Wednesday, April 30, 2014

big decisions and ticking clocks

Contrary to my original intentions, it seems this blog has become more of an account of the ups and downs of life with a little sprinkle of running if I have time to fit it in. In attempt to bring balance to this ghastly display of personal confession and social appeal, I will leak one of my secrets to running healthy for 120 days in a row (to be taken with a generous helping of salt granules, as I am not yet the reigning authority on all matters running...status pending). Are you ready to receive my wisdom?

1. Stress Less.

Sounds simple enough, yes? No. Life is full of unavoidable stress, so I'm mainly addressing the burden we place upon ourselves with regards to our endurance training.

Does this sound familiar? "I have a mile repeat track workout today, tomorrow I'll do a recovery run at 8 min pace, followed by a long run on Sunday incorporated with some marathon tempo miles..." Stop. Set down the GPS and back away from the running log. I said put it down!

We all have goals, PRs that need breaking and courses that need conquering. Admittedly these things are so much more difficult to accomplish from the bench... Have I got your attention yet?

I am speaking from experience, my ass has left permanent imprints on the benches at my high school and college tracks. In fact, I even had to install a bench at home to handle the overflow of ass-time. Sorry for all the "ass"...perhaps a clever symbol substitution will depreciate the vulgar value. Rewind and replace all with "a$$" and proceed.

We stress too much about our expectations for each run and the subsequent fallout after those expectations aren't met. This places unnecessary burden not only on our delicate psyche, but I believe on our bodies as well. Weak minds yield weak bodies, just in the same way that stubborn minds yield broken bodies. Find a balance.

Don't stress about how far you think you need to run on any given day, and don't put too much stock in any particular pace you think you need to hit.

I leave my house each day and run by the seat of my pants. Get out the door and feel great? Sweet, let's run 10 miles and push the pace. Throw on the shoes and feel like a hot steamy pile? Who cares, drag a$$ for a mile or two then call it a day. One day, or even one week, will not make you...but it can break you. Training for 50 miles, I knew I had to get certain distances in or else I wouldn't be adequately prepared, as is the same for your training I speculate.

Run how you feel, and don't stress. There are times to hold 'em, and times to fold 'em...the more willingness you have to LISTEN to your body, the more appropriately you can respond to any given scenario.

Am I running super fast times? H-E-double hockey sticks no! But I can assure you that I am inching closer to those desired times by running as opposed to sitting. Rigid training programs will work for some - injury-immune folks, profesh runners already in bangin' shape, and those looking to get - but for the rest of us we need to practice some patience. I'm the worst offender in the real world, but in the running world I've gained considerable perspective in being patient. Try it.

Now for a sprinkle of real-life updates. It seems I will be staying in Seattle (hooray) and that I have found my niché. "Hindsight is always 20/20", "you never appreciate what you have until its gone", and other clichés that sum up being blissfully ignorant...

Until the next installment of "As Amanda's World Turns" I bid thee farewell and happy running.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

we all need a win sometimes

You know those moments in life where you just need a win? No matter how small? That's been me this week, needing a little glimmer of hope or, if nothing else, some degree of confirmation that I'm heading in the right direction. 

Today is my birthday, and no this is not me making a desperate plea for Facebook well-wishes but if you are so inclined as to venture a birthday post (despite not having actually spoken physical words to me within the last 6 months) who am I to deny you your right to half-ass a friendship... Of course, this is said with utmost sarcasm as I am the quintessential example of low-quality friendship given that I can nearly remember my closest friends' names, let alone recall such notable life events as birthdays or anniversaries. But I digress...

As a gift to myself, I elected to run the Earth Day 5k held at Alki Beach in West Seattle. Let's take a moment to talk about that thing that all runners do when they feel extremely self-conscious about their fitness level. Sizing up the competition. It goes like this...

First, roughly estimate the total number of participants who showed up, and immediately subtract all participants wearing the event t-shirt on race day. For today, that narrowed the already small field by approximately 75%.

Second (with infinitely more snobbish judgement required), scan the remaining participants and gauge general fitness level coupled with chosen racing attire and footwear. 

Don't look at me with derision, we all do it. And for those of you who do sport your newly acquired race day tee on race day, this is not a dig...sadly this is how a desperate runner's mind works when she's backed into a corner and feels the need to claw - tooth and nail - her way to the top.

The sound of the foghorn sent us on our way and, not knowing how I would feel, I was more than ready to trip, elbow, or piggy-back my competition (no not really, jeez...what you must think of me). 

But to my own astonishment, I felt pretty good. I felt in control, pushing a pace slightly beyond my comfort level. Checking my watch at the first mile brought me encouragement, a 6:44! Nice. 

I pushed past a few other worthy competitors at the turn around and made it into first place. Much to my surprise, my tank did not run empty and I held my position to the end. I felt like I was flying, allowing myself to dream that I might be on pace to break 20 min. Sadly no, I rolled across the line in around 20:38. But that's still amazing for me and it felt incredible nonetheless.

Things haven't gone as anticipated the past few weeks and the next 30 days will undoubtedly bring a new job, home and state of residence...again. I find myself bridging the gap between excitement and complete terror. Still, I remain optimistic.

Today I needed a win. Something that tells me my hard work, my passion, my drive extends beyond just some personal expulsion of entropy lost to the universe as we continue our decent into cosmic chaos.

How's that for mind blown? I think I need a piece of chocolate. 

I feel great about where my running is taking me and am slowly approaching my remaining resolutions for the year. Day 109 and going strong.

To all of you who have been my support system, I can't thank you enough. Adventures are always best appreciated, and better served, in good company. 

Saturday, April 12, 2014

so what's next...

It has been a week since my American River trek across the Sacramento back-country, and for the sake of nostalgia I decided to commemorate my achievement with an 8 mile climb to Mt. Si in North Bend, WA. I mean, why not?

For the most part, I consider myself 95% recovered from the ordeal. Although, I will say my joints (knees) are still in an active state of revolt against me and are probably carefully plotting my assassination. In motion they seem to fair alright, but after an extended period of sitting the effort to stand is futile. That's okay, I really didn't want to leave this restaurant anyway...

Enough rambling.

Looking back, the whole event still hasn't settled. The feelings of excitement, accomplishment, agony...they still linger in the air like dust that never seems to settle, eluding me every time I think they've found a resting point. To me, it is almost as if it didn't happen. But the highly coveted jacket, medal, and scars remind me that it did.

This week has been a new adventure all its own; full of ups, downs, and of course...running. Another major geographical move may be on the horizon for me. The fear of the unknown is taxing, yet oddly liberating. I have no idea what my future holds, but all I can do it hold on tight and hope for the best.

Since the Seattle clock is ticking, I will be cramming as much run and fun into the next 30 days as possible. That started today with my hike at Mt Si. My first outdoor adventure since arriving in Washington and it was spectacular!

We had some cloud coverage, but I tell you it felt like we were on top of the world at only 4,500 ft. 
Don't worry...I made sure my sandwich made it to the top too.
This week also ushered in a major 100th day of consecutive running. Subsequently on said milestone day, I had a friend inform me that he knew of some runners who were on their 15th consecutive YEAR of running nonstop...sure. Every parade needs a little rain right? Bring your umbrella.

Nothing was going to knock me off my pedestal, not even some super freaks who clearly don't have lives... *She said in bitter jealousy.* Still, this is a pretty amazing feat and we celebrated with delicious carbs at a local Italian hot spot.
So what's on the horizon? Next week I celebrate my 26th birthday with the Earth Day 5k at Alki Beach in Seattle. The big seller were the promise of a caravan of food trucks lining the finish area. Sold.

On May 10th I will be running the Hippie Chick Half Marathon in Hillsboro, OR courtesy of @betterseries racing group. I'm tickled by the idea of putting some speed back into my lower extremities and seeing some of the Oregon countryside. 

That concludes my report for now. Life is about to become incredibly unpredictable in the coming weeks, I'm eager to see what path my feet will find. Until next time, my running continues. Cheers. Day 102. #streak365

Monday, April 7, 2014

American River 50 Mile Endurance Run

 I did it, 50 miles officially crossed off my bucket list. Truthfully I don't even know where to start in my explanation of what happened on Saturday, I'm sure my account of this event will take more than one post to cover fully.

I ate 4 consecutive In N Out meals to prep for the race. It is the one thing that I know does not upset my stomach...and it is delicious.
I'm going to start with this:
If you know someone who is an ultra marathoner in any capacity, you need to immediately meet them with a warm embrace. I now speak from first hand experience that you may think you know what "hard" is, or how "sore" have no idea. No frickin' clue. These people are a special kind of incredible crazy that deserve your support and praise, because never in my wildest dreams could I have imagined any event so mentally and physically demanding as a 50 mile run. Send these people your love, that's an order.

Roughly 1,000 people signed up for the event, around 850 finished. My wave began at 6:15, immediately following the first wave at 6am which mostly included elites. I pushed off the line and never looked back, rolling through the first 25 miles at around 8:30-9:30 pace. The first half of the course was flat, primarily road or bike path, and relatively easy to pass other runners. It wasn't until I hit that aid station at the 25 mile mark that I hit my first (of what would be many) wall.

Mile 12 - Willow Creek Aid Station
My feet started to ache so bad, I could hardly stand it. I typically run with orthodics, well...I should say that I used to run with orthodics. Those rigid little bastards were killing me! Thankfully it was my mom's time to shine. She and I wear the same size, and subsequently, the same shoe. I told her to strip the insoles from her shoes and toss them to me. A noticeable relief, but sadly not enough to make me pain free.

By this point I had caught much of the back-half of the first wave, which was good news because we entered the single track trials for the remaining 25 miles. Around mile 30, my knees started to go. Aid stations were doubled-edged swords; a sight for sore eyes and a place to make sore legs worse. Exiting the 30-mile aid station was the beginning of the end for me.
Mile 25 - Granite Bay Aid Station
The single-track trial got increasingly more aggressive and at some times, quite treacherous for waning muscles and limited fine motor control. My legs completely rejected any attempt at downhill "running." My muscles were in great shape, but my joints...most notably my knees, straight up and quit without warning. It took me 3 hours to complete 10 miles, and at that point I still had 10 miles remaining.

Runners with high spirits and all their mental faculties were blowing by me at mile 40! What the hell? That's when I almost lost it. Rolling into the aid station at mile 40 - my folks looking helplessly on as their daughter rode the brink of total meltdown - knowing I still had so far to go, yet was entirely too close to quit... It was all I could do to keep from bursting into tears. Not sniffles, not "woe-is-me" misty eyes...I'm talking the ugliest of the ugly, inconsolable sobbing. But I choked it down. Swallowed that lump in my throat. Bit my quivering lip until I tasted blood. To cry would mean wasting precious fluids, not to mention what it would mean for my mental state. So I pressed on at 13 minute pace with my head down and 10 miles to go.
Mile 40 - Rattlesnake Bar Aid Station
At mile 47 we began the ascent. When I say ascent, I mean mountain. The last 3 mile are entirely uphill, at some times a considerable grade. Let me tell you this though, when you've gone 47 miles, a handicap ramp might as well be Everest...

Everyone walked. We'd been out there for just about 10 hours, and no one was going to attempt to run up Everest and risk rolling all the way back down to Sacramento.

"3 miles left," the sign read. "2 miles to go," said the next. I was barely lifting one foot in front of the other. There was no daylight to be seen underneath my feet. Relentless forward motion. I started jogging, taking my 15 min walk to a 14:30 "jog."

I saw the "1 mile" sign off in the distance. That was it. This had to be over. I could hear the roaring crowd at the top of the hill, but the announcer on the microphone was still to far to discern his words.

My knees were shot and I was fighting hyper-extension with every step. But suddenly I didn't give a f*ck anymore. I ran. I ran fast. I picked up my pace to a swift sub-8, rolling up a steep grade of probably 4%. I blew by competitors who'd passed me 30 minutes prior.

"You can do anything for a mile," my coach used to say. I believe him now. I was yelling to myself, "You CAN DO THIS!" And I did, sprinting up the steep hill, burning around the corner, hitting the grass and never looking back until I cross the finish line.

10 hours. 24 minutes. 20 seconds.

People tell me, "I can only imagine how hard that must have been." No you can't. You can't even begin to fathom the gravity of that type of run. I trained 35 miles and still had no clue what I was getting myself into. Totally surreal that I completed it.

Getting in that 1 mile...reluctantly.
Two days later, I can barely function. I was running the day after my 35 miler. I had to push, with every fiber of my being, to get in a 13 minute mile the last two days. I refuse to break my streak. Any type of motion that requires a squat deeper than 75 degrees, isn't happening. This includes sitting on beds, couches, chairs, cars, and toilets. I get to 75 degrees and my muscles give out, all I can do is pray that after my free-fall my ass finds a seat instead of the floor.

What a triumph. Braving physical, emotional and mental fatigue. I couldn't be prouder of myself. I trained for 4 months....from scratch, others were worried they'd cut it way too close with only 6 months. I have never run a marathon. In fact, I've never raced over a half marathon. I had no nutrition help, no training program, and no pacers during my race. The odds were against me and I beat them. That's my take-away, even when the odds are against me my feet always find the ground.

Go right this second and give your ultra marathoners some love.

Thank you +Oiselle for giving me strength beneath my wings. Thank you to Jill for being my constant support from the start of this outrageous journey. And thank you to all my friends and family for offering encouragement when I needed it most.

More to come. Until then, my streak continues. Day 97. #streak 365

Friday, April 4, 2014

it's time

The day has come. Tomorrow I wake up at 5:15am, make my traditional breakfast of egg-in-a-hole, and head to the starting line of the American River 50 Miler. I can't even believe it. All the work I've put in, all the miles I've run, all the tears I've cried...culminating to this moment.

This will be my 95th day of running, 50 unforgiving miles through some of the most beautiful California back country along the American River Trial.

I've come a long way since dragging ass back in December at Club XC Nationals. In fact, my New Year's Resolution began only one mile at a time for probably the first week and a half. Not to mention the fact that I've had more running injuries during my 15 year career than most will see in a lifetime. Yet I'm healthy. Not fast, but healthy. It's remarkable.

Tomorrow is a big deal for so many reasons, more reasons than can be explained in this blog and more reasons than I'm sure many would care to read about.

I find myself in between a personal "rock" and a professional "hard place", constantly banging my head against the wall in disappointment with my lack of vision, clarity, and focus. I don't know what, or who, I want to be when I grow up. My attention span for life is about the duration of a gold fish's memory, roughly 6 seconds.

I know running is often used as a metaphor for life, just ask any runner-writer who defies convention and dares to draw such parallels in their memoirs...  For me, running is anything but a metaphor. Running is easy, life is hard. Sadly, running just seldom shares my enthusiasm and level of dedication so I end up sitting the bench with [insert your favorite injury].

But for some reason this year, for these last 95 days, running has been the one constant in my life. It has provided me with direction when I can't seem to find any elsewhere. It rewards me when I work hard. And it is my outlet when other aspects of my life circle the drain.

I've found purity in my unconditional love of this sport. I only hopes this translates into other areas of my life, especially my new belief about expectations. Expectations are for people with a plan, and people with a plan have clearly never lived because if there's any hard fact I can tell you about life (supported by my wise 26-year existence....), it would be plan on things never going according to plan.

So - like my running, my race, and my life - I just have to take each mile as it comes. When I finally let go of my expectations, I felt like my running was taken to a whole new level (think Forrest Gump leg-brace status).

I'm not scared for tomorrow. I'm embracing this incredible journey that has brought me to a place I never knew existed, to a race I never thought I'd be able to complete. Let's do this. Sh*t is about to get real.
The Auburn historical museum.