Friday, November 24, 2017

Three Months Later...

Apparently, I only blog once every three months... And I always say that I'm going to be better about that. Well, this time I'm not going to make any promises. That way, I won't feel guilty later.

Things have not been going well on the training front. It's like I've lost all ability to prioritize and manage my time.
I've been trying to live a well-rounded life, but that hasn't seemed to be working very well. I like to get involved in new projects and have new experiences, but then those things end up taking over my life. My training was impacted most recently by the legitimate theater. My husband and I wrote a play, that was then selected to be part of a festival, in which we both directed and were otherwise heavily involved in. That meant directors' meetings, auditions, rehearsals, and a solid week of going straight from work to the theater. Training did not happen much at all during this time. But as life experiences go, it was worth it.
The poster from our show.
I have four races to talk about in this round of blogging. It'll be fairly short and sweet, since they were all pretty much the same. I went in under trained, suffered through them, and barely made it across the finish line in one piece.

The Nebo half marathon is one of my favorites. Some may remember that this blog started back in 2011 as I began my training for this race as my very first half marathon. The steepness of this canyon always takes a toll on my legs. I had Scott run this one with me and we started out too fast and I knew it. But gravity was doing most of the work for us, right? No. My quads were doing the work and by mile 9 they let me know that they were toast. The last four miles were a death slog to the end. They changed the course for the last mile or so and ended at a new location, which made that last mile seem even longer. But it was a nice place to finish and the Nebo Music Festival was happening at the park where the finish was. So we were able to sit and rest afterward with free entertainment.
Obligatory swag shot.
I got exactly one week to recover from the quad thrashing of Nebo to recuperate before the Big Cottonwood half marathon. Spoiler alert: the Big Cottonwood race is another quad thrasher. There are some seriously steep canyons in Utah and we all think it's a glorious idea to run down them. I did my best to keep my speed in check and not let myself get too trashed before the end. I did better this time than I did at Nebo but I still had a hard time with stairs for a few days afterward. Scott wasn't registered for this one, but he did need to get a run in, so he started at the finish line and ran up to meet me to run with me to the finish.

*For those concerned about race banditing, Scott often runs up the course to meet me. However, he NEVER takes any aid from the aid stations and he never crosses the finish line and takes a medal for a race he didn't pay for.*
The shirts and medals for this race are always top notch.
After Big Cottonwood, I had a nice long break until the Haunted Half down Provo Canyon at the end of October. Too bad October is when things started getting nuts with the theater gig, and I decided to go on a family vacation down to Moab (where I did actually manage to get two training runs in AND a bit of hiking, thank you very much).

The Haunted Half course isn't as brutal with the steepness, but the downhill certainly helped our legs along for the first few miles. As soon as we ran out of downhill though, it wasn't so good. Scott and I were both in costume, he was Dapper Dude and I was Spock. Don't bother trying to figure out how those two things go together, it wasn't a cutesy couple's costume thing.
Run long and prosper. 
We squeaked in under the course time limit by about 8 minutes for this one. I was just happy to be done. We were able to collect our trilogy medals for finishing three Runtastic events in one year, so that made the pain in my feet nearly worth it.
I like big bling and I cannot lie. 
The last race to report on was the Thankful 13, half marathon number 99 in my quest to 100. I was not prepared for this race in the slightest. All of last week was devoted to the play festival. Scott and I were so run down from the festival that when it was over and time to train, we were hardly able to. We did go for a two and a half hour walk last Sunday to at least get some time on our feet. Although, he was only doing the 5K option at the race, so he didn't need that long walk but he's likes to be companionate.
On the Thankful 13 course.
They changed the course this year, as well as the start and finish line. I didn't realize that until we got to where we thought it was, and it wasn't. Thank goodness it was just down the street from where it used to be. I didn't think to check that detail because for the past five years, it's had the same start and finish. Lesson learned.

I was nervous from the start of this race, knowing that the course limit might not be long enough for what I can make my legs do these days. Somehow, I managed to keep my pace just under what it needed to be to finish on time. I was keeping it pretty consistent until mile 9, then there was the all too familiar slow down that's become my signature lately. With Scott off doing his 5K thing, I didn't have him to distract me from the blister rising up on my right foot and the fact that I still had about an hour left to go.

He took fifth place in his age group for the 5K and I made it to the finish line with 11 minutes to spare. So I guess we'll call it a successful day all around.
Thankful swag. (Number 99!)
I have a couple of weeks to try and get my crap together before the Baker's Dozen. Thank heavens it isn't a timed race. It's going to be celebration of eating and running and getting giant medals. What more could you ask for? I just need to get some training in before then so I can actually enjoy it.

And if anyone is worried that I'll stop running after I hit my 100th half marathon, don't fret. I'm already signed up for things in 2018 that I keep telling myself I'll be ready for but probably won't be. So stay tuned for that. I'm basically a living, breathing cautionary tale. Grab some popcorn and stay for the show.

Until next time, happy running!

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Y'all keep thinking that I died...

What is with me and my non-blogging ways?! After my last post talking about my heart rate problems, I bet a few people thought I had gone off to run the great race in the sky. But honestly, the heart hasn't acted up at all since April, so I've got that going for me.

I have two races to talk about, and it's only been two months. I have to stick to my plan to make half marathon #100 happen this December at the Baker's Dozen, so I couldn't pack my summer with races like I have in the past. It's like I don't even know who I am anymore...
Oh yeah, that's who I am.
But I digress. My July race was the Hobbler Half marathon. It runs down the Hobble Creek Canyon. I like it because it runs down a canyon. I had actually been keeping up with my training fairly well leading up to this race, and that combined with its downhilliness, I managed my first sub three hour half for the year. Okay, so it was only 2 minutes shy of three hours, but it's still under and that's what counts. Scott played finish line photographer for this event, since he was out all night being a rock n' roll star. Late Friday night shows aren't conducive to early morning races.
Still trying to burn off those French pastries...

Half marathon #94 swag shot.
Summer kept rolling along after that early July race. But my training didn't seem to be able to roll along with it. I'm spending way too much of my time at work, and when I do that, everything else suffers. The stress level at work is too high as well, so it's affecting other areas of my life. Things like sleep tend to get hit the hardest. I'm sure I'm preaching to the choir here. #FirstWorldProblems

I did get to take a tiny vacation for my anniversary. My husband and I headed down to New Mexico to eat all the food. We did happen to find a little gem of a running trail in Albuquerque. There's a nifty little place called Tingley Beach and they have a bunch of big ponds, a paved bike path, and a nice single track trail that runs along the Rio Grande. We were able to get a couple of nice runs in on the single track, where there was an abundance of lizards, and even a porcupine asleep in a tree.
Having a shaded place to run meant we got to sleep in a bit and not worry too much about the heat.
Obligatory vacation shot.
As soon as we got back from our New Mexico eating extravaganza, real life hit hard and we were busier than ever, directing and performing in a play, playing more concerts, and we adopted two kittens in the middle of it all.
Obligatory kitten picture.
In that whirlwind of activity, it was suddenly time to run the Herriman Hold 'Em trail half. Wait, what? So soon? I should have been training all this time! Woe is me!

I signed Scott up for this one so I wouldn't have to suffer alone. I was right in thinking that there would be suffering. Trails are fun. They are also hilly, rocky beasts of ankle destruction.
But look how lovely! Photo credit Scott M. Stringham.
 It was a small affair, but we managed to not be last by the grace of a man who was the voluntary sweeper. He stuck with us throughout the hills, trudging, near heat exhaustion, and rocky descents.
Worth the struggle. Photo credit Scott M. Stringham.
We stumbled in to the finish in just under four hours. While it was a challenge to finish, I never regretted the time that we spent out there. I cursed my slacktastic training and the ankle destroying rocks, but being out there enjoying nature with my husband is never something to regret. Plus, it really feels like we earned that post race queso and chips.
Half marathon #95! The shirt is all kinds of cozy.
I have another race coming up this Saturday, hopefully I won't be sore from the Herriman race anymore by the time the starting gun goes off... And before my training plan for February's 48 hour race starts next week. Eek. I don't know why I keep thinking I'll be ready for these things. I never am when it comes time. I guess it's time to find my mojo again. If anyone has motivation tips, feel free to throw them my way.

Until next time, happy running!
Any typos or complaints can be taken up with my co-blogger, Sting. 

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Hello, internet. I am still here.

I've been through writing slumps in the past, but I think that this is the slumpiest slump that has ever slumped a slump. I haven't stopped running (well, not exactly... but I'll go into that in a bit). It's been 4 months and 8 races since my last blogging. This is going to be a quick and dirty recap without a crazy amount of detail, or it will end up taking longer than the Lord of The Rings trilogy to get through.
Epic blogging failure, right here.
So after the soaking wet adventure down at the Jackpot Ultrarunning Festival, it was time for the Monument Valley 50K, which got dropped down to the Monument Valley half marathon. (You'll see this drop in distance become a theme, so watch for that.) I just hadn't been dedicated enough to my training to be ready for the 50K distance, so the half was a good option for me.
I love this place, so I wasn't going to not race some distance while I was there. 
Out on the course, walking a ton due to my heart rate, pulling faces for the camera. Photo cred to Scott M Stringham.
My heart rate dictated a slow pace but we had a great time, as always, soaking up the breathtaking views in Monument Valley. Going there should be on everyone's bucket list.
After Monument Valley, I was able to go to France for 9 days, the amount of walking we did while we were there was insane, and helped to offset (somewhat) the amount of pastry eating I did while there.
Actual pictorial account of pastry eating. Thanks to Scott for documenting my gluttony. To be fair, we both participated in the eating of these delightful delicacies. 
After my eating tour of France, it was time to get back to trying to train and run races. It didn't go so well... But I had paid for these races, so I showed up and gave it a go anyway. The Salt Lake half marathon was up next. At least when I signed up for this one, I knew I wouldn't be ready for anything longer than a half marathon after a decent time abroad. 10 points to me for planning ahead!

Scott's been running most of these races with me, and again, my heart rate dictated a slow pace. We took it easy and enjoyed the course. It was a welcome moment when we were directed away from the full marathon course and got to finish up our race.
Now Salt Lake turned out to be my 90th half marathon, and this got me thinking that I could get to my 100th this year if I found a few more half marys to throw in. So that lead me to running the Provo City half marathon next. Scott didn't run this one with me officially, but ran up the course to meet me and get his mileage in at the same time. I was managing a slow but steady pace, keeping my finicky heart rate in check. Even at the snail's pace I was moving, I was still able to pass a decent amount of people in the last three miles. That's one thing I've learned over my years of running races, if I pace myself, I will always end up finishing well ahead of the people who burn themselves out early on.

The next week, we ran the Dino Half, and as many of you know, it's my favorite race. The course is delightful, the medals are incredible. What more could a gal ask for?
We are excited for this one. Obviously. 
I was hoping to run it faster than we did, but we didn't... And that's okay. The theme of all my races this year has been watching my heart rate. And that little bugger doesn't want me to go fast. (Like I was ever "fast" before. *insert snarky face emoticon here*)
That medal though.
The following weekend was the Ogden Marathon. Somehow, I was under the impression that getting one tiny run in during the week and one long run on the weekend would allow me to run a marathon without dying. Okay, so I didn't die, but let me just tell you that finishing up 10 seconds before the race ends isn't really thought of as a "win". I was pretty sore for a solid few days, imparting the wisdom of dropping to the half marathon distance in the future if I'm not properly trained.
24th marathon swag.
After the Ogden debacle, Scott and I threw in a couple of 5Ks, running the Run of Remembrance and the Art City Days 5K. I used to hate 5Ks, because I used to try and run them at a faster pace. Now my heart rate won't let me, so 5Ks are actually pretty nice. I just kind of cruise through at a leisurely pace and it's over in under an hour. Then breakfast burritos happen. Viva le 5K!
Change "drink" to "eat" and we're in business. 
That brings us up to yesterday, where I was signed up to run the Utah Valley marathon, but had the good sense to drop down to the half because there's no way in h-e-double hockey sticks I would be able to finish the race before the cutoff. The sad truth is that I can't run a six and a half hour marathon right now. It's not possible with my atrocious level of training and rebellious heart rate. But Scott had a show to play that afternoon anyway, so dropping us both down to the half marathon actually made the whole day much more manageable.
We ended up getting the same 10 year anniversary jacket, so we were good with it. 
In between the 5Ks and the Utah Valley half, I finally took a step towards upping my training. When I moved from my mom's basement, I lost regular access to my favorite treadmill, Odin. So instead of leaving my husband and moving back into my mother's basement, I decided it was time to invest in my own nice treadmill. Here's a thing that you should know about me. I'm incredibly lazy. Like, soooooo lazy. I have a gym membership and all that. But the thought of having to dress in a socially acceptable manner and drive to the gym before the sun even comes up is not even slightly appealing. Getting all kitted out to run on the streets surrounding my house in the wee hours is just as bad. But the thought of rolling out of bed and throwing on whatever I grab first and getting my run in while watching Netflix is actually something I'm totally on board with.
There she is. Valkyrie (Val for short). The Nordictrack Elite 3750. This baby can do decline of 3% even. Treadmills can do decline these days! Who knew?! Since we've had Val, I've managed to follow my training plan to the letter. It's amazing what spending nearly $1500 does to your motivation level. But seriously, I should have done done this a long time ago. She's going to get me back on track, and for real this time.

I may need to see a professional about my heart though... I've had three separate instances where my heart just started racing and then I almost blacked out. It never happens while I'm running, it's always when I'm in a reasonably relaxed state, although I am wondering if it could be a form of panic attack. It's been almost two months since the last episode though, so who knows if I'll ever make that doctor's appointment. I know I'm not the only one who puts off going to the doctor, so no one gets to chastise me here. My husband and mother will do plenty of that. It's their job, after all.

I will try to do a better job of blogging in the future. I actually have a fair bit of fun stuff coming up, race wise, so I need to make sure it gets the credit its due. Until next time, happy running, cats and kittens!

Sunday, March 5, 2017

The Jackpot Report

There's this race that I totally dig. So I keep signing up for it. I know many people who don't understand the appeal of running around in circles for hours. But I'm telling you, it's the shiz. The Jackpot Ultrarunning Festival gives you all the running in circles for hours that your little heart can stand.

I enjoy the chance to go down to sunny Las Vegas in the middle of the bleak Utah winter. Too bad this year Las Vegas was NOT sunny. It was washing away in the mighty tempest, Lucifer.
Kind of like this...
I came to my sesnses after last year's 48 hour debacle and only signed up for the 12 hour race this year. It's strange that chosing to run for 12 hours is a sensible act... My training for the 12 hour was mostly okay, actually. I did miss a couple of long runs. but I didn't have much of a goal for this race (besides surviving) so I didn't stress too much about it.

Scott was also signed up for the 12 hour. Below, you will see how absolutely thrilled he is to have agreed to this aforementioned sensible act.
He's never been more excited. 
As you can see, we're decked out in the fancy ponchos we picked up before heading to the race. Fun fact, and spoiler alert: if you run for 12 hours in a fancy poncho, you will smell like a swamp monster when you finally take it off in your hotel room that evening.
My actual face when I caught of whiff of myself.
But I digress. I should start at the beginning, and when I get to the end, I should stop. The race began at 8 a.m., allowing for a bit of sleeping in. The 48 hour runners had been on the go for 24 hours at this point. I don't think they were all that thrilled to see a group of fresh faced runners jumping on the course. Since there was nothing they could do to stop us, we joined in the fun.

The rain had caused actual flash flooding on the course, so the course was altered to include a nice long incline. But what goes up must go down on a loop course, so I didn't mind much. At this point, hills are just built in walk breaks. I'm still watching my heart rate like a hawk, so the ups were walked, the downs and flats were run, as much as my heart would allow.

The rain was relentless, but at least it wasn't too cold. I started with a long sleeve shirt on under my poncho, but after a couple of laps, I had to change to a tank top. The poncho held the heat in pretty well, hence the swamp monster effect.
Whee! This is fun. Isn't this fun?!
I have to say, that even with the imperfect training and the weather conditions, I managed to feel good for about 10 hours of this race. I didn't need to change shoes the entire race, which is a first in my timed race career. Scott wasn't so lucky. Multiple shoe changes and he still ended up with a blister under his big toenail. The amount of mini lemon cakes and bite sized brownies he ate during the race soothed his sorrows somewhat.

We didn't spend much time stopped, and I was pleased with my effort overall. I made it 38 miles in total, although my official distance was 37.5 miles. Those treks to the bathroom add mileage, y'all. I know this hasn't been a race report fraught with peril and overcoming obstacles. But really, this race just went well. I felt good, Scott hit his goal of 40 miles, we saw friends, we ate good food, we spent 12 hours running in the pouring rain together and we're still married.

Here's the thing about having a good race, it makes you think you should sign up for the 48 hour for the next year. And that's what I did, cats and kittens. I only have so much sensibility in my body and I used it all up. Present-self is always so sure that future-self will be ready for the things that present-self signs future-self up for. Maybe this time, it will acutally be true. Judging by the way I blew off my 16 mile run today in order to make macarons, I wouldn't hold out too much hope if I were you...
There's Nutella in them and I will never apologize for that. 
So stay tuned for exciting tales of base building and heart rate monitoring! Until next time, happy running!

Monday, January 16, 2017

Who Runs in the Winter? Crazy People, That's Who.

January: The bleakest month of the entire year. The holidays are over. (That's a relief, though, let's be honest. Bad example. Moving on.) January: Full of sadness, coldness, ice, and snow. And, surprise, races!
People who like winter are a special kind of crazy, and not a good kind of crazy.
It also takes a special kind of crazy to have a race the first weekend of January in Utah. This little event that I got peer pressured into running by my friends Jamie and Cevan, was the New Year's Half Marathon. And since misery loves company, I peer pressured my spousal unit into running it with me. Public service announcement: Peer pressure is an ugly thing that tends to snowball out of control and leaves you in situations you'd rather not be in.
C'mon, everybody's doing it.
The winter hadn't actually been too bad around here, for the most part. We had a couple decent winter storms, but we were able to dig out alright. So I thought maybe the race wouldn't be so bad. And then the cold snap came. Now I know it gets a lot colder in other places, but when the morning of the race rolled around and it was a balmy 5 degrees Fahrenheit, I knew my lungs were in for a treat. Utah has notoriously bad winter air already, so running outside at this time of year is generally advised against. Stepping out into the frigid, polluted air causes instant coughing fits.

Scott and I prepared the best we could, layers upon layers, while trying to avoid having TOO many layers, because then you sweat too much and freeze to death. Winter running can be a logistical nightmare. We stuffed heat packs into our shoes and between our layers of gloves and headed to the race.

They offered an early start for the slower runners and walkers, which I gladly took advantage of. They were having a chili lunch for us afterward, and I wanted there to be food left by the time I got there. With a field of 41 runners, I knew I would be very close to last, if not actually last.
Quick! Take the picture! If we stand still too long, we'll be frozen solid.
After we had been running for around an hour, we passed a sign that displayed the temperature. It said 7 degrees Fahrenheit. Oh good. Things are looking up. There was ice in my hair, ice in the water bottles, ice in the buff that I put up over my mouth and nose for a bit. Condensation is no fun.

I've been tracking my heart rate in a freakishly obsessive way, but I couldn't during this run. I had to have my Fitbit next to my skin, and that skin was under three layers, so I didn't get to check it once during the race. I tried to do it by feel. Guess what. Feel means nothing in that temperature. We were keeping an extremely moderate pace, 13-15 minute miles. But my lungs ached and I couldn't catch my breath. I could feel my heart racing more than it should have been for the effort we were putting out. The frigid temperatures had to have played a part in my difficulties.

When I was able to upload the data, I found that my heart rate had been at peak BPMs for over 2 hours of the run. No wonder I felt like death warmed over the last three miles. I would attempt to run and it would last maybe 30 seconds before my breathing was out of control and my heart was pounding. So we would walk. And shiver. And try to run again. It was such a relief to turn the final corner and reach the finish line. We immediately grabbed bowls of steaming chili and tried to warm up inside the building. The upside is that we learned that we had finally grasped proper layering. Our hands and feet stayed warm, and as long as we kept moving, we didn't turn into popsicles.
That snowman is WAY too happy.
After that race, my resting heart rate jumped up to 73 BPM. In October, I had it down to 55 BPM. Yikes. So I spent a careful week obsessively tracking my heart rate, getting in all my recovery workouts, and trying to get enough sleep. I wanted to be feeling better for the next week's race, the St. George Half Marathon.

The glorious thing about the St. George half, is that it's in St. George. January in St. George is quite pleasant, with temperatures in the 40s and 50s. Utah is an interesting place, climate-wise. Hop in the car for a few hours and all of the sudden there are palm trees and red rocks, and perfect running weather.
It truly was.
Race morning in St. George gave us a temperature in the lower 40s with an overcast sky. A race start time of 9:00 a.m. meant that we could get plenty of sleep. I was fairly certain that we were in heaven. Our hotel was only a couple of minutes from the start line. We found a good parking spot, had enough time to hit the port-a-potties, and line up to run. Easy breezy.

I was able to keep an eye on my heart rate the whole time this race as well. It jumped up a little too quickly in the first half mile of the race, forcing me to walk for a bit to bring it down. I think I just got caught up in the crowd of runners and was running just a tad too fast. After that, I kept it in check like a boss. It was not fast going, but we were making better time than we had at the New Year's race.
Loving every minute of the glorious sun and warmth.
I felt pretty darn good through the whole race. And starting around mile 8, we began passing people. We probably passed 15-20 people in the last few miles of the race. My breathing wasn't labored. My body was enjoying the easy pace, keeping the heart rate right where I wanted it. For the last half mile, I figured I wouldn't keep an eye on it anymore and just kick it into gear for a strong finish. It worked out splendidly. We cruised under the finish arch feeling great, and I knew that if I needed to, I could have kept up my easy pace for hours more.
I was so pleased with how it went. The data confirmed what my body was telling me. I nailed that LSD. I beat the New Year's half time by 15 minutes. But the best part is that I didn't feel wrecked for the rest of the weekend like the week before.
Half marathon #88, done and done well.
My resting heart rate has come down some, but it's still a bit higher than I'd like. But the heart rate training is really going pretty well. I have to say that it gets frustrating at times. I mean, I've always been a slow runner, but running as slow as it takes to keep my heart rate down actually hurts a little. My muscles are adapting to a different, slower stride, and it hasn't always felt very nice. But the longer that I do it, it's feeling better. Eventually, my cardiovascular system will be strong enough to keep a low heart rate with a faster pace. That's the goal, cats and kittens.

For the next month, I will try and dial in my training for the Jackpot 12 hour event. I've been getting in my multiple hours of running on the weekends, and it's been feeling pretty good. I've got weekends coming up with 5, 6, and 8 hour runs scheduled. Thank goodness for Netflix and the treadmill.
That's how it feels.
It takes an incredible amount of time to train for these things, but really, it's my only hobby, so I suppose it's as good of a use of my time as any. People love to give ultra runners a hard time about it. Other people spend that much time on their hobbies, or even just messing around on the interwebs or glued to their smart phones. How come no one ever asks those people to justify how they're spending their time? Okay, rant over.

I'll catch y'all on the flip side. Until then, happy running!