this race before the cutoff. They pushed me and are why I have the buckle.

If you have been following this blog, you know that the "taper crazies" hit me hard in the form of total paranoid of catching the flu (which was actually founded in reality because Nate and the kids both had it and lot of our extended family did as well).  What was not founded was what an annoying mess I was for a good week and a half.  Suffice to say, I did not catch the flu, but did catch a stomach bug a few days before the race (nothing that would keep me from running).  So on Friday, Nate, the kids and I picked up an RV and headed for New Jersey (and into a snow storm) where we would meet Chris and Jen and my parents to complete the crew.

Can't believe it's done.
We pulled up the New Jersey State Fairgrounds - it was bleak, snowing like mad and we were pretty much the only people there except for a few tents that had set up on the concrete under a fair building to escape the snow.  We had a brief race meeting that reviewed pages of crew/ pace notes that I had painstakingly put together as well as went over some advise we had received from seasoned ultramarathoners and then went to dinner at a burger joint down the road.  I gave a lot of crew advice, but really in the back of my mind I was having some real doubts.  I could try and control and dictate crew notes, pack exceptionally well, be totally prepared, but none of that changed the fact that I still had to run 100 miles in the snow in just a few hours.

I picked up my bib number and had a brief chat with the NJ Trail Series amazing race director, Rick McNulty, who gave me some last minute advise, pointing to his head he said, "It's all in here."   All 8 of us (Nate, Me, Chris, Jen and our four kids piled) into the RV we had rented to get to bed by 10 PM.  Nate and I slept above the cab and I had what is one of the worst nights I can remember in recent history.  I remember reading a first hundred miler blog poster who spoke about the mental demons he fought the night BEFORE the race and that is exactly what happened to me.

I laid in bed from 10 - 2 am while everyone else slept with my mind reeling: "There is no way you will be able to do this", "You have wasted everyone's time", "You cannot endure the misery", "You will let everyone down" - all these thoughts went over and over in my head.  I was able to get about 2 hrs of sleep but at 5:45 I just decided to get up and get ready because I couldn't stand listening to myself anymore.  I was trying to hold back tears as I got ready and everyone slept.  I looked outside, the ground was covered in snow, which meant, of course the trail was covered in snow.  100 miles of could hear the groans of the other runners trudging around outside.

I went out to the hanger where the start/finish was with a cup of coffee to watch the 100K racers head out, my mom walked in and I almost burst into tears, "I just had the worst night, I'm terrified, I don't know if I can do this."  Meanwhile, Nate, unbeknownst to me was having his own doubts - the weather was awful, it was such a bleak, dark day, the course would be torturous and the cutoff was only 29 hours.  Then the 100M racers were called, we heard a brief speech from Rick McNulty and off we went. 

Right away I hooked up with three other runners who were also attempting their first 100 so we stuck together and chatted for awhile and talked about race strategy - which for all of us was the same: go out as slow as possible and pray to finish before the cutoff.

Icy, sketchy plank bridges.
What little strategy I had was just to get to mile 50 still feeling decent and then reassess where I was at, restart the clock mentally and focus.  Miles 0-30 were OK - I was trying to just stay in the moment and heed the advice other hundred milers had given me: "You can't run 100 miles, but you can always run one more mile".  Case in point: don't think about the entire task - just keep making forward progress.  I was cruising along at a comfortable pace, making sure to eat and drink pretty much anytime I thought about food or water.  Eventually my stomach evened out and I ran off whatever bug I had.  The weather was tough, though and a lot of people were hurting because of it.  I actually love running in the snow, but after awhile your body is spending so much time trying to right itself to keep from slipping that it becomes draining.  The weather that day was supposed to be 48 and sunny... it was actually in the low 30s with a mix of flurries and drizzle.

At night time, I was seeing three planks
for every one.
What was operating flawlessly, was my crew.  OMG, my crew.  It was like NASCAR - they met me as I came off the trail and by the time I passed our RV everything was ready for me.  They made sure I was eating, drinking and taking S-CAPs and getting back on the trail quickly.  They had posters made and were so, so, so supportive.  Whenever I would pass them I would not even try to make eye contact for fear of losing focus on the task at hand but their support was unwavering. 

Still waiting for this toenail to finish falling off.
When I came in at mile 40, my spirits were good and I decided to do a quick sock/ shoe change as my feet were soaking.  Big mistake.  One look at my feet and I freaked. I started popping blisters, taping my feet and trying to get them comfortable.  What I didn't realize then was that they were not going to be comfortable, so I was just wasting time.  I heard an interview with Coach Ken who was talking about just ignoring the blisters because once you start messing with them it's easy to get in the habit... so true.  I ended up blowing 15 minutes at that aid station and my goal was 1-2 minutes.  Luckily, Nate (who I came to find out behind the scenes was tracking my every move, every calorie, every sat tab and minute wasted at an aid station) did not let that happen again.

The shoe change that took 15 minutes too long.
When I got to the 50 mile mark, I felt physically fine, but my head started messing with me.  The sun was setting and I remembered the first time I ran the 50 on this course and I finished a couple hours before sunset.  I started attempting ultra-math.  Always a big mistake.  Some runners start to really lose their ability to do simple mathematics: I am one of those.  I forgot to mention - I did not have a watch, no one on my crew would tell me what time it was and I did not turn on my phone for fear of seeing a bunch of texts from well-wishes and losing focus.  So basically, I had no idea what time it was, just that the sun was setting and for the first time, I started trying to do cut off calculations.  I had 29 hours to finish, I had to make 90 miles by 9 a.m., but what time was it?? Was I running behind?  

As I came into the aid station I told the crew that I needed to change my clothes for the night, I was wet and cold.  Nate felt my shirt and said, "You are totally dry - it's still warm - we can talk about changing at the next loop."  As I was going to the bathroom both Jen and my mom were urging me to hurry and "Go, go, go".  I began to get resentful and pity myself... they didn't know how hard this was!  The other weird thing that happened to me was I started to revert to this weird state of being a manipulative child.  As I was leaving the hanger I turned on some tears and said to Nate, "I don't want to go in the dark alone".  His reply, "You'll be fine. Go."  So I shrugged and I went.  It was like I was hoping for him to save me - but he wouldn't so I headed out for my first lap in the dark.

Kiki, Wyeth, Ani and Coco cheering me on.
Miles 50-60 I started to get up in head and confused.  It was dark by then - but I couldn't remember what time the sun went down and then I couldn't remember if the time change was the same every year and how far behind I was from my other 50 mile times.  Basically I couldn't think straight.  As I descended back into the trail I remembered that I actually enjoy running alone at night - this is when I do most of my running and I had been looking forward to the sun setting.  I quickly noticed however, that I wasn't seeing anyone on the trail.  I would see someone maybe every 30-60 minutes - but it seemed as though a lot of people were missing.  On a loop race you quickly get to know everyone and where they are in relation to others: "Oh, it's red windbreaker guy... next will be girl with pigtails and neon pink tights, etc"... so it's easy to notice when people are gone.  This loop I started to slow, badly - I was noticing a lot of people starting to hike and I started taking hike breaks.  I had no idea what time it was, I felt lonely and confused.  Icy plank bridges that I had been trotting along earlier in the day now had me stopping and starting at them... scared to fall off into the water.  I started to hate the sound of sliding through slush and snow... it became like nails on a chalk board.  Food was like ash in my mouth and I found myself defiantly throwing the food my crew had given me into the woods in disgust - I even started to hide it in my pack... again, acting like a child.  Physically my legs felt great - this is something I attribute to a lot of training miles, but my back hurt very badly.

Somehow I am smiling here. I was NOT
smiling on the inside.
At the 60 mile mark Rick said I had 10 more miles until 70 where I could have a companion runner.  10 more miles... I could do 10 more miles - but then I would still have 30 more.  I forced the thought from my head.  I got up from my shoe change begrudgingly with way too many different kinds of food churning in my stomach and headed back out for the trail.  I pulled my mom aside and tried to get information out of her again, the manipulative child with tears in my eyes: "Am I too late? Am I out of time? What time is it?"  She just said, "Don't worry, just keep moving forward".  Everyone was looking at me kind of strange - I had the distinct feeling that they knew something I didn't.  At that point, I knew I must have slowed down considerable and was in trouble.

Miles 60-70 I thought were okay.  I was tired, back was killing me and mentally I was having to focus as hard as I could to drive out all negative thoughts and any thoughts about the distance of the race.  For the only point in the entire race I for one brief moment on this loop thought: "I'm tired, I would like to go to bed," and that was it.  Going into the race I had heard horror stories about people having to fight going to sleep on the side of the trail - that never happened to me - sleep deprivation is one thing I am pretty good at overcoming.  Sure, I was tired, but in control of it.  I did start seeing things here - I saw a pink UFO looking thing in the sky and every once in awhile I would stop and have a conversation with a stick or something about how I knew it wasn't really moving around and following me.  I also would see metal bars over the trail and have to talk myself into running through them - that they were not really there.  I would get into a good running grove and then the little things would mess with me mentally - the sound of the snow would irritate me and I would think: "I can't do this anymore" and one negative thought would take a lot of time to recover from.  I began to obsess over the cutoff time.  It was at that moment that I decided in my head (without really knowing any details) that: a) I probably would not make the cutoff and that my family was hiding it from me and b) No matter what I would not be quitting this race - even if my finish was unofficial, I was running 100 miles over the next however-many hours, even if I would not get my buckle.

My amazing husband (the best crew
leader ever) and our beautiful kids.
When I came into the aid station at mile 70 things started to unravel.  The first thing I noticed were the weird looks on everyone's faces... my crew looked at me with pity but were rushing me along and would not answer my questions.  No one would tell me what time it was, I wanted to mess with my clothes again, they would not let me... Nate pulled all the food out of my bag and said: "You are not eating and drinking enough.  This stops now."  Jen forced me to eat some soup and was trying to figure out how many S-Caps I had taken.  I started freaking out that something wasn't right.  That is when Rick, the RD, called over from his laptop: "That loop was 3:21", I heard the sound of warning in his voice.  I panicked - the cutoff, I would never make the cutoff, what time was it?  How was I moving that slow? - was the snow slowing me that much... I was screwed.  I sank into a very dark place.  Nate was dressed and ready - we headed back towards the trail and he said, "I'm going to let you hike down the road into the trail while you eat and then you need to run hard."  He was not messing around.  Some people say that having your spouse pace you is a bad idea because they will buy into your self-pity games.  Not Nate, he was all business.  I started trying to make excuses: I can't run fast anymore, you don't know how I feel, etc. etc.  He basically just ignore my whining.  We got onto the trail and I started up the "Ultra shuffle".  Nate gave me a Red Bull and some S-Caps and got to a part on the trail where you have to slap this plate with a hand on it and turn around - we did that and then there was a guy hiking in front of us... I was siked - now Nate would like me hike like this other guy.  He leaned over to me and said, "I want you to get away from this guy" and we ran.  Now, I don't know how fast we were running, but all of a sudden I felt this surge of energy.  My body was done - it had been done hours and hours ago - what was taking over was my mind.

Any person who I had spoken with who had run a 100 would say the same thing: "The first 50 are run with your body, the second 50 are run with you mind/ heart".  I could actually feel that happening, my mind was taking over my body.  I didn't feel pain, I just felt smooth and easy and light.  Nate was behind me every step of the way: "That's it babe", "You got this", "I've never been so proud of you".  With each encouraging word I felt stronger.  We passed runners coming and going and they all looked terrible - but I felt great.  After every surge I would take a quick minute to fast hike and regroup and then surge again.  This was the third fastest loop I had run so far - only beaten by miles 1-20.  We were buying time.  Chris was set to pace me for the next loop but Nate and I were on a mission - he was going to make me give this race everything I had.  Nate texted back to our crew that he was going to pace me the next loop as well.  Now mind you, Nate had never run more than 12 miles before.  So here he was having had crewed me for almost 20+ hours straight at this point and now he was going to run 20 miles on terrible snowy, icy trails.  I came out of that loop exhausted, but with a glimmer of hope that maybe I could make that 9 am cutoff to head out on my last loop if I continued to run hard.

We blazed through the aid station and headed back out for mile 80.  I had only ever run 50 miles in one stretch before and now at mile 80, I really didn't feel all that bad.  I panicked a bit when we arrived at the aid station and I saw both my parents there.  They were supposed to be at their hotel sleeping until morning.  Why were they here?  What time was it?  It was still dark, but was the sun about to rise? The manipulation kicked in again briefly at the aid station as Nate tried to tell me we needed to run hard again.  “I don’t think I can… I don’t have anything left”.  Once again, we hiked down the road into the trails while I downed a banana, some canned peaches and a bit of Red Bull.  Again, we started with the “Ultra shuffle” but I was able to use my mind again to control my body and run.  Again, Nate was my own personal cheerleader – for every time that I told him “If I don’t make the cutoff I will just do an unofficial finish”, he would tell me, “You came here for the buckle – let’s do what you came here to do”.  I felt so incredibly grateful to have him by my side.  I don’t think anyone else in the world could have motivated me the way he did.

About midway through that lap, it seemed as though every blister on both feet popped at once.  It stopped me dead in my tracks and I felt my shoes fill with fluid.  I told Nate I had to stop and do something about it - I could not run like this.  He said, "I didn't want to tell you this before, but over 60% of runners have dropped out of the race, if you keep pushing, you have a chance to make it and do what you set out to do".  I started shuffling, my feet were on fire... then running, I could feel my big toe nail on my right foot ripping off.  Then my feet went numb.  Again, mind over body.

Miles 80-90 were fast as well.  Not quite as fast as 70-80, but enough to bring us to 90 miles at exactly 8 am, one hour before the cutoff for my last loop.  I panicked a little at the thought of Nate leaving me – how would I run without him behind me?  Could I go on for 10 more miles? 

Now other than my hiding food and getting sick to my stomach and all that, this aid station was the only time I left unprepared.  The elation at making the cutoff had me saying I didn’t need anything but water, I was good – no food, no HEED, just water.  Chris was ready to roll so we headed out.  Nate was gone now and I realized I could now get a nice break, Chris wasn’t going to push me as hard – we could just take it easy.  My math abilities were completely gone and I could not even figure out how far we had to go or mile splits – I was just tired.  On the hike down Chris said, much to my inner resentment, “Nate said you can hike down the road but once we are on the trails, you need to run, girl.”  Again, the manipulation, “Oh, I think I’m okay. I’m really tired.”  Once we were back down on the trail Chris started running right up behind me, I had no choice but to go.  Granted it was a pathetic ultra-shuffle for quite awhile, but at least it was something.  Chris made sure I was moving.  Around mile 95 I started getting dizzy, I reached for some HEED and realized I had none, reached in my pack and realized I had no food.  Shit.  Then the dizziness really started to set in.  As for fueling and hydration my crew had forced me to take care of myself and therefore saved me, but now I was really starting to feel not having any fuel.  I found a half-eaten granola bar on the side of the trailed and ate it.  We got to an aid station that had been manned last time Nate and I came across it, but all that was left was some food on the trail and some Mountain Dew – I downed as many calories as I could and almost instantly felt better.  Only about 4 more miles to go.  Keep pushing.  Chris was urging me  to keep moving, “Come on girl, I’m not going to be the one who let you come in late”… I started to feel that surge again, mind over body.  Getting closer.  A few more miles.  Up ahead I could see our crew cheering – they had come to meet us at the trail entrance.  We ran faster.  Then the hill back up to the fairgrounds – I started hiking it – but Chris was running – let’s do a “strong finish” he said.  I pathetically shuffled up the hill as best as I could.  Only about a mile more, up the hill and then down and around the fairgrounds to the finish. 

Kiki running me into the finish.
My daughter ran in with me.  I had dreamed of this moment  - that I would run in crying or listening to a certain song on my iPod.  There were no tears, there was no music, no marathon fanfare – just the group of supportive people who had seen me through this race there to meet me at the finish.  Rick handed me my buckle.  Right away it hit me as I looked around at my wonderful parents, Chris and Jen and my amazing husband that they were the reason I was here.  Left to my own devices, I would not have made it.  I ran this race, but they carried me through it.  I had an overwhelming sense of gratitude and still have it today.  I was not going to finish in time but I did because of them.

I can’t describe the feeling.  I had wanted to run 100 for so long but really didn’t know what it meant to do it or what I would experience.  There is a point where the mind takes over and it no longer matters what the body is doing.  Of course, the best part of all of this is that due to this race and the point of this race is the building of The Cindy Lynn Sherwin Memorial Playground in New Haven, CT.  Cindy had no idea she would have playgrounds named after her or that people would run in her name and I know for damn sure she never thought I would run 100 miles… but life is crazy. 

Someone made a joke during the race about, “bet you are done now” and I said “never again” – but I’m already wondering what’s next…

Thank you from the bottom of my heart to my crew: Mom, Dad, Nate, Jen, Chris, Kiki, Wyeth, Annika and Coco.  XO

The buckle I wanted for so long.

My incredibly supportive parents who were with
me every step of the way.

Post-race foot assessment.

Friday, March 13, 2015

"Taper Crazies" or just plain Crazy?!?

I have always thought the "Taper Crazies" were some myth created by ultrarunners to give them something to talk about during a time when they could no longer have conversations like:

Them: "So, what did you do this morning?"
Us: "Ya know, nothin' much - just ran 30 miles."
Them: "Wow! You are crazy!"
Us: "No big deal - I'm training for a 50 - so 30 is, like, nothing. I don't even warm up until 26.2."

(I'm guilty, I'll admit it.)

Sure, I have a penchant for getting some mysterious feverish illness the week before a race and I have a generally high-strung personality, but as far as "Taper Crazies", nope, - just not my style. 

Until now...

It started last Sunday: I ran my last long run, a 5 hour depletion run with the last 1/2 at a pretty good intensity (mostly due to the time change that I forgot about and my needing to be somewhere).  I didn't feel the way I usually feel after my long run which is looking forward to a nice break before the race... I felt... lost, like I was forgetting something or simply like screaming, "WAIT! I NEED MORE TIME!"  I didn't feel physically broken enough - I expected to feel like I was physically a mess going into my taper, proof to myself that I had worked hard enough.  I just felt normal.

Monday: I go into work and start wigging out in a meeting about pretty much nothing.  To put it in simple terms:

Them: We are thinking about implementing X, what do you think?
Me: AHHH blabalabalx #jflajf989#3!!98 (crazy, loud and argumentative - may as well have had 6 heads).
Them: X makes sense for this reason.
Me: Oh, so you want to implement X?
Them: That's what we are saying.
Me: Oh yeah, makes sense.

My busted knees.  Classic "UltraJess" - 1 1/2 weeks before the race
and I bite it hard on the ice.
I have also developed some weird kind of phantom back pain (which I have convinced myself is my desk job killing me), busted both my knees (that actually did happen when I fell on the ice - pics below), and have had people feeling my forehead for fever constantly.  Plus I just find myself pacing around the house - feeling like I should be doing something (uh.... getting my race stuff in order) but unable to get it together.

Then yesterday my poor husband came down with a fever, not a pretend UltraJess fever, but a real fever.  I panicked and started freaking out.  Poor Nate is laying there shivering - he has the flu and we are all doomed!  I have researched every statistic for contracting the flu on the Internet that is available - all of which point to the same thing "Get a flu shot" - Damn!  This is the running Gods conspiring against me because I refused to get a flu shot.... bad karma!  Meanwhile - my sick husband is telling me to suck it up and get some mental toughness - how would I be able to finish 100 miles if I can't even deal with (not really) getting sick?

Update: Nate is still sick (and an amazing husband because despite feeling like crap he is asking me how I am doing - how did I find a man like this???).  I ran 6 miles and felt much better today, so as of now, I am not sick and am going to try and be rational and positive today.

So, yes, the "Taper Crazies" - whatever they are, are real and I think I've got them.  Maybe I can do something productive with my time instead of pacing around the house worrying.... like pack myself for the race, write my checklist... we will see!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Last "long" run done - depletion run

On Sunday I did my last long run.  I had wanted to run back2back 30 milers last weekend, but with the passing of my grandmother last Sunday, I abandoned the 2nd run at mile 2 when I got the news and went to spend the day with me family - so I only got 32 miles in that weekend. 

Technically I was not supposed to do a real long run this past weekend - but runner OCD kicked in and I decided to just do another 26+ run as my last long run to make up for the previous weekend.  Probably stupid in retrospect, this close to the race (especially after reading the great Ann Trason's taper article about not doing long runs for 21 days before a race), but oh well, at this point, what's done is done.

So on Sunday I did a depletion run.  I ate my last meal Saturday evening, had no breakfast on Sunday morning and then ran for 5 hours with no fuel and only 6 ounces of water, with the last hour being the fastest.  I felt pretty good - even with my busted (and now nastily bruised) knees which I hurt when I fell on the ice on Friday.  I was trying to create a physically uncomfortable run and while I certainly was dehydrated, I felt fine.

Also I think the taper crazies might be setting in... either that or just a serious bout of irritability.  So in honor of that: Top Ten Things NOT to Do When You Taper.  I have done almost all of those... today.  I have also become insanely paranoid about becoming sick.  I have annoyed multiple people with: "feel my head, do you think I have a fever?".  Now there is some legitimacy to this because almost all of the children in my family (and some of the adults) got a bad case of Flu B.  Being that we were stuck together in the hospital, hospice and then for my grandmother's services in such close quarters, I think my paranoia is somewhat warranted.  Let's just say I have been drinking Emergen-C like crazy and I do not take vitamins or supplements, typically.  The idea of training for a race for 9 - 12 months and thne happening to get sick for the race is a terrifying thought.

Oh and I finally put my crew notes together and sent them off to the awesome people who will be crewing/ pacing me in NJ!   This is so real, I'm getting excited and nervous.  I literally have no idea how I will handle the second half of this race - it's a crazy thought.  Now it's on to packing and gathering everything together!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

2 Weeks 2 Go ... So Much To Do!

The belt buckle for NJ has been posted - ever since I first heard the painful shuffle of 100 mile finishers staggering in during the middle of the night to the sound of a handful of people ringing cowbells, I have wanted a belt buckle.  I laid in our RV in the middle of the night, unable to move after my first 50 miler as the 100 finishers came "running" in and wondered, "How the hell did they run 100 miles?".

No - that's not mine - but I'm hoping it will be!
I remember my first Ultra race like it was yesterday.  I say "race" because I had run Ultra distances previously, but my first Ultra race was in March of 2013.  It was an awesome day.  I love to run, but I'm not a "good" runner.  I have never been fast - I'm just pretty average.  But... that day I had, what I have come to hear coined a lot in the Ultra community, "a good day".  I never really knew what that meant before.  I remember my goal for that race was to never feel really good and never feel really bad and that was just what happened - I just ran the race, I had fun, I passed people - I never once even remotely thought that stopping was an option - the weather was perfect, everything was insync.

At mile 39 I had my first taste of IT band syndrome - it came out of nowhere, I twisted my knee in some mud and boom -  pain down my leg with every step for the rest of the race.... but it was never a question of whether I would finish or not (though it took about 3 weeks before I could run two miles without knee pain afterwards).  Quitting that day was simply not an option.

So with only two weeks (OMG!) to go until my first attempt at 100 miles I am putting my goals together for this race. I have been told you should always have three goals - so here are mine:

1. To finish in under 26 hours (my "lofty" goal)
2. To finish and have a "good day" (my "reasonable" goal)
3. To finish (really, the only goal)

As for first 100 finishing time (which I could really care less about - the main objective here is to finish the race) - I have been told take your 50 mile time on the same course, double it and add half which would give me an aprox. finishing time of:
11:06 + 11:06 + 5:36 = 27:48

One more long run to go this weekend.  Debating on an overnight tonight or an early morning - hope to run 5/6 hours either way.  In true Murphy's Law fashion, I bit it hard on a patch of ice last night on my fast 6 miler and both knees, but mainly the right one, are jacked.  I had to laugh though - it's been a rough couple of weeks - so when at the last 500 feet of on of my last runs throughout this training to take a nasty fall - what can you do but laugh.

The real focus for this week is logistics.  Get the crew their info (more about that in my next post), get packed, make sure I have everything organized so that the final week I can just

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tapering for New Jersey... a sad turn of events

Dolores "Mingah" Quinlivan -
 An absolute stunner.  I will miss
her so much.
***Please note: The St. Paddy's Fundraiser for the Cindy Sherwin Memorial Playground is postponed until April due to a family emergency.  I will post the new date as soon as it is secured***

I am officially tapering for the New Jersey Ultra Festival.  I have not posted in awhile.  I had been on vacation for a week and while we were away my beloved grandmother, Mingah, had a stroke.  She passed away this Sunday morning after days of being surrounded by our big Irish family.

It just hasn't felt right to post lately but I have received so much support from people on this project that I know I need to.  For the first time in my training I have begun to feel (dare I say it without jinxing myself) confident.  Confident that I have put in a lot of miles, more than most training plans suggest, have done a successful 50 mile training run and that barring an injury or insane mental struggle that I simply can't combat... I have a good chance of finishing this race.

This past week I ran a bunch of 10 miles and was scheduled to run a 30 on Saturday and a 30 on Sunday.  Saturday was fine but 2 or so miles into my Sunday run I got the news about Mingah and the run was never completed.  Rather than stress about it, I'm going to be confident in the rest of my training, primarily because I have no choice and the negativity is not going to help at this point.  I have focused so much on running this for Cindy and to build the Cindy playground and now I will be running for Mingah too - she was always so incredibly support of me.  The best news in all of this is that The Cindy Sherwin Memorial playground has far surpassed the fundraising goal:

We have so far raised $30,630, plus have an additional committed $15,000 in corporate donations and still have the fundraiser with excellent silent auction items ranging in value from $100 - $6000.  We are on pace to raise around $50,000 for the playground.

I am so overwhelmed by all the support for this project and I know Cindy would be so amazed all this is being done in her memory.  My task is now to focus (which I'm finding really hard given everything else going on) to mentally prepare, to run and to get all of the logistics for this race handled.  I will be posting more on details later - but for now, thank you to all the supporters of this project.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Some Physical Issues... Heading To Warmer Weather...

One thing I have neglected to mention on this blog is that I have had this weird chronic cough since Thanksgiving. It's been better at times and worse at other times.  I had been feeling pretty crummy before Christmas so I went to the Dr. (not something I do often) - they listened to my lungs and said I was fine.  So the cough stayed - its pretty bad at night and more annoying than anything.  Since Christmas I haven't felt sick at all - I just have annoyed people with my nasty hacking all over the place (especially my poor husband at night and my mother, who shares an office with me).

After the -15 run the cough got a bit worse, but I didn't think much of it.  After the 50 miler last weekend, and it's funny I was so excited about how well the run went that I didn't think to mention it, I sat in my car coughing for a good 10-15 minutes before I was able to drive.  Funniest part of all of this: I almost never cough while running, just the rest of the day.

So with a sleep deprived husband and  saintly mother who is about to quit her job or punch me in the face if I don't stop coughing, I elected to go back to the Dr. She sent me for x-ray and turns out my lungs are all inflamed and I have asthma and am not allowed to exercise outside in the cold for at least 10 days (I did sneak in some skiing today, I'll admit it - but I wore a mask and it wasn't that cold out).  I'm on steroids (which I can't stand) and an albuterol inhaler.  Due to my not being allowed to run in the cold for a bit I went for a nice 9 miler on the treadmill this morning ("nice" and "treadmill" should not be in the same sentence) and watched Unbreakable: The Western States 100 (the best running movie EVER) and imagined I was running in the woods with Geoff Roes and Hal Koerner....sure made the time fly by.  Light. Smooth. Easy. Fast.

Sooooo, for those wondering, apparently the cold can upset your lungs.  Lucky for me, heading to Disney with the fam tomorrow - so weather will be warmer and hopefully will log some nice mileage down there and spend some much needed chill time with the hubby and kids.

After vacation - it's getting down to business.  I will be exactly 1 month out from the 100 and I hope to log 100 miles that week before I begin my taper.

By the way, speaking of Geoff Roes, was listening to this great, albeit old, podcast on Running Stoopid with Coach Ken ... awesome Roes interview I had never heard before: 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Gear, Shoes and Stuff

The biggest reason for wanting to incorporate a 50 mile training run into my plan was to test out my fueling/ gear.  I am very used to 30 mile runs and can tough one out after no breakfast with nothing but water and maybe a small snack.  Not good for a hundred miler according to pretty much everyone.  The hard and fast rule I have been told (by many people) is: "Eat before you're hungry, drink before you're thirst and walk before you have to".  So  I knew I needed a nice long run with a focus on going slow and steady and really paying attention to fuel.

VESTS/ HYDRATION I had two vests set up:
Ultimate Direction AK Race Vest and a Nathan Zelos Vest I recently purchased as a back-up because it had a flask in front AND a hydration pack for water, it got really good reviews (and I'll admit it, I like the colors).  The UD vest has two bottles in front and and storage in the back, but no built in hydration pack.  I have thrown one in there, but I feel like it throws off the vest and takes up all the storage space.  I had used the Nathan vest last weekend on a long run and was kind of irritated by the lack of lower chest strap.  The UD vest has an upper chest and lower chest strap which helps manage bounce and balances the weight, the Nathan vest has only an upper chest strap so your shoulders bear most of the weight of the vest and because there is only a flask on one side, it feels kid of uneven.  That being said, I decided to pack both, start with old reliable (the UD vest) and switch if it became uncomfortable.

To make a long story short, I never even used the Nathan vest.  The UD vest was perfectly balanced and comfortable and I like seeing both bottles so I can monitor hydration and they are top of mind. Plus, I don't have to fiddle around with the sip tube or worry about it freezing (which has happened to me many times).  The one good thing about the Nathan vest is that it has so many storage pouches and pockets, plus the resevoir, and bright colors for road safety, but since I'm only doing 10 mile loops on the trail, the UD vest will probably be my first pick.

Because the weather was comfortable (upper 20's) losing fluid was not really an issue - I drank about 65-70 ounces of water, 32 ounces of HEED and took 1 SCap every hour or so.  This is totally aproximate as I basically followed a "drink when you think about drinking" and "take an SCap when you can't remember when you last took one" motto.

SHOES I had two pairs of shoes:
This run took place on the road, though I took two pairs of trail shoes: Solomon Speedcross 3 - these are the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn.  They feel soft and cushioned with a large toe box, but you can still feel the ground under you - which, to me, is important on the trail, especially on New England rocky/ root covered trails.  This particular pair I have worn down the sole from road running, so it's more road than trail shoe now anyway.  The second pair I took were my new Hoka Stinsons.  I actually have Hoka road shoes, but for some dumb reason grabbed the wrong ones.

I recently bought the Hokas because of all the great reviews and every time I have run in them I just don't get it - they feel like I'm running on foam... which for me doesn't feel right probably because I'm pretty used to minimal shoes.  That being said after mile 40 I was feeling a little stiffness in my legs, so I decided to switch from the Solomons to the Hokas.  Okay... I get what all the buzz is about.  While I would never wear those shoes to just "go for a run" - after 40 miles, the bouncy, foamy feeling was real nice.  I guess that is why they are marketed as an "Ultra shoe"... duh.  Anyway, I will certainly be bringing these along to the race but will delay wearing them until I feel like I need to.  I got them a size too big to make room late in the race for foot swelling, so they will be my relief shoe.  The Hoka Stinson's have a really large toe box and are very roomy - so I probably should have only gotten them 1/2 size bigger, I will have to watch for rubbing/ blisters with them.  I will probably start off in my Solomons as they just fit so nicely.  No blisters from either shoe on this run.

Fueling went pretty well overall.  I don't do gels because every time I have ever taken gel I bonk due to stomach issues - they are so gross to me.  Over the course of the run I ate: 2 PBJs with salt on them, 1 Clif Bar, 4 big fig newtons, HEED and SCaps.  I probably could have taken in more calories - but that was really all I took with me.  My stomach does best with solid food on runs so I will stick with that.

I have never run with electrolyte drink before recently.  Every run I had done in the past was H20 only, primarily because of the issue I have with gels... I have with electrolyte drink.  They make me sick and nauseous.  I recently started trying HEED because it doesn't have simple sugars (which I think is my problem) and so far it has been working out great.