U (for ultra) minus 4 days

and counting.

I guess that’s the thing about goals–eventually you get there. And “there” for me is Saturday, April 30th.  And that’s when the 804 miles of training, the kajillion calories of food, the hours of stretching and yoga will all come into play, and determine whether or not I actually make it to the finish line.

Going into this, I knew that running tons of mileage would be involved. You know what surprised me? The amount of thinking involved. Thinking about running (how many miles? when could i fit them in?  what routes? and the weather?), and thinking about food (what should I eat? when? is that enough carbs, fiber, protein? why am I so hungry ALL. THE. TIME?)

If I’ve learned anything, it’s that flexibility, both of body AND spirit, matters most. Especially today, when I learned the 50 mile route (which I’ve been staring at intently whenever I get a chance for the past five months) will most likely change because of wild fires in one of the parks.  This bothers me a bit. I like knowing what’s ahead. I’m that kid who used to read the last chapter of the book first (yes. really.)

So, I don’t know exactly where I’ll be running. But I do know that I’ve trained my legs, fueled my body and prepped my head for the distance, so I’m ready. The change in route? Well, it’s all part of the journey.

 

 

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No, I’m not freaking out

It’s April 12, and my goal race is in 17 days, and I’m taking a forced early taper.  Because after that 50K, I wanted to stay true to the letter of my training plan, and I hopped right back into the thick of things without thinking that perhaps the training plan was written for 20 and 30 somethings, not an about-to-be 50 something, and now have a bit of a tendinitis flair up. I had to cut my last long run short (only 10 miles of the prescribed 25), and I DNS’ed my 10k race the next morning.

BUT IT’S OK, I keep telling myself.  Missing that last long back-t0-back is not going to upend 5 months of training.

To keep my mind off the missed training, I’m heading to Aquatopia with Thing 3 and four of her friends to celebrate birthday number 12!  Honestly, I find nothing amusing about amusement parks, and I find indoor waterparks to be the Sodom and Gomorrah of American culture. I’m still not quite recovered from my last visit to Great Wolf Lodge in 2011. I’m hoping this visit will be better, as Thing 3 and her friends are all old enough to be in the water without me. And I was clever enough to reserve a pool side cabana that has its own waitress AND tv. So I’m bringing my knitting and maybe I’ll catch a nap or two.

Also on the home front–helping Thing 2 with her college decision. She’s been accepted at four schools, and starting this weekend, we begin the rounds of “accepted students days.” First up is Pratt, which is also her first choice. I have a feeling I should bring my checkbook to this one.  Ah, to be 18 and have the world as your oyster.

Which leads to some of the most unexpected news yet.  With Thing 1 out of the house, and Thing 2 about to launch, Thing 3 has been feeling slightly lonely.  After some discussions with the Mister, we decided to let Thing 3 bring a shelter dog into Chez Sato.   We’re now on the hunt for a non-puppy, medium-sized, cat-friendly cut dog.

And I’m lobbying for one that likes to run. Because I’ve still got 17 days of training left!

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71,793

Just in case you were wondering, that’s how many steps are in a 50k.

On April 2, my partner in crime and I set off for Hardwick, NJ to participate in the NJ Ultra Fest 50k as part of our training for our upcoming Rock the Ridge 50 miler.  It is a good thing the race was not on April 1, because I might have been lulled into thinking the course description was a joke. It wasn’t.

12916139_10154599373009918_6451331715473969829_o12440572_10154599372944918_3828814494733574668_o(It looks pretty harmless, but don’t let those pretty colors fool you).

The ultra fest offered every distance from a marathon to 100 miler, and the shorter the distance, the later you started.  Runners had to complete the Figure 8 circuit a prescribed number of times, and then either the “woods” loop (about 3.5 miles) or “lake” loop (about 2.3 miles) one extra time. For the 50k, that meant we started at 9:45 for our five circuits plus an extra lake loop.

I’ve done a few trail runs, but never an ultra, so I had no idea what to expect in terms of time and level of exhaustion. This was a single-track trail and fairly technical, in that it was either strewn with rocks or roots, and there were several water crossings, but not as many bridges as there were crossings.  Also, see those blue peaks–they were tough! Maybe this wasn’t the best bet for a first ultra, but the fact that we ran through the aid station after both the woods loop and lake loop did make it mentally easier.

But how can I describe this 10.5 hour trek (yes, it took me 10.5 hours!)? Difficult. Invigorating. Frustrating (at times).  Ten and a half hours is a lot of time to process lots of thoughts.

  • Difficult: it’s sooooo hard to judge a course by topographical maps and elevation profiles (at least for me).  The uphills on the woods portion of the circuit were killers. But the downhills almost equally so–especially for me with my insecure footing.  And at the bottom of each of those downhills? Water. There was lots of wading in this race.
  • Invigorating: Because of the loops, we got to see lots of the 50 milers, 100 k’ers and 100 milers go round and round. What skill they all had–effortlessly negotiating such difficult terrain. Yep, we got looped (a lot), but it was amazing to watch.
  • Frustrating: Really? Was it necessary to scrape my leg each time I tried to catapult myself over the same damn tree lying across the path? Really? Did I need to nearly trip on the same rock wall EVERY. SINGLE. LOOP?

What got me through this? Proper nutrition. A good training partner. Visions of Shaz in mud, and sheer stubbornness.

  • I’ve been seeing a sports RD (registered dietician) for this entire training cycle, and I credit her advice to my getting through this training. I’m sick to death of eating (and thinking about eating), and sweet potatoes are no longer my favorite food, but with one short exception, I felt FANTASTIC the entire race.
  • When a fellow running club friend asked if I could consider doing the 50 miler with her, I didn’t even think twice even though it wasn’t originally even on my radar.  Since we don’t live all that close to each other, we don’t train together all that often, but when we do, I consider so blessed. We are very different as people, but we compliment each other nicely on the trail. And she brings along with her an entire cadre of supportive people that I’m so happy to have gotten to know better.
  • Shaz (a reader from across the pond) bravely faced knee-deep mud in her Grizzly Run. So every time (yep, all 30 of them), I was wading across some river or lake, I just imagined Shaz knee-deep in mud, and thought, “It’s only water. Suck it up, Buttercup.” Thank you Shaz.
  • This race had amazing swag–and when it got dark on our last 1.2 miles and my headlamp wasn’t working well, and I had to use the flashlight on my iphone just to see a few inches in front of me and we slowed to a crawl after 10 hours of high energy, all I wanted was that damn orange jacket.

I haven’t taken it off yet.

 

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in a nutshell

  • somehow I’m on week 20 of my 24-week training plan. Between weeks 16-19 I caught the most horrendous cough, resulting in missed work and missed workouts (3!). I’m trying not to freak out about having missed a major back-to-back weekend, and I know I should just be looking forward and not second-guessing at this point.
  • my cat got pecked by one of our neighborhood turkeys, which resulted in this new ‘do:

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  • I don’t want to jinx anything, but our weather this winter into early spring has just been lovely. Yes, some cold days here and there, but lookie this: IMG_0735

yes, this is a cherry blossom. And yes, it’s still March. As a reminder, last year, I ran               our local Cherry Blossom 10k on April 12 and THERE WAS NOT A SINGLE BLOOM IN               SIGHT!

  • Thing 2 embarked upon her first overseas trip sans famille. She was invited to Crete and then London with her friend’s family, so the Mister, Thing 3 and I are getting a taste of what life will be like Chez Sato come September.

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  • Thing 3 and I are working on convincing the Mister that a dog would be a lovely substitute for Thing 2. Here is our favorite puppy, Sasha, at our shelter. She’s a puggle. Which is actually a word.  And she’s full of energy! So far the Mister has agreed to adopt Sasha only if the turkeys get the best of our scalped cat.IMG_0725
  • Never in a million years would I have guessed that in 3 short months I will have completed one 20K, one 30K and then one 50K as training runs.  Yes, in addition to the trail race I did out in Cali in February, I got out of my deathbed two weeks ago for a 20K (Miles for Music) here in Jersey (and only lost about 4 minutes due to a coughing fit and some gu-induced GI issues), and this Saturday, I’m toeing the line for a 50k as part of the NJ Ultra Fest.  Even though Sasha the puggle’s legs are short, I’m thinking I may need her energy to get through all this!
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I’m not slacking

I’m making cat name tags.

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Thing 3 and I volunteer at our town’s animal shelter. Actually, Thing 3 volunteers and I accompany her because at age 11, she can’t be there on her own.  The shelter is having an adoption event this weekend, so Thing 3 and I are baking cookies and making cat name tags to brighten up the cat room.  Because that’s Thing 3’s job–“socializing” the cats. I do laundry.

When I’m not making cat name tags, I’m running.  And coughing, sneezing, and sleeping. Because after 3 years of horrid snowy, cold winters, we’ve finally drawn the long straw and had just about the mildest winter ever. And after three incredibly healthy winters, this year, I’m sick as a dog. Meh.  Sucking it up through a 38 mile weekend (14 miles on Saturday, 24 on Sunday) didn’t help, and then the 5 mile recovery on Monday and 7 mile track workout on Tuesday were the straws that broke the camel’s back, resulting in three rest days (two unscheduled).  I’m not freaking out, and will scale back tomorrow’s long run by 20% (20 instead of 25 miles on Sat). Sunday, however, I’m signed up for a 20k race that I’m using as a training run. It’s the first day of spring, but it’s expected to snow.

Aside from this little glitch, the training is going well. I have learned I can plod along at incredibly long distances at incredibly slow paces for inane amounts of time. Any of my training runs over 14 miles, I walk for 1 minute after each mile. This really doesn’t slow me down all that much. My 24 mile run, I clocked at a 12:00 pace, and my 14 mile run the day after, at an 11:00 pace. Nope, I’m not breaking any records, but that I can get out of bed the day after doing 24 miles and chalk up another 5 and then a track workout the day after without being any worse for the wear is a pretty big deal in my book.

Let’s just hope I can hold up for the next six weeks.

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Hobbling and Cobbling

First up–hobbling

Last week (week 15 of my training plan) was my highest mileage week. Ever. 59 miles. Sunday was my longest run ever–22 miles. Thankfully I had help–my teammate for the ultra and another friend (and photographer) who came along “just for fun.”

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The nice thing about this training plan is that every 4th week is a “step back” week. So last Monday when I looked at the 6 straight days of workouts, I just set my sights on getting through Sunday.

The week went like this:

  • Mon: rest
  • Tues: 9 miles, middle 3 steady.  Well, after the trail race and the flight home, those middle 3 turned into a middle 2.
  • Wed: 5-7 steady. I opted for 5, and did 5.6
  • Thurs: 15′ w/u. Hill workout: 4x 6′ hill w/ 3′ recovery, 5′ easy, 3x 2′ hill/1′ recovery, 5′ easy, 3x 30sec hill/30 sec recovery, 15′ c/d. I did this on a treadmill.
  • Fri: 5-7 easy. I opted for 5
  • Sat: 20-22 long run. 22 in the books.
  • Sun: 9-11 easy: 9.3 on a beautiful Sunday!

The results of all this mileage? Eating All. The. Food. and sleeping All. The. Hours and rolling out All. The. Muscles. I am so thankful this week is only a 20 mile week.

Next up: Cobbling

Sleeping all the hours has put a bit of dent into my sewing and knitting, but two weeks ago, I finished whipped out this vest:

The exterior is a new fabric collection called Woodland Clearing, and the inside is…Liberty!  You may notice the inside back is pieced. It shouldn’t be. However, I was really excited that I figured out how to make the pockets a bit more structured (the fabric in the original pattern is a thicker knit wool and the Woodland Clearing is a quilting cotton, so the single layer pocket was a bit flimsy) by underlining it in the Liberty. So I cut the pocket interior out of what I thought was some leftover Liberty and proceeded along my merry way, stitching away oblivious to the fact that I had actually cut two pocket pieces out of the middle of the back piece.  Sigh. This is why you are supposed to set aside your pattern pieces. Thankfully I had enough leftover to cut the middle section of the back piece out and replace it.

Hopefully fewer miles on the road will mean more inches on the needles. I just started a great springtime sweater that I’d like to be wearing before summer.

 

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The good, the bad and the ugly

of my sojourn to Silicon Valley:

The Good:

Finding a 30k trail race (Chabot Red Tail Trail Run) that synced up completely with my training plan (because I’m good at math and the metric system and know that 30k=18 miles).

Completing the 30k staying true to my training strategy (walk 1 min after running each mile, power hiking the steep uphills)

No bonking!  Good fueling!

Finish time: 4:10:27

 

The Bad

Forgetting the cardinal rule of pronouncing unknown place names (rule: always go with French). Lake Chabot is not pronounced Cha-But. It’s pronounced Sha-beau.

Not reading the elevation chart before racing.

 

 

The Ugly

IMG_0492

Some things should just not be knit. Ever.

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Excuse me, while I crawl out from under this rock

Yes, I’m still here. Just going to bed insanely early and getting up even insanely earlier. Just when you think you’re about to die from ALL. THE. MILEAGE, you get an “easy” week, and subsequently catch a cold.

I’m on week 13 of my 24 week plan (I actually jumped in at week 4, so I’m not quite halfway through yet. The growing mileage is tough, but even tougher is scheduling! Once a week I work in the city, and because I catch what I lovingly refer to as the over-achievers’ train (the 7:04), I can’t run on that day. And because some of the workouts seem to require an unending 7% grade hill with miraculous flats every 8 minutes or so, some workouts I’m stuck with a treadmill.  It’s all part of the journey.

I have no idea how this race will pan out. But I’m thoroughly enjoying the process, so I’m counting this (so far) as a win.  Who knows where my head will be in 10 more weeks, but right now, I. Love. It.

Next week will be a big test. I’m out in Santa Clara for work, and it’s an insane training week:

  • Wed (flying day): 8-10 miles with 6 reps of 5′ on/1′ recovery repeats. I plan on doing this before I get on the plane.
  • Thurs (booth set up day): 10 steady pace
  • Fri (first day of show): 5 easy
  • Sat (2nd show day): 18
  • Sun (3rd show day): 10-12
  • Mon (fly home) rest

And as my “hey look, there’s a race I can do nearby” luck would have it, there’s this: the Lake Chabot Trail run with a convenient 30k option. And wouldn’t you know it, 30k=18 miles! How ’bout them beans? I think this will be a good reality check. I’ll have to figure out my gear and nutrition (especially while traveling), and deal with some elevation. Twice now in training I’ve run 18 miles or more, so the distance isn’t that intimidating. The climbing, though, I expect to be tough.

Worrying, though, isn’t on the plan. So I’ll be there with enthusiasm! (and a hydration pack, extra socks, sweet potatoes, pretzels, tons of water, and a good attitude…)

 

 

 

 

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Goodbye January

While my posts have not been up to past Janathon standards, I have been quite productive.

This past weekend I had my first significant back to back long run mileage; Saturday called for 18-20 and then Sunday was 14-16. Last week’s snow impacted my route somewhat (closing two trails) causing a few detours and my getting lost twice, but I ended up with 19.6 miles. And then I turned around again this morning for another 14.

Each run is an opportunity to learn–this weekend I worked on fueling, trying to figure out which real foods I can carry along AND tolerate, because the thought of eating gels or chomps for 50 miles is a bit nauseating.  Both Saturday and Sunday I ate every 5 miles–half a sweet potato at mile 5, and a handful of pretzels at mile 10. On Saturday, I tried a granola bar at mile 15, but the water in the hose of my hydration pack froze and I couldn’t get it down, so I had a gu instead.  Which isn’t so tasty without water either.

So to recap the month:

  • 24 runs over 31 days, totaling 197.4 miles. The non-running days included yoga and core/body weight work.  This is my highest mileage month ever.
  • Two sweaters knit
  • One quilt started
  • Two shirts, one jacket and 3 cowls sewn.

My Janathon blogging efforts may have been lacking, but I’ve enjoyed keeping up with everyone’s posts, and have a feeling that I’ll be needing some motivation come Juneathon, especially given that it will be after the ultra.

 

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Flat Stanley

was my favorite book in 2nd grade.* It’s about a boy who is flattened by a bulletin board while sleeping, so when he awakes he’s only about 1″ thick.  He has considerable adventures, like being slipped through a sewer grate to get his mother’s ring, and being stuffed inside an envelope to travel to California to visit a friend, because postage was cheaper than airfare.

There are many lessons to be learned from Flat Stanley (although the comparison between airfare and postage is not one. That, my friends, is obvious). The lesson is that sometimes things are better flat than with dimension.

Like my most recent sweater, the top-down, roll neck cardigan designed by Purl Soho. It looks amazing flat.

IMG_0416

(that’s mighty fine knitting if I do say so myself)

However, it looks just not so amazing with a body inside.

It’s the neck. It’s too floppy. And the length needs to be a smidge longer. But I won’t complain. The sleeves are plenty long (I added too much length, actually). And the buttons are cute. But clearly a sweater for Stanley.

One thing I’m particularly pleased with is how I jerry-rigged the sleeves.  I knit the sleeves for a different project, but got fed up with the tediousness of the stockinette body, so I abandoned it for this sweater, figuring I could make the sleeves work without realizing that the abandoned project (and its sleeves) was bottom up and this cardi (and sleeves) was top down. I grafted them together. It’s not that noticeable.  Really.

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Oh, and forgive all the unwoven ends.  They’re all woven in now.

The most satisfying thing about this sweater? The freakin’ yarn. I subbed in Brooklyn Tweed’s Loft, and I think I may never use another yarn again in my life. It was a joy to knit, and it blocked so well, and now this sweater is just about the softest thing I own.

Oh, and Janathon? Yep, I’m still going strong, although clearly my posting hasn’t.  This past week was most interesting as I needed to juggle my ultra training and its long runs with the impending blizzard.  I’m still reeling.  Not from the snow, but rather the switcheroo of days.

This is how it was supposed to go down:

  • wed: hill ladder (8-10 miles–I did almost 9)
  • thurs: rest
  • fri: easy 6-8
  • sat: long run 12-14
  • sun: long run 10-12
  • mon: rest (good, because I’m supposed to work in NY that day)
  • tues: easy 5

 

Going into that week, I was registered for a trail half marathon on Saturday to satisfy the 12-14 requirement. I decided to switch Thurs and Fri so I’d have fresh-ish legs on Saturday for the race on a technical trail.  Ah, but the snow. By mid-day Friday, I learned the Saturday race was postponed, so when I got home Friday night, I knew I needed to get some mileage in.

Here’s how it panned out:

  • wed: hill ladder
  • thurs: Friday’s easy 6
  • friday night (8pm): 12/so much for rest.
  • sat: snow/ah, the rest.
  • sun: (after shoveling): 14 (wet, wet, slushy feet)
  • mon: (no work, so I can’t go into NY, so i moved Tuesday’s workout to monday afternoon) easy 6
  • tues: rest.

The snow was delightful.  Sometimes you just need some time to not do anything important and just breathe. It was a welcome break. Clearing the snow on Sunday was another story.

The ferns are two steps down from our front porch. We got about 30″. Thank goodness for snowblowers.

Lastly, did you know that turkeys can fly?  While we were out snowblowing and shoveling, I kept hearing the “gobble, gobble, gobble” of our feathered neighbors, but of course, they were nowhere to be seen.  But then on my Tuesday run done on Monday, I spotted them–flying up to the trees!

(*Flat Stanley was written in the early 60’s–there have been subsequent Flat Stanley books since 2000, but they’re not nearly as endearing.  Another important lesson: stick with the original).

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