When something bad happens, you have three choices: let it define you, let it destroy you, or let it strengthen you.

The heart of the difference is not ability or even talent, but desire

The purpose of life is to discover and develop your gift. The meaning of life comes from sharing your gift with others. - David Viscott

Monday, February 25, 2013

Sweet whooping Alabama!

Larry is clearing some fallen branches from the trail entrance we visited the day before the race.

It was quite a trip, in all forms and shapes of the word! Alabama shook our imagination as much as TN did in December, even though after that trip we should have expected things.
From here to the Top of Alabama, with a couple deviations, is 31 miles.
Don't let this nice soft trail fool you - it only lasted a couple of miles!
All ready to go the morning of the race. Well, I did have a top and sleeves.

My pace chart for 6:30 finish time.
And this is what it looks like on profile.
We were bussed out of a finish line for about 30 minutes to the start, as this course is point-to-point - a sweet feature to actually run somewhere! As I got off the bus, someone called my name. Funny, Larry and I just talked about how it's the second time we know not a single soul at a race! It was my blog-friend Thomas Bussiere. Small world, even in the middle of nowhere...

Start line.
We started at 7:30 am after a full day of rain, heavy overnight, but stopped completely by 7 am, with drenched trails and beautiful mid-40's, with a Harlem shake-out dance.

and next screaming from the woods song "Sweet home, Alabama". That was a "go". The nice soft trail single-track us for couple of miles and slowly became more technical with hidden rocks. The small run-off's of water started immediately, and I didn't bother to protect my feet at all - the combination of Drymax trail socks and Sprotiva Crosslights is the best possible for wet feet, draining super-fast and keeping all protected somehow. We single-filed and latched into a pace that felt just right.

The fog came down and for 3 hrs or so we ran in it, and I hoped for it to break down so I could see some views - they were promising to be wonderful with spooky forest around and some "feeling" of mountains surrounding.
Photos below courtesy of Brooke Nicholls Nelson

The course marking was immaculate, with small red flagging always on the right side of the trail in the ground, since you should be keeping your eyes low. We rolled a bit and at the end of mile 3 popped on some dirt road a touch, came through first aid, rolled out for next 5-plus miles...and before even getting to the second AS I felt odd of sorts. First just off, then a twinge of cramp in my right calf. Weird...I don't cramp. I mean, seriously, unless I fall late in the race, then I can get a Charlie, but not just out of the blue at mile 10, you know. And I felt like slowing down in general was a good idea. I got down on myself, having bunches (literally) of people getting by me, and tried to figure out why I am so off, tired kind of. Even hiking up steep sections, my specialty, was more difficult than it should be. At mile 13.8 (Garmin is no joke) I tripped over a rock and planted - luckily on  a flat rock - a bit downside the slope, with a bite-valve of my bladder flying down the side into the woods, hitting the knee and my hand. First real Charlie came quick, and as I tried to simultaneously tend to it and grab a streaming water tube close and search for the valve, I thought: uh-oh. Got up, shook off, slowed down even more (it was really technical here, rocks, wet, covered with moss, random sticking out and moving too). Exactly 0.2M later I came onto a group of guys over a man on the ground - with shattered patella. Put my fall into perspective and made me even more careful. The testament of how bad the trail was is that the man's injury happened 0.6M out of an AS, paramedics came and weren't able to carry him out and had to call air-lift. Yeah, stay on your feet, girl...

As I kept thinking about poor guy and trying to figure out may be I am not drinking enough (never raced with bladder in 10 years), I started sucking water in, and at mile ~15 AS grabbed a cup of coke. Somehow I also managed to shame myself into positive thinking. I kept repeating Larry's words from before the race: "It's going to be a great day". That, and the fact that I got some ultra-running related news the day before that first of all turned my spring season to a new meaning and a goal and excitement and just simply incredibly sweet feel too. I had to reason to beat myself down, no way. I had to adjust my day.

Next section went awesome. I still felt mild cramping accumulating in my both calves, but not coming strong yet, just there. At the same time I was generally feeling better and stronger and smoother, and hoping may be I was right, it's all about not hydrating properly, and I am turning around, plenty of time, piece of cake, not my first time running, you know. Smile came to me, and just like that, the sun started peaking up and lifting the fog. The trail was great, running through some low streams, crossing over a wooden bridge, on some rock-steps, next to beautiful waterfalls. There is nowhere I rather be than there right then...

First serious creek crossing came right after mile 18 AS, and I waded in cold refreshing water trying to keep my balance...and while at it, seizing both of my calves in rock-hard cramps. I held on, even though I very stupidly crossed below the big rocks in higher water and stronger stream (instead of above 2 feet up, yeah, I know, brain damage).

Next biggest one, thigh-deep, with a rope tied-up across and a female photographer on the other side, was fun...and more debilitating. Both legs went into Charlie Horse so hard, calves and quads same time, as I held onto rope with two hands, trying not to fall into the water all the way and protect my i-Pod. I screamed and apologized to a woman, and she smiled as she'd seen plenty of that. I half-set in the water a step away from the ground, collecting my bearings and waiting for the rock-hard ready-to hammer professional nails legs to be able to lift up.
Photos below courtesy of Brooke Nicholls Nelson

 I stumbled, finally, on the other side, and hobbled to a short out-n-back to the AS. I still didn't need anything, had a potato chip just because and half-ran out.

The next section was very beautiful, rolling gently up and down, and I Frankenstein-ran it practically all. Yes, I felt strong, finally, somehow, but my legs felt that "verge of cramping bad" and actually cramping from time to time in shots on every uneven step and stiff. I needed the to last, but my attitude was great, the views around awesome, and I began passing a guy or few here and there. OK, we got it, honey.

There was one more "serious" creek crossing around mile 24, albeit no rope, and I took sweet time walking across trying not to freeze into "holes" while cramp waves hit and let go. Two guys on the other side (waiting for their friend) mentioned at least I didn't submerge. Come to find out later, Larry was the one that did:)

The ugly section of dirt road and then even black-top asphalt road that was flat to slight incline wasn't as welcome as I hoped to make time on - but I ran (eh, shuffled with straight legs, not pushing off my toes in fear) a good 80% of it, and yes, caught on a couple more groups of struggles. Never mind, girl, keep on shuffling.

We heard of last section, we read reports, and I used to live on East Coast where I hiked and backpacked aplenty. I knew, after AS at mile 28 we have a seriously crazy climbs which would use arms over rocks and roots, and the whole thing is up, and 1200 feet of it is squeezed in 0.5 miles. Yep, I just couldn't quite picture it, I am bad with numbers. At first, I even ran into an incline, then power-hiked first 3-4 minutes - and then all seized. Right as the climb begun. I screamed, grabbing one calf, as another went off. Damn it! Every time I tried to lift a leg - which I had to, no way around - the rock-Charlie would get worse - it kind of never let off, if you can imagine it, it was accelerating in pain and hardness and my swearing was non-stop. Twice I slammed my fist on the rock out of frustration and anger, because overall my body felt fine, but I could NOT, physically, lift a leg, I had to couple times resort to almost pulling up by arms, and when my quads were shooting cramps and pain, then my hamstrings, my feet, my butt muscles (!!), shins, top of my feet, then the inner thigh went so hard it was like a bunch of nerves we pulled out from the groin down (imagine me standing holding my thigh inside and having a distorted face)...3 guys came up on me. First tried to offer advice ("Salt?" - "Honey, this is my 86th ultra, if you think I haven't done something I should have" - I snapped). Second was a kid Eddie whom I ran with on and off since mile 13 (he was a bit scared seeing me screaming bloody mercy - and yes, I even yelled a prayer twice for the trail section to be over), and 3rd, Drew, had his own cramps he was dealing with. Somehow scaring Eddie and seeing Drew in pain made me feel better - at least the mind wondered off the fear "What the heck comes next when there is no way further to escalate the pain? Is my heart muscle going to cramp too? Is the leg muscle going to explode?" I know, it sounds funny now, but I really had no idea how much more painful it could get.

Not doing the justice.
But we made it, and it mellowed out a bit, then turned into a road section for about half a mile (unexpectedly), which I ran (!!), then a single track still climbing but much more gently - and I shuffled it too! Caught up on Eddie, left Drew behind, and wasn't going to let go. I knew my 6:30 was not happening - I knew it at the last AS, but I was not going to not try.
Larry coming into last AS at mile 28, before Blue Hell climb.
Photo courtesy of Apryl Swafford - AS volunteer
Larry rounding the corner. All finish photos courtesy of Hayley H. Long
My honey finishing strong!
The finishing kick is on a slightly climbing road section for about tenth of a mile - and I tried to pick it up and smile, hoping the legs would be kept in that cramp-stage without Charling. They did.
I see the finish line!
Sweet baby Jesus!
There it was, 14 minutes later than anticipated. But with smiles. And sharing with so many others! Come to think about it, I was 10 full minutes behind at that last AS, so somehow, despite standing still at EACH and EVERY step on the 0.5M climb on Blue Hell trail, I only lost 5 minutes there. I couldn't be more proud. Of myself - and of Larry, who, apparently, had an amazingly same experience as I did, with violent cramps from mile 10!
Sharing experiences.
We don't know what happened. If I made a mistake by going out a tad faster, drinking a tad less, taking a bit not enough salt at first - I surely fixed it all and had plenty of time to recoup. Yet I didn't. Were we not prepared for the climbs? The race did feature 7,000 feet of climbing which we simply don't have here, nor did we have enough time to train (taking easy couple of weeks to have our bodies to adjust to a new eating plan). But we had an amazing 27M training run just 2 weeks prior, so our bodies should be all tuned in for the diet. Hills? Yes, but not like we ran them, besides, hiking has always been my natural state. Other folks seemed to have had cramps too. It was rather humid, 89 reported - anything? My point is, I had never, ever cramped that long and that bad in my 12 years and 100+ long races. And we better figure it out - we have Syllamo races coming in 3 weeks, which have even more climbing and a 50-miler for me! I tend to think my hydration did have some effect on it, as my 60 oz (2L) bladder, despite spilling during a fall, was still having a lot at mile 19 AS when I added some more - and right after that I felt incredibly thirsty and sucked it all up before the Blue Hell was over, and then on a post-race hang-out and during 2 hr drive to Atalanta drunk like a camel non-stop.

A side note - another awesome race in the middle of the country, kind of unknown to main stream yet fully filled fast, and having absolutely incredible local runners who are super-fast! Just amazing people and athletes!Such talent hiding there and not caring what the "country's ultra community" thinks. They ARE community. The food at the finish line was great too.
Wow, that was quite a race!
The craziest thing? We were both smiling ear to ear (took 3 hrs for cramps to go away and be able to sit down without pain and fear). We loved it. I was a bit afraid Larry would be hard on himself, but he was happy - I think we are in a new stage of our running life. It was awesome. All of it. The single track, the crazy technical parts, the high creek crossings and wet trails, the fallen leaves on the trails, spooky foggy mountains, naked trees, Blue Hell, cramps, perseverance, "It's going to be a great day"'s, plans, being scared, being grateful, being happy...

My good friend and a co-worker Marta came to me today and said: "I read on FB short description how it went. I didn't understand a word - was it good or not - but regardless, what I did understand is that you enjoyed it, and I am somewhat jealous of you having this thing, this insanity, you can reach to, submerge into, find you happy place regardless...".

It's my happy place, indeed.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A view from Alabama...and a reminder from a friend.

A good friend of mine Keira Henninger posted on her blog a few things - she is really good at being positive and sending out reminders - and I thought it would be awesome to spread those words more.

Life is a gift, and you are only here once. Do not ever loose site of that. No matter what you are thinking or feeling it will move forward regardless of weather or not you want it to. It's best to live it the way you want to, and with no regrets. It is most certainly ok to make mistakes. It is most certainly ok to be afraid of making life changing decisions. Just remember to learn from mistakes, and not continually make them. To learn from regret, and do whatever it takes to get your life in the right place. Do not sacrifice your own happiness to stay comfortable or please someone else. Tomorrow you will be 70-then 95. Blink...it will be here before you know it. Will you truly be able to look back and say you have spent it with the right person? You share the same passions, and friends? You love your job? You have given everything you could to those you love. My life has changed tremendously in the last year, and I believe it's vital for me to send a message to women(and men) that life is exactly what you make of it, and no matter how bad it seems there is always a way out of your problems. I wanted to pull together some thoughts I have read in different places, and pass them along to all of you. It's never to late to make a change. Never.


  1. There comes a point in life when you get tired of chasing everyone and trying to fix everything, but it’s not giving up.  It’s realizing you don’t need certain people and things and the drama they bring.
  2. If a person wants to be a part of your life they will make an obvious effort to do so.  Don’t bother reserving a space in your heart for people who do not make an effort to stay.
  3. If you want to fly, you have to give up the things that weigh you down – which is not always as obvious and easy as it sounds.
  4. Doing something and getting it wrong is at least ten times more productive than doing nothing.
  5. Every success has a trail of failures behind it, and every failure is leading towards success.  You don’t fail by falling down.  You fail by never getting back up. 
  6.  Everyone basically wants the same things.  Theywant validation, love, happiness, fulfillment and hopes for a better future.  The way they pursue these desires is where things branch off, but the fundamentals are the same.  
  7. The more things you own, the more your things own you.  Less truly gives you more freedom.  
  8. While you’re busy looking for the perfect person, you’ll probably miss the imperfect person who could make you perfectly happy.  It’s about being exactly who you are and then finding someone who appreciates that, and shares that with you.
  9. Relationships must be chosen wisely.  It’s better to be alone than to be in bad company.  There’s no need to rush.  If something is meant to be, it will happen – in the right time, with the right person, and for the best reason.
  10. Making a thousand friends is not a miracle.  A miracle is making one friend who will stand by your side when thousands are against you.
  11. Someone will always be better looking.  Someone will always be smarter.  Someone will always be more charismatic.  But they will never be you.
  12. Making progress involves risk.  Period.  You can’t make it to second base with your foot on first.
  13. Every morning you are faced with two choices:  You can aimlessly stumble through the day not knowing what’s going to happen and simply react to events at a moment’s notice, or you can go through the day directing your own life and making your own decisions and destiny.  
  14. Everyone makes mistakes.  If you can’t forgive others, don’t expect others to forgive you. 
  15. It’s okay to fall apart for a little while.  You don’t always have to pretend to be strong, and there is no need to constantly prove that everything is ok.  
  16. We sometimes do things that are permanently damaging just because we are temporarily upset.  A lot of heartache can be avoided if you learn to control your emotions.
  17. Someone else doesn’t have to be wrong for you to be right.  There are many roads to what’s right.  Remember to: sometimes it's just easier to have peace that be right. 
  18. Nobody is perfect, and nobody deserves to be perfect.  Nobody has it easy.  You never know what people are going through.  Every one of us has issues.  So don’t belittle yourself or anyone else.  Everybody is fighting their own unique war.
  19. A smile doesn’t always mean a person is happy.  Sometimes it simply means they are strong enough to face their problems.
  20. The happiest people I know keep an open mind to new ideas and ventures, use their leisure time as a means of mental development, and love good music, good books, good pictures, good company and good conversation.  
  21. You can’t take things too personally.  Rarely do people do things because of you.  They do things because of them.
  22. Feelings change, people change, and time keeps rolling.  You can hold on to past mistakes or you can create your own happiness.  True happiness comes from within.  Don’t make the mistake of waiting on someone or something to come along and make you happy.
  23. It’s much harder to change the length of your life than it is to change the depth of it.
  24. You end up regretting the things you did NOT do far more than the things you did.
  25. When you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you.
  26. One of the greatest challenges in life is being yourself in a world that’s trying to make you like everyone else.
  27. Enjoy the little things, because one day you may look back and discover they were the big things.  Read 
  28. Share your life with someone who truly shares in your life. "Those that play together stay together". 
  29. Everything is a life lesson.  Everyone you meet, everything you encounter, etc.  They’re all part of the learning experience we call ‘life.’  Never forget to acknowledge the lesson, especially when things don’t go your way.  If you don’t get a job that you wanted or a relationship doesn’t work, it only means something better is out there waiting.  And the lesson you just learned is the first step towards it.
  30. Regardless of how filthy your past has been, your future is still spotless.  Don’t start your day with the broken pieces of yesterday.  Every day is a fresh start.   Every morning we wake up is the first day of the rest of our life.

Monday, February 18, 2013

5 weeks done, 5 days to go.

I am really excited. It's almost not even funny how excited I am - more than I was since Old Dominion 100 in the summer of 2011 - to go to a race. The sure sign of it is digging out reports from said race of previous years and reading them up, starring at the elevation profile, making sure I am aware of aid stations, and laying out my racing clothes. It's all ready. Am I?

I had exactly 5 weeks of solid training that I can't complain about. From January 7th (somewhere after the flu finally wore off and allowed the body to cooperate) until last Saturday, I followed my own set schedule of workouts, improving times and heart rate, extending miles, yet taking recovery seriously, and adjusting my eating to a healthy way, what lead to a good body composition change.

I finished it up with a week where my mile repeats were fastest for Texas living, my 13M hill-to-tempo combination cut full 10 minutes off my 2-weeks-ago time (which I was already thrilled about), and my 5k on Saturday was a full minute under January time (and fastest for this decade since last summer when I went back to short races for fun, with PR in 2003, after which I haven't run 5k's).

But then the stomach virus hit the family. Harrison brought it over on Wednesday, and he got it worse - up all night throwing up and having diarrhea. Larry was on the line next as someone who took care of him through it all - and he came down Friday morning. Stephen and I held it till Saturday, and we were hit the least in terms of symptoms, yet it still drained me terribly (after 5k I pretty much laid on a couch not eating or drinking through Sunday evening). The shuffle on Sunday night for customary 2 miles was pathetic - as it was this morning, but the appetite is back. And since Larry fully recovered and smashed his best trail trial time on Sunday, I expect to get out tomorrow for one more quality run.

That said, it's a 50k. Not my distance - and it's a 50k with 7,000 feet of climb. Which is what I like. On rocky trails - what we should be prepared for. On a day after it rains there, what with leaves might be treacherous.

Regardless, I am super-stocked about going. I don't have photos to share today, thoughts, or details. I just wanted to lay out there that I can't wait to make it to the start and play. For all it's worth!

Monday, February 11, 2013

A week of training and a day of life.

This past week a lot of things fell in together. This past week had happened to be also a "peak" training in my first cycle of the season. Sometimes folks ask what exactly do I do when I train, and I figured since last week was just a solid example of how I lay out the plan for myself (and for Larry) and how I manage to make it happen, I'll take this week through. That, and the idea that as a runner we're supposed to get into our desired "race season weight" at least a couple of months ahead of a goal race - what for this Spring (a.k.a. my 2013 season #1, with #2 from September to December) is a Kansas 100k on April 20th. As I mentioned in previous post, Larry and I are both completed the Whole30 eating elimination plan, which is basically more or less same as Paleo with a few more strict rules to make sure the mind addictions break alongside with digestion of simple sugars/carbs, diary and legumes (for example, Paleo is fine with baking from Almond or Cocoa flour, yet Whole30 considers it giving in to cravings of a cookie and focuses on breaking habits). We actually are not only pleased with results in sheer numbers, but in how it makes us feel mentally and health-wise and how our running is feeling better in recovery and progress. So, we're more or less sticking with it indefinitely - Paleo that is. We tried a couple of things (like a piece of cookie, some cheese on eggs, Larry had oatmeal, I am enjoying my dark chocolate at a square a day) - and besides said 85% chocolate, nothing really moved us back to those things. My stomach certainly disagreed with cheese (at least the American version of it, because I hope I still can consume once in a blue moon a real good ol' Euro cheese), Larry's - with oatmeal, and we both smirked on that little cookie we split. And so that it's clear, while we love and enjoy the results of this new eating plan/way, we don't intend to stay strict for the rest of our lives. We will eat Paleo for the most part, but will allow ourselves to indulge from time to time, go out for a drink, have a slice of something. What this plan did teach us to look at the food's labels, figure out where addiction is versus hunger, what we need versus what we "like" And if we really actually like it, and how to make our lives healthier in the long run.

Anyway, training, yes. The very important thing I preach when work on schedules of runs for folks I am helping out to is the idea of easy/hard days. However, myself, I often find I push a tad more on easy days (at least towards second part of the run, once warmed up), and then on hard days that pushing gets tougher. Having just gone through overtraining syndrome, I vowed to be really careful. That Garmin 310 I bought (thank to a good friend who rid of his old one for upgrade and it allowed me to divulge myself for all of $125!) is a great tool when used smart! Now my easy runs are that - easy. And when I need to push, I am able to see the number and be either satisfied, or not so much and put more effort.

That said, this is how my week planned out.

Monday - recovery run on roads in early morning, 5M, something in tune of 10:30 pace. Post-lunch time - gym, upper body weights and abs, 45min.

Tuesday - morning: hills repeats, 5x0.4M, total of 6M with WU and CD. Felt strong! Every next repeat a touch faster, all on perfect time. Post-lunch: gym, lower body (lots of heavy squats, lunges, plyometrics, etc.), abs, 45min. Evening - Bikram yoga 90 min.

Wednesday - easy run on roads in the dark on rolling hills at moderate pace (about 10:00 average). Post-lunch - gym: back/shoulders/chest 30 min. Evening - Bikram yoga 90 min.

Thursday - morning roads 9M run with 4M tempo inside. Tempo miles went: 9:08, 8:53, 8:48, 8:13. Not quite even, but I was thrilled with the numbers not only in the last mile but each of those! This was a break-through for me, I am not a flat runner, and in the last 6 months or so I wasn't clicking anything below 9's. Was supposed to go to the gym for some leg presses and quad/hamstring machines, but work was busy, and I couldn't stay late either. Missed it.

Friday - an official off day when, since I am "streaking" this year, I ran 2 miles at some whatever pace without a watch (I could walk faster if I wanted to) - to ensure I am resting!

Saturday - THE most perfect long trail run I had ever had while living in Austin. Georgetown lake trail loop, 26.5 miles. It starts with almost 2M of dam/road running, then goes onto gnarly rock trail (no serious hills, small hops and rolls, very tiny, but the rock is really treacherous), that lasts about 8 miles or so, then it mellows out - right into a sweet double track intermittent with single track, all smooth and pretty flat at all for about 6 miles or so, and then it hits some good hills - and those are with the same gnarl rock and roots!
Whatever...they move a lot too. Keep your eyes down, don't let your mind drift.

Where is the trail?

Obviously, not the worse sections - those you can't take photos of.

The Gnarl up close and personal.

Just for reference, I ran there 6:20, 6:00, 5:40, 5:25, and 5:30. Last weekend I was planning to try sub-5:30 if all goes well. Larry went as well, he asked if he could stay with me, but we both know we run better separately - we have completely different paces and styles and strength, so "together" only works on "runcations". Otherwise he'd have to slow down (I am slower as is, and start even more turtle-like) and it is very uncomfortable for him and believe it or not makes him more tired towards the end (when I find another gear). And all the while I'd be feeling guilty and trying to speed up to make his life easier - and ruin my own run because I am simply not fast enough and can't handle it for long and absolutely need to start very slow.

That said, after first 2 road miles at 10:00 (thanks to Garmin) and after Larry pealed off, I was running that gnarl in low 11's for a few miles (4?) and was scared and kept ordering myself to slow down. It didn't feel any effort put out, but I was petrified that I will break down soon. I believe mile 8 was at 11:45 and I actually smiled for the first time. And then it got weirder. I was still on gnarl yet, but speeding up. Then the flats and double track came under my feet - and my pace easily dropped into low 9's...for many miles. That is practically my tempo pace! It was scary, but it felt like I am hardly moving! I was just waiting for the hills...and the bonk. I ran into Tejas campground with 11 miles to go full of energy. That was my only stop - I ran the whole freaking thing, never walked a step. With 13M to go I had 2:20 on the watch (run time) and contemplated if I'd be able to break 5 hrs. Leaving Tejas, there is another mile and half of flat good running - and then the stairs lead you into the last 9+ miles of hilliest part of the trail and yes, all covered with that gnarl rock and roots (there was a couple of times I had to slow down and look around to make sure I am actually on trail and not in the woods). But I kept running. I tripped a number of times, and here I did 2 near-misses so close, that was the only indication of somewhat being on a tired side, but I still didn't "feel" it. My pace slipped into mid-10's. and that's exactly where it should have been - in fact, considering what I was running and when, every mile that biped I couldn't believe my eyes. All I needed was to focus and not fall. Miles were moving past so quickly, I felt the day just started...

I ran into the car in 4:37, for a negative split and a 50 min PR (the extra 2 min I usually simply never timed through the parking lot, it was 4:35 at the exit off the trail). And - I felt great! I never bonked! 10:30 average pace, holy cow! Larry was surprised and thrilled to see me so early - and to share his own 4 hr adventure of awesome running and no bonk either! Each of us had new fueling plan - instead of taking 100 calories every 20 minutes (for 300/hr total), we somehow without talking to each other decided both to take every 30 min (well, I was going every 3 miles, what for the first 9 miles was a touch more, but overall, same). I alternated 1/2 of Larabar (fully Paleo compliant) and 1 Vi gels (per recommendation of Kami Semick who went grain-free some months ago and found these work best/agree best). I also ran with a bladder in my pack - all my last 3 long runs this year were with the bladder, which I haven't used since 2004, the year I finished Umstead and discovered bottles. It worked awesome! At first, the idea behind running with bottles rather than bladder was that I needed to see and control how much to drink (I tend to not drink at all and need force). By now my running thirst sense got perfected, and it was just fine - and I enjoyed free hands. I do hate refilling bladder during a race (for myself or others when volunteer), so I plan to run with a bladder until it empties, and then pick up a bottle in a drop bag and switch drinking. (speaking for "normal" drinking for me, Sunday I drank all of 1 glass of water, half of it during my 4:30 pm class of hot yoga, and half after, 1 cup of coffee and 1 cup of tea. Russians are just not raised on this idea).

Anyway, that was on exciting morning, done by 11 am, and free full day ahead (which we used for some leisure and Les Misearbles).

Sunday - an easy road run 30 min (planned to go for an hour, but had pressing stuff and didn't time wisely). Was somewhat not peppy, but not sore either. Later took Bikram yoga class.

That that was my training week.

Now, as for a day out of my life, I thought yesterday was a great example - as I honestly wasn't sure how I can squeeze it all, but I did.

Wake up, coffee, run. Breakfast, computer, at local trailhead by 9 am for a trail work. Lots of HCTR members showed up! Cleared water bars and walked about 3 miles in a process with a "digging tool", lasted till 11:45 am. Straight to grocery shopping, where I spent 1.5 hrs total (being mindful is more fun than rushing through). Eat lunch, pre-cooked some meals, computer (FB) easy time and a bit of knitting. House cleaning with Larry - it was rather bad by now, I think it's been a month. He vacuumed, I did the floors and dusting and counters and stove. Threw in a laundry load. Worked on running clients' schedules, sent them out. Ran out to drive and take Bikram class. Came home 2:15 later - made dinner, we ate, dishes (I hand-wash). Peeled and separated those pre-cooked meals, marinated chicken for 2 meals. Gave Larry a massage (he deserved one!). A few minutes on FB. Went to pick up my son from work (9 pm). Folded laundry. Watched 30 min of Grammy. Bedtime 10:20 pm.

Phew! I made it to another week! Mile repeats tomorrow, 13 miles on Thursday with first hal on hills and second tempo (kind of a combo), 5k race on Saturday and a "staple pre-race" trail loop Sunday!

p.s. I went for Dexascan, one that measures your body structure. My bone density is off the chart high (as it was 5 years ago), and my fat percentage is lower by 2% than in June of 2008, when a bunch of us did it before Bighorn. I was pleased then - I guess I should be happy now. I am. Getting older is not always getting unfit:)
Paleo work (photo taken October 1st before 1st round, then getting back to bad shape, second photo from 1.5 months of Paleo round 2).

"Professional" work for body figure comp back in summer 2011, also 3 months of work.

Now, it doesn't mean my race goes perfect (in fact, something always goes wrong there). But it doe mean whatever is that we're doing with our eating, and our training, is working, and giving up is not an option quite yet. Keep it up, my friends. We've got a long and fulfilling life to live.

p.p.s. case to point about workouts: Devon's article.


Tuesday, February 05, 2013

A balancing act of walking a thing line.

The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.
Oliver Wendell Holmes
I think my body is slowly turning a corner. The last couple of weeks I had some great training runs. In fact, I had the weekly mileage of 55 and 61 (no laughing, the days of 80-100 mpw are over, and it is very respectful for me once in Texas, since I simply don't like circling much here and no Forest Park or Columbia River Gorge wondering exist anymore, these were my peak weeks last 2 years when I was in shape and hard training) with quality workouts being, well, good quality (hills and intervals alike), and my mid-week distance runs (11-13M) at a solid (not fast, but solid) pace. I even managed a 20M somewhat hilly long run on Saturday - and enjoyed most of it too! Played with Garmin and explored, ran every single step, fueled in a new way mixed up with an "old" way (Whole30-compliant and 2 gels). After visiting a seminar by Meredith Terranova I applied new knowledge and took in some water/salt/calories right after the run and recovered greatly enough to smash my best time next day on a very relentless and technical 7M trail loop! That very seminar also pointed out to me that I don't consume enough protein - and I had to bring in the Egg White powder back into my eating. I got some good sleep here and there, even if it meant I had to heed help of Melatonin (sleep is more important right now than no chemicals in my body), and once every week managed an 8 hr night!

I finally worked out what doesn't agree with my digestive system and IBS - beyond Whole30 - and for exactly 8 days now I had not a single symptom (imagine - even vinegar!). The Whole30 wrapped itself up very well, and Larry and I are staying course with small deviations - and I mean very small (he tried cheese and oatmeal and wasn't thrilled with how it made him feel, I attempted a goat milk yogurt with same - bad -results, but brought back 85% dark chocolate at a square here and there).

In 30 days Larry lost 14 lbs, 4 inches off his waist, 2 inches off belly button fat and 2 inches off his behind. Woohoo! He hasn't been there since 2007. My numbers are much milder - and only rolled in last week (it took Larry 2 weeks to begin shedding, and over 24 days for me): 5 lbs weight loss, and an inch and a quarter from all measurements (waist, belly, butt). He is happy, I am satisfied. We put a scale away, and got on it in 3 more days - and each got a negative 2 lbs additionally. I think I'll just keep it on once-a-week basis, as I used to be pretty obsessed with my daily weigh-ins. But more importantly than weight, for me it was a regulation of my distress (even though, as I mentioned, there are more foods I had to eliminate than what that particular diet suggests), and Larry had a number of benefits: clear mind (as he puts it, sharpest he's ever been in his life, period), no mood swings, better handling of situations, no ups and downs of energy crashes, no (or much fewer) cravings, no hunger feeling between meals, better recovery from workouts, and - joints and back pain is gone! That was a biggie, and if I didn't see it myself, I wouldn't have believed or promised anybody (even though it has been described). In the latest research it was shown that some grain proteins as well as some dairy proteins and sugars have inflammatory tendencies. We are not sure which ones Larry had, and he will slowly test them out. In his own words: 
"My mood swings have stopped. My mid-afternoon doldrums at work are gone. My mental acuity is drastically heightened. No more strong hunger cravings an hour, or two, after a meal.  I don’t miss the sugar.  Ok, I confess, I do miss it a little bit.  But, the benefits I’m seeing outweigh my desire to indulge.  Will I eat something with sugar again?  Sure I will, especially if some red velvet cake balls mysteriously showed up on my doorstep. J  But, sugar won’t be a staple item in my diet like it has been for my entire life."

Here are some links I posted on my FB wall for the IBS-strugglers:




Cardiologist, and New York Times best selling author of "Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health", Dr William Davis was an expert for a question about wheat. Here what he says:
"It's not just every runner who has a problem with wheat, but every human has problems. And it is not just about gluten. Let me explain. 

In the 1960s and 1970s, efforts to increase the yield of wheat via a variety of genetic techniques resulted in the creation of an 18-inch tall high-yield, "semi-dwarf" strain that boosted yields by up to 10-fold. But the changes introduced for increased yield resulted in changes in many other genetic and biochemical characteristics of the plant. 

One protein that has undergone extensive change is gliadin. In addition to causing mind "fog," addictive relationships with food, and appetite-stimulation, it is a highly inflammatory protein. Research at the University of Maryland, for instance, demonstrates that gliadin opens the normal intestinal barriers to foreign substances in the intestinal tract and thereby leads to inflammation of many organs, including joints. This is at least part of the explanation for why wheat consumption is associated with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and Hashimoto's thyroiditism. 

There's also wheat germ agglutinin. In addition to causing direct bowel toxicity that can be experienced as acid reflux or bowel urgency, it also gains access to the bloodstream and inflames joints, causing joint stiffness and pain. 

Then there's amylopectin A, the "complex" carbohydrate unique to wheat that acts more like a simple sugar like sucrose, sending blood sugar sky-high after just 2 slices of whole wheat bread. High blood sugars cause an irreversible change to the proteins of the body called "glycation." The proteins of the cartilage of your joints, such as knees, hips, and back, undergo glycation, making cartilage stiff and brittle, leading to cartilage erosion and, eventually, arthritis. 

That's just a sample of what modern semi-dwarf wheat, the creation of genetics research, can do to humans, runners included. So it is no surprise that, by eliminating wheat, you felt better in a number of ways. The key: No human should be consuming this product of genetics research, else you pay a substantial health price. Because runners are among the healthiest of people, given their devotion to exercise and health, elimination of wheat is among the most powerful strategies to adopt for overall health and performance.
I had followed through with all but 2 of my January resolutions to the end. I had stopped doing "whatever" exercises at home after the run in the last week (time is an issue now that more training picked up, and I am going to the gym 4 times a week anyway) and the water consumption. Honestly, the 40 oz wasn't making me feel better at all, just more bathroom visits (and also less sleep). I am more of a camp "drink to thirst". Luckily, my thirst sense is working just fine in the race, and when it's hot, I drink more without problems! During my regular life, I am lucky if I get 20oz in a day.
I also finished my knitting project, even with a sudden decision to re-make the front panels!
The new and exciting up-lift of my training coincided with arrival of 3 pairs of Merrell shoes for me to test - a set up from Endurancebuzz (for which I write sometimes). I will get a review officially out, but for now, let me tell you - what lovely shoes! Minimal, flexible, yet enough protection, wide forefoot, good grip, light, and lovely color. BUT - one negative so far, and it's a biggie: the mesh has a double-layer, and the under-layer is such that it holds water. Once you cross a creek (or run in the rain - PNW beware) - you are bound to be wet for the rest of the run, which in long distance race is not an option. La Sportiva Crosslights are still my choice of shoes for a race season and thankfully, I still have 4 pairs of it from my good (sponsor) days.
With excitement of coming back - like I told Liza on our faithful run together "Don't write me off as dead yet!" - the fine line is to not overdo things. Yesterday I felt rather dragging my feet after those 2 awesome weeks, and went extremely slow for only 4 miles in the morning. Yes, I am still on a streak for running every day - and after a discussion with Meghan Hicks I decided to give it an honest try for a year (read her article on it in "Marathon&Beyond"). As we say, there is not a run I don't like, even if it's a 2 miles slow shuffle. Those runs have given benefits for me as well as recovery runs and quality workouts - but I am being careful to use that 2M once a week exactly as a rest day in every other way. Anyway, today I did my hill repeats, and even upped the number - so feeling back in the game, yet at the same time I had decided to move mile repeats from Thursday to next week, to protect the rising fitness and not slam it before it's too late to see. Being smart I am:)

And another upturn of good training - my view on my own racing is taking a more positive outlook. Not only do I begin to have some kind of goal in mind for the upcoming season, I had also decided that I am not done "my way" with Hardrock, what meant I needed to find a qualifier to apply for the following year - and I picked Grindstone 100 in October. It's my birthday, it's a new-ish race I was interested in anyway (not a fan of repeating much), it's towards the end of the year when I can re-access how I feel without pushing (still planning to take time off after Kansas 100k at the end of April for a couple of months), and it agrees with our 2013 idea of "East of Rocky, not West". Sophie S. spoke highly of it too.

Nothing else going on worth mentioning, massages, running coaching, and that boring job. The weather is nice here, and while winter is officially over in Austin, right now we are still in a period I can enjoy a little - may be for another 2-3 weeks. More trail work with local groups and HCTR, more volunteering gigs are coming, and I am so looking forward to some travel (even if for a race in Alabama!) - I miss getting out of routine every month. Miss my friends! Hugs to all.

“The funny thing about the idea of a comeback is that it is not very forward thinking. It is a focus on getting back to a place of something ….. Moving forward means letting go of where you were and focusing on creating something new …” Devon Yanko (nee Crosby-Helms)

p.s. Another speaking of writing arrangements - an article came out in Endurance Buzz! What I think about cross-training.