Pre-Ultra Thoughts

major

I find it amusing that the end of each Friday, someone at my office usually asks me if I am planning on running a mountain over the weekend…. It is also amusing that my boss has asked if I “plan on strapping on my snowshoes and running 75 miles this weekend.”  I have inadvertently gained the reputation for being that crazy ass chick who plummets off mountains for fun.  And I am totally ok with it!  The picture above was from a run up Mt. Major just last weekend.  Stunning winter day on the little mountain… exactly where I love to be.  It’s like a “reset” every time I get to drink in a summit.  I hope I never lose that feeling.  

The last few weeks have been about enjoying the “down” time and starting to get in the groove to train.  My officially training date is January 6th and that should get me ready for the Pineland 50K on Memorial Day Weekend.  If you have been following my blog, you know injuries and illness sidelined me from my first ultra in 2013.  That being said, I have a few apprehensions I am working through mentally… some of which will require time to see how it turns out.

1) Illness:  I was so sick last winter.  Sicker than I have been in my years on this earth.  Two nasty respiratory infections and a subsequent torn abdomen muscle were brutal.  I am so apprehensive about getting sick this year.  I am well aware I may get a cold or two, but it’s the respiratory issues that really frighten me.  They will end my training.  Healthy eating and supplementation is where I am going to rely on staying strong.  I started working with a new doctor in July and she has me on a few daily supplements I am hoping work out well.

2)  Injury: I still have PTSD from blowing out my right hamstring last January.  I was an idiot.  I had symptoms before it went and I completely ignored them like most runners who think they can just get through it.  MORONIC!  That being said, I rehabbed it cautiously and it gave me no trouble this year.  I still get nervous if I push my hammys too far.  I think that is just something I need to mentally work through.  I know my body so well now, I am getting good at recognizing bad pain vs. training pain.  I also believe this is also still a skill I will build on as ultra training progresses.

3)  Nutrition:  I don’t eat like shit most of the time.  I love fruits and veggies and try not to eat a ton of processed food.  That being said, I started the overhaul with eating for fuel in mind about a week ago.  I also incorporated Super Food’s Amazing Grass powder into my protein shake regimen and am logging all food intake on Training Peaks (thanks to my awesome pals!!!  They got me a 6 month subscription so I can feed my stat obsession).

4) Heart Rate Training:  I started using a heart rate monitor with my brandy new Garmin 310XT in October.  I am using a theory written about extensively by a guy called the Soc Doc.  Basically I need to keep my HR around 145 for the duration of my runs.  I won’t bore you, but the goal is to be able to run long on less effort.  I am finding that when I run alone I can maintain a very steady HR but when I run with friends, all I do is laugh and talk and it tends to get a little wild.  My “wild” end is getting lower, so time will tell.  I am committed to working with this theory as much as possible as I know many runners have had luck with it.

5) My marriage:  Ok, this is the only really heavy one.  I adore my husband.  He and I have been together almost eight years and friends for a total of almost 15.  While we get along so well and love being together, the running has been a struggle for us.  I tend to get a little… um…. obsessed (shhhh)… about it and he doesn’t understand the fascination.  It has been the source of many an argument, which we have worked through and grown from.  However, the level of training I am about to embark on will require me to work extra hard to continue keeping my MARRIAGE first not my RUNNING.  Agree or disagree with me, E. is the most important and it’s my job to balance it.  He has gotten more supportive over time and will even be coming to Pineland with us!  Growth… it’s all about our growth together.

So, training is a mere few weeks away!  I have started to incorporate snow runs and crossfit into my routine and intend on making core work a priority too!  Before, I go…. two more shots from the weekend:

yaks

My favorite winter gear!!!  I love my Salomon Speedcross 3 so much… especially paired with my Yaktrax for running!

sweet

Love me some trail….

Merry Christmas all!

Profound Experiences

View from Noon Peak

View from Noon Peak

Welcome to a view of my “Black Friday” experience.  While much of the country was battling lines in stores, getting into fist fights over bargains and exhibiting impressive displays of road rage, Tony and I went to the mountains.  I couldn’t think of a better place to spend this day.  Also bear in mind, this is the first time I have ever had a holiday weekend off during the course of my career.  It is something I will never take for granted at this point.  I made the most of my four day weekend!

I came to the realization sometime over this past year the most profound, meaningful experiences for ME are those I create… those I seek out… those that have a calming yet thrilling experience.  I don’t love to race the same way I love to climb.  Racing is a means to an end.  For me, it’s a way of gauging how far I have come.  And it’s just another way to spend time with my people.  While I have proclaimed my desire to run the Pineland 50K and the Vermont 50K, they pale in comparison to my desire to run the Pemi Loop or climb/run as many 4,000 footers as I can literally get my hands and feet on.   I am finally finding a way to live my life to it’s fullest and am taking as many steps as possible toward the simpler life (much more on this later!).

Before I run down our hike recap, I want to say how proud I am of my friend Nikki.  She ran her very first 5k on Thanksgiving Day!  We did the Northwood Recreation Turkey Trot at Northwood Meadows (where we train often).  Nikki has never been here, never run a race and has very limited trail experience.  She has undergone a personal transformation this year and I am so excited for her.  I ran the entire race with her, giving back for the people who have guided me and waited for me in the past.  After I paced for Tony at VT50 I developed a newfound appreciation for the people who help us reach our goals.  Being a pacer was an honor and I love to be able to put someone else first to get them to their goal.  Nikki did awesome at her first race.  She tackled the hills, had a one mile PR and a 3.1 mile PR to boot!  She finished two minutes faster than she had anticipated and was pumped.  I can’t wait to run with her again!

Finished!

Noon Peak and Jennings Peak Trip Report 

Tony and I chose a sub 4,000 footer for our Black Friday hike simply because the weather had been wet over the past week and we were unsure of both the ice and snow conditions farther north.  We ventured to Waterville Valley and picked up the Sandwich Mountain Trail for this hike.

SANDWICH

My truck said it was 18 degrees at the start of our hike.  My Garmin gave a temperature of 14 degrees when I uploaded the data.  Also known as cold.  And on a side note, I completely forgot to set my alarm so we started about an hour and a half later than anticipated.  Anyone who knows me knows I am late for nothing!  So, to wake up late was an total OH SHIT moment!  Regardless, we got it done with the daylight we had but didn’t have time to get all the way to Sandwich Mt. on this day.

We layered up, used our full sized hiking packs and decided on our Speed Cross 3 (Salomon mountain runners) and Yak Trax for essential gear.  There was plentiful sun and no wind.  Here is a little timeline of our hike between the parking lot and Noon Peak:

1) My left foot fell in the brook 500 feet from the car.  Holy crap was that brook cold!!!!  We finally figured out forging the rushing brook to the trail wasn’t going to work so we went towards the road to utilize a bridge. On our way down a nice, smooth path, Tony fell down.

Another sprained ankle?

Another sprained ankle?

Tony had a similar fall in Bear Brook this spring and messed up his ankle pretty good.  STUPID ANKLES!!!  I made him sit down (while I politely snickered this time, kept the full blown laugh in check) until we felt confident the worst had passed.  He suffered through the minor strain to make the hike happen.

2) Tony loses his sunglasses while bushwacking to the trail.  Some squirrel is enjoying those now.

The trail was gradual and easy climbing with little snow for a bit.

3) Camelbak hoses suck.  This one was totally my fault.  I always hike with my Ultimate Direction Bladder ziptied into my backpack (the attachment for the bladder is not compatible).  Because I was running so late, I just grabbed the Camelbak bladder and used that.  Well, a mile in I had not access to my water.  The UD bladder hose is insulated as is the bite valve.  I used it all last winter with no issues and never even THOUGHT it would be an issue.  STUPID.  Thankfully Tony carries multiple bottles so he became my “waterboy” and I used his bottles, filling as needed with the water in the bladder.  Stupid winter hiker novice mistake.

We got about 2 miles in and met another hiker coming from the opposite direction.  He was decked out in climbing gear and some serious winter gear.  We were ridiculously unprepared compared to this guy.  We stopped and chatted for a few minutes.  He told us he met some “blue ice” and “didn’t want to die alone.”  Hmmm… so, what do Tony and I do?  FORGE on of course.

4) Where I become a billy goat…. So, we did meet ice.  I learned quickly that I actually am a very agile climber.  Tony crapped his pants.  He referred to my “balls” more than once.  Here is the thing about the ice… there were tons of hand holds and small trees to use to for leverage.  The Yak Traxs actually worked quite nicely since this version has microspikes under the ball of the foot.  If we had to come back down the Sandwich Mountain Trail it would have definitely been on our asses.  I referred to that as “buttholing.”  You probably had to be there to understand.

So we made it to Noon Peak without any further incident.  It was breathtaking (See photo at the top of the blog).  I was pumped!

Jennings Peak looking towards the Tripyramids (bucket list hike)

Jennings Peak looking towards the Tripyramids (bucket list hike)

After pausing briefly we continued along the ridge.  I got to actually to run some of the ridge over to Jennings.  I LOVE running in the snow and was impressed that my full sized day pack was sturdy enough to allow me to run it without interference.  Once on Jennings Peak, it was time for lunch.  We picked an amazing slab of rock that literally dropped off into no where to sit and soak up the sun.  We had brought along hot coffee, Baileys and apple pie.  OH MY GOD.  Best hiking meal ever. 

Prepping lunch

Prepping lunch

SNACK TIME!

SNACK TIME!

This snack was heavenly.  I think Tony is still having food orgasms.

By the time we finished lunch it was 3 hours into our hike.  We made the decision to head back down since we were not interested in hiking back in the dark (had the lamps, but no need considering the temps).  Plus, we weren’t sure what the Drake’s Brook Trail was going to be like.  Luckily, this trail was AMAZING!  We were able to run most of the way down and descended in 40 minutes.

5) I ran like a wood nymph and Tony ran like Fat Albert.  I was so light on my feet while Tony lumbered on behind me.  His pack was not designed to run AND he might have still had a sprained ankle.  Meh…. it’s fine now.  We keep laughing about how he has turned into a Sally since his VT 50 miler.  Any chance I get to make fun of him…. I don’t know WHY he hangs out with me!

6) The brook runneth over.

brook

We could have bushwacked our way back to the bridge we originally used to get onto the trail or we could just forge this very cold brook.  We started to bushwack….. then I found a stick and we finally just gave up and crossed.  HOLY SHIT!  Yeah, I know I started with a frozen wet left foot, but the beauty of the Speeds and wool socks is they warm up and you don’t even notice the wet.  When you submerge yourself from your feet to your knees and then proceed to run to the car…. it’s painful and insane.  I got back to the car and literally started ripping my shoes and socks off.  Within minutes, my feet were fine and we were laughing again.  Kind of.  This was more shock and horror:

brookcross

Overall, we tackled 7.25 miles, 2100+ feet of elevation and ate lunch at 3850 ft.  Not a bad little hike.  We were out there for about 4.5 hours and lost about an hour bushwacking on either side of the hike.  Still a fabulous day in the mountains.  And that is the point.  It doesn’t matter how the day goes, if you are smiling at the end and bringing home good memories, the experience was completely worth it! 

This was probably our last winter hike, but no doubt we will tackle some smaller peaks between now and spring.  T-5 weeks until 50K training begins!  It’s all about the experience though……