Spring is definitely in the air with daytime highs in the 60’s and 70’s all week long. It made for some great running conditions. Of course, I’m trying hard to ignore the fact that it’s barely February . . .
Since I began running seven years ago, many of the people I started out with have gone on to accomplish great things in their running. Many have qualified for and run Boston, many regularly place in or win local races, and many are now tearing up the trails and winning trail races. It’s just amazing — and so inspiring — to see how strong some of our running friends have become.
MON: Rest Day – Enjoyed a day of laundry, grocery shopping, rest, and taking my car in for maintenance (but didn’t enjoy the bill). It was 78 degrees today! Crazy.
TUE: Easy Run – 6 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – Ran with Liz from the house over to the Katy Trail in the warmest conditions since the fall. Starting temp was 72 with 76% humidity and winds gusting up to 30 mph. It rained twice on us during the run, and the wind was a beast to battle. It’s hard to believe it’s not even February yet. Did a session of power yoga afterwards to counteract some lower back tightness I’ve been feeling the past few mornings when I’ve gotten out of bed. The older I get and the more I run, especially on trails, the more I find I have to work a little harder to keep my core and back strong.
WED: Hill Run – 6 mi – Almost 30 degrees colder today than yesterday’s run and even windier. It was one blustery, gusty run on the hills this morning with Liz and the wind that was always a headwind no matter which direction we faced. We ran up all the “monster” hills in Lakewood (Loving, Sperry, Shook, West Shore) and the cold air triggered my asthma at mile 2. Had to run back to the car and use the inhaler, and it was hard finishing off those last two miles. For some reason, though, I’m a glutton for punishment. I really love running hills. Give me hills over speed work any day. I skipped yoga today because Nicole and I went to see a movie (Silver Linings Playbook) and got busy with other stuff.
THU: Tempo Run – 4 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – Speed work is my least favorite workout of all, so when Liz suggested we do a tempo run this morning, after our monster hill run yesterday, I thought she was joking. She wasn’t. I wasn’t happy about it the first mile, and felt like puking at one point, but once we settled into our rhythm it wasn’t so bad. Somehow we pulled off an 8:48 average pace, which is pretty good for this old body. In the end, it made me feel a little less guilty for the Tex-Mex we had for lunch. Followed up the run with twenty minutes of power yoga for flexibility. Rodney Yee yoga DVDs rule!
FRI: Rest Day – Enjoyed a day of total laziness.
SAT: Long Run – 13 mi – I decided to skip a trail run this weekend since most of my trail running partners are down in Huntsville running Rocky Raccoon. I’m kicking myself for not going down to spectate. Here in Dallas it was a beautiful morning for a long run, with 48 degrees at the start and not a cloud in the sky. We started from a different location (Crossroads Diner) and ran down the White Rock Trail to the lake and back. Running on the White Rock Trail is a nice change, even though it’s all concrete, but there were times I expected to see an alligator raise its head from the bogs we passed along the way (supposedly they are occasionally found here).
Most of us in our running group watched the Rocky Raccoon live race results all day and night, following so many of our friends who were running the 50 mile and 100 mile trail races. We’re proud of everyone who ran, but we’re especially proud of Nicole Studer who finished first place female in her very first 100 mile race! She placed first female in her first 50 mile race in Palo Duro back in October, so to see her do so well in her first 100, just a few months after her first 50, was amazing. As someone in our group said: there’s no hiding now, Nicole! Not only is she an inspiration, she is also one of the most humble runners you will ever meet — a true class act.
SUN: Long Run – 13 mi – Met up with a small group of running friends for a great run around the lake. The weather was comparable to yesterday, which means it was perfect for running. The air smelled fresh and it felt like early spring. I was a little sad not to be on the trails on such a gorgeous run, but it was nice to sleep in a little and not have to drive to the trails. I feel so spoiled by having such a beautiful lake to run around so close to my house. Today I was filled with thoughts of Nicole and her amazing win, and of how well everyone ran this weekend.
Here’s to running our best, and to letting that guide us to becoming better people in the world.
Stats for WEEK 4: Run – 42 miles, Yoga – 40:00
It was a very good running week. I managed to get in 38 miles and some solid yoga sessions. The asthma and coughing that have plagued me since early October are also much better, and I’ve enjoyed having my son’s girlfriend stay with us before she flies off to join him in Brazil at the end of the week. Most of all, after the craziness of Christmas, company, our wedding, and illness, it’s nice to settle back into a regular training routine. It helps having great friends to keep you motivated and inspired!
MON: Run – 3 mi – Well, it’s a start. Usually Mondays are my rest day, but since my mileage has been so low, and because the weather was gorgeous, I decided to do an easy 3 miles from the house just before sunset. I was Garmin-free and ran on feel, which I’m trying to do more of. For someone who tends to be a slave to their watch, running without a Garmin is not easy. I loved the freedom of not caring what pace I kept. Legs felt good — lungs not so much — but I made it back home to my inhaler and a cold Texas beer with dinner!
TUE: Pace Run – 4 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – Ran with Liz from the spillway for one of my fastest paced runs since Christmas. It feels great to be picking up the pace again.
WED: Hill Run – 6 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – Met Liz for a hilly path run on the east side of the lake. Legs felt great and we kept a good pace. I really do love running a hilly path rather than a flat course (which is another reason I love the variety of trail running). Came home and did yoga with Nicole (back bends), then met the WRRC running group for a two mile run/walk for Nicole’s second run ever. She did great once again!
THU: REST DAY – Since Nicole will be leaving us in a week to join Nick in Brazil, we did important girl things to prepare for her trip. We got our nails done, had lunch, went shopping at Target, and bought some things at the grocery store. Living in a foreign country is not easy, and you have to make sure you stock up on American essentials like peanut butter and popcorn to take with you. I’m going to miss having another girl in the house (except for the dogs) when she’s gone.
FRI: Yoga – 20:00 – Did a session of hip openers with Nicole since she’s been having some pain in her groin muscle after running the other night. My coughing is MUCH better, finally!
SAT: Long Run – 12.14 mi, Yoga – 20:00 – It was a refreshingly misty, overcast, cool morning for a run with our largest group ever. When I saw the dog’s muddy footprints in the kitchen and the 91% humidity on the weather channel, I was not feeling exactly stoked about the run, but it turned out to be perfect running conditions. I was still feeling a little grumpy up through mile 9, but I got a second wind afterwards and felt great on the hills coming up off the lake. It was great, as always, to share breakfast and funny stories with my favorite running friends, including Susan, Kurt, and Hari, who came out despite their broken body parts (ring finger, pinky finger, and rib). Came home and did yoga (forward bends), which was just what I needed.
SUN: Trail Run – 10.21 mi – Rowlett Creek Preserve – I was seriously grumpy driving over to this morning’s trail run in Rowlett. I was feeling the two glasses of wine I had at dinner with friends the night before (even if it was followed up by roller skating), and the thick fog surrounding me in pitch darkness didn’t exactly scream Let’s run! Of course, all was forgotten once I got on the trails. The fog kept things cool and refreshing, and it was a completely different experience in the heavy fog. The trail wasn’t exactly muddy, but it was slick enough to cause me concern, especially on the steep downhills. I love my Brooks Pure Grit trail shoes, but they have no grip and are very slippery on wet surfaces. (This will only give me an excuse to purchase another pair of shoes.)
A hearty breakfast of eggs, sausage, hash browns, and biscuits and gravy with good friends you’ve gotten muddy with on the trails was the perfect way to end the week. After keeping my mileage so low this entire month while I was sick, I was a little concerned about doing back-to-back 12/10 milers, but my legs felt great both days. This has been my highest mileage week in over a month, and I’m happy to get back on track with my training.
Stats for WEEK 3: Run – 38 miles, Yoga – 1:20:00
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
STATS for WEEK 17 and 18: Run – 4 miles, Broken Ribs – 2, Discouragement – a lot
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Dynamic Duo, Susan and Hari
STATS for WEEK 15: Run – 37.5 miles, 1 strength/core workout, Yoga – 40:00
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.
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!
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
STATS for WEEK 14: Run – 56.7 miles, 1 strength/core workout, Yoga – 80:00