Get it?! Like a picture is worth 1000 words?! So like, The Bear 100 turned into The Bear 1000?! Well, at least I laugh at my jokes.
Crewing for Matt is always extremely fun, even though he never believes me that I have fun. This time was my first time solo crewing, and just before the trip he surprised me with an early birthday gift that included a bunch of fun camera toys that I could try out during the race. Here’s my recap of our time in Utah, in picture form:
I wish now that Matt could have known the fun that I was having while he was running, as I think it would have lifted his spirits and pushed him to go further than 75 miles. I also wish I had captured any photos of him at mile 75. While he would have hated to look at the photos knowing that he dropped and didn’t finish the race, the look of raw emotion on his face and in his body language was extremely intense. I’ve never seen him look so emotional.
I understand and respect his decision to drop from the race, and am thankful he went on to finish another 100 miler the following month and keep up his Western States Qualifying streak. He’s truly an inspiration to me, and see him so down on himself post-Bear was absolutely heartbreaking to watch. He ran 75 really tough miles – something I can only dream I will get to do in the future, and something most people are simply not able to do. I’m an incredibly lucky woman to spend my life with this man, to get inspired by this man, and to be supported by this man.
Yep, I’m still here! While I didn’t blog often in the first place (let’s be real, I just spend my time pestering Matt to write blog posts since he runs about 20 times as much as me) but unlike Matt, I actually have an excuse 😉 I’ve been dealing with an injured ankle/foot for a few months now. During my 50 miler, I ended up twisting my ankle at some point, and due to the adrenaline and runners high, didn’t think much of it. It hurt for a hot second but was nothing in comparison to what my quads felt like, so I barely noticed it. I had mentioned it to my doctor post-50 miler when I went in for my rib/upper respiratory issue, and she said just to let me know if it persisted.
After my last blog post (embarrassingly in late August) I noticed growing pain in my ankle when I was running. It had always been there post-50 miler, but not super prevalent. I mostly ignored it and assumed it was just a passing issue. After a few more weeks of the pain not really getting any better, it eventually transferred to my foot. At this point, I knew there must be something wrong, and I was likely making it worse. I went for a run on October 9th and decided to call it quits until I saw my doctor.
At this point, the pain was mostly in my foot and I was no longer running, so my doctor really only focused on my foot pain. She did an x-ray which didn’t show any signs of a fracture. She told me to wait 10 days and if it still hurt, we would get an MRI. Cut to 10 days later, pain is still there, she says we can do another x-ray. I put up a big fuss, and it was thankfully changed to an MRI. Unfortunately, the MRI didn’t show any signs of a fracture, and my doctor’s exact words to me were “Your MRI is normal so you do not have a stress fracture. Your pain is probably due to ligament or tendon strain. I hope it feels better soon.” Like actually my doctor just said it was PROBABLY a strain, and that she hopes it feels better soon. I almost lost my mind. I temporarily gave up, felt defeated, and just thought “well if it were a bigger issue, I guess my doctor would be more concerned.”
After a few days of wallowing in self-pity and wishing I could run, Matt convinced me to just make an appointment with my sports medicine doctor. I didn’t realize I didn’t need a referral with my health insurance, so I asked my doctor for a referral, and another whole issue ensued. I called and asked for a referral on a Thursday and they said I would hear back from someone within 1-2 business days confirming that the referral was processed. I called back on Monday since I hadn’t heard from them, and they said that it hadn’t processed and that they had no record of the referral, so I had to go through my doctor’s office again. They also let me know it wouldn’t be approved for 4-6 weeks. At this point, I was furious with my doctor’s office. I called my insurance directly, and they told me I didn’t even need a referral, so I immediately called and made an appointment with my sports medicine doctor as soon as he could see me, which ended up being about 2 weeks later.
Within 5 minutes of the appointment, he diagnosed me with a sprained ankle, sprained mid-foot (due to changing my running form to avoid ankle pain), and my cuboid bone was misaligned. He popped my bone back into place and gave me a referral to physical therapy. I’ve been in therapy for about 4 weeks and should be back up and running within hopefully the next 2 weeks.
These past 3 months have been incredibly hard for me. We’ve been planning as much for our wedding as possible since we are leaving for Austin soon, working on figuring out where we are going to live in Austin, going through our belongings to figure out what we are and aren’t taking to Austin, raising a new puppy, maintaining balance between our work lives and social lives, and of course the holidays.
I have had an incredibly hard time finding the emotional and mental strength to do any sort of workouts. My goal was to focus on strength training, but I’ve just been so drained and depressed about not being able to run. I honestly hate going to the gym – I miss the ease of just being able to lace up, step outside, and go run for as long as I want. While I know working out is a good stress relief, I’ve found going up to the gym for a workout ends up being more stressful than no workout at all. I just get inside my head and think about how much I miss running, and how much I hate staring out a window at the outdoors while working out on an elliptical or bike.
That being said, while I want to turn this awful feeling around and find something I’m more interested in, we are moving in less than a month, so it’s hard to commit to something now that I’m not sure will be as easily available or close to home as something like the yoga studio down the road from our apartment. My goal once we’ve moved is to find an activity or gym that feels less like a torture chamber and spend as much time per week doing that as I do building up my running base again. While I should be back to running soon, I want to be able to consistently work on my core while also not working out at home – I’m about to work from home permanently and will need to get out of the house to exercise or I might actually go insane.
I’m hoping I can get out of this funk as soon as possible by getting out of my comfort zone in Austin, and find a source of stress relief that isn’t running in case (okay let’s be real, when) I get injured again. While I’m excited to get back to running, I am going to take it slow, and not get ahead of myself by signing up for races before I’m ready. Hopefully, by springtime, I’ll be back in at least marathon shape, and maybe I can squeeze in another ultramarathon before our #GrandElamUltraMarriagethon in September of 2018!
Post-50 miler life has been interesting, to say the least. Personally, we’ve solidified a date for our wedding, booked a venue for the wedding and reception, locked down a place to stay for the wedding, bought a wedding dress, and booked a photographer. Heath-wise, that cold I got the week before the race took 6+ weeks to go away – during those 6 weeks, I tore a ligament in my ribs from coughing so much. Running-wise, this all led to a less than ideal ramp-up back into training, and I’ve only gotten 129 miles in 11 weeks – that’s only about 12 miles per week. Not ideal, since my goal for the year was 1,200 miles, and I’m currently only just over 700.
My next race is the Ghost Train 75 miler, but after going through a lot of health issues this past winter/spring, only to have an injured rib for 6 weeks, I have decided to not put any added stress on myself. In an ideal world, I’d be back up to 45-50 miles per week right now, but in reality I was pushing my body too far trying to make up for lost time. I had three pretty good training weeks (30 miles, 24 miles, then 28 miles) with some decent long runs (13 and then 15) but when I went to do my long run last weekend, I just couldn’t do it. I went out for an 18 miler, and ended up calling it at 9.5 miles. My body was tired, I haven’t adapted to the summer heat yet since I took so much time off for my rib, and my shins have been starting to get sore. My Garmin Connect data was showing me I was pushing myself to my limits in those three weeks, and I’ve been stressing myself about counting up mileage, switching my runs last minute, and pushing myself to run when I don’t feel up for it.
I’ve decided enough is enough. My new plan is to train based on how I’m feeling. Obviously, nobody wakes up and thinks “Man, I just feel like running 18 miles!” so long runs will be planned a bit more, but overall my focus is going to be on my health. I want to get at least 15-20 miles in a week, but I also want to focus on strengthening. My core and upper body leave a lot to be desired in the strength department, and every runner could use better strength training for their lower body. This way, when I’m ready to start training for the Gorge Waterfalls 100k in 2018, I will be fit and have a solid base of both running and strength training under my belt.
It’s tough to make the decision to cut back on running, but we in the GrandElam household has some stressful times ahead of us, and I personally feel that following a training plan diligently for an ultra certainly won’t lower my stress levels. Running will still be my release, but not running won’t stress me out as much as it currently does. I love ultra running, and I’m still hoping to get a solid 30 – 45 miles in at least at Ghost Train. I’m excited to take a step back and focus on my overall fitness for a change! Plus, Goose will like having his mom home more ❤️
I signed up for this race almost as soon as it was announced. I thoroughly enjoyed the Bear Mountain 50k in 2016, and was ready to jump up to the 50 miler. My “big race” of the year was supposed to be the Gorge Waterfalls 100k out in Portland, and this was going to be an “easier” race, since I’d have been a seasoned 100k-er by then. Boy was I gonna be wrong!
To start off, this race did not have a course description in the Course Guide on their website. It showed the map, gave turn-by-turn directions, had the chart for elevation, but the description was “TBD” which meant that everyone who hadn’t run trails in New England was in for a big surprise. I’ve had plenty of experience on trails in the Northeast, so I was prepared for some technical terrain, but honestly it was one of the most intense runs of my entire life. You could say “well of course it was, it was your first 50 miler!” but I ran Bear Mountain last year, which was advertised as an extremely technical course, and I just ran Seven Sisters, which was absolutely insane as well. I was ready for a challenge, but I don’t think The North Face adequately prepared runners for this race.
We started the day with our alarms going off at 2:50am. We made some coffee, inhaled some cereal for breakfast, and we were out the door by 3:15 to go grab our friend Harry, who was also running the 50 miler. I won the “who’s driving home after a 50 miler?!” battle, so I drove us to the race so I didn’t have to drive home. It was about an hour, which we spent shooting the shit, talking about various other races, and trying not to psych myself out before the race. We got there, sunscreened and bug sprayed up, dropped our drop-bags off, and lined up at the start. The sun was coming up just as the race was starting, so we didn’t even need our headlamps, which was great!
Matt sped off, and I settled into a nice slow, steady pace so I didn’t go out too hard. I knew there was going to be a lot of up and down, so my goal of the day was to run any flat or downhill that wasn’t too technical, and to assess my pace on uphills as the day went on. I started by power hiking most uphills, and I ended up keeping that up throughout almost the entire race. In the 50 mile race, we summited 4 times total. The first summit was at mile 7.1, and I was feeling pretty strong at this point. I reached the summit the first time with an average pace of 14:34 min/mi, and reached it the second time with an average page of 15:43 min/mi. I was feeling strong, and had actually met a very nice runner named John around mile 3, who helped keep my mind off the fact that it was a lot of elevation. He was engaged as well, living in NYC, and we chatted about the absurdity of the cost of weddings, all the crazy races he’s run, how his fiancee is crazy fast, and exchanged fun stories. It was exactly what I needed to ignore my nerves, and focus on just moving forward.
During the first 15 miles, my left IT band was acting up. I haven’t had this happen in a really long time, and it was very stressful, so I was glad to have John there to talk me out of my head. I grabbed some advil a few times during the first half of the race, and it didn’t bother me again until the day after the race. I will definitely be spending the next few weeks focusing on getting the inflammation down and strength training in order to prevent this in the future.
Once we summited the second time, we started to make our way out to the state park. Looking at this section on the elevation chart, I thought I was going to be able to run a lot of it. I was verrrrryyy wrong. While the elevation profile was mellow, the technicality of the trails was insane. There were long sections of this where the trail was literally a foot wide, completely overgrown, with just giant rocks and roots everywhere. It was impossible to run. John had passed me by this point as his goal was 10 hours, and I was hoping for 12, so I decided to just power hike and take it slow. I had a lot of hours ahead of me, and have heard too many horror stories of runners going out too hard and crashing. I focused on my goals: walk uphill, run every runnable section, and don’t fall on my face.
I also was like clockwork with my gels/chomps throughout the day until maybe 10 hours in. I made sure to eat gels or chomps every hour, and ate other food at probably every other aid station. I also filled my pack with ice at almost every aid station, and threw at least two cup-fulls of water on my head every chance I got. I also dipped my hat in any creek we ran over to try to keep myself from overheating. Ideally, I wouldn’t have had the pack on because of the heat, but I really wanted the security of having what I needed with me, just in case. My pack was like the binky of my first 50-miler, and I was thankful to have it the entire time even if it made me hotter than I would have liked. I was thankful to have a dropbag with extra food in it as well because the aid stations were pretty sparse throughout the course. There were even some aid stations where they were just out of a certain kind of food completely. To someone who is used to running TARC races and having an insane spread of snacks, that was definitely one of the biggest bummer. To go into an aid station hoping for oranges and having them be out is a huge mental obstacle for someone who’s already been running for 10+ hours. I think if they are going to do this race again next year, they need to have a bigger variety of food available, especially to people running the marathon or more.
The trail continued to be barely runnable until around mile 20, when we did a 4 mile loop that was almost entirely runnable (to me, to faster runners I’m sure they ran the entire way), with some fast fire road miles after the loop. I got some 10-12 min/miles in around here, and felt better since I had already been on track to finish beyond my 12 hour goal. I knew when I saw the high for the day was close to 80 degrees that I would likely be adjusting my goals, but felt that it was entirely just a personal decision, rather than an across the board decision for all runners. I ran with another runner named John (different runner, I swear) who was a seasoned ultra marathoner as well, who was struggling in the heat and with the technicality of the course. We suffered together to an aid station, where I threw water on myself and set off for the next big aid station, where I’d have my drop bag and Kayleigh waiting for me with sour gummy worms. I had notifications for Matt that would text me when he crossed a checkpoint, and there had been an issue where his mile 15.5 checkpoint also counted as his mile 33 checkpoint time, so I had no idea how he was doing. His goal for the entire race was 10 hours, and at about 10 hours in, I got a notification that he was at the summit for the third time.
At that point I was extremely concerned I wasn’t going to finish this race in time. I got to mile 37 feeling defeated, at my all-time low of the race. I had run through a bunch of muddy puddles and my feet were soaking, I had hit my top level of pain in the last 5 miles, and still had a freaking half marathon to go. At this point, Tammy joined me to pace me through the rest of the race, and I was so grateful she offered to do this for me. I was feeling really down on myself, worried I wouldn’t get to finish my race, debating whether or not to just give up at that point, because there was a good chance I wasn’t going to finish within the 14 mile cutoff. I ran in and saw Tammy practically bouncing with excitement to see me, and Kayleigh and her boyfriend Tim waiting with gatorade, sour gummy worms, sour patch kids, and hugs. It was exactly what I needed to keep going. I switched my shoes and socks, and headed out with Tammy to finish this damn race.
At this point, any uphill felt like a mountain. I was quite literally making mountains out of molehills, as my dad would say. Tammy was pushing me to run when it was flat or downhill, and we were coming up with landmarks to run to when I was too tired to keep running. “Okay, see those ribbons? We’ll run to those ribbons and then walk.” Tammy honestly was my trail guardian angel, and I would have been in a much worse place if it hadn’t been for her. At this point, my legs were still functioning well, and I hadn’t gotten nauseous at all. Up until 37 I did a really good job of drinking water not only when I was thirsty, but at every beep of a mile at my watch too. Normally I worry about over-hydrating, but it was freaking 80 degrees outside, and I was going to be out on the course a lot longer than I had anticipated. I even drank 2 bottles of tailwind during the second half of the race, since I was pretty much over gels at that point.
37-44 was a blur of just putting my head down and powering through the exhaustion. By the time I reached the summit the third time at mile 44, Matt had just finished the race in 12 hours. I still had 2 hours to go, but looking back at Matt’s timing for the last 6 miles, I knew I was going to be cutting it close. It took Matt 2 hours and 3 minutes from the third summit to the end of the course, so I knew that likely it would take me at least that much time, and I was already at 12 hours. I also had a blister pop mid-run that I had to take care of at this aid station and, of course, Tammy was the best pacer ever. She ran up to the medic and grabbed anything she thought I might need. She helped me get my toe all bandaged up and back in action, since I had spent the last 4 miles of the course spreading my toes so my popped blister didn’t rub against my big toe, since it was extremely painful.
I was freaking out about not making the cutoff when the volunteer at the aid station assured me to just keep going, and that they had extended the cutoff time for the relay race by at least 3 hours. THREE HOURS EXTRA for a MARATHON. At that point, I was feeling MUCH better that I was still running any chance I could, still eating, still drinking, and hadn’t dropped. Kayleigh was at the summit, and I knew that my parents and Matt would be at the summit my final go around, so I set off a woman on a mission, with my toe feeling like new.
Tammy encouraged me to run as much as possible, had me running on the shortest path possible, and was keeping my spirits high. I was still mentally there, though I’ll admit some words were taking a long time to come into my head, and I was still physically feeling pretty strong. I was surprised that I was still capable of running at this point, when I kept passing runners sidelined with cramps, or vomiting on the side of the trail. We ran down and on our way back up to the summit, we ran into the sweeper, who was still about an hour behind us, since she was on her first loop of the summit. She assured us that the race cutoff had to be extended, and we found out that there were still relay runners on the course – the relay was scheduled to be finished by 4pm, and it was now 5:30-6pm. We trekked up to the summit for the last time, and I thought my heart would explode from happiness when I got up there and saw my mom, dad, Matt, Kayleigh and Tim all cheering for me. I got to the top and spent a few minutes hugging everyone, congratulating Matt, and chatting up the volunteers.
We set off out of the aid station on a mission to finish, and the guy that had been at the aid station sprinted past us telling me we had to run the rest of the way in order to finish by the cutoff. I said “oh don’t worry about it, the sweeper is still an hour back and they extended the cutoffs” and he was all frenzied saying that they might not honor it. The next 4 miles were not only hard because it was still pretty technical and my legs were exhausted, but I was mentally exhausted from coming up with angry tweets I’d send to North Face if they didn’t extend the cutoff time. Luckily, I was worried for nothing. After passing the same poor soul vomiting on the side of the trail for the third time, I powered through the last 4 miles and finished with a smile on my face and tears in my eyes after running for 14 hours, 17 minutes, and 4 seconds.
Overall, the race was great, and the volunteers were top notch! I know a few trail runners that don’t like that the Endurance Challenge series has a more “road race” vibe and a lot of non-trail runners, but that’s one of my favorite parts. The fact that everyone from all different abilities is out there on the same course is pretty great, despite the fact that their trail etiquette isn’t super great. I did see some cups/trash on the course, but these could easily have accidentally fallen out of people’s packs or belts despite their experience on trails. One of my biggest complaints is that they should announce who has the right of way when on a course like this. I’m a firm believer that if someone is passing you, you need to get out of their way. But if someone is coming at you, the person who has been out on the course longer should get the right of way. Proper etiquette wasn’t clear, and I was getting shoulder-checked left and right by runners at this section of the course. When you’ve been running for 9 hours and get shoulder-checked, this could seriously throw off your balance and possibly push you over and injure you. The last thing I want to DNF over is some schmuck who’s never run trails before knocking me over and not even apologizing for it.
It was the toughest race I’ve ever run, and it was one of the toughest races for pretty much everyone I spoke with. 179 runners started this 50 miler and only 75 people finished. That’s right, only 41% of people who started ended up finishing the race. It was absolutely insane. I still can’t believe it was real, and I can’t believe I’m barely even sore today, 5 days after running for 14 hours. I feel confident I’ll run another 50 miler, though jury is still out on 100 milers… I have a newly developed appreciate for how insane Matt is.
Let me start by saying that for once, Matt adequately prepared me for a race for the first time ever. Most of the time we go for a run or a race and he tells me “oh it’s super easy” or “after the first half it’s all downhill” and inevitably it’s the hardest race I’ve ever run or the entire thing is uphill. Sometimes I wonder if he knows the difference between uphill and downhill… but for Seven Sisters, he gave me fair warning. He may have even slightly questioned it when I signed up. The man knows I hate running uphill, and knew I’d have to do a lot of it. I decided to sign up anyways, since I’ve got Wachusett coming up, and it was definitely a good decision.
Long story short, only one of us had been responsible and remembered to purchase a bib (ahem, it was me). We decided to go to the race together and hope that the bad weather had driven some folks away. Luckily, about 10 minutes before the race, we were able to snag a bib last minute – many, many thanks to the race director, Amy! You’re a lifesaver!
It had been raining all night, and was super warm and muggy for the race. I was already worried I’d overheat and wish I had a handheld instead of my hydration pack, but I knew I needed both hands free for climbing up rocks and grabbing onto trees to keep myself from falling. It ended up being a good decision, but I was still slightly too hot the whole time. I’m a little worried about this for Wachusett in particular since it’ll be mid-June in Boston, and there’s only access to a drop bag at mile 13 and mile 37, so I really want a pack to carry my goods in, but don’t want to overheat.
We started, and immediate gained 500 feet of elevation in a half mile. Matt warned me of the first hill, so I was prepared and went nice and slow. It was a little frustrating to be passed by a lot of runners on that first hill, mostly because I felt in the way. I started in the third wave, and was shocked by the amount of runners that started in that wave that shot past me in the first mile. Now, how many of those runners continued to crush it and how many crashed after 4 miles, the world may never know. But nevertheless, I felt in the way and a little self conscious, but I knew I had bigger fish to fry. It’s easier for me to check myself before I wreck myself on trails than on the road. When I’m on the road, I want to pass everyone. When I’m on the trails, I somehow remember my body has limits, and that I can control my speed. Either way, I kept myself strong and steady through the first uphill, and ran as much as I could of the downhill, but I needed to be careful. Wachusett is just around the corner, and nothing would have broken my spirits more than taking a bad fall and having to call yet ANOTHER ultra marathon in 2017.
The rest of the race is a blur of hills, mud, and rocks. It was the single most intense 12(ish) miles of my running career. The race had over 4,000 feet of elevation gain over 12(ish) miles, which is INSANE considering Wachusett has just about double that elevation gain, but over 50 miles. During the whole first half, every time I’d start enjoying the downhill, my heart would sink as I realized that would be an uphill on the way back. By the time I got to the turnaround, I was so tired, and couldn’t believe I had to do it all over again but backwards. My right shoe was rubbing against the back of my heel on every uphill and was so irritating that I contemplated just taking it off. I settled by throwing on a scoop of vaseline on my heel at the turnaround and crossing my fingers that I wouldn’t have a giant blister by the end of the race. Definitely glad I wore them during this race, since I was planning on these being my race shoes for Wachusett. After how quickly they blistered my heels, they’re definitely not coming to Wachusett!
By maybe mile 8, I was surrounded by a lot of defeated human beings. Everyone around me was covered in mud, sweat, and some even had blood dripping down their faces (or other body parts). It was like a goddamn battle field. I was lucky (or just slow enough) to not fall during the race, though my hands were literally covered in mud afterwards. Before I started, I ran into a woman running with gloves and thought that was bizarre considering the weather, but I get it now. It was definitely a super technical course, and pretty dangerous if you went all out, and I’m glad I focused on just staying upright and finishing.
All in all, the race was incredibly fun, and I can’t wait to do it again. I like to think I could run it much faster if the weather was better, but it’s New England, and I don’t think it will ever not be rainy, wet, and muddy for this race. That certainly won’t keep me away – I’ll be back to get muddy again in 2018!
Sorry I haven’t posted in a while, life has been super boring and uneventful.
LOLJK! So much has happened in even just April, I don’t even know where to start. Why don’t I start with the least exciting thing, which is that my cysts are gone and I’m cleared to run! (The fact that this is the LEAST exciting thing shows how crazy life has been…) Before our trip to Portland, I had an appointment with my doctor who told me that my cysts aren’t a super big deal, I don’t have cancer (yay!) and that my cysts shouldn’t be too difficult to control in the future. Basically, I will be taking birth control without the placebo week in order to keep my hormone levels consistent, since he thinks the one week of not taking hormones is throwing my ovaries into OVAdrive (get it?!?!) and causing cysts to form. So by skipping that week, I should be able to avoid my overactive ovaries!
After that appointment, I started attempting to run just a little bit to see how it felt. I wasn’t at 100% but I felt much better, and I was excited to get some miles in when we went to Portland! While we planned on going to Portland for my 100k, we went and met up with two of our friends that live in Asheville and just spend the week trail running, hiking, eating and drinking. It was absolutely magical, and I didn’t even get upset about not running the 100k because Matt, Brian and Sarah all helped me take my mind off it. I’m so thankful they trekked all the way out to Portland to crew for me, and also that they still trekked out even when I couldn’t race. We’ll have to thank them by paying them a visit in Asheville again soon.
On Saturday, the day of the race, we tried going to Bend, Oregon for a day trip. About 1.5 hours into the drive, while going through a mountain pass, the weather took a turn for the worse. We realized we were ill-prepared to pass through Mt. Hood in our measly rental car, so we turned around and changed plans. Matt seemed a little antsy about it, so I just let him make the plans. We decided to go to the start of the 100k course and go run by some waterfalls and enjoy the course, even if I couldn’t enjoy all 100k. We start running, and I realize I’m way overdressed for the weather. We stop to strip down, and I decide to tie my jacket around my waist. Matt is over here telling me “oh let’s find a place to stash it” and I was thinking well I generally don’t look good while I run, why change that today?
So about a half mile later, we get to this beautiful waterfall and Matt and I stop to take a picture. Next thing I know, Matt’s down on one knee asking me to marry him! It was absolutely magical, and I still can’t believe it happened. I obviously said yes! Then we laughed as we realized I was wearing a backwards hat with my jacket tied around my waist – and I wouldn’t have had it any other way! It was the perfect representation of our relationship, and I’m so excited to share our lives together. It was such a beautiful, perfect day, and I can’t wait to celebrate it by running the 100k next year!
The rest of our trip to Portland was almost as magical as that day! We went trail running, hiking, drank a lot of good beer, ate some good food, made new friends, and took a bunch of pictures! It was such a wonderful vacation, and I can’t wait to go back next year to run the race. The parts of the course I saw were so beautiful, and I know it’ll be an amazing race. Let’s hope I’m in shape to run a 100k in the spring of 2018!
As magical as it was, we were so excited to come home to Gustav, and judging by the bear hugs he gave us, he was pretty excited for us to come home too, even though Dana spoiled him while we were gone!
A few weeks after our trip to Portland, we headed down to Texas to visit Matt’s parents. We had a lovely trip, even though I ended up not running much due to an infected blister. Like actually I couldn’t wear shoes for like a week. Of all things to take me out of running, of course a blister would do it. Once I could run, we went for a nice, humid run in Austin, and spent a wonderful weekend with both his family and my aunt and uncle that live in Dallas – they drove all the way to Austin to say hello! I also caught up with one of my best friends from high school, Brianne, who actually was the first person to ever get me into running! We used to run Fun Runs in our hometown during summers. It was great to see her and catch up!
Since we’ve been back from Portland, Matt’s done a few races and I “ran” the 7 Sisters Trail Race this past weekend – be prepared for a race report! In the meantime, know that it’s been 3 days since the race and I am still walking around like someone just took a baseball bat to my quads. It was an intense race, and I can’t wait to go back next year and brutally destroy my legs again!
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.
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!
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. 😨
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.
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.
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.
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!
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!
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.