Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 2012 in Review

Man these months are just flying by! I suppose it helps that it hasn't actually felt too much like winter around here. Usually we'd be knee deep in snow, ice, and sub 20 degree temperatures.

Before I go on I have to show you the most amazing thing that arrived in my mailbox yesterday afternoon:

My Aspaeris Pivot Shorts!!
I've been wanting a pair of these bad boys for awhile, but didn't make the plunge until last week when they were offering 50% off. My first thought when I got them: "No way these baby sized shorts are gonna fit over my thunder thighs!" But low and behold they fit and I was in love with them as soon as I put them on.

The complete compression after-work outfit - Mike is such a lucky guy getting to come home to this
Their amazing sale is still going on through the end of TODAY only. I already ordered a second pair. If you want to catch this deal visit the Aspaeris website and enter code "cooleronline" at checkout.

Now onto the recap!

Mileage Recap

A year ago - January 2011: 66.62
Last month - December 2011: 192.34
This month - January 2012: 181.21

I knew going into January that it would be a slight cutback month thanks to some race tapering. I'm pretty please with that number. Especially considering the difference from a year ago!

What went well

I ran my first ultra and my first trail race and learned A LOT!

In the wake of that race I made changes to my training plan to make it more hardcore.

I hit a huge milestone when I broke through a sub-7 mile in my speed workout. Never ever thought I could do that.

I surprised myself when I made it through my first 60 mile week relatively unscathed and got some trail running done in the process.

What didn't go well

Mother nature kept me from my half marathon, which I actually felt ready to PR in.

I did not get in any cross training whatsoever this month despite the goals I set to do so at the end of December.

I still have a lot of work to do in terms of training on trails. It's easy for me to get discouraged, but I'm trying to push through and find some positivity in it!

February 2012 goals

February is supposed to be a higher mileage month. I should easily be hitting the 200 mark, which I've never done before.

I have another 50k trail race on February 11th, in which I hope to PR and which I hope will boost my confidence on the trails.

I want to run more with friends! It is so much better to run with someone, especially if you're going long.

In addition to all the crazy mileage I'll be doing this month, Mike and I have a pretty packed calendar of events including our 5 year anniversary trip over President's Day weekend and my Dad's 60th birthday party at the end of the month.

Should be interesting to see if I can juggle it all!

What are your goals for February?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Accidental 60 Mile Week

This week I ran 60 miles. I juggled them between 55+ hours of work, two classes, homework, and I even got out my save-the-dates. I kind of feel like superwoman, but mostly I just feel tired! I didn't mean to run 60. I was only supposed to do 47, but after missing my race last Saturday I was determined to make the mileage up, and voila! The 60 mile week happened a month ahead of schedule.

On Saturday Mike and I headed up to the Wissahickon Valley to tackle some real trails. They were very beautiful and peaceful, but boy were they tough in some parts! The elevation was not so challenging, but the trails themselves were very technical in some places.

Unfortunately not very far into the run Mike took a rock right to the ankle so we did a run/walk the rest of the way. He said it felt better today so we are hoping it's just a bruise and nothing worse.

I decided to do this run Garmin and stopwatch free. I've been going fast all week and I really just wanted to run nice and easy. It's easy to get caught up in all of the stats. Every so often you just need a run that forces you to appreciate running for what it is on it's own, without all of the extra crap.

We only made it about 7.5 miles before we ran out of time and had to go pick up the pups from their grooming appointment. Poor planning on my part. I was really, really enjoying myself out there and I absolutely cannot wait to go back next weekend and try again. 

At least the girls looked good:

Sophie (left) doesn't smell like a garbage can anymore. I give it a week.
After we got the girls home I went out for 5 more miles on the bike path. I didn't want to have even more mileage to do on Sunday than I already had planned.

Sunday morning I ran 6.5 miles up to the Wissahickon Valley to meet Ragnar friend Sally again. We did about 6 miles up Forbidden Drive before we parted ways I headed back down the bike path. Time goes by sooo much faster when you're running with someone! Mike was awesome and picked me up right around where I would hit 15 miles for the day. If I had run all the way back home it would have been more like 20 and I really wasn't up for that!

All in all it was a good week. I look forward to what is now going to be a 50 mile cutback week over the next 7 days. Most importantly though, I know I'm capable of doing more weeks like this in the future!

How was your weekend? Did you get out there for any good runs?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

11 Random Things

Before I even get into this post I have to share with you something I picked up today at the farmer's market:

Yes, it is my favorite season of the year. Nothing like Girl Scout cookies to make you smile in the middle of winter!

Okay, on to the real point of this post. Beth tagged me for 11 Random Things, so here it is!

The Rules:
1) Post these rules
2) Post 11 random things about yourself
3) Answer the questions set for you in their post
4) Create 11 new questions for the people you tag to answer
5) Go to their blog and tell them you've tagged them

My 11 Random Things:

1) Unless I'm at the pool, the beach, or in my own shower I never ever walk around barefoot. It grosses me out. I always have a pair of flip flops or moccasins on me.

2) My dream races include Western States, the Berlin Marathon, and the Comrades Marathon.

3) I studied abroad in Rome for four months in college and fell absolutely in love with it. Being there reignited my love of archaeology.

4) It's my dream to live abroad for a few years at some point at get a job or go to school there.

5) I'm terrified of heights. I almost had a panic attack when Mike and I went to the top of the Empire State Building last February. The crazy wind up there didn't help.

6) When I was growing up my mother enrolled me in every program possible - ballet, gymnastics, horse back riding, karate, tap dance, etc. etc. I didn't always like going, but looking back I'm really happy she made me try different things. I hope to do the same for my kids.

7) Even though I'm totally into the barefoot/minimalist running trend I don't own a pair of Vibrams. My Morton's toe prevents them from fitting right.

8) I already have a list of baby girl names picked out even though that's (at least) a few years away. Can't seem to come up with any boy's names that I really like.

9) If I won the lottery I would quit my job and go to school forever. Learning is the best gift anyone could ever give. I would also run my dream races and travel a lot.

10) I went through a "rebellious" phase during my sophomore year of college, dyed my hair black, and got my noise pierced. I grew out of the phase four months later.

11) I was a daily smoker for five years between the ages of 18 and 23. I used to get winded walking up a flight of stairs. Now I can run 60 mile weeks. If I can do, so can you!

Beth's questions for me:

1) What is one bad habit you want to break? I bite my nails and cuticles all the time and have for as long as I can remember.

2) What is the best compliment you have ever received? After I started this blog a few people have told me that I'm a good writer. Writing has always been something that I was self-concious about so that was a nice compliment to hear.

3) If you were stranded on a desert island and had a case of food -- only one type of food -- what would it be? Chocolate chip cookies.

4) If you could have a beer with any person (living or dead) who would it be? Hmm, this is a tough one. I took a class all about Ptolemaic Egypt two years ago and after that I think talking to Cleopatra VII (the Great) would be very interesting. Actually that whole family was pretty messed up. It would make for a great episode of Jerry Springer!

5) What is your biggest pet peeve? Disorganization!!

6) Favorite song of all time? I don't have a favorite, but I could listen to Seal's "Kiss from a Rose" over and over again. It reminds me of my childhood when it was on the radio.

7) Guilty pleasure song? (You know - the one you rock out to when no one else is listening...) Anything Britney Spears. C'mon people, I was 13 when she blew up! What did you expect?!

8) Favorite vacation location? I've been going to Bermuda since I was little and absolutely love it there. Mexico is also pretty sweet.

9) Are you a re-reader or one-and-done? Definitely a re-reader. I really have no long term memory so re-reading is always still surprising!

10) What is the career you secretly dream about starting when you retire from your current job? I want to be an archaeologist and college professor. Hopefully I will retire from my current job in a few years to begin a Ph.D program and actually head down that path!

11) The place you wish you were right now, instead of being at a computer? Trail running, which I'm going to do later today!

11 questions for my tags:

1) Favorite kind of Girl Scout Cookie?

2) Flats or heels?

3) What guilty pleasure website do you visit nearly every day?

4) Ice cream or frozen yogurt?

5) Three things you would do if you won one million dollars in the lottery?

6) What's one hobby you never thought you would get into?

7) Would you rather have a job you dislike that makes you a lot of money or a job you love that pays next to nothing?

8) Trails or roads?

9) What is your favorite race distance? Or, if you haven't sampled too many, what is your dream race distance?

10) What was your favorite subject in school and why? 

11) Favorite non-sweating activity?


To anyone else who wants to play along leave a comment here with a link to your blog and answer my questions!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Facing Your Fears

This morning something awesome happened. Something I never really thought I could do. This morning I conquered my fears, and ran not one, but two, spectacularly sweet sub-7 mile repeats. Yes, that means there was a big ol' 6 in front. A freakin' 6!

More importantly though, why are my hands bigger than my head?
Usually I do speed Wednesday mornings, but I slept through it yesterday and today was the only other day to make it up. Yes, I was really tired yesterday, but mostly I think I was afraid. Speed frightens me. Trails frighten me. They both make me want to curl up in a ball and hide. But if I spend my whole life doing that I'll never really know what I'm capable of.

Sometime in the last 36 hours I decided that I wanted to see a 6:xx in my mile repeats in the near future. I did not really expect the "near future" to be this morning, but I thought I could at least get close. All week I have felt slow and sluggish, but for some reason my splits have been getting faster and faster.

When I left my house this morning I was still afraid, still frightened. "Maybe I don't need to do mile repeats. Maybe I can just run some regular miles. No one is forcing me to do this. Why should I have to?" Why should I? I should because it frightens me. It's the same reason I do my laps in the deep end of the swimming pool even though deep water scares me. Because if I don't face my fears, they will eat me alive. Because deep down I know I can conquer them.

I took off for my first repeat and even in 35 degrees I was completely warmed up 0.3 miles in. It felt hard and challenging. I didn't look at my watch at all. I didn't want to know. First mile done: 7:09. Two seconds faster than my fastest repeat last week. Can I do better?

Second repeat hurts like absolute hell. I feel like I'm going terribly slow. I don't look at my watch again. I feel like I want to die. Second mile done: 6:57. How is that possible? Did I really just do that? More importantly, I'm exhausted. How can I possibly do one more?

Even though I cool down between repeats two and three, everything starts hurting again as soon as I start the third. If I thought I wanted to die before, then I don't know what you could call what I'm feeling now. "Who says I need to do three repeats? Maybe I'll just stop at 2.5. Who would know?" I would know. I want to finish. I need to finish. As I'm curling around through my last lap a man and woman begin running ahead of me. I'm surprised when I not only catch up to them, but seem to fly past them as if they are standing still. As I pass I hear the man say to his partner behind me "Wow, she's got a motor on her." I smile. Yes, maybe I do this time. I push just a little bit harder the last 20 feet. My whole body feels as though it will explode into a thousand pieces. It's over. I look at my watch: 6:51.

As sappy as it sounds, it's true: you never know what you are capable of until you try. I don't think I'll ever be one of those sub-6 runners, but at least now I can say for damn sure that I can run a sub-7 and that I conquered my fear.

Next up: trail running.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Every week I have planned mileage to run and every week I usually do said mileage on the day prescribed. And then there are weekends like this past weekend, when it decided to snow and ruin my race and throw all of my plans in the shitter.

Despite my best intentions I did not get out on Saturday to run my 13.1. The roads looked terrible and I was betting the bike paths were no better. I decided to save my miles for Sunday, which I had a separate 13 miles scheduled for. A 26 mile weekend is more fun if you do it all in one day, right?

I seriously had the intention to do it that way. If I didn't race on Saturday I should at least challenge myself by running a marathon the next day. Unfortunately the roads were still pretty bad and I refuse to run on the treadmill. The mental anguish of it would certainly kill me.

It looks pretty, but it's no fun to run in I assure you
I ran 4.5 in the morning. It was supposed to be more, but the nicely cleared bike path wasn't as nicely cleared up near Boathouse Row. In fact it was straight up scary black ice. No thanks. I think I'll stay uninjured thank you very much.

The only good 1 mile stretch of bike path in the morning
A few hours later I met up with Sally from my Ragnar Team. Thanks to a few more degrees and several more runners warming up the ground, the black ice was gone and we were able to get a lot more traction than I had only a few hours earlier. I ran part of the run in the snow when the path did get icy again. Man did that make my legs sore! Guess I don't need to feel bad about not getting out to the trails this weekend. I had muscles sore that I didn't even know existed!

All in all I ended up with 13.4 miles on Sunday, squarely making up for Saturday's half. Never one to miss out on my mileage (seriously it's a problem sometimes), I split up the other 13 over yesterday and this morning and now I can begin this week's mileage on time as scheduled. Success!

Also, It was a lovely 52 degrees out yesterday, which means all the ice and snow melted and I now have my running paths back again. What a wacky winter we're having!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

When Good Saturdays Go Bad

I shouldn't say bad. Saturday really wasn't "bad" it was just a lot different than I thought it would be.

Enter: Saturday morning, 3 am. I spring out of bed two minutes before my alarm is set to go off. I dart to the living room, open the shutters, and check out what's going on outside. Several inches of fresh snow are covering the ground. The cars are indistinguishable from one another parallel parked on the far side of the street. It's still coming down in flurries. I rush to my computer and check the hourly forecast in Philly and New York. Unlike 6 hours prior, at 9 pm when I went to bed, precipitation chances have dropped below 100%. In fact the snow doesn't appear to even have started in New York yet. Excellent news. Time to go!

I'm out the door by 3:20 am, walking the dogs to get the car. They are extremely confused as to why they are going out this early. They rather be sleeping (me too maybe). After cleaning off the car, driving to the apartment, and dropping the dogs back inside we are on the road at 4 am, exactly according to plan.

I'm slightly concerned at this point about the weather, but my logic tells me that though these neighborhood streets are bad and I have to go about 5 mph on them, the highways will be salted, cleared, and much faster. Good thing we're only a half mile from the on-ramp.

A funny thing happens when I get there: the roads are not salted, plowed, or anything of the sort. Interstate 95 looks just like the street my apartment is on. The few cars that are out at this hour are swerving and twisting all over the place. I'm barely breaking 30 mph on the New Jersey Turnpike. I begin to realize this probably isn't going to turn out the way I want it to.

At 5 am NYRR posts on their Facebook page that the Manhattan Half has been turned into an un-scored fun run. We've gone maybe 40 miles at this point. I make the decision to turn around. I'm disappointed. I feel like racing, but I would also be up for a relaxed fun run through Central Park because its someplace new. Unfortunately, even if we continue to drive forward, we will most likely not make it in time anyway and we may have trouble getting home. It's just not worth it.

Mike offers to drive back home, which is good because me hands are stiff from gripping the steering wheel so hard navigating through the snow and ice.

Happy Mike - "I get to go back to sleep!"
Sad Kristin - "I hate giving up"
We arrive back home at 6 am, curl back into bed, and sleep for another two hours. The rest of the day consists of playtime in the park, unfulfilled intentions to still run 13.1 miles on home turf, online shopping, and a trek out into the snow and ice to find dinner.

All in all, not a bad Saturday. But oh, what it could have been!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Manhattan Half: Goals

Sometime in November or December I made the spontaneous descision to register for the Manhattan Half which is (suprise!) tomorrow. I really wanted to put my name in for the NYC Half, but instead I signed up for the Rock 'n' Roll USA the day before. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to be super hardcore and run two half marathons in one weekend, but I'm not that cool (not yet anyway).

Before we get into goals, let's talk about the weather:


More awesomeeeeee
Of course it hasn't snowed all winter (except for the random day in October...what the hell still?) and it chooses this weekend to start. Excellenttttttttt.

I should also mention that to save money Mike and I decided we would drive to the race tomorrow morning from Philly. So I need to get up at 3 am, drive 2 hours into the city in the snow, get to the NYRR offices at 6:30 am to get my bib and then drive and park on the other side of Central Park to get to the start line by 8 am. Good planning Kristin. Hopefully I will arrive way too early and have to wait around for a while until the start. I much prefer that than the other way around!

Okay, now onto some goals. My last half marathon was the Rock 'n' Roll Philly Half in September. I ended up setting a 9 minute PR and negative splitting the entire race. It was pretty sweet.

Knowing that I would just be coming off from running a 50k two weeks before, I really never intended to "race" this half when I signed up for it. Today, I'm still not sure (now based on the weather forecast) if I want to "race" it. What I do know though, is that I feel absolutely fantastic recovery-wise!

Looking at the week leading up to the Rock 'n' Roll race in September I put in 6 straight days of running and over 30 miles before race day. This week I've only put in 18 miles and 3 days of running. On top of that my training runs have been faster than those in September. Translation: I could probably PR this race if I wanted too.

That said there are a lot of things that could prevent a nice PR such as:
  • The 90% chance of wintery mix headed my way
  • The notorious Central Park hills that I will have to contend with for two (count 'em two) loops of the park
  • And the usual stomach/digestion issues that are always a race-day fear

I probably won't make a final call on whether to "race" or not until tomorrow morning at the start line. In any event, here are my tiered time goals:

A) Sub-2 (whether I "race" or not)
B) Sub 1:55
C) Beat my current PR of 1:52:31

My general goal no matter what is to run negative splits. Those are the best kind of splits after all :)

And lastly, today is Chloe's, my BFF for life, birthday! She is 9 years old, but still acts like a puppy. Happy Birthday Chloe!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Wednesdays Are For:

Hello and Happy Hump Day! Nice to see it show up so fast, but I guess that's what happens with three day weekends.

This is how I feel about Wednesdays
For the last week or so I have been thinking more and more about my training plan and whether it is really up to par with my goals. I had a really hard time with the 50k 10 days ago and despite a quick recovery time, I'm left wondering if I will ever be able to run them at a pace that I am satisfied with.

So I have decided to change up my training plan and increase the "hardcoreness" of it just a little bit. You can find the updated plan on My Training page. To be honest this probably won't be the last time I change it, but I hope it's the last time I make any major changes. For this update major changes include three main things:

1. Increase in weekend long run mileage
The major change to the weekend long runs are to the Sunday long run in particular. Instead of sticking with a simple 10 miles (which already doesn't seem like a huge commitment) I'm uping it to as much as 16 miles after a 26 mile run the day before. Yes, those weekends will probably suck, but the more mileage I do the better prepared I will be on June 2nd. I shouldn't be afraid to push it.

2. Addition of one double run per week on Wednesdays
I've done double runs in the past and I really like them. I say there's no better day than one that starts and ends with running! Plus, double runs teach your body to work when you're already tired and recover quickly.

3. Addition of speed work as AM run on Wednesdays
Many ultra runners don't do any sort of speedwork. It's certainly not necessary to running long distances. But I enjoy being able to go fast and since I still have a number of middle distance road races on my schedule I'd like to keep up with it. Maybe my new motto should be: Run Long and Run Fast, Just Not At The Same Time.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about speed work as a means to convince myself to start doing it again. I've done a few tempo runs since then, but nothing that really qualifies as speed work. Then this morning, in a miraculous feat I got myself out of bed, into my running clothes, and out the door for some mile repeats. Looking back at MapMyRun it appears the last time I actually did these was September 28th, forever ago.

I did those repeats all summer long. The air was still cool when I left the house and the sun would be coming up. By the time I'd be finished I would be soaked head to toe in sweat. The good kind of sweat. The kind you know came from honest hard work.

Feeling hardcore after a sweaty summer speed session (say that 5 times fast!)
This morning walking out the door it was cold and dark and I was immediately terrified of what I was about to make myself do. During the first mile I flew out way to fast and two miinutes into it I felt dead. But then they got better and better, as they usually do, and I ended up quite happy with splits of 7:45, 7:28, and 7:11. The fastest repeat I had ever clocked over the summer was around 7:10, so I am incredibly amazed that after 4 months I was able to squeeze one out around the same time. Muscle memory is an amazing thing.

So what are Wednesdays for? Doubles and speed work, that's what!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Three Day Winter Weekend

Three day weekends are always awesome. That said, there's a huge difference between a three day weekend in the winter and the fall, spring, summer, basically any other time of the year.

Non-winter three day weekends usually look like this:

Heading out for a nice bike ride
Visiting local attractions
Or just wandering around town, taking in the sights we normally neglect on a day-to-day basis
It could even just be relaxing in the park
Ah yes. That would be your Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Labor Day weekends. Unfortunately MLK Day doesn't usually involve any of these wonderful things. Instead, it's pretty much made up of sleeping in, getting chores done, forcing myself outside into the bitter cold to get my miles in, and then hunkering down and refusing to leave the apartment for the rest of the time because it's just too damn miserable out. Don't get me wrong, I'd rather be doing that then going to work, but it's really just not the same.

On Saturday I finally got my butt out the door to do my 10 miles. They went positively fantastic complete with negative splits and an average 8:30 pace, which is great considering I had just run a 50k seven days before.

On Sunday it was even colder outside with highs in the low 20s. I was determined to get up to Forbidden Drive, however, and get some trail training in.

Yay so cold!

It took me a solid 2 miles to completely warm up. Quite frankly it was pretty miserable. It was the kind of cold where you have trouble breathing and you can't feel your ass for the whole 10 miles. But I didn't have super high expectations for this run. I just wanted to be out on the trails taking it as slow as I needed/wanted.

At the half way point my stomach started acting up. I felt so slow and sluggish. I almost wanted to quit which, with the exception of last weekend's race, is not a feeling I usually have. I forced myself to tough it out and Mike stuck with me. We ended up finishing with horribly positive splits and an average 9:30 pace. What a difference from Saturday eh?

The point is, they can't all be great or even good runs. You will have "off" days and they will challenge you. It's up to you to make sure you get out there again and #makeitcount.

How do you deal with a bad run? 

Sunday, January 15, 2012

A Plea to Readers

Today is the LAST day to vote for Refuel with Chocolate Milk's Team Refuel. So please reader, do me a huge favor and go vote for me right now! Just search "Kristin" in the search box.

I will literally jump for joy if you go vote for me
If you've been following me you know I've got a big, scary 50 mile race looming on my horizon. Joining Team Refuel would greatly assist in getting me there. Help a girl out won't you!

Because I truly love, love, love to run
And because I want to look like this after I finish running 50 miles
Voting closes at 5pm Sunday, January 15th!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Thankful Thursdays: Recovery Edition

Only twelve days into the new year and lots to be thankful for!

I'm thankful for self-restraint:
Fellow blogger Jory told me she was running a trail race this Sunday in Reading, PA, just about an hour north of Philly. I admit I spent all of Wednesday debating about whether to go or not. I have a bit of trail fever and I want to get out there right away and start learning.

The beginning of trail fever
But at the end of the day I decided to forego the race because of three reasons: I'm still recovering from last Saturday's race, I have a half marathon next weekend that I want to feel (relatively) fresh for, and Mike already promised to run Wissahickon trails with me on Saturday and he doesn't run two days in a row because of his heel spur. I feel super lame for dragging him to so many races in the last six months so I don't want him to have to sit out for another one. Being spontaneous and signing up for Sunday would have been worthy of an "I'm thankful for..." mention too, but I think I made the right choice.

I'm thankful for speedy recoveries:
On Tuesday I took my "ultra" legs out for their first run after two days off. The first half mile felt great. The next 3.5 miles felt tiring. Yesterday I went out for 6 miles and they felt noticeably less tired. Good to know my body is bouncing back quicker and quicker after each obstacle I put it through! (Those bruised toes are looking better too)

I'm thankful for Haribo Peaches:

I've been craving these all week for some reason and they didn't disappoint when I finally got my hands on some. Candy always makes everything better.

I'm thankful for intellectual stimulation:

Classes start today. I could complain about how stressed out I'm going to be fitting in 7 hours of class and 5-10 hours of studying each week, but instead I'm going to look at the brighter, more positive side. I could never be one of those "independent studies" students that does work all on their own. I need the structure of a class to force me to get it done. So hears to more forced intellectual stimulation over the next 15 weeks!

I'm thankful for the approach of February 18th:
There's a special day coming up in the near future. No, I'm not talking about my wedding, but I am talking about our 5 year anniversary! Wow, where has the time gone?

Oh, we were so young once
Every year we go away for a long weekend to celebrate. This year we are going to head up to the Poconos and try to embrace the winter weather. We drove through the adorable town of Jim Thorpe during Ragnar in October and I was instantly in love! Last night we officially booked our bed and breakfast. Now I have something to look forward to for the next month.

What are you thankful for this week?
FOUR DAYS LEFT! Don't forget to VOTE for me to join Team Refuel! Vote 'Kristin Hoeberlein' once a day now through January 15th!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

My First Trail Ultra: What I Learned

If you haven't read the recap yet, you can find it here. You can also find my goals for this race here.

Finishing the PHUNT 50k was one of the hardest things I've ever had to do in my life. Physically it was demanding, but not as demanding as I thought my first marathon was. Whether this is because I wasn't pushing the pace and racing like I did during the marathon, or whether it is because my body is more accepting of the stress I put on it and has adapted to handle more since the marathon I will never know.

No, the physical demands for this race were not the tough part. It was the mental demands that would make or break me. Trail running is different from road running for many reasons (more of which to be discussed below), but one of the biggest differences I found was the mental challenge of running on trails. Unlike a road race, there are no cheering crowds in the middle of the woods. Often, for much of the second half of the race, there weren't even any other runners. No one would know if I dropped out or took a short cut. It's only you out there. The trees aren't going to push you forward. You have to do it yourself.

I think the fact that this race was made up of two identical loops really messed me up. The entire first loop I was dreading having to do it all over again (by myself no less) a second time. Of course once the second loop came I kind of appreciated the fact that I knew what to expect. So I suppose there are pros and cons to a double loop course.

At the end of the first loop, what really made me push on was a simple question: Would I rather suffer 3.5 more hours through another 15.8 miles? Or suffer another 3.5 months feeling regret for not finishing and giving up? The answer was obvious. Sometimes math is all you need.

In terms of the actual course, for me, 31 miles is not a terribly challenging distance. I would call it of moderate difficulty. What was extremely difficult for me was the terrain. Previous to this race I had run a 5k and a 5-miler on a nearby Philadelphia trail called Forbidden Drive. After the PHUNT, I can confidently say that Forbidden Drive is nothing more than a treadmill with gravel on top of it (at least the main drag of it is). The PHUNT course was about 90% through the woods, on single track, rocky, rooted, trails with lots of small stream crossings and constant uphills and downhills. I know most of my pictures show me running through fields, but frankly when we were in the woods on those tough trails the last thing on my mind was taking a picture to show you what it looked like. I thought it was very, very difficult. While I was grateful for the weather being warm, that also meant that the ground warmed up and the mud became thick and very slippery. I probably lost 20-30 minutes having to walk in places I would normally run because I didn't want to slip and fall down a hill.

As I said, mentally this race was very tough. Like always, I was so glued to my time goal, I thought about DNF-ing when I knew I wouldn't hit it. "What's the point?" I thought. I kept reminding myself that finishing was my first goal, however, and that helped push me through. Am I proud of my finish time? No, definitely not, but I'm definitely proud of finishing.

I spent the first half of the race so angry and disappointed with myself. It wasn't until the second half that I accepted the fact that I'm a newbie trail runner and that's okay. I would consider myself an experienced runner at this point, having raced everything from 5k to marathon, so it was hard for me to realize that I might be a beginner when it came to trails. As I said in my recap, this race was very humbling, and this was the reason why.

 Since the race ended I've thought a lot about my training plan and how I need to adjust it. I'm very happy that I finished the race if only to come to these realizations. At this point I still have 6 months until my 50-miler, so there is a lot of time to improve. Here are some big things I learned:

I need to train on trails if I'm going to race on trails
This is the number one thing I learned. I was naive to think that high mileage was the only thing I needed to get through a 50 mile race. If I want to go fast on trails I need to practice on trails. Can't save that for race day. I'm going to try to include one trail run every other (if not every) weekend from now on.

I need to spend less time at aid stations
In my 7 hours and 21-some minutes doing the PHUNT, I spent at least 15 minutes at aid stations. I felt safe in them. I didn't want to leave. But I've got to learn to grab and go. It doesn't matter if I leave the aid station walking while finishing my snacks. The point it I'm making progress on the course.

I don't need to bring a lot with me when aid stations are numerous
I definitely overpacked for this race. I didn't end up eating any of my own food during the race and just using what was at the aid stations. To be fair, since this was a free race, I didn't expect anything from aid stations other than water, so that's why I brought a lot. Fortunately though, a lot of runners were generous and brought loads of food. In a paid race there will definitely be food at aid stations, and if those aid stations are no more than 5 or 6 miles apart, I can get by with a handheld or waist pack. No need to weigh myself down with the big camelbak.

If I walk it's got to be a power walk
Unless you are an elite, walking must be done during an ultra. End of story. Again, I was naive to think otherwise. I learned very quickly on Saturday that you expend way too much energy running up a hill, so I ended up walking. A lot. I walked slowly and sloth-like and I saw a lot of walkers passing me, because they were power walking. It's the best compromise between running and crawling.

I want to race on more trails
In addition to training on trails regularly I also want to race on them more leading up to the 50-miler. Ideally I'd love to do some shorter races, maybe a 10k or 10 miler, where I could test my skills and speed and not burn myself out, but right now there don't appear to be very many in my area. I did sign up for another 50k in February (no less than 2 hours after I got home by the way - I must be off my rocker crazy), and I already had another one planned in March. I'm curious to see what their trails are like compared to the PHUNT's, which I found very challenging. I'll keep my eye out for some other things this spring.

I'd be lying if I said I enjoyed this race. Even in times of great elation during the second half I just wanted it to be over. Right now I don't like trail running, but I think that I could. There was something really peaceful about running alone in the woods. I can confidently say that after 7 hours I drove out of that park a different person than when I drove in that morning.

I can do better. I can be better. But I've got a lot of work to do!

Do you run trail races? What is the best piece of advice you could give me as a newbie?

Don't forget to VOTE for me to join Team Refuel! Vote 'Kristin Hoeberlein' once a day now through January 15th!

Never Take a Mile for Granted Again: PHUNT 50k Recap

I mean that when I say it. From here on out a mile will never be an after thought. It will never be under appreciated. I'm so used to be able to clip through one in 8 minutes. So on Saturday, when it was taking me 20 minutes to get through one, it made me re-evaluate a lot of things. If I could sum up the PHUNT 50k, my first trail race and my first ultra, in one word it would be humbling. But let's start at the beginning...

The nice thing about winter races is that they start later. We didn't have to toe the line until 9 am. I was wide awake and jumped out of bed before my alarm even went off at 6. It had been days since I'd gotten a real run in because I was sick. I felt like I did right before the marathon in November: ready to run and end the taper!

I had packed up my bags the night before. As usual I overpacked, but I was so unsure about the weather, that I decided to bring 3 different outfits just in case. I also packed two PB&Js, two granola bars, bananas, fig newtons, two packs of Sport Beans, and a Naked juice to share with Mike. 

Sophie not included

For breakfast I ate a bowl of oatmeal, a granola bar, and a banana. After the dogs went for a quick walk we were out the door and on the road by 7:30 am. 

Time to go!
The roads were empty and we arrived at the park where the race was being held in about 50 minutes. Before I go further I should mention that this was a fat-ass, meaning I paid nothing to register. The event was thrown by the TrailDawgs running club. All they would guarantee to provide was the marked course, some water and gatorade at the two aid stops, and maybe some soup and hotdogs at the finish. This I was all prepared for, but one thing I did not think about was restroom facilities. At big road races I'm used to lines of porta potties, which no doubt some of my registration fee goes towards. Since this was a free event, however, all the runners had to share one porta potty at the park entrance. Fortunately I didn't have an emergency, but I always like going one last time before starting so I waited on line for about 25 minutes until my turn came. Next time I would probably show up 15 minutes earlier to avoid this. 

At that point in the morning it was about 45 degrees out and we knew temps were going to go up to the mid-50s so I opted for shorts, a long sleeve, and compression socks, and Mike decided to wear shorts, a tech tee, and a light jacket that wouldn't be too heavy to tie around his waist if need be.

All of the hundred some runners gathered at the start line around 9 am. The race director said a few words about the trail markings and then we were off! 

Start line
The 50k course was made up of two identical 25k loops. Each loop was divided into three sections and there was one aid station that you would pass at both mile 5 and mile 10 (and then mile 20 and mile 25 on the second loop). The course did not measure an exact 50k (31.07 miles). Each loop was about 15.8 miles, making the total distance around 31.6. Mike was planning on doing one loop with me and I'd tackle the second on my own.

It looks a lot nicer on paper
To recap the actual race I'm going to break it down by how I was feeling each chunk of miles.

Mile 0-0.5: Oh my god this is amazing! It's so beautiful! I love running! Everyone is so chill and laid back. This is just going to be a relaxing 31 mile trail run!

Mile 0.5-5: Wow, this terrain is actually pretty tough. It's pretty hilly too. This is kind of hard. I can't even enjoy the scenery. I have to look down and make sure I don't trip. It's ok though. I'm already hungry. Need some Sport Beans. I can finish in my goal time (sub 6) if I make it to the 5 mile aid station in under 55 minutes. It will be fine, right?

Mile 5 Aid Station: Thank god! I'm so hungry and I thought the first five miles were really hard. Oh wow look at this spread! Cookies, Fig Newtons, peanut butter crackers, Pringles, M&Ms! Screw running. I just want to stay here and eat.

Mile 5-7ish: Okay this second section is much better. Flatter, wider paths. Beautiful forest. Nice downhill too. I'm flying now!

Mile 7ish-10: Okay, now it's sucking again. Also, I just tripped over a root, landing on my hands luckily, but I feel like I just effed up the toes on my right foot. Ouch. Oh god this is taking forever! People are passing us. Where the hell is the aid station. We've been running almost two hours now! How are we not at mile 10 yet?! My legs are feeling a little sore.

Mile 10 Aid Station: It's about damn time. Ultra aid stations make my life! More cookies! Seriously though, I'm starving again. How am I burning through my energy this quickly? We've been running a little over two hours. If I can get through the last section in another hour and run the second loop in the same amount of time I think I can make sub 6 or just over.

Mile 10-15.8: I hate running. If I see another tree again I'm going to stab someone. I don't see where I could possibly pull the motivation to do another loop. To do this all over again seems impossible. How can I rationalize quitting? 15.8 miles is still good right? Maybe this doesn't have to be my first ultra. Oh my god why is there so much mud? I can't run up or downhill with all of this mud or I'll risk slipping off a cliff! I'm not doing another loop. I feel like a failure. Why did I think I could do this? This is the never ending 5 miles.

Start/Finish Line Aid Station: There's the aid station! I see it! I can't believe one loop is done! I'm starving again. I need to eat. Dunkin' Donuts Munchkins?? Hell yes. And ginger ale? Pour me a glass of that! I need a sugar rush.

Mile 15.8-16: Wait am I running again? Like running the second loop? I can't believe I'm doing this. Oh well, here we go.

Mile 16-20: This first section is going a lot better the second time around. I'm going slower, but it seems easier.

Mile 20 Aid Station: Oh my gosh is that Mike? He drove to meet me! Still pretty hungry. Better grab some M&Ms.

Heading out from the aid station after mile 20
Mile 20-25: I like this section just as much as I liked it the first time around. Why couldn't the whole race be like this? Oh look some other runners. Let's talk to them. Hey, one of those other girls is also doing her first trail and first ultra. And that guy ran 100 miles. I'll talk to him.

Coming back to the aid station after around 25 miles
Mile 25 Aid Station: Not hungry. No time to waste. I've got a little over 5 miles to the finish! Woo let's do this!

Everything hurts!
Mile 25-31.6: This section feels just as long as the first time around. Not quite as muddy anymore. The ground is firming up. Very few runners left now. Just keep running. Just keep running. The sun is starting to go down. It's getting chilly. I can hear the finish line! There it is!

DONE: 31.6 miles, 3,000 feet of climbing, 7:21:57, average 13:59 pace

The way that dog looks is exactly how I felt the whole time
I had about 150 miles on my New Balance Minimus shoes before this race, but I think only after this were they sufficiently broken in. 

Thanks to muddy trails and stream crossings
I was really worried about what my feet would look like when I took my socks and shoes off. Remember when I tripped and stubbed my toes?

They look worse today. Trust me.
I'll save the rest of my recap for another day. It would be too much for one post. Suffice to say though, I learned a lot about myself during those 7+ hours.

Don't forget to VOTE for me to join Team Refuel! Vote 'Kristin Hoeberlein' once a day now through January 15th!