Thursday, May 31, 2012

Never The Same: Thelma & Louise, Mothers Day Mile, Mike The Headless Chicken, & Bolder Boulder

And now I'm never the same
Never the same girl twice
(wanted an excuse to use this wicked cool song and video)

The blog has been on the back burner in recent weeks, with a combination of life with four kids at the end of the school year, and the major event of putting my house on the market, and the ensuing surprise, shock, and relief that we had a buyer after a mere 24 hours in this tough market. Running has been my normal-maker and sanity-keeper through it all, including my creative outlet here on the running bloggeroni. I've been told my blog entries are, erm, a little lengthy at times. I'll do my best here to update on some of the cool recent races I've run, along with what's in store this summer and fall. The races were all very different, and I was never the same at any two races, making a little more progress each time I hit the road.

The Inaugural Thelma & Louise Half Marathon

This fell a mere three weeks after my first 50-miler, and even though recovery seemed to be going well, I just knew going into it that my speed was not back 100%. Still, I resolved to give it the best go possible. I'd been assigned bib #1 for the first annual all women's event, and just tried to appreciate the coolness of the 1/1 thing. I road tripped down with my friend Angela, and we got to spend time hanging out, goofing around in Cisco (a filming location for the movie), and being around the other Girls on the Run Solemates fundraisers in Moab. The energy at this race was fantastic; women from all over the country showed up to run, the course was spectacular, and there were tons of little details in the race itself that paid homage to the movie. The lead vehicle was a convertible with Thelma, Louise, and J.D., a tanker truck sat on the side of the road at one point, and there was even a Jamaican biker leaning on a county police vehicle. There were a lot of strong women running up front; it was pretty amazing to have a good, competitive field at a first-time event for women. 

I realized as I was running that I definitely did not have spring in the legs and speed back 100%. It wasn't going to be a PR day. Still, my mind was willing and focused, and my body, well...all the speed work and longer miles were still going to get me through to the finish with about the best I think I could've hoped for that day. Other than my first-ever shoelace malfunction, I kept chugging along without collapse, and even got into a fun kick to the finish with Jan, one of the ladies who regularly attends track workouts. I crossed the finish line in 1:44:42, 17th overall out of 361, and 4th out of 144 in my age group. Although my competitive side always has me wanting to be at the top of the board, I knew I'd put all my eggs in the 50-miler basket this spring, and really couldn't be disappointed with giving it what I had that day. This was also (no surprise) a fabulously organized event with a lot of FUN built in to the race. The western chuckwagon finish party, music, finish line food and beer, and great door prizes and giveaways concluded another great race by Moab Half Marathon, Ranna, the race crew, and volunteers. I expect this race to grow tremendously as the word gets out; turnout was very high even with several other races were taking place in the region, and with just a few months lead time between the race announcement, and day of the event. It'll be on the calendar next year, and will be a possible Runners World  BQ Babes Reunion race.

Mothers Day Mile

The Mother's Day Mile was a mere 18 hours after the start of Thelma & Louise, over in Glenwood Springs. I'd run it the previous two years, and it's an incredibly positive event, raising money for Advocate Safehouse (protecting against domestic violence), and for HIV positive men and women who are trained as skilled artisans at the Imani Workshops in Kenya. All prizes come from the workshops, with other items for sale, and a silent auction to boot. Pie made from scratch, and small-town bazaar atmosphere make it a great place to take the family for the day. The race itself, an all-out mile on the hilly streets of Glenwood, seals the deal. There aren't many opportunities to race a mile if you're an adult. The fact that it's not "flat and fast," and  is at an elevation of 6000 feet or so, make it a challenge I can't pass up.

Getting up that day, I was pretty sore, tired, and a little lackluster. Luckily, the race doesn't start until 1pm. Driving over, I really wasn't feeling it. I was sleepy and not all that motivated. Mind over matter prevailed, though. I knew it would be fun when we got there. When we arrived, I registered myself, Ava, and Carter, got in some warm-up time, and waited to get my turn in one of four waves. That's another neat aspect of this race-there is a competitive kids wave, an open wave,, a masters wave, and a family fun run/walk wave. It meant that I could watch the kids race and vice-versa, and it  adds a bit of suspense and surprise for racers because overall spots would be contested from all three competitive waves. I watched my kids, and they did great, finishing several minutes faster than the previous year. In true Ava style, my baby girl wore a fancy polka-dotted dress, looking stylish as she trotted to the finish. 

When my turn came to race, I was very antsy and nervous. I didn't know if this was a bad idea, or the  worst idea ever to race a mile right after Thelma & Louise. When the starting gun sounded, a bunch of women were in front of me already and I just shut the brain off from thinking any more. I kicked it into high gear, pushing up the hill at the beginning of the course. I began picking off runners, and fed off that energy. Pitching down a steep hill, I became more confident, as downhill road running is probably what I'm best at as a runner. Moving past more runners, up to the hairpin turn, and back down the road for the finish, I pushed into overdrive, taking a turn for home into the parking lot, and fighting to catch and pass another woman just before the finish. My time of 6:53 was a race PR, and put me 10th woman overall, and third 30-39-year-old woman. I was on a true "runners high" right after, and for the first time, felt back to normal after the 50-miler. I got to hang out with Cheryl, a really speedy friend from nearby Silt who came for the races. With the wave setups we also got to watch Marty win the masters wave, and the overall race win by mere tenths of a second over a runner from the open wave. Mind over matter wound up being a great thing. I was glad in the end that I talked myself in to going to Glenwood. The kids and I had a great time hanging out, and I was pleased with my race.

Mike The Headless Chicken 5K

Only in Colorado do you find festivals celebrating things like frozen dead guys, or in this case, a chicken who survived 18 months after a failed decapitation. This race is pretty strange-it's not some special, magical, scenic course, yet hundreds show up every year to race, some from far away. People run it because, well-it's The Chicken. There are also tractor races, carnival games, a car show, and vendors. It's quite the scene. It's hard to podium at this race, as the only awards given are overall, masters, and typically first and second place in 10-year age groups. This year, as it turned out, they were just doing first finisher in each age group. We had good track group representation in Fruita that morning, and we all set out to warm up together. It felt good, and got everyone energized to race.  I'd never raced with Laetitia, a cool lady who is a newer runner, very competitive, and with a killer work ethic. I was excited she was here today, as well as a number of other butt-kicking ladies like Cheryl, Ali, and Lanie. I knew we'd be pushing one another in the race. Nobody was going to be coasting or giving less than their best. Suzie, who often wins or is in the mix to win stuff locally, was sick, but here to hang and watch.

Lining up and starting, I remembered to warm into my first mile. This doesn't mean take it slow-I went out hard, but didn't way overshoot into Unmaintanable-ville on my pace. Beginning to accelerate gradually, I was able to move up toward the lead string of ladies, and began passing in miles one and two. I had a Garmin on but wasn't looking at it; I just focused on a fast turnover, and passing decisively whenever I got close enough to pass people. Soon I found myself third and could see Cheryl. I felt like I might puke but blocked it out and pushed to keep her in my sights. I wasn't sure where Laetitia, Ali and the others were but knew it wouldn't be far back, and that I couldn't get lazy or let up. Late in the third mile, the course turns and  heads slightly uphill until the final push to the finish. The puke feeling was rising within but I just leaned into it and pretended I didn't feel the overwhelming urge to toss my cookies. Making the last turn for home, I looked down the road, got in my head that there was more to run than I thought, and had what was essentially a 10-second meltdown, letting up a bit before regaining my composure, form, and hard push to the finish. I wasn't going to catch Cheryl but I was going to hang on for third woman in a time of  21:48. This  was a race PR and rank/placement PR after a couple of 5th places, and a 12th place the year prior. I was about ready to fall over when I finished, but walked through the chute and turned around just in time to see Laetitia come flying through, and then Ali for 4th and 5th overall. Angela, who has been at this running thing for less than a year, rocked a huge PR, and charged through the finish looking strong. I had to walk away at one point because I thought I really might barf on Laetitia and her husband Josh's feet (I know, classy), but soon I was able to rejoin everyone and enjoy what was an across-the-board great race for everyone.

Bolder Boulder 10K

The Bolder Boulder is a special race for many reasons. I'd been here three times before, pacing with my oldest daughter Alexis when she was 8 years old back in 2008. I raced it on my own the next two years, and missed 2011 altogether. This time would be special because Carter and Ava would be coming with me, and Ava would be doing her very first Bolder Boulder. Those who have run it know that it's just a great big party on the course, and that there are smaller waves within the race, offering a great experience for everyone from fun walkers to sub-elite runners. I'd be running my race, then getting back to the start to do it again with Ava. Rather than showing up the afternoon prior, a good sized group of us from Grand Junction would be arriving on Friday and Saturday, staying in a home rented to us by Lorraine Moller, the 1992 Olympic Bronze medalist in the marathon. It also brought opportunity to run in Boulder before race day, spend time taking in music and dance at the Boulder Creek festival, and enjoy the company of friends for several days instead of hurrying to get in a run here or chatting briefly at a race there before taking off. The day before the race, we were surprised by a visit from Lorraine at the house, along with her Olympic bronze  medal. Everyone was geeked out, and either tried it on or held and looked at it up close. The level of awesome was off the charts. I was a little nervous about leaving my kids during my race but knew they'd be in great hands with Jan, who would not be running due to injury. Grayson and I made a friendly wager, and determined that the one of us who ran slower would sing the praises of the other's running on Facebook. I felt like I could run a race PR with all the speed work but didn't fixate on certain times.

Race morning began earlier than usual, with my usually fantastic sleepers waking up shortly after 3am. I got them back to sleep, but then I was up. Oh well. I'd raced on less sleep than this. It would be okay. We all piled clown-car style into the van, and somehow Ben, the tallest man in the car, and I, the tallest woman, were the ones who would up riding in the hatchback/trunk. Couldn't do much more than laugh and wonder how the hell I wound up in the trunk of a van. Following some comedic misadventures, we made it to the start in one piece. I said good-bye to my kids, lined up in the B Wave, launching at 7:03am. The call to post sounded on the bugle, and the starting line announcer wished good luck to us "Killer B's" as he called us, starting fourth after the A, AA, and AB waves. Then, we were off. I remembered Lorraine's advice to stay controlled in the first mile, and then let 'er rip. This wasn't a problem because I felt a little off, but could maintain a pace that felt about right. I passed my kids about a half mile past the start, and that motivated me. This course was harder than what I'd last ran, climbing, twisting and turning continuously for 4.5 miles. It's also a little disorienting to be racing a bunch of strangers from all different waves-I had to really concentrate on MY race and feeling my pace.  Soon, though, I found a rhythm. Getting over the big hill on the course, I let myself fly. Looking at my splits later, mile 5 was my fastest of the day. I felt strong, and mostly maintained it into the last 1.2 miles. I hit the finish at 47:00.77, another race PR by 30 seconds. I had hoped for a faster day, but on a more difficult course, I couldn't be too disappointed. The top 15 in each individual age year get awards, something I'd managed once with a 14th place two years prior. Today, my one goal was top-10 for  my age, and I got it on the nose, finishing 10th out of 504 for 38 year old women.Two words-speed work-stood out in my result today.

 I headed back to the start and got to see the race through a different set of eyes-those of my youngest daughter Ava, who likes to hike and run the trails. This is what it was all about-the youngest and oldest participants were in this wave...families, small children, new runners and fitness walkers, people who were not in perfect health or who were overweight yet doing something good and positive for themselves. Learning that this can all be fun, and not intimidating. Ava skipped through sprinklers, took a two minute hula hoop break at someone's "Hula Hoop Station," almost cried when the "Marshmallow Station" ran out seconds before she hit it, and ultimately covered the whole 10K, hand-in-hand with me much of the way. I'd be lying if I said it wasn't awesome, or that I'm not immensely proud of that girl. I'd also entrusted Carter with the one camera we own now, wondering if it might be a mistake. He took his photog duties seriously, though, and had a fun time documenting the race, and our friends at the start and finish. 


With the weekend winding down, the focus this week is, surprisingly, that registration for the Imogene Pass Run is on us yet again. I'm acting as unofficial trail host for a few hours of running this evening on my favorite steady climb, Serpents Trail, and then my friends Elizabeth and Bryan will host runners in their home at midnight as we all log on to register for the race, which is expected to fill almost immediately this year. Rather than trying to stay awake in our own dwellings, this seemed like the way to go. It's going to be fun. This will also kick off a summer of long trail runs, getting into gear for Imogene and other big things on the horizon. I'll be in the support/crew/pacer role at some 100-milers this summer, and I'm very excited to take part, learn, and gain experience that will (hint) help me to be successful at what I'd like to do over a weekend in August 2013 in Leadville as a 40th birthday gift to myself and my kids. Until then, it's one step at a time, and keep chugging on down the trail. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Our Lips Are Sealed: 50-Mile Race Recovery

The Go-Go's. I'm sorry. Or you're welcome. Maybe a little of each.

I could have written this a week ago and it may have been more entertaining for sheer train wreck value; as it is, it'll probably make more sense today.

My experience two weeks ago was pretty incredible now that I've had time to process all that went on. I'm incredibly thankful for all the pre-race and race day support that helped me to finish the Desert R.A.T.S. 50-miler. While none of the experienced ultra runners I looked to for advice and opinions kept recovery experiences a total secret, it was just not something that came up much. When it did, it was because I asked, and not stuff that was volunteered readily. After the fact, though, it's been good to know that my experience has not been unique, and is nothing which should make me worry. Some of the facts of life of recovery are pretty straightforward and not surprising. Other experiences have been a bit of a surprise. So, without further ado-here are my rules of 50-mile race recovery.


No, it is not unusual to feel a bit tired and a little bit out-of-sorts for a short time after a good race effort. After longer trail races, like the Imogene Pass Run, or the RedHot 33K and 55K races, I remember that my body was pretty tired, and just wanted rest for a few days. I don't remember, however, any of these races wreaking havoc on my thought processes as the one I ran two weeks ago did for a short time. This was true immediately following the race, when I was so spent that forming basic sentences was a challenge. I'm usually pretty gabby after a race, but simply could not muster more than a few words this time.

 I also did not anticipate that my memory-or lack thereof-was not to be trusted.  I found myself misplacing items on a daily basis in the week following the race. I would repeat conversations with friends, and have no recollection of the original conversation. As one friend pointed out reluctantly but with a laugh-while he was indeed at the finish of my race, he was NOT there at the midpoint even though I have a distinct recollection of his presence. I hallucinated a friend. This was a first. I had another regular training partner tell me a story about repeatedly passing around his belt buckle from a 100-mile race at the office, not realizing he'd already passed it around once. I was supposed to work on some online continuing education in the week post-race as well. This was simply NOT going to happen. My attention span for simple tasks was about the same as that of a house fly.


Along with logging the miles, and good nutrition, sleep and getting adequate rest is probably the critical third piece of the puzzle when it comes to good running and racing. Sleep is when the body repairs itself, and without adequate sleep, it's not possible to sustain good running long-term. With longer road races and trail races, I've experienced that need after races to sleep more. I thought I knew what was coming this time around, especially with the race day heat. I figured I'd be tired for a week after, but would be able to get through days just fine with added sleep time at night.

What I did not anticipate was needing a nap by 9am every day. I was hydrating and eating well, and having my typical morning coffee. I figured that I would be in that blissed-out, and kinda fatigued zone. It was a surprise that I could barely keep my eyes open by mid-morning. As in-I wanted some serious, deep sleep. My days were spent going through the motions, eagerly anticipating that reasonable evening hour when sleep would be okay and acceptable. Though I had no plans to run early in the morning in the week following the race, there's no way I could have roused myself from bed at 5am if I'd wanted to do so. It felt like I'd reverted to the sleep patterns of an infant; sleep a long time at night, get up for two hours, want a nap that I couldn't take, get to midday, want another nap I couldn't take, then off to bed early. Almost two weeks after the race, I'm feeling much more back to normal, but it was weird for a bit. I don't know how much of this could be attributed to my first-timerness, or the heat, which was unusual even in our high desert, on race day. All I know is that sleep was a valued commodity in the seven days post-race, and that I sought it out whenever possible.


Kiss it good-bye. This was probably the biggest secret of all. Nobody mentioned this to me ahead of time, and had I known, it wouldn't have changed my desire to run 50-miles. This was the big spring race, and something way out of my comfort zone. Getting to the finish was awesome. I did not have a clue, though, that running a slow, steady race for 12 hours would sap all relative speed from my body. It's not like I was running my 5K or 10K pace, or even marathon pace at the Desert R.A.T.S.  

This came up when I showed up at track a few days after the race with no expectations to do the full workout at my top speed. I was just there for the regular routine and habit of speed group, and knew I likely would not do the full workout, and that my pace would be slower than usual.

What I did not expect was beginning the first 400 meter interval, feeling good for about 100 meters, and then immediately decelerating involuntarily. The experienced ultra runners at that night's workout told me that this was normal, and that my typical speed would likely be gone for at least a month, and maybe longer, depending how my recovery went. On one hand, this was frustrating that I couldn't just work hard like usual and magically run my very best at short distances. On the other hand, it was a relief, and gave me permission to be patient and run easy.


Yes, I expected to be extra special hungry in the week after the race. The unexpected part was that I'd have long periods of time when I DIDN'T feel hungry-almost like a switch had been shut off-but when I became hungry, look out. I couldn't get food in the system fast enough. There'd be almost no warning, either. I had to make an effort to keep putting food in my face in small amounts on a regular basis, because if I went by my appetite alone...trouble. And, yes...I did splurge and eat some crap I wouldn't normally, but made a point to balance it out with even more of the good stuff, with lots of deep leafy greens, and fruit.


It will be lacking its usual kick post-race. This is one thing that didn't surprise me, and thus I've been pretty pro-active with how my body has reacted. There was some crud going around town pre-race, and I did feel a little scratchy in the throat the day before the race. A few days later, I had a full-blown sinus infection (I tend to get a few of these a year, but not much else, illness-wise), and was sicker than I'd been in ages. I got into the doctor once I could see that the sinuses were getting worse, and continued to stay on top of rest, hydration, and nutrition. Things are beginning to feel a bit more back-to-normal now.


I've gotten a mixed bag of recommendations based on the experiences of other ultra runners as far as how much to run, and how soon I can expect to resume racing again.What I've been learning is that after the initial "walking dead" experience in the first week post-race, there are no hard and fast rules if nothing in the body hurts, and it's just a general feeling of natural fatigue in the body from the effort. I completed runs several days in a row on flat surfaces at an easy pace that lasted no more than 20-30 minutes.My legs frequently felt like jello to start, but more often than not, if I dialed into an easy pace, I'd feel better by the end. I also did some regular hilly hikes, which further aided recovery without causing strain.

This week, I did my first hilly trail run, and while it was very slow, I was able to get through 45 minutes. The climb was hard, and I could feel that I was a bit tense and not freely flowing to start the downhill. Just going through the motions felt good in the end, though. It allowed me to loosen up, and it felt like some of the tight joints and muscles were able to work themselves out a bit. I missed weekly track in this second week post-race due to family commitments, but managed my first road run today with bursts of speed thrown in at the end. I am sure it was slower than normal, but it didn't feel miserable. The run itself lasted about an hour, which was above and beyond what I thought I could do today. It's going to take more time to be fully recovered, but this morning's run was encouraging. 

The next few weeks bring uncharted territory. I'm reverse-tapering up to the Thelma & Louise Half Marathon in eight days. It's a brand-new race, and my first time racing with women only. Two weeks later, I'll be running the Bolder Boulder 10K for the first time since 2010. My track record at this race has been mediocre; while it's not the fast downhill course one finds at the Winter Sun in Moab, I've just never had a "knock one out of the park" experience in Boulder. The plan is to continue the gradual but continuous re-introduction of time on feet, and general fast running. If all goes well, I might be able to capitalize on good endurance coupled with a strategic reverse taper for shorter, faster races. Until then, I will continue this exercise in patience, knocking out the slower miles and finding satisfaction in being able to run for simple enjoyment in the meantime.