Scatter my ashes here...

Scatter my ashes here...
scatter my ashes in the desert...

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Two Owls and a Goat

I've outdone myself. On the bright side, I could call it a PR.

I rarely do things this stupid in training, but this time I proved, once again, that the lessons will be repeated until they are learned.

All you runners out there who get that smug little attitude toward walking, who think walking doesn't count, and who look down their noses at walkers, listen up!

This old goat ultrarunner had the bright idea that she would do a 50 mile walk in training. After all, it's just walking, right? Not like doing a 50 mile run, should be easier to recover, doesn't count so much, after all, moving at 4 miles an hour is not that fast compared to running.

I started out at 5 am, ate a huge breakfast, and began walking to Loveland. I kept a sub-15 minute per mile pace the whole time, including the time I took for my breaks, so it worked out to something more like 14 minute miles. Not a blazing fast walk pace, but requiring some focus and concentration to keep going that fast. Not a casual stroll.

My plan was to walk down Lemay to County Road 13, turn at County Road 30 and then take the bike path through Boyd Lake State Park, until it comes out near the intersection of Denver and Eisenhower. At that point I would continue southwest along the Loveland bike path until I hit the 15 mile mark from home, then turn around and go back home, where I would take a break and then head out for my final 20.

Simple minds make simple plans.

On my way down Lemay in the dark, I passed two owls, who were loudly "WHOOOOO, WHOOOO"ing at me. The sunrise was spectacular, far beyond what is shown in this picture.

My hands were too frozen, and by the time I was able to dig the cell phone camera out of my pack and navigate the buttons on my Blackberry, the sunrise had faded. But it was spectacular blazing red on the horizon, with black silhouetted trees and deep purple and red-streaked clouds against the lavender mid-sky.

I blasted down the bike path near the lake, and as the sun came up it got a little warmer, but I was dressed for sub-20 degrees. I still had water so I waited until on my way back toward Fort Collins to make my stop at the little coffee shop at Denver & Eisenhower. I scarfed half the sandwich in my pack and I was still hungry.

On my way through downtown Loveland on the bike path along the canal, there were a few houses with goats in the yards. I actually saw more than half a dozen goats. But I was the biggest goat of all. There weren't too many people on the path this morning, a few older people walking near the senior center, but that was it.

I stopped off at Dazbog Coffee at the intersection before heading back through the park, and bought some water and a blueberry scone. I was looking for something with a few more calories but nothing sounded good at the moment. I refilled my water bottles and left, inhaling the scone before I turned the corner to go north, and damn, the thing had cinnamon in it.

I hate cinnamon. UGH! But it was some calories, and I only had another half a ham & cheese sandwich and a package of margarita shot blocks left to get me through the next 12 1/2 miles to home. Normally that would be plenty of food, but my tapeworm came out of hibernation this week. I washed the scone down with as much water as my stomach could tolerate, and started blasting up the bike path again.

By the time I passed Carpenter I was less than 5 miles from home and it had warmed up some. I was way overdressed. I usually don't mind but today I was uncomfortable in all those clothes and I couldn't wait to get home to peel off some layers. My legs were a little sore, but I didn't think much of it.

When I arrived at the house I was well under 15 minute miles average including all my pee breaks and coffee shop stop, and I felt good. I took a long break at home, changing into all clean clothes.I had some soup and drank some water and gatorade, and hugged the girls. Dennis was working in the yard and he heard the girls howl when I came in, and he asked how I was doing.


A few minutes later when I tried to get up out of the chair to leave the house again, I realized just how sore. My quads hurt to the touch. I could barely stand up from the chair without using my arms to prop myself up. I waddled out the door, practically limping down the street for the first mile. My plan was to do a 10 mile loop, then come home one more time, and go out for my final 10.

I wasn't too much slower, maybe 17 minute miles on the way out this time, but I was hurting! My quads were in agony! I have never been this sore during a run before. Then I realized, I usually don't walk 30+ miles at a fast pace without breaking it up with a substantial amount of running.

This past week I ran 15 miles on Thanksgiving Day easy with a lot of walking, the next day I ran 25 with some walking but mostly running. But today I walked. The only time I ran was to get across the intersection at Harmony & Lemay because the light doesn't last long enough.

Thinking 50 miles of walking would be easy was the ultimate hubris. The ultimate arrogant runner attitude, it was smacking me in the butt and quads with every step. I went home on the shortcut and finished with 37 miles. I was done.

I could barely take my clothes and shoes off. I screamed trying to pull my socks off because any movement of my quads was agonizing. Just a light touch sent me through the roof. It took me forever to get undressed and into the shower, and I screamed with pulling each leg over the ledge of the bathtub.

I will be lucky if I can get out of bed tomorrow. I took some ibuprofen after the shower and it seems to be helping. I still can't lift my feet more than 6 inches off the floor without my quads screaming in agony, but that's better than when I got done with the run.

Dennis made catfish tacos for dinner and brought the computer to me so I could work without having to deal with the stairs. He also brought home some chocolate chip cookies from Starbucks to feed the tapeworm.

I got 80 miles for the week and I guess that's good, but I was hoping to do a 50 miler before Across the Years. I did learn a lesson though, it is a lot easier to do distance when I mix up the running and walking, than to stick to walking.

Walking is NOT easier. It will kick your lazy arrogant runner butt off it's primadonna pedestal.

I learned my lesson...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Just for Fun...A Little History

Death Valley Chuck-Walla, April 1907, ad
On a cold day it's fun to think about warmer places. One of my favorite things to do when I'm in Furnace Creek is to visit the little museum there at the resort. This ad is displayed in there. I always get a kick out of it.

It's really cold outside, and the forecast is for colder. I have a few more long runs planned before I start to rest for Across the Years. I'm planning a long one the day after Thanksgiving.

This week I didn't work too hard with the running, got 80 miles in but ran relaxed and easy every day. I didn't want to tire myself out with a couple of high mileage weeks coming up. I did a 30+ mile run at the lakes the other day and the weather was crazy. I froze my butt off for most of the first few laps, so I put more clothes on.

Then the sun came out and I got really hot, so I peeled those layers off and left them at the car, and then of course the sun went back behind the clouds and the wind picked up, and I froze again. Then I got the layers out again and of course the sun came out. By then it was nearing sunset and getting colder anyway.

I spent most of this weekend cooking. I don't know why I suddenly got in the mood but I made tamales, which take two days, and other stuff too. Must be the cold weather, makes you want to go inside and be near the stove.

An automobile trip through hell sounds pretty appealing right now.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Time to Get Tough Again!

It's been a long, mild fall and now reality has set in, and I have to stop being a fair weather runner and get tough again. This is an adjustment I have to make every year. This year it's taken until the middle of November, so I can't complain about that. I love hot weather, but I also love seasons, and I wouldn't want to live and train anywhere else but here in Fort Collins, so I have to deal with a little cold, ice and snow for a short portion of each year.

I lucked out last week, we got our first snow and I was on my rest week, so I really didn't have to deal with it. But now it's Monday morning of my new training week, and I need to get some miles in, and I do have to deal with it. It's snowing this morning and I'm hesitating but I know once I get out there and get warmed up I will remember the world of winter running, that I missed so much all those years in Arizona!

It always amazes me when I'm asked how I train through the winter. Running in the snow and ice seem to be unimaginable to so many people. I don't like to be cold or wet, but I would go crazy if I didn't go outside for months. I have never owned a treadmill. There are times when I've wished I had one, but I can count the number of times I wish for that every winter on one hand.

I do love running in winter, even if the snow and ice make you slow down, run more flat-footed, and you have to watch your step. But it's so beautiful running in the white stuff, the ice crystals in the air, and the silence that the snow brings as it covers everything. I also love how refreshing the cool air is, and how good I feel when I'm finished with my workout.

I lived in Gunnison and Crested Butte for about 7 years, so I learned how to deal with cold weather. I happen to have great memories of running in blizzards and 20 degrees below zero, breathing air with so many ice crystals in it, it would make you gag. I learned to deal with it both physically and mentally, and it's much more mental than physical.

Like I've said before, you don't get extra points at the pearly gates for running fast, but for running outside during the winter, I'm almost 100% sure you do.

I hear a lot of complaints about winter running, and I think they are excuses. It takes time for your body to warm up. Think about it. Your body temperature is somewhere around 98 degrees. You live indoors in an environment that is probably 60-70 degrees. So when you step outside into 30 degree or colder air, it's going to be a shock. You have to give your body time to warm up.

Most people who "exercise" never get out there long enough to give their bodies time to adequately warm up and adjust to the temperature gradient. That's another reason why people need to sustain a workout for at least 30, preferably 60 minutes to really get fitness benefits. It takes a good 15-20 minutes, or more on colder days, to really warm up and adjust. There's an adjustment period. What a bummer that so many people never stay out long enough to make the adjustment, so they never get to the point where they can enjoy their workout.

I have tried different strategies for the coldest days. The most frequent problem/excuse I hear is: breathing the cold air hurts my lungs. First of all that means you are starting out too hard. If you have to gasp really hard and you're not warmed up, yes the cold air will be a shock to your warm mouth and throat and upper respiratory tract. Start out easier!

You can cover your face with some sort of mask or bandana if that helps, but then it gets wet and freezes, so it seems kind of pointless to me.

I only cover my face when the wind chill or air temperature are so cold that it freezes my skin. Some people like to put vaseline on or something to protect their skin. If it's so cold that I'm seriously risking frostbite, those are the days I consider staying inside and getting on my bike trainer.

Another problem/excuse I hear is: My feet get cold. Wearing thick socks keeps you from being able to move your toes around in your shoes, there's no room for a layer of warm air to build up, and your toes stay frozen, until they slowly start to warm up and become excruciatingly painful until they do warm up. I have tried all kinds of things: neoprene socks, putting chile pepper seeds in my socks and in between my toes, and wearing shoes that are a half size bigger. For me, wearing thin socks helps more than anything.

I think all these strategies work, except the chile seeds, they can actually burn your skin temporarily, which creates an additional source of pain. But some people swear by them.

Problem/Excuse # 3 My hands get cold. Try mittens. Allowing room for warm air to build up around your hands will help. Or pull your hands inside your sleeves. If you have gloves, pull your fingers into the palm of the glove until they warm up. Usually by the time you get warmed up your hands are sweating enough that you don't need the gloves anymore.

Problem/Excuse # 4 The roads are icy, the footing is bad. Running more flat footed helps, slowing your stride down helps, running with a slightly wider stance makes you more stable too. I use Yak Trax on the iciest conditions, and they are a pain in the butt when you have to stop and re-adjust them occasionally, but they work. I can run The Buffaloes on icy streets in the Yak Trax and even when they pull me, I don't slip at all.

In Fort Collins we have the bike paths, which usually get plowed before the streets. Also, if you run in the fresh, untracked snow, the footing tends to be better than running on tire tracks, which get packed down and slick. Just be careful of ice hidden underneath fresh snow.

Problem/Excuse # 5 I don't mind the cold, but the wind is so unpleasant. Here in the Front Range area we have an abundance of wind in the cooler months. It's something you have to get used to. I think wind is a gift from the weather gods. You have to look at it with a positive frame of mind. Running with the wind makes you faster, and running against the wind makes you stronger. You can't lose.

My friend Cat complained to me about the wind recently. I couldn't believe it came from her because she's one of the toughest runners I've ever known, and she never lets anything stop her from running. I am pretty sure she didn't mean it.

Problem/Excuse # 6 I don't like to be cold. Then why are you living in a cold place? The solution is to dress warm. Wear layers. It always amazes me to see people out in shorts and running bras or t-shirts when it's 40 degrees outside. If it's below freezing, I'm the one dressed up like a snowman, I've got six layers on top and three on the bottom, and I can barely bend my knees and elbows because I've got so much clothing on.

Seriously, if you spend a lot of energy trying to stay warm, you'll get tired pretty fast. I like to overdress, not only because I train for races in hot environments, but also because I like to conserve my energy. Yes you do sweat and no matter how high-tech your clothing is, you will have some wet layers close to your skin, but if you have enough clothes on, the wind won't cool those wet layers down and you'll stay warm.

Problem/Excuse #7 It gets dark too early, there's not enough daylight. WAAAAH! First of all, the snow reflects light, so it's easier to see at night, and there's less traffic on the roads, and in the winter, there tend to be fewer creepos and weirdos out and about, so find a training partner and make an agreement to keep each other motivated through the winter, and get out there when it's dark and run.

The other things to remember in winter: sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. The glare and the reflection make the sun equally if not more intense than in the summer, so don't forget to cover up any skin that's exposed. I need to do a better job of remembering that, everyone thinks I'm a skier because of my raccoon eyes from my sunglasses.

When they ask me if I was skiing, it always catches me by surprise, and I usually look at them like they said something in some language I don't understand. When I tell them I run, they proceed through every question I just answered in this post.

Enough about winter running. Yes, I hope it's a short winter. I'm looking out the window, seeing the blobs of snow fall off the trees, knowing I need to get out there, and I'm not moving too fast.

It's time to go practice what I preach.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Dust Settles

It was a good idea to take Saturday off. I had a strong 39 mile run today, steady and consistent all the way to the end, I was running a decent pace. I didn't feel wiped out when I was done, either.

I thought about doing more miles with the daylight that was left, but decided I should stop while I was still fresh and expedite my recovery. I don't need to be doing junk miles.

I used the day as a mental training run, I tried to focus and be consistent in my pace and my run-walk-run transitions. I had the wind to challenge me in all directions. I was running quite a bit faster than I'll need to at Across the Years, and it helped me figure out how much slower of a pace I'll want to keep during the 48 hours.

It was an interesting day with the weather. It started out as a nice morning, the day became clear, calm and warm. About halfway through my run I saw a front moving in over the mountains. Suddenly a big bank of dark gray clouds moved in, the wind started howling, and Longs Peak was obscured under the storm. There were a few cold raindrops stinging my face but not enough to get wet.

At one point there was a huge dust storm on the west side of the lake. It looked like one of those dust devils in Death Valley except it was about 80 degrees cooler. I had to wrap my jacket around my face to get through it. I was prepared for almost any weather, but I didn't bring my swim goggles on this run.

Within 2 hours, the clouds moved over, Longs Peak and the Mummy range had fresh snow, and the sun was starting to shine on the foothills. In the last hour and a half of my run it was sunny, clear, and warm but still windy.

Looks like we have one more day of beautiful fall weather according to the forecast, and then we have to pay for this extended summer. The first snow could fall this week. Perfect timing, this is my easy week!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Temporary crisis...

I changed my plans for today. I was going to run the HCOR half marathon today but during the past two weeks a few little things have thrown my schedule off, in a good way.

I ran the 70 miler thinking I had more days off to recover than I actually did. I read my work schedule wrong, and realized at the last minute that I had to go back to work a day sooner! That was okay, but then I made the decision to get my flu shot at work earlier rather than later. I got it on Monday when I went back to work, and I felt okay other than a sore arm. My two days at work were not too exhausting, but by Tuesday night I felt tired and a little lightheaded. I figured it was the usual second day of work tiredness and maybe just dehydrated from not drinking enough at work.

Wednesday I went out running with Cat thinking I'd get 10 or 12 miles in. We were running the bike path and stopped off at the shopping center by Drake and Taft Hill road so she could use a bathroom. My legs felt tired up to that point, but as soon as we slowed to a walk, I suddenly felt lightheaded and had to sit down really fast to avoid possibly passing out. I sat there on the grass while she was inside using the bathroom, and I stretched a little, drank my water bottle, and by the time she came out, I felt okay.

As I was sitting there on the grass, I noticed the "flu shots" sign outside of Walgreens, and it occurred to me that maybe what I was feeling was the flu shot. It had been less than 48 hours since I got it.

We continued back on our run but decided to head back toward the cars early so we'd have the option of me cutting it short in case I felt bad again. Within a quarter mile, my legs started aching. It was mostly my quads and hip flexors, but I felt weak. I had to shuffle a few times to be able to maintain a slow jog.

I decided to stop when we got back to my car, that gave me 9 miles but I was wiped out! The rest of the day I didn't do much at home, I took a nap, and felt a little better. Thursday I didn't run at all, I took the Buffaloes out and walked for 6 miles.

Friday I woke up and decided to go to the lakes and try running. Except we had a crisis at home in the morning. Our cheap coffeemaker, the one we bought at Target a couple of months ago for under $10, no frills, no settings, nothing complicated, decided to quit on us.

What???? NO COFFEE!!!???????

It would have been funny to see a videotape of us scrambling around the kitchen, depserately looking for our cone, the french press, anything that would allow us to make coffee. The Buffaloes were watching us, getting all excited, trying to figure out why mom and dad were pulling things out of drawers and cabinets and making all that noise in the kitchen.

After a frantic 5 minutes of turning the kitchen upside down, we finally located the cone so we could make some single cups of coffee.

When I got to the lakes, I did a lap powerwalking, then started running when Cat joined me for about 5 laps. I felt great after about 13 miles, and picked up the pace, pushing hard on my last two laps, got a total of 26 miles in, and felt refreshed afterwards. We went out for sushi last night and I didn't feel like I'd done any more than a typical 10 mile run. I wasn't tired at all.

When I woke up this morning I decided I'd take today off instead of running the half. I feel like running, but I'm going to make myself take a day off. I don't feel like dealing with crowds, especially not in my favorite spot. We'll do yardwork today, blow the leaves out in the front yard, even though our neighbors' cottonwood tree still has half of it's leaves attached.

But first, I'm going to enjoy a cup of coffee from the new coffeemaker we bought last night. Crisis resolved.