Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Training is Over-rated? A precursor to a WS report.

I'll post a full race report soon, but in the meantime, I'm recovering surprisingly well. As I bemoaned in previous blog posts, I was nowhere close to the shape I had hoped to be in when I toed the line on Saturday for Western States. The spring brought injury, that led to a racing schedule that left no time for training, and a work travel schedule that left no time for the Gorge hill training I had intended to tackle. I feared quad death, especially after a 25K 2 weeks prior followed by some hill repeats the next morning left my quads incredibly sore. My quads had been toast well before the half-way point at Miwok; I couldn't run for a week afterwards and didn't feel good running for 2 weeks. The calf injury-Miwok-Comrades-WS cycle left no time for a solid training block. It was race, recover, taper, race, repeat.  A net downhill hundred was sure to bring pain and misery....

Good news--my quads survived, and survived shockingly well.  I only started to feel them around mile 85, and I never got to the point where it hurt to run downhill. Now, 3 days later, I feel like I could run without much soreness. I'm not going to, as I plan to give myself a few more days of laziness and over-eating, but if I were chased, I could run, and do so without much hesitation. Some toenails have opted out, but other than a few blisters on the balls of my feet that are healing nicely, and a sore nose from a post-run car loading incident, I'm relatively unscathed.

I'm thrilled with F8 and 19:36 based on my training and also very happy to finish #2 in the Montrail Ultra Cup with a $2000 cash bonus. I'll post more on all of that later.
The top 4 Montrail Ultra Cup finishers:  Meghan, me, Pam and Gretchen.
Meghan is rubbing her belly and thinking of food.
Pam is thinking about how she is going to crush me the next time we race.
I'm more than a little bit scared of Pam, for good reason (I love you, Pam!).
(Photo taken from Gretchen's blog ).

Sunday, June 5, 2011

WS Training Camp: Juba Version (or, "Currently in the worst shape of my life")...)

Maybe not the worst, but I'm definitely not in the shape I had hoped to be at this time, 3 weeks out from Western States.  It all started with a calf strain in early April, which left me unable to run much up through Miwok.  The 5-week training lull left me a bit flat at Miwok, and far off of what I'd hoped for, and trashed my quads for a good 2 weeks.  Comrades was just 3 weeks after Miwok, so throw in 2 weeks of forced recovery, followed by jumping on a plane to Kenya the weekend before Comrades, and I went into Comrades with no solid training, considering I'd gone into Miwok with no solid training.  Comrades left me far less trashed than Miwok, but I flew to Juba, South Sudan the day after Comrades, which is where I am now.

Traditional style house known as a "tukul" as seen on the Hash run.
Offshoot of the Nile in Juba, South Sudan.
I've mentioned before that I love to run on the road (as in during my travels, not actually on tarmac), and I do.  I travel to interesting places, and running in these places allows me to see bits and pieces I wouldn't see if I didn't run.  Take yesterday, for instance: I went to the Hash and the route took us along the Nile on a dirt path through a "neighborhood" and then through a local market.  Cute little kids popping out in all directions, strange sights and smells from the market, and lots of odd looks.  I don't Hash in the states, because I don't see the point, but on the road, it's one way to potentially meet other runners, and an opportunity to run in a place you wouldn't get to otherwise.  I ended up in front with a German guy who commented, "So, it seems you've run before?"  Um, yep, now and again.
Another tukul.
Entering the market.  
On my own, I've been running on the hot dusty streets of Juba, often towards the UNMIS compound (UN Mission in Sudan) which is an odd world in its own right.  I guess I don't appear dangerous in my short shorts and running shoes (or there would be nowhere to conceal a bomb under my tank top and shorts), because when I stopped to inquire at the gate what ID was required, they waved me in despite the fact that I had no ID on me, bypassing the metal detectors and screening process.  Inside there were lots of trailer home-type living accommodations, Bangladeshi troops doing jumping jacks, a gift bull sitting in the middle of the "track" that was received by someone important on a trip which then couldn't be taken on the airplane (go figure), and other odd sights.  But, a place to run with fewer stares, and fascinating in its own right. Today I found the "cafeteria" and an ice-cold sprite, which cooled and fueled me for the 20 minutes home.  I managed only an hour in the heat, and arrived home exhausted and dizzy.  The fact that I made it only an hour, and wanted to collapse, has me worried, and further convinced I'm in the worst shape of my life. Yes, the run was in the heat of the day, but it was only 95 here today, and an hour really shouldn't have hurt as much as it did.

While I like to run on the road, I find training on the road difficult.  Going out for a run is not a challenge, but in planning a longer runs or sticking to a set workout, there seem to be more variables that come into play, and an unhappy stomach is one of these things (and my biggest downfall at Comrades).  I used to have a stomach of steel; I drank water directly from a cow pond for 2 years in Peace Corps and had zero problems.  Maybe Africa just doesn't agree with my stomach or old age is setting in, but in my recent travels, I find myself with stomach issues more often than not. I averted a disaster at UNMIS the other day when I lucked upon a bathroom in the UN airport.  I think I breached security to get in there, but I was desperate. And when desperate I can be quite resourceful.  So, runs bring a sense of impending doom, knowing that I could very well end up squatting behind someone's house.  Would you want someone squatting behind your house?  If I was here long enough, I might figure out where I might find the basic necessities, but thus far, I'm a stranger running in a strange land, with an intense fear of emergency bathroom stops.

At this point, there's nothing I can do about my less-than-ideal training for WS.  I'll be in Juba another week, arriving back in Portland next Saturday around noon.  I'll continue my hour-long slogs in hot and steamy Juba for the next week, and then plan to hit the gorge next weekend for a couple of long hill sessions in a final desperate attempt at training.  And, I'll hope to show up at the starting line, relatively healthy, malaria- and amoeba-free, tan (it's sunny here in Juba), skinnier (the joys of stomach parasites), and absurdly well-rested, after my 3-month taper, but still hoping for a top-10 finish.