Stewart Tunnel 50k

Stewart Tunnel 50k

“Fortune favors the bold.” That is the thought I brought with me to the start line on race morning. If we want to get technical, I PR’ed by over 2 hours at the Stewart Tunnel 50k. I also knew going into the race that there was a great chance of a PR on this course due to its relative ease when compared to the Finger Lakes 50k course. I didn’t think it would be a cake walk and I can’t imagine ever considering running 30+ miles to be an easy feat. What mattered was that I felt like I didn’t repeat some of the training mistakes I made last year. I didn’t have as solid a training cycle, missed a couple longer runs, but Nora was certain that I would finish in 8 hours. I just wanted to scoot under 10 so as to feel a bit redeemed from last year. As one would hope of their coach, Nora knew what she was talking about.

All smiles pre race with Lana and Ray

All smiles pre race with Lana and Ray

I highly recommend this race to anyone looking for a great first 50k (or 50 mile, 100k, 100 mile…). I would certainly run it again. The course itself is flat, mostly packed dirt, and beautiful. The aid stations were plentiful, well stocked, and full of amazing volunteers. The weather conditions were a pleasant change from the swelter of North Carolina. Temps started in the 60s and rose to the low 80s, but low humidity. The course had large chunks of shaded area so when the sun was high you weren’t exposed for long. I didn’t think the weather had any impact on my performance, if anything it was a help. Overall the course has lots of trees lining the trail, gorgeous farm land, and of course, a tunnel.

5 miles in, through the tunnel for the first time and headed to aid station 1.

5 miles in, through the tunnel for the first time and headed to aid station 1.

I still have a lot to learn about the 50k distance. I am frustrated that my road marathon times do not come close to translating to the trails. This is not to say that I didn’t expect to be slower on the trails, just not by several hours. I need to figure out what is missing in my training that causes my legs to reach a certain mileage and then crap out on me for the rest of the race. I haven’t experienced this type of fatigue in road running so it is confounding me at the moment, but I have a great team that will help me work it out. What was a bit of a surprise issue for me was my back. The middle area of my back, mostly on the right, got tight and sore after the halfway point and impacted my ability to run for long stretches. I can only assume that I was carrying myself poorly, although it was not an issue during any of my training runs. A bit confounding.

mid-tunnel, taken by a fellow racer. I love this shot!

mid-tunnel, taken by a fellow racer. I love this shot!

I made great strides on the nutrition front this time, having learned from last year’s training and racing. I ate more and ate more often, thanks in part to Nora momming me on the course. She kept handing me things and I kept sticking them in my mouth (TWSS). If I can provide one piece of advice on ultra nutrition, it is this: do not wait to eat until you are hungry. You will be fucked. Start eating as early as you can with as much as you can stomach. You will reach a point later in the race when nothing sounds good and you might not be able to eat, so you will be relying on the calories fuel you hoarded earlier on. I paid the price dearly last year and I didn’t want a repeat of that. Thanks to Nora and the other amazing aid station captains, I had all the food I could stand to eat. Favorites this year included mini pizza rolls and a melty popsicle.

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PRs are a funny thing. I don’t want to take anything away from what I accomplished in Wisconsin but it isn’t really a fair comparison to last year’s race in New York. I think this is one of those things unique to trail and ultrarunning, with courses varying so much in terrain and elevation that it is hard to claim a PR over a given distance. I am still over the moon with how I did and I have not encountered the post race depression that came over me last year. I feel like I am capable of a lot more at the 50k distance and I’m already contemplating races for 2019. If you have a recommendation please let me know. For now I’m switching gears and looking at a road half in November or December.

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Would I do anything differently next time? By this time next year I hope I am not still working two jobs and cramming training. I do not recommend this if you have the option to avoid it. I knew it would be hard, but it was Hard. I didn’t have the same recovery time available after my long runs and I didn’t get the same amount of sleep before my long runs, both of which are, to me, critical to training success. Weekend runs had alarms as early as 4 am followed by 8 hours shifts on my feet. My legs definitely took a beating and I’m hesitant to say that it was all just good time on my feet.

I know this didn’t read as a typical race report but a play by play of the miles just didn’t seem necessary here. Before I wrap up, a few thanks are in order. First, to Ray. To whom I will be nice for 30 seconds. Thank you for finding this race and convincing me to do it. Sharing the training woes from a state away was a challenge but it was also really great knowing I wasn’t going at it alone this time. It was awesome to share this entire experience with a dear friend and seeing you on the course really gave me the energy to keep going. You crushed it and I hope you’re proud of yourself.

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To Beth, for being the best sherpa/spectator/cheerleader/hammock hanger. I’m so grateful you were there this weekend and having you run me in to the finish meant the world to me. Hunter, thank you for wading into the crazy world of dating a distance runner. It took a sacrifice on your part to get me to the start line, and I am so grateful to have your support. To Sarah, Becky, Rose, and Caitlin, thank you for all the miles. We might have done 1 run together this cycle, or we might have done 20, but they were all important to me. Training can feel isolating but when friends show up to share the miles you feel a little less alone.

celebratory brunch!

celebratory brunch!

To Nora. I am writing this three weeks after the race and I’m still struggling to find all the words. In addition to providing countless hours of coaching, you responded to all manner of emotional text messages and generally went above and beyond to get me through this race. You opened your home to me for an entire weekend, for which I was so grateful. Any nerves I had were immediately gone with that first hug! You are a force and a fierce friend. Finally meeting you in person merely solidified the knowledge that I made the right choice to train with you. Thank you seems woefully inadequate. Know that I am forever grateful for everything you do for your athletes. Kiss Roubaix for me.

pre-race jitters!

pre-race jitters!

For those interested in what I wore/used/ate/etc:

Oiselle Flyout tank, team bra, Patagonia underwear, Oiselle long Pocket Jogger Shorts, Stance socks, Mizuno WaveKnit R1

Salomon Advanced Skin 5 Set hydration pack (used the body bottles, no bladder).

My Why

My Why

I don’t know quite where this one is going, it could be a rambling mess so you might want to buckle up. The bottom line is that running isn’t fun anymore. It is hard to put a finger on what is going on because nothing is fun right now. I’m working to address the other areas of my life where I’m less than happy but it is a special kind of hurt when running isn’t going right.

I know that part of the problem is that I’m either running with pain or running with fear of pain appearing at any moment. I’ve had a nagging Achilles issue since at least December, if not earlier. And like a good runner I paid it minimal attention and ran through it. Like an idiot. Bottom line, money is crazy tight and I don’t have the extra cash to spend on PT. I just don’t. And I know I’m paying a different kind of price right now for making that decision. However, I don’t think the constant uncertainty of my running is the issue.

I think the problem is that I lost my Why. I know that running is a part of my identity so I’ll never stray far from it, but it worries me that I feel aimless and without purpose about something that I believed was at my center. I did my best to push through what felt like a bump in the road but I think I’m off in the weeds. I maintained a base to get me across two finish lines this year but I didn’t feel connected to either. I was relieved to have them behind me and nothing in front of me.

I am signed up to pace a lap of the Umstead 100 in just a few short weeks. I had such a great experience last year that it seemed like a no brainer to do it again. But now I’m just a bundle of nerves. Will my body hold up to get my runner through those 12.5 miles? Will briefly committing to seeing someone else to their Why be enough? I don’t know. Should I back out now? Maybe. I feel like I could disappoint someone either way.

Nothing sounds good. No race stirs that joy and excitement in me. A good workout or run doesn’t bring the same pride. A small smile and a shrug, on to the next. I took 9 days off and I didn’t miss running. I almost dreaded getting back into it. The pain hadn’t left and the joy hadn’t come. So, what do I do? Take a longer break? Try something new? I wish I knew. I don’t feel tethered to anything...slipping through my own fingers.

I’m getting the Achilles checked out next week with hopes of receiving temporary relief and marching orders for more permanent healing that can be done at home. The physical body is so much easier to handle than the emotional one. I can’t present it to someone smarter than me, bend or shape it just so, and be on my way. I worry that if I don’t find my Why soon that I’ll just…disappear. I know that Why shifts and changes with time, but never have I had it go away so completely. How isolating it is see others out on their miles, Why tucked safely in their pocket and wondering why not me?

I wish I had answer or a direction of some kind. I keep showing up but it isn’t enough. I lean on my coach and my friends but it isn’t enough. Everyone needs a Why and mine is gone. It happened slowly but with certainty. Just gone.

The Next Right Thing

The Next Right Thing

There is a small dry erase board that hangs on the back of my front door. It has a five word phrase on it that my old therapist used to say to me when things got hard. “Do The Next Right Thing.” When I got overwhelmed and anxious and scared she would encourage me to focus on that. Do the next right thing, whatever that thing might be. Take your meds. Brush your teeth. Eat a healthy snack. Drink a glass of water. Nothing huge, nothing earthshattering on its own, but one good thing to build on the next and that was how I got through the minutes and hours and days where I just wanted to quit. Where the mental illness threatened to take my life. I never questioned its efficacy and I have certainly passed it on to others I care about when they are in similar circumstances.

What struck me for the first time a few days ago was that I’d taken it to heart in a different way. Do The Next Right Thing has become Do The Next Expected Thing. Put your head down, get through the work day, cram that run in, meet every obligation. Ignore the unhappiness, the stress, the burnout, the doubt. Just keep moving forward and believe that something will change without actually taking steps to make a change. I’ve been slogging through life, operating at a baseline of unhappiness for months now. Months. And I’ve been telling myself that it is just temporary, that I need to be patient, that things will get better. Wait it out. I don’t need to quit my job. I don’t need to change my meds. I don’t need to take a break from running. I don’t need to end that relationship. Somehow I’ve convinced myself that things will better if they stay exactly the same. Huh?

What kind of crap logic is that? I don’t know when I internalized this, but I did. I still rely on this mantra of sorts to get me through individual days, hours, minutes, as needed. But it should not have warped and wormed its way into my brain as an acceptable way to cope with situations, relationships, or circumstances that do not serve my health. I can’t concentrate. I don’t read anymore. I can’t focus on tv shows or movies. Minor tasks require major energy. I mindlessly scroll through apps on my phone looking for God knows what. All I want to do is sleep and I spend my evenings waiting for it to be an acceptable time to crawl into the refuge of my bed and just hope tomorrow will be better.

You would think that in processing this that I would have a major announcement to make. Nope. I’m not quitting my job. I’m not signing up for a big race. I’m not walking away from unsatisfactory relationships. I’m not moving. I’m not Kondo-ing my closet. I’m just sitting here frustrated and confused and tired. I don’t know what to do next. I don’t know what to change. I don’t know what I want so how can I move towards that right space/place/person? The only thing I can think of to do is to ask for help. To go back to counseling. Sigh.

All this unhappiness and dissatisfaction in every aspect of my life has got to stop. Honestly, I think the fact that my life is ruining running for me is what is making me put my foot down. You’d think it would be the grief that would drive me back to counseling, but it isn’t. That, in comparison to everything else, is manageable. Running has been my main coping mechanism for years but it only worked when i was coping with one challenge. Not a fire on every front. Even running has a limit and I’ve reached it. Doing the work doesn’t bring me joy. Getting out the door is a battle. Seeing the miles on my plan spikes my anxiety. Sometimes the thought of tackling a long run brings me to the brink of tears. I just can’t. I’m so tired. My legs can’t carry me anymore and I shouldn’t have expected them to for so long. I’m angry with myself for letting it get this far out of control.

What I do need to brace myself for is that things will not get better overnight. I might not connect with this hew person. That does not mean that counseling won’t help or that I won’t connect with anyone. I do despise the irony of the situation, that I need to be patient and persistent at a time when my resources for doing so are at their lowest. I’m not excited about this development. I’m not. I’m resigned to the fact that it is the best thing I can do for myself in the circumstances that I am in with the resources I have available. I’m not fucking Wonder Woman. Sometimes being strong isn’t bearing it all for eternity. I don’t have that kind of time and I don’t want to waste any more of it feeling this miserable. So I’m taking this step, like I’ve taken thousands of others before it. One foot in front of the other, hoping for actual progress.


Ringing in and sending out

Ringing in and sending out

2019 is here. I’ll spare you my annual “I don’t do resolutions because…” rant. I honestly haven’t sat down and thought about goals, aspirations, intentions or however else you want to frame it. I’m not sad to see this year go, but I don’t think I’ve ever had a “wow what a great year!” feeling either. 2018 was my first full year living in NC and I’m feeling settled in. Comfortable. I accomplished goals in some areas of my life yet struggled in others. I don’t really have any clarity yet on what I want 2019 to be but I’m not feeling pressured to figure it out either. I was so gung ho and focused in 2018 that this feels like a welcome change. Breathing room. Potential.

I did gain a little perspective at a yoga class this past Friday night. The teacher had us flow into warrior two and asked us to think of anything we’d want to bring into the new year with us. She had us move our arms as if pulling back the string of a bow and then letting it go, sending what we wanted ahead of us into 2019. Surprisingly, a few things came to mind. Three, specifically. As someone who forgets their intention 30 seconds after they set it at the beginning of class, I was surprised that these both came to mind and settled in right away.

Courage. I have come to learn in the past two years that I am stronger than I ever gave myself credit for. I don’t think that I often had a choice to be anything other than strong, but strong I was. I also made brave choices and showed up to see what happened, regardless of self doubt. I want to carry that courage into 2019. Expand it to other spaces in my life where I could be braver. Stand up for myself. Advocate for myself. Practicing courage should serve me well as I try to tackle the next item on my list.

Confidence. This will be the tough one. Queen of self-deprecation that I am, most of it comes from a place of self-doubt and self-loathing. I put myself down at work. I downplay my contributions to my team. I’m mean, bordering on cruel, to my mind and body. This year I learned that I am capable of more than I expect from myself. I’ve also learned from others how valued I am at work and as a friend. I’m beginning to understand what my strengths are and I want to continue to move into them. Full disclosure: I’ve already put myself down today while out on a run. It is so engrained in me to play small, to apologize for taking up space, being slow, being soft, having a heart. I think this could be quite the battle.

Curiosity. This is going to be fun. I spent a good chunk of 2018 outside of my comfort zone and it was well worth it. I have new things I want to try in 2019, in racing and in other experiences. I think as adults we find joy in the curiosity children, in their process of discovery. But being curious doesn’t have an age limit. It shouldn’t. The idea of no longer being curious about anything makes me sad, whether it is as simple as where a trail might lead to next or as big as wondering where my career will lead me. The unknown can be scary but wow can it be exciting too. It is actually breaking a smile across my face as I write this.

That’s it. I don’t have an A race on the calendar. I don’t want to run a set number of miles or lose a certain number of pounds. I’m hoping to continue feeling some of the peace I received late in 2018. I plan to laugh a lot, cry a little, and love hard. I’m sure that races and other goals will solidify in the coming weeks and months but for right now, this is where I am. Courage. Confidence. Curiosity.

Onward.

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What's Next?

What's Next?

I’ve spent the last couple of months doing a lot of the things I’d been missing during training. Reading books and sitting at the pool. A yoga class or two. Seeing friends and sleeping in on a Saturday. All the small things we willingly sacrifice in the relentless pursuit of a goal. I thought that I would look forward to having a little bit of flexibility back into my life as this training cycle pushed my personal tolerance level of busyness. Now that I have had that time and space I find myself in a different type of discomfort.

I’ve been telling myself and others that I don’t need to decide what’s next just yet. That maybe I’ll do a half later in the fall, maybe a 5k here and there to test my fitness. Honestly, it was more about what I thought I should be saying rather than what I actually believed. The idea of another all-consuming ultra training cycle sounded exhausting, but I couldn’t get excited about training for anything shorter either. The summer weather conditions here in NC are a daily reminder of why I chose to train through the winter and spring, and are keeping me inside with the AC when I should be running. But the weather is just a convenient excuse.

It was clear after a self-pitying rant on my Instagram story that things were coming to a head. Kind words from several friends and a frank chat with Nora helped me realize what was going on. Post-race blues, sure. But that wasn’t all. I can't keep life at arm's length anymore. 

I keep telling myself that I will feel differently when Fall finally arrives. Come September I found myself anxiously anticipating Fall, which is quite the 180 from this time last year. What I’ve come to realize as the month flew by is the truth behind why I want to embrace fall with open arms. It isn’t to fall back in love with the things that used to make this time of year so magical for me. It is so that I can throw myself headlong into training again, without as much of the summer suffering, so that I can stop feeling again. Stop thinking about anything extraneous to training and basic existence.

Mark’s transition day is coming and I can already feel grief building up in the depths of me. I want to be deep into a training cycle come November 15 so that I can exhaust myself in some other less painful way. I haven’t found meaning and purpose in my life outside of training. I just haven’t. I struggle with why I am still here. Work is unfulfilling and that is the other big demand on my time besides running. One of those two things need to mean something to me or I will just slowly slip away.  

I realize that this epiphany of sorts comes with questions. Additional signs. It asks if I need to get back to therapy. If I need to learn how to experience my grief without being overwhelmed by it. It points out that any day my body could break down and I won’t be able to run and THEN WHAT. I am not running much right now, but by choice. What would happen to me if I woke up tomorrow and couldn’t? I don’t want to think about it but maybe I should. For someone who so meticulously executes a training plan, I am incredibly half assed about everything else, including my mental health. My most precious resource. At some point, that comes at a cost.

I don’t know what happens next. I’m not committing to taking steps towards anything, racing or otherwise. I’m not ready to do more than write these words. I guess I just didn’t want to curl up with this anymore. I don’t want to start grinding away again and have people think something other than the truth. I’m tired of hiding something broken behind the miles.

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Finger Lakes 50k 2018

Finger Lakes 50k 2018

I started writing this post on the plane ride home from New York, 48 hours after the race and yet here we are in September, still unfinished. I'm in the midst of what is commonly called the post-race blues and I think finishing this report as well as writing a few other posts will help me to move forward in training and in my life. Some days it still doesn't seem real that I finished. 33 miles. But I did and here is how it went down. 

waiting at the start. why didn't someone tell me my pack was crooked?!

waiting at the start. why didn't someone tell me my pack was crooked?!

I had a few mantras going into the race that I had also used over the course of my training. I've used mantras in the past and with great success, so I recommend trying it if you haven't before. Mantras are pretty personal, but what worked for me were short phrases I could easily call to mind and felt natural to say internally and out loud. The first was Show Up. Much has been made of Desi Linden's words of wisdom and all of it is warranted. I've been using this one for several months and it has paid dividends. You truly never know what will happen on race day and so much of it is out of your control, so dammit just show up. Another comes from ultra runner Devon Yanko, Work The Problem. This one is useful when things aren't going to plan. It forces me to move past the feeling I'm experiencing and think practically about what can be done to resolve the particular situation. Do I need to eat? Do I need fluids? Do I need to walk? It dials down the emotion and ups the feeling of control I have over the experience. If you tend to get stuck in your head when things head south, try that one out. Lastly, and probably my favorite, Fit Strong Brave. This one is my of my own making and something that came to me as I was reflecting on a challenging week of training. I thought about what I wanted to feel like and believe about myself. What others have told me they see in me that I want to cultivate. When I got tired or started to doubt myself, I pulled this out. 

The other part of my mental race plan involved thinking about two ultra runners that I find motivating, Hillary Allen and Kaci Licteig. If you are familiar with ultras, you know these ladies well. If you don’t, here’s a quick explanation (I highly encourage you to read their blogs, and any recent articles about Hillary's recovery from a near fatal fall while mountain running). Quite simply, Hillary runs with so much joy. I’ve never seen anyone else with a more genuine love of this sport. She always has a huge smile on her face and approaches all of her running adventures with a sense of wonder. Kaci is a tiny powerhouse. She is also the most humble runner I’ve seen, and runs with gratitude in all circumstances. She sees ultra running as a gift, not a given. I wanted to carry those qualities of these women with me on race day. I wanted to remember joy when it got difficult. I wanted to take in the natural beauty when I started to get bogged down with the clock. I wanted to remind myself how lucky I am that I can run, that I can run far, and that I didn’t get here alone.

So, race day. The Finger Lakes 50k is a two loop course of 16.5 miles. Mostly single track with small patches of bridle path and a tiny spit of road. I hoped for a steady effort through loop one, learning the course and conserving energy for what I expected would be the harder second loop. Where the WORK would really be done. Surprisingly, in many ways loop one was the hardest for me. It is where I realized what I’d gotten myself into. What the day would likely feel like. How long I'd be out there (spoiler alert: longer than I wanted to be). Where the anxiety and fear tried to creep in. I kept hearing myself saying “I don’t know how I’m going to finish this.” Nora and I never discussed time goals for the race, it was always about the finish itself, but I was hoping for something in the 7-8 hour range if everything came together just so. I knew by mile 7 that it was not possible. I started doing the math, thinking about the two cutoffs I had to meet. Knowing the second lap would absolutely take longer than the first. The main issue was the course itself. The race is notoriously muddy but I was not prepared for the extent of it. Deep, shoe sucking mud the width of the trail that forces you not just to slow down but to premeditate every step to prevent slipping, injury, falling, etc. Mile splits quickly dropped to 16, 17, 18 minutes. 

all.the.mud. 

all.the.mud. 

Honestly, it was frustrating and a bit demoralizing. But it was also what the course was giving me that day and every runner had to deal with it. I kept reminding myself that everyone was suffering. Slow down, step carefully, push on the clearer spots, keep moving forward. I spent a lot of loop one wondering how I was going to finish loop two. When I came into the start/finish line for a pit stop, I was wondering it aloud to my parents. Wisely, I'd already told them that they were not allowed to let me stop unless I was bleeding profusely or bone was protruding from my skin, so quitting was never discussed. The pit stop was all business. Fresh socks. Fresh shirt. Eat this. Drink that. On you go. It wasn't that I didn't think I could do it, I truly just wondered what it would take. How it would shake out. What was the story I would have to tell. 

loop one done. photo cred: mom!

loop one done. photo cred: mom!

This is also the biggest lesson I took away from both training and racing my first ultra. I don’t need to know how I’m going to do accomplish in order to actually do it. It was going to happen. I was going to finish. I had no idea how but somehow that became irrelevant. It takes as long as it takes. Don't wait to start something because you don't know how you will finish it. You will. Just start. On to loop two. 

Loop two was easier in that I knew what to expect. I knew where the mud was and that it was likely worse for having had another round of feet stampede through it. I knew where the aid stations were. I knew what the climbs were like. My focus narrowed considerably, and without effort on my part. My brain knew what needed to get done and it shut out extraneous information. Hike. Stretch. Eat. Keep moving forward. Fuck the clock.

Some of the nutritional challenges that I had during training were managed early. At one point I was so tired that I just wanted to lie down on the course. I was falling asleep on my feet and texted my mom to tell her. She was less than thrilled with the idea of my taking a nap, as expected. So? Work the problem. I suspected that I was starting to bonk so consuming calories became priority one. Sure enough, about 30 minutes and various snacks/drinks later, I was much more alert. Miles 27-33 are hard to describe. As you may have noticed, those are the miles after 26.2. After what is already known and experienced. So far into the race and yet not feeling like I could say I was close to finishing. Reaching that final aid station with about 3 miles to go, having dug deeper than I thought possible, is where I also felt strangely calm. It was going to happen. I'm going to finish this. 

one of the cow pastures scattered throughout the course

one of the cow pastures scattered throughout the course

I could hear the finish with about a half mile to go but wasn't sure at the time how close I was. I didn't want to push with what I had left only to find out I had at least a mile to go. Only when the grassy pond area fed into a familiar looking wooded trail did I really pick it up and RUN for that line. For the music and the voice calling your name as you approach the timing mat. For the family jumping from their chairs, racing to meet you, cowbells clanging in the air. For the opportunity to leap over the line and smash the bell hanging above you to commemorate the magic you just made. Ultra runner. 

In the hours and days since, one thing I realized that I risked and am proud of is how I went after this ultra 100%. The potential for failure was certainly there and because I’ve been pretty transparent with my training it would have been a public face plant. How scary is that? I’m glad that didn’t really occur to me until after the fact, honestly. If I had not finished, at least I could look back at the past six months and know it was not for lack of trying. Race day is unpredictable and a finish is never guaranteed. There are too many variables that will always be outside your control. You just need to be brave enough to give yourself over to the process. To what you can reasonably control. And own it when you have some gaps.

There is certainly room for improvement from this experience. I didn’t strength train as much as I should have, period. I was incredibly lucky not to have any injuries, but I also had niggles and issues that regular preventative work may have avoided. I also let my ego and how I value the clock decide my training run choices, and I paid for it on race day. I should have spent a lot more time on technical single track, since it made up the majority of the course but I was too self-conscious about how long the training runs would take and a bit scared of how hard it would be to do them week after week. I focused on the quantity of the miles, rather than the quality. I knew prior to race day that it would be a weakness but I felt too far into the training cycle to be brave enough to do anything about it.

I learned more than I thought possible about long run nutrition and feel a lot more confident about applying that knowledge to my next race. Most importantly on this matter, be flexible. Do not get stuck in a "just this gel, just this drink, just this chew" cycle. Your body will change its mind without notice (even during training) and trying as many different things as possible will teach you what your body can tolerate come race day. For whatever reason, on race day, all my body wanted was Pringles and watermelon. I tried a few other things at aid stations and was gagging and spitting things out on the trail. Except for Pringles and watermelon, neither of which I had trained with but both of which tasted amazing and caused zero GI issues. Who knew?! The gut wants what it wants and I chose not to fight it. 

Race day reveals all, the good and the bad. It strips you bare and leaves you with there with your naked self for hours at a time with no choice but to look. To stare and judge. To break apart and put back together. To wonder and admire. To accept and persevere. I accepted nothing less than relentless forward progress and received a finish line in return. I'm sure there will come a time when giving everything won't be enough but that was not the case this day. Humbled. Grateful. Onward. 

Weeks 24-26: TAPER

Weeks 24-26: TAPER

Tapering has been a welcome time. I am honestly ready to be done training. I'm tired. I miss having free time and flexibility in my schedule. I think that is a pretty common feeling to have when training for anything over a long period of time. My anxiety has still been eating at me, and I know having this race over with (great mindset, right?) will chill it out a bit. It did not help that I had a last minute work trip to Boise, Idaho for 4 days. As much as I can get bored with my routine, I really value the structure and disruptions like that ramp up my anxiety a bit more. 

I tend to worry about the flights (delays, lost luggage, plummeting to my death), how I tend to eat like shit when I travel, the stress of making sure I don't miss any training, and of course leaving my little furkids. Never mind that this is a cool work opportunity, I get to explore a new place on my runs, and the cats are always fine with their sitter (who they probably like more than me). The human brain is a fascinating and occasionally infuriating mystery.

I posted a lot of Idaho pictures in my IG feed, but the short story is that I loved running there. It was hot but not humid (OMG BLISS), the scenery was beautiful, and there were so many options within a mile of my hotel. Paved riverwalk, sand trails, you name it. I would definitely like to go back to Boise on my own time to explore more. As much as the trip was a disruption for me, it was also a shot of enthusiasm back into my training. I enjoyed my runs and looked forward to what I'd see that day. Much needed. 

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Week 24 summary: 
Miles scheduled: 32
Miles ran: 32
Time on my feet:  6:21:34

EFFING TREADMILL. That is really how I'd sum up week 25. The weather was unforgiving, both in heat and humidity, so I opted to do two of my runs (each 6 miles) on the treadmill. As much as I struggle on the treadmill, I know I'd suffer more outside. Case in point, I did 5 miles outside on Thursday evening and had to stop at a stranger's house midway through for ice and water. I was desperate. My usual routes don't have a lot of shade and I felt myself cooking from the inside out. It was highly unpleasant and I am super grateful for the woman who helped me out. She actually thanked me for asking her, which I found funny. I must have looked pretty rough. 

I did start to pay attention to the weather forecast for next weekend, and I'm not happy. After what seems like endless temps in the 70s, the race site will be experiencing a heat wave with temps in the mid to high 90s. Starting on race day. I mean, really? REALLY? It is hard not to worry when I see that, knowing how I have fared on my long runs here in NC with that weather. Being used to it and being acclimated to it are two different things. I would not say that I have acclimated to those conditions yet. Race day will be what it will be. I can't control the weather but I'll use the forecast to inform how I approach the race that morning, as well as dialing in my fueling strategy. Nora has told me that the outcome is already determined, so I just need to show up and see what happens. One week to go. 

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Week 25 summary: 
Miles scheduled: 30
Miles ran: 30
Time on my feet:  6:12:59

Race week! No race recap details here, that comes soon. Pretty low non-race mileage. One last massage to get the kinks out. I flew to NY bright and early Thursday morning and had most of the day to just relax. My sister surprised me and drove up (with my BIL and nephew!) to support me. They won't be coming up to the race itself (1.5 hrs away plus trying to occupy a 5 year old boy for however many hours it would take me to run) but wanted to be with me in person as much as they could. I was so surprised and so happy. I've been really nervous, wondering if and how I will finish, but being surrounded with people who know how hard I worked and believe that I will finish helps to convince me of what is possible. 

I had a great shakeout run Friday morning with my Dad and sister before we packed up and headed to the hotel and packet pickup. Going up the afternoon before the race helped to see where the start/finish line would be, as well as get a peek at portions of the course. I saw what the trail markings looked like and could scout out a place for my parents to set up basecamp. It definitely started feeling real once the bib was in my hands. All that was left was to grab an early dinner and head back to the hotel to prep, followed by what would be a fitful night of sleep and a very early wake up call. Finger Lakes 50k, here I come!

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Week 26 summary: 
Miles scheduled:  45ish
Miles ran: 46.72
Time on my feet:  2:41:44 (non-race) 10:03:36 (race time) 12:45:20 total