Easing back into the mileage this month, especially since it is now August and that means a super busy time for me as a teacher. Planning ahead is going to be key in fitting everything in!
This has been a great week with some fun runs, ice cream cake for my birthday, a meet up with my awesome running friend Karen, and even a college visit for Hunter. I’ll let the pics tell our story this week…
A College Visit!
Hunter and I drove the 3.5 hours out to Clarion University for a preview day. His first college visit! We learned a lot about the school and had a great time on the tour. Hunter will be a junior this coming school year, but we want to get him thinking about his options early, especially if he is going to wrestle in college! The school was so nice and it reminded me a lot of West Chester U where I went. It makes me so excited for him!
We had a nice dinner at the Pizza Pub to talk things over before heading back home. It was a fun road trip for us!
Hawk Mountain and Lunch with Karen!
Saturday I met up with my friend Karen for some hiking at Hawk Mountain. We’ve known each other since our kids were little (and they are pretty much the same ages), so we had a lot to talk about and catch up on! Karen and I met in an online running group back when I started running and had no running friends! It was awesome to find out that she lived in PA. We continue to meet up whenever we can, around our busy schedules. We’ve also run a few races together, although Karen is a fast road marathoner and I am an ultra trail runner, so races have not been our meet up event in awhile!
Can you believe this trail we chose? We literally had to climb right over that rock where the blue paint is! And then for another half mile or so down to somewhat flat ground!
You definitely could not hike this trail with something in your hands!
Here is a view from one of the first lookouts. Honestly, you drive to the top of the mountain to park and start your hike, so the elevation we did wasn’t crazy. You can see this view without too much effort!
A Long Run
Here’s my favorite view from today’s long run on Buck Ridge Trail. I haven’t really run here all summer, so it was fun doing the out and back to Pine Grove. It’s a 6 mile trail connecting two parks. I usually start on a trail farther from the trail head for Buck Ridge so I can get some extra miles in.
This Week’s Mileage
Monday: 10 mile cycle
Tuesday: 4 trail miles
Wednesday: gym for lifting/core and 7 evening trail miles on the AT, and the day I officially entered a new age group!
Thursday: off (This was not a planned rest day. I just got caught up in doing things…or not doing things…around the house. I planned to go in the evening after I took my son to work and then we had some storms moving through so I bagged it.)
Friday: 2 faster road miles @ 8:30 avg pace, then it was time to hit the road for Clarion!
Saturday: 2.5 mile hike and 4 slow trail miles with my aging dog. He’s pretty sore today. He may be done with runs and stick to walks from now on.
Sunday: 14 trail miles
Exciting Week Ahead!
I will be running the Ragnar Trail Appalachians Relay in West Virginia this Friday and Saturday with an awesome team! Hi Team, if you are reading this! Because of my birthday timing we get to compete as Masters. isn’t that awesome? I have never done any type of relay before, but I love my trails, so I’m pretty sure it’s going to be epic!
Before we go, I need to do a night run to test out my new headlamp. And of course I need to pack.
I plan to do another blog post before Thursday, so have a great week until then!
Some people run to get out of the rain. Today I purposely ran for almost two hours in it. The temps were in the low 70’s and I was comfortable in a t-shirt, shorts, and hat to keep the rain from running into my face. The trails provided a shelter at times from the rain, this is true, but half a mile in I was soaked and feeling an amazing connection to the dirt and mud under my feet.
Why I Love to Run in the Rain. . .
The glistening rocks and roots on the forest floor that I have to maneuver across, posing a new challenge, and keeping me focused on the moment I am in.
The overgrown tree limbs and blueberry bushes that brush against my skin leaving their wet, refreshing marks.
The mossy and slippery footbridges that I have to carefully cross without my feet sliding out from beneath me.
All of this set in poetic motion to the sounds of pouring rain hitting the tree tops, the brim of my hat, and the earth around me.
The absence of others, as most people don’t tend to venture out on a day like today for a fun little hike. (Although I did see two other people out today!)
I guess in a way you have to be some kind of introvert in order to enjoy spending hours upon hours alone with your own thoughts and feelings as an ultrarunner. As a Mom of two busy and active boys, and a teacher to about 100 middle school students, you can probably imagine why I crave and look forward to the solitude of my trail running. Although for me it goes a little deeper. I enjoy being alone with my thoughts, particularly in nature, moving freely through space and time with no one else to worry about. No one needs anything from me during these times. No one is asking me questions. The due dates and daily demands of parenting and teaching disappear for these hours and it is just me, the earth, the sky, and the flora and fauna of the Pennsylvania trails. It is rejuvenating and soul-filling in a way that I wish I could express more deeply to those of you who have yet to venture into this sport.
Sure I run to prepare myself for the next big race. That’s a given. I mean you don’t want your race to be a total suck-fest, right? Setting huge, seemingly unattainable goals in the sport of ultrarunning can be scary, empowering, risky, and exhilarating all at the same time. Working toward those goals, for me, is a gift. It is a gift I give myself every time I lace up my Lone Peaks and head out to a trail head to log some miles. It is a little slice of my day that I can look forward to and know that I am doing something to reach my goals, but even more importantly, I am doing something to feed my soul.
We all feed our stomachs, but when is the last time you thought about feeding your soul?
What is it that makes you feel the most like yourself?
Pics from today’s run….
Cameron/Masland Mansion at the top of the mountain in Kings Gap State Park. I am forever running trails around it, but never stop to go through the grounds of the mansion during a run, so I decided to today because I was having so much fun.
Kings Gap Water Tower
Kings Gap Garden
Today’s fuel of choice, which I enjoyed while sitting on a rock in the pouring rain at Scenic Vista Overlook.
I know it looks like I jumped in a pool, but honestly I was the same amount of wet after my run two Saturday’s ago in sun, upper 80’s and ridiculous humidity. I’ll take today’s conditions anytime!
I can’t think of a better place to rest and recover than the beach! The boys and I spent the past week in Myrtle Beach, SC visiting family and living the beach life. We slept in, ate a lot of good food, played in the ocean, dozed in the sand while the sun warmed our skin, roamed the Ripley’s Believe it Or Not Odditorium, and played mini golf (a 3 way tie, can you believe that?). I literally did not exercise one time, unless you count the crunches I did while waiting for the boys to get a shower one day, or the short hike I did at the state park!
Here are a few pics from our trip!
When we got back home to PA, my husband and I celebrated our 18th anniversary. MORE food and it was so delicious.
Back on Track
Now that eating without abandon is out of my system, I am so ready to get back on track this week. The fridge is stocked with spring mix, a ton of fruits and vegetables, and healthy snacks. I am in between official training sessions, so here is my rough plan for the next few weeks. . .
I plan to get more workout sessions in at the gym. I want to get back to lifting more and sticking with a good core routine. The good news is that it’s summer and I’m a teacher, so I have more time to accomplish this goal! I lost some definition in my muscles between tapering, racing, recovering, and living the beach life. hahaha
For my runs, I’ll continue running trails but taking it easy for a little bit longer. Less miles than when I’m training, but trying not to lose any gains I’ve made in training for Cayuga! I kind of miss having a training plan to tell me what to do, but I’ll be winging it for the next couple of weeks I guess.
I need to get some double runs and night runs in next month so I’m ready for Ragnar West Virginia in August. Hoping to meet up with my relay team for the night runs!
One thing my husband wanted for Father’s Day was to give the boys a hard workout at the gym. Great opportunity for me to get started on my goals!
More protein. (Especially after a hard workout).
Less carbs. (No white flour carbs and less sugar.)
Whole foods. (No junk!)
Drink more water. (I’m loving my raspberry watermelon water today.)
Example of a typical breakfast I’ll have. . . sprouted grain toast with cashew butter, honey, and coconut and fresh fruit.
My First Trail Run since Cayuga
Saturday morning, Eli, my youngest, woke up in a rotten, uncharacteristically grumpy mood. Maybe it was all the traveling we’ve done the past week, or maybe it was teenage hormones, but he was tough to get along with! Since he’s my runner (of the two), I made him get dressed in running clothes after breakfast and we drove down to Pine Grove. It seemed like a little trail therapy was in order.
My plan was to take him on the 5 mile Sunset Rocks / Appalachian Trail loop. He slept on the drive there and as soon as we got out of the car, we got drizzled on and he complained. I told him it would be fine and we started off. His calves were sore from a workout the previous day and he was having a rough time since he didn’t want to be there. At one point I turned around and started to head back since he was struggling and he wouldn’t let me. He said he was going to get it done no matter what.
Two miles in we ran past some thru-hikers at a shelter on the AT and we stopped at the halfway point on the AT so I could tell him about it. When we started running again, all of a sudden he found his legs and his attitude changed and he was flying through the woods ahead of me! I let him go at his own pace and my heart filled with joy as I ran behind him.
It was a sticky hot and humid day, and Eli stopped about a mile and a half later for a water break. I caught up to him and noticed tears in his eyes. When I asked him what was wrong he explained that he was realizing as he ran that he hasn’t been pushing himself enough the past two years. He wants to work harder in wrestling and in life. It’s true that many things often come easy for him and he has not been pushing himself to reach his full potential. Not to say he hasn’t had successes, because he has, but they have not always been the result of blood, sweat, and tears if you know what I mean. For whatever reason, running on the trail that day, he had an epiphany. He was starting to enjoy and appreciate the trails and our run together in that moment.
When we got closer to Sunset Rocks, I told him we’d have to climb over some of the boulders and we wouldn’t be able to run the trail at that point. Just like life, sometimes you can run full steam, other times you plod along, and still other times there are huge barriers in your way, but you climb over them and don’t let them stop you. Without missing a beat, Eli says, “No Mom. You bust right through them and show them who’s boss.” Good point, son! Good point.
I can’t wait for Eli to join me on more trail adventures this summer. He says he’ll run with me at least once a week.
I think I can honestly say I’ve run through any kind of weather you can imagine, short of a hurricane, during this training! Blizzards, pouring rain, sunny cold days, sunny hot days, freezing rain, knee-high snow drifts, mud, puddles up to my knees…you name it, I’ve run it. There were training runs in single digits with 40 mph winds, and 95 degree temps with high humidity. I feel ready to run 50 in whatever nature throws my way on June 3rd. Until then, I’m logging my taper miles, eating healthy foods, and trying to catch up on sleep and core/strength workouts.
Here’s how this week went down:
Tuesday: 10 trail miles (I was going to do my 8 on this day because Wednesday was supposed to be even hotter, but I only got in 6 on my normal trails in the time I had. I decided to run some more while my son was at Power Train since I didn’t need to do any grocery shopping, so I went to an Appalachian Trail parking lot and had a fun evening run!)
Wednesday: 3 evening road miles (I was busy making cupcakes for a luncheon at school, so I decided not to drive to the trails for a short run. Took the pup and he was pretty tired by the end. ) It was over 95 degrees!
Thursday: 5 trail miles, 90 degrees
Saturday: 10 trail miles (Started early Saturday morning so that I could by home by 9:30 to make breakfast for the boys. It was a nice run and felt good to feel strong for a 10 miler. Most of my 10 – 12 milers this training cycle have been the day after a 20 + mile run when my legs are tired!)
Sunday: 8 trail miles (Seems SO weird to be running without tired legs all this week. Although….I did not get into a good groove until mile 7. Hahahaha…..good thing this is a long race!
New Gear: UltrAspire Collapsible Soft Flask with Tube
I always fill my hydration bladder with plain water and keep a bottle in my vest pocket for Nuun. The problem is, I was using a handheld 12 oz Nathan bottle and it was leaking down my leg and all over the vest pocket during my runs (for at least the first few miles). Also, Nuun tablets are for 16 oz of water and I was drinking some pretty strong Nuun since it didn’t hold that much! I didn’t mind the flavor too much, but the leaking was getting annoying so I ordered this soft flask and it’s working well so far.
I’ve used it 3 times already and will definitely be using it during the Cayuga Trail 50. The soft flask is easy to fill, does not make a sloshing sound when I’m running, fits perfectly in my vest pocket, and most importantly does not leak! I love that I don’t have to take it out to drink and that it holds exactly 16 ounces. Also, you can trim the bottom of the straw to whatever length to fit your needs. I trimmed off about 3/4″ and it was the perfect height to be able to secure it into the yellow loop you can see in the picture near the top of the straw. The straw is out in the picture because I was done running and had a drink, but it stayed secure in that loop while I was running. I’ll only have to take it out of the loop when I’m refilling it at aide stations. I also like the soft flask better than my hard bottle I was using for the fact that the more I drink the smaller it gets, which means less weight/ bulk to carry around on the trails.
And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul. ~John Muir
Happy, hungry, tired, and sore. That pretty much sums up how I am feeling at the end of this week. I had so much fun spending so many hours on the trails this weekend, admiring the beauty that was all around me. My training this week has been empowering, captivating, and humbling. I am proud of how far I have come, but most importantly, my soul is happy.
Tuesday: 4 miles on the xc course
Wednesday: 12 trail miles (double run 7, then chiro, then 5 more)
Thursday: 6 trail miles
Saturday: 26 miles (rained the entire time)
Ran from Pine Plantation at Kings Gap to Pole Steeple, played around on some other trails at Pine Grove, then ran back.
Sunday: 7 miles cycling, upper body, and 10 miles hike/run
I ended up hiking the majority of the first 6 miles because my knees were just not ready to run again. I was fine hiking but running was a killer. My legs literally felt exactly like they did in the last 5 miles of Ironmaster’s 50K last year. By mile 6 they started to feel better and by mile 7 I was 100% running, no hiking at all. I planned to stop at 8.5 but a huge trail blocked my path when I was 0.1 miles from the parking lot. I always climb over or through trees to keep going but this one had poison oak all over it so I turned around and went back the other way. My legs actually felt springy so I ended up getting to 10 miles. I was even leaping over some of the trees by the end of this run!
The Big Mystery This Week
What happened between Thursday and Friday to all the trees in Kings Gap? Especially around Pine Plantation. Thursday night I finished my run and talked with the park ranger who was warning me abut a bear sighting. I even mentioned to him how nice the park was looking because all the down trees from the winter had been cleared off the trail. Then by Saturday morning it looked like a war zone! I counted 5 trees down in the first half mile of my run that day. We had pouring rain Friday and I guess we must have had some wind too because the damage is crazy! The pics below are just two of the twelve or more I encountered this weekend.
One more quote to leave you with. . .
“No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.”
This week my patience has certainly been put to the test! It was supposed to be another 50+ mile week, but that was clearly not going to help me meet my goals. With the combination of racing the Buck Ridge Burn faster than I had planned, and then a solid week of 56 miles last week (which included a 10, 11, and 23 miler), my body began to tell me it needed rest in the form of a nagging weakness in my right hip that was causing my IT Band to let me know of it’s presence every time I had to exert force on that side. I’ve been through enough training cycles to know how this goes. Could I have logged a decent amount of miles this week? Absolutely. Would I have been running weak and actually caused a “nagging tightness” to turn into a full blown injury? Definitely. So I had to ask myself what was more important. Sticking rigidly to a training plan and modifying my runs here and there so that I could say I ran this week….or giving my body the rest it was demanding so I could meet my overarching goal of arriving to the start line of Cayuga strong as hell and ready to kick ass. I choose ass kicking every time 😉
The decision to rest extra days when your training plan tells you otherwise is NOT an easy one. However, I have complete confidence in the training I have done so far. I have gotten in many solid long runs backed up by a second long run the following day, mountain repeats with decent vert, and some faster runs that were on both road and trail as well. This was the first time I had any type of signal during the past 16 weeks that my body could possibly break down if I continued to hammer on as per my training schedule. In the past (Gettysburg Marathon training & Ironmaster’s training) I pushed through potential injuries I started to feel about 10 weeks into training and ended up with an actual injury that put me out of running for 3-4 weeks. So playing it safe and resting this week, given my past experiences, was definitely necessary to help me meet my goals. An extra week of rest, a regular cutback week next week to ease back in…and then two more hard weeks before taper is the plan for now.
This is life, you know? Roll with the punches. Play it smart. Stay positive. Focus on your goals. Things hardly ever go as planned. So you problem solve, create an alternate path, and work your ass off in new ways to continue moving forward.
So what did I do this week?
I rested, saw my chiropractor, did my chiropractic homework (dynamic “cobra pose” stretches to open up my hip muscles more), stretched, foam rolled, ate fruits and vegetables rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, replaced runs with cycling, and lifted and worked on core like a boss.
Monday: 8 mile cycle, upper body, core, foam rolling, stretching, tennis ball for myofacial release in hip (works wonders!)
Wednesday: 3 mile trial on trails with dog (run/walk to test the extra rest day). It was clear I needed more than one extra rest day so we stopped @ 3 miles and I went to the gym), 7 mile cycle, upper body, core
Besides getting frustrations out during weight lifting, here’s how you can to stay sane during time off from running. . .
Read a good book! (Never have time for that!)
Go to a good sports chiropractor. For anyone in my area, Dr. Lenny at Align Chiropractic is amazing. The boys have gone there for wrestling related injuries, and I went during my Gettysburg Training. Dr. Lenny takes the time to assess what is going and figures out the root of the problem. He does not just treat the symptoms. He is pretty confident I will not be sidelined over this, just a little bump in the road. I go back tomorrow. I love getting an expert’s point of view during a critical time in my training and am thinking that I should probably make it a regular thing when my training gets more demanding.
Catch up on work or chores to stay busy. (Not exactly fun or stress relieving, but good to know something can be crossed off the to-do list). My students will be amazed that their tests are graded and entered so fast!
Talk to your friends or text them to see how their trail runs went. You might think that would be like rubbing salt in your wounds, but NOT AT ALL! I am living vicariously through them. If I can’t run in the woods I want to hear all about someone else doing it 🙂
Discover an obsession for something new….like sriracha.
Watch trail or ultra running videos on You Tube while you are cycling. Here’s one I watched this week. Crazy race!
Last February I joined an online Weight Loss Challenge Group hosted by my good friend Karen. I have always been athletic and at a healthy weight for my height, but let’s get real. Having two kids, loving to cook and bake, and living most of my adult life chasing little kids around as my only form of exercise, I wasn’t where I wanted to be. (Yes, those of you who know me….after high school and until I was 33 years old I was not a runner. Family hikes and occasional workout DVD’s were my only purposeful exercise). It was a time to focus on family and I loved every second of it.
When running came into my life, I started feeling really in shape for the first time. I felt a renewed sense of health that I hadn’t had before …especially when I increased my distance from 5K to 13.1 and eventually a marathon. I was in a good groove; however, two moves 800 miles away, in two years, and two new jobs in those new towns left me feeling like I didn’t have the time or energy to put into running and working out. 2013 was a very stressful year for our family for a lot of reasons. We were between the moves, wanting to move back to PA to be near our family. We were dealing with a lot of stress, both financially and health-wise (my father became very sick and was in the hospital for weeks). Needless to say, running took a back burner. I still ran a few times a week when I could but did not train for any races or do any other type of exercise. Most of my energy was put into applying for jobs and packing up the house to move back to PA! We left behind some good friends, but the move needed to happen.
Thankfully it worked out, and in the summer of 2014, after getting settled into our new life, jobs, and community. The following spring I began to train for my first race in about a year: the Gettysburg North-South Marathon. It was my fourth marathon, and I ended up with a nagging hip injury a few weeks out but was still able to do the race. It wasn’t my best race at all, as I was under-trained and not in the best shape. My nutrition wasn’t what it should have been. Although we have always eaten a healthy diet for the most part, I wasn’t thinking of food as fuel the way I do now. I wasn’t doing any form of cross training, lifting, or regular stretching. I was pretty much doing the minimal. I think I finished in 4:30 something.
I can see the difference in my body between now and then just looking at these pictures. I love myself no matter what, but it makes me realize how much stronger I’ve become and how much my hard work is paying off!
One good thing that did come out of my Gettysburg training was that I took the plunge during training and signed up for my first trail race. A half marathon on hard snow and ice around a frozen lake with freezing temps and the best soup and candy at the finish line. I became hooked on trails and pretty much knew that Gettysburg would probably be the last road race finish line that I would cross in a long time (maybe ever?).
I still trained on roads for logistics purposes in 2016, but I focused on getting ready for my first 50K race: The Ironmaster’s Challenge 50K. After my first trail race I decided that an ultra had to be in my future! I did some long runs on trails once a week but didn’t make trails a priority like I should have for that training. I planned to add more trails around February or March, but that never happened because I ended up with a stress reaction behind my knee. (Again, NO cross training, NO lifting, and minimal strengthening).
I decided it was time for a change so here is where Karen’s online Weight Loss Challenge came into play. I knew I could be stronger. I knew I could feel better running. And I knew I could hone in on my nutrition to optimize my potential. I just needed to be held accountable and to start putting a plan into action.
I had a goal of losing 10 pounds I think. For my petite stature (5’1″) 121 pounds was not an ideal running weight. I didn’t like how my shorts or pants were fitting and it was impacting my running. I just didn’t feel very strong or swift on my feet. The knee injury only added to my good fortune as I became a crazy stationary cyclist to log my miles (all while watching You Tube videos on ultra running nutrition), and I even began to lift weights and work on my core. I started to see more definition in my muscles over the first month or two of the challenge and I was doing really well. I was finally on track and getting the results I wanted to see. I have always loved the feeling after a good run (and still do of course), but I was gaining new appreciation for the feeling in your muscles after a good lifting session.
Here is a before and after that I took at the beginning and end of this challenge:
I started to keep a food journal and made sure to eat plenty of protein, healthy fats, minimal sugar, and minimal carbs (except for long run days!). I cut out all processed foods and made sure to eat mostly whole foods. Even for snacking. Breakfast was oatmeal or eggs with fruit. Lunch was a healthy salad with avocado and veggies. Dinner was a lean protein and veggies. For a snack it was plain Greek yogurt with PB2, honey and ground flax, fresh popped popcorn, or nuts.
I can see the difference in my body between now and then just looking at these pictures. I love myself no matter what, but it makes me realize how much stronger I’ve become and how much my hard work is paying off! I mean, I’m going to be running a crazy tough 50 mile course in less than four months, so I need to be strong and ready!
I’m proud to say that I have continued my lifting and core routine since this time last year. I aim for 2-3 sessions per week and am currently trying to figure out when to add a steady leg routine in as well. I am a much more well rounded runner and feeling strong on the trails (and roads when I have to run them). I feel light on my feet and the newly found strength in my core has paid off tremendously over the long distance. I have my nutrition figured out. I am getting out on the trails 2-3 times per week during this training cycle. I honestly don’t know if I’ve ever been this fit in my whole life. I surpassed my 10 pound goal and my body has found it’s happy place which I am maintaining well with my current training and nutrition. What an amazing feeling!
Excuse the poor lighting on this next one. It’s not like me to post random pictures like this, but I think it shows how I am feeling inside. Strong, confident, and ready to put in more work to conquer the Cayuga Trail 50 mile race.
or at least get to the finish line in one piece…
Hell of an elevation chart, right?
Thankfully I have my girl Jen to share food ideas with, talk training, and all things ultra trail running. We will both be going up and down the hills of Cayuga in June, cruising (or rolling) to the finish line, whatever it takes.
So that is, in a nutshell, how I got to where I am now. If you read this far, thank you for sticking with it. You must have some serious endurance. Have you ever thought of running an ultra? 😉