Sunday, March 10, 2019

URE Marathon RR: Dancing With The Devil

Two weeks ago, it rained Monday through Friday and I was over running in the rain. If you live within a 6 hour radius of Atlanta, you probably feel my pain. So. Over. The. Rain. I took my speed workouts to the treadmill and cranked it up to speeds that were close to what I had been running on the track. I noticed after my Tuesday workout I had a bit of soreness in my foot (the same one that wore a boot last year) and then again after my Thursday workout.

I had one of my biggest training runs scheduled that Saturday and went in filled with trepidation. Running had been going so well since last August and I had just a few weeks left before toeing the line at Georgia Death Race, my goal race for the spring. I told Chantal and John I was a bit nervous about my foot as we climbed up and down Coosa and the DRT, but the off and on soreness was manageable and I was relieved when we made it to John's car parked at Skeenah Gap, 6.5 hours and over 7,000' of climbing later.

However, the pain intensified through the evening and after texting with my coach, we decided it would be best to give it a few extra days rest. I ran again on Wednesday and it seemed to be okay enough. I finished up the rest of my workouts as planned for the week and ran 2 hours at Sawnee Mountain with Steve, who was visiting from Michigan.

That evening, the soreness was back again and I was feeling really frustrated. My coach gave me a pep talk, filled my workout calendar with swimming and cycling, and I tried to keep from panicking.

Somehow, the week off of running wasn't too bad and aside from the boredom factor, I was actually feeling good about giving my heart and lungs a good workout, but keeping my foot happy. As it got near to the end of the week, my foot was feeling better, but I was full of nerves wondering if I was going to mess something up by even running a few miles over the weekend. And I was signed up for a trail marathon with over 4,000' of elevation gain. After conferring with my coach, we ultimately decided that I could just do the 5.7 miles out and back in the beginning and pull the plug if it felt terrible or go up to 2 hours and just have a planned DNF.

I was actually okay with the planned DNF. I thought I'd have more fear about it (and spoiler alert: maybe I did?), but it actually seemed like it was the right thing to do so I wouldn't ruin the rest of my spring. I stopped early at Hinson this past year and the sun still came up the next day so maybe somewhere in my head, I knew the only person that would even remotely care would be me.

Thursday night, my plans came together thanks to Dan and I was going to be riding with him, Gary, and Jeremy on Friday. We all met at my house and Jeremy graciously made the drive to Charlotte in heavy traffic and rain. Everyone agreed on burgers at a place in downtown Charlotte and I wolfed mine down in minutes. Though I wasn't particularly tired, I managed to fall asleep somewhere between 9:30-10 and slept really well.

We got to the starting area just after 7:00 a.m., picked up our bibs, and dropped off our food donations. I saw a few familiar faces like David, Jenster, and Laurie and got a few photos with friends before we got started.

At the race start, a bunch of people took off down the fire road and I tried to settle into a comfy pace. I didn't have any dog in the fight and wanted to just run some miles without pain. After a week off of running, I felt really, really fresh. My legs were poppy and I felt like while I putting in some effort, I was also super comfortable.

I cheered everyone on as we saw each other through the 2.8 mile turnaround and then started chatting with Kent who had been keeping nearly the same pace as me from the beginning. We had a few miles for me to briefly explain I had been contemplating bailing at the first aid station, but I was feeling so good (and pain free!) that I wanted to try to make it the 2 hours instead.

We hopped onto the single track at mile 5.7 and I was surprised to find the next section very, very runnable. The miles ticked off and I barely looked at my watch. Kent and I talked about any and everything runners talk about it - races, running, family, jobs, etc. He was keeping the pace conversational and it was exactly what I needed.

As we neared the 90 minute mark, I took a moment to try to text my coach to ask what I should do because I was feeling so well that I wanted to run more than 2 hours. Unfortunately, I didn't have any service and I kept checking every 10 minutes or so hoping I could get something to him quick. We came up to the 11.7 mile aid station at almost exactly 2 hours and I let the devil and angel on my shoulder hash it out as we grabbed aid.

The smart, good, angelic runner would have dropped at the point and begged off a ride to the start. The dumb, bad, devilish runner prevailed and I guiltily felt like I stepped off the high-rise diving board as I knew this meant I was 99% committed to finish by opting to go on. There would still be a chance to drop at the other aid stations, but I knew it would tough to make that call.

The next section to furthest aid station is considered one of the gnarliest. Sasquatch Summit is full of boulders and hand-over-hand climbs and is followed by the Soul Crusher, another gnarly climb with steep grades. I was loving this part of the race and all my vertical training made it seem really, really doable.

When we got near the aid station around 17 miles, I was still in great spirits. Jeremy looked surprised to see me still running and gave me a double high-five and Dan, not surprised at all at my dumbassery, also gave me a high-five. I grabbed a pickle and a handful of chips and topped off my soft flask with a mix of Gatorade and water.

Kent told me the next section was kind of boring and while I wasn't looking forward to boring, I was happy to be cruising comfortably and not in any pain. We got passed and passed people a fair amount in this section and added another runner to our caravan who is also running GDR (& Western States!), Brett. The three of us navigated to the last aid station together and then took off down the trail, fists full of pickles, Oreos, and chips.

The mud was extra sloppy in the final miles, but I have been running in mud all winter. I just plodded right through it and laughed as splattered across my legs. The rain had held off, I was just a few miles from finishing a race I thought I'd DNF, and I was having so much fun just running happy. Even Hallucination Hill didn't phase me. I was just plodding along between Kent and Brett, yapping away and swapping stories (and maybe taking a few selfies). 

Brett decided to hammer out the last 2ish miles solo and took off towards the finish. Kent and I continued along and though our conversation quieted a bit, we still were in good spirits as we came into the final stretch. Once we saw day hikers and heard whizzing cars on the highway, we knew the finish line was close. I came in with the biggest smile, happy my devilish move paid off and that I could go home with my heart full.

I gave Kent a fist bump and then swapped war stories briefly with Gary and Jeremy while we waited for just a short time for Dan to come in. Everyone was happy, exhausted, and caked in mud. The rest of the day sealed the deal on a really fun 32 hours. Some things will have to remain like they do in Vegas, but let's just say I'm never sorry to have another adventure to say remember that one time....

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Suwanee Half Marathon RR


If Jen and Angie were not coming into my hometown to pace a half marathon, I would have never found myself at the start of the Suwanee Half Marathon on Sunday morning. They both signed up to pace in 2018 when I was freshly out of the boot and unsure of my running future.

Sidenote: Jen ran a 100 miler the prior weekend. Angie ran a 100 miler 3 weeks ago. Both had run races already since! My friends are badasses.

The weekend snuck up on me and I realized as it got close, I needed to touch base with my coach about running it. A road half marathon is not particularly ideal in the midst of training for a vertically insane trail ultra, but it could serve as a good workout nonetheless. I was going to be spending the morning with Jen & Angie anyway so I might as well race and get some miles in. He was on board and told me to run the first 10 miles easy and the last 5K at 10K pace.

Recovery from the 50K seemed to be going well at first. I took most of the week off of running following the race, just doing some easy walking as part of active recovery. But the whole week after that just felt kind of off. I blame hormones, not-quite-recovered-from-a-50k, and pollen in that order. All of it left me with a really negative mindset all week.

At the starting line on Sunday, I should have felt pumped to come full circle after spending last’s race standing on the sidelines in a boot. But, I was just swarming with negative thoughts. I had psyched myself out of wanting it to be enjoyable in any capacity. I should have been excited to test my fitness and possibly snag a PR as I’d run faster half marathons in full marathons! Instead, I was feeling dehydrated, battling cramps, and just generally blah.

My original plan was to stay with the 1:40 pacer through 10 miles and then press on the gas. However, in talking with the 1:40 pacer while Jen & Angie were getting their pacing sign, I became skeptical of his tactics and decided to just do my own thing.

I did a short warm-up in the parking lot - just 5 minutes or so and then waited a few more minutes for the gun to go off. I was pretty close to the start line which felt really strange in a road race. Keith was running too (bunch of ultra weirdos on the road, watch out!) and it was good to see another familiar face.

We took off with the lead pack and were diverted the wrong way about 300 meters into the race. The lead bike made a left turn when we were supposed to go straight and the swarm of runners gummed up the edge of the sidewalk. It was only about 10 seconds in the wrong direction, but it added to my already funky mental game.

After getting back on course, we ran down a hilly residential street before popping out onto Peachtree Industrial. It was cool and windy, but I tucked in behind a few people and was just happy it wasn’t hot. I forgot my Mighty charger at work and hadn’t charged it prior to the race so it was not surprising that it crapped out by the 3rd mile. Goodbye motivational mix….

We turned onto Tench and then Brogdon and the field really started to separate by mile 4. Then, I was back and forth with a few other runners as we tackled the hills leading into George Pierce Park. I’d chuckle to myself as I came to a hill thinking about how if this was a trail race, I’d just walk. But alas, it was not and I had to shorten my stride and work to not lose too much time climbing.

Once we got along the Greenway sections, I started to feel a little better with the more even terrain. Plus, I realized I was perking up with each water station - apparently I was pretty dehydrated. I brought along a Clif gel to take somewhere mid-race and decided to slurp it down near the halfway point.

When Adam and I first moved into our house, I used to run at the Suwanee Greenway all the time. It was my bread & butter 7 mile route. So I knew all the of things to expect - the up and down near the covered bridge, the zigzag to McGinnis Ferry, and the switchbacks near the park. In some ways this was good because I knew to conserve, but in other ways, I was dreading what was to come.

I passed a couple of guys in this middle section as I clipped off some lower 7s and hoped that it wouldn’t come back to haunt me in the end. As we neared the turnaround near mile 10, I could start to see the leaders. The male leader was waaaaay out front by at least a mile, but then the next few runners seemed to come at regular intervals. I saw there were 2 women ahead of me and 6 men.

With 5K left to go, I didn’t feel like I had much left extra to give other than the pace I was holding so I just tried to maintain as much as possible and not give any back. As I doubled-back myself, other runners (especially other women!), started shouting that I was the 3rd female. I berated myself for not smiling back more when they were clearly cheering me on. The funk just would not shake!

I saw Jen & Angie and gave them high fives and that lifted my spirits a bit. From then on, I had just 2 miles left and so I just tried to just tell myself I could hold on for 15 more minutes. At that point, I really wasn’t thinking about a race PR or my own placement.

Once I came off the Greenway and headed up the last hill to the finish, I felt spent. Somehow my final kick shows a 6:35 pace, but I swear I felt like I just dragged myself in. There was no celebratory finish chute feel. Just happy that it was over with.

At first, I was pissed at myself for not being happier about my “PR” or my 3rd OA female standing. And for racing with such a negative mindspace. It just wasn’t like me!

But in retrospect, I am glad that it all happened. Sometimes it needs to be hard to make me appreciate the easy. Sometimes I need to know I can get through a race that doesn’t go my way or I don’t feel great or that my head is in the right place. In this case, I just trusted my legs to do the work while I battled with my head. And I should be so happy that nothing felt painful or bad, I just wasn’t happy with myself.

If you’ve been running or racing long enough, maybe you relate. I’ve had this happen before - Boston 2016 comes immediately to mind. It part of the process and I’ll be stronger for it the next time. And no doubt, there will be a next time. It’s about recognizing it, finishing what I’ve started, and not letting it be a defining moment.

A few hours later, brunching with Jen, Angie, & Adam, it didn’t matter at all.  

Monday, January 28, 2019

QC Returns to the Trails: Mountain Mist 50K Race Report

Pre-race After conferring with my coach weeks ago, we decided that the Mountain Mist 50k would be the best option for me to meet the required qualification for the Georgia Death Race - a 50k trail race in the last calendar year. The elevation and technicality would be a great tune-up and a chance for me to test gear and nutrition.

Though I could have driven the 3.5 hour drive, gaining an hour crossing into Central Time, I opted to camp overnight at Monte Sano State Park. I left work at 2pm Friday to make it in time before sunset and was treated to a very beautiful drive through the tiny mountain towns of northwest Georgia/northeast Alabama. At the park, I went straight to the camp host to check in and got both a dinner recommendation and directions to the race start (more on that later).

I blindly picked the camp site online and chose a spot that was nearest to the restrooms. My good fortune meant I was treated to a beautiful view of Huntsville and I arrived just at sunset. I made a quick call to Adam and then changed into running gear for a 2 mile shakeout run around the campground. I watched the big orange thing dip below the horizon and then headed out to packet pickup (at the lodge) and to grab dinner.

I was a little worried about the camp host's recommendation at first. I had asked for a place that served pizza and beer and he asked if Italian would be okay. He explained they didn't really have many items with red sauce and yeah, they have some beer. I was picturing loads of fettuccine alfredo with goopy white cream sauce and reminded of when Michael Scott carbo-loads before the "Michael Scott's Dunder Mifflin Scranton Meredith Palmer Memorial Celebrity Rabies Awareness Pro-Am Fun Run Race for the Cure"5K and promptly vomits.

But, the pizza was seriously some of the best I have ever had and the beer selection, while not vast, was a nicely culled collection of local favorites (re: Huntsville IPAs) and national specialties (Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Stout). I always like to err on the side of being really full before a race, especially an ultra, so I loaded up on a donut hole-esque dessert. Also, I just like donuts.

I stopped at a gas station on the way back to fill up my tank, get some cold brew coffee, and a back-up muffin in case there was some tragedy with my overnight oats. Back at camp, I settled into my 0° rated sleeping bag (Everest testing), read a little of David Goggins "Can't Hurt Me", and fell asleep before 10pm. The sleeping bag was beyond warm enough in the 20°-ish degree weather. I actually woke up at one point and had to crawl out of it because I was too warm.

The alarm went off at 6:20am and while I was cozy, I was also ready to get the show going. I changed in the warm bathroom and ate my oats. Just after 7am, I headed to the race start. I double-checked the map and walked about 5 minutes before I realized the trail was not terribly discernible in the winter and panicked that I might be late to the race. I turned around and decided to take my chances to drive up to the lodge. Again, I totally lucked out and parked just outside the entrance on the side of the road with just enough time to stand around and get cold before the start.

Race morning I lined up in the first third of the pack behind the start line. In reading race reports and talking to runners who had raced it, I knew the first 20 miles were pretty runnable and the last 11 or so were tough. This was supposed to be a training run of sorts (though we all know I'm competitive so it's not like I wasn't going to give it my best effort) and I really wanted to just stay relaxed as much as possible.

The first mile was pavement and I was far from warmed up. Everything felt stiff and stagnant and I was annoyed that despite taking it relatively easy, it felt awkward. We hit the fire road and things started to get a little better with softer footing and I tried to just stay with the little packs around me, only passing if necessary in this point. I didn't want to get stuck too far behind once we got to the single track.

People were not really talking much around me at this point, which in retrospect, I guess I was closer to the front of the pack than I thought initially. By the time we reached the single track section and through the first aid station at mile 6.7, I just tried to stay as comfortable as possible. Any time I thought I wanted to pass someone, I gave it an extra minute or two. It's so easy to push in the beginning, but I didn't want to feel like garbage at the end. The course in this section was moderately muddy - bad in some sections, but there was definitely very runnable spots and I did feel like we did a lot of downhill running.

There was some switching around of people at the aid stations as some people stopped for a bit longer. I grabbed a cup of Gatorade, a single pretzel, and kept right on moving. At this point, I was behind 3 females who were bombing the downhills pretty efficiently and I decided to stay in tow.  Once we got into the section I would dub the "Power Line Field", I was relaxed and just enjoying listening to their chatter back and forth about various things.

Once we reached the first climb, dubbed "K2", one of the girls jetted up ahead and while I was tempted to pursue her, I knew it was too early to get caught up in competition. I knew my skills lied in power hiking ups and I'd wait until the final 2 climbs to put on the afterburners. We still had 20+ miles to go.

At the 11.9 mile aid station, I grabbed a cup of Mello Yello and filled up my water flask. I went trotting off down the trail and a few minutes past the aid station, full on Supermanned going up a tiny hill. Apparently I hit the ground with enough impact that runners in both directions asked if I was okay. Yes, yes, just a little blood mixed with hurt pride. My bib completely ripped off and I had to take a few extra seconds to pin it back on. But, once I was back on the trail, I started to feel great! It was like the fall had woken me up.

The next section had a short little climb that led up to a section called "Stone Cuts". Giant slabs of stone with a trail that meanders through them. Runners had to squeeze through narrow cuts and limbo underneath low cave-like areas. It was really, really cool and despite the slowdown, it was pretty awesome to be "running" through natural wonders.

From prior race reports, I learned that if you doubled your time at he mile 17 aid station, that would be the approximate time you could expect for the race. I came in just shy of 3 hours and was then just hoping to hold onto 6 hours. I was feeling a bit peppier in the next section and happy that there was finally a break to run without being so bunched up for a bit. There was a swift little descent full of rocks and then a bunch of muddy trail at the bottom before reaching the aid station just past mile 20. I was tempted to take a shot of Fireball at this aid station, but nothing was going inherently good or bad so I decided to stay with the status quo of Mello Yellow.

The next section was the infamous Railroad Trail, a rocky nightmare of a trail. The only saving grace is that it was relatively flat for a couple of miles, but it seems as though I couldn't get much more speed because the footing was terrible. I got behind a group of guys who were talking like it was the first few miles of the race and let them lead the pack up the Bluffline Trail and the ridiculousness of the Waterline Trail. It is in this section that you use all 4 points of contact to hoist yourself over slippery rocks along a waterfall. Fortunately, I was still feeling spry at this point and my flexibility is fairly decent so I had no trouble with this section. I was laughing at how crazy it was, but I was actually having fun bouldering over rocks. Check out the runners in the top right of the photo below!
Photo credit: Andy Highsmith

At the top of the climb (sweet relief!), I took off down the Bluffline Trail and started to try to make up some time. I wasn't moving super fast, but I was passing a bunch of runners who had gassed out near the 24-25 mile mark. Once we reached the next descent, I started running with John and he nicely explained the final sections and what to expect. The mud was incredibly thick in the flattish section near the water and my tired legs were exhausted by the repeated pull of the muck. I was actually grateful for the climb as it was drier and I could actually gain footing.

We didn't even stop at the last aid station and I noted there was 1.6 miles to go. Glancing at my watch, I saw it was about 5:40:XX. If the aid station sign was correct, I could still slip under 6 hours. Luckily, the trail was pretty flat and runnable at this point and while I didn't have a sense of how far we were, I started to see more hikers out walking their dogs - a sure sign we were closer to the trailhead. John was dealing with a side stitch and urged me to go on when stopped to walk. I stayed with him the first time and we started running again, but then I heeded his advice when stopped again and pushed for the finish solo.

I heard the music of the finish line first and then I spotted the arch as I came around the final bend. I crossed in 5:55:42 according to Garmin. I stepped off to the side and waited to see John finish, giving him a huge high five as he also made it under 6 hours. Eventually, I headed indoors for the warmth and to grab my finisher's slate and age group award, a backpack.



Food/Hydration: B Throughout the race, I ate 2 RX bars, 2 Spring energy gels, and a GU that I picked up from an aid station. I had 1 pretzel rod, 1 Oreo, and an orange slice. My hydration was mostly water, but I also took 1 cup of Gatorade and 2 cups of Mello Yello. The cooler weather made hydration a bit trickier and I think I should carry something with a bit of electrolytes like Nuun or Tailwind for GDR. I was definitely cramping post-race and it took a couple of cups of Sprite and food for it to stop. Also, I could have done a better job hydrating the day before. I avoided it because of the road trip and I think I started the day a bit dehydrated.

Gear: C My bladder in my Camelpack was not secured in some sort of way so I was slowly leaking water for the first couple of miles in the beginning of the race. I think I didn't have the cap seal on flush and it sloshed out from the top. I still was able to drink from it through about 10-12 miles, but then it was just extra weight. I think I'd prefer to just rely on flasks as they are easier to fill. Plus, for some reason, the hose across my chest was SO ANNOYING. To be fair, I kept thinking it was good that my hose was annoying me and not physical pain. But I am going to have to mitigate those minor annoyances.

Half capris were a good choice, probably should have just done a t-shirt and arm warmers. I really only needed gloves for the first couple of miles.

Hoka Torrents proved successful on the mud, rocks, and gnarly trail. I have zero blisters and my Swiftwick socks were a great choice - despite me blowing a hole through the toe of one of them.

Physical Training: A I'm officially in week 5 of my coached training and because this was a training race, I didn't have a true taper. In fact, I just came off my biggest true mileage week in over a year and ran 5 days leading up to the race, including a speed session on Tuesday. So while I am bit disappointed in my time for the race (I was hoping for 5:30 or so), I have to keep in perspective that I was not running on fresh legs and this was not the goal race. I ran a really patient race and fortunately felt the best at the end.

Mental Training: A+ I never hit really high highs or really low lows in this race. The points that I wasn't feeling great really were just when I wasn't pushing on the gas pedal. And while I do love the endorphin rush of the high highs, I think it's actually better that things were just really steady-eddy. The course and the conditions of the trail could have beat me up, but I kept telling myself when it got tough that I like doing hard things. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Setting my own precedence

From Monday:
Most days, running has been going very, very well. I’m hitting paces I dared not to dream possible in some of my workouts and I’m enjoying seeing all the puzzle pieces come together.

Had it not been for the injury, I think I would have just expected things to always be linear and smooth in the next phase of buildup. But having that time off really makes me appreciate seeing the ins and outs of a training block.

For instance, yesterday (Sunday) was complete garbage on my body. My legs actually felt reasonably good after 4 hours and 3500’ of gain on Saturday. But I just felt ragged yesterday. Out of breath. Heart rate jumping. Just slogging through the run. The crazy puppies and fun humans made it tolerable.

And then I think about what I am asking my body to do and it’s pretty miraculous. I asked it to do 2 hard track workouts this week. My 4-minute speed sessions were sub-6 and my 8 minute speed sessions were 6:26 & 6:12. Plus, I ran for 4 hours in the freezing rain on Saturday. So yeah, it’s okay to be tired. That’s what I’m training for.

I look back on my very detailed notes and am glad I kept honest throughout the process. Because this past week, I had a flare up of shin soreness and started to panic. Did I re-injure myself? Is this the old injury that hasn’t quite healed? Is this a new injury and I’m doomed?

I read and re-read my notes. I see I still had random foot pain almost 10 months after the initial problem. Knocks-on-wood, I haven’t felt ANY foot pain since October. Not a peep. I try to remember the wisdom of the doctor and explaining that it was likely I could feel pain upwards of a year at various intervals and while, yes, it could point to something bad, it often is the bone going through various healing points. Add that to the fact that cold weather and lower barometric pressure causes actual physiological changes, and well, here we are folks.

It was after the 2 speed sessions that I felt the most soreness. I did a little bit of rolling with the stick and some self-massage with neuropathy salve. I’m not sure if it did much of anything.

But I woke up Saturday raring to go on the trails and it didn’t seem to bother me one bit on Saturday afternoon or evening. Same thing Sunday?

It seems odd to me that the force of a combined 32 total minutes of speed work during the week (16 minutes each on Tuesday/Thursday) would be more aggravating that a hilly AF trail run for 4 hours.

But maybe not?

In any case, it seems to be perfectly fine today. And it’s a rest day so I’m happily giving all my bones, muscles, & joints a break.

I’m learning to run my easy runs a little easier.

It’s uncomfortable, but that’s part of training. When I think about when it gets hard or I’m starting to waver mentally, I reel it back in with the notion that I can do hard things. I want to do hard things. I want to get uncomfortable.
There is a huge difference between actual injury pain and just being uncomfortable. We spend most our lives in comfort. Heating & air-conditioning. Full bellies. Overstuffed chairs. For millennia, we survived as a species without these things. And don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my creature comforts. But, I do think that there is some merit in the primal feeling of scraping the bottom of your physical ability.

When I think about those track sessions that I loathe so much. It’s because they are hard. But they are hard mentally for me. I feel the pain in my legs and lungs and everything says, hey, dummy, just stop. Or slow down. But if I tune out that little negative voice and let my legs do the work, it’s kind of astonishing how much you can push through.

I like to think about those Survivor challenges where endurance is the gold standard of winning. If you can do X for the longest, you win. And at what point do you allow your body to give up? Few of us get to where we crawl across the finish line. What can your body do if you think you can do it?

It took me over 4 years to go from a 4+ hour marathon to a BQ. And once I broke that barrier, I have had 2 races that I haven’t hit that goal (when I was attempting to). The power of knowing I can is the driving force behind my ability. Every time I notch another hole in that belt, I set my own precedence.

Monday, December 31, 2018

Peace out 2018, ready to #doepicshit in 2019!

2018 just wasn’t my year. And not to say that amazingly wonderful things didn’t happen, it just wasn’t the year I anticipated having.
Sober January. In an effort to try to lower my resting heart rate, clean up my diet, and just take a break from booze, I decided to embark on sober January with a couple of internet friends. There were times that I kind of missed it when I’d go out with friends, but it was not that difficult to commit to overall. That being said, I was happy to return to the world of IPAs in February.
I had some top of foot pain following my races in December (er...2017) and decided to give myself a week’s rest the second week of January. Any niggles of pain I’ve had in the past have generally subsided within a week’s worth of rest. This was different. The pain was still there and despite me backing off my effort and mileage, I decided I needed to see a doctor.
After an initial diagnosis of tendinitis, my PT saw that I wasn’t feeling any improvement and suggested I see a podiatrist. Unfortunately, I was diagnosed with a metatarsal stress reaction and sentenced to a boot.
February was a blur of depression. I couldn’t run, bike, elliptical, row, or walk. For someone who thrives on sweating, this was tough. I ultimately found some YouTube videos that allowed me to work up a sweat from a chair and took out all my aggression on weights.
I re-joined the gym so that I could swim and was allowed to bike early on in the month. Ultimately, I decided to nix the bike because the strap irritated the top of my foot. Despite me spending as many hours cross-training as I do during peak mileage weeks, I felt incredibly out of shape when I came out of the boot.
The first few runs were tentative and my heart and head were in another place with Adam’s mom’s passing. It was the oddest mixture of grief over her loss of life and my own selfish joy being able to run again.
It never was out of the question that I would run Boston. The race, plane tickets, and Airbnb were all paid for and come hell or high water (pun intended), I would be there. I had 3 weeks of weight-bearing training when I toed the line. Fortunately, the misery of the elements nearly outshadowed everything else and I was so numb that even if my foot was in pain (which it wasn’t), I don’t know that I would have been able to feel it.
I thought things were looking up in May, but in retrospect, things just never really clicked. Perhaps I was too overconfident after Boston or too overzealous after 2 months of not running. Either way, I had a couple of good runs and a whole bunch of bad ones. As the month drug on, a soreness in my right tibia started to increase. I managed to eke out a pacing gig for Lauren at CJ100, but that was the last bit of strength I’d feel for months.
Sentenced to the boot again for a tibial stress reaction, I halted all exercise for a week. It was strange. At times, it felt all too easy, but well, it was easy. But at the same time, I craved those endorphins and sweat like a coffee addict needs caffeine. Towards the end of the month, I was working out again, but not with the same gusto I had in the first boot. I was in a funk.
Hot, miserable, and not running. Watching everyone go for big mileage and feeling really sad I was not able to be a part of it. The only good news was that by the end of the month, I was able to remove the boot and start weight-bearing exercise again.
Having somewhat learned from my previous mistakes, I started running again very slowly. I mixed in cross-training to stay fit and really tried to be okay with a slower pace. The doctor told me it would take about 5-6 weeks before things started to feel normal. Lo and behold, I started to notice those little things in both running and in regular life that made me feel more like me again.
I had long ago agreed (actually in sober January) that I would be a part of an Ironman relay team and complete the run leg. Unfortunately, with all of my injuries, I had been on the fence for months about actually committing. But, come the first part of September, I felt like I could complete 13.1 and not do any long-term damage.
It was extraordinarily hot the day of the race and I was honestly glad that I was not in peak racing form or else I would have been pretty upset to go after it in 90°+ at noon. However, I was still pleased to finish in a respectable time of 1:40 and help solidify a 5th place finish for our team.
At the end of September, I returned to Hinson Lake 24 where I completed 23ish miles of running before forcing myself to take a break. After that, I did a little bit more running and then a ton of walking. I ended up with 58 miles total and was happily tired, but not broken.
With the NYC marathon on the horizon, it was time to get serious about trying to get in a few key workouts before the race. Once recovered from Hinson, I looked to get in one 20 mile road run and a few speed work sessions before race day. I knew I didn’t have the same buildup of training in my legs as I had in marathons before the injuries, but I also knew there was something to be said for my first “real” race back and the confidence of having run that fast before.
NYC had perfect weather and everything came together for another BQ. I was aiming for somewhere between 3:20 - 3:30 and ended up with 3:24. Happily, I spent a couple of days resting and then did a reverse taper to get ready for Rehoboth. I didn’t fret when things weren’t clicking right away and just waited for my legs to feel good again to push the pace. I ended up running at the track one night because I didn’t want to mess with my headlamp and ran my fastest 5k and 10k according to my Garmin without looking at my watch for any splits.
Magical Rehoboth gave me a solid, healthy race in which I really didn’t feel like I was redlining the whole time. I knew that a PR was not in the cards for me and even a course PR was going to be nearly impossible. So a happy, healthy BQ? Yes, please!
2018 Goals:
  1. Volunteer/crew/pace > 5 races - check!  
  • Spectate/photos - Suwanee Half Marathon 2.11.18
  • Bib pickup & finisher medal handout - Run Your Bundts Off 5k 2.25.18
  • Crew (...ish) - Blind Pig 100 3.3.18
  • Spectate/photos - Yeti 7/11 3.10.18
  • Aid station volunteer - Umstead 100 4.7.18
  • Pacer - Cruel Jewel 100 5.19.18
  • Spectate/crew - Midsummer’s Night Dream 6.16.18
  • Aid station volunteer - Merrill’s Mile 7.6.18
  • Drop bag transport - H9 Dragon 8.4.18
  • Aid station volunteer/course sweep - Yeti Snakebite 50k 9.9.18
  • Course sweep - Bull Mountain Epic 10.6.18
  • Pacer - Stroll in the Park 11.25.18
  • Crew/pacer - Chattanooga 100 11.30.18
2. Marathon <3:10 - nope
Not even close. 3:24 was my best effort of 2018, but considering the amount of time in the boot, I’m okay with it.
3. 100 mile race (not a 24 hour) - nope
See #2.
4. 200,000 impression on LinkedIn - nope
Not to make excuses, but my workflow was revamped in March and I become only a supplemental contributor by September. So even if we were at 200,000, it wouldn’t really be my work anyway.
5. Master InDesign - nope

See #4. I got better, but my job no longer required me to use it much.
6. 12 new recipes - check!
Extra checks. I stopped keeping track after the first 13. I bought a few new cookbooks and happily found some new recipes to add to my regular repertoire.
7. Read >20 books - check!
33 and counting. It’s funny that it years past, I’ve had the goal of 26 per year and never made it. This year, I lowered my goal and went above and beyond. Best books: Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison, Open by Andre Agassi, and Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking My Way to Victory by Deena Kastor.
8. Prepare financially & physically for Everest Marathon 2019 - check
I slowly accumulated the money I would need to travel and buy gear for my trip. I hit my financial goal a couple of months ago and while I spent a lot of the year physically broken, the last quarter has me feeling much more confident about getting to Base Camp (and back home) in one piece.
9. Camp 2+ nights - not really
I did camp in my tent more than 2 nights. But when I wrote this, I intended to have camping trip that would actually last 2 nights. And all my camping this year has been car camping - where my gear has be extremely accessible. 
10. Finish the Georgia Appalachian Trail - nope
I still have Dick’s Creek Gap to the NC border to finish - a jaunt of 8.9 miles. I did finish the Tray Mountain to Dick’s Creek Gap section in two different hiking trips.
11. Strength or Stretch > 30 minutes weekly - check!
One of the few areas my injury actually helped me reach a goal was getting in strength and/or stretching 30+ minutes a week. I had really gotten away from this after getting into ultras and am happily seeing/feeling how it is benefiting my running and overall fitness.
For 2019, I am excited to tackle a big spring of racing and then see where my heart takes me for the second half of the year. If there is anything 2018 taught me, it’s not taking my health for granted and to roll with the punches. For the first time in my adult life, I have a coach and I'm looking forward to a smart training block to kick of 2019.
Many of my goals for 2019 are running-centrified, but as in 2018, I made sure to include other things to keep me well-rounded - to do things for myself and to do things for others. 
Here’s what I’m aiming for in 2019:
  1. 2019 miles in 2019 - Running miles preferred, but I’ll cut myself some slack if I do a lot more hiking in the second half of the year.
  2. 60 minute stretch/strength/cross-train per week - Some weeks were tough to even get in the 30 minutes in 2018 so this will be a challenge as I bump up to 6 days of running per week. But I’m hoping to incorporate more mini sessions of things like core work and resistance bands.
  3. 2 weeks (Mon - Thu) of meal planning per month - More running leads to more runger which leads to (often) more careless eating. If I can manage to plan for 8 days out of the month, I will hopefully stay a bit more balanced. I’ll take a free pass when traveling for 3 weeks in May.  
  4. Volunteer/crew/pace/spectate 10+ races - It may be tough with my own race schedule, but the goal is to continue to help others achieve their own finish line success stories.  
  5. PR in a distance less than a marathon - Considering all of my PRs in distances less than a marathon are very, very soft, this should be the easiest one to check off. But that also requires me to enter a “short” race and race it.
  6. 100 mile trail run or marathon PR - I’m carrying this over from 2018. It won’t happen this spring so I will look to the fall to see where my heart lies in my training.  
  7. Read 30+ books - I have a minimum of over 50 hours of flying time scheduled for next year. I expect to read less with the uptick in running, but carve out more time by looking at my phone less. 
  8. Call and/or write Grandma at least once per month - She’s 96 and is still 100% lucid. Her self-deprecating humor and never-ending compliments are the best.
  9. One no spend month - Back in 2007, Adam and I were saving for our first house and went on “the house diet”. We severely curtailed all spending to just the necessities and allowed ourselves one meal out per month as a special treat. I’m not saving for anything in particular right now, but I also feel like a no spend month would be good to save a little extra cash and make me think twice about things that I need rather than just want.
  10. Get a check up from all the docs - I’m great about my biannual dentist visits, but am pretty spotty about the regular doctor and eye doctor.
  11. Do something kind once per week - It can be anonymous or not. A large gesture or something small. The idea is to be thoughtful about it when possible and to make someone’s day a little cheerier.  
I hit half my goals in 2018 and while my intention of course was to hit all of them, I am actually feeling really great about what I accomplished. And that’s what I’m looking to do in 2019. Sure, it would amazing to hit them all. But also just having things to aim for is good too. I keep a printout of my goals at my desk at work as a reminder that A) I have a life outside of work and B) to constantly be aware of what I want to achieve.