All [I] Need is Just a Little Patience

goals, races, running, training, triathlon

I mentioned last week that I was seriously considering running the Freak 50k at Run Woodstock instead of the Hippie Half. I ran sixteen miles and planned out two more long runs and figured it would not be pretty, but I could get it done. I still stand by that. I know I could get it done. But I do not want to just get it done. I want to get it done well.

I had a plan. I wanted to do a mini-triathlon in Coldwater, Michigan as a replacement for the sprint triathlon I had planned for late September. I thought very seriously about training for something more, a marathon or a 50k. But then decided against it. Running has been going so well. I did not want to jump the gun. I wanted to have patience.

Patience involved going shorter instead of going longer. Rather than find some later fall marathon or 50k, I found Michigan’s Holiday series trio of races (schedule permitting — but you know I want that magic mug!) – a Halloween 10k, a Turkey Trot 5k, and a Christmas 5k. Rather than focus on endurance, which I know I have, I wanted to focus on speed. It would be a literal change of pace.

Then the possibility of this 50k came up. It isn’t like visions of grandeur popped in my mind, but as I said, I have been wanting to be an ultramarathoner since I graduated college. This is a life goal, like finishing my Ph.D. or writing a book. The temptation to put a “checkmark” next to it is strong.

But honestly, as I told Bruno, it would not be the same. I do not just want to run an ultra. I want the process of training specifically for an ultra too. I want to think about the training and hard work I put in while running. I do not want to break the ultimate running commandment: respect the distance. I don’t want to blow up at mile twenty and have to walk the last eleven miles. I do not want to injure myself. I want to do this right.

So, I picked out a 10k plan. I have a time goal (more on that later). I’ll do my first triathlon in a little less then two weeks. Then, I’ll run the Woodstock half and have a good time listening to classic rock. I will celebrate that I have been able to run this year. I will have gratitude instead of trying to push it.

I will eventually run an ultramarathon. Maybe the next year. Maybe the year after. They are not going anywhere. I’ll take it slow. It will work itself out fine. All I need is just a little patience.

xo, Ali

 

Impromptu Sixteen Mile Run

goals, running, training

One of the friends who ran the half-marathon with us wants to run the 50k at Run Woodstock. In fact, from what his wife told Bruno yesterday at CrossFit, it sounds like he will probably do it. Which, of course, made me want to do it. Not to race it, of course. I have not trained for that, but only to complete. I’m on the fence about it all.

Yesterday we went out for a three hour run. I told him that if we were going to do this, time on our feet would be most important. The race is five weeks away. Both of us are reasonably fit people although probably have not put in the mileage to finish a 50k well. I’m placing my faith right now in Jason Koop who says only six hours of training for three weeks is required to finish a 50k. Finish. The plan for the three hour run was to run four miles, then walk five minutes. This was based on the actual race where aid stations are approximately four miles apart. We went on the hilliest country road I knew and took off.

I felt fine, although my legs were tired, until the last twenty minutes. Everything hit me: the half-marathon I raced on Saturday, the 110 pounds I back-squatted the previous day, and general graduate school stress. I gutted it out, running/walking 16.1 miles in three hours. 1 loop for the race.

I feel ok today although the most I will be doing is a short bike ride later this afternoon and a lot of stretching, if anything. I still have not decided if I will switch from the half-marathon to the 50k. It feels bold, like who am I to do that? I have not really trained for that. But then again, as my mom put it, if I keep my expectations in check, go very slow (even slower than yesterday’s 16 mile run), I might be ok. I’m not sure. I have no doubt in my mind that I could finish. My fear is more about who am I to just do this, to just try it, to just see. I respect the miles. I respect the distance. I expect to be humbled. I expect to hurt.

The ultimate decision will rest on how well I recover from yesterday. My right hamstring bothered me, but my right hamstring is always bothering me. I feel stiff, but mostly fine. I did not feel like my energy was gutted like I hit a brick wall. I took a nap later in the day, but that was several hours after the run. Last night I fell asleep sure that I would email and ask if I could change races. This morning I wonder if I’m out of my mind.

I will say this. Even if I do not end up running the 50k, I discovered myself much stronger than I thought. I have not run sixteen miles in three years. If you would have asked me last week if I could run sixteen miles, I would have said no, even though I have been half-marathon capable since March. I don’t even think I would have thought myself capable of that at the beginning of this year. Even if I end up (probably responsibly) deciding not to run the 50k, I surprised and impressed myself yesterday. I can do more.

xo, Ali

Race Report : The Legend Trail Half-Marathon in Laingsburg, Michigan (August 4, 2018)

races, running

This race report begins with a first. As a couple, we decided to make our first camping trip together at Sleepy Hollow State Park, the location of the trail race. We received a tent and other camping equipment for Christmas, so had been planning all year to use it, but had yet to find the perfect time. This race seemed to be it. So on Friday (procrastinating as usual) we grocery shopped, packed our things, and with a few trips back to the house to grab things we forgot, we eventually made our way to Laingsburg and Sleepy Hollow.

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Bruno shows off our domain.

We eventually managed to set up our tent (we didn’t practice at home). Then we walked over to registration and received our shirts and bibs for the race. I will say this. It was super convenient, maybe only a nice eight minute walk from our campsite. We finished setting up, Bruno bought some wood, and I started making dinner: Turkey and swiss sandwiches cooked over the fire and mashed sweet potatoes. Nothing fancy. I was more concerned about making sure I got plenty of carbs, thus the sweet potatoes.

Our human neighbors were initially noisy, but nothing obnoxious though. By ten pm everything was mostly quiet. It was perfect. The bugs were a different story. Loud. Obnoxious. I wished for them to be eaten by some wild predator. I put earplugs in and eventually fell asleep.

We woke up at 6:30ish. This was one of the best parts of staying in the campsite. After a few 4am wake ups with long drives to races, it was nice to just be there. Bruno made coffee and oatmeal for breakfast. We walked over the starting line around 7:40 and met up with some friends. It was all pretty relaxed, no rushing around, and no problems. I was grateful. I am grateful.

And now, the race. They announced the waves and I could actually hear the paces. This was nice, because the last few I could not hear the paces and I think in Trail-half started further back than I should have and ended up stuck in back-ups a lot the time. This did not happen to me once during the entire Legend race.

I had a plan. I was going to start around 10:30/mile pace and speed up. I did not expect to be able to run under 10 minute pace, because I ran 11:11 at Trail-half and I think over 10 minute pace for the Dirty Duo. I tried to think conservatively. It didn’t work.

My first mile was ten minutes. I tried to get myself to slow down, but couldn’t. I felt good. But I also know that you can’t judge a mile by the first run. So I decided to see if I could keep the pace for the next 3-4 miles and evaluate pace from there. I maintained the pace. It felt perfect. Hard enough to question whether I could hold it, but easy enough that I felt good. I didn’t feel like I was working too hard or was going to burn out. The fourth mile was the hilliest and I easily maintained the pace. I was excited. I began to speed up only a little bit, ten seconds per mile faster. I passed Bruno. Then I passed our friend Mike.

The next several miles flew by. I did not listen to any music, but focused on pace. Aside for my last mile, my fastest mile was mile seven at 9:42 minutes. I tripped several times and fell hard only once. I was ok, but with my ego a little bruised, I hopped back up. Another runner asked if I was ok and I responded, “I’m just so happy to be out here.” I continued to run just fine. Nothing was sore. Everything was going perfect. Until mile nine.

My legs began to get a little tired. I told myself to just ignore it. Around this point I think we started leaving the woods and head out into some grassy areas. It was hot and I struggled during these points only to be able to pick it back up once we ran back into the woods. Mile 9 was a little over ten minutes, mile 10 a little slower, mile 11 even slower, and by mile 12 I admit I was beginning to phone it in.

Here were my excuses: I already am beating my goal time. I already am running faster than I had planned on running, even at this slower pace. I probably already earned myself at least a third place age group award (I researched the paces for age groupers last year and yeah, an age group award was one of my goals). I already (probably) hit all of my “A” goals, so what did it matter anymore?

At this point, with about a mile left my friend Mike caught up with me. I credit him for my strong finish. I cannot remember what he said, but it something along the lines of let’s finish this thing. My pace jumped up. Faster and faster. We ran together for about a half mile, maybe a little more. Then he sped off. I kept the pace, but tried to increase a little bit more, a little bit more. I could not see the finish line so I was afraid of sprinting off and not being able to finish strong.

When I saw it, I bolted. I sprinted in. My last mile was around 9 minute pace. It was my fastest mile and it hurt the worst. As I said, left to my own devices I probably would have ran it at around 10:20 until Mike caught up with me. Shame is powerful, people. Very powerful.

My time was 2:09:10, averaging 9:57 pace. I was shocked. I was expecting and planned for 2:15. That was my race goal and it was almost six minutes faster than what I thought I was capable of doing. My time was only one minute slower than my road half-marathon PR. It was twenty minutes faster than my time at Trail-half marathon, but that could be because that trail was harder (at least in my opinion). I could have cried. I picked up my medal and my huge beer glass for finishing the Serious Series.

Bruno finished a couple minutes after me. I did not have time to regroup after finishing to cheer him in. All of us in our group agreed the race went fine until miles eight and nine. Around then, most of us started struggling. We stood around as they started announcing overall and age group awards. When they began announcing 25-29 women, I was first. I was surprised, but pumped. I love the little age group mason jars.

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Tired and sweaty, but very happy.

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We did it!

Finishing this Series was one of my main 2018 goals. I remember signing up for it and being scared that it would not happen. I was scared that I would get injured. I was scared something would come up and I would not have the nerve for it. I get it. I follow a lot of runners who mainly do ultramarathons or marathons. I’m not fast. I want to do long, but I’m not sure if I am ready for it yet. At the beginning of this year, I was not sure if I really was a “runner” anymore. I had not raced in years. Now I’ve done three races. I’ve not only finished them, but I have finished them well. I have one more trail half on the calendar. I’m still hoping to do a triathlon. I feel like a runner again. I feel like an athlete. I feel strong. These races went better than I could have ever expected when I signed up for them back in January. I’m so grateful.

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Next up: RunWoodstock trail half-marathon. This will be a return to Hell – Hell, Michigan that is. I’m not sure how much I will train for it as I am planning on it being a fun camping weekend with a race rather than a race weekend with camping.

xo, Ali

Race Report : Flirt with Dirt Dirty Duo 5k & 10k in Novi, Michigan (June 9, 2018)

races, running

I begin this by noting I have no pictures and race pictures are not up yet. Bruno and I both ran and both left our phones in the truck because of the rain. By the time we finished, neither one of us I think had the energy to run back to the truck, grab a phone, and ask a stranger “hey, can you take a picture of us?” If there was a picture of us, it would look like a muddy, wet, mess. The race was called Flirt With Dirt and indeed I took quite a bit of dirt home with me.

Let me begin with my arrogance, pride, hubris: I read a few race reports online, most runners saying that the race was not so bad, easy even. I researched the elevation gain which did not seem bad at all to me after Trail Half-Marathon. In fact the hills seemed significantly less than what I run here in Hillsdale, so how could it be that bad? I saw one report, just one that said the race was hard. But this was one out of several “not so bad at all’s” so I ignored the warning. I forgot hills are not the only thing that make a race hard. Terrain makes a difference. And while I can do hills. I have little experience with technical trail terrain.

Still, I developed unrealistic expectations of what I could probably time at the race. These expectations probably wouldn’t have been absurd if it were a regular road 5k and 10k (the expectations were slower than my PRs in both these areas), but trail? Cute, Ali. But also, get it together.

I was excited about the day. It was going to be Bruno’s first trail race. We were up at around 4 in the morning. I showered. Bruno made the oatmeal with almond milk, strawberries, chia seeds, and plenty of cinnamon. We went through McDonald’s for some coffee (chain coffee preference in order : Dunkin, McD’s, Starbucks) and were on the road to Novi a little after 5am. It was pouring rain and storming. I kept checking the weather for Novi, but mostly felt ok. Whatever would happen would happen. I was pretty chill.

I was pretty happy that despite by ambitious goals for the race, I maintained that core gratitude of “I’m just happy to be out there racing,” because I needed it later. Race parking and check-in were easy enough. Everything was easy to find, organized. By the time I checked in, waited in line/stretched for the port-a-potties, it was already time for the 5k.

The race starts going downhill and let’s just say that downhill is tricky. It makes going faster seem easier, then a mile later you wonder “why does this feel so hard?” The first mile glided by for that 5k — I ran it in 8 minutes, no problem. I don’t even thing I panted. But I think I ran off the adrenaline and momentum for the downhill, because I went a minute slower every mile after that. By the time I was on the last mile I could not believe I signed up to do it all over again for twice the distance. I finished at 29:50. Almost five minutes slower than I had planned. I was still pretty happy with my time — happy it was under 30 minutes and happy to just take a bit of a break before I ran another 6.3 miles.

I already significantly lowered my expectations for the 6.3, but I was nervous. Like I said, I forgot how hard trail running technically is — even without a lot of hills. I landed strange on my foot and my Achilles tendon was bugging me. My attitude was kind of low. Plus it started raining. The trail was muddy and wet. Bruno made jokes and I would just give him a cursory thumbs up. I was grumpy. I was sore. I wanted the race over with.

About mile three, I had a serious talk with myself: “You could not even do this last year! You could not even do this six months ago!” I took a deep breath and just started thinking about how grateful I was. I was grateful to be on this muddy, constantly twisting and turning trail. I was grateful to be around for Bruno’s first trail race. And I just repeated those things over and over and over again. I was and am just grateful to run. Always.

During Trail Half-Marathon, I still had a little bit of juice to finish fast and strong. I did not have as much for this race. I was beat, exhausted, but at least now, in a much better, positive, grateful mood. We still sprinted up the hill, but it was probably more like a hobble. Bruno and I grabbed hands and crossed the finish line. It was a victory. I went from being a total grumpy 10k runner to one filled with joy and gratitude all in the course of 1 hour and 10 minutes. Miles change you.

It was still raining, but we checked our times and places for the 5k. Bruno got fourth in his age group and I got third — which, frankly, has never happened to me before — so that was awesome. We received Dirty Duo beer mugs and age group award race jars, and then hopped in the truck, changed (I was soaked), and drove the two hour drive home.

I learned a lot from this race. 1) Have reasonable expectations. 2) Be grateful. Always.

I’m not sure where I will be in June 2019, but if I am still in Michigan, I would love to run this race again. I cannot help but be a fan of a race that humbles me, kicks my ass, and makes me feel grateful all in a few miles. Flirt with Dirt, I think its love.

5k : 29:50

10k : 1:10:21

Dirty Duo Time : 1:40:11 (9.3 miles)

xo, Ali

 

 

Monday Miles : June 4 – 10, 2018

crossfit, monday miles, running, swimming, training, triathlon

We are about to start a full week. We are moving all of our stuff from our current house to the new house this week, but because the landlord wants to put some new stuff in the kitchen (a cause for delay I am totally fine with) we cannot move in for another two weeks yet. So at the end of this week we are picking up my mom and step-dad from the Detroit Airport on Friday afternoon — they will be moving back to the states after two years of working in Spain — and heading back to Ohio for two weeks. Add to all this that I managed to mess up my left elbow again (it was previously broken a few years ago) and lifting anything, straightening it, holding anything with my left hand leads to a lot of pain. So, yes, it is a little chaotic over here.

Workouts for last week (or lack thereof) were heavily influenced by my non-functioning left elbow/forearm/wrist. I tried to take it easy in preparation for the Dirty Duo Flirt with Dirt on Saturday. It is better, but still not optimal.

6 / 4 : Crossfit — 2x 100m run, 15 morning glories, 15 air squats, 30s/30s ankle stretch. Movement prep with PVC pipe for cleans. 4 x 5 cleans with 35 lbs. bar bell. My form was pretty atrocious for the movement, so the coach just had me working from the mid-thigh to jump motion over and over again. WOD – For time. 15 cleans (same mid-thigh to jump motion) and 21 calorie row. 2 minutes and 53 seconds. Romwod.

6 / 5 : Morning — 700m swim. 200 m drills/breast stroke warm-up. 500m 10 x 50m swim w/ 30-45s recovery. I was really happy with this swim. But afterwards, this is when my elbow started bugging me. Crossfit — RUNNING! Hoorah! Warm-up was a bunch of different mobility walks — lunge twists, kick-butts, high knees, hurdle walks, etc. WOD: 4 x 200, 1 minute recovery in between, 3 minute recovery after last 200, 3 x 300, 1 minute recover in between, 3 minute recovery after, 2 x 400, 1 minute recover. It took me 22:06 minutes and I ran about a 7:00-7:30 pace for each interval. I am really loving crossfit, but sometimes I get so overwhelmed with how much there is to learn, so it was nice to have a day where I knew what to do — just run. Romwod.

6 / 6 : Rest. Here begin the onslaught of elbow woes.

6 / 7 : Rest. Elbow.

6 / 8 : Rest. Lots of stretching and hamstring prep for the race on Saturday.

6 / 9 : Flirt with Dirt Dirty Duo 5k and 10k. I will be writing a race report this, but for now, I can say it was a very humbling (and muddy) experience.

6 / 10 : Rest.

I’m hoping to get back to more training this week, the elbow feels a bit better (but not much). Running, though, my main love, should be fine.

xo, Ali

 

Monday Miles (Tuesday Edition) : May 21 – 27, 2018

crossfit, monday miles, running, swimming, training, triathlon

Hello and good morning from post-Murph/Memorial Day. I am wiped out and sore. For now, all I can say is that I survived. More on that later though. For now, here are last week’s work outs.

5 / 21 : Morning – 18 minute swim. 18 laps (450m) — free; 2 laps (50m) breast. I took a 30-45 second break after every side. I think in two weeks, I’m allowed to start put 25s together. Right now, just taking it easy, really, really trying to focus on form. That looks like three strokes breathe to one side, three strokes breath to the other right now. Some laps I feel really smooth, others I feel clunky, splashy, not right at all…like a human in the water. Afterwards, I went to the weight room to practice just hanging. I can barely hold onto the pull-up bar, so I thought I would just try to hold on for a minute, take a break and do another minute. Hilarious! I could barely do that, but could only manage 15 seconds. So this is what I did: 5 x 15s; 45s break. Starting from the bottom. Afternoon – Crossfit. Warm-up. 3 x 12 calorie rows, 3 x over-head weight jumping lunges @ 10 lbs., 3 x 12 barbell bridges. WOD. Pyramid back squats with increasing weigh, decreasing reps. 5 x 55 lbs; 4 x 65 lbs.;  3 x 75 lbs., 2 x 85 lbs, 1 x 95 lbs., I cannot remember the increasing rep, decreasing weights numbers, except I know they were heavier than on the way up, and I finished 5 x 65 lbs. I really enjoyed this work-out, but I had no idea where to start for weights. The girls helped me and I think I ended up figuring it out and next time I’ll know! 2 x 30 kettle-bell lat bends. I have no idea what these are called. Romwod for mobility.

5 / 22 : Morning — Pre-run. Rolled out quads, hamstrings, 50 clam-shells, 50 Jane Fonda’s, hamstring stretch. 50 minute run. I’ve been trying to make Tuesday my aerobic heart rate days and stay under 152 beats per minute. I ended up running 4.35 miles at 11:26/pace. I was actually pretty happy with this (even though I know it is oh so slow) because my legs felt good and I didn’t have to keep stopping to walk because my heart rate was getting too damn high. Afternoon — Crossfit. Various warm-ups, Spider-Man lunges(?), shoulder rolls, etc. WOD. For 40 minutes. Every two minutes. Run 400m. 30 burpees (I managed 20 the first round and 15-17 the last four). 375m row (I did this every single round). 20 box-steps and 15 v-ups (I did knee v-ups). I think I did this with low-grade nausea the entire time. But I made it. Romwod.

5 / 23 : Morning — I seriously debated not doing anything, but as I was rolling myself out I started to feel better. Rolled out quads, hamstrings, hip flexors, feet and toe stretches. Went to the rec center on campus and did five minutes of single-under practice. My jump-rope skills ain’t what they used to be. I managed 30 in a row without breaking. A victory. 40 minutes on the bike. I focused on rpm and tried (successfully) to stay over 90. 5 x 15s pull-up bar hold. 45s break. It went better than it did on Monday! Afternoon — Crossfit. Warm-up, different jump-rope skills (none of which I was capable of accomplishing). WOD. AMRAP 10 minutes — 10 pull-ups, 5 handstand push-ups, 30 double-unders. Scaled down for me — of course. 10 ring-pulls, 5 push-ups with knees on a box, 50 single-unders. I almost made five rounds — up to 44 single-unders on the fifth round. Romwod.

5 / 24 : Run. 3.3 miles. 8:56/mile pace. I did this run later in the morning — it was hot out! It is quite amazing how in the last three weeks how much stronger my runs feel, or maybe I’m just getting better at suffering. Romwod.

5 / 25 : Rest. Romwod.

5 / 26 : In the words of Rob Thomas ft. Santana (or is it the other way around?): “Man it’s a hot one.” 7 miles. 10:00/mile pace. Average heart rate 163 bpm. By the time I came back to the house I was soaked in sweat. Mostly the run felt good though. Aside for the heat, I have no complaints, concerns, comments, questions, etc.

5 / 27 : I was planning on going for a bike ride this day, but didn’t. I’ve usually been saving my Sunday bike rides for the afternoon, but I was so tired that I ended up taking a nap instead. I was fine with this change in plans.

Totals : 500m swim, 17.6 miles run, 7 mile bike ride, 3 hours crossfit.

 

 

Recipes I’ve Been Loving

crossfit, daily life, food, training

The times they are a-changing. Or so says, my favorite singer/writer/philosopher/poet Bob Dylan. And so they are. Usually I call it a day around 5, relax for a bit (some La Croix, book, and porch sitting time), make dinner, and read some more. With Crossfit evenings have become more busy. Three nights a week, I’m back home a little before seven, which means later dinners, and later bedtimes (not too late..10pm..).

With the time crunch planning dinner has become more important, especially because when we come walking through that door after working out, we are usually hungry.

Here are a few of the things that have been on regular rotation.

Meat and potatoes. This is the easiest, simplest thing we make. Usually I boil up some sweet potatoes and Bruno cooks up some ground beef or pork sausage, carrots, zuchinni, and summer squash. After sweet potatoes are boiled, I add some ghee and mash them. It doesn’t sound like much, but it is delicious. We probably make this twice a week. Maybe more.

One pan chorizo. From a Carrots ‘n’ Cake recipe. Confession: Typically I cook. Bruno does the dishes. We don’t have a dishwasher. One pot dishes are key. One pot dishes that are not bland and taste exceptionally delicious, especially key.

Smoky Black Bean and Sweet Potato Casserole. If I can remember to start this recipe ahead of time it is a game changer. It is nice to not have to worry about what to make, but just stick the pan in the oven and go. Also, sweet potatoes and plenty of cheese. Need I say more?

Shredded chicken salad. On Sundays, I stick a bunch of chicken breasts in the crockpot, add salt, olive oil, and probably way too much lemon juice and put it on for eight hours. I typically add it to salads or sweet potatoes (is there such a thing as too many sweet potatoes?). I’m thinking I might do this recipe for my next batch.

Recovery quinoa salad. This one is from my most-used cookbook Run Fast, Eat Slow. Instead of recovery though, I usually make this one on Friday’s as a pre-long run dinner with some salmon. I love it. Bruno loves it. The only thing wrong with the recipe is that it can take forever to chop everything up, but it makes plenty of leftovers so its worth it.

Do you have any favorite recipes?

xo, Ali

 

 

Monday Miles : May 7 – 13, 2018

crossfit, lifting, monday miles, running, swimming, training, triathlon

Aside from introducing Crossfit into the rotation, it was a pretty low-key week. The pool has been closed all week, so I was not able to swim (I’m very happy to say I finally got a swim during a lunch break today). Then we headed to Frankenmuth for the weekend, so I had already planned on taking it a bit more easy with my other work outs. It turned out to be the right thing. We had a great weekend break just away from dissertation work and regular life. It was much needed.

crossfit

Me, doing my “box” jumps on plates at my second Crossfit class (aside for the introductory). 

 

5 / 7 : Bruno and I went to our first ever Crossfit work out this evening. It was a preliminary work-out, to look at form, establish a base, etc. That said, I was nervous. Everyone was super nice and super positive. 500m row, 40 air squats, 30 sit-ups, 20 push-ups (of the girl-variety); 10 pull-ups on rings (I’m not sure what these are called, I just was at an incline under a set of rings and pulled myself up ten times). Time: 7 minutes, 3 seconds. Romwod for mobility.

5 / 8 : Morning — 4 miles at aerobic heart rate. I’m trying to make sure that my runs stay easy, especially if I know that I’m going to be doing more sprinters, faster anaerobic work outs later that night. Afternoon — Crossfit. 8 x 100m rows; mobility; wod for time — 40 calorie row, 40 kettle-bell thrusters (used a 10 lbs. dumb-bell), and 30 no push-up burpees. I did this in a little over eight minutes. Romwod.

5 / 9 : 35 minute bike-ride. 6.6 miles. I am still loving my bike rides, not so much my bike though. Romwod.

5 / 10 : Morning — 3.2 mile run at around 9:20ish pace. I still haven’t uploaded my garmin watch, so I’m not exactly sure of the exact pace. Afternoon — Crossfit. AMRAP 100 single-unders (I need to work on my jump rope skills); 6 calorie row/bike; 20 mountain climbers in eight minutes (I could only get through two rounds…that jump-rope).  21-15-9 deadlifts and box jumps. 55 lbs. for deadlift and my box was more like a few plates stacked on top of each other. Things to get over: Box jumps freak me out. I’m always worried I’m going to sprain my ankle. Romwod.

5 / 11 : Romwod.

5 / 12 : FRANKENMUTH! Rest. Well, we did walk around a lot, but we also ate a lot of fudge and schnitzel.

5 / 13 : Rest.

Total : Run 7 miles, bike 6.6 miles, 3 Crossfit sessions. Not much, but I knew it was going to be a busy week with travel and looked forward to some rest.

On to the next week!

xo, Ali

Race Report : Trail Half-Marathon in Pinckney, Michigan (April 28, 2018)

races, running

This is long.

Where to begin?

I’ll start with the night before. I’m a graduate student. I live in a college town, meaning I live right next door to college students. The majority of them are amazing, scarily bright, and are some of the best people to share a campus with. Then there are my neighbors who threw a party the Friday night of my race. I suspect this is karma from my own high school and college days. Weirdly, I felt really calm about it. Like, “its ok, I slept well last night” kind of calm. I set three alarms for 4:00, 4:10, and 4:15am for the next day.

I’m not sure what time I fell asleep. I tried not to look at my phone. I don’t think I slept well. But I woke up to footsteps. That wasn’t right. I was supposed to wake up to my alarm. But instead, there was Bruno. “Hon, you awake?” I could hear my alarm going off, over and over again. It was 4:30.

And you know what. I still stayed calm (very different from my marathon, where I was on the verge of a meltdown the whole morning). I felt grateful, grateful that Bruno woke up early enough that I could still get a shower in (yeah, I did that. Lack of coffee does not leave me with much options to wake up). I ate what has been my standard breakfast the last few weeks: ground beef, carrots, bone broth, lots of olive oil. Bruno packed some super plain gluten-free oatmeal for just in case. Like in water nothing fancy. I did not want to have any stomach issues. I had some rooibos tea. I packed a Results tea (tea so good that I am starting not to miss coffee that much) and a water bottle of grape Nuun (the best flavor) for the road.

I had everything packed the previous night, so around 5:45 am we hit the road. The race website said headphones were discouraged, so I played my pump-up jams for the road. Dixie Chicks, “Ready to Run.” LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out.” Pink Floyd, “Run Like Hell.” Republica, “Ready to Go.” Foster the People, “Pumped Up Kicks.” Toto, “Africa.” Phil Collins, “In the Air Tonight.” Matthew Wilder, “Break My Stride.” I ate half my oatmeal. Drank my tea and Nuun. I had golf balls underneath my hamstrings that I kept rolling around on to prevent them from getting too tight from the drive.

We arrived. And it was cold. I was starting to regret my choice of shorts, but at the same time grateful that I brought gloves. We had only forty-five minutes, so I quickly checked in and got to stretching. About quarter till eight, I took a salted caramel GU and decided to get in one last bathroom (ok, ok, port-a-potty) trip. By then the race was about ready to start.

I could not hear on the announcer the paces for the waves. It was super muffled. I just assumed (correctly) that the first wave was probably not for me. I hopped in the second one when I heard one woman ask, “Do you know what pace this is supposed to be?” And another woman respond, “I have no idea.” I figured, what the hell, let’s get going.

On the drive, I told Bruno I had no idea what to expect as it was my first trail half. If it were a road half, based on my long run paces, I would have probably tried to shoot for under two hours. But I had goals that “if doable” I would try to go for them. They were: a. Stay around 10:50 pace. b. Try not to walk. c. Run under 2 hours 30 minutes.

Goals a. and b. went out the window within the first mile. The first four-ish miles we were definitely packed in there. We would come to a hill or a turn and we’d all be waiting to get through. I would start to move and then halt again. I really did not mind. It kind of helped make it feel like a real community event. “Hey, we’re in it together through these hills.”

After around mile four it started to thin out. And I was planning on trying to really pay attention to each mile, just so that I could put it on here, but I didn’t. All I can say is that I was really enjoying myself. I also about ate it several times. Luckily, I stayed upright for most of the run.

On the hills. During training, there was a road I would go up and down just because it was just one mile long hill. I was not sure that it would be enough. I think it was. I mean I still had to hike some of the hills — particularly a gnarly, long one around 11 or 12 miles (so close to the finish too!), but when it was more rolling, as long as I was paying attention to my footing, I could run through it just fine. What I’m basically trying to say is that although the hills were tough (my butt still hurts), the hills were not torture or impossible. Thank God for Mauck Road.

On running no head-phones. I have never ran so long without music or a podcast before. I was surprised when I reached half-way. I was afraid that without headphones the whole thing would be a slog. I do not even remember what I thought about. I just was really in it. It was not until probably around nine miles that I thought, “I could use some music right now.” But by that point, 4 more miles did not seem too bad to be sans-music. Also, I had seen a few people try to pass those with head phones and have to repeat “Left. Left. LEFT!” that I was glad not to be “that” person.

On my body. I felt really good most of the time. As I said, it was not until the last couple of miles that I began to feel mentally and physically tired. I was nervous about my foot and hamstrings going hay-wire, but nothing went wrong. My left foot did hurt a bit for about a mile and then kept quiet the rest of the run.

On nutrition. I had a GU at mile 5 and mile 10. I felt fine. They worked. I’m just not so sure if GU is something I want to continue with out of concern for possible stomach distress. I want to figure out something else. But I felt strong and fueled most the run. Friday night I had salmon, a huge amount of sweet potatoes, green beans, and zucchini for dinner, so that seemed to work for me.

On nature. I know Michigan is beautiful. I mean I see it in the fall and the spring. But this trail is lush. There is plenty to catch the eye (just don’t trip!). My favorite moment was running over the bridge that separates the two lakes. I wanted to just stop and look, but wanted to keep going/not get in anybody’s way.

On the people. I only saw Bruno at the beginning and the end of the run, but there were plenty of people on the trails who cheered. I passed a few high school or junior high (I can’t tell how old the young’uns are anymore) who made high-five lines, an adorable family who were handing out high-fives, the guy who kept shouting, “You look fantastic! You are kicking so much ass right now!” and plenty of people who were just using the trails who had a kind word to say. Not to mention the runners themselves. There was a woman I kept playing leap-frog with and we would laugh and joke with each other each time one of us would pass the other. Plenty of “good job’s” and cheers from other runners if you ran hard up a hill (which I did do a few times). It was a privilege to share the trails with such people.

On finishing. I did not cry when I finished (more on that in just a bit). But I did start to tear up around mile eleven or so. I mean I was so close to being done. The whole race just flew by and I could not believe that I was actually doing it. I had waited so long for the day and it just was turning out perfectly. I was so grateful. The huge hill at the end of the run quickly ended my sappy feelings. But they happened. About .3 or so miles from the finish, there was a dude with a huge boom box blaring “Renegade” by Styx. Confession: I love Styx. I once saw them in concert with REO Speedwagon when I was 11 with my mom. I shouted, “YEAH! STYX!” And then promptly tripped, but did not fall. I knew the race was a little over half distance, so I did not know when to just gun it. But someone told me over the hill it was a straight shot to the finish line, so I just bolted. I bolted hard. I can’t remember if it felt hard or not. I knew I was within about a minute of goal c (which at that point I had kind of forgotten about) I have not seen my finish line pictures yet, but I bet I look something terrible. They will also show me chicking a guy within twenty feet of the finish line, so there’s that. Most importantly, though, I did make my c. goal: 13:4 miles in 2:29:45, average pace 11:15/mile (really, it was ALL over the place).

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We went to the Hell Hole Bar afterwards. I celebrated with a bacon cheeseburger and a Bell’s Oberon. Both of us were exhausted on the drive home. When we got home, I took a lavender sea salt bath, put my legs up the wall, and tried to nap. The rest of the day was spent vegging. I ate some ice cream (I totally blew up my food allergy elimination diet — and have still been paying for it).

It was such a great day. I am still so grateful for every minute, every mile of it. Even during the hills, I could not help but smile. When I was wavering on signing up for another race (as my reward) later that day, Bruno said, “Just do it. You looked so joyous today.”

Next up: Flirt with Dirt Dirty Duo in June (5k & 10k) and The Legend Half-Marathon in August. That will complete the Serious Series of trail races. It has been easy to future-trip and look ahead, but this trail half-marathon was truly a beautiful beginning of races for me.

xo, Ali

 

Ready to Run

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Saturday is the day. I am going to run the trail half-marathon for the Trail Weekend in Pinckney. It will be my first trail race and my third half-marathon. It will be the first time I have ran a race in two years. I have always wondered if it seems like running matters less to me. I have struggled with calling myself a runner in the last year or so, because I’ve been running for almost six years and have only run a couple of races. I’m not a competitive runner, running more to complete rather than to compete.

Plus, I have been exhausted with telling people, “I’m training for x” only to have it fall through due to injury or even worse in the case of the Air Force Marathon when I had an ovarian cyst rupture only a week before the marathon. Heart-freaking-breaking. I have barely told anybody I have been training for a half. Granted, the life of a graduate student can be kind of solitary: “Hi, Rousseau. Guess what I’m doing when I’m not writing about you and reading you?” But still. I’m too afraid that I’ll jinx it.

Those are the thoughts I have been carrying with me through my training. Not the most positive, but they have crept in. I had a few panicky moments with being sick throughout March and even the other week when my left foot acted up. And guess what: I feel fine and my foot does too. The most bland diet in the world and picking up golf balls with your toes will do that you.

Mostly there have been amazing moments. The routine of running. I mean I love the rhythm of a running schedule. I love seeing the weeks drawn out. I love what it adds to my life. I love checking off the days and seeing the race draw near.

Then, there is the running itself. I do not understand it when people say running long can be boring. I think three mile runs can be boring, never a long run. Miles change you. I believe that. I do not come back the same person I left. I come back more resilient, more thoughtful, and most importantly, more joyful. I think the kind of tired I am when I come back from a long run is one of the best feelings in the world.

Saturday I went on a ten mile run. I was not planning on it. The plan called for a twelve mile run, but with my foot problems, I was not planning on running at all. It felt fine enough that I thought ten would be ok. Bruno and I ran together Saturday afternoon. And it was a hard run. My legs felt tired. But at around mile seven, coming down a hill (of course), I just threw my hands up in the air danced around, looked back at Bruno, and like a total goober yelled, “I am so happy! I just love running!” And then shuffled the last three miles back home.

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The last ten mile run.

 

At first I thought I did not know what to expect for Saturday. Hillsdale does not really have technical trails. I have maybe only ran on real trails a handful of times in my life. The Potowatami Trail is supposed to be hella hilly. I tried to train on as much hills as I could. I am not sure if that will be enough. Even though I went through the full half-training plan, the last couple of weeks has been wonky with being sick. Before that ten on Saturday, I was worried I lost fitness. I can be a real worrier.

Here is what I can expect: I can expect to get my ass kicked in the best way possible. And I know I am going to love every step of it. I know that I will rejoice at just being out there, even if I am going over a gnarly hill. I will think what I thought a couple weeks ago when an ice cold downpour began mid-run, “I love suffering!”* I know that I will see the beauty of the Pinckney parks, which are supposed to be some of the best in Michigan. I know that there is a good chance that when I cross that finish line on Saturday, I will cry. I am tearing up just thinking about it.

I have not taken a single mile I have ran for granted. Every step has been a silent prayer of “thank you.” Running is a joy.

I cannot wait for Saturday.

xo, Ali

*To be clear, I love voluntary suffering.