Fastpacker in a Runner’s World

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Recognizing our strengths and weaknesses is key to success in any endeavor, whether it’s work or play.  Learning how to overcome those weaknesses is also a very important part of growth.  I recognize I won’t ever run a sub 7:00 mile, much less be able to hold that pace for miles on end.  Kudos to those amazing creatures who can!  I recognize I won’t ever finish a trail ultra in the top half of the field.  That’s alright too!

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Thankfully I don’t do this for the medals!  

To overcome my weakness, I capitalize on both my desire and ability to climb.  Over the years, I have adopted a fastpacker’s mentality.  What is that you ask?  Climb steady (and as hard as you can), run the flats and the downhills and all the while maintain a pace that will carry you for many miles.  Sounds easy right?  I would venture to say most people can do this, as long as you take some time to adopt fitness and technique.  This article on I Run Far says it all.

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Fastpacking is used when you want to travel many miles in a day or over the course of several days.  You carry all your gear with you, in the lightest manner possible, in gear that allows for quick bursts of movement.  In coming articles, I will outline the gear I have gathered over the years.

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My favorite fastpack from 2017 was the Pemi Loop!  I don’t break speed records, but I am capable of maintaining movement.  That beast is 30 miles and nearly 10,000 feet of climb.  I did it in one day, but can’t wait to go back and do it in two, most likely with a stop at Owl’s Head thrown in!  Fastpacking gear is KEY to long adventures for those of us who aren’t elites.  We can all do these crazy climbs, some of us are just slower than others.  I like to think of it as being able to absorb more of the beauty!

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On Being Brief

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I talk.  A lot.  I’m italian… so basically I can’t help it.  It spills over to my blog, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it means my posts take me a long time to write because I have so much to say.  Starting now, I am shooting to shorten these up but perhaps add a few more!

What was awesome this week…

TEAM TAP 2018 BADGE

I became an Endurance Tap 2018 Ambassador!  Their Canadian Maple Syrup energy gel is ridiculously delicious and was a staple during my training this year.  It tastes amazing at mile 10 or mile 92.  I am giving away a limited number of free samples in the coming weeks.  If you want one, email me at spottedimages@gmail.com.  Matt and Pat, owners of Endurance Tap, are super cool dudes who have created a niche in the running fuel industry.  If you want to buy, use my code LIFTNRUN20 for 20% off your order! Check them out by clicking this link.

I’m running again…

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The Noxgear Tracer360 is AMAZING!  If you don’t have one and run the roads, get one ASAP!

Low miles, 3-4 days a week with a focus on getting my endurance bag and foot fall.  Calves are in pretty good shape, endurance is awful.  That’s alright, I am right where I expected with 30 days off.  I am building strength for playing in the snow (which apparently is showing up tonight!).

Busted out some new shoes this past week…

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A view of Stairs Mountain (on the left) and Mt. Washington (center) from Mt. Crawford

I got to finally put some miles on my Altra Lone Peak Neoshells (3.0) in the Whites!  This shoe is amazing, keeps my feet toasty warm with it’s Polartec lining and is like running on clouds.  I am so fortunate to have been part of the Altra Ambassador Team this year.  Having the backing of such a great company… from their shoes to their clothes… has made running so much fun!  Have you seen what’s in their shoe line-up lately?  I want them all 🙂

That’s it for now!

Pleasant surprise.

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There are some really wonderful things about winter.  This is a Mt. Major throwback from a few winters ago!

If you have been following along on the journey, you know I had been experiencing a fair amount of struggle coming back to running since Vermont.  The few things I was able to pinpoint included deep fatigue in my low legs and a strain leading to a left ankle issue.  I had soreness and pain on nearly every run since starting again in August.  I continued to run, pushing through the discomfort and waiting for that “switch” the body sometimes makes.  The “switch” never happened and I finally concluded I simply wasn’t healing from workouts in the same way I was this spring and summer leading up to Vermont.

Enter the four weeks of no running.

Mentally this is HARD, but physically needed.  I continued to lift in the gym, using caution when it came to work that could tax my calves (skipping things such as sled pushes).  I haven’t really backed off the gym work in about two years and consistently work hard two days a week.  I upped that to three days after Vermont and anticipate I will be going back to it soon.  That strength work and lack of running has put me about ten pounds heavier than the weight I raced at in July.  That being said, I am HEALTHY, STRONG and haven’t lost a tremendous amount of endurance.  My clothing still fits well, my stomach is flat and my quads and calves have put on a fair amount of muscle.  I am not going to blow smoke and tell you I eat clean all the time, because that would be a lie.  I believe in moderation and working hard enough to enjoy the things I love to eat (and drink).

This past week I started to ease in low impact cardio to test my legs.  Here is what that looked like:

Monday: 30 minutes on the Arc Trainer (fat burning mode) and 10 minutes on the stepmill.  I dripped all over that thing!  My calves felt good and didn’t squawk at all.

Tuesday:  HIIT session at the gym.  Ben called this “Level 5.”  I chose option 3, which went something like this:

  • 30 minutes of work after a 500m rower buy-in
  • 30 chinups (-5 each time), 5 bicep curls (+1 each time), 6 back fly (+2 each time), bosu ball – on one leg, throw lacrosse ball at the wall 5X each side
  • I made it through the list 4 times, for a total of 90 chin ups (half without band assist), 26 bicep curls w/ 20s, 36 back flys w/ 10s, and 40 bosu ball reps.
  • My lats were junk for days!

Wednesday:  30 minutes on the Arc Trainer and 12 minutes on the stepmill. I planned on doing 15 but got derailed by chatting with an old friend.  Happy calves!

Thursday:  This was a partner WOD at the gym.

  • Went through the list three times, 3 minute sets
  • #1: 3 Shuttle runs while partner squat holds
  • #2 Single Bear Complex (55 lbs. barbell) while partner jump squats
  • #3 24″ box jump x3 while partner does plank-to-squat reps
  • This workout felt GREAT

I later went home halfway through work because I felt a cold coming home.  Lots of sleep seemed to knock that out.

Saturday Fastpack:  I decided it was time to check in with my legs on Saturday and planned to meet Tony for some of his long run.  Pawtuckaway is a perfect place to fastpack and run and as an added bonus it’s quiet after summer.  I have to admit I didn’t give any thought to mileage, but figured I would get somewhere between 6-8 miles.  Tony needed 26 so the plan was to meet him somewhere along the way and fastpack North Mountain together.

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Heading into the woods!

We started at the same time, brightly decked out in orange to announce ourselves to the hunters.  My plan was to fastpack the trails and road to Round Pond where I would meet Tony.  I enjoyed just over 5 solo miles before we came together.  My legs felt strong and I was able to stride out, averaging 15-16 minute miles.  My ankle was perfect and my calves strong.

From Round Pond we headed towards North Mountain.  This is a very quiet part of the park and my favorite little peak.  I climbed strong, almost effortlessly for me, and ascended with my second fastest climb ever and lowest heart rate on that trail.  What a surprise!  I started to think while climbing that the deadlifts, weighted squats and other intense lower body work may be starting to pay dividends!

This fastpack ended up giving me 12.9 miles and I felt strong and content to the very end.  I also racked up 1900 ft. of gain, which honestly felt like nothing.  Today, as I sit here typing, I am pleased to report my calves feel great.  My shins are a little sore (normal for me when I haven’t done a lot of hiking) but all else checks out well.

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Post fastpack Pizza!  Yes, I sat in my truck inhaling this….

So the moral of the story this week is to trust the process.  In this case, I am trusting the rest and proper strength work.  Finally, I will leave you with a list… trying to get amped for winter!

Top Ten Things to Love About Winter

  • My chap stick doesn’t melt
  • Unpacking winter clothes is like shopping… it’s all new again!
  • Bright colored layers
  • The peace of running during snowfall
  • Altra Lone Peak Neo Shells!
  • Headlamp runs
  • Warm drinks after cold winter runs
  • Hiking the mountains on snowshoes with friends
  • Having the trails to ourselves
  • Buying winter gear and calling it a “Christmas present” or “birthday present” to myself… for months 🙂 

 

Be Happy

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When was the last time you sat back and thought “I’m really happy”?

It is my belief we allow life to sort of ramble on, sometimes as speeds so fast we can’t remember what you ate yesterday, much less what projects we worked on.  Oftentimes, when we find ourselves exhausted, it’s because we haven’t stopped long enough in a days to reset our brain and take a deep breath.  While the entire human species is guilty of this, I feel women tend to hit that point of exhaustion without warning a bit more often.  Why, you ask?

Women are professional multitaskers.  Or so we think… Studies have shown over and over that we can only focus on one task at a time.  Yeah, I know…. “But I multitask all the time.”  Sure.  I do too.  What ends up happening is I lose track of what I am working on and end up with things in various stages of completion.  When that happens, in comes the stress.  Studies have also shown this type of induced stress from multitasking can be bad for the brain.

All that being said, I have been taking the time to consider where MY stress comes from and what my level of happiness is on a daily basis.  Some days I have to dig deep to find peace in my work.  The same goes for the external forces of life.  The things that make me consistently happy are the people in my life who I adore, the animals who accept my unconditional love and the hobbies which enrich my brain and help me maintain my health and fitness.

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I am currently in a lull, where I have chosen rest over running, and I am using it productively to evaluate ways to enrich my life.  In the last ten days I have climbed back into the saddle again, spent time on the range teaching and catching up on those half-done projects that got left behind in a flurry of multitasking and training. I have also committed to seeking ways to simply my life and focusing on what is truly important.  Life is too damn short, I have to many miles to run and ride and I want to keep growing personally and professionally.

By reducing (I didn’t say I stopped!) the level of multitasking, I am easing up the pressure in my brain and making way for those feelings of happiness that comes with focusing on the things I love and CAN control.

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Find your happiness…

Decompressing….

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I just came back from a week of work travel followed by rest and relaxation up north.  During this past week, I got to thinking about a few things in particular.  The conclusion I came to was impacted by four things:

  1. Consulting with my coach and my PT as to how to proceed with this fall and early winter because…
  2. My calves haven’t wanted to heal despite the self care.  I have had calf tightness and cramping in the past.  I haven’t had to deal with it for a number of years, but something isn’t right with my body right now and I am blaming….
  3. Stress.   This is a road I have been down before.  Stress wreaks havoc on healing.  I bite off a lot professionally (and personally) and have no doubt I need a break right now from structure.
  4. Break time… I haven’t ever taken a self imposed running break and it’s time.  I’m ready.

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My coach and my PT have been absolute rocks through my training.  It’s because of them I tackled and accomplished a monster year.  It’s also because of them I am confident now is the right time to break, reset and move forward.  I am always 110% and suffer (like many runners) from FOMO – Fear of Missing Out.   The trails will always be there.  The mountains will always call.  Right now, I want to get healthy so I can tackle 2018 with strong legs and a smile.

I am committing to meal prepping, smart workouts that will enable me to maintain fitness but heal the parts that need time off and catch up with those I don’t see enough.  Training is a part time job… I am missing the people, the range and time to myself that isn’t structured.  I am positive this will bring me back stronger and eager in the New Year!  

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I said “nope” this week.

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Stopping to enjoy the fall sunshine!

If you know me (even if through this blog), you are aware my drive is something that generally doesn’t shut off.  This week… it came to a grinding halt.

There have been warning signs since September.  Signs I simply chose to ignore, blaming them on the fatigue of getting back into training.  Blaming it on rolling my ankle.  Blaming it on being mentally tired from work.

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Exploring new trails… it’s choose my own adventure time!

I am done with the blame game.  I have been able to get the workouts done, but I haven’t enjoyed a single one… not the way I was in May and June.  My body doesn’t want to recovery between sessions and that became a huge warning flag for me.  This week was an “easy” week and my calves were in 100% revolt mode.  I am not injured and I AM LISTENING to my body.  I had a huge year…. multiple marathon+ distances, 50 miles and 100 miles.  I’m physically tired right now.

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At one of my favorite places in the whole wide world! Lifting makes me so happy… even more so that I have Altra HIIT XT shoes to do it in 🙂

I need a break.

What that means is knowing what I can expect from myself in the coming months.  The 2018 season is already massive for me, with my own prep and A race plus pacing duties.  I need to roll into that healthy and strong.  Right now, I am just ready to hit reset, hike, run for fun and crew for races.  Crewing and pacing makes me so happy!  I decided to drop the Fells 50K from my schedule in December, opting to crew for Tony instead and cheer on the other racers.  Taking this break also means I can hang out in the gym more and work on crafting a social running boot camp activity once a week!

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Working races, crewing and pacing are a few of my favorite parts of this sport!

I love running so much and know that in order to do it long term, I need to slow down a bit!  I am grateful I chose to do it without pushing myself into injury.  I love the idea that this fall is “choose my own adventure” territory!  I hope the moral of this story for others is it’s ok to take a break… there is no shame in saying “nope.”

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Breaking 1000

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I finally did it.  After being a runner since 2012, I finally reached the goal of breaking 1000 miles!  My journey included weight loss, learning how to run, learning how to strength train and a lot of education (on my own and through others in the field).  I pulled my Strava data to get a picture of what each year looked like.  Here is the rundown, with a quick memory from each year.

2012 – 443.5 miles: This was my first year seriously trying to get into running.  This was a year of tremendous growth but also discouragement.  I realized my job (which at the time consisted of many 3rd shift hours) was impacting my ability to shed weight consistently and gain strength.  I had been working 3rd shift hours on and off for over twelve years at that time.  Despite all of that, I found TRAIL RUNNING that year.  Check out my recap post for that year, which includes many of the big dreams I had for myself!

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2013 – 638.1 miles: I clearly remember starting 2013 with illness and injury.  I had a hamstring strain from slipping on the ice early in the year followed by bronchitis, the croup and a rectus sheath hematoma.  The highlight though was finishing my first 25K at one of the muddiest Pineland courses to date.  That race sucked but I LOVED how it felt to finish. Hooked.

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2014 – 651.2 miles: This will be known as start of 18 months of ankle rehab.  I rolled my ankle HARD in the spring of 2014 on the Sweet Trail and wound up in a brace with a high ankle strain and a pre-stress fracture (bone inflammation).  I was crushed, as I was hoping to break into the 50K distance that spring at Pineland.  I was cleared to run the week before the race and needless to say did not make it to the starting line. I went on to trail run, hike and roll my ankle two more times that year.  The highlight of that year was my solo on Isolation.  I hiked when I could, ran more than I should have and finally figured out that I had to STOP running and start strength training and rehab late that year.  I started at Athletic Instinct (then Progressive Training) with Ben in October 2014 and haven’t looked back.  He introduced me the concept of “functional fitness” and being strong for every day life.  I began working out twice a week by and that has remained a staple in my training.  Ben was the best thing that happened to my running (and ironically he is not a fan of running!).

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2015 – 394.8 miles: I spent much of 2015 rehabbing in the gym and hiking.  Many of the miles listed here were done in the Whites as I didn’t really start running again until that November.  I did a ton of solo and group hiking, to include an overnight at the Galehead hut.  I found happiness in the mountains when I couldn’t run the way I wanted to!  I also committed to strength training, discovered acupuncture and came back slowly using heart rate training.

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2016 – 956.4 miles:  This was a huge turning point for me!  I trained from November-May and completed my first 50K at Pineland.  I followed this up with pacing 30 miles of Vermont for Tony and stayed healthy all year.  I had some failures too (bailed Pemi attempt) that kept my perspective where I needed to it to be to stay injury free.  I made a decision to go big in 2017 with both a 50 miler and a 100 miler. What was I thinking???? When I look back at it now, I KNOW how insane that idea was at the time.  A shout out to all who believed in me and Altra for taking a chance on this very “average” runner! Choosing a coach was the right move for setting the stage for 2017.

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Breaking 1000 is just as special as my first trail race, my first ultra and that first 100 miler.  It symbolizes how hard I have fought to get here and SO many memories built along the way.  It’s never been about the running, but rather the epic experiences that are possible nearly every time you hit the trail!  Thanks again for following along and reliving the years with me.

 

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