Sunday, August 29, 2010

Change is good...and hard

Over the past year I have dealt with a lot of change and transition in my life. My eldest son graduated from high school and now attends college 7 hours from home; our school, where I am the counselor, is about to open a brand new lower, middle, and upper school; and I am working with a new coach and a new training program. If there is one thing ultrarunning has taught me, it is to be open to change at any moment, and to go with whatever the trail gives me. This is such a valuable lesson (and life skill) to have when so much around me is in transition!

The biggest training shake-up? Probably switching over from my clunky Montrails to the super light inov-8 Flyroc 284s. It took me a good six months to transition from the former to the latter to avoid any injury to my achilles or plantar fascia, which is often the case with folks trying the switch from a more supportive shoe to one with less. I absolutely love my Flyrocks! I have noticed a change in my foot strike (more mid-foot than heel) and I can negotiate technical downhills with greater ease because of the grippy sole and lightness. They are also super comfy on the road, which is good since Masochist has about 40 miles of dirt road!

I also tested out (and love) the 2XU calf sleeves. I had some major cramping in my legs at Terrapin 50K and Highland Sky 40, so this summer I have been wearing the sleeves in all my training. Yesterday I wore them on a 20 miler road run and last week on a 40-minute tempo run, and they are very comfy. After a multi-hour trail run last weekend, my legs felt great afterward and the next day. I haven't worn them exclusively for post-run recovery but will certainly try them after Masochist for the car ride home.

My training with Howard has been going really well. Last spring I was feeling a bit stale and recognized that, after 8 years of training and racing, I was in need of a change. New races, new training routes, and a new program were just what I needed to shake things up and get me excited to run again. I am really excited about Masochist (which is not a "new" race for me but I haven't run it in three years) and, for the first time since 2005, I will not be running Hellgate 100K. With all the change in other parts of my life, it is nice to keep the training and racing calendar simple and wide open for now. Howard has got me running solid fartlek runs on Tuesdays followed by solid tempos on Wednesdays. After a day off on Thursday and easy runs on Monday and Friday, I always feel rested and fresh for the long weekend run. It is nice to be so "mindless" with my training...I just look at the program and do it. I can tell that my turnover is quicker and that my legs are fresher with this new program. I am looking forward to the next 8 weeks of Masochist training!

One thing that hasn't changed? I was once again given the opportunity to speak to the ladies of the Charlottesville 4 Miler training program last week. This is my favorite morning of the year! I love feeling the positive vibes and energy of this remarkable group of women, most of whom are running their very first race in the 4 Miler and are raising funds and awareness for breast cancer research. This was my fourth year as a guest speaker, and I encouraged them to "pass with pride" and not be afraid to be competitive during the race. Since most have never run a race before and were planning to run with their training partners, I also encouraged them to make a deal with one another, so that if one of them felt good during the last mile and wanted to pick up the pace, they shouldn't feel guilty about leaving the group. It is, after all, a race...and change is good!

Here is a pic of me speaking to the ladies. I can't figure out how to post it without the Shutterfly connection, so this will have to do.

Click here to view these pictures larger

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Remembering Martha

Last weekend I joined the gang for the Martha Moats Baker Memorial 50K++(MMB). This run was created by Dennis Herr, an ultra legend whose trail nickname is "The Animal." If you go back and read past issues of Ultrarunning from the 1980s and 90s, you will see Dennis' name at the top of the race results for Hardrock, Wasatch, and Leadville, just to name a few.

What I love about Dennis, and the runs that he hosts, is that he is all about adventure and tough trails. No "candy ass" trails for the Animal---just long climbs, long descents, and gnarly trail. He also respects the history that is behind MMB--- 85 years ago, Martha was making her way from one side of Brushy Mountain to another in a snowstorm when she perished in the cold. We are privileged to now run those same roads and trails for fun and recreation, but we never forget Martha. Dennis always asks us to say a little prayer for her as we run by.

MMB starts and finishes in the Wild Oak Trail parking area, site of TWOT 100 and Grindstone 100 aid stations. The initial 13-mile climb up Little Bald to Reddish Knob takes 3 hours, and on a clear day, offers views clear to West Virginia and beyond. On Saturday we had rain and fog, so no views...but here are some pics from last year's run:

The gang running towards Reddish Knob

Sophie and Hallie atop Reddish Knob

Hallie is nursing an injury this year, so she had to miss the fun...but the usual suspects returned, along with new friends. I enjoyed running with Ragan and Amy and showing them the parts of the Grindstone course that MMB shares, Martha's gravestone, as well as hammering down Heartstone Ridge Trail in the cool rain. Finally, I felt like a runner again in those cooler temperatures! It was also awesome to see 100-ultra-stud Bill Gentry at the Dog Graveyard with popsicles and other treats. The aid rivaled many ultras out there, and the post-run party under the VHTRC tent was a blast as usual. We waited all afternoon eating yummy treats and drinking a variety of beverages for the runners who opted to run 27 or 35 miles...and in one case, almost 50 miles (that is a story for another time and blog post!).

Thank you, Dennis, for another awesome tour of the trails you love so dearly...and rest in peace, Martha Moats Baker.