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Race Report – Many on the Genny

I called my mom on Sunday to tell her I had finished my race. “All 40 miles?” she asked.

“Well, 42, to be exact.”

“I’m so proud of you.”

“I get it from you, Mom.”

“Me? I can’t run like that!”

“It’s not the running, Mom. You know how to just keep going. You never quit.”

“Aww, babe, thank you.”

I heard the tears in her voice. My mom is the best, and I owe it all to her. ❤️

My race report:

https://www.bibbz.net/viewDetailedReport/5b32736b5902c8001a4c9bdb

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One Down…

Quick update:

Last week I ran the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon in Letchworth Park, New York, and I finished within my goal time, even with ALL THAT MUD, and one week later, I’m no worse for wear! The ankle is strong, I’m running just fine, and my sights are set on the next one!

Race report can be found on Bibbz at https://www.bibbz.net/viewDetailedReport/5b04c5fb7e36e2001aca1222

Lesson Learned

In a recent online running forum I subscribe to (Diz Runs Tribe, check out the podcast too, Diz Runs Radio), the administrator asked, “what has running taught you?” I can think of a million things right off the top of my head, but one thing rests at the crest of that heap: patience. If there is one lesson I have learned, and continue to learn, it’s patience. Patience in a race, patience in training, patience when goal setting, and this past year, patience during injury and illness and recovery.

I am not a younger runner. In one month, I will be 52. I am not one to be thinking that age 52 is old, but when I did not bounce back after my initial ankle sprain (and later, got much worse), I began to realize, “This isn’t like before, kiddo. You can’t just keep going and expect it to disappear.” In many situations in my life, that is exactly what I did, and it usually worked. With grad school and sleep, parenting, migraines, running, pain, life…”muscling through” was my modus operandi. It was a tough pill to swallow when I learned that my standard MO wasn’t going to work anymore.

I have a little over two weeks until I run my first race since being injured, a trail marathon. I thought I had been patient enough and well into recovery when, Tuesday, after a terrific training week that had me shouting, “Yes! I’m back!” a twinge in my ankle pushed back and said, “Just hold on a second…no you’re not.”

WHAT?

All this time, with a month of excellent growth, and…what just happened?

I’m not sure. It could have been the little extra weight I had added to my static lunges on Sunday, when I should have perhaps gone lighter. I had just completed a cold and wet 20 miler the day before, after all. Or maybe it was the muddy trails causing a little too much torque in the ankles on Monday. Or, maybe it’s just pre-race nerves.

Whatever the cause, I’ve learned enough over the past several months to listen to my body. I’ve learned enough to tell myself, “Patience — back off, don’t push it.” I had hoped for another great week of training before beginning to taper but I don’t know if that will be what I can do. Maybe I could make a great week, but would that be the wisest choice?

This race was going to be my A race this year, but patience has taught me to shift my perspective. I now see this event as a stepping stone, a test of my recovery and an assessment of my fitness so far. If I finish this run, I know I will cross the line with a sigh of relief and immediately shift my sights toward the next step and then the next. I have a 40 mile race planned and then a solo 50 mile run, followed by a challenging 15 mile trail race I hope to run with my spouse in the fall. For that one, I plan to shift my focus and train for greater speed and power. The 40 miler – well, if I finish I will be over the moon! The 50 and the 15 – they are now my focus.

Additionally, this past injury had made me think more about my long-term goal — to keep running until I die, if I can. I am not a pro athlete (though I am an athlete); I do not need to push myself to destruction in order to gain glory or a paycheck. I am in it for the long-term, I love running that much. If that means shelving my plan for a PR or a super placement, then so be it.

post-note: after writing this post, I did rest for three days before running again. Saturday, I took a beautiful, satisfying trip along an easy section of the Appalachian Trail. No problems at all!

Vision for Race Day

Race day. The weather is cool, but chilly mist promises to give way to sun later in the day. I feel the leaves shifting beneath my feet. I am cold, but the forest shows proof that yes, spring is finally here, and summer is not far behind.

I am in my mind, somewhat detached, experiencing my body as it moves through nature. Some people pass me but I steadily progress forward. My feet move, my chest breathes. “Don’t push,” I tell myself, “the hill is coming. Be ready.”

I reach the base and begin to climb. The mud slips; I feel dirt and roots beneath my fingers as I grasp anything to help me move forward. My quads flex and press, propelling me up, up…and I’m there! Then down, down in a rapid descent, into the water of the rushing stream and across…

I am tired but I chose this. My feet hurt but again, I chose this. There is no quitting, there is only movement – through nature, with nature, in nature. I am animal, going forever, moving without surcease until I find my home, the finish line.

This is the vision I keep in my head as I enter the last month before race day. My mantra still holds as I count my breaths and steps, willing myself to endure in each training session:

Beauty,

Movement,

Run.

I will run and I will succeed.

Confidence

It’s still winter outside, despite what the calendar says, and running outside has been difficult. Normally, I don’t mind running in cold weather, but after a bout with the flu and a subsequent pulmonary infection, I’ve found that running when temperatures are below freezing just HURTS. I wheeze. My nostrils and throat close up. I gasp for air when I go above even a slow jogging pace.

Consequently, the treadmill has become my friend, even for the longer and slower runs. Last week, my ankle had improved to the point that I thought I’d try 15 miles. The longest I’d run so far was 10 miles, and I was starting to wonder if I’d be ready for my trail marathon in May. I wasn’t in panic mode yet, but I needed a good run to boost my confidence, something to show me that I was indeed making progress toward my races in May and June. Slow mileage progression is essential, but there comes a point when darn it! I need to test my limits!

At first, the weather promised to be mild enough – upper 30s – but by Friday morning, the temperature dropped to the 20s with a windchill around 10. Then the snow started. Scratch the outdoor run…

I’ve been panting to get outside, but there was nothing for it, I couldn’t go out. It was a massive disappointment. I needed that run though, so…treadmill.

Okay.

Choose a string of trail videos, get my water and nutrition set up, then hop on.

No layers, no wind. It feels like cheating.

My races are going to (hopefully) be in warm weather anyway.

I set the program to run a hilly course, going from levels 2 through 9. Obviously, treadmill hills aren’t the same as actual trail hills, but at least I could do some climbing. As the snow came down outside my window and the plows rolled down the road, I stepped on the mill and pressed “go.”

Fours hours later, I stepped off, having run 20 miles and climbed 2499 feet. BAM! Confidence boosted!

Yes, it was boring. Consider it mental testing.

Yes, it was warm in the room. The races will be warm anyway (maybe).

But I finished 20 miles.

Yes.

I couldn’t copy the technical trails I will need to run, but at least I could gauge my pace and heart rate and test myself at different intervals. I figured out how much water I’ll be likely to need and how many calories I’ll require to maintain my effort. These details are important for trail runs and ultras, and now I can better envision how my races might play out on those days.

I won’t be fast, but I know I can finish the first race at least, and I am confident I’ll have a good shot at the second. I’ve come a long way since that teary-eyed session at the doctor’s office in December, wondering if I’d be able to run at all. 20 miles was a milestone for me, and while these next races are my focus, I have my autumn goals in my sights as well…

It’s so good to be back.

Snot Rockets, or Be Kind and Look Behind!

Winter runners, you know what I’m talking about – the air is cold, you’re trying to breathe through your nose, and you begin to experience that incessant drip, drip that annoys the crap out of you and everyone else (if there is anyone else) because of the constant SNIFF! SNIFF! you have to do to keep it in. What’s a runner to do?

Personally, I hold out as long as I can, sniffing until I can’t stand any more. I then use my glove or sleeve to wipe my nose if I have to, but sometimes, sometimes I just have to clear it all away. I do have tissues in my pack but they’re for…uh…other reasons. I also am not going to stop to fish them out over and over again.

Snot rockets. They are the only other alternative.

Many athletes, including cyclists and runners, do them. I really don’t like them, however, for a couple reasons: one , they aren’t pretty. I don’t care who does them; two, if done improperly, they can come back to haunt you – if you catch my drift – or worse yet, haunt somebody else.

Unfortunately, I’ve been that “somebody else” too many times!

It’s disgusting.

So, if you have to launch them, consider these pointers before you strike:

  • MOST IMPORTANTLY, make sure NO ONE is around you! Winter running often means windy running, and that mucus can carry. If you gotta blow, don’t do it when someone is next to or even behind you;
  • Point your head down and to the side, away from your body, to avoid hitting yourself;
  • Usually, for me, the need to blow occurs only on one side. To increase trajectory force, I close the opposing nostril by pressing it with a finger, taking a breath, and blowing hard to the side of the trail.

That’s it. Not too difficult. Unless the wind is so strong it’s ripping the snot right out of you before you can even blow. In that case, the snot rocket is futile. Trust me, I’ve tried. Better to just let it go!

If you need more coaching, here are a couple of articles you can use:

https://saltmarshrunning.com/2016/04/05/running-101-mastering-snot-rocket/

http://talk.brooksrunning.com/blog/2016/04/12/running-101-master-the-snot-rocket/ (this one also talks about proper spitting technique)

Sorry, no videos. They were all too gross for me.

Happy running!

A Hero

There are some people you meet in life whose stories go beyond your comprehension. So much suffering, so much trauma, and yet — and yet, the most amazing thing about them is that, in spite of all that, they are kind, hardworking, and nice. How can they be that way? How is it that they do not go through life bitter and angry, or demanding and expecting some recompense as their due?

My step-father is one of those people. He met and married my mother a few years ago, when he was in his 80s and my mom in her late 70s. Since that time, he has brought my mother nothing but happiness. They are wonderful to watch, and we all should be so happy when we reach that age. It is fitting – neither of them have had life hand them anything except hardship. Both were children during the Great Depression, but not here in America: my mother lived in a small mountain town in southern Germany, and my step-father in a small mountain village in southern Austria. Bare feet to school, little money or food. But while my mother had a family and a farm, my step-father had parents who left him to be raised by an aunt and an uncle in a two-room shack. He spent his years sleeping on a cot next to the stove, and learned to play the accordion at a young age so he could earn money, playing music on the streets. He still plays that accordion. I’ll never be the one to ask him to stop.

My step-father has many stories related to being a musician, some funny and some not. It was his playing that got him pulled into his first military service, in fact. At first, as a prisoner of war under the Germans, where he was subjected to violence and humiliation most people could not even endure. Then, when it was discovered he played the accordion, he was “recruited” into the German military, and became a soldier forced to play for an enemy he hated. Later, just as he was released near the end of the war, he became an American prisoner, and was transferred to a camp in the north of Germany. It was not his country, it was the country of people who had enslaved him, and yet he was a prisoner along with them.

Two years a prisoner, then after being released, he made his way back to his home town and eventually to America. He looked for and found his father, “living like a dog” in a garage. “You are not my son,” was the greeting he received.  Later, he found his mother, and even had her come to live with him for a time, even though she told him, “I wanted to abort you.” It was a sense of duty that led him to care for her, and perhaps a little hope that she might come to love him. She never did though. He has spent his entire life knowing that his parents did not care for him, no matter what kind of person he had become.

His military days were not over, however. Soon after moving to the U.S., he received a draft notice. He was not a citizen; merely a resident, yet he was drafted into the Marines. An MP, he was asked to not appear on the drill field during inspections because he was too short and not the “Marine type” to be shown to dignitaries.  He served his duty for two years without even being a citizen, and did so with integrity.

Despite all he went through, he married, suffered the loss of two children and raised two wonderful sons, whom I am happy to call my brothers.

These snippets are mere drops in an ocean of stories from a humble man who is kinder and more good-hearted than almost anyone else I know.  How is it that he does not use his suffering as an excuse to be selfish, or violent, or bitter? So many of us do these days. We wear our suffering like beacons to demand sympathy, retribution, and free passes when we hurt others. We scream, “it’s not my fault!” when we fail through lack of effort. Why is that? What makes my step-father so different?

It was his choice, I believe. He chose not to give in. I listen to his stories so that I am reminded, I can be like him.