What training plan?!

Get ready to clutch your pearls….my first 100 miler is in 5 weeks and I don’t really have a “training plan” to follow.

I mean, I have an overall idea of how I want my training to look….but a plan? Nah.

Here’s the deal–after my 50 miler I had an epiphany of sorts. Now don’t get me wrong, I keep up with weekly mileage and vertical gain. In my mind I assess weekly volume and compare my long runs. But I don’t follow a prescribed plan. After my 50 miler I decided to change my approach a bit and I’m really excited about it.

My endurance is where it needs to be. I spent months and months building up a nice base. So far this year I have completed a couple of 50K’s and my first 50 miler. Note–this is not my first year of ultrarunning though! I’ve been completing ultras for a couple of years now and I’m slower than molasses… Just to give you an idea of what we’re dealing with. I don’t do crazy amounts of high mileage each week either. I know some people frown upon that, but you gotta do what works for you.

For this 100 miler I am choosing to focus now on learning to run better on tired legs. I have been simulating this by lifting heavy again on my lower body and then performing back to back long runs. I will be working on longer back to back runs before I begin to taper for the 100 miler. I’ve also been in the gym doing rowing, cycling and lifting as heavy as I can. Fatiguing my legs and then running on them as much as I can (while still preventing injury) has been my primary goal.

So far I feel great! I can tell that I am adjusting to running on tired legs. I recovered within just a few days from my 50 miler and I knew then that my endurance was where I wanted it to be. I just needed to work on fatiguing my legs more and more.

So if I had to sum up my so called non-training plan for this 100 miler, it would be as follows –

1. Focus on recovery

2. Run on tired legs

That’s it! The burning question is will this actually work out for me? Who knows! I’ll let you know in about five weeks or so 😁

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Dam Yeti 50: not your typical race report

I want to start this post by saying I had an amazing race this past Saturday at the Dam Yeti 50 miler in Damascus, Virginia. This race is put on by the Yeti Trail Runners and is such an inclusive, fun and uplifting event!

Where: Damascus, VA along the Virginia Creeper Trail

When: June 2, 2018

Stats: 50 miles starting at the top of Mount Rogers National Recreation Area along the border of NC/VA …. follows the Virginia Creeper trail down to Damascus, into Abingdon and finishes back in Damascus. A mostly downhill race on beautiful, but non-technical trail.

Bottom Line: This race is a fun event that is perfect for your first 50 miler. There’s also a 50K as well!

Why did I say this is not your typical race report? Because I want to give you a story about the events that led up to this race for me. This is my first 50 miler and I’m just happy that I was able to finish. It was a long, hard road and I want to give you some insight into what this race meant for me. Because for me, the trail is therapy.

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It’s Tuesday before race day. I’m frantically chasing my special needs son down the road as he explodes into rage. Despite our best efforts to keep him safe, he is able to break through windows, maneuver through safety locks and alarms and burst out of the house in fits of rage looking for oncoming traffic to run into. It happens in the mere matter of seconds. Yes, this is the life of a child with significant needs. I won’t go into the specifics of his needs, but it is overwhelming to both him and us. My special needs son came to us at age 4 from a history of severe trauma, neglect and abuse. He suffers from the effects of fetal alcohol syndrome and many other disorders. As he becomes older, it is harder and harder to keep him safe. But this day ends happily, he is safe and changes are made to our safety plan. His team of professionals is made aware of the event and we are planning to meet with them first thing in the morning. For now we are staying out of the hospital.

But this night, I awake at 2 AM with the most horrible migraine I’ve ever had. I rise out of bed unable to breathe, my heart beating erratically, sweat dripping down my face while I shiver and try to figure out why my chest is in extreme agony. I pace the floor trying to breath… I am overcome with anxiety and panic… I crawl to the bathroom where I vomit and shake in the fetal position on the bathroom floor. This is my reality. Panic attacks that are triggered by the hard days of being a special-needs mom.

The next morning I awake and turn back on my “mom mode.” We meet with the doctors for my son, the day goes on and I prepare for my race.

Race weekend has arrived and we head off for Virginia. So far, things are fine and to my great relief, we are able to enjoy a nice family trip.

The months leading up to the race included a sprained ankle and two episodes of corneal abrasions. Despite my best effort to train, mom duties and injuries littered my journey. But I pressed on and made the best of it. I was just hoping to finish the race and that is all.

So on race day I channeled all the emotional and mental strength I had left and remembered that I had to run 50 freaking miles!! My family was there to cheer me on and seeing my special needs son happy gave me just the extra amount of energy I needed.

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Now for that race report!

We arrive for packet pick up and are greeted with a yeti party. The kids were excited to run around and splash in the creek. We then headed back to our hotel in Abingdon to get ready for the long day ahead.

Nervous at the start!

I brought along a friend for a little extra good luck…

This race is a fun one and the first 20 miles are all downhill! Heading down the Virginia creeper trail is gorgeous and you get to cross countless trestles. The trail is non-technical and easy to run, definitely different than what I am used to. Most of my races involve technical trail and lots of elevation gain. This was a great chance to just enjoy the run and the scenery. I also got to chat with new friends along the way.

I finally get to the turnaround spot around mile 35, and you gotta grab that horn or it doesn’t count 😉

I was so happy to get to that long awaited finish line in Damascus. By this time my legs were exhausted and screaming at me to stop. But I was all smiles as I get to hug Jason at the finish line and greet my family. After a rough few months of training, I was just in shock that I even finished. But most of all I was so damn proud of myself. I was proud of the strength I was able to gather up inside of me to push on and meet my goals. The stronger I become mentally on the trail, the stronger I am in every day life for my children.

So now we are back home, it is about 4 days post-race and I feel great. I hope to take a recovery run tonight. It’s been a stressful few days with one of my kiddos falling off the monkey bars and breaking his arm, and my special needs son having another episode. Working hard to get things straightened out and getting back on track for 100 mile training. Life is tough, but so are you. Here’s to more trail miles and finish lines in the days and months to come!

Coming down the mountain during the Dam Yeti 50 … rain, thunderstorms, sweat, a few tears and lots of smiles. Grateful that I get the chance to do this crazy ultrarunning thing. Someday my body will be done…. I want to make sure I have lots of stories to tell, not just things to show. Your body is capable of some amazing stuff. Don’t waste it.

Rest. Sleep. Eat.

My motto this week: rest, sleep, eat!!

I’m 4 days out from my first 50 miler. This week I’m refueling my body by focusing on non-running activities (hiking, climbing) and proper nutrition. I took a short run this past weekend and will probably loosen up my legs with another one tomorrow.

Tapering doesn’t have to make you crazy if you fill it with other fun activities! And sleep. I can’t overstate the value of true, quality rest. It always makes or breaks my ultra experience. Early to bed each night this week–no partying for this girl!

So what else do I usually do during the week when the countdown is on for a big race? Here’s a list…

• hydrate early and hydrate often

• make sure to eat extra antioxidant-rich foods, healthy fats, omega 3’s and complex carbs

• daily cbd oil, bone/joint supplements and turmeric

• sleep, sleep and more sleep

• foam rolling, yoga and light activity

• limit alcohol consumption

That’s it. It’s pretty simple and overall very similar to my normal routine. I used to not do anything in regards to preparing for a race… But when I took the time to properly rest and fuel, the difference was overwhelming. I’m not out there to win it–by any stretch of the imagination–but I am out there to enjoy myself. And I found that these simple little things can make my experience so much more enjoyable.

What do you do to prepare for a big race?!

Training during Chaos

I am 6 weeks out to my first 50 miler. To be honest, I’m not nearly as ready right now as I was hoping to be. Life has been nothing short of chaotic lately (mothering 3 special needs kiddos ain’t a stroll in the park, btw!)

Hospital, doctor, and therapy appointments that are never ending, extracurricular activities galore and well…just life stuff…has greatly interfered with my training. So I’m relying less and less on my training plan and leaning more on my own experience and trusting that I know my body best.

With that said, I’ve been building volume during the weekdays and extending my long runs and back to back long runs on the weekends. I’m feeling strong, my speed has increased and my endurance is building. I’m hoping I’ll be ready in June for my 50 miler. I don’t want to just survive it, I really want to rock it out!

So here are some of the things I’ve been up to these past couple of weeks. Cheers to some solid training in the weeks to come! I’m trying not to stress over things I cannot control… and reminding myself that I’m doing this because I just love it so darn much. Even if I end up DFL, it’ll be with a smile on my face!

Rock and Row Triathlon:

Lots of running by in the rain lately:

Got a solid long run in this past weekend, so I was pretty happy:

Bouldering league wrapped up, meaning more time for running now 😁

The Weekly Recap

So, training is a little slow and my mileage remains low this week. Next weekend will bring TN Ragnar with friends, then I will ramp up mileage in preparation for my 50 miler in June. For now, I’m enjoying easy miles and recovery from my last two ultras in February.

Total mileage this past week: 18.7 miles

Total runs: 5

Total elevation gain: 1,667 ft.

Monday: nighttime trails with the Crazy Owls 🦉

Tuesday: rest day

Wednesday: treadmill run and cross training (adult bouldering league with friends)

Thursday: more treadmill miles and strength training

Friday: rest day and yoga

Saturday: solo trail run

Sunday: bleacher/track run while the kiddos played

So there it is! One more “easy week” coming up before I hit it hard. Cheers, y’all!

Training Runs

Here a run, there a run…..everywhere a run, run!

Training runs. Sometimes they’re solo trail miles where you push yourself for speed on a Saturday morning while your family eats pancakes without you. Some are dreaded treadmill miles after the kids go to bed. Some miles are pounded away around the neighborhood while everyone else is still sleeping.

Some trail miles are more therapy than training.

Some miles come at night, on the trail with sweet friends. Then there are those hill repeats and bleacher runs that are tortuous but necessary. But my favorite of all — those runs in beautiful places with beautiful souls. How lucky I am.

What are your favorite type of runs?

Why I Run

I don’t think this is your typical “why I run” story.  I’ve thought a lot about how I would convey my journey to others. I was recently asked why I run and it took some time for me to put all the pieces together and weave them into the story below.

As a child, I was not an athlete. I didn’t play sports and running seemed like the most tortuous way to spend any length of time. Now don’t get me wrong– I was active and healthy. I enjoyed working out, but being outdoors was totally my jam! I considered myself an avid hiker and spent a lot of time on the trails. The outdoors were, in fact, my favorite place of all.

College came and went. Marriage, grad school and a difficult path to motherhood all ensued. Life was blazing by at an ever-increasing speed. Hardships ebbed and flowed as they do for us all. Getting outdoors and being active became harder and harder. I woke up one day and looked at myself in the mirror. I could barely recognize the person I had become, not because of the extra weight, but because of the stress and anxiety that had wrecked my life. I had found myself in my thirties as a newly-minted stay at home mom to two children with special needs. My first two children came into my life through the miracle of adoption. We had chosen the special needs path and I was learning that this was indeed a lonely and difficult journey. Unbeknownst to me at the time, I would soon become pregnant with a child who would also join his brothers in this difficult world of special needs.

One day, on a total whim, I decided to register for a 5K that supported individuals with special needs. I thought it would be good motivation to get into shape and a way to help others. This led to a half-marathon that also benefited those with special needs. It was fun, but I wasn’t yet sold on being a runner.

It turned out that running wasn’t as bad as I had remembered it to be. I was slow, but I was making progress. Then one day I decided to take running to my first love–the trails. And it was in that moment that this ultra running mama was born. I was sold.

What started as a 5K to boost my weight-loss goal turned into one of the greatest passions of my life–trail and ultra running. I had fallen in love with the trails long ago, but now I had found a new way to experience them. Being able to use my own two legs to climb mountains and cover large of amounts of vast trail brought a sense of peace and joy that I cannot describe. Crossing the finish line of my first mountain ultra brought me a sense of accomplishment that defies words. The hardships of my life–the seemingly impossible ordeals I was going through–became much more bearable once I began overcoming the hardships of the trail. It was on the trail–during these difficult ultras–that I had found a strength inside of me that I had never known.

Therapy. Running trails and completing ultras was therapy to my soul.

Why do I run? Because running in these beautiful places reminds me of what a privilege it is to be alive. To have lungs that breathe air and legs that climb mountains…it makes life beautiful.

So tell me, why do YOU run?