Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Trying to Add Photos

Bear with me. My 11 year-old son, Spencer, is helping me figure this out. He is computer literate. I am not.

Rex, my Running Dog

Rocky, Rex's Running Dog

Monday, November 26, 2007


Since I'm taking a three week break from running, as per Scott's end of year plan, I don't really have anything running related to post. I also don't bake, so I don't have any yummy recipes to post (check out Julie's) either, but I think I will try some of her recipes. I haven't done any exercise since Ultracentric because my right hip is sore. I'm not in any rush, so I thought I would just chill for a few more days and then see how it goes with some swimming and elliptical.

I need to start thinking about next year's race schedule. I don't get to do many big races because everything is so far from El Paso. So far, I have done Boulder, PCT 50 (loved it!), Ultracentric (twice), FANS, and Umstead. As you can see, I am a flatlander, preferring flatter courses. I just never train on trails (way too uncoordinated and the trails here a very rocky), so I tend to gravitate towards the flatter races. I love the adventure element of trail races, but I guess I will just have to live vicariously through others for now.

Recently, a running buddy asked me why I follow the blogs that I do. I tried to explain, but there wasn't really a cohesive theme around the people I pick to follow. Obviously, I follow Scott because he is my coach. But I follow Olga, Ronda and Julie because I just like what they have to say. They are each inspiring in their own way - Olga for her empathy, great spirit and hugely positive impact on the sport of ultrarunning; Ronda for her strength and commitment to running; and Julie for her all-around take on running and life. I also follow Angie and Susan because they have personality plus! Their blogs are a blast to read! So, there it is. I hope that offers a good explanation. Each of us learns so much from others, and blogging is a great way to share what we've learned and see what we need to learn. Thanks for blogging and reading!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Less Befuddled

The post-race fog has lifted somewhat and I'm going to try to write a semi-comprehensive race report for last weekend's Ultracentric. I went into the race hoping to beat my personal best of 118.25 from FANS in May. I knew that I would need at least 120 to be considered for the US 24 Hour National Team, but frankly, Ultracentric is not known for being the most forgiving course so I was going to be happy with 118.35!

Race morning, my husband, Tim handed me a folder with a complete loop/mileage breakdown. What the heck? I hate tracking my splits. I hate anything involving numbers, pace, plans. I drive my coach, Scott, bonkers. But, even though I was irritated with Tim for bossing me around, I sat down and gave him what I hoped would be my projected mileage at set times because I was so grateful that he is always willing to (and pleasant about it) crew for me. Because I hadn't really given much specific thought to it, I just put down where I wanted to be at 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100 miles. I just guessed. The only thing I knew for sure, was that I wanted to be at 100 miles by 19 hours because I figured I would need 5 hours to run the last 20 miles.

At the start of the race, temps were mild, but not nearly as cool as I had expected. Dallas is usually pretty cold by mid-November, so I was pleasantly surprised that I could start in shorts and a t-shirt with only gloves for warmth. I would regret this false happiness later. The first few loops were the usual for me - slow, trying to just get a rhythm and get my breathing to even out. I'm always pretty far towards the back of the pack at the beginning of an ultra. I don't know if it is nerves, or lack of experience, but I can't seem to get my breathing and heart rate to settle down until after the first hour. I ran some of the beginning with Jamie Donaldson and a super nice guy named Chisolm from Oklahoma. We had a nice chat, each of us commenting on our desire to start slow and run smart. This made me relax significantly because sometimes I start to panic that I am running too slow and will never catch up! Although I told Tim I would pay attention to my split at mile 20, I forgot and didn't look until mile 26 - 4:00. The problem with not having a specific plan is that I didn't know if this was good or bad. I just kept running, hoping for the best.

Mile 50 brought me in at about 8:30. Again, I forgot to look at 40 and then forgot to look at 50, so this is more of a guess. But it seems close. Frankly at this point, I was just hating life and really couldn't have cared less what my split was. This was the point where I started thinking, "What the heck am I doing. This is insane. Only a moron would be out here in 87 degree temps running for 24 hours!" Yes, it had gotten up to 87 degrees. Those earlier warm temps that I was digging were now making me wish I could just lie down and quit. Tim started giving me towels filled with ice at about noon, and Jamie told me to start pouring water over my head at the aid stations. Those two suggestions definitely saved me. I sweat more than a 250 pound man, so heat running is not my strength.

Anyway, as the night wore on, the temps dropped and I kept expecting my spirits to rise. But they didn't. I don't know why. I just felt lousy. I started throwing up (the first time ever in a race) and then panicked that I wasn't going to be able to finish. I'd run 10 yards, throw up, get my act together and go another 10 yards before repeating the process. What stood out the most for me, though, was how all the other runners just took it in stride. After a quick check to make sure I was okay, they would move on. I love that about this sport! If you are not lying flat on your face, people are going to expect you to keep going. So I did. And it was a good lesson for me that I could. I re-hydrated and re-fueled (once I could keep something down) and then moved on to trying to get to 100 before 19 hours.

At 18:15, I reached 100 miles and I was elated! What a struggle it had been from 50-100. I hated the sport. I hated the course. I hated bushes, trees, lakes. I hated orange traffic cones. You name it. But at 100 miles, I knew it was all about just keeping moving. No matter what. The aid stations workers played such a critical role at this point. Even though it was 3:00 in the morning, they were so upbeat ("You look strong. You're doing great.") that I couldn't help but try to be strong and great. Seriously, I didn't want to let the aid station workers down by coming in looking defeated. And it is amazing how much that helps your disposition - if you don't act defeated, you aren't.

At 8:00, the RD gave us the option of going out one more time or starting to run small loops close to the finish for the last hour. I had no idea what the best option was, so I just stayed in and ran small loops. This was where, about 20 minutes later, Connie Gardner began her final push for the record. It was so exciting, everyone cheering her on, the faster runners running with her to keep her pace up. It was awesome! Finally, at 9:00, the horn blew and we all sat down right where we were so that they could wheel off the exact distance. I ended up with 126.99 and I was really happy. After 100 miles, I had no idea what my mileage was. Tim didn't ask me to write anything down for post-100, so I just moved forward. I was so grateful to have beaten my PR, and thrilled to have gone past 125.

Things I learned:

1. Even if you are a "Let it be," kind of runner, set some time/distance goals. This saved me in the middle of the night because it gave me something to focus on besides my misery. Next time I will even be more specific so that I don't "waste" precious time just cruising along.

2. You can recover from heat/sickness/bad attitude.

3. It really is okay to start slow if that is what works for you. It is so tempting to try to follow others' plans.

4. Aid station workers can have a huge impact on your race! Thank you to those who volunteer at races!

5. Even if you think you know how you want to run a race, listen to others' ideas. I really was kind of irritated at Tim for trying to "manage" me. But in the end, his focus kept me on track.

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Ultracentric Experience

I've been trying to take cues from others about how to write a great race report, but I have a hard time keeping track of all the details. So, I thought I'd just give a brief recap of the weekend today and then post more after I've had time to recover. We arrived in Dallas on Friday, meeting up with Tim who had to go early for a conference, and headed over to Grapevine which is about 20 minutes west. Having done this race last year as my first 100 miler, I was familiar with the course and the set-up which really helped make everything less stressful. I tend to get lost a lot, so it is always a relief to me when I know where I'm going. After checking in and picking up my number, we headed over to the course to see where we were going to set up in the morning. Good thing, as they had changed the layout for crews quite a bit and we had to re-think how we were going to set our station up. We ended up at the top of the course (rather than by the main aid station where we were last year) which ended up working out great. The 48 Hour runners had been on the course for about 10 hours when we arrived for our preview. I am simply amazed by people who can go that long - 48 hours - 2 days - and when we started running with them the next day, they were still going strong and in good spirits!

Saturday morning, I went down for a quick breakfast and saw Pam Reed. Now, a couple of years ago, before I had ever run an ultra, I wrote an article in Marathon & Beyond called "Stalking Pam Reed," all about how much I admired her and her ability to be a mother and a competitive runner. We had crossed paths last year at Ultracentric, but only exchanged a brief hello, and she seemed a little nervous to see me (like I might really be stalking her!). This time, we actually talked and she was super nice. Then, for the next 24 hours, as we passed each other over and over again, we chatted here and there and she was very encouraging and supportive. It's kind of neat to have someone you look up to cheer you on - I really appreciated it.

In addition to Pam, there were so many great runners, that it was just cool to be there - David Goggins (48 hours), Connie Gardner (tentative American record!!), Roy Pirrung, Carolyn Smith, Deb Horn, Scott Eppleman, Alex Swenson...basically both men and women's American teams plus Akos Konya, Jamie Donaldson and Bob Sweeney. Because this course is out and back, you are in almost constant sight of the other runners so you get to talk to everyone. I ran several sections with Jamie and it was great to have someone to talk to, especially in those moments when you have had enough. She's a very upbeat person, and fun to run with, so she really added a lot to the race.

As I mentioned earlier, we parked at the top of the course, and it really worked out well. Last year, we parked next to Connie and Tom, her significant other, and the men had a blast while we ran, so we all made sure to hook up again. The guys had a tv so that they could watch the Ohio v. Michigan game and basically, Connie and I had a double crew! If you ever have a chance to watch Connie Gardner race, take it - she is unbelievable! I have never seen anything like it. 145 miles! Possibly a new American Women's record! And she looked so cool and relaxed the whole time, encouraging other runners as she passed.

In the end, I was really happy with the whole experience. I finished with 126.99 miles, 3rd Female, 7th Overall. I promise to write some more details (because that is what I love so much about other people's reports, but my brain is still fuzzy).

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tapering and Rambling

Why is tapering so hard? I love having a little time off, but I want to run! Clearly I'm addicted because I feel like I'm coming out of my skin. I feel like a 110 watt bulb in a 20 watt socket (if there is such a thing!). I'm trying not to come unhinged before the race (and not scare my family, either :).

I really am very excited. I wish I knew who was going to be there. I can't find anything on the race website listing who is participating. Kind of disappointing. I'm so geographically isolated from the Ultra community that the only time I get to see anyone is at races, so it is fun to know who is going to show up. There has been very little chatter about the race on the List, so I can only hope some people are coming to Texas. Come on down, the weather is marvelous!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Part II

Sorry, I totally spaced! I said I was going to post about getting chased and then just completely forgot to do it.

Last Thursday, my regular running group was meeting for a Halloween/Dia de los Muertos run through Concordia Cemetary. I decided not to go because it is about a 25 minute drive from my house and it was my last week of serious training. I didn't want to waste a bunch of time driving. So, Tim and I headed out for a 6 mile loop at 5:30, after which I dropped him off and went back out to get in 4 more. Because I was just running around the neighborhood, even though it was still pitch dark (the time had not changed yet), I wasn't scared. I always figure it is safer to run alone early in the morning when everyone is still home than later when everyone has gone to work. Anyway, I'm running down a road that is divided by a tree lined median, when I notice a car driving towards me on the wrong side of the road. I assumed he must be drunk or lost, so I cross over the median to get out of his way. He then crosses over and drives up onto the lawn of the house I'm running in front of, essentially cutting me off. Again, I'm concerned but not frightened (uh, duh) because I don't actually believe he is trying to get me. Yet.

While keeping my eyes on the guy (or at least his car), I cross back over the median. I'm just jogging, so that I can keep an eye on him. He gets out of his car, puts his hands in his pockets, and starts walking casually in my direction. He is wearing dark pants, a baseball cap, and a hoody over the cap. He definitely doesn't look like a service person (which is what I was trying to convince myself of when he got out of his car). At this point, I start getting a little more nervous. I resume running and go about 10 yards before glancing back. Now he is running. Behind me. Aaaaahhhh! I speed up and take a right on the next street, trying to decide what to do. I'm looking to see who has lights on in their houses when I see my neighbor walking her dog about 100 yards down the street. I start yelling her name - "Blythe! Blythe!" We meet up, discuss the situation, and head back to where the guy was parked. And he's gone. The only evidence that I wasn't hallucinating were his tire tracks left in the grass.

The weirdest part of this whole ordeal (aside from the obvious) was my post-event attempt at rationalization. When I recounted the scare to my husband, I kept trying to explain away the guy's behavior. Maybe he was looking for something ("yeah, a runner," my husband replied). Maybe he was a worker and he got to the job early. Maybe he was a lost paperboy. My husband wasn't buying any of it. And now, he won't let me run alone in the dark.

In retrospect, I think those of us who tend to take some risk on a regular basis have to rationalize, or explain away as random, dangers that we encounter. If not, I don't know that we could continue to justify what we do. With the recent death of Ryan Shay at the Olympic Time Trials, I have definitely been a little freaked out about the risk of dropping dead after running 100 plus miles. Is it really justifiable? Is it a real risk? I know we all face some level of risk every day, but it is hard to know what is a reasonable amount. I do know, though, that I love to run. I love to run far. That is my motivation. Sitting home is not an option.

Run safely out there.
Tapering and Talking

My wonderful sister just left, and I'm so bummed! I love it when she comes to El Paso. She is a total blast and a very easy houseguest! My kids adore her (and her wonderful husband), so they are sad that she is gone. But they will both be back for Christmas, so YIPEEE!

A couple of business items to attend to. Remember when I said that we were doing the Goji experiment? Well, results are in. Himalayan Goji juice is by far superior to the brands you can just buy over the counter. The taste is significantly better. Linda said she could hardly get her otc brand down - it was thick and funky tasting. The few that I looked at were not 100 percent Goji, so I didn't even bother. The one drawback: Himalayan Goji is SOOOOOO expensive. I mean crazy expensive. But, we are sucking it up and continuing with our program (for now) because we do both feel so much better. Neither of us are reps for the company, so we don't get any kind of discount. I may have to take out a loan if I want to stay with this program :)

I've also been closely monitoring Ronda's food plan. I'm not as strong as she is, but when I saw she dropped 1.5 percent body fat in 6 weeks, I thought I might try to at least take a stab at it. Olga is also following the program, and has made tons of progress too, so it seems to be worth looking into. Julie follows a different plan, but also seems to get good results. I think a lot of this is about taking it to the next level. When I first started training for ultras, just getting my mileage in was enough of a challenge. Then, after I was a little more comfortable, adding the gym, stretching, and pilates was work. I'm inspired by these ladies' commitment to improve their fitness on the fueling front. So, I better get busy with it!

I'm in taper mode, and as usual, I don't think I trained enough. I fell short on my last few long runs because of some prior obligations and just plain old running out of time. There is nothing I can do about it now, but it does make me nervous. I keep telling myself the old adage, "It is better to be 10 percent undertrained than even 1 percent overtrained." Hopefully, I'm less than 10 percent!

My hubby and I are meeting for a Green Tea massage at lunch today. As I mentioned earlier, I am officially addicted! They rub your feet and calves (reflexology and deep tissue), and it is like heaven on earth. Tim broke his fibula in four places a couple of years ago on a trail run (slid into a ravine and had to climb out on a broken leg!), so he has some residual issues that I'm hoping this will help. He isn't particularly excited about going, so I hope he ends up enjoying it!

I'm still trying to post pictures. I am so technologically inept, but I promise to work on it.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Photo from "Stalking Pam Reed," Marathon & Beyond

Training is Winding Down (Finally)

I am finally at the end of, what feels like, a very long training cycle. My last race was at the end of May, and other than those two marathons, I have not been part of any organized running events. And I miss it. I love the vibe of races - the people, the enthusiasm, the preparation, the travelling. I love reading about others' races (speaking of which, if you want to read the best race reports in the blogosphere, check out Olga's blog) so that I get to experience all different types of adventures even if I can't be there.

But now, I'm getting ready to taper before Ultracentric which takes place in Grapevine, Texas in two weeks (two weeks! oh my gosh!). I am competing in the 24 Hour event. Last year, tons of great runners were there: Connie Gardner (one of my favorite runners of all time), Pam Reed, Carolyn Smith, Jamie Donaldson, Sarah Almodovar, Deb Horn, Rebecca Johnson, Laura Nelson, Dean Karnazes, Scott Eppleman, Roy Pirrung, Ray K... and the list goes on. One of the things I enjoy about short loop courses is that you actually get to run with a lot of different runners through the course of the race. Heck, when you are running on a 2.5 mile out-and-back loop you get to run with pretty much everyone! I think this year, some of the top runners have opted to run Across the Years instead of Ultracentric, so I'm not sure how big the crowd will be, but I think it will still be a blast! The RD was top-notch last year - tons of course support, great food, and awesome volunteers - so I know it will be a great race!

In the meantime, I will probably be posting more about food, books, and movies than running because I am starting my taper. Tapering is a mixed blessing: you know you need it, but you feel like it is going to do you in! Oh well, it will give me more time to read all the blogs I enjoy!

One last, scary note. I got chased by a man on my run yesterday. It was pretty creepy. I had my mace with me, but didn't have to use it (would I even know how?). I'll post more about it next time, but I just wanted to remind everyone to be safe out there!