Thanksgiving week wasn’t a very eventful running week, and the battle of the cough continued, culminating in a visit to the doctor and a new round of medicine. I enjoyed doing other things, like resting, eating, relaxing, more eating, and catching up on some knitting and reading. Sadly, a running friend came to the end of his life on Thanksgiving evening, and it cast a shadow of sadness over this week of giving thanks.
MON: Rest Day – Took a full day of rest. With asthma and coughing, didn’t even feel like doing any yoga. I’m thankful it’s a rest day.
TUE: Run – 6 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – Met Liz at the lake for what felt like a fairly fast run. Kept a 9:11 pace, which is awesome for Liz considering she ran 22 on Sunday. Asthma kept me up most of the night again, and made the run seem pretty tough. Called the doctor to see if he could fit me in today or tomorrow. Did some power yoga (flexibility) to round out the morning. Today I’m thankful that I was able to keep a fairly decent pace despite struggling with asthma.
WED: Rest Day (Sick) – Managed to get in to see the doctor this morning, who says he suspects the upper respiratory infection I had eight weeks ago didn’t completely go away and is aggravating my asthma. He prescribed another round of an antibiotic, Prednisone tablets to clear up the asthma, a shot of cortisone and a breathing treatment, and prescribed cough syrup with codeine so I can get some sleep. Going to the doctor’s office, then getting prescriptions filled, was an all-day endeavor. He also told me to lay off the running until Monday, then he said I could run “a little,” but that I had to take my inhaler with me if I did run. Today I’m thankful for doctors and medicine.
THU: Rest Day (Sick) – Thanksgiving! Feeling antsy and wanting to run. Decided to sleep in and rest instead of hanging out at the Turkey Trot this year. Dallas has the largest Thanksgiving Day run in the country, but I don’t like crowds, so the only thing I missed was drinking beer with old friends in the cemetery afterwards. Today I’m thankful for friends, family, good food, and the beautiful rainbow that graced our sky after dinner.
FRI: Rest Day (Sick) – Really wanted to sneak off for a short run this morning, but decided to be good and take another day off. Woke up to news that a running friend passed away yesterday evening from his battle with lung cancer. We logged a lot of miles together when we paced and coached together for the Dallas Running Club, and especially when I was training for Boston two years ago. He was a great guy and will be missed by all. Running bonds people together in ways that can’t easily be explained, and we will all feel his loss for a long time. Today I’m thankful that I had the privilege of running with Bob Philpot.
SAT: Run – 16 mi – I decided to meet the group for our usual Saturday morning long run, but wasn’t sure how far I would actually run. Taking liberties with the doctor’s saying I could run “a little,” and knowing he has no idea how far “a little” could be interpreted when you log 50+ miles per week, meaning distance is relative (in my mind, at least), I went ahead and ran the full 16 miles. I just hate not making my mileage for the week. My legs felt nice and rested, and we kept a good pace. It was absolutely perfect weather for a run, 38 degrees at the start and not a cloud in the sky. My breathing was okay during the run, though my asthma immediately kicked in on the drive home. Today I’m thankful for asthma inhalers and friends to run with.
SUN: Trail Run, Grapevine – 8.76 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – For the first time in over a week, got a complete night’s sleep. This is good, considering I broke doctor’s orders and did that 16 mile run yesterday! My quads were pretty sore today, however, whether from three days of rest or the Prednisone, so I decided to call it quits after the first loop. Susan and Hari continued on to the other side of the lake towards at least another 10-12 miles of trail running. It was a gorgeous fall day for a trail run, with temps in the 40’s, and we got to see both the sunrise and three deer. It was strange to pull into the driveway before 10:00, but nice all the same. Did some power yoga (flexibility) to try and stretch out the sore quads so I can jump back into the training plan next week with strong legs. Today I’m thankful for trails, beautiful fall weather, and cool temperatures in North Texas.
Interspersed with all the thankfulness is sadness. I fought tears all week and am reminded how fragile life truly is. Here’s to good friends and all the miles and smiles in between. Rest in peace, Bob.
Philpot, Bob Robert W. Philpot, Jr. (BOB), November 22, Bob passed peacefully in his sleep at home after a long, courageous battle with cancer. He is survived by his wife of 32 years, Elaine Philpot, son, Ryan Philpot and wife Morgan, daughter, Chelsea Philpot, and his five beautiful grandchildren, his mother, Beverly Philpot, and siblings Lynn Pueschel and Steve Philpot. Bob cherished the times with his family, watching anything sports related, but his biggest passion was running. He ran many marathons, and loved spending time with his running family. Bob will be thoroughly missed by all; he was one of those good guys that everyone loved to be around.
STATS for WEEK 5: Run – 30.8 miles, Yoga – 40:00
When training for the 50K, we adopted alternating hard and easy weeks of training to slowly assimilate to the higher mileage. For our upcoming 50 mile race we decided to build on our base and try two hard weeks followed by one easy week of training. Since the first week of training was really a recovery week from the 50K race, this was our first official easy week. The timing was good for me, since it also signaled the return of sleepless nights from asthma and coughing, both of which plagued me the last month of training for the 50K.
MON: Yoga (40:00) – Standing poses and forward bends. Legs felt good after the 31 mile back-to-backs, but even better after some morning yoga. Temp was 38 degrees this morning and I was sad that I missed out on running in the cold weather. Can’t wait until tomorrow morning’s run!
TUE: Run – 6.1 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Had a good pace run this morning with Liz at the lake. It was gloriously cool weather. Quads were a little tight after the two weekend long runs, but we kept a 9:09 pace with the last two miles at sub 9’s. Power yoga (stamina) afterwards to loosen up.
WED: Run – 9 mi, Yoga (25:00) – Ran a loop around the lake with Liz this morning. The temperatures were perfect for running: 45 degrees at the start, 54 at the end. Legs felt great, and I had to keep slowing our pace since I wanted to save some energy for tomorrow’s hill run with Hari. Did some power yoga afterwards (flexibility).
THU: Run – 11 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Introduced Hari to Susan’s hill run this morning, and inadvertently ran an extra mile when I missed a turn. It was perfect weather for a run, and for the first time I managed to make it to the top of every single hill without having to stop and walk. It was a great run, and we saw three coyotes standing in the middle of the road about half a mile from the house. There is something so satisfying about running hills and knowing you have the strength to make it to the top of steep hills from your own power. I may feel like puking when I get to the top, but it’s a well-earned feeling! Finished off with a somewhat challenging core cross training sequence of yoga poses.
FRI: Rest Day – Definitely grateful for a rest day after three great days of running. My asthma and coughing have made a return visit, however, which kept me up in the middle of the night. Not happy about this at all.
SAT: Sick Day – Since this is an easy week, and my midweek mileage was a little higher than I had originally planned on anyway, decided to take today completely off and get some rest. Coughing kept me up in the middle of the night again last night, so I will rest up for tomorrow’s trail run.
SUN: Trail Run, Oak Cliff Nature Preserve – 10 mi – After another night of interrupted sleep from coughing, I was happy that we decided to take advantage of the cooler temps and start our run a little later than usual at 9:00am. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, with a starting temp around 57 degrees and overcast skies. I found the trails at the Oak Cliff Nature Preserve last summer to be quite hilly, but today I felt strong even with the asthma. Susan kept us going at a blistering pace, even after her 22 miler the day before. These are some great trails and I look forward to coming back soon.
Even though I was feeling under the weather and wasn’t looking forward to the run like I usually do, once I started running I was quickly able to lose myself in the trails and go with the incredible feeling of freedom that I always feel when I run trails. Even in a very small forest, concentrating on running over rocks, roots, and fall leaves, I can forget for a few hours that I’m surrounded by crime, traffic, and a bustling city that’s never really felt like home.
STATS for WEEK 4: Run – 36 miles, Yoga – 1:55:00
I’ve definitely hit the ground running in preparation for February’s 50-mile race. There’s no time to waste! I had some great runs this week, and for the first time we switched our weekend back-to-back long runs and did the longer one on Saturday rather than Sunday (so that Liz, who is training for the Dallas Marathon, would have some company on her 19-miler). This week also saw me giving Susan’s grueling hill run another go. I survived.
MON: Yoga (25:00) – After running 17 miles on Saturday, and 15 yesterday, my body’s not feeling as beat up as I thought it would. Did an easy yoga sequence to gently strengthen some tight leg muscles. Rest days are always nice.
TUE: Run – 4.17 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Met Bill and Marcus at 5:15AM for an easy run on the Katy Trail. Perfect temp in the upper 40’s. I haven’t gotten up at 4:30AM for a run in quite a while, and was grumpy about it last night, but I enjoyed the run. My quads were still a little sore from the weekend runs, so I did some upper body poses to give them some extra rest.
WED: Run – 10 mi, Yoga (25:00) – Slept in a little because of staying up late to watch the election returns (even though I actually fell asleep on the couch at 10:30pm and missed the speeches), and met Susan at 8:30 for her infamous hill run. It is truly the most grueling route I’ve ever run, full of steep hills, long hills — hills, hills, and more hills. Great training, but it makes me feel like a complete wimp. Easy yoga afterwards.
THU: Run – 7 mi, Yoga (20:00) – Met Liz for a windy, surprisingly tough “easy” recovery run. As opposed to the first time I ran Susan’s hill run, my legs were not sore at all the day after, but they did feel a little dead on today’s run. Liz and I struggled to keep from speeding up, even though neither of us really wanted to run as fast as we did. Did some forward bends afterwards. Looking forward to a rest day.
FRI: Rest Day – Was going to do some yoga, then decided I really didn’t feel like it. My legs felt like they could use an entire day off, so I didn’t do anything athletic. It was nice!
SAT: Run – 19 mi – Good run with the WRRC in windy, warm, humid conditions. 65 degrees at the 6AM start, with a cold front supposedly blowing in sometime tomorrow. The new route took us through East Dallas, University Park, and Highland Park. It was a nice change and we kept the pace easy and comfortable. Wanted to only run 11 or 13 miles, but with the possibility of rain tonight/tomorrow morning, and muddy trails and lightning, decided to go ahead and bank some mileage in case we can’t get in our trail run. We also didn’t want Liz to have to run 19 miles all by herself. That’s how we roll.
Since we didn’t get in our trail run last Sunday, I’m getting antsy to hit the trails again.
SUN: Trail Run – 12 mi – The rain and cold front weren’t expected to show up until later in the day, so Hari, Susan, and I met up with Luke’s and TREX to run trails at Grapevine. It was nice to see old friends who’ve made the transition to trail running. It was not the best weather: 72 degrees and 71% humidity at the start, 76 degrees at the finish. It was also windy, but at least it kept us cooled off. I had to keep telling myself we would have killed for a day like this in August, but now that we’re not used to the high humidity it made for a tough run. Stubbed my toe on something, somehow lost my balance and landed on my hip, and fell up against a small tree, with just a slightly scraped leg. I have no idea what took me down, but the trail is covered with leaves now and it was to be expected. No big deal.
This is the first time we’ve ever done our longest run on a Saturday on road, followed by a shorter long run on trail. In preparing for the 50K it was always the other way around. We all preferred the other way, with 10-12 on road followed by a longer trail run the next day.
My first 4 miles today were crummy. I felt light-headed, groggy, and stiff. After a short break at Rockledge and a GU, the next 4 miles were great. I felt loose and limber and in the zone, even after I fell. The last 4 were just okay, and we were all glad when we reached 12 miles. I’m always amazed at how my run changes from hour to hour on the trails.
Within ten minutes of finishing our run, with dark skies barreling towards us from the north, a gust of cold air stirred up the dirt and the cold front had officially arrived. It was kind of awesome to be right on the edge of the front. We are all looking forward to a week of perfect running weather!
STATS for WEEK 3: Run – 52.2 miles, Yoga – 1:30:00
People are attracted to running for various reasons: they want to lose weight, they want to live healthier lives, it’s cheaper than a gym membership, you don’t need a lot of gear, they enjoyed running when they were kids, or they want to run a marathon before they reach a certain age. People who continue running, past the 5K’s, 10K’s, and half marathons, those who run longer distances and think nothing of going out for a Saturday 20 miler, are a particular breed of crazy.
Those are my people.
We have no problem pushing ourselves to run longer and longer distances, and then test our training in a race. We’re goal oriented and enjoy making plans. It’s our days off, when we should be giving our legs a rest, that we struggle with.
Today is a rest day. I have two scheduled each week, Mondays and Fridays. After giving everything I’ve got on the five days I run each week, I always look forward to the rest days.
It’s the unscheduled rest days that I struggle with the most. I suspect that’s true for most runners.
I run with a group of very experienced, serious runners. They train hard and race to PR. Many of them win races and place in their age groups. Every single one of them could write a book about how to train for a marathon and what not to do to get to the start line uninjured and ready for your best performance.
That doesn’t mean we follow our own advice.
Last Saturday at breakfast after our long run, my friend Kurt made the statement that runners are bad about doing two things: not resting enough and racing too often.
I actually think I’m pretty good on both fronts — but that doesn’t mean I don’t worry about it. I’m one of those strange birds who likes training more than racing. There is nothing like having a great race, where everything comes together — weather, training, nutrition, energy, course, mind — and you feel great from start to finish and pull off a PR. But I’ve had some pretty lousy races, too, and I struggle with getting past all the uncontrollable variables and still enjoying the race.
I’m in awe of people who race every weekend. I just don’t feel that urge. I like having two or three goal races per year and building up to and looking forward to that day. I like longer distances, and they take longer to train for. And I’m certainly not winning any races these days, so I don’t have the incentive of being first across the line each weekend to spur me on. The older I get, the less I care about speed and more about endurance and strength.
I used to love getting medals, but now they just sit on the wall in the back bedroom, pretty much forgotten and not all that important anymore. It’s rare to get a race t-shirt that’s made for a woman, so that’s never been a big draw. Now I’m all about the experience itself being the reward.
As for rest, I think I’m pretty good about listening to my body and taking a day off when I need to — even though I hate missing a run on the training plan. And I rarely take a complete rest day. I usually do yoga, which seems to give my legs the rest they need but also works out some of the kinks from the week’s training and loosens them up for the weekend long runs.
However, I was surprised at how frustrated I felt when I ran my first 50K a few weeks ago and had to take more rest days than any of my other friends who ran it. This is where age comes to play. It just seems to take me longer to recover these days. When yoga doesn’t help, I know it’s time to back off and give myself a complete rest day.
Post-race, except for the quads, I felt great. I was still floating on my happy cloud of accomplishment a week afterwards, and I wanted to run, dammit! My quads had other ideas, though, and every time I ran more than a few miles they tightened up and let me know I needed to be smart. A week later they finally felt good enough for a trail run, only I never seemed to warm up and felt fatigued and grumpy the entire run. This was another signal I needed to listen to: recovery takes time, and the body knows better than the mind.
So I backed off and lowered my mileage, and within a week I was back to normal. Lesson: rest is good, and recovery takes time.
We’ve all known people who didn’t give themselves enough time to recover and wound up battling one injury after another. We’ve probably done it ourselves. When you truly love running, and have your next race planned before you cross the finish line, it’s hard to not keep pushing yourself.
Just don’t forget to sometimes give it a rest.
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.
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!
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
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.
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
For the first time since getting sick, I feel hope. Even though last week I thought there was no way possible, I’m going to go ahead and try the Palo Duro 50K next weekend. After today’s run, I’m really looking forward to it.
Despite a lingering cough and very sore ribs, I ran last weekend. I was slow, my legs were dead, and I was as sore afterwards as if I had run twice the distance. It felt so good to run again. I ran 9 miles on Saturday with the group, and on Sunday I did an 8.6 trail run.
After the two weekend runs I felt like I had run a marathon. My legs were sore, really sore. I was amazed at how much conditioning I had lost from just two weeks of complete inactivity. On the flip side, I was still strong on the hills, especially on the short trail hills, so at least there was that. Even if my legs didn’t have a 50K’s worth of running in them, I could at least go out and see how far I got, taking a DNF if need be.
Palo Duro Canyon
I lost seven training runs during weeks 17 and 18 of a 20 week training plan. I lost 55 miles of running two weeks before the race. Never having been in this situation so close to a race, I’ve really had no idea how to salvage these last two weeks. I decided to go by feel and run a little more mileage than the training plan calls for this week, and do yoga like crazy to loosen up and gently regain some lost strength.
Yesterday I ran 6 easy miles with Liz and Hari, and this morning I did a 6 mile tempo run with Liz, Hari, and Bill. Yesterday was good, but today I felt great. Yes, the ribs still hurt, but Liz and I ran fast, and it felt amazing. I know speed doesn’t equal endurance, and I certainly won’t be the setting any speed records in Palo Duro, but it was a good enough run to give me some hope.
Even better, I saw on the race website today that there’s a 12 hour cut off. I’m pretty sure, barring a fall that cracks more ribs or something dire like that, I can finish within 12 hours. As long as I can still move my legs, I’m pretty sure I can finish.
So today I feel hope again, and am very excited about racing in Palo Duro Canyon next weekend.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
As always after a hard week of running, I was happy to have an easy week. For one reason or another, I didn’t do as much strength training or yoga, and that’s something I want to work on in the coming weeks. Summer decided to hang on a bit longer, with temperatures rising again above 100 degrees, but I ended the week with a wonderful trail run in Palo Duro Canyon, site of our 50K race in October, with my friends Hari and Kurt.
MON: Running rest day – I was like a zombie all day. I felt very fatigued, somewhat grumpy, but my legs felt surprisingly good after a 23 mile run. I did nothing physical, and spent the afternoon and evening on the couch with the iPad.
TUE: Run – 4 mi – Met Mike at 5:15am for a 4 mile run through Highland Park. I forgot to charge my Garmin, and he didn’t wear his either, so we were Garmin-free. It felt like we were pushing the pace, but hard to tell on tired legs. Another humid morning. So ready for summer to be done with. It was a busy day and somehow I never got around to core/strength or yoga.
WED: Run – 10 mi, Strength (arms) – This morning was one of those great runs where everything comes together. The temps were cool, humidity low, and I felt strong and smooth. We added in some significant hills, too, and despite the fact I ran 23 miles on trails just three days ago, the legs felt great. I just felt really good the entire run. We also got passed by a coyote, who came running out of the Arboretum and continued on in the grass. It was a truly beautiful animal, so lean and incredibly fast. Came home to finish off with 20 minutes of upper body weights.
THU: Running rest day, Yoga (forward bends) – 20:00 – Got some much-needed sleep. Going to run 10 tomorrow with Hari since we’re going camping this weekend to Palo Duro to check out the race course–and just have fun. Hopefully we’ll be able to run 4 on Saturday evening and 6 on Sunday morning. Not happy that it’s going to be in the upper 90’s all weekend. Did yoga in the evening to loosen up the legs before tomorrow morning’s run.
FRI: Run – 9 mi – It was such an incredibly warm and humid morning, Hari and I decided to run a loop and add the missing mile on to one of the weekend runs. The air was completely still and the bugs were horrible as well, getting in our eyes, ears, mouths, and noses. The run itself felt easy, and I’m enjoying being able to run so strong and effortlessly on a loop around the lake. I love having this level of fitness.
SAT: Running rest day – Hari, Kurt, and our families drove to Palo Duro Canyon for a weekend of camping and trail running. We were hoping to run at least 4 miles in the canyon in the evening, but the 104 degree temps helped us decide to run long in the morning instead.
SUN: Run – 11 mi – Best trail run so far! Started at dawn at the Givens, Spicer & Lowry Running Trail, which took us to the Lighthouse formation, and added on the Little Fox Canyon Trail loop. It was 70 degrees at the start, and it felt great to be running in such cool temps. It also felt great to be running on a trail without roots or stumps. Though the temperature climbed up to 95 degrees by the end of the run, we couldn’t stop raving about how beautiful the scenery was. It’s runs like this that remind me why I love trail running so much.
* All photos courtesy of Kurt Cimino
STATS for WEEK 13: Run – 34 miles, 1 strength/core workout, Yoga – 20:00
I ran for three years before I had any desire to run a marathon. I thought people who ran 26 miles were crazy. I couldn’t for the life of me understand why anyone would want to put themselves through that much pain.
Six marathons later, I’m training for a 50K.
Training for a marathon and a 50K trail race are similar, but there are differences. I’m new to trail running, and it’s definitely not the same as running on pavement. Other than the obvious difference of concrete versus dirt (and roots, rocks, and stumps), I’ve been surprised to discover a few things I’ve never experienced in marathon training.
Run, don’t walk:
The biggest surprise happened this past Sunday, when my friend Hari and I ran 23 miles on trails. We started slower than usual. Complete darkness, no moon, and huge spiderwebs–with spiders–spanning the trail forced us to slow down. Later on we took walk breaks and walked the steeper uphills. The last few miles of the run, when I was bone tired, I was surprised to discover something I had never experienced before.
For the first time ever, even when I was exhausted and ready to be done, running actually felt easier and less painful than walking.
This was huge. My brain normally begs me to walk those last few miles of a 22 miler or a marathon–and walking feels good. This time I was not only able to start running again, it actually felt physically better. I’ve read about this from ultra-distance runners but never experienced it myself before Sunday.
Something salty, please:
I alternate drinking water and Gatorade in a race, but only because it’s there. I’ve never craved Gatorade in a race, even when it’s humid and warm, and I’ve never noticed it having any effect on my performance. On the trail, however, especially this summer in the extreme heat, Gatorade is like an elixir that brings me back to life. I keep it in a cooler with ice, and crave it’s salty sweetness until I get back to the car. It seems to make a difference in my running and energy level, so it must be replenishing my salt levels. Potato chips after a run are good, too, but not like an ice, cold Gatorade.
I’ll take dolmas with that pizza:
My stomach tends to shut down on both very long runs and marathons. I completely lose my appetite, so figuring out what to eat is a big concern of mine. On the trails, I’ve discovered that real food gives me much more energy, before and after the run, than GU’s, gels, and Honey Waffle Stingers. My best run so far was when I bought dolmas at the Greek pizzeria the night before and brought them on the run. They were easily digestible, tasted delicious, and seemed to give me much more energy. I had a sandwich after the run (my friend Susan’s post-run meal of choice) and felt great the rest of the evening.
Last week I didn’t bring real food and had the opposite experience. I ate only chocolate GU’s and Honey Waffle Stingers and could barely choke them down by the end of the run. I brought a sandwich for afterwards and barely made it through the first bite. Not eating enough made me feel sluggish and spent the rest of the day and evening.
Eating real food seems to give me the most energy, but it’s hard to force myself to eat when my appetite is gone. Maybe I should try pizza next time.
Rainy days and trail runs always get me down:
I never “zone out” on my long trail runs like I do on the streets. I focus so intently on the trail, and on not tripping, that it’s mentally exhausting. My legs feel amazingly great the day after my Sunday long trail runs, but my mind seems to take a beating. My Mondays, and sometimes Tuesdays, too, can be kind of gloomy. I feel like I have nothing left in the tank. My first run on the road after a long trail run always feels so easy, mainly because I don’t have to concentrate so hard.
I have to wonder if this is also tied in with figuring out the best nutrition for these long runs, or if it’s nothing more than extreme tiredness. I know it’s common to feel somewhat down after a marathon, so I’m wondering if it’s a similar syndrome. Any post-marathon depression I might have experienced in the past was merely a result of accomplishing a goal, and feeling somewhat aimless until I jumped into training for the next race.
Running is running, right? One foot in front of the other and just keep moving. Not quite. It’s not that simple, and moving up to a new level is teaching me that this old dog still has a lot of new tricks to learn.