Sunday, November 9, 2014

A "Smashing" Day: Thinking Beyond Traditional MUT Safety

Trail runners are used to paying attention to personal safety: checking maps, checking weather conditions, packing extra food and gear, letting others know where you are going, etc. But one area of safety we might not think about much is that of our cars.

Because I live in a fairly isolated area of town and I like to run with people, I drive to my run about 90% of the time. In fact this has been a typical morning routine for me for the past six years. (I shower at work which is downtown so this doesn't add any extra driving to my day). Every day, I grab my car key and leave everything else behind: gym bag, packed food and even my purse, which I "hide" under the seat or other bags. I've never had a problem until this past Friday.

Friday morning, I drove to a local gym at 5:30 am to meet a friend for a run. I left my car in the parking lot, right under the light pole and in plain sight of the front desk. When I returned at 6:50, gym employees were standing by my car. "Someone just busted your window," they informed me. At first glance, everything seemed ok: Gym bag on the seat on top of a pile of work papers, clothes hanging on the door, food bag in the foot well, plus a bag to take to the Goodwill. But when I looked under the bags, my purse was gone.
Hey! There's glass on my Ultrarunner Magazine!
In total, the cash, purse, wallet, and a gift card had an estimated value of about $250; the window cost $100 to replace; and a new driver's license was $26.50. Not a small loss but not the end of the world. The thieves got a $35 tank of gas before I could get my credit card cancelled, but there was no major spending spree or ATM withdrawal. I would blow this off as one big nuisance, except that wasn't the end of the story.

At 7:20am, someone rang our doorbell forcefully and repeatedly. My kids - with naive optimism and excitement to see what was going on - ran to the entry hall. A man in a hoodie was peering in the window and took off running as soon as he saw the kids. My husband - deciding it would be more couth to answer the door with a shirt on - lagged behind and arrived at the door just in time to see two men speeding off in a silver Honda Element with an Oregon "O" on the back. He couldn't see the plates. Fortunately, these guys were looking for an empty house and were not interested in a tussle, but still this chilled me to the core: this little break-in wasn't just a nuisance, it potentially put my entire family in jeopardy!
At least they didn't take the squash from my back seat!
Anyway, I know bad people do bad shit, and I should not beat myself up as the victim, but at the same time, I know I have been pretty unconcerned about break-ins and a bit too cavalier about my car when I go for a run. The Salem Police department notes that auto break-ins are usually at their highest in October through December, both because of increased darkness and because of the proximity of the holidays (as the officer told me: thieves want to have nice holidays, too). Salem has actually been having a string of break-ins at different gyms around the city. Unlike people going to the super market, people going to the gym often leave their purse or wallet behind. I know of several people who have had break-ins at trail heads and the same logic applies: people going for hikes don't take their lap tops and purses with them.

So here are a few common sense reminders of things to do to lessen your chance of a break-in.

-Lock your doors. This seems like a "duh" kind of thing, but of the 1.85 million auto outbreak-ins each year, it is estimated that 25% of them occur in unlocked cars. It can take less than 60 seconds to rummage your whole car, so even if you are just going in for coffee or dropping off a library book, lock the doors. Close up the windows and sunroof, too.

-Set the alarm. If you have a car alarm, set it. The alarm draws attention to your car and may scare off potential thieves.

-Don't leave anything visible in your car.  Even if your possessions are "not valuable", if a thief sees a lot of stuff they are more likely to break in, hoping they will find something of value stashed amongst everything.  Not to mention your "not valuable" stuff can actually cost a lot to replace. A few years ago, I had a clothing bag stolen from a race. At first, I didn't think it was that big of a deal because it was just clothes, but when I thought about the cost of the shoes, sunglasses, sunscreen, sweats, shirt, capris, and backpack, it was easily over $200 dollars worth of stuff.

Keeping things out of sight may be tougher for trail runners since many drive SUV's and hatchbacks without a concealed trunk area. Consider getting a cover for the back area or at least get a large opaque container (like a storage bin).

- Keep loose change out of sight. When I was going to medical school at Temple University in North Philadelphia, we were warned that cars had been broken into just to steal a few coins off of the console. If people are desperate enough, even a buck or two can seem like a score.

- Don't use the console, under the seat, or glove compartment as hiding places. The police officer told me thieves know that women commonly put their purse under their seats to "hide" them, but from certain angles parts of the purse may still be visible. I suspect I did a poor hiding job Friday morning and that perhaps the strap was sticking out. Parking in well lit areas is a good idea, but in my case, it probably made it easier to see into my car. The console and unlocked glove compartments are also commonly searched. Use the trunk instead.

- If you don't need it, leave it at home. Wallets, purses and backpacks often end up being a bit of a storage locker. My purse contained memberships cards, a gift card I had no immediate plans for, a USB drive, laser pointer and a few other things that I didn't need on a daily basis. I know at least two people who have had lap tops taken from their cars while they were running. I know this gets tough, because busy people are often on the go and want everything they need with them at all times. If you are just going to the gym or for a run, put your driver's license, a credit card and maybe a few bucks in pouch or small baggie and leave everything else at home. If you do have to take stuff with you, again make sure it is locked in your trunk.

- Stow before you go. Don't wait till you get to your destination to hide your stuff or put in the trunk, do it before you leave your house so no one sees you stashing your valuables.

-In the gym is safer than your car. If you are headed to the gym, take all your valuables with you. Even in an unlocked locker, they are safer in the gym than in your car. Better yet, get a lock!

Getting back from a run to find your car window smashed in will completely ruin any runner's high you had going on. Take a couple extra minutes to diminish your chances of a break-in, because canceling credit cards, visiting the DMV, repairing your car and changing all the locks on your house is a really shitty way to spend your day.
Enjoying my Friday afternoon at the Salem DMV - ugh!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

"Super" Day at Autumn Leaves

Another year, another mess of loops at Autumn Leaves. This year was bittersweet since I was originally planning to run at Les Templiers in France on the last weekend of October. Autumn Leaves is in nearby Champoeg State park with a great “low-key” feel, wonderful race directors, and a fast course, but there is no denying that it is NOT France! But I’d come to terms with not going to France a while ago and since I was free, well, why not pick up finish #5 at Autumn Leaves?? Plus, I had a Supergirl costume just dying to be put to use!

I originally got the Supergirl attire back in 2011, when I had the crazy idea of going after the Guinness World Record for female marathon in a superhero costume, which at the time was 3:08. I had a friend (not a runner) who had recently gotten into going after life goals and after a motivating email from him, I made a rash purchase on the Target website. It was only $12.88 with free shipping, so it wasn't a huge investment. It came in a package labeled "Secret Wishes: Costumes for Playful Adults." Well, running in a costume makes me a "playful adult", right?? Hahaha! But after reading all the requirements from Guinness, I was kind of apathetic about the whole thing and never really pursued it. Then Camille Herron slammed the door on the whole idea with her 2:48 Spidergirl run a few years ago - that's out of my superhero league! So other than a brief appearance at the first Superhero 5k with my son Liam, Supergirl has been stuck in her plastic packaging.
This is exactly how I look in this costume when I am not running.

Last year, I was eager to test my fitness at AL and ran the 50 miler all out to a 6:11 finish. This year, my goals were quite different and I really wanted to focus on holding back and staying comfortable all day to put in a good training effort for the 100k Worlds on Nov. 21. And of course, I needed to keep my costume contest streak alive, too!
Supergirl and the Autumn Leaves
We started in pitch black and pouring rain and I did a good job running super easy. I ran a couple of the early miles with Liz who was trying her first 50k after doing a few marathons - your typical story - until Liz told me she was 17 and had done her first marathon at age 14. I laughed and told her I was old enough to be her mom. “Oh, no,” she tells me, “my parents are still older than you!” Haha- I like that young people are getting into the sport, but they sure do make me feel old! But with age comes wisdom and I knew Liz was working too hard for so early so I was happy for her when she said she was going to back off.

My idea was to start slow and cut down the pace for every 6.25 mile lap. Things went right on plan until the end of loop 2 when the RD’s and timer told me I was “first master, second woman.” So the pace for lap three got a little more aggressive than planned. ;) My friend Josh coyly asked me after the race what my place had to do with pace for a “training run.” Haha - well, I do have a race bib on after all!

The ladies at the turn around let me know I was 8 minutes back and that she “looks like she is only 15.” Great, another teenager!

On the return I was bummed to see Joe Uhan, who had been battling with Josh for the men’s lead, and he just wasn’t feeling good. But it was nice to have his company through the woods back to the start/finish, where he planned to drop. To prove to me how bad he felt, he told me that just running along with me his heart rate was 160. I looked down and mine read 169! Um, maybe I should back off a bit!

At the start/finish both the RD and the timer assured me they had made a mistake; the other woman was a 50 mile early starter! Since I was already running around my 100km PR pace, I decided to just hold that for the final two loops to the finish. The beauty of starting slow is that you get to pass a lot of people at the end! I finished in a personal worst (and slower than both 50k splits during my two 50 mile runs here) in 4:05, but it was good enough for first female/third overall. And most importantly: costume contest victory!! :)
Flying to the finish!
Lap 1: 55:21 (8:53)
Lap 2: 50:18 (8:06)
Lap 3: 46:13 (7:27)
Lap 4: 46:28 (7:29)
Lap 5: 46:42 (7:32)

I don't think I fulfilled any of my husband's "Secret Wishes" last weekend, but after feeling so crappy for so many weeks through the summer and after AC, it was great to cruise around 50k feeling fantastic. Whatever overtraining/overfatigue I had going on seems to be behind me. Though I am happy that running feels "playful" again, this wasn't exactly a confidence boost. As noted, the time was slower than 50 mile pace the last two years. I got 30k of good 100k pace training, but I can't say it felt entirely easy and I certainly couldn't have kept it up for another 70k on that day, so I still have a lot of uncertainty about my fitness. 

I tried to "cram" a bit this week with 99.25 miles in six days (because I am staying under 100 mpw for the time being - ha!) including a good tempo run and a hill session. I finished up the week sweeping at the Silver Falls 50k and marathon. Sweeping may be the most playful of all running activities. My day went like this: Stand around eating candy and chatting (Mac was running the 50k so we had to get there fairly early. Being the day after Halloween, there was a lot of candy and let's just say I wasn't adhering to low carb breakfasting on this morning). After the marathon start (30 minutes after the 50k start) we ran at a good clip to the second AS. Then we stood around and ate a bunch. Then we ran at a good clip till we caught the last marathoner. Then we walked. When the marathon and 50k course split, we took off sprinting because now we were way behind the last 50k'er. Then we caught her and walked. Chill and chat at the aid station, stuff your face, run hard till you recatch the last runner, walk, repeat. Kind of a funny way to run and not exactly the best road 100k training, but it was fun to get some time on the trails again and it was good to help out Run Wild Adventures, a company that has been very successful bringing trail races to the Salem area (yes, Salem!).

Less than three weeks till Worlds. Until then, I'll be doing few last ditch speed workouts and a lot of "Wishful" thinking!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Not Just Older, But Wiser

For the last three years the first weekend of October has found me on the starting line of the Condor 25k, a race in the nearby MacDonald Forest. The race celebrates the life of Dave “Condor” Bateham. I had a two year win streak going into this year’s race, including last year’s 1:55 CR, and while I would’ve loved to keep the streak going, but I didn't feel like I was in any place to be racing.

Did you just read that??! See what I mean about wiser!? Back in my youth, like 4 months ago, I couldn't get enough racing. I love the whole race atmosphere, the meeting of like minded individuals, the challenge, and the effort. But being a "racer" has a serious flaw: I only know how to race at races, and while I have done many runs for the purpose of training and not necessarily at my peak, when I pin the bib on, I go into race mode, meaning I give whatever I have for that day.

But I am pretty convinced that a hard 25k (on top of a big training week with all of life's other stresses) is what did me in for States. And while I made it through AC respectably (with some struggles that last 26), I was totally destroyed after that race. This whole summer feels like I have been merely surviving the race scene, not thriving, and with no real training since June - just big races and recovery- honestly my fitness has been off, too. I feel like I just got back on track with training - though much behind where I should be for Worlds - and that another race, no matter how "short" would only derail that.

So I pulled out. Or at least I tried to! But the RD is a good friend and she told me I had to run because she had specially assigned me bib #40. So instead I ran it with my good friend Sharon, enjoying the day and helping her to her goal of breaking 3:30. She finished in 3:29:35! Sorry, no pictures - the photographers apparently don't hang out for the back of the pack runners! (Seriously?? ok, that's just rude!)

Afterwards, my friend John said, "Wow, Pam, you are going to ruin your Ultrasign-up score!" I just laughed. Really, is that what we run for?? Impressive Ultrasignup scores?? Not me! Besides, my 2012 Western States already took care of that and that was when I was trying to race!

So I thought I would turn 40 and capitalize on my master status at all the races, but it turns out now I am able to go to races to capitalize on the experience, the camaraderie, and the beauty of the day. Sheesh, I am practically mellow in my old age! And so I signed up for another race with no intention of racing! - the Autumn Leaves 50k on Oct. 25. Don't worry, I still plan to bring my 'A' game for the costume contest!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Staring at Youth in the Rearview

Yesterday was my 40th birthday, and while I am not as freaked out about this major milestone as I thought I would be, there is no denying that “youth” is officially a thing of my past. Oh, there are times when 40 can be seen in relative terms as being young, like if you are visiting an Old Folks Home or in the setting of terminal disease, but true youth has evaporated. This is particularly highlighted in US running where turning 40 allows admission into the master’s category, essentially an acknowledgement by the powers-that-be that quadragenarians lack the vim and vitality to compete head to head with younger athletes. At least Americans can take heart knowing they won’t be put out to the master’s pasture until age 40; World Masters Athletics start at age 35.

“But you are only as old as you feel,” the optimists sing, and indeed there is even some evidence that this is true (Yes, I just referenced a Web MD link; don’t revoke my medical license!). Most days, I still feel pretty young- I can run 100 miles in a day, goshdarnit! - but there are starting to be some telltale signs of my age.

Reasons I Know I am Old:

Wow! These new jeans look so stylishly used
1) I want my new jeans to look like new jeans. Today's jeans are supposed to look like you have worn them everyday for the last ten years. Only nobody actually does that, so you buy new jeans that look like old jeans. But I do not want jeans that are pre-creased, pre-faded, or hems that are pre-shredded. And I sure as hell don't want the jeans to come with symmetric little shreds all up and down the quads. I mean, nobody rips their jeans in a square hole in the middle of the thigh! These manufactured attempts to make denim look well-loved are about as fake as a set of double D's on a 100 pound lady! Now, I am not looking for Mom jeans (yet), but if I spend money on a new pair of jeans, I want them to look new. Besides, as a 40 year old mom, I want you to know that I am still putting a little effort into myself. If I wanted used jeans, I'd go to Goodwill!

2) I don't need alcohol to be hungover. Like many, I got out of bed with extreme reluctance on January 1st. Man, was I tired! Plus, I had a headache, a dry mouth and I really needed some greasy food. It was all the classic hangover symptoms. Only I didn't drink at all on New Year's Eve! Staying up till 12:30 is just really hard on my old body!

3) Nighttime is for sleeping. Remember in college when you didn't even leave your dorm before ten pm because no party really got going before that? You could party and dance till 3 am and it still felt early. And how about when you were first madly in love and you certainly weren't going to bed to get a little shut-eye? Nowadays, 10 pm means it's a half hour past my bedtime, and you are only getting sex if it doesn't cut into my sleep!

4) I experience sticker shock regularly. A few years ago we bought a roll of "forever stamps" and I have been using them to send off the rare snail mail item, blissfully unaware of what I was paying in postage. And then I had to go to the post office to mail a package and sheets of 49 cent stamps were plastered everywhere. Holy hell! 49 cents to send a stinking letter! You should be able to mail your Christmas packages for that price! I mean I remember when postage went from 18 cents to 20 cents and that was a BIG DEAL! And then last week we stopped at a convenience store to pick up a treat for a long drive and candy bars were a dollar - each!! And that was just the regular size, not the king size or anything. Well, obviously convenience stores jack up their prices and charge you extra for the 'convenience.' Except candy bars were a dollar at our local supermarket, too! When I was a kid we picked up candy bars with a Washington, too - a Washington quarter that is!

5) Public establishments are too loud. When I go out, I just want to have a nice conversation with a few close friends, maybe sip a nice mixed drink. But all the bars are just too fucking loud! You've got to yell just to talk to the person across the table and even then you can only pick up half the words. And now all the restaurants are playing loud music, too. And then there are live bands and those are just extra loud!

6) I no longer celebrate my birthday in a bar. It used to be so important to celebrate my birthday in a bar that I would use a fake ID just to get in! (Mom, that's a lie). Back then nothing said "happy birthday" better than pounding shots called "snake bite" out of a test tube. But bars don't allow kids and I don't really want to pay a babysitter just to go to a bar. Did I mention how loud those places are? This past Saturday we had several friends and their kids to our house for a potluck dinner with cheesecake and s'mores around our fire pit. I sipped one nice mixed drink and had lots of good conversation. We partied till the wee hours of the morning; I don't think the last person left till almost 11:00! Then I went straight to bed (to sleep only). And in the morning I woke up with a hangover.

7) I spent my actual birthday dropping off the glass recycling and attending a parent teacher conference. I am a party animal! But I also had a nice lunch with my husband and this happened to my hair:
I'd like to think I did this because I am so sassy and young at heart, but I am pretty sure it is just the first inklings of my midlife crisis and a desperate attempt to reconnect to Youth even though we all know that bridge has burned! Hello 40's!

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Road to Recovery is 48 Miles Long

I haven't really made it a secret that I have had a hard time recovering from AC. I was very patient the first three weeks (mostly). But at week 4 when I stopped a 10 min mile park jog smack in the middle of the park because it felt like torture, the frustration started to mount. And I admit I had a few doom and gloom thoughts about hormone imbalances, adrenal fatigue and never being able to run again. But when I was being rational, I was pretty sure it was just my legs, and specifically my quads, that were the problem - they were just healing slowly. Needing to know for sure, I did a workout on a hand bike (or upper body ergometer to get technical). No doubt I am a T-rex and very weak in the arms, but I was able to get in a good workout with a high heart rate and not feel like I was going to die afterwards. Unfortunately, before I got this all figured out I had to make a really tough decision.

Earlier this year I was invited to run at Les Templiers in France. Holy Cow - talk about mind blowing: someone was going to pay for *me* to go run around in France!! I was flabbergasted and overwhelmed by the invitation. What a dream come true! But the race organizers gave me an ultimatum while I was still struggling to run. I asked if I could delay my decision and even offered to pay any differences in airfare, but they needed a firm answer because they wanted to be able to replace me if I couldn't come. Even though this was an incredible opportunity, I felt like if they were paying my way, I had an obligation to uphold my end of the bargain and that was to race to the best of my ability and to contribute to the competitiveness of the race. I was optimistic that things would turn around quickly for me, but I wasn't training at all and essentially not even running, I didn't feel like I could accept the trip in good conscience. So unfortunately, running in France will have to wait for another year. I was bummed to withdraw but it did provide a sense of relief and caused me to stress out a lot less about the way my legs were feeling.

Scratching Les Templiers opened up my schedule for other adventures and after the hand bike trial, I felt like I was free to run easy, so why not go run 48 miles??

This past weekend a friend of mine organized a run around the Three Sisters volcanoes to celebrate her birthday. The loop is somewhere around 45 miles (Garmin miles, at least) with a couple extra miles tacked on to access the loop from a trailhead. I was actually really nervous for the distance, but I was promised an easy pace and I didn't want to miss out. Plus it was for my friend's birthday, so how could I say no?! Ironically, she got sick and ended up bailing, but I still had the good company of Ken, Dennis, and Cary.

The loop only has about 6,000' of gain (plus a couple hundred more from the trailhead), but there are a lot of sandy and gravel sections, plus lots of volcanic rock and the entire thing is between 5200 and 7020 feet (that's high for us flatlanders!), so not entirely easy either. But we were only out for adventure and good times, not fast paces. It is amazing run and I am glad I can check another one of Oregon's iconic trails off of my list.
Sunrise near Pole Creek and the old burn area
The boys are ready to run

Dennis gives us a geography lesson
Lots of beautiful springs

Our lunch site
Obsidian Falls

You know I am excited when I start taking selfies!
Admittedly, this run wasn't great for my popliteal tendinitis, but for the first time in weeks I remembered why I love running. The run was great for my spirit and if I am not enjoying running then my spirit probably needs healing more than anything. Who needs France to have a great running adventure??

Monday, September 1, 2014

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Well, Sports fans, today is not your day, because this post has nothing to do with running, but instead focuses on my other hobby: gardening! Yep, no mountain vistas, race reports, or running advice in this one. But this month, not one, but TWO people actually told me they like my gardening pictures on Facebook and since I have been doing a lot more gardening that running this month (I still don't seem to have a single quadricep muscle fiber that is functioning properly!), it seemed like the time was 'ripe' to write a blog about plants!

Mac and I both grew up in the suburbs of L.A. but we both have Iowa farm blood in our heritage and I guess that came out when we were looking for houses. We ended up buying a home on 3.8 acres nine miles from downtown Salem, OR. The house was "top of the line" for 1979 standards, but it hadn't had anything done to it for 25 years and it was a real blast to the past (think orange linoleum, fuzzy and foil wall paper, and mint green toilets!) and needed A LOT of work. Not to mention the yard was totally overgrown. Mac wanted to run away screaming, but I had a vision. That wasn't enough to convince Mac, but the view was.
Kitchen and deck view
In the first year (2005) we tackled the house. Oh my god was there a lot of wall paper stripping that year! But by the following summer we had a deer fence and we started tilling up parts of the upper pasture.
We have a garden...sort of
We had chickens in Portland, but when we moved to the country, we got more!
 Eventually, the ginormous junipers were removed and we did some landscaping.

The pond and steps actually came with the house, we just put in a retaining wall for more grass and added plants.

And the garden got a massive expansion and some raised beds. 

The garden 2012. The cows are on our property but they are not our cows. We just let the neighbor use the pasture. Our beef is truly local!

Which brings us to this year. The garden is a now vegetable breeding monster! I definitely have a love/hate relationship with my garden. I love to see it and I love being out there, but the To Do List often gets overwhelming and ultra training doesn't leave a lot of spare energy. Mac scolds me to have a smaller garden every year so I don't get stressed about it, but it is like telling me 100 milers are too long and I should stick with marathons and 50k's! I mean, look at me; I was gardening before I could even walk! 
11 months old. My Dad was obviously a little excessive in his gardening, too.

Our Garden 2014
Cabbages, kale, tomatoes, peppers eggplants, and two pear trees and amazing (finally!) asparagus
The vine trellis is a monster! That's a rogue squash growing at the front of the cabbage and tomato bed in the bottom right. I have a soft spot for the gourds and squashes- something about the big smooth round fruit starting from just a little seed- so I let a lot of the volunteers live. For some reason, the volunteers always do better than the planted squash. This one has over 20 spaghetti squash on it. I have been giving them to everyone I know! The corn is just above the squash.

The jungle! The corn is all on the right. The sunflower forest and the planed squashes are on the left. These are all volunteer sunflowers! The trellises had a huge climbing rose on them, but it literally stretched the entire 20 feet of the walkway and involved all three arches. It was collapsing them and making it hard to walk down the aisle. I tried to whack it back the last couple of years, but this year it finally came out. There are a couple of new roses planted and then some beans just to fill in.

The bean teepee. Liam asked for a bean teepee this spring. I ignored him because I thought a bean teepee sounded lame. But he kept asking me and my ignoring him didn't make him stop, so he got his bean teepee. His verdict, "It's not very good. It's kind of small." In other words, it's lame. But I have plans for a bean cabin next year!

 The chicken coop. Seriously, this is the most manly thing Mac has ever done. Nine chickens currently call this home.
Some of the girls
"Cukes and Zukes" - I think this one is self-explanatory. My zukes are always out of control. My cukes kind of suck this year. Not sure why, but we aren't hurting for produce! That is a pathetic rose garden behind that. My plan is to raise it up next year and put them in some good soil. Even with amendment, the roses do not do well in our clay soil. Along the fence there are 17 blueberries and 4 grapes (with room for at least two more - the grapes are new this year). The upper left has a bed of strawberries but they also need to be replanted got ripped out this weekend (it is "Labor" Day!) and the strawberries are now thinned and replanted. See what I mean about an overwhelming To Do list. (Notice how there is a wheelbarrow, a pot, a trashcan lid, a stool, etc. in practically every picture - pretty much everything is a work in progress!).

One thing I did get around to this year was further elevating some of the raised beds and fixing up the soil. Ok, mostly Mac did the work, but I supervised! (thanks, Sweetie!) Of course, every gardener knows you are supposed to plant in compost for the best results, but composting is insanely frustrating. Mine pretty much looks like a pile of grass and leaves no matter how long I leave it. But I have had good results with what I call "in situ composting". Just put all the partially composted grass and leaves where you want them to be and cover with some good dirt. You have to plant seeds (not starts) for a season or two, but then you have a bed full of super awesome dirt.
Bed with pathetic compost and the start of the cover dirt layer. That's another rogue spaghetti squash in the upper right!

I just got my winter planting in this bed (and one other) last week. And, yes, I totally planted that broccoli just because it looks so weird! Some of the seeds are already coming up, so hopefully we'll be eating home grown veggies late into the fall.

My garden easily has as many failures as it does successes. Some are out of my control - like the past super cold winter killing the artichokes. Some are mysteries, like the dearth of cucumbers this year. Some like the roses, I know why, but I lack the energy to fix. And sometimes I am just plain stupid! Actually, gardening is kind of like ultra-running in regards to problems! This year's brainfart was my annual flower bed. Why would anyone plant the cosmos in front?? When you are actually looking at the front of this bed (instead of from the side like this photo) you can't even see the nasturtiums and calendulas. I have been growing these plants for at least a decade, so it's not like I didn't know. Even my seven year old son could've told you which of those seeds would get the tallest and which the shortest! But the beauty is that it all starts over next year!

And then just because I don't have enough to do, I have an herb garden behind the garage. All of the woody herbs died (or looked sickly) after our cold winter, so it's got a lot of holes this year. New rosemary, lavender and sage should cover all the bare spots by next year. Besides, even Martha says you should replace your woody herbs every 4-5 years!

The garden is definitely a labor of love. In fact, Liam has said to me,"You love your plants more than your kids!" 

"Yes," I explained to him, "that's because the plants never whine and they only need to be fed once a month." ;)

So I am pretty sure no one will ever ask about my garden again! This past month I have kind of felt like Kyle Skaggs: like I have given up running for farming! But I am way too addicted to running to give it up for good!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

How To Recover

Recovery is hard. Runners are used to being active and following very tight training regimens. This is especially true for the very prevalent OCD types amongst us (yes, this includes me!): we don't know what to do when we don't have a schedule to follow or we try to unwind. Not to mention we are inundated by a bunch of social media posts that seem to imply recovery is not necessary. You know the ones that are like, "Yesterday I ran 100 miles in Vermont and since I don't know when I'll be on the East coast again, today I decided to run across the entire state of New Hampshire." Seriously, if you need some time to recharge after a big race, you should just unfollow Mike Wardian and Max King now, plus anybody you know doing the Grand Slam; they will only make you feel like a loser.

So what should you do if you don't have have super-human powers of muscle regeneration?

- Don't Run. I am of the belief that the best thing you can do to recover from run related stress is NOT run. I know that not everyone agrees with this and many people like to get out for a "shake out" run the day after a big event. But no matter how slow you go, running is a high impact activity and your muscles and tendons have to absorb forces greater than your body weight with every step. This is exposing your body to more of the exact same stresses that it underwent on race day. When you are fatigued, it is time to give your body a break from these stresses and that means a break from running. I think a good guideline is one day off running for every ten miles raced. This number can be adjusted based on how hard you worked, how much training you had going in to an event, your past experiences, and your overall perception of how tired you are.

-Stay Active. Just because you aren't running, doesn't mean you should sit around doing nothing those first couple of days. Low impact activities can help loosen up muscles and help get the blood circulating to speed recovery. Getting out for an easy walk or hike, riding the spin bike or swimming are all good choices. Remember to keep the effort easy and don't go do some crazy long marathon session!

-Eat Like a Horse. Recovery involves rebuilding muscle. It is very hard to do this if you are in a calorie deficit. And if you just ran a hundred miles you could easily be in a 50,000 calorie deficit! I find that I am typically down 3-5 pounds after a 100 miler. The day after the race my GI tract is usually still a bit wonky and eating doesn't sound all that wonderful. During this time I try to focus on getting rehydrated. Since drinking is often easier, I'll often get a lot of my post race nutrition from liquid calories, like soda, chocolate milk or milk shakes. This is a time for me when all of my normal good eating habits go out the window and I eat whatever I want. I ate two bowls of ice cream and a bunch of left over Peppermint Patties for my first meal after AC. But I am not alone; I have it on good authority that Liza Howard was eating donuts and Captain Crunch after Leadville! Once my stomach comes back, I pretty much eat anything and everything until I get back to my pre-race weight. I do not try to use a big race effort as a weight loss strategy as I think this impedes recovery for the reasons I mentioned. Indeed, many experts think insufficient calorie intake is a component leading to overtraining syndrome. When your body undergoes demanding physical exertion it requires a lot of calories both for fuel and for repair.

- Rest the Mind. Running an ultra is extremely mental and requires a lot of race day focus. Likewise, a huge amount of discipline is required during training. After a big effort your brain can use a rest, too! Don't make any hard and fast training schedules for a couple weeks to let your mind feel a little less structured. This is another reason I let my guard down a bit when it comes to nutrition; its nice to have a couple weeks where you don't have to think about every little thing and you don't have to fight against eating a slice of cheesecake (or two!).

-Get Lots of Sleep. Yeah, right! A lot of time we put the vacation in front of a big ultra and when the run is over we have to get right back to things like work and daily schedules which don't allow for lots of extra sleep. But sleep is an important part of recovery. Growth Hormone promotes muscle building and repair and these levels go up when we sleep. Sleep reduces stress and limits calorie expenditure so all of your body' efforts can go toward recovery when you are sleeping. I normally get up at 4:30 to do my training before work, but after a big effort, I'll do my light activity in the evenings so I can catch some more z's before work.

- Identify injury. Some soreness after a big event is expected, but if you have lingering pain after more than a couple days or the pain is not symmetric, you may have some kind of injury. Now is a good time to address those items and do some rehab work as needed.

- Ease Back In. Once you feel like you are ready to run, ease back in to training. One strategy that I like is to reverse your taper mileage but without the speed work. Work back up to your standard weekly mileage before bringing the speed work back. If getting back to training leaves you feeling more fatigued than usual, don't be afraid to take a day off or substitute in some hiking or cross training. Don't freak out about losing fitness - the goal during this time is to recover so you can start training hard again for your next event.

- Be realistic. If you have put in a really hard effort like 100 miles, it could easily take you five weeks to really start feeling good again. When it comes to recovery, I find my running abilities come back in this order: endurance (ie. long run), speed, and then hill strength. First I try to get back to my normal long run mileage (without too many hills or with hiking the hills), then I add back speed work, and then finally the hills come back. I have been surprised in the past when I can hit all my target times on the track, but then feel like I have no legs on a hill, even when not trying to run that fast. Now I just know that strength takes a lot longer to return.

- Don't compare. Marathoners run two big races a year and that is considered a full schedule, but it is common for ultra-runners to do 10-12 events a year. And then there a big name guys like Max and Mike Wardian who race twice a weekend! Like I said above, if you start reading all the social media posts you might start feeling like everyone but you recovers quickly. Everyone recovers at a different rate depending on their training, the level of effort on race day, and other individual factors. Additionally, women may need longer to recover than men because of lower testosterone levels. And Growth Hormone secretion decreases 2-3 fold from age 30 to age 40, which mean the repair signals to your body are decreasing. As an added "bonus", inflammatory mediators and catabolic hormones (those that break tissue down) increase as you age, so it is true that older runners need more recovery time.

As for me, I am having a hard time with recovery after AC. I feel like I am exactly where I would want to be one week out from a big event. Unfortunately, it is three weeks out! I am trying to take my own advice above, but it is hard to be patient! But Angeles Crest was off the chart effort for me: I told one person on an effort scale of 1 to 10, I was at 11.5! That came just 5 weeks after another very high effort at Western States. Not to mention I hit the big four - oh in less than a month! So logically it makes sense, but I still don't like feeling so tired! I took ten days off and then got back to running with a 3K cross country race. Don't worry, I didn't race! Instead I ran with Liam and he cranked out a 19:55 finish. I was surprisingly tired after that, but worse, I finally had to admit that I had a bit of injury going on with some pretty bad soreness behind both knees, but especially the left. I got a massage (and nearly cried when she worked on my calf) and did a little bit of icing and rolling (I hate both, so my efforts were kind of weak). This past week I hiked, ran a couple times (up to 5 miles - woohoo!) and did another 5k with the family. This time it was the Sweet Treats 5k with EIGHT dessert stations on course. Liam missed his 5K PR by two minutes, but considering he ate 2 scoops of gelato, 2 cookies, 2 mini crepes, a mini apple pie, and two cups of chocolate mousse, I think he had a pretty successful run! Which was rewarded with a popsicle at the finish! I skipped a couple of the stations, but even still I am quite sure we ate more calories than we burned! It was an awesome fund raiser that didn't require me dumping a bucket of ice water over my head! I took yesterday off and then got TWELVE hours of sleep last night! I feel so good today. This week is focused on getting back to daily running and the usual routine, but no speed! (maybe next week).

Recovery Hike at Silver Falls with the family
Sweet Treats 5k. And that is chocolate mousse near Liam's eyebrow, in case you were wondering!