welcome back.

It’s been a minute. The word is a different place and I’m a different person-thank god. My writing voice has changed, my location has changed, and I don’t drink coffee anymore. I looked back at my drafts and found that the most recent was a catch-up post on having moved to Nashville and adopting a dog named Gustav. I almost feel like I need to post that one to fill in the gaps between the gaps. I don’t live in Nashville anymore, and I don’t have Gustav anymore. Even the change has changed.

My last post was about coming in third at Yeti 7/11. I ran Yeti 100 again that fall, shaving several hours off my time. I quit Fleet Feet and took a job at a local outdoors store called Cumberland Transit. I came in third again at Dark Sky 50 the next spring, and began coaching a 50k training group at CT. My boyfriend that I wrote about here and I broke up after 5 years together, and he kept the dog. My third 100 miler attempt, Orcas Island 100 in February of 2020, marked my first DNF. A massive tornado tore though my neighborhood just a few days after returning from Washington. A pandemic struck the globe, I got laid off at Cumberland Transit, and I got offered a job at Skratch Labs in Boulder, Colorado the next week. I moved to Boulder in May, and my partner joined in July. We celebrated our one-year anniversary last month, and I haven’t run on a trail since July 5th. Wait, what?

Welcome to Colorful Colorado!

Yeah, in the season of the world learning to love exercise again, I stopped running. In some ways I think it was the DNF that did me in. It’s not a forever departure, but it has been one of the longer breaks I’ve taken. Ironic that my last post was about finding joy in running-and I did, honestly, for a while after that-because this one is about how little joy it brings me. Maybe it’s the personal pressure to perform, to continue growing after placing at two races. Maybe it’s moving to a new place. I really have no clue. For quite a while, I didn’t even miss it.

I have found a lot of joy in cycling again. I spent the late spring building a gravel bike, and it has been outrageously fun. Boulder is full of incredible gravel, and lots of well-groomed trails that my tires can traverse. It feels good to work hard outside again, and to move in a different way. Cycling allows me to cover greater ground than running can. But, I’m finally starting to miss it. I don’t miss racing too much, aside from the community aspect. What I miss is the opportunity for adventure and exploration.

My new bike, a salmon candy red Surly Straggler, at the end of a snowy ride near Breckenridge, CO.

I don’t care too much about racing goals like I did two years ago. Maybe it’s the pandemic speaking but that really doesn’t feel important anymore. What I’m craving is the fitness that comes with distance running, and the idea of pushing that fitness to be able to do things like link up 14ers and bike-to-run-to-climb. For my birthday last month, my partner and I bikepacked the White Rim Road in Canyonlands National Park. 5,459 ft of gain over about 100 miles, and we rode it over the course of two days. It was incredible, and a great reminder of the adventure that I seek. A taste of what’s to come, hopefully.

Over the past few weeks I’ve started completely over with my running. I’m trying to put a lot of positive intention in that statement instead of expressing the fear and shame that I feel. I came into 2020 strongly identifying as a trail runner. I told myself that my first DNF was necessary and that I should be proud of the effort that I made and move on to the next thing. But no matter how hard I tried, no matter how many podcasts I listened to and how much sage advice I got from runners much more experienced than myself, I was ashamed. Ashamed that I’d failed, ashamed that I’d dragged this guy I’d only been dating a few months across the country to sit in the freezing rain/snow/windstorm that was Orcas Island only to watch me fail. I’ve spent a lot of the year thinking about running, thinking about my identity as it is tied to physical activity, and also just not fucking thinking about it.

I’ve let it happen organically-the thinking about it and not. When I feel like doing, I do. When I feel like riding my bike, I ride my bike. When I feel like hiking, I hike. And when I feel like running, I practice. I work on my form, I do drills, I jog around the apartment barefoot watching myself in the mirror. As I have started wanting to run more, I have been working from the ground up. Practicing all the steps that I skipped over when I first started, and doing it right. Most of all, building up a positive relationship with running once again. I feel like running more and more. I’m more interested in it today than I was last week. I felt excited to put my running clothes on this morning to run around the apartment (to be clear, I’m running inside because I’m working on my form barefoot, and too much of a wimp to do that in Colorado in December). I’ll keep at that for another week or two, building the habits of good form as well as the habits of getting out of the damn bed, and then I’ll start going outside. No trails for a bit, I need to lock in this form work, but I’m getting there. I’m teaching myself to want it, and backing off when I don’t.

Having fun on a cold hike, about to glissade down a steep snowbank

It’s been a year of change. Absolutely nothing in my life is where I thought it would be a year ago. A year ago I was working in the back room of an outdoors store in Nashville, living in East Nashville, climbing 4 days a week, and coaching a 50k training group. That was all I knew and I really didn’t see a way out of it. Now I’m sitting at the desk in the extra bedroom of my apartment just north of Boulder, writing this on a break from my marketing job at Skratch Labs, haven’t been in a climbing gym since March, and my gravel bike is propped up next to me. I’m not going to pretend like I’m thriving in gratefulness right now-shit is hard. The world is not a bright and shiny place. But I am grateful for where I’m at, and I’m going to keep moving forward.

joy

Would you believe me if I told you that running can be fun?

There is a particular joy that can be achieved through a sport that so many dread. It can be a chore, it can be arduous, it can be boring. But running can be fun.

I dove into ultra running headfirst. No, really. Besides Thanksgiving 5ks and the Peachtree Road Race every year for five or six years, I didn’t race until college. I decided to run a 50k my sophomore year and haven’t looked back since. There was a big break in there, though, between junior year and the summer after I graduated, and that break exists because it wasn’t fun anymore. I ran my 50k and had a blast, then I ran another 50k a few months later, then I joined my college cross country team, then I kind of…stopped enjoying it. I got out on the trails maybe once or twice a week and it felt awful. I stopped altogether not long after that.

The next summer is when I decided to give it another go, and just be gentle. Kindness to yourself can go a long ways, and taking a kind and easy approach to running is what helped to rebuild the fire that had dwindled to what felt like a single, smoldering coal. After a summer and fall of rebuilding, I took a leap and signed up for Yeti 100. Is that smart? Maybe not. But it worked. I rebuilt my passion.

After Yeti, I took a break. For a few months all I did was run with my Monday night run club (I host Green Hills Run Club in Nashville) and then one other day a week. I was climbing a lot and just working on other things in my life. It felt good to let my body and mind recover and regroup before tackling the next thing. Training comes in phases and that is okay. I had to learn that-the fact that it’s okay-but now I know it. It’s okay to take time off. Taking time off is important.

I started running again in February. I built my mileage back up and kept at my cross training. I signed up for the 7 hour portion of the Yeti 7/11 back in September, but continued to tell myself that it would be a fun race. Nothing too crazy, just fun. I kept that in mind but as the race approached but also found a little competitive spark somewhere in my heart. I looked at Ultrasignup results and read about the other people registered. It’s a fairly lowkey race but I thought it might be a fun day to go out and try to race. I have never done that before. I grappled with the idea of letting myself run fast and I tried to prepare myself for failure. I said it out loud and I told my close friends: I want to place. I qualified my statements with phrases like “I’m sure it won’t happen…” and “it’s a timed event so I can’t DNF even if I blow up…” and I am still not sure if that was being realistic or selling myself short.

Day of the race, I was still coming up with my plan. I wanted to run 36 or 40 miles on the 4 mile loop, but knew that my furthest distance since the hundred was 18. I knew that I was coming off of my recovery and that I was not as strong as last summer. I had no idea what the course would be like, except for the fact that Jason (RD) said that he added a new downhill to the course and anticipated a lot of fried quads. I placed my drop bag close to the trail so I wouldn’t have to wander through everyone else’s stuff, and I lined up towards the front.

I ran the first few laps with friends from the hundred. I didn’t reveal my goals to them, but they teased me and said if I kept up pace, I’d be top five. I smiled and said something about dreams. They were running the 11 hour race and we split up after the second lap. I implemented their strategy of only stopping at my drop bag every other loop.

Screen Shot 2018-03-19 at 10.22.58 AM
elevation profile, and proof that the hills got bigger every loop.

On a small loop with two different timed races happening, it can be hard to identify who exactly you’re racing unless you explicitly ask them. Which event are you running? What lap are you on? What lap am I on? How far have you gone? Are these loops really 4 miles? After a while, I settled on running my own race. There were a few tough climbs on the route (the kind where you use your hands) and rewarding downhills. The course was beautiful and trails were dry, the latter being something that Nashville lacked for the past month or so. I was having a blast and running like I hadn’t in a long time. I cheered for other people and kept moving the entire time. The aid station/drop bag area was a huge party, as always, and something to look forward to each lap.

Miles flew by and so did the time. After 8 laps and 6.5 hours, I knew I didn’t have time to go out for another lap. I got in line for a whiskey slushy at the aid station (it was 7/11 theme, after all) and chatted with other runners. I was taking a selfie with someone when Jason came over and put his hand on my shoulder. “Good job kiddo, here you go.” He handed me the 3F award and I was stunned. I’d almost forgotten about my goals and ended up just enjoying the trails. Third female, fifth overall.

29066945_1837145493026184_8259156123339438936_n
aforementioned selfie, shoutout to cumberland transit

 

I don’t think I have to describe the elation of a first time top 3, but the biggest takeaway from that race was the importance of joy. Happy running is unlike anything else. I know that it can’t happen all the time, and more importantly, I don’t think I would properly enjoy it if it did. Struggle is necessary to grow stronger and the process is not easy. But the results are so, so sweet.

29025466_10213633729510631_7736089707666210816_n
the smile is real; this is like 20 seconds after I found out I was 3F. photo cred to Tony Taylor

 

It was an amazing way to kick off my race season. Right now I have a 50 planned for May, and Yeti 100 again in September. My running has a new energy and purpose, and I’m thrilled to see where the year takes me.

the head and the arms

I dabbled in strength training throughout my prep for Yeti. It wasn’t anything too intense, mostly bodyweight workouts to help alleviate my shin splints. However, when it seemed that I was taking winter off (I ran occasionally between October and January, but not on a regular basis), I decided it was time to get a little more serious about strengthening the rest of my body.

I am not a gym person. I find gyms intimidating and I have no idea how to use any of the equipment. I don’t know how to lift weights safely, and even if I did, I wouldn’t know what kind of exercises I needed to do. So when I decided I needed to start pushing my strength a little more, I knew it was going to have to be through another sport. Enter climbing.

I’ve always wanted to get into climbing. I think it requires the same kind of personality that ultra running does–restlessness, a little bit of self-loathing, and a desire to push your body and mind beyond what’s comfortable. I started bouldering at my local gym and was hooked. I loved the mental aspect, and the strength necessary to send. It’s damn fun and hard and forces me to make a lot of quick decisions.

Besides the fact that I am working on getting stronger physically (and climbing has jump started that), climbing is working my mental toughness. Not only do I have to climb the same problems over and over, analyzing what went wrong and trying my best to remedy it, but I have to often face fear and decide whether or not to push beyond it. This happens sometimes at the gym: I get relatively high up on a problem, realize my next move is a big one, and I have to make the decision of either trusting my body or down climbing. For a while, I was listening to that fear instinct. I’d either down climb or let go. I met “am I going to do this?” with “absolutely not.”

One of my coworkers invited me to go climbing outside with her. We spent a beautiful day at Rocktown in Georgia, climbing and enjoying the unseasonable warmth. I successfully sent a few problems, and watched in amazement at how graceful and brave she was on the rock. We found a V6 called Guillotine, and she wanted to try it. Directly next to it was an arête with a huge iron band running through it, called Medieval. Guillotine was a massive high ball–according to the guide book, almost 24 feet. She worked and worked at it sometimes getting frightened by the height, but always trying.

20180121_164729

 

When she wasn’t on the wall, I was working on Medieval. The crux of Medieval was a tough mantel near the top of the boulder, high off the ground and at an angle. I finally reached it, and before the big move, I panicked. My feet didn’t feel steady at all. “Uh…you guys down there?” I called to my spotters. “We got you!” My coworker’s friend yelled back. I heard them shuffling the crash pads on the ground, moving them to where they thought I’d fall, if I did. I reached the moment where I had to make a decision. Make the move and risk falling almost twenty feet, or give up and try to down climb. I decided to make the move. I planted my hands on the cold rock and pushed myself up as hard as I could, topping out. My friends cheered and I yelled. It felt good to conquer my fear. It felt good to be stronger.

I think that having experiences like that, while also making me physically stronger, are building my mental endurance. I am being reminded of the strength that I have, and of how far I can push myself when I try. It makes me want more with my running and it makes me want more with my climbing. I am not the strongest or the fastest, but I can certainly be stronger and faster than I am now.

farewell from 6,289′

The whole of summer 2017 had the feeling of an impending deadline: when it came to a close, we would be leaving New England for the foreseeable future.  When we went out to restaurants and coffee shops and parks and places I had a hard time pushing the finality out of my head. It was always last time I’ll eat there or last time I’ll run these trails or last time I’ll see that person. For the most part, I’d had my fair share of New England experiences: I’d eaten lobster rolls, stood in line for Treehouse beer plenty of times, walked the Freedom Trail, hiked Mt. Monadnock, visited Acadia National Park, seen lighthouses on Cape Cod…the list goes on. One of the few remaining items, however, was to hike Mt. Washington.

I did plenty of hiking and running in New Hampshire’s White Mountains. I’d hiked several other Presidentials along with a dozen or so 4,000 Footers. Washington remained a hazy goal on the horizon, always looming in the distance behind a veil of clouds and wind. In late August, when our time in Boston was coming to a close, we decided to knock off a final hike of Washington. We picked the morning of August 21 and drove to the AMC Pinkham Notch Visitor Center. After struggling to find parking, and listening to a patient volunteer explain to would-be hikers that based on their experience level and choice of trail they would not make it to the summit and back down before dark (“but we’ve done Tuckermans before, we don’t want to do it again!”), we headed out.

Moving to Boston in late 2013 was tough. I was more or less on my own, living in a city that I had visited a few times but did not know. I had never lived in an apartment before, or driven in snow, or done any of the “adult” things that I was forced to do right after moving. At the same time I was adjusting to a new college and different style of learning, I was learning the city and learning to juggle work with school with writing and existing. I had to grow up, fast. I joined too many on-campus organizations and I worked on way too many projects. I wasn’t running yet and I wasn’t riding my bike anywhere, either. My roommates were garbage and my apartment was tiny, but I was rewarded with what everyone in the Northeast holds out for: magnificent New England spring. 

1604519_10202225922002573_2130146068_n
trying to fit in with the locals and learning to embrace winter

Unlike the family at the visitor center we were fine with taking the Tuckerman Ravine trail. It was both of our first hikes on Washington, so the classic route seemed appropriate. The first section of the hike, a wide wooded trail littered with boulders, was a bit of a green tunnel. It was steep almost immediately and Sam had a bit of trouble getting motivated for the rest of the hike (“this fucking sucks,” to paraphrase). Seeing the summit emerge from the trees near the Hermit Lake Shelters proved plenty of motivation, though, and after a short break and photo op we trucked on.

20170821_124402
hermit lake, before heading up the ravine

The summer of 2014 changed things for me. I was frustrated with the fact that I didn’t have time to write what I wanted to and was focusing on school. I was unhappy with the friends I’d made and the fact that I was already starting to feel stagnant despite having just moved across the country. So, I bought a short-notice plane ticket to Spain and spent a week exploring and drinking wine. I met people from around the world and wrote and had fun alone, staying up too late and swimming in the ocean and doing all the things that I felt like doing. Going home was uncomfortable and unwelcome but I got a taste of life outside of school. I picked up running again when I returned and had my eye on a spring 50k.

11043035_10204972234138660_3690129004745723606_n
training for a spring 50k in Boston means a lot of chilly runs. this just happened to be the snowiest winter on record.

Just beyond Hermit Lake Shelter, the trail takes a steep turn up Tuckerman Ravine. Wet rocks made for a fun climb, while a nosy, over-talkative hiker on our tail encouraged us forward. Recent rain meant that water was cascading down the ravine and over the trail. Late summer flowers were still in bloom and everything was green. By the time we reached the top of the ravine and the summit came into view, the sliver of solar eclipse that was to be visible from New Hampshire was starting to come into view. We brought along a big bag of (NASA approved!) glasses, and started passing them around to families nearby. I knew that my family back home in Georgia (and in our future home of Nashville) were in the path of totality, but our little sliver still made for a fascinating view.

20170821_131540
climbing up the ravine

The winter of 2014 into 2015 was one of record-breaking snow. It was my first full winter in New England, so I didn’t know much better and kept training. When the snow melted, I ran my first 50k. It was a moment unlike anything I’d ever experienced: my hard work from the past few months paying off in the form of something I was proud of. I didn’t do too well in school that semester and had to take summer classes but it was mine and Sam’s first summer as a couple and we spent the warm evenings riding bikes and skateboarding around town. I went out for my college cross country team and made it, then was hit by a car while riding my bike to work one day. I ran my first college meet the next morning, and had a cast on my arm for the entire season. I met my best friend during that time and became a much stronger runner.

11885647_10206331689044183_2548838625776931184_o
shortly after finishing my first college cross country meet-note the hospital bracelet on my right hand. i got my (purple!) hard cast that week.

Clouds were gathering at the top of Mt. Washington and it was getting cold. We layered up and continued the climb, a seemingly endless haul up a typical-White Mountains boulder field. The weather observatory was in sight and the valley below had disappeared into the clouds. Once up top, we stood in line with the folks from the auto road and took a photo: our last New England summit for a long time. 21687606_10212339858444663_973468610855665141_n

I didn’t run much for the first half of 2016. I was writing my thesis, and studied abroad in Cuba. We moved to a nicer house where I was able to walk to work, and I did a lot of hiking by myself. I was done with school and ready to leave Boston but knew it wasn’t time yet. I spent the fall trying to back back into a running habit and decided to sign up for Yeti 100. I immediately dove into base building, and then started my training plan in the spring. At that point, Sam and I were discussing a move, but it didn’t become definite until late spring…then the countdown started.

13246334_10208054291468167_6461299574027376971_o
sunrise in the mountains, viñales, cuba. the hike up was the first time i’d ever seen the milky way.

We spent a few minutes up top and I mailed my dad’s birthday card from the Post Office at the summit. We decided to head down so we could do so in full daylight. The day had been fantastic, though I was a bit disappointed in the lack of wildlife. I’d seen my first bear in July and was hoping to see a moose before we left for good, but with the crowds on Washington I felt that my chances were slim. We took our time descending and talked a lot about the move. We’d spent all summer spending time with friends, saying “yes” as much as possible and eating at all of our favorite restaurants. We drank local beer and we stayed up late. We rode bikes and did a lot of just driving around. It was a time of reflection and of slowly letting go. I would be leaving a job I’d had for nearly two years, and the family I had there. We would have our going away party that weekend and then start driving the next week.

17991767_10210987188028748_7708566317811539788_o
standing in line for beer at treehouse.

20989027_10212088383597949_7329662752532996680_o
descending washington

When the trail ended, I complained about the lack of moose. “I guess we’ll just have to come back,” Sam joked. We crossed the still-full parking lot and headed towards the car, only to be greeted by a crowd across the street. “Maybe it’s a moose!” I said, and Sam insisted on going back to the car. I told him I’d meet him there and went to investigate. Sure enough, a cow and baby were swimming across the bog. I snapped a blurry picture and watched in awe as they approached. The crowd shifted and the moose climbed out of the water, munching on vegetation near the shore. If there was going to be a sign that it was time to move on, that was it. All of my doubts about moving were erased, and I knew that it was going to be okay.

blurry shot of a large female moose and a small baby moose swimming in a wooded bog
moose!

yeti 100 course preview

Last Saturday, I travelled to Virginia for a training run on the Yeti 100 course. The race will take place over a repeat of 33 miles of the Virginia Creeper Trail, a rails-to-trails project that spans from the Virginia-North Carolina border to Abingdon, Virginia, with several towns in between. The run was organized by Yeti 100 RD/trail running punk-ass Jason Green, and fifty-ish people showed up (some of whom will be running the 100, some the 50, and some not at all, just coming out for fun) to the minimally-supported 33 mile run.

I arrived on Friday afternoon, picked up from the airport in Atlanta by my mother. We drove to Abingdon (with mandatory stops at Waffle House and Chick-Fil-A, because a girl’s gotta get her calories/I miss that shit when I’m in New England), a gorgeous little town bursting with historic buildings. On Saturday morning we gathered at the Abingdon terminus of the trail and took shuttles to Whitetop Station, the highest point and starting line of the race. As the vans climbed higher and the driver, a native to the area, told me stories of every curve of the road, morning broke over the southern Virginia mountains and I remembered the specific beauty of Appalachia. Mountain laurel was in bloom and the rhododendrons were close behind. Soft light cut through humidity that was still lingering from late-night thunderstorms.

Christmas tree farm, getting started near Whitetop Station.

The immediate downhill of the trail was not obvious, until I started staring at my watch. Legs stiff from a full day of travel warmed up within a few minutes, and the large group spread out. I caught pieces of conversations and learned too many names, few of which stuck (sorry, y’all). The Creeper crosses forty-something trestles, and weaves along the Appalachian Trail.  The downhill continues through Alvarado Station, at the twenty-five mile mark on the trail.

Virginia Creeper Trail elevation profile from my Strava
Virginia Creeper Trail elevation profile, Whitetop to Abingdon, as recorded by my watch

 

Once we arrived in Damascus, the halfway point where some of the runners would stop for the day, I was getting pretty hungry and my water getting low. The temperature and humidity rose as we got into the valley, but it was far from unbearable (the high for that day was 85F, with around 80% humidity). I went to Subway with a few other runners and downed a turkey sandwich with a bottle of coke, then walked the two hundred yards or so down trail to the Creeper Cottages. There was a mini aid station set up there, and several people sprawled on the ground to nurse their various scrapes and bruises (the crushed limestone trail masks few roots or holes, but houses a handful of stubborn rocks that threaten to bite distracted toes). Light rain broke the humidity and, when the beer cooler got too tempting, I headed back to the trail.

The first sip of water delighted me; having my pack filled from a water hose and washed clean of the horrible nuun I’d decided to test that morning meant that every drink would elicit the childhood joy of drinking straight from the hose. Bottled nostalgia.

Trestle #12

The next section, seven miles from Damascus to Alvarado, with exposed cow pastures (close the gates!) and low elevation made for a notably hot stretch. I certainly was not suffering, though, as the views continued to impress. A sort-of water station was available, in the form of Jason turning on the water spigot for whoever needed it. He said that he was afraid we wouldn’t know that the water had been turned on for the season–exemplary of the sort of care he puts into his race and the community that has formed around it, or maybe it’s just because we’re all dumbasses. After soaking my head, I took off for the final nine mile stretch.

cooling off at Alvarado, taken by Jason Green

Trestles crossed corn fields and more cows turned to watch me run past. I felt like I was holding a nice pace, and I walked less often. Thoughts of the September race got more distant and I thought about the moment: thirty-three miles, longer than I’d run in over a year, and I felt like flying. Of course flying, in this context, meant a 10min/mile, but that’s irrelevant.

Crossing the recent rebuild of Trestle #7, destroyed by a tornado several years ago, my phone started pinging with acquired cell reception. I realized that I hadn’t had service all day, but by time I pulled it out of my vest pocket, the tenuous connection had already been lost. I trucked past a hay barn (Kaci Nash has a great picture of Tony Taylor perched atop the stacked hay bales), past golf courses, and onward to the end of the trail. A few people lingered at the finish after their runs and we discussed plans for the night before going to our respective cars.

19149236_10211499966367886_6922781612568508378_n
If you say “trestle” every time you post a picture of a trestle, it starts to sound weird.

I was about to think about the day and implications for The Big Show, like the fact that I would have to turn around and run back up the hill, then down again, but instead I went to Wendy’s and ate a big ass cheeseburger. As I type this, my only regret from the day was that I forgot about Wendy’s chocolate Frosties…

That night, runners and families gathered in Damascus for beer and pizza. We swapped stories and soaked in the swollen, muddy creek. Clark Archibald was generous enough to bring growlers of his fantastic homebrew (the promise of more serving as motivation enough for the fall), and Jason told radio unfriendly stories of his childhood in the area. I’ve lived in New England just long enough to be able to enjoy the richness of Southern accents.

All in all, I left feeling inspired and strong. I am happy with where I’m at in my training (shoutout to Jenn Shelton for kicking my ass the past few weeks), and I am ready to push even harder. All the hills and track workouts and nutrition tweaking feel like they have purpose and this run served as a reminder that there is a tangible end goal. I’m already left wondering what’s going to happen next.

a short one

Today my legs wanted to run and I let them.

Today my head wanted to be quiet and I let it.

Today I didn’t want to be still.

Today I ran.

I let myself run fast today (fast for me, at least, all sub-8 miles on a 6 mile run), and it felt awesome. The weather was perfect and my stomach cooperated; when I was in college, I was notorious for running nice 7:30 miles but crossing the finish line and promptly puking.

I’m wrapping up the third week of my training plan, and I’m in a good place. Last week I was exhausted–sleeping hard, eating a lot, and just plain sore. This week, I’m feeling a little stronger. Next week is an easy week, and I know my body will be grateful.

I decided to throw my plan out, though, and get a coach. I didn’t think that sort of thing was my style, but after talking to her on the phone and getting to know her, as well as talking about what having a coach really means, I think it’s going to be a good fit. She’ll definitely give me a little more peace of mind and will hopefully beat me up a little bit.

Looking towards the future, I am trying to figure out where I want to do my 50-mile training run. There are a few good trails in New England (Wapack, North-South, and Midstate) that would allow for either an out and back or a point-to-point run, but I don’t have any experience with doing runs like that self-supported and don’t know how to plan it. I think I’ll need to convince my partner to participate.

I feel at peace with my body right now. My shoes aren’t bothering me and my clothes are comfortable. I’m happy in my skin today and that’s where I want to be.

never not hungry

I am the sort of person who wakes up hungry. On an ideal day, my first move is to get out of bed and walk to the kitchen. I usually eat something pretty simple: an english muffin with peanut butter and honey, a banana, a piece of toast with jam and butter. I always drink a cup of coffee and it’s usually cold brew that I don’t have to prepare. I need to put something in my stomach before I can think logically and before I can go for a run. This extends into my personal life, as well. I am a hardcore snacker.

This has me thinking and planning a lot for my race in the fall. If my day-to-day is this reliant on proper food planning, then I think it’s going to be a big part of my race. I’m testing out a lot of new food and trying to nail down what hurts my stomach, what makes me feel like a hundred bucks, and what weighs me down. I know that I’m lactose intolerant and even though I mostly ignore it during meals, I don’t ignore it when I’m running.

My last two ultras went well as far as nutrition goes, but they were also both 50ks and thus required a lot less food. I more or less ate whatever I wanted (still no straight up dairy) and didn’t suffer at all. I ate a burrito mid-run at Born to Run and had a grand old time. I also ate bars that I’d never had before (shoutout to Bearded Brothers, I first found you at a Whole Foods in California and I’ve been in love ever since) and totally crushed my race despite it being way hotter than I anticipated. Knowing that my 100 is going to take place over the course of what would typically be at least four meals for me, though, is a little daunting.

dog on computer that, much like me, has no idea what he is doing.
no but really. 

At least I have time. I’m buying bars and drink mixes and everything else you can buy and I’m trying it for my runs. I’m making my own granola and snacks and I’m reading a lot. All I know right now is that I’m taking someone’s idea from GDR and making a lot of bacon beforehand.

So, what’s your favorite fuel? Got any recipes to share? Links? Bad experiences?

I’m sure this will not be my last post about food. I’m shoveling cashews into my mouth with one hand and typing with the other.

 

 

keep going out there

Just keep going out there.

Believe in yourself and keep going out there.

Always keep going out there.

John Morelock, “Run Gently Out There”

Today is one of those days where winter won’t let go. Snow is falling, mixed with sleet, and it is just warm enough for the snow to stick to the ground in the form of two plus inches of slush. It isn’t pleasant, and it’s the sort of day where it is impossible to stay dry and impossible to stay warm. I knew that I had to go for a run today and I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy. I did it anyway.

The first mile wasn’t so bad. My clothes were relatively dry and I hadn’t stepped in any puddles worth noting. The weather was just bad enough that, despite it being a Saturday morning, the city bike path was empty. For the first few miles I thought about my fall race-Yeti 100-and the fact that I could end up running in the rain. This is what training is all about, I told myself. I stepped in a puddle and the wonderful vented tops of my Hokas flooded with water that squished every time I took a step. My socks were soaked.

Another runner joined behind me around mile three. I didn’t know what they looked like, but our paces were close enough that they were about five feet behind me for the next two miles. Our footsteps lined up and I thought about college cross country. I thought about my pacers and I thought about the fact that our feet were sloshing in the snow in sync. When we crossed Lake Street in Arlington, they split off. I turned around to see a woman ten to fifteen years my senior, in all black except for high-visibility orange gloves. I gave her a wave and kept going. I was five miles in and I became aware of the fact that my sweatshirt was finally soaked through. I’d forgotten my rain jacket and was sweating but I promised myself that I wouldn’t put headphones in until the halfway point. I should have brought gloves.

6.87 miles into my run, .13 miles before my turnaround, my watch died. I thought about the silly Strava challenge I’d joined for the month and the fact that a manual entry of my run wouldn’t count. I realized I wouldn’t be able to check the time or my pace easily. I put my phone in the front pocket of my vest and kept running for what felt like .13 miles. I walked for two minutes, drank some water, ate a snack, and put my headphones in. I started My Chemical Romance’s The Black Parade” at the beginning and started running.

I took stock of my body. Nothing really hurt, but I was very wet and cold. My sweatshirt was getting heavy and loose the way that wet clothes do and my tshirt was soaked through and clung to my stomach. My feet were very wet and one of the velcro straps on my sports bra had come undone. I was not in pain but in no way comfortable, though I could deal with that. All I had to do was turn around and run home.

The music drove my legs and I tried to find beauty in the sullen grey day. My baseball cap kept the steady falling snow out of my eyes and my feet were too wet to worry about dodging puddles anymore. I visualized the bowl of hot oatmeal I’d have as soon as I got inside and I gave thanks for magically dry leggings. I didn’t skip the sad songs but let them course through me. I embraced the mournful music and let it carry me home. I noticed how lovely Spy Pond looked shrouded in fog, the sort of monochrome peace that spring snow brings in New England.

When you’re that cold-not shivering but chilled to your bones-you think in short sentences. Your main goal is warmth and it’s hard to remember how that feels. Today I stretched in the shower, the room filled with blinding steam and hot water stinging my extremities. I must have been in there for at least twenty minutes, but I emerged feeling revived.

I’m glad I didn’t quit today. I’m glad I let myself suffer today. I’m glad I kept going out there.