Monday, March 17, 2008

TransMountain Challenge was a blast! We met a 6:20 and did a quick 2 mile warm-up. Jim planned to race the event, so we wanted to be ready for the start. After a quick (attempted) trip to the port-o-potty (the line was too long), we lined up for the run. Gilbert, Salvador, Francisco, Luis, and I planned to take it easy. Francisco just returned from the Run Across the Sahara, and had a little bit of a cold, so he was a good sport to even be out there. When the gun finally went off, we jogged the 1/2 mile stretch to the base of the mountain and then started the climb.

The thing that is so cool about this race is that it starts pre-dawn and you run up to the crest just as the sun is making it's way over the mountain. Transmountain Road is a highway that connects the Northeast side of El Paso to the Northwest side. It is a pretty busy road, so it is rare that we ever try to run on it. With this race, the city allows the RDs to block off the entire highway, so you really have a chance to enjoy the run and the spectacular panoramic views of the city. The road also abuts the state park where the Jackrabbit Rally is run (a lot of people use that race as a warm-up for Zane Grey), so you also have a beautiful view of the high desert early in the morning.

We all ran together for the first couple of miles, and then Gilbert and I started pushing the pace a little bit. Gilbert is called the "Salmon" because he seems to have supernatural powers when it comes to running uphill. It never even looks like he is working hard even when it is a near vertical climb - it is amazing to watch! I really wanted to get another tempo run in, so I was happy to push the pace with him so that I could raise my heart rate enough for it to count. When we finally reached the crest, Gilbert said we had done negative splits up the mountain, so I was pumped. I don't really enjoy the hills, but know that I need to do more of them in preparation for the summer. The total climb was 6.2 miles. I wasn't wearing my Garmin, but I could definitely feel like I was just below lactate threshold. If I had had to climb much further, I would have had to pull back some to keep from going anaerobic.

At the top, we turned and started to head down. Neither of us wanted to pound down, because we couldn't afford any recovery, so we took it nice and easy. Even so, my slight case of plantar fasciitis reared its ugly head and talked to me the whole way down. I think it was from pulling so hard on the way up and then turning around and going immediately downhill. Anyway, by the time we all finished the race (Jim coming in first in his age group!!), we had no interest in heading back up the mountain. We opted, instead, for a 5 mile rolling hill run. If we hadn't been pansies, we probably could have gone further. But it was super windy, which means super dusty in West Texas, and after 5 miles we had had enough. We ended the day with 20 miles and some fun memories!

Today, I just did 2 easy runs, going for distance rather than specificity. This is a peak week, so I know I have to get some solid (read: wearing a watch) runs in the rest of the week. We leave on Friday for Maui, so I don't think I will get any running in this weekend. I hope to run some in Hawaii, but you know how that goes. But, Tim has decided to run Rock N Roll San Diego in June, so I think he will want to run while we are on vacation. Having someone to go with always makes it so much easier. (I'm secretly hoping that his training will translate to pacing duties for me at KM100. I haven't mentioned it yet because he paced me at Umstead and HATED it! I haven't asked him since :)

Reading everyones' blogs sounds like there is some good training going on. I know several people are on Spring Break right now, and more head out next week. I'll keep posting and reading until the end of the week, but if you are heading out this week, have a great time!

Happy running!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Weekend Warriors

Okay, not so much warriors, but I always have a hard time with the title :)

The plan for this weekend is to rest tomorrow (I haven't taken a rest day in almost 2 weeks because I got messed up with the marathon), and then do the TransMountain Challenge on Sunday. The TM Challenge is a total blast. You run 6.5 miles up the mountain, gaining about 2000 feet, and then turn around and haul back down. Some of our running group is going to race it, but most of us are just going to use it as a training run. We are going to meet early, run 3 miles for a warm-up and then head up the mountain. After the first loop (and the end of the race), we plan to turn around and do it again, giving us between 25 and 30 miles.

Our recent Seattle transplant, Luis, has a different idea. Because he is used to the soft, wonderful trails of the Pacific Northwest, he proposed that we do the second loop on trails. We tried to convince him that our trails are not what he is envisioning, but as of yet, he is not deterred. As I've mentioned, our trails are like those you encounter at Zane Gray - really technical, rocky, full of cacti and RATTLE SNAKES! A loop on the road or dirt shoulder should take us less than 2 hours, even at a jog. But a loop on the trails would be closer to 3.5 hours, I would guess. Plus, the group that is planning to use this for a long run is using it for a BOSTON training run, not Hardrock. We may just have to kidnap Luis and strip off his trail shoes and gaiters and shove his feet into more reasonable road shoes. Hopefully it won't come to this, because we really like him and want him to stick around :)

This week is my second Build week, so next week is a Peak week. We leave on Friday for Spring Break, so I'm going to have to get in a lot of running in 5 days. I plan to run on Spring Break, but you know how that goes - the road to... By needing to be done by Friday afternoon, it looks like I'm going to have to get my long runs in during the week. I'm going to have to get creative to come up with some interesting runs since I will probably have to do them alone. If you want to read about a great solo long run, hop over to Julie's blog and read about her 50 miler in the snow. She is one tough lady! I complain if I have to run more than 20 by myself :)

Speaking of solo, I would really like to not run the night portion of KM100 alone. If anyone knows of someone in Wisconsin that might be willing to pace me at night, I would be SO appreciative! I hear that they are going to have a separate race at night so that there will be more people on the trail, but since I don't ever run trails, I think it would be a good idea to have someone with me. Uncoordinated and a scaredy cat are not a good combination for a successful trail race.

Tonight is pizza night, the boys' favorite. We like to watch Monk and eat pizza in the den. Don't you wish sometimes that you could just make time stand still for just a little while? I feel like my kids are growing up so fast and it won't be long before pizza and Monk will be replaced by parties and cars. Scary. I want them to stay little for just awhile longer. I want them to stay at an age where they still insist I go in to kiss them goodnight every night, no matter what time it is when we get home. I want them to still want to read the cereal box while they slurp cereal for breakfast - and want every cheap toy that comes in the box. Sigh. I know that this time won't last, but it is wonderful right now.

Happy running!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fun in the Sun

Spring in El Paso is incredible. It is still fairly cool, but sunny, sunny, sunny. Today, it was 37 degrees in the morning, but 57 in the afternoon. I did a hill run with the group at 5:30 and then went out again by myself after I took my kids to school. I had originally only planned to do 7 miles on my second run, but the weather was so spectacular, with ducks, egrets and butterflies in abundance, I kept running, finally ending up with 13 - giving me 20 for the day. I was supposed to lift this afternoon, but dedided to postpone it until tomorrow because I'm planning to run hills again in the morning.

Bob reminded that we only have about 90 days until Kettle Moraine 100. What! I've been so focused on "facing my fears" at Ruth Anderson, I had completely avoided thinking about KM100. I'm actually super excited about running that race. I have never been to Wisconsin and I'm really looking forward to going there this summer. It is a trail race, but I think it is a pretty easy one - at least that is what I hear :)

Do you ever think about all the cool places you get to go because you are an ultrarunner? I mean, some of our races are in "ordinary" places, but a lot of them aren't. We get the chance to go all over the country (if we are willing and able), and sometimes, all over the world, just to run. How cool is that? Most "mainstream" sports hold their competitions in large "markets," needing to capitalize on the amenites of large metropolitan areas. But in our sport, it almost seems like the further off the grid, the better :) And if a race happens to be held in a big city (or close to one), the race is still held out in the boondocks! My kids love to go to races because it essentially is camping for them. We put up our tent, pack in our supplies, and the boys have a field day while I run around in circles! Plus, they get to stay up as late as they want - although I don't think they have ever actually lasted very long into the night! At Ruth Anderson, I think my family is going to hit some of the sights while I run because there is going to be tons of aid on the course and it doesn't run into the night. It will be fun to spend the weekend in San Francisco! If anyone plans to make the trip to San Fran, let me know. It looks like a great race!

I hope all of you are doing well! Happy running!

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Medical and Marathons

Wow, I can't believe it's been over a week. Sorry for the silence, but I was out of town and then crazy-busy catching up! I still need to read everyones' blogs - I've really missed hearing what everyone is up to! As soon as I finish this post, I'm going to start reading.

On the medical front, everything checked out fine. Whew. It was basically a physical, but it was a little more extensive than I had anticipated when I set the initial appointment. History: At the end of the year, my wonderful orthopoedist scheduled year-end MRIs of my spine and pelvis just to check things out. I have 2 herniated discs, so we like to keep on top of them because of all the running. Anyway, the pelvic MRI showed some "issues," so my doc said I had to have a colonoscopy - yuck. I decided to have it done at Mayo because my husband is a patient there and has really liked the team approach - basically they will check whatever they think needs it rather than just looking at one specific area. Kind of like checking the whole forest rather than just a tree. I had never had a full physical, so I figured it was about time.

I went to Phoenix for my initial appointment at the beginning of February. My overseeing physician decided that I needed a colonoscopy AND an endoscopy (making sure I didn't have any upper GI issues because of a history of GERD). During the exam, he heard my heart click/murmur. I've had it for a long time (probably my whole life), but he is only the second doctor that has heard it. Because of the running, and Ryan Shay's recent death at the Olympic Trials, he felt like it was a good idea to check out the click. I wasn't really happy about it. You know how it is, if I ignore it, it will go away. But this time, he wasn't going to let me ignore it. So, I came back to El Paso and waited a month for my appointment to have ALL issues check out at once. I was dreading it, frankly.

But, when all was said and done, I had a clean bill of health. With all the new technology, the cardiologist/EP was able to determine that I Did Not have mirtral valve prolapse (which is what I had assumed for the past 7 years). Yeah!!!! In addition, my colon and upper GI are totally fine. So, as much of a hassle as it was, I am so relieved that I bit the bullet and just got it all over with.

Since I was okay, I decided to go ahead and run the El Paso Marathon. I had initially planned to pace a friend who wanted to qualify for Boston, but when I thought I might be out of commission, I found her someone else. So, I just signed up the day before and decided to use it for my tempo run and long run combined. I know, this is not the smartest idea, but I was all messed up from being out of town.

The course starts with one mile flat and then 3 miles of significant climb, so it worked out well to just start nice and easy. I like to run my marathons between 3:35 and 3:40 because this allows me some slow, easy warm-up miles, some tempo in the middle, and some steady running at the end. I wasn't wearing a Garmin (I know, I know), so I just went off my breathing. At mile 4, the course has a great downhill which I used to get my legs turning over. I spent the next 9 miles just focusing on my stride, breathing, and effort level. At the halfway point, I caught my friends (Erica needed a 3:40 to qualify), so I figured I was on pace. I ran with Luis for about 5 miles and then he wanted to pull back because his ankle was hurting. I decided it was time to relax a little and bring the tempo down so I wouldn't be too beat up. I have another high mileage week this week, so I couldn't afford any time off for recovery. I turned my iPod on and ran the last 8 miles at a steady, relaxed pace. I finished in 3:38 (with both half marathon splits at 1:49) and felt good about the effort.

This week is a build week, so I am just putting in the miles and trying to pay attention to what I am doing! It really is hard for me. I just HATE wearing a watch, HATE scheduling the type of workout ahead of time, HATE running on a time frame. But, with Ruth Anderson coming up, I really am trying. I think that race is going to take a lot of mental concentration because it is short(er) and looped. I'm just praying it is just not going to feel like one long marathon (that would be torture :)

I'm off to read Blogs! Happy running!