Thursday, June 20, 2013

Why everyone should try at least one night trail run . . . at Mount Beacon!

One major reason why I am really loving about this whole Grand Slam of Ultrarunning training is that I have been having so much fun with my workouts.  Here is a lengthy recap of one of my favorite training runs this past year:  

So . . . 

I am a huge, huge fan of technical trails.  

I am a huge, huge fan of running at night.  
I am a huge, huge fan of climbing workouts.

Enter Mount Beacon, which features a fantastic one mile technical trail that involves a 1000' climb.  It is one of my favorite parks because it is only a little over an hour's drive away from Manhattan and you can literally park at the bottom of the mountain and go up and down the trail to your heart's content.  I love Mount Beacon so much that this is my second post about this great training ground; check out my first post here.  

Back in April, my friend Deanna emailed me, asking if I wanted to do some night time hill repeats at Mount Beacon.  Actually, we initially spoke about doing this a couple weeks back and she mentioned how it was a total game changer for her and really helped during the McNaughton 200 miler.  Now, when someone of Deanna's caliber (for those who do not know Deanna Culbreath, she came in second at Burning River 100 last year) tells me something is game changing, I listen and obey.  So I happily emailed her back and we settled on heading out to Mount Beacon on a Saturday night.  Deanna invited a few other ultrarunners, including my friend Peter Priolo, another Grand Slam of Ultrarunning aspirant.  

I had every intention to get a good night's sleep on Thursday and Friday, in preparation for Saturday night, but life happened in the form of wine tastings and late night dinnering with good friends.  And then, due to a last minute emergency, I had to get up before 6 a.m. to babysit and spent the rest of the day at the Cherry Blossom festival in Brooklyn.  By 8:30 p.m., I was yawning as Deanna and I headed up to Mount Beacon.  

In retrospect, I realize it was good that I was already tired; it's not as though I would be doing my night running at Western States at my absolute freshest, you know?  In any case, I wasn't the only person exhausted - Deanna had spent the entire day working and Peter essentially spent the entire day running.  Basically, I had no right to feel tired - while I was out playing, they were actually doing constructive things with their lives.  

What do you bring on a night trail run?  Trekking poles, water bottle, headlamp, bottles of ensure, yogurt, and bananas.

Our game plan was to make six trips up and down the one mile trail and then during our seventh and final trip, we would climb an additional mile for the final ascent to the watch tower on Mount Beacon and watch the sunrise.

I had several objectives for the evening:

(1) Practicing the use of my headlamp on a technical trail.

(2) Practicing working through exhaustion.
(3) Trying out Ensure as running nutrition.
(4) Trying out my new trekking poles.
(5) Having a lot of fun.

Loop 1 and 2:

From the get go, I was slow.  Really slow.  I felt bad for Deanna and Peter because I just could not keep up with them.  This really bothered me because I have been practicing my climbing for the past few months now and thought I was doing pretty well.  Within the first ten minutes, I realized that unless I wanted to burn myself out, I needed to climb at my own pace.  I kept telling Deanna and Peter to go on ahead, but fortunately besides being amazing athletes, they are also very much "leave no man behind" type of folks and refused to listen to me.  I was supremely grateful because as it happens, I am afraid of being in the woods in the dark.

The Black Diamond Ultradistance trekking poles were turning out to be pretty useful.  I bought them via The Clymb website for less than $60; they usually range from $99 to $150.  If you haven't joined The Clymb yet, I strongly recommend you do so.  Their sales on outdoor sports equipment and clothes are fantastic.  And if you do join, use my invitation link, pretty please!

Anyway, back to the poles.  They are really light (I barely noticed that I was carrying them), very easy to assemble and take apart (for someone who is all thumbs like myself, that's a big deal), and very sturdy.  They were a joy to use - normally, I am quite cautious when I run down rocky and steep terrain, but with the poles, I felt comfortable flying down at my normal downhill speed.  I definitely plan on using them at Leadville and Wasatch this fall.

Attempt at a self portrait

Loop 3 and 4:

At around midnight, we were joined by Zandy Mangold, his girlfriend Claudine Ko, and their pointer mix, Tasha.   

Claudine, Zandy, and Tasha.

Again, I was really slow, but my slowness was highlighted by the fact that Tasha, who is about the size of a Chihuahua, was absolutely schooling me.  With seemingly no effort, Tasha, on her teeny tiny dog legs, just bounded straight up Mount Beacon.  At one point I asked Zandy how far Tasha could run, and he said he wasn't sure - there hasn't been a time where Tasha could not keep up.  I thought about my Yorkie and how she could barely walk a quarter mile before begging to be picked up and carried in my purse.  I spent most of this loop thinking how my next furry friend MUST be a runner dog.  With visions of husky mixes and whippets in my head, I carried on.

 Loop 5  and 6

Zandy, Peter, and Dave at the Mount Beacon lookout point.

It was either Loop 4 or Loop 5, don't remember, but another friend, Dave Staley showed up some time after 1 a.m.  I met Dave at Leatherman's Loop last week, through Deanna.  He lives in the area and thought it would be fun to do a couple of loops with us.  He would have ran the entire night, but he had already made plans for Saturday evening and had to get up early the next morning to go rock climbing in New Paltz.  I don't know, but if I went out on Saturday, the last thing in my mind would be to go hiking at 1 a.m., especially if I knew I had to do something that would involve not only physical exertion, but some presence of mind.  I am not a rock climber, but I assume that it isn't easy to do when you're running on a few hours of sleep.  This is when I decided that Deanna's friends were pretty bad ass.  

This belief was further cemented when more people showed up, this time a little after 3 a.m.  This was seriously turning out to be a running party.  Helen Dole and Alex Tilmant decided to drive from the city at around 2 a.m. to see if they could do a couple of loops and then watch the sun rise.  Because, you know, why not?  I think it is so neat that Deanna has friends who would be totally fine with showing up in the middle of the night to essentially go hiking.

Loop 7: Final Loop

For our last loop, all of us donned or carried our warmest clothes in preparation for our final ascent that would take us to the watchtower at the top of Mount Beacon.  I had already experienced some of the wind at the first lookout point and it wasn't pleasant; I figured it would be much worse when we made it to the very top.  I debated between wearing my parka or my windbreaker and then decided on the latter, because even though it made me look lumpy, it was warmer.

As I zipped up my windbreaker, I felt something heavy in my left pocket.  Curious, I put my hand in and then pulled out my glasses.  MY STUPID GLASSES THAT I HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR NEARLY A MONTH.  I was elated, despite having ordered a new pair of replacement glasses just the previous weekend.  And then tucked next to the glasses was a ten dollar bill.  Ooooh, breakfast money!  I was feeling absolutely pumped.

Then again, I was feeling pretty pumped in general.  My biggest fear of the night was getting too sleepy and being forced to skip a loop because I had to take a nap.  I was fairly certain that it was going to happen because I didn't sleep the past couple of days and I was forcing myself to lay off the caffeine for the past week.  But instead of getting sleepy, I felt even wider awake as the night progressed.  Now, this doesn't mean that I was actually climbing faster; I was still climbing at my solid, but relatively glacial pace.  But I was happy that my legs were feeling cheerful.  So during our last climb, I was mentally patting myself on the back for being so alert.  That is, until I asked where east was and someone pointed in the direction of where the sky was reddening.  Ohhhh, you mean where the sun is rising?  That was definitely a durrrrr moment and made me rethink whether I was truly awake.

And then we got to the top.  We still had some time to kill, so Zandy  (did I mention he is a professional photographer?) took some photos of us while we waited for the sun to rise.  

Zandy takes some fun photos.

As predicted, being exposed to the wind and sitting around made for a cold morning.  Helen wrapped herself in an orange blanket and I was slightly jealous.

Helen is coooold!
We may or may have not climbed the tower to get a spectacular 360 view of the sunrise.

The sun rises behind Deanna!

Why hello there, sun!

Hooray, it's officially morning!

Admiring the view.

Claudine tucks herself into her jacket.
And then we journeyed back.  Besides Deanna, Peter, and I, the others hadn't seen Mt. Beacon in daylight before, so it was funny to hear their reactions on climbing back down.  Everyone was thoroughly experienced in technical running, so it wasn't as though they saw anything new, but I don't think they expected to see so many rocks on our return trip.

Starting our journey back.


More rocks.

Finally, we reached the bottom and unanimously agreed that breakfast was in order.  

Nom nom nom, breakfast!

The next part was a blur.  I drove Deanna and me back into Manhattan.  I started to get a little sleepy, but Deanna was a trooper and kept me wide awake until we made back into Manhattan.  Then I parked my car and fell asleep for a few minutes.  And then I stumbled back to the apartment and fell asleep for a few hours.  

All in all, it was a great and very productive training session.  

Key notes:
(1) I am not as nervous about running on technical trails in the dark.  
(2) I am not as nervous about getting sleepy.  
(3) I discovered that I really love trekking poles.
(4) I also discovered that Ensure is an okay drink, but I'm not 100% sure whether I will use them for Western States.

Friday, May 24, 2013

April and Most of May, In a Nutshell: I have been training, really. Just not blogging.

I have been bad blogger and I have not updated my blog in many, many weeks.  

This guy is pointing at me because I have been a bad blogger.

Fortunately, it has been because I have been so busy at work, with training, and with life in general, and not because there hasn't been anything to write about.  Actually, that's not quite true.  I have been writing a lot - it's just that I haven't posted any of my writing.  

As some of my friends can attest (and especially Rob), I can get very, very touchy about people seeing my writing.  Poor Rob has to deal with my wrath when he even casually glances at my laptop when I type in my journal.  What happens is that I write things, read them, and then decide not to hit the post button, because I am embarrassed about what I have written.  

For example, I spent one half hour rhapsodizing about how much I love my new Altra Intuitions and then after reading it, I realized that everything I wrote has already been said.  So I didn't hit the post button.  Even my personal race reports seem silly, because I generally do not write about the actual race or the running, which would be useful and worth reading,  but instead write about the people I meet and the random things I think about when I am running.  Which I don't think would be interesting to anyone, but me.  So I don't hit the post button.  

Anyway, pushing those excuses aside, Grand Slam of Ultrarunning training has been going well and life has been pretty darn good.  I have the Western States Training runs coming up this weekend, and I am really looking forward to seeing a good chunk of the course!  

I have been training!  Really!

But I am feeling bad that I haven't posted anything recently, so I decided to write a quick summary of things that have been awesome, running-wise.  A lot of these items have their own separate blog entries, but I haven't decided whether to actually, you know, post them:

Here is my April and most of May, in a nutshell:

Things that were awesome since my last post (starting with the most recent):

(1) May 23, 2013: Running in the Van Cortlandt Track Club Cross Country Summer Series when it was all monsoon-y and puddle-y and stuff.  There was much drama in this race, including having a pint of Guinness slish sloshing in my stomach and needing to pee quite badly.  But it all worked out. 

(2) May 18. 2013: Running with Rob, Jayne, and PJ at the Brooklyn Half Marathon.  Not only was it their first half (and boy, did they kick so much butt!), but it was my very first time running with my big sister.  This is a super big deal because growing up, I would say mean things to Jayne every time she tried to get me to run.  As someone who grew up being deathly afraid of disappointing my big sister, this demonstrates how much I hated running as a teenager.  

It was also very, very, very cool watching Rob just throwing back the miles, like it was no big deal.  I guarantee Rob will be running his first ultra by the end of 2014.  

(3) May 12, 2013: Doing a longish run before eating dim sum with Jurgen, Otto, Lisa, and Tiger Ellen.  I don't understand why this isn't a thing that I do every week.  I like long runs and I like dim sum. 

(4) May 11, 2013: Doing my first Run Around Manhattan by my lonesome.  I thought I was becoming too dependent on people for my long runs, so I decided to run alone. And I was relieved to find out that I am still perfectly good running with just myself and my thoughts.  

(5) May 7, 2013: Buying Altra's new version of the Lone Peak at Tents and Trails.  Altras, with their super wide toe box and minimalist design, make my feet happy.  The fact that they're bright bright orange doesn't hurt either.

(6) May 5, 2013: Volunteering with the Invasives Strike Force Crew at one of my favorite local places to run, Flat Brook Nature Center.   I am so lucky that I have easy access to some fantastic trails.  I need to make sure that they stay fantastic by volunteering more of my time in maintaining them!

(7) May 4, 2013: Bear Mountain 50 Miler That Became a 34 Miler.  I suppose I should mark this under, "Things That Were Not Awesome," but I had a reallllly great time up until I got pulled off the course for not thinking that North Face takes their cutoffs seriously.  My bad.  Anyway, I have decided that this day was awesome because (a) I ran with Marco, who is one of my favorite ultrarunners, (b) I got some good mileage in, and (c) I finally discovered a fuel source that really might be It.  

Girls and guys, VFuel is spectacular.  My friend Chip recommended this gel and while I am usually a total skeptic when it comes to anything that is labeled a miracle food, I swear, VFuel is the nectar of the running gods.  I normally have all sorts of gross stomach issues, but with VFuel, I was totally fine.  No, I was more than fine.  When I got up to go run the next day, it was like the 34 miles of gnarly trail the day before never happened.  

(8) April 27, 2013: Watching the sunrise after doing night to dawn hill repeats with some of the most fun ultrarunners around.  One of my more extreme ultrarunning buddies, Deanna Culbreath, recommended that I do some night climbing repeats at Mount Beacon.  She said it was a total game changer for her, and when someone of Deanna's caliber tells me something is a game changer, then it is best to just do it.  While I have completed plenty of hill repeat workouts on Mount Beacon during the day and I have definitely done my share of night to dawn runs, I have never combined the two.  So I found myself climbing Mount Beacon over and over again with Deanna, Pete Priolo (another Grand Slam aspirant), and a bunch of other ultrarunning friends from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.  

And Deanna was right.  It was a total game changer.  Hooray for having friends who inspire me to do things :)

(9) April 21, 2013: Running the Leatherman Loop 10K.  Because who doesn't love running in the mud and crossing super cold streams?

(10) April 17, 2013: Participating as a panelist at Ultra Night at Jack Rabbit.  If someone told me two years ago that I would be an ultrarunning panelist, I would have assumed that she was making a bad joke.  Not sure if any of my advice helped, but I think I did a good job of demonstrating that if someone like me can run an ultramarathon, seriously - anyone can.

(11) April 12 - 14, 2013: Heat training in Palm Springs, CA.  Rob and I went to Coachella, a lovely music festival that takes place in the California desert.  By April, that desert was all kinds of hot, which was good, because I love running in the heat.  So that I don't lose my "heat running muscle," I try to spend lots of time in the sauna.  However, jumping up and down in a sauna is not nearly as good as running in the Real Thing, so I was happy to see that my body was still fine with gallumping along in 90+ degree weather.

(12) April 6, 2013: Running Umstead 100.  This race was cool for many reasons.  (a) This was my sorority little sister's Caitlin Weaver's first 100 attempt.  (b) This was also my friend Hideki Kinoshita's first Umstead finish.  (c) This was my friend Otto's first back to back 100 (he ran NJ100 the weekend before).  (d) This was also the first time since JFK50 2011 (or was it 2012?) that I got to run with my friend Robin Mancinelli.  (e) Oh, and I ran a nearly 30 minute PR :)

Race essentials:

Miles 1-50: Felt easy peasy for the first 11 hours, mostly because I was running with Robin Mancinelli and the famous Ray Krolewicz.  It's amazing how easy ultrarunning can be if you have friends to share the trail with.  

Miles 50 to 62.5: Felt like I was flying and according to my Garmin, I was running pretty much the same pace as I was running the first 25 miles.  

Miles 62.5 to 100: Intestinal issues and nausea happened.  Thank god for my pacers, Susan Hogarth, Scott Peters, and the Other-Woman-Whose-Name-I-Forgot-But-I-Gave-You-My-Email-Address-But-You-Never-Contacted-Me-And-I-Still-Feel-Terrible-Because-I-Didn't-Thank-You-Enough.  They were all so incredibly nice and helpful during my messy finish.  Especially Susan, who had to deal with my super slow physical and mental state.  

Things that were not awesome since my last post (starting with the most recent):

(1) Not keeping up with my blog.  I promise to work on this!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Thinking about the Zombie Apocalypse and Volunteering at the NJ Ultra Festival

Scenes from the Zombie Apocalypse Training Course.  From top left, going clockwise: (1) Doing tandem jumps with Cheryl and Yuki; (2) Marveling at how much fit in that teeny tiny tin; (3) Proudly displaying our marksmanship.  

Things that were awesome since my last post:

(1) Zombie Apocalypse Training

This has nothing to do with running or Grand Slam training, but really, I highly recommend it.   A few months ago, my friend, Cheryl wanted to surprise her boyfriend with a day-long Zombie Apocalypse Training course and she asked if Rob and I would be interested in taking the class with them.  Since it involved zombies, we readily agreed.  So, a couple of weekends ago, on a bright and crisp Saturday morning, Rob and I found ourselves driving down to south Jersey to the secret location of the class.

While the basic premise of the course is silly, the skills were anything but.  Granted, there was no way they could teach everything in one day, but we get did a good overview of what we should know in case zombies started taking over the Earth.  The instructors covered first aid skills, hand to hand combat basics, collecting emergency supplies, handling and the use of a variety of weapons, including the crossbow and the handgun, shotgun, and rifle.  Much to my dismay, I learned that in order for me to use my dominant eye, I had to shoot left-handed.  

Oh, and we learned the basics of knife throwing.  While the instructor admitted that knife throwing isn't really an efficient way to kill zombies (especially if they come en masse), killing one or two zombies with a well-thrown knife could make you look cool in front of your fellow apocalypse survivors.  I learned that I am especially bad at throwing knives - despite standing only a few feet away from the target, I could not manage to make the knife stick even once.  Ulp.  

At the end of the day, the instructors set up an obstacle course involving our recently learned skills and had us compete against one another.  We beat up zombies with sticks, sutured a pig's foot, threw knives, and fired at various targets.  The team with the fastest time would receive a special prize, but alas, our team did not win.  We came in a relatively close second, though!

Okay, even though I would be the first one to admit that the Zombie Apocalypse is not coming any time soon, the course made me realize that there are plenty of other emergency-type events that might occur, and so it doesn't hurt to prepare.  There is no way that I will become a Doomsday Prepper and I won't invest in firearms or a crossbow, but I will make sure to have extra water and basic supplies for my house.  I definitely do not want to be part of the crazy mob scene that is the supermarket before any major snowstorm or hurricane.  I could spend that time running, you know?

So.  Zombie Apocalypse.  Be prepared.  Or not.  

(2) Volunteering at the NJ Trail Series' Ultra Festival

I love volunteering at ultraraces.  First row, from left to right: (1) Stephen England and Tiffany, all bundled up before heading out for the night shift at the far aid station; (2) Elaine Acosta is still feeling good at mile 60; (3) Emmy Stocker and Mat Gerowitz, 50K Finishers; (4) Otto Lam takes a mini break at mile 70.  Second row from left to right: (1) Joe Del Conte hangs out with me at the main aid station; (2) Yoshiko Jo looks incredibly strong at mile 70; (3) Tatsunori Suzuki takes some food to eat during his next lap; (4) Louis Lam shows off her famous pork dumplings.

Right after Zombie Apocalypse Training camp, I drove up to Augusta, New Jersey to go volunteer at the main aid station at the New Jersey Ultra Festival.  NJ Ultrafest takes place on the New Jersey State Fairgrounds - it features a ten mile loop and so depending on how the runner is feeling that day, he or she can run anything from a  50K to 100 miles.  

I love the night shift, because you see people at their best and worst, sometimes both.  By the time I arrived, the participants who were still on the course had been running for more than twelve hours.  After talking briefly to Rick and Jennifer McNulty, the race directors, as well as some other runners who had already completed the 50K and 50milers, I learned that conditions this year were challenging.  A combination of muddy trails and cold temperatures were slowing down times considerably and there were quite a few 100 mile entrants who dropped down to a 50 mile or a 100K.  I didn't blame them.  I can handle mud.  I can even handle cold.  But the two?  For nearly 24 hours?  Argh.  

Fortunately, even though there were some people who dropped, there were still plenty of other runners on the course, giving me things to do.  Since I was working in the kitchen, my main goal was to feed the runners as they went by.  During my shift, I made or warmed up cheese burgers, cheese quesadillas, grilled cheese sandwiches, penne pasta, and pizzas.  I doled out cups and cups of chicken noodle soup and vegetable broth.  Oh, and I poured lots of coffee.  People were tired and needed their caffeine.  The work wasn't difficult, so I still had plenty of time to catch up with my running friends and made new ones.  

I was already exhausted from waking up at 5 a.m. to attend the Zombie camp, so my memories of that night are scattered.  Memories of note:

- The cold.  Oh my gosh, it was cold.  I wore jeans, thermal top, tshirt, fleece, and windbreaker.  And I was still freezing.  I did not fathom how the runners were managing outside.
- Speaking of the cold, the New Zealand man who was running in only a tshirt and shorts.  According to Yoshiko, he upgraded to wearing gloves when it got colder.  I wish I had his fortitude.
- Eating steamed pork buns.  My friend Louisa arrived in the middle of my shift, bearing a large container of steamed pork buns.  She had originally brought them for our friend Becky, but Becky wasn't there.  So I ate one.  And it was delicious.
- Otto Lam saying that this race was harder than Beast of Burden Winter 100, which boasts of below freezing temperatures and snow for 24 hours straight.  His words?  "At least at Beast of Burden, you can run on top of snow.  Here, you can't run on top of mud.  But now that the weather is getting even colder, at least the mud is freezing solid."  Despite his words, I wasn't too worried about Otto.  I knew he would finish.
- Yoshiko Jo making the race look easy.  When I first saw her, she was in third place for women overall, but she looked so fresh at mile 70, I knew she would end up placing first.  And, of course, she did :).
- Elaine Acosta, looking chipper at mile 60.  And then Elaine, bleeding at mile 70, but still looking very steady.
- Tatsunori Suzuki, looking strong.  He told me that he was moving to Japan soon, so that this was probably going to be the last time I saw him in the States.  Awww :(.
- Rick and Jen's kids.  They're so smart and funny and adorable.  I love seeing them at races.

I only worked from 7 p.m. to midnight, but I wanted to see my some of my friends one more time, so I ended up staying past 1 a.m.  As I walked back to my car, I saw the New Zealand man, still running in his shirt and shorts.  I wonder if he finished.

(3) My neuroma feeling a lot better.

Maybe it is my imagination, but my neuroma does not feel nearly as bad as before.  I visited a different podiatrist last week; the good news is that my neuroma, untreated, will not do any damage to my feet.  The pain might get worse, but as long as I keep running the way I normally do, there should be no structural damage except the already existing nerve inflammation.  The bad news: If I want to get rid of it completely, I probably will need surgery.  However, at this point, surgery isn't an option - the surgery itself is very simple, but the post-op requires six weeks of no running.  Which obviously I do not have time for as Western States is in less than thirteen weeks.

So, I will just continue the following:

(1) Wearing boring shoes during my day to day activities.  No more four inch heels unless they are absolutely necessary.  
(1) Massaging my feet before my runs, especially the area between the third and fourth metatarsals.
(2) Stretching my calves.
(3) Going to regular physical therapy and acupuncture.
(4) Using metatarsal pads to stretch my feet.
(5) Taking serrapeptase.
(6) Wearing sneakers with ginormous toe boxes, like my new Altras.
(7) Praying.

(4) My workouts.

Despite my neuroma issues, it's been going well.  I have been doing plenty of climbing on the stairmill and super incline treadmill and have been logging lovely miles outside on the weekends.  Umstead 100 is this Saturday, so I have been doing a wee bit of tapering.  Last week, I only ran thirty miles and finished two climbing workouts.  At this point, my legs are starting to resemble tree trunks, but as long as they are strong tree trunks, I am pretty stoked.

Things that were not awesome since my last post:

Can't think of anything.  Life has been pretty good.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Things That I Find Awesome: ChiRunning, Running with Friends, and High Incline Treadmills

3.16.2013 - At the Tri-Mania NYC ChiRunning Workshop!   From left to right: Me, Rob,  our instructor Vincent Vaccaro (, Karen Braswell, and Jim Coniglio.

Things that were awesome since my last post:

(1) Attending the ChiRunning workshop through Tri-Mania NYC and RunKino.  

ChiRunning is by no means a magic bullet, but I am a huge fan.  If you are interested in learning about my ChiRunning experience, scroll to the bottom of this post.

(2) Running in the Palisades with friends.  

3.9.2013: Running in the Palisades.  The photo is blurry because the lens had my sweat on it.  From left to right, Alex, Garth, Lesley, and Scott.

Although our initial plans were to run part of the Bear Mountain 50 mile course at Harriman State Park, Mother Nature decided to dump 15 inches of snow on the trails.  Since most of us wanted to spend our morning running and not fwomping around in the snow, we figured the Palisades would be a better bet.  And it was!  There was still snow, which made things interesting and pretty, but it wasn't so bad that we couldn't get a decent run in.  We started at the Palisades Interstate Park police station and ran the Long Path, the Shore Trail, as well as the trails that connected the two.  As I ran, I ate spam and drank Gatorade and it was glorious.  At some point, my neuroma began acting up, but since my feet were numb because of the snow, I barely felt it.

3.9.2013: Making our way down to the bottom of the cliffs.  You can see Lesley far below  - she  made the descents seem easy!

3.9.2013: Heading back up to the Long Path.

3.9.2013: Doing a mini hill repeat.

(3) Discovering that funny looking treadmill that no one uses in my gym is a super incline treadmill.  

Guess who has been doing climbs at >20% inclines the past week?  That being said, I am feeling a bit sheepish about the fact that I did not check out the treadmill until now, especially since I had an entire conversation with Garth about them a few weeks ago.  Oh well.  I still have 102 days left until Western States!  Plenty of opportunities to climb!

This treadmill can go up to 50%!  So neat!

(4) Running in the snow in Central Park.  

I despise and fear the cold, but I love running in the snow.  A two or three minute walk outside when it is below 50 degrees Fahrenheit turns me into a sad puddle, but I am totally cool with running in below freezing weather.  This is completely silly, I know.  :(

3.16.2013.  Running alongside the Central Park Reservoir.

3.16.2013 - Running in Central Park in the snow.

Things that were not awesome:

(1) The second cortisone shot for the Morton's Neuroma on my right foot is not working as well as I would like.  I received my second shot last Wednesday and things seemed great for a couple of days, but when I went out for a longish run in Central Park, I experienced flares of excruciating pain after an hour or so.  Each time it happened, I stopped and stretched my foot a bit and was able to run a few more miles before the neuroma flared up again.  While I think I can do this for at least fifty miles, I am not sure if this method will work for 100.  Guess we'll see what happens at Umstead 100 in a few weeks.  As for now, I am going to keep on eating the serrapeptase, going to physical therapy, and wearing boring shoes (supportive flats).  I still have one more cortisone shot left, but at this point, I am not expecting much.  I think I am going to move on to alcohol shot treatment next.

(2) I seem to be developing a Morton's Neuroma in my left foot.  As long as I am in sneakers or high heels, my foot feels completely normal.  But as soon as I go barefoot, I experience the familiar MN symptoms.  I still have not decided what I am going to do about this.  

My ChiRunning Ramble:

A couple of years ago, I purchased the book, ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running.  I read the first few chapters and found the ideas interesting enough that I attempted to put them into practice, but I never felt that I fully grasped the material.  Since I never experienced common running-related injuries, such as knee issues and shin splints, I was fine with this.  However, ever since my Morton's Neuroma reared its ugly head a few months back, I have become much more interested in seeking out ways to run as efficiently and painlessly as possible. 

As luck would have it, a high school and running buddy of mine, Hideki Kinoshita, was giving away one free registration to a ChiRunning workshop through his website and facebook page, RunKino.  All I had to do was to explain why I wanted to learn ChiRunning and be fortunate enough for Kino to select my entry.  After I won, I also registered my boyfriend for the class.  Rob is still relatively new at running and even though he is progressing quickly, he is still experiencing all the hurt that I somehow managed to skip when I began my running journey.  Since I still do not know how I managed that, (And to be perfectly frank, even if I did, I am terrible at teaching people I love how to do things.) I figured introducing Rob to a real coach would be best.  Also, I felt kind of bad taking a free class and wanted to pay for something, somehow.

Interestingly enough, I never attended a running workshop until now.  In fact, the last time I attended a sport-related class was years ago, when I was on the swim team in college.  And I wouldn't even count that because I was so completely mentally checked out - I went to practices and dutifully completed all the assigned workouts, but I was never instructed on improving my swim technique, nutrition, or . . . pretty much anything.  The main reason why I was on the swim team was because I found swimming meditative.  One time I was feeling so zen in the water, I did not realize that the pool that I was swimming in lost half its water until I tried doing a flip turn and I hit my head.  Oops.  In my defense, I was doing back stroke - so it's not like I could see the bottom of the pool until it was too late.

Anyway.  Back to ChiRunning.  My formal introduction to ChiRunning took place at the Tri-Mania NYC Expo this past Saturday.  Our class featured instructor Vincent Vaccaro, a certified ChiRunning and ChiWalking coach.  He has a website for his companyTri Tek, which provides more information on Vincent's extensive athletic background and his schedule of workshops.  Apparently, his training is geared towards triathletes, but ChiRunning is completely relevant to ultrarunners as well.  ChiRunning is all about maximizing your form to minimize fatigue.  And since triathlons and ultramarathons are both endurance sports that guarantee exhaustion, minimizing fatigue is a good thing.  

Vincent was a fantastic instructor.  He was clearly knowledgeable about his subject and very comfortable with teaching.  He had us engaged right away and I felt every minute of the workshop was time well-spent.  Vincent also had an assistant, Dave, whose last name I never learned, but he was great, too, especially towards the end when we did our running exercises.  The two hours flew, but I picked up a lot more in his workshop than I did by reading the ChiRunning book and articles and watching the Youtube videos.  That being said, I plan on rereading the ChiRunning book, because I think I will appreciate it more now that I have seen the techniques in action.  

Vincent started off his class by introducing the basic tenet of ChiRunning: Posture, posture, posture.  Which makes sense - when we are standing straight, our joints are all aligned and our skeleton is supporting our weight.  The best thing to do when we run is to make sure we maintain this alignment so that our skeleton continues to do the supporting.  Instead, we often make the mistake of slumping over or slightly bending at the waist when we are fatigued, which requires our leg and core muscles to support more body weight than they should.  If we focus on keeping good posture, we decrease the amount of work our muscles have to do, making us more efficient.  To keep our posture in alignment, we need to make sure we land our feet directly underneath or slightly behind the body, in line with our hips and shoulders.  To help with this, Vincent had us imagine three dots: one on our shoulder, hip, and foot.  He suggested that when Rob and I run together, we should check each other's alignment by making sure those dots are in a relatively straight line.  

Another essential tenet of ChiRunning is the idea of letting gravity work for us, instead of against us.  By adding a slight lean when we run, our bodies naturally fall forward and we end up using gravity to push us forward instead of our leg muscles.  The trick is to lean from the ankles, and not the waist.  We initially practiced this by standing about a sneaker's length away from the wall and while keeping our backs straight (Remember, posture!), we leaned forward until we practically fell into the wall.  Once we learned what it felt like to lean with our ankles, we did a few exercises where we experienced what it was like to lean in different amounts.  It was interesting - in leaning forward, my feet automatically had to land directly underneath me.  

Vincent also had us focus on cadence by having us run with a metronome.  Running cadence is the same thing as your foot turnover rate, or how many steps you take per minute.  When you take fewer steps per minute, your body is suspended in the air for a greater amount of time, causing a greater force to be applied when your feet hit the ground.  Since most running injuries are impact-related, this is kind of a big deal.  The most efficient stride/min is at least 180 strides per minute.  Although I have already downloaded a bunch of metronome apps on my iPhone since Saturday to practice my running cadence, I decided that it would be way more fun to run to music, so with a quick google search, I found a great dailymile thread discussing music that averages 180 beats per minute.  Rob, being awesome, is already compiling a playlist for me ;).

An important lesson that I took to heart was that I just don't move my arms enough when I run.  Instead of using my arms to propel my body forward, I keep them relatively stationary.  While I knew this on a theoretical level, I did not realize how bad my arm form was until Vincent had us perform a simple exercise where another runner stood behind me and placed her hands where my elbows should hit as I ran in place.  As I swung my arms the way I was supposed to, it felt really, really strange.  My main issue is that I constantly tense my shoulders, which doesn't allow me to swing my arms as easily as I should as I run.  Even as I type this, I feel the tell-tale twinges in the middle of my back, letting me know that my shoulders are unhappy.  I think I am going to start posting signs all over my office and house to remind me to relax.

In case you couldn't already tell, I am already a ChiRunning convert.  I can go on and on about all the things that Vincent taught in his introductory class, but if you are interested in learning more about ChiRunning, there are way better articles out there that you can find easily via Google.  I would also recommend purchasing the ChiRunning book, but I think the best thing would be to actually attend a workshop in your area.  Introductory ChiRunning classes are really not that expensive, especially if you consider the potential savings of hundreds of dollars and time spent at the doctor's by preventing injury from occurring in the first place.  

ChiRunning isn't a magic bullet.  I know that I have a ways to go before I even scratch the surface on becoming a more efficient runner, but as I plan on running ultras for a while, I look forward to the process.  Thanks so much again Vincent at Tri Tek and RunKino for giving me this great opportunity in starting my ChiRunning journey.  

Monday, March 4, 2013

So! Excited! To just go out and ruuuuuun.

Peanut Leap Cascade at Palisades Interstate Park. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Workout Types(s): Trails and strength training (a.k.a. lifting heavy garbage bags)
Miles: 9+
Where: Palisades Interstate Park
Notes: Good times.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Workout Types(s): Road running
Miles: 8+
Where: Central Park
Notes: My Morton's Neuroma hit by mile 6 and it was unpleasant, but I was pleased because it normally starts by mile 4 when I train on roads.

Training notes:

Alrighty, I am back in business and am re-entering Training Beast Mode.  As of this weekend, I am officially done with the winter ills and am so (!) excited(!) to go out and just ruuuuun.  


My run on Saturday morning was glorious.  Besides crashing a couple of times (I was a bit overeager in hurtling down a hill), I felt really in tune in my body and managed to find this wonderful rhythm with my legs and feet that made me feel like I could run forever.

If you want an intense workout, going up and down these cliffs is a seriously good time.

Trail connecting the Shore Trail to the Long Path.

Sadly, I had to cut my training short as I had plans to volunteer with a local trail organization doing post-Hurricane Sandy clean up.  One of the requirements for Western States 100, Vermont 100, and Wasatch 100 is to volunteer at least eight hours either at an ultramarathon or with a trail volunteer group.  Eight hours is a pretty small time commitment, but I think the race directors' objective is to encourage ultrarunners who have never volunteered before to start because once you do, it is really difficult not to want to volunteer again.  When you volunteer at a race, you really appreciate the work involved in making sure the race is a success; when you do volunteer trail work, you realize how much effort is necessary in maintaining the paths we love.  Also, it's fun!  I always meet the most interesting people and I always learn something new, running and/or general life-wise.

Getting instructions from Palisades Interstate Park trail supervisor Christina Fehre.

This past weekend, I was fortunate to volunteer with an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps team who came all the way from Ohio to help out with post-Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.  We worked with Palisades Interstate Park trail supervisor Christina Fehre to help clean up the debris washed up along the Shore Trail.

Garbage ready to be shipped out.

And there was quite a lot of it.  I personally collected two large garbage bags completely filled with mostly plastic bottles of all types.  Other items collected were tires, barrels, styrofoam, insulation, plastic bags . . . it made me sad to see so much trash along the trail, but I was really glad something was being done about it. 

Lugging along a garbage bag along this rock scramble was entertaining.

We found some makeshift swings.  We weren't sure if they were sturdy, but they looked so inviting! 

We were scheduled to work for only four hours on Saturday, but there will be future volunteer trips as the weather gets nicer.  Next weekend I am supposed to volunteer with the Bearclaw group at Longpond Ironworks State Park, but since I want to do some major mileage this week, my plans are still tentative.


Sunday's run was uneventful.  I ran the Central Park loop and reservoir loop and saw a few folks along the way, including Rick Thiounn and his fiancee, Lauren Healy as well as Stephen England, another Western States-bound runner.  My Morton's neuroma on my right foot started to act up by mile 6, but it wasn't nearly as excruciating as before and so I was able to finish my run.  I think my regimen of acupuncture/serrapeptase/physical therapy/change in footwear is working.  That being said, I am still visiting a podiatrist later today because it never hurts to get another opinion. 

Alrighty, so this week should be a blast.  Lots of climbing, lots of running, and lots of strength training.  I can't wait!