Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Laurel Highlands--Maybe not the wisest choice

First off, Laurel Highlands is an excellent event and I highly recommend it. This was the 30th year for the 70 mile race (a 50k option was added 3 years ago and there is a 70 mile relay option for teams of 2-5 people). The trail is, more or less, 70 miles of point to point single track run along ridgelines in a lovely ‘mountainous’ (east coast definition) heavily forested section of PA. The trail, the Laurel Highlands Hiking Trail, is well-marked with yellow blazes, and concrete obelisks that mark every mile. You would have to struggle to get lost here, as the yellow blazes are so frequent, they're almost obnoxious.

Not feeling completely recovered from MMT, I wasn't sure what to expect going in, and really just wanted to experience the LHHT from point to point. While I loved the trail, I didn't necessarily have a good time out there, and am hoping that I didn't do something really stupid, such as injure myself to the point where I have to take extensive time off. A quick recap of the highs and lows, starting off with the lows and ending on a positive note:

The Bad:

1. I puked. Now, I realize that others do this every time they run an ultra. I, however, can count on one hand the number of times I have puked in my life. I just don’t puke. E.g. Give me a bottle of whiskey and no matter how much I consume, I will not puke—probably not a good thing, but my sphincter is stubborn. I can remember my sister being a bit more of a puker as a kid, and every time it happened, I would run to the farthest spot from her, plug my ears, and sing ‘Jingle Bells’ as loudly as possible (my fear response—I also do this in horror movies). Not only do I not puke, but I fear it. I puked around mile 55 when I tried to swallow a gel, and then again in the parking lot of the hotel with a crowd watching. No fun. I also puked after MMT in the shower. Am I becoming a puker? No fun at all!

2. The ankle/foot issue that has been nagging since mid-April bothered me from the beginning of the run and seemed to worsen. It was bad enough that after about 20 miles every time I stepped on a rock or ground that caused my left foot to be flexed, I noticed it, and really angled rocks occasionally caused me to yelp in pain. It started early, and I considered dropping but couldn’t decide if I was going to make it worse by continuing. I still haven’t come to a conclusion on that one, though I’ve got an appointment to see my foot doctor in the morning. After some on-line research, I’ve self-diagnosed it as tibialis posterior tendonitis and hope that it’s a minor case, although my foot doesn’t like to go in any direction except forward at the moment. I’m hoping the magic “Make-a-doctors-appointment-and-the pain-will-go-away” strategy will work. It seems every time I finally give in and go see a doctor whatever has been ailing me disappears just in time for the appointment. Here’s hoping that works tomorrow, or that he tells me to suck it up and run on it.

3. I just felt off. My heart rate seemed really elevated and my breathing seemed off. MMT was one month prior—residual effects? I'm a WUS?

4. I wasn’t really having fun, and wondering far too often, ‘Why?’

5. A couple of good crashes. To be expected.

6. Despite the fact that it looked like trolls and gnomes should have been frolicking about in the woods, not a single one made him or herself visible to me. Boo.

The Good:

1. The trail. These pictures aren't mine (they are Tim Segina's), but picture 70 miles of single track, climbing up forested slopes, winding through fields of ferns, around rock formations, across dozens of log bridges, through patches of mountain laurel, up rocky staircases, with the bonus of a blazing downhill to the finish. The scenery was really hard to beat.

2. Legs felt good. Besides my ankle/foot issue, my legs felt pretty frisky.

3. Ferns. Did I mention that there were miles upon miles of lovely, lovely ferns? IF there was ever a place for gnomes or trolls to pop out a wish you a happy afternoon, LH is the place. Reminded me of the troll walks that one of my bio professors in college used to lead. Of course, we never saw trolls on any of those, either—I'm still a believer, though.

4. A win. Really, winning is almost always fun, even if it was less fun on Saturday. My time of 14:02 was good enough for first woman. Only one woman has broken 14 hours in the 30 years of Laurel Highlands (CR is 20 years old at 13:46). I really felt like I was standing still at times. Heck, I was standing still at times. I do hope to run this one again, and feel like there's a lot of room for improvement.

5. Fun road trip. There were some memorable moments. What happens in Comfort Inn room 219 stays in room 219. Don’t worry Keith and Mitchell—heck, you don’t read this blog anyway—your spooning incident is safe with me.

6. The race organization was top-notch. Thanks to the race directors who put on a great event. I still haven't figured out what causes some races to fill and other not to fill. It doesn't sound like the current RDs want this one to get much bigger, but regardless of size why some races fill in a week, and others never fill is something that puzzles me. This is the type of event that I would list as a favorite and one that should fill in minutes. I'm glad that it doesn't, being that I sent in my entry fee the week of the event. It is nice to still have awesome events around that one can jump into on race morning.

Give this one a try—you won't regret it!!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Laurel Highlands it is.

For some reason the thought of 40 miles at Highlands Sky next weekend seemed like too much too soon, so I opted for 70 miles at Laurel Highlands this weekend. Seems like a logical choice, no? Both are supposed to be beautiful races. I've been told that Laurel Highlands has some nice ferny patches. I'm a sucker for ferns and forest gnomes.

On another note, I survived my first bike ride. I got the bike home, and then was petrified to head out for a ride for fear of tipping over. After an hour of psyching myself up, I ventured out. The clipless pedals were a cinch. Can't wait to get out again.... maybe for a little recovery ride on Sunday.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What to do next?

I'm finally starting to feel recovered from MMT. I had a rough week following--my hip flexors wouldn't flex, and my lower back felt like someone had kicked me repeatedly (not that I know what that feels like...). Bruised kidneys I presume, and a reminder that 100s are really not good for you. So, after a 0 mile week following MMT, I ran to work most days last week and got in 16 miles on Saturday for a 45 mile week. I feel like I'm ready to ramp back up to 70 or so. That said, I felt sluggish on Saturday, but the combination of taking yesterday off to swim, several whiskey sours, and a great 6 mile run commute this morning, I'm wanting to jump into a 100 miler in the coming weeks. How quickly we forget....

I only have one thing on the calendar this summer, and that's Where's Waldo on Aug 22.

So that leaves me wondering what to do next. Laurel Highlands 70 is in a little less than 2 weeks. It's not far off in PA, and supposed to be a beautiful trail, with lots of nice ferns--I'm a sucker for ferns. Or there is Highlands Sky 40 in WV the weekend following. I haven't run Highlands Sky, but have seen parts of the course and it is gorgeous. Jumping into Bighorn 100 has crossed my mind, too. I'm sure my run home will restore sanity.

One goal for the summer is more cross training. I hope to both bike and swim at least once or twice a week. My new road bike arrived over the weekend, so once my pedals arrive, the fun of Amy with clipless pedals begins. I hope that there is no correlation between falling while running on trails and falling on a road bike. While in El Salvador, I experimented a couple of times with clipless pedals, and only fell in the first 5 seconds the first time I was on the bike. I hadn't been warned about tipping over (seems obvious enough that one shouldn't have to be warned), and it hadn't occurred to me until it happened. After the initial fall, I was able to successfully navigate a road with many speed bumps and herds of cattle without further incident. Plus, I was wearing size 13 mens shoes on a bike fit for that man, so I'm guessing that it can only get easier. Excited for my first ride this weekend.

Now to decide what to run.....