Saturday, April 26, 2008

Running and Learning

Wow, thanks for so many thoughtful responses to my race report post. It really is helpful to get the perspective of other runners and friends. That is why I love reading race reports because I learn a lot from them, even if it was something the runner wished he/she had done differently. We're all in this together!

I've had a pretty good week. I didn't end up needing much recovery, so I was able to do some sort of workout every day. That always helps my disposition :) I guess because of the wind, I wasn't able to really pound on my joints as much as in a normal race, so I didn't need to take much time off. I guess that's good and that's bad.

Okay, on to things I learned:

1) No matter how badly I would like to be a focused runner, it ain't gonna happen. That whole pace chart, watch focus, just about undid me. I feel bad that I can't get my mind around the structure of racing, but I've decided I'm like the kid that is in the complicated math class who really needs to be in the theater arts class. My brain just doesn't work with the clock. It causes me so much stress that I end up hating the running. When I run strictly by feel (with good results and bad), I am a much happier runner.

2) As Olga said, you have to have a bigger purpose in a race. Because I was going for pace, once that went out the window, I couldn't come up with a reason to keep going (other than pride). With my other races, I was running to run - the sheer challenge of it, the excitement of doing it, the mixing of energy with other people who also loved to run. That was absent from this race for me. I had left the running for the sake of running piece in El Paso and made the race a task to fulfill. Yuck.

3) I can crew for myself if I have to, but it's not nearly as much fun. I had no stomach, fluid, or electrolyte issues, so I know I managed my body well, but I missed having my family on the course. Seeing them here and there throughout a race really makes a difference in how much I enjoy it. They remind me that it is supposed to be fun - hard, but fun.

4) Winning isn't everything. I have felt better about races where I thought they might have to send a search party out to find me because I was so far behind. My attitude was so internally negative during this race that I was embarrassed to be keeping myself company. As they say, it doesn't matter if you win or lose, it's how you play the game. I played like John McEnroe (throwing tantrums and racquets) and I wish I had played like Arthur Ashe (with dignity and class). The only thing that gives me any comfort is that I directed it all inside and (hopefully) didn't show it.

5) There's always another race. This was one race. Why I got so wound up about it, I will never know. But there is another race around the corner, and then another, and another. The road (and the trail) is long. I've just got to keep running and enjoying it.

Happy running!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

First, before I get into my Ruth Anderson race report, I'd like to thank all of you who stopped by to wish me luck - you rock! Second, I want to apologize for being so behind on posting comments. I promise to catch up with everyone this week. I want to see what everyone is up to!

Now, onto the race report. We had a nice flight to San Francisco on Friday, arriving mid-afternoon, which gave us plenty of time to eat and grab some last minute stuff for breakfast in the morning. I needed to be at the race by 6:00, so we left the hotel at 5:30 and made the 2 mile walk over to the lake. Ruth Anderson is run around Lake Merced, on a 4.5 mile asphalt/chat trail. It is about 2 blocks from the glorious Pacific Ocean. I had never visited that part of San Francisco, so it was really cool to see it.

Rajeev Patel is the RD for RA. What a wonderfully upbeat, positive guy! It was about 40 degrees at the start and SUPER windy, but Rajeev got us all organized and ready for the 6:30 start with no problems. I don't know how many starters there were, but I was pleasantly surprised that there were more than I expected, especially in the 100k. I knew Mark Tanaka and Joseph Swenson were both really fast, but I didn't know much about the other runners. I was hoping to have some company during the day.

At the start, I chatted with Laurie Woodrow, a very nice woman from LA. I was happy to find out that she was also running the 100k, and I was hoping that we would get a chance to visit some on the course later in the day. The race started right on time and the first thing we noticed was the wind. It was coming straight off the ocean so it was cold. And strong. I was wearing a long sleeve shirt, shorts, a fleece, gloves and a visor. After we made the first turn, I realized that visor wasn't going to last. I held onto it as best as I could and then finally just carried it. On the back side of the loop, some very dedicated volunteers stood in the cold and wind (ALL DAY) to provide us with support. It was too windy for them to erect a tent (they tried), so they just had to stand out there in the wind for hours. I think they deserve some sort of medal!

Scott and I had come up with a rough pacing schedule, but I ignored the pace clock for the first 4 loops because I was desperately trying to get some sort of rhythm going. The problem was that on the back side of the loop, the wind was so strong that you often felt like you were running in place. At one point, one of the aid station volunteers had to grab me to keep me from being knocked over. Then, as you made it the top of the loop, the wind was at your back, but it was so strong that it made you out of control - you had to brake with your legs to keep from getting knocked forward. The only thing that was sore today were my knees from pounding they took on the top part of the loop.

At the end of Loop 4, I realized I was behind pace. Now, this should not have unraveled me, but as you know, I bite at following a pacing schedule, so I was kind of freaked out. What do you do if you are behind and you are trying as hard as you can? I was crewing for myself, and I didn't really know anyone at the race, so I just kept running and praying for a miracle. But none came. I just kept telling myself, one more loop, then you get a gel and that will help. One more loop, then you get 2 Advils and that will help.

At the start of the race, Rajeev had told us that we could stop at any distance we chose (50k, 50 miles, or 100k), but once we stopped, we could not go back out. The finish point for the 50k was about 150 yards past the lap counting booth/main aid station at the end of the 7th loop, so after I finished loop 7, I headed back out for lap 8. As I approached the 50k mark where the finishing timers were stationed, they told me I was the lead female, and asked me if I was stopping. Huh? I was so focused on my own misery I had failed to pay attention to the other runners and where I was in relation to them. I hadn't ever planned to stop at the 50k, but it suddenly became an option. I kept running, but for the entire 8th loop, I talked myself into stopping and taking the 50k win. The conversation went something like this: "So what if I had not planned (or needed) a 50k run in preparation for the rest of the season? So what if I had flown all the way to San Francisco for this race. I'm miserable, I'm not even close to hitting my splits, and running sucks anyway! No one can make me keep going!" So, when I got to the counting tent, I told Rajeev I was done, that I just wanted credit for the 50k even though I had kept going for an extra loop. Uh, no. Turns out that several other women and men had come in behind me while I was out running and arguing with myself. It wouldn't have been fair to go back and change the results just because I was being a baby (although in that moment it seemed perfectly rational to me :). By continuing on after the 50k mark, I had sealed my fate to run the longer distance. I was stuck! Dang!

Out for Loop 9, almost in tears, still bundled up in my fleece and gloves, and thinking about all the smart people in the world that had hobbies like BASE jumping and snake handling. Surely they were happier at the moment than I. When I finished Loop 9, I asked Dave Combs and Stan Jensen (who were the lap counters all day - in the wind) how many laps for 50 miles (I had quit being able to do math on loop 5). They told me 11 loops plus about 1.75 miles. Okay, I thought, 2 more loops. At this point, I realized most of the runners had opted for the 50k, and there were only a few of us left on the course.

I would like to say that I had some sort of epiphany or growth experience on the last 2 loops of the course, but I didn't. I pretty much felt sorry for myself the whole way, but tried not to show it because the volunteers were having a much worse time of it than me. Chihping Fu, who had started the race but had to withdraw, put on warm clothes and went to the back-of-the-loop aid station for the rest of the day. Every time I passed, he said something encouraging, and acted like it was completely okay to be standing out in 50 mile per hour winds for 8 hours. Dave Combs, Rajeev, Stan Jensen, and Steve Jaber were so nice, and I know they were miserable in the wind. So, I tried to keep my pity party from being apparent, but as soon as I was out of their sight, I tried not to cry.

Finally, I made it to 50 miles in 8:13.11. I was hoping to hit the 50 mile mark at 7:42, so I was a little (okay, a lot) deflated, but that was replaced by relief that I didn't have to do 3 more loops. Mark Tanaka finished the 100k shortly thereafter and made me feel better when he told me that his time was 47 minutes slower this year than last. Lisa Huerta was the only woman to keep going the full 100k. I'm in awe of that woman!

I really can't say how I feel about the race just yet. I'm disappointed in myself that I couldn't/wouldn't stick it out. I wasn't hurt, just felt like it was a pointless exercise. And that bothers me. The win for the 50 miler doesn't feel as sweet, more like I don't really deserve it. I think part of our identity as ultrarunners is our mental toughness. I didn't feel mentally tough. I felt whipped. I felt like a baby. Anyway, I'm going to have to sleep on it. There are more races to come, but I want this to have meant something.

Hopefully I will have some more enlightened insights to post over the next few days. Thanks for reading. Happy running!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Heading to San Francisco - Ruth Anderson 100k

I head out tomorrow for RA100k. I'm now back to looking forward to it (as opposed to dreaming up new ways of weasling out). I have had such a long taper that I just can't wait to run! I think Tim is about ready to make me run next to the car on the way to the airport - I don't do very well with tapering, especially after having the forced taper of being sick! Four weeks is waaaaaaaay too long for a taper.

This week I took it easy, just running a little every day to keep my legs moving and the craziness in check. I finally felt like I could put some miles in, but knew that would be stupid (although it took a lot of talking to my self to convince my self that it would be really stupid). I'm hoping that my enthusiasm will remain for 62 miles!

On a different, but still running related, topic (my favorite kind), how about Jamie Donaldson at Umstead and Julie Berg at McNaughton? Do those ladies rock, or what!? Jamie beat her own course record by 40+ minutes and Julie won McNaughton for the second year in a row! Both women almost won OVERALL in very tough fields. I am beyond impressed. I can't wait to watch what they do the rest of the year! Congrats Jamie and Julie!

I know some of you are racing this weekend or next, so I can't wait to get back and check in on everyone. Happy running!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

I Love to Run!

Don't you just love to run - fast, slow, trails, road, whatever, wherever. There is something about the fluidity of running, the motion, the movement, that speaks to each of us. One of the reasons I love to read others' blogs is that I feed off of their excitement for the sport. If I am sick, tired, or just feeling unispired, I can hop over to one of my favorite blogs to get a nice shot of happiness. If you are a regular of any of the people I list on the left, you know that we are all very different - we train differently, race differently, and think differently. But we all love to run. I feel blessed to have found each of his/her blogs and know that there are many more out there that I will soon discover.

I'm finally getting excited about Ruth Anderson 100K. I did a tempo run this morning and felt good. As much as I complain about speedwork, I really do think it is necessary and empowering. If you are ever feeling sluggish, try some tempo running and see if it helps. More often than not it brings me out of a funk, loosens me up, and makes me feel like a runner (even if my times don't always reflect it :) I also e-mailed Rajeev Patel, the RD for RA 100K to ask a question about directions to the race. He sent back a couple of super nice, clever e-mails and now I can't wait to meet him. Don't you just love the people in this sport?

I plan to keep it simple the rest of the week. As I mentioned, Tim has decided to train for another marathon, so he is getting up and running with me a couple of days a week and it is such a treat for me. Tim is a great conversationalist, so I love having uniterrupted time with him just to talk. I think we'll probably run an easy 6 together and then I will put in a few extra just because I'm OC! My weekend calls for 1.5 -2 hours with a few miles at the end at M Pace. Next week will be pretty light, with a couple of speed bursts thrown if for good measure.

My sister arrives Friday morning, does the Noon Show on one of the local stations, and then is free for the afternoon. I'm going to pick up Charcoaler, our favorite hamburger joint (homemade onion rings - yum), and meet her at our parent's house. After lunch, Linda, our mom, and I are going to have a Green Tea foot massage. It is the best! Then Mexican food for dinner. Hopefully, we will be a little more restrained with our eating the rest of the weekend. Linda has book signings and appearances, so I don't think we're going to have tons of time to pig out! She leaves on Sunday evening to head to Texas Tech University where she is going to speak to the students. I'm going to miss her, but am already planning our trip to Manhattan to see her!

Happy running!

Saturday, April 05, 2008


I went out for a very slow 10 mile run this morning, so I thought I would attempt to take my camera. It is rather large and clunky, being several years old, so it is not something I can take on regular runs. I saw some really cool little cameras at Sam's the other day, but I digress...

Although the group was meeting this morning, I opted to sleep in and run easy. I'm feeling much better, but still a little off. Everyone I have spoken with about this virus has said that it takes awhile to fully recover, so I'm not too concerned at this point.

One of the questions I get asked a lot is how could I live in a valley if I live in the desert. Basically, El Paso is high desert, very mountainous, but also has the Rio Grande running through it. Because of this mix of elements, we are lucky to have soaring peaks coupled with green lush "flatlands," with rolling foothills between.

This is where I usually run my second, solo run of the day. My first run is always asphalt with the running group, but I try to get on dirt for my second run. As you can see though, it is very flat. The mountains are in the background, but this is right outside my door, so I tend to stay close.

To the left, you can see the river. This is my favorite place to run. There is so much wildlife, that you really feel like you are out in the middle of nowhere.

Tomorrow, I plan to run an easy 20 with the group. I've already promised I'd bail if I'm not feeling okay. I'd hate for the group to have to carry me in just because I want to get some miles in this week. I'm hoping that by Monday I will be 100 percent and will be able to put in a solid week of training.

On an unabashed note of familial promotion, I just wanted to let y'all know that my sister's 17th book has just come out! It is "The Ex-Debutante," by Linda Francis Lee. As I have bragged before, Linda is a bestselling author and we are very proud of her. The best part is that she is coming to town next week as part of her book tour. I love hanging out with my sister, so I am super excited!

Have a great weekend and happy running!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Maui Wowee!

Okay, there was really no wowee involved in this Spring Break Vacation, but Maui and flu do not rhyme, and thus, do not make a catchy title! Yes, Tim and I got the flu BAD the second day we were in Maui and spent the entire trip in our hotel room with fever of 102 degress, chills, coughing, sneezing, etc. Our poor kids had to eat almost every meal at the pool cabana because it was the only restaurant we could see from our room! We just kept sending them out with instructions to get something vaguely nutritious and charge it to the room. It was terrible.

We finally recovered somewhat the day before we were coming home, just in time to fly back. It was such a drag - and such a disappointment for the kids. They still have no idea what Maui is like because they mostly saw the grounds of our hotel! After we made it home, I woke up Sunday morning throwing up. I guess I caught round #2 of the virus on the plane ride home. I've been in bed until yesterday afternoon. That is 10 days, mostly in bed, no running, no eating, no nothing. I lost a ton of weight (and not in the good places :), so I still feel pretty weak.

I had my appointment with Scott today, where I desperately tried to weasel my way out of running Ruth Anderson 100k, but he was having no part of it. My complaints of being weak, malnourished, undertrained, etc. fell on deaf ears. Man, oh man! No sob stories for Scott! He is the consummate positive thinker and assured me that I was in fine shape for a "tune-up" run. Hmmm.

I ran 4.5 miles today, but started feeling dizzy, so I stopped. I'll try again tomorrow and hope for the best. I'm hoping I just need a few days of good food and fluids and then will bounce back quickly. Scott wants me to run my last long run this weekend, but we're just going to have to see how it goes. I may be taking a 4 week taper!

I did take pictures the first day we were in Hawaii (surprise!), but I still haven't found the camera (it is highly possible that it is still under the bed at the Kaanapali Beach Hotel), so I still can't post any pictures. Trust me though, there weren't many taken, so you aren't missing much!

I'm trying to check in on everyones' blogs, but it may take me a few days to post comments. I hope everyone had a good Spring Break!

Happy running!