Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008: A Very Good Year

Virginia and Audrey on Trayfoot mountain

A few weeks ago, as I am sitting around the lodge after finishing my fourth Hellgate 100K in a PR time, I'm giving David Horton grief about how he seeded me this year--5th seed, my lowest ever. (Some background: last year at Hellgate I was 2nd overall woman but apparently experience and a high finish from the previous year mean nothing to Horton). Never one to shy away from a good argument, I get right to the point:

SS: "Horty, why did you give me my lowest seed ever this year?"
DH: "You didn't have a very good year."
SS: "Whaaaa you tawkin' 'bout? What about finishing Grindstone in my fastest 100 miler time ever? What about finishing third at Cheat 50 with Rebekah? What about winning my age group at Promise Land? Huh? Huh?"

At this point Horton was all the way at the other end of the room, on some other random tangent, like announcing to those in the lodge who the Best Blood winner was.


So, is it true what Dr. Horton says? Did I really not have a very good year?

If I define "very good" as meaning top-3 overall in every race I entered, then, no, I didn't have a very good year. (That's what Horton thinks is "very good", I think). But if I define "very good" as meaning finishing 1st or 2nd Masters woman in every race....then yes, I had a very good year. If I define it as meeting---no, exceeding--my goals for 2008, than I had a "FANTASTIC" year!

Here were my ultra goals for 2008:

1. Run faster, shorter races (ranging from 5K-40 miles) in the Spring/Summer with good Masters results...check.
2. Run more weekly mileage injury-free all summer in training for Grindstone 100...check.
3. Finish Grindstone 100 injury-free and without a huge death march at the end...check (I had a teensy death march in the last 5 miles, sorry Mikey Mason).
4. Break 15 hours at Hellgate 100K...missed it by 3:00.

But my "very good" 2008 was so much more than racing and winning and PRs for me. In no particular order, 2008 was really about

-caring for and loving our new puppy Jack
-feeling the rush of emotions while watching STAB lacrosse win States
-listening to my son's fears and worries while he rehabbed his torn ACL
-watching as old friend Tom Perriello, whom we knew when he was 9 and we were college sweethearts, get elected to Congress against all odds at age 36
-sharing the DC experience with my family as we visited the Museum of American History
-feeling the joy on election night when Obama won
-setting a goal to run another 100 miler and loving every moment of training and racing
-hiking my favorite Trayfoot Mountain loop with my family on a glorious winter day and then savoring Crozet Pizza afterwards
-enjoying spending time with my family over a glorious Thanksgiving meal
-watching my children flourish while attempting new challenges

Here are some of my favorite pics from 2008. I'll post my 2009 goals soon.

Vicki Kendall, David Horton and me moments before the start of Grindstone 100

Looking west at Afton Mountain from my sister's barn after Thanksgiving

Dorothy's Ruby Slippers at the Museum of American History

Celebrating STAB's boy's lacrosse state championship with Chapin

Hanging with the girls at the Masochists finish line

Me and my sweedie

Farewell 2008! Here's to a fantastic 2009, one filled with hope, new beginnings, and even greater adventures...

Thursday, December 25, 2008

A warm Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone!

I hope you have been able to spend time with family and friends and aren't among the poor souls who have been stranded at airports because of bad weather. Perhaps you are among the lucky souls who are stranded at a Lake Tahoe ski resort? Here in Virginia, we are celebrating a warm Christmas, not a white one. My sister sings on her new album of wanting only two things for Christmas..."Peace on Earth and a snowstorm now and then..." but alas, she will have to wait another year...for snow on Christmas, at least. I'm still hopeful about the peace.

As much as I love snow, I also love the gift of warm, sunny days in December! It was 60 degrees and sunny with clear blue skies this afternoon, so after everyone had opened their presents this morning, Rusty and I left the family at home and went out to Walnut Creek Park with Jack---Rusty rode his single speed and I ran. Jack stayed between us on the trail, chasing Rusty and then waiting for me. It was so sweet to see his eager face as I rounded the bend of the trail. What a loyal trail pup! Rusty and I had a total blast out there and managed to stay together (the single speed kept him honest!). Next up will be some of the trails on the Grindstone course that allows mountain bikes, and then he will get a chance to see what all the fuss was about regarding Chimney Hollow Trail!

(That's me above with Jack, post-run, sporting one of my Christmas presents from Santa, a cool Atayne wicking T in my favorite color and a cool eco-message). Thanks Santa!

Here is the 2008 Speidel family Christmas card photo we would have sent to family and friends, but for a variety of reasons, we opted out of mailing cards this year. From our family to yours, we hope you had a wonderful Christmas Day with your loved ones, and that 2009 brings you all that you dream of, and more.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Fearless, Frigid, and Fast: A Recipe for a Hellgate PR, 2008

Let it slide,
Let your troubles fall behind you
Let it shine
Until you feel it all around you
And I don't mind
If it's me you need to turn to
We'll get by,
It's the heart that really matters in the end

---Rob Thomas, "Little Wonders"

Where do I begin to describe Hellgate 2008? What made it all come together for me this year?

Was it the full moon? We had the good fortune to run under the largest full moon in 15 years. I felt like we were somehow cheating to be able to run without lights for most of the night. The moon followed us all night and into the morning hours, and at one point, I was running on a ridge line with the rising sun to my right and the setting moon on my left. What a gift!

Was it the weather? Frigid temperatures, bright moon, bright sun. A perfect recipe for me. Besides the full moon, the pre-race chatter focused on what the temperatures would be up on the ridges...predictions were for lows in the teens with some wind. I seem to run my best in very cold weather, as long as I am appropriately dressed. We had these conditions before in 2006, so I knew the drill: tights, two wicking layers, a vest and a sturdy wind jacket, glasses, hat and gloves. After the race, many runners were regretting running in shorts and no hat. Ouch!

Was it the trail? We were spoiled this year with leaves that had been washed off the trail by the heavy rains that came the night before. The Devil Trail had been flattened somewhat, though the rocks were still there. But somehow this trail seemed "easier" for me than in previous years. Another gift...

Was it the conservative start and support from the guys? My friends Ryan Henry and Rick Gray were looking to pace themselves at the start and asked if we could all run together given my propensity for conservative starts. Soon we added Neal Jamison, Ed Duval, and Dan Lehmann to the group and we ran together up to Camping Gap (mile 15). They stopped at the AS but since I was feeling good, I kept moving. We were running 15-20 minutes ahead of Horton's sub-15:00 splits and once again I was following them with the hope of breaking 15 I shifted into "assertive running" mode and kept at it. Neal caught up with me and kept me company until mile 42, when he took off looking strong---an amazing example of the training effect, as Neal's longest run since racing the OD100 in June was 14 miles in August...he finished Hellgate in 14:45. Awesome job, my friend. Thanks so much for the great company and the push.

Was it my nutrition? At Hellgate, you need to eat, eat, eat. You are cold and running during your sleep phase, so proper nutrition is the most important factor in finishing the race. Over the course of the race, I ate two, 5-serving flasks of raspberry Hammergel, sipping some every 15-20 minutes. I also ate 6 Clif Bloks just before the start and drank 20 ounces of Sustained Energy in the first 10 miles. After that I drank 20 ounces of water with Nuun supplemented with plain water from my pack. At daybreak I ate an egg sandwich, and then added chicken noodle soup at every AS along with a few more gels and Clif bloks, all at 20 minute intervals for 15 hours. Never did I bonk or lose energy. It was one of those perfect days!

Or, in the end, was it all in my head...or heart? I was so calm and relaxed during the pre-race, it was almost scary. After three years of running Hellgate in a variety of conditions, I knew what to wear, what to eat, how I was going to pace myself, and I was very confident in my fitness. Training for and running the Grindstone 100 ten weeks earlier played a huge role, no doubt. One word seems to best describe Hellgate 2008 for me: Fearless. I ran without fear of the dark, the cold, or the trail. It paid off in a 13 minute PR, 15:03.

Rick Gray and me at the start of Hellgate, 11:58 pm 12-12-08
(photo by Bethany Patterson)

Monday, December 8, 2008


Hellgate's ridgeline near Natural Bridge, VA

On Friday I will venture south to Fincastle and Camp Bethel, the finish line of the infamous Hellgate 100K. Once there I will nab a quiet bunk bed location for napping, catch up with other Hellgate devotees, eat a yummy pasta dinner (but not too much), and listen to Horton as he gives his Hellgate pep-talk/warning/scary story pre-race speech. I will look around the room and see fear and dread in the eyes of the newbies and grins and smirks on the mouths of the old-timers. I will overhear the same conversations between runners and crew: Shorts or tights? Screws or Yaktrax? Hand-helds or hydration pack? Headlamp, hand-held light, or both?

I love Hellgate.

On paper, Hellgate looks ridiculous. Why would any runner want to run 100K in December in Virginia, starting at midnight? Horton started the race in 2002 and it has filled up every year, earlier and earlier. The first year I ran, in 2005, the course was covered in ice and snow, and yet I have come back every year since. Race night falls near my birthday, so I always celebrate the passing year's events in my head while running along the Glenwood Horse Trail in the dead of night. By the time the sun comes up, I am finished thinking about the past and ready for the challenge and the unknown of the future. I have written before that I love the way we run into the light at Hellgate---an optimistic view that is very comforting and very symbolic for me: It is why I run ultras and how I like to live my life.

Am I ready for Hellgate?

Heck yes! I feel fully recovered from Grindstone and have had a few weeks of awesome training runs---a course PR on the toughest 5K course in Charlottesville a few weeks ago and a strong final training run in the SNP last weekend give me reason to think that if I run my race, eat and drink well, keep my head on, and if the weather cooperates, I could break my PR on this course, 15:16, set in 2006. That's my goal, at least...but who knows what the weather will bring Hellgate 2008? The adventure is in finding out.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Thanksgiving in Virginia

(view from Old Rag at sunrise, 11.29.08 by Deb Shaffer)

What a joyous Thanksgiving! We celebrated with the entire Carpenter side of the family at Elysium after the annual Boar's Head Turkey Trot... then I spent Saturday with my closest friends in the VHTRC running 26 miles near Old Rag and Hawksbill Mountain in the Shenandoah National Park.

In reflecting on 2008, I find I am most thankful for...

Family gatherings We had a very special Thanksgiving as everyone was able to come and spend time together in a gorgeous setting.

(the gang at Thanksgiving)

Running on beautiful mountain trails with my friends while sharing the ups and downs of parenting, training, racing, living...

(a few VHTRC friends at the start of the Old Rag/Hawksbill run)

Living and working in this beautiful part of the country...

(the view from Elysium of Afton Mountain)

Racing this year on tough trails, thanks to the tireless efforts of race and run directors David Horton, Clark Zealand, Dan Lehmann, Adam Cassiday, Dennis Herr, Quatro Hubbard, Keith Knipling, Mike Bur, Kerry Owens, the Uwharrie gals, and the VHTRC.

(Old Rag Mountain)

My family---Rusty, Chapin, Carter, and Virginia, and our puppies Jack and Sky. They are the lights of my life.

What are you most thankful for this year? I would love to know.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Back In Business

It's less than four weeks until Hellgate 100K, so last week I decided to test my recovery and legs:

Monday I took off, then on Tuesday I ran easy for about an hour and lifted. Wednesday was my first track workout since before Grindstone. After a 10-minute WU, I ran 3x 1200 with the 800 hill surge in the middle. My goal was to hit splits near to those during the Gstone training cycle. I was very pleased (but tired) at the end:
4:57/8:20, 4:55/8:12, 4:56/8:14. I then ran a few miles over to the powerlines and tested myself on the climb: 1:05, 1:06, 1:08. Whew! Not my fastest, but I am pleased given the leaves covering the rocks.

Thursday I took off and Friday I swam and lifted.

Saturday, while my roadie friends were dealing with temps in the 70s and full sun at the Richmond Marathon, I was running two hours easy on the Rivanna Trail in torrential downpours and temps in the 60s (and humidity!). Props to Quatro and Bill Gentry who ran the Richmond Marathon and toughed out the awful conditions in fine time. Ultrarunners are just plain tough!

Sunday we had a cold front move in and very cold temps in the 30s. I ran about 20 miles on the AT/Rip Rap/Wildcat Ridge trails with Ed Duval. This is my new favorite run. It has very tough climbs, awesome singletrack, and gorgeous waterfalls and rivers alongside the trail. Here are the GPS details. Perfect training for Hellgate with a few rocky, leaf-covered sections thrown in.

Today I am feeling tired but my legs are fine---it was a good week. My next (and last) long run will be the annual Death March in the SNP over Thanksgiving weekend with the VHTRC---one of my favorite runs of the year.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The Burn!

I have written about many of my "firsts"---first ultra, first 50 miler, first 100---but never about the first trail race I ever ran, the Blue Ridge Burn 10K. This race has been around for 13 years, longer than any trail race (shorter than 50K) in the area. It was first held up at Wintergreen Resort but moved to Walnut Creek Park outside of Charlottesville in 1996. Created by Blue Ridge Outdoors magazine, it quickly drew a cult following of diehard trail runners, including me. In fact, I remember finishing my first Burn in 1999 and telling my husband, "THAT was soooo much fun!" Here are the results from the last 10 years, including 2008, thanks to the tireless efforts of Charlottesville Track Club volunteer, Carol Finch.

The Burn was also known for it's cool race T-shirts, each year with a different catchy phrase, such as, "We Don't Need No Stinkin' Pavement", "Burn Baby Burn" and my personal favorite, "Big Hurt in the Dirt: Did Mommy Pack Your Juice Box?" I especially love the fact that the event is totally not-for-profit. In years past, proceeds have benefited the Southern Environmental Law Center, and this year's beneficiary was The Rivanna Trails Foundation, the steward of our beloved Rivanna Trail. For 20 bucks, runners got a technical T (sans catchy phrase, unfortunately), a well-marked trail (thanks to Jeff Wilbur of the RTF), post-race drinks and bagels, and the beautiful setting of Walnut Creek Park, a favorite of runners, walkers, bikers, and frisbee golf players.

The Burn is also where I first met some good ultra friends: Anne Riddle Lundblad (who won the race in 1999, just a few weeks before she won JFK 50, her first ultra); Quatro Hubbard, one of my oldest VHTRC buddies; and Bill Potts, my longstanding (and longsuffering) training partner. Each year without fail, Potts, Q and I run the Burn, even if we are recovering from 100 milers, marathons, or training for the Richmond Marathon the next weekend...we wouldn't miss it. We suffer through the torrid pace set by the non-ultrarunners and actually run the climbs!! It's an awesome tempo run and each year we run it slower than the year before (except for Q...props to you for beating me this year!). This year Jeff Wilbur, J.R. and Peggy Ankney joined us for good times on the trail.

The Burn marks the end of the fall racing season and the beginning of Hellgate interval training for me...and is a yearly reminder of why I fell in love with trail racing in the first place. Good times with good friends for a good cause. Can't beat it.

Below are pics from the 1999 Burn: The start with Anne and Potts in the crowd, and one of me looking waaayyy younger...the good old days.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Masochists 2008

My first 50 miler was the Mountain Masochist 50 mile in 2003. It was my second ultra and I was woefully under prepared, but I loved it and met a good friend as I was coming out of the infamous Loop: Ryan Henry. On that day Ryan was a 29-year-old ultra veteran who ran with me to the finish and put up with my whining and whimpering...and we have been trail buddies ever since.

As much as I love the race, Masochist was NOT in my recovery plan from Grindstone, so yesterday Ryan and I met at the Masochist finish line and ran back to mile 41, hoping to see the front runners and enjoy the beautiful weather on the trail. We were not disappointed: we managed to see the top 30 runners, take some great photos, and get in a hard (for me) 20-mile training run in a beautiful place. Good times, Ryan!

We saw tough performances by the top guys and a gutsy run by David Horton---his first run at Masochist since the first year of the race, 26 years ago, I believe. Many folks were having a tough day on the course due to some warm temperatures, and Horton was not happy when we saw him in Forest Valley, a horrendous leafy climb off an old section of the AT. But he hammered to the finish line strong and happy, surrounded by his family and crew, Jen Pharr Davis, who is fresh off her record-setting AT thru-hike.

Clark Zealand, the new RD of Masochsist, was at the finish to greet each runner, and he did an extra cool thing with the results this year: they included splits from certain aid stations as well as the runner's previous Masochist race times. And I was sorry to miss many folks who came in after 11 hours---my camera's batteries died. But just before that happened, I caught these two tough women, Kerry Owens and Rebekah Trittipoe, on film as they were finishing their fifth Beast Series run,
and I did manage to get these great pics!

(photo on left of Jen Henry, Jen Pharr Davis, Sophie, Bethany Patterson and Rebekah Trittipoe by Jen Henry)

Sunday, October 26, 2008

What's next?

It's weird to not be tapering for Mountain Masochist this year, after two years of focused training for that race (that's the MMTR finish line on the right). Instead, I find myself listening to my body's signals that it is recovering from Gstone and ready for the next adventure, and having lots of freedom and flexibility with my running. The Gstone training cycle was fun but it was very focused, and now I am in that happy place of "What's Next?"

I say "happy" because I have a lot to be happy about---and grateful for. Many of my running friends are struggling with injury---Heidi, Bill, J.R., Jenny, Annette, and Neal to name just a few. Some are dealing with short-term, post-race tweaks and others are dealing with more longer-term, potentially run-ending injuries. As I wander through the woods in this glorious fall weather, I remind myself of the simple pleasure and gift of being able to RUN without pain.

This was week #3 post Gstone, and I took it fairly easy each day except for an 8-mile marathon pace run (1 mile WU, 3 miles @ 7:40 pace, 1 mile easy, 3 miles @ MP)on Wednesday. Despite feeling great after this run, I have decided NOT to run the Richmond Marathon after all...too much $$ and I want to maximize my recovery time so I can have a good race at Hellgate. I will be at Masochist this Saturday to watch David Horton, Bill Potts, and my VHTRC friends finish and perhaps I'll get out on the course a bit! For a cool retrospective of 25 years of Masochist, check out this video on Clark Zealand's blog

Today I went on an "easy" long run with my buddy Anne Lundblad. Thankfully Anne was taking it easy in preparation for the Shut-in Ridge Trail race next weekend, so we ran one of our fave 17-mile loops out in White Hall at about 8:45 pace and power walked all the hills (thanks, Anne!). We talked about all our favorite topics: motherhood, our daughters, running, our jobs as counselors, race plans, and philosophies about why we run ultras. I always love our runs together since I don't have any other women friends in C'Ville who run ultras, so the miles always tick by quickly as we run and later over coffee. I was hoping Anne would be joining me at Hellgate this year, but she will be crewing her hubby Mark while he races JFK in a few weeks, and then cheering her daughter Emma on at the Girls On The Run race in Asheville on the morning of Hellgate...GOTR is a very cool program for young girls that I would like to bring to Charlottesville--- a great reason to miss Hellgate! Also, check out this link to a great article Anne wrote on "Running Your First Ultra."

Speaking of Hellgate, I am getting excited about this year's race. It will be held on the night of a full moon and I really hope we have clear skies! As I told Anne, seven hours of running in the dark at Hellgate will be cake compared to 12 hours at Gstone!

Another woman I admire, Rachel Toor, has just released her third book, Personal Record: A Love Affair with Running. I have read it and LOVED it. Rachel is an awesome writer and she captures the running life so beautifully in this book. I laughed out loud and cried a bit, too...a fabulous read that I urge all runners to consider.

Finally, I have been sending this link about ultrarunning to my friends and family who scratch their heads about the ultra thing...this interview with MMT and Grindstone photographer Tom Sperduto is excellent and seems to capture the "why's?" of this sport. Plus the photos are cool---some before and afters from Gstone and others from MMT. Enjoy!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Recovering from 100 miles

(photo by Kirstin Corris)

A crucial part of training for 100s and other ultras is the recovery process...not only during the training cycle, but also after the race. I think one reason I was successful at Gstone 100 this year was because I was smart with my recovery after long runs and hard runs. Now that I am in the post-race recovery stage, I have gotten a few emails asking me what I am going to do between now and Hellgate 100K, which will take place on Dec. 13, 10 weeks after Gstone. Here's my plan:

The week after Gstone, I took totally off. No running or lifting. I swam easy one day and walked my dog a few other days, but mostly I focused on sleeping, eating, and hanging with my family (yes, I had to go to work too). I found that I needed at least
9-10 hours of sleep that first week. My legs felt great and besides a teeny bit of ITB soreness, I had no lingering effects from the race, besides the usual endocrine system issues.

A week after Gstone (Oct. 11) I ran easy with my dog on trails for about an hour. I was tired! The next few days I ran about 5-6 miles easy and added a longer run mid-week (about 8 miles). All were run with my HR below 120, except one day when I ran a few miles at 7:40 pace with Bill as he was preparing for his marathon.

I read a good article in the latest issue of Runners World about how to recover from and train for a second marathon 4, 6, or 8 weeks after a first marathon. The article suggests taking a full week off, then running long runs up to 16 miles (if the races are 8 weeks apart) and marathon pace runs of 8 miles with 1 mile WU, 6 miles at MP, and 1 mile CD. Interesting...I think I'll give it a go, just in case I want to run Richmond Marathon on November 15, which is 6 weeks out of Gstone.

So this past Saturday, (October 18), I ran 8 miles with my friend Andrea, who was fresh off finishing third in the Masters USATF Cross Country Championships! This was an easy run for her, but I wanted to run 6 miles at 7:40 (marathon pace) and she helped me stay focused by using her GPS and calling out my splits. We were running on a hilly gravel road so I was working fairly hard, but overall I felt good.

Sunday (yesterday) I traveled up to DC to visit my dad and also ran about 20 easy miles in the Potomac Heritage 50K which is a signature VHTRC event, put on by my buddy Kerry Owens. I had a blast running on my old neighborhood trails and catching up with old friends---Mike Broderick, my pacer from MMT 100, was running his first ultra of 2008, and Mike Bur, a Last Great Race finisher from 2002, was running for the first time in a long time. Afterwards, we hung out at Kerry's and waited for the 50K finishers. Keith Knipling, who was third at Gstone, cruised in for the 50K win. That guy is a freak of nature who recovers really fast---don't try that at home! Here are pics of the PH trail from the 2005 event, from Kirstin Corris.

This week will be more easy running, a MP run on Friday and a long run on Sunday. And a shout out to my bro-in-law Andy Speidel, who finished his first 50K at the Stone Steps 50K in Cincinnati, and to longtime ultrarunner Bill Potts, who ran his first marathon at the Mt. Desert Island marathon in Maine. Wooo-hooo fellas! Great job at trying something out of your comfort zones!!!!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Reflections on Grindstone 100

This post is written for runners who *may* want to try Grindstone 100, another tough mountain 100, or for folks who like to read long, tedious race reports. (Those interested in the quick and dirty report of my Grindstone 100 race, check out my previous post, "Sunset, Sunrise, Sunset: Grindstone 100.") If you are interested in the minute details of my experience on this incredible trail, and what I learned from the challenge, stay tuned.

Grindstone start, 6:00pm, Friday, October 3. Click for larger.(photo by J.R. Ankney)

Training Re-cap I described my top-10 race goals for Gstone in the previous post, knowing that anything could happen to derail my plans, but optimistic as a result of a long summer of training (see previous posts for my entire training plan). I focused on climbing, descending, long tempo runs with my buddy Bill Potts and long intervals on the track, with mile weeks topping out at 80 mpw. The only elements I would add, now that the race is over? Longer, steeper descent training (repeats of at least 45 minutes long on steep road or trail), and a few more training runs on rocky, technical trail to condition my feet. That said, I ended up with only one small blister on one toe which I attribute to wearing Injinji toe socks with Body Glide lube underneath, and re-lubing with vaseline at mile 35 and 66.

Bill Potts with me at mile 80, Dowells Draft. Click for larger.

Mental Prep I am a huge believer in positive self talk and visual imagery, and for Gstone I spent a lot of time thinking about how I would feel at different points along the trail and how I was going to handle the negative thoughts that tend to creep in during 100s. When I got sleepy during the first night, I took a caffeine pill and plugged into my Ipod, and this made a huge difference. I got sleepy again during the mid-afternoon while climbing Hankey Mountain on Saturday, so I went off trail, set my watch alarm for 5 minutes, and took a quick power nap. That was awesome! I had a HUGE energy boost from that nap so later in the evening when I got loopy, I did it again. Meeting my pacer Mike Mason at mile 75 and again at mile 89 was a huge mental boost as well, as I had been running alone for most of the race. I could feel my pace pick up when we were together, and he did a phenomenal job keeping me upbeat and positive (though I was a huge WHINER during the last three miles). Finishing a 100 mile race is so much about attitude, and I was prepared to deal with the inevitable low moments as well as the highs with equal energy.

Nutrition Recap I started Gstone with 20oz of Sustained Energy, 40 oz of water in my Nathan pack, and a flask of raspberry Hammergel. This combination has worked me in other long ultras, and it was no different at Gstone. After I finished off the SE, I drank a Nuun tablet and water from my bottle for electrolytes for the rest of the event, and a few solid foods when necessary: scrambled egg and tortilla, PB and J, and chicken noodle soup went down the best. In the last 15 miles, it was hard to eat anything, especially the Powergel that Mike Mason insisted on me eating as we descended Elliott's (something about the sodium to help with my quad soreness). I was cold, tired, and not hungry, but I forced myself to eat it. I also sipped water to settle my stomach. As soon as I was finished with the race, Rusty brought me an ice cold cappucino Ultragen, which Krissy told me to try in a perhaps I'll give it a go at Hellgate in December. Ultragen truly works and helps me recover very quickly from tough workouts and races. Overall, I was pleased with my energy level and nutrition, though I think I needed more protein late in the race to keep me from bonking, and I should have planned for that and for more Hammergel.

Coming into mile 80, Dowells Draft, with pacer Mike Mason and hubby Rusty on the right. Click for larger.

The Trail I broke down the course in thirds and included my live website stats just for fun:

Miles 1-36 I ran in about 9 hours, which is exactly the pace I wanted, despite starting way in the back of the pack. The first five miles were spent in the woods near Camp Shenandoah, on nice singletrack and technical trail as we climbed over Little North Mountain to Rte 42, where AS 1 was waiting:

#1 Station - Falls Hollow 5.71 miles
00 days, 01:09:06 Time to Station
00:12:06 / mile Overall Pace
00:12:06 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
59 / 74 Station Rank

After crossing Rte 42, it was dark and we climbed dirt road and a section of lovely singletrack before popping out onto Elliott's Knob FR, a nasty, rocky, exposed fire road that has a VERY steep grade. It took about 30 minutes to climb this road to the top of the Knob, where I got my number punched to prove I was there before dropping down a few yards to the trailhead. I ran this section with Vicki Kendall and Rebekah, and we had fun going down the next section to Dry Branch, which is a mix of rocky technical singletrack and smooth singletrack...lovely running!

#2 Station - Dry Branch Gap 15.24 miles
00 days, 03:40:06 Time to Station
00:14:26 / mile Overall Pace
00:15:50 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
58 / 74 Station Rank

After Dry Branch, it's UP UP UP Crawford Mountain. There are five---count 'em---five long, hands-on-your-knees climbs along this ridge line before you are mercifully dropped onto the stunning Chimney Hollow Trail---all down, down, down. This trail crosses Rte 250 and links up to the fantastic Dowells Draft Trail, our next AS:

#3 Station - Dowells Draft 22.89 miles
00 days, 05:30:06 Time to Station
00:14:25 / mile Overall Pace
00:14:22 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
49 / 73 Station Rank

I started to pass a few folks here after my conservative start. Mike Mason told me later that he was a bit "concerned" about my slow pace, but I told him it was all part of the plan!

After the AS, we had another wonderful section of singletrack that climbed up to Hankey Mountain to the Wild Oak Trail (known around these parts as TWOT). TWOT then becomes a nice runnable fire road, all downhill, before the third AS at Lookout Mountain, where I met up with VHTRCers Mike Dobies and Marty Lindemann:

#4 Station - Lookout Mountain 31.24 miles
00 days, 07:33:06 Time to Station
00:14:30 / mile Overall Pace
00:14:43 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
46 / 72 Station Rank

After the AS, it was technical, tedious, rocky singletrack all the way to North River Gap AS, a.k.a. the Wild Oak Trail parking area (mile 37 and mile 66):

#5 Station - North River Gap 36.69 miles
00 days, 08:57:06 Time to Station
00:14:38 / mile Overall Pace
00:15:24 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
38 / 71 Station Rank

I sat down here for the first time and changed my socks after lubing up with vaseline---aaahhhh, this made a huge difference and was worth the time spent (at Western States I made the error of not taking the time to lube my feet and swore I would never make that mistake again!). However, the big mistake here came when I forgot to switch out my Hammergel flask for a new one. I would pay for this later, as I was descending Little Bald with nothing to eat and an hour until the AS.

The next section, miles 36-66, took me 8 hours to complete. It meant a very tough climb up to Little Bald on sweet singletrack for 7 miles. The AS was literally on top of the mountain in the middle of nowhere. It was a welcome respite after the long climb:

#6 Station - Little Bald Knob 43.44 miles
00 days, 11:48:06 Time to Station
00:16:18 / mile Overall Pace
00:25:20 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
35 / 69 Station Rank

After the AS was a lot of easy ridge running to Reddish Knob on old grassy fire road, dirt, and then very hilly pavement before turning around at Briery Branch for the return trip to North River Gap. The best part of the race for me took place here, as I climbed up Reddish...the sun was rising above the valley, with views of West Virginia (we were right on the border) and Virginia below. Tom Sperduto took amazing photos of us up here. We also had the chance to see folks coming back from the turnaround and get a sense of how far apart we were. It was fun to greet my fellow compatriots and get/give a few "you look great!" hugs in the process.

#7 Station - Reddish Knob 49.37 miles
00 days, 12:55:06 Time to Station
00:15:41 / mile Overall Pace
00:11:17 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
29 / 66 Station Rank

Coming back to the Little Bald AS, I knew I needed some solid food, but was wary. I had problems in the past with solid food messing with my stomach, but I also needed some protein. JB Basham convinced me to eat his scrambled egg tortilla--- it made a huge difference in my energy level as I descended Little Bald, because I was out of my usual gel and the energy boost came at a perfect time.

#10 Station - Little Bald Knob 59.94 miles
00 days, 14:50:06 Time to Station
00:14:50 / mile Overall Pace
00:10:19 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
28 / 67 Station Rank

I have descended Little Bald many times while running on the TWOT course, so this was familiar fun. I was pleased with my pace and when I came into North River Gap (mile 66) a second time, it was awesome to see Rusty as well as Tom Corris and Barb Isom greet me. I changed my socks again, lubed up, and switched out of my skirt to shorts because I was feeling a bit of chafing. All good decisions and a good use of time, as I felt great climbing back up Lookout Mountain.

#11 Station - North River Gap 66.69 miles
00 days, 17:02:06 Time to Station
00:15:19 / mile Overall Pace
00:19:33 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
25 / 64 Station Rank

The last third of the race, miles 66-100, took me 11.5 hours to complete. The first section, up Lookout, is where I started to feel the sleep deprivation. It was about noon, the sun was shining, and it was getting hot(although in reality it was probably 70 degrees, max). It's all uphill to the AS on rocky trail, and I was alone with no one ahead to motivate me and no one behind to push me. My Ipod battery had died, so now I had to dig deep. My attitude, as they say in school, was "poor". However, as soon as I came into the Lookout Mountain AS and slurped some chicken noodle soup, my attitude adjusted nicely:

#12 Station - Lookout Mountain 72.14 miles
00 days, 18:59:06 Time to Station
00:15:47 / mile Overall Pace
00:21:28 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
24 / 65 Station Rank

Rusty met me up here on his mountain bike, and had to kick me out for sitting too long. The trail ahead was good footing, great climbing, shady, and just right for a little snooze...yes, I did indeed take a 5-minute power nap off the trail in this section. It gave me a huge boost of energy that carried me all the way to Dowells Draft, where I ran into Mike Mason and Rusty, coming up the trail:

#13 Station - Dowells Draft 79.49 miles
00 days, 21:06:06 Time to Station
00:15:55 / mile Overall Pace
00:17:16 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
25 / 63 Station Rank

This was my favorite section of trail. It was like a "marble in a slot" as Scotty Mills would say...smooth running singletrack and all downhill. Of course, it was also the end of the fun, because miles 80-100 are unquestionably the hardest past of the race. It all started with Chimney Hollow trail meandering along a lovely creek bed before the climbing. Then, for the next 1.5 hours, it was climb, climb, climb. Just when you think the trail has switchbacked for good, there was another turn. At one point I sat on a rock and waited for Regis Shivers and his pacer to join me in cursing the trail. This was very cathartic and also hilarious, and gave me a needed boost. I soon left them and topped out onto Crawford Mountain trail, and descended the 5 PUDS (Pointless Ups and Downs) along the ridge. Bill Potts met me on the last descent, and his comment was, "this freaking trail is 20% grade!" Yessir, that's Chimney Hollow!

#14 Station - Dry Branch Gap 86.14 miles
00 days, 23:45:06 Time to Station
00:16:32 / mile Overall Pace
00:23:54 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
25 / 61 Station Rank

Coming into Dry Branch at 5:45 p.m. was nirvana. I sat for 15 minutes and ate Pringles and drank V-8 (I guess I needed salt).The AS volunteers had also cooked some BBQ that perhaps I *should* have eaten for the protein, but my taste buds weren't interested. I predicted that many folks would drop here and everyone laughed, as I am surely not the first to make that prediction. When Dan Lehmann (who was ahead of me before going off trail for 50 minutes) came into the AS, I decided to leave and use Dan and Adam (his pacer) as motivation to get up the mountain. It worked---I climbed with renewed energy and left them behind. The sun was setting and the views of the Deerfield Valley were gorgeous. Soon it was dusk, and I was very happy to be navigating this rocky section with some daylight remaining! Just as it was getting dark, I saw Mike heading towards me. For logistical reasons, we had agreed that he would run from the start and pace me in, and he could not have appeared at a better time. He told me that Kerry was 6 minutes ahead and he wanted me to pick up the pace...but my quads were screaming as we descended Elliotts, and the road was very steep and slippery. Dan and Adam appeared behind us and blew by with words of encouragement, but all I could do was walk. It began to get cold and my stomach, for the first time in 92 miles, was beginning to rebel, probably as a result of a lack of electrolytes and protein.

#15 Station - Falls Hollow 95.02 miles
01 days, 02:43:06 Time to Station
00:16:52 / mile Overall Pace
00:20:02 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
25 / 63 Station Rank

After we left the last AS, Mike told me we had enough time to break 28 hours, but we had to push it. I tried to push, and nothing responded. Actually, I was afraid that if I pushed the pace beyond 20-minute mile pace, I would throw up. So, we climbed, walked, shuffled, jogged, walked, and finally we were behind the camp---but I knew we had a ways to go before the finish. It's like running Holiday Lake 50K and being on the other side of the lake, knowing you are close yet NOT! Once the finish line area came into view, I found myself with new energy and was able to run, run, run up the hill to the totem pole. In the darkness, I spotted my dog Jack whom Rusty had brought to the finish...he leapt up and ran in with me. What a great moment!

#16 Station - Finish 100.73 miles
01 days, 04:32:42 Time to Station
00:17:00 / mile Overall Pace
00:19:11 / mile Pace from Last Recorded Station
37 / 74 Station Rank

For some reason, the splits have me as finishing 37/74 when it was 25/62. I ended up being second Master but winning the Master schwag since Kerry (first Master) finished in the top-5. Very fun!

In Conclusion... Grindstone 100 was my first where I can say "everything went right." I didn't bonk (except at the very end), have feet issues, or was decimated by the heat as in my other 100s. I found a pace the suited me and stuck to it---I finally experienced what we ultrarunners call "running within ourselves." I learned the value of patience and running my own race, and was reminded over and over again that truly anything can happen in a 100 miler. Grindstone tested my ability to climb, to run fast, to navigate rocks, to run through the night into the next day and night, and persevere through sleep deprivation. Unlike my first 100 where I begged my crew to let me drop (thankfully, they didn't), there were only a few times during the race when I doubted my ability to go on. There were many, many more times when I was laughing, smiling, and having a total blast.

I am not sure I am meant to be a 100 miler specialist like my friends Kerry and Keith, but I sure can see the beauty in the challenge of this distance. Keith said it best: "Going for a run always clears my head, but running 100 miles distills my soul." Amen Brother!

As for Grindstone itself...I am truly fortunate to have been among the first class of Grinders. The trail itself is phenomenal. The event---from the superb aid stations, the excellent course markings and delicious post-run breakfast to the live webcast with splits, professional photographer, and convenient staging area of Camp Shenandoah---will no doubt become a classic 100. Reading the other race reports only confirms that I am not the only one who feels this way! On Sunday after the race, I started thinking about pacing Mike next year...but today I am thinking about how can make up time from that slow slog from the last aid station next year. Sorry, Mike, you may have to find another pacer!

postscript:A newcomer to ultrarunning recently asked which 100 miler I would recommend as her first 100. I told her the most important criteria for training and completing a 100 miler (to me anyway) is to be passionate about the trail and the event. This was the case for all three of my 100s. In each training cycle, I was completely obsessed with the trail and focused on that event for many months. I remember coming home from a Grindstone training run totally giddy with excitement because the trail was so awesome, and I was really looking forward to spending 29 hours on it! Training was never a chore---actually, it was really FUN and racing the course was, as Gary Knipling says, "the dessert." Totally true. I do believe Grindstone is within reach of most experienced ultrarunners because of the generous cut-off time of 38 hours. I fully expect to be there again next year and that many others will be there, too...and I will always savor the memories of being part of the first year of this special event.

Pre-race pics are here.

Full race results are here.

Race reports are here.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunset, Sunrise, Sunset:: Grindstone 100, 2008

Elliott's Knob (mile 9) from the valley near Swoope, VA. Click on the photo for larger.

In 2006, after finishing Western States, I told my husband and ultra friends that I was done with 100s---after two finishes (MMT and WS), I just couldn't find the bliss from pounding the trail for 29+ hours. My body seemed to prefer the "shorter" distances---40 mile to 100K-- and didn't rebel in the same way as it had in 100s. In early 2008, however, a new 100--the Grindstone 100--was announced and would be held on tough mountain trails just 45 minutes from my home. Clark Zealand, with help from David Horton, was going to direct this beast with 23,000 feet of climb. It would start at 6:00pm on Friday, October 3, a start time my sleep cycle preferred and with cool fall weather to boot. I could train on the course all summer (while I was on summer vacation from my teaching job), and taper once school started again. Hmmmm...all the planets seemed to align for this race, so when my husband told me to go for it, I did.

As regular readers of this blog can attest, I have spent the last 15 weeks meticulously training for Gstone. I wanted to be as physically and mentally prepared as possible so I could accept the outcome knowing that I did everything in my power to have a great race. More importantly, I wanted to learn from all my previous ultra "mistakes" to see if I could put together the perfect 100 mile race-- for me.

Here are the top-10 goals that I created for my Gstone race:
1. Start slowly and move my way up the field while keeping my heart rate low;
2. Eat and drink every 10-15 minutes;
3. Pay attention to hot spots on my feet as soon as possible;
4. Take caffeine and power nap when sleepy;
5. Focus on positive self talk and use the mantra, "Make Every Moment Count";
6. Use a three week taper after getting mileage up to 75-80 mpw;
7. Train on the course and visualize running 100-miler pace
8. Spend many training miles climbing and descending to condition my legs;
9. Spend training miles on tempo runs and long intervals for leg turnover;
10.Enjoy the entire experience--the training, the event, the friends, the challenge.

Short version: I was 59 out of 74 runners at the first AS (mile 5) and worked my way to 25th overall, 6th woman, 1st master with my fastest 100 miler time, 28:32. Kerry Owens, my good friend and fellow Master, was between 5-20 minutes ahead of me during the second 50, but I couldn't muster the energy or motivation to catch her. Instead, I chose (wisely, it turned out) to spend 10-15 minutes at each AS in the second half to drink chicken noodle soup, eat scrambled eggs (thanks, J.B.!), and lube my worn feet, so I lost time---but in the end, these "moments" all paid off. My conservative pace allowed me to feel great all night, day, and night with the exception of a bout of sleepiness in the mid-afternoon and nausea in the last 4 miles when Mike Mason (my awesome, awesome pacer) cracked the whip to get me in under 28:00. As I was well under my dream goal of being under 29:15, I was content to walk in the last three miles in order to prevent a nasty episode of nausea at the finish line. Mission accomplished!

(photo at right by Clark Zealand at the Gstone finish line totem pole)

I will be posting a longer report, with pre-race photos and links to more video and photos, later this week after I rest up and clear my thoughts. What do know for sure: My training paid off in spades, as Grindstone was the certainly toughest 100 of the three that I have attempted because of the 23,000 feet of climb, and because it is all runnable (except when you are climbing, and the climbs are relentless, long and come at you throughout the event); watching the sunrise while atop Reddish Knob at mile 50 was a moment I will never forget and will be hard to match by another event; and that I have a group of family members and friends whose support throughout the training and the race meant the world to me.

Thanks, everyone, for your emails, calls, and comments. More later!

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Thoughts on tapering from the experts

Last night I attended a panel discussion on tapering for endurance events. It was sponsored by the folks at Ragged Mountain Running Shop, and featured four speakers, each an expert in his/her field: Kim Starr, a popular physical therapist here in C'Ville; Bob Wilder, THE Charlottesville running ortho doc to whom I have referred many ultra friends; Art Weltman, a professor of exercise physiology at UVA and marathoner; and Richard Ferguson, a professor of sports psychology at Averett College and a two-time Olympic Trails qualifier in the marathon. Not a bad group!

Take home messages:

1. Kim reported that she sees lots of runners neglect their flexibility and core strength routine in the last weeks leading up to their race because they are in a taper mindset...they aren't running as much so they aren't stretching, and they aren't lifting as much so they ignore the core workouts. This describes me to a tee, and is something I am being very mindful of this week.

2. Bob reported that during the taper, runners tend to ignore icing and stretching the nagging aches and tweaks that naturally accompany training (and that were attended to regularly during training) and this can lead to tight calves and Achilles on race day. He also shared his personal experience of trying to fit in one more long run the weekend before a big marathon, with disastrous results. The rule of thumb with this crowd was to take at least two weeks of reduced mileage before a marathon. I take three weeks before a 100-miler, with no long runs longer than 2 hours during those weeks, but I still do tempo runs and speed work up to 10 days before the event, but with reduced mileage.

3. Art shared that the research proves that even a little 20-minute jog the day before a marathon depletes glycogen stores. He suggests no running for the last 48 hours before the event, in order to store glycogen fully. He also talked a great deal about the importance of fueling and rest during the taper---increase foods with moderate glycemic index (pasta, cereal), 65% of daily nutrients should be carbs, and increase sleep hours the week before the race (very important for the Gstone runners!).

4. Richard is a big believer in the power of self talk and visual imagery during training and the race. He suggests each night before bed taking the time to visualize running the pace you want, as well as visualizing the course/trail and talking to oneself about the how you feel. These points hit home with me---I use positive self-talk and have a mantra ("easy and light", "take it slow", "make every moment count", etc), and I visualize my 100-mile pace through the course. I am very glad that I ran 95% of the Gstone course in training---this has really helped with my visualization practice.

Many in the audience had questions about marathon fueling and nutrition, as well as prevention of cramping. Ultras make all this easy to deal with since we carry our stuff and/or have crew---the 'thoners have to rely on the race drink (usually junk like Gatorade) and don't even consider bringing their own fuel, electrolyes, etc. Too much to worry about, for me... I love running ultras that demand more self-sufficiency such as Hellgate, Catawba, TWOT. It is an extra challenge that makes the adventure more fun!

Tonight: pack all the gear and get some good zzzzzzzzzz....

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Grindstone seedings...classic

Even though Clark Zealand is the RD of Grindstone, I can't help but wonder what little birdy (a.k.a. David Horton) helped him with the Gstone seedings. When Horton seeds runners in his races, he sends them subliminal messages in the number. He will seed you higher than you should be to motivate and/or humiliate at the finish line ("Sophie, I seeded you higher than this!" was Horton's greeting as I crossed the finish line at Promise Land one year). He will also seed you lower than you should be when you have some tough races to send the message, "You don't deserve to be in the top-5...get it together!" He will also seed based on tradition...Derrick Carr was married in 1983 so he always gets number 83 in Horton races, despite the fact that Derrick is a top-10 runner...a practice that I find sweet.

So I had to laugh this morning when Clark sent the Gstone runners their numbers and their seedings. As predicted, Keith Knipling is seeded number 1 for the men and Krissy Moehl is number 1 for the women (wearing bib #50). Yours truly is seeded number 2 for the ladies, despite the fact that Donna Utakis (seeded last among women) has won MMT (beating me by many hours) and the Cascade Crest 100. Sabrina Moran is seeded 5th, despite the fact that she kicked my butt at Masochist last year, as did #3 Jenny Anderson and #6 Kerry Owens (Jenny at Highland Sky 40 and Kerry at MMT in 2005). What message is Clark/Horton sending this time? I'm not certain, but I do know that I am honored to wear #51...and now I will forget all about it.

My prediction for the women? Krissy, Donna, and Sabrina will duke it out for the top-3 and then the rest of us will follow with my friends Jenny, Kerry, and Rebekah leading the pack that I also hope to be in...looking forward to running with you, chicas!!! This race will be one of attrition, and as I learned at MMT, you can be a decent 50-miler runner and truly suck at 100s. Everyone who is coming to Gstone is fit...the outcome will depend on experience, pacing, fueling, and mental toughness, especially during the last 35 miles.

I need to remember that at mile 65!!

Monday, September 29, 2008

Grindstone Training, Week #15, September 22-28

This past weekend Rusty and I went to Evanston, Illinois on the North Shore of Chicago to attend the memorial service for his uncle, Richard "Dick" Speidel. Uncle Dick was a well-known law professor who taught at UVA, Boston University and Northwestern University Law Schools. Sadly, he succumbed to cancer on September 6. The Speidels gathered in Evanston to pay our respects to this wonderful, sweet man, and the service was held at the Northwestern University Chapel (that's the view from NU of downtown Chicago, above).

My bro-in-law Andy and I managed to short, flat 5 mile run along the shores of Lake Michigan on Saturday afternoon near the NU campus. It is a gorgeous campus and I was able to check out the NU women's lacrosse field, which is right on Lake Michigan---they have won the national championship for the last 4 years...pretty amazing! It was fun to catch up with Andy and hear about his ultra training...he is attempting his first ultra, the Stone Steps 50K in Cincinnati, on October 18. Like many first timers, he is experiencing some ITB issues as he ramps up the training---keep icing and stretching that ITB, Andy!

Thomas Bussiere asked me about my fuel plan for Gstone on last week's post, which was great timing because I was beginning to gather all my nutrition stuff this week. Tomorrow night my coach Mark Lorenzoni and my ortho doc Bob Wilder are hosting a panel discussion on the art and science of tapering at Ragged Mountain Running Shop, so I am going to buy my fuels when I go hear the talk. I am fairly certain that I have the tapering thing down, but it will be good to hear other opinions and catch up with all the local runners who are tapering for their fall marathons.

For Gstone, I am sticking to the fuel plan that has worked so well for me over the past 3 years: start out with a 20 oz. bottle of Sustained Energy sport drink and about 30 oz. of water in my Nathan pack. Temperatures on Friday night are supposed to be in the 30s on the ridges, so I won't need to haul around a ton of water. I do like to carry a hand held Garmin light in addition to my Petzl Myo XP headlamp, so both hands will be tied up, but I have trained and raced with handhelds my entire ultra career, so it won't be a problem.

As for other fuel, I will carry a 5-serving flask of Raspberry Hammergel and have additional flasks in my crew box. I will also carry Sportbeans, a few chocolate and mocha Clif shots, as well as Clif Bloks for variety. At each AS, I will alternate between SE and Nuun in the bottle and keep plain water in my pack. Other essentials I will carry will be a small blister kit, my Nuun tabs, a few Vivarin caffeine pills, and my trusty Ipod shuffle. I plan to plug into the shuffle at the first sign of sleepiness---this worked wonders at Cheat Mountain 50-- and use the caffeine pills only as a last resort.

My crew box is a clear plastic box that will hold additional flasks of Hammergel, Nuun, and SE mix, as well as Desitin and Vaseline for chaffing, blister stuff, and candied ginger for stomach issues. I also re-stocked it yesterday with extra AA batteries (I will carry some as well), an extra hand held bottle, as well as gloves, socks, beanie, and jacket. I am VERY psyched about the weather forecast: sunny and clear with highs in the low 70s and 40s at night. This is perfect weather for me---no excuses about the heat!!

As for this week's taper, I managed about 30 miles of easy running mixed in with my last killer track workout:

Monday, September 22:

Tuesday, September 23: Lift

Wednesday, September 24:
Track workout. 1.5 miles easy WU, than 6x 800 on the track, then off the track for a 800 meter hill surge in between each track 800. My track 800s were 3:15, 3:12, 3:10, 3:09, 3:08, 3:09; my hill 800s were 3:10, 3:10, 3:10, 3:11, 3:05, 3:06. I was PSYCHED with how these felt. Afterwards, I switched to my trail shoes and ran an easy mile over the the power lines on the Rivanna Trail. Here I ran 4 repeats up the power lines: 1:05, 1:04, 1:03, and :56, my fastest repeat ever! (I was telling myself that I had better break a minute on this freaking hill since I had been training on it all summer!). Total miles after running back to my car, about 11.

Thursday, September 25: OFF

Friday, September 26: Easy 5 miles on hilly roads and trails, lift afterwards.

Saturday, September 27: Easy 5 miler along Lake Michigan on trails with Andy. FLAT and fun to people watch. Keith Knipling told me he would run these trails and roads when he was a grad student at NU, and that by February it would get very old (and cold, with the winds whipping off the lake...BRRR). This day we had a cloudless sky and temps in the 70s. Gorgeous.

Sunday, September 28: 8 miles on rolling dirt with 3 miles at tempo pace (about 7:25). It was hot and humid back in C'Ville...looking forward to cooler weather!

5 more days until Gstone! My plan this week is to rest today (Monday), run easy Tuesday and Wednesday, get lots of sleep all week, eat well, and pack a little bit each day so I am not stressing out Thursday night. I appreciate all the comments about this blog and hope that it has been somewhat interesting/helpful for readers who are training for their own adventures!! I have enjoyed sharing my training ups and downs with everyone and it has kept me accountable. I will be sure to post a report as soon as I can...Gstone will be having a live webcast beginning at 6:00 pm on Friday. My basic plan is to run really slow and easy for the first 50 miles, and then pick up the pace as much as I am able for the second half without killing myself. I am confident in my training, and I know my crew and pacer will keep me in line :-)

I am looking forward to this awesome adventure and seeing everyone on Friday afternoon. Thanks for all the good wishes, everyone...I really appreciate them.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Grindstone Training, Week #14, September 15-21

Secluded Farm Trails

Oh, how I love the taper!!!
I sleep more, eat more, and begin to plan for race logistics. This week I allowed myself plenty of rest after the tough workouts from last week, and it was a good thing. The weather is starting to cool off now, leaves are falling, and running seems effortless, almost too easy---is that my training or just the cooler fall temps? I hope it's the former, though I certainly don't mind the latter. The 14-day forecast looks like race day will be sunny, lows in the 50s (40s on the ridges) and highs near 80 (low 70s on the ridges). Perfect!

This week was very easy, total mileage in the high-30s, which is fine. I feel very prepared and would like to come into the race very hungry to run, and feeling recovered from the past 14 weeks:

Monday, September 15: Off, sleep late

Tuesday, September 16: Lift upper body and core

Wednesday, September 17: WU 10 minutes, then 2x 2 miles on rolling dirt at tempo pace (7:20) with 2 minutes recovery between, then 30 minutes easy. Total miles, about 8.

Thursday, September 18: Swim 500, run in pool to shake out legs

Friday, September 19: Easy 1.5 hour trail run near my house with my dog, HR below 120. Miles, about 7.

Saturday, September 20: Medium paced trail run with Ryan Henry and Jeff Wilbur on the Rivanna Trail and Ragged Mountain Reservoir trails, 2.5 hours (about 15 miles). Ryan is training for Gstone and he told me his biggest fear is that I will beat him. Have no fear, Ryan! You are in great shape. Have confidence in the training you did all spring and in your 10+ years of running ultras :-) If you start out slow with me, you will have a great race, I promise.

Sunday, September 21: Glorious cool morning! I ran the Carter's Mountain/Secluded Farm trails (above and below) with Bill. I felt great and ran up to the top in my fastest time ever, 12:01. This climb is a steep grade on dirt road which I typically run in 12:30-13:00. The downhill is a real quad trasher and my legs felt great, especially after the harder hill climbs. I absolutely love these trails! After climbing the mountain, we ran the 2-mile boardwalk section all the way to Monticello, then back down to the Secluded Farm Trails for more singletrack fun. Total miles, about 8ish.

Later in the day, we (the family) went back up to Carter's Mountain to buy apples, apple cider, doughnuts, and to soak in the gorgeous afternoon views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. This is one of our favorite family traditions...we have been coming up to Carter's for apples and hay rides ever since the kids were babies. Afterwards, Rusty drove the kids home while I walked down the mountain with Jack via the Secluded Farm trails, about 3 miles. Jack met another Aussie Shepherd on the trail and had a blast playing in the woods (that's him below at 3 months...he's a year old now and much bigger!)

A side note...I thought I'd celebrate the beginning of the Gstone taper phase with a new blog design and layout. I love the blue and green colors and the ability to post pics on the sidebar, too. I lost some of my links in the process of changing over to the new layout, so please send me your links so I can include them.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Grindstone Training, Week #13, September 8-14

Reality check!!

Now that school has started, it was tough to find the energy and time to get in my miles this week. I am up at 5:15 am making lunches for the kids and out the door by 6:00am to get to the trail or gym so I can be ready to roll at work by 8:00am...a tight schedule. Luckily, I am not coaching this season so when I get home at 4:00, I can take a 15-minute nap before getting back in the car to pick up the kids at their sports practices. The nap has been a constant throughout this training cycle, and I truly believe it helps my recovery and overall wellness. I feel sorry for my students who look like they could use a nap every afternoon with their really busy schedules!

Here's the week, the last of the sharpening phase. Next week I will taper the miles about 25% to 45 miles, but still include a hilly tempo run, a hill repeat day and a long-ish run.

Monday, September 8: 6 miles on dirt with 10x 30 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy.

Tuesday, September 9: Swim 500 and lift upper body and core.

Wednesday, September 10: 11 miles on rolling roads and technical trail with Bill. This was a hill fartlek workout. We warmed up for 15 minutes, then ran 45 minutes pushing every hill and recovering on the backsides. I finished with 3 powerlines repeats (1:07, 1:05, 1:04) and then another 45 minutes of easy running.

Thursday, September 11: Easy recovery run, 4+ miles. Lifted afterwards focusing on core strength.

Friday, September 12: Easy hilly run on Ohill, 6+ miles, HR below 130.

Saturday, September 13: 14 miles on roads with 10K race in the middle. I ran 2 miles from my house to the start of the Pepsi 10K, a race I had not run since 2000. The race director, Carol Finch, is a longtime Charlottesville Track Club volunteer and she is battling lung cancer. I came to support Carol, along with 400 other runners (the largest field ever) as well as the race beneficiary, the Special Olympics.

My plan for today was not to race all-out, but to use it as a hard tempo run and to maintain 7:00-7:10 pace (the last time I raced a road 10K was here in 2000, when I ran 43:10, a little under 7:00 pace). Since the weather was very humid, I knew I would have to start out slowly. Here are my mile splits:

Mile 1: 7:23 Feeling great, almost too easy (this mile is all downhill)
Mile 2: 6:55 Feeling happy here as I have passed a bunch on this all-hill mile back to the start!
Mile 3: 6:55 Picking off some folks and holding steady---this is a slight downhill.
Mile 4: 7:00 Holding steady but starting to feel the humidity. Moving into top-5 women.
Mile 5: 7:00 Running alongside some UVA women's lacrosse players (their entire team ran the race). This was cool. I played lax at UVA about 25 years ago. :-)
Mile 6.2: Not sure of the split, only that I worked hard to pass a woman about 5 yards before the finish, something I would only do at a road 10K!!!

Final time: 43:25, 15 seconds slower than 2000. This is 7:01 per mile pace...not too bad considering the humid weather! I ended up winning the 45-49 women's age group, too, which was fun because it is a new age group for me! Afterwards, I ran 6 miles easy back home and went to my son's XC meet. He did great considering by the time his race began at 1:30, temps were in the high 80s with loads of humidity. Not a good day to be out racing.

Sunday: OK, this was the REAL reality check. Kerry, Bill Gentry, Ed Duval, Marc Griffin, Vince Bowman, and I ran 20 miles on the Grindstone 100 course. We were also accompanied by Renee Dietrich, who is an NYU journalism grad student working on a movie-length documentary on ultrarunning, and specifically the Grindstone 100. Renee hung out at the top of Elliott's Knob (mile 9ish of the course) with David Snipes, filming the gorgeous view and surroundings, while the rest of us ran to the Chimney Hollow trailhead before turning around. It was extremely hot and humid (highs in the 90s) but we had a nice breeze on ridge.

The reality check came on the way back---roughly miles 85-95 of the Gstone course-- when we had to climb back towards Elliott's Knob after climbing the brutal ups on Crawford Mountain. Kerry and I discussed race pace strategy given all the climbing --the smart runner will run the first 50 at training run pace, nice and slow-- caught up on each other's lives, and had a great time enjoying the trail at an easy pace, since Kerry had run the Ring last weekend and was still recovering. But it was clear to us that this section will be extremely tough in the dark and after 80 miles of running. It is the most technical and rocky section section of the race, and ends with a quad busting descent down Elliott's. Very, very humbling.

Total miles for the week ended up being 60+ miles...I am really looking forward to the taper and to some rest! It has been a fun summer of training and I am excited to see how it will all come together during the race, and am glad to have been able to get out on the course. We agreed that this is going to be a very cool adventure...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Getting faster, getting psyched: Grindstone Training, Week #12, September 1-7

Four weeks and counting until race day!

I came away from last weekend's training run on the Gstone course feeling really good and absolutely LOVING the trail. I met a nice fellow named Keith Straw at that run...he finished WS100 in 2007 (a "cool" year, as he described it) in under 24 hours, and he told me he was concerned that Grindstone would be harder than WS. I told him that Gstone would most definitely be harder in terms of climb...and also because we might have hot and humid weather, as opposed to the typically hot and dry conditions of the Sierra Nevada. Keith, by the way, is featured in the October Runner's World as the guy who wears a pink tutu, pink Sauconys and carries a magic wand in all his races (he finished Boston this year in 3:12). Perhaps he will share some of his magic with me should I encounter him at Gstone...

Someone asked me what my time goals were for Gstone...and to be honest, all I want to do is finish (I know, that's what we all say). However, it would be *nice* to run faster at Gstone than in my previous two 100-milers: at MMT in 2005, I ran 31:45 and at WS in 2006 I ran 29:15. Both efforts came with significant MMT I did not fuel properly and bonked terribly; at WS, I fueled properly but ignored my feet until it was too late, and running was impossible after mile 62. My goal for Grindstone is to pace myself properly (slow), eat and drink at regular intervals, tend to foot issues promptly, deal with sleepiness promptly, and the rest, I feel, will take care of itself. My training has gone really well and all I can ask for is the strength and courage to deal with the low moments as they come (and, as we know, they will come).

I am putting together an awesome crew and I know my pacer is going to keep me in's going to be a blast out there!! This next week will be the last of the sharpening phase, and then it's on to the TAPER...woooo-hooo!

This week:

Monday, September 1: Easy run on single track, 2.5 hours (about 12 miles, I think).

Tuesday, September 2: Swim 1,000 easy and lift

Wednesday, September 3: Track. 2 miles WU, then 800/hill, 1200/hill, 1200/hill, 1200/hill, 800/hill. This is the third time I've done the track/hill workout this summer, and this was my best yet: Splits were 3:15/6:30, 4:55/8:15, 4:49/8:12, 4:49/8:11, 3:10/6:25. I then ran 2 easy miles to the power lines and did 1:02, 1:03 and 1:02...fastest yet. Then 2 miles back to the car for 10 miles total. Schweeeet!!!

Thursday, September 4: Lift upper body, core

Friday, September 5: Carter's Mountain. I repeated the route I used a few weeks ago, climbing up to the top, down to Monticello, back up, then down to the trails around Secluded Farm. 10 miles total, HR staying in the 120-135 range, nice and easy.

Saturday, September 6:
My son had his first cross-country meet...pouring rain from Hurricane Hanna, knee deep standing water on the course...he LOVED it. He clocked a 23-something for 5K, very solid for a kid who couldn't run more than a mile about a month ago. Rusty and I are very excited to be XC parents!

Later in the day, I took Jack (my Aussie)on an easy trail run near our house and for a swim in the river, 5 miles total.

Sunday, September 7: 16 miles on rolling dirt and pavement with 6 miles at 7:20 pace (tempo pace). This was a toughie---I got a late start and it was humid. Yechh. But I was pleased with the tempo and looking forward to running a road 10K next weekend as part of a 14 miler. Total miles for the week, about 53.

Ring update: Keith Knipling (above, between RingLeaders Mike Bur and Quatro Hubbard) cruised to a course record 14:45 for 71 miles, two weeks after finishing third at Cascade Crest 100. I predict Keith will win Grindstone if he can hold off Krissy M.!

Ring 2008 results are here. Congratulations to the new members of the Fellowship!

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Ring is running this weekend, hurricane rain or shine

(photo collage of the 2004 Ring by Anstr Davidson)Group photo L-R kneeling: Carolyn Gernand, Sue Johnston, Scott Brockmeier: L-R standing: Quatro Hubbard, Bill Wandel, Mike Bur,James Moore, Barb Isom, Bob Phillips, Vicki Kendall, Anita Finkle, Sophie Speidel,Graham Zollman, Dru Sexton,Margie Hughes, Scott Crabb and Sue Thompson.

In 2004 I ran The Ring, a 71-mile circuit of the Massanutten Trail. It was my first ultra longer than 50 miles, and my first night run of any great length. 2004 was the third year of the organized run ("organized" is a loose term---the Ring is a classic Fat Ass with no entry fee, no T-shirts, no wimps and no whining...well, actually there's LOTS of whining). The Ring exemplifies all that I love about the VHTRC ultras--it's a community of friends coming together to create a challenging trail experience with no other motive except to support the runners to the finish, and party like heck in the process.

Some fine folks in the VHTRC conceived the Ring, and Mike Bur and Quatro Hubbard are now responsible for keeping it healthy and prosperous. This year, the Ring closed out entry at 25, and the list of The Fellowship of the Ring is a Who's Who of the ultra world and of the VHTRC ultra community in particular.

My son has a cross-country meet this weekend, so I cannot go up to the Massanuttens to cheer on the runners, but I certainly will be thinking of them, and of the intense experience they will have. The Ring is an ultra that helped define me as an ultrarunner. My first lessons on nutrition, sleep deprivation, proper pacing, and rock running were gleaned at the Ring. I also learned a lot about friendship and commitment, and what it took to overcome my demons. A mantra I like to repeat while racing comes from my 2004 Ring experience: "It's always darkest before the dawn." Yes, indeed.

Happy trails to the members of the Fellowship and to those attempting the Ring this weekend!