how to go to a ragnar!

“run the ragnar,” liz said. “it’ll be fun,” liz said. 

well, she was right. it was fun, despite my complaining and the ankle issue and the heat. 

the 9-mile forest is four hours from my house, so i left after work on thursday to head over into the cheese state of wisconsin. i chose to go the slightly longer route because of rush hour, and in doing so, wondered if everyone in the state of wisconsin drives 50 in a 55. 

i got to the campground just as dusk was settling in, and the line of cars to get in was not too long (not as long as when liz had come earlier that day). 

the logistics of driving in and out was a little odd, but i made it to my drop off point, where i dropped all my gear and liz and lindsay picked it up. then i drove a windy road two miles east and parked in a giant field. (and somehow got away with not paying for parking!)

there was a shuttle back to the campground, then i hopped out. 

  1. portapotties everywhere. there were lines of them in various places all over the event, and they got cleaned out regularly. they ran out of TP more than once, so a couple times i went i had to BYOTP. but generally, i was impressed with the toilet situation
  2. the runners’ village was packed and hot. this is where the runners’ station was, where the teams relayed in and out, and there was a coffee/hot chocolate station as well. you could buy beer, pizza, sandwiches, gear, and visit the medic tent (which i did). 
  3. the tenting was like none i’d seen before! each team had a 20’x20′ space to put all their tents and gear. liz scored a spot that was a little farther out from the noise, so it was a little bit of hike, but well worth it. the tenting situation was a good way to figure out what sort of tent a person should buy, that’s for sure! and to see the different setups was really cool. one team brought a rug, others brought comfy chairs, some brought hammocks, one team had one of those projection lights that threw fairy lights into the trees. 
  4. the tattoos were awesome. i loved seeing all the leg tattoos. 
  5. shirts were also awesome (including my “running sucks” and “but did you die though” shirts). i liked this one:
    il_570xN.1259384306_57ck
  6. the trees, the trees. i just like hanging out in the trees. 
  7. the energy. there’s something about hanging out with 2000 people who are there for the same reason you are. we are all commiserating with each other over the heat and the lack of TP, then telling each other to make sure to try the pizza and to carb up. 

and then like that – – it’s done. you’ve beaten dehydration and lived through a mild injury, and it’s time to go home.

the leaving process was much more frantic and weird than coming in. maybe it’s because we’re all tired and ready to be done. but we hauled all our stuff down to the drop off site, then a few of our people started walking toward the parking lot instead of waiting in the 100 people+ line for the shuttle. they got picked up by some people heading that way and drove back to pack it all up and head home. 

and then it was a four-hour drive home after getting 10 hours of sleep in the last 48 hours and sitting in my own stinky sweat for just as long. but there’s a sense of satisfaction for having done what others call crazy: for training for the run and then getting another race under my belt. 

and so i washed off the sweat as soon as i got home, standing under my hot shower for as long as i could stand. then lying down on my bed was the highlight of my month. and now i’m sitting here a week later, waiting for my ankle to move past the pain point so i can get out on the trail again while the temperatures hold and the light maintains. 

until next year.

how (not) to run a ragnar*

i trained diligently for the ragnar northwood trail run i ran last weekend.

i bought trail shoes after hours of research. i ran on the trails at st. john’s for a month and a half before the race, dodging rocks, fallen logs, and rivets, and running up hills that i didn’t want to run up.

the two weekends before the run, i tried a couple variations of the distances so i’d know which order to run in. the first try, i did the seven mile-loop first, and the following loops were horrible because my legs were no good. the second, i kept my 7-mile for last and it was good.

i ran at night on the trails, my headlamp bobbing along. nighttime 4-mile was my jam: i regularly ran a 12:30-minute or less mile. 

i thought i was ready.

i thought wrong. 

before the storm. it looks so peaceful.

before the storm. it looks so peaceful.

the first indication that this was going to be rough was the 10-day forecast: 80s and humid with a heat index in the mid 90s. sure, we’d be in the forest, but that doesn’t make the humidity go away. 

second was my first loop, the 4-mile. it should’ve been fantastic. instead, it was so hot that i got mildly dehydrated even though i was drinking water nonstop. second, my stomach was upset because of my water sloshing around. and third: no running on the st. john’s trails could have prepared me for the trails that were in the 9-mile forest. 

the st. john’s trails are old logging roads scattered with rocks, gravel, tree branches, the occasional rain rut, and regular inclines and declines. 

the 9-mile forest trails are bike trails full of rocks, tree roots everywhere you look, and switchbacks instead of a steady upward climb. and bike trails? there’s no way your foot is landing solidly. a bike trail is carved into the ground like a U.

when i ran at st. john’s, i’d have to pay attention most of the time, but i could take a break now and then to take in the scenery. at 9-mile, there is NO taking your eyes off the road. ever. it is 100% vigilance. 

so my 4-mile sucked. (actually, it was closer to 5 miles.) i fell once during the run, scraping up my hand a little bit and possibly ruining liz’s water bottle. i was so disappointed in it.

but i was slightly vindicated with my 3-mile run, which i headed out on around 9 p.m. it was cooler, the sun was down, and i ran in a group with two other women: an ultramarathoner and an iron man finisher. for their history in running, they were running a pretty slow pace; it was a little bit slower than i would have run if i’d been alone. but slow was good at this point. i didn’t fall once – only a couple wobbly moments, and i finished the 3 mile in 50 minutes. a normal 3-mile for me is about 36 minutes, but we stopped to let runners go past, and i helped the ultra get some kleenex out of her pack to clean up her hand. so my pace was probably 13.5-minute mile when i think about it. 

then i went back to the tent and tried my darnedest to get some sleep because the 7 mile (really 8) started in the wee hours of the morning and i needed to carb/caffeine up before heading out on that one.

liz rolled in from her 4-mile a little after 6 a.m., when the sun was just starting to grey up the sky. i clipped on the bib belt, turned on my headlamp and knuckle lights, and headed out.

the first quarter mile of all loops is the same: they ease you into it with a wide, easy grass path. SO IT WOULD SEEM. not even close to the red trail veer off, my ankle, which had been a little wobbly to begin with on this run, gave out, and i rolled it massively on the right side. down i went. 

got up, tested it out. i thought about turning around right there and finding someone else to finish my loop, but i felt like that was a giant cop out. so i started running. and it was reasonably ok. 

until i got to the technical part.

here’s the thing about running on a newly rolled ankle: it wants to keep rolling. and rolling. and rolling. every time i tried to run on the technical part of the trails, which was rocks, rocks, rocks everywhere, my right ankle would turn out and cause more pain. i was so irritated with my stupid, weak ankles (still am, actually). 

finally, i gave up and decided to walk during the technical part of the trails, and when it evened out to flat areas, i would run. ok.

meanwhile, the sun came up and lightened up the landscape. the leaves looked great among tall pine trees. the temperature was probably the best of the entire time we were there. i had trained weeks for this. and i had a bum ankle. 

i stopped for everyone who needed to get past me so they could get past. at the water station, i stopped to fill my water bottle and eat a gel pack. i asked the volunteer what would happen if i needed a ride. then i took a couple more drinks and filled my bottle again. procrastinated, pretty much. then headed out. 

the last mile or so of the red trail was pretty even, flat, and wide, which was such a relief. i walked up all the hills, but ran as best i could on the rest of the trail. as i pulled in to the last quarter mile, it was such a great feeling to know the end was near. i’m REALLY glad i finished it, even though it ruined my ankle. 

quinn was cheering for me as i pulled in to the runners’ station, and i handed off the bib belt, ready to head back to camp to pass out. quinn took off like a bullet (really, she was the fastest of the team. good thing, too!)

i checked the time as i left the runners’ station – 8:20. i had finished nearly 8 miles, walking technical parts, running on a bum ankle, stopping for every tom, dick, and harry who had to pass me, and taking a prolonged water break, in 2 hours and 10 minutes. that’s about a 16:30-minute pace. i can’t walk that pace. i ran that almost-8 mile at a faster pace than my 4 mile.

i knew that if i had gone slower, my teammates would have had to run in hot weather, and i think that pressure made me book it as best i could. this is why i don’t play team sports.

i got back to camp and unwrapped my ankle. (i had taken precautions, even! i had taped up my foot along my heel, then tape around my ankle, then an ace bandage over that. and STILL.) the ankle looked like a golf ball and progressively got worse through the day. i had a giant goose-egg on my shin, which i don’t remember getting. it must’ve happened one of the times i rolled my ankle and the pain in the foot was too much to register the shin pain. elevation and ice were the name of the rest of the day. 

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this is actually not that bad. the next day i looked like i had elephant foot.

today, the swelling’s gone down, and i have bruises all over my legs and feet. the past couple days, my other leg’s muscles were killing me due to overcompensating for the bum leg.

but i’m getting antsy to get out running again. the weather is perfect for running, and the light is leaving us quickly; time is getting short for outdoor runs. and now that i know what a trail could be like, i am not complaining one iota about the st. john’s trails. i have the shoes. i have the ambition. i just need to get that ankle moving again. 

*next post i will talk about what the ragnar event is like.

training

training for running races sucks no matter what, but there is a marked difference between training for a regular half marathon and ragnar. each has their advantages and disadvantages!

  1. distance: a half marathon is 13 miles all at one go. a normal person finishes in about 2 hours or so, , with a slower than average person (me) finishing between 2.5-3 hrs. either way, training for a half is all about making sure you get your distance in. you can work on stamina, but really, your pace can be pretty static, hills can be pretty minimal, and you can go on auto pilot. for me, the distance was ok up until about 9 miles; body parts just started to hurt a lot at that point. i kept pushing through, though, and if you can run through the pain (and remember to take ibuprofin beforehand), just going can be ok. 

    the ragnar, on the other hand, is broken into three loops: 7, 4, and 3 miles. each of those distances is more than achievable on their own for me. but they are all within a short time period, so while your leg muscles are recovering from the 7 mile, you need to get going on the 4. i’ve been training for ragnar so far in loose clothing, and today i ran a 7 mile trail run in my loose shorts then the 4 mile in my compression pants. there was a pretty big difference between the two, so i think wearing compression pants the entire ragnar is going to make a huge difference for me as long as i keep training in loose clothes. 

  2. hills: generally i stay away from hills. hills suck. but ragnar trail is all hills, so i’ve been training out in the st. john’s woods on trails. that way i get a taste of running on uneven terrain as well as up and down hills. you’d think running down hills would be the easy part, but it takes a lot of leg work to make sure you don’t go all out on some of them. i’ve been running mostly trails for about three weeks now, and ragnar is in two. i hope my consistent trail and hill running will overcome my lack of stamina and speed. cuz interval training sucks!
    trees
  3. the view: depending on where you run your half, it can be pretty boring. city running, amid buildings. i’ve run through parks in a half, but it’s pretty urban. the ragnar is all woods, which is pretty exciting. being out in the trees while you’re running is pretty perfect for me. unfortunately, i’m so intent on watching the ground so i don’t trip over a rock, root, or divot, that a lot times i miss out on the scenery. weirdly enough, while i’m out at st. john’s, i get pretty close to the freeway, so i’m out running in the trees and nature with the whine of I-94 as soundtrack. 
  4. your knees: concrete ruins my knees. we ran on on concrete for the firecracker four mile in la crosse, and my knees hurt for a week afterward. asphalt is decent enough to run on for my knees as long as i don’t go crazy fast (9-min mile) down hills. trails? bring it on. up hills, down hills, slow, fast: my knees are like LALALALLALA this is awesome! dirt is great for my knees.
  5. shoes: buy road shoes for road running. buy trail shoes for trail running. that’s all. 
  6. the best part: both training options leave a lot of opportunities to eat a lot of food. 

so today i ran 6.75 miles in the early afternoon and 5 miles around 7:30. tomorrow i’m going to try to do 3 miles at some point. my legs are already rubber.

getting ready

i guess i’m doing RAGNAR! ok! and NOT the van version! we’re doing the northwoods trail ragnar race in wisconsin, so we’ll camp in one spot and then run three loops each, a 7, 4, and 3 mile loop. it’s actually 15.2 miles total.

i got my trail running shoes, and this weekend i’m going to start getting out to the st john’s trails (if my stomach cooperates). i’m not entirely sure i’ll be good at this. i wonder if i can bring some trail stick things? i need to buy some anyway for my lake superior trail hike eventually.

ugh! check out that elevation change on the red loop! ack! 

Screen shot 2017-07-28 at 9.46.23 PM

get your iron!

let me tell you about iron supplements. 

now, i don’t know if it’s the iron itself or a placebo effect, but i started taking iron pills a couple weeks ago and my running time has gotten better and the time running has gotten better, too. i have a lot less fatigue while running; for the past few months my muscles have just been blah while running. 

so i did some research on fatigue while running, and the first thing that came up was iron deficiency. women runners are susceptible for a variety of reasons, including heel strikes while running! who knew. i tried out the iron supplements, and off i went. 

anyway, that’s a running update for you!

what’s goin on!

thunderstorms woke me up this morning, so i was awake about an hour earlier than i wanted to be. so now i’m sitting on my couch in my log cabin living room watching a weather front come in and listening to the wind in the trees.

have i mentioned how much i like my new house?

anyway, some life updates for everyone.

running

i’ve been getting really fatigued lately while i’m running, and i’ve gone from “this is tolerable” to “this is miserable.” i did some research online, and it seems like i might have low iron, which apparently is a common thing for women who run. so i have started taking some iron supplements, and i actually might go in to the doctor to get my iron levels tested. in the meantime, we’ll see if the three days of supplements i’ve been taking affect my run tonight.

oh, and i guess i’m running a ragnar race. :/

work

summertime is always a little less hectic at work, which is nice. it’s a time when i can focus on things that’ve been sitting on my desk for months and work on bigger projects. i’m also working 4 10-hour days, so i’ve got a 3-day weekend every weekend. unfortunately, i always feel rushed in the evenings – i get home at 6:30, try to eat supper right aways so i have some time to digest before i go on a 45-min run and get in before sunset (i run on a 55-mph highway, so that’s almost imperative). i don’t want to eat supper late in the day, so that’s what hanging me up there. not sure what the answer is. 

one thing that’s happening that’s kind of cool is i’m helping present on an eorientation project we did at a national conference in washington dc. so this wednesday, i’m flying out to DC for four days. we’ll go to some of the conference, but we’ll also make sure we see some of the big stuff – monuments, smithsonian stuff, museums, etc. i’ve never been out there, so this will be exciting!

(actually, i’ve never been east of indiana [thanks liz], so this will be a real departure from my regular vacay destinations [westward ho!])

garden!

garden is blowing up! i love that it’s RIGHT THERE and it’s LARGE and i have tons of stuff in it. probably too much. we’ll see how the squash does. i planted four potato plants just because i like the occasional potato from the garden, but i don’t really keep them over winter. 

let’s see, what else: broccoli, kohlrabi, spinach, lettuce, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, cukes, peppers, onions. butternut squash and pie pumpkins. that’s a lot. oh! and green beans. we’ll see how it all does. i’ve already got to get in there with my tiller to get rid of weeds.

i also got rid of my two “cemetery” trees that were next to the house. last fall, an ice storm pretty much ripped them in half and they were dead. i was like “ugh, where am i gonna find a chainsaw,” when i was out for a run and heard/saw (haha) my neighbors two doors down chainsawing in their backyard. i came back and they had moved to the front. i introduced myself and asked about some chainsaw services. they happily agreed! he even pulled out the stumps with his truck, which helped a TON. 

took them to the city compost and now i’ve planted two lilacs in their places. MUCH better.

(i also got two raspberry bushes while i was at the nursery and planted those on the end of the garden. excited for that!)

that’s all i’ve got. i might try to blog about DC, but we’ll see how tired i am at the end of the days. the weather front is closer, but it’s still rumbling thunder, so i’m not sure how long this will take. we need the rain, though! 

top ten running things to think about

so we know starting running is hard. 

here’s 10 things to think about when you’re starting running, or even if you’re a seasoned runner, i guess, and need a refresher? 

  1. shoes: always always get good shoes. spend the cash. your feet will thank you. your ankles will thank you. your knees will thank you. your hips will thank you. your brain will thank you because it isn’t thinking about how awful all those things are feeling. 
  2. if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it: regarding shoes. i have flat feet. and heel spurs. and plantar fasciitis. three-ish years ago i decided to go see a podiatrist. until that point, i’d been wearing walk-fit inserts in my shoes, which were doing ok, but the foot wasn’t 100%. first the podiatrist gave me custom inserts, which had NO arch support. went back, and he gave me a cortisone shot, which lasted maybe 6 months when i started getting weird shooting pains down my foot that turned my second toe numb. went back, got a second cortisone shot, which helped for about 2 weeks, then my foot was just a mess. the shot had obliterated my heel’s fat pad. finally saw a podiatrist again up here in STC, who sent me to physical therapy. 11 sessions later, my foot is about 80% to capacity (and feeling sooo much better in the mornings). but i was still getting those shooting pains to the numb toe. WHAT THE HECK, FOOT. i tried different shoes, different lacing, different socks, etc. nothing. finally, i went back to the walk-fit insert. HALLELUJAH. no more shooting pains. we’re back to square one, but that’s ok.
  3. underwear: hefty in the ladies department? get a good bra. yes, you’ll spend more on it than you would on a $10 sports bra at walmart, but it will support the ladies, and you won’t have to worry about things bouncing around and causing pain. also, GET A FITTING.
  4. speed: this isn’t a land race! unless you’re training to win the boston marathon, there’s no reason to kill yourself. the only person you’re in a competition with is yourself, so take it slow and easy. you can add speed, but do so gradually. i feel like this is half the reason people quit: you try to run so fast right out of the gate, that there’s no way it can be enjoyable. really, slow down. you’ll be able to run farther distances, too, before you pass out.
  5. stretch!: stretch out a little bit before running, but not too much. then stretch a ton after running. i make the mistake of forgetting to stretch after races, and then i can’t move for the next three days. 
  6. your toes: you will get callouses, blisters, broken nails. keep your nails trimmed short. make sure your shoes’ toeboxes are wide enough. if you feel something rubbing your toe in your sock while you’re out on a run, stop and get it out of there! you’re just inviting a blister. one time i was out and felt a piece of dirt/sand between my toes and didn’t think it would be a big deal. i had to wear a huge bandaid on my toe for the next two weeks til the blister subsided.
  7. the suck: some days it will suck. huge suck. other days it will be fantabulous. persevere through the suck and enjoy the crap out of the awesome days. 
  8. the fat girl: if you were like me and 260 lbs. when you start running, there is a phobia of people watching you jiggle around the track. when i started, i went to the track at 10 p.m. to decrease the amount of people who saw me. now i don’t care who sees me, but i certainly don’t make eye contact with anyone driving past me. i haven’t gotten any catcalls, so i think i’m in a weird sweet spot where i’m not skinny enough for guys to yell things at me but not fat enough for the same guys to yell different things at me. 
  9. wave: while drivers are usually jerks, other runners, walkers, and bikers aren’t, for the most part. pass someone on the trail? wave! even if you see someone across the street puffing away like you are, do the runner’s wave: left hand up and a really breathy hi.
  10. for heaven’s sake, keep it up!: like i said before, the only person you are really in competition with is yourself. running is not a team sport (well, most of the time not a team sport). YOU have to want this. YOU are doing this for YOU. you’re gonna hate it sometimes and question why you keep dragging out those shoes. but then you’re plodding along and get to kick your way through a big pile of leaves in the fall. or you run past a giant lilac bush in the spring. or you see a fantastic sunset. or it’s the perfect temperature and humidity for a run. or you get a personal best time. (usually those last two happen on the same day.) but really the best part to keep it up is because you know you’re doing something halfway decent for yourself, and at the end of the day, sitting on your couch eating that slice of chocolate mousse pie, you know you’ve earned it.

how to run a half marathon

*runrunrunrunrunrunrunrurn*

after three months of training, the day for the half marathon was upon us last weekend. well, i trained for three months. i can’t speak for liz.

i’d run 10 miles at the most. that 10 miles was… not bad…but not awesome. i knew i could do it. i was relatively unscathed afterward. and they say that you can run 1/3-1/2 more of the distance than what you’d trained for. so i was (supposedly) good. 

the day before, i ate. a lot.

the morning of, i ate. a muffin. and used the bathroom. (no runner’s trots for me.)

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 11.15.43 PMthe time came. we started our half marathon. 13.1 miles.

we decided the best way to accomplish this was to walk a little bit each mile, so we ranranranranwalksranranranranwalked. liz took a picture at each mile marker. 

so things were going pretty well. it takes a couple miles to warm up, and after three miles it just becomes a blur, but then after about 7 (for me, anyway), things start to get hurty. after 9 miles they get really hurty, especially below the waist.  after 10, the bra starts chafing, and i have to make an effort to hold my arms away from my sides as i run to let the cool air flow over my chafed arms. at 11 miles, we stopped to stretch out the calves – OMG.

at this point, all those runners who’d been running fast then walking then running fast then walking were running really slowly. so liz’s and my “slow and steady wins the race” attitude passed all those losers. (said she who came in 112th out of 137.)

and then…the wall. the last mile was just torture. my hamstring quit on me. i took a minute at a street sign to stretch it out, and i barely got my leg 8 inches off the ground before it screamed at me to send it to guantanamo because that would’ve been less torturous than what i was putting it through now. after a couple kicks, it barely loosened up, but mind over matter, right?

right.

we walked a little bit, then decided it was time to run; it was mostly downhill at this point anyway, and the end was near.

Screen Shot 2016-05-09 at 11.22.46 PM

OH HAPPY DAY! MILE 13!!

liz decided she needed to sprint the last stretch, so she finished 10 seconds ahead of me, but i said screw it; as long as i finish running, i’ll be good.

and finish we did. 

so why did we do it? like i’ve said before, because, well, we can!

IMG_0597

then after that? i ate a lot.

the day after? i ate a lot. 

today? i ran again.

a break

running-shoes-planatr-fasciitis_cb3ct5after dealing with some weird pain in my foot that my heel spur resides in, i finally got in to the podiatrist this afternoon. after i explained to him what was going on, he said it was time for another cortisone shot. so now i’m laid up for about a week and keeping off my foot until the shot kicks in*. 

i figured now was the time to do this, if i was going to do it before my half marathon. this still gives me a good five weeks before the half to keep on running. i feel like i’m nowhere near close to being able to run 13 miles, but dagnabit, i’m gonna do it. i really think that walking a little bit each mile will help a ton with the tightened up muscles i experienced at the end of my 7-mile run. not quite sure why, but anything over five miles just feels like torture on my lower half. my breathing is fine; my heartrate is fine; i feel like my upper half could definitely go the distance, but my weight resides below my waist, so that’s holding back my upper half. boo!

so, i’m taking a break. i’ll use the exercise bike to keep my legs in shape and maybe do some meditative yoga/yoga lite to hopefully keep limber. then hopefully by the end of the week, i’ll be ready to rock 8 miles.

* he did say that when the shots start to lose their efficacy after a month to two months, then it’s time to look at surgery to remove the spur. i wish it would just be gone. πŸ™

the foot’s a game

i’ve been having trouble with my heel spur again -_-

i’ve had heel spur/plantar fasciitis issues for a while, and last summer i got a cortisone shot in my heel. it’s been glorious! no pain in the mornings, i can walk on my foot like a normal person, nothing is weird.

then a couple weeks ago, i noticed as i ran downhill, i got a sharp, shooting pain straight up from my heel to the base of my toes, right down the middle of my foot. uh-oh. the past couple runs have been tough for my foot after about 3 miles, and when you’re training to run 13 miles, 3 miles is really not a lot. 

i have new shoes. i have orthotics. i got some kinesiology tape to tape up my foot. i have an ankle wrap i can use as a last resort (it cuts off circulation). i am almost tempted to get reshot with cortisone, but that’ll put me out of commission for at least a week. 

less than two months to the half marathon! come on, foot, can you make it??