Monday, April 27, 2009


My aunt passed away over the weekend.

It came as quite a shock to everyone to get the news. My older sister called me Friday night, which I missed, and knew something was wrong when the message was a dry "call me as soon as you get this." I got her voicemail on a return call and knew she must've been on the phone with another family member, possibly relaying some bad news. Minutes later she called back and asked if I had talked with my other sister, from whom I received an incoming text stating 'call me asap', and I said 'no'. She delivered the sad news in tears.

I was in shock.

I haven't seen my aunt, who lives in Chicago, in a couple years. She was visiting my parents in Michigan over the Easter weekend when both my sisters had a chance to see her. I am guilt ridden for not going back to see her, to spend time with my family, for not keeping in touch better.

Many people did not know my aunt, and by all appearances, many probably wouldn't have taken the time to get to know her. Pretty harsh words from one of her five nieces, yes? Well, it's true. My aunt was morbidly obese. She is someone you would stop and stare at and hope wouldn't sit next to you on the airplane or metro. I make fun of those people, too. She was never an embarrassment to be around. I knew people stared, but everyone is quick to judge, and I just ignored their eyes. She was my aunt no matter her size, and I still loved her.

Despite her size, my aunt loved to travel. She took numerous trips to Hawaii as well as some cruises. She also loved jewelry. She lived alone and had no one but herself to dote on, so that was her one indulgence.

As was food.

About 20 years ago, she went on Jenny Craig and lost a lot of weight. She put it back on, and then some. In early December 2008, she had gastric bypass surgery.

After talking with my sisters when hearing about our aunts passing, I found out she had lost about 117 lbs. But she wasn't our aunt anymore. She was a shell of herself. She wasn't the jovial aunt we knew with the high pitched laugh. Her skin was grey and she was very sullen looking. Even 4 months after surgery, she still hadn't recovered emotionally. She never went to therapy before or after the surgery to deal with the emotional effects of such a big lifestyle change. Turns out the doctor didn't specialize in gastric bypass surgery, either. She still hadn't returned to work and was having others run errands for her and do her laundry, claiming she was home bound and couldn't move much around the house. At Easter, she did say she was really glad she came up and that she had a good time.

On Friday night, she was on the phone with her sister-in-law who called on a whim, thinking something might be wrong. They talked briefly before my aunt said she felt like she was having another "spell", apparently not feeling well. My aunt, on the other end of the phone, heard her moan a couple times, and then what sounded like something hitting the ground. It took her awhile to find the neighbors number, who check on her once a day, to get them to go check on her. Even if the paramedics got there in a timely manner, they probably wouldn't have been able to save her. She was 60.

No cause of death yet, but it appears to be quick and she didn't suffer. I beg to differ and will go on a mini rant about my disapproval of gastric bypass surgery. The doctor did not specialize in the surgery and provided no follow up, no help, no therapy before surgery or during recovery. She suffered. My grandmother had a hysterectomy over 40 years ago and woke up to an index card next to the bed stating "If you need help, call XX number for assistance". That is not how you treat a patient. She was left to fend for herself, to figure out how to live post-gastric bypass surgery. It was like they also gave her a lobotomy and cut off her emotions. At Easter, she also stated that, if she could go back, she would have never gone through with the surgery. She would've tried Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig, Nutri System - something besides surgery to lose the weight. I'm sure there are wonderful doctors out there who have performed this procedure with no complications, but I hope that anyone considering it does their research, not only on the doctor, but on life post-surgery. Get therapy before and after to make sure you are making the right decision.

This posting is what I have to remember my aunt. There's also a house full of memories back in Chicago that she and my mom and their brothers and sisters grew up in. We went there every Christmas until high school when sports dictated our time, and the trips became more infrequent. I hope to go back this summer to help clean out the house and maybe collect a few pieces to help keep her memory fresh. I can't bring home the piano in the front room, the bay window that was filled with a tree every Christmas, the French doors, the China hutch in the dining room, or the cuckoo clock in the basement. The 'boiler room' always scared me and I busted my glasses on a pole in the basement. Parents weren't happy about that. The basement floor was linoleum, so us kids would find an old office chair and push each other down the length of the basement, grab a hold of one of the poles as we got closer, and whip around.

Good times. They will be missed, as will my aunt.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Hockey is part of proper recovery

Even with short, interval runs scheduled this week, I haven't been very motivated to get out there and do them. Part of the reason.. yeah, okay, the main reason is that the 2009 hockey playoffs have started. And since moving, we have acquired the same cable company of the owners above us since that is also included with the rent. I can't help that we get NHL Center Ice with access to all the playoff games. I loved living in Ann Arbor, MI and getting CBC for hockey.

Playoffs were the death of me then, and they are still wrecking havoc on me 8 years later.

The first round, with at least 3 games a night, are killing me. Going to bed at 10:30pm is waaaaay past my bedtime. This coming from the person who could regularly stay up until 1am and still wake up for a swim at 6am. *shaking head* No more. But I try! I can't even stay up for the late game out west!

Watching the Wings take it to the Blue Jackets has been great, but the Caps have me on edge against the NY Rangers, down 3-1 in the series. I worked out the nerves last night with a late 10 minute workout. Only 10 minutes, you ask?

10 minutes - AMRAP
5 deadlift (35# KB)
10 KB swings overhead (20#)

**I also wore my 10# weighted vest for the workout

I lost count of my rounds, but the clock seems to tick down more slowly on shorter workouts with less reps. I wish I could've gone heavier on the deadlifts, but that's the weight I have right now at home. I do have an old, thin bar with some sand weights, but they haven't made it over to the new place yet. We've paid rent on the old place through May, so there were a few items that we weren't in a rush to move, and the weights were one of them.

I've also started up the One Hundred Push Ups challenge after fading away after week 3 or 4. I took the initial test again and completed 6 pretty kick ass push ups, if I don't say. I'm on Week 1, day 3, so I had five sets of push ups to complete with reps of 8, 10, 7, 7, and then a max set of at least 10 push ups, and I did 10. I put my Nalgene on the ground under my chest to make sure I'm going deep enough. Going 'chest to deck' is too deep for me and I usually end up hurting my chest or shoulder in the process. The bottle is about 3" off the ground, which is still plenty deep. Even though I have a decent rack based on bra size, it's not much of an advantage when it comes to push ups. Oh well.

No, I did not do the push ups with the weight vest on. Maybe after I (hopefully) complete the challenge I will do a few reps from time to time with the vest on, but for now I'm just getting comfortable with it**.

**wearing it around the house while doing dishes, unpacking, watching hockey, etc.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Getting back into shape

I know it's because I just did a long race over the weekend and the body is still tired, but, damn, do I get winded just walking up the escalators! So it's time to get back in shape!

Since moving, I've had to figure out a new route to work. The first few days it was nice enough out that I walked the 2 miles to the office. I've caught a couple different buses recently and I have to walk upwards to 10 minutes either to the stop or from the stop to the office. In the near future I hope to start biking in again.

My Monday's are busy and I can't get in as good a workout as I used to a few months ago. Last night I wanted to do something, so I did a little Burpee and Kettlebell Snatch Pyramid workout that a buddy of mine recommended when short on time.

Burpees Snatches (each arm)
10 1
9 2
8 3
7 4
6 5
5 6
4 7
3 8
2 9
1 10

He said to aim for under 15 minutes, but I finished in 12:29 with more resting that I should've in between burpees. Boy, do I dislike buprees, but what a great full body workout. I hope to get the workout in under 10 minutes next time around.

I hope to continue to do a workout with burpees, snatches, or heavy KB swings at least once a week. I want to squat and deadlift a little more knowing it won't hurt my running if done correctly. No, I'm not afraid to put on muscle, either, and don't expect to get Schwarzenegger-like legs. If that's your perception of what happens when you lift weights, then you need to be re-educated about weight training. It has helped me tremendously this year not only with added strength (not size!) but my overall recovery, and it will be a staple up until, and through, MMT.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Clicking on all cylinders - Bull Run Run 50-miler

It's hard to keep it a secret and actually say it out loud, but everything is slowly coming together. The training is paying off, the resting is paying off, the running is paying off.. and when you put them all together, you have a good run.

I've had mixed emotions on how to tackle the Bull Run Run 50-miler. With MMT four weeks away, do I push it and go hard, or enjoy a casual day on the trails and get in a long run? Considering how recent have gone, I wanted to continue to treat runs as full on training for MMT and work on nutrition and hydration, time in/out of aid stations, and pacing. Time goals, I figured I would finish between 10:00 and 10:30, but was really hoping for a sub 10 finish.

Moving the week before a big race is probably not a good idea, nor is searching for your gear at 9:30pm the night before the race. I was without a few usual favorite articles of clothing, but nothing to really get me out of my Zen state pre race. I was pretty relaxed and ready to go, and stayed that way for the first 16 miles, which was part of the plan. For me, the race started at Hemlock, but on the second time through. I started pretty well in the middle of the pack, but far enough ahead of people who walk all the hills. I wanted to take it easy, but continue to move at a good clip. The first out/back section felt blah and I really wasn't sure how the day would be. I could feel my left Achilles disagreeing with me and a hot spot already starting near the ball of my right foot. Not good this early.

Once through Hemlock with a reapply of some Aquaphor to areas that were rubbing raw and BioFreeze to knees and calf muscles, I was off with a small group of runners. I seemed to have a good sense of where I was at about 30 minutes after leaving Hemlock. I tried to remember the area for the trip back, hoping that 30 minutes out would equate to 30 minutes back, but wasn't sure how accurate it would be. Once at Bull Run Marina, I was in familiar territory since I'd trained on the section from the Marina to Fountainhead, and out to the Do Loop a handful of times. I knew the trails pretty well, with the exception of the White Loop and the trail out to the Do Loop, where I always tend to get lost. I was starting to bottom out, but finally looked at my watch and realized breaking 10 hours was possible. It was a matter of getting back to Fountainhead at this point, then I knew I'd be on my way home with only 12.5 miles to go.

My stop was quick and methodical. I hadn't been drinking much, but chugged from a water bottle my GF gave me when I came in. I took a cup of Coke, a few slices of potatoes and some Pringles and I was out. That was pretty much my staple at each aid station. Early on it was a few Oreos or chocolate chip cookies and Pringles. At the Do Loop I treated myself to a few quarter slices of a cheese quesadilla. Those puppies sure hit the spot!

The last 12.5 miles were very focused. They might not have been fast, but they were very determined. I hit the Marina with 5.5 miles to go and was in and out after a quick refill and refuel. I ate on the way out to not spend any more time than needed at the aid station. I told my GF it shouldn't take me more than 1:10 to cover the last section. I was very determined to get as close to 10 hours as possible with high hopes of going sub 10. With 9:30 showing on my watch, the iPod shuffle I had been listening to finally died. I looked at my watch again around 9:33 when I got to, what I was sure was the '30 minute out' spot I had mentally marked. Once you get close to the Popes Head Creek, it's a runable trail again with some short rocky sections to traverse. I thought back to Uwharrie when fellow trail runner, Q, helped pace me to a 30 minute PR, kept thinking "the hill is just ahead" to keep me moving. This section seems longer than it should be, and I was relying on mental points of reference from past runs (and earlier in the day when we went out on this section) to get me to that last big hill.

Once there, I glanced at my watch, which showed 9:55, and to the top of the hill, which I couldn't see. I knew it wouldn't be possible to break 10, so I just climbed. I might not be breaking 10 hours, but I still wanted to get as close to 10 hours as possible.

I crossed in an official time of 10:03:55 - 100/266 finishers. I was 7/29 in women under 40 AG. However, my time would've only been good enough for 14/33 in the women 40-49 AG. Those are some fast chicks!! Additionally, I was part of a team with four other runners, and we won an award for finishing the closest together. Further explanation of the award from the website:

The "finish together" category was, strictly speaking, won by no one. Last year, race management defined "together" as meaning together. This year we loosened that a bit, but not much. No team finished together under any meaning of that term. The judges, however, decided that the Entrail Runners came closest to the finish together goal.

No matter, we still won, and I will gladly accept my mug as a prize.

Post race summary and checklist

- I met my time goal. I finished in the 10-10:30 range, but closer to 10, which I had hoped to do.

- I paced well. I held back early on and didn't go out too fast. Did I have anything left in the tank? Not much. I really don't know if I could've gone sub-10. Maybe I'll shoot for it a year I'm not doing MMT when I can go all out and not worry about recovery.

- Nutrition was on the fly. Oreos and Pringles looked good, so I ate them and they didn't disagree with my stomach. Quesadillas at Do Loop have always been good, so I always have those. I had filled two 6oz gel flasks of about 600 calories of Carbo Pro and switched out at mile 28. Neither were completely empty.

- Hydration is still a problem. I wasn't as salty as most people post race and stuck to one Succeed salt tab every hour. Water intake was very, very low as evident by the color of my urine up to 48 hours post race. Not good. I need to figure out salt and water loss and how much to take in of both so as to find the right balance. MMT could be ugly if I don't stay hydrated.

- I started the day with an 'upset' left Achilles and finished with an okay Achilles. It was noticeable at the beginning, but I never really changed my stride to compensate for any pain or discomfort. Doing so helped keep my right side in balance with no additional soreness.

- Foot care - I did get a tiny blister (water) on my right foot, which I felt from the beginning but left alone throughout the race. At one point I tightened up my shoes to keep my feet from moving around so much, and that was it. I never took them off or messed with them. I am looking to try out a new pair of Drymax socks to help with the blister problem. At first feel, they are thicker than the Injinji toe socks I'm used to wearing. Change might be good, so I'll try them out on some upcoming runs.

Overall assessment of how I feel is positive. I walked pain free post race with no sign of limping or discomfort. My ankles, knees and hips felt fine as did my quads and hamstrings. My left calf, because of the Achilles, will continue to need some work on with the TP Quad Roller or the just as painful foam roller.

I figured out the last of my training the other week, so now it's time to fine tune a few things leading up to MMT - dial in my everyday nutrition, refine race day nutrition, and plan the rest of the good and the bad that could happen. I've very confident in my training so far and hope that it will help me cover 101.8 miles.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Annnnnd.. NOW the training starts

Last Monday, I finally got the good news that I'm officially IN as an entrant of the Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 Mile Run. I have been planning/plotting for this race since last year, but having to wait since January to finally get in. As I sat on the sidelines the earlier part of this year, I devised a training program that I have deviated from many times. I've added a lot more strength training and worked on general fitness with squats, push ups, pull ups (trying!) to get my body acclimated to the stress of hard and intense workouts. I've also rested a lot. I'd rather take a day off to recover than push myself and risk aggravating something that might already hurt, leading to injury. I've been training harder, and runner faster than ever before and used a couple recent training runs to test my progress.

As I noted in a recent post, I took some time off after the National Marathon and ran sparingly before a big training weekend. I was very happy with that run especially with my times over Short Mountain and from Edinburg to Woodstock. Keeping both under 2 hours while not bonking was a big positive in my training and confidence.

This past weekend, we covered almost the same route for the Chocolate Bunny 50K, which runs from 211 East to Powell's Fort Camp - miles 58.1 to 89.3 of the course. Most people cover this section as night, to the training run lets you get in some headlamp time on fresh legs with a fresh mind. No matter how much rest you might have, the night time can play some wicked tricks on your mind.

I talked with my GF on the drive over and worked on strategy for the day. I've been really dehydrated the past few runs and wanted to focus on staying hydrated. No matter how much or little I had been, or thought I had been drinking on whatever section, she was to give me a full 24oz bottle of water I was to finish before leaving the aid station. I also wanted to get in/out of the aid station and not dilly dally. Nutrition wise, I was going to load up on Oreo's while stopped, but rely on a gel flask of about 500 calories, which I would switch out for a new one at mile 17.8 (Edinburg Aid). Most importantly, I wanted to run fast. Fast compared to how I used to run, and compared to the night time 'shuffle' most people resort to. I especially was interested in the time it would take me to cross Short Mountain and cover Edinburg to Woodstock, and see how close to my daytime times I could get.

I started off a little faster than I should've, but wanted to get a good start and find a good pace and level off there for a bit. I was in the middle of the pack and preferred to run by myself, which I did for the first 5 miles or so. It was my first time on the 'new' course at night, so I got a tad lost when we turned onto Scothorn, which took us through an open field for a short stretch. I stopped thinking and headed in the direction I thought was right to keep moving, and eventually found the trail. It was a long winding 'fire road' of a trail that was mostly downhill. Since I'm a horrible downhill runner, it was a good time to practice. Unfortunately, I succeeded in losing my gloves which I had loosely stashed between my body and the chest strap of my Nathan hydration pack. Not a good idea, but I didn't stop to look for them. It wasn't too cold out so I figured I would be fine. I hooked up with another runner once we hit Crisman Hollow Road, which kept me moving and runner at a good clip along the boring road section. She went head on the climb up Jawbone since she's a much stronger climber, and also enjoys climbs. I just powered upward. The nice thing about running at night is you don't see where the climb ends; you just keep moving and know it will come soon. Finally up and over, I started the decent toward Moreland Gap. This was another slow part for me two years ago, so I wanted to move quickly.

The real part of the run started after Moreland. Once I arrived at the aid station, I noshed on some Oreo's and washed them down with a fresh bottle of water, as planned. I kept my stop under 5 minutes and headed out as quickly as possible ahead of other runners. The voices and headlamps behind me were motivation to keep moving quickly. I didn't want to be caught or passed on this section since I was treating it as a race. I moved quickly on the climb up Short Mountain, but couldn't help but stop for a few seconds to watch the moon rise in the East. It looked like a fire in the distance and was an amazing thing to watch.

Once on the ridge, I was all business - one foot in front of the other as quickly as possible. I ignored my watch and figured if I did look, I'd be disappointed in how slowly I was moving. About 3/4 of the way across, I noticed a headlight behind me and picked up the pace. The wind was blowing and the branches rubbing against each other were really freaking me out, which also made me move faster. I ended up catching another runner and moved on, reaching the point of Short Mountain where I know there's about 2 miles left. I still didn't look at my watch until getting to the road, which took longer to get to than I had hoped. I could tell the frustration of night running was starting to set in and I was getting a bit cranky.

I got to Edinburg in 2:07, which I was very happy with. Refueled on some Oreo's, another bottle of water, some Mt. Dew, and a 5-Hour Energy drink. I first used this at the Reverse Ring back in February, and knew it would help me get to Woodstock. I left with another runner to tackle the climb to Wanoze Peak, which I dread. We caught up with a group of 3 runners before I powered on by and continued upward. At the top, I passed another runner and caught up to a second. He held a good pace and I followed. I took the lead for a bit and we chatted about the course, training, races, etc. At this point, I wasn't too concerned about 'crushing' this section, but more about holding a good pace (running) and not getting hurt. My Achilles was starting to bug me and I had already decided that I'd drop at Woodstock after 26 miles. With Bull Run Run 50 miler this weekend, I didn't want to push it.

We passed 2 more runners in the last mile and got to the aid station in a total travel time of 2:20, which is what I'd typically cover the section in on a slow day. I was pleased. Total time for 26 miles was 6:45. It was probably a good idea I was dropping since my GF approached me quickly and helped me across the road like a volunteer would do with someone finishing an Ironman triathlon. Apparently I was teetering a bit, which I did not notice.

I refueled, changed, then packed up. Good thing I was on that 5 Hour Energy 'high' as I had to take over driving after 45 min on the road. It's rough on the crew peeps as well, and my GF couldn't keep her eyes open. I can attest to the 5HE working, but wearing off after 4 hrs and 40 minutes. Luckily we were only 10 miles from home at that point and made it home safely where we finally went to bed at 6am.

I'm pleased with how the run went and hope to take care of my Achilles issues with icing, massage, and light stretching. I moved well and held a good pace, one that I probably could've held for the last 5 miles. I'm now looking at old reports from the past 5 years of BRR, comparing times, and coming up with a game plan for this weekends race. Considering how my running has been going so far, I hope to do very well.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

How to keep your sanity, and your relationship in tact

Moving sucks. No matter the distance of the move, it just sucks. Packing makes you realize how little boxes actually hold and that you have a lot of crap. The past few weeks have been spent packing and getting rid of stuff via craigslist and FreeCycle. But we still have a lot of stuff. Our condo association doesn't allow moves (in or out) without prior approval, but this mostly pertains to people who live in a high rise, which we do not. We've been able to sneak over boxes of books, cds, kitchen stuff, etc, to start the move process as well as reuse those boxes. On Saturday, we took a good load of boxes over, and were tired and cranky from just hauling them into the English Basement - aka "The Castle". We were quiet on the drive back until the following was spoken..

"Maybe we should hire movers"

"Yes!", the other agreed before the suggestive sentence was finished.

So with that it was decided, for the sake of our relationship, if we wanted to stay together another 2+ years, we should let others move our delicate crap for us. After researching a few local moving companies, and balking at the cost per hour to move (I'm becoming my father.. "jeans cost how much??"), we settled on a troupe of 2 guys and a big truck to move us into The Castle based on a handful of 5 star ratings I found on the internet.

We don't expect the move next Monday to take more than 3 hours, which means a lot of packing and organizing on our part to make sure (most) everything is at or near the front door and ready to be picked up. Fortunately, the dog has a slumber party that weekend and will not be there to witness (re: freak out) as the boxes are loaded and moved. He's already freaking out and knows something is up, but assumes we're moving without him. It's his usual reaction most weekends as we pack to head out to the mountains. He sulks around and stares at us with those pathetic puppy dog eyes that say "you're leaving without me" when we have taken him every weekend. You'd think he'd learn, but he's excited as a kid (me) on Christmas morning when the leash comes out of the closet. The excitement dies down quickly in the car when he realizes.. "wait.. the mountains?? 90 min away?? why didn't you tell me.. I have to peeeee!!"

Every. weekend.

So for the sake of our relationship, and the fact that I'd like to sleep in the bed and not out in the living room because of the 9.5 size shoe print on the side of the incessantly whiny dog, said dog will not be present during the move. He has been to the new place and is familiar with it, but the first official night (and day) there should be interesting. My GF is taking next Tuesday off from work to continue unpacking, and to help ease the dog into the new digs.

With a lot still left to do, we should spend all our waking time packing, but that's not going to happen. In fact, we're going to take a break tonight and go out to dinner and celebrate 2 years of hell. Two years of awful, awful hell. Since we first met, we talked of going out for Ethiopian food as one of our first few dates, but never got around to it. Tonight we'll finally make up for lost time. Let's hope it's worth the wait!