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Training Log: Week Ending 4/19/14

Weekly Total: 64 miles, a mix of road and trail. No treadmill!! Last high mileage week before Miwok (in two weeks).

Sunday AM: 17 miles trail, 4 hours, ~2200 elevation gain. First snow-free Middlesex Fells outing of the year. I committed myself to the rugged Skyline Trail for the first 11 miles, ignoring the tempting obstacle-free trails that jut from the bottom of every gnarly hill. Though the Skyline Trail is slow-going, I’m convinced that navigating the rocks, roots, and rolling hills makes me an all-around better runner. (And it’s fun! Trail running is good hard fun!) I ran the loop clockwise until Sheepfold, then turned around and ran back counter-clockwise to where I started. I did this because the 2 miles in between Sheepfold and Wright’s Tower are like an abyss that can easily take me close to 45 minutes. It was warm enough that I sweat on the hills, so I was glad to have a handheld water bottle, but after 2 hours I wished I had some snacks. The morning’s constant drizzle eventually turned into rain. When I arrived back at my car, there was a family in the car next to me, waiting out the rain. They stared at me as I came barreling out of the woods, half-drenched, ripping open my car trunk to locate a packet of almonds and chocolate, which I poured into my mouth while sipping sparkling water and pacing in front of my car before going back into the woods for some more! After refreshments, I stayed on the easier trails and managed 6 miles more miles (fairly speedy at that).

Monday AM: 9 miles, Bread and Butter Loop+. I did an extra mile to celebrate the 60 degree temperature that awaited me at 5am.

Tuesday AM: 6 miles easy. Today should have been a rest day, but with rain and cold due tomorrow morning I couldn’t help but to soak up an easy jog (and normally I hate when people say “jog” or “jogger” as opposed to “run” or “runner,” but I certainly jogged).

Wednesday AM: 60 minutes swimming.

Thursday AM: 8+ miles, Bread and Butter Loop, moderate pace. 30 degrees, dangit.

Friday AM: 60 minutes swimming.

Friday AM: 9.5 miles Pancake Loop, fast pace. There’s something particularly invigorating about following a long swim with a longish run. Too bad I can’t stand road cycling — I’d probably make a pretty good triathlete. Anyway, after my run I delved into my GPS watch settings to try to troubleshoot the crazy elevation readings I’ve been getting, like 1000 feet of elevation gain on a pancake loop because apparently I’m running 200 feet below sea level. Then I noticed the weight setting on my watch was at 148 pounds. Wha?? This is what I weighed when I got the watch right before I ran Bear Mountain almost 2 years ago. Bear Mountain was really my foray into ultras (though I only ran the marathon distance) and since then I’ve lost 15+ pounds. And I wasn’t terribly unfit to begin with! I guess it shouldn’t be surprising that running 40-60 miles per week coupled with swimming, chasing after Little Boy, and low-carb eating would lead to weight loss, but somehow I was surprised because it really felt effortless. Because I never really think about my weight anymore — I’m much more concerned with facial lines and creases.

Saturday AM: 14+ miles, trail, Western Greenway. The last time I was on the Greenway, I was XC skiing in 15 degrees. So it felt pretty freaking good to be trotting in the crisp April sunshine. I didn’t bring any food or water, which is a good thing because otherwise I would have probably kept going. Taper madness.

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Training Log: Week Ending 4/12/14

Weekly Total: 50 miles (mostly 50K race in hilly Vermont)

Saturday AM: 30 minutes swimming. Busy day ahead, with a noontime birthday party and then driving to Vermont for the Twin State 50. In the morning I went to the gym just for the hot tub, really, but didn’t want to be one of those people who went to the gym just for the hot tub, so I swam a bit, keeping the level of exertion sane yet satisfying.

Sunday AM: 31+ miles, roughly 5500 feet elevation gain – the Twin State 50.

Monday AM: 60 minutes swimming. Suffice to say I was sore the morning after the race. My quads were trashed, particularly my right one. Going down stairs was painful. Yet I felt pretty good otherwise — still riding the ultra high — and I was pretty productive in the pool.

Tuesday AM: 60 minutes swimming. Right quad still sore, but everything else is eerily intact.

Wednesday AM: 5 miles easy jog. Easy. Real easy, like 11 minute mile pace. Testing everything out.

Thursday AM: 6 miles run. Not fast, but faster than yesterday, with some hills. It was a truly gorgeous day and I stopped by the Battle Road trail in Concord in the afternoon for a 2-mile power walk.

I saw some lovely things on the ground:


I took the half-mile loop trail to the vernal ponds. How lovely to meander on a snow-free trail! Then, suddenly… snakes. I saw five of these suckers, basking in the sunshine on the trail. These things freak me out.


Friday AM: 8 miles Bread and Butter Loop. As I drifted off to sleep the previous night, I suddenly got the Mother of all Charley Horses in my right calf. I seem to be prone to these while sleeping — it’s about a once a month curse — but this one was strange because I was awake and it hurt so intensely that I grabbed Mr. P and whimpered pitifully. My calf was still sore then next morning, but strangely running didn’t seem to bother it all. Walking was more difficult than running.

Saturday: Rest. Mr. P was in Detroit to run his Boston-qualifying marathon with a time of 3 hours 11 minutes. At home, the warm sun shined wonderfully. I didn’t train per se, but we were pretty active. We had a playground playdate in the morning, then after lunch walked about two miles, stopping at two different playgrounds. To my surprise, Little Boy could easily make his way across a set of monkey bars! I can’t do that. His little arms are getting long and strong.

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2014 Twin State 50

The inaugural running of the Twin State 50K and 50 miler was last Sunday, and me oh my, the conditions were superlative. Blue sunny skies, warm sun, not too much mud… and the convivial fat-ass spirit that rules the very best ultras. (A ‘fat ass’ — I believe it’s an acronym — is a minimally supported race with no medals, no official timing, and not a lot luxuries.) The race director — who judging by his pre-race email barrage is a tad eccentric but entertainingly and intelligently so — delivered a nice, low-key race with lots of cool, inspiring folks to chat with along the way.

With less than a month until Miwok, I needed a hard, hilly run… and the Twin State 50 fit the bill. It starts in Windsor, Vermont and uses some of the same dirt roads that I crawled on for last summer’s Vermont 100. I knew Mr. P and Little Boy would enjoy coming along, breathing in the country air and scenery, staying at a hotel on Saturday night, romping in the swimming pool while I tore up my knees, and then accompanying me to Harpoon’s Brewery for post-race libations and victuals.

I signed up for the 50 miler. That was optimistic and I knew it. I thought if I was feeling reeaalll good, I’d do the 50 miler and go into Miwok with the utmost confidence. But with Miwok less than a month away, I can’t beat up my body so much that I can’t run at all for the next two weeks before my taper.

Every road in the area has the word “Hill” in it. Silver Hill, Juniper Hill, Cow Hill, Meadow Hill, Farm Hill, Hill Hill… The uphills were killer, but I train for uphill; I don’t specifically train for quad-busting downhills on hard-packed mud. Maybe I should. So when I started to “feel” my knees and quads at mile 20, I knew going 30 more miles would be a very bad idea. I’ll save the abuse for Miwok.

I don’t like to say… “I failed to run 50 miles.” I much prefer… “I ran a 50K!” A hilly, quad-busting 50K. I finished in the middle of the pack at 5 hours, 38 minutes. Which is pretty excellent for me, given the approx. 5500 feet of elevation gain and the fact I was pacing myself for a 50 miler for the first twenty miles. I was still running pretty good at the end. (In regards to Miwok: the elevation gain and distance is exactly half of Miwok and I’ll definitely slllooow the pace down since I have 16 hours to finish. It’ll be tough but, I believe, doable.)

Another runner captured this shot of me (in orange) trudging uphill

One of the highlights was crossing two covered bridges at the end, going into and out of New Hampshire (hence the race’s name). One of the covered bridges crossed the Connecticut river and carried a lot of car traffic. The other was small and deserted — the runner I was with at the time took my picture.

Blow-me-down Covered Bridge in Cornish, NH

I finished the race at the local high school at noon. I wrote my time on a piece of paper and then walked to the local playground, where Mr. P and Little Boy were waiting for me. We returned to the hotel so I could take a shower (thank goodness for late check-out) then headed to Harpoon’s. All in all, a great little getaway for the family and a nice bit of training for me!

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Training Log: Week Ending 4/4/13

Weekly Total: 39 miles. Nice small-taper week before the Twin State 50!

Saturday AM: 8 miles trail, elevation galore. Another trip to Wachusett with Mr. P and Little Boy — they skied, I ran. Or, “ran.” Spring steadily chips away at the astute snow pack. The trails were 50% slush, 30% ice, 30% snow, 10% bare rock, 10% water… oh, let’s just round down to 100% crap. (And that’s not including the actual crap on the trails, courtesy of dog owners who think picking up after their pets is optional if they’re in the woods — at least get it off the trail!) Hard stuff to run on. I headed over to the steep Pine Hill trail to get some calf-burning vertical hiking up sheaths of ice with my trusty microspikes. I survived three hours on water only, then headed over to the ski lodge to join the boys for some lunch. I was all healthy with the turkey/avocado salad that I brought from home… then less healthy with a beer and bag of peanut M&Ms.

Saturday PM: 4 miles trails, more elevation. We planned to stay only an hour after lunch since rain was coming and the snow was getting increasingly bad to ski on. So I got another 4 miles in. This time I plowed through the puddles and fecklessly tweaked more than a few muscles in my lower legs. It started raining as we all walked back to the car. A good day for everyone.

Meanwhile, on the ski trails...

Sunday AM: Gyming. 30 minutes stepmill, 50 minute spinning class, about 1 mile sprints on indoor track. I don’t know what possessed me to take a spinning class. It was raining outside that morning and I had a limited exercise window for the day, so I headed to the gym. And had no intention of taking a spinning class until, well, I did. I used to love spinning classes — I blog about them constantly. But now, it was boring, annoying, yet a heck of a good workout.

Monday AM: 5 miles speedwork, treadmill. And jumprope, weights. I hate the treadmill but… for speedwork, I admit, the treadmill makes me faster.

Tuesday AM: 8 miles Bread and Butter Loop. Such a dilemma right now, that I’m supposed to be tapering for this Sunday’s Twin State 50-miler… yet my legs feel genuinely fresh, fantastic, and invigorated by this beleaguered Spring. For sure I’ve cut out the speedwork, but the miles may persist.

Wednesday AM: 8 miles Bread and Butter Loop. Another great morning to run.

Thursday AM: 6 miles , mostly easy and flat. Okay, last run before the 50 miler, I promise.

Friday AM: 60 minutes swimming.

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No snow! kinda warm! & sun

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Training Log: Weeks Ending 3/28/14

Two weeks in one!

Weekly Total: 50+ miles, a mix of snowy trail/treadmill/road. A solid and confidence-boasting week.

Saturday AM: 45 Minutes swimming.

Sunday: 28.5 miles trail running at TARC Spring Thaw 6-Hour Run (though my Garmin said 29 miles). Second Place Girl. Race report here.

Monday AM: 60 Minutes swimming. Legs felt tired for sure, but there was nothing catastrophic and the swim certainly helped.

Tuesday AM: Light gyming. I did some cycling, jump-rope, slow treadmill walking. My legs were still pretty swollen from the race so the goal is still recovery.

Wednesday AM: 60 Minutes swimming.

Wednesday PM: 9 miles road running, sort of fast.

Thursday AM: 4 miles treadmill (fast), some indoor cycling and core work.

Friday AM: 9+ miles road running, Bread and Butter Loop. Legs are still a bit tired, so I’m looking forward to a recovery week and tapering for the Twin State 50-miler.

Weekly Total: 44 mostly easy miles.  Recovery Week;-)

Saturday AM: 10 miles road running.

Sunday AM: 12 miles road running

Monday AM: 60 minutes swimming.

Tuesday AM: 60 minutes swimming.

Tuesday PM: 7 miles road.

Wednesday AM: 2 miles treadmill; assorted cycling, jume-rope, weight-train.

Thursday AM: 5 miles treadmill, speedwork.

Friday AM: 8 miles Bread and Butter loop.

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Oldies but Goodies

Deep in the recesses of my hard drive, I found a folder of photos of Little Boy. (You don’t truly realize how little they are until they get big.)

2 and 5/6 years Old -- Bear Mountain Carousel

Cutey! Around 3 years old

Freshly 3 years old

With Daddy and Ethiopian soccer shirt

Introspection... and Hot Wheels

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TARC Spring Thaw 2014: Slow and Steady Comes in Second

When it comes to trail races, I do much better (relative to the field) in bad conditions. Whether it be rocks, hills, mud, snow/ice, or a potpourri of the above, I can make up for my lack of raw speed with my pure, old-fashioned tolerance for discomfort and insanity. So I shouldn’t have been surprised when I came as second girl in the TARC Sprint Thaw 6-hour run (though, frankly, I was stunned). Results here.

It works like this: You have 6 hours to do as many 3.5 mile loops on a snowy, icy, and eventually muddy trail in a forest in Andover. Speed will get you more loops, but if you burn out early, then turtles like me might persevere.

I was aiming to do at least a marathon, because a marathon gets you a mention in Ultrarunning magazine (the print edition of which arrives at my door nearly every month, and it’s 100X more thrilling to see my name in printed magazine as compared to Internet results). I actually ended up with 28.5 miles (the first loop was actually 4 miles; there was an option to do a 2 mile loop as your last loop only, which I was planning on doing if I hadn’t had time to do the eighth loop, and which would have given me 26.5 miles). UGH, too much math. Me run, me don’t think math!

The race started at 9am Sunday morning. It was freezing. Low 20’s with a gusty, bitter wind.

Race photographer got a pre-race candid of me -- very cold

I look miserable, but I love TARC races. I always find someone congenial with whom to make small talk. This time it was an older woman with microspikes. We gabbed and shivered until the start. I was unsure if traction would be necessary, and therefore decided to do the first loop without the Yak Trax I tucked away in my drop bag. In retrospect, an odd decision considering I trained with traction all winter…

The start: a brief bit of asphalt

A bad decision: the trail was covered in snow and occasionally ice. I was miserable the first loop. My footing was cautious and clumsy; my knees were frozen, and I couldn’t mentally process “7 more loops.” My stomach felt queasy, rebellious. Lots of runners passed me, including the woman I gabbed with, her microspikes firmly clinking in the ice.

After the first loop, I slipped on my Yak Trax. The pack was thinning out, but thoughts about quitting still haunted me. My limbs were still numb and clumsy.

Second Loop: Just Not Feeling It (yet)

Lap 3 was better. I finally warmed up. I was lonely, so I slipped on one of my earbuds and listened to music (but still socialized with runners I passed, as well as the race volunteers — who are just awesome).

Laps 4 and 5: I began to feel confidence in my progress, but also some worry if I could attain a marathon in six hours, as only complete laps counted. Would I have time for the last lap? Would I have the legs? I needed to pick up my pace. Since long stretches of the trail were flat and fairly runnable with traction, I was able to do some 10 minute miles. I refueled on chocolate peanut butter cups, pretzel M&Ms, and water… and felt pretty good.

Laps 6 and 7: I was still going strong! Running repetitive loops certainly has an advantage, as I entered a “zone”… music helped, and I began looping other runners, many who were walking… I realized I would be able to finish an eighth loop, giving me 28.5 miles and I was elated. I was having a blast.

Lap 8: I started my last loop around hour 5, giving me an hour to finish (I was averaging 40-45 minutes per 3.5 loop). Easy-peasy, yet my legs were starting to feel it, so I walked the hills. The course was softer, more muddy, harder to run on. I perceived that there were significantly less runners still competing, but it didn’t hit me until I reached the end shortly before the sixth hour, and it was me and a dozen-or-so hard core ultramen and some of the easy-going walking women hanging out at the aid station, noshing unabashedly on junk food. I couldn’t hang around — I had grad school commitments — so I finished ALL of the turkey/mustard/mayo sandwiches and headed out.

Major shock when I saw the results: I came in second girl! And I narrowing missed coming in first (first girl finished 28.5 miles too, but 5 minutes faster). All the fast girls stopped had running.

So I came in second and won this AMAZING pottery hollow tree trophy, personally crafted by the AMAZING race director (who even mailed it to me):

Second-Place Race Trophy

A tremendous start to my ultrarunning season. If I do nothing else — if I don’t finish Twin State or Miwok, if I end up with crippling injuries, if my legs fall off — I have this small triumph to cling to, and this exquisite hollow tree to treasure…

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Training Log: Week Ending 3/14/14

Weekly Total: 51+ miles, lots of hard miles but lots of fun, too.

Saturday: 14+ miles, Middlesex Fells, 4 Hours. Hard going in the Fells, with a choppy snow pack and occasional swaths of ice. I wore my microspikes and carried a singe pole. I hiked the hills without shame.

Loving my New Sportivas -- But Sick of the Microspikes

Sunday AM: 7 miles, Wachusett trails, 2.5 hours and about 2000 ft elevation gain. I talked Mr. P into taking Little Boy skiing at the ever-popular Wachusett Mountain. It was selfish: I wanted to come along and run/hike the surrounding trails, and be able to meet them for lunch. It was hard getting the fam’ galvanized the morning after Daylight Savings! but we arrived to Wachusett ski area after 9am and, after the shuttle to the lodge and helping the get Little Boy suited up, I was running before 10am. “Running.” Good to get some vertical, but these miles in the soft snow and periodic swaths of ice are hard.

Sunday PM: 6+ miles, Wachusett trails, 2 hours and about 2000 ft elevation gain. After a brown-bag lunch with Mr. P and Little Boy, I bid them a good ski and hit the trails again. I consciously sought climbing. I made a friend on the trail, a 60ish truck driver from Worcester who kept calling me ‘miss’; he engaged me in conversation when I yielded to him because he was ascending and I was (rapidly) descending. He was intrigued that I was running. He wanted to point out things on the vista. I think he was sad to say goodbye. Mr. P and Little Boy had a nice afternoon on the trail and we returned home, everyone happy, and tired.

On Wachusett Summit -- first time of a total six times for the day

At Balance Rock, striving for the head-pic

Monday AM: 60 minutes swimming (leisurely)

Tuesday AM: 7 miles road (leisurely — legs still tired). Also went for a 3 mile walk en route to pick up Little Boy at school in the afternoon, because it was 60 degrees.

Wednesday AM: 9 miles road, bread and butter loop. Warm morning (35 degrees) and sidewalks. Legs felt much better.

Thursday AM: 60 minutes swimming.

Friday AM: 5 miles treadmill, some speed work. I’m taking it easy in anticipation of my season’s first ultra on Sunday, a 6 hour trail loop in which runners try to run as much as they can in 6 hours. I’m aiming to complete at least a marathon, maybe more — though it depends entirely on the conditions of trail, as sustaining 12-minute miles for 6 hours on choppy snow/ice doesn’t sound likely. It’s just a training race after all.

Friday PM: 3 miles road, speedy. Still taking it easy!

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Open Window

This evening we achieved an annual New England milestone: We opened a window. The kitty cat went nuts. He could smell fresh air and hear birds for the first time in nearly six months. When we closed the window — because it was dropping below 60 degrees — he was so sad. He methodically checked all of the windows in the house to see if they, too, were open.

Spring, you must come, and relieve this kitty cat of his feline angst.

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