100 mile week – 13.1 every day for a week Challenge

100 miles in one week

Pretty easy you’d think for the person who has ran two 100 milers over the course of less than 2 days (note both have been the same mountain 100, maybe I should try a normal 100 one day). But I never had a 100 mile week in training. Seeing as the pandemic has no end in sight, I have a bunch of free time to see what the body can do outside of a regular training season. Traditionally, I would up miles, focus on race course specifics in training, and then have a nice taper. I’ve been doing one ultra distance a month since October 2019, and now am faced with harder choices to make those up on my own without events. I managed an ultra distance and a marathon within 10 days of each other last month. But my training has a feeling of loss and purpose.

My original goal was to train up for my first attempt at a normal 100 and go under 24 hours whatever that looked like, and even if I failed, gaining valuable experience for a 2nd attempt later. It has now switched to maintaining a good base and slowly working on speed again. Mixing distance and speed training is always tricky. I always feel kinda bummed when I see my 10k pace still about 1-2 minutes slower than my PR, despite being in much better shape physically. I can hold paces longer and without as much effort as ever before. I am recovering and able to go hard basically whenever I want, but that top speed has left my legs, especially after last year’s stress fracture. But now what, we are all there. You can see it as endless opportunity, like me, and then get bogged down with the decision of WHAT to do, or this whole thing has stopped you in your tracks and you do less or nothing at all…or you could be someone who just runs for fun and this changes nothing. Aimless training can be fun for a while, but then you wonder, what now?

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Early January 2019, I came up with the idea to challenge myself to a 7 day streak of half marathons in the winter to keep me motivated. This was before I found out how bad it was for me to train outdoors for long periods in the winter air. Enter pandemic Spring 2020. This is the perfect opportunity to do this. Time to taper, time to commit, and time to recover after. The idea was to do a manageable distance every day. A marathon was too complicated at this time, especially given what I know now even if that even makes sense, more on that later. 10Km seemed too short (and word is constantly correcting to a capitalized K, sorry about that folks, there’s no stopping the autocorrect here!), but my speed wasn’t where it needs to be to feel a sense of accomplishment and that could be less than an hour every day…not enough. I did some quick math, and 13.1 miles a day would get me to 91 miles for a week. What’s 9 more miles spread out over 7 days? I could walk those as cool downs at least. Plan accepted. 13.1 miles minimum a day in one activity with as much effort as I could give balanced out each day, and walking for active recovery to meet the 100 miles for a week goal.

So I began tapering, seeing a good 70-80 degree high week in the long term forecast for most days. During this time, I planned out routes and what would occupy my mind since I would be running alone (two reasons: I never have anyone to really run far with at whatever pace I am feeling, and pandemic mode). I decided to skip Monday due to bad weather (rain, in the 50s), and this was a good choice. Friend Megan debated me saying it seems more natural to start on the first day of the week. I thought about it, and decided that Tuesday would still be better for me. Tuesday’s weather was still overcast with chances of rain and upper 50s to low 60s. Not great, but better than Monday.

Day 1, I would do 3 of my neighborhood loop, which I thought was about 4 miles. Stay close to home and use home as my aid station. Catch up on all things Becoming Ultra podcast.

Day 2, I would use the arboretum loop, a known 10k loop which the MadCity Ultras are run on. I had never really done it by myself but two loops and then some seemed good enough using my car as an aid station. Would listen to Ten Junk Miles.

Day 3, unknown, would wait on the weather and maybe do the park and ride out and backs.

Day 4, unknown, Devil’s Lake? Depended on weather.

Day 5, Lake Kegnosa was the plan.

Day 6, Military Ridge at Riley out and backs was the plan.

Day 7, Donald Park, if it wasn’t wet.

Accept things will be fluid and go with the flow.

As you can tell, a lot of these were tentative on weather. I wrote down my thoughts and a lot of them stayed that way. One thing about ultra running or training is that you have to move and adapt to your situation. I had NO idea how I would feel each day, and the dynamics were always transforming into something else I could not even hope to plan for. It was half way through the week that I realized that it was Memorial Day weekend, and that would mean people. This immediately shifted a lot of my running routes as I didn’t want to be around people as much as possible if I could help it. This nixed Devil’s Lake on the weekend and Monday, and nixed Lake Kegnosa as well. It was a bit overwhelming, but I only took it a day at a time.

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Day 1, it was hard to even get out of the house with all the cloud doom and gloom looming over the house. It was drizzly and cool. I took a hand held water bottle and waited until the highest temp of the day to start. I wasn’t fond of the late afternoon start, but it forced me to try and be done before dinner. I knew this loop and headed out at an easy pace. I have to say my first few miles got me excited that my easy pace was this fast. I decided to walk more up the hills. Yeah, that’s another reason why I didn’t do all this near my house…hills. They are driftless style hills and I am not fond of doing them over and over again without reprieve. I thought for a first day, this would be appropriate forcing me to keep it a bit slower. Good thoughts, hah. Hahahahaha.

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It was pretty peaceful. When I got done with the first loop, my watch had almost clocked over to mile 5. This loop was longer than I recalled. I guess I only remembered the times it took me to do the loop and not the exact mileage. I came inside, had a quick potty break and grabbed some soda and refilled my water. Probably not enough calories, but I had eaten before I left for the run. I thought about doing the loop in reverse, but really cringed at the idea of running 1.5 miles up to my house in that direction. I settled into the same paces as loop 1. Ran up the 1st big hill which I hadn’t before, but walked more the 2nd. I did the same soda/water when I got done with the second loop, and the drizzly intensified. I was mostly protected from the wind with the hills and trees surrounding me, but why was there wind?! I was so tired of the wind here. Natasha friendo had informed me that with warm weather comes the price of wind. Boo I say. Vetoed.

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Rich was supposed to have joined me and I waited a bit on his response, but he was still working. I headed out for the final miles. I realized I was almost at 10 miles when I stopped back at the house again. I could just run my hilly 5k route, which uses the first third of the big loop I had been doing, but it meant going back up my big hill for 1.5 miles. Whatever right, I was almost done. I headed down and came back panting from pushing up the hill as to not lose pace on my watch. Silly me.

I ended with 13.5 miles in total, lots of Wisconsin style gain, and a pretty good half time. I ate some food and decided that I was going to play dance games as it was the first day for Stamina RPG4 tournament. My legs felt horrible and uncertain. I did some lower level songs and called it a little over an hour in playing. I noticed that my blister I had been battling from the previous week was not healed. Enter the fight why don’t you?

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Day One half done! Hills!!

The blister in question was in the middle of my forefoot on the bottom. I had to act fast, and was something I was clearly nervous about being an issue for the rest of the week. I started wearing socks to bed, and covering the skin in question in lotions and vasaline. I would also switch out my daily Altra shoes every day and wear different kinds of socks. I used XO Skin the first day and my first pair of Altra escalantes since my foot wideness is sometimes an issue early on in runs. I finished my run with a 0.6 mile cool down walk. 14.1 miles done.

The next day was beautiful, yet windy still. The sun was out though and that’s what mattered. Again, I waited until a bit later. So to wait, I decided to play dance games again. I managed some speedy passes and my legs felt stiff but less wobbly than the previous night. I played for nearly 2 hours, although a bunch of that time was modding the pad I played on and testing it out. Headed out to the arb with new clothes after the dance game sesh.

I arrived a bit before 2:30pm. The parking lot was overly full, people parked everywhere. I didn’t think in the middle of the day on a Wednesday (state parks closed Wednesday) that there would be this many people. I found some open parking in a back lot that I guess not many people knew about (they were still parking on the side of the road when I arrived). I set out with my garmin and a water bottle with a stored gel. Need to eat more I said to myself. Did I listen?

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I told myself I would walk a lot more today, and have forced walking breaks. The arb loop was saturated. Bikers, walkers, runners…everyone. Since they had closed the back half to traffic (which is another reason I decided to go there), no one was in the right place. Heading around the bend, I almost was hit by a bike! He wasn’t even watching the road, but looking off into the lake at the boaters. I yelled, and he whizzed by, too late to be phased by the runner in his path. The last two days proved I could not listen to podcasts with my phone. The connection would break with a lot of cord jiggling that I could not prevent. I was pretty saddened by this as I was going to use my music more as a motivator later on. It often disconnected (sometimes every 5 steps, and I would have to take my whole phone out and push play again each time it disconnected) with podcasts, but never did with pandora. So I settled on music I didn’t have banked on pandora.

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The only wild critter I cam across.

The sun was so inviting, and I shook off what was happening around me. The arb trees were in full bloom. When I made it to the end of the drive, I followed my watch for turns. Eventually, I got off course and about mile 5, I had to stop and open google maps to figure out where to go. I did this another 2 times. I was a bit frustrated, I shouldn’t care about pace, but I did not stop my watch for any of the half runs, but stopping for directions was annoying. I eventually made it back to my car. I fueled up with the soda I had waiting. I wanted to do a reverse loop but I was not confident I could make it around by myself. I followed my previous black line on garmin navigation. I STILL got lost on the back loop. Opened up google maps. Blah.

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I weaved in and out of people, left side, right side. I was bored now. 10K loops (thanks autocorrect for that capital k) are just long. I got back to my car thankful to have more soda. I was missing a mile somehow, so I headed out backwards this time along the open road to the arb. Motivation for running waning, and legs still stiff from the first day, I took a few pics that I found funny. As I was making my final back to the car, the oncoming cars (run against traffic they said) I came up on a parked large worker truck. I could not go to the left of it, there was too much brush, so as I came up to the right side, a car suddenly came around the bend and I went a bit too close to the truck and slammed my left shoulder into the side mirror. Ouch. But better than being hit by a car suddenly there. I started hobbling back to my car again as another runner leaner than me passed me with ease. I felt discouraged and slow. Every time I face the headwinds, my body would get chilled. The temps still weren’t too high, but the sun was still nice. I managed 13.15 miles and then a 0.55 mile cool down walk through the pretty trees.

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Responsible pet owner.

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Don’t go too fast, it’s only day 2!! Should taken this as a SIGN.

When I arrived back home I was even more stiff and DOMS had settled in from day one. GREAT. I was used to those paces, but somehow was still sore. Two weeks before for the Yeti 24 hour run, I had kept a faster pace for all 5 mile intervals and wasn’t sore from that at all. Maybe taper was a bad idea? I was having trouble making dinner, so we opted to go out to eat. This became a tradition for the week. It was hard even with just a half marathon, I lost a lot of time decompressing and prepping each day. I was starting to get hungry, a lot. There were things like that, that started happening I did not plan for or account for.

Day 3 was back to being cloudy, though a bit warmer. I talked with Megan and agreed hitting the trails up was probably for the best. I was sore and it was becoming hard to keep a forever pace. I hadn’t been on a few Madison Ice Age Trail segments, so I made a deal with the husband to come pick me up when I was done so I could go one-way, south to north, on the Ice Age Trail. I mapped it out on garmin connect, that Verona to Valley View Segment was just under 13 miles. Good! Simple! Follow the yellow trail blazes, what could go wrong?

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Warm welcome!

In an effort to really get in the mood, I plugged into the Between Two Pastries Podcast with Annie Weiss, the holder of the Ice Age Trail FKT – the whole thing – and a friend from the Altra red team. After reading her husband’s book, Meet you at the Terminus, I took a page from there and walked the first mile to warm up and just enjoyed the first part of the Verona segment, way more hilly going north than south! My legs were unhappy when I took a run down the first hill. The trails were dry and in fantastic shape. I was off and on again running for the whole Verona Segment, but not a bad trail pace…still around my 100k pace. This is when I started noticing that I was drinking a lot more. I shot a gel after 45 minutes anyway. I had to get better at eating. And today I would nail it. I arrived at the beginning of the Madison segment and it was lovely.

98191728_298084787868787_4817769127793917952_nThen I came up on a trail closed sign. I followed the detour and hoped it would get me back on track. No idea if this added or subtracted miles. Moving on!

I was always busy trying to figure out where I was in relation to everything else I knew about the area. So very distracted by the 100 mile man story I was listening to on the podcast, I took a not turn, and added an extra mile. Oops. I was using Garmin navigation, but completely missed the trail turn with the new inviting paved trail.

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I made my way back to where I came off the trail, just like in a race. And soon enough I was off the trail again near a construction area. I opened google maps to find the trail and where I went wrong. Again, I hate stopping to figure this stuff out. I headed back again and found the tiny forest opening without the yellow blaze noting it.

I was starting to run much better, though my strides felt short. I came across a golf course, and it was literally littered with people. There are two stories from people with opinions. Those that believe golf is one of the safest socially distanced sports, and those who believe that nothing with gatherings of people is safe. The 2nd group would be right today. True, golf CAN be safe if you play alone. No one at this golf course was playing alone, as they all would park their carts next to each other, and travel to each hole together. In addition, it looked like the women with kids were hanging around as well. This really steamed me up inside. I had time to go into deep though. How is it fair I have been sheltering to protect myself and others, when these people find it perfectly ok to do just the opposite. I ended up concluding it wasn’t worth the internal turmoil, and that these people are why we are still in this situation and we aren’t going to get out of it. You can’t blame everything on the government, local or national. All I can do it try to be safe myself and take my own appropriate levels of risk. Ok ok venting done. Back to running.

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Very interesting hide-a-way in the Madison segment??

Upon ending the Madison segment, it dumped me onto a road. I took the right turn and saw a girl with her dog running dead in the middle of the road. I found it odd and stayed off to the side to soon come up on a giant ROAD CLOSED sign. Again? Twice?!

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I stood there pondering my action. It was due to some construction nearby and torn up road. I figured I could squeeze past and get through fast enough to not impact anything, so I did just that. I also noticed (weird timing) that a car that lived in the closed road area, squeeze past the barrier to get to their house.

Soon enough I was well on my road connector way. I was thankful for the sidewalk along the busy road. Legs were feeling even better. I gazed out to the country side and start encountering the hills.

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Why is this photo so long? The hill was just as long.

I knew I was near Timber lane, which is one of the 3 sisters on the ironman bike course here. Usually hills are much worse for me biking than running, but still they were daunting looking at them from afar on foot. Rich was on his way. He would park in a small lot (found thanks to the IAT virtual map online) and come meet me for an out and back. He actually found me! But I also realized I got lost on the road connector and went a block too far. No navigational damage done since it popped me out where I would have been anyway.

100730413_1098588413848209_229310812194340864_nRich parked at the beginning of the very short Valley View segment. This segment is ALL downhill from south to north direction. Very nice for me, but probably not so nice for Annie when she had done it. It was beautiful and loved the vert. When back at the car, I downed a mountain dew, like literally POUNDED it SO fast. Ahhhhhh. The segment ended with a very rich neighborhood. I ended with 13.82 miles, a bit more than the predicted 12.98 miles. I started a new walk activity, and walked back to the car. It was exactly a mile back to the car. Ended the day with 14.82 miles.

I got Rich to take Friday, Day 4, off, so we could run together. I was planning on getting there early, there being Devil’s Lake and doing that Ice Age Trail segment (which is 9 miles by itself), but life had other plans. We needed to take my car since my car had everything I had been using and the state park sticker. But when I got in my car, it did not start. Same face I had with the close road signs, sigh, I stared at the steering wheel. Switching cars, we took off in the non-park sticker car, fully aware we might have to pay a fine. It was muggy and humid, like most of the days had been so far.

100051378_2612336448984789_6154929465085394944_nWe arrived around 11am, a bit too late of a start. Heading out we met very few people. The climb in that direction (still opposite the way Annie went) was brutal. It reminded me of the east coast and I loved it. I looked for mushrooms and morels. No luck. A runner came up on us (one of two that day), and we had a nice chat in passing (we stood to the side). The power hiking continued as my legs felt a bit weak, and the trail continued to climb up and up. I tried to run some flats and a few downhills when I could, but my legs were not having it. In addition, when we finally made it to the bluffs portion of the lake, the crowds began. I was overwhelmed. We stood far off the trail when we could, and one time a huge family with no regards to the 6’ rule was coming towards us and I jumps on a nearby rock. I did not know it was very wet and I instantly bit it. I slipped hard onto my right hip and tore open my pinky finger and scuffed up my right arm pretty good on the large rock. No one cared to really help, and I’m sure it looked pretty bad. Only about 4-5 miles in, this was a bummer for the mood. 100092808_252695372490230_7167323500942721024_nI just wanted to get away from people as fast as I could. And it got worse. I lost confidence in the rocks and had a hard time scaling down the bluff rocks, and the people were everywhere. I’d like to toss that one out. Most people were kind however. We finally made it to the bottom. The parking lot on the south shore was PACKED. People were grilling, mingling, and just various levels of not caring about what was going on in the world. We trudged on and found the trail going up again on the other side. I was kind of excited because I had not been this way.

But there was almost as many people on this side. Albeit this side was easier to maneuver than the other bluff without all the rocks, it was just as steep. We finally made it up toward the campgrounds. Certainly no one would be out that far with the campgrounds closed until further notice. Not as scenic or exciting, we passed by empty campground with the exception of one camper. This is when the 2nd runner passed us. No words, just passed on. Garlic mustard became so prevalent in the landscape. We made our way back as I kept looking down at our slow pace thinking it was going to take x hours to make it back. The glory of running is getting there faster. I was so bummed out I just was defeated. And I was also trying to beat the oncoming rain.

We made it to the road and decided to head back the way we came. Eventually, we made it close to the car and I started trying to run again. It was hard but doable. Ended the run with 14 miles. We stopped for gas and got snickers ice cream bars and more soda.

100090388_2980727262041125_506109613196705792_nI should note that all my water was filled with liquid calories. I wasn’t going without. But I was afraid both of the trail days I would run out of water so I wasn’t drinking enough as I should have been. The idea I was only slightly over half way with the week weighed on me.

Back home, we grabbed some take out again. Later that evening I needed a milkshake. Now a new tradition! I needed the salt and whatever else it was offering up. I rolled out and stretched. I was feeling much better but Rich got sore despite mostly hiking. I felt like I had cheated. I didn’t even run 50% of the time. I got the miles in, and I did them all at once. Later that evening we went for a short walk, 1.22 more miles for the day pokemon Go shiny hunting.

I was dreading day 5, so I kept it simple. I got up, ate breakfast and headed out to the Riley parking lot for Military Ridge State Trail. I knew I had to get it in early to beat the afternoon storms that were predicted. I was sad my car was dead, I was sad I didn’t run like I was supposed to. It was only a half marathon. I was still doing well preventing the old blister from getting worse, which was a miracle. I was doing well with calories and doing my best with recovery. The first two days, my feet tried to swell up, and I would put them up. The next two days, they did not have that affecting them. The first 13 miles did not feel like a half had gone by. The 2nd day felt exactly the miles I had been in a marathon (day two mile 2, felt like mile 15 for example). Day 3 felt like ultra world, and Day 4 felt like 100k mark for sure, the time when I feel most down in a 100 or late in a 100k race. Everything matched up to the one-time mile experiences.

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Feeling defeated from all that, I started walking on the trail. I was surprised there were hardly any cars there. Most people bike from this location, and a few runners. Locals will walk but there aren’t many of them. Last time I was here, the parking lot was plum full and chaotic. I walked one mile for my warm up. Then I started running. THEN I started RUNNING. I felt way better than I had any of the other days. I refused to look at pace. I went by feel, and the first mile was faster than my first day. I kept this up for a few miles and made it back to the car. I didn’t have to carry water bottles for this one for most of the plan.

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The plan was to do shorter out and back from the parking lot. I would fuel and drink when I came back each time. On the 2nd out and back, I decided to put in a few walking breaks. This is when I noticed I could not slow down when I was running. I switched my garmin to the heart rate screen and gauged effort by that. I didn’t want to become sore again after what happened the first day. This day flew by and was my 2nd fastest day, and I think only slower because I walked that first mile. As soon as I made it back to my car the skies started opening up. 98344663_266436794553118_248339965446979584_nIt was good timing. I squeezed in 13.2 miles plus a 1.15 mile cool down walk after. Wow that felt so good, and started making me wonder what was possible.

I had little aches and pains along the way, but none would last for more than half a mile at a time. Some would return on a different day, but still never lasting. Everything ended up working itself out.

The 6th day came and I decided to walk it to be sure I was recovered for day 7. I had gotten over most of the guilt of walking to get in miles. Maybe some of it was avoiding disappointment. I had had such a good day 5, and I didn’t want to ruin it. Today there was pokemon go community day, so from 11am to 5pm, there were shiny pokemon spawning.

Today was the first day I took a huge break in the activity. Rich and I parked at a nearby park and walked all the trails hunting pokemon with no course objective. This was far less stressful. The sun was obscured slightly by haze, it was hot and I was living life. 100683037_911486999324088_342332275293159424_nWe took a break to get sunscreen and drinks and food. We had a picnic on a blanket in the park. Then we continued on! Somewhere around mile 11 I discovered I was toasted. Beyond help. How was I so red and Rich was not? I had spent way more time outside than him this year. I worried but finished the day with 13.15 miles and a slower 1.4 mile walk at home. The idea behind walking for community day was to not dawdle around and go fast to click on as many as possible. It’s hard to cover ground fast when you aren’t in a car or populated area with a lot of spawns (like downtown you can go a crawling speeds because you’ll get 4-5 spawns at any given point around you, versus where we were you’d get one every minute).

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I got home and realized how bad the burns were. I had no aloe, and everything was closed for Sunday/Memorial day. I used lotion I had and A&D. That night was horrible and uncomfortable. I did not sleep hardly at all. I wore very similar clothes the next day to prevent any of my burned skin making contact with literally anything. I covered myself in sunscreen, way more than usual.

101230583_563209330910195_5319741738296803328_nSince it was day 7, I would end it at the park and ride. I would do very short out and backs or loops so I would not have to carry water. It was up in the mid 80s for this one. I was so happy with it, even if I was suffering. This is what I wanted (not the burns). I started off running, but quickly realized this pace was not sustainable and pretty sure I burned out my energy very early on. I made it 4 miles before burning out. I fueled with soda and now a new drink fuel powder (have to say I was not impressed). I was out of gels, so I used pixie sticks. I ran along to music. I would go up the trail under the trees (avoiding sunlight), but the air was stagnant and the humidity was real. I thought this way would be better, but when I took the turn to loop back on the sidewalk (fully sun exposed and no trees to block wind), it was magical. The wind was more a breeze in my face and I welcomed the cooling effect. This loop became my standard…just under 2 miles. I will probably use this in the future now!

100523712_2643652702622880_8193978967116480512_nI could tell my adrenaline was popping off, as I was able to ignore my sunburns. I thought about all the men and women and what memorial day meant as I passed under the giant flag from the fire station. I thought about the war on the virus…the front line men and women might look a little different than a physical war between countries. I constantly thought about my friend (also Altra red team) Ray who mentioned how not fighting someone’s perspective about something to bring more peace between people in a keyboard warrior world. I still think about that a lot. 13.45 miles later I finished. I was done with 100 miles. I managed to finish running. I thought about how I was able to run at the end of Cloudsplitter 100. I will always keep that with me. It wasn’t even slow. Though it did hurt.

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I did a cool down celebration walk in flip flops (1.57 miles). My blister had finally reared its ugly head that day and I was caught walking because of it. If it popped today, then it did. My calves were tight and tired. And still looking back, was I able to do more? I should just walk away from this experience for now and not ask what if; this is valuable experience. Most high mileage weeks involve spreading out the miles differently. Doing semi-high mileage each day was way more taxing than I imagined. 101216609_971534586610976_6849640343609016320_nIf I had done 15 one day, 10 another, and a longer 20 miler later in the week, it would have gone differently. You’d take the 20 slower than the 10, but not go all out in the 10, recovering better in the 10, and being more aware of recovery for the 20 and so on. 13.1 miles is definitely a mix of different things, but at least it’s a distance where you can recover from it decently and you don’t have to do too much extra work with nutrition unlike marathons. Still I considered the time I was out versus the miles and tried to compensate. No matter how you look at it, getting in 100 miles in a week is certainly something to be reckoned with, no matter how you do it.

The ending was quiet, much like my Military Ridge FKT, you just stop, no one was there this time. No family or friends, just me and my car to get back home. There weren’t even any people at the park and ride lot, I am guessing from the midday heat. No post celebration, no where to go that is safe but home.

The biggest quandary was stopping. I didn’t have to stop. I was almost at 13.5 miles for that run alone, just to push me over 100 miles while still running (not the cool down walk I was doing every day). I considered doing more, but my skin was in pretty bad shape and my blister was on the verge of giving me more issues if I’d kept going and as I was then, I could still run and do whatever after that week, something I don’t always get to do after long ultras. My body was in good shape, no sense not continuing to run on after. I wouldn’t even call what I got niggles, they were so short lived and randomly cropped up in random places.

100061185_2832678846859657_4914316311821025280_nSo what was recovery like? I did taper two weeks into it, or at least 10 days. I feel like this was too long judging how I felt after day one and two. Maybe this would be more acceptable had I did all the miles at once, but with the recovery day to day, I am not sure the taper was short enough. Between the runs, which were mostly 11am-1pm every day, with a few later in the day, I started eating more and more every day. I was hungry, but would feel full after a good meal. I ate out more, but it did help with sodium levels…but I needed to make sure I balanced that out with water, so that’s all I would drink during the days outside of running. I listened to my body and ate when I was hungry. I stopped when I was full. I feel like that is important if you’re doing something like this or everyday life. No need to overstuff yourself. But don’t feel guilty for getting in a bit more than you’re used to. The milkshakes post run just felt like the icing on the cake I needed to really polish off the calories. I’m not saying it’s the best choice, but whole foods weren’t always appetizing.

During runs, I used mainly liquid fuel, whether powder mixed with water or using soda. I am a huge fan of sodas, and never have GI issues with them and they are fast calories. Still holds true. I used a lot of my expiring leftover gels to get them out of the way. I hate them, but hey, they were mostly free from races (“free”, you pay for the race and goodies). I am having more and more issues gagging them down. I could have fueled more at the beginning. But I did consume a majority of my calories around my runs.

100856910_1387549798104723_6157262401126268928_nOtherwise, I used a hand massager mainly on my calves when I felt like I needed it. I used recovery boots, but not sure if they had a major impact. I foamed rolled larger muscles to keep them in check a few times. But mainly I focused on feet.

The biggest thing for me, in a race or during this (and I have previously lacked the motivation and not put in the effort during training, usually a huge mistake), was taking care of my feet. The blister I had gotten before it started was problematic. I had power hiked 7 miles and was not used to walking at a very fast pace (13-14 min/mi) on trails, and nor did I pre-treat those areas for the long walk, and it resulted in two blistered areas…three days before the week started. I didn’t run the two days prior to starting to let it heal, but it did not. I carried this blistered area the whole week. I was successful but using vasaline every run on every area and switching off shoes and socks every day for a different foot sensation. At night I would use neosporn and socks and make sure I was hydrated every night (and started hydrating for the week the two days prior). You can control a lot of variables if you feet are happy.

The day after the week was over, I did an easy walking day, babying the blistered area. The 2nd day after, I went for a run, a harder run. There were so many variables that I am not sure which was contributing to my run. It was humid and hot, in the upper 80s. It was sunny, my skin was still in bad shape. My calves were really tight and my heart rate ran a bit higher with less effort. Nothing felt off however. I am certainly not heat adapted yet, and we have had hardly any days here yet above 70°F before this started. I love heat, but it’s still a beast to deal with. I was managing my Yeti pace with a lot of effort. The biggest thing was I could NOT find my forever pace. My body was so confused. Walking was too easy, even walking fast. Running a slower pace than I’m used to was hard to maintain (again maybe it was the heat), and I could not slow down from that slower pace without walking without sacrificing form or cadence. I was in a puzzling state. I will run today in the 60s and report back.

Overall I felt like I could keep going, albeit at some random and weird paces with walking mixed in.

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Miles all at once, or spread out? On day 3 and 4, I was saying to myself I would MUCH rather be doing these miles all at once. After day 4, it became a lot easier than doing the miles all-at-once feeling. So in conclusion, I would say at first, it sucks. It’s just hard and feels harder than it should. At some point, your body does adapt and it gets better, and you will feel good and then bad, and the waves will keep washing over you, but never as bad as it was for the first few days. I can’t say how it would feel to do more miles than this in a day, but listening to longer FKT runners, it does always get better. I feel like 13.1 miles at a time is such a drop in the bucket compared to 30+ miles a day.

Someone asked about laundry. I will say the same as I did for my Yeti blog. I got all my clothes washed the day before starting. The temperatures fluctuated daily so I was never stuck wearing the same thing from day to day. I had enough bras and undies to last the week so I never did laundry again. But doing laundry BEFORE you start is key! I would not want to be worrying about getting laundry done or putting it off for late at night when all you want to do is decompress from the day. For me, decompression after a run is imperative, and sometimes takes as long as my runs.

101547915_623555658252942_4912846406508609536_nLastly, sleeping. Mostly sleeping was normal to weird. Normal that I got good sleep until I got sunburned. But weird in that, I was getting up earlier and earlier each day. I wasn’t going to bed later typically, but looked forward to sleep each night, but not to the point of exhaustion, which was very nice. Honestly the challenge was probably more helpful for my sleep than anything else.

I was planning on also using this as a way to see which distance I would virtually try for the Midwest States 100/100k for June. I am still on the fence. I am not great at 10 miles, but it’s shorter than 13.1, but for 3 days longer, which doesn’t seem to prove an issue after this experiment. However, doing less than an hour of running a day (10k/day) option and trying to go hard is really tempting, though I know people will be much faster for obvious reason. The huge drawback of this sort of thing is you have no visual of who you are competing against. I don’t even know if I can be ranked as competitive, but I will most certainly try. My bones are itching to do well either way. Not everyone is on the same playing field. I am luck I am near flat land and can use it to my advantage, I can use trails or road. I have access much lower temperatures, though I will likely not choose to do morning runs to avoid heat. If I were in Virginia, I would have a hard time being faster than I would be here.

Advice. If you want to try this, a few things to note that I found useful for myself (and I know others are different, even from talking with Heather from Team BU as she completed it today—so proud of her, and having her start it mid way through mine was really neat to sit and chat about every day, feeling connected and not so alone!!):

– Come up with pre-planned routes that are interesting. Routes where you have access to a car, bathroom, aid station (house), or plan to go long. I split mine up between short and long loops, and one-way runs. I mixed things up every day. Trails and roads. Heather I believe did the same out and back every time…that could create a lot of accountability!

– Plan one day ahead each day. When you are done with your run, prep for the next day while that day is still fresh in your head. What could you have done better, fueling? Socks/shoe combo? Hydration? Don’t wait until right before your run. Keep all your running stuff in one area so you don’t lose things. Charge your watch every evening.

– Laundry all done before you start. Lay out your outfit the night before.

– Weather checks. I checked the weather daily and planned accordingly. Sometimes I would switch where I was going to run according to the weather. If it was rainy the previous day, I would avoid trails. Hot and sunny? Choose a more shaded route (or find out your route wasn’t really shady after all and learn for later).

– Fuel around your runs. Avoid post run eating binges and hunger by doing this. And hydrate really well before and after.

– Always be over-prepared for your run. Treat them like a long run. Avoid the chaffing through prevention, and same goes with the feet. It’s not just 13.1 miles, it’s a week effort that deserves respect for the long haul.

100825618_1358361484443627_2290365261338902528_nI think this is useful for anyone who plans to do a streak from 1 mile a day, or 5 miles a day, or 13.1 miles a day or up to 30+ miles a day. The longer you go the more complicated things get. But every bit of this is a learning experience. I have never done a stage race and clearly I have underestimated the effort to go into it. Don’t feel guilty if you have to take a walk day, just don’t stop moving. The goal of this was to do the miles all at ONCE. Based on the Yeti experience, splitting up the runs throughout the day, even if I did 3 miles and then 10 miles, it would have felt much differently. I wanted to do the minimum miles I set a goal for in one go. Even when I stopped briefly for lunch/drinks during my 2nd to last day, I wasn’t relaxing necessarily, I had my watch set to go again as soon as I was done and was the only time I paused it. I did not mentally take a break and I think that counts for something…especially when I knew I was going to try to go as hard as I could on the final day. It was a bit weary on me mentally knowing I had 13.1 miles a day weighing on me and I absolutely did not want to have to start over for any reason, probably why I do not ever count how many days in a row I do anything (running or otherwise).

As a final remark, if you are to try this, absolutely never give yourself a time constraint. This is supposed to be a fun thing, and you can easily add enough pressures and stressors to make it not fun real fast. It really was like a roller coaster of 100 miles, and as close to doing a 100 in training as anything I’ve ever done. I’ve done 26+ mile days once a weekend for 3 weekends in a row. Vastly different. I feel like this is much closer to the training for a 100 miler than that was based on how I felt. However, I have no way of testing it out since there are no races.100939825_670490540178145_3604119542990635008_n I will potentially redo a week similar to this in July in case Badger 100 is still on. It would be interesting to see if 10 miles over 10 days is any different stress wise. Would 3 more miles, and a few walking miles a day make a difference? Loads of questions still remain for me. I hope to get some answers at some point. Looking forward to my big weekend coming up to see how the legs do!

Update, ran a half mile PR today (3 days post last day). Legs are doing better!

The Quarantine Question

It’s really basic, what are you going to do?

A lot of us are freed up during this time, as many of us make the switch from Winter to Spring and the warmer temps have us itching for more miles and more adventures, but wait, we are under a stay at home order.

So what does this mean? Well, they can’t force you to stay home, but they can limit to what you can go to, such as state/county/national parks as the government tries to put policies in place to keep us safe. Read that again, this is not a punishment. Quick rant, I am not willing to get the virus for a trivial reason and potentially sacrifice my lungs or life for pretty much anything. I encourage everyone to think about that, what is getting the virus worth to you? Because some people don’t care if they are at risk of getting it, or spreading it to others. And it’s your right to go out and risk your health to do so. But overall it’s considered irresponsible to us trying to do our best to stop the spread as a human population. This virus is much more than your “freedom”, it’s a world-wide pandemic and affects the world, and not just your small 6-foot bubble. As a people, we should take responsibility for our fellow human to try and do what we can. Do what you can is what I ask…what that looks like is up to you.

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I may have collected too much cheese. Nonsense, never too much cheese.

For me, I have stopped venturing out. I go to the grocery store maaaaybe once a week. I eat and cook at home, supporting my local restaurants once a week (I want them back after this is all done with!), I go running from my house 90% of the time, only driving about 5 miles max out to one open park when less people are there. My views are rather limited. I carry hand sanitizer everywhere I go, using it before getting in my car, using it when I’m back in my car, and then washing my hands when I get home. I haven’t gotten gas, even with my somewhat gas guzzling Jeep, since early March. I wear a mask everywhere I go where I would encounter other people. I drink more water, I eat better. I focus on what I can do.

If you’d rather not read about my personal life, please skip down to “What can you do” header below. Otherwise, enjoy the ride.

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And all of you who know me or follow this blog, know I go back to Virginia about this time every year for a few weeks, because I run Mountains. I go home. I see my family. I was unable to do that this year. I was signed up for the Blue Ridge Half Marathon with my sister, training to do it with her as her first half marathon. I was so excited to share the experience, as the BRM was my first marathon, and I even did the double marathon last year. I simply cannot get enough of that course. It never bores me and always finds a way to surprise me every year. I ended up getting depressed, I was not raised in Wisconsin, and the lack of Spring in the air (not counting my horrific allergies from an apparent “mold season” before “pollen season” here), and as of this writing April 24th, there are no buds on trees, no popping flowers, no 50-60 degree days… doom and gloom to me. I try to convince myself this is just a delayed Spring here, and it will come, but when you see everywhere else with seasonal proliferation, it makes me sad.

93941934_265858847790778_6932531275391565824_nBlah blah blah, my issues. We decided to have my sister do the actual course (since she lives there) and I would do my best to get the amount of elevation gain as her course in flatter Wisconsin using a singular 130 foot hill (15% grade, which is actually pretty amazing here considering). Every time I would “summit” I would claim those 130 points, like a video game level up. We called each other at least every mile on video chat. I then decided to dodge a storm (hail, lightening, and all that jazz — the wind had been blowing all day and continued to do so). Earth Day seemed so appropriate. I ended up finishing 16 miles by the time she finished and headed home to do the rest of the miles there in case more storms came (and they did). With the sun now out, I decided to go plogging for the first time (where you run and pick up trash you see along your run — wear gloves!). I plodded along slower, and when coming back to my house to do hill repeats to try and get more gain, I saw the dark clouds approaching again. I finished up with some quicker miles and a bonus mile to squeak in a cheap man’s ultra for my monthly ultra streak, which is becoming harder and harder to do…

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So this brings me to the present day, and my present debacle. We’ve all held out so much hope that “our” event won’t be affected, but truth be told, it is almost best to assume the worst right now. We didn’t plan for this, and we didn’t think it would happen back in the day (March). But here we are and what can we do now? We do not have all the information, and the experts (the researchers and CDC) are doing their best to get us back on track before we self-implode over not getting our hair cut for a month or two. You will survive, I promise.

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What Can You do?

As a coach, I have been losing clients for all sorts of reasons, the main driver being the virus cancelling events people were motivated to train for. So the virus essentially puts me out of work. I don’t get to see people grow, I don’t get to help in goal making. And the same goes for people not being coached…everyone is at a loss, and a loss we haven’t had to face as a population or community before. Motivation is at an all time low. But it doesn’t have to be.

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Drawing

What can you do? Plenty. You aren’t restricted in how much you run, those balcony, hallway, and backyard marathoners are proving nothing can stop a person from completing something (and possibly something stupid, I do not recommend short little run-arounds to get in large mileage, nor do I think our trackers are accurate enough to even record the “laps” in our living spaces — think about it, we lose large mileage even on tight turns of single track out in the wild, do you think your GPS tracker can accurately record loops around your house without dropping distance? Just a thought train here). When I say “plenty”, I mean you can do all sorts of creative things:

  • Slow down, and stop caring about pace. Do things you wouldn’t normally do because you are too pace focused. Adventure a little. Challenge yourself and see how fast you can WALK. Stop every mile or half mile to complete a challenge like burpees or squats/lunges, throw a rock into a field as far as you can, try and find shapes in objects to keep your mind occupied or as something to post each run, and don’t stop running until you find that shape.
  • Make a singular challenge. How much elevation can you get in one run? Can you run backwards for a mile? Run 2-3 miles every few hours (there was/is a Yeti challenge just for this!). 93899001_647585832758354_5694403675535966208_n Clean up one area of your house. Throw out things you haven’t used in years. Donate your old pots/pans or clothes you haven’t worn in 2 years…you can buy more. Catch up with someone in your community. Giving yourself daily challenges will keep time moving forward. I used to use post-it notes and write down things I had to do in college and put them up on a wall. This gave me a visual clue as what I HAVE done and what I can still do. I didn’t have to do them, but taking down those sticky notes was pretty satisfying and served as a reminder what I could be doing. Lastly, look for a virtual race to support your Race directors whose events are cancelled. Yeti, Aravaipa running, Becoming Ultra, and Ten Junk Miles Racing are all offering up registrations, and Ornery Mule Racing has a wellness site for everyone.
  • Make a weekly challenge. Challenge yourself, for one week, do the same thing every day and hold yourself accountable. One goal I wanted to do was to run a half marathon every day for a week. 93998401_290503168621302_4310844681991749632_n I’ve never had time to try it, but now I can. No excuses. Sun is out longer now (wear sunscreen). Don’t make weather an excuse…every event will have weather, use this as a time to practice that mindset. Even if that challenge is making dinner every day for a week, find new recipes, ask friends about things they like to make and if they would recommend something. Keep it social. Include others even when we are apart.
  • Make a monthly challenge (if this is not too daunting, for me personally, this is very difficult). I am currently doing one ultra per month to keep me busy and thinking about how I will accomplish it safely and to keep having fun with it. Out of the 7 months I have been at this, only 3 have been actual events. 91912888_523304055044169_4973663134830034944_n Some of my friends are making monthly mileage goals. Some people are doing monthly hours of workout goals. Maybe your monthly challenge is to try and change a habit you have been trying to make like stretching, yoga, or strength. You can still get strength at home. Your body is a weight. So are soup cans. So are water bottles.
  • Speed up. If you’re used to running long and slow, make a new speed goal and use this time to get faster. It’s hard to focus on both speed and distance. It’s hard to work on either if you’re a fan of just one of those camps. Speed work doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Spend some time researching how to better yourself as a person. Do you need to adjust your cadence? Do you hit the ground too hard? Posture? Things to think about and learn. Video yourself from the side and from the back and front.
  • Take a rest. It’s ok to be unmotivated to the point that you have to take a break. Or maybe you’ve been burning the candle on both ends for too long now. 92789852_532885800996425_3486006095514697728_n Recovery is so very very important to our lives. We have no events for the upcoming months. Let your body heal. It is OKAY to not be out there killing the miles. It is OKAY to take a step back and resume when there is a clear goal. Eat a cookie, you will be ok, it’s just a cookie.

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    Making my own birthday cake and eating it too.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for a cheer squad! Ask a friend, a group, or make a post. Be proud of what you accomplish. Write (like I am now even, get your thoughts out there), draw, pick up a hobby, make a hundred hearts to stick on your window. Send snail mail to family and friends. Everyone loves getting a good hand written letter, I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love the surprise. Stay connected. 93883160_709340033137087_8599529106557632512_n

All our goals look different. For some of us, we need that community, that group run, or event to push us to get out for our runs. And that’s perfectly ok. There are people who never even go to events who just run to run. That is also ok. What is not ok is patronizing others for not “seeing things” your way. Let people vent, let people complain, and let people work this out on their own as long as they are not hurting others. As someone who is not positive all the time and tends to look at the world from a perspective of “the glass may be half full, but the water is frozen and therefore useless” or rather I’d prefer not to get my hopes up in case insert worst case scenario here, this isn’t hitting me mentally as hard as others. I live with probably the most positive and upbeat person there is. It certainly is a balance!

Waaaaah my events T_T

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Look forward to the future of things. If your event has been postponed, celebrate, even if it ends up getting cancelled in the long run. Our race directors are working hard and I am sure things are very complicated right now. Send a thanks to them. From that perspective, there is no use being mad if your event is cancelled and throwing shade at the RDs (and if you look closely you probably signed off on a waiver that says you surrender your registration should the race be cancelled, so any race that manages to reschedule is probably doing so on their own dime). They probably had their permits revoked by higher ups and not allowed to re-permit. They are not trying to take or steal your money.

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A lot of costs upfront go into creating these events and that money you registered with was probably used already. So please, be kind. If your race was cancelled and you are not offered a refund, think of it as a way to keep the race alive and hope there is a next time. The Blue Ridge Marathon for instance, is a non-profit. They had to cancel, and made three options available even though they did not have to! Run the race virtually, and your swag will get mailed to you; transfer to the following year; or do nothing and have your registration be a donation. Even if they are for-profit, realize they have already bought shirts and medals and purchased land permits and probably medical and various goods they had planned on using at aid stations. If you want events to happen again, don’t get mad. They are going to do what they need to to survive this.

Keep planning on your future events to happen. I’m not saying hold out on false hope, rather, keep it in the back of your mind. Keep moving if you want to. I do think that future events will have more restrictions in place when we can host them. For insight into this, I was planning on volunteering at the Hellbender 100 (now moved to November), which was scheduled for early April. North Carolina pulled the permits the week of the race basically. But before that, they had set forth a set of guidelines that gives us a window into what might be in our future.

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With social distancing a high priority, the start line would be staggered. Only a few people would start at a time. Because of this, they moved the overall cut off for the event with the exception of one aid station cut off (because it was state enforced that no one could be in that area after dark, pandemic or not). This lessen the “competitive feel” for the event, but does allow for spacing on the course. And for anyone who hasn’t run a 100 miler, even after starting with a huge group, you are likely not going to see anyone for hours after a few miles in. Moving the cut off time also included the extra time at aid stations. Gloves for all volunteers, and no pre-cut items. Everything would go back to being disposable, or one-use items like cups (as a lot of races were moving towards less waste and that meant being cupless – bring your own cup). One person would be able to refill your water, one person at a time. You can see if there were multiple people at an aid station, this could get congested and time consuming. Hand sanitizer would be offered at every aid station.

For Georgia Death Race, they were going to change the finish and packet pickup. No hugs, no hand touching. A very dead feeling at the finish line (no pun intended). No finish line party or hang out. No in-person pre-race meeting, would be over the internet only. A lot of races were prepared to do this just to hold their event, even if it took away some of the feeling or meaning that year. GDR is now rescheduled for early November.

I do not have insight on the world major marathons, as I have never done one, nor do I qualify for any of them. Though I think I saw they were offering some options to their participants. The world majors are some of the largest races in the world people-wise, volunteers, participants, and crowds cheering. I think we will begin to see what they have in store for future events and will help make standard procedures moving forward.

Ironman has already announced what they plan to do “indefinitely”.

“Safe Event Experience
In order to provide the safest experience for our athletes, we are instituting the following at our races, effective March 19.

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Reinforcing Social Distancing in all elements of the event

  • The hours of on-site event registration will be expanded.
  • Athletes will be allowed to pick up their athlete race kit/race bib and immediately exit expo area.
  • Athlete density will be decreased by increasing individual race space staging, corrals, etc.
  • No-handshake behavior will be encouraged for the duration of the event.
  • Athlete briefing information will be available digitally only.
  • Non-core, high-contact services (e.g. wetsuit peeling) will be suspended.

Hygiene First

  • Staff and volunteers who are interacting with participants pre-race, on race day and post-race will be provided gloves.
  • Hand-washing stations and sanitation stations around the venue for athletes, volunteers and spectators will be increased
  • No-touch waste disposal stations and receptacles will be rolled out as available.
  • Frequently touched surfaces at race venue locations such as workstations, product distribution areas, tables and electronic devices will be cleaned regularly.
  • When possible, on-course food and fluid supplies will be single use/single serving closed packaging
  • Athletes planning to return home by airplane or rail are encouraged to avoid travel post-event for 24 hours allowing their immune system time to recover post-race.
  • No onsite interviews or press conference with professional athletes.
  • No handshake/contact on the race podium.
  • Printed document distribution will be eliminated.”

The future IS uncertain. How you handle it and what you do IS up to you. Will you be proud of yourself that you did your best? Did you support your fellow human? You can not offer too much compassion or kindness during this time. And if you need to vent, write a comment below or reach out. It IS frustrating. It IS okay to be angry, and not have anything in particular to direct your anger at. But I ask, make this most of this time. Summer is on its way, and you bet you are going to see my smiling face sitting in the sun, soaking up every nanometer of that precious stars’ lightwaves (though wear sunscreen). Yes, nanometer is a word, WordPress/PC/internet.

91982323_2619666838248911_104317046153543680_n Wear sunscreen, brush your teeth, sleep when you must, eat healthy, binge shows if you must. Order seeds online and plant life. Order paper and crafts. Love your pets (or plants or spouse creatures or you). Don’t look at the scale. Enjoy your morning coffee. Smell your fresh laundry and wrap yourself in that post-drier warmth for 5 minutes. Be well. Be kind. We are one community.

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Women in Trail Running

Please enjoy my mixed smattering bag of womenly goodies on this little writing odyssey. I just kind of went with the flow…not that monthly flow, but yeah, you get it.
Now I may not speak for every female out there, but let’s get something straight…

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Or get muddy, but that’s everyone. Between the toes, under the nails, cuticles. So much for that pedi!

You will chafe. Somewhere, maybe somewhere you didn’t know you could. You’ll feel temperatures differently. You’re hot, she’s cold. It’s 50 degrees.

Maybe you leak a little in places. Maybe you get weird blisters just thinking about running. Maybe you run intervals. Maybe your heart is in a different place than your friend’s. Your hands swell. You get boob sweat in winter. Maybe you lack boobs and wear push up bras for running? I know I did for a long time. But don’t tell anyone.

Ladies come in all sizes, all shapes, and every ability. The ladies who are out there giving it what they have, have courage. Race day isn’t even the tip of the iceberg. No, a lot of training gets put in. And if a lot of training wasn’t put in (I admit I’m sometimes one of those), we put forth all of our experience on the course in front of us. That experience, however, comes from miles and miles of training under all sorts of conditions. Rain, snow, wind, more snow, heat of the sun midday, creepy lonely nights…those birds, will they attack? It’s just a robin.

Nope, that’s definitely a red winged black bird…time to run like heck. Que impromptu speed session. Wait, what’s that rustling over in the bushes? Ack! Chipmunk. But something deep in the back of our mind keeps us on our toes at every little change in environment, or sound that isn’t expected…

Our heads sometimes go straight to flight or fight, and being totally self aware that things are out to get us. That something could be men. No, not all men are dangerous, but there are some that are, and they wish for less than good things to happen to us. For what reason? Who knows. But we don’t deserve it.

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We are out there giving it our all, to work hard for ourselves. We oftentimes think about when we should run, or who we can run with, to give us that peace of mind, of protection against our society and world. We want to feel strong. So we make ourselves strong. And that can come in a variety of ways.

We go to the gym, putting on clothes that hope do not draw attention, especially in such an enclosed area. We head out to do our speed workout on the track, keeping covered afraid wearing just a sports bra even though it’s hot as the devil’s oven out just to not attract unwanted gazes, or worse, have others judge our rolls and scars. Out on the streets we run with a swivel to our head, keeping an eye out for followers, and trying to avoid cat calls. Driving to a running spot so people can’t track where we live, or how often we run a certain path…

We try so often to be safe and feel confident. Now I know I cannot help you all be more confident, it’s just the society we are in. But we have trails. Running freely and judgement free among the trees and tricky roots and rocks that line our path, making it a harder earned run. And when you get done, you can bask in the glory of what you accomplished. Running trails, you can leave your pace behind you. It will be what it will be.

I write this as my own blog post, just reaching out to other women out there, saying it’s ok to be experiencing these things. No it is not ok for society to treat us this way, but the winds of change are slow. Now I would like to talk about what we do out there.

Buzzing participants surround you, manly men, cocky men…oh neat there are some ladies here. You go to talk to them. They are just doing the 10k option, while you feel a little embarrassed you are running the 50k and will be in for the long haul, kind of wishing one of them was joining you in your day of labor.

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And don’t get me wrong, everyone who goes out there is a champion in my book, and I’m not meaning to say just a 10k, but I am reaching out to those of us who want to go that extra mile (or 20), who have drank from the sacred kool-aid we call ultra running. We sometimes feel very lonely, sometimes like we are the only ones there, and the few other women may look very intimidating; classic ultra long distance runner, long blonde hair, carrying just a handheld, lean and tall, and seemingly ignoring everything going on around them. You are there with your hydration pack, packed full of supplies for your long haul with blister kit, extra gels, salt tabs, body glide, chapstick, and bladder weighing in at 5 pounds no less.

But there is a smile under that trucker hat, as your focus soon shifts to the starting line as the sun begins to peak out revealing the trail before you. You start to focus in on the inner you, why you are here. Why are you there? You should be there for yourself, and it’s ok to be selfish! Enjoy your day.

I know it’s hard to be one of the few females out on course though. And sometimes it may seem that others aren’t experiencing the raging hot spot you are getting from higher than expected humidity under your bra, or wait, did that bee just sting me? The NERVE of that bee…no it was a wasp. Die wasp. Missed. Guess I’ll keep chugging along.

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It’s hard to be huffing and puffing on a hill — and yes you trained for that hill and you knew it was coming — and being passed by men who seem to be taking it in stride. Remember to take the time and bring the focus back on yourself and what YOU can do for yourself at any given moment. Each moment you earn for yourself. Each step you take forward (and sometimes a few lost steps that may add to your day, shake those off and accept the bonus miles and brag later). Each breath you are able to enjoy.

Close your eyes and take in what you have managed to accomplish. Sometimes it’s so hard when you compare yourself to others. And inevitably it will happen. To every one of us…big or small, faster or slower. Running generally is a solo sport. Don’t expect to run with others, everyone has different skills, and bless the trail angel when they come along and are by your side.

Let’s take a step back. You are there for the 10k, this is your first trail race, and you have worked so hard for so long to get to this point. You are nervous, but maybe you have some new and old friends by your side. Who quickly disperse once the run starts. You are alone with yourself. You are trying to convince yourself not to give into walking. Walking is so easy!

No, you did not get this far to give up on your arduous efforts leading up to this! You might feel so overwhelmed you don’t deserve to be there. Well, let me tell you the news.

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Breaking news really. You paid to be there (whether that’s paying for the shoes on your feet, or an event or whatnot), you worked hard to be there, and you have every right as every other person has to be there right in that moment, and all your future steps leading you forward. But your mind is a powerful thing, it can empower you and take it right away from you at the same time. Mental toughness, the willingness to refuse to quit. Build it up like a monument so no one can take it down. Come at each step that seems darker and darker with curiosity instead of anxiety or negativity. Ask what you may feel like in 5 minutes, or 90 seconds. Create a mantra…you can do anything for 1 minute. Negativity is temporary, I promise you that. But if you give up, you keep part of that darkness, and will only wonder what could have been if you’d taken the next step.

What is your limit? Can you actually find out? Is there one? You might find you have a temporary limit…work to remove it. Come back, try again and again. Seek joy and pleasure in your journey and soak every moment in, because one day you may not be able to later in life.

It’s rather interesting to see the stats on events, especially as they get longer. I see a lot of participation, women outweighing men, in shorter events. I see women get at it, every pace, every shape. These miles are nothing! But as the miles drag on, those of the female variety tend to lessen in participation. Are we scared of trying? I know from psych research that women are more cautious than men, not as likely to take risks. So it may come down to personality as well. Going the distance is definitely a risk, and an ever increasing risk of failure. We dislike failure. It may be that women are expected to raise kids. I don’t see a lack in participation from the male variety. Shouldn’t raising kids be a joint effort? Another societal expectation? I have no right to say since I do not have these experiences, but I know others who might be going through this. And maybe that’s completely ok with them, that’s their relationship and family.

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But I at least want to say: try. It becomes rather addicting to try, and to see new places, experience new things. Oh how I call the mountains’ name so often (they don’t answer back echoing the sounds of my empty wallet). Prove to yourself you can do hard things, and it’s ok that they are hard, even harder than you expected. And maybe you need a break. That’s ok too. In life there is ebb and flow. Up and down. Positivity and negativity.

Ultimately, you are going to be upset with yourself. You’re going to be angry at things. That’s normal. Go for a run, you’ll feel better, even if it’s delayed after a day or two. You don’t have to sit there and be supportive and positive all the time. We are women and our mood swings can be dangerous…to others. And sometimes ourselves. Find something you can do to chill. Take a salt bath. Drink some tea listening to classical music for 10 minutes. Yoga? I’m not a yoga person, but deep breathing is the shizzle I hear. Close your eyes and imagine your happy place. Do you hear the sound of the leaves crinkling before you on the ground? The smell of fresh pine. Can you hear muffling of the virgin snowfall? Or feel the radiant sunrays on your back, with the crickets singing off in the distance?

This has been quite an adventure in itself. Being a woman running can be lonely even in a crowded room. Hold your shoulders back, chin up, as cliche as that sounds, and march forward in your endeavors. YOUR endeavors. YOUR journey. Each step is so important, if just for you. Don’t be afraid to question, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. No one on Earth is perfect, no man, no woman. It’s hard not being afraid, but sometimes the greatest reward is overcoming that fear and just being you.

What is my Stress Fracture?

Well, if you didn’t know, I have an almost complete stress fracture of the Fibula. What does that mean, Steph? Bear with me, this is more of a personal blog about my struggle with this stress fracture and a way for me to get the anxiety out and release some thoughts…

It means my leg is not broken, yet. It means with continued activity it will break, and then recover time would be extended further than if I hadn’t. The fibula is the smaller of the two long bones in you lower leg, and mostly non-weight bearing but helps take a load off of the tibia, the main weight bearing bone of your leg. Usually, the fracture will happen in the lower or upper part of the fibula, however, mine is basically in the middle…atypical for a stress fracture for a runner. Skipping most of the medical jargon and stuff, I am here wondering what happened. I went through my head countless reasons, but none make a whole lot of sense. So let me give you the basic timeline at least from when I found out.

I found out on July 9th, 2019, for an MRI I had done at 7:45pm the previous evening, July 8th. That day, I had already played 2 or 3 songs, not difficult for me, on our dance game with friends without any pain. My sports med doctors had called me directly and told me to be on crutches for 2 weeks, and the results from the MRI indicated swelling and edema around the fracture site, indicating the fracture was nearly completed and it was my body’s way of trying to protect itself. It was a hard pill to swallow, and emotionally, I had to hold it together, for the sake of my doctor on the phone, and the crew of friends who were visiting for a pokemon go ex raid (special kind of event you get invited to do to catch a special pokemon). There were all of a sudden so many steps I now had to take in my personal life to make immediate changes. I was overwhelmed, and since I had guests over, I could do nothing at the time. In retrospect, this might have been for the best since it prevented me from panicking.

Everything went through my head. How did this happen. Why did this happen. When would I be well again. I am going to miss our summer in Wisconsin this year, after it had been cold for so very long. We had only had summer a week or two when I got the call and I have been having a massively bad time adapting to my new climate in the upper midwest, and each passing season, it seems to get worse. I guess I’ll delve into that a bit.

When I moved to Wisconsin, winter of 2016, I found the cold to be novel. However, I immediately struggled to get outside with temperatures hovering around 0°F and snow everywhere all the time. I came from a place with cold and snow, but what I had to be outside in was not nearly warm enough, and after moving expenses and starting out married life with Rich, we had no money to invest in new clothes. The following winter, 2016/2017, was quite mild, and I was outside more often than before. But I thought this was what normal winter was, which I would be wrong about. I just lucked out. I took a break from running long after I PR’d my half marathon time and finished a late season 70.3 Ironman race (my first, Los Cabos, see here). I remember finally getting a winter coat good enough for the climate then at least and we decided to build a house (that wouldn’t be ready until August, a year after we purchased it) and my mind and life was occupied by that.

Fast forward to winter 2017/2018, post Ironman Wisconsin and Xterra Maui. I took more time off than ever, rather burned out from the training of both of those. I ran when I felt like it, 3-5 miles here and there, not getting monthly run miles past 30 miles/month. Then Andrea hits me up and says do Zion with me. I say ok. I figure I’ll train well enough. I struggled through it, but hit it hard in March and did my 2nd 50k (and coldest and wettest to date, it was awful weather) and long back to back weekends training myself as I got my coaching certificate earlier that year. I ended up doing the 100k in April, pretty well prepared with two months of mostly solid training. By this time I had more outerwear meant for Wisconsin, but it was another milder winter. Unknowing to me.

Again, fast forward to 2018/2019, my worst winter yet and the one I tried really hard to train through. Back in October 2018, I finished Cloudsplitter 100, but with a partially torn anterior tibialis tendon tear that took me down hard. I managed to get back up to marathon distance by December, and tried to hang onto some sort of base from that until February when I did Rocky Raccoon 100k. I fought hard to get in miles, but every time I would go out, everything would go wrong. I would deteriorate so quickly and get tired super fast to the point I would want to fall asleep on the trail. I got rashes and bumps on almost all my runs over 15 minutes outside below 40°F. I started bleeding from places I should not have been bleeding from and after every effort outside, I wound up falling asleep in front of our fireplace. It wouldn’t be until I rested that my body would feel normal again. I also noticed that my internal body temperature after running (taken less than 2 minutes after stopping) was below 94°F every time. That was rather scary. I was diagnosis with cold urticaria, and prescribed antihistamines for the winter months. I had to switch my training to be indoors and my training fell apart a little.

I managed to get in another 50k for my birthday, Terrapin Mountain, and it went as well as it could have given I did not have the mountain to properly train with in Wisconsin. I rested a bit, and continued to train along the mountains back in Virginia, preparing for the Blue Ridge Double Marathon in April. I rocked the double despite the weather. I wasn’t even sore from it. I had zero pain and did a few easy and light runs the following week. It was still pretty cold in Wisconsin this past year (2019) when I returned back after being in Virginia for a month, and my training lightened up a lot. I did a few 3-9 mile runs 2-3 times a week, but didn’t get in the speed work I had wanted for training for the halves I wanted to try and PR. I did one half at the beginning of May and at the end of May. In-between, I started doing weights, and really overdid it one day with legs, and did something to hurt my abdominal area, which showed in a 17 mile run I took super easy a week later. I rested another week, and did more light running. The last weekend in May was the Madtown half. I kept my effort even and was pretty successful considering I had no speed work in my agenda going into it. Still too cold for my muscle to really put power into strides.

The following weekend, I did a bunch of boot camp style workouts, but nothing long. Most things were intense though. I had done more weight lifting 2 days beforehand too, including legs again. When I flew out to Colorado, I was massively dehydrated. I admit, I am very bad about hydrating, but some of this was not preventable in this case due to travel mishaps…I was basically late for everything preventing me from getting water on the other side of security, and a flight too short for the airline to have water on board, and my next flight boarding on the other side of a large airport before I landed.

When I ran between those two flights, I could already tell my legs were swelling, as I could feel my heart beat pounding against the tight walls of my legs. It wasn’t quite painful yet, but I could tell I was in trouble. I did not have time for water, as I was the last person to board that flight even with running across the airport. I immediately pushed the button for service and they didn’t come to me until the flight was taking off. I finally got some water…even if it was a tiny cup. By the time I landed in Colorado, my legs were shiny and full of fluid and very puffy, but hard as rocks. I could feel my heart beat inside them even while sitting. I tried to do my leg exercises on the plane, but being in the middle seat with an obese person sitting next to me and using some of my own seat (I will save you my rant on that), I had absolutely no room. I went to sleep that night and got up early to go run.

Usually when this happens to my legs, and yes I have tried compression on planes, and several brands (I am supposed to be called about a personalized medical pair, but its been two weeks now—they call YOU), I just work out, go for a run typically, and after about 20 minutes, I start experiencing a LOT of leg pain and pulsing feeling like my muscles are tearing apart, and if I can push through that, the swelling will diminish and I’m back to normal and can run normally after that. I have done this a few times before, every time with the same feeling and same result. This time felt a bit different. This time it felt like my muscles were being pulled apart more so than before, and were bleeding inside. I was with my friend Scott, doing a life in the day sort of thing and doing all the workouts. I mentioned I needed to stop, trying to massage my legs and let blood flow through them. I remember my right leg hurt a bunch and I was close to limping. My left leg was also in bad shape but not as bad. Since it was only a little under 3 miles, I don’t think it got the fluid out of my legs. Maybe it was the altitude, lack of oxygen, maybe it was the dehydration. There were so many things going on right at that time.

I did a few more workouts that morning before heading to a local gym where I foam rolled my right leg out. It was about 60% better after, but I then noticed my left leg was still in the same shape. My priority though was my right leg and I kept tending to it. Some rest that night, and I woke up with some residual swelling, but not nearly as bad as it had been the day prior. My legs were still super tight across the skin and muscles, but they were starting to jiggle again (for lack of a better word). I took a step out of bed and my left leg hurt, and hurt to touch. My pain overall still was not absent from the swelling and the feeling of my muscles being ripped the day before (I don’t think they tore, but that’s debatable, I’m just describing a feeling for the sake of this blog). I continued to workout and run. The beginning of runs would feel horrible and I would limp on my left side. But the longer I went and warmed up, the better it got. This was the case for every run afterwards, and was up until I got the MRI.

I decided to then do the FKT I had planned a few days after getting back from Colorado. 40 miles along the Military Ridge State Trail, solo. I started out in some pain, but it went away with the miles. I felt pretty good at the end in fact. The next morning I was only a little sore and the pain in my left leg was present, but not as it had been the previous weekend. I had scheduled a doctors appointment with my primary care office about the swelling by this point. I was worried about deep vein thrombosis, or DVT, a very real and scary danger involving leg swelling that can potentially kill you if there is a pulmonary embolism (PE). I was able to get a scan of my veins and an x-ray done to rule them out. Results came back negative. I was able to get an x-ray scheduled and done after S’mores 24, 53 more miles on the leg. I had played a soccer game the week before, and some of the push offs from the left leg felt real bad. I decided to rest it at that point. The x-ray came back with a small thing that triggered something from the tech and told them to investigate. At this point I had been referred to a sports medicine doctor for their opinion. This is now late June and I had been active this whole time being told by 3 doctors so far “let pain be your guide”. I did this, but apparently this ended up being for the worst. I got in to see her in July. She said she doubted it was a stress fracture because of its location and my history I had given with my training of when the pain started. I did fail the hop test, as I did not even want to “hop” on one foot knowing it would hurt. I didn’t know what this meant at the time.

During this period of time, I had two professional massages, and they commented how tight it was and it felt like a knot to them. It did hurt when they massaged it and it was not better when I left. But it also wasn’t worse.

By the time the MRI was scheduled, insurance caught up, it was July 8th, and when asked by the lab tech where my pain was, I could no longer find it. I guessed since I knew it had turned into a spot of pain as the pain from the left calf subsided over the weeks. So from May 30th until July 9th, I was fairly to extremely active on the leg in question, only stopping a majority of activity after June 26th when I was told to just bike and not run. When I got the call about the results, biking was no longer an option.

Part of the reason it took so long was 1) insurance, and 2) progression of doctors trying to figure out what the pain was. I will say this though, I do not thing it was the increase in activity AFTER my days in Colorado in early June which would explain why it’s so severe (I had a huge increase in mileage and activity post Colorado including the 40 and 50 miler only two weeks apart), but it probably most certainly made it worse, despite my pain decreasing over this period of time, only being irritated during soccer games and the beginning of runs. My gut says that it started that weekend in Colorado, and because of the swelling I had.

The only mechanism that explains where it is, and don’t quote me because this is all new information and might be that my anatomy is bad, is a muscle pulling at the bone until it fractures. The purpose of the fibula is supporting muscles of the lower leg and ankle stability. I never turned my ankle, at least not within the last year. Ankle feels fine and has been fine. A trigger for a fracture is also weak calf muscles, I’m fairly confident my 16” calf is not weak and is well supported. My body was not fatigued either so it’s not like the fibula had to take any addition weight on. Unless it was too much weight when I did weights the few times leading up to the Colorado trip.

Could it have started during Cloudsplitter? I had major swelling post race, but my pain was limited to my torn tendon on my right (but who knows what 80+ miles compensating on my left leg to make up for the injured right leg would do?), and anterior shin pain on both legs evenly. I haven’t experienced any leg pain since Cloudsplitter. Not after Rocky, not after Blue Ridge. I felt so good physically going into May and my mileage dropped a lot then, so I wasn’t spiking in mileage or effort.

Whether it was cumulative or sudden, I don’t think I will ever know. I know that MRI’s don’t lie, and yes I felt pretty good physically when I went in for the MRI July 8th, hardly any pain I could even hunt down. It blows my mind that I am one step away from a broken leg. I’m glad I mostly started resting 12 days before the MRI, although I biked a few times (no pain at ALL), went for a hike and a few short walks (around half a mile) without pain, and played some dance games without pain as well. As I sit here, I have absolutely no pain left at all. Of course, I have been on crutches, so maybe that has changed? I feel baffled by the fact that I have that much internal swelling and I can’t feel anything.

I friend suggested that maybe my muscles are so strong that they are supporting my bone enough that I can’t feel it. I would believe that easily. I also remember I took a nice salt bath (also trying to figure out if that would help the pain go away) earlier in mid June, and letting my leg move in the water and feeling the site of pain back then. Since then, I have been cleared to swim as I wish, and have been. Yesterday, as of this blog, I swam with my legs, and felt nothing. I assume I was feeling the swelling from the fracture, and not the actual fracture since there aren’t nerve endings in bone.

Regardless, I have started to seek my own help, and asked for a therapist, 1) to help deal with this life changing event (going from very active, to hardly active at all for the sake of healing) and coping with the associated depression resulting from not doing anything and trying not to blame myself, and 2) how in the world will I deal with another winter, when I was not able to fully experience and enjoy summer in the best ways I know how? This makes me sad writing it out. I started writing this very blog post to help me cope and get my thoughts out instead of making countless social media posts that go nowhere but probably annoy people and think I’m complaining for the sake of complaining. However, there is quite a waiting list to be seen. I am trying not to get discouraged by this.

There is also quite a long wait for physical therapy of which my insurance does not want to cover (although they covered it for the torn tendon earlier in the year, it took from early November to early January to be seen). So I need to start educating myself on how to recover properly in case I am truly declined from PT. I found a useful medical journal article that details the study of recovery for patients who are active runners recovering from a tibia fracture. Although the tibia is the weight bearing bone in the leg, the recovery for that is much longer and involved, so I figure if I follow that protocol as described therein, then that should be a good enough plan for a fibial injury.

Where do I go from here? I of course have bailed out of Badger 100, which was supposed to be my 2nd 100, and I had goals of going sub 24 hours. I instead will be volunteering and doing my best to bring my best to those out there. August 7th is the date to look to right now, which is when I can start weight bearing again. I was told to wait for 6 weeks before running is attempted. Six weeks is August 21st.

It will be touch and go from week 4 on in my honest opinion. I oftentimes forget I am really broken, and walk away without my crutches like a normal person. I’m babying and limping on purpose, even though I do not have to. I am trying to be super careful. I have upped my calcium and Vitamin D intake to normal daily recommended values at least just in case that was a cause. I do wonder after recovering for a few weeks when I can put in effort like as in stairclimbing and other activities to build endurance and muscle. I still have so many questions, many that cannot be answered. I am still talking to doctors about my leg swelling, and will know more the more flights I take, but part of me doesn’t want to cause it on purpose just to show the doctors how bad it is.

Looking ahead, Cloudsplitter may be off the menu in any capacity, but I’m going to take it day by day, and build as strong of a body as I can with what I can do so I can jump back into training safely. If an ultra is off the table, then I have a few long distance triathlons that I can train for that happen in the winter (given they don’t sell out). I know I am hitting swimming hard, and can already do a half ironman swim under the time cut-off. Next step in recovery is biking, since it is not as weight bearing as running. Building these up and keeping my base cardio is important to me. Whether than ends in a triathlon, an ultra, or nothing at all and getting good enough to beast the Georgia Death Race for my birthday in March, I’m going to come back.