Monday, March 30, 2009

Another Cold!

I can't believe I have another cold, I hadn't even fully recovered from the last one. Oh well, I hang around with sick people all the time (it's my job) so I do get exposed to a lot of germs.

I went out for a 7 mile loop this morning and hacked and sneezed into my gloives the entire run. Thank goodness I wore gloves. I ended up walking the last mile, I was just plain old worn out. It was such a pitiful slow shuffle of a walk that as I neared my house my neighbor asked, "Did you hurt yourself running?" I gave him a big old snotty sneeze and told him I was sick. Which somehow gave him the opening he needed to tell me all about the time his nephew got a stress fracture while training for a marathon. It was a long story.

By the time I got into the house I was freezing. I soaked in a hot tub and now I'm ready for a nap. I hope this cold is short lived.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Treadmill Hill Tempo

Yikes, these "hill tempos" are hard. Tonight's run was 8 minute miles for 30 minutes at 4% grade. Sounds easy, but it really gets my heart rate up and makes my quads burn. I had to skimp on the warm up and cool down (and on this blog entry) because I need to get back to work!

Saturday, March 28, 2009


I got out early again today. This morning was foggy and damp, but the temperatures were above freezing and the snow is going fast. I ran out and back on Spec Pond Rd for about an hour. The trails around here are just too messy for running right now. I can run in mud, but this knee deep slush is just no fun.

There were a lot of birds out this morning. I saw one lonely duck floating in about four square feet of open water on Spec Pond. he looked content in his small pool. The turkeys are going crazy everywhere I go lately. It must be mating season. Today I saw a big drawn out flock of them scurrying across the road single file. My approach confused them and the line got broken up and jumbled. Some turkeys tried to run back the way they came and some ran down the street instead of continuing across. Suddenly, the orderly line of turkeys looked like a bunch of lunatics running around in every direction. After I had passed through I looked back and saw them reassembling and marching through the snow out into the woods.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Early Morning Run

People wonder how I find time to work with all the time I spend running, skiing, hiking, and having fun. I do work an equivalent of a 40 hour work week, but not in the typical way. For 2 weeks I enjoy lots of time off with only a few work days, then I work a long hard stretch of 12 hour shifts with on-call nights and a working weekend. I think of this every third week as pay back for all the fun I have had the previous two weeks. I set this schedule up myself so there is no one else to blame when I am in the middle of Hell Week, where I happen to be right now. At 8:00 on Monday, when everyone else is going back to work I will be starting my two weeks of bliss

I set out for an early morning tempo run on very little sleep and with a lot of stress today. Needless to say, it wasn't a great run. But I did get it done. The weather was nice for running and the roads were wet, but clear. I ran a 20 minute warm up followed by 30 minutes at tempo and a 20 minute cool down. I didn't pay attention to pace because I knew it would be off today. I went by my heart monitor and kept the rate up where it would normally be at Tempo pace. It feels good to have gotten it done early. I know my day will go better having had a good hard workout before diving in to another difficult day.

Late in the afternoon when I am dealing with my stressed out coworkers, I often wish they had gone for a walk or a run or a gym workout before their shift started. I know they sure are glad when I get my workout in before work! By the way, the pathetic crying incident has been tactfully "forgotten" by my co-workers.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Long Run and Burgers

While I normally drive to M's house in North Conway so we can run over massive hills on our Tuesday runs, today M came to my house as my vehicle is still on loan to a family member. I ran around Kezar Falls for an hour or so before she arrived. It was sunny, cold, and WINDY! I kept my cell phone on hand and stayed close to home so I wouldn't keep her waiting when she got there. I got about 8 miles in before she arrived.

M. wanted to run 2 1/2 hours today. She has been back running after her long layoff for about a week and a half now. 2 1/2 hours sounded like too much to me, but I really can't tell her how to train. She's been at it as long as I have and has had much more success at running than I ever had. Plus she is a very determined and tough lady.

Together, we ran from my house around Bickford Pond and back for 15 miles. We walked some of the bigger uphills on the way back. I'd like to say we only walked for M's sake, but truthfully I was happy for the walk breaks, too. The first half of the run is mostly uphill and today it was against a strong headwind. It really took a lot out of both of us. Some of the wind gusts on the way out actually brought me to a stand still. So although the second half of the run was with the wind and mostly downhill, the damage had already been done. We were beat! In the last few miles we started fantasizing out loud about Pepsi and sandwiches. You'd think we were finishing up a 50 miler!

When we got home my daughter, Shawna was in the kitchen. She is on break from college this week. M and I relaxed on the bar stools and polished off a 2 liter bottle of Pepsi between the two of us, while Shawna cooked us up some delicious burgers. We both thought we had never tasted anything so good before! Everything always tastes best when you are totally depleted.

Monday, March 23, 2009

No "Bad Day" Today

Today I was scheduled for a recovery day before my long run tomorrow. I loaned my vehicle to a family member so I had to run 6 miles out to the Vet to get Bart's thyroid pills and then 6 miles back. Even though it was longer than I wanted to run today, I was able to do it at a very relaxed pace and felt like it was still a good recovery day. On the way back home I started thinking about bad running days.

The "bad day" phenomonon seems to be shared by most runners. Some attribute it to training too hard and not recovering enough between hard efforts. Others say it is from under training. I have heard others blame diet, hydration, electrolytes, or hormones. One runner I know swears it is all mental.

I would love to know the physiology behind "bad days". What makes some days feel like hard miserable work even at a slow pace. For me, it feels like I have cement blocks strapped to my ankles on those days. I usually don't know it is going to be a "bad day" until I start running. But once I start running, it only takes a few steps to feel it. I've been told to always give it at least 2 miles before giving up on a planned workout when you feel like crap. So I play by the 2 mile rule and try to think positive telling myself "Maybe I'll feel better once I get warmed up." But truthfully, if I feel crappy in the first few steps it is usually going to be a crappy run throughout.

Apparently each runner has a different "bad day" cycle and some are able to predict them better than others. While warming up for the Hyannis Half Marathon one year, my friend Randy said, "I already had my 'bad day' this week, so I should be all set today." Upon questioning him it became apparent that he had exactly one "bad day" each week, he just never knew what day it was going to be. My friend, M. says she has exactly 3 "bad days" in a row each month and they fall at a percise point in her monthly cycle. Another friend tells me he has a "bad day" 2 days after his long run each week. In the past I have kept careful records of my training intensity based on heart rate and tried to correlate that with my "bad days". I was never able to find any pattern or any way of predicting when my occasional "bad day" would occur.

I am lucky that I don't have "bad days" very frequently. But every now and then one will fall on a race day. I can distictly remember three different races which I ran on "bad days". 1st was a 5K in South Portland. While doing a 2 mile warm up I had to sit down on the curb and rest halfway through. I wasn't sure I could make it back to the starting line before the gun went off. I knew I was in trouble. Another time was at the Maine Track Club 50 miler. I don't remember what year it was. I just remember that every step from mile 1 to mile 50 felt like I was running through thigh-high water. More recently at last Fall's Stonecat Trail Race I was dragging along just walking to the starting line. I had absolutely no energy. I had signed up for the 50 miler, but at the first aid station (maybe 4 miles into the race?) I told a friend that I would be trying for a marathon finish on that day and might not even make it that far. I felt like I was wearing someone else's legs that day. And that someone else was definitely NOT a runner.

Lately it occurs to me that I may have found a clue to the "bad day" puzzle. Now that I am training hard and training correctly, I can't remember my last "bad day". There are days when I am tired and sore from a previous workout, but never days when I just feel terrible for no apparent reason. This could be because I am taking honest recovery days between my hard workouts. Or it could be because I am more fit than I have been in a long time. It could be because I am being very conciencious about what I eat and drink every day. Then again, I am in a better state of mind about my running and my life than I was for the past several years. It might be a combination of all those things.

I don't pretend to be cured of "bad days." I'm sure I'll feel that lead footed feeling again at times. But for now I can say in all honesty, I'm not missing them a bit.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Running with my Sister

My sister, Amy is up from Connecticut for my Mom's birthday this weekend. She has been training for her first half marathon which is in June. I've been sending her training schedules each week and she has been faithfully doing what I suggest. She did her longest ever run of ten miles last weekend. Today we did 8 miles together over a very hilly figure eight from my mother's house in Limerick. Amy hates uphills, but she actually does very well on them. Maybe she'll eventually learn to love them :) Today's run was a mix of paved and dirt roads. I picked our route while driving in the car before I went to my Mom's house to start our run. It measured 8.0 miles exactly on my car's odometer, perfect!

We ran a nice steady pace after a few comments from me in the first mile to get her to slow down . It is hard for me to convince her that she doesn't have to kill herself every single run. They really aren't supposed to be torture.

After about 4 miles I started my 6 repeats of 1:30 at 5K pace concentrating on uphills and downhills. There weren't any flat sections anyway, so the uphill and downhill thing was easy to get in. When I'd finish my 1:30, I'd jog in place and catch my breath until Amy caught up, then we would continue on. I wasn't sure how I would get my repeats in while Amy was supposed to be doing a steady effort, but it worked out fine. On my last repeat I told Amy to come along with me if she wanted to. I didn't think she was going to, but as I topped the hill near the end of the minute and a half, I heard her right behind me. Good job, AMY! I am very excited to see Amy becoming a half marathoner! I won't start pushing the full marathon yet, I'll broach the subject at the finish line in Fairfield.

We finished in 1:09:03, an excellent time for 8 miles of hills with dirt and mud thrown in. I am so proud of my sister!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Nice Trail Conditions this Morning

The trails conditions this morning were faster than they are mid summer. With all the thawing we had over the past few days and then a solid freeze last night, they were hard and crunchy. My feet hardly sank in at all and the traction was great. The plan was for a warm up on the trails and then 5K pace running on the roads. But the conditions were too good to waste, so I did 6 miles on the trails and put the fast paced stuff off until tomorrow. Another rest day will do me good, anyway. I did just over 6 miles in 50:30 on a route that takes at least 55 minutes in the summer because of blackberry brambles and rocks. Despite the fact that the trail was awesome today, I was still excited to run over one patch of bare ground. I had exactly 9 steps worth of dirt before I was back on snow!

Friday, March 20, 2009

Hessian Hill Run and Maine Maple Sunday

My quads are very sore from the treadmill cutdown run yesterday. That was hard work, and my legs were already a little tired going into it from the back to back long runs earlier in the week. I usually run alone, but today I wanted some company for a distraction so I called BJ, Long Pond was about half way between us so we agreed to meet there. I had a run up Hessian Hill in the back of my mind, but figured we'd have to see what my quads had to say about that.

As soon as we started running I had to groan. My legs were shot! We settled into a slower pace and I felt much better. As tired as my legs were, I felt like I could jog along at our slow steady pace all day if I wanted to. I take that as a good sign. If I can keep my tired sore legs jogging along at a slow steady pace in the last half of Massanutten, I'll be doing well!

I brought up the subject of climbing Hessian Hill in a half-hearted way, "I was thinking about running up Hessian Hill, but I don't know..." End of discussion, we headed for Hessian Hill. I warned BJ that I would definitely have to walk some of it today. But again, as tired as my legs were, I was able to hold our steady slow pace all the way up that long steep climb. Neither of us walked a step! We went down the other side and looped back to our cars.

This was a rest day and I feel like I had a nice easy run. A few months ago I couldn't even imagine that running up Hessian Hill could be restful. My legs are definitely getting stronger on the climbs! It was a very enjoyable run with nice views from the top. If I had tried to trudge through my tired-legged run alone tonight, it wouldn't have been any fun and I probably wouldn't have attempted Hessian Hill.

It was nice to have BJ along enthusiastically talking about Maple syrup through the whole run. If you didn't think there was that much to say about Maple, then you have never talked to BJ. So in honor of BJ I will mention that this Sunday is Maine Maple Sunday. Maine is the second largest producer of Maple syrup in the U.S., Vermont being number one. Many Maine Maple producers are holding open houses and events both Saturday and Sunday this year. There are usually free samples. My personal favorite way to sample the product is when they serve it over vanilla ice cream (yum). If you are out on the road this weekend, stop by and support Maine Maple Products at any of the many sugar houses throughout Southern Maine. A complete list of participants can be found here .

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Running Junkie

At work, I have been inundated with paperwork, which we actually do on the computer but still call paperwork for some reason. Every day there are more patients to see and subsequently, more paperwork added to the pile. I'm trying to regain control so yesterday I put in 14 hours straight and had to miss my run because of it. I don't miss many days of running, maybe one or two a month. These missed runs are usually because of work demands or other life crises. Just when these stresses make me need to run the most, they simultaneously prevent me from running.

I know there is no physical benefit, and maybe there is even some harm in running every single day. But I seem to be addicted. Maybe addiction isn't the right word. It can't be a physical addiction. If I was hooked on the chemical and physiological things that happen to my body when I run, the symptoms wouldn't show up so soon after a missed run. It would take 48 to 72 hours to start going through withdrawal, plenty of time to check into a detox center. No, it is definitely a psychological dependency. About a half hour after I realize a run just isn't going to happen on a given day, I start getting irritable and anxious.

While I worked from home late into the night last night, I had trouble focusing and was restless and uneasy. When I went to bed I tossed and turned all night. At about 2AM I pondered getting out of bed and running on the treadmill to help me relax. I should have done it because this morning I cried at work, no kidding, like some sort of girly girl. I was already stressed out and one more curve ball was thrown at me and I just started crying. This is the last thing my co-workers expected from me. Sure, they had seen other sad sacks burst into tears, but never this tough cookie. As they all stared at me in horror, I blurted out, "I didn't get my run in yesterday," much as I have heard other women in this situation blurt out "it's my hormones." Luckily, I usually work from home and don't go into the office very often. I can probably avoid seeing most of these co-workers ever again if I try hard enough.

So what is a women with a running dependency to do? There are always going to be days when I can't get a run in. Is there a 12 step program for this? Is there a sedative I can keep on hand for these rare occasions? Maybe a support group? I don't know what the right answer is, but I do know that I am about to get my running fix and I should feel all better in about an hour and a half.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Back to Back Long Run

Today was part two of back to back long runs. I stuck to dirt roads, muddy logging roads and hilly trails. The trails are still snow covered, but melting fast. In the beginning miles my quads were a little tired on the uphills from yesterday's run, but other than that I felt pretty good!

Running down a muddy logging road, I came to a clearing where they were still working. When I have to pass by logging operations, I slow down to a walk and try to make the loggers notice I am passing through. All that heavy machinery scares me. Today one of the younger guys said, "go right through that way, Mrs. V" pointing out a path through the mess. He must have been a friend of my son, Dan to know that I was Mrs. V. I'll hear about it from Dan later. His friends like to tease him that his mother runs around town in skimpy outfits. Today I was wearing long sleeves and long pants, no scandal there.

About 2 hours into the run I suddenly felt tired and wished I was done. Luckily, I had a very pleasant stretch of trail ahead of me at this point and then only a few miles on the road to get back home. I made it through the trail stretch, but was fading fast. I came to a junction where I had the choice of continuing down the trail to the road, which would make it about 2 more miles to go or getting to the road by cutting through a farmer's muddy field full of cows, which would give me only about a mile left to run. Cows make me nervous. They are so big and clumsy looking. But I was so tired I chose the cows. I tried to blend in, making a few mooing sounds as I passed through. I don't think anyone was fooled.

When I got home and checked my watch, it said 2:42:24. Only about 10 seconds difference from the time I spent running yesterday! The pace was a lot slower today, though! I fit in 18.5 miles in that amount of time yesterday, and only 15.5 today. The terrain was a lot tougher today.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Hilly 18

This afternoon I drove out to North Conway to get a longish run in. I ran out and back over Dundee starting at the Intervale end, running to the Jackson end, and then returning. This route is about as hilly as it gets. I felt slow, but very powerful on the climbs. By some pacing miracle, I arrived at M's house exactly at 4:15 as planned. Actually, it was 4:13:45 when I looked at my watch at the top of her driveway so I ran down to her house at a very slow jog to impress her with my exact timing. I had a quick drink, which she kindly had waiting for me on the porch steps, then we were off for more running.

M is my Tuesday training partner, but Monday worked out better for us both this week. M hadn't run or done any exercise at all for over six months due to health issues. When she joined me today, she had been back at it for exactly 4 days. This was only her 5th run. I planned on being patient with her and looked forward to some very slow running. I was surprised when she turned up Town Hall Rd (more hills!) at a decent pace. As she pulled me along, she started talking about running a marathon at the end of May on eight weeks of running. If anyone can do it, M can.

We talked all the way out and back so the miles went by quick. I had done about 10.5 miles before M joined me and we did another 8 together for a total of 18.5 in 2:42.

While M cooked us dinner, I had a chance to talk with her daughter, an aspiring young runner. She was telling me about different road races she wanted to run this summer. I asked her why she likes to run. One might hope to hear something along the lines of, "for fun and fitness," but without any hesitation she stated, "to win trophies and money and get my picture in the paper." You have to love the honesty.

Maple Syrup

Yesterday I squeezed my one hour run in first thing in the morning, then it was off to BJ's for a full day making syrup.

BJ loading evaporator with wood in the morning. Sap in pan is already simmering.

The process involves keeping the sap at a constant boil and a consistent level in the pan.

BJ watching closely

Laurel slacking off

The pan is three-chambered. Prewarmed sap drips into the far right chamber from the warming tank. As the sap thickens it is pushed into the middle and then finally the far left chamber, where it can be run off from a spigot on the side.

When the syrup reaches the correct viscosity, as measured with a hydrometer, it is put into the filter tank. It passes through a paper and a felt filter to remove impurities.

The hairy arm pictured above is not mine.

It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of maple syrup. All the equipment in these photos, evaporator, evaporator pan, warming tank, filter tank, etc, were made by Billy Mason of Porter, Maine.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tempo Repeats

Today's run was 13 miles with four repeats of 6 minutes at tempo. The tempo should have been in the middle, but was closer to the end of the run because I mis-judged the distance of this loop and had to run longer than I thought before I got to relatively flat paved roads. The first 7 or 8 miles were on dirt roads and hard packed trails with icy patches. I was enjoying myself and could have easily turned my run into a nice easy long one today. It was in the 40's with beautiful bright sunshine. I was in a meditative state of mind and the miles were just slipping by under my feet. But when I got onto the pavement of Colcord Pond Road in Porter, I remembered the tempo repeats, darn it.

The repeats really weren't bad at all. I'm getting to a point where I can judge my tempo pace and fall into it naturally without having to guess at what the right pace is. I took 3-4 minute jogs between each repeat. On the last one I was starting to feel some leg fatigue and I don't think I held the pace all the way to the end of the 6 minutes. But overall, it went pretty well.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Recovery Day

Today I ran for an hour on the local roads here in Kezar Falls. There are lots of little roads that can be looped and figure-eighted and out-and-backed to get some flat miles in. This is pretty much the only flat running in the area. I wanted to get an hour of easy running in with some strides. I started out alone, picked up Bart for a few miles, and BJ for a few miles.

BJ was with me for the strides, which he thoroughly enjoyed. He is a natural sprinter and he somehow gained about 10 yards on me each time we did a stride out. He was able to gain this much on me at what looked like an easy lope. I don't get it. But it's OK, I figure it was good for his ego ;)

It was an enjoyable recovery run with bright sunshine and good company.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


Friends have started to notice and comment on the fact that I am newly motivated and training hard for the first time in a long time. How could they not notice? I'm putting it out there, posting my training on my blog and telling friends about my goals. This is a scary thing for me to do. I'm training hard and not keeping it a secret. It's one thing to go into races injured and under-trained. I would have mediocre performances at races and friends would still say, "hey look, you didn't really even train and you did OK." No matter how I finished, I would tell myself I did better than I expected. But going into races well trained puts some pressure on me. I'm starting to think a little bit of pressure might be a good thing.

I am working hard for my own personal satisfaction, I want to see what I can do at this point in my life. But I also have to admit that there were outside influences that gave me a little push towards getting fit again. Over the last 8 months there were three different incidents involving people who don't even know they helped get me motivated again.

Incident #1: I jumped into a 24 hour race late last summer in hopes of getting a 50 mile run in. Fast runner H. pulled along side of me a few hours into the run and we chatted a little bit. I introduced myself as Laurel from Maine. He said, "what a coincidence that there would be two ultrarunners named Laurel from Maine. There used to be a fast ultrarunner named Laurel from Maine that could run 50 miles in 7 hours or so." I answered, "I know it's hard to believe, looking at this slow sluggish runner beside you, but I'm the same Laurel." He turned beet red, mumbled some sort of apology, and took off.

Incident #2: After a Fall trail 50, I was in the parking lot cleaning up. Seeing my license plate, two runners came over and said they were from Maine, too. Maine has a very small ultrarunning community and I recognized their names when they introduced themselves. I said, "Oh, I've heard your names many times, it's nice to finally meet you." When I told them my name they looked at me with blank stares. They didn't say it, but they might as well have, "never heard of you." It suddenly dawned on me that I wasn't part of the Maine trail and ultrarunning community anymore. When did that happen?

Incident #3: My friend Tom told me, "I was talking to B.P. last night and he asked what ever happened to Laurel? She just dropped off the face of the Earth." I stopped him right there. I didn't want to know what his answer to that was. I have heard "what ever happened to..." conversations before. You know, one runner says "what ever happend to (insert name of former olympic trials marathoner)?" and the other runner says, "she gave up running and took up drinking and smoking. She looks like Hell." Or one runner says, "What ever happened to (insert name of local frequent road racer)" and the other runner says "I saw her in Dunkin Donuts with a chocolate glazed donut in her hand. I swear she's put on 20 pounds since I last saw her." How did I become the topic of a "what ever happened to..." conversation?

Motivation comes in many different forms. Sometimes you just need someone to hold a mirror up so you can see what you have become. Injuries and personal issues had stripped me of my desire to train hard and see how much I was capable of doing. I had become slow and lazy and satisfied with good enough. I am very lucky to have had that mirror held up for me to take a look at myself, not once, but three times in recent months.

Todays' run was a 30 minute "hill tempo". It sounded pretty benign when I heard what I was supposed to do, but it turned out to extremely difficult. See my training log for details. It feels very good to have completed it. Paul is giving me just the right amount of challenge in my training so far. I think I made a good decision in asking him for coaching help.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bear Notch Run

Today I ran in the Bartlet Expiremental Forest and the closed portion of Bear Notch Road for 3 hours 56 minutes. These trails are nice running trails in the warmer months. They are also very popular with mountain bikers. This time of year they belong to the snowmobilers. Most of the trails are actually dirt roads and the snowmobilers had them well packed.

I was afraid I might see a lot of snowmobilers because there were a lot of trailers in the parking lot, but I only saw two groups. First was an elderly couple having an argument by the side of the trail. Their sled wasn't even running, so they don't really count. The next group was a line of four women. It seemed unusual to see women out alone, but more power to them. They really slowed down when they went by me and all of them gave me a big wave. Women seem to be kinder gentler snowmobilers. Both these snowmobile encounters happened early in the run. I didn't see any more after the first 30 minutes of running.

Not long after the snowmobile ladies, I met a German woman walking towards me on the trail. She had snowshoes strapped to her pack but was just using hiking boots. The trails were nice and firm in the morning. She stopped and said something, but it wasn't in English and I didn't understand. Then she threw her arms up to the sky and looked up at the blue sky and bright sun with a big smile. She was right, it was a beautiful day. I doubt she is a runner but she is definitely a kindred spirit, out in the woods alone enjoying this beautiful planet we live on.

I did virtually all my climbing in the first half of the run and had a mostly downhill last half. But by the time I started my much anticipated downhill half the snow had really softened up with the warm temperatures and it wasn't as easy and relaxed as I though it would be. I love the snow, but I can't wait to get on some rocks and dirt!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Spring Cleaning

I moved my pile of skis, waxes, poles, snowshoes, crampons, cleats, and other miscellaneous winter gear into the closet today. That cleared the area that rightfully belongs to the treadmill. Then I moved the treadmill out of the living room. I'm ready for Spring. I just wish it would stop snowing.

My legs hurt from yesterdays faster paced running. They are wondering what hit them. They haven't been asked to move that fast in a long time. The snowshoe racing made my heart and lungs work hard, but didn't require the fast turnover and push off that regular fast paced running requires. It isn't a bad kind of hurt, it's that kind of hurt you get from working hard. It feels good.

Today was a very easy 3 mile run. I followed this with a 30 minute pedal on the bike trainer, weights, and abdominals. Oh, and I also shoveled the driveway (Please let this be the last time this year).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

8 (or 9) X 2 minutes at 5K pace

My cold is better and I had a fantastic run tonight, 13.7 miles in 1:49:46. I mapped out a route from the Waterboro Elementary School and it turned out to be a very nice running loop. I checked my watch at the intersection that marked the 4 mile point and found that I was running at sub 8 minute pace without feeling like I was killing myself. Now, that's more like it! When I was a little more than half way done I started running my 8 X 2 minutes intervals. I ran at what felt like 5K effort for two minutes and then jogged two minutes. The fast paced running was difficult, but I was able to hold a steady hard effort for the entire 2 minutes each time. I lost count and wasn't sure if I had done 7 or 8, and although my legs were begging me to call it good enough, I did one more for good measure so I'd be certain I had done the full eight. Running back to my car my legs were shot. I feel so happy that I was able to do this workout, I had been dreading it all week!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

To Run or Not To Run

I am working this weekend. I had a lot of reasons NOT to run earlier tonight...I'm still trying to shake this cold, I had a dog at home that hadn't peed in 10 hours, I had at least 4 hours of documentaion work on the computer that needed to be done before bed, I hadn't eaten since breakfast, It was dark out, It was only 38 degrees out and I only had light weight running clothes with me because I had hoped to get a lunch break run in while it was still warm out, I had a particularly rough day at work, I was on call and had to stay in cell phone range and near the car... A few months ago any ONE of those things would have been enough to make me say, "F#$* the run, I'm going home." But something has changed in me. I WANT to run. This is more like the old me. I am so glad to have the desire to run back.

The only one of those things that could count as a genuine excuse is the dog needing to be let out but I thought there was a good chance one of my kids had stopped by during the day to let him out. I parked in the middle of Mountain Rd and ran to the Newfield end and back and then to the Parsonsfield end and back (to keep within 15-20 minutes of the car in case I got called to see a patient). I have driven past Mountain Road several times while visiting clients and I have been intrigued by it's name and by the way the map shows it connecting the middle of nowhere to the middle of nowhere else. I was happy to finally get to run on it. It lived up to it's name, there were a lot of long steep ups and downs. I ran very easy and just did a relaxed jog on the uphills. There was a good long muddy two mile stretch in the middle section where I parked my car and the rest was somewhat paved. I only saw one vehicle the whole run. I believe my run was right around 8 miles. It was the only enjoyable part of my entire day today! I'm so glad I fit it in.

I still have not gotten my 5K pace workout in this week, but the week's not over til tomorrow and you can bet I will have it done by tomorrow evening! Despite feeling that I have been slacking off terribly with my sick days, when I get my workout in tomorrow I will have done all my planned workouts for the week. (I like to think I am not obsessive, just dedicated. Don't you think that sounds less extreme?)

I STILL have at least 4 hours of computer documentation ahead of me tonight, but my head is clear from my beautiful evening run and it should go smoothly.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Still Sick

I was hoping to get my planned 5K pace running in tonight, but I've been sick for the past few days and really didn't have it in me. I'm sure I'll be able to get it done tomorrow. So tonight I had a nice 7 1/2 mile run on clear roads with temps in the 40's. What a treat to run on clear roads! I did 6 strides in the middle of the run and they felt good. I started the run feeling congested and sluggish, but felt better after I got going. I should have kept going because as soon as I stopped running I felt congested and sluggish again. Oh well.

It's funny how I've been feeling guilty about not running much, not working, and not getting things done around the house since I've been sick for a few days. I shouldn't feel that way, I should be able to laze around and watch crappy TV shows and do crossword puzzles all day without feeling bad about it. Maybe it's a woman thing, my son seems to be able to lay on the couch and watch crappy TV shows on days when he is feeling perfectly fine without feeling any guilt at all.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Coming Down with a Cold

I woke up this morning with a cold. I've been dragging all day at work and was going to skip my run. But this evening my legs started feeling a little sore in the hamstrings and shins from the hilly snowy run yesterday. Rest doesn't seem to help my sore muscles. If I take a rest day for muscle soreness it just feels worse the next day. Slow running is what seems to help most. So I ended up running an easy 45 minutes on the treadmill for just over 5 miles. I used the treadmill because I just couldn't muster up the will to go outside in the 20 degree darkness with my cold tonight. The treadmill run felt pretty good, all things considered. I was toying with the idea of lifting tonight, but I'm going to go to bed instead.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Hurricane Mountain Run

I headed out to North Conway for a run in the mountains today. I parked my car in town and ran up the plowed portion of Hurricane Mountain Rd with my Stabilicers on. The roads were covered with hard packed snow and it was nice running. I didn't know what kind of conditions I would find when I reached the gate that closed the middle portion to vehicles in the winter. In past winters the closed portion of Hurricane Mountain Road has been well packed by foot traffic up to the top and then snowmobiles down to the other end of the road. I planned to run to the top and then follow Black Cap Trail to the summit of Black Cap. Brian had suggested Black Cap as a good run when I saw him at the last snowshoe race. Then I would continue to the other end of Hurricane Mt Rd, turn around, and run back the entire length to my car.

When I reached the gate, I found the trail was fairly well packed by snowshoe hikers. It was a little soft, but definitely runnable. I usually walk some of the steeper sections of this climb, even in the summer on clear roads. Today I was able to run the entire way to the highest point on Hurricane Mountain Rd. This is about 2miles of climb with an average grade of 15% (according to the road sign at the top). It wasn't fast or pretty, barely a forward trudge at times, but it felt good to be able to huff and puff my way all the way up without walking.

I turned off the road onto well packed snowmobile trail all the way to the top of Black Cap. I did have to walk a few short stretches of this trail, but not much. The views from the top were beautiful. It was a very clear day and Mt Washington looked close enough to reach out and touch. I'm sure my photos won't do it justice.

I ran back down Black Cap Trail to the top of Hurricane Mountain Rd and then continued on to the gate at the opposite end of the road from where I had started. The sign going down this side warned that it was a 17% grade for 1 1/4 miles. It was softly packed snowmobile trail. Let me tell you, running straight downhill on softly packed snow at a 17% grade is a blast! I flew down that hill. I tried not to think about having to climb back up. I did eventually have to turn around and run back up that same grade. This was a mix of fast walking and slow running. On the very steepest part as I was marching along, a skier went whooshing by on his way down. Now that looked like fun!

I ran over the top and back down to the plowed section of road. A lot of the snow had melted since I had started in the morning. I took off my Stabilicers and ran on blacktop back to the car. It was an exhausting run. But it felt so good to get off the streets for my run today. According to my map, it was 14.6 miles of running in 3 hours 17 minutes. I did 2769 feet of climb and descent. I actually figured all that out, I think I'm turning into some sort of running nerd.

After my run I went over to see my Tuesday Training Partner. We have run together on Tuesdays for years. We are both nurses and have non-typical work schedules. We both happened to have Tuesdays off so we started running in the mountains on Tuesdays. When I switched jobs I made sure I could still have Tuesdays off so I could keep running with my friend. But now she hasn't run in months because of medical issues. Today she told me she can start walking with me next Tuesday. So the plan is for me to run first, then meet her for a walk. I am looking forward to walking together. If you have been anywhere near North Conway on a Tuesday and heard wild hoots of laughter echoing from the hills, it was probably us. We have a lot of fun together. I have missed our runs!

I am a very small person. Sometimes I forget that I'm small. Today I got a reminder of just how puny I am. Before leaving my friend's house her 10-year-old daughter said she had a question she had been wanting to ask me for a long time. I told her to go ahead. She asked me in a very serious voice, "are you a dwarf?" When I said no, she asked if I was maybe "half dwarf." I headed home laughing.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Tempo Run

Today's scheduled run was 20 minutes at 6:50 pace on the treadmill. I ran a 20 minute warm up and then increased the speed to the perscribed 6:50 pace. I could tell it was a little too fast in the first minute or so and bumped it back down to 7 minute pace which was hard work, but a pace I thought I could hold for the whole 20 minutes. I ended up doing 21 minutes to make it a nice even 3 miles of tempo pace. It was hard work. 5 years ago(the last time I was regularly doing any sort of fast paced running) my tempo pace was 6:45 for 30 minute tempo runs. Right now I just can't hold that kind of pace. I'm hoping it will feel a little easier once the roads are clear and I can move my tempo runs outdoors. The treadmill is hard for me mentally, which adds a degree of difficulty to the workout. It was a good run today. I definitely feel like I put in a hard effort.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Dog Attack, Shoelace Incident, and Coyote Sighting

Bart and I joined BJ for an easy run from his house yesterday. There is a house with two mean German Shepherds a little less than a mile out. We ride our bikes and run past them often. They bark and snarl and scare the daylights out of me every time, but they have electronic shock collars that prevent them from leaving their property. Yesterday as we ran past, they started barking and running toward us as usual. When they reached the property edge they just kept coming. Bart and I each let out a whimpy little yelp. They went right for poor old Bart. Bart kept trying to run behind me for protection while they snapped at him. I was spinning around in circles trying to keep myself between Bart and them while BJ was looking around for something to beat them with. It only lasted a few moments before the owner called them off, but it was scary.

This is a rural area and a lot of people let their dogs run free. In my lifetime, have been bitten 12 times while running. I've been threatened by dogs many more times than that. I can't complain too much because I'm guilty of letting Bart out without tying him up. He usually stays in the yard, but sometimes he wanders off across the neighbor's yard in an Alzheimer's-like haze. If Bart had a tendency to bite, you can bet I would keep him restrained.

Anyway, we continued down the road without pausing too long after the dog encounter. We wanted to get away from there and weren't sure how well the owner was going to be able to control the dogs. A little way down the road we stopped to examine Bart. There were a few places where it looked like they might have pulled out some of his fur, but I didn't see any blood and he didn't seem to be hurt anywhere. BJ picked up a huge stick to protect us with on the way back and we continued our run. Soon a car pulled up beside us and stopped. It was the dog owners checking to make sure we were OK. They apologized and said the German Shepherds hadn't had their shock collars on. I said everything was OK and they turned their car around and went back home. This made me feel better about the whole thing. I think BJ and Bart were still a little angry. Judging by the way BJ kept hitting his stick against the side of his leg, I think he was hoping the dogs would come back out after us on the way back. But on the way back the dogs barked and growled and stayed in their yard.

A little while after passing the German Shepherds again, BJ had a spectacular fall. It looked to me like someone had tied his shoelaces together, he just went over face first and hit the ground HARD. He was wearing his Merrills, which have a lace system where you just pull a plastic grip with one hand while pushing a plastic slide clamp with the other to tighten the laces. You are supposed to stick the plastic grip piece into a little pocket in the tongue of the shoe so it doesn't flop around while you run. BJ had left his hanging loose on both shoes and by a some freak accident they had gotten tangled together while he ran. So it really was just like someone had tied his shoelaces together. There were no serious injuries and we finally made it back to BJ's house. What a run!

This morning I went out alone for 5 miles on roads and snow mobile trails. The trails are really nice right now, frozen hard but not too icy. I ran with bare soled shoes and had no problem at all. I spotted a coyote in the woods behind Chapel Street where they have been logging recently. His coat was thick and scruffy looking. He was shedding big clumps of his winter fur, spring is coming! He was about 25 feet away when I saw him. He looked at me and I looked at him. Then he pointedly looked away in a superior sort of way and walked off calmly. I am lucky about spotting wildlife on my runs. My father, a lifetime outdoors man, thinks it is because I travel quiet and alone in the woods covering a lot of territory. To me Coyote sightings are right up there with Black Bear sightings, rare glimpses of wild beauty and strength. Now that I've said that I'll probably get mauled by a bear this Spring. That's OK, I'll be admiring his strength and beauty right up until the bitter end.

Many people hate the coyotes. I suppose if I were a goat herder or something I might get bent out of shape over them. But I don't understand how the deer hunters can complain that the coyotes are killing off the deer and then in the next breath say hunting is necessary to keep the deer herd in check because there are no natural predators left in Southern Maine. I'm not a wildlife management specialist, but it sure looks like we have a healthy deer population in this area.

I have seen deer carcasses that coyotes have left in the woods. Yes, they are quite gruesome. Coyotes literally tear the carcass to shreds. But in a few days all that is left is bones and fur. And judging from the coyote droppings, they eat a lot of the bones and fur too. It looks very efficient.

It struck me as I was returning home... with all the Black Bear, Fishers, Moose, and Coyotes I have gotten close to while running in the woods alone, I have never really been threatened by any of them. Yet, I have been bitten by dogs 12 times and harassed by people more times than I can count while running alone on the roads. I really should stick to the woods.