Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

My brother, Ben died of AIDS at the age of 33 in January 1993. I always think of him as a new year begins. He lived a lot in his 33 years. He traveled the world, experienced different cultures, biked, hiked, gardened, dabbled in photography and painting, enjoyed fine music, food, and drink, wrote beautiful essays and poetry, and made a huge impact on many people with his work with the Save the Children Foundation. He died knowing that he had really lived life and not just gone through the motions. He has been my biggest influence. Because of Ben, I hike in the mountains, ski on the trails, swim in the rivers and lakes, bike on the roads, and run through the woods. He gives me courage to live life as an adventure. He taught me that it is OK to make changes when things aren't working. He showed me that life is what you make it.

In 2008, I voluntarily gave up a well paying supervisory job and became a visiting nurse at the home care agency I work for and I gave up my second job at Maine Medical Center where I had worked for most of my adult life. I just made the decision to live with less money in exchange for a less stressful and demanding work life. I can look back on my last six months of rewarding and relatively stress free work and extra free time to pursue the things that matter and say without a doubt, it was the right decision.

I took an active role in getting over the foot and ankle injuries that had been plaguing me for more than two years and became determined to get healthy and fit. It just didn't feel right accepting that I couldn't run comfortably anymore, even though that is what several doctors had told me. I started trying every treatment I could find and working at getting better. I am running without pain now and feeling very fortunate to be able to do so.

I entered races. On very limited training I completed Massanutten, Nipmuck marathon, Pisgah 50K, Vermont 50m, and Bimbler's Bluff 50K . That was enough to wet my appetite and make me start asking if it might be possible to make some sort of a "come back" attempt. I am now training instead of just jogging, the difference being that I am now moving with purpose instead of just wandering. It feels pretty damned good!

I hiked many miles in the White Mountains alone and with friends, I skied on trails that were new and challenging to me, I biked up hills that made my quads ache and cramp, and I ran over trails both familiar and new. I tried new foods, I took up knitting, I finished a quilt I had been working on, I had a productive and fruitful vegetable garden, I committed myself to living greener, and I got a lot of projects done around the house.

Thanks, Ben.

I'll drink a Becks in Ben's honor tonight and silently make my annual New Year promise to make this next year really count.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


Fartlek today was 4 X 1/4 mile at 7 min pace in the middle of a 6 mile run. Didn't take much rest between the quarter miles, probably only about 1/10 of a mile between each repeat. I still need to get my lifting and my core work in today, but that probably won't happen until tonight. It feels good to stretch my legs out at a little bit of a faster pace than usual. 7 minute pace doesn't sound like much, but my speed will improve with time and this pace is perfect for me right now. I feel good about how my training is coming along. I'm not in a rush, my training plan is 20 weeks long so I have plenty of time to work myself into racing shape.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

22 miles on the roads

22 miles on the roads this morning. Temperatures were very mild and the ice on the roads is melting fast. On River Rd in Hiram about 10 miles into my run, a big black dog (appropriately named Tipper) came bounding over a snow bank and head butted me, knocking me right off my feet. He didn't bite, but he looked like he was thinking about it. I have been dog bitten an even dozen times in my life and I'd like to keep it at that nice round number. A woman (I think) in a wool shirt with a cigar hanging out of the corner of her mouth was shoveling snow. She said, "that's enough, Tipper" As if it wasn't too much, but just enough. Tipper reluctantly retreated back to the woman's side and growled at me from a safe distance. I didn't say anything because she looked a lot tougher than me. I was pretty sore the rest of the run, especially my neck and lower back.

A little farther down the road I saw a huge owl which kind of dropped down out of a tree in front of me, and then flew along the road ahead of me right at eye level for about 30 feet or so. It was pretty cool! At the end of River Rd in Hiram, I turned onto rte 117 for a short stretch, then turned left onto Notch Rd.

I had never run this loop before, but regularly bike it in the summer. Notch Rd seemed a lot longer on foot than on the bike. But it also seemed a lot less hilly on foot than on the bike. This is a pretty road with almost no traffic. The sun kept trying to come out, but never made it. So it was cloudy and gray most of the run. I stopped for some candy orange slices and water every so often. I probably should have eaten more before I started and/or brought more calories with me because I was getting hungry by mid way.

For the entire run I was dreading the last 4 mile stretch over Rte 160. The rest of the run is on rural roads with very little traffic. Sure enough, as I got to rte 160 at about mile 18, I started to feel tired and started wishing I was done. 22 miles is a long way to run on the roads, on the trails it doesn't seem so bad. My legs were getting sore from the pounding. And I had set myself up to feel crummy for the last 4 miles because I had been telling myself it would be a tough stretch. So I struggled for the last 4 miles, but kept running and made it home in good time.

That makes it 41 miles for the week. Yay! I was hoping to get over 40 miles in this week and I did it (barely).

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Evening Run with an Old Friend

I had a fun and food filled day at BJ's house with his family today. I got back home around 8PM and immediately changed into my reflective running gear to hit the icy roads. I had left Bart at home alone all day, coming home briefly to let him out mid day. He had a lonely and boring day. I could have run longer and faster without Bart (he's a pretty old dog) but when he saw me in my running clothes heading for the door this evening, he started running around in circles like a puppy. What could I do but put his leash on and bring him with me.

Bart just can't accept the fact that he isn't as spry as he used to be. When we head out for a run he is always pushing the pace, as if to say "come on, let's go! I've got a good ten miles in me today!" Then 2 or 3 miles down the road he has this little trick he uses to slow the pace down because he is getting tired. Normally he runs just to my right, but when he wants to slow down he casually steps directly in front of me while continuing along at our existing pace. Then he starts inching back on the pace little by little until we are barely faster than a walk. This is my cue to head back home.

We had a great time. The roads had some very icy stretches but I was careful and didn't have any falls. Temperatures in the 30's made for very comfortable running. I brought Bart home when he got tired. I planned to head out for a few more miles without him, but couldn't take the sight of his sad face in the window as I headed off. So I took him back outside and we sat on the front porch for a while.

Tomorrow is my long run day. I'm planning on 3 hours of running in the morning.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Marathon Pace Today

Nice holiday with the family yesterday and a FULL work day today has left me exhausted. I got home from work around 6PM and couldn't wait to run! Now, that is a change from recent months when it has been very difficult for me to get myself out and running even when I was well rested. Boy, it sure is nice to enjoy running again! I know a lot of my not wanting to run was from being out of shape from injuries and, let's be honest here, sheer laziness. When a person is not fit, running isn't much fun, it's hard work. So many times I have had people say, "I tried running and I hated it. I don't know how you do it" And I always tell them they didn't give it a fair chance. It doesn't start feeling good until you start getting in shape. Well, I am very glad to say, running is starting to feel good again.

Today I was scheduled for 5 miles with 2 miles in the middle at marathon pace. The mystery is, what exactly is marathon pace these days? I settled on 8 minute miles, because I'd be pretty darned satisfied with a 3:26 marathon at this point. 8 minute miles doesn't feel like fast paced running, but I'm sticking to my training plan and trying not to second guess it.

The training plan I am following is one I followed several winters ago while preparing for the Virginia Beach Marathon. It was written by my coach at the time. I recall feeling very strong and very well prepared going into the race and I ran well there. This time around I'll back off on the paces of my fast running and increase the distance of my long runs since I am training for ultras and not marathons.

Getting a run in tomorrow is going to be a challenge since I have another day of family holiday obligations. I'll squeeze it in somehow. I'll be glad when all this Yule Time jolly-ness is finally over ;)

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Kezar Mountain Run

We are having a light snowfall this Christmas Eve morning. It is supposed to turn to rain later, but right now it is beautiful out there. I ran out and back on Kezar Mountain Rd this morning. I run from the covered bridge end, so it is a little over 2 1/2 miles uphill to the end of the road and then a relaxing 2 1/2 miles back downhill. This is a semi-maintained dirt road with a few houses on each end and nothing but trees, old foundations and old cemeteries in between. The town of Parsonsfield usually gives up plowing the middle portion by mid winter, but right now it has been plowed and the running surface is a few inches of packed snow with about 1/2 inch of loose snow on top. Perfect running with Stabilicers. I didn't see a single vehicle or person, just a lone rabbit in his winter-white coat.

The Ossipee is starting to ice over on the slower moving sections. I wish I had brought my camera with me because the river and the bridge were very pretty with the falling snow. I felt wonderful and found myself smiling as I trotted along alone through the winter quiet. What a perfect way to start out the day. There is a certain place on the road where I like to stop and look around me and listen to the woods noises. There are special spots where I just feel happy, and this is one of them.

I have to work a 12 hour shift from 10AM to 10PM today, but I am off tomorrow and will get to spend Christmas Day with my parents, children (ages 20 and 21), and boyfriend. Anyone in the health care field knows what a treat it is to have the holiday off. I am really looking forward to it.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008


Miraculously, I have the electronic display on my treadmill working for the first time in several months. I didn't care how fast or for how far I was going in previous months, but if I am going to get some speed back I have to start paying more attention to those tedious details. So I got out my little tool box, took off the back of the treadmill control panel and fiddled around with the wires. Something must have jiggled just right, because I now have an electronic display. Just in time for today's workout.

Fartlek to me just means doing some fast paced running without any pre-set plan. Today found me doing an easy 3 mile warm up on the treadmill followed by .1 miles at 6:30 pace, .2 at 6:30, .3 at 7:00, .1 at 6:00, .3 at7:00, .2 at 6:30, and .3 at 6:30. 1.5 miles total of "fast" paced running. I have to remind myself that this wasn't bad for my first speed workout in several years. I have run the entire marathon distance at 7 minute pace in the past and today I found myself having to work to hold that pace for 0.3 miles. Yikes! Oh well, I just have to keep moving forward.

I followed the run with an uphill hike at full incline at as fast a pace as I could walk without breaking into a jog or falling off the back. I did these uphill treadmill hikes regularly through last winter in preparation for Massanutten and it seemed to help. The difference is that last winter I had to do all my uphills on my toes due to ankle, achilles, and foot injuries which made it impossible for me to get my heels down on the ground when there was even the slightest incline. I am happy to say, I can now roll off my heels in a normal gait. I credit my recovery to Barbara Sorrell for recommending the Graston technique. Check out the link on the right side panel.

I do upper body and core strengthening twice a week and this morning was one of those days. My workout is pretty basic, 3 sets of 15 of each of the following at as heavy a weight as I can lift while keeping good form... rows, curls, tricept curls, butterflies, and chest presses. Then I do crunches, obliques, reverse crunches, and side crunches with the stability ball. I have been doing this same kind of workout for many years. I'm still looking for that six-pack stomach, haven't found it yet. I feel like my legs are worked hard enough with all the walking, running, biking, and hiking I do. Some would argue that lower body strengthening with weights would help my running. I might look into it some day.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fun in the Snow

I spent two hours cleaning up snow this morning. I don't mind it a bit, as long as I'm not trying to get out in a hurry. Today I didn't have anywhere I had to be so I enjoyed it. There were lots of birds at the feeders and they were fun to watch and listen to. Many of my neighbors were out cleaning up their snow, which gives things a friendly air.

I just returned from a fantastic snowshoe romp through the woods with Bart. (pictured top right) There are 12 inches of fresh snow and the woods are beautiful. The deep snow made for a good workout. I definitely could feel the burn in my quads. I went on the trails near my house that run along side the Ossipee River. There was something about the sound of rushing water and the feel of cold wind in my face that gave me a sense of excitement and adventure, even though I was only a few miles from home. The temperature was right around 20 degrees which felt perfect on my way out, but kind of chilly coming back against the wind after working up a good sweat. I have to admit, I'm totally beat. Between the shoveling and the snowshoeing I feel like I have had a full body workout. Bart is sacked out on the couch, I think he feels that full body workout as well.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Small Success

It didn't get above ten degrees today and wind chill was below zero. That, plus the heavy snowfall kept me inside for my run again today. I might have to change the title of this blog to Running in the Living room. I was scheduled for a 3 hour run today and managed to do 2 hours on the treadmill. I think that was my longest treadmill run ever and I ran a steady strong pace, so I am happy with the effort.

Mileage for the week is 37 and I did upper body and core strength training 2 days. My minimal mileage on my easiest training weeks used to be 40. I'm getting there. I'll hit 40 this coming week and keep it there. I'm determined to get fit again. This blog does help. Whether anyone reads it or not, just entering my training each day is enough to make me put in an honest effort. I used to have a coach who liked to say, "Success leads to success," meaning when you meet a small goal it motivates you to keep reaching for that next goal. Each time you succeed you are inspired to work to get up that next step and succeed at a higher level. I have put in one solid week of training. I consider that my first small success along the way to getting running fit again.

Training schedule calls for a cross train or rest day tomorrow. I have to do some snow removal and then hope to get out in the woods for a cross country ski or snow shoe run. It's only December and I am already getting cabin fever! It's all that darned treadmill running.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Treadmill Run

It was a beautiful snowy night last night and into this morning. We have about 7 or 8 inches of new light fluffy snow. It was easy shoveling with the temperatures so cold and the snow so light. I didn't start up the snow-thrower for this one. More snow expected for tomorrow. Maybe I'll ski Monday!

Today was supposed to be an easy 1 hour run. The roads are still snow covered and it is flurrying lightly. I thought about hitting the roads for my run, but while I was out shoveling I asked the neighborhood kid who runs with his dog about the road conditions. He said it wasn't bad, then proceeded to fall on his butt. He bounced right back up again and was off with a wave. I just don't bounce like I used to so I decided to stick with the treadmill again today. I've become a cautious runner. I hate being injured.

So the treadmill it was. It took some discipline to keep myself going instead of cutting the workout short. Time really drags on that thing. Tomorrow is supposed to be a 3 hour run. I don't know how bad the storm will be or when it will start. Hopefully I can get my run in before it hits. I really don't think I can go for three hours on the treadmill. There is always the snowshoe option to consider.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dread-mill running

About 5 miles on the treadmill this morning while importing my work for today. This means taking a few quick breaks to check the FAX, answer my pages and enter a few things on the computer, but never long enough to bring my heart rate down much. Actually, it works out pretty well. The treadmill and I have a love-hate relationship. It allows me to get a run in on days when I otherwise wouldn't be able to. I use it when work is wild, roads are icy, or it's simply too darned cold to go out and run. But it is so BORING.

I have run through 3 high quality treadmills in my running lifetime. My current one is on it's last legs. The electronic display is gone, which is a blessing because I can't watch the miles and minutes in their unbearably slow march to the end of my workout. I guess at the pace, glance at my watch and just run until I think my time is up. Then I look at my watch again and am usually disappointed to find I still have 10 or 15 minutes to go. In those last desperate 10 or 15 minutes I start doing math equations or counting games in my head for a distraction. Sometimes I can inch the pace up little by little as I concentrate on counting by 7's to 490 or trying to figure out what my overtime pay minus taxes will be for the week. The power of distraction is an amazing thing, it has helped me through many rough patches in hundred milers. I think my treadmill running helps me hone that skill.

The guessing at mileage and pace would drive a lot of runners I know crazy. Runners tend to be sticklers for statistics. Each day they know exactly what pace they ran for exactly how many miles. They know all their PR's for all their training loops and have those loops measured to the tenth of a mile. I have the opposite problem. I put my watch away about three years ago and became a slow jogger who had no idea how far, how fast, or for what amount of time I had run and I just didn't care. It was very relaxing, I told everyone I had found running Nirvana. My injuries healed but, Boy did I get slow and out of shape! I found my watch and am wearing it again. I now realize I hadn't really found running Nirvana, I had just become lazy. So, now a days the treadmill runs are the only runs where I really don't know how far and at what pace I run.

Snow storm expected tonight into tomorrow so it may very well end up being another treadmill day tomorrow.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

It'sTime to get training!

I've missed a lot of training due to injuries over the past 2 years. Now that I am healthy again, I am having a hard time getting back into a good training routine. I'm hoping that posting my training on this blog will make me get out there and do what I need to do. I'm signed up for Massanutten so I'd better get out there and run!

I have signed up for 3 snow shoe races this winter at the urging of my friend, Tom. I don't have any goals for those races, other than having fun and seeing friends. My main goal right now is to run well at MMT. I'd like to beat last year's finish time and feel strong doing it. As Massanutten gets closer, I will set some other race goals for 2009.

This morning I ran 5 miles on crunchy snow in the woods. It was about 20 degrees and sunny. Just a beautiful morning. Had to go slow because of the slippery conditions, but followed up with one mile at a faster pace on the roads. Finished with upper extremity lifting and abdominal exercised on stability ball. After 2 weeks of regular training I am finally starting to feel a little like my old self. Now, if I could just start running like my old self...