Sunday, December 2, 2012

Picking up Heavy Stuff (and putting it down again)

    If you want to be a faster and less injury prone runner then strength training needs to get done.  I don't actually like weight lifting very much but due to so previous joint damage and also because I like running fast and I really hate being injured.  I wish just running was enough to stay strong enough to run well but there are a whole bunch of studies showing that's just not the case, especially as the years roll by.  I have done strength training pretty regularly a lot longer than I've been a distance runner and am reasonably knowledgeable so I decided I could probably find a way to get my whole body strength trained every week without having to spend too much time.  Before I explain what I do, let me remind you that improper form with some lifts can damage you.  Badly.  If you aren't sure then get someone to teach you.
    In order get some cardiovascular benefit from my strength training I use a rhythm of work and rest called 'tabata', which is 20 seconds of work then 10 seconds of rest repeating for a minimum of four minutes though I prefer five minutes.  Tabata is shown to give cardiovascular benefits.  I have a timer called a Gym Boss that can be programmed for any interval length and is great for all kinds of workouts.  There is a downloadable ap for tabata as well.  I bought it online for 20 bucks.  Since 10 seconds isn't enough rest to allow a solid effort on the next set what I do is alternate between to different lifts so that I have 50 seconds total to recover from a given lift.  Here is a list of all the lifts I do, though once in a while I vary the exact lift, for example a flat bench fly instead of a press.  If you aren't familiar with the weight lifting terms take yourself over to you tube. I spread this across four days because the equipment is in my basement but one could break this into just one or two days

Day 1
Flat bench fly  and   Seated row (though any row will work)
Flat bench dumbell press  and  Wide grip pull down
Five minutes rotating through ab exercises
Day 2
Squats  and  Arnold Press (or military press with dumbells)
Incline dumbell fly  and   reverse fly (which can be done on the incline bench)
Single leg extensions (its rehab for a knee and otherwise I'd do single leg dumbell squats)
Alternate legs instead of changing exercises
Day 3
Incline bench bicep curls  and  Rope Tricep push downs (I alternate arms for the curls)
Wide grip curls with a bar  and  Skull crushers (or close press)
Five minutes of rotating ab exercises
Day 4
Deadlifts  and  Dumbell side raises
Decline bench dumbell press  and  Upright row
Single leg deadlift with a dumbell (hold the dumbell in one hand and stand on the OTHER leg and alternate legs)

The ab exercises I do; 1. hanging abstrap curls which I usually do as side curls for the obliques and for improved lateral stability.  2. ab wheel  3. butt lifts where you lie on your back with your feet straight up and lift your butt up.

Why so many dumbells?  Machines are bad news.  Unless you are an average size and frame man the machine isn't really made for you.  Additionally, with dumbells your body engages stabilizers more than with bars or machines.  If you're planning to run around in the woods stability is good.  Sure you can't lift quite as heavy with dumbells so you won't gain so much muscle mass....oh wait, I'm a distance runner.  What about these awkward single leg lifts?  They improve your balance.  They even out your strength.  Many, many injuries and chronic running pains are mostly the result of strength imbalances.  Don't skip body parts just because you don't like the lift.   The single leg deadlifts in particular are something that has helped me handle hilly technical trail faster which is a whole lot of fun.
    How do I decide how much weight to use?  Well, start 5-10 pounds lighter than what you think is a good idea since its better to go a little light than get hurt just cross training.  After that whatever you can do for five sets.  I vary my weight and pace from time to time.  How many reps is a good goal?  Well, that varies with the lift too.  There are things like dead lift that I always do slowly with extra attention to form so I don't injure my back again (snowboarding).  I get seven or eight reps into twenty seconds.  With something like bicep curls I go a little faster.  I never, ever straighten my elbows or knees all the the way.  I don't lift in the seven days before an ultra distance race.  I don't lift on days when I do speed work, hill repeats or long run day.  I do lift on the two days a week when I don't run which makes me more comfortable taking the days off from running. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Next Training Plan

This is what I plan to do with my running for the next few months so that I will get faster and stronger by spring time.  Brief explanations are included.
My workouts will be more targeted this winter.  I will not do shortish long runs due to pain from longish speed work and longish recovery runs.  I will not do slowish speed work due to too much speed during long runs. 

Monday: off  (I strength train Mon, Tues, Thurs, Fri in 15-20 min sessions but more on that another day)

Tuesday: 2-5 mile easy jog.  The distance will depend upon how my body feels and if I'm hurting a lot or feeling like I'm pushing the line for over trained then I'll skip this run and do yoga or rest.  20 minutes is the minimum time or this run.

Wednesday:  Speed work day.  For me, instead of trying to do lots of long intervals and tough it out and shorten the rests, which makes the workout tear up my body while rarely hitting a really high level of intensity, I will be focusing on short and intense workouts.  I am an endurance athlete, I'm already good at going long and not resting.  Speed work will be a 20 minute warm up followed by 30 seconds at 95% of my max (yup, a 200 meter sprint).  The rest period will be 3 minutes of slow walking.  I will do 6 reps.  I realize this seems like a long rest period and a short work out, but again, the goal is a level of intensity that will cause real physiologic change in terms of aerobic enzymes and transport proteins.  I did not invent this approach.  Going into the science behind it would not keep this blog readable and brief so I'm leaving it out.  If you run into knee trouble and just really can't get outside some weeks then I suggest doing these on a bike stand or elliptical and just going really slow during the 3 minute rest.

Thursday: 2-7 miles easy jog.  This run too is more about loosening things up and getting light cardio.  If I have any kind of nagging troubles this is one that can be skipped or cut down to 20 minutes or replaced with cross training.  If you have to limit your total mileage or have time constraints or are a multi-sport athlete then Tuesday and Thursday can be used to cross-train.  

Friday: Off

Saturday:  Either trail hill repeats or a trail tempo run, alternating each week.  Hill repeats for me will be on the long hill on the BBA course near the beginning of the loop where the trail used to be road.  It's a quarter mile long and runnable.  Any runnable hill will work as long as its trail, even if it almost flattens out in places.  I used to do 2 hours and try to keep my effort even.  Now I will be trying to do these as intensely and painfully as I can with pauses at each end for the first hour.  After than I will jog another half hour or so of them.  I have reached the conclusion that I will be faster over all in trail races at this point if I can move up and down hills a bit faster without getting too winded, which means that jogging up hill needs to be a lower percent of my max, which means my max needs to go up.  What will I do when it snows?!?  Take shorter steps, much shorter, and be prepared to fall up hill. I am preparing to trail race.  I will practice paying attention to my footing and bending my knees.  If you find you have trouble with the muscle control then slow down and bend your knees more.  If you can't do that then get your butt to a trainer or PT and learn to do squats and deadlifts properly and then do them and get stronger so you don't wind up seriously damaged.
    Trail tempo runs are done by effort, not by pace.  If you run trail you have to learn to gauge your effort because courses vary widely.  Even the same course may vary widely day to day.  Tempo runs will involve a 20 minute or so warm up and 20-45 min warm down.  The tempo portion will be 60-75 minutes.  I have trouble maintaining effort (hard but sustainable) so I will do them on a 1-2 mile tail loop, pausing for a minute after each loop to sip water and check my effort level.  In my case I will use the ledges loop in the CVNP. 
    What about falling on technical trail trying to go fast?  If you are a trail runner and the pace you are able to maintain for an hour in a row is one you can't maintain safely on trail then you need to do some strength and agility training and you need good trail shoes and a shorter stride.  What about in the snow?!?!!?  Yes, even in the snow.  I will take very short steps and turn my legs over faster.  This will mean my effort level is maintained. 

Sunday:  Long trail run day.  For me this will be 25-40 miles and they will involve absolutely no getting out of breath.  This is the endurance day and it is done on tired legs.  If you can keep moving for 30 miles on trail the day after hill day then you are ready for a 50 mile trail race.  If you can do 24 miles then you are ready for 50K success. 
    My total weekly miles aren't all that high but my one long run will stay long and steady.  There will be much hill walking.  Every 3rd-5th week depending on how my body feels, the long run will be at the shorter end of the range.  For anyone trying to follow my general training schedule, the long run should be what ever is long for you.  If you are training up to 50k then your long run might be 15-25 miles.  I will be running a 100 K in mid January and a 100 miler in June.  These are not new distances for me.
    What about snow on the trails making it too hard to get the miles done?!!?  When it snows I run time and not distance.  How ever long it generally takes me to run about 30 miles in training, that's how long I'll spend that day if 30 miles is what I would have done.  Sure its a guestimate but heck, so are some of the race distances (thank you Rob Powell, I recommend Forget the PR 25K to people all the time).  I will not go run on pavement just to get miles in.  That does not help trail running at all.  I will have strong legs in spring!  The number of miles doesn't matter when it snows.  If you find you have to take tiny steps and make it 2 miles in an hour because of a foot of snow on the trails when you could have done 6 miles out on the road, don't fret.  If you want to run well in trail races, stay out there on the trails year round.  If you can't figure out what to wear, google it and read blogs and post on trail running fb pages and try things out on short runs close to home.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Mountain Masochist

    I had a great time at this year's 30th anniversary Mountain Masochist!  The new course changes mean more single track and less pavement.  For those unfamiliar with the course, over half the terrain is  trail that could be driven over with an ATV or a jeep.  It's dirt, but it's wide, hard packed and full of smallish rocks.  The scenery out there in the blue ridge mountains is beautiful, the hills are mostly runnable and the weather is generally on the cool end of mild.
    This year the weather was colder and most of the second half of the course was under a foot or more of snow due to Hurricane Sandy.  The snow slowed the whole race way down and even led to a half hour extension of the usual twelve hour cut off time.  For me the snow meant a whole lot of fun and, I think, a competitive edge even though running fast down the mountain led to a slide out into a knee deep drift and a little bit of a bounce off a tree.  The snow made me feel happy to be alive and the 35 degree temperatures in the late race kept me moving fast to stay warm.  The longer I run the more I realize how much I enjoy unpredictable and technical trail.  I'm not sure whether I'm truly any more agile than other runners around me or whether I just run better happy and I don't care. 
    The highest point in the race and a new addition to the course the year is a lookout at the top of a short out and back that gives a view of the Blue Ridge Mountains that's the best I've ever seen.  I got up there and just stopped.  Not for long since I knew from the out and back nature of that section that there were three women not far ahead of me, but still I looked long enough that I've got a picture of it still set in my mind.  That said, I did capitalize on the down hill to catch those three women and I managed to keep ahead all the way to the end. 
    I finished 8th in the women's field and 11 minutes slower than last year but for me, I won my race.  I didn't make nutritional errors and I didn't make pacing errors.  I ran the best race I could have run on that day.  I've finished first before and not felt this good.  Place is just a matter of who shows up that day.  Knowing I ran my own best race?  For me that's the real prize I'm looking for.
    But Lee, don't you wish you could have won?  Don't you wish you were faster?  Heck yeah I do!!  I have a plan.  I will be training this winter and I will be faster in spring.  Will I share my training plan?  You bet I will.  I will post my training plan shortly.
    Oh, and I won a sword!  Mountain Masochist has a bench press contest at the finish line for finishers.  I did the most reps at 65 pounds (the women's weight), winning the 'Iron Horse' award, which is a short sword with a plaque on it.  For the curious, I managed 47 reps.  Yes, yes I do strength train, though only an hour or so a week.  I will post my strength training routine on this blog soon for the curious. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

The Ongoing War Against Blisters

    If you don't get blisters ever, feel free to skip this.  I used to get blisters especially from racing and I hated it.  I can stay cheerful through all kinds physical difficulties from either end of the GI tract to cramping to late night delusions.  Blisters just *#@#**# tick me off.  I read all sorts of blogs and product reviews during my first year running ultras and I performed all sorts of experiments on myself.  Here's a summary of the things that make a difference for me.

1) The fit of my shoes.  I used to wear my shoes tighter, thinking that I would have more stability and that less movement would mean fewer blisters.  Your shoe will always move on your foot.  The harder it is pressed against the skin the quicker it will generate heat and skin damage so now I wear my shoes looser.  'But Lee, won't that lead to more falls, to rolling your ankles, to your shoes falling off?'  I like stretch bungee laces not only because they prevent me from having to trust in my ability to tie my shoes but also because they have give while still keeping your shoe on your foot.  In an ultra my feet may swell a little over the course of the race.  Almost everyone's do.  I may not notice very quickly or may not want to bend down late in the race to retie my shoes laces (who knows what's going through my head then, but certainly not squatting down and standing back up).  What about a looser shoe making me fall?  If its so loose it can fall off then its too loose.  If loosening your shoe laces or going up just a half size makes you fall on the trails then it is likely that your ankles are weak and that you also are not actually setting your feet down flat (the nervous system can lie to you about this, a blog next month on that topic).  Do lunges with your eyes closed.  Do single leg toe raises.  Will deep mud suck a looser shoe right off my foot?  It's happened. Twice.  It was still lots better than running with blisters and the people running with me had a good laugh as I yelped and hopped around so it was a win-win.  The key thing here I think is to experiment on training runs and see how your feet feel. 
2) Socks matter a whole lot.  I wore cotton socks once.  They ate my feet.  Some of the cheaper synthetics do too.  I like Smartwool, Bridgedale, Balega, and Merrell to name a few.  There are other brands that are similar and good.  I hear a lot of people find happiness with drymax.  For me a thicker sock is better than a thinner one.  The main reason as far as I can tell is that the shoe rubs the sock and there's enough sock there to keep the rubbing from getting through to my skin.  All of these socks perform just as well for me wet as they do dry.  If a thicker running sock makes your shoes too tight consider a shoe with a wider toe box or a half size increase in shoe size. 
3) Lubricating your feet for ultras is a great plan.  I don't bother on training runs because I'm trying to toughen my feet up but training runs aren't generally as long and fast as races either.  What and how much lubrication do I use?  I'm not that picky with the rest of my body, though I really like Body Glide.  For my feet, for an ultra?  Skin Sake.  Its A&D ointment with some other stuff thrown in and is much thicker on the skin than anything else I've tried, even vaseline.  How much?  I coat both feet everywhere my sock covers.  If its the right amount then when I put on my sock and shoe it feels a little bit uncomfortably squishy for the first half mile or so.  I ran an 80 mile mountain race over summer and a 100 miler in September and both involved a lot of water.  I didn't get any blisters at all.  Seriously.   
4) Wet feet are actually good for me.  When I wore my shoes tighter wet feet meant more blisters. With thicker, high quality running socks of the sort mentioned above and with lubrication on the feet (and even without, though the skin sake seems to also keep my feet from turning into prunes after 20 wet hours) wetness seems to just provide extra lubrication and keep the temperature of my skin down.  Surely you've notice the skin feels hot before it blisters?  That a blister from running looks like a burn?  Not entirely coincidental.  Once I sorted out all of the above stuff I found that wet feet ceased to be a problem which is good because you never know what it will do on race day.  What about water proof shoes?   You can try them but expect hot feet.  Also, expect that if you do have to cross a creek (I prefer courses where this is likely because that's the kind of trail race I love most) and water gets over the top of your shoe it will not drain.  No fun at all.  Its also possible for it to rain so much that rain gets into your shoe.  Gamble all you want, if its a race I prefer to sprint right across the creek without worrying about it.  At lower paces and especially in the snow a waterproof shoe may still make sense for some runners.  I just wear all mountain or thick ski socks and older, slightly stretched out shoes.
5) Blisters can be dangerous.  If a blister tears open and then you blister again underneath so that you have gone through most if not all of your skin then you can wind up with a situation as dangerous as a third degree burn.  This has never happened to me (very happily).  In this case infection can set in and spread and turn into cellulitis which can land you in the hospital on IV antibiotics and losing tissue.  First, take your blisters seriously if they are broken.  Keep them clean and covered.  Second, if you are at all nervous about infection but not ready to seek immediate medical intervention then take a pen and draw around the blister, outlining everywhere the skin is red/angry pink.  Keep checking the blister.  If the redness spreads over the line you drew you need antibiotics.  You need them right away.  When you get to the doctor, tell them when you put the line around the redness and how quickly it spread over the line so that they will understand the problem.  I hope this never happens to anyone ever but if it does, its gonna be a whole lot easier to deal with the more quickly you get it treated.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Canadian Death Race (yeah, 2 months ago)

    The Canadian Death Race website describes the course as 125 K (77 miles) with 17,000 feet of elevation gain and it isn't much longer or hillier than that.  The views of from the Canadian Rockies outside Grande Cache, Alberta are fantastic although we didn't see any grizzlies or mountain lions.  My running partner Gabe and I stayed together for the whole race, finishing in 21 hours and change, still able to walk and talk.  We were pretty happy and then the race people told us only ten percent of first time solo runners finish at all and we were even happier and then we very, very hungry.
    The night before the race we stayed in tent-city, which is a public park set aside for racers and crew to camp in since the town of Grande Cache doesn't have anywhere near enough housing to accommodate the influx of thousands of people over the August long weekend.  Why is it 'August long weekend'?  I had no idea either but apparently in Canada there's a long weekend every month.  Seriously. 
    When we stopped to pick up snacks at the grocery store the cashier asked whether we were in town for the race.  The same thing happened at the drug store.  At five in the morning, as we ran back into town toward the finish people cheered from under blankets on a few porches.  The entire town of Grande Cache knows about and supports this race and the residents are interested in whether you're running solo or on a relay team.  Most racers run on relay teams and solo runners are considered brave, tough, and maybe a little crazy.
    We planned for the worst, in terms of race support, because we traveled too far to wind up quitting over gear or aid station problems.  It turned out to be a good decision since the aid stations consisted of four water stops with water and interestingly mixed Gatorade, some granola bars, and some lunch box size fruit cups.  The person staffing each of these was invariable friendly and usually able to tell us which of the two jugs on the table contained plain water.  Everyone was friendly.  Other relay teams we'd met on earlier sections began cheering for us as we came into aid station areas calling out “go Ohio couple”!  We're not a couple but we didn't care, strangers cheering you on feels good. 
    As we were beginning section 2, where the course ascends rapidly for several miles, we met one of the guys on the barefoot team.  Not Vibrams, barefoot.  He did have on a couple layers and a nice race pack and a set of trekking poles.  We jokingly offered to trade him shoes for trekking poles since they seemed to be all the rage.  He laughed and then told us politely that we were absolutely crazy  trying to run the whole course solo without trekking poles.  He was in the rockies barefoot but we were crazy.  Then he took off up the mountain.  On a side note, though, trekking poles do require practice, there were pieces of broken trekking poles along all the steeper descents and abandoned bent poles at aid stations.
    So what else did we learn that could be useful to other people? Creeks that run through peat bogs on mountain saddles in 23 mile aids station gaps are safe to drink out of, its been over two weeks now so I'm sure.  Vega brand orange gel does not appeal to me flavor wise but when I ate the one I found on the trail it sat well in my tummy.  Bring a lot of food and spare electrolytes and Gin-gins if you run this or anything with a whole lot of hill.  All that up and down beats up a number of systems.  Without the Gin-gins I'm not so sure I could have kept nutrition in.  I decline to address rumors that I raced after spending a week on antibiotics for strep throat but I will say that should you ever make such a decision, and should it effect your ability to swallow and should gels get real unappealing, you can squirt a couple into your water bottle and shake it up and it works out pretty well IF they're fruit flavored.
    If you do run this race, look at the time cut offs closely!  If you're not way the heck ahead on the first one or two then you're not going to finish the race.  The time cut offs don't make sense (to me anyhow) but the race tracks runners and splits very well so you can look up the splits for solo runners who finished in previous years to get a better idea of where you need to be when.  Gabe and I made one of the cut offs by less than 45 minutes and we thought we were moving pretty well!  Spend a whole lot of time on deadlifts and hill repeats if you want to get through these kinds of 3-6 mile ascents and descents.  Don't lose the damn coin for the boat near the end (people do, we didn't).  You will get disqualified and removed from the course AFTER running most of it and getting over all three mountains.  They are serious about that, very serious eh.
    Here's some more really helpful, learn from others' mistakes if you can type info; when its late at night and you're tired and low on calories and its getting real cold, put on your rain jacket and zip it up.  During the day, when you're not doing much or when you're rested and fed, you can tell when you're getting hypothermic.  At three in the morning I couldn't really tell, I just thought I was really tired, I just thought if I lay down next to the trail for a few minutes I'd feel much better.  Suddenly I remembered that at pre-race they told us a guy did that and hikers found him on the side of the trail the next day, severely hypothermic, dehydrated and delusional. 
    Nothing waterproof breathes well no matter what the label says, so if you can manage to keep moving, you'll get much warmer in your rain jacket even if its really thin.  I was still tired once I got warm but not sleepy and I suddenly had more interest in running and drinking my water/gel mix.  Set this information in your mind well so you'll remember it because if you're still reading this right now then there's a reasonable chance cold night time running is in your future. 
    The last part of the race that sticks with me, other than the finish, was seeing what I was dreaming as I shuffled along.  I figured out that the huge, black horse wasn't there because nobody would let a ten year old girl go riding at three in the morning and anyhow my headlamp didn't reach that far.  I figured it out all on my own and it entertained the heck out of Gabe when I explained how that proved I was mentally okay but next time I run a race like this I think I'll find a way to get more sleep the night before!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

My Blog is Back (and where it went)

     For a few months I posted a blog every couple weeks and then a little over a year ago I stopped.  I didn't stop running and I didn't run out of time to write.  What I had was a whole lot of denial about how much of myself I have poured into this experience of running and racing.  I started to write a blog to share my experiences, to share what I learned.  Every time I raced I posted a race report, every time I learned something new I talked about it. 
     So what happened?  Well, I got over confident or over eager or maybe a little of both and I ran too many races when I should have been recovering.  At the 2011 BT50K, the one year anniversary of my first ultra, it caught up with me.  I finished and even in fairly good time, but I finished hurt and needing two weeks off to recover.  No big deal really.  Somehow though, that race got in my head.  That race felt like a failure to me.
     Intellectually I know I finished an ultra and did no permanent damage to my body and that's a great success.  I know all kinds of facts.  The biggest thing running these very long distances is teaching me about myself is how much of a disconnect I have sometimes between what I think and what I feel.  I'm sorting that out, or at least accepting it and learning to see it, which is almost as good.  It took a whole year for me to really learn how to handle a race that feels like a bad race to me.  It was even harder because really looking at that part of myself that chooses to feel like its a bad race?  Ouch.   Those looks don't make me feel really mature or emotionally evolved or....well, it makes me feel weak.  It made me feel weak last summer and I let it for a little while.  What's that adage?  'Pain is weakness leaving the body'.  Sometimes pain is weakness leaving the brain.  I'm not saying I won't have races I feel bad about, just that I think now I can feel bad and then smile anyhow and then let it go.
     So here's a quick summary of what I've been doing since race-wise.  Soon I'll write a little more about some of them and about some of the training and nutrition I've been experimenting with.  After BT50K 2011 I healed up and ran the Oil Creek 100K, finishing right around 12 and a half hours with just one guy ahead of me, breaking the women's course record and running 22 miles longer than I'd ever run before.  The most exciting part?  I ran into a black bear around mile 42.  This is when I should have begun writing again but what had failed wasn't my body so just running a strong race didn't fix it. 
     The following month I ran the Mountain Masochist 50 miler down in Virginia.  The views of the Blue Ridge Mountains were fantastic, I won a sword in a post race bench press contest and I got to see the shack my grandmother's parents lived in when they were first married.  These are the adventures that should be shared but I had lost my confidence in having something to say that other people would want or need to hear.  If you know me this will not seem believable.  Its not as though I stopped talking, I certainly didn't stop running.
   Spring time meant the Green Jewel 50K, my one pavement race, the Forget the PR and then the Ice Age 50 miler.  Mainly I ran Ice Age to run in a more competitive field but also with an outside chance at earning a free and automatic bib for the Western States 100.  I finished sixth and needed a third place, a little disappointed but a little relieved because going into it I wasn't sure I was ready for a 100 miler.  I had been pushing my Saturday and Sunday runs up to 60 mile totals, I had run some 90 mile weeks, but 100 miles in a row?
     I drove home from Wisconsin, not thinking too much about 100 milers until a couple weeks later, recovering fast and not hurting really much at all, someone pointed out to me that Mohican 100 had not sold out.  Its possible that someone was a little voice inside my head.  I listened, I entered, I started, I fell and sprained my knee around mile 28, I tried to finish, and had to DNF around mile 76.  I tried to be happy, it was still the furthest I'd ever run.  Having to pull out of a race is character building, much more character building than most of the things grown ups said that about when I was a kid.
      I didn't have time to be upset, I was focused on going to Canada  In August my running partner, Gabe, and I flew out to Alberta and ran the Canadian Death Race solo (most racers run on relay teams).   Almost 80 miles of the Canadian Rockies and 17,000 feet of hill climbing!  Afterward we found out that ten percent of first time solo racers finish and we did it, we started and finished together!  It took 21 hours and 23 minutes.  It was a fantastic experience and the most beautiful course I've raced so far.  Even more amazing?  No blisters and no lost toe nails.  Seriously.
    The next race, my most recent race, was the Hallucination 100.  I'd been registered for the 50 miler but after two weeks of recovery I decided that it was time to finish a 100 miler.  In fact, I fixated on it, it had to happen.  I had something to prove.  A couple friends and maybe a physical therapist suggested more than five weeks of recovery would be a good idea.  What?!  Well, I finished the Hallucination 100 in 22 hours and 43 minutes.  There were a few miles late in the race when it felt like I was in trouble.  I decided to write my blog again.  I hadn't thought about it much but there it was, solid in my head.  For me, whether I finished or not, I had to go back to writing it down.  I had to share it.  There are a lot of kinds of toughness.  The kind that got me through 100 miles of trail and weather still physically standing is great, but I've got some work to do on some other kinds of toughness.  I don't mean everyone has to blog to have well rounded toughness, but from me its a challenge I need to meet.  It took two weeks move from thinking to writing but my blog is back.  Race reports will follow soon.