Tagged: outdoors

50 Mile Training, Week 2: Jumping Back In, Feet First

I was worried about jumping back into training so quickly after the 50K, but after this week I feel like I gave myself just enough rest to let my quads fully recover from the stress of the trail race. These past two weeks have been a good balance of running, yoga, and rest, and I did two back-to-back long runs this weekend–on roads–that reminded me how much easier long trail runs are on the legs than long road runs.

MON: Yoga (40:00)- After yesterday’s trail run where my legs felt dead, I decided to concentrate on the hips and back for today’s yoga and stress the quads as little as possible.

TUE: Run – 4 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Ran with Liz this morning, and enjoyed starting at 8:00 rather than the usual 6:00am. I love morning temps in the upper 40’s. It was a good run, and my quads felt just a little tight, but not sore at all.

Had lunch with a friend of my daughter’s from middle school/high school who is running her first half marathon on Sunday. Hari and I are planning on running with her through the toughest part of the race, up through the hills. It’s invigorating to spend time with someone who’s new to running and is so excited about the progress she’s made. Her plan is to run the Dallas Marathon in 2013, which gives her a year to build a good, solid base. Her enthusiasm is infectious and makes me excited about my own next race. Did some power yoga in the evening.

DRC Half 2012

Kathleen, me, and Hari

WED: Run – 9.65 mi, Yoga (20:00)  – Awesome run this morning at 6:00am with Hari around White Rock Lake (with the hilly path and Bathhouse hill thrown in). Temperature was perfect (56 deg), kept a 9:12 pace (negative splits with the last three miles sub 9:00’s), and got to see an incredible sunrise.

There’s something about running in the predawn hours that I’ve grown to love. You would think this avowed night owl would hate getting up at 5:15am and running in the dark, and I can’t say that I always love it, especially in the hot, sticky summer, but I love the quiet peacefulness of moving along the edge of the lake as things start to awaken around me. It was a perfect start to my day today. Tried a new  yoga DVD at home afterwards (lower body) that was surprisingly challenging.

THU: Run – 5.23 mi – Had to run alone this morning in the neighborhood with Nevada. Tried to run as hilly of a route as I could. Amazing how 64 degrees now feels warm. Oh how quickly we soften up! Nevada had a major cat surge and two squirrel surges after that, and I remember why I hate running with her in the fall. Discovered I did something to my neck during yoga yesterday because it feels stiff and a little sore.

FRI: Yoga (40:00) – Running rest day, so I did some standing poses and hip openers. Michael massaged my neck yesterday, but my neck and shoulder have been killing me all day. This may be my first yoga injury!

SAT: Run – 17 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – Ran with the group and stayed with Liz for 17 easy miles. Grumpy at first that it was 68 degrees at the start, but then thought about how much cooler it is than our summer temps. Felt great on the 17 miler, all the way up to the finish, even though the route took us on the Santa Fe Trail. Time to make my peace with the SFT and acknowledge that it’s not as bad as it was two summers ago when I was less fit and the temps were in the 90’s every time we ran on it. I was worried about my sore neck being a problem during the run, but it actually felt much better today. Finished off the morning with some easy yoga.

SUN: Run – 16 mi – Rather than do our usual Sunday trail run, Hari and I paced my daughter’s friend, Kathleen, in her first half marathon. Hari wanted to run two warmup miles before the DRC Half, then we jumped in to run with Kathleen. She did great, especially on the hills, and finished strong despite a bum knee and some pain in her foot. It was great to see so many friends out on the course. After yesterday’s 17 miler, and today’s 16 miles on the road, my legs really feel the effects of hours of pounding on concrete and asphalt. I really missed my trail run this week!

DRC Half 2012

Running up the hill at Sperry

I really love how running unites us all. It reaches across races, sexes, economic levels, age differences, and ability levels. It’s been great mentoring Kathleen as she prepared for her very first half marathon, and to share the experience of the race with her. Who would have thought, when she was 16 and getting into trouble with my daughter, that she would grow up and ask for my help with her running?

STATS for WEEK 2: Run – 51.9 miles, Yoga – 2:20:00

50M Training, Week 1: Recovery Week from Palo Duro 50K

The first few days after a long distance race are nice. You can sit back and revel in your accomplishment, bask in the happy afterglow of a job well done, and reward yourself with rest, good food, and memories of the event. Then by the end of the week you may start to feel the urge to get outdoors and run again. At least, that’s how it usually goes for me.

I generally seem to be able to run a few miles by Wednesday or Thursday after a marathon, and by Saturday I’m good to go for a longer distance. This time, after running a 50K for the first time, the recovery time has definitely been longer. My quads took the brunt of the race and they have not been bouncing back as quickly as I expected. Patience is not always one of my strengths, so giving them the time they need to recover has been a challenging lesson.

MON: Rest Day – Quads are very sore from Saturday’s 50K race in Palo Duro Canyon, though they feel better than after any marathon I’ve run. Going to enjoy my day of sloth and do nothing athletic.

TUE: Walk – 2 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Legs felt much better today, though the quads are still sore. Did some yoga in the late afternoon (hip openers), then took Nevada for a 2 mile walk, hoping to run most of it. Ha! I couldn’t even run a block! The quads definitely need another day of rest. On another note, I can’t help but wonder why it’s so warm and humid when it’s the end of October??? Oh, right, we live in Texas.

WED: Yoga (20:00)  – Quads felt even better this morning, so I started the day with some easy yoga but decided to put off running for another day.

THU: Rest Day – Decided to take a complete rest day and do nothing athletic. My quads are taking longer to recover than I expected. Even though my legs feel better than after a marathon, the soreness in my quads seems to go deeper than usual–if that makes sense.

FRI: Run – 3.1 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Met Todd at 6:00am for an easy 3 mile run at the lake. I’m amazed that my quads are still sore. I was able to run, and keep an easy pace, but I’m not where I expected to be six days after the race. This has definitely been the most recovery I’ve ever needed after a race, which I guess is only fitting since it’s also my longest distance. I think my age is also showing, because Hari has already been running for days, but it could also partly be due to the two weeks of no running just before the race. This is a good reminder that I need to do more squats, lunges, and strength training to get in shape for the 50 miler. On a brighter note, loving the cold front that blew in last night and the 49 degrees for our run this morning.

SAT: Run – 4 mi – Quads are slowly coming back. Susan and Hari met at my house at 6:30 and we ran to the top of the Katy Trail for the 13.1 Marathon WRRC water stop. It was cold! I ran with my down jacket tied around my waist and my water backpack (sans water) stuffed with extra gloves and track pants. Toes and fingers were freezing all morning. After the race, we de-layered and ran back down the Katy Trail and across Knox/Henderson to the house. We must have looked like we were coming back from an arctic expedition.

Erwin Park, McKinney Run

Susan and Me at Erwin Park, photo by Hari Garimella

SUN: Trail Run – 8.25 mi – Ran at Erwin Park in McKinney with Susan and Hari. Started at 7:30am with frost on the ground. The temperature and weather couldn’t have been more perfect. THIS is what we dreamed of all summer when it was in the upper 90’s with 80% humidity. Despite the great weather and nice trails, I felt sleepy and my quads were still stiff and sore. I looked forward to trail running all week, so it was disappointing to feel so sluggish. Overall, I just felt tired. Maybe it’s residual tiredness from the 50K a week ago, or three days straight of getting up early and not getting enough sleep, or the music from the party across the alley–or a combination of all of the above. Whatever the reason, I was happy to only run 8.25 miles. Sadly, my happy afterglow from the race seems to have finally worn off. Back to a new training plan and life in general.

STATS for WEEK 1: Run – 15.2 miles, Walk – 2 miles, Yoga – 1:00:00

Palo Duro Trail Run 2012: Race Photos

For anyone who ran the race last weekend, or is interested in seeing what it was like, here is the link to all the photos Michael took. He has photos of the 20K, 50K, and 50M runners on various places on the course.

Palo Duro Trail Run 2012

Click here to view the full collection of Palo Duro Trail Run 2012 photos.

50K Training, Week 20: A Whole Lot of Tapering Going On

I can’t believe I’m at Week 20, the last official week of my training plan. I look at my color-coded spreadsheet (and see much more red than I wanted), but all in all it was a solid plan. Now that Week 20 is here it’s amazing to remember all those stifling hot runs this past summer. I’m hoping they do me well in Saturday’s race.

MON: Run – 4.41 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Despite my best efforts to pimp myself out, no one wanted to run with me this morning. My dog, Nevada, kept me company instead, and it was my first solo run since early summer. I definitely enjoy running with my friends more than running solo. My legs were still a little sore from Saturday’s run (what was it about that run that made me so sore???), but I kept the pace slow and easy and enjoyed the cool morning temps. Did some easy yoga afterwards (twists) to stay loose for the race.

Rock star Hari waving to his adoring fans

TUE: Run – 5 mi, Yoga (40:00) – Our last official run before the race this weekend! Met Hari and Todd for an easy run at the lake at 6am. We started and finished the run in the dark, with the sky just beginning to change colors when we finished. It was cool but humid, and I dragged a little from asthma and allergies. Walked the dogs, then did some very relaxing yoga to wind out the morning. Starting tomorrow, my favorite part of tapering: carbo-loading!

Heather

WED: Rest Day, Yoga (20:00) – Walked the dogs and did some yoga (back bends). Definitely feeling nervous today about the race. I have watched the predicted high temp rise from 73, to 75, 77, 79, 82, and now 85. It’s still nothing approaching what we trained through this summer, so we should be prepared. Even worse, now they’re predicting my old nemesis, strong winds, torturer from marathons #1 and #2. Got my running clothes and gear together and made a list of food to buy tomorrow for the race. Ate lots of carbs.

Susan

THU: Rest Day, Yoga (20:00) – Went to the store and bought dolmas, hummus, pita bread, bagels and shmear, and got all my energy gels and waffles together for the race. Packed and thought through everything that I may need. Checked the weather for the hundredth time, hoping a cold front would blow through (it’s not). At least the wind has been taken out of the forecast. Spent some time visualizing the race and seeing myself running strong on the canyon trails and enjoying myself. Ate even more carbs.

Me

Tomorrow I’ll pick up Michael at 10:00 at work and hit the highway for Canyon, TX! We’ll check in to the motel, pick up our packets and enjoy the prerace pasta dinner with the other runners, and hopefully get to bed early.

My primary goals for my first 50K and first trail race are:  to finish within the cut-off and to enjoy the experience. That’s it. It took me 20 weeks and a hot Texas summer to get here, and I’ll be ready.

Susan, who hurt her knee in the 20K Rugged and Raw trail race (and nabbed 2nd place overall female), but was then afraid she might not be able to run for a few months, has decided to run the 20K. Heather, who started training with us at the beginning of summer, will also be running the 20K. My dear friend, Hari, who has run with me more than anyone else in my life, is more than ready to be a trail running beast.

Time to show everyone what we can do.

50K Training, Week 19: Salvaging What I Can

It was my last full training week before the race next weekend. After losing seven consecutive training runs over a two week period while I was sick and recovering, I had my doubts about being able to run the race. Even though everyone told me I would be ready, I’m stubborn enough to know I have to convince myself first.

MON: Rest Day, Yoga (20:00)- After a two week layoff, I ran 9 miles on Saturday and 8.6 on Sunday on the trails. Today I am as sore as if I ran a marathon. I’m having serious doubts about being able to run 31 miles when 9 miles hurt as much as it did on Saturday. Yoga helped (forward bends) to loosen up the legs.

TUE: Rest Day – Couldn’t find anyone to run with this morning so I decided to give the legs another day of rest. It’s sad that I didn’t have the mental resolve to run alone. But my legs are still sore (whine whine).

WED: Run – 6 mi, Yoga (1:20:00)  – Met Liz and Hari at 6am for a run at the lake. We kept it nice and slow, then I came home and did a long segment of yoga to try and get my conditioning back up to par for the race.

Photo of White Rock Lake courtesy of Tamara Beltz Adamson, Dallas runner, cyclist, and early morning lake photographer extraordinaire

THU: Run – 6 mi, Yoga (25:00) – Met Liz, Bill, and Todd at the lake again at 6am. Liz and I ran ahead of the men and decided to make it a tempo run. My legs felt great and the pace got progressively faster each mile. Came home and did a new yoga workout with lots of sun salutations. The tempo run was so great I feel hopeful about running the 50K–and making it to the end. It’s also nice to know there’s a 12 hour cut off. God help me if I’m still out on the course that long!

FRI: Rest Day, Yoga (35:00) – Definitely feeling the effects of yesterday’s tempo run, so I did 35 minutes of easy yoga to stretch out.

SAT: Run – 15 mi – A very humid, warm run this morning. I think everyone struggled on this one, whether they ran 10, 15, or 18 miles. I know I did. My legs felt strong, but I felt incredibly fatigued the last three miles. Part of it was the humidity and running back up out of Turtle Creek, and some of it may be the remnants of being sick for two weeks. It’s good to know it was a tough day for everyone. If it doesn’t rain tonight Hari and I will do our last trail run tomorrow morning before next weekend’s race.

SUN: Rest Day, Yoga – (20:00)- It stormed in the middle of the night, just like predicted, and our trail run got rained out. Normally I would probably have gone ahead and ran (the storm was short), but I didn’t want to risk slipping and sliding in the mud and doing more damage to the ribs. I was sore from yesterday’s run anyway, so I did yoga instead (forward bends) and took an extra rest day. Since I am officially tapering, and want to have fresh legs, I’m trying not to be too hard on myself for not going ahead and running in the mud.

All in all it was a good week of running, and I did a lot of yoga to both work my core and stretch out my legs after the runs. I’m not happy that I feel sore after Saturday’s 15 miler, and it tells me that running 31 miles in a week is going to be tougher than I trained for, but it is what it is. Time to start mentally preparing for the race.

STATS for WEEK 19: Run – 27 miles, Yoga – 3:20:00

50K Training, Weeks 17 and 18: Betrayal

We think we are in control. We schedule, make a plan, eat healthy, and put in the time. We pound hours of our weeks on pavement and trail, preparing for a race that will prove to ourselves that we’re almost invincible. Almost.

After 17 weeks of training and a second 26 mile trail run, the taper begins. You look forward to running only a short trail distance of 10 or 12 miles the last few Sundays before the race, and you have your first 20K trail race to look forward to as a precursor to “the real thing.” It’s all coming together.

Only sometimes your body betrays you. Your legs and mind are strong, your heart is ready for the upcoming challenge, but something goes wrong. What you thought was invincible gives in only too easily.

It has no other choice.

What starts out as asthma turns into a incessant dry cough, the kind that keeps you up at night and you find yourself running at 5:30am on two hours of sleep.  You cough so much and so hard that you crack a couple of ribs, and the pain stops you in your tracks at mile 3 of an easy run. You realize you have a fever, your body is fighting back, and you forget your body’s only doing what it was made to do: protect itself.

Survival.

For someone who spends the greater part of each day working their body and getting stronger, you realize how quickly everything can change. Even when the mind may be willing, you can’t always talk yourself into doing something your body can’t. If the body isn’t on board, all your plans come to a complete standstill.

It doesn’t have to be anything life threatening. It just has to be something bad enough to knock you off your feet and land you on the couch for a few weeks.

It’s not the end of the world. But it might be the end of what you’ve trained for.

Medicine

MON: Rest Day – Ouch. Feeling very sore from yesterday’s 26 mile trail run, but not half as sore as I’ve felt after running a marathon. I feel such a sense of accomplishment today. Yesterday’s run was really good, and though I’m still nervous about running a 50K, for the first time my brain knows that I can do this. More than anything, I’m amazed at how much I enjoyed the run. I was very tired, and it was hard to keep running towards the end, but I did it, and I did it well. (It doesn’t mean I’m not still looking forward to the taper!)

TUE: Run – 4 mi- This was a very tough run today. Yesterday was nothing but a huge cough fest, which continued through the night until 3:30am. Since I had to get up at 4:30 to meet Bill, I essentially got no sleep. When the alarm went off I prepared a text for Bill telling him I wasn’t going to make it for the run, but decided I’d rather be running than sitting home beating myself up for missing my first run of the week. Even more alarming, all the coughing yesterday caused either a muscle pull in my abdomen or some cracked ribs! I know this is possible, I’ve cracked ribs before, and the pain made the second half of the run very painful. I will try to put some ice on the area, take Advil, try a cough suppressant, and see if anything helps.

WED: SICK

THU: SICK

FRI: SICK

SAT: SICK

SUN: SICK

MON: SICK

TUE: SICK

WED: SICK

THU: SICK

STATS for WEEK 17 and 18: Run – 4 miles, Broken Ribs – 2, Discouragement – a lot

50K Training, Week 16: The Last 26 Miler

MON: Rest Day – It’s a good thing today is a rest day because I’m feeling under the weather. Looks like I’ve caught the same crud that’s been going around my running circle, and it may be the same thing Michael was battling last week. It was nice to have my son and his girlfriend in town, too, which gave me another excuse to relax and rest up.

TUE: Sick – Even though I hate missing a run, I cancelled my morning run with Bill because I just wasn’t feel well. I thought I might be well enough to run with Michael and the dogs in the evening, but my head was still stuffy and achy, so I decided to rest some more. Feeling blah.

WED: Run – 12 mi, Yoga (power: stamina)  – Despite still feeling less than recovered, had a great, fast run with Hari this morning. My legs always feel good after an extra day of rest, but the 58 degree temp also kept the pace fast, though comfortable. I love how I’m able to run negative splits, keep between an 8:30-8:45 pace the last few miles of a 12 miler, and feel strong and never out of my comfort zone. Followed the run with some yoga.

THU: Run – 6 mi, Yoga (21:00) – Met Liz at 5:45 at the lake for a run in the cool darkness. We kept a good pace and I was glad to get in a run, even though I woke up at 1:00am coughing from asthma. Had to use the inhaler to get back to sleep, and again this morning before the run. I need to stay on top of this so it doesn’t turn into some type of upper respiratory ailment so close to the race. Did some yoga afterwards, and felt great!

FRI: Rest Day – The allergies and asthma are really getting old. Another night of coughing and wheezing and having to use the asthma inhaler to get back to sleep. Thankfully, if this turn into something worse than just asthma, it’s happening now rather than in four weeks just before the race. Going to rest up today for tomorrow’s 10 miler.

SAT: Run 12 mi – Nice, easy run with the group. Kept a 9:37 average pace, and it felt very slow for most of the run. The weather was gorgeous, without a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was in the upper 60’s. I’m ready to get tomorrow’s 26 miler done, but I’m also kind of excited about it. Funny how I can look forward to something like that!

SUN: Trail Run – 26.25 mi – Despite waking up at 1:30am and coughing until falling back asleep at 3:30am, which meant less than five hours of sleep, my last really long run of the training plan, and my second 26 miler, was a great run and definitely a confidence booster.

Lake Grapevine, TX Sunrise

Hari, Susan, and I headed over to Grapevine and started in the dark at 6:30am. It was cool, but warmer than it has been for the past few weeks. We decided to run three 8.75 mile loops from Murrell Park to Rockledge, which included breaks after every 4 miles for water and food. This was the first time we’d ever run three consecutive loops and knew we needed to practice running through the monotony of the same trail three times. It wasn’t an issue at all. I ran more and walked the uphills less than any other run to date, and we kept a great pace, sometimes averaging 11:00 minute miles. I practiced running with the hydration vest, then running with only a handheld bottle (which I prefer), in anticipation of the race.

Texas Trail Runners

The last 4 miles were the toughest, which was to be expected. For the last few weeks I’ve been running only in the predawn hours with the temperature between 58 and 68 degrees. By the time we got to those last 4 miles the temperature was in the upper 80’s, and Susan’s car, parked in the shade, said it was 90 when we finished. It was certainly warmer than we’ve been used to, and I stayed with Hari the last few miles because he was struggling to the point that it worried me. We ran/walked the last few miles, then Hari took the lead and we finished strong back to the car. Susan the Beast, who had turbo charged it back long before us, had the camp chairs waiting in the shade. Sitting down, drinking a beer, and eating half a tuna fish sandwich, never felt so good.

Texas Trail Runner

Next weekend I’ll be running my first trail race, The Rugged and Raw 20K trail race. After that, let the taper begin!

STATS for WEEK 16: Run – 56.4 miles, Yoga – 62:00

50K Training, Week 15: The Return of Fall and Sharing the Trail with Poisonous Snakes

Oh, how I love my easy weeks! And I love how 37.5 miles of running is now an “easy” week for me. The most amazing thing about this week, other than the fantastic trail run I had on Sunday at Cedar Ridge Preserve, is the fact that I was able to run again only two days after running 26.4 trail miles. Another great thing about this week: cooler temps. I know we’ll still have some random days in the 90’s, but it looks like fall is slowly making its way into the Metroplex.

Cedar Ridge Preserve, Cedar Hill, TX

View from the trail, Cedar Ridge Preserve

MON: Rest Day – Ouch. Lots of soreness, aches, and general fatigue after yesterday’s tough 26 mile trail run. My calves are a little sore, but I think most of the aches are from the fall and hitting my chin on the rock. Hitting my head on a run is always my worst fear, and with good reason. Hopefully I won’t be too sore to slog through 4 slow miles tomorrow morning. I love easy weeks.

TUE: Run – 4 mi, Strength (upper body) – Despite the soreness, met Bill for a 4 mile run on the Katy Trail. Of course I kept the pace very slow, despite the fact that my messed-up Garmin said we ran 5 miles (not 4) and kept a 6:50 average pace (in my dreams). I’ve certainly never run two days after a marathon, and 4 miles at that, so I’m somewhat impressed with just getting up and running this morning. After another tough finish on the long run, I’ll take any sign of improvement I can get.

Cedar Ridge Preserve, Cedar Hill, TX

WED: Run – 10 mi, Yoga (power: stamina)  – Met Hari and Liz at 5:30am for a jaunt around the lake. It was nice and cool (I could really get used to these morning temps) though terribly buggy. Hari nearly lost his breakfast after swallowing a few bugs, and I had several stuck to my face when I got home. Liz had to turn around early to get back home and take her daughter to school, and Hari and I saw a strange, hissing raccoon that had to have been sick or rabid. I’m pretty amazed that my legs feel as good as they do so soon after running 26 miles. My Garmin is still messed up and won’t download my workouts onto the computer so I can check my splits, but I did notice the last few miles Hari and I kept between a 9:05 and 9:15 pace–which is not bad three days after running my longest distance ever.

THU: Run – 5 mi (hills), Strength (upper body) – Met Liz at 5:45am for a muggy, buggy hill run. Temp was 78 degrees with humidity close to 80%. Had a tough time getting up, but I was glad to get it done. I’m feeling very bored with my weights workout, but did it anyway, then did five minutes of yoga and realized I just wasn’t into it and stopped. It seems counterproductive to do yoga (or anything, for that matter) if  you’d really rather be doing something else. Cool front and rain on the way!

FRI: Rest Day

SAT: Run 10 mi – Great, easy run with the group. It was cool but humid, and the overcast skies were a bonus. My legs felt good, and it’s so nice to run on Saturday knowing the next day I only have 8 miles to run on the trail. Even though the trail runs are my favorites, it’s still nice to have an easy trail run week. Had to rush home afterwards and skip breakfast with the group because my son and his girlfriend were arriving for a short visit.

Cedar Ridge Preserve, Cedar Hill, TX

Just seeing the sign at the entrance to the trails was enough to put Hari on edge for the entire run

SUN: Trail Run – 8 mi – Had an amazing, rainy, magical trail run on my new favorite trail. Hari, Susan, and I ran at Cedar Ridge Preserve in Cedar Hill, just south of Dallas, on some very well maintained, sometimes challenging trails. It really was a beautiful place to run. No bikes are allowed on the trails, and it was great not having to worry about fast bikes around every corner. The only thing we did have to worry about, apparently, was poisonous snakes. Happily, we saw none. A light, refreshing rain fell the entire run, and it made the trails seem somehow quiet and peaceful. Of course, the rain meant the trails turned somewhat muddy, and it was my first time to run with a heavy accumulation of mud on the bottom of my shoes. There were quite a few very steep hills, with wooden logs as steps, so it was great training. As usual, Susan took the hills like a mountain goat and kept a brisk pace, followed by Hari. I loved our run this morning, and can’t wait to go back later in the fall when the leaves change colors. I’m always amazed when I run in Cedar Hill. It feels like being in the Texas Hill Country.

Susan and Hari

The Dynamic Duo, Susan and Hari

STATS for WEEK 15: Run – 37.5 miles, 1 strength/core workout, Yoga – 40:00

Isle du Bois 26 Mile Trail Run: Hills, Spills, and Running on Rocks

The 26 mile trail training run had been staring me in the face for the past fourteen weeks. Every time I looked at the training plan, my eyes would sweep down to the first box  that held the number 26. There were two boxes with that number, but the first one seemed the most daunting.

The day had arrived.

The day before, after a 10 mile run with the running group, everyone either laughed or gaped after they asked how far we were running the next day. There were no takers when I asked if they wanted to join us.

Hari wanted to try a new trail, one further out from the city. I was sick of Grapevine, so we agreed on Isle du Bois at Ray Roberts State Park, 57 miles northwest of Dallas. Happily, after fourteen weeks of hot, humid, long trail runs, we finally caught a break with the weather.

Lake Ray Roberts

I picked up Susan at 5:10am and we headed north. Just before we got there, I realized I had forgotten to bring cash for the entry fee. Susan wanted to buy a state parks pass anyway, which would cover both of us, but we discovered when we got there that no one would be in the office until 8:00am and it was self-pay until then. We drove to the trail head without paying, but my guilty conscience got the better of me. Fearing either a ticket or my car getting towed, we drove back up to the gate and shoved Susan’s six one dollar bills and every coin we could find in my car into the envelope. I had two nickels, one dime, and a whole bunch of pennies.

By the time we paid and found the trail, it was already 7:00am, one hour later than we usually start our long runs. I decided to wear my water hydration vest, and it’s a good thing I did because it would be 16 miles of running before we made it back to the cars.

Half a mile into the run, Susan disappeared. She eventually came running up and said she had lost her sunglasses. Sunglasses are expensive. We ran back to the cars slowly, surveying the trail, but never found the missing sunglasses. I remembered losing my sunglasses at the start of the St George Marathon, which I later said had been my sacrifice to the Weather Gods, and took it as a good omen.

Right off the bat, we knew it was going to be a tough trail for a 26 mile training run. It was very rocky and hilly, and flat, smooth sections were almost nonexistent. The rocks were red and volcanic, and they were everywhere and every size.

On the plus side, there were not as many roots and stumps as we’ve been used to running on. But the loose rocks were challenging, as were the large, pointy boulders that had to be walked over. Other than Palo Duro Canyon, it was the prettiest trail we had been on so far.

Despite running 10 miles the day before, I felt great. I felt smooth and strong on the rocks, and was priding myself on having my third trail run in a row without falling. Being the slowest of the three runners, I stayed in the back and took my time, carefully placing my feet and avoiding any missteps on the trail. I could really tell all the weeks of running trails and the increased mileage had made me stronger and more agile.

Hari looks at the Isle du Bois trail

Hari looking pensive on the trail

Within the first 10 miles, Susan went down, banging up her knee. She went to the back of the pack behind me, to force herself to slow down, and within ten minutes fell again. She looked up at us from the ground and said, “I might have to quit.” She thought it was low blood sugar and ate an energy gel.

We discussed the possibility that the trail might be too challenging for a 26 mile training run, and that we might not be able to run the full distance. At that point, I couldn’t imagine how we were going to manage to run another 16 miles or so on those rocks and hills. I found myself wishing we had decided to run at Grapevine after all.

Susan’s determination carried us through. She is one tough woman.

The trail was a series of loops, A through E, but we never really knew where we were until we came to Loop D. We just ran. When we weren’t running, it was to stop and watch the deer in the woods. We saw a total of 21, all does, and most with fawns. There were very few bikes on the trail, and no other runners, just a few hikers.

We kept running, on and on, and Hari kept us entertained with his stories of living overseas, what books he had read, what movies he had seen, and what foods he had eaten. I love running with people who do all the talking.

Hari eventually ran out of things to talk about, and then he ran out of water. Susan shared some of hers, and we ran back towards the cars, not really sure how to get back. I have to say, those middle miles were great. Everyone was running well, Susan wasn’t falling anymore, and it felt great to be running in the woods. Everything became so simple. Life was simple: just keep running.

We were coming up on 15 miles, and I suddenly realized: We can do this. We can go ahead and run the full 26 miles. But we were starting to get hungry and it was getting warm.

Angela and Susan at Isle du Bois

Me and Susan, not looking sweaty and red-faced like usual because it was only 60 something degrees!

Finally, after 16 miles of running, we made it back to the cars for a much needed food and water break. We’ve discovered that real food trumps energy gels on trail runs, though we’re still figuring out which foods work the best for each of us. For me, it’s dolmas and Gatorade.  There’s something  about stuffed grape leaves washed down with Blue Glacier Freeze G that my stomach likes.

After the break, we looked at the trail head map and Hari asked if we wanted to finish the run on our own at home, or continue on. Susan had said from the beginning that she wanted to get the miles in on the trail, and I knew it would be hard to muster up the energy to run another 10 miles, solo, in the evening. We all agreed to power through to the end.

In my head, I split the remaining mileage in half and concentrated on running only the next five miles. Five miles was nothing, completely do-able. I was fatigued, but my legs still felt pretty good. Or so I thought. After the first mile or so, I started slipping on rocks and almost rolled both ankles, numerous times. My ankles were starting to show signs of weakness.

Every mile was a small victory. When we reached mile 17, we had only single digits left. Hari and Susan pulled ahead, I dragged behind. There was little talk. At one intersection, because we never really figured out where we were on the trail, and because we had inadvertently run in circles–literally–several times during the day, we made a huge rock cairn so we wouldn’t miss the turn-off back to the cars.

Rock cairn at Isle du Bois, Ray Roberts State Park, TX

The rock cairn

Mile 20 to 21 seemed like forever, and when I caught up to Susan and Hari I discovered they hadn’t stopped until 21.24 miles. Might as well run a little farther than 26.2 and say we had run our longest distance ever.

I had started walking all the uphills by this time, trying to save energy, but I still felt good. Tired, but good. Susan remarked that we had less than a 10K to go. Time to hunker down and put the brain on auto-pilot.

Half a mile later I fell.

Hard.

I had taken pains to always walk over the largest rocks on the trail, having paid the price several summers ago when I fell on a flat rock on a trail run in the Tetons and cracked a few ribs. This time, knowing my ankles were tired and weak, I ran up onto a large rock and had the thought, “I should have walked over this.” Before I knew what was happening I was headed for the rock, chin first. I landed on the side of my chin, flipped over onto my back, and landed in the leaves.

My chin had a big knot and was bleeding, my palms were scraped up, and my head hurt. For some reason I had only the slightest scrape on one knee, so my chin took most of the force of the fall.

Chin injury from trail running

Ouch

After sympathy from my friends, we continued on. I felt so pitiful and sorry for myself, and frustrated at falling yet again on a trail run. I hung in the back and had a little cry. I put on my sunglasses so Hari and Susan wouldn’t know. They eventually stopped to let me catch up, asked how I was, and I burst into full blown sobs. I couldn’t catch my breath and I couldn’t stop crying. I felt like such a baby!

It didn’t hurt that bad, and I knew it was the fatigue that was making the tears flow so easily.

Those last five miles were some of the toughest I’ve ever run. Getting hurt meant I was mentally washed out, which only compounded the physical fatigue. Nothing was going to stop me from making it back to the car on my own two feet, but it meant a lot of walking. I was scared of falling again on the rocks, I was exhausted, and I hadn’t eaten anything when we stopped at mile 21. Big mistake.

Hari and Susan were strong to the end, running up most of the hills and staying focused on finishing. My left ankle hurt worse since the fall, and running became painful. Not wanting it to turn into another week of foam rolling and icing, I walked all the uphills and a lot of the downhills, carefully making my way through the rocks.

Rock cairn at Isle du Bois, Ray Roberts State Park, TX

See all those rocks scattered around? We ran on those ALL DAY LONG!

Susan eventually said we had only a 5K left to run, and reminded us when she had said we still had a a 10K to go. Things began to look familiar. We were getting close to the end. I told Susan and Hari not to wait on me, gave Susan the key to the car, and told them I’d see them at the end.

Just like a few weeks ago when I had the stomach virus, I walked in all alone the last mile back to the car. It seems to take forever when you’re so close to the end.

Even though I didn’t finish as strong as I wanted to, I did it. It might have been my toughest run ever. Not only did I complete a 26.4 mile trail training run, it was also my longest training run ever,my longest run of any kind ever, and my highest mileage week ever (56.7 miles).

It was so good to be done! We celebrated with cold beers in coffee mugs, cold Gatorade, tabbouleh, sandwiches, and shade.

Isle du Bois trail

One of the few flat, smooth sections of the trail

Other than the 57 mile drive home, there was still one thing left to be done: I had to stop at the park entrance to pay my fee, fess up to the envelope full of pennies, and pay the balance.  The state park ranger laughed when I explained how we had had to scrounge around in the car for all my loose change at 6:00 that morning, and she said they were wondering what the deal was with the 65 cents in change. Everyone had a good laugh at our story, didn’t make me pay the 35 cent balance, and I felt good about being honest.

I didn’t get home until almost 4:00pm. We were on our feet for seven or eight hours. None of us is really sure. Trail running is exhausting.

For that one day it was our job.

Michael took pity that night and cooked steak and baked potatoes for dinner. I was asleep by 8:30 on the couch. I’ve never slept better.

50K Training, Week 14: Longest Run Ever!

After returning home from one of the hottest camping trips I’ve ever been on, it was tough to stay motivated and upbeat in the continuing heat. I usually get through the summer by never expecting September to be any cooler than August, but this year I allowed myself to have false hope after a few teasers of cooler temps in late August. My misery was my own fault. My friend Nick reminded me not to waste these last few days of hot weather on “the wrong attitude.” Pamela Positive got told. Thankfully, the temperature finally came down just in time for our weekend long runs.

MON: Hike – 3.5 mi – Went for a hike at sunrise with Kurt in Palo Duro Canyon. Hiked the Rojo Grande Trail and part of the Juniper Trail (which I think we will be running on in October in the 50K race). Heard coyotes calling in the field as we walked along a creek bed, and enjoyed the canyon for one last morning. Sad to be leaving, but not sad to leave the extreme heat.
See you again on Oct. 20, Palo Duro!

Palo Duro Canyon

TUE: Running rest day – No excuses, I was simply too tired from the trip and sick of the heat to get out of bed and run the scheduled 4 miles on the plan. I told myself I would run at the gym (didn’t), at least do strength (didn’t) or yoga (didn’t), or run in the early evening (didn’t). Mostly, I’m ticked that it’s still in the 100’s in September. Blah.

WED: Run – 12 mi, Strength (arms), Yoga (twists)  – Great run this morning at 5am with Hari and Susan. Kept up a good pace, and the temp wasn’t all that unpleasant. I’m resolving to make up my missing 4 miles from yesterday, and get back on track with yoga and weights.

THU: Run – 8 mi (hills), Yoga (back bends)  – I decided to punish myself for not running on Tuesday morning by joining Susan for her hill run. I’ve always been envious of Susan’s level of fitness, and now I know her secret weapon. Those hills kicked my butt. It was a great workout. Rounded it off with some yoga.

FRI: Running rest day, Yoga (forward bends and hip openers) – Woke up feeling somewhat stiff and a little sore from Susan’s killer hill run yesterday. Did some yoga to help loosen up the muscles for this weekend’s long runs. Thankfully a cold front is supposed to roll in tonight and bring cooler temps, so I couldn’t be happier about starting Sunday’s 26 miler in 64 degree weather.

SAT: Run 10 mi – What a difference 10 degrees can make! Everyone today on our group run couldn’t stop talking about how much better it felt to run this morning compared to our usual Saturday morning runs. It rained very lightly before the run, which brought the humidity up a bit, but it still made a huge difference. I loved telling Michael last night that I was “only” running 10 miles today. I felt strong during the run, and it felt easy. Yay!

SUN: Trail Run – 26 mi – Longest training run ever, and longest distance run ever. 26.4 miles in the books, and it was tough. We were lucky to have the coolest temps all training season (around 60 degrees), and it made a huge difference. We ran at Isle du Bois, which is in Ray Roberts State Park, and perhaps it wasn’t the most optimal trail for a 26 mile training run. The trails were very rocky and hilly, and after Susan fell twice in a ten minute span of time within the first 10 miles, we questioned whether we would really be able to run a full 26 miles on all the rocks and hills.

We ran 16 miles before a break at the car for more water and food, and knew we would be able to finish off the last 10 miles. I felt good, though fatigued, but after a few times of almost rolling both ankles on loose rocks, and then falling hard on my chin on a big rock at mile 21.5 (and crying in front of my friends!), the last five miles were both mentally and physically tough. We did it, though, and somehow we made the 57 mile drive home afterwards, too. I was asleep by 8:30 on the couch, achy and sore from the fall, and oh so glad it was done.

Susan and Hari at Isle du Bois, Ray Roberts State Park, TX

Susan and Hari

Trail fall at Isle du Bois

Ouch!

STATS for WEEK 14: Run – 56.7 miles, 1 strength/core workout, Yoga – 80:00