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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

2012 Castlewood Cup

Last year's Castlewood Cup was a great experience for a couple reasons: it was my first race with the tri club (an experience which proved joining was a great decision), and I got to meet some new internet friends for the first time in person.  I felt like I ran strong in the race, and I had a lot of fun spending 9.3 miles talking about adventure racing.  All in all, a very enjoyable day.

This year, I had an additional year of running behind me, real-life friends to ride with and meet up with at the race, and, above all, a goal.  You may recall that back in December I was publicly gunning for my friend Wade, who's become something of a race-day nemesis for me.  While I dramatically improved my time in the Pere Marquette race, I failed to beat Wade, which resulted in two months of his gloating (so far).  When he signed up for the Castlewood Cup, of course I had to take another crack at ending his winning streak.

No, he didn't enjoy his victory at all...

In response to my report card on my 2011 goals...
Race morning was a cold and sunny 30ish degrees, with a wind chill of 18.  Not an unreasonable temperature at all, except for the fact that Thursday's high was something like 70 degrees.  This mild winter has made me soft.  My ride had set our departure time as "7:30 AIS".  I was running a little behind, but I had to grab a coffee on the way. I cut it close, but my A was in the S in time to avoid Wade leaving without me.  That's right, my competition was also my chauffeur. Keep your friends close and your nemeses closer.

This year's shirt
Despite the cold, I had only brought a hoodie to wear before the start, so the race shirt came in very handy.  As soon as I got it, I pulled it on over my other sweatshirt.  I may have looked like a Texas orange Pillsbury doughboy, but I was still shivering.  Luckily, Chuck and Lori joined us at the registration table and she let me snuggle in her coat with her.  After talking for a little bit, we all headed back to the cars to hide from the wind until closer to race time.

About 20 minutes before the race began, we made our way closer to the start line.  Big River Running had several propane heaters blasting, and I found myself a spot right in the middle of all of them.  I looked around to see if I recognized anyone and saw Drew from Team Virtus, so I abandoned my cozy refuge to say hi before we all headed to the start.

This year, racers departed in waves that were 1-minute apart.  Drew was (I think) two waves ahead of me, Chuck and Wade were one wave ahead, and Robin and Val were in my wave.  We wished the boys luck (though I may have been mostly serious when I told Wade to break a leg) and pretty soon it was our turn. 

To view larger picture, click here
 The race begins with a loop around a flat, open grassy area.  I was glad that Wade had started ahead of me so I wouldn't feel pressure to try to keep up with him early, and I enjoyed the chance to talk to Robin as we circled the field.  We separated when we got to the first big hill. 

Castlewood Cup-1st big hill
From the 2011 race.  This year I was on a mission that didn't involve stopping to take pictures.
I managed to run most of the way up, motivated by the sight of Lori, who'd positioned herself and her camera about three-fourths of the way to the top.  I was not getting my picture taken walking (yet), so I kept slogging up in the slowest "run" you ever saw.  Even after I passed her, I was afraid her camera was still on me, so I ran until I couldn't anymore and then walked the rest of the way to the top, where there's a brief level respite before another less steep hill.

I felt surprisingly good early on.  Since I rarely warm up before a race, usually the first mile or so is rough, but this was ok.  I definitely wasn't chilly after the first hill!  By the time we came out of the woods after hitting mile 2, I was ready to lose my gloves.  Thankfully Lori was there cheering and taking pictures, so I tossed them her way.

Much of the race was suprisingly similar to my last Castlewood training run, and it definitely helped me to know what was coming up.  It's a great route, some hills, but plenty of down to go with the up.  Lots of fun to run there.  From mile 2-3, the course was fairly flat, which was good because I didn't manage to run much of the next hills at all.  Mile 3-4 was my slowest split of the entire race, at 12:48. Luckily, once you get past that section you can tell yourself you're basically halfway done. I ran through the mile 5 water stop feeling pretty strong. As I grabbed an energy gel, I thought I heard someone call "Super Kate!", but I didn't recongize anyone there and thought maybe I was imagining things.

Heading up the hill I saw Lori, who told me Wade was about 2 minutes ahead of me.  Damn! How did he gain a minute on me? I started getting convinced I was was going to lose to him AGAIN and spent the next mile or so mentally composing facebook statuses where I admitted being beaten once again by someone older, bigger, AND sick.  Sigh.

Running alone this year, I had a much quieter race, and I didn't have anyone pushing me from behind.  Still, few people passed me in the back half of the course.  One guy came flying up behind me, so I moved out of his way and he zoomed by without saying a word...but he was toast before mile 7 and then he was the one moving over for me. I kept catching up with people and be comfortable following behind, but they kept moving out of my way.  It probably made me push myself more so that I didn't get re-passed.

Just a bit past mile 7 I spotted Wade's Team Godzilla shirt towards the bottom of the hill.  I was so happy, but I held in my excitement and worked on steadily catching up with him.  I was afraid if he saw me he'd speed up, and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to run any faster at that point.  I caught up to him before the course crossed the road, and then I quietly stalked him until I was ready to make my move.  Right around the ranger station, I moved up next to him, said, "Just remember, I'm already a minute ahead of you..." and then ran past giggling.  :D
I actually paid for the pictures, but my computer isn't cooperating with downloading them.
The creek crossing was fun as always.  I plunged in, hoping not to look as stupid as I did in last year's picture there.  I guess I was semi-successful.  The return trip was pretty flat as we retraced part of our mile 2 route and then crossed the road for the absolute worst part of the entire race: the trip back around the field.

I guess it's only half a mile or so, but it's the longest half mile in history.  I'd rather run uphill on singletrack.  You can see the end.  You can hear the end.  But you just keep running away from the end...until finally you curve back towards the finish line.  This year I didn't have my teammates running with me and telling me to give it my all, but I was so ready to be finished with that stupid field that I ran as hard as I could, crossing the finish line in 1:39:42--a 3:23 PR, and more importantly, a long-awaited victory over my race-day nemesis.

So happy to be finished.
I waited around to cheer for Wade as he came through the finish, and Eileen, one of my Daily Mile friends, came up and introduced herself.  She had been working the mile 5 water stop and had recognized me there.  I guess the braids make it easy to pick me out.  Anyway, it was great to meet her and so cool that she and her daughter were out there volunteering.  Thanks!

We walked over to get some of the delicious pulled pork being served after the race, cheered for Robin and Val as they finished, and then hung around while they called out some attendance prize winners (I didn't win, but Chuck did) before heading for home.  Despite losing the nemesis crown, Wade was pretty good-natured about the whole thing and didn't threaten to leave me behind even once.  While he's all about a rematch, I think I'll savor my victory for a nice, long while. And you better believe I'll spend the wait gloating.

Miscellaneous details:

Elevation profile
I was so excited to see two sub-10 min miles, but when you look at the list of leaders...the guy who won averaged a 6:16 pace over the race.  Hole-E-crap.  I'd have to fall out of an airplane to go that fast! The winning woman, who finished 8th overall, had a 7:04 pace.  There are some really impressive runners around here.

At least I can feel confident I wasn't taking it too easy. :)
Time: 1:39:42
Overall: 254/354
Women: 73/135 (not quite top half, darn it)
Age group: 15/22

Friday, February 24, 2012

Love the one you're with

Almost four years ago I fell, quite unexpectedly, in love. With a bike. I'd asked for a "good" bike for my 35th birthday, mostly because my brothers kept heaping scorn on department store bikes and I wanted to know what the big deal was. The Giant Cypress they wheeled in replaced my 12-year old Huffy, a "mountain bike" for which the grassy strip between the sidewalk and street was extreme off-road.

At first, we just enjoyed spending time together, but then things changed. What began as a utilitarian partnership blossomed into a something much more. I've pretty much always had a bike, and I rode that Huffy quite a bit when my oldest boys were little. "Riding", at the time, meant pedalling to the nearest playground with my then-husband, each carrying a child in a bike seat. Occasionally we even rode a few extra blocks. Five miles was a long distance.

I didn't expect anything different with my new bike. That April was super rainy, so it took forever before we could go for our maiden voyage around the neighborhood. I felt guilty not using my good bike more, so I took it out on our local bike trails. It's a fantastic system of interconnected paved trails, but it can be a bit confusing if you happen to (ahem) lack map skills. I got lost and accidentally rode 20 miles.  I started riding on a regular basis, the distance depending on how long I could get away.

When my aunt Nancy suggested that I ride a leg of the Katy Trail ride with her: "It's only 50 miles, you could do it", I thought she was crazy, but I kept looking at the website for the Katy Trail ride that the Missouri DNR sponsors each year, got hooked, and signed up for the whole thing. All told, it was about 240 miles of riding over a week, but they're the easiest miles you'll ever ride. It's a flat, crushed limestone trail, and the ride is fully supported. Once I realized I could do it (and my butt got over the shock of the first two 60+ mile days), I was transformed. I was doing something that felt epic.

Before I got my bike, I was a little lost. You couldn't see it from the outside--I couldn't even always see it from the inside--but that's because there wasn't anything to see. Everything I did, my whole identity, was about someone else.  I didn't have a "thing", and cycling filled that void.  I loved it.  I was fulfilled. 

And then, almost accidentally, I started running.  It wasn't as fun as riding my bike, but it was easier to fit into my life.  I could get in a good run in 30 minutes.  It was cool to face a new challenge and have some small measure of success (measured, mostly, by not dying).  Running was there for me when I dislocated my thumb and couldn't ride for 6 weeks.  It was exciting.  We went to fun new places together (lots of races).  I admit it, I was stepping out on cycling.  I tried to pretend nothing had changed ("It was just a 5K...it didn't mean a thing!"), but it knew. But then I learned about adventure racing and got my mountain bike and the cycling spark burned bright again.

If you read back through this blog, one of my hallmarks is difficulty turning down something that sounds fun, even when that something is at cross-purposes with my training plan.  That, in turn, likely limits my performance: if you don't train consistently, how will you see what you're capable of? I thought I had semi-cured my athletic attention deficit disorder when I signed up for the Double Chubb 50K.  It's a distance that was epic enough (especially considering the terrain) that it forced me to shape up and be serious about training.

Double Chubb is basically this...twice
 My plan calls for back to back weekend runs: one long (up to 24 miles), one shorter (up to 10 miles).  With a full-time job and a full-time family, that doesn't leave a lot of time for any extra solo pursuits, so my bike has had to take a back seat once again.  Curiously, it doesn't even matter that most of the trails have been too mushy to ride, anyway. I'm still looking over running's shoulder like a girl staring at her true love while danceing with her date who's "just a friend".

I've made a commitment to this race; I'm going to honor it.  I just don't want to end up resenting it.  As Double Chubb is already costing me something really fun in addition to the hours of training I'll be putting in, I want it to be a good experience (again, probably mostly defined as "not dying").  I'm actually enjoying the training for it quite a bit.  I love trails, and I have some awesome friends sharing in the runs.  I'm going to do my best to love the one I'm with, and if I need to sneak away for a quickie ride...well, I guess I never promised running we'd be exclusive.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012


...not like a you've been bad type of grounded (because who has time for that?).  More of the way planes are grounded when they aren't fit for service or because conditions won't permit take-off.

After my fall last Tuesday, I didn't manage any more runs during the week. 

Wednesday: Straight from work to class to pick up J from PSR.  Since Jeff had taken N to practice and I wasn't willing to leave my 8 year old alone while I ran OR run at 11 when the guys got back, I substituted 40 minutes on the bike trainer.  Still not sure how I managed to ride 62 miles on that thing.

Thursday: Didn't get home from work until 9.  After a 12-hour day, I really could have used a run, but I had  homework.

Friday: Headed north to Chicago for a volleyball tournament.  It was a surprisingly quick trip, and we got there before 7:30.  I changed right away and headed to the fitness center since I had 14 miles scheduled for Saturday and wanted to get them out of the way.  Well...I managed 9 and was then lured away by the promise of drinks and socializing with friends I don't see nearly enough of.  It was a good trade.

Saturday: The temperature was a crisp and sunny 30ish in downtown Chicago, but you couldn't have proved it from inside the UIC gym, where I spent the entire day.  N's team didn't have as much success as we'd hoped, but he played really well.  This is particularly nice because, as you might remember, he's only been practicing for two weeks after missing 1.5 months due to a bad ankle sprain and then surgery.

Scenic, no?
N is #9
I don't remember being at any previous tournaments that were set up like this one.  They played all day on Saturday, and then for our boys, Sunday was single elimination.  Usually the days are split a little more evenly.  The long day inside made it difficult to manage to meet up with anyone else, but Bobbi was nice enough to come downtown to hang out with me while I watched the last matches of the day.

Blogger meet up!
It was so great to meet in person after getting to know her via her blog, and just like the other bloggers I've met, she's exactly as wonderful in person as on the screen.  I felt like I'd known her forever, and I'm definitely looking forward to the next time we meet up...hopefully NOT in a gym.  :)

Sunday: No run because I was still sore from Friday's blisters. Watched N's last match and then his old team play, then we headed home, pulling in around 4.  With a big project due in my Tuesday class (it's supposed to be a group project, but as luck would have it, my partner dropped the class),  I spent about 4 hours doing research and then crashed because we had to get up early on...

Monday: Took N and J for a college visit/volleyball tryout.  While the very last thing I wanted to do after spending the weekend driving was go and drive some more, it was well worth the trip.  N liked the school, and the coach really liked him.  If they come through with a big enough scholarship, he may have found his place...which would relieve a huge load of worry for me.  Luckily, we got home early enough for me to get back on my project.  Luckily, I finished the project.  Of course, it took me until 1:30 a.m., but I'm really pleased with what I turned in, and I learned a lot doing it.

Tuesday: Did I say the last thing I wanted to do was take another long drive?  No, the last thing I wanted to do was jury duty...which just happened to be today's assignment.  It was a very long morning, and we were called to go in for a case.  As soon as the judge said they anticipated the case would be 3-4 days, I knew I would be chosen.  Long story short, I wasn't. :)  Back to work tomorrow.

So life carved a gigantic hole in my training this last week.  Not only did I miss 3 runs, including my long run, but I had to read about all the awesome outdoor things my friends were doing.  On the other hand, I'm so glad that sedentary isn't my normal life now, and I'm beyond thrilled that my project--the last major thing for my Tuesday night class--is finished.  We're getting closer to figuring out where N will be next year.  He has one more local club tournament, and then we'll have a break from the numerous weekly drives to St. Louis for practice.  Life as I know it will be much closer to normal, and I'll be able to run and ride again.

After I take a nice, long nap.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

How to start

A month or so ago, I got a great question from TriMOEngr:

Given that the comment was on a post about my complete and utter failure at my first solo orienteering meet, she's a brave woman to ask me for advice.  On the other hand, since I started pretty much from ground zero with all of the fun things I do, maybe I am the right person to ask.  The following is what worked for me:

1. Set a goal - I don't like putting myself into situations where I'm likely to flounder, but I hate wasting money even more.  Find a goal event and register.  It will help motivate you to keep going even when it's uncomfortable (and it will be uncomfortable, either mentally and/or physically).  My first mountain biking experience resulted in surgery, but having the Berryman Adventure Race in my sights inspired me to get back on my bike and keep trying.

2.  Make a plan - There are tons of resources on the internet for training plans.  Check them out.  Find something tailored for beginners. As a non-runner, I found the Couch to 5K plan invaluable.

Muskegon KOA
Ok, this is actually Twilight, but picture me with a mountain biking book in my hands.
3.  Read all about it - My friends laughed at me for reading books on how to mountain bike, and while it's true there's no substitute for actually doing something, I always feel better when I can vicariously experience it first. I credit my obsessive reading of adventure racing blogs with my comfort level at Berryman.  I'd never done such a long race, but I knew what to expect--the good and the bad.  Running blogs taught me more about the importance of pre-race pooping training, and mountain bike race reports terrified me were a handy addition to pre-rides.

4.  Seek out opportunities -  I took an orienteering class at The Alpine Shop, attended several group mountain bike rides, drove 2 hours to participate in an adventure non-race, dragged my husband to orienteering meets, and went to a mountain bike clinic.  These were all low-cost ways to get some valuable experience.  There are loads of group rides going on all the time.  Check with your local bike shop, advocacy organizations like GORC, or groups like meetup.com. 

5. Join the crowd - The endurance sports community is one of the most open, friendly, accepting groups I've encountered.  Many are evangelists for their sport--they've seen the light, they want you to as well.  Other athletes are a fantastic source of advice, inspiration, and company.  Even though I didn't feel "worthy", I joined a local tri club and a women's bike group, and the friendships and training experiences I've had through these connections have played a big part in any improvements I've made.  Plus, I've had a blast!

Photo credit: Robin Rongey

6. Keep it real - Be honest about your skill level.  I'm probably over-critical of myself, but I always want people to know what to expect.  I've been lucky to make all kinds of friends who are willing to ride and run with this slow, scared person.  I won't lie, it can be very frustrating for me to be the person holding other people back, but I'm reassured by the fact that they knew what to expect and chose to run or ride with me anyway. 

7. Get out of your way - It's fine to be scared or nervous or shy or insecuse, but it's not ok to let those stop you from reaching for your goals.  If your comfort zone is the couch, you need to get off of it.  I promise that there is infinitely more joy in trying something big than in hiding from your fears.  You'll like yourself a lot better, too.
Sidenote: I have the most awesome friends ever.  Who else would, upon hearing that you failed to find the picture of him sitting on the toilet in a field, would email you the link to put on your blog?
8. Just go man - Don't overthink it.  Don't wait til you're in shape.  Don't wait til you have a running partner.  Don't wait til the weather is just right or you can afford the best equipment.  Just go, and most of these things will come to you.  I spent months watching Craigslist for a road bike; it wasn't until I joined the tri club and met a friend who happened to be selling her bike that I found one I could afford.  If you wait to do something until you've met some other criteria, you're sacrificing the opportunity to have fun and improve.  There is no perfect time.  There is only now.

9. Listen - Be humble.  Experienced people often like to share their knowledge.  If you already know everything they tell you, good for you.  If not, pay attention.  You don't have to follow the advice, but listen to it.  You'll probably learn something.  Either way, appreciate the fact that someone more skilled is willing to be out there and share their sport with you.

Photo credit: Luke (AKA Captain Awesome) Lamb...there, ya happy?
10. Jump right in -  Do something that scares you.  If everything scares you, that gives you lots of options. If you get a chance, take it. More than once in the past year I signed up for something and then stood on the starting line freaking out and wondering what the hell I was doing there.  I've never once regretted going.

What speaks to you, or what did I miss? What advice would you give someone starting out? What did you find most helpful as you started running or riding?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

The streak is dead (long live the streak)

I've been really proud of keeping a three-week streak of consistent training, but despite really trying to fit in my 4 miles tonight in the face of
  • my own stupidity (having to detour alll the way back across campus--a 10-min walk each way-- to put my parking tag in the window instead of the glove compartment, creating a 30-min walk to the gym instead of 1/3 of that)...
...and the fact that...

  • the world does not, in fact, revolve around my running schedule (my teacher's idea of letting us out "early" and mine do not mesh, Jeff actually had the nerve to ask me to pick up milk on the way home)...
...and the fact that...
  • Jeff had to take N to practice in St. Louis so I'm the only one home with J
...the run just isn't going to happen.

All good things must end, I guess, and maybe it's a good thing that this good thing is ending.  Yesterday, after a rough afternoon from a variety of reasons, both controllable (if I stayed on my homework and didn't have to do it at the last minute it wouldn't be so overwhelming) and uncontrollable (inability to convince my ex-husband that paying child support is more important than spending $50 to take his kids to a movie), I burst into tears when I walked in the house and saw that Jeff and J had gotten me balloons for Valentine's Day (we'd agreed not to get each other anything) and spent most of the rest of evening crying.  Jeff and the boys went to my niece's birthday party, and I stayed home and did homework.

Very nice balloons, no reason to make me cry at all.
By the time they got home, I was a little more stable, both caught up on schoolwork and reassured by the fact that most of my class is as behind as I was (if not more).  I went out for my 2-mile run...and tripped on the sidewalk and fell not 1/2 mile in.  That was pretty much the icing on the cake.  I'm not proud to tell you that I laid there on the sidewalk for a little bit and cried.  I thought about walking back home and decided that I needed to buck up and finish the run.  I cried for a little more while I ran, but it was too hard to cry and breathe, so I had to cut that out (the crying, not the breathing, obviously).

Yeah, I know it doesn't look that bad, but it hurts.

I've still been kind of teary today, and that's not really me.  In retrospect, I think I've just been overdoing it.  Instead of burning the candle at both ends, I've just tossed it into the fireplace.  Maybe a little overtraining going on.  So I'm going to try and relax about the fact that I'm going to miss a run (or two), get a little extra sleep, and try and stay more on top of the things I can control.  I've been really hit or miss on blogs lately, life is just so crazy.  My Tuesday night class ends at the end of the month, as will driving to St. Louis for club volleyball.  The end is in sight.  I think I can...I think I can...

This candle has it easy
Turns out I can't do it all.  Who knew?

Come visit me...

Guest posting over at Midwest Multisport Life.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The beauty of a plan

When I first started running, I used the Couch to 5K plan faithfully. Something about having everything I needed to do laid out for me was so motivating. Knowing exactly what to do and then being able to check off a finished workout was a great feeling.  Turns out I thrive on being told what to do (don't tell my husband). Once I had run a couple 5Ks, I haphazardly trained for a 10K. 

When I registered for my first half marathon, I was once again committed to a plan, this time through Runner's World's Smart Coach app.  I missed few, if any, of the scheduled runs, and I had a fantastic race.  The power of the plan eluded me during my marathon training, though.  Despite having only three scheduled runs per week, I regularly missed at least one of them.  That, combined with missing a few weeks of training due to Achilles tendonitis, led to a less than stellar first marathon

This time around, I'm so far locked into The Plan.  Even though it requires me to run 5 days a week--something I have never done, I'm three weeks in without missing a single day.  This is new territory for me.  It hasn't been easy, though, thanks to a combination of life and my own self sabotage.  I started reading The Hunger Games during the Super Bowl and got hooked on the series.  I read the first one in a couple of days, and it didn't really cause me any problems. 

Tuesday: 2 miles @ 10:50 pace.  Because I didn't get home from N's volleyball practice until 11:30 Monday night, I didn't manage to get up before work to run.  That meant going out when I got home from class at about 9:15.  Thank goodness it was only 2 miles...and for the people who've mentioned such short runs in ultra training, the first three weeks are basically base-building, so from here on out I only have one 2-mile run a week. (whimper).  I took it easy since between the dark and the snow flurries whipping in my face I didn't have great visiblity.

Wednesday: 2 miles @ 9:09 pace.  I managed to run this right after getting home from work (night class was cancelled...yea!).  One thing that made me sad about marathon training was that I lost all of my "speed" because of my focus on just getting in the miles, so I'm trying to fit in at least one run a week where I push my pace more.  Definitely not an easy pace for me to maintain, but it felt good to see the numbers at the end.  Up late that night finishing a paper for class.

Thursday: 4 miles @ 10:05 pace. Another nighttime run.  These are such a pain because I have to get supper on the table early enough for J to get to cub scouts, and then wait long enough for my food to hopefully settle.  I tried to run this like a temp run; splits were 10:00, 9:27, 9:10, 11:43 (where the chili...and enchiladas...and fresh salsa...I'd been eating the past two days all ganged up on me). 

Fortunately (for the reader in me), D dropped off his copy of the second Hunger Games book.  Unfortunately (for the runner in me), it was really good.  I started reading it Thursday night, but I really got into it Friday night and ended up finishing it at 2 a.m. Saturday morning.  Which would be just fine...if I didn't have to get up at 6 to meet friends for a run.

I did not look quite this perky in the morning.
Saturday: 12.74 miles @ 13:43 pace. When the alarm went off, I seriously considered texting the guys and going back to sleep, but since I was the one who'd suggested the run that seemed pretty weak.  Plus, I had to get my 12 miles out of the way early since we had Pinewood Derby and then a family birthday party.  Those of you who've been with me for a year know how much I love Pinewood Derby, but I wanted to be there rooting against for J.

Seems like all winter long I've been bragging talking about how warm it is.  Well, winter finally got here.  It must have been operating on Kate time this year.  When we started our run it was 14 degrees with a wind chill of 4. 

Pre-run with Pat and Gary
Photo credit: Jim Donohue

The only saving grace was that the trails sheltered us from the worst of the wind, so once we got going it wasn't awful.  I had some bike friends out on a road ride, and I don't know how they did it. They're way tougher than me! 

Running through the (barely) snowy woods
Usually the first mile or so feels bad until I warm up, but this run never felt good.  At least I had fun company.  Patrick is currently all about the wild running (who needs trails?), and before long he was leading us down a non-trail we'd run last week.  This time we found a spot where we could jump across the creek.

Not a day you want wet feet!

At this point in the run I was still smiling
 I'm so used to being the slow one of the group, but this was ridiculous.  The guys were really nice about it, but it was stressing me out to drag them behind so much.  I tried to tell them they should just go on ahead, but they wouldn't do it.  And usually, even when I'm slow, I'm having fun.  I like running, I love running in these woods, and I had great guys to run with.  Instead of enjoying myself, though, I just felt crabby and negative.  I tried to keep my mouth shut and keep the whining to a minimum lest I lose my running partners.

More wild running
By this point, almost 7 miles into the run, I was over wild running.  Give me a nice, flat trail, and give it to me fast, dammit.  Gary had to get to his son's game, so we dropped him off at the cars, hit the bathroom, and then ran across campus to the more groomed, "official" trails.  I had a brief shining moment where I thought we only had 3 miles left, and then I remembered we were running 12, not 10.  Nothing much to say about the rest of the run.  I dragged further and further behind, just trying to hang on.  Oh, and then I didn't duck enough while running under a fallen tree and cracked my head on it.  Usually I save my cursing for mountain bike falls, but I'm pretty sure my potty mouth was in evidence on this run.

By the time we were back at the cars, we had over 12 miles.  I had a brief temptation to run a little longer and make it a half marathon distance, but then I remembered it hurt to move.  Instead, I apologized to the guys again for being such lousy company, grabbed a coffee, and headed home so I could shower before the Pinewood Derby.  (Where, incidentally, J took 2nd, 1st, and 1st in his heats but didn't qualify for districts, which in my opinion is the perfect result).

After Saturday's miserable run, I was not looking forward to the scheduled 8 for Sunday.  I did get to sleep in a little before going to church to hear Scott Rigsby speak. 

Photo credit: http://www.mytropicalescape.com/images/scott2.jpg
Rigsby is the first person with double leg amputation to complete the Kona Ironman competition.  Very inspiring story, but not the best public speaker.  I'm sure it didn't help that I was trying hard not to fall asleep.  One thing that caught my attention was when he talked about telling his friends he was going to do an Ironman.  At the time, he couldn't swim, didn't own a bike, and had barely run on his prosthetic legs.  Make the decision, then figure out how to do it.  I like that.

Due to going to church, finishing the last Hunger Games book, and attending one of J's things at church, I didn't get to leave for my run until about 4:00.  I'd been dreading it all day long.  I just felt exhausted.  Not sleepy, but like gravity was working double on me, and eight miles seemed almost insurmountable.  Instead of heading out for 8 miles, I decided to mentally break it up into 4 miles, then 2 miles, then 2 miles.  On one hand, it was a mental trick, but I also gave myself the out of quitting the run at any of those points.

Though it was much warmer (a balmy 30) than Saturday, it felt awfully cold setting out.  Like always, the first mile or so was a drag, but then I settled in and the run felt ok.  I had a GU at 4 miles, and it wasn't so bad knowing that I only "had" to go two more miles.

I came across these fallen trees and had fun jumping from one trunk to the next.  My attitude was 100% different (and better!) than on Saturday.  Since normally I far prefer running with friends, I'm chalking it up to the lack of sleep.  By now dusk was settling in, and I wasn't crazy about being on the trails alone after dark. I finished mile 6 on my way out of the trails. There was enough light to get me back to where I'd parked, but I was still 1.5 miles short, so I ran the service road near the parking area until my Garmin beeped off that last mile.  A far, far better running experience than the day before.

Sunday: 8 miles @ 12:18 pace

I'm a little nervous looking ahead at this next week's plan.  I add on 6 miles to my weekly mileage, which seems a little high, but I'll just see how it goes and give myself a break if I need one.  Maybe this will be the week I don't hit all the miles.  It has to happen at some point.  The really exciting part (heavy on the sarcasm) is that I'll be in Chicago this coming weekend, and depending on my son's volleyball schedule, I may be stuck running Saturday's 14 and Sunday's 8 on the hotel treadmill.  I did 14 on a TM last year for the same reason, and I'm not looking forward to repeating the experience.  On the other hand, it wasn't as bad as 62 miles on a trainer!
Chicago folks, let me know if you'd be interested in meeting up! We're staying in Burr Ridge Friday and Saturday nights.  Of course, I'll be working around my son's volleyball, but I'd love to meet some of you in person if it works out. :)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Weekend wrap-up (50k training and Super Century)

Went to a college basketball game Friday.  Turned out Feb. 4 was actually Saturday.  Who knew? Fail.  Went home and watched Invincible instead.  I love football movies, and I love Mark Wahlberg, so I really love this movie.

Saturday morning came way too early.  N. had to be in St. Louis by 7:30 for a volleyball tournament that his team was in.  He can't play yet since he's been recovering from surgery for a month now, but he has to be there.

Usually if there's a conflict between a tournament and one of J's things, I go to the tournament and Jeff goes to J's event.  This week, since N wasn't playing, I decided I'd drop him off and then go back home so I could watch J play in his first basketball game.  Then, I'd head back towards St. Louis, do my scheduled 10 mile run, and hang out at tournament and cheers N's team on.

So I dragged him out of bed and out the door...

Not thrilled about the hour OR the camera
Made our mandatory Quik Trip stop...

Best gas station ever
Headed down the soggy interstate to St. Louis as I hoped desperately the rain would stop before my run...


It was kind of foggy out...

Hello, Arch...wherever you are
Dropped him off at his tournament.  He's finally able to practice again, so hopefully he'll actually be playing in the next one (2 weeks from this past weekend...in Chicago).

Maybe I'm not a great fan, but I don't stay to watch if my kid isn't playing, especially when my other kid is somewhere else

Heading back home
This was the first Saturday morning I've been home in...I don't really remember when.  Since Christmas, maybe?  J had his first basketball game at 9:30, so we made a quick stop at Home Depot for their kids' workshop.

Yeah...still raining
Started on the little box that was this month's project...

Getting some help from Daddy
And then drove down the block to the Y for the game.  Oh my gosh...I'd forgotten how hilarious second grade basketball is.  Our Y has a great developmental program where coaches stay on the floor and refs help coach the kids as well.

J's #6 on green
J made two baskets and got maybe one rebound.  The whole experience made me want to spend more time on a basketball court with him so he's a little more comfortable with what's going on.  Plus, he's too tall to only get one rebound.

Yep...still raining
There are quite a few trails within a 20-min range from the volleyball gym, but I opted for Castlewood because it's fairly familiar to me now and because a lot of it's trails are fairly rocky.  With the wet conditions I was hoping to avoid too much mud.


Probably because Sherry Arnold has been so much in my mind lately, combined with the facts that I've been running my trail runs with friends and have never run Castlewood alone, I was a little nervous about going by myself.  I'm writing this, so obviously it went OK.

This nice, flat section runs along the river
I started out on some of the flatter trails along the river. Unfortunately, the flatter trails eventually lead you to the infamous Castlewood steps. Seeing as I've mentioned them repeatedly but have never gotten a picture that really shows what they're like, I decided to videotape my trip up the stairs (subtitled: four minutes of your life that you'll never get back). On the plus side, now you can hear what my voice sounds like when I'm gasping for breath.

The view from the top is pretty awesome, though.

It's a steep drop if you get too close to the edge

The first 7.5 miles weren't bad at all. Slow as dirt, but I felt pretty good. I guess I've reached that point in my training where the extra miles you add to your long run hurt, though, bc the last 2.5 miles were no fun at all. Especially when I got to this section:

This section is so steep.  I hate how pictures don't show that.

Unfortunately, I still had .2 miles left when I got to the parking lot, so I spent it running a couple of hill repeats on the nasty hill leading up to the bluffs. I ran as far up as I could without walking, then I jogged back down. It took two to finish off my miles. Then it was time to go pick up N.

Long day.
Went to the basketball game on the real February 4th.  It was just a little bit busier than the night before when there was no game.
Go Cougars...our team won.

J enjoyed the game.
I went to bed about the same time my 8 year old did since I had to be up early for the worst idea ever.

My ride for the Super Century.
Let me just say that 62 miles on a trainer was infinitely worse than I expected.  Thankfully, I had some great movies to entertain me.

I don't think I'd seen Dirty Dancing since high school
This was one of the coolest virtual events I've gotten to participate in because of the communication aspect.  Since most of us were on trainers (at least one hardy soul was on rollers, which I understand is a whole different story), we were able to share our woes via twitter (we used the hashtag #supercentury so much that it was trending in the St. Louis area) and facebook. 

It was much more fun that riding alone in my basement...even though it showed me how everyone was passing me up.

Though I bought (or started to buy) my trainer in December, this was actually the first time I'd ever used one. Turns out there is a slight learning curve, and by that I mean that I almost fell over two different times. I'm not exactly sure how, but I do know that if I hadn't been set up next to a wall and have landed on the floor. Still, I managed to eat my oatmeal breakfast while riding.

Despite the distraction of the movies, twitter, and Facebook, I got uncomfortable pretty quickly. I think I took a stand-up/stretch break at 20 mi, and then I stopped to get some food about halfway through.  Nothing sounded good until I looked in the freezer.

I would never eat this much ice cream normally.
I think that bowl of ice cream got me through the next 15 miles.  It was sooooo good.  I also had a Clif bar, two cans of diet Pepsi, two bottles of water, and a bottle of hard cider (hey, I'm sure it was 5 o'clock somewhere).  Quality nutrition.

Here's how much I loved the experience:

You could say it was not the Egg McMuffin of bike rides, if you liked Egg McMuffins or that dopey commercial.

The last 15 or so miles was TOUGH. I was completely soaked in sweat. J came downstairs and said, "It smells BAD in here." I had to assume I was the smell. I just wanted to be done. By the last 3, I was nearly in tears, but no way was I going to quit that close to the end. Finally, miraculously, it was over. Well, it was sort of over. You see, my 50k plan still called for a 6 mi trail run.

photo.JPGMy partner in crime. Or stupidity. You say poTAYto...

Even though Patrick had also done the StupidSuper Century, he was still willing to go run 6 miles in the woods with me. Granted, I think he expected ms to wimp out and go for a road run instead of trails, but still. Everybody needs one of those friends who's up for hairbrained schemes, and he's definitely one of mine. The first three miles kind of sucked, but by the second half I was almost enjoying myself.


Here's a picture of the gully or whatever our icy bridge was over. I made sure to take it since Kovas seemed a little skeptical of the need for a bridge.

Due, I guess, to our strangely warm weather, our woods and in particular the ravines are getting some really cool mossy areas. It was really pretty. We explored a trail we'd never run before, and when it led down to a creek, we opted to kind of swing over the water (could've waded through, but why?) by hanging onto a downed tree. That slowed our pace even more, but since we were running 15 min miles, it wasn't much of an issue. Ok, it wouldn't have been anyway.

Whatever, it was fun, and maybe there's something to this recovery run thing, because I feel pretty darn good today, even if I did fall asleep before halftime and miss the majority of the Super Bowl commercials.

P.S. Check out the Team Virtus website for a poetic recounting of our stationary adventure. Thanks, boys, for a really terrible, fun time. And thanks to my friends who popped by on Facebook or twitter to cheer me on. I love that I have friends who'll encourage me even in the most colossally stupid challenges. ESPECIALLY in those. :)