I’m behind with my recaps but I’ve certainly been doing my training. Maybe that’s why I haven’t been writing. I’m always running, eating, or sleeping.
Anyway, Week 6 started with bad weather so I did the dreaded elliptical machine on Monday in place of my normal 4 mile run. I actually felt much better on Tuesday because of that and knocked out my 6 miles. 6 miles again on Thursday.
Saturday was a longest run ever at 18 miles. I met up with Kim for a portion of this run. I started out on the trails and then met her. I did about 7 miles before meeting her, 5 with Kim on the paved portion of the trail, and then headed back to the trails and finished. The last part on the trails was really hard. The trails were getting muddy and I was super tired by that point. But I finished!
On Sunday I met my trail running friend to run a portion of the race course. The trails were super muddy. We were sliding all over the place. When we got to the hills it was almost scary. We were grabbing onto trees to help get up the hills and we kept sliding. I even fell and hurt my pride.
After we got on the other side I spent a lot of time worrying about how we would get back. We couldn’t get to a portion of the race course and had to move up to a gravel path. It started raining when we got back on the course and we ended up turning around slightly early. We were able to get back through the hills but it involved a lot of sliding again. I completed 9.5 miles and was good with that.
…What to title this.
Taper started sooner ?
What went wrong?
Wheels came off the bus?
I was supposed to run 24 miles yesterday…a longest run ever. Spoiler alert – I didn’t. I’m sad about that but I feel like I made the right decision (for once).
Let’s go back and start at the beginning. Last week’s 22 miles was awesome. Last Sunday we kept it short and did 6 miles but it was a preview of the loop section of the course and overall it felt pretty good. On Monday I noticed a large blister on my big toe. It is on the side of my big toe next to my 2nd toe. I’m not sure when it started because I didn’t notice it after either run.
For various reasons this week my runs were cut short. On Monday I ran 3 instead of 4 miles. On Tuesday I had to break my run up into 2 pieces due to an emergency bathroom break and did
6 5.7 instead of 10. Thursday was better, 7 instead of 8. I felt ok about these decisions. My body is tired and the blister keeps refilling and was altering my gait. I do not want to get a serious injury at this point (or ever!).
Yesterday my trail running buddy agreed to meet me at the start of my run. I had planned to start just before sunrise and she didn’t want me to run the trails by myself. We planned to do 12-14 miles together and I would finish up with 10-12 miles. There was a section of the course that she hadn’t seen yet and wanted to preview. After all of this trail running with me she has decided to run the half marathon.
I got to the trail head early….which was good because my watch decided to be a jerk and not find a satellite or even get past the splash screen. I ended up doing a master reset. Luckily I had all my data synced so I didn’t lose anything besides my settings. I don’t really care about keeping my activity history on the watch. I was able to reset the run settings because I have those memorized from previous resets. I will have to set it up again for biking and kayaking. I should have seen this as a sign.
The first 14 miles with my friend were actually ok. We started too fast and I asked to slow down. We did once we got off the gravel section at the start. My legs were tired feeling and my feet were hurting a bit but we were moving at a pretty good pace. The first 30 minutes flew by and I took in my first fuel. The next 30+ minutes flew by and I missed my fuel. I tried to take it in but then my timing was messed up. Ultimately I missed fueling and I think it set me back. I kept getting messed up by 5-10 minutes which makes a big difference when you are trying to fuel every 30 minutes.
The blister was growing again. I had drained it and covered it with an “advanced healing” bandage. It was supposed to help but I could feel it blowing up. It didn’t really hurt at first but I knew it was spreading out my toes. And then it started hurting. My feet were hurting and I’m sure my gait was changing. I was super tired and my friend was speeding up as we were nearing the end of her 14 miles. I’m happy for her…she is going to crush the half marathon. She has seen all but a small piece of the course now. There are some small hills in that section but she is prepared.
When we finished the 14 I kept going. I took a long walk break because I was behind on food and in some serious pain….feet and legs. I ate and tried to regroup. It didn’t go very well. Getting behind on fuel is not a good idea.
I ran to the finish line of the course and then decided to explore some trails that are on the other side of the park. Those trails were awesome but I was dead. There were a lot of turns and I tried to pay attention as I made them so I could reverse them later. I eventually got to a stream that I just wasn’t willing to cross. It was cold and raining off and on but I didn’t want soaking wet feet. Spoiler alert – I later ended up with soaking wet feet.
I found a different path and followed that. I eventually got to a super swampy area. I even went off the trail to get around things as times because it was a mud pit. I was mostly walking and feeling terrible. Eventually I decided I was risking injury and needed to head back before things got worse. I could always run more of the part I knew if I started feeling better by the time I was back at my car.
Good thing I turned around. Things got worse. I got lost and had to call home to ask which way to go. Then I missed a turn and ended up even more lost. After a while I wasn’t even on a real trail but it was a gravel road. Between using my phone for GPS and calling home I was able to work my way out. It took way longer than I expected to get out of that area but when I came out I was actually pretty close to my car. I expected to come out of the trails at 19 miles and have an easy mile back to my car but I got out at 20 and was only about 0.4 miles from my car.
The rain was cold. I was soaking wet. My feet hurt. The blister felt huge. I had been freaking out from being lost. Everything was wrong. A small piece of me didn’t want to stop but I knew I had to call it. It was not going to get better. Before my last half marathon I pushed to do a longest run ever of 15 miles and it hurt me. I didn’t want to do that again.
I quit….I gave up…..I got in the car and I shivered the entire drive home because I was wet and I was freezing.
The blister had blown up. I drained again and am trying to dry it out. Everything hurts today and I know that doing the back to back isn’t worth it. I need to recover and I need to heal. This plan was aggressive and didn’t really match my beginner status. It’s ok – I’m adjusting. I’m going to move forward. If I can heal up and recover I still think I will be ok on race day.
Moving on now….what happened yesterday is in the past and can’t be changed.
Today I forced (in the nicest way possible) my buddy to run with me and we did a preview of the Great Falls loop of The North Face course. I was scheduled for 10 miles but wasn’t pressed to hit that number after running hard yesterday. I knew I would hit some hills and do a bunch of hiking in this section of the course.
I was told by someone who had run the course before to check out this section. It’s very different than the rest of the course. I’m quite familiar with the park. We used to hike there often. We had a park pass, lived closer, and would go on weekends to hike and sometimes bike. Even though I knew the trails, I hadn’t ever looked at them with running a race in mind. I wanted to figure out where I would need to hike/walk and be prepared for the different terrain.
I didn’t carry a camera or a phone today but I took many mental pictures.
Here is the course map with a few of my notes added:
In this section of the course some of the hills are big and just not runable for me. Some of the terrain is technical and will involve switching back and forth between running and hiking depending on how my legs feel. Some sections are narrow and I’m bit a concerned about the 50 milers who will be passing me. The section after turn 8 is the most technical. I’m prepared to hold my ground and make sure I’m safe but fully aware that I will have to let faster runners pass me. I can’t quite figure out the timing of where people running the 50 mile race will be but they will be running a similar loop 3 times. Theirs has an extra piece.
We ran a total of 7 miles. I was happy with that. We ended up maintaining the same pace that I ran yesterday. I know on race day I will use a little extra time in this section at the aid station where my buddy is going to crew for me. I will need to reload my fuel and probably my water and that will take time. We need to practice so that I don’t lose too much time.
After we finished running we walked back to enjoy the falls for a few minutes and take a few pictures.
This weekend I covered most of the course. I skipped the easy part in the beginning, one hill, and the section between that hill and Great Falls. I’ve run those parts before so I know what to expect. I’m not sure if I will end up running the Great Falls section one more time during training but I feel like I know what to expect now.
Today I did 22 miles on The North Face course. I started at Algonkian but not at the actual start line…probably a mile in… and ran out 11 miles which got me almost to Great Falls. I didn’t take my phone out until the way back. I decided I wanted some music and that I would actually take a few pictures….ahem, a lot of pictures.
Overall the run was absolutely amazing. I crushed it. No matter what happens on race day I know it’s about the journey and today’s journey was great!
Here’s the course preview:
Week 5 was a good week. I was able to complete all of my scheduled runs for a total of 40 miles. This is very high mileage for me. And it’s going to keep going up.
After dealing with back spasms and missing a run at the end of Week 4, I started Week 5 with a scheduled 4 mile run and I ran very conservatively and knew that if things didn’t feel good I would just go home. It went ok and helped to loosen my back.
Tuesday was another 4 mile run. Nothing exciting. I just got it done. Thursday jumped to 6 miles and I decided that even though some sidewalks still have snow I had to leave my neighborhood. I ran through the hospital and to a neighborhood on the other side and was able to string together enough streets and trails without running the streets in my own neighborhood. Thursday went well – I was able to keep up a faster pace. The weather on Thursday was a preview of the weekend weather. It was cold and windy. I think that kept me motivated to hurry up and get it done.
Yesterday I was scheduled for a longest ever run – 16 miles. (A few more of those longest ever runs are coming up….this is exciting and gives me something to look forward to. At the end of each run I can celebrate a new distance.)
The outdoor temperature was frigid….beyond frigid. It was 19°F but felt like something in the single digits. The wind was brutal. I had plans to meet Kim again because that has been working out really well. I love running with her. I started early to get in my extra miles before we met. From the trail access point I decided to go west into the wind. My plan was to run 2 miles west and then turn back east and head 2 miles past the starting point so that when I got back to the starting point I was at 8 miles. When I realized how bad the wind was I became nervous about my timing and decided to only go 1.5 miles past the starting point when I was heading east. So I was back at the starting point after 7 miles. By then I had seen some running friends who were there for the Saturday Distance Training Program. I also saw one of the coaches sitting at the starting location. I checked the time and decided I had just enough time to do the 8th mile and then meet Kim so I headed west for half a mile and then back to the starting point. The timing worked out well.
For my early miles I ran most of it on the horse trail which is a mixture of gravel and dirt. In some places it also adds extra rolling hills. Kim and I stuck to the paved trail and ended up running just over 4 miles together. As we were finishing one our friends was about to pass us. I asked how many miles she had left. She was planning on doing two more but was easily convinced to do 3 more. That left me with just under a mile to finish on my own. I am so grateful for wondering running friends. I could not do this training without them.
Today I was able to hit the trails for a 10 mile run. I had been planning to go to the race course but I saw a picture from last week showing that it was washed out. I was concerned there would be too much ice for a comfortable run so I decided to run trails from a closer location. Also the temperature today was even lower – a huge 7°F when I started. I think the windchill was actually negative but the wind speeds were lower so I actually felt more comfortable. I tried not to stray too far from my car just in case I got too cold. I ended up on trail that seemed interesting and I wanted to keep exploring so I went about 3.5 miles from the car before turning back. I knew I needed to add a 3 mile loop to get the full distance so I took a chance on the trail that led to the lake and it worked out almost perfectly. The end of the run was hard. I was tired. My legs were heavy. I hiked a lot. This is probably a good simulation of the race though. I know that’s the point of the back to back runs. I need to learn how to keep moving on tired legs. I kept telling myself to be relentless and to keep pressing forward. One step at time. The sections I hiked were getting longer but I convinced myself to run short sections whenever I could. Overall I was pleased with the run and super happy to be on trails in the woods.
I’m pretty behind on this recap but better late than never, right? Week 4 started ok. I was thankful for a short 2 miles after my back to back 12 and 8 to end Week 3. After that things started heating up. By Thursday it was time for my first long feeling weekday run at 6 miles. I ended up having to suffer through three 2 mile laps due to the snow piles that were still blocking sidewalks and trails, but I got it done anyway.
Kim convinced me to run a race on Saturday. It was a 10k and I had 14 miles scheduled. I got to the race site at super dark thirty and started running before the race. I was hoping to have enough time to knock out all of my extra miles before the race so that when I crossed the finish line I was actually finished for the day. It worked out quite well. I ended up doing 7.7 miles before the race. I use my knuckle lights and safety vest and ran most of the race course and then added another piece at the end to get the extra distance. As I was finishing I ended up seeing Kim pulling into the parking lot. It worked out perfectly. We spent as much time inside as we could before heading to the start line because it was cold.
The race was pretty good. It was a training run for me so we ran the pace that Kim wanted to run. It worked out well because I had awesome company for most of my long run. I was sooooo glad to be finished when we crossed that finish line. My watch said 6.3 miles so I ended up right at the 14 miles that I was supposed to run.
I felt good that afternoon but that evening I ended up with back spasms. They were really painful. I had trouble sleeping that night and was still in so much pain the next day that I decided it was not a good idea to even attempt to run. I ended up missing an 8 mile run.
So I guess overall it was a mixed week. I had some good days and some not so good days. I did what I could and tried to be smart when I wasn’t feeling my best. No reason to get hurt and miss more than one run.
After the disastrous Week 2 I really needed a better week for Week 3 and I think that happened. I was finally able to get out and run on Monday. My office building was closed due to unplowed streets and parking lots so I got the day off. I was scheduled for 2 miles and I decided not to attempt to make up the 16 miles I had missed over the weekend. The roads were plowed near me but the conditions were still pretty bad and due to the extremely large piles of snow getting around corners was scary. My plan builds pretty quickly and I didn’t want to push myself to make up miles when I know it will never hurt that I missed those miles. AND – did I really miss them? Running miles missed but shoveling miles done!
So I headed out on my street and then headed towards the hospital. I’ve mentioned before that the hospital is cleared during storms and typically a safe place to run. I was surprised at how bad it actually turned out to be. The path for the ambulances was good but the rest was pretty messy. I did a loop but had to slow down in quite a few locations to jump over snow or run through icy sections. It was worse than I expected but this storm really was huge for us. I ended at 3.11 miles. So I did more than the 2 I needed but not so much to set me back for the rest of the week.
Tuesday I went back to work and was glad to be out of the house. I did 2 miles that night after work. I was scheduled for 4 miles on Thursday but had a dentist appointment after work. If the roads weren’t covered in snow I would have run in the dark when I got home but there was just no way to safely run. It’s pretty dicey during the day because of the piles so I couldn’t take a chance at night. No treadmill here and I just didn’t manage to get on the elliptical. Do you always leave the dentist with a headache? I do. My head was pounding and I just didn’t have it in me. I shouldn’t have skipped working out but it felt good at the time.
Since I do not think I’ll be seeing the trails for a while I had to find roads for my long runs this weekend. Kim invited me to run on Saturday. I’m sooooo glad that she did. I had 12 miles planned and she had mentioned that she would be up for 5 or 6. I decided to go early and run my extra miles ahead of time. There is a super secret road here where runners go when there is snow everywhere else. It’s normally plowed and about 1.5 miles long so it’s decent for going back and forth to get a long run done. It’s not really secret…it’s one of those worst kept secrets. Runners know about this spot. I ended up running 7 miles before Kim arrived and then I did some high knees to stay warm right before she showed up. It was wonderful to know that I only had to make it through the first two loops by myself. I then ran the extra mile to get to 7 because I had started a little too early. Once Kim joined me the run was so much better. No more lonely miles. Kim likes to do 3:1 intervals which was perfect. I like the structured walk breaks. I never do that on my own but it is a really good way to train. During the race I will be walking/hiking. I don’t think I will plan to do it based on set intervals. For trail running I’m not sure if structured intervals work as well. I will need to walk the hills. There is no point in even trying to run those hills. I will try to line up my walking with the hills and the aid stations and then run as much of the flat sections as I can. Anyway, I’m so glad that I was able to run with Kim. Looking forward to it helped me getting through the early miles and having her by my side helped me finish the rest of the run.
Today I decided to just run from my house and see where I could find roads clear enough. I was treated to a beautiful sunrise when I went out but I didn’t stop to take a photo. I’ll have to keep that as a memory. It was warmer today but there was still ice on the roads. I ran out of my neighborhood and through the hospital. I really didn’t feel like doing hospital laps so I tried another street. It was icier than I wanted and I kept having to slow down. A crazy thing happened….I said “morning” to a lady walking two dogs. She recognized me and yelled my name. I looked back and realized it was someone I had run with during summer DTP. I had no idea that she lives so close to me. I told her we should run together sometime since we are so close. Because of the ice I ended up heading back to my neighborhood. I came in with about 3.5 miles and I knew I would have to run every single road to get to 8 miles. So I did that. The main road is a high spot so I went down and then back up each street. So.many.hills. Towards the end it became really painful. I was walking bits of the hills. And I was struggling to just stay upright.
Back on my street I had to run past my house to get to 8 miles. I had so much trouble calculating how far I had to run to get to the correct distance. I was counting on my fingers to make sure I wasn’t messing up the math. I even talked through it out loud to make sure I was doing it correctly. Math while running is hard!
In fueling news….I’m trying new things and it’s going well so far. I’ve been doing Fig Newtons. 2 at time. I can easily fit 2 bags of 2 in my skirt pockets and still have room for other stuff. I had some Clif Shot Bloks that I got with a goodie bag of running stuff and I tried those yesterday. I think they were actually easier to take than GU and my stomach was ok. I think I need to alternate food and GU or shot bloks. Fig Newtons give calories but I think the other stuff has electrolytes that I need. I’m still just drinking water. I drink nuun for recovery but I haven’t tried it while running. (No one is paying me to mention these products….this is what I really use. I’m not trying to sell anything.)
So I would say Week 3 was way better than Week 2.
Week 2 – I’m way behind on posting this because things fell apart in Week 2. Literally, some things fell apart. The pieces are slowly being picked up and I’m moving on though.
What went right – well I started off with two 2 mile runs on Monday and Tuesday. And then I got back out on Thursday for my 4 mile run. This was my first increase mileage weekday run and it went ok.
Wednesday night was really really really bad and I needed that run on Thursday to help clear my head for a bit.
After that …well the sky opened up and snow came down and things got wild. The storm started here on Friday afternoon and it stopped sometime while I was sleeping Saturday night/Sunday morning.
We measured 29 inches on our deck which is absolutely insane for us.
I was supposed to run 10 on Saturday and then 6 on Sunday. I went into the weekend thinking I would find a way to make this happen. I came out of the weekend without this happening. I was surprisingly ok with that. I shoveled enough – cross training if you will. I was on my feet for more hours than it would take to run 16 miles. I was out of breath and working plenty hard. We have a huge driveway shared with two other houses. By the time I was finished shoveling for the weekend we had a path for everyone to get out and had helped a couple of neighbors clear the end of their driveways where the plow had put snow. Luckily we are on a snow emergency route and we were getting plowed throughout the entire storm.
So the week did not go as planned but I’m not at all concerned about the missed training.
The challenge has been accepted and Week 1 of training is officially complete.
This week started with three short runs of 2 miles each. Even though my typical short run is 3 miles I’m following the plan and starting with the lower weekday mileage. I have so many 3 mile loops from my house but I had to get creative to run the shorter distance. Those runs all went well. I did them on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday.
This weekend was back to back long runs with 8 miles on Saturday and 6 miles today (Sunday). I didn’t put enough effort into lining up someone to run with yesterday so I ran by myself. I’m getting used to trail running by myself and so far it’s been ok. I went to a park that I have been going to lately. It connects to a much larger trail system but I elected to stay in the park and try to find the lake there. I’m so glad I did because the lake was beautiful. It was foggy morning and it made for some lovely views of the lake.
The lake was small – about a mile of trails around it but it was really beautiful.
The trail to get to the lake was super technical especially with the wet, muddy conditions. I’ve decided that mud must stand for muscle. The more mud I run through the stronger I feel.
After running around the lake I headed out a little farther on the trails. When road running I tend to push the distance on the way out so that I don’t have to run all the way back to my house but in the case of trail running I’ve decided not to overshoot because in case I take a wrong turn on the way back. I can always add distance by going out again. This approach worked well yesterday and I ran a few out and backs on trails back near the beginning of my run to get the right distance.
Yesterday I fueled with a combination of GU and Fig Newtons. I recently started trying the Fig Newtons and so far they are working well. I alternated the GU with the Fig Newtons. I can comfortably carry 4 Fig Newtons in my pocket which is 2 fuel servings. I need to figure out the best way to carry more.
Today my buddy came with me and we tried out a new park. I needed to run 6 miles. The new park had really nice trails. They were well maintained and not very technical which was nice after yesterday. Unfortunately the park is quite small and we had to run a couple of extra loops to get the right distance. We found a small stream crossing that led to a little pond. I decided to take the hard route across the stream.
Since we knew the park wasn’t very big we decided to explore the trails by turning right at every intersection. There were a few tails off the main loops that led us to dead ends but it helped us get to the right the distance and explore the entire area. My buddy runs way faster than I do and is terrible at pacing. We started off fast but then I slowed things down. At times he would speed up and I would have to pull him back. But overall it was good. It’s fun when he goes and it was nice to have someone with me to explore new trails.
I only managed to do one day of strength training this week. I really want to get in at least two so I need to work on that.
Here’s to moving on to Week 2!
In a moment of complete craziness back in August, I signed up for The North Face Endurance Challenge Series DC 50k.
I didn’t want to give in to all the people asking when I will run a marathon so I decided to try an Ultra. A marathon actually sounded harder to me. This is just a play day in the woods. If all goes well and I make it to the start line I get to attempt to run from one park to another, do a loop there, and then run back. And hopefully I can do this in less than 9 hours and not get taken off the course. Given that the most I’ve ever run in one day is 15 miles, this is a big challenge.
Like any big challenge I’m starting with a plan.
Training officially starts today. I talked to some friends and coaches that have done these Ultra races and they recommended following a plan with back to back Saturday and Sunday long runs. I’ve been told that time on your feet is important along with the ability to run when you are tired. Saturday is the longer run of the two days followed up runs that start at 6 miles and later build to 10 miles on Sunday.
One thing that I wanted was to not run equal or greater than 26.2 miles in training. I want my first marathon to happen in the process of the race. I don’t know why….I’m weird. That’s just what I want and this plan maxes out at 24 miles in one day.
When I started thinking about this race, one of my friends (and a coach) promised to run with me and do the training with me. Unfortunately since then she has had to change that plan. That leaves me more alone than I ever expected to be. So far I’m doing a pretty good job of finding others to run with when I put the effort in. I’ve done two trail runs by myself and I’m gaining confidence that I will be ok out there all alone. And I might even enjoy it. I still think for longer runs I’m going to try to find people to run at least a portion of it with me.
When I think about the whole thing I feel overwhelmed. The big picture is a bit scary. When I think of one run, one mile, one step at a time I feel calmer. No matter how long the training run or race it can only be completed one step at a time. I’m trying not to look too far ahead but I’ve looked enough that I only have to do 6 training runs and 1 race that are longer than anything I’ve ever run. That’s not so bad, right? AND, I will be running slower and incorporating hiking. I will hike up the hills and gallop down. I will try to run as much as I can in between. I will enjoy the beauty and the silence of the trails and I will get to explore many new places along the way through this journey. No matter how this turns out, I’ve taken the first step and accepted the challenge. I’m going to fight my way through and try my hardest to make it to the finish line.