Tuesday, February 25, 2014

The Simple Life?

One of my goals for this year was to live and run more simply. When I first started racing at 8 years old I ran in the only pair of running shoes I could find in my size, Nike Pegasus', and cotton shorts and t-shirt. I didn't even own a running watch for the first three marathons I ran, much less a GPS watch. And my high school coach never allowed us to wear headphones because he was always afraid someone wouldn't hear a car coming or we wouldn't notice something like the guy who followed us for a week. I grew up racing without fancy gear or gadgets and that's all I knew so that's what has carried into my running even today. Well that's what I thought as I started writing this...and then an Amazon box arrived and I began to look a bit more closely around the house and at my running routine.

When Dan started running a few years ago he was drawn to all the gear and gadgets. He has since given me several GPS watches, hand held running bottles and my first new pair of shoes in nearly 15 years. I couldn't believe how amazing the newer, lighter, lower drop style of shoes felt compared to my clunky, old trail runners. And I certainly have a love hate relationship with my GPS watch. It's been such a great tool for my running; however it's hard for me not to get disappointed when every run isn't a PR. I make it a point after a big race to run without any watch for at least a week...and its so freeing. 

Even while I added new gear to my collection I continued to believe that when I raced all it came down to was running. Last year as I planned out my Leadville run I tried not to get caught up in what gear I'd have in what drop bag. As long as I had my gel I'd be good. Sure I knew I needed to pick up my pack, trekking poles and headlamp, the headlamp being the most crucial piece, but I didn't obsess about which headlamp I had in which bag. My theory was focus on your running and that will get you to the finish.  I have learned from ultra running that a certain amount of preparation and gear planning is necessary, but it is honestly my least favorite part. It's interesting watching Dan and I prepare for the same race. He meticulously plans exactly which piece of gear will be in which drop bag, the precise amount of gel he will consume every hour, the exact pace he will maintain at every mile...and it will all be spelled out in an excel spreadsheet.

I think my plan of focusing on running has worked well for me. I know one of my biggest downfalls in racing ultras is my aid station time. I could probably cut down my aid station time if I planned them out a bit more, but I'm more worried that if I get too caught up in my gear I will completely fall apart the moment I don't have what I expect. My biggest obstacle is my own head and knowing myself I know I can't get too dependent on my gear. 

With that said...a quick walk through our house reveals no less than four piles of running shoes, a massive sized tote filled to the brim with various water bottles, another tote filled with packs, tape, charging devices, extra drop bags, headlamps, gaiters, gloves, hats, Buffs, watches, GPSs and jackets, a bag filled with more gaiters and microspikes, four drawers stuffed full of running gear, bulk containers of gel and electrolyte mix, a tote labeled "food" filled with various gels, s-tabs, energy chews, ginger chews, two different sized foam rollers in a corner, a foot roller and leg roller under the coffee table and our latest investment the Thumper, the box indicated its a sports percussion massage something or other and it is amazing on sore legs. This leads me to believe that my simple running lifestyle is maybe not so simple. I like to think when I go out for a run that I just throw on a pair of shoes, grab and water bottle and head out the door and while that is pretty much what I actually do it's not as simple a process as it sounds. I take into account the terrain I'll be running, trail conditions and length of the run when choosing shoes, screws, spikes and gaiters. I triple check weather conditions to determine which layers of clothes I need, which gloves, and a beanie or Buff. I've established such a routine that most of the time I make these decisions without even realizing what I'm doing.

I love the feeling of running with no strings...no watch, no phone, no music, nothing but the shoes on my feet and my handheld. That's when I feel like I'm running my strongest and having the most fun. Does all the gear we have make me a faster, stronger, better runner? I'm not sure. Better shoes have given me a better feel for the terrain, rollers have helped my legs heal faster, the assortment of food we've tried still hasn't helped my stomach issues and I have yet to find a water bottle that doesn't bruise my thumb after a few hours. The one thing I do know is no matter what fancy gadgets we continue to amass around the house the bottom line is it's me running. No amount of gear is going to do it for me, there's no miracle cure for injuries or stomach issues. I have to do the training, log the miles, work on nutrition. And I'm the one that's out there on race day. These things might make my body feel better while I'm out there, but it's still just my legs turning over across the trail and up each mountain.

Week February 10 - 16

Miles Running: 51.3
Hours Hiking and Running: 9.0

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Super Powers

This week was about so much more than miles. Sometimes life just happens that way. I was starting to stress about it, but I know I've got a lot of runs between now and Run Rabbit Run and regardless James comes first. I still managed a few miles including a quick run the morning of James' procedure.

This week everything seemed overshadowed by James' heart cath. In a heart cath there is no chest cracking, the surgeon goes up through the leg to explore the heart a bit more. It's pretty minor as far as heart surgeries go, but it's still anesthesia so I always worry a bit with that. Mostly though I was worried if they would even find the answers they were looking for. James did amazing! He recovered extremely well and we even got to go home that night. After the procedure we had to keep James flat on his back for 4 hours. If you've ever met that kid you'll know this takes extreme skill. 

A few weeks prior, completely out of the blue James refused to go to bed one night. He wasn't crying or yelling, just playing in his crib refusing to sleep. I finally picked him up to rock him down. Well it just so happened that this was the night the Grammy's were on and when I started to rock him Daft Punk had just started their performance. James just perked up and started dancing to some "Get Lucky". We ended up having the rewind the performance several times and promise James we would play the album on repeat the next day before he finally fell asleep. As luck would have it this wasn't just a coincidence. James takes after Uncle TJ and LOVES Daft Punk! Every time he would start to get fussy I would put them on and he would settle down. We'd play them in the house and he would just start swaying and dancing. Who knew, right? So the day of his cath I was prepared. Every time he started to fuss and wake up I played "Lose yourself to dance" and James would settle right down and go back to sleep. I can't even begin to imagine what the nurses thought of it. For nearly 4 hours we listened to that song on repeat.
it's the journey of your soul
daft punk

I often walk through life and feel as if everyone is staring at our family in a pity sort of way. Its something I try to be conscious of not doing to others. It's one of my biggest pet peeves. I hate pity. Dan and I aren't some super parents because we have a child with special needs. We don't have super powers because we have a child with 47 chromosomes. Any other good parent in our position would do the same thing. 

So I ask if you walk by us on the sidewalk, sit next to us on a bench at Children's, read our story or see our photo please don't pity us, don't look at us with sorrow. Don't give us that fake smile that says "I can't imagine how you do it". Don't tell us we're amazing because we're just doing what you would do in our situation. And please remember that James is James. He's not a mission, a cause or a condition. He's a 21 month old soon-to-be mountain climber. 

Date night with my lil grommie!
we are love, we are one, we are how we treat each other when the day is done
to be bold, to be brave, it is the thinking of the heart that can still be saved
and the darkness can come quick
the alternate routes

Week February 3 - 9

Miles Running: 21.0
Hours Hiking and Running: 3

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Its a Powder Day!!!

Snowboarder in Training
After not getting to ride the past two years I was more than ready to finally hit the slopes. We'd been keeping our eye on the weather and this week was the week to take a mini vacation and head to Winter Park. Snowboarding used to be my life in the winter. Runs were set aside for fresh powder and I rarely raced in the spring because of this. Getting pregnant put a quick end to my days of selfishly spending every moment of free time on the hunt for powder.

While we knew a storm was heading in we didn't anticipate quite how amazing it would be. Thursday morning we woke up slopeside to 12" in fresh powder and it was still dumping. We had driven up to Winter Park the afternoon before and so far James was loving it! We were hopefully this attitude would last through the next couple days when we took him to a new daycare. James tends to clam up and get really shy in new environments. So with fresh snow on the ground, we bundled up James, crossed our fingers and headed out to daycare. 

Lovin' the Cheeky Monk!
We got to the daycare and spent a bit of time filling out the necessary paperwork and giving them the low down on James. Finally it was time to hand him over, for a slight moment his lower lip came out and started to quiver. Dan and I kissed him goodbye and the girls took him to play. By the time we hit the door we could hear James' giggle and he was off playing. Time for Dan and I to play!

The term epic gets thrown around quite a bit, but honestly Thursday was epic! Everyone was talking about how the snow hadn't been that good in years! With the falling snow we had fresh tracks all day long! It took a couple runs to really feel comfortable on my board again, but it's like the old adage just like riding a bike. My turns came back, my independent leg motion took over and we cruised all over Mary Jane. A good powder day is never complete without apres so we took James to the Cheeky Monk for a couple beers and an early dinner. He loved it! Totally hamming it up with the tables around us and gorging himself on fish and fries. Thankfully James partied just as hard at daycare as we did on the mountain and we were all fast asleep quite early...dreaming of more powder.

Lovin' the snow conditions!
Friday we were not disappointed. Another 11" greeted us in the morning and we had another day of fresh tracks. Friday we took to exploring the trees a bit more and had a phenomenal time! Thanks to our amazing ability to take advantage of every free moment James is in daycare we were even able to sneak in 15 min in the hot tub before we had to pick him up.  All in all it was just the week we needed. We all loved Winter Park and getting back on the snow. My mileage was ridiculously low, but based on the exhaustion my body felt after a couple days of waist deep powder I'd say I still managed a fairly good workout! Even more than the physical benefits of hitting the snow were the mental benefits. It was good to take a mini break from running to do one of my other loves. Of course it didn't hurt that these were some of the best days of the year to be on a snowboard! It was a good reminder that not every day has to be focused on running to be successful. If Killian Jornet and Emile Forsberg can spending the winter skiing I'm sure a lowly runner like myself can spend some time enjoying the snow as well.

Week January 27 - February 2

Miles Running: 15.0
Hours Hiking, Running and Riding: 14.5

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Team B.O.B.

Post-run veggie sticks
It seems like it's been a crazy couple weeks so it was time to remind myself of my yearly goal to simplify my life. It was time to refocus on family. So that's what this week was all about. It's January and I need to remember my big race is months away and right now is maintenance, not crazy training. I need to take a step back and not get too caught up with training. I say this mostly to remind myself that I'm not supposed to get too caught up with training. I need it to be fun this time of year. Run when I feel like it, run as far as I want to for as long as I want to, not because I have to. This is certainly not easy for me.

Its been snowing quite a bit lately which always affects your training. Thursday I was dead set on doing a hill workout at Falcon. Unfortunately for me it was not just snow packed but covered in solid ice. Even with screw shoes it was rough going and every step forward felt like three slides back. At the top I was rewarded with fresh tracks...deep, fresh tracks.

Future Anton Krupicka?
The weekend was what it was all about! It was sunny, warm and time to celebrate family! So what better way to enjoy the sunshine than to go for a run as a family! The family that runs together stays together. Saturday Dan and I decided to load up James and the B.O.B. and head to Bear Creek Park to go for a family run. We had no idea how James would do, up to this point I'd only taken him on short runs around the neighborhood. Armed with veggie sticks, milk, buffs and a boombox we were off heading up Mt Carbon. Two and a half hours later, after 12 miles of laughs and smiles, endless classical music tunes radiating out of the boombox and a nice long nap we were back at the car with a happy and exhausted little boy!

James was such a champion on our run and the weather so nice we decided to try it again! Sunday we got in a 10 mile loop as a family. It was so nice to log some great miles, not to mention 10-12 miles of pushing a stroller with a 19 lb kid is no easy task, spend time with family and enjoy running in shorts and a t-shirt. Top it all off with a fresh keg of Dale's and you've pretty much got yourself the most perfect weekend ever!

After such a great weekend James was in no mood to go to sleep on Sunday. After nearly two hours of playing in his crib and refusing to sleep I picked him up to rock him to sleep. It just so happens the Grammys were on and James was captivated by it. It was like he was boycotting sleep so we would let him watch! A few minutes later Daft Punk took the stage to perform. James calmed down and just stared at the TV, he never just watches TV, and started dancing. When their performance ended he started whining so we rewound it and played it again. James was still no where near sleep and still captivated by the performance. So I leaned down and reassured James we would listen to Daft Punk on repeat the next day. Within 10 seconds he was sound asleep! Seriously that was all this kid needed? He apparently takes after his Uncle TJ in his taste of music!

Week January 20 - 26

Miles Running: 43.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 8.0

Preventative Maintenance


We’ve all had those tweaks and niggles or maybe even a full blown injury. At the end of last season I started to have some twinges of pain in my foot and knee and my overall running seemed to plateau. So I consulted a running specific physical therapist to help out. I didn’t necessarily think I had a major injury, but I wanted to prevent one from happening. I want my body to be able to handle the high mileage and not crumble 5 years from now. And I also wanted to do something to take my running to the next level, to be able to run stronger.

I love my 8-10 mile trail runs. They’re the bread and butter runs of my training and the part of the day and week I always look forward too, but I also knew I needed to do something more than that to get stronger and stay healthy. I know myself, I won’t go to a gym and I won’t be consistent with a workout routine that takes even 30 minutes. I had to find a routine that was something I could stick with and would still be effective. My physical therapist worked with me to find the key exercises to improve my running strength in about 15 minutes a day. It’s been great because I have actually been doing this routine 6-7 days a week for a couple months now.  I haven’t had any foot or knee pain and I can already see improvement in my hill climbing.

videoJust about every runner at some point experiences the dreaded knee pain. I am certainly not a physical therapist, but what I’ve learned through years of working with different physical therapists is the vast majority of runner’s knee pain stems from weak hips. My physical therapist has me doing three exercises for hip strength; clams, monster steps and angled steps. I also add in toe raises to strengthen my calves and ankles. With many runners switching from a traditional drop shoe to a low or even zero drop calf problems have arisen. Race after race I see runners on the side of the trail desperately trying to stretch out there calves. Save yourself from this and do some quick toe raises. I also do my toe raises with a ball between my ankles to work on strengthening my ankles. I’ve had weak ankles for years and with the twists and turns so often encountered on trails. In order to stay strong on trails another component is to keep your core strong. The rest of my strength exercises focus on my core. I like to bomb my downhills and am clumsy by nature so a strong core is essential to being able to stay upright on these uneven surfaces.
I think the biggest key to success, whether its adding a strength training program to your routine, getting started in a fitness program or training for a big race, is making sure the plan is something you can stick with. All too often I see people who go way too overboard at first and either burn out or get hurt. I for one have never stuck with a strength training routine this long. I’m sure there are many more exercises I could add that would increase my performance even more, but if adding 5 minutes more means I only do the workout once a week then it’s lost all effectiveness. Everyone is different and you have to know yourself, what your strengths and weaknesses are to be successful. Play to your strengths and build on your weaknesses and you are sure to improve your running and fitness.

So this week brought yet another sleep study. This time they actually let James sleep so even I got a few moments of sleep. There's something about sleeping on a hospital bed, regardless of the reason, that prevents you from getting great sleep though. After a long, rough sleepless week it was good to get in a decent run on Friday. Of course a double on Mt Falcon, even if its not super long, is always crazy exhausting on the body.
Week January 13 - 19
Miles Running: 40.5
Hours Hiking and Running: 7.5