Saturday, March 29, 2008

Terrapin Marathon Update

Well, the Terrapin Marathon was almost the Terrapin 50k. A couple people ran with GPS watches and clocked it in at 29.8 miles. There was some significant climbing and some ROCKY downhills, but the overall elevation gain/loss came in at around 6250'/6250' on my Suunto Vector.

I finished in 5:15, with no major damage. I'm off to dinner with the family now, but I will write a more in-depth report.

Tough runs, the Terrapin Marathon and Half-Marathon. I highly recommend them to anyone looking for a challenge.


Update: Out of town on business -- update coming soon. In the mean time, recovery was fantastic (thanks to nuun), and I did a great interval workout on Tuesday.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Train and race like a kid

I’ve noticed something about most young kids. They have no fear when it comes to running. They go all out from the starting gun, no matter what.

Fear can save our lives, but fear can also keep us from achieving greatness. This is just as true in ultrarunning as it is in other aspects of everyday life. Some ultrarunners say things like, “I’m tentative on the down hills,” or “I like to walk all the up hills,” or “I like to start slow so I have something left at the end.” I’ve said those things and others too.

That was fear talking.

That was fear holding me back.

I am a much better downhill runner when I’m not afraid to let myself go. Trust your shoes Neal, and your instinct. I run quickly up some of the hills that I used to always walk when I ignore the discomfort and refuse to fear the pain. No Neal, your heart will not explode. And I’ve learned from experience that when I start a race fast, I always finish better than I expected.

In the absence of fear, I am a better ultrarunner.

We will all confront trails (pun intended) and tribulations in life that should be feared. But on the trails that I train and race on, fear only gets in the way.

Run like a kid again. Run without fear.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Terrapin Mountain, here we come

(Summit of Terrapin Mountain)

This Saturday I'll be running the first ever Terrapin Mountain Marathon (26.9 miles). This is another tough mountain run (my favorite kind), with over 7500 feet of gain and loss. I'm not familiar with the course at all, but the elevation profile shows this one starting out with a very big climb. I figure it will run much like Promise Land (50k) , and should take about 5 or 6 hours to finish. The half-marathon course record is 1:39 -- but the marathon is a different course altogether. There is a 9-hour time limit, which means that this one is not your typical marathon.

One mysterious part of the race is being referred to as "Fat Man's Misery." Apparently this is a narrow crack that we have to negotiate through. The RD told us to bring gloves. Huh?!?

(He's not fat)

My training for this one has been centered around intervals and hilly trail runs. Last week I had a very strong run on a hilly section of the AT. I was able to run some of the steeper hills. The last time I ran this section was a year ago, and I wrote in my log then that some of the hills kicked my butt. This past weekend I felt stronger then I ever have on that section. It was a great run.

So, the taper for Terrapin Mountain has begun. I did not run on Monday. I did a nice 4-mile hike Tuesday with my family. Today (Wednesday) I will run at lunchtime, then nothing more until the race. Clean eating and rest is the agenda for the end of the week. Just not too much eating, or else I might get stuck in "Fat Man's Misery."

Run hard out there.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Grindstone 100 -- Oh man, what have I done?

What have I done?

That's the question I emailed to one of my running buddies just minutes after registering for the 1st annual Grindstone 100 to be held the first weekend in October. And by that I mean the ENTIRE first weekend in October.

The Grindstone starts at 6pm on Friday, October 3. It has a 38 hour cutoff. It includes over 23,000 feet of CLIMBING and DESCENDING. I asked David Horton, who is familiar with the course, how fast he thought the winners of this race would run. He said maybe under 24 hours. In other words, this is going to be a tough one. He said that fatigue from running for so long (two sunsets for sure) would be the toughest factor for many. That, and the climbing.

Without a doubt, it will be the toughest thing I've ever encountered. I've run 100-miles several times, but I've never run more than 24 hours. And for those of you who really know me, you know I have never really even run more than 22 hours (I tend to finish 24-hour runs quicker than some of my competitors).

Needless to say, this one is going to take some real planning and preparation. I also asked Horton where he thought my training emphasis should be for this beast of a race. He said ascending, descending, and eating. So those things will definitely factor into my training as the year goes on.

Some thoughts about my training for Grindstone:

  • May -- a recovery month from the Spring races.
  • June -- focus on base mileage. Some hill running.
  • July -- training starts in earnest with the Sweaty Butt 50k. Hills, and long weekend runs.
  • August -- Long weekend trail runs, hills. Run to/from work.
  • September -- Labor Day training weekend, overnight trail run, one more long trail run, then taper.

Some of the epic runs I hope to work into my training include:

  • Catawba Run Around (35 miles)
  • AT running between Rt 311 in Catawba and Rt 220 in Daleville. (19 miles one way)
  • Out and back runs between Rt 311 and Rt 779 in Catawba. (26 miles)

Once May rolls around, I'll work up a training schedule and post it here. Until then, my focus is on staying healthy and getting through the Spring races.

What is your big event for 2008?

Run like a Beast.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Interview with Sophie Speidel, Part 2

Part 2 of my interview with Sophie Speidel on how her training and ultrarunning has changed since her 2002 Holiday Lake. Be sure to read her top five lessons learned.

Here's Part 1 in case you missed it.


Training for a 50k is one thing. How do you train for longer distances like the 100k or 100mile?

Over the years I have discovered that I enjoy the 40mile- 100K distance more than 50K. For some reason it just suits my body and I feel best running for 8-15 hours at an aerobic pace as opposed to the faster pace of 50K. I do like to use 50Ks for training and “speed work,” but I truly love 40+ miles. I train for these longer distances using the same miles per week as I did for Masochists (see Part 1), with perhaps more longer days of 6-8 hour training runs. I am fortunate to live within 1.5 hours of excellent mountain trails, including the Wild Oak Trail (8,000 feet of climb in 25 miles) and The Priest (3500+ feet of climb in 5 miles). I try to run on these trails at least once a cycle when training for a long event, in addition to tempo runs and speed work during the week.

I have run two 100 milers: Massanutten Mountain Trails 100 in 2005, and Western States in 2006. I felt very prepared for both these events with training similar to what I described above, on similar terrain as the race, and with a few more back-to-back long runs of 30 miles one day followed by 20 miles the next. For WS, I ran repeats of The Priest and other steep climbs to condition my quads for the descents at WS. I also spent the three weeks before WS sitting in a sauna for up to 45 minutes, which really helped me that year…it was the third hottest WS ever. I had stomach problems at MMT and figured out that my body prefers fluids and gels instead of solid food, so now I only use Sustained Energy, Clif Bloks and Clif Shots and occasionally Hammergel during a race (along with water and Nuun electrolyte caps). So far it has worked really well for me but I have to make sure I eat and drink a lot and often, especially in the beginning of a race.

You indirectly compared the pain of your first ultra with childbirth. Since then, however, you have participated in some really difficult events. What is the toughest event you have done? Do they hurt less as you gain more experience?

When I finished Holiday Lake this year, six years after I first ran it, I felt tired at the end but nowhere near as destroyed as when I first ran it. My body is enjoying the training effect of the past six years of racing and training, with a good three weeks off in the winter and in the summer. I think taking that time off has helped me stay injury-free and hungry to keep training and racing, and as a result I keep feeling stronger each year.

I have been fortunate to have been able to have some amazing ultra adventures, thanks mostly to my husband and family who have encouraged me and picked up the slack at home (our kids are now 16, 14, and 11). My first 100, Massanutten, stands out because it was an emotional finish…I bonked badly at mile 85 but with help from my pacer Mike Broderick and my husband Rusty, I was able to suck it up for a finish. Later in 2005 I was invited to join some other runners for a Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim crossing of the Grand Canyon. I had never been there and I still get emotional when thinking about it. All ultrarunners should see the Grand Canyon that way…it is the true gift of ultrarunning that we can move around this earth so freely and unencumbered, and it was a day (and night) I will never forget. Western States in 2006 was a fantastic event from start to finish. I flew out to Sacramento with my husband on Wednesday and we checked out the last mile of the race in Auburn before heading west to Squaw Valley. I absolutely loved all the hype of the event and the WS trail is awesome. This is truly a “must run” event for the ultrarunner, because of all the history and tradition. I really suffered at the end of that race with blisters and anterior tibialis tendinitis caused by the rubbing of my chip timing device against my anterior tibialis tendon…I could barely run for the last 40 miles, but I finished with 45 minutes before the cut-off. The heat was grueling as well.

I think my toughest race besides the two 100s is annually the Hellgate 100K, which I have finished the last three years. It runs like a hundred and the midnight start in December is tough. I think Hellgate has given me a ton of confidence for all my other races. It forces me to be very organized with preparation and fuel, as well as pace and running all night. After Hellgate, all other events seem tame, but then again, I still haven’t run Hardrock or Barkley, which make Hellgate pale in comparison, I’m sure!

Please list the top 5 lessons learned over your 6 years of ultrarunning.

5. Each event presents a new challenge and demands flexibility: for example, my stomach can only tolerate gels and fluids for the long events, so when I couldn’t get my fuel from my drop bags at Hellgate last year, I should have eaten some of the aid station food…instead I tried to get by on what I had in my pack, and as a result, I bonked hard.

4. Staying with the flexibility theme…I have learned the importance of being able to stay mentally positive even when faced with a bonk, blisters, getting passed by another female, or whatever challenge is thrown my way. For me, a lot of the fun of racing ultras is being able to overcome the tough stuff without dropping out (and I am proud to say, I have never DNF’ed--yet)!

3. I try to train with people faster than me, and who love adventure, and have great sense of humor. It’s a great combination for an awesome day in the woods!

2. I avoid overtraining by taking time off (at least a week or two) after a long event, and by cross training. I swim and lift at least 2-3 times a week, and as a result, I have avoided many overuse injuries.

1. My family’s support is the most important gift that I have received during these six years. Without it, my time on the trail would feel empty and hollow; with it, I am able to set new goals and have some wonderful adventures. I only race and train when it completely fits my family’s schedule, and I won’t miss any of my kid’s athletic events or performances in order to race. This keeps my life balanced, and as a result, I start races feeling very grateful and fulfilled…so whatever the outcome, it’s all good!

What are your ultrarunning goals for the next 6 years?

My kids are at ages where I want and need to be home with them, supporting their activities and needs…so the next six years will most likely be local races that fit my schedule and training time. I would like to remain competitive in the 40-49 age group, and some races I would love to try once the kids are out of the house include Miwok 100K, Where’s Waldo 100K, Hardrock 100, and a stage race like the Trans Rockies. I would love to run in the Alps and in Ireland and Scotland.

Thanks Sophie! Keep running strong.

Friday, March 7, 2008

35-mile Catawba Run Around

Tomorrow morning I will embark on a little journey that we call the Catawba Run Around. This unofficial gathering of ultra friends is a 35-mile loop run mostly on the Appalachian Trail west of Roanoke, VA. It's a tough one. I've run 50-milers faster than I can run this 35-mile loop. One reason is the almost 9,000 feet of climbing.

The other reason is that runs like this aren't supposed to be fast. The route takes us over three of the AT's biggest highlights: McAfee's Knob, Tinker Cliffs, and Dragon's Tooth.

(McAfee's Knob, 2005 CRA)

(Dragon's Tooth, 2004)

For many people, it's a day-hike just to get to one of these three natural wonders. We cannot afford that luxury, but most of us do take our time and enjoy the trail along the way. One year I remember Matt Kirk was among the lead runners until he got to Dragon's Tooth and decided to sunbathe for a while and wait for his dad. That's how a run like this is supposed to be run.

There are races that we race to win, to complete as fast as possible. Not the Catawba Run Around. Like a fine whiskey, this beauty needs to be sipped, not chugged.

(Carl Camp enjoying a CRA tradition, 2004)

Run hard out there -- except when the scenery demands that you slow down, or when there is whiskey involved.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Interview with Sophie Speidel, Part 1

A couple weeks ago I posted Sophie Speidel's story from Running Through the Wall. This is the first part of a follow-up interview with Sophie. Enjoy!

Holiday Lake 2002 was your first ultra. Describe how you trained for your first. Did you follow a detailed training plan? What was a typical training week like as you prepared for the 50k distance?

I trained for HL2002 by running the 2001 Richmond Marathon in November, and then running a 16 miler and 21 miler in December and January, along with track workouts with long repeats and shorter trail runs. I didn’t know about tempo runs back then, but I did have a good deal of residual fitness from 2 years of training for short- course triathlons. It wasn’t enough, though, because I developed IT band issues halfway into HL and had to walk/run to the finish! In hindsight, I should have put in a few more miles per week (I estimate that it was 45 mpw max), added tempo runs and run back-to-back long runs. I learned a lot at that race and continue to learn with every ultra that I run! I also would have taken advantage of running a training run on the course, but in 2002, Horton didn’t have training runs prior to the race.

How has your training evolved over the last 6 years? What did you do differently as you prepared for HL 2008?

This year I ran Holiday Lake two weeks after racing the Uwharrie 40, which is a tough event in NC. Typically I am very conservative about when I race…I rarely race more than 6-7 times a year but this year I am racing six ultras by the end of June! I am doing this because all the races work well with my family’s schedule (for example, I am racing the Highland Sky 40 in June not only because it is an awesome event, but also because my husband and I are making it a weekend getaway since our kids will all be at camp that weekend). I am also considering running the Grindstone 100 in October, so I want to race “fast and short” during the spring and then train for “long and slow” in the fall. 100-milers make me slow for many months afterwards, so I want to have fun with speed before I get slow again!

Back to Holiday Lake…I came into the event not completely rested from Uwharrie and Hellgate 100K from back in December. I could feel it in my legs during the latter part of the race when I just didn’t have any zip. However, I chose to race these events close together, so I knew HL was not a target race for me…it was actually a great training run for the Bull Run Run 50 in April. One thing that works for me is to have target races and to not just race randomly, without a plan. I like to compete in the Masters age group and I like to try to set PRs while I still can, so my main goals tend to focus on setting a PR on that course (weather permitting) and being competitive in the Masters category.

A good example of how my training has changed in six years is what I did for Masochists in 2007. I worked with a coach, Mark Lorenzoni, who is a very successful road racing coach in Charlottesville, but he also does a great job with the longer distances, so he put a plan in place for me for the 2007 Mountain Masochist 50. I told him I wanted to run a PR (sub-9:40), and he had me running upwards of 75-80 miles per week in July and August with very little speed work, and then he brought me down to 50-60 mpw with track workouts and tempo runs in September and October. A typical week in September looked like this:

Monday: 8 miles easy on dirt roads with 15x 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy toward the end of the run

Tuesday: 5 miles easy on roads in the a.m., 5 miles easy p.m. on rocky technical trail; Lift (upper body)

Wednesday: Track workout. 2 miles easy warm up, then 5x 1200 in 4:50 (6:40 per mile 5K pace) with an 800 meter hill repeat between each 1200 off the track, then 3 miles cool down for 10 miles total

Thursday: 5 miles easy on dirt in a.m., 7 miles easy on trail p.m; Lift (lower body)

Friday: Tempo Run: 3 miles easy warm up, then 3 miles at 7:10 pace on hilly dirt roads, 1 minute rest, then 2.5 miles at tempo pace up and over big hill climb for 8.5 total.

Saturday: Long run of 20 miles on very hilly dirt roads at 8:45 pace with last 4 miles at 7:40 pace, which is marathon pace for me

Sunday: Easy trail run or day off, depending on how I feel.

As a result of this kind of training, I had a great race at Masochists…I ran 9:34 and felt great the entire race. By comparison, I ran Masochists as my first 50 in 2003 in 10:25.

Editor's note: Thanks Sophie! I love seeing ultrarunners doing track intervals and tempo runs. We all have lots of slow years left in us. Let's enjoy the fast years while we can. Now get out there and run!