Monday, September 22, 2014

Week 6 - Challenging fulfillment.

Ok so I am just little behind on the “Beast Blog Story.” Since the bulk of training is over and tapering has begun I have a lot more time on my hands. I find myself anxiously counting down the hours, days and even minutes to Grindstone so... what a more perfect way to spend my down time then recapping the work completed thus far.

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Week 6 – Another “epic” week of training. Not the highest mileage week but definitely a week of training that fully focused on the quality versus quantity.

62 hours for the month of August! 

We planned a long run with many other local Grindstoners, a special run we like to call The Crucible. A perfect weekend was to be had. It was Labor Day weekend and we were all anxious to get a long run in that would make it quite clear what we were getting ourselves into come October 3rd. Little did we know The Crucible would strip away all our dignity and give us every little doubt there is to completing a 100 miles in the weeks to come.

The run consisted of repeats, up and over MD Heights, down n' back to parking lot and an out n' back to Loundon Heights overlook and back to the parking lot. We set up an aid station in the Leonardis Mobile so runners could easily fuel up as needed.

The temps that day heated up to the mid 90s with enough humidity to slow anyone down to complete stop. We were all extremely spoiled since the summer never actually heated to a true Maryland summer. Which usually means high humidity with grueling hot temps.  So leave it to mother nature to heat up on this weekend. The name of this run really showed its true colors as many runners were feeling beat up, chewed up and spit back out by the these two huge climbs over and over again. As the day got hotter runners started to drop off like flies.

Many of us hung in there for a solid 20, 25, 30 and even 35+ miles that day.

Even though it was a hard days work. I think we all walked away feeling like we could not have had a better training run. It was a grueling challenge with endless climbs providing us with long down hills to really beat up those quads.

My run that day along with a couple others consisted of 36 miles total with just under 10,000ft of elevation gain. That included 3 climbs up MD heights and and twice up Loudon. The time on my feet set the stage for the following weeks to come which would focus on quality long runs with LOTS of climbing.

As I sat in the parking lot with fellow runners we were all feeling completed exhausted. It was good to know that I was not the only one questioning “How the hell do we run 100 miles?” The answer is always, race day is just different.

The Crucible an epic day filled with challenges, laughter and fulfillment.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Week 4 & Week 5 - Inspired by my Sissy!

In the cookies of life, sisters are the chocolate chips. 
~Author Unknown

Week 4  & Week 5 I have to dedicate to one very special person. My sister. Let me tell you a bit about her. She is a mother of two of the sweetest boys, kind, caring, patient, loving, understanding and determined!

In May of this year she came out to take part in the ultra scene. John and Ashley crewed for me at MMT this year. Days following the race she set a goal to run her first race before her 30th birthday. So we found a race for her, a very appropriate race the 4 mile Celtic Challenge in Buffalo, NY. This race provided you with a nice Guinness brew at the finish, so it truly seemed like a perfect fit.

To start Ashley’s training off right,  in May we got her all set up with the perfect shoes Altra Olympus, at the one and only If The Shoe Fits. Not only was her goal to finish the 4 miles but, she really stressed how she wanted to run 4 miles without stopping to walk.

So in just two short months, Ashley’s determination and go get ‘em attitude excelled.
She would send me updates on her progress saying she ran 2 or 3 miles effortlessly without stopping. One day Ashley went out for a 3 run and forgot she needed mop cleaner to clean her floors that evening. So just continued to log more miles and run down to the store to get the mop cleaner. In true Moses fashion, yes she ran down the street with mop cleaner. She would keep me updated on her runs and was finding a way to make her training and running not just something she has to do but she was making part of her very busy life and enjoying it!

As she would send me these updates and it would remind me so much of when John and I first started running many years ago. How the desire and want for more, was like a kid in a candy store. That rejuvenating feeling of accomplishing new goals, the confidence you build from doing something you thought was not even close to possible for yourself.

Ashley’s training far exceeded her own expectations as the weeks went by. The week before the race she shocked herself by finishing a 5 mile run followed days later with 6.5 mile run. Her strategy to go by feel and not stop to walk was paying off.  While Ashley was sending the messages of her longer runs, I don’t thinks he knew it but was inspiring me SO much as I have been plugging away at my training.

Last week’s training I planned for a 70+ mile week. It was hard and exhausting but Ashley’s progress was motivating me all week. Reminding me to just go by feel and remember that it is possible. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it. 

The end of Week 4’s training I was planning to run two solid workouts (with at least 50 miles total for the weekend.) I knew it was going to be hard but I knew I could do it. Saturday’s run was Pen – Mar to Gathland (Part of the Run Across MD) and Sunday I wanted to focus on climbing and elevation so I decided to go beat myself up on MD Heights (4 times.) I knew if I could do MD heights 4 times I could accomplish by goal of 70+ mile week of training plus get in that elevation.
The first time John went up with me the remaining three were all on my own. It was so hard to turn around and go back up but I had a fire lite up inside. I felt excited and inspired by sister’s weekly accomplishments. It was mind over matter. I thought if Ashley can do it I can do it. I ended Sunday feeling COMPLETELY exhausted as I logged over 13000ft of elevation GAIN for the week in 74 miles. 

Finishing Week 4 with a bang made me that much more pumped to keep my mileage high and consistent week of training for Week 5. Monday’s run was pretty creeky as I worked out several “kinks” in my legs with an 8 mile run on the Canal followed by a 13 mile (Big Car Loop) run on Tuesday, Thursday logged a double with a 4 mile run in the AM and 10 on the AT.  Friday worked out perfect since I needed spend the day driving I would log my run with my Sissy on her big day!

Race day came around and my cousin Lori, who has also been very inspiring as she has completely been kicking but accomplishing her every in running, decided she was going to come also. The three of us spent the evening together all in support of Ashley’s first race. I could tell she was nervous but SO excited. I had no doubt in my mind she could do it and do it well. I knew she wanted to run the whole thing without stopping that was her main she wasn’t worried about what time she would finish in she just wanted to finish.

So of course it was a VERY hot, muggy night in Buffalo. Much unlike the WNY summer weather she has been training in. The course looped all around downtown Buffalo. Not much to look at but a whole lot to talk about. At one point Lori and I questioned a dead animal smell, we joked about the creepy barbed wire area across from the construction zone, the aggressive and stressed out Police officers poorly directing traffic and the smell of Hamburgers and French Fries that teased our taste buds. There was a lot to talk about but not much to see. The whole time Ashley just kept trucking along listening to Lori and I make light of the very boring course.

About 3 miles in Ashley’s poor lil Irish face was scarlett red and she was saying she felt fine but she was SO hot. So I kept giving handing her a bottle of the lovely Tailwind mix and telling her to just take deep breathes, she’s got this!  The last mile I could tell she was ready to be done as we turned to the corner to run into our first finish line together I couldn’t have been more proud to have experienced that moment with her. I could see the confidence radiating off from her as she crossed the finish line in a time she did not even think she would come close to. Ashley again surprised herself.

Shortly after finishing, and sipping on our finisher’s beer Lori, Ash and I bounced ideas around for another race to come. The words “half marathon” were even tossed around in conversation.  I couldn’t have been more grateful to share that day with Lori and Ashley. Never did I think our determination and passions for something would come full circle to share a moment like that. I know there will be many, many more to come. As we have all discovered the same love for something.

Friday evenings festivities gave me even more motivation,  to go “hit the slopes!”  My hometown is 20 mins away from Holiday Valley, one of the sweetest lil’ ski resorts in WNY. Growing up I never went skiing here…so its kind of funny I find myself still not skiing but yet hiking up and down these slopes them to get more elevation for my 100 mile training. Crazy how life turns out….

Saturday’s run was another big push as I wanted to log at least 20 miles with lots of elevation and I was by myself. I didn’t know really where I was going but I knew I needed the miles and the climbs. So I filled my pack and just kind ran…wherever! I got lost a couple times, randomly picked a few ski slopes I wanted to hike up and down just took in the views and logged a good 23 mile run that day. I had all intentions of running Sunday but just thought a good recovery day wouldn’t hurt. So instead I took the day off and ran around my brothers back yard with my niece and nephew. I was happy with a 62 mile week, since I had plenty of quality workouts to build my training.

In short, Week 4 and Week 5 were completely inspired by my sister. As she brought back many memories, what it felt like to first get started in running, how to make running a lifestyle (not just something you have to do), what is feels like to accomplish your goals and to surprise yourself doing them.

Thanks for the motivation Sissy because of your determination,  you helped me dig deep in some of my most difficult moments in training the past few weeks. I have complete confidence you will continue to crush your goals and surprise yourself every time. I can’t wait to see you blossom and grow as a runner because you are one!