Thursday, December 16, 2010

Leading the Heart

Leading the Heart.  That's pretty much my mantra right now.  Much of my running lately has been under the "I really don't want to" category.  That was until this past weekend at Texas Trails.  I signed up for the race to help spur my motivation level and try to stoke the flame to keep training for Rocky.  I am thankful that I think it was some good time to run and clear my head and hear what I needed to hear.

It's no secret to anyone who knows me that I have been really considering dropping out of the 100 at Rocky.  Yet, just when I make up my mind to do so, something stirs me to pick up the baton again and "just get it done." 

I know that "just get it done" should not be a justification for running a 100 miles.  In fact, I don't think I would ever suggest to anyone that they consider such a thing if that was their attitude toward a particular race goal.  But I know myself well enough to understand that I am not really dealing with motivation here.  I am discovering that what is truly going on is a serious case of self-doubt, exhibiting itself as lack of motivation and even downright dread of doing something that  I love to do. 

Understanding that this is what is driving my training, I've made the conscious decision to just get it done.  I am training as if I will be running the 100.  I am confident that by leading my heart,  and at times yanking it along, to the start line in February, I will be physically ready to take on this race. The mental aspect of the race is where the true challenge will lie for me.  It always is. 

 I have been listening to Downhere, a group I heard live recently, and these lyrics hit me in a new way the other day...(from the song Something Heavenly )
I'm so far from what I wanna be
I really am my own worst enemy
Please don't let me get the better of me
take this earthly thing and make it finally
something heavenly
 In running, in my faith life, in all areas of my life, this verse could be applied.  I don't know how it happens, but I wake up every now and again and realize that I have taken control of the very thing I need to let go of if I want it to be successful.  Because "I" can do nothing, but in Him, all things can be done, if it is His will.

So I will train as if it is His will for me to run this race.  I will act as if it is.  I will suit up and I will show up, and if I truly trust in His will for me, even in something as trivial as running, I will accept where ever I end up on Feb 5th.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blessings come from Blessings

And this most perfect blessing makes me smile every time I see her!   Grandbabies are amazing!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Texas Trails 2010

What a difference a year makes!  Last year was the inaugural run for the Texas Trails race (at least without the Sunmart sponsorship) and the weather proved to be the biggest issue for most.  With a starting temp of below 19 degrees (highly unusual for us here in the Houston area), this year's temps of 57 at the start seemed perfect!

I signed up for this race as a motivator.  I needed something to encourage me in my efforts to get to the start line at Rocky this February.  I think that this race did exactly what I needed it to do and I am glad I ran it.

I had no real time goal for the race, as I was treating it more as a training run as well as an opportunity to run with Stacy and catch up on things.  We stuck together for the entire race, implementing the 8:2 method and finished strong, feeling great, and feeling even better today!  Our finish time was 6:22 and though it was not a PR (mine is 6:14) I know that if I had been after a PR, I would have reached it.  I really was more interested in just enjoying the run and taking in the whole experience.

I saw many familiar faces, which is always nice.  I met a few new ones as well.  I think the thing I love most about trail running is how encouraging most of the other runners can be.  Hearing, "Great Job!" as a runner passes by does a lot to lift the spirit and speaks to the notion that we really are all in this together and though we all can't win the race, we are each inspired by an individual's efforts.

Speaking to my own efforts yesterday, I felt great the whole day.  My hydration and nutrition felt like they were spot on.  I took an S-cap every hour, ate every 5 miles, just a little.  I felt like I needed salt more than I usually do, and at the end of the race, I could see a lot of salt on my clothing.  I've not experienced that before.  I was glad that I stuck with the S-caps as it would have been easy to think that I didn't need them in yesterday's cooler temps (compared to our summer runs).

I ate 5 honey stinger chews every 10 miles and alternated with some potato chips and tomatoes and grapes that I had in my cooler.  The aid stations were lacking, to say the least, but twice I was able to grab a salted potato.  I also had a few doses of Coke (something I never drink off the course, but find very helpful during long races) and at the final loop, I did an Emergen C which I think gave me a nice boost to finish the race with.

Stacy's friend Mik was there as support, and he was great!  He knew instinctively how to help and it saved us time.  Thanks Mik!  A few other folks were at the start/finish line for that final loop and one of them offered to fill my Nathan bladder.  Again, saved me time and allowed me to use the port-a-potty which is always a good thing.  Thank you, Carmen!

Stacy and I were consistent in our pacing. We ran 8 mins and walked 2 mins the entire race.  No real issues while running physically.  I never felt like I was bonking which I think speaks to consistent nutrition.  We finished the race feeling strong.

I am really not one to complain about an event, because I feel lucky to have the opportunity to run, but this race, I have to say, is one I am not sure I will run again.

Upon arriving at the race, which was not a large race by any stretch of the imagination, I was directed to a parking spot.  I was not allowed to decide where I would like to park.  I have run several races in Huntsville, but have never had this experience.  I arrived 1.5 hours ahead of the start time yet I had to park the farthest from the start line.  I wasn't excited about it, but I accepted it.  One gentleman I overheard wasn't as accepting as I.  He asked the race volunteer if he could possibly park closer and the response he got  was, "Sure, come back in 30 mins!  You are running a 50K, a few more steps won't kill you!"  I was in shock.  It wasn't said jokingly, it was rude.  The man explained that he had several things to carry and would really have liked to have parked closer and again the volunteer chided him to come back in 30 mins.  Wow.

Next, I went to the Lodge to pick up my race packet.  I was told by someone to locate my number on a list outside of the lodge and then tell the packet folks what my number was.  I don't carry my glasses with me, so locating my number on a list of other runners with type at a small font size is not something I can do very well.  I prayed that I had the right number and headed to pick up my packet.  As I approached the table, I was instructed to pick up a plastic bag and fill it myself.  LOL  I know this sounds spoiled, but really?  There was absolutely no packet preparation done at all by the RD.  The bags were still folded and in a stack.  I picked one up and was asked what size shirt I would like.  I am pretty certain I indicated that when I registered, but whatever.  From there I went to retrieve my bib.  I told the volunteer my number and I was handed a bib and timing chip.  There was no label indicating that it was indeed my number.  There was no cross check of my name with the number, they just took my word for it.  I have never seen anything like it. 

I do not depend on aid stations during my races.  I pack as if there won't be any, and I am glad that I did yesterday.  That being said, I know other people who were in need of things and having paid for a race with aid stations, did not get the support they should have.  I do not think that this says that we are "spoiled" because if a runner knows that there will be aid on the course, they plan for that.  If the same runner knows that there will be no aid or very minimal aid, they will prepare for that as well.

The aid stations were poorly stocked.  There were no electrolyte caps as promised.  There was little assistance to help runners who needed bottles filled, hydration packs filled, etc.  Stacy was looking for some fruit  and was handed an entire apple.  Slices would have been more helpful.  Granted this was a 50K and not a 50 or 100 miler, but honestly, I've seen more help at a 5 mile race than I saw yesterday.  There was absolutely no enthusiasm from the aid station workers.  It was almost as if they didn't want to be there.  I do not remember this being the case last year. 

At the finish, another runner who had completed the race was handing out finisher shirts and medals.  Last year when I ran the race, I found out a few days after the race that I had placed as 2nd Female in my age group.  I contacted the RD and he mailed out my award several months later.  I am not a collector of awards, but I think this one bothered me because there was not one person at the finish line when I finished to hand out awards, shirts or medals.  This year, it was a runner who had run the race himself.

I decided to check out the stats of the race to see if I placed this year.  We found the list of finishers and the only age group listed was 0-99.  When I saw the RD, I asked him if he was going to be posting the age group results later.  He stated that he decided he wasn't going to break the results into age groups this time and just gave everyone a medal.  He asked me if I got one and I said yes.  He said, "so than you can't complain!"  I wasn't complaining, I was inquiring.  Today when I was checking the official results, I noticed that the 12.5 mile race was divided into age groups, but the 50 K was not.  Very strange.

I was eating some tortilla soup that the race provided and he followed up by asking me if I liked it, being polite, I said that I did.  I asked him if he made it.  He said, "Yes.  I paid for it, so I made it."  I don't know that I have ever run across such arrogance. 

At the finish, several of us were sitting around chatting about the day and the RD approached us to ask us how we liked the race.   Stacy informed him of how she felt about the aid stations.  He squirmed and we could tell he really didn't want to hear any feedback unless it was  positive.  Another runner mentioned that he had lost his electrolytes on the course and could really have used some.  He suggested that next time he should have them at the aid stations.  The RD's response, "Well, there were bowls of salt out!"  The list of aid station provisions clearly stated that electrolytes would be available.

I can live with poor aid stations, lack of supplies, and no awards.  That isn't what I run for.  I do not think I can stand an arrogant RD though.  I will give him the benefit of the doubt that maybe I misunderstood him or perhaps he was having a bad day, but I would caution anyone that considers running this race next year to be prepared to be your own support and do not expect anything else from the race except a nice trail and spending time with others that love the trail as much as you... which in the end is what it is all about anyway.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Hiccups

I thought I had dodged the illness from the first week of training, but alas, I did not.
I had the chance to run the Thanksgiving day race with a friend. We decided to not go for any PRs but rather to just enjoy the day. Honestly, there are so many people that unless you start at the front of the pack, weaving through the rows and rows of people make a PR very difficult to achieve. I am certainly not fast enough to start at the front of the pack, so hence, my decision to hang back and enjoy a fun run with 5000 of my friends and neighbors.
After the race, almost instantly, I started sneezing and feeling chilled. I got home, started the Turkey for dinner and proceeded to spiral downward into a cesspool of symptoms resembling the flu. I am not 100% convinced that it was the flu, but it was certainly more than a cold.
Whatever it was, it stuck around for a good week and yesterday was my first run since Thanksgiving. It was nice to get back out there, but I could not deny that my body is still not where it needs to be for full-on Rocky training. I have had to back down the mileage expectations for this week and run on feel. I don't want to risk a rebound illness while the immune system is still lacking.
I did another run tonight. I had anticipated doing 8 - 10 miles and while on the run, opted for the 8. I was glad I did by mile 5. Fatigue set in and moving forward was feeling less and less like I would like it to.
I am glad to be back at running in spite of this hiccup in training. Honestly, it hasn't helped my heart to feel like it really wants to do this thing in February, but only time will tell. One positive that came from the unexpected rest time - my hamstring and calf seems to have recovered and are no longer painful!
For now, I will enjoy the training I can get in, listen to my body, and embrace the season of Advent.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Week 1

Training for Rocky this week went well.  I have been fighting some sort of illness but managed to get 90 percent of my training in.

The legs are feeling a bit "funky" today, calf aches and pains, a hip flexor a bit angry, and a bruised toe are letting me know that the last few weeks of running and racing and little to no real time set aside for a full recovery is not the way to go.  I slept a full 12 hours Weds night.  This is not a normal occurrence for me and was the first indicator that something was up.  I'm still learning to listen to the body and the real trick for me is figuring out if a particular "issue" is something to run through or something to listen to.

When Boo climbed into bed with me this morning at the precise time I was supposed to get up and run another 10 - 15 miles, I opted for the snuggle time with him.  Knowing how quickly this time will pass, I believe I made the right choice.  As we watched Thomas and he ate the breakfast I had prepared him, he said to me, "Mommy, I will always love you.  Even when I'm 39!"  Sigh....  love that kid!



I've been doing more reading on St. Francis and his spirituality speaks so strongly to my heart.  Simplicity.  Humility.  Joy.  Solitude.  All things that I am probably LEAST associated with, but all things that I long for.  Slowly, ever so slowly, I feel God stripping away the things of the world that really don't matter and find Him filling them with tender moments like this morning that will always be cherished.

The only way to make rapid progress along the path of divine love is to remain very little and put all our trust in Almighty God. - St. Therese of Lisieux

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Plan in Place

I have been able to come up with a doable plan for Rocky 100.  I know it is achievable, what I lack is the drive to follow through. 

I thrive very well on structure and discipline and having had a few weeks of neither has not helped me to stay motivated.  I am hoping that following my plan will encourage my heart to follow in a timely manner. 

It was a bit brisk out there this morning, but still quite a wonderful morning for a run.  It definitely feels like fall!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Stuck in Planning

I am trying to develop a solid yet realistic training plan that will get me to the finish line of Rocky 100 in Feb.  Nothing is coming easily and I almost feel ready to give up before I even begin because I can't find a plan to fit.

I am coming to truly understand the expression "we are each an experiment of one" now. The most important thing for me is going to be making my schedule work for me and not vice versa.  I do not have a "typical" running schedule if there even is such a thing.  So my plan will look dramatically different than what it has been in the past.  If it gets me where I need to be, I will be good.  If it doesn't...well, I just don't know.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rocky Raccoon 25K

After last weekend's fairly ego-busting romp, I convinced Stacy to run a race that we had already decided to volunteer at, the Rocky Raccoon 10K/25K/50K.

It was decided that we would run this as a training run and have a nice, relaxed run on some beautiful trails and then show up for our time to help the HTrex Aid Station. The 25K seemed to fit our needs perfectly.

The morning started at an early 4:30 am, heading to Huntsville State Park in 34 degree temps. I had Lem and her friend tag along for the "experience" since they both are budding runners. Hot Cocoa and fresh baked Cranberry muffins in hand, they piled into the Nerd Herder with coats and blankets for everyone.

We met Stacy in the dark and suddenly realized how very, very cold it was! I told the girls to hang out in the Nerd Herder for as long as they wanted to so as to keep warm, but asked that they not run the engine because I was low on fuel.

Stacy and I headed to the start line and at 7 AM, we began our training run. It was a great day to run the trails. We saw lots and lots of people, many of which looked as though they had not run trails before, but seemingly enjoying the nice change of venue from road running. One guy was thrilled to find Oreos at the aid stations and kept yelling out to the incoming runners, "THEY HAVE OREOS!" He was ecstatic and we told him to hang in there because there would probably be Gummy Bears somewhere along the line too! I bet he'll be back for more trail running!

We probably started out a bit faster than we should have, but it was all for fun and when we ran into Miles, we decided it was all his fault we were running a sub 9 min pace on the trail! He was kind enough to let us know that his game plan was to run until he either finished or blew up. We thanked him for that information and decided we'd opt for the finish! (Love that guy!)

I tend to run faster than I should and knowing that Stacy is recovering from her first 100 miler as well as running on a BROKEN ANKLE and with a BROKEN WRIST from a recent car accident that happened one week before her first 100 at Arkansas Traveler, I thought it best if I let her set the pace.

We had a good run and lots to talk about since we had not seen each other for about 6 weeks. We took the rest of the run easy but Stacy did manage to tweak her ankle and fall. My heart stopped as I saw her hit the ground, but it true to life Stacy form, she got up, shook it off, and kept going. She is a tremendous athlete not to mention insane.

We finished the race/run, and decided we were wanting some real food to eat before heading to the Aid Station to help. As we tried to start the Nerd Herder, there was an eerie "click, click, click" with no engine turn over. Ugh. New cars should not have dead batteries, should they? Upon a bit of investigation, it was discovered that the girls had indeed stayed in the car to keep warm using the radio for quite sometime. Thankfully, there was a nice mountain biker just waiting to offer his help, and soon enough we were on the hunt for some food.

The Aid Station was tons of fun! I have never volunteered at a trail race before. I am so glad that I did and will be certain to do so as often as possible. Trail runners are an incredible bunch of people. From the volunteers that help run the races to the participants of the race, the joy of running shines through even in the difficult times.

A runner, Les, came into the aid station and we noticed that his little finger looked a bit, shall we say, broken? We called Stacy over and within minutes, she fixed him up and sent him on his way! In true runner fashion, instead of crying about how much it must of hurt, he said, "THANK YOU!" and headed to the finish line!

I had the absolute pleasure of seeing several friends finishing up the 50K. Ken, Edwin, Trudy and many others. I had the privilege to meet three ladies, all close to if not already 70 years old. They were walking the 25K. What a fun bunch of girls! Before they left the aid station, one of the ladies shared with me that she had stage 4 lung cancer and that her two friends agreed to walk this with her because she wanted to do it so much. I could barely contain my tears and asked her if I could give her a hug. She appeased me and I could see we were all choked up, so I sent them on their way to finish the final 2.8 miles. My hope is that yesterday was all that she hoped for and more. Friends like that don't come around very often...

So to my friends and family that support what I do, I thank you. Again and again.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Cactus Rose

Race Prep

The days leading up to my departure to Bandera were somewhat chaotic which is a fairly normal state of affairs around here, but this particular week, they seemed to be even more chaotic events.
We spent the weekend before CR in Garner State Park and had the chance to visit Hill Country State Natural Area, which is in Bandera and where the race is held. I had not had a chance to run any of the course as a training run, so getting a glimpse of what to expect was a nice treat.

The race venue is exactly how Joe describes it...rugged, nasty, and beautiful. Cactus Rose is the perfect name for this event. Cactus would describe the "biting" aspect while Rose would merely touch the surface of the beauty that awaits each runner as they hit the crest of the many hill climbs throughout the course.

I wasn't able to put a whole lot of time into my drop bag strategy and had a mini-panic attack Thursday night as I tried to figure out how to best assemble them. I think I did a pretty good job of it, though, it turns out, I didn't really use them much at all.

I headed out Friday morning to the State Park. It was about a 4.5 hour drive. A lot of time to think and pray about what lay ahead. The race briefing was short and sweet. One thing I did take away from the briefing was how very dry and dusty to course was and the suggestion was made to perhaps consider using a bandana across the face so as to not breath in so much of it. After my experience at Capt'n Karl's I decided that I would definitely heed that advice.

Perfect Day

We couldn't have asked for a more perfect day for a race. It was a bit of a chilly start at 5:00 am. The temps were around 35 degrees according to my car thermometer. I don't mind starting in the cold and dark. I actually rather enjoy it. It helps me to get my head focused on the task at hand and spend some quiet time taking in the night sky.

The first 10 miles were great. Nothing too difficult, just a gentle roll into the next section of trail which awaited us. I placed this section of trail into my mind to recall later if I had to start gutting out some mileage in the second loop. Knowing that the run in to the finish would be merciful gave me hope for a good run.

After about mile 11, however, things got nasty trail-wise. Straight up hill climbs, no switch-backs. Cactus that couldn't be avoided, rocks that rolled, dust that hung in the air for miles. I handled it pretty well until about mile 20 at which point all sense of motivation was completely drained from my body. My legs did not endure the moving rock well, especially on the downhills. I couldn't even feel like I was safely walking down the hills. My quads were fairly shot as I came into the Lodge at the end of loop 1. I did the loop in 6 hours, which wasn't too shabby, but I was hoping for 5. I decided to have a serious think about the rest of the race. I ate some yogurt, drank some coconut water and rubbed the legs out. Ultimately, I knew I was done, but I wanted to give myself some more time. The longer I thought about it, the more I realized that I would probably be out on the trail in the dark and I wasn't sure about my ability to navigate the rock in daylight, never mind moonlight on exhausted legs. My light, gloves, pants, jacket, were all dispersed at different drop bags along the course and I was fairly certain I would need it all sooner rather than later.
I surmised that I would be risking a pretty nasty fall/injury since my lower extremities were pretty well fried after only one loops and did not want to give up the training time that I would certainly lose after this race that I need to complete Rocky. So I handed in my chip. Sure, I could have eeked out a few more miles, walking. But why? I packed up my gear and headed home, tail between my legs. Cactus Rose's thorns got me good.

What Went Right; Went Went Not-so Right

My gear was in check for the race. I had no issues to speak of. I was warm when I needed to be and able to shed layers as necessary. My hydration was spot on. I was drinking regularly and had no feelings of dehydration or stomach upset. I probably could have eaten more frequently, but I really never felt hungry. I ate a little bit every 5 miles, a few honey chews, a bit of a Larabar, and S-caps kept me topped off pretty well.

I think my training for this race as it pertains to mileage was good. The thing most lacking was the ability to train terrain-specific. I am not sure yet how I will accomplish this in the future. I understand that many runners actually run the course a few times during training, but I did not have that luxury this time around. Keeping this in mind, I may alter which races I register for in the future. If I can't duplicate the course terrain, I will need to analyze whether or not I am setting myself for a DNF.

Lessons To Go Home With -

Coming home from Cactus Rose, I had a good 4 or 5 hours to beat myself up. This is just part of the experience for me, I suppose. I need to work through the feelings that I have let others down, that I have failed at my goal, and finally that what I need to learn from it all.

This race was particularly difficult to DNF. I told myself and Mark that I would not DNF under any circumstance, unless there was a physical injury that prevented me from finishing. The lesson I take away from that line of thinking is that I have no business predicting the future. I can't possibly know what will happen out there nor why it will happen. Even in the best of situations things happen.

By the time I was about half-way home, I had retired from my ultra-running career, decided that I would only run for a few miles each week and take up crochet. It was pitiful. I had a good ole pity party, crowning myself queen of all that sucks.

A little further along, I decided maybe I just needed to be more careful in the races I decide to take on and train more specific to the courses I chose to run. If I can't run on a similar terrain, than perhaps I should not run the race.

I told a few people about my DNF and began to come out of my pity party the closer I got to home. I had to pull over for a brief nap as I was nodding off at the wheel. After about an hour of sleep, I felt much better, got my head on straight and heard God's whisper... "Running is what you do, it is not who you are." I prayed about this for a bit and asked myself some questions. Particularly these, "If I never raced again, would I be ok?" Answer... "Absolutely." "If I ran three days a week a few miles a day, would I be ok?" Answer..."Definitely." Running is NOT who I am. Running is what I enjoy. I AM a Mom. I AM a Nana. I AM a friend. I AM a Wife. I AM a sister. I AM a daughter. I AM a believer.

Now the toughest question of all, do I do what I enjoy because of selfish motivation or do I do what I enjoy because I am embracing the gift that He has given me? Do I glorify Him in this?

I am the type of person who needs to see God's hand in all that I can. I can sit and dwell upon why I didn't finish this race and what I need to do to finish it next year, and there certainly will be times when I do that, but for now, I need to see God's hand in the day I was given last Saturday. I ran one of the toughest courses I've ever run. It was one of the hardest runs I have been on. I finished a 25 mile training run in 6 hours and during that time, I was at the crest of a hill at sunrise. I saw God's handiwork in the hills of Bandera. It was worth everything to have been witness to that. It was a gift that many will never see. It is a gift that I will always cherish. My prayer is that I never forget what a blessing this experience was.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Finding Respite in Lost Maples

We escaped the urban life this past weekend and headed to Garner State Park.  We absolutely love it there!  While there, we also ventured over to see Lost Maples again, this time, with a camera.  The leaves are about 10 days away from being in their peak brilliance.  I will be back in the area next weekend, and if there is time, I will try to see if I can sneak a brief trip in to see them again. 














The time away was exactly what was needed.  I didn't miss anything electronic.  I was ecstatic to see that my phone still doesn't receive service out there.  I hope it never does.  I saw many people with their phones working, their lap tops out, ipads humming, etc.  I was happy to leave all of that behind for a bit.  I read a line from Thoreau the night before our trip.  It resonated with me all weekend even into today.

        "Our life is frittered away by detail...simplify, simplify, simplify."

I am working to continue to simplify, to strive to live in the moment, and to cherish the memories made within my real-time relationships. The rest of it doesn't seem so important anymore.


Friday, October 15, 2010

The First Step

After much hemming and hawing, praying, discerning, questioning, checking, double checking, triple checking, changing my mind back and forth, back and forth, back and...well, you get the idea... I took the first step.

I registered.  Rocky Raccoon 100.  February 5, 2011.  And the madness has just begun.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Busy and Busier

This week will probably be one of the busiest I have had in many a moon.  The real challenge will be getting in the mileage for the week as this is the last "big" mileage week before I begin my "taper" of sorts for Cactus Rose.

I lost 10 miles last weekend whilst tending to my lovely grand daughter.  Something I didn't mind at all!  How can I when she is as cute as can be!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Our Lady of the Rosary

Today is the beautiful feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.   Only a few years ago, that would not have made an impression upon me because I really didn't pray the Rosary unless someone started one and it would appear rude for me to exit the scene.  I know, not very classy, but it is truth.

Over the last several years, I have gained a new found respect and love for this beautiful expression of prayer.  Perhaps it was through working closely with the teens in LifeTeen and hearing about how the Rosary changed their lives or brought them closer to Christ.  Perhaps it was listening to our youth minister describe his experience of praying a certain mystery while having a sort of metaphysical experience placing himself within the scene of a particular aspect of the mystery that converted my heart.

Whatever it was, it worked and I am forever grateful.  It has changed my prayer life, my heart, my focus for my life and my family.  It has opened my heart to a deeper level of Marian Devotion and though I am new to it all, I can see how drawing closer to the Blessed Mother is really drawing closer to Christ.

It is through the praying of the mysteries of the Rosary that I am able to place myself into the role of mother.  Trying to imagine being Mary, looking for my Son who was left behind at the Temple.  Or as a mother watching her Son being mocked, beaten, and eventually crucified.  As the mother holding her newborn Son for the first time.  Bringing Him to the priests to be consecrated to God.  All of these experiences do not focus on Mary, rather, they bring the very real human emotion into the scene.  I can experience the love, the pain, the sacrifice in a truer sense because I can relate to the occurrence as a mom.

I am currently reading True Devotion to Mary.  It is a bit over my head most of the time, but I am beginning to comprehend the message within the text.  Love of Our Lady does not take away from the love we have for her Son.  It only magnifies it.   Christ gave us His mother as He died on the cross.  She was the first Disciple of Christ.  She was the one who knew how to love Him perfectly.  How can we not learn from her example.

I invite you to delve into the Rosary.  Start with one decade a day.  Take baby steps.  Allow the love of Mary to move your heart and guide your soul towards her Son.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Making the Switch

My objective for the last several weeks has been to transition over to morning runs.  With the school year in full swing, our evenings are being quickly swallowed up by a variety of activities all of which leave little time for running and other forms of training.

I am a reluctant morning runner and have fought this change off for as long as possible, but it could no longer be avoided.  So, I've begun my morning runs again, and they are not too bad!  I guess what I dislike most about the morning time slot is the cold start to the day.  I am not a cold weather person, not even a little bit. 

Cold and sunny is acceptable, but cold and dark makes me want to curl up under the covers and rethink the whole running thing.  You'd never know I was born a Yankee! 

I don't look forward to running on those soon-to-be-here winter mornings.  I think I officially am a Texas girl now.  Not sure what to do when I get home and my running gear isn't soaking wet with sweat.  Makes me feel like I haven't worked hard enough!

Training is going well.  My base mileage has managed to creep up to a comfortable 50 miles/week.  I find this amazing still.  I distinctly remember not being able to run around the blocks just four years ago.  I recall the first time I finished running an entire mile without walking.  I stopped and cried for joy!  I never, ever, ever, in my wildest dreams, ever thought I would run for exercise, and to see what my body can do now is quite surprising. 

The most difficult aspect of training is the strengthening I am doing outside of running.  Core, arms, push-ups,etc.  I just don't like doing it.  But, it is necessary to support the goals I have for my running.  I've had to change my attitude towards this training.  And there is one person in particular that has helped me to do this.  Abi Meadows.  Mom of 7.  The most incredible abs I have ever seen.  And I want them.  Yep, I covet them.  Hope that this only inspires me to stay true to my training and doesn't put me in violation of the 10th Commandment! 

Cactus Rose is right around the corner.  I am hoping to do well in this race, not merely finish it.  This will be a great challenge for me.  The way my training has been this year, I should be able to do well, as long as I don't let the mental game get in my way. 

Friday, October 1, 2010

New Paths

Last night, I ventured into a new type of run which will from now on be affectionately known as the UGH run. 
UGH because that was all I could mutter out of my mouth by the time I had reached the top floor for the tenth time, and UG because, well, it wasn't the prettiest run I've ever been on so this run helps put the UG in UGLY! 

Because I live in a fairly hill-barren area of Texas, hill training, unless you have access to a treadmill, is difficult to attain without weekend trips away to the Hill Country.  Obligations to family and church tend to keep me close to home for most of my training, yet I understand the importance of hill training if I am planning to run anything hillier than Rocky Raccoon.

Several seasoned ultrarunners have recommended parking garage workouts, lunges, and stairclimber workouts.  I had not yet attempted the parking garage, so last night became the night. 

It was a nice 4.5 mile run to the college campus.  I do believe I had a red and white bullseye mark painted on my shirt as it appeared that the drivers along 242 sped up with each attempt to cross the highway.  I was happy to find a much safer route home which I'm sure was much to the dismay of the blood-thirsty urban hunters. 

The stair well run was not one that will ever be listed as a top ten experience, but I am hopeful that if I can commit to completing these runs, the benefits will be forthcoming at Cactus Rose. 

I was half-expecting the security guard to ask me to leave the property, but he never did.  I am thankful for that because of all the parking garages available to me to run, I feel this one is the safest.  The stairs are clean as they are brand new. The campus police station is housed within the parking garage.  The stair well is completely open with very few blind spots in which a character of ill-will might decide to hide.  I honestly do not know who in their right mind would approach me after a few miles of running, though.  The stench is fairly unbearable. 

I am still going to continue with the lunges, as they seem to provide the most level of pain on any given day.  I have increased my weights while performing them and I am feeling the effects in all the right places.

What I am lacking most of all right now is my core and UE strengthening.  I am consistently inconsistent, completing the routines approximately once a week.  This is not going to serve me well.  If I could get it in twice, I would feel much stronger and much more prepared for the race. 

I do feel generally stronger overall right now.  My running is strong, not fast, but strong.  My legs are definitely stronger than they have ever been, but legs are not what is going to keep me upright in the late miles of the 50/100.

I seem to have been able to  fix the problems with my iron levels.  I am trying to take in more calories to keep my energy up as well.  I remain vegan MOST of the time.  I have had salmon twice in the last 4 weeks.  I find that the fish is nice, but honestly, it seems too greasy to me now. 

Running alone has become the predominant occurrence of late.  I love when I am able to meet up with a friend to run, especially on a long run.  This is not always possible though, so for the good of training, I run alone if needed. 

Looking forward to the fall season of running.  The long hot summer is hopefully behind us and all of those runs in the grueling heat will give way to pleasant runs in low humidity and welcome cooler temperatures.

Found this quote today to pass along to a friend who will be running her first 100 this weekend in Arkansas.  Thought it might be a good point to ponder for the weekend!

                           "What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?"
                                                                                                     - Vincent van Gogh


 So get out and make your own new paths this weekend!  Happy Trails!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom!


Even though Mom has been born into eternal life, I still like to take the time to remember her on this day above all days. 

Though she is always in my thoughts and prayers, today reminds me of her strength.  A strength I hope to attain one day.  The sparkle in her eyes and the smile on her face was there for those who needed it most, the sick, the struggling, the hurt, the lonely. 

Thank you for showing me how to love unconditionally, Mom.  On this Feast of the Archangels, I pray that you are happily sitting at the feet of Jesus and watching your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchild grow into the sort of people you would be proud of.

I love you, Mom.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Grass Stains

In my last post, I mentioned how many "grass stains" I might have avoided if I had stayed on the sidewalk.  My mind has been wrestling this a bit this past week and while I still believe that God provides us the choice to walk a path of little resistance, I also believe that He loves us right where we are, no matter what grass stains we have picked up along the way and to top it all off, He brings the best blessings from our biggest stains.

There are several stains that I know I would never give back if given the opportunity.  These are the ones that I have learned the most from and have ultimately helped me to grow closer to Him.  These are the ones that have helped me to understand the perspective of someone else going through a similar situation and allow me to be more compassionate and accepting than I might have otherwise been.

Of course there are those "stains" I would love to give back.  Probably the ones that show my selfishness, my self-centeredness, my lack of humility, my lack of patience and understanding.  My ability to judge others with a horribly critical slant.  The list goes on and on.  But all is not lost.  I trust in His mercy and His forgiveness and I know that He will provide me more opportunities to move past these flaws into actions that are more loving.

Once I learn to embrace life's challenges with grace on a consistent basis, from the little annoyances such as a longer-than-enjoyable-grocery checkout line, to the larger ones such as broken air conditioners, illnesses, financial uncertainty, and more, I am assured that peace will abound in my life and the lives of those I love most.
Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.
Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Phil 4:6-7

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Staying on the Sidewalk

Twice a week, I am at the local community college with my eldest son as he attends a dual credit class there.  He is under the age of 16, so I must be on campus in order for him to be able to attend the class.

Thankfully, for him, I do not have to sit in the class itself, merely be on campus.  Believe me, he breathed a huge sigh of relief on that one!

What this affords me is about 3 hours a week that I can head to the campus library and just soak up the quiet.  I typically perform highly exciting activities such as balancing my check book, grading papers, or wasting time on fb.

Lately, I have noticed a young lady, a student here, who comes into the library to wait for a ride home.  She happens to be blind and while some may find it awkward and unusual, I don't mind admitting that I stare at her the whole time she is there.  OK, stare isn't a "nice" word, so let's just say, I observe her.  That sounds better, doesn't it?

As I am observing her, I am intrigued at how well she gets around the place.  She uses a walking cane and is completely independent from any assistance.  Perhaps it is the OT in me that finds this amazing, but I do.  I love to watch how the human mind can adapt to most any given situation.  She is able to maneuver around everything in her way and while it may take it just a bit longer to get where she is going, she gets there and on her own power.

This past Monday, I was enjoying a cup of joe outside the library and had the opportunity to watch her exit the building.  Her ride must have come and she was heading to the parking lot to be driven home.  It was quite an incredible event to watch, er, I mean observe, her as she made her way down the sidewalks the entire way to the parking lot.  Using her cane as her guide, she was able to discover where the twists and turns were in the concrete pathways.  She came dangerously close to the edges of the sidewalks, to the point where a few times, I thought she was going to fall into the grass.  She did not.  Not even one time did she step off of the sidewalk.  She made several turns and even one turn that was actually a fork in the path complete with a huge metal light pole in the middle of the fork.  Without hesitation, and with her cane as her lead, she stepped with complete confidence in the direction she has memorized in her mind that will bring her to her destination.

All of this observation has left me something to ponder this week, and I thought I would share it here.  I am much like this beautiful blind young woman, with one exception.  I can see.  But sometimes I wonder if that isn't the true disability.  This young lady was so confident, so sure of her path, and she did not question her steps as she made her way to the parking lot.  Why is that?  It is because she trust what she knows.  She can't rely on what she thinks she sees coming at her.  She doesn't have that ability.  But she can trust what she knows.  The cane doesn't lie.  The map in her mind doesn't change.  And if she remains focused on her destination she will arrive safely and soundly.

I wonder how many times I have fallen off the sidewalk of my life because of what I thought I had seen coming towards me.  I wonder, if I had just trusted God as this young lady trusted her cane, knowing that He will never betray me, how many grass stains I could have avoided.

I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and that He can draw the best things from even the darkest of moments, but in order for that to happen, I must cooperate with Him and trust Him.  Much like the young lady with the walking cane.

He calls us to pick up our crosses and walk with Him.  He promises that His yoke is light.  Can I believe this, always?  I pray that I can and stay on the sidewalk.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Soup to Nuts

I have been feeling better, finally, after about 4 weeks on the iron.  Amazing what a little thing like iron being low can do to your entire being.  Fatigue and frequent illnesses as well as heart problems, a bit of depression and overall poor performance are how it had been affecting me.

I will admit that I have become lazy over the last few months in preparing proper nutritional fuel (aka REAL FOOD) for myself.  I am really the only hard core vegan in the house right now, although, everyone eats what we prepare, they grumble about how much they would prefer burgers or bacon or both.  Sometimes I miss them too.

So instead of putting energy into making food everyone will complain about, I make simple, fast meals for myself that usually are not as nutritionally dense as they should be, considering the amount of training I have been doing.  The result leaves me with an iron level too low to do what I love and little energy to care.

Fast forward a few weeks and I am finally feeling so much better.  I really didn't realize how bad I felt!  So I am investing a bit more time and effort into healthy foods that are vegan and gluten free.

I found a pretty awesome website, Vegan Coach, that I think, even if you aren't vegan, but want some ideas for how to prepare veggies, salads, and soups, you would be pleasantly surprised with the information she provides.

Today I made her Rustic Vegetable Soup.  It was wonderful.  I made it in the pressure cooker so that I could enjoy it for today's lunch.  It was worth the extra time to prepare it and as an added bonus, I now have a wonderful soup to eat everyday for the week!  That is unless I have to share... even my reluctant vegan son enjoyed it! 

I also made her nutrient-dense seedalicious topping for salads, soups, and even breakfast cereal.  It contains pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, and flax seeds.  Very rich with Omegas 3 and 6 and 6 Fatty Acids.  I will serve it tonight with our salad and the cucumber-basil dressing I made. 

All in all, things are falling into place again with my nutrition and my running.  Finding that 'hard to find balance" and enjoying it! 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Grace

Grace is what I have been feeling much of this week.  Since deciding to not "plan" my running out right now, it seems that it has become joyful again.  This is reflected in the nice increase in mileage that I have done only because I want to and not because a training plan dictates that I do.  I haven't had a fifty mile week in some time, and it feels good.

God's grace can only move in me when I allow it the room to do so.  I liken it to cleaning out the closest and bureaus around the home.  God can't bless us, if we hang onto every thing that crosses our path.  So I've ditched the training plans for now, which in turn forces me to give up the micro-management of every step I run.  It feels like a weight has been lifted from my shoulders and not just in the area of my running.

I have also given up the control I only thought I had in other aspects of my life.  For now.  I tend to take it back again, but for this moment, I am working to discover what God is calling me to do in the situations I am trying to control.  I want Him to lead the way.  He promises that if we come to Him, He will give us rest.  If we take up His yoke, (work with Him instead of against Him) we will learn from Him and find rest, because His burden is light.  That is one awesome promise!

I am resting in this promise this week and I feel His grace.  It changes my eyesight...meaning, I see things from a different perspective and the view is much nicer than when I take matters into my own hands.

I mentioned earlier this week a new CD that I have been listening to on my runs.  There are many songs that touch my heart, but from the last song on the CD, these lyrics resonate long after my run is over...

"Bind up these broken bones...Mercy, bend and breathe me back to life." (Show Me by Audrey Assad)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

10 in 100 at 10

That's 10 miles in 100 mins at a 10:00/mile pace.  It looked funny all together on my log tonight.

I ran a nice and easy 10 this evening.  It was quite humid out there and compared to yesterday's miles done in the rain, the air felt heavier today. 

Our AC is finally fixed again.  Three weeks of tweaking the brand new unit will hopefully result in a happy household.  To say I've been a bit grumpy in my hot, humid home would be a bit of an understatement! 

Enjoying just getting out to run.  No real plans.  No real goals.  Just to enjoy what brings me peace.  I've been listening to a new artist, Audrey Assad.  Her debut album was recently released.  She has an amazing voice.  Her words speak for me.  I highly recommend this album as a must-buy!

Monday, September 6, 2010

Fun Run

Ran a nice little 6.5 mile run this evening.  Hermine, the quickly formed tropical storm turned hurricane,  formed in the Gulf sometime in the past 24 hours and I never knew.  I just thought we were have a few thunder showers today.  
Despite her accompanying humidity, the run felt good.  I ran Flintridge Hills, then looped back on Lake Woodlands throwing in a few fartleks to keep things interesting.  I enjoyed the run and welcomed the mind decluttering time.

Pace 9:05, coming in with negative splits. 

Consistency

Seems I wrote about this particular topic a few months ago and committed to remaining consistent in my training no matter what to see what could happen.

Of late, actually since Captain Karl's disaster of a run, I have not remained consistent in any of my training.  I've run some long runs most weeks, but the weekday runs are getting harder and harder to get excited about.  My mileage has dropped along with my motivation to get those miles in.

Once I am out on the run, I feel great and look forward to my next run.  But then the next day comes around and I just can't believe how much I have to push myself to get back out there.  As well, by weight training and core workouts have all but vanished the last month.  I KNOW I need to do it, I just don't FEEL like it.

Not really sure what is going on.  I've been dealing with a few physical issues such as low iron and fatigue, but overall, I am injury-free and should be eating up this opportunity to run as much as possible.  I know that I am having to switch to morning workouts and I don't enjoy that.  I like to run in the evening.  It's a great way to unwind from the day and focus on goals for the future.  Running in the morning affords me the opportunity for other such wonderful things such as seeing the sunrise, praying first thing in the morning, and getting an early start on my day.  So why can't I embrace the switch?  No idea.

I also wrote a post a few weeks back about not making excuses, and I really am not making excuses here, just trying to keep things real.  I am in major need of some new motivation.  I bought some new music today to help inspire me to get out there.  Perhaps signing up for the race will spur my unwilling spirit, I just don't know.  I can't help but wonder if I am just not quite ready to take on the challenge that I have thought I have wanted for the past 2 years.  A hundred miles is a long way.  And before that 100 miles, there are many, many, many hours of training that must be logged.  The question for me is whether or not I am willing to commit to it or not.  I struggle with whether or not this is really where I should be putting my efforts.  And right now, I just don't know.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

August = Whirlwind

It's been a few weeks wild and crazy weeks since my last post.  With summer winding down, (bizarre statement as things in Texas are really just heating up!), and school starting up, the home front is busier than usual.  Throw in the death of one of the dogs, the death of the bird, a broken AC unit,  family leaving for college, family moving back into the area, and time spent with the most beautiful granddaughter in the world, with some roller coaster training, and you have one quick-paced month of August! 

I look forward to the beginning of school only for the sense of schedule that it offers, but I know I am going to miss the lazy days of summer, most of which were not very lazy at all.  We did spend a lot of time at our neighborhood pools this year and that was time well spent.  Even I, the ghost-runner, have tan legs for the first time ever!  I've learned to relax in the water and last week, I was able to swim 500 yards, slowly, yet strongly, and feel good at the end.  But don't worry, there are no thoughts of a Tri in my future.  I want to keep swimming as what I do to relax, from the running, which, ironically, I do to relax, but somehow seem to complicate with goals, races, numbers, equipment, yada, yada, yada.

Running has been a challenge of late.  I have brought on increased pressure by trying to accomplish something that I am not really ready for just yet.  No excuses here, just reality.  I have a philosophy about running.  If it isn't fun, if it causes too much stress, then I am doing something terribly wrong.  My running, or rather, my thinking has been causing a lot of stress in my daily life, and I had a moment of clarity the other day.  I do NOT want to give my family the leftovers of me, that which is left after training has been done.  

With this clarity comes a bit of confusion.  Couldn't training always be looked upon as pulling myself away from my family?  Of course it can.  The litmus test, for me, is whether or not there is a balance regarding all aspects of my life.  This does not mean that everything is equal all of the time.  Rather, it is an ebb and flow of more needs in one area being met, then moving onto another area, then to another.  The other point which should never be missed by me, but somehow is always missed by me, is encapsulated within one of my favorite verses of scripture.  Philippians 4:13 says, "I can do all things in He who strengthens me."  Of late, it seems, I am neglecting this aspect of my perspective. 

Everything seems out of balance.  Most things feel like they are requiring too much effort to accomplish, from running to preparing for school, to folding laundry.  It's at these moments where I feel that 2X4 that often comes when I am trying to "do it alone".  When, oh when, will I learn.  He is not an option.  He is the answer.  In all things.  And nothing good that I do is done by me, it is done by Him.  When I feel that life is gone off of its axis, I need to look no further than who is in the driver's seat.  Again. 

I will hopefully end this month better than I started it.  Seeking His will in all areas will help me to better arrange my priorities and amazingly, the balance will be restored. 

Saturday, July 31, 2010

No Excuses

Am I part of the cure?  Or am I part of the disease?  (Coldplay)

This week I read a wonderful blog post over at No Meat Athlete regarding responsibility, apologies, and excuses.   Honestly, there isn't really anything new within the post, but the way that it was written and given where I have been at in my own thinking, it helped me to look at some things in a different light.  Initially, the post discusses accepting responsibility for our training, but ultimately, the writer helps me to see that excuses and responsibility for my actions goes so much deeper than just my training.

Whatever happens, I am responsible.

One might say that they can not be responsible for everything that happens.  After all, things happen that are well outside of our control.  What we ARE responsible for, however, is how we approach the given situation.  Even in the worst of scenarios, we choose how we will react, how we will act.

My trust in God isn't any less, in fact, I feel that this could help strengthen my relationship with Him.  If I truly trust in His Providence, the only decisions I need to make is how I look upon the struggles and blessings each day brings.  Will I be a victim, will I be resentful, spiteful, pitiful, industrious, joyful, peaceful?  The choice is mine, and with that choice comes responsibility for what I have chosen.  If I chose poorly, I can choose to change my choice!  And if apologies are needed, they don't need excuses attached to them.  

If I make a choice that I am not entirely sure was the best one I could have made, do I make apologies along with excuses to justify that decision, or do I accept that I made a decision that wasn't the best and learn from it?

When I apologize to someone for something, to I automatically add in an excuse to try and smooth things over for myself and/or the situation?  As Matt suggests, "keep the sorry, lose the excuse".

As far as training is concerned, I have a choice to make each and every day.  Do I choose to run, cross-train, rest, recover?  I have that choice and once the choice is made, I am responsible for all ramifications of that choice be it whatever it may be.  Do I choose to use food as filler or as fuel?  Whatever my decision, my body will not allow me to forget what that choice was and I am responsible for the choice I made.

I have made a personal pledge to adopt this thinking into not only my training, but my life.  I will embrace the decisions I make as mine.  I will make an effort to apologize when needed and not excuse to justify.  I will change what I can rather than sulk about a given situation.  And if I choose to do nothing, I will still have made a choice. (Thank you, Geddy Lee!)   

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Over It

I have had several days to reflect on Captain Karl's and I think I've hit on most every emotion, mostly negative, that I could have. 

I wrote a race report in my personal journal fully intending to share it here, but I've decided against that as I don't think it will do anything to help anyone else and it certainly won't help me at this point since I have moved past the experience.

I have always said that there is a lesson in every experience and certainly in every race.  As unpleasant as this experience was for me, I learned many, many, many things in a very small amount of miles. 

So, with lessons learned and eager to put the knowledge into practice, I look forward to ramping up my training for the October race.  I am counting my blessings that I don't have a more serious ankle injury, merely a sprain.
I ran a mile on it today and while it isn't completely normal feeling, it doesn't cause me pain.  Therefore, long runs will begin again. 

I am making a few changes to my race plan, and those plans will be shared the closer I get to the start line.  For now, I need to focus on consistent training and strengthening. 

Monday, July 26, 2010

Not as Expected

The race did not go as expected and I am scratching my head trying to figure out what lesson to take from this one. 

Nursing an injury and praying it isn't more than what it appears to be. 

DNF'd at mile 17.  Asthma issues were the culprit until I realized how badly I wrecked my ankle.  One lesson for sure, do NOT over use your inhaler.  140 bpm is a bad thing...

Full report to follow soon.  Or maybe not.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Less planning more wondering

This week is proving to be a bit of an exercise in patience and trust.  I went for a run on Monday which was supposed to be a 6 miler, but very soon into the run, I noticed that my chest was very tight in spite of the use of my inhaler.  After a mile, I decided to cut the run down to 3 miles and had the pleasure of observing my thought process regarding the upcoming 60K quickly begin to disintegrate.

Having dealt with many bouts of bronchitis and related asthma, I had a pretty good idea of what was beginning to happen and I started to become very concerned with how I would ever get through this weekends "training run/race" with my body seemingly deciding to betray me.  I returned home quite discouraged and confused as this appeared to have come from no where.  I haven't felt sick at all.  In fact, I've felt wonderful with the exception of the pork incident.

I have been frequenting the pool lately and while there I have been attempting to put a few laps in.  I remember swallowing a nice gulp of water on Saturday and wondered if perhaps that is why my chest was fighting something.

I decided to shut everything down for training this week, including the strength training, and reserve my efforts for Saturday.  Of course, this didn't sit well with me, but the famous verse, "Run Smart", kept playing in my mind.

On Tuesday morning, I was debating on a visit to the doctor, but I knew that I had no fever, no other symptoms to report other than the chest tightness and just that familiar feeling that something bad was coming.  By about 11 am, I remembered that I had a supply of Advair which is an inhaled steroid and something that I only use when I get sick.  The doctor has told me to use it to prevent things from getting worse and I had forgotten about that.  I am not big on taking medicine, but when it comes to my respiratory system, I do not mess around.  I've lost too many days and weeks of training to chest infections.

By dinner time, I was walking the dogs and felt so much better.  Advair is very fast acting, and thank goodness.  I was really wanting to run, so I did.  In my flip flops and skirt, with both dogs loving the little jaunt.  I still had a bit of tightness with the run, so I didn't go too far.  I did get to bed and tried to get some decent rest in.

Today, I have had no chest tightness to speak of.  I was able to get through my strengthening program and tonight, I put a nice 6 miler in, including a few hill repeats.  I wanted to push myself slightly to see how my breathing would respond.  All seems well and now I can get back to the business of planning for the 100 mile race.

The little boys and I have cleaned several rooms top to bottom, but there has not been much for the donation pile this time around.  I guess I did a pretty good job earlier this summer getting rid of things.  Planning for our homeschooling year is next on the agenda.  I've put it off far too long and now I have only a month to pull everything together.

Alicia, Ryan, and my sweet granddaughter will be moving back to Houston within the month and Brianna will be heading back to school.  It's never a dull moment around here, that is for sure!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Tapering means planning

As I head into this next week, thankfully completely recovered from the pork nightmare, my legs are feeling fresh and ready to run Captain Karl's next Saturday evening.  What that means for this week...the clock with move quite slowly and I will drive my family insane as I begin my ritual of organizing, reorganizing, and de-cluttering everything in sight.  When I have energy I can't spend running, it usually means a the kids need to start nailing down anything they don't want to end up in the donation pile.

I have been reviewing my 4 week blocks of training over the past 3 months, and I am surprised at how consistent I have become.  This was my number one goal and I am elated to have been able to reach it.  Looking forward to the next 3 months, I will be shifting my goals a bit to incorporate my first 100 miler, core and upper body strengthening, as well as power-walking.  I already know that at least SOME of my 100 will involve walking therefore, making sure that I am "walking with a purpose" even when I am tired and want to quit could be the key to my finishing my race.

I have been more consistent with my strengthening over the last 3 months as well, but it's time to get very serious about this.  If I expect my body to hold up for this distance goal, I need to prepare it to actually be able to remain upright for that distance.  Since my upper body and core are the weakest of my links, this will be another key to reaching my goal.

My overall training plan I am still tweaking a bit, but I am getting closer to finalizing it and I am really looking forward to beginning it.  Tapering week is great for the OCD part of my homelife, but for my running, it plays with my mind way too much. 

I am not looking to break any records on this race, as it is supposed to be a "training run" towards CR 100.  It is a bit early to think of it that way, but just as OT 50 gave me a new appreciation of what running over boulders is like and what climbing is, Captain Karl's will give me the mental perspective of a night time race on unfamiliar terrain. I am hoping to attend at least one training run in Bandera.  I am not sure that this will happen because of our family schedule.  Hopefully, I can create a rigorous enough plan with stairs, lunges, hills, speed work, and long runs to be strong enough to claim a personal victory in October. 

I hope to post my plan soon, probably including initial goals and the first 4 week block of training.  As I review each block, I will make adjustments accordingly to fine tune "the plan". 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Pay Back of Pork

The legacy of the Pork dinner and Raccoon pie lives on.   Never, ever, ever, ever, ever again.  Never.  The morning after the infamous meal, I had demonstrated a SIX pound weight gain!  I must have weighed myself 10 times to make sure I wasn't crazy, but sure enough, on Thursday morning I weighed in at 117.  Friday morning I weighed 123!  I am not fixated on my weight on any given day, however a 6 pound increase overnight was a reason for concern. 
I also lost several runs as a result of feeling like crap.  I am still not at my weight pre-pork, but I know that as I continue cleansing my body with healthy greens and smoothies, I will not only loose the extra "fake" weight, but I will feel better.  I have had stomach issues as well as issues with fatigue. 
I ran a 20 miler yesterday and after mile 8, felt like I was about 80 years old.  Everything hurt.  My hips were tightening, my ankles ached, and the good old hand swelling returned.  I am convinced now, more than ever, that for me, a vegan diet isn't just a choice, it's what I must do to remain in my best health. 
Yesterday's run was my last long, long run before Captain Karl's.  I wore the Nathan vest again and it was comfortable most of the time.  I did have a time wear it appeared to be rubbing on my back, but I was able to fix that and determine that a will wear a different shirt next time.  I carried 70 ounces of water with me and felt like I was drinking enough, but once I got home and cleaned it, I realized that I did not drink nearly enough.  I only drank 35 ounces the entire run.  Clearly this was not enough.  I felt completely drained the rest of the day and the act of drinking water reuqired more effort than I had available. 
I suppose that is one disadvantage to the vest.  I like the hand-held because I can actually "see" how much I am drinking.  As well, the hand-held serves as more of a reminder to drink because it is right there.  I know that sounds crazy because the vest is "right there" as well, but being in the hand, it is difficult to forget to drink.
I also become paranoid about running out of water.  For that reason, when I know that there will not be any water available, I tend to conserve what I have, just in case...
I am going to run with the vest again this week as that is my plan for the race.  Honestly, I would rather run with hand-held, but given that it is a night course and I will be running with a flashlight and head lamp, I need to have my hands free. 
I met another vegan runner yesterday.  It was nice to talk with a kindred spirit and I wish I was a quick as he was because I would love to pick his brain some more on how he does nutrition during his long runs and races.  He is training for Leadville which is something I would like to be able to attempt some day.  It will be nice to follow his progress.
The home-front has proven to be fairly calm of late.  We are mid-summer and the kids and I have been enjoying days at the pool, Wii's Just Dance, and visitors from Bean's college.  What an amazing bunch of young people I have met through Franciscan University.  Knowing that she is surrounded by people of strong faith and commitment to the Church is very reassuring in these days of uncertainty.  The students are definitely a different type of young person than what we are shown in the news.  They care about their country, their faith, their world.  They are actively involved in what is going on around them.  They have a pretty good idea of who they are and where they are heading.  Quite an accomplishment for students 19-25.  I'm still trying to figure all of that out for myself!  I am encouraged and hopeful for our world because of these young people.
Now if I could just remember to not eat pork...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Vegans Should Probably Not Eat Pork

Just sayin'...

Yes, the husband made a delicious batch of Filipino Pork Adobo, for Bean and a few of her collegemates last night.   Pre-plant-based eating, this was my FAVORITE meal.  I could not resist the wonderful smell of vinegar-simmered meat, and so, I indulged a bit.  Funny how indulging most always implies, "this is going to hurt later"!

Yes, the adobo was wonderful, as always, but I am still, 15 hours later, feeling as if I am lugging around a very large brick in my gut.  One of the collegemates was kind enough to make an amazing, non-vegan pie topped with homemade whipped cream.  We have dubbed it Raccoon Pie, not sure why, but it stuck, kind of the way the pie has stuck to my gut as well.  Again, another delicious indulgence.  Amazing actually.  So, I'll be working on trying to cleanse myself of all of this today and get back to business on the plant-based wagon. 

Training vs Raining:  Raining wins.  Especially when there is lightening associated with said raining.  I don't mind running in the rain.  In fact, I welcome it, but I do draw the line on training in the lightening...racing in it is a different story however.

I am hoping that today's inclement weather does not include thunderstorms so that I can put a few miles on the roads.  Captain Karls is not far off and I don't want to loose the momentum that I have going into the race.

Tip of the day...  Keep a nice stash of Papaya Enzyme on hand for those "can't resist that adobo" moments.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Sleeping In

One thing I would never recommend to any new runner is that if they have a long run scheduled on the 3rd of July, in Houston, they should NEVER sleep in.  And if you should happen to not hear your alarm, you may want to consider heading to the beloved DREADMILL or waiting until the moon is high in the sky before donning those precious running treads.

I, being not the brightest candle on the block, decided that I would merely switch my back to back long runs when I realized I missed my alarm.  First, I must say, I don't even recall the alarm sounding.  I know it must have, because it's set on my Blackberry and that thing won't let me miss anything!  I must have heard it and turned it off without ever really waking up.  Amazing still was that I was able to accomplish this without my glasses, which I must have to navigate the ol' Berry.

Saturday is typically the day I run the longer of my back to backs.  This week 18 miles is on the schedule.  Sunday I had a 10 miler planned, so I switched the two runs and set out on my 10 miles at about 11:30 am.  Mind you, this is Houston, the city closest to the sun, and the remnants of Hurricane Alex are keeping things nice and, shall we say, moist.  In my estimation, because of the cloud cover, I assumed that I could deal with the humidity since the sun was pretty well tucked away behind many clouds.

As soon as I was ready to go, the clouds parted and the sun came out in its full glory.  The scene was set for a nice runner roasting.  I planned to take the run slow and easy, with walk breaks every 10 mins so that I could reserve as much energy as possible for the entire run.

The first 2 miles were fairly uneventful with the exception of some loud thunder and dark rain clouds that began to creep into view.  I figured I was the only idiot, er, I mean, dedicated, runner out in this mess.  But, alas, I was not.  This community is filled with idiots, er I mean, dedicated runners.  I saw at least 4 other loons dodging the weather and praying the heat didn't kill them.

Mile 3 and 4 were also fairly uneventful, with a water stop of about 3 mins.  I drenched myself with water in efforts to keep my core cool.  Mile 5 and 6 were on hills, probably not the best route for a day like today.  But I managed the hills at a nice easy pace with walk breaks when indicated.

I have several turn off points on this route to get home if needed.  I was feeling pretty drained and knowing that I still would have to put 18 miles in tomorrow, I decided I'd cut the 10 miles short, reserving some endurance for Sunday.  I figured I'd probably come in with 8.5 - 9 miles and considering the conditions, I was happy with that.

As it turns out, the run was shorter than I had thought, 7.7 miles, but the pace, even with the walk breaks was not too bad; 10:29.  

When I arrived at home, my kids asked if I had run through the sprinklers.  I looked like I had jumped into a pool and didn't bother to towel off.  Dripping wet would be an understatement.  It was a miserable afternoon for a run, yet I am glad that I went.  I know that each run is an opportunity to either learn or gain strength from.  Today was both.  I learned that planning walk breaks is helpful under conditions such as today.  It allowed me to finish a run and still have energy left to go about my vocation as mom.  I also believe that the strength comes by getting out there when I really, really didn't want to.  I know that to reach my large goals, I must do more than go through the motions.  I must invest myself as completely as possible.  Even when I don't feel like it.

So, will I ever sleep through my alarm again?  Probably.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

June Recap

As I began June, I was one week into my commitment to run no less than 5 days a week.  I had not really set any distance goals for June, just the goal of consistency.  I am so pleased that I did not miss my goal of running 5 days, and in fact hit 6 days most weeks.  By the end of last week, I was looking at numbers and became very excited at the prospect of actually hitting 200 miles for June.
I felt compelled to make an effort to reach 200, however, Tuesday night running didn't fall into place, so I missed my goal by 10 miles.

My goals for July will remain with the focus on consistency above all else.  If I hit my weekly mileage goals, 200 miles will be easily reached.

The big scene this month will be Captain Karl's 60K.  While it's a shorter distance than the 50 miler I love to run, I am really looking forward to this race.  The terrain will be challenging as it is in the hill country and I am not.  Therefore, my training on silly little bumps we call hills here can't truly prepare me for what waits for me there.  This race is a night run which will be a good precursor for me to run Cactus Rose 100 in October.  I love running at night, I love running trails.  I even love running trails at night!  What a combination!  I've been running some trails here at night with little to no light.  I try to allow my eyes to adjust and they seem to do a pretty good job of it.  I don't plan to run any races without light, but in an effort to be prepared for a possible light disaster, ie...I forget the light, the batteries die, the thing cracks and breaks...etc, I won't be too freaked out by it all.

This month I have seen a more consistent long run pace and what's even stranger, my tempo runs have become quicker!  Last night, thanks to rain associated with Alex, I was only able to get a few miles in.  I decided to run hard after a warm up mile.  I ran an overall pace of 8:35, with the tempo miles I ran at 8:00.  For some, this would seem like a recovery run, for me, I was hauling butt!

My acclimation to the heat seems to be in place, though I am afraid to say that because it has a way of coming back to haunt me.   I am running the "hills" at a nice clip and try to not let my pace drop while running them.  Maybe this will help with the more challenging terrain.

Nutrition has been fun to play with as well.  Here is what I am currently using... most of this comes from the suggestion of Brendan Brazier and his book Thrive.  He addresses what I have been trying to figure out for some time.  The question of how to eat whole, healthy foods while running and racing and not sacrifice all that I do in training as far as eating goes just to through it in the toilet during a race.  Somehow shoving gummi bears and cookies into my gut at mile 40 of a 50 doesn't seem like the right thing to do.  And it doesn't work well for me.  Stomach problems ensue and I am miserable.

Before the runs I am sure to hydrate with water.  Every single run.  I also am doing the smoothies in the morning or afternoon to give me the extra energy that I get from them.  Vega's Whole Food Health Optimizers have single-handedly fixed many issues I was dealing with from fatigue to girly problems.  They are, quite frankly, gone.  Take that for what it is worth.

Right before running, I use my inhaler for prevention of EIA, then I eat a nice big handful of golden raisins or about 3-4 dates.  I fill my water bottle and go!  I usually carry a fruit strip (fruit leather) with me if I need a little extra boost, usually for my 8-10 milers.  When I get home, I like to drink the recovery drink that Brendan's book gives the recipe for.  It's amazing and it tastes great!

For my weekend long runs, I have been using his energy pudding before the run, his recipe for a sports drink on my run, and then the recovery drink.  I carry golden raisins, cashews, dates, and fruit strips with me.  I also bring along a honey packet and S-caps.  I use the S-caps beginning about 2 hours into a run to be sure that I am not losing too much in the electrolyte department.  I've run 18 miles as my longest run with this nutrition, so I need to make a longer run before I give it a 100% approval, but honestly, what product or combination there of would I be able to say works 100% perfectly each time?

I am hoping to set a time goal for Captain Karl's.  Not sure realistically what it should be.  My pace has dropped quite a bit so I don't even really know my training paces very well right now.  I know I should run a 10K to figure out my new paces, but I don't want to take time away from my mileage to do this.  Insanity would best describe my thinking.

Again, I've come to the conclusion that ultrarunning is a truly personal event.  You can take advice from many, but no one but me can know how my body will respond.  I don't even know that most of the time.  I suppose with experience, this will get better, but as I read the blogs and experiences of those who have been doing this for a long time, every race, every run can be a new adventure.

I love the social aspect of what we do.  I don't think I could stay with it if it weren't for that, but in the end, learning to be alone on the trail is where my race will be.  To that end, I am running my long runs with people for some of the mileage and alone for the rest.  Trying to get the mindset I will need to finish my race in October.

Friday, June 25, 2010

And I'm back

On facebook that is.  Ugh.  It's truly a love/hate thing.  No sooner had I deactivated my account, then I realized that I had a few irons in the fire so to speak that would be left hanging if I just dumped FB all together.  So limits are set.  If I can stick to them, I should be able to manage it better. 

Running is going well.  We had a nice trail run at Mitchell last night.  There were 7 of us all together and it felt nice to introduce some others to the beautiful trails that we have so close by.  The bike trails are a nice, short, but fairly technical route.  You really have to stay pretty alert, at least the first few times you run the trail so that you don't take a tumble.

I love running out there.  I love the way the trail changes with the time of year.  Winter is barren and this make the trail feel more open and airy.  Spring brings new life and after months of gray, it is a nice change to see the trail come alive again with new growth.  Summer brings with it a real robust fullness to the vegetation.  Of course the flies are not my favorite part, but once the swarm dies off, they are tolerable with a few swats now and then. 
Of course I am looking forward to fall.  Despite what some would have us think, Texas does have foliage that changes color.  It may not be till November, but it does happen.  You just have to look and then appreciate it.

I have 26 miles on the books for the weekend.  A 16 miler and a 10 miler.  I will be trying out the homemade sports drink from the Thrive book.  I made some last night and while I think it was a bit heavy for the short run, it was tasty and refreshing.  I think it will be a good source of calories during the longer runs. I plan to do a more extensive review soon.  I love using whole food options while running instead of products that are full of ingredients that I can't pronounce or have no idea what they are.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Hitting Refresh

I have recently deactivated my Facebook account in an effort to help me to refocus and refresh where my efforts are leaning.

If I am to run a 100 miler in October, I believe that all of my energy and time that I have to spend away from my vocation as mom need to be placed upon this.  I can't believe what a time sink FB has become and while I do enjoy the distraction as well as seeing what old friends and my beautiful granddaughter are doing, I also find that I will push away those who live with me just so I can catch up with someone that pre-fb days, I would not have been keeping up with.

I don't know when or if I will return to FB.  If I do, it will be managed much differently.  

So my efforts are shifting to the house, running, and a bit of blogging.  I hope to figure out this 100 miler thing.  I want to get it done in October so that I don't have to train so hard during the holidays.  But I am also preparing a back up plan to run the 100 in February if needed, or maybe even desired.

Huntsville holds a very special meaning to me with my mom's ashes being spread there.  I feel a certain peace as soon as I enter the park and I long to return the moment I leave.  It's one of those places that I don't mind being along.  I feel safe and I really don't ever feel as though I am by myself.

That is one aspect of running that I never realized I would have to embrace if I am to complete the goals that I have set forth for myself.  Up until recently, running has afforded me many social opportunities that I might never have experienced.  And being a fairly social person, I love this.  However, not many of these wonderful people have the goals that I do.  They are so good to support me in my efforts emotionally, but let's face it, who else but a wannabe ultramarathoner would want to run 35 miles on a Sunday morning in 90+ degree heat just the for training?   Who else would want to run on trails that have horseflies and snakes just lurking in the background or stumps and roots that wait for just the right moment to pop up and trip you?  I understand that what I am undertaking is unusual and most people aren't interested in doing it themselves.  Why I have it imprinted on my soul to do it, I'll never know. 

So, as I am discovering, training for these events is a lonely affair.  I suppose it is meant to be.  There will be many moments on the trail of the race that will be spent alone.  I need to be comfortable with that.  And I am far from it.  I will admit, it is getting better as I do it more and more.  I find that I am looking for moments to run solo. I believe this process is less about running and more about something bigger than myself.