Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Going mental!

I have thought long and hard about what I want to do this year with ultra running. Where do I want to take myself next and how do I want to get there. Being someone who is constantly busy inside my head, sometimes good and sometimes bad I thought it would be interesting to set some specific goals. I always have goals with races I want to do, how I want to finish but not necessarily how I want to go about it. This year I have 2 goals. Both have more to do with the training aspect than a race. However one of the spills over into a race. It's time to go mental!

If you have spent any time with me it becomes obnoxiously obvious I am a in depth thinker and feeler. I notice everything, hear everything and think about it all. I can drive myself and others crazy! As annoying as that sounds it's a gift. I think this aspect of my personality has served me well, pushing me, forcing me to reckon with ideas and paradigms. Channeling it appropriately is the challenge. Knocking on 43 years old it would seem I should have this all figured out. How to shut off the voices in my head, how to create and foster the voices to help propel me forward not drag me down. I certainly have grown immensely in this area and have learned how to control and maneuver my crazy mind in the right direction but not enough. So many people comment on how determined and relentless I am in my endeavours. I would completely agree with that description however I am super sensitive. My heightened awareness and overactive mind can bog me down at times. Why am I bringing this up and spilling my inner self in such detail? Because it is a critical part of my goals. I am so fortunate to have my family and some close friends who live in the positive. They push themselves to be the best people they can. They hold themselves to high standards and are not wishy washy about who they are, their values and morals. In turn they hold me to a higher standard...just the way I like it. But, just because I have a great support system doesn't mean I am immune to the negative side. It doesn't mean I can just brush thoughts, feeling and judgment off like dust on my shoulder. Self doubt, insecurity and fear of rejection can weigh heavily. This is the part I want to squash. I have made so much progress in this area over the last couple of years but this year I plan to remove it completely when it comes to trail time. I am anxious to test myself here and am certain I have got some good skills to put in play when I feel or hear doubt. When negativity or judgment comes my way I am prepared to work it in my favor!

Goal number one is to race a 50K like I run my hill repeat days. For the last 4 years I have compiled endless amounts of data. The one thing that sticks out like a sore thumb is why my hill repeat days are so fast but my 50K times are so slow. I can run a triple hill repeat in the gorge which consists of 26+ miles and 8,000 feet of climbing all on single trace in 4:47 but have not yet run a hilly 50K in under 5:30. The kicker is: following that hill repeat day I can run 7 hours in the gorge with another 8,000+ feet of climbing at a pretty descent clip. So what's my problem? I should be able to push a 50K hard, spend it all and get a better time than I have thus far. Wouldn't it seem possible if I am not running another 8 hours the following day? I think so. Seems easy enough so why haven't I done it? My answer is: pure fear and inexperience. I hate even using the word fear to describe anything. I find it to be a weakness that should be overcome. Not saying it's not valid but simply more of a mindset that is like a cancer and so limiting. What am I afraid of? Blowing up! I don't really know what blowing up feels like. I know what bonking feels like, dehydration, soreness, mental fatigue but not a serious blow up. I don't even know if I could push myself hard enough to have a full blown blow up. I wonder if I know how to push myself that hard. Do I have the guts? My pacers may disagree but I can assure them that anything that appeared to be a blow up was more like a tantrum. :) Now I will qualify this statement in that I am talking about a 50K distance not a 100M distance. In the 100M distance blowing up takes many forms. With the years of ultra running on my legs and in my head I wonder why I won't take myself to that limit. I certainly have pushed hard in training. So, what does that tell me? It tells me I need to let go of my boxed in perception of myself. I know I am a good 100M runner but I am not a horrible 50K runner. Somehow and somewhere I boxed myself in and have decided I am not a good shorter distance runner. I suspect it has to with control. I know how to control my body, fueling and mind for a 100M distance. The slow mountain terrain is a comfortable place for me. The expectations take so many forms there is no failure in that distance. Simply stepping up to the plate is a win. In the 50K distance time is the measure. I have always used that distance as more a social gathering and a training element. This year I will line up to a 50K with the intent to find my edge! I am sweating as I write this. Not because I am typing fast but because I have now committed myself and need to deliver.... for myself!

Goal number two is all about the back to back runs. Generally I do hill repeats then the next day is the long run. The hill repeats are a very defined workout. Whereas the next days long run is not. Well I intend to make that day count more than I ever have. I want to run smarter and more focused on that day. Of course many think I am already to focused well I plan to put measurements in place to ensure I am doing my best job. Why? So I can run even better in the second half of my 100M. I want it to be just another day of pure endorphin bliss when I take that turn at Bighorn this year. I don't want to drag my body out of Footbridge like I did in 2008 and slog the rest of way in. I want strength and power in my body but more importantly in my mind. My mind can find the dark places and pitch a tent. The second day of the back to back is all about the mind. I will focus and tackle the fatigue on those runs. I will uproot my tent and pitch someplace else.

I would say both my goals have very little to do with the physical aspect of my ultra running. Both are so mental. Why do I even care? Because no one will convince me that all we learn and experience in any of these kinds of endeavours doesn't spill out on everything we do. From work, family, raising kids and building relationships of depth. As Alex enters his teenage years and he starts to notice all the angles of life and has to figure out how to handle them mentally I want him to have a good example. Where will he go in his head when he begins to worry about what others think, pleasing, performing and expectations from us and everyone else? Fear and insecurity are intense drivers in so many people and it's limiting. I tell him, "Never make a decision out of fear and insecurity. Always make it from a position of strength". Gain ownership of how you interpret yourself and your ideas. Don't you think his mom should take her own advice? :)

2010 is already shaping up to be a great year.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Surf City Marathon!


Overall:131 out of 2353
Women:14 out of 963
F 40-44:3 out of 141
Age/Grade:71.22% Place: 52
Finish:3:23:40 Pace: 7:47
Tag Time:3:23:40
Gun Time:3:24:12

"Welcome to the pleasure dome" by Frankie Goes to Hollywood was my opening song for Surf City. I think it was absolutely fitting and since it was a surprise it felt like a glimpse into a crystal ball. "Don't give up and don't give in" and "We're a long way from home...Welcome to the pleasure dome" pretty much sums up the 13+ minute 80's rocker. Needless to say it was fitting start to my fastest marathon time, yeah!

My high school friends and I have been reminiscing about all our antics as extremely energetic youth. Our high school days were filled with some serious fun and not much control other than our need for adventure. We can't seem to talk about an event without going over the tune of day as we blasted it in one of our cars doing things we shouldn't. I loaded my entire IPOD with 80's tunes and rocked my way though the marathon one hit after another.

When Cheri and I arrived to pouring rain and some pretty gusty winds we did nothing but roll are eyes and talk about how this would be just like home. We were pretty shocked to wake up on Sunday to a dark but clear sky and not much wind by the time we lined up. With 22,000 runners in this race it would be a busy one. To bring order to the event they had 2 start waves for the marathon. They started one group who was supposed to contain runners going for sub 3:30 finishes. One minute later they would start the second wave. When I went to line up they wouldn't let me in the first wave. It was full. That was just fine with me because that meant I was right up front for the start of the second wave. I was actually first out of the gate for about 10 seconds! I am not sure how they determined who got in the first wave of 500 because many of us caught a bulk of them within 40 seconds of our start time.

Andy came out to cheer Cheri and I on, crew us if we needed and run with me for 10 miles. It was a total gift having him out there. The course is flat and fast but winds around so much I had no clue which direction I was going. That played in my favor. It kept me distracted and focused on the moment. I honestly think a marathon all out effort should play that way. Staying focused on the moment is the best way to keep your mind on the task at hand...running as hard as you can without dying! I got in a groove immediately, strong and steady. I was a bit fast and my dream goal of 3:20 was looking pretty good. Even with some serious park path weaving, some sharp turns and a couple of tiny hills I felt good about my effort. By mile 14 the sun was bold and felt so good. The wind was calm and I was on pace. I saw Andy at around mile 13 smiling and snapping shots. He jumped in, took my shirt and asked if I needed anything. I was good to go and was anxious to get his company at mile 16. I carried 7 gels and 3 salt tabs. My lululemon running bra has inserts for support cups. I don't need them and I pull them out and toss the support cups in the garbage. However, I do use the slots for my gels! I stuffed 3 gels in each side. It was easy access and not at all bothersome. The only negative was the bizarre looks when someone was trying to figure out what was wrong with my chest. How come the lumps and bumps were so big and when I would reach in and grabbed one folks were nervous. Anyway, it worked perfectly! I ate a gel every 3 miles, took a salt tab at mile 10 and two at mile 19.

I started feeling the love in my hips and feet (metatarsals) at mile 16. I knew I was going to slow and started to do math in my head. If I could maintain an 8 minute mile for the last 10 I would have it. It seemed perfectly doable, right? Andy jumped in and we ran. Not a bit of talking as I was pushing and focusing. My lower back was sore, my feet were sore, my legs were beginning to feel the deep fatigue, it was getting hot. Those are all my excuses and thoughts. I just loved it though. Andy and I wrapped around onto the boardwalk for 6-7 miles. It was brutal. It seemed to go on forever. The beach is long! Lots of folks out watching and lots of people around made the race interesting. The amount of general people using the boardwalk meant keeping an eye out for a dog or a child while still running like a dead zombie with just one foot in front of the other at your current top speed. It also made for some great motivation as all the people cheered as they drank their refreshing cold beers.

At the turn with 5 miles to the finish I knew it was going to be tough grind. My heart rate was dropping and I knew if it sagged into the 150's I was not going to get 3:20. I pushed and pleaded with my legs to spin. Please, please, please go around faster. They really wanted to but couldn't. I was seeing 158 and I knew I was not going to pull under 8. I got a couple of them under 8 on the last 5 but not enough. The seconds added up but I never gave up. I ended my musical journey with "Bang your head" by Quiet Riot. I felt that was a fitting song for my final sprint to the finish. I truly spent it all out there. I held nothing back and it was awesome. I loved riding the edge, feeling wild and untamed. The cautious calculated planned rooster stayed home and I am paying the price today. My legs are swollen and my legs have various areas of pain. It's so cool.

This was around a 4-5 minute PR for me. I am really happy with the day but I would do a couple of things different in my training next time. The biggest issue I had was not my speed as much as it was my body's ability to handle the pounding at that fast pace. I have no doubt I could run a 7:36 pace on flat pavement for 26.2 miles but I need to put in some longer than necessary pace runs. I think my body needs to have more experience doing exactly what I want it to do on race day. Since I am asking it to step way out of my speed range I need to train it there longer. I don't need more prep time but I think I need a couple of 24 mile M-Pace runs on my legs. 18-20 will not do for this body. Although I think I would like to test my theory I'm not. I am simply too excited to start hill repeats in the gorge...another type of "pleasure dome"!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

High Efficiency!

Tapering is leaving in a "High Efficiency" mode. Seems I get this feeling every now and then during a recovery week but the taper is giving me a max mode of efficiency. There is something truly satisfying about checking things off my list. I have lots of energy to buzz around right now. I think my family prefers me a bit more tired. I really love the feeling of becoming restored and strong. This has been a learned behavior. Tapering was never my strong suit but I think it has more to do with overtraining. I am banking on this sweet taper to help me pull of a PR on Sunday.

Cheri and I are super prepared for Surf City Marathon. This has been a great training session. Starting with base building in mid October was the perfect amount of time to remind my body how to run on flat roads. It's been really fun sharing workouts with a bunch of girls. Cheri, Trisha, Susan, Carrie, Kris, Lisa and Sarah have all been a pleasure to push through pain with. Thanks for all the camaraderie!

My plan for Sunday is to run a 3:20 or a 7:38 pace. I think this will be a stretch goal. Originally I thought I would take advantage of a pace group. I have never run in a pace group before and thought their knowledge and consistency would help me stay evenly paced. I tend to go out to fast rather than to slow so a pace group would be my solution to a good start. However, there is no pace group for 3:20! They have lots but the fastest is 3:10 then the next group is 3:30. Certainly the 3:10 is not going to work so I am left to my own wrist band.

Though I am anxious to run the race I am even more anxious to get training again. My first 2010 ultra will be Chuckanut Mountain 50K. Cheri, Gary and Carrie are all heading up to WA for the race so that means some more fun training time. After Surf City I am taking a week break then starting up again on 2/15. I have got a few other races on my schedule before Bighorn 100M. McDonald Forest 50K for sure. I am also planning on either Diablo 50M or Leona Divide 50M both in April. I can't decide which one I should do. I have done Leona before and loved it. The course is new this year so it would be fun to go back. I have always wanted to do Diablo so that might be a good adventure.

This weekend is the lottery for Wasatch 100M! I hope I get in but already have a back up plan if I don't. Micheal is signed up for Leadville! That means pacing duty for me. Sheesh....more thin air.