Now What?

 

 

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Photo by Scott Goldstein!

I sat down with the intention of writing a race recap for the Hyannis Marathon, and I just can’t bring myself to do it. To sum it up, it went better than I had ever imagined it could. I was shooting for sub-4, and surpassed that goal by running a 3:50:24. I felt strong the entire time, I stayed hydrated and took in calories as I needed them, and I finished strong with my last 5 miles being around 8:30 pace. Hands down it was my best performance out of any race I’ve ever run. Maybe someday I’ll have the energy to write a more detailed race report, but for now, I’ll tell you about my post-marathon week.

Let’s start with Monday. I expected to be sore, maybe have some stiff knees or sore shins, but I was nowhere near as bad as I thought I would be. I even biked to work, no problem! After biking in to work, I started to feel some pain in my lower right abdomen. Pain very similar, but less intense, to my pain I had a few weeks ago before I ended up in the hospital with a ruptured cyst. I told myself I was probably just sore from the race, and it would go away.

Cut to Tuesday. I feel amazing, like I barely even ran a marathon, so after work I go for a quick 3 mile run. My legs are tired, but in great shape. I start getting excited for my long run on Saturday of 23 miles. Cut to Wednesday, the pain in my abdomen is still lingering, intensifying just enough to make me worried after my bike ride home. I listened to my body and skipped my run. I worked from home on Thursday and called my gynecologist to see if they could get me an appointment. By some miracle from the heavens, she has an open appointment at 2pm. By a whole other miracle, the company I work for is amazing, and let me take the rest of the day off of work to see my doctor.

I explain the situation and tell her I’m nervous I might have another cyst. I tell her I went to the ER not a month ago for a ruptured ovarian cyst, and she asks me some questions. When was the last time you had a cyst that caused pain? Are you still on birth control? Are you skipping any pills? Are you pregnant? Does it hurt during intercourse? You know, the fun questions we all love our gynecologist asking. She says she can get me an ultrasound at 4pm in Chelsea if I’m willing to drive out there.

Cut to 3:00, I’m in Chelsea (way too early) waiting anxiously for my appointment, exhausted from the lack of sleep thanks to stress about my health. I get two ultrasounds and they say I’ll hear back the next morning. Cut to Friday during my lunch break. It was past noon and I hadn’t heard anything so of course I call in a panic, asking for my doctor to call me back. She calls me a few minutes later and tells me I have yet another ovarian cyst. She mentions they’re not normal cysts, they’re hemorrhagic ovarian cysts (aka filled with blood) which is why they’re so painful. They have absolutely no idea why I’m getting cysts due to the fact that birth control is supposed to prevent cysts from forming at all.

It’s also over 5cm in diameter, so she recommends I don’t exercise for at least 6 weeks, which is when I will need a follow-up ultrasound to see if the cyst has gotten any smaller. If it has gotten smaller, I will need to be monitored for future cysts while they try to figure out why I keep getting cysts. If it hasn’t gotten smaller, I will need to meet with a surgeon to go over my options for removing the cysts. There’s a chance if they remove the cysts but haven’t figured out why I am getting them, they will come back, and they would go over my other options, which are far less appealing and end with me not being able to have children.

I have 5 short weeks to go until the Gorge Waterfalls 100k, but was advised not to run for the next 6 weeks. I’m still unsure about what I’ll do on race day, but for now I’m taking it day by day. If my pain subsides soon, I might try easing back into a running routine, but skip the biking, since it seems to aggravate it much more than running. My doctor did say if my cyst ended up rupturing, it would decrease in size sooner than it would if it didn’t rupture, but it seems pretty morbid to hope for a rupture since it basically made any movement excruciatingly painful for 4-5 days.

Normally I would hear what my doctor said, politely agree to disagree as young people tend to do, and go about my way, silently suffering. But this time, there is a chance that if it doesn’t rupture or decrease in size, strenuous exercise could cause ovarian torsion, and I’d likely end up losing my ovary. While I’m happy to be an idiot and maybe cause some extra shin pain or push through some knee pain, losing an ovary at 26 isn’t something I’m willing to risk.

I am absolutely heartbroken that this is happening to me after 3 months of intense, dedicated training for this 100k. I’m in the best shape of my life, and I’ve never been more prepared or excited for a race. But for once, this seems like something I shouldn’t brush off and try to push through. I will keep you all posted on my recovery and my game-day decision, but as of now it’s looking like we will just be enjoying a week of vacation in Oregon in April instead of racing. Word on the street is their food and beer game is strong out in the Pacific Northwest. Maybe instead of running a 100k, we’ll drive a 100k and where each aid station would be, we’ll stop for food and beer! Sounds fun, but let’s be real, we were probably planning on doing that after my race anyways.

 

Not Perfect, but Close Enough – Hyannis Marathon Race Report (2/26/2017)

B and Q. Two letters that I really never thought I would put next to a race result. But after Sunday, my 3:01:21 marathon PR is a certified, authentic BQ. It wasn’t the sub-3 that I was hoping for, and pretty far off from the 2:55 I was dreaming of, but it should be good enough to get me to Hopkinton in 2018. After 2 years dedicated to ultras, a few speedy shorter distance races in 2016 got this goal stuck in my head. Honestly, it seemed unreachable. Maybe I just got lucky in 2016, was it really worth it to get my eyes set on an unreachable target? Back in 2013 when I started running seriously, I never thought I’d  hit this goal. Thankfully, I’m stubborn and once the idea of it got into my head, it was going to happen. I made it loud and clear.

As my mom apparently tells everybody (thanks Harry), I was never a runner. I didn’t run in high school. I picked up running in college because I was getting chubby. I picked up distance running because I’m pretty sure Colleen has her Masters in peer pressure. And finally I picked up ultras because I wanted to show myself how far I’ve come. But something about the BQ is the perfect mix all of these drivers. I haven’t stopped thinking about crossing that finish line since Sunday.

As for the race, like all longer events, the race really started the day before. I have a trend of avoiding the sensible thing to do of taking it easy the day before a big race. Without much forethought, I signed up for a company recruiting event that had me up early and on my feet all day. So much for relaxing. Thankfully I got out of a dinner afterwards and was able to get home at a reasonable hour. Colleen and I got to bed early and did our best to sleep.

Race morning was uneventful, thankfully! We got all set up with our bibs, got situated, and waited for the gun to go off. My buddy Seth offered to come down and act as a pacer / windshield so we chatted about goals and race strategy. After our warm up we parted ways before he’d hop in at mile 10 or so. I hopped into the start corral and apologized roughly 3801 times squeezing through people to the line. I ran into Lynton and once more set my goal in stone for a BQ. Then, promptly at 10 the gun went off.

Like most distance races, mile 1-15 or so were really nothing special. Of course, I went out a little fast – but how can you not! It’s all so exciting. I did my best to settle down quickly after the first mile clicked by in 6:30 or so. I exchanged some words with other marathoners on the course who had similar goals, but pretty quickly I was to myself. The difficult thing about a race like Hyannis is that it’s a loop course with hundreds of runners all running different events at the exact same time. Marathoners run 2 loops, the half run 1, and the relay is broken up into nonsensical portions. I had relay runners wheezing and pounding the pavement yo-yoing past me. There were half runners running comfortable races. And then there was me and what seemed like 2 other marathoners. My usual race tactics of holding onto a runner just out of reach were gone. I’d have to rely on my own smart racing to get me to the finish.

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Early miles came really easily! Everything felt great.

Since mental anxiety was creeping in quickly, I was really happy to see Scott and Kate out on the course at mile 3 or so. Nothing like having a cheering squad! A little burst of adrenaline got me going as we made our way towards the shore. While the weather said it was going to be windy, I didn’t really anticipate a steady stream of air head-on along the coast. Miles 4-8 were completely in a headwind. I don’t know how powerful it was or how much extra effort it really caused, but mentally it was excruciating. At one point, I blurted to my pack of runners “ugh this wind!” to no response. Come on, is it not okay to complain a bit? When we finally turned away from the wind, I physically felt fine, but another mental hurdle was added to my race. Miles 9-10 were effortless and picking up Seth was another amazing boost!

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Seth joined me around mile 10. Legs started to feel a bit fatigued, but miles 9-13 of the course were definitely my favorite

Seth and I rolled along chatting about the day and making small talk. I complained about the race’s plastic cups and how they forced me to either splash myself with water or slow down to drink. I chatted a bit about how I was anticipating the rest of the race to go. Looking back though, this was another area I could have executed better. I know that Seth got me to the finish line with the BQ, but I should have communicated that towards the end, he should have just pulled my ass along. I was going to be in no shape to pace myself in the last few miles. But that was ages away, and I felt great so far, so why spoil it?

The halfway point came and went, and Seth and I were pretty much on our own. There were two runners about 100 yards ahead of us and no one behind us as far as I could tell. The course was open to traffic the entire day, and now without a swarm of runners clogging the streets, cars seemed a little more impatient with me choosing the optimal line. At mile 17 we reentered the wind tunnel. I’d dip behind Seth occasionally for a reprieve from the wind, but since it was just the two of us the wind was still exhausting. Just before mile 20, someone exclaimed how just around the corner the wind would end. It didn’t. In all honestly it was probably only a quarter mile more of intense wind, but that additional mental battle took a piece out of me.

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1 mile left. This is when running isn’t fun anymore, but it’s worth enduring every second for that PR.

My legs started to feel heavy, a bonk was setting in. Another area of improvement: nutrition. In every other race, 45 minutes between gels was always perfect. But I think at this effort I should have bumped it up to every 30. I let my goal pace drift a bit away from me. Still, I had time in the bank, so I was too worried about the BQ at this point. As the minutes ticked by, and my pace continued to slow I grew concerned. I started to focus on how poorly I was feeling and how much running still remained. Of course I knew the race starts at mile 20, but I wanted to at least give the final 10K a strong effort! It wasn’t happening though, and now it was just a battle to hold on. I took one or two walk breaks through water stops (to level out my heart rate and drink from the stupid plastic cups) and kept my pace as high as I could. Seth was good with setting realistic expectations in my head, but like I said I probably should have just had him pull me. Oh well.

By two miles left, I had 15 or so minutes left to hit just above 3 hours. That’s when I gained a bit more faith. Two 7:30 miles left. I could do that. Around mile 25, there was a final water stop I was certain I needed. Given how I was feeling and the stupid plastic cups, I grabbed a cup and walked for a few feet to drink everything. It wasn’t necessary at all, but in the moment I needed it.

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The bonk was real. At mile 25 ( I know, I didn’t need this gatorade) I was forced to walk to get all I could from a cup. Stupid plastic cups.

In the final mile, before the reality set in that I was going to BQ, I struggled significantly. I was really disappointed on how I executed the final few miles, and slowly realizing a bit of smarter pacing and nutrition could have saved me later on. But as I rounded the last bend before the finish, that melted away. I looked at my watch: 3:01:00. The BQ was real. I awkwardly surged to the finish and crossed the line. Pain quickly transformed into satisfaction. And amazingly, it was caught on tape: Hyannis highlights.

After some congratulations and excitement, I got changed, hobbled back to the finish, and anxiously waited for Colleen. Of course, she made smashing her PR by more than 30 minutes look effortless, stopping a tenth of a mile before the end to ask me “did you do it?!” to which I shouted back “I did!”

Strava:
Hyannis Marathon

Gear:
Nike Zoom Streak 6
Gu
Ciele Go Cap
Clothes

T-minus 7 Weeks!

After a week and half of resting post ruptured-ovarian cyst, I had a nice, full week of training last week. I ended up being slightly shy of my goal for the week, but made the decision that going from 9 miles in a week to 50 the next might be a bit much. I started out with a long run on Sunday of 18 with Matt. We did an out and back on the marathon route and I expected it to hurt a lot more than it did, considering I had taken a while off of running, but it wasn’t too bad. We averaged 9:00/mile, and it helped build my confidence tremendously for the Hyannis Marathon. I’m really hoping to break 4 hours, and if I can hold a 9:00/mile for 18, I’m really hoping I can hold it for 26.2, especially with race endorphins and adrenaline.

I rested Monday and got back into my routine on Tuesday with a solid 7 miler. Wednesday I decided to do Summit repeats to start getting some more elevation in. I started my run with a quick mile warmup, 5 miles of Summit, and a cool down on my run back home. I thought it would be more miserable than it was, but it was ALMOST enjoyable. I was just impressed with my hill-stamina compared to my stamina even just 6 months ago. It’s funny that training properly really can make a difference. WHO’D HAVE THOUGHT? CERTAINLY NOBODY HAS TOLD ME THIS BEFORE. THIS IS BRAND NEW INFORMATION.

Thursday was the dreaded Snowpocolypse of 2017. I started it out by oversleeping for The Breakfast Club and woke up around 6 with that horrible guilt you get when you promised Kate you’d be at the run and somehow you’re still in bed. I was too guilty to sleep it off, and didn’t want to run during the storm, so I shot out of bed and got a quick 4 miler in so I could meet everyone at Cafe Fixe after their run. The rest of the day was spent working from home, cuddling with Goose, and playing in the snow!

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This was the first week I was supposed to run 6 days instead of 5, and due to taking some time off I decided to keep it at 5 days. I ran on Friday instead of Saturday, and got a solid 7 miles in on the dreadmill, since the sidewalks were still not clear (update: still aren’t clear… get your shit together and clear your sidewalks, people). I skipped my Saturday run, and went for a long run on Sunday. Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

When we left for our run on Sunday it was snowing, and during our run it turned to rain, then snow, then rain, then sleet, then snow again, and finally just ice pellets punching me in the face. I wore a waterproof jacket but by mile 16 I was soaked through to my inner layer, freezing, and fucking miserable. Luckily the run itself was pretty good, and I felt like I got a good workout for my stabilizers by running in the snow and slush. I ended up only running 17.4 instead of my goal of 19 due to just being frozen inside. I thawed out by taking a painfully hot shower and Matt delivered me Dunkin Donuts hot chocolate like an angel put on this earth just to bring me joy.

Unfortunately, I think the run on Sunday irritated my ovarian cyst. Monday I woke up with more pain. I worked Monday and tried to shake it off, but by Monday night it wasn’t subsiding at all, so I worked from home Tuesday, took the day off of running, and popped Motrin on the couch all day. Today I’m feeling better, but still unsure about whether or not I should run or take another rest day. I’m torn since it technically won’t make anything worse by running, it’ll just intensify the pain. We’ll see how I’m feeling tonight, but hopefully I’m back to normal by Thursday so I can get back into it and get some solid miles in.

This weekend will be my last long run before Hyannis, and I am super excited/nervous. I’ve never not tapered before a marathon, and of course want to be extra careful since this isn’t even my goal race, but I so badly want to break 4 hours that it’s all I can think about. On my runs I’m either thinking “I could totally break 4” or “I can’t believe I’m going to run 62 miles soon.” Can’t wait until after Hyannis when it’s just the latter repeating over and over in my head.

Oh by the way, literally only 7 weeks until my 100k. 7 WEEKS. 😨

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The Abominable SnowGoose

 

 

A (few) Bump(s) in the Road

The past 3 weeks have been a whirlwind of change and chaos in the GrandElam household. On January 17th, I started a new job with Zagster, a bike sharing company based out of Cambridge. It’s been absolutely amazing, and I’m so glad I took the leap and changed careers. My whole first two weeks were filled with cramming as much information into my head that I could possibly handle. I’d come home after work and just sit there silently playing with Gustav. No TV, no music, just catching up with Matt and playing with the pupper while my brain rested.

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Picked up a new hobby recently – taking requests for birthdays/anniversaries/babies/weddings now 😉

After my first week at Zagster, Matt and I went to New Hampshire for the weekend to go cross country skiing on Saturday and get in some downhill skiing on Sunday. The weekend was amazing, but as it turns out, we are great at running and not so great at cross country skiing. There were many falls involved, a few bruises, and a slight pain in my left abdomen that I ignored at the time. I ended up not getting a real long run in that weekend since we spent about 5 hours cross country skiing and my legs were already so sore. We went downhill skiing on Sunday, and I called it early since it was rainy and my abdomen was bothering me still. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I figured I should try to rest.

The following week, I was biking home from work when my abdomen started to really hurt. I went home and told Matt who, as a robot, told me to “go for a run and see how it felt.” Of course I did, and I made it about 1/4 of a mile before I wanted to die, so I turned around and went home to rest. I was frantically Googling my pain, so of course thought I had cancer and was dying, but listened to Matt who told me to “rest up” and said I’d “probably be fine by Saturday for our long run.” I have a history of inguinal hernias (I’ve had one on each side) and also ovarian cysts, so I was hyper aware of my pain and very worried.

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From our cross country skiing adventure! The perfect weather for it.

I went to work the next day and had trouble just walking from my car to the building. I tried calling my doctor to make an appointment, but since I hadn’t seen my doctor since switching insurance, I had to wait a week to get be seen because it was an initial appointment. I made the appointment for the following week, and got back to work. When I got home I was still in a lot of pain, so I decided to ask my friend in med school what he recommended – should I wait a week or go to Urgent Care that night? He recommended Urgent Care, so off I went at 7:30pm on a Thursday.

 

The Urgent Care I went to ended up not having any imaging, so they recommended I go to the ER. After sitting in the waiting room for like 2.5 hours while a woman was alternating between violently vomiting and weeping (and trying not to vomit myself from the sound of her vomiting… good god I hate hospitals) I finally got into a room. After many more hours of waiting, a ghetto pelvic exam where I was propped up on a bedpan because they didn’t have a proper Ob-Gyn table for me, and 2 different ultrasounds, they found out I had a ruptured ovarian cyst. If you’ve never had a ruptured ovarian cyst, well, they’re really fucking painful. I was having a hard time walking upright, and every bump I hit while driving sent shooting pains through my lower abdomen. The worst part? There’s nothing they can really do at that point other than give you Motrin and tell you to rest.

Matt and I went home at just about 3am and were super exhausted from such a long, stressful night. We both went into work the next day (though I left work early to work from the couch all afternoon) and when Matt got home at 6pm, he locked his bike up on our bike rack in our garage and headed back for a run since he was too tired to wake up early to run, since we were at the ER all night. At 7pm, he got back and our bikes were gone. Someone had cut the U-locks on both our bikes and stolen them.

You can imagine we had a pretty shitty 24 hours, but luckily we have decent renters insurance, so we should be able to get most of the cost of our replacement bikes reimbursed. Plus, I do work for a bike sharing company, so I have the option of using a Zagster bike for a while until my new bike comes in. While I’m really upset our bikes were taken and we had to deal with filing a police report/talking to our building manager/etc, we are able to replace our bikes and are adult enough to have insurance for them.

I spent the following 8 days resting. Like RESTING resting. I literally spent all weekend on the couch, unless I was driving to a friend’s house to sit on their couch. I spent a lot of time embroidering, watching Arrested Development, and cuddling with Goose. It was a long week and a half off of running, and I’ve never been so thankful to be back to running. I went snowboarding this past Saturday and everything felt great, so I went for an 18 miler on Sunday – totally pain free! I mean painful in my legs, but not painful in my abdomen.

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First (and last) time snowboarding glades. WAS NOT FOR ME. But hey, I tried.

For a while I was feeling pretty down about missing a key part of my training, but I’m honestly glad it was a random injury and not a running-related injury. Matt assured me that it was probably for the best – a week off of running with TRULY resting (no cross training, no bike commuting, etc) will most likely help prevent overuse injuries throughout the next few weeks, and it really didn’t take away anything from my overall fitness level. My 18 miler didn’t feel any harder than it would have had I run 50 miles the week before. I’m ready to get back into it and crush some 50-60 mile weeks for the next few weeks!

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My first goal for these next few weeks is to start upping my hill game. My 100k has about 12,000 feet of elevation gain, so I’ve gotta work my way up to getting at least 7,000 feet in each week so my legs are ready for that kind of workout. So if you see me cruising along the Charles these next few weeks, slap me and tell me to go run Summit repeats or I’m gonna regret it by mile 5 of this race. My second goal is to crush my marathon PR at the Hyannis Marathon on February 26th. My 18 miler yesterday went really well – I averaged 9:00/miles. If I can hold onto a 9 minute mile for a marathon, I would not only PR by a full 30 minutes, I could break 4 hours. This is a lofty goal, but based on my past few weeks, I don’t think it’s out of reach. Fingers crossed!

 

Gorge Waterfall Training – Month 1

I started writing this blog post 2 weeks ago and here I am now, finally posting it. Life has been a little crazy, but more on that in another post later. For now, a recap of my first few weeks of Gorge Waterfall 100k training!

I officially started my training block for the Gorge Waterfalls 100k on December 19th. The first day was a huge success (spoiler: it was a rest day) and the rest of the week went just as well. I clocked in 31.5 miles the first week, with my long run of 10 miles on Christmas. I was worried about finding the motivation to run each run over Christmas break, but I’m just so eager to have a good training block and nervous about running 62 miles that I’ve been finding it easy to stay motivated.

Week 2 went well, even though I ended up being sick on New Years Eve and New Years, so I was slightly short on mileage. Matt and I had the week off, so we got a lot accomplished around the apartment, played with Goosey, and even got some trail miles in while the weather was still warm – though to be fair it is now January 25th and is still 40+ degrees outside, so who knows when winter will really hit. I ended up getting in 32.6 miles for the week instead of my 35. I was disappointed at first, but realized it’s not worth it to worry about missing miles when I’m sick – my body needed rest.

Week 3 started out with an extremely cold and rainy run. Matt and I slept in on Tuesday and regretted that pretty hard when we realized it was going to be rainy, cold, and windy all night. We toughed it out for 7 miles, then I immediately got in the shower and thawed myself out. On Thursday I went to my first ever North Face Mountain Athletics workout with my girl Molly, and it was a blast. I ended up underestimating how far it was from my house, so my easy run to get there turned into almost 5k pace, and the workout was pretty run-centric, so I was exhausted after. Totally worth it though, and I can’t wait to go back again! All in all I clocked 39.2 miles for the week, and felt really good about it.

Week 4 started out with a miserable run on the treadmill that I ended up cutting short. I tried running outside, but it was super slick on the sidewalks, and I am not about to break my ankle going for a 7 mile run 4 weeks into my training plan. I also did not trust my shoes to get me through that run without slipping and falling – they weren’t the best running shoes and didn’t have a lot of traction.

At this point, I started realizing I didn’t like my new shoes too much – I’d been trying the Nike Free RN Distance since I got them for like 30 dollars on black Friday, but they’re just not great for the amount of miles I’m putting in, and also my running technique. I decided to reorder the Saucony Ride 9s I’ve been using for the past 6 months or so – they were pretty worn down at this point (about 400 miles on them) and I hadn’t had any injuries or soreness since I’ve been wearing them. It feels good to be running in a fresh pair again – it was definitely necessary! We went trail running for our long run on Sunday with Ryan and Tammy (our TBC long run crew lately!) and got in 15ish miles for my long run. Altogether, I ran 43 miles for the week and was feeling pretty good, but my shins have been a little sore, so I had to make a decision about my week 5 training and how I could get my training in without going overboard.

Week 5 was a little different, but I feel confident I made the right decision. I only got 36 miles in, but I got about 10 of cross country skiing, and 3-4 hours of snowboarding in as well, so I had some great cross training in. I didn’t get a super long run in, but I was only planning on 14 (ended up getting 8 in) and have been crushing my long runs for the past 2 months, so I’m not too concerned about it. This next week I plan on getting all my miles in as long as my shins are feeling good – gotta up the stretching, rolling, and strengthening if I want to continue being injury free for the next 2 months.

I’ve also started biking to work regularly, which is adding another element of cross training to my training that I wasn’t necessarily planning on before. I’m glad I’ve started biking to work for sure, and will continue to do so no matter how my training goes, but I need to adjust my expectations of training until I’m a little more in biking shape.

I promise to be less of a stranger to blogging going forward… for real this time.

 

 

Race Schedule and Goal Setting

I know I already wrote a year in review and set some goals, but my friend over at yogawordnerd put together an awesome race schedule post that got me thinking about my schedule and what I am looking to get out of 2017. As I enter my third year of ultra running, my focus is quickly shifting from simply finishing certain distances and races to wanting to improve my performance. Frankly, it is pretty intimidating. Until the past 3 months or so, I’ve never felt like a “fast kid”. But as I cross more finishes lines and finish more training runs I guess I am just getting faster. It’s weird, because I never set out to improve any sub-ultra PRs, but now I can’t get the notion of beating my past self out of my head. With that, comes the fear of missing goals and putting myself in painful situations. But I think  setting these goals in stone will go a long way in helping me achieve them.

Registered Races:

I’ve made it pretty clear to just about everybody, but my goal for Hyannis is to run a Boston Qualifier. It is going to hurt like hell. Honestly, I never thought it would be something I could do until I ran the Cambridge Half this November, but with my finish being just under 1:24 at that race, I think it is within reach. I wish my training had been going a bit more consistently up until now, but training in the middle of winter is tough. Let’s hope I can put the pieces together before the end of February because I really don’t want to have to try again.

At Seven Sisters, I just want to run sub 2:30. Last year it was pretty damn slick, so I think if it is dry this year it is definitely happening. This race is really like nothing else I have run in the northeast and cannot recommend it enough!

At the Endurance Challenge, I really want to just give a solid 50-mile performance. They haven’t released detailed course information yet, so I don’t know what exactly I will be shooting for. Really, I just want it to go better than Bear Mountain did. I thought that race was going to be my personal breakout performance where I put all the pieces of the ultra puzzle together, but it just didn’t happen. Let’s hope I can represent NP (and maybe some of the tribe will wander out on the course to give some much needed support).

Millinocket is happening because who doesn’t want to run a free race in Northern Maine?

The Big Question

As for races that I haven’t registered for that I plan on running, I still need to drop a 100 miler on my schedule. It is really coming down to Run Rabbit Run or The Bear. Both races are pretty similar in terms of terrain to Grindstone, so I would really like to take what I learned there and put together a sub-24 hour performance on a gnarly course. My main reason for holding out on registering for one or the other is I am hoping The North Face announces that their ECS Utah race will be on the same weekend as The Bear. It would be much easier to get a crew out to Utah if I had a race they could run to bribe them with. Last year, the races fell on the same weekend so fingers-crossed.

 

Colleen’s 2016 Year in Review

I know I’m a little late to the game here since it’s already 2017, but hey, better late than never, right?

2016 was a whirlwind of a year for me both athletically and professionally. I ended my career as a nanny and decided to branch out into a new field I had no experience in, really. That change was not only scary, but stressful. Somehow through the stress of changing jobs, I connected even more with running. I had a more free time as a nanny, yet I ran a lot less. The stress of switching jobs and being in a more traditional role of 8-5 helped me find peace in running – it’s my stress relief. If I start my day out with a run, I feel refreshed and ready to take on the day. If I end my day with a run, I feel the stress of the day slowly disappear throughout my run.

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Goose Dog also helps lower stress levels

The first part of my year was filled with Bear Mountain training. My training actually went pretty well, despite still recovering a bit from my knee pain after the Marine Corps Marathon in October 2015. Looking back on it, my biggest mistake of that training block was not taking enough time to increase my mileage. In December 2015, my weeks went from 5 -> 7 -> 12 -> 11 -> 18 -> 18 -> 27. Comparatively, before my Gorge Waterfalls training started, my weekly mileage went: 11.7 -> 11.5 -> 15 -> 29 (whoops – ran the BAA Half for fun!) -> 21 -> 13 -> 20 -> 16 -> 23 -> 29 -> 28 -> 31 -> 28 -> 29 . So before Bear Mountain training, I took 7 weeks of not-so-gradually increasing my mileage before my training block started. Before Gorge Waterfalls training, I DOUBLED the amount of weeks I ramped up, with a much more gradual increase.

 

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One of my favorite memories of 2016 – that euphoria when you finish a tough 50k and basically all of NPBos is there cheering you on.

Despite my poor pre-training, Bear Mountain actually went really well! Despite a bit of nausea and just being plain tired, I made it through a much harder course than my first 50k and felt strong. I was feeling GREAT and decided to sign up for the Pineland Farms 50k. I ended up with a bum knee and wasn’t able to start the race, and felt totally defeated. I thought my training had gone really well, and race day was pretty much unbeatable as far as my long distance races had been up to that point, but I still just wasn’t giving it my all. I wasn’t stretching enough, I wasn’t strengthening enough, and I was biting off more than I could chew. After I lost my toenail (RIP little guy) and had issues with it all summer, I decided to start fresh and be smart.

Our Colorado trip was really when I started to realize how important it was that I not go too hard for this upcoming season. I wanted to sign up for a million marathons and 50k’s and #raceeverything, but I held myself back. It’s actually quite bizarre – I didn’t even run a marathon in 2016! Sure, I ran a 50k, and a self-directed ultra “just for fun” up in Maine over the summer, but didn’t complete an actual marathon. At first I was so upset I missed out, but after a few days of reflection, I’m glad I didn’t. Who knows, maybe a road marathon would have pushed me past my breaking point.

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One of my favorite pictures of me from 2016. Photo courtesy of Samantha Goresh

After my summer and ramping up my mileage smarter, I started racing more. Actually racing, not just running to finish. This year I PR’d my 5k by 2 minutes and 59 seconds, and my half marathon by 4 minutes and 57 seconds (and finally broke 2 hours). Turns out training smart but also adding speed work improves your running… I mean there’s no way I could have known that before, obviously.

I also made one of the scariest decisions of my running career in 2016 by signing up for my first 100k. I’m nervous as hell that something is going to go wrong between now and then – every time I run I’m paranoid I’m going to end up in a full body cast. But so far so good – though I was attacked by a recycling bin on a run last week. No joke. A big gust of wind blew RIGHT as I was running by it and the top flew off and almost smacked me right in the head. Luckily I blocked it with my water bottle/wrist like a ninja. Seriously. You can’t make this stuff up.

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Another favorite of 2016!

My goal in 2017 is simple – run my 100k. Well, and continue to train smart. While I love the idea of “no days off” and committing to exercising every day, my motto is going to be to listen to my body. If I’m sick, I will rest. If I’m feeling too tired for a 5:30am run, I’ll sleep in and run in the evening. As much as I love running with The Breakfast Club and going to November Project, I have to stick with my training plan and listen to my body as I continue to add the miles on each week.

My resolution for 2017 is a 4 part plan:
1. Learn how to use my camera
2. Actually use my camera
3. Take more pictures of Gustav
4. Post more pictures in the blog

 

Oh, and also to run.

 

 

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2016 Year in Review – The Year of 💯

2016 was my year when it comes to racing. Sure, it was a pretty wacky year otherwise. But for my running, it couldn’t have gone any better. With a few days left, I wanted to take a step back, reflect on my accomplishments, and set my sights on 2017. Taking a quick look back at my races:

  • TARC Hale and Back 6 Hour – 31.5 Miles
  • TARC Spring Classic Half – 1:43:47
  • Bear Mountain 50 Miler – 9:58:52
  • 7 Sisters – 2:38:48
  • Pineland Farms 50 – 7:48:30 PR
  • Catamount 50k – 4:37:00 PR
  • Vermont 100 – 21:26:00 PR
  • Pisgah 50k – 5:50:50
  • Oktoberfest 5K – 18:40
  • Grindstone 100 – 27:15:00
  • Cambridge Half – 1:23:44 PR
  • Yulefest 5k – 18:13 PR
Grindstone 100 Finish
Post-Grindstone. By far the toughest race of the year. – Photo Credit – Samantha Alyn Goresh

That’s a lot of races, a lot of PRs, and a whole lot of miles run in between all of that. Looking back, I think it is pretty incredible to crush my PRs in so many distances. When I started 2016, the main goal was just to finish my first 100 miler. At the end of it, I feel stronger than I ever have. I’ve got 2 hundred finishes under my belt, more ultra experience, and confidence to tackle 2017.

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Bear Mountain – Matt Elam Crusher

Even though things went well, that doesn’t mean that I didn’t pay my dues. My first goal race for the year was Bear Mountain. I was stuck training in California, traveling every week, but still confident I was going to crush the race. On race day, by mile 15 it had crushed me. After having to dig deep just to finish and barely beating my previous 50 miler PR I thought 2016 was going to be miserable. Fast forward to Pineland and a few more weeks of solid training I obliterated my PR and felt unstoppable going into Vermont. Another PR at Catamount in the 50K and then time to take a crack at the 100.

My first 100 miler was quite the experience. It really is the roller coaster that everybody describes it as. I was so thankful to have such an amazing crew out there and experience the rolling hills of Vermont. I beat my time goal of sub-24 hours and came out excited for my next 100. Pretty much immediately after I Vermont I started training for Grindstone. Not taking more time off was probably a mistake. Training for a hundred is extremely draining physically and mentally. Still, I got it done.

Grindstone was hell. Simple as that. I was definitely fit, ready for the hills, and had another amazing crew. But add some constant rain, sloppy trails, and humidity and you can completely derail me. I set out to finish Grindstone to get my Hardrock qualifier. I didn’t drive to Virginia to run 50 miles, or 65 miles, or 80 miles. I was there to do a hundred. So I dug deep and got it done.

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Woahman 2 weeks after the Grindstone 100. Nothing like a killer workout to kick your ass.

After Grindstone, the last 3 months were such a whirlwind. Woahman crushed me (although I definitely was not recovered to run it). At the Cambridge Half, I wanted to run a 1:25 to prove to myself a BQ in 2017 was achievable. I beat that goal by about a minute and fifteen seconds. I ran a PR at Yulefest which was completely unexpected. I hadn’t planned on it, but the consistency of training for the hundred milers plus the mental fortitude really has helped at the shorter distances.

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After a half marathon PR, it was good to celebrate with friends.

With 2017 just about here, I think it’s worth setting some goals. Number 1 goal is to BQ. I think the fitness is there. I’d like it to happen at Hyannis, but my training has not been the most consistent. I also need to re-qualify for Western States. My current plan is to run either Run Rabbit Run or the Bear. I really love the hundred mile distance, but running more than one a year is more than I can really enjoy. Beyond those two specific goals, I honestly just plan on racing a little bit less. Although I was successful at most of my races, the ones that I wasn’t (Bear Mountain, Pisgah) were extremely defeating. Besides that, it is really exhausting racing like once per month. Finally, just have to stay consistent. 2016 was definitely my breakout running year, so I can’t wait to see what 2017 has to offer.

Probably Jinxing Myself

I know I’ve been off the blogosphere recently, and it’s taken me a while to figure out why. Honestly, the past 2 months or so of running have been going… really, really well. Like so well that I’ve been nervous to write about it in fear that I’ll jinx it. But enough is enough – it’s been too long since I’ve blogged.

I officially started training for my first 100k yesterday on December 19th (started with a rest day – nailed it btw), but the past two months have just been me building up my base. My training really kicked off when we went to Colorado in August post-toenail removal (also update: toenail grew back and is still sideways, so I’ll have to take care of that again someday… but not yet). I’ve been slowly building up from 10 miles a week to 30 – with some weeks biting off more than I should chew. It was so hard to run only 10 or 15 miles in a week when I so badly wanted to do multiple runs a week including a 10 mile long run. I started to try to focus on the fact that I needed to stay injury free, and the best way to do that was to take it slow.

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Crushed my half marathon PR at the Cambridge Half Marathon!

After tackling the WOahMAN at November Project, I started to ramp up smart again. Other than one week where I just ran two times (16 miles total) I started to do more, but shorter, runs to keep steadily increasing my mileage. I’ve also struggled with this because I’ve been wanting to make my long runs longer each week, but if I add 2 or 3 miles onto a long run, I can’t add any more miles during the week since I wanted to stick to only adding on 2-5 miles per week. The whole past 2 months have just been a balancing act of trying to reign in my enthusiasm and run smart, while also being painfully aware that my base had to be solid af leading up to 100k training.

Now that the start of my training plan is finally here, I am pleasantly surprised at how prepared I am feeling. I’ve never felt stronger physically or mentally going into a training plan. Physically, I’ve been running smart but fast – if I compare my long run paces at the start of my Bear Mountain training compared to my lead up to Gorge Waterfalls training, I’ve consistently cut off 20-30 seconds per mile. Working at a taproom and constantly lifting/moving kegs has also definitely had an impact on my overall form – I never really focus on my upper body, but I’ve been getting naturally stronger just from work, and my posture has been significantly better than it was last time I was running regularly.

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Matt has been leading weekend TBC long runs!

Mentally, I’ve tried to do most of my runs without listening to podcasts or music to get used to running solo without distractions. I can listen to music during my 100k, but I’ve got a feeling that I’ll end up getting sick of my playlist after about 3 hours, so I’d rather keep it as reinforcements for if (let’s be real, when) I hit the wall. I’ve also tried to throw in a few solo long runs, since I’m not allowed a pacer at the race.

The only thing I need to focus on is trail running a lot more during my plan. I’m hoping to hit the trails at least once a week so I can get more elevation in, as well as strengthen up the stabilizers that I’ll need for a trail race. It’s a whole different game on the trails, and I’d hate to crash during my race from not getting enough trails in. The hope is that soon I can transition to having at least half of my long runs on trails, as well as some shorter trail runs added in. It’ll be difficult during the winter once the snow really hits, but I just need to focus on the big picture.

One of the biggest things that’s been helping me feel strong and run strong, other than actually training smart and planning out my weeks, has been the support from my friends and family. I’ve always just considered myself a slower runner, unable to keep up with a lot of my friends, so I never really applied myself. I’ve always run at a pace where I’m comfortable enough to chat the entire time. My lovely friend Kate pointed out to me when we were running that I was keeping up an 8:40/mile pace and still having conversations – that I’ve had it in me all along but just didn’t have the confidence to actually try.

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Ryan, Matt, and I heading out for a freezing cold 12 miler

I recently also met a new running buddy named Ryan who is the perfect match for my pace. Having him around has made me a much more social runner, and someone who’s excited to wake up at 5am on a Thursday knowing I’ll have someone my pace who will keep me company on runs. Matt will always accommodate me if I ask him to, but it’s nice to not feel like I’m holding him back but still being able to run with someone. Plus, Ryan is new to distance running, so I’m excited to watch him go from a half marathoner to marathoner and hopefully to an ultra marathoner, if I get my way!

I’ve spent the better part of my running career constantly doubting myself and not reaching my full potential. Going into this training block I’m finally feeling strong, healthy, and pretty confident. I’m excited to see how training continues to go, and see how my races I’ve got lined up end up going. So far, I’ve got the Hyannis Marathon (really a training run for my 100k in April), Gorge Waterfalls 100k, and the Ghost Train 75 miler. Luckily, my Ghost Train registration can be changed to any distance in 15 mile increments, ranging from 15 miles to 100 miles. I also plan on signing up for The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler if my training goes well! If it doesn’t go well, or I’m feeling “lazy” I’ll probably sign up for the marathon instead.

I’m going to try to post weekly updates to keep myself honest and have a place to reflect on my training as it’s happening, so stay tuned!

#WOahMAN

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Could not believe the amount of people that showed up for this craziness!

Let me just start by saying I don’t think I’ve ever been so sore in my life. In the past year I’ve done 50 burpees, and they were all last Friday. In the past year I’ve probably completed 2 full tours, and they were both in the past month. WOahMAN was probably not the best idea, but I went for it anyways.

For those of you who don’t know what WOahMAN was, it was a crazy workout hosted by November Project. We started at the top of Summit Ave (our normal Friday workout destination) at 4:30AM (not our normal workout time..), ran 2.2 miles to Harvard Stadium and completed a full tour, ran 2.2 miles back to the top of Summit, did 25 burpees, ran a full hill (roughly 1.3 miles), did 25 more burpees, and ended with another full hill. All in all my GPS watch said it was about 8.5 miles of running and roughly 1800 feet of elevation gain.

It was hard. Getting out of bed would have been the worst part if it weren’t for the burpees. Or the hills. Or the full tour. But in all seriousness, getting up and walking to the hill was the most difficult part for me. Luckily, I had my accountabilibuddy, Matt, to make me get out of bed. I literally got dressed, brushed my teeth, filled my hydration pack, then laid back down on the bed and whined to him that I didn’t want to go. To be fair, I have a difficult time waking for November Project when it starts at 6:30am, let alone 4:30.  Once I was up and at the hill, the hard part was over – I just had to work out for 2 hours, which seems not so bad when your partner just ran for 27 hours.

We started around 4:38am after each getting a race bib and taking a group photo, of course. At the start, it was too early, foggy, humid, and misty, but we were all sprinting like adrenaline junkies looking for their fix. By the time we got to the stadium, I was extremely hot and already tired from running so fast. I decided slow and steady was the way to go for the stadiums. Normally, I attempt to run a few sections, but knowing I’d have to run 2 full hills when I was done, I decided to march up all the sections and run down when I could. By section 19, my form had deteriorated and my hands were already finding their ways to my knees. I took a moment to breathe and pull myself together, and pushed myself to keep my form and focus on staying strong. That went well until the last 5 sections, and then all bets were off. I just wanted to finish this tour and get running.

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The ladies who motivated me to push up the hill! Photo courtesy of Daniel Rothenberg

On my way out of the stadium, I ran into two ladies I had met before but never really chatted with. We ran back to the hill together and it was glorious – we all needed to vent about how little we were looking forward to the hills, and we also were glad to have an excuse to run slower on the way back than we were on the way out. Once I got to the hill, I powered through my desire to walk up to the top and just ran before taking off my hydration pack and jumping right into burpees. I debated the hydration pack in the morning, but decided I’d go with it since I like having both hands free while I run.

10 burpees in I was thinking “50 burpees isn’t so bad!” About 2 burpees later I thought “50 BURPEES IS WHAT HELL IS I AM SURE OF IT!” I contemplated just laying down on the ground for a little bit to rest, but I was well aware of the fact that I have no upper body strength and no amount of rest would make the remainder of my burpees easier. I sloppily finished my burpees and happily ran down Summit, ignoring the fact that I’d have to go right back up.

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Running my first hill – note it was still dark outside and I’d already been working out for an hour and a half. Photo courtesy of Rosa Evora

The rest of the hills went by fairly uneventfully, as I was hoping they would. The second set of burpees nearly killed me, but I had Matt cheerleading for me (AKA watching my pathetic burpees and not laughing because I’m sure his were even more pathetic than mine) so I felt motivated to just finish. On my last hill, I ran with a woman I hadn’t met before and asked her if she was on her last hill. She goes “Oh I finished the race and have just been doing the hill workout.” I picked my jaw up off the ground and realized if she could do a hill workout after finishing this race, I could run the rest of my hill as fast as possible. Turns out, she was the first female finisher of the race!

I finished strong with minimal leg-shakeage. By the time we got home my arms were already sore – I knew it was going to be a rough weekend at work lifting kegs. As much as it’s embarrassing to admit… my pecs and calves are still tight, 5 days later! Overall, it was dumb and ridiculous, but I’d do it again this Friday if they said it was happening. Maybe that makes me dumb, but hey… #noFOMO.