bricks_and_bones: (pizza)
Last weekend saw the final race in the North Shore Trail series before the Stone Cat: the Stone Tower 15k. Here I am, #492:

WHAT A TOUGH RACE. For some reason my legs did not want to run uphill. That was unfortunate as the race saw three steep rocky ascents to the Stone Tower itself. On the other hand, I was burning the downhills. I made up a lot of time on the more technical downhill singletrack trails, passing most of the people who had passed me on the uphill and ultimately aiding my finish in 1:42. I am very proud of how far my agility, balance, and strength have come to allow me to kill rocky and steep descents.

I definitely think I could have done better than my overall time, but considering the terrain, I am not ashamed of it. My running buddy Tom stuck with me pretty much the entire race, though I left him behind on the final descent to the finish: he bruised the bottom of his foot pretty badly during the run and it was hampering his speed. He is a "barefoot runner," and uses these minimalist sneakers that really don't have a ton of padding between the foot and the ground to speak of.

He was definitely the faster of the two of us on the uphills -- he looked really good on the climbs. Hopefully he will actually call me to do some weekend trail runs together. We work pretty well together as partners.

Exactly one week from today -- almost one week from NOW, I hope -- I will be crossing the finish line at the Stone Cat Trail Marathon. The weather on the 10-day forecast looks to be partly cloudy and around 50° F, with a 20% chance of rain. However, this week's weather will likely be unsettled by Hurricane Sandy, which, while it LOOKS like it will probably make landfall around NYC and head inland from there, MIGHT move more northward to menace the Boston area.

Possibly fallout from such a storm for the marathon could include downed trees/branches, some flooded trails, and a heavier cover of leaf litter and other detritus over the trails. This kind of litter can hide dangers like ankle-breaking holes, rocks, and roots that can trip a tired runner who is dragging her feet. I am sure that volunteers will be dispatched before the race to check the course and make sure any big stuff is out of the way, but it could still have an impact due to the leaf downage. The culverts over the swamp have apparently been newly repaired -- hopefully this means no knee-to-hip-deep water to run through! And hopefully the hurricane won't undo all the good work there.

I am pretty psyched for the race, overall. I ran today for an hour (a short run!) and felt very strong. I haven't been trying for high speeds, but rather a good positive comfortable rolling forward motion. I need my lower back, pelvis, hips, and quads to be nice and loose for the actual race, just to benefit the mechanics of my stride. No cross training this week, according to Dan: just running, and for not more than an hour at a time. Friday needs to be a rest day. Though with the weather looking the way it is, I might not be able to run outdoors on Monday or Tuesday. WE SHALL SEE. I love running in the rain but I am not about to run in a hurricane.

I have been eating well, to say the least. I am trying to eat lots of lean protein and just generally eat the things that make me feel good, like my favorite meal/snack: frozen strawberries, frozen blueberries, yogurt, apple slices, granola all mixed together in a big bowl. Lots of peanut butter and nutella and pretzels. I need to focus on drinking adequate water over the upcoming week

For the actual marathon:

Dream Goal: Break five hours
Possibility: Finish in around five hours
Very Realistic: Come in around six hours

We shall see what actually happens when the chips are down! So far, I am glad to be (almost) at the starting line. The received wisdom is that the hardest part of a marathon is making it to the start, and this is undeniably true. I ran through 90° weather, through clouds of horseflies, through exhaustion and busyness, all the while avoiding injury, to get to this place. Standing at the starting line will be very satisfying indeed.
bricks_and_bones: (Default)
I am now in the midst of that horrible confusion known as "tapering." Basically, last weekend I did my final LONG long run -- 22 miles! -- and now I am supposed to back off on the training til the marathon, which is 31 days away.

I might have started tapering a little bit too early, actually; most people start their taper around 3 weeks or so before their race. I started mine 5 weeks before, but I really had no choice because of how the last two ECTA races were scheduled and due to the fact that I am going to visit my parents this weekend. Much as I love running, when I am down there I would rather do other things, like hang out with my family.

So the mystery of tapering for me is knowing exactly how much to run and how much to rest. And how much to eat -- I seem to be starving ALL THE TIME, lately! Starving and exhausted. Maybe this is because I have upped the cross-training a lot. The key now is to eat right and sleep as much as I can.

Rowing about 5 hours/week on the Concept 2 erg at the gym has become my preferred cross-training regimen, though I am still doing circuit runs. I'm pleased with how well my strength training has gone. A half year ago I could do about 20 pushups. Now I regularly do 120 on my twice-weekly circuit runs. And I'm up from 100 crunches to nearly 500 per session. The core strengthening has made me feel better overall and, I think, helped me balance out my body so as to avoid injuries.

The Hamilton 10-miler was my best race yet, at least according to the statistics: I finished in over 76% of the winning time. SOMEHOW I AM STILL IN SECOND PLACE IN MY AGE CATEGORY.

There I am, #70, acting like a goofball.

I think it should be said, though, that I talked during that entire race. Nonstop chatting to my friends Kitty and Tom, both also pictured there. When it was over I still felt good and wondered how much faster I could have run if I'd shut up for five seconds. However -- I had FUN. And that is the most important bit for me, period.

Now, sad news: one of my running buddies, Jim, passed away the day after that race. His obit is here. He and his wife, Deb, ran that race with me last year, and we have since run many races together. Jim was a lovely person and will be sorely missed. It was a shocking thing, really: he appeared in excellent health and ran in that race the day before he died. His death occurred while he was volunteering at a 30k road race in Nahant. He was a gentle, encouraging soul and I often think of him when I am out on the trails. Jim's mantra? "This sport is not about speed. Not about speed at all." I think for Jim, as for me, the sport is about the enjoyment of being outdoors and being with friends.
bricks_and_bones: (Eggs)
I recently came across an interesting blog by the name of "Obesity Timebomb" on Blogger -- more specifically, an entry titled Fatphobia, Outdoors, and Belonging.

The blogger concludes with a request:

"The fraudulent feeling is connected to a broader sense that I don't belong out in the world, that exploring wild terrain, or feeling a connection to nature is for other people, like the man we encountered, not me. (I know that some black and Asian people in the UK have written about not going to or feeling part of the countryside, with good reason, I too associate country politics and culture with intolerance). Anyway, this is a terrible feeling, not helped by that guy's thoughtless comment, or organisations like the Ramblers Association and their bullshit anti-obesity campaigning. I want to feel more able to enter wild places and feel that I belong there as a queer fat woman. Suggestions as to how to do this are welcome."

I am not sure how successfully I can fulfill this request. I'm American, and I am willing to bet our attitudes toward outdoor/wilderness recreation and the ways we value land -- the way we relate land use/ownership to a particular class system, for example -- are different from those in the UK. I'm not particularly queer and not particularly fat. However, I am a woman, and I have run into certain exclusionist attitudes about enjoying the outdoors because of that status. The most common of these seems to revolve around the idea that, eventually, my enjoyment of the outdoors as a lone woman will lead me to be horribly raped and murdered.

In over ten years of enjoying trails by myself, I have been attacked exactly twice, and both of those times were by dogs whose horrid owners decided it would be a good idea to allow them to run off-leash, in spite of well-posted rules to please keep dogs leashed. ("DON'T WORRY! HE'S FRIENDLY!" -- this called out by a frantic Bad Dog Owner whose dog is aggressively advancing, barking and growling.) All in all, my injuries from off-leash dogs have amounted to scratches, a bruised tailbone, and a bloody nose. My injuries from evil rapists hiding in the woods?

*crickets chirping*

In some ways, my problems -- like the Obesity Timebomb blogger -- have been caused by fellow recreators (recreationists?) who have aggressively interfered with my own rights to enjoy the natural world on public property that has been designated for outdoor recreation. The woods became a place where it was "okay" for them to enact a weird kind of social dominance.

So, on that basis I think I could TRY to give advice.

I could also try to give advice based on my scholarly studies of space, place, wilderness, and women. Ecofeminism. As a soon-to-be Former Academic, I've been redefining that term for myself. The woods I habitually inhabit are also inhabited by certain hyper-masculine MANLY MAN trail users who are out to conquer. Typically, they take the form of mountain bikers, and let me tell you they do NOT like the fact that slower pedestrians have the right of way. Some of them show this distaste by trying to run you over. (Many are okay -- I don't want to paint with too broad a brush.)

As much as this type likes to pretend otherwise, the woods in THIS domain are not a lawless place where the fittest survive. Dogs have to be kept on leashes. Pedestrians are granted right-of-way. If equestrians approach, keep well away from the horses. Don't use trails that have been washed out. Common sense so everyone can enjoy it.

Maybe there is something about public nature areas that invites otherwise "civilized" people to test those civilized limits? And it has been demonstrated to me that there is something about looking non-"normative" -- as in the Obesity Timebomb post -- that invites the same sort of testing. My experience bears out the idea that a woman enjoying the woods alone, without company of man or dog, is non-normative. She doesn't belong out there alone. It's not safe for her. She's acting stupidly and unwisely. She's bringing violence upon herself. Etc.

Wow, some of that reads like the victim-blaming that rape victims do indeed experience. That's disturbing.

Is there a connection between the dominant, aggressive behaviors of male recreators and the rapist-in-the-bushes narratives that many concerned loved ones throw at me from time to time? Is it wrong of me to feel like a safe and happy woman while alone in the woods, no matter the weather? Even at NIGHT? EVEN WITH NO PEPPER SPRAY IN MY POCKET????? *gasp*

I dunno. All I know is that for ME, here, now, ecofeminism has retained one of its most important aspects: a kind of cooperative coexistence between women and nature that is safe, normal, and joyful. It has also come to mean "inhabiting the woods without fear and with respect, peace, knowledge, and joy" -- enjoying how the place shapes me physically as I shape the place by treading the same trails over and over again -- and passing on an understanding of nature that is not based on fear to my brave-as-dragonflies girls.

A little more about Me.

I do have a lifelong history of woods-loving. Maybe I have that going for me; it was nurtured in me by MY parents. That might be why, after reading this, I had an immediate reaction of sadness. I grew up in a rural area and spent many an hour as a child catching creatures, nursing injured animals back to health, building forts, cutting trails with my brother and sister, walking the dogs, cross-country skiing, hiking (both at night and during the day), snowmobiling, and even getting horribly LOST in the woods. If I was feeling sad or depressed, being in the woods often helped me to feel more at peace. It is a little embarrassing to admit, but quite a few of the trees near my childhood home had names. (Still have names, really.) While for some the woods represent something to be feared or something unknown and dangerous, to me they were always more of a haven -- a place to hide, to think, and to dream.

Today I still have this love for forested and otherwise wild places, all with a dose of healthy respect and awe. In some ways, my children help me to understand small miraculous things about seemingly "ordinary" nature: "Mommy, the dragonfly is the bravest bug." Sometimes they bring me back to childhood fancies -- building fairy houses or investigating good climbing trees or seeing weird patterns in branches and clouds. As a trail runner I make it a point to observe everything -- sights, changes, patterns, smells, weather, animals, tracks, changes in trails. I've recently been learning about different varieties of wild mushrooms. (YES THERE IS ONE CALLED BLACK DEATH AND IT CAN KILL YOU AND IT IS A TERRIFYING FUNGUS!!!) I have become wise in the ways of animal scat. I know how to tell the difference between coyotes yipping and dogs barking.

I like coyotes. They leave me the hell alone. DOGS? NOT SO MUCH.

I feel like who I am today, physically, has been shaped so much by the woods, from the wrinkles on my rather weatherbeaten YET STILL GORGEOUS AND YOUTHFUL FACE to the occasional scratches on my skin to the muscles that have been hardening in particular ways from a very particular terrain. And as much as the parks have given me, I try to give back. I have joined the local open/greenspace organization, I help keep trails maintained and safe, and I keep any and all disturbance of the natural places through my own use to a minimum. (OH YOU TURKEYS ARE NESTING HERE? I WILL GO THE LONG WAY 'ROUND SO AS NOT TO BOTHER YOU. SORRY.) I have made an effort to learn about the species that inhabit and the natural cycles that characterize my particular wilderness.

I think it's important to become familiar with the history of a place as well; there are still some mysteries in the woods I want to learn about. One includes a cylindrical, rock-lined hole in the ground that measures about twenty feet deep by fifteen feet across. Was it an old cistern? Root cellar? I'm still learning how to read landscape archaeology. But for me, each stone wall is a connection to another time and another group of people who also valued this place, as well as to the place itself. And our goal here is to feel placed. Like a placed person. NOT out-of-place, and not Other, and not Not-Belonging.


1. Preparation IS KEY

When I was 21 years old I took a course and became certified as a Wilderness First Responder. Theoretically I can still splint and care for pretty bad injuries and build a rudimentary yet safe litter to transport an injured person off a mountain.

I'd rather NOT do this, ever, but the course did open my eyes to how proper preparation can make or break an experience and affect one's comfort levels.

For a long ramble or hike, bringing along plenty of water is important. So many injuries and illnesses can result from dehydration. In fact, so much of my WFR course basically boiled down to "JUST MAKE SURE EVERYONE'S HYDRATED."

It's not a bad idea to bring along snacks as well. A granola bar can go a long way on a hike and is light to carry.

Clothing should not restrict movement; it should be comfortable and appropriate for the weather. It doesn't have to be expensive brand-name OUTDOOR GEAR RAAAAHR. Truth is, plus sizes in outdoor clothing are out there -- LL Bean, Athleta, Columbia, REI, and other companies do boast of selling plus-sized clothing lines. Trouble is, it sometimes can be more expensive than non-plus-sized clothes. Creativity in shopping might help here. Often winter clothing goes on sale in the spring; ditto summer clothing in the fall. It takes a bit of commitment and planning ahead to outfit yourself if you want to hit the sales.

You don't really need a TON of clothing, but the basic layers you will want for cold weather are a polypro or moisture-wicking bottom layer, a fleece/warmth mid-layer, and a windbreaking (snort) outer layer. Fleece-lined tights under waterproof pants will keep you toasty. Synthetic or wool socks and comfortable waterproof hiking boots will help your feet stay warm and dry and will help prevent blisters. (You really don't need a heavyweight mountaineering boot for woods rambling or nature walks. A trail running shoe, which is light but tough, might even be a better option depending on what kind of activity you are going for.) Quick-drying moisture-wicking fabrics in the summer help a lot. Cotton kinda sucks. Jeans get wet easily and do not dry, and wet clothing can make you quite cold, which can be dangerous. A warm hat is important in cooler temperatures, as well as gloves -- so much heat gets lost from head and hands. Things like bug spray and hunter's orange might be required depending on the season.

The thing is, the more time you spend outdoors, the better idea you will get of what you need personally to feel comfortable and appropriate when you head out. People have different comfort levels with the outdoors and with their own bodies, but a general rule of thumb is that layering is the best bet in iffy weather.

2.) The Imaginative Trespass

In his 1854 Walden, Henry David Thoreau wrote:

"I found thus that I had been a rich man without any damage to my poverty. But I retained the landscape, and I have since annually carried off what it yielded without a wheelbarrow. With respect to landscapes,

"I am monarch of all I survey,
My right there is none to dispute."

I have frequently seen a poet withdraw, having enjoyed the most valuable part of a farm, while the crusty farmer supposed that he had got a few wild apples only. Why, the owner does not know it for many years when a poet has put his farm in rhyme, the most admirable kind of invisible fence, has fairly impounded it, milked it, skimmed it, and got all the cream, and left the farmer only the skimmed milk."

Robert Frost holds a similar sentiment -- to my mind -- in "Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening." Both writers imaginatively and rather smugly, in the case of Thoreau, possess the land through for a brief while before going about their business. This sense of imaginative possession might help the queer outdoorswoman as much as it helps ANY outdoorswoman. I'm not saying to go write a poem about the place.

No, screw that -- go write a poem about the place. I haven't quit teaching English YET.

Maybe what I mean is that it might help to impart a bit of yourself to the place. Go ahead: name one of the trees. Conjure up a legend about that weird-looking boulder. Name a hill after your grandfather. Measure a trail in your own particular stride. (It takes me exactly sixteen Chrissy-steps to get to the top of Stanley Hill.) It can be silly; it can be fun or joyful or even sentimental. And it can be a step towards creating your own personal cartography that no ill-mannered jackass (or his stupid unfriendly unleashed dog) can steal away from you.

3) Building Familiarity into your Bones

There is a Great Horned Owl on my regular running route. That damned bird hates me. He inhabits a particular territory on one of my routes and in winter, when I am out running in dead darkness with only an occasional corrective flash of my headlamp, he HOOTS THE SHIT OUT OF ME. It's scary, really, even though I am always half-expecting it in that particular place. The Stone Cat itself starts in the early morning hours before sunrise -- a very foreboding time of day when you consider the dangers of trailrunning. I think it's healthy for wilderness to preserve this sense of the uncanny, and of mystery, and of the unexpected, and I don't think it is mutually exclusive with familiarity. Both imaginative and physical familiarity with a place are built upon the amount of time one spends there. I began going back to the woods a few years ago in order to combat severe postpartum depression; it has since worn its patterns into both my mind -- healing -- and my body -- building. It tests me constantly, and I can test myself against it or simply throw myself into it and refresh my body and spirit. So maybe advicelet #3 is to not be afraid of the fact that the outdoors might surprise, or shock, or change you, and to accept that and perhaps even welcome it.

4.) Building Familiarity into your Brain

Very simply? Learn the place. Human history. Natural history. I am not any expert sort of birdwatcher or botanist but I do experience a kind of satisfaction in recognizing a bird call or a rare flower. This knowledge has also helped me to better respect the place; I don't feel I am "using" it so much as being in it. Existing within and among it. Learn the trails and cartography, the names of rivers and nearby roads. Be the hero for all those other people who end up getting lost.

5.) Recognizing "Everyday Nature"

This was at first a tough concept for me to grasp in ecocriticism. The writings of Wendell Berry really helped me. Where does wilderness begin? Where IS the entrance to the woods, and what expectations do we bring with us -- personal or cultural -- when we go there? Is it all about what the place can do for us, or how we in our own particular personal moment are part of that place? Is that patch of weeds outside your apartment building "nature"? Wait -- are those weeds, or flowers?!?! WHY ARE THEY WEEDS THEY ARE REALLY PRETTY! What about those wild grasses growing in the median at the center of the highway? It's an interesting exercise to consider how we humans classify and assign values to nature, and how we judge it on appearances and according to our own fears or desires. I still haven't found a satisfactory way to "let nature speak for itself," but I know that this line of ecocritical thinking has given me pause when it comes to the values I personally put upon other creatures and creation itself. Perhaps there is a "queer nature" out there. Maybe this has already been defined by some scholar or other. Maybe all it takes is embracing an alternative system of values: "I value this open field because it provides shelter to endangered migratory birds, not because it would be a money-making cash cow for a land developer who wants to construct exclusive condominiums for wealthy people."

That field, by the way? It's condos now.

6.) Peace and Joy

Sometimes you have to bring these with you. Other times you might go into the woods and discover them, whether through the exhilaration that physical activity or sunshine or a fresh breeze or crackling leaves can bring, or enjoying the experience alongside a loved one, or whatnot. Sometimes I think joy is both a choice and a habit. (Peace is something I'm still working on, but I'm getting better at it at least.) Too many times in life I let the jerks get to me. Often what happens is I will stew over a remark and then finally come up with an appropriate comeback HOURS LATER. It's a complete waste of my energy and my spirit. Often? The act of walking a trail helps me to find peace. Somehow it helps me to work that physical anger response out of my body and to just let it go. Yeah, this is my weakest advicelet, but it had to be in the list.

I hope some of these help you to map out your own sense of belonging and being whilst in the great outdoors. I know so many women who are simply afraid to venture out for one reason or another. (Some of them are even trail runners. They train on the roads and then race on the trails. This is actually potentially dangerous to their health, as trail and road running are different sports entirely. They put themselves at risk of injury, and all because of fear.) It would be a wonderful thing if a more sensible narrative of women and the woods could culturally take the place of the fear-narrative, which has been in place since colonial times here in America.


PS: a good book that I recommend for armchair woodsing is Woodswoman. It was quite groundbreaking in its day and I think would still be a bit of a surprising read to those who doubt women's capabilities in the wilderness. Wendell Berry? Also a good source for nature reading.
bricks_and_bones: (Default)
This afternoon I completed my first of two planned 4-hour/20-ish mile long runs. Scheduling them is tricky, considering I need to work around the other ECTA trail races and I need to leave a month or so of tapering off before the actual marathon. This was an experimental run. I wanted to find out what was appropriate as far as energy/nutrition on a run longer than 3 hours; mostly, though, I just wanted to see how I would hold up.

The answer to that is: not so bad.

1) Mental/Emotional

Running alone in the woods for an hour is peaceful and relaxing. Two hours gives me a sense of accomplishment and a nice runner's high. Anything over two hours takes a pretty significant mental toll. Isolation, boredom, and pain are a few of the factors that I have to deal with because I run alone. A feeling akin to homesickness sometimes sets in. And occasionally it just gets DULL, though in my experience running on roads is way more boring than running on trails. There's always the forest life to keep things interesting.

Today, for example, was all about creepy crawlies. It was too hot for the big animals, apparently. I ran past at least 3 ant swarms, maybe five or six snakes, a bunch of toads and frogs hopping around, and daddy longlegs spiders in abundance. (And a leg bone, smack in the middle of my warmup hill. It looked like a femur of something. Maybe a deer?)

Another way I keep things from getting too boring is to plot things in my head: the novel I am trying to work on, for one, or RP stuff, or course syllabi. I don't wear earphones while running (that is a whole other post I have yet to make in this sadly neglected running journal) but I DO run to music.

The music in my head. :|

Sometimes I pretend I am being interviewed and I try to think up really hard interview questions and how I would answer them. I often talk to myself.

I didn't FEEL particularly isolated on today's run, though during the last 20 minutes or so there was plenty of pain -- MOSTLY from lactic acid build-up in my calves. It was really hard to keep going, especially since the only person pushing me at the moment is myself. I am glad I finished out the four hours and that I pushed through the worst of it. One fantastic indicator that I wasn't as mentally/emotionally tough as I made myself out to be was the fact that, during my after-stretching, two dear family friends (surrogate parents of mine, really) approached, walking their dogs. I almost started crying as the homesick-feelings washed over me. I think I kept them talking too long for their liking, not wanting to lose that contact after hours of alone-ness. Luckily, I have talked a good friend into running at least one loop of the marathon with me. I think I have another friend lined up for the second loop as well, and there will be people along the course and at the aid stations. The marathon itself, while it will be MUCH more isolating than a big road marathon like Chicago, will be less lonesome than these training runs.

2) Physical:

Pre-run lunchysnack: two tablespoons of frozen blueberries, a half cup of strawberry Greek-style yogurt, pumpkin/flax granola, apple, banana, oat bran. IT WAS A LOT OF FOOD ONCE I GOT IT ALL MUSHED TOGETHER IN THE BOWL. I have been adding flax to my diet because it is supposed to help inhibit inflammation of the joints. I have no idea if it is helping or not. My joints feel pretty good, at any rate.

As far as the run itself goes: repetitive motion for four hours takes a toll for certain. Lactic acid buildup hit me hard today. I was pretty comfortable up until around 2 hours and 20 minutes of running. INTERESTINGLY, that is also about when I ran out of food. I only brought along about 240 calories' worth of snacks in my pack. I really needed about double that. This is a very good thing to figure out for the marathon. Snacks I can tolerate include Welch's fruit snacks and chewy granola bars. They're pretty easy to chew and swallow and you can feel the effects of the sugar really quickly. They didn't make me feel like vomiting, which is key. (Certain "runner marketed" energy snacks absolutely make me want to hurl. Gu, anyone?) Valuable, valuable information.

I drank about a pint of water per hour running, and that felt about right. Still -- today the temperature hovered around 90 degrees with very high humidity. I lost a lot of fluids in sweat. My clothing was entirely soaked by the end. In November the weather is going to be very, very different, though I still want to keep my water intake fairly regular.

Anyhow, in spite of my attempts to stay nourished and hydrated, the muscle burn got slowly but steadily worse: tolerable up to 3 hours, slightly less tolerable up til around 3:40, and then increasingly hellish the closer I got to 4 hours. I stretched for a good 20 minutes afterward and my body cleared it. Also, after about 3 1/2 hours my hands and wrists started swelling up from my hand positioning and the blood pooling in my fingertips. I had to hold them up straight in the air and shake them to get the blood flowing properly again.

Altogether I feel no worse right now, about an hour after finishing the run, than I expected. My stomach is a little unsettled. I have eaten two stuffed grape leaves and two snack-sized bags of Smartfood for about 280 calories. I might take a nap. I anticipate soreness but also a week ahead of relaxing, recouping, and hanging out with Aly and Gavin instead of worrying about workouts, so I am cool with it. Next four hour excursion? PROBABLY in late September sometime; by early October I want to be tapering.
bricks_and_bones: (Default)
The first ECTA trail race was a huge amazing fun time. I achieved a personal best for a 5k trail run: 32:30, average pace 10:30. My first mile was 9 minutes. These are big numbers for someone like me. Overall, though, I was just really pleased to be out there. The 5k is not my race at all. It is a race for sprinters and really fast people, not slow people like me. As my friend Jenn, a personal trainer, put it, "I would rather run slow for 30 miles than sprint for 3." I totally agree. It actually takes me around 2-3 miles just to get warmed up, typically. The Pipestave course was pretty technical: one really huge hill, lots of rocks and roots on the trail, several little "bridges" (boards and planks laid across mud -- I just ran through the mud!), and mud mud mud mud. I am already looking forward to the next race in the series, which is in June: a 5-miler that raises money to support a school in Africa.

I celebrated Pipestave by eating half a chocolate chip cookie afterward. I haven't been eating treats in a couple of months now, trying out better calorie management instead of eating crap and feeling terrible on my runs. I have been treating myself the past couple of weekends to fat-free frozen yogurt, though, and actually I think that bit of extra sugar in my diet has given me an energy rush for my longer runs. I am still working on balancing out nutritionally. It is very trial and error, though mostly my goal is a lot of lean protein and milk for muscle build-up, lots of fiber and green veggies, and enough complex carbs to fuel my workouts. Since I don't really like pasta or potatoes, this works out to being whole-grain bagels.

I have lost my first toenail:

As far as circuit training goes, I have added in jump up burpees (silliest name for an exercise ever), and more squats. A typical circuit run involves 30 minutes of light running/jogging, lunges, squats, weight lifting, about sixty or seventy pushups, about 100 crunches, plank, isometric exercises, 100 standing jumps, and about 40 dips. I try to do a circuit run twice a week. It has DEFINITELY helped strengthen my core and I think it has improved my running dramatically.

The whole reason I started training with circuits was to prepare for a "Mud Run," or a cross-country obstacle race this month. We decided not to do that race. It would have been silly because we have to be down in RI that weekend and rushing back to do the stupid race was not going to be easy or enjoyable. But I have been dreading it since January, really. I worried so much that I would not be able to pull myself over the 5 foot wall obstacle that I have been going crazy. I have DREAMED about that stupid wall. I know now that I could easily get over that obstacle, but the whole mental ordeal has caused me not to want to do the race at all. Soured me on it.

The GOOD thing is I have been purposely training with obstacles for months. Obstacles could include fallen logs, horse jumps, steep hills, boulders, fences, tree stumps, picnic tables, etc. This has been fantastic for my agility (which is poor because my sense of balance sucks) and essentially for my brain. Facing obstacles a lot prepares you to face more obstacles. If, as a runner, you always avoid the steep hills or challenging trails, you will never improve. This is something I have learned.

This week I am cycling back. Dan instructed me that, while preparing for a marathon, every 4th week one should back off on intensity and distance. I felt AMAZING on Sunday's "long run," which only lasted 1 hour instead of 2 hours, and I wanted to go another hour. And I have built up to half marathon distance, having run 13 miles last weekend with really no trouble at all. However, I see the value in getting that week of rest and allowing my body to recover. My goal of training for this marathon without getting hurt is important to me. I intend to do hill and speed workouts this week (hill workout tonight, speed workout on the dreaded treadmill on Thursday!), but I won't do as much and I will fill in with more easy jogging. Cross training this week has already involved rowing and riding a stationary bike; it will be interesting to see how it affects my performance next week.
bricks_and_bones: (Eggs)
Distance: 6.25 miles
Terrain: Treadmill. :|
Pace: FAST.

I always prefer to run outdoors, but since I have to go into work tonight and I don't otherwise have any way of getting out to run with Mairead around (she is at the age where she wants to get out of the jogging stroller and push it herself at a very slow rate of speed), I decided to work out at the gym this morning on the treadmill. Convenience trumped not working out at all.

Now, I am usually pretty averse to treadmills for two major reasons: they are BORING as hell, and I get seasick on them. However, the pros of the treadmill are beginning to stack up for me:

1) Free childcare at the gym. I was on the treadmill for an hour today without worrying about getting back to the baby or finding someone to watch her. Easy!

2) You can record your workout in detail: calories burned, time, distance, pace, heartrate (51 resting heartrate, got up to 169 after 8mpm hard intervals, 69 while running 10mpm).

3) I can also see this coming in handy during severe winter or summer weather when it is just too hot or cold to run outdoors. (This from the girl who, while training for the Boston Marathon one year, ran in weather so cold that the crystals in her Indiglo Ironman watch froze, and who regularly runs in +90 heat in the summer.)

I liked recording the workout. I pretty much EASILY stuck to 10 minute pace for the hour, which goes to show how much more difficult trail running is than running on a treadmill. In fact, I had to up my speed and incline several times just because my hands kept crashing into the console. Last year at Ravenswood I met and fell into conversation with a very fit-looking woman who had only run on a treadmill. It was her first trail race of the year. She suffered. So I wouldn't want to run on the treadmill all the time, but once a week? I am thinking of making it a part of my routine, especially since I managed a very fast pace and even a couple of 8-minute-miles. It is worth it for speed workouts and to keep tabs on progress.

The BOREDOM of the gym is unbelievable, though. It took a lot for me to focus on the run because I was absolutely driven to distraction by the dullness of running in place for an hour. Part of my love of the trails stems from exploring them and seeing all kinds of different and amazing things with each run. In the gym, I had the option of watching a TV with captions I couldn't read or people walking half-heartedly on elliptical trainers. So boring. How do people do this every day?

(Also: how in the hell do you work out while READING A MAGAZINE? There were folks on those ellipticals or on recumbent bikes sort of pedaling along sedately and reading Vogue. If you are reading a magazine while working out, protip: you are not really working out.)

I finished off with crunches and some pilates on the mats. That was nice: usually I do this on an old picnic table in the park (to keep off the ground -- we have Lyme disease ticks everywhere in our woods) and as a result my back is pretty bruised up. Doing sit-ups and crunches on the mats was a nice luxury.

So while I can call this a "workout," I am going to stop short calling it a "run." I burned a lot of calories, I sweated buckets, and I pushed myself hard, but it wasn't the same as going running in the woods. And when I stepped off the treadmill after an hour? Yup. SEASICK. I actually walked sideways into the wall like a tool. So, yes: once a week or if I'm desperate in bad weather or if there is no other way to get a workout in with the baby around, but no more than that. It really takes the fun out of it.


Apr. 23rd, 2012 09:29 pm
bricks_and_bones: (martinis!)
Distance: 8.07 miles
Terrain: Rolling hills, gravel paths, singletrack, paved access road. MUD.
Pace/quality: average

So I see a lot of animals on my runs, but tonight? A red fox! He was very calmly trotting across the trail on his way to somewhere or other, and I made the mistake of singing the fox song to him and he looked at me and ran away. I thought he knew I was there. I was glad he was properly scared. I always sing to unaware wild animals because I do not want to surprise them. I know of a girl who got run over by a deer because she startled it. True story.

Other animals spotted included some Canada geese and ducks of various varieties. My poor new sneakers are no longer pristine, due to the fact that it rained through the first fifteen minutes or so and there were mud puddles everywhere.

Tonight's run I would rate as average. I can usually tell five minutes into a workout how it is going to go, and tonight was just very consistent and sort of uninspiring but steady. My stomach actually started growling about 45 minutes into it. Looking back on my calorie intake for the day, I could definitely have eaten more ahead of time.

Looking ahead, a week from Thursday is the first ECTA trail race: a 10K not far from where I usually run. The draw? PRIVATE PROPERTY! :D I get to trespass and not have to worry about being kicked out! I have been dying to get into that property for ages so I am psyched.


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Bricks and Bones

December 2013

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