Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Where the heck does all the time go? Also, running in the cold rain makes you go faster.

Random update: 

Good news: Rob got a new role at work.
Bad news: Rob's paternity leave ended.  

Okay, although I am sad that his paternity leave ended, just wanted to note that I am a) super thrilled that he even received paternity leave and b) impressed that he managed to get a new position within his company while taking care of a newborn.  Talk about being an excellent multi-tasker!  In any case, to make sure Rob hits the ground running by getting enough sleep at night, I decided that Soren, Yossi and I should stay at my parents' house for the next week or so.  My mom, even though she works during the day, graciously volunteered to help with the nighttime feeds.  She is also doing her best to overfeed me, just like Rob did the past seven weeks, by stocking the pantry and fridge with all sorts of goodies.  Speaking of which, I already miss my husband's cooking.  His plate work was just so cheery:

Man, I am going to miss my Breakfasts Made By Rob.

Where the heck does all the time go?  

We're in a different house, but I have pretty much the same routine.  It's not too bad, but finding time to shower, let alone exercise is tough.  At the end of each day, I find myself asking, "Where the heck does all the time go?"

Well, I decided to look.  Here is yesterday morning's schedule:

2:05 a.m. After going to bed at around midnight the night before, I managed to get a couple of hours of sleep before Soren woke up and I had to bottle feed him my expressed breast milk.
2:30 a.m. Changed Soren's diaper and then got him back to sleep. 
3:00 a.m. Napped for 45 minutes.
3:57 a.m. Pumped milk with my breast pump for 45 minutes.
4:45 a.m. Soren woke up and demanded to be fed and have his diaper changed.  I also had to gently rock him to just enough drowsiness so that he would fall asleep on his own. 
5:30 a.m. Started a fresh load of laundry.  Napped for 1.5 hours.  
7:00 a.m. Pumped for 40 minutes until, you guessed it, Soren woke up and I had to feed him and change his diaper.  
8:30 a.m. Played with Soren while grabbing a bite of breakfast here and there and tossing my laundry into the dryer.  
9:45 a.m. Soren finally passes out from all the fun.  I celebrate by folding my now dry laundry, doing the dishes and breast pumping for Soren's next feed.  
10:48 a.m. And then of course, before I could finish pumping, Soren decided to wake up and I feed him with the milk I had just pumped.
11:30 a.m. Changed his diaper and played with Soren.  By this point, Rob was at work and asked me to send photos of myself as well as Soren.  After some grumbling (I still hadn't showered yet!), this is what I sent:  

Soren and I hanging out on his play mat.  Besides his Mamaroo, this has been the second-best thing for entertaining and/or distracting the little dude.

12:36 p.m. Soren falls asleep and I pump.
1:30 p.m. Soren wakes up and I have him practice breastfeeding.  I still haven't given up on trying.  
2:00 p.m. My mother comes by to give me a break - hallelujah!  I weigh my options.  Should I: 
(a) Take a nap.
(b) Run for 30 minutes and then shower.
(c) Run for 45 minutes and then hope I have time to take a shower. 
(d) Run for an hour and hope that I have time to take a shower at some point later today, but know that I'll probably take at least one nap in my stinky clothes.

I chose Option B.  Based on how my day was already going, I didn't want to take my chances with Options C and D.  Option A was super tempting, but I figured that, all things considered, I got a decent amount of sleep the night before.  Also, I was reallllly itching to go outside even though by the afternoon, the already dreary weather turned into colder, wet, drearier weather.  Before I could change my mind, I threw on a pair of stretchy leggings, a tshirt, and the first fleece I found and went outside while my mom watched Soren.  Thanks mom!

Running in the cold rain makes me go faster  

I would be lying if I said my run was awesome.  First off, as soon as I got outside, I knew I made the wrong outfit choice, because I was freeeeeezing.  There are some runners who can run in shorts and tshirts all-year-round; I am not one of those runners.  In fact, I am the opposite of those runners.  Last year, I did try to become more hardcore about the weather, but that all flew out the window when I became pregnant and stopped being hardcore about anything.  Anyway, I probably should have changed into at least a waterproof jacket, but since I wasn't going to be outside that long and more importantly, my free time was ticking away, I just went with it.  

My original plan was to go relatively slow since my pelvic region felt a little off during my last run, but because I was cold and running faster would keep me warm, I tackled my neighborhood hills with a bit more gusto than anticipated.  What struck me as I ran the uphills, was not how much harder I had to work in this new body of mine, but how much I enjoyed the feeling of physical exhaustion unrelated to being a new mom.  

It's funny, the first time I ran the hills by my house was over a decade ago and I still remember the day so very clearly.  (And when I say "ran," it was really a "little train that could" shuffle.)  I recall feeling so inordinately proud of the fact that I didn't walk a single step.  If someone had told me that one day I was going to zipadeedodah up and down those hills, I would have laughed.  If someone had told me that I was going to be doing repeats less than eight weeks postpartum on those same hills in the freezing rain in preparation for some 100 mile race in Vermont, I would have said that they were crazy and that Future Jackie was crazy.  

Eh, I probably would have been right.

Things I learned from yesterday's run:

(1) Need to really look at the weather report before I go outside.
(2) Must have an outfit prepared.  Since it *is* technically winter, make sure the outfit is super warm.  I must remember that it's always easier to remove a layer than to go back inside the warm, comfy house to find another article of clothing.
(3) Drink more water.
(4) Definitely need to incorporate more hill training.
(5) And most definitely need to work on strength training again.  

Two and a half weeks before my first half marathon.  This is going to be interesting.  

Monday, February 15, 2016

It's on like Donkey Kong: My first post-partum run, breastfeeding woes, and my super tentative race schedule!

Great news, I got the green light to start training (albeit slowly) from my physician!  It has been six weeks since Soren was born and 80+ days since I broke my toe after tripping on some luggage.  Before I ran, I promised myself that I would stop as soon as anything felt "off." A little tiredness would be fine, but if I felt any sharp pains or anything beyond the ordinary I-haven't-done-this-in-awhile-so-things-might-be-creaky, then I would walk, plain and simple.  I have yet to experience a running-related injury in my (admittedly relatively short) ultrarunning career, and now that I have to take care of a newborn, I want to make sure that I keep it that way.

Quick Long recap of my breastfeeding experience so far:

(If you have no interest in breastfeeding, just skip this because most of it will be gobbledygook.  Or if you experienced breastfeeding issues and don't want flashbacks, you really should skip this section!)

Time for full disclosure here - things have been really hard the past six weeks.  While I have been able to get in a walk here and there and have been super lucky to have family visit so that I am not totally isolated, my life has been pretty dominated by baby Soren and my breastfeeding woes.  My experience has been far from unique, but still . . . it sucked.  Thankfully, I have a husband, friends and family who have been incredibly supportive - I don't think I would gotten this far otherwise!

I am not going to get into the nitty gritty details of my labor/delivery, but thanks to a horrific case of PUPPP during my 39th week and getting only a couple of hours of sleep per night due to the terrible itching, we decided to induce Soren.  Nearly 48 hours later, the induction was declared a failure (Soren was stubbornly staying asynclitic and more importantly, I was running a fever and not making sense) and our son was delivered via c-section at 1:55 p.m. on January 1, 2016.  (We weren't even close to having the first New Year's baby, hah.)  Because I had so much fluid pumped into my system, my milk didn't come in until ten days later and to this day, my supply isn't all that great.  

And yes, for you breastfeeding nazis, I am pretty much doing everything I can in the hopes that my supply will increase.  I make Soren latch for hours, pump, pump, pump all the time, drink tons of water, eat oatmeal, and take about a million herbal galactagogues (fenugreek pills, fenugreek tea, moringa, shatavari, and motherlove more milk special blend concentrate).  While my analytical side is horrified with the complete lack of any scientific method in determining what will make my body produce more milk, the emotional mom side is me is totally fine with the "Everything But the Kitchen Sink" method because it seems to be working.  The other day, I finally pumped nearly enough for a full day's worth of milk for Soren - and that didn't include what Soren managed to drink from my breast.  

Oh, I forgot to mention: I was blessed with a child who latches (thanks to a tongue tie revision - before that, my nipples were bloody and raw, awesome!), but just eats . . . so . . . slowly.  Like, drinking half an ounce in half an hour slowly.  At that rate, it would take him hours to finish a feed, which just isn't feasible.  So, my lactation consultants recommended I do what is called the triple feed which goes something like this:

(1) Weigh Soren.  Breastfeed Soren for 30 minutes.  If I think the feeding is going well, I'll let him eat for an hour.  Weigh Soren again to determine how much he has drank.  Sigh inwardly because it's usually a dismal amount.
(2) Feed Soren with my expressed breast milk.  If necessary, feed Soren with additional formula.  Burp Soren.  Get him to settle down so I can use my breast pump.  The Mamaroo has been super helpful in this regard.
(3) Pump for at least 30 minutes.

Note that the above doesn't include diaper changes, skin-to-skin bonding/tummy time, and general mayhem (fussiness, an especially explosive diaper, super spit up that needs to be cleaned out of Soren's hair, etc.), so on average, each cycle takes about 1.5 - 2 hours.  And then Soren is hungry an hour or so later.  If you've followed me this far (I'm amazed if you have, because this is a running blog and not a pregnancy/breastfeeding blog), you're probably wondering when I managed to get sleep.  Well, I pretty much didn't unless Rob helped with the feeding and the diaper changes, which my amazing and awesome husband definitely did.  However, Rob had about a million things that he also needed to take care of, so he couldn't help with every feeding.  From all the combined naps I took during the day, I got about 4 hours of sleep.  A few weeks of the above was turning Rob and me into zombies.  

In any event, we met with another lactation consultant and she gently suggested that perhaps I needed more sleep to produce more milk.  We tweaked the schedule a bit and while I still pump at least five hours a day, I do it mostly during the waking hours so I can sleep while Rob does Soren's night feed.  So, for the past few nights, I've had at least *five* hours of pretty much interrupted sleep, making me feel pretty invincible.  This invincibility inspired me to re-start my blog and gave me the energy to run again as well!

Oops, sorry for all that.  Now back to my run:

My first opportunity to run was this past Saturday.  Although I had been up since 4:30 a.m., I felt awesome when 9:00 a.m. rolled around and my husband was able to watch Soren.  I practically bounded out the door, I was so excited.  I decided that this momentous run would happen . . . on a treadmill in my building's gym.  I didn't want to run outside because a) Too many times in my life, I have lost track of time and distance while running and then had issues coming back; b) I wanted to be close in case Soren needed me; and c) It was really, really, really cold outside.  

Okay, I'll be honest, the last reason was probably the main reason.  Also, unlike most people, I actually like running on a treadmill.  At least, in the past few years, it's been really easy for me to reach this blissful, zen-like state, especially when I'm banging out a speed workout or doing longer interval workouts.  

Besides being excited to run in general, I was also stoked to try on my new sneakers!  This is my first year of being an Altra Ambassador and the lovely people there had sent me a free pair of Olympus 2.0s.  Since I had good experiences with previous iterations of the Olympus, I was curious to see what the differences were.  Granted, the Olympus is a trail shoe and I was going to run on a treadmill, but I could at least figure out whether I liked the fit.

My new Olympus 2.0s - aren't they pretty?  Baby Soren for scale.

My goal was to run/walk a 5K without feeling any tiredness or pain.  I knew that based on my previous post-partum jaunts that I could at least briskly walk a 5K without any issue, so my goal was properly modest.  I set an easy pace on the treadmill and took a drink break every half mile or so.  Normally, I drink every other mile, but from all my research, it seems that the main killer of breast milk supply is either dehydration or fatigue.  So I drank up.

During my run, I played some cheesy music (think 80s and 90s pop) and boom, seven or eight songs later, I was finished with my 5K.  I definitely could have gone for longer, but I wanted my first run to be a completely happy one.  And it was!  My legs felt relatively fresh and core pain was nonexistent.  The only issue I seemed to have was being slightly out of breath any time I tried to up my pace, but I think that has to do with my lingering additional pregnancy weight, which hopefully should be a non-issue in the next six months or so.  Not that I am weighing myself every day, but it seems that the old wives' tale is true regarding breastfeeding and post-partum weight loss.  I haven't been doing anything special to lose weight, but it's coming off slowly.  

Check it out, yo.  This 5K time would certainly not win any age-group awards, but at least I wouldn't come in last place!

Now that my first run has been successful and I do not perceive any major biomechanical or structural issues, I feel okay about posting my race schedule for 2016.  So here is my tentative schedule for the next few months, let me know if you will be running any of these races.  

Time to get training!

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Saturday, April 2, 2016
Umstead 100 - 50 Mile Option

Sunday, April 17, 2016
MORE/Shape Women's Half Marathon (Pacing the 2:30 group)

Saturday, May 21, 2016
AirBNB Brooklyn Half Marathon (Pacing the 2:30 group)

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sunday, November 6, 2016
New York City Marathon (Pacing)

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Starting Fresh . . . Sort Of. And a tentative list of goals.

Alrighty gang, it has been well over two years since my last post, which is terrible, terrible, terrible thing since lots of wonderful, wonderful, wonderful things happened.  However, instead of scrapping my old blog and starting anew, I decided to revive this one.  True, I am not running as much as before, but I still feel like a joyful ultrarunner.  So what if I took a little break from ultrarunning due to my pesky c-section recovery?  It's all good!  After all, my last 100 miler took place literally two weeks before I got pregnant and my next ultramarathon (Umstead!) is scheduled in a few months.  I am totally registered and everything - we even have a hotel booked!  In case you couldn't tell, I have relatively big plans for 2016 and I want to make sure I do everything I can to keep myself accountable.  

For the two or three people who are not immediate friends and family reading this page and do not know all this already, here is a quick recap of my life since my last post:

Life highlights:

(1) Rob and I adopted Yossarian, a floofy miniature golden doodle who can outrun us any day of the week and has the awards to prove it.

As I type this caption, Yossi is curled up at my feet.  Such a good dog.

(2) Rob and I got married.

Best day of my life until January 1, 2016.  (See No. 4.)

(3) Rob and I decided that we liked our current city so much that we bought our first home together.

Hooray for marital debt! ;)

(4) Rob and I welcomed our first son, Soren on January 1, 2016.  Although technically Soren was due on that date, it still boggles my mind that we have a January 1st baby.  And no, we weren't even close to being the first baby born in the year :).

Many people have said that one day I will pay for this photo.  Guess what?  I've paid for this photo and then some in all the hours of sleep I've missed since this little dude was born.

And now for some running highlights:

(1) Did not complete the Grand Slam of Ultrarunning in 2013, alas.  But I swear, as Cthulhu
 as my witness, I *will* complete it one day.  

(2) Ran six 100 mile races in 2014 and 2015: Rocky Raccoon 100 (2014 and 2015), Umstead 100 (2014 and 2015), TGNY100 (2014), and Vermont 100 (2014).

Pre-race photo at VT100 2014.

(3) Rob and I ran two races during our honeymoon in New Zealand and Hawaii, the Kepler 60K Challenge and the Honolulu Marathon.  The Kepler Challenge was Rob's first ultramarathon trail and he rocked it.  And the Honolulu Marathon was his first back-to-back weekend marathon!

My first ultramarathon was nine relatively flat loops in Central Park.  His involved climbing up and down a mountain.

(4) Ran my first sub-23 hour finish at the 2015 Umstead 100.

(5) Paced a bunch of races including the NYC Marathon and the NJ Marathon.

(6) Was selected to be an Altra Ambassador.  

Altra sneakers are the *best*.  And I'm not just saying that because they're giving me free and discounted sneakers for 2016.  I probably would have given up running if not for these amazing sneakers.

The absolutely silly thing is, I wrote about many of the above events, but didn't choose to hit the "publish" button because I get so incredibly self-conscious about my writing.  Well, I decided to change all that.  Not the feeling self-conscious part - I know that I will always feel that way.  But I decided to start publishing my posts again.  As I mentioned before, I have some major running goals for 2016 and I believe making them public will make them more likely to happen.  

So what are these goals?

As most runners know, we have goals and then we have goals.  In every race, I have a Goal A, Goal B, Goal C, and a Super Secret Goal Z.  Goal A is usually something pretty basic; Goal B is something a little less attainable; Goal C is juuuuuust out of my reach; Goal Z is a goal that most people would laugh at me for even considering.  For example, during my last Umstead 100, Goal A was to finish happy and healthy; Goal B was to finish in under 24 hours; and Goal C was to finish in under 23 hours.  Unfortunately, I can't tell you what my Super Secret Goal Z was, otherwise it wouldn't be Super Secret.

So here are my tentative goals for 2016:

Goal A: Recover well from pregnancy.  C-section healing is no joke and I cannot stress enough how serious I am about making sure that I do not impede my overall progress by being too impatient with getting back into full-on running mode.
Goal B: Get back into my 2015 pre-pregnancy running shape by June.
Goal C: Finish a Western States qualifier (Hopefully Vermont 100!)
Goal D: Finish a Western States qualifier in less than 24 hours.
Goal Z: I'll let you know if it happens.

When does my post-partum training start?

A lot of the above depends on how well my six-week check up goes with my doctor tomorrow.  That said, I am feeling pretty optimistic that she is going to give me the all-clear.  Therefore, my hope is that my official training will begin tomorrow!  And I can't wait!  Although my core muscles are still incredibly weak (hardly unsurprising since I had major abdominal surgery), my legs, despite running zero miles since Thanksgiving (This was not entirely pregnancy-related; I happened to break my toe while tripping over luggage), feel pretty awesome.  I discovered that because my body has gotten so used to carrying additional weight, I have become an excellent speed walker.  I am hoping that my newfound leg strength for walking will translate to faster running as well.

And that's it for now.  Wish me luck for tomorrow!  Cannot wait to get back to real training again!  

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.