Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Time on my feet

It was another good weekend with some good mileage on the MMT course on Saturday. Going into the planned run, I had reservations about this section. Because I was at such a low during this point in the race, I don't look forward to training on it.

When I ran from Woodstock to Powells Fort, I had a bit of a "that was it?" moment as it seemed to take forever during the race. When your feet feel like they've been smashed and the last thing you want to do is take another step, of course it will feel like forever to get from one aid station to the next. I didn't remember a lot of the terrain, course, or the area, but maybe it was a good thing. It was also very foggy, so I couldn't enjoy much of the scenery around me, but I'll save that for another day. I'm sure I'll hit this section at least two more times.

Powells Fort up to the turn onto the blue blazed Tuscarora trail is very run able, so I ran it. I ran at a pace that I would love to manage race day, but I just didn't want to push it. Mentally, I wasn't looking forward to the climb up Tuscarora to Meneka because I dreaded the 4 mile descent. Already I was thinking of bagging the rest of the run and ending it at the Elizabeth Furnace parking lot after 12.7 miles. I was thinking about some aches and pains and how my feet were already bothering me, and I just didn't want to face the climb up to Shawl Gap. I finally decided to do it, and just gutted it out. It's about a 2.5 mile climb that took me 49 minutes. I think it took me over an hour on race day. If I can get it down a bit more, I'd be happy. It was nice to get to the top and run a section of the Massanutten Trail that I've never run before. It was another 2.3 miles to the next turn, but it was absolutely gorgeous out. The fog had been heavy most of the day, and it just crawled across the ridge and opened up the valley. There was a small layer of snow on everything, and everything was untouched - ground, trees, rocks. I had to stop and take it all in. I tried to get a picture with my phone, but it's not the greatest quality. It was just beautiful and I'm glad I decided to continue the run or else I would've missed it.

I thought I missed the turn onto Sherman Gap trail, but I didn't and enjoyed a nice, rocky downhill run for 2.6 miles. I'm thinking of doing the Elizabeth Furnace Fat Ass 50K on 3/15, where I'll be climbing this section. I'm sure it make me a stronger climber, but I'm still on the fence about doing it or not. I covered the section from Shawl Gap to Sherman Gap to Botts Trail and back to the parking lot in about the time I thought I would. Granted, my GF cut her hike short and had been waiting for me for 2 hrs, but that's another story.

All in all, I got in about 21 miles in 5:45. On Sunday I headed up to Sugarloaf Mountain and did an easy 5 mile hike. The legs were sore as were the feet, but nothing a good Epsom salt soak and a rub down couldn't cure.

I still feel slow and that I'm not moving like I should. What that means, I'm not sure, but I just feel like I don't have good flexibility in my hips and that I'm running with a very low leg lift. Basically, I feel like it looks like I'm "jogging" and not running.

There's plenty of running to do in the next couple of weeks with the following events coming up:

March 1 - Seneca Greenway Trail Marathon
March 8 - MMT Training Run #3 (20-30 miles)
March 15 - Elizabeth Furnace FA 50k (?)
March 22 - Chocolate Bunny 50k (night run from 211 to Woodstock + an out/back)
March 29 - HAT Run 50k

I'm looking forward to the time on the trails and the time on my feet.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

More Miles

It was another great weekend to get in some good miles and to end a peak week of training on a good note.

For awhile now, I have been struggling to get on a program. I usually just go out and run (or not) and then figure out the mileage later. On Friday, I finally took the time (at work, of course) to finalize a training schedule to carry me to MMT. And I write this now as I enjoy my rest week :D

This past weekend was the end of a peak week for me. I had a good week of workouts and runs leading up to it. It was also my first big test with a 25 mile training run on the MMT course. We covered the section from Camp Roosevelt to Gap 1 and over to Moreland (8.4 miles), then hit Short Mtn over to Edinburg (8.2), and the final - long! - stretch over to Woodstock Tower (8.2). I didn't remember the section from Camp Roos up to the of the Gap Creek trail, but did remember the section that decendes into Gap I/II aid station. I was happy with how well I moved on my way to Moreland, and I knew they'd be surprised to see me arrive when I did. I don't like the climb up to Short Mountain, but I don't mind running at the top. I'm becoming a better rock runner.

When I got to Edinburg, a number of the other runners came in soon after me. This was very frustrating. I thought I was moving well, but obviously not well enough. I tried to make it a quick stop at the aid station where I got more CarboPro, changed shoes, and made sure to get enough water before hitting the trail again. I was passed early on and spent a lot of time on this section looking behind me. Why was I so worried about being passed on a training run? I ran this section at 630am on the second day of the race last year, and it bothered me as much Saturday as it did race day. Since I've already ingrained in my brain that I don't like this 8.2 miles to Woodstock, I feel like I have to keep running it until it becomes familiar.. until it becomes likeable.. until I know every rock and root.. until I can cover it in the time I think I should be able to cover it race day. That section is "the wall" and I have to mentally be ready to run through it in May.

I was passed one more time and then passed the guy who passed me as I left the aid station. I was happy with my 'unofficial' time of 6:45. There are a lot of takeaways from the run. I know I'm becoming a stronger climber and runner, but I'm still too tentative on the downhills.

On Sunday, my GF and I went out to Prince William Park. Parking at Turkey Run, I ran the 10 mile course of the EX2 Backyard Burn trail run. I expected to do it in about 1:45 with sore legs from the day before, and that's about what I did. My GF was hiking west on the South Valley Trail then picking up some trail on the north end that I can't think of right now. I came at the junction of Burma Road and Old Black Top Road, then ran a bit more to meet up with her before hiking back. My legs were feeling it and I couldn't wait to get off my feet.

I'm looking foward to more weekends like this. Eventually I'll be up to a marathon to a 50k distance run Saturday followed by a 10-15 miler Sunday. I'm working with 2 different brands of shoes now and hope to get a 3rd to throw into the mix. I have an idea of how I'll alternate them on the course, but that could all change race day. I want to be as prepared as possible.

Also, since I started paying better attention to what I eat and just being more focused in general on my training, I'm feeling stronger mentally and physically. After all that climbing on Saturday, I know I have a lot of strength to gain in my legs; my glutes especially. I'm still not picking up my feet and want to work on my foot turnover.

There are so many takeaways from each run and so much to try to improve on with each run, with each yoga session, with each core exercise, with each kettlebell swing, and with each nap I take with my feet soaking in a tub of Epsom salt. There are also more miles to cover.. and I can't wait to cover them this weekend.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

I'm not in small town Michigan anymore

I can't say that I live in a safe part of DC, nor is it really a bad part of DC. Like any city; everyplace has its 'sketch'.

In the 5 years that I've lived in DC, I have never had a problem with crime. During that time, I would take the Metro probably 95% of the time that I go out, and I would walk the 2 blocks from the metro to where I live. Most of the time, this walk id done alone, in the dark of night, and with my earphones in, hands stuffed in my pocket, and head down. I would read in the condo-wide newsletter and crime blotters about crime in the area, but I never paid attention to it. I guess I've just been a bit naive.

On Sunday, I finally had my first run in of sorts. Coming back from grocery shopping and picking up a movie, my GF and I came up out of the parking garage and into the courtyard where we were met by a 13 yr old boy standing near the steps by our corner unit. He asked us something that we couldn't understand, then asked again, "Give me your bags". Of course we said 'no', then he said, "Then give me some money." I turned to him and asked "What?", whereas he approached me and repeated, "I said, give me some money". My GF went inside to get her dog while I, trying to be all butch and tough, walked toward him, and basically chest bumped him, in a half hearted attempt to get him away from us. He started to back up when I said I was going to call the cops, and said it was 'too late' as he started to run away. I dialed the front desk to see if they could get a hold of the security guard who we had just seen as we came out of the parking garage. My GF was out with the dog and heading in the direction of where he ran toward while I stayed on the phone with the woman at the front desk.

The kid wasn't caught and I think the security guard was too busy talking on his cell phone to go after the kid, who had left the grounds, but it did rattle me a bit. He was sitting 20 ft from our front door; luckily there's a fenced in front area, but it's not locked during the day. He knows where we live, and my GF has seen him in the area before. It was probably stupid of me to approach him like I did, and next time, I'm sure there will be a next time, he could have a weapon.

This is obviously something I won't tell my mother since she's always worried about her girls living in the big city. Yes, he was just a kid, but the outcome could've been worse. I need to be more aware of my surroundings and how I react. Maybe I've become oblivious to the crime in my area and adopted the 'it can't happen to me' attitude. It can, and I got a taste of it.. and it scared me.

Friday, February 15, 2008

The Purge

I am a pack rat. I love "stuff". I print out "stuff", I keep "stuff", and I have waaaaaayy too much of said "stuff".

So I'm purging.

In more ways than one.

My company is moving to Columbia, MD in a little over 3 months. Like me, there are others in my company who have a lot of stuff, but the company doesn't want to ship everyone's stuff. If you look closely at it, it's junk. It's not stuff. There is no value to it.

AHA! But there is!... isn't there??

See, that's the mindset. We need to keep it. We need the documentation. And as soon as we get rid of it, we'll need to reference it.

Uh huh. No more. So we're purging. They're bribing us to get rid of our crap with the promise of a happy hour. The floor who gets rid of the most crap (by weight) wins a 'free' happy hour. That is a pretty good deal since the people here love to drink.. and eat.. and drink more.

I've been with the company since 2002 and had stuff from that long ago as well as a few things from the guy who used the filing cabinet before me. Some of those items included a performance review and a copy of his signed acceptance letter (including salary) when he joined the company in 2001. Gone. I had about 10 binders of documentation of everything I've billed from 2004 until now. Trash. Anything that wasn't dated mid-2006 to Present was junked. *Wiping hands.. tapping the 'Easy Button'*

So why can't everything be this easy?

How come I can't go through my files at home, my stack of race T-shirts, or my other "stuff" and get rid of it so effortlessly? I don't need the promise of a happy hour; it's the fear of possibly needing it as soon as I get rid of it. I had that same feeling with my storage unit until I called 1-800-Got-Junk 2 yrs ago. I paid the $$ and almost shed a tear as they tossed around and tore up my coffee tables and other items I'd been 'saving for when I find the right place'. That was my stuff. But it was just that.. stuff.. with a lot of sentimental value attached to it. To this day, I couldn't tell you what all was in that 10x10 unit, and I don't really miss it.

I couldn't tell you all the race shirts I have, so why hold on to them any longer? They are taking up space. All those training articles and printouts that I want to save and read.. will be outdated in a few months. I'm looking for something to make the purge easier.

Along with getting rid of excess 'stuff' in my life, I'm trying to get rid of excess food in my diet. It's probably good timing with Lent occurring during the middle of my training, but I'm hoping to abstain until after my race. I'm trying to avoid sweets, candy, chocolate, desserts, etc from now until Easter. Yes, I have a weakness for a pint of ice cream from time to time, and a Snickers bar during a training run, but I know that avoiding those things *should* help me drop weight, which *should* help me out on the course.

Lugging around 170 lbs gets tiring after 36 hours, and I'm hoping cutting weight will equate to cutting time.

Let the purge begin.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Weekend Workouts

My goal for the next 3 months and 4 days is to get out to George Washington National Forest every weekend. It is a must. I started off the month of February, and ended January, on a good note. The weekend of Jan 26-27, it's almost surprising to say that on that weekend I hit the trails for the first time since MMT 2006. I followed it up with the Uwharrie on Feb 2nd and taking a break on Sunday to travel.

This past weekend, I got in another couple of good runs. Knowing the weather was supposed to be worse on Sunday, we decided to head out west on Saturday and stay closer to home on Sunday. On Saturday, we headed out to GWNF and picked up the Massanutten South Trail just west off Luray off of 211. This parking lot is Aid Station #8/10 for MMT. I covered the out section to Bird Knob at dusk, and had to return over the rocks when it was nice and dark out. I was fortunate to have a handful of other runners with me to help me find my way, or else I might've gotten really lost! So it was nice to get out on that section again and see both the out and the back in the daylight. One of these days, I'd like to get out there again to run the out/back, then continue north up toward Gap II, but come back down to 211 as if I were leaving Gap I. Doing that alone would give me about 16 miles, or I could cut it to 6 miles if I cut over to Crisman Hollow Road from Scothorn (instead of going up to Gap II) and pick up the trail again before the Waterfall mountain trail to the connector to 211.

On Sunday, I was expecting it to be cold and windy, but my sister and I were a little overdressed when we headed out to Prince William Forest Park at 8am to run the course of the 24 ATR that will be held in April. We parked out at the Turkey Run Education Center and took the High Meadow's Trail to the corner of Taylor Farm Road. We ran clockwise (the course switches directions every year) down to South Valley Trail before heading west on SVT to Mawavi Road. We turned around after this 'stick' portion and picked up High Meadow Road back to TREC. It was a nice easy run since it's not too challenging of a course, but I could tell the legs were still feeling it from Saturday's run.

This Saturday is MMT training run #2 that goes from Camp Roosevelt to Gap I/II to Moreland, up and over Short Mountain to Edinburg before ending at Woodstock Tower. It looks to be a good weekend to get in some good miles on some good terrain. I'd like to stay a little closer to home on Sunday and maybe do 10 miles or so of the BRR course or do a different loop in PWFP. I find myself pouring over PATC maps and other maps of local trails trying to figure out where to go and how many miles to get in.

Decisions, decisions, but I'm already looking forward to it.

Monday, February 11, 2008

My Breaking Heart

On Wednesday, February 6th, I made the tough decision of putting my beloved cat to sleep. Within a weeks time, we noticed his quick deterioration physically and emotionally. My sister said it was a good thing I wasn't around to see how lethargic he was. Yes, he was a big boy and loved to lounge on the sofa, but he wouldn't move and had stopped eating and drinking. Over the course of the week, he lost 5 lbs and was urinating in places other than his litter box. I had flown from my race in North Carolina up to Michigan until Tuesday and received text messages from my sister with updates on his condition.

I called the vet on Monday to get him in on Tuesday and Em and my GF were able to drop him off Tuesday morning. I got into DC around 10:15am and called around noon when I hadn't heard anything from the vet. The vet called back around 1:30pm and read the results of his tests over the phone. Most of the lingo didn't make sense, but I grew concerned when she mentioned "jaundice", "anemic", "pale", and more so when she mentioned a possible tumor in his abdomen. Because she couldn't get a good look at it with the xray, she called ahead to SouthPaws to get us in for an emergency ultrasound.

Needless to say, I was in tears. Fortunately, I was working from home for the afernoon and have a very understanding boss with 4 cats of her own. She said to take the rest of the day off and take care of The Man. My wonderful GF came home around 2:30pm so we could get Handsome and take him from Cap Hill over to Fairfax. It was so sad to see him in the cage. You could tell he wasn't feeling well.

It was a bit of a wait to get him, but he got in for the ultrasound around 4:15pm. They took him in (and cleaned him up a bit since he peed himself on the ride over. Boo Bear never liked car rides) and got him set up before coming back to get us. My boys back legs were strapped down and his adorable white belly shaved in prep for the ultrasound. I couldn't tell you what I was looking at on the screen, but the Doctor pointed out different organs and how they looked normal, with the exception of his small intestines. There was a small mass about 4cm x 6cm that she said could be cancer. She took about 5 samples of it in different places and would test them to for cancer. I would get the results later that night.

Needless to say, it was a rough night. My Boo Bear just laid on the floor in the living room. We had moved his litter box and food and water close to him so he wouldn't have to navigate any stairs. I laid with him and spent some quality Momma-Man time with him. As much as I hate to admit I, I expected the worst.

Around 6:45pm, I got a call from Dr. Sloan, the radiologist who performed the ultrasound on The Man. She said of all the possibilities, this was "the best", but it was in fact Lymphoma in his small intestines. The earliest I could get him in was Wednesday at 9:15am to meet with the Oncologist to discuss treatment, prognosis, cost, etc. As much as I had been missing work, I took the appointment knowing I wouldn't be able to get him in until next week if I didn't.

Wednesday morning, I eased The Man into his crate and we heading off to SouthPaws again. He was a little more animated on the ride and meowed at how my GF was driving and at my music selections of Joni Mitchell and Jill Scott; he didn't like either of them. At SPs, they led us into a small room where the vet tech took The Man's vitals before letting him roam around on the floor before the Oncologist came in. She sat down with him and was very thorough in her explanation of the Lymphoma and the different treatments. I cried. I couldn't help it. I knew what she was saying wasn't good, and was waiting for her to give me the three options I had - chemo, meds to keep him comfortable for about a week, or to put him down. I called my sister and let her know the situation. She asked if I knew what I was going to do, and I said yes. The night before, I had looked up lymphoma in cats online and read somewhere that "if the thought of putting your cat down slips into your mind, you've already made your decision". And that was my decision.

If I didn't bring him in, he probably wouldn't have lasted more than another week. The doctor said it was probably there no more than 3-4 weeks ago. With chemo, I would've known within 1-2 weeks if he was responding to it - positively or negatively. Meds to keep him comfortable for another week would've just prolonged his pain. He wasn't eating and had a fatty liver since his body was breaking down fat for calories and the liver couldn't process it. Yes, it's possible he could've responded favorably to the chemo and lived longer, but what level would his quality of life been? Would I be doing that more for me or for him?

I just couldn't see him suffering. This wasn't my cat. My cat loved to do shoulder rolls which lead to belly rubs. He loved to have his armpits scratched which made him look like he was praising Allah. He loved to spoon with you on the sofa. He was a bed hog. He loved when boys came to visit and he loved my sisters dirty clothes. He was gay. He loved the color pink. He finally learned how to masturbate 2 yrs ago (yes, it's true). He loved food. He loved to "lounge poolside" by his pretty pink water bowl. He loved to dance to U2's "Sweetest Thing" and he got one of his names from the Alanis Morissette song "Right Through You". His birth name was Butch, but he went by Handsome, Mr Man, The Man, Mr. Handsome, The Handsome Black Man, Boo Bear, Boo, Booty, Bootilicious, Brother, Brother Man, and my sister's favorite "Move!!"

I was there when the Doctor gave him the high dosage of the Barbiturate, and he was gone in about 30 seconds. I chose to have him cremated and to take the ashes. He was my Handsome Black Man and I will miss him dearly. I already do.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Uwharrie 40 Miler

The first race of the year was a good one. After getting to Asheboro, NC around 11pm on Friday after a stressful day at work, I just wanted to get to sleep knowing the alarm would be going off at 4:30am.

The GF and arrived at the race site close to 6am and were fortunate to get a parking spot along the side of the road so it was a short walk to the start. I checked in real quick and headed back to the car for 10 minutes of shut eye before organizing my gear and heading out 10 minutes before the start. It was right around freezing when the race started at 7am.

This was my 3rd year running the 40 miler and I've done the 20 miler in the past, so I'm familiar with the course. I stay in the back and let the others go ahead and just take my time navigating the trails and finding my pace. My training has really been down and I had really 'picked up' my training the two weeks before; hitting the trails for the first time the weekend before the race covering 6 and 14 miles, respectively.

Early on, I was running with some 'chatters' and I felt like I was still running a bit conservatively just to stay with them. I'm not much of a talker, but one guy had done MMT in the past, so we got to talking about the course. I finally passed him around mile 11 and didn't see him until the turn. I was moving quite nicely and finally shed my warm clothes at mile 8 for shorts and a baseball style hat since it was starting to warm up nicely. My nutrition was pretty much on the fly as I went with water/gatorade in one bottle of my waistpack, and CarboPro in the other. I tried to take a GU every hour as well as one Succeed! tab every hour as well.

My goal was to finish under 11hours, based on my limited training. I was moving nicely and got to the 20 mile mark in 4:45 - 5 minutes ahead of my time from last year. I went to the bathroom, grabbed more GUs, and refilled my bottles before heading out again after a 5 minute pit stop.

Last year, I wanted to get as close to negative splitting as I could, and I think I think I went out too fast. I told my GF to expect me about 5-8 minutes slower at each station then what I had arrived at on the way out. I was pretty spot on with my predictions. Nutritionally, I took 2 cups of Coke and a couple of orange slices before exiting each aid station. I wanted to limit my stops and keep moving. I ran when I could and moved quickly up the hills. For the most part, my knees and feet held up and weren't hurting too much.

It was around mile 29 when things started to derail. I left at 8 hours into the race and had 2 hours to cover 11 miles, which I thought was doable, to go sub 10 hrs - my new goal. I was feeling good and was in highspirts until I got to the next aid station, which it took me nearly an hour to get to. For some reason my calculations were off and I thought I'd be seeing my GF again, but I was at a 'no crew' aid station. I was bummed that I had one more to go before I was on my way home.

I moped out after stopping for 1 minute before I started to run again. I had picked off about 6 runners since the turn and didn't want anyone to pass me at the point, so I kept running. My feet (toes) were hurting and me knees and hips ached a bit. For some reason, I didn't remember running this 'out' section and it seemed very unfamiliar to me. Other sections I knew where I'd be crossing streams, running through mud, and going up hills, but there were no familiar marks. I finally made it to the last aid station at 9:39 into the race. I switched out the waistpack for the hand held to drop some weight and to give my back a break. I had covered these 2 miles in 30:52 on the way out and I figured I could do something close to it on the way back. Since I couldn't break 10 hours, my new goal was 10:10.

Long story short, I came in at 10:12 for 11/12 of all the women who finished. I'm most happy about taking off 12 minutes from my time last year. Sure, my training was lacking considerably, but I think there are a few key things that helped:

- Knowing the course - I knew to go out at my pace and where certain (re: harder) sections were and where the runable sections were

- Aid Stations - I knew what I wanted going in and didn't dilly dally. My longest break was 5 min at the turn (to pee and get new supplies), but I tried to keep everything close to 1 minute. I got what I needed and got out.

- Walking - It's easier said than done, but doing it correctly will get you up that hill pretty efficiently. It's something I need to keep practicing.

- Recovery - I've learned that if I don't get 8 hrs of sleep, I'm useless. I've been sleeping a lot and getting almost nightly massages from my GF. I'd even return the favor since she had never experienced the joy (and sometimes pain) of having your calves rubbed. Keeping those loose, as well as my hammies and butt, helped with recovery.

I'm happy with 10:12 and will use it as a gauge for Bull Run Run 50 in April. Last year, I went 10:24 at Uwharrie and finished BRR in 10:32. If I keep with my training (or pick it up, really) I don't see why it wouldn't be possible to go sub 10 hrs.