Thursday, February 19, 2015

Shake it UP

Pre-dawn start, Holiday Lake 50k
Last weekend, I finished my 3rd 50k trail race at Holiday Lake State Park. Admittedly, it wasn't the most fun day I've ever had out on the trails. The night before the race, my usual excited pre-race jitters were strangely MIA. I wasn't nervous about the distance, just slightly dreading the 6:30AM start time. Although I was stoked to head out to Holiday Lake (its BEAUTIFUL!), I wasn't crazy pumped to actually run the race. Weird. At the start line, I got a little excited, mostly because it was my first pre-dawn race start and I knew an amazing sunrise was just around the corner.

I just felt off, and I knew it was going to be a tough day.

Beautiful sunrise over Holiday Lake, Appomattox VA

The race began and I settled in for what would be over 6 hours of trail running over some of the prettiest trails around. This is the stuff I love. But on that day, I didn't love it.

The course at Holiday Lake is long, topping out around 33 miles (hence the race title, Holiday Lake++), and it felt long. The lake is gorgeous, boasting sweet single-track, nice views and tons of wildlife. I knew I should be having a ball. But I found myself doing what I rarely do...counting down the miles until the finish. Waiting for the end. Not the excitement of the finish line, but the part when its over.
What's wrong with me today?!

The Holiday Lake 50k++ is an awesome event. Its beautiful, well organized, very well-marked and packed with wonderful volunteers and awesome aid stations (grilled cheese, YES!). It has a great reputation and is a staple in the VA Ultra-trail running scene. My bad day had nothing to do with the race itself and everything to do with my own mind and body. That 6:30AM start time may have contributed a little to my funk, but that's just because I was already sorta cranky.

One of the nice little hill-climbs @ Holiday Lake
I finished the race in one piece, coming in at 6hours, 11 minutes. I got to shake hands with race director David Horton, who has been organizing this annual event for 2 decades. I was honored to participate in this great race and bummed that I hadn't had a stronger day. I snagged my sweet finishers shirt and a snack and called it a day.

Logically, I know that this burnt-out feeling is probably self-inflicted. Signing up for my first 50k last December (Seashore 50k), then following it so closely by not one (Willis River 50k), but two more consecutive ultra-marathons was maybe a bad call. I'm sure plenty of seasoned ultra-runners pack in 3 races in 3 months; seasoned ultra-runner I am NOT. Maybe I should have entered the ultra-scene feet first instead of diving straight into the deep end. But, when tempted with just one more 50k, I was still having fun and surprisingly not injured, so I thought, "What the heck, I'm in." I didn't allow myself any recovery time between races, jumping back into my normal weekly mileage after each race. Rookie.

Surprisingly, I've avoided major bodily injury (which is really lucky, considering I'm a total klutz); my only injury seems to be in my brain. Suddenly, running ridiculously long distances isn't super appealing to me. Huh?! I'm sure I'll get the ultra-itch again soon, but for now, I need a new focus. So, I've decided to scale back my mileage, focus on cross-training, strength training and improving my performance at shorter distances. Running fast on single-track is my favorite, so I'm hanging up my Camelbak for a little while to focus more on speed, strength, having fun and looking good in my swimsuit. 

I'll be out at Pocahontas State Park for this year's Instant Classic Trail Races, but opting for the half-marathon distance instead of the full 26.2. My longer training runs are going to be slashed to around 10miles; short enough to go fast and not need to carry tons of fuel, but long enough to get a good sweat on and not feel like a total lard-ass.

My experience at Holiday Lake made it clear just how cozy I've gotten in my little trail-running comfort zone. Too cozy. A year ago, the marathon was the ultimate challenge. After one full marathon and 3 ultra-marathons, the next step up as far as ultra-running goes is a 50-miler. No friggin way. Let's just say that for now, I've conquered the longest running distance that I'm interested in.


What's next?Plunging myself out of my comfort zone again, I've set my sights on a Sprint Triathalon in June, NAYLOR'S BEACH. in Warsaw, which is about an hour east of Richmond. I'm not much of a cyclist (does Spin class count?), and my only swim training was when I was about 7, but how hard could it be?

Once I figure out how, exactly, one trains to complete 3 sports in the same day (the wardrobe changes alone are intimidating), I'll write about my training adventures here. Luckily, I've got a cousin and a brother who are both experienced triathletes, along with a hubby who happens to be a great road cyclist. The three of them can look forward giving out lots of free advice and holding my hand as I inevitably stumble along, trying to learn the ropes of two new sports. Of course, I'll still be hitting the trails around RVA and stirring up a little mischief along the way.
Time to go shopping for some sweet new goggles and a cheap bike. This is gonna be super easy.  

Happy Trails!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Feels so good, feeling good again

I don't know about you, but I tend to be a completely helpless pain in the ass when I'm sick. Some people can power through, getting their to-do list checked off with little to no bitching and moaning. Not this gal. If I'm sick, you're probably gonna know about it. I might even ask you to go fetch me some socks and a Sprite.

I've been pretty lucky this cold and flu season so far. Last week, my number finally came up. I started feeling bad last Monday, and felt pretty crappy for almost a week (which is like a year in whimpy sick-person time). During my whiny and pitiful sick-week, I managed to trudge through a painful and sloooow 32 miles, leaving a nice little snot-trail along the way. After wasting $125 at the doctors office just so he could tell me, "It just has to run its course," and supplying my husband with enough germs for him to also fall victim to the bug, I'm BACK!

Today's run at Pocahontas was a breath of fresh air after a week of BLAH.

Qualla connector, Pocahontas State Park
It was a little drizzly/icy early this morning. I flipped on the news and almost had a panic attack as I saw a few school delays scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Dodged that bullet, school is ON. YES....time for a date with the dirt.

Its pretty funny to see the drastic difference in in the parking lot over at Pocahontas on a pretty day, versus a nasty weather day. If its a nice day, good luck finding somewhere to park. On a cold/ rainy day, you're lucky if you see a squirrel out on the trail, let alone another human. Todays weather provided ample parking and beautiful, fresh, muddy trails.

As I pulled into the lot, I noticed another lone runner gearing up for a trek and we started chatting. Turns out he was supposed to meet up with a running buddy, but his fair-weather partner bailed, leaving him to tackle his 3-hour run solo. Lame. 

Anyway, we ended up hitting the trails together; I was happy to score some company. One of my favorite things about trail runners is the instant kindred-spirit connection we share. I love any opportunity to swap stories and share some miles with someone who loves trail running as much as I do. We spent the next hour talking about races (turns out we've done a bunch of the same ones), laughing about funny shit that happens out on the trail and trading info about our favorite running routes.
Our trek took us from the Qualla lot down Fendley Station and around Beaver Lake before my new buddy Mike took off for the rest of his long run while I headed back toward the lot to finish up my much shorter route. I finished up on the mountain bike trails near Qualla Road, picking up the pace as I darted through the muddy single-track back to the (still empty) parking lot.

With the Holiday Lake 50k coming up this weekend, it felt SO good to feel good today. After a week of running while coughing, snotting and feeling AWFUL all-around, today's easy 5 1/2 miles were amazing.
I'm so grateful for my health, for good company and as always, for sweet trails.
Today's theme song- Robert Earl Keen, Feelin' Good Again