Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mental games

***I had to add this - Way to go Chris on your new PR at the Madison Half Marathon - You are on your way to the next Ironman!!!!***

Since Steve had to go to a conference this week, I made plans to get caught up on sleep, food, and peace. I was a little bummed not to be joining my family in ND (Amy and my niece flew in from Wisconsin), but it's probably a good thing. I'm mentally tired. That's the nature of the career I've chosen. Some days and/or weeks are just chaotic and heartbreaking, made worse when there's not a lot of time in the day to process what is happening. It was good timing for a three day respite for the mind and body...

...until I saw our credit card statement. Someone got our information and charged thousands of dollars on flights out of this country. It's been reported, the account is closed, an investigation will be started, but the experience is frustrating and scary.

We also found out the owners of our cabin decided to sell the place. We're not entirely certain it would be worth buying, especially for what they are asking, but we were hoping we could at least continue to rent until we figure things out. Steve is still working in a community four hours away, continuing to search for a family practice position here. That leaves us on some shaky ground. We love this area, want to stay, but would actually like to live in the same place someday and do away with the whole "commuter" relationship. Lots of decisions again.

Saturday morning, I decided to manage (or ignore?) my stress, by doing a 20 mile trail run. My route took me on a 7.5 mile out and back on trails and old logging roads. It was perfect running weather for me. Overcast, 50's, with a cool breeze. I brought two bottles of Heed, GU, a protein bar and set off. There were way more people than I had anticipated, primarily families hiking, mountain bikers and people with horses. I got several remarks along the way - from the "are you crazy - I wouldn't even walk this" from a guy on horseback to "a little too much energy today?" from a guy hiking with his family. From the looks of him, he seemed pretty fit, so I think he was just jealous not to be running too.

I finally hit quiet trail about four miles up at 4300 feet. I stuck to the plan of eating every 30 minutes and the protein bar definitely helped. Since adding these to my long runs, I've been able to control the blood sugar issues and avoid the sudden bonk. I was able to spend some time exploring new areas along the ridge, but knew I had to go back down to the car for more Heed. The picture below I took at the highest point of the run, around 5100 feet. The logging road in the distance is where I had come from and where I'd be going back.

On the way down, it started to sprinkle, and two miles from the car, downpour. I passed the family of hikers again, dashed the last mile to the car and debated whether or not to continue. I really wanted 20 miles. Not sure why that number stuck in my head, but it did. One thing you should know is that I'm NOT a mental runner. I don't set many goals, and I don't purposely inflict pain upon myself. Because of this, I don't race much either. I usually stick out a long run with the group, but tend to set easy goals when I'm by myself, or cut runs short if I don't feel up to it. Today, I wanted to test myself. It really ended up being a mental game.

So, I grabbed my handheld bottle, and headed back up. Again, I approached the same family who was looking at me like I was absolutely nuts. The youngest girl stopped and said, "you aren't going back up there, are you?" The "up there" sounded like she thought I was going to do battle in some horror movie. My reply - "just a little of the way."By now, it was a steady rain, but still not cold. I told myself I'd go back up until I hit mile 17 even if I had to hike it, then turn around. My earlier plan was to go really slow with a goal of 5 hours. Primarily because I've only done one 20 miler since last fall, and because I was tired (see how easy I am on myself?).

I realized on my way back up that I could finish in 4:30 if I could maintain a decent pace. The main problem at this point was the mud. Trail shoes are awesome except when it comes to mud. The lugs were attracting it in gobs, until I felt like I was running on 2 additional inches of shoe. Plus, it was sticky enough, sucking me to the ground, that I thought my foot was going to come right out of the shoe. I tightened my laces and trudged on. I was thrilled to reach mile 17. Turning around though, I realized the downhill might be more painful. Sure enough, it was. My hips were aching at this point, and my calves threatening to cramp up. I ran though, concentrating on the absolute brilliance of my surroundings. I was again reminded of how lucky I am to live in such a beautiful place. I won the mental game in 4:27 with wet, muddy clothes and shoes, and a much more peaceful mind.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

My apologies

Just a quick post to apologize to the many friends who have texted and left phone messages this past week. I haven't been ignoring you! Due to work related travels and a currently way too intense caseload, I'm a frantic mess of energy. It should soon (hopefully) settle down and I'll get back to a somewhat normal schedule - and yes, return the calls.

A few well-wishes before I go...
Frank - good for you for getting out there and running a 5k with no training,
Chris - good luck at the Madison Half and plans to kill the old PR,
Danni - have a blast at WS training weekend!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Race Report - Don't Fence Me In 12k

This past Saturday, I ran the Don't Fence Me In Trail 12k in Helena. This was the first trail race I did after moving back to Montana from sea level. Even though it's only 7.5 miles long, it proves to be challenging to me. Last year, I was not prepared at all for the climbs and just wanted to finish. I believe my words to Steve at the mile 6 water station were "This sucks." My goal this year was to see if I was in any better condition and to average a below 12 minute mile pace (yes, I'm slow and I'm OK with that).

The race starts uphill on pavement, takes you to the Davis Gulch trail head where you are immediately hit with a series of switchbacks. Most of these are runnable if you've been doing hills at all. I have a tendency to freak out at the start of any race, so my heart rate is always out of control the first mile. This, combined with the hills can make anyone panic from the start. However, this year I was mentally prepared. I knew if I stayed calm, let people pass, run an even effort, walk the big hills, I'd be OK. Sure enough, after the switchbacks, I got to a flat section and cruised. I was able to run much more of the course than last year, while enjoying the scenery, and was actually smiling when I saw Steve at mile 6. I was also happy that my new Garmin was telling me I was averaging an 11 minute pace. I played a sort of leap frog with another runner, exchanging our horror stories from last year's race, and really flew the last mile. My average pace ended up being a 10:54/mile and a 7 minute PR. I was thrilled. I probably could have pushed it more, but I really wanted to finish feeling good.

It really is a beautiful course and a way to get to know local trails. The volunteers are awesome as was the food at the end - Great Harvest bread with honey and butter! I'll either keep the 12k as my annual spring test or try the new 30k option for next year.

As usual though, I was immediately hit with "what's next?" Since I've been putting in longer miles as Danni trains for Western States, I'm playing with the idea of doing the HURL Elkhorn 50k in August. I know it's a challenging course, but I think I could prepare for it. Any thoughts from those of you who have completed HURL?

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Attention Frank - this post is for you!

Last week, I was pulled over on a county road by a "dust regulation" officer. At first, I looked around for the candid camera crew. Then, the former paranoid city person took over and thought maybe it was someone trying to impersonate an officer. That was when I noticed the specially marked patrol car. When the officer asked for my license and registration, I was both irked and curious. I guess you don't get a ticket unless you are going at least 5 mph over the speed limit, and I was sent on my way with a verbal warning to drive slowly on county roads to minimize dust. Are you kidding me? A person actually gets paid for this - and gets a gun. Nothing personally against this particular officer or efforts to improve our environment, but based on my experiences this week, I could think of a few ways to better utilize this guy and the gun he was carrying. You can read more here...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Will Travel to Run

Saturday, Danni and I traveled to Missoula to put in a 20 miler in the Rattlesnake National Recreation Area. I had planned to stick with the main corridor trail for an out and back. We quickly realized that the wide path was a bit monotonous and not nearly as fun as single track. We diverted to a side trail that led us to a very steep uphill with a lot of remaining snow pack. It was a lot of work, but the view was spectacular. We planned to make up time down the other side, but ended up having to traverse a lot of snow.

Once we got down to the valley, we encountered a stream too wide to jump across. We spent some time trying to figure out a way to cross with dry feet. I found a place to jump across, only to find a swampy mess on the other side. I gave up, plowed on through, with very wet shoes. Danni followed and we were off again.
The next obstacle was in map reading. We discovered we were on the Wallman Trail (different from what we originally thought), so spent some time trying to figure out how to use the Garmin's compass. It could have been a safety advertisement labeled "Learn some backcountry skills BEFORE heading into the wilderness." Between the compass and intuition, we got back on track. We did find some other side trails, but did the last 6 miles on the main path. Click here to see more pictures.

Our reward was a shopping trip to REI where Danni cleaned out the store and I got my Garmin Forerunner 305!Our consensus for the day - we both are lucky to be married to great guys who support this crazy obsession of trail running. I must add that Steve spent the day fly fishing the Missouri - a happy day for us both!

This morning, my running group did 8 miles in Herron Park. Notice my lean in the picture below - I almost fell over and toppled the whole group trying to join the picture after setting the timer. We missed Tom (hope your foot is recovering), Ruth and Deb (we sent you both positive vibes for a good marathon day) Leanne was nice enough to bring me birthday balloons and a yummy cookie too pretty to eat on behalf of the group. Steve and I are "officially" celebrating our birthdays next weekend with a getaway, but thank you to all the friends and family who sent birthday wishes and made the weekend so great!