More summer training adventures

Training lately has been going well. I’ve had some quality training sessions on the track and off the track, in multiple states even. And, best of all, I’ve been feeling great.

I think that it’s all in the small details; I drink more water during the day (since moving desks to the office instead of being in the lab), I eat incredibly well thanks to my fantastic spouse, I run consistently 6 days a week, and I feel rested. I even took a nap three days in a row last week. Who does that? Well, professional runners, of course. I am by no means a pro, but I do feel exceptional when I am getting the right balance of intensity and recovery. Did I mention I eat incredibly well?

Backing up a few weeks, Baberaham and I traveled up north over the 4th of July weekend to spend some quality time on trails in the Keweenaw. We hit up the Tech Trails right away, and I hammered out 8 fantastic, fast, and flow-y miles on some of the best single track in the Midwest.

Then it was off to the shores of Eagle River, where we enjoyed one of many perfect sunsets on the sandy beach. We camped, drank whiskey, and caught up with friends we haven’t seen in years. Literally. It was fantastic.

On the 4th, we headed all the way up north to the northernmost town of Michigan, Copper Harbor. The IMBA Epic certified, Silver level Ride center that absolutely does not disappoint. I don’t think I could ever get enough of these trails; well, minus the biting flies, of course. But the flow and the climbs and the descents are just so fantastic, and the views are breathtaking. Seriously:

Photo by Hansi Johnson

After a day full of running (me) and riding (B), we went back to Eagle River for some smoked meats and campfire, but made the better decision to head back to town and stay with our friend, Tim, in “town.” We enjoyed a comfortable pull out couch and slept, a lot. Well, I did. B got up and biked more, and I took a rest day. It did get pretty hot, so I was glad I made the decision.

B made a fun, Game-of-Thrones-ian dinner at our friends’ house, and we we slept like rocks again at Tim’s. On our last full day in the Keweenaw, I got a big breakfast in my belly and headed out to tackle my favorite of workouts: Ripleys.

Mont Ripley is the ski hill in Hancock owned by the University (Michigan Tech), and it makes for a great summer/fall training ground. In college, my teammates and I would tackle the “long” route (mostly under the tutelage of our first coach, Gary) and the guts (under the tutelage of our second coach, Joe). The good thing about the long route, you usually only had to do one. The good thing about the guts, they were over in 3 minutes. Either way, though, they were pain, suffering, and shear VO2-max-inducing awesomesauce. It was hot again, and humid, and I haven’t been doing much in the world of hill work in Saint Louis, so I started out by aiming for getting through three guts. After 2, I decided to take a “break” and hike the long route to the chair lift at the top, so I could take some photos and get oxygen to my brain.

Check out more of these on my Instagram

We spent our last night at The Fitz, which is quite possibly my favorite place on Earth, and had a delicious meal with fantastic whiskey and amazing friends. I am ever grateful for having Mike and Marc in my life. I worked at The Fitz as an undergrad, when Mike and Marc were just out of high school and Mike’s parents owned the place. Now, these guys run the show, and it just keeps getting better and better. We had our one-final-amazing sunset on Lake Superior as we sat at the bar, Marc pouring us the perfect pours of Stagg and Ardbeg and Pulteney…

And when we woke up in our comfortable queen size bed with the sound of waves crashing against the beach outside, we packed up our things and rolled out of town. We were just as sad as the weather to be leaving, but it was time to head back to the real world. Fortunately, the Keweenaw will be there when we are ready to escape next time.

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Race Face: June Racing Recaps #findingmyfast

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve blogged, and I’ve raced a few races. In fact, I’ve raced THREE! Ah, sorry for not giving each their own post, but they were short and I haven’t quite figured out how to indulge literarily (is that a word?) on running events that take less time to run than it does to write a post about them.

So, on with it.

I sort of did a reverse-distance race plan for the month of June, in which I ran a 10K, followed a week later by a 5K, which was followed two weeks later by a 1 mile race. I have really been digging the idea of just jumping into races, and fortunately, the Saint Louis area has a ton of races. The weekend I did the 10K, there were over a dozen running events in a 50mile radius. But, I chose the Route 66 10K because it was the Central Region RRCA Championships, and I wanted to see how fast I could run a 10K with the training I had been putting in.

So, first race on the list: Route 66 10K. Obviously, I am not a pro at racing 10Ks. I have only ever run four in my life, including the one I raced earlier this month at the Midwest Champs. This race distance takes practice to dial in, and I think that the 10K is one of the toughest events (that, and the 800m on the track). So, you won’t be surprised when I tell you that I didn’t race it well. I definitely, without a doubt, went out too fast. When my watch said 6:08 at the 1mi mark, and I was shooting for 6:45s, I panicked a little. I let off the gas, and rolled through mile 2 with a 6:35. Ok, a little slower, that’s good. But then my time kept rising. Mile 3 = 6:45. Mile 4 = 6:55. Mile 5 = 7:20. Eeek. I just pulled myself together to cross the line. Good way to get the first race of the year out of my legs.

10k

Moving on to the second race on my list: The Go! St Louis All-American 5K. This one is self-proclaimed to be the fastest 5K in STL. And it was; net downhill, point-to-point, perfect time of year (mid June), and lots of fast people. Holy, crap. We’re talking Saint Louis University’s 10K record holder, Hillary Orf, and Olympic Marathon Trials qualifier, Julie Lossos. Fast women. I was more excited about this race;  I LOVE 5Ks, they are quick and relatively painless. Plus, I needed redemption.

I settled into the start line two or three rows back, knowing full well that lots of people would sprint out of the gate. I didn’t want to do that, but I did want to get into a good position. After the gun went off, I settled into pace after the shuffling of people in front of me toned down about 100meters in. I cruised through mile 1 feeling great, and looked at my watch. 5:55. Ok, well… that’s a little fast, considering I was shooting for a 19:45. Whatever, roll with it. Use the middle mile as a relaxed-but-tactical mile. I pushed a little on the ups, but not too hard, and I used the downhills to my advantage. Mile 2 was a solid 6:30. That felt like a 6:3o. I picked it up a little, pushed a little harder. Mile 3 was 6:25. Fantastic, I think that’s the first time in my life that the third mile was faster than the middle mile. The course, with its net negative elevation gain, did have a few blips of uphills, including three teeny ones in the last mile, but I felt strong and finished in as much of a sprint I could muster, with a time of 19:36, good for 11th woman and 3rd in my age group.

In between the 5K and the mile, I headed to visit my parents’ in Michigan. Unfortunately, my mom was admitted to the hospital for side pains the Sunday after the 5K, which – after a CT scan – led to the diagnosis of pulmonary clots… so for a week, I learned more than I thought I could about what it truly means to be strong, and to be patient. By the end of the week, she was released from the hospital on strict orders, and while I would have loved to spend time with my mom on better terms, I was reminded once again of the love and caring family I have. While she’s not out of the woods yet (she’ll need to go to the clinic at least once a week to get blood levels checked for the next six months), she is feeling better, and at home, and is also making progress on her physical therapy (she had her rotator cuff repaired 6wks ago, too). I love you, Mom!

OK! Finally, the third race on my list, the Macklind Avenue Mile. I’ve lived in Saint Louis for nearly three years now, and I’ve volunteered at this event for the last two years. It is so much fun; loads of spectators and racers, and tons of enthusiasm all around. This year, I decided to follow through with my new mantra, to find my fast, and decided to race it. I had no idea how fast I would go, since I haven’t run a mile since high school. High school! That was 12 years ago. Seriously, that’s a long time. And I don’t honestly remember what my fastest time was. I think it was 5:45. I think. Have no idea. I think that I ran a low 5 in the 1500 in college, which probably translated to roughly a 5:30 mile, but that was on a track when I was training for short stuff. Anyway, back to what I said: I had no idea what I’d do.

So I signed up for the Macklind Mile as soon as I got home from the All American 5K. The MM is really unique; the races are segregated into a “community” event, which is for those who are looking to race with their family or dogs or whatever. Then, there is a “competitive men’s” and “competitive women’s” race, followed by an “elite” race (top 10 fastest seeds from men and women are eligible). I chatted with some friends before the race, and warmed up a bit, but was not sure how quick my legs would be.

The open (competitive) women’s race was after the men’s, and I lined up in front next to a few youngin’s and some older women that I recognized from other races and group runs. The first part of the race is a steep downhill, followed by a small climb, and the last half is all downhill. I tried to not go out too fast in the first quarter but I didn’t want to lose contact with the front. Through the 400, I was at 1:20, which was about right given the downhill and my recent paces on the track. I settled in a little, and floated through the half at 2:43. I was surprised to see at this point that I was next in line behind the leader, Heidi, who crushed me in the 5K two weeks before (she ran a mid-18). I could hear a small pack behind me, and felt another girl inch her way alongside me. She got ahead of me, and around the 3/4mi mark, I realized I could be running faster.

Photo taken by Brent Newman

So I did. I pushed, positioned myself back in 2nd, and crossed the line behind Heidi in 5:22, 2nd open woman. It’s rare for me to finish in the top three overall. In fact, I don’t know that I ever have in a road race, regardless of the distance. The pessimist in me says, “well, the elite women were in a different race, so you really finished 8th.” But, really, I am proud of this race and how I did, and proud to have pushed at the finish and cross the line in second place.

Photo by Brent Newman

Thanks to Big River Running Company for being a part of two of the three events I raced in June; these were fantastic. BRR puts on exceptional events; they are well organized, well orchestrated, and I always enjoy them. The Macklind Mile is truly a unique event, and Saint Louis has such an amazing running community- thanks in part to the crew at Big River. I went to their weekly run from the South City store right after moving to this city; it was the first exposure I had to the St Louis running community, and it’s truly a great one. I am so glad to be back into and focusing more in the sport, and it’s events like the ones I raced in June that help reinforce why I love running, and racing, so much.

How to write your own training plan #marathon #training #racing #running

Everything that’s in this post is based on what I’ve learned over the last decade either by those who have coached me (i.e., collegiate endurance sports), what I’ve learned from teammates, what I’ve learned from graduate-level exercise science courses, and what I’ve read out of books. I was an assistant coach for my collegiate XC and track team during graduate school, and I followed the “training bible” of Jack Daniels, PhD, closely under the tutelage of the teams’ coaches. I do think that, over the years, I’ve learned quite a lot about endurance training and running in general, and yet my strategies for marathon and endurance-training are ever-evolving; that being said, after much exploring, I have honed in an ideology of training that really synchronizes with my physiology (and psychology) and I’ve clung to it. Every time I’ve trained for a marathon (all eight), I’ve done so by coaching myself.

Obviously, like I said, I was coached in college, but I didn’t run marathons competitively (or at all) in college. I had my first running coach when I was in middle school, with whom I maintained a strong coach/athlete relationship throughout my high school years, and also consistently had a running/endurance coach throughout my collegiate career (two coaches, actually). In graduate school, I no longer had any sort of official coach to guide my workouts each day, but I (thankfully) paid attention during my coached years and learned “the pattern,” and therefore was able to maintain more-or-less of the approach I was exposed to during my “developing” years: run more, run often, and mix it up with varying levels of intensity. And, because I was coached by numerous different coaches with different styles and approaches, I was able to identify what training methodologies worked for me, and what methods led to burnout.

Here’s the basics on how to set up and design your own training plan (or, how to pilfer it from somewhere else):

  1. Do your research. Not every plan will work for every person, that’s why there are so many books and plans and coaches out there (in other words: If one thing worked for everyone, wouldn’t everyone do it?). We all have different lives, different priorities, different physiology, and different goals. For example, if you are a veteran marathoner wanting to train for a faster marathon, and you have been consistently running bigger mile weeks without injury for the past few years (we’re talking 50-80miles), then you may be able to successfully execute a marathon training plan with 60+ miles per week in training (but what you do during those 60+ miles will influence how fast you race). On the other hand, if you’re new to the distance and have never run more than a 40-mile week in your life, jumping into a high mileage plan without making any adjustments should be avoided as it will likely set you up for injury. The most important thing is knowing yourself and your limits, knowing the basic concepts behind the plan, and fine-tuning them for yourself.
  2. Find the right plan(s) for you. Like I said in #1, there are hundreds of books out there providing insight on how to train for a marathon. Finding the right one for you is tricky. The first thing to do is ask yourself: “Does this plan fit into my life, or can I make it fit?” If you work 50 hours a week, have three small children, and a spouse that also works full time, training 20-25 hours a week may be something you’re looking to avoid. However, if you know you can manage the training time required to get in 80 mile weeks, then by all means, set yourself up for higher volume (that is, if your body is ready for it). But just remember, running more does not always mean running faster. There is a threshold at which you will become more and more fit the more time you put into training, but once you get there, your performance can plateau.
  3. Find the pattern and follow it.  Setting long-term goals is important when setting up your own training plan. Cookie-cutter training plans taken from running websites or books are helpful for beginners and those interested in exploring other training options than they’ve tried in the past, but they are generic and are rarely designed specifically for you. What cookie-cutter plans do provide, however, is a skeleton schedule that is already ironed out and easy (well, easy enough) to follow. For example, a plan from Hal Higdon’s website details specifics for daily mileage, with every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday aiming for an easy run or off day, every Tuesday aiming for a “strength” day, every Thursday aiming for a “tempo” day, and every Sunday being a longer run. That schedule skeleton establishes a pattern that is easy to remember, once you get through a few weeks of it, and the pattern eventually becomes routine. Sure, the strength and tempo days are usually different; you may need to find a hill to run up or a track to run on, but it is more or less a consistent pattern that takes the stress out of figuring out your daily workouts. In general, most plans follow this type of schedule; oscillating between low and high training days (low being rest/recovery and high being intensity/duration). We need the rest in order to excel at the intensity days. This is called microcycle periodization, where – within a short duration of time, say a week – your body is stressed at different levels and allowed to recover and make gains. Periodization also occurs at the meso- and macro-scale, too, where training adaptations are targeted to monthly or quarterly cycles, respectively. Mesocycles are typically designated as “preparation” and “competition” phases, but can also be designated as different phases (strength-building, speed-building, skill-building, etc.) depending on the goals of the plan.
  4. Build up slowly and, when in doubt, rest is (usually) best. Taking on a new training plan is a stress to your body in and of itself. There are times when the stress is good, where it builds fitness and strength. But if the new training plan deviates substantially to what you’re used to doing in training (e.g., dramatic increase in mileage), easing into it is a good idea. Avoid dramatic increases in mileage quickly; many physiologists and coaches recommend no more than 10% increases in total training volume per micro- or mesocycle when building up to a volume that you either haven’t seen in a while or have never seen in your life. There’s a balance between feeling sore and stiff because you just ran 20x400s at 5K pace for the first time in ever, and then there’s teetering on the edge of getting injured. Knowing this limit is also one of those magic questions that only you can likely answer. So be honest with yourself, don’t be arrogant and bullheaded. Regardless of who I was coached by, the most important thing I learned during my coached years was that there is strength in consistency, and that I had to absorb the rest days just as much as the big training days. And, what I continue to learn is that, when I was 20 years old, it was a lot easier to recover from a big training day than it is now that I am 30.
  5. Adapt or get left behind. What cookie-cutter plans lack is specificity, and a lack of specificity can leave veteran and advanced runners in the dust. In order to get faster, stronger, better, we need to adapt, and if we always run the same thing every week, we aren’t going to adapt. So, although out-of-the-book plans are … ok … for beginner/first-timers, as veteran runners, we need to put a little more thought into how we are going to adapt our training plans in order to adapt our bodies. This may mean we go on longer runs, or we incorporate more repeats on strength days, or faster repeats, or less rest between repeats; maybe we increase our consumption of hill repeats, or we incorporate two-a-day runs, or we add a few mornings of weight training or plyometrics. Some believe that, in order to make fitness gains, you should simply run more miles. Obviously, there are limits to this, and it takes some figuring out on your own behalf to know how far is far enough, and how far will lead to injuries and lost speed. In the simplest terms, designing a training plan is a game of balancing residuals: extra miles can lead to gains in fitness, but too many miles can lead to injury and fatigue. Getting to know how to optimally train is the magic question, right?
  6. Don’t be afraid of mixing it up. Swap cross-training (maybe a bike ride?) for one of your easy runs (with the 1.3hr bike time for 1-hr run trade); learn how to swim or aqua-jog and swap that out for a run to keep the heart rate up without building on accumulation of high impact from running; run on gravel or trails whenever possible instead of roads/sidewalks. Easy runs don’t have to be time, or mapped out (if you are “supposed to do six miles,” try just running for an hour instead of mapping out the miles and stressing about getting a nice round 6.0 on the GPS). Most importantly, RELAX. It’s not baking at altitude; you don’t need to follow everything by the half-teaspoon measurement. I feel like Ron Burgundy (I have many (leather/paper-bound) books), but the truth is, I love to learn about training and exercise science. Some books are better than others, but there’s always at least little gem or two that can be pulled from the pages of books written by “the experts.” But my favorite, and perhaps most adventurous, thing about having multiple books on different training methodologies? Designing my own in my little training/racing melting pot. True, some training methodologies are complete 180s of other training methodologies, and perhaps my library fits more under the “scientifically proven” category (again, I am a big fan of Jack Daniels). But, finding the connections between different strategies and racing theories is almost like a game to me, putting together my own story (or literature review, for the academic geeks out there) in order to make sense of it all. If that’s not for you, don’t worry… Most of the books out there reference other books in the long line of endurance training literature, so the authors, in a way, do that work for you.

What training plan(s) do you use? Do you design your own, or rely on a coach for guidance? In your opinion, what is the biggest unknown in the realm of endurance training strategies that you wish you had the answer to?

Staying on Track: Update

This week, I logged my first official track workout in a series of speed sessions, all by myself on the St Louis Uni track. It. was. fantastic. Technically, I wasn’t alone. I showed up to the track on Wednesday night, and it was a happenin’ place, with nearly 30 kids and their parents bustling around. Six-yr-olds practicing 4×100 relays. They were better at hand-offs than some college relay teams I know. It was cool to watch as I ran lap after lap.

The workout: hammer out 12x400s with 400 rest, shooting for my 5K race pace. Truth be told, I actually broke it down a bit faster. I tried reigning it in, but no matter how much I felt I slowed down, I ran faster. When I run a big block of repeats on the track, I try breaking it down into sets so A) I don’t lose track and B) I don’t get bored/overwhelmed. For Wednesday’s workout, I broke it down into groups of 4:

First set: 1:29, 1:26, 1:26, 1:23
Thoughts: Ok, these were a little fast (the last one 10sec faster than my goal pace) so try not to implode on the next set. Stay relaxed, you have real estate to slow down a little.

Second set: 1:23, 1:22, 1:24, 1:22
Thoughts: Seriously, slow down. The last set is going to be painful.

Third set: 1:20, 1:21, 1:21, 1:19
Thoughts: Ok, well then, don’t listen. The final 400, #12, was a “might-as-well-see-how-fast-you-can-go” with the last 100 a sprint, but I never felt … tired. It was great. Very confidence boosting.

Next up, I have a 5K in mid-June (All American 5K) and I may or may not jump into a 10K in Edwardsville the weekend before. Did I mention that I’m signed up for the Fox Cities Marathon in September?

Speaking of marathons, and 12×400 repeats on the track at 5K race pace, I recently updated my marathon training library with Luke Humphrey’s new book:

 photo IMG_20130601_090853_608_zpsdc0d2875.jpgThis book was super appealing to me for two reasons: I am a big Hansons Brooks fanatic, and the methodologies aren’t too crazy off-the-wall compared to what I’m familiar with. While the 18wk plan (advanced) that I’m following just started last week, and I missed a few 6-milers because of travel to NY, I am feeling confident and focusing on being consistent and running nearly every day. That being said, yesterday’s 6-miler turned into only 2, because 10minutes into my run, the tornado warning sirens went off.

To me, the interesting thing about the Hanson’s method for marathon training, compared to other plans out there that millions of people follow (Galloway, Higdon), is the lack of mega-long runs and incorporation of consistently maintained physiological stress during the week; If I follow the Hanson’s Advanced marathon training plan as it is written to a T, I won’t run anything longer than 16 miles.  When training for a marathon, a lot of runners find this blasphemous. But truthfully, when I look at my week of training midway through the plan, I get a little excited. It reminds me a lot of training in college, under a modified Jack Daniels plan, that incorporates speed, tempo (what we referred to as Lactate Threshold, or LT), and a longer run with consistency and speed. I won’t necessarily have high volume weeks because it’s not practical for me right now (the highest mileage week I have planned is 63 miles), but I will have high physiological stress and cumulative fatigue.

In the past, I’ve cobbled together my own plans in the past based on insight from highly successful coaches (including Pfitzinger’s, Daniels’s, etc.), which follow similar methodologies and likely guided the Hansons in developing their own marathon method. Jack Daniels, an expert exercise physiologist and running coach, literally wrote the book on endurance run training (and also shifted my endurance training mentality during my junior year of college, when our cross-country team welcomed a new coach who followed his methodologies to a T).  What I didn’t embrace before, but is clear after reading the well-written book by Humphrey and reflecting on things here and there that I overlooked in my marathon training over the past five years, is that Daniels’s running methods specifically instruct runners, regardless of their goal race distance, to not incorporate long runs >25-30% of their weekly volume. Even still, I admit that in the past, I ignored this advice in order to just get that “big long run” in on Sunday morning, even if my training during the week was inconsistent, because- well- that’s just what you do when training for a marathon. You gotta have a big, long run. Turns out, actually… you don’t. Oh, and just in case you didn’t know:
 photo daniels_zpsa51dcb1b.jpg

Of course, depending on my total weekly volume, the absolute duration  my long run is irrelevant (remember: it’s 25-30% of my weekly volume at most!); if I design a training plan with the highest volume week of say 100 miles, the longest run of the week would be more than 16 miles. But, 100 mile weeks for me right now are not practical, and I’d probably get injured.

My success and failures in marathoning thus far hinges on cumulative fatigue. Last year, I was ill-prepared for the St Louis Rock and Roll marathon and switched to the half… during the race… even though I ran several long, 3hr+ runs. But I lacked consistency, with typical weeks of training only consisting of 4 days of running per week, and I didn’t accumulate physiological stress to adapt and be faster for longer. The best marathon I’ve had I raced 5 weeks after my first Ironman triathlon, and the accumulation of training 20-30hr weeks with one stellar (albeit forced) taper during post-ironman recovery served as a fantastic tuning for a fast and – most importantly – fun marathon.

Stay tuned for a post about writing your own plan for your goal race while taking into consideration your physiology. It involves one of my favorite hobbies: Doing the research!

Winner Winner, Frickin’ I’m going to Tahoe @RagnarTrail @TheGearJunkie

This weekend, I was notified that I was a finalist for The Gear Junkie’s Ragnar Trail Relay Sweepstakes. I applied in April, after managing my training schedule and deciding that, yes, I was indeed all-in for a seriously fun year of training and racing and finding my fast again. I had the itch for some quality time on trails, and it was scratched by my trip to Zion for the first-ever Ragnar Trail Relay. When I noticed this sweepstakes on Gear Junkies’ website, I didn’t hesitate to apply.

Actually, I didn’t apply right away. I had this big grandiose plan to make a cool Vimeo video of running on trails with friends and stuff, like when my friend Margot came to St Louis to run 30 miles with me for my 30th birthday (which I still have yet to blog about) or when I ran around the Lunchloops in Grand Junction, Colorado, with my friend Erik until he ran me into the ground and I had to walk 2 miles back to his house. But, in both of those instances, I only took one single goddamned photo, and it was of a giant-ass snake, not anything to do with running… needless to say, I didn’t capture any magical moments on video.

So I resorted to pouring my heart out in a story for the Gear Junkies. It meant a lot to me, but I knew it was a long shot. Somehow, amazingly, it got me into the finalists’ round… and …

I am so thrilled, excited, pumped, ecstatic, … what else? Honored! The Gear Junkie guys (and gals) are a force to be reckoned with, and I get to race with them in all the Tahoe/Ragnar/Salomon glory. Special thank you to Salomon for sponsoring this sweepstakes and making Ragnar Trail events so fantastic (seriously, Josh and KO and the rest of the Salomon crew really know how to show up to an event), to Ragnar for the race entry and for putting on amazing events, and to Gear Junkie for picking me!

Staying on track

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I do well when I have a target in front of me. Two points to draw a line between; what does it take to get from where I am now to where I want to be? When I don’t have a race to train for, I kind of float around; train here, there, whenever I want- less so much more than more so. But when I set a target, a goal race, I can connect the dots between here and there, I can build my fitness and focus. True, I don’t always meet my goals, but I do find that without setting concrete goal, a deadline – if you will – I won’t even make that step. Maybe I’ll start to move in that direction, but it won’t take much to ping me off course.

Now that I’m getting back into the swing of training, which is to say, I’m actually running more than three times a week, it’s time to set some points in the distance to inch towards. So, I signed up for a marathon. The goal: to successfully run a speedy-ish race in less than 20 weeks. This will be my first marathon in nearly 3 years. That’s a lot of years.

But, I did this last year, see. And the year before. Last year, in May, I signed up for a marathon, and trained with stellar mediocrity throughout the summer. As the race date approached, I decided to split the difference based on my training effort and life effort and halved the distance, deciding that I’d just race a half marathon as I toed the line next to all these superfit and fast uber-athletes that toed the line with me. And, although my ego took a blow because there’s no way I could have maintained the pace I wanted to for the entire 26.2 miles (because I barely hung on to that pace for 13.1), I realized something: it was fun.

So much stinkin’ fun. Half marathons are fun. Racing for less than half the time and actually feeling good after crossing the line is a strange phenomenon. And it made me realize something: I want to feel good, have fun, and be fast. Is that possible? Can I do all three of those things?

I’m going to try it, at least. What have I got to lose? I’ve got the training plan ironed out, a track less than 2 miles from my door, and a fire burning in my belly. So long as I’m having fun, I think I’ll be able to stay the course.

Ragnar Trail Zion

This weekend, I was honored to be invited to race on a Ragnar Relay team with Nuun Hydration, a company I am proud to represent as an ambassador. Just a little shameless plug: Nuun is the best product for ultimate hydration. And since the Ragnar Relay this weekend was in the dry, dusty desert of Utah, it was in fact the best piece of pro I had at my disposal. This is my recap of the first-ever Ragnar Trail Relay, the Ragnar Trail Zion, which was held near Zion National Park at the Zion Ponderosa Ranch (of which the address is literally “5 miles down Twin Knolls Road”).

Going into the race, I was excited to experience something a bit different and off the main stream from the well-known company, Ragnar Relay, which was started by Tanner Bell and Dan Hill in Utah in 2004. The company has grown exponentially in both the number of events and its exposure over the last decade; there are now over a dozen road relays spread across North America (yes, one even takes place in Canada!). I appreciate their organization, team-mindedness, and enthusiasm for all things running. I have raced a handful of Ragnar Relays (four, to be exact), along with my wonderful womanly teammies of Team Mega Tough. We’ve utilized these races as a tool to reconnect over the years and across the distance; they serve as a reunion of sorts for a group of girls who ran cross-country and track together in college, and we’ve been joined by more awesome friends we’ve met between now and then. Now that we are no longer all in one place, but rather spread out all across the country (with members in Berkeley, CA; Baltimore, MD; Duluth, MN; Detroit, MI; Saint Louis, MO; etcetera…), we use running reunions of all different kinds to catch up. We’ve even used them as bachelorette parties, since running around Grand Island in Lake Superior is, at least to us, much more fun than partying with penis straws in Vegas. We have successfully, and sometimes less-successfully, crushed 200-ish miles as a regular 12-person team and even as a women-only ultra (which is 6-person), and we’ve always – no matter what – come out on the other side with fantastic memories, a closer bond, and a wonderful sense of just exactly what it means to be the best of friends.

I flew into Vegas two days before the race start, which gave me plenty of time to get settled and relax a bit. I stayed at Mandalay Bay with Mickey, a triathlete who lives in Miami (who rocks). After a good night sleep in big comfy beds, we ran a few errands and picked up Sean and Caitlin from the airport to head north to Zion. The drive was uneventful, but gorgeous, and we passed through Zion National Park during one of the last days of National Parks Week. Zion is amazingly gorgeous, and the route to Zion Ponderosa Ranch did not disappoint.

The drive from Vegas to Zion did not suck.

Once we arrived at the Ranch, just outside ZNP, we met up with Megan F., Dana, and Michelle. We then set up camp and had a hot meal at the lodge. It took a while, so we ended up heading back to camp afterward and hitting the hay.

“Race day” is kind of a weird thing to say for a Ragnar Relay, since your race doesn’t start until the afternoon sometime and usually lasts into the next day. For those not familiar, Ragnar Relays (road and trail both), and some other relays, are anywhere between 120-210 miles long, so they take a while no matter how fast you and your teammates may be. The faster your seed time, which is typically based on your road 10K race pace or a half marathon pace, if you’re racing an ultra, is what determines your start time. The faster your seed time, the later your start time. This way, all teams will finish within a few hours of each other, as opposed to the fastest teams crossing the finish line first. In fact, rarely if ever do the fastest teams actually complete the relay before anyone else, which I think is a really awesome aspect of the Ragnar Relay design: Whether you’re fast or not-so-fast, you are running the same course, at the same time, as everyone else.  I love the flow that staggered starts have, and it also influences the attitudes of racers, in my opinion, for the better. There’s less stress, less ego, less anxiety with a staggered start time, and its fun to be running with and around other people.

Nuun: Hydrating Ragnarians

Around lunch time, we picked up a runner to fill our 8th spot, thankfully. Mike, a member of the Ragnar Crew, wanted to race and we were excited to fill that spot. As an extra bonus, Mike is superfit, and also superfun, so we appreciated his offer to join our squad.

Runners taking off on their first, Green, loop.

Our start time was at 4pm, so we kept the Nuun jugs filled up (10 gallons each of Fruit Punch, Orange, and Lemon-Lime go fast in the desert heat) and cheered on the racers. Dana was our first leg, which meant she ran the Green loop; a 3.5mi bobby-pin shaped trail that reunited with the Yellow (a 4mi loop with biggest elevation gain) and Red (a 7.5mi loop) loops at the end. There were three trails in total; with a regular team, we each ran one of the trails one time. The order of the trails were: Green, Yellow, Red, and then back to Green, so we experienced the trails in the following order:

Dana: Green, Red, Yellow
Me: Yellow, Green, Red
Mike: Red, Yellow, Green
Mickey: Green, Red, Yellow
Caitlin: Yellow, Green, Red
Michelle: Red, Yellow, Green
Sean: Green, Red, Yellow
Megan F.: Yellow, Green, Red

Dana starting us off

Dana handed off to me, and I cruised through a mile or two of the Yellow loop before I took a wrong turn, unknowingly. Eventually, I made it back to the correct trail, after putting a log across the trail that I took but was not supposed to take, and reassured my teammates that I was still alive. As the sun began to set, the headlamps came out and the team clicked through their legs smoothly. I took a nap in the tent during Michelle’s run, and headed back down to the expo area to sit around the fire and watch “Unbreakable” on the big screen in front of the campfire.

Around the campfire, watching a movie. Photo by Megan Fay

My second leg took place in the dead of night, and it was a quick and dirty 3.5miles. The athletes were quiet, bundled up around the campfire, not a lot of energy, just a lot of quiet. The moon was bright and the signs were incredibly easy to see. My headlamp was almost too bright. With only 3.5 miles of trails, I felt like pushing myself an extra bit, and felt extra fast. There’s something about running under the stars that is simply exhilarating, and the adrenaline is pumping, too. Afterward, I made a concerted effort to sleep longer, so I wrapped myself in my sleeping bag and slept for a solid 4 hours straight. I think that’s a Ragnar record.

Once the sun started coming up, I headed back down to the athlete village to prep for my final leg of 7.5 miles. My college teammate, KO, was at the race as well working/racing for Salomon. Although her team, the Salomon Elite team, had a 7:30pm start time (more than 3hrs after ours), they were catching up to us, and we warmed up a bit together before our hand-off runners came in. That’s one of the really neat things about doing relay races, especially Ragnars. The start times are staggered so that everyone finishes around the same time (within a few hours), and then there’s a big party.

The third and final loop for me, the Red Loop, was beautiful and fairly flat, with a few false-flats. The sun had come up, I felt good, the altitude wasn’t affecting me too much, and I ski-walked where I needed to. And, knowing full well how the last half mile finished- since it was the same connector trail as the other two loops- I dug deep and pushed it to the finish. It didn’t take long for the rest of the team to roll out of their sleeping bags and head out on their final laps. In fact, Megan F. – who didn’t sleep the entire time, mind you – wrapped up her anchor leg swiftly in the heat of the day!

All in all, the race was a blast and the weekend was fantastic. The trail relays make for a great way to spend time on the trails with friends (new and old), and logistically, they are cake. You simply drive to the race site, set up a tent, and hang out until its time to run. There’s no driving from Point A to Point B; no worrying about driving at 3am. It’s more relaxing and less stressful, being out on trails as opposed to in “civilization.” That being said, there’s plenty of running, hot water (there were people who took a shower after each of their legs), real toilets, and even cabins for those who planned ahead. Of course, trails are typically slower, more technical, and more “adventurous” than roads, so if you aren’t a fan of trail running, Ragnar Trail Relays probably aren’t for you. That being said, if you’ve never done a trail race before, the loops are short enough to not overwhelm even beginners; when the going gets tough, the lap is almost over. There were tons of veteran trail runners out there, but there were even more newbies, people who came from sea level and have never ran a trail race before. Plus, Ragnar knows how to manage races well, and the centricity of the athlete basecamp made things a bit easier, too. I highly recommend these, and look forward to my next Mega Tough get-together at a Ragnar Trail Relay.  Until the next one…

Check out my teammies’ blog posts, too!

Run on. #bostonmarathon

The Boston Marathon is the pinnacle of American running. For practically any runner who has ever ran a marathon, it’s a life goal to make it to the start line.  Heck, it’s a life goal for tons of people that have never even run a 10K. It takes months, years, decades even, massive amounts of time spent training to trim down times in order to toe the line. And getting to the starting line isn’t everything; there’s the whole thing about running yet another grueling 26.2 miles on asphalt, your knees aching and lungs burning, up Heartbreak Hill and across the city of Boston, just to cross the same finish line as tens of thousands of people just like you- some faster, some slower.  It’s the same course every year, the same neighborhoods. Sometimes even the same spectators. Yet it draws the attention of all of us every year, whether we are runners, or not runners, if we’ve raced it before, or if we never will. It’s a race that is alluring, motivating, and inspirational for everyone.

The Boston Marathon has always been a lot more than just a race. It’s the months of diligent training. It’s the races that came before, the race that garnered a qualifying time and the many other races that didn’t. It’s the stories that were picked up along the way in training, in traveling, in life, that get you to the start line, those aspects of our lives that mean more than the race itself. Just starting, just toeing the line.

I have never raced the Boston Marathon. To be honest, it has always intimidated me. So many people, so much excitement. It’s just. So. Big. I suppose that I should have raced it by now; I have been fortunate to have run fast enough times and to have qualified with each of the five open marathons I’ve run. But even though I’ve qualified, when it comes time to register, I have just never even tried to sign up. When the time came, I just wasn’t ready, or I wasn’t excited, or I wanted to switch gears and focus on other things. For five years, I have always made excuses.

But now, everything is different. After the bombings on Monday, after worrying about my friends who were racing and spectating, after seeing the photos online of those injured and those crying. Watching the runners come down the finish chute, not to finish the race but rather to escape whatever exploded less than a block from the end. Watching runners and volunteers go backwards on the course, toward the blasts, towards those in need. Helping, or trying to help, anyway. Yesterday, there was little glory in finishing the biggest marathon in the world. For so many, there wasn’t even a finish line.

I set a goal back in 2008 to run a marathon in each of the fifty states by the time I am 50 years old, and planned to make sure that each one was a BQ. My ultimate goal? To run Boston as the final marathon- maybe not my final marathon ever, but rather the last in the series. Racing Boston would be the peak of this accomplishment, the culmination of what I hoped to accomplish over a period of 25 years. But now? I don’t know that I am going to stick with that goal; I don’t know that I want to.

What I want to do is race Boston now. I want to toe the line, I want to huddle next to other nervous runners just like me, waiting for the gun to go off. I want to stand next to my friends and strangers, the ones I trained with and the ones I met that morning. I want to shout “hiya hiya!” as the elites take off, and as I pass other runners, and as other runners pass me. I want to find my rhythm, maybe I even want to lose my rhythm. I want to feel the crunch of paper cups under my feet and hear the whirrrrr of crowds as I run by. I want to high five the cheering spectators lined up along East Main and Waverly Street, all while wearing a big grin on my face. I want to laugh at the cowbell ringers and people with awesome signs. I want to thank the volunteers for being out. I want to run as fast as I can when I turn onto Boylston, giving it my all, not holding back. Just raw, pure running, unhindered and unadulterated. What it’s supposed to be, and what it is to so many of us.

I want it, now.

The parallels of passions between science and sport

Coming back from the annual Orthopaedic Research Society meeting in San Antonio, which is what many- including myself- consider the “flagship” meeting for basic orthopaedic research scientists in the world, I am feeling a bit upbeat. It feels good, which is rare for post-docs (feeling good about oneself, that is). Er, maybe that is just me. Anyway, it’s been a bit of a challenge getting my feet under me these last two years as I peruse the post-doc requirements for success and substance moving towards a career as an aspiring academe. In fact, it took me a while to connect the dots between the parallels of my former life (i.e., endurance athlete) to my current one (i.e., academic scientist). Of course, I’ve had quite a bit of overlap; I didn’t start training for marathons until the latter end of my master’s degree, and triathlons didn’t enter the picture until the midpoint of my doctorate. I’ve been a runner my entire life- well before I officially declared myself a “scientist.” Truthfully, sport and science have always been in parallel for me, but it’s never really clicked that they overlap in so many ways.

Lab

OK, I get it, saying this out loud makes me quite the jock. But what do you expect? This blog is supposed to be focused on my athletic adventures. That’s why I started blogging in the first place, and it is definitely more exciting than talking about science all the time (right?).  My own blogacity (is that a word?) sort of “fell off the wagon” when I started my post-doc, mostly because I had a big internal struggle of whether or not I should even attempt continuing to compete at an amateur elite level. And when I realized I could no longer hang at the level I was at, I got frustrated and my competitiveness pushed me to throw in the towel all-together.  Let’s be honest; to continue competing on the level I wanted to would have required a lot of sacrifices that were a bit easier to handle in grad school, such as 25hr training weeks, travel to and from races, early mornings at the pool, etc.  In grad school, I had an incredible support crew, and perhaps a bit less pressure in the lab to “do more.” As I transitioned into being a post-doc, I experienced a ton of life changes, including moving to a new city and living by myself for the first time ever (and having a long-distance relationship). I debated between traveling to races and traveling to spend time with the ones I love. And I just, frankly, had a terrible time putting all my eggs in two completely different baskets; did I want to be a great athlete, or did I want to be a great scientist?

P1010246

Anyway, in the end I decided to step back from training as a competitive athlete and focused more on training to be a competitive scientist. Seriously, what does it mean to be a competitive scientist? For non-scientists out there, I’ll have you know that there are lots of things to consider, including the ability to obtain grants and the marketability of the research one does. It was almost unknown territory, except for one thing: there are lots of parallels between both paths. To be good at either sports or science, you have to be dedicated, you have to have passion, and you have to follow your dreams, as cliche as that sounds. There are many similarities between my former life as an aspiring athlete and my current life as an aspiring scientist, and here’s a few:

  • Do it because you love it: Elite athletes are competitive in nature, otherwise what are they doing at the elite level, right? I think scientists are, too- especially those with academia as their goal. It’s easy to get caught up in the competition; racing and training can take on a whole new feel if you’re only concerned about winning and not about the stuff in between. Research is the same way. Sometimes, we reflect more on whether or not we got the last grant or all that stuff our peers are doing better than we are. This may especially be true for women in both arenas, whether athletics or academics; we often look to others to find the pitfalls we have in ourselves instead of looking within to see what good stuff we can bring to the table. There are ups and downs, good days and bad, with both athletics and research. Not every day is the best day ever… actually, most days are far from that. Sometimes, the track work ends early because you aren’t hitting your goal 400meter times. Sometimes, you put the pipettor down and throw the samples back in the freezer because your experiment is a bust. But we need to take the bad with the good even on the worst of days if we want to deliver high quality results. It’s important to understand that even on the worst days, putting in our best effort is what it takes to be successful.
  • Find the right coach for you: I’ve had many great inspirational coaches in my athletic career. The most inspiring was, in high school, when I had a running coach that was like a third parent to me. He was dedicated and enthusiastic, caring and nurturing, while being tough with a “no whiners” attitude. He’d write reports for all his athletes after every cross-country race; we’d receive a card with our mile splits and notes on how to improve, what we did right, and where to focus our efforts in the coming week of training. He was honest and straightforward, but never mean or belittling. After all, we were teenage girls, and this 60yr-old man had us under his thumb. I had, and still have, a tremendous amount of respect for this man, and he helped shape me into the focused athlete I became. Everything he taught me, I carry with me to this day. It wasn’t just in sport, it was in life things, too. His mantra, “It will feel better when the pain goes away,” is relevant in so many aspects, not just when doing 20×400 repeats. In high school, my life revolved around decision-making based on running, and it was in part because of the respect he instilled in me. The same can be said about academia. Reflecting back to high school again, I had the most amazing math and physics teacher who would go above and beyond what was necessary to see that her students really understood. She also had a tough-love mentality, and she engrained in me so many things I still carry in my brain box today.  Who we choose to guide us can play a pivotal role in the outlook we have on our future, and this is particularly relevant to who we choose as mentors during our academic training. I’ve been very fortunate to have mentors who are excited about the work they do, who are supportive and encouraging but do not placate me with false ideas of what an academic career entails. I would say that not everyone in endurance sports needs a coach… but honestly, at some time in their life or another, every successful endurance athlete has had a coach- whether it was in high school or college or along the way. Having a mentor in academia, especially at the budding stages as a graduate student/post-doc, is critical (you can’t really get a degree or complete a post-doc without having some sort of mentor/mentee relationship), and while this relationship doesn’t have to be perfect to develop a successful career trajectory, it certainly helps to have someone on your side; Just like having a great coach encourages athletic success. As I grow, I hope to always have great mentors to look up to and pass along what they’ve taught me.
  • Stand behind your results: When it comes to the “A” race, the build and the taper are both crucial for successful execution on race day. The same can be said about presenting your research. You’ve invested all this time, collecting data, analyzing, writing, performing statistics; it’s all a lot of work on the back end, but when it comes time to presenting your work at a conference or submitting it for review to a journal, well- the work has been done. The hay is in the barn. It will either be a huge success, or it won’t, but there’s nothing you can change about it now. So stand behind the work you’ve done, be confident, but also be willing to accept that there is likely someone out there in the field that can push you to do better. Don’t throw yourself a pity party at the finish line; instead, rejoice in what you’ve accomplished but also take criticisms in stride, knowing that they will make you and the work you do better in the end.
  • It’s better to be a funnel than a sieve: When planning a race season, it’s important to focus on one major race, with a few smaller races along the way for “tune ups” to help hone your skills. Aside from my body’s lack of ability to stand up to more than 2 marathons a year, I’ve found that it’s just easier to be successful in the long-course races if I don’t spread myself too thin with too much racing. In research, I think it’s important to maintain this mindset and focus what we do in the lab with what we want to do every day. Staying focused in research is an important, and sometimes overlooked, way of being successful. While writing grants is a 1-in-10-if-you’re-lucky deal (meaning, just keep churning out grant applications until one hits), and as a researcher I have to keep pushing through fellowship applications, I try to keep sight of what I want to research in the long term, staying focused in one central theme (e.g. soft tissue biomechanics) so that I can establish myself as an expert in that area. Just like in running, where training for a 5K personal best doesn’t mean you’ll try to race a marathon the weekend before, being a well-established researcher means I need to hone my skills in one area instead of dabbling in a lot of off-topic areas.
  • You have to invest time into your training if you want to improve: Some people are naturals; they pick up sport right off the bat and hit the ground running. But for those of us who are mortals, we get better with the right type and amount of training. Some of us are better suited for 5Ks and others for marathons, and we need to understand where our strengths lie, address them from the start, and focus our training around our goals. Academia is no different. While there are geniuses in our midst, we can’t all be perfect from the start.  It takes training, and practice, and patience to perfect our skills and get better. I am no where near as good as I hope to one day be, but I know that if I give up and settle, I won’t improve. So I gotta keep plugging away.
  • It’s a marathon, not a sprint: I guess, in racing, this only applies if you really are training for a marathon, or an ironman, or whatever. But even still, the point is that you don’t want to blow up in the first 100 meters of a race by going like a bat out of hell off the start line. In research, especially for graduate students and post-docs, there is a susceptibility for burn-out from being over-ambitious in the first few years. I suppose this could be true for early-career faculty as well, but I can’t say for certain first hand. Working long hours is only worth it if you reap the benefits of it; if you’re hours are fruitless, or you find yourself working without purpose, then it’s a waste of time. By no means am I saying that you shouldn’t work hard; I would be lying if I told you that I didn’t work 60+hr weeks (even still) on occasion when the effort is required. When a grant is due or a paper needs to be submitted, you put in that extra effort to see that it gets done and it gets done well; there’s no room for half-assing in academia. That being said, knowing your limits not just for productivity but also just plain “will to work” is important, because it’s not at all difficult to lose sight of what’s important. And, just like in racing where it’s easy to go balls-out in the first quarter mile of the race, it’s even easier to start out at a steady pace and pick it up mid-way through. Find a groove and trudge along through the race, because it’s a long one.DSC_0007

S.H.ivering I.cy T.rail R.un: The sh*ttiest trail half marathon non-race I’ve ever done

Photo courtesy of HatePavement

I got an email from my Best Training Buddy, Emily, on Wednesday following a subliminal brain sync where we both were thinking “Hey, we should MAF soon” and “let’s go do fun things outside this weekend.” So, she invited me to a non-race put on by Rock Racing, which promised ice, cold, shitty conditions. Saturday morning was beautiful, but as I looked at the forecast for the evening, I got the feeling that the non-race gods were truly with us…

So Saturday afternoon, Emily and I, and my husband, drove to the Mound at Lost Valley. En route, we stopped by Chucks Boots in St Peters to check out their selection, and I definitely wasn’t able to decide on a pair… too many options. So we meandered over to LV around 4pm and were some of the first to arrive. Adam rolled out on his single speed to do the LV loop counter-clockwise, and get out before it got too dark on trails he wasn’t familiar with, and E and I loitered for a while before the group gathered and we took off.

A group of SHITRs, photo courtesy of Robin

A group of SHITRs, photo courtesy of Robin

The single track was a lot of fun, but it was also a lot of pain. At first, the adrenaline was flowing through my veins, both from getting on single track for the first time in a while, and also because of the dark (there’s just something so magical about running at night). I think it helped that it wasn’t raining too hard, and that there were lots of people around (and it was twilight) so I could still kinda see where I was going but also had fresh legs. Maybe the moonshine from the night before was helping, too. Anyway, the first section was nice and fast, not icy or too slick, and when we got to the two-track I was mid-way between Emily and the rear end of the chase pack. So I caught up to the guys in front, and chatted with them while Emily caught back up to me. It was good convo, and I got to catch my lungs and recover my legs a bit on even (sort of) terrain. As soon as we hit the second section of single track, everything changed. The newest portion of the single track at LV is only a few months old, and the guys we were running with didn’t even know it existed. It wasn’t quite erosion-resistant yet, and it wasn’t packed in like a 20yr-old trail would be, so I (and everyone else except Emily, seemingly) was sliding everywhere. She took off, after we found the mystery event (which, to my knowledge, neither of us reported. Do we get extra bonus points for that?).

This is me, getting scared shitless as I cross a creek on the singletrack. Photo courtesy of HatePavement

Around mile 9, or whatever (I really have no idea), there was a bit of switchbacking in the woods, and it was confusing whose lights belonged to people in front of me and behind me, and I had no idea how far away people were. And apparently I had no idea how far away the ground was, because I found myself running into the bushes and into holes and just being a general sloppy mess. I ran off the trail more than on it, and started to get really messy, both physically and mentally. Eventually, I decided my pants were too heavy from soaking up all the rain, and when I tried to pull them up my calves, they smeared like butter under my fingers and ripped across my shin. That was weird.

While I never got passed, Emily eventually got out of sight in front of me, and no one was in sight behind me. I was sure I was on the right path, but I also felt like I wasn’t moving and was just waiting for someone to come into view behind me. Nope. Was I lost? Hmm… why aren’t people catching up to me? We couldn’t possibly be that far apart… But we were, apparently, and I found myself on the two-track without anyone. Except the wind. Ohh, the wind. It was just me, and the wind, for what seemed like two miles, until I started seeing glowing sky which i was sure had to be close to the Mound.

It was a hard fought battle, but I finally made my way back to the Mound, grabbed a sticker and some KIND bars (from the awesomely amazing volunteers and coordinators who are seriously badass. They just waited in the sleet, 30mph winds and 30F for us all to finish. Seriously. Nutters.). I felt good, only because I didn’t make them wait too long for me, but that was really the only reason why I didn’t crawl into a hole sucking my thumb and asking for my mommy. I took my pants off in the parking lot (and all my wet clothes, mind you), and didn’t stop shaking until the Mexican food and coffee from La Azteca filled my belly. Oh right, I put clothes on before I went into the restaurant.

I will totally do that again. Of course, I will run on LV again … in the summer when its not raining and its not pitch black at 6pm… but next SHITR, wherever it might be, I am there to get my ass handed to me and feel a.o.k. about it.

Thanks to Rock Racing and the seriously awesome folks that thought it would be a good idea to do this. You’re all idiots, and I love you.