Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Daily Chase: Vol. 55

It’s appropriate that the Badwater 135 took place this past week, because I’ve felt like I have been heat-training for it all week! I would love to tackle Badwater at some point in the near future, but running in 95 degree heat and humidity always gives me pause and causes me to rethink goals like that. Clearly humidity isn’t an issue at Badwater, but that only means the water leaves your body even quicker! At any rate, I finally feel as though I’m acclimated to the heat and humidity this summer, which is a nice place to be in as i enter full training mode for the Grindstone 100. The beautiful epicurean and I will be heading back to Minnesota this coming week to visit family, and I’ll have a chance to run the Voyager 50 in Duluth next Saturday, which I’m extremely excited to experience. That area and those trails hold a special place in my heart, and I can’t wait to be back there!

Chasing42 Log: 20160717-20160723

Run: It’s been an interesting running week for me, with the humidity and intensity of my workouts. I took things relatively easy on Monday after a solid, vert-filled run on Sunday. The track workout on Tuesday provided me an excellent opportunity to practice turnover and pacing, and I felt great despite the extreme temperatures. On Wednesday, I got home a bit later and wanted a short but quality workout so I headed to a local park to do hill repeats and squeezed some serious vert into a 5 mile run. I took it easy on Thursday, and dialed back my 200 repeats with the group to a more reasonable pace to give my quads a rest after two hard workouts. Yesterday, curiosity got the best of me and I returned to the Newark Reservoir to see just how much climbing I could squeeze into a short workout. I managed over 1000 feet of gain in just over 2 miles, and I was smoked. This is going to be a great go-to workout for me as I gauge my fitness and leg strength leading up to Grindstone. I tried my best to honor the taper this morning and kept my miles more contained for a Saturday, but still got some good pacing and climbing courtesy of friends always willing to push things a bit. It was 90 degrees by the time we finished running at 9AM, and the temperature isn’t done climbing yet!

Thought: I’ve found myself thinking more and more about doping in our sport recently. Recent drama with Russian athletes being banned from competing in Rio have brought the topic into the spotlight on a world stage. However, they are certainly not the first instance of doping in our sport. I was saddened to see the news that a MUT athlete tested positive after finishing 5th at UTMB in 2015. I think that the ultrarunning community likes to think that we are better than all of this at times, and that our sport has a decidedly different, more community-focused feel than the running community at large. In general, I would tend to agree with this statement. You need look no further than the epic finish at Hardrock last weekend to know that there’s something decidedly different about our sport. Some folks have celebrated this fact, while others have bemoaned it as an end to the essence of racing. Our sport may indeed be much smaller, despite the significant increase in ultra distance races, but we are still just as susceptible to human nature. We are a competitive community, and there will always be people willing to cut corners in order to gain an advantage. The fact that we are talking about it more now certainly isn’t because it’s a new phenomenon. People have surely been looking for illegitimate competitive advantages for years. What’s changed is our ability to discover this cheating and to communicate our discoveries on a global scale.

I’m a firm believer in a zero tolerance policy. I applaud the work of Ian SharmanSage Canaday, Kara Goucher, and others to draw attention to doping and organize athletes against doping in our sport. There was plenty of talk about doping at the U.S. Olympic Track & Field trials, especially with regard to Justin Gatlin and other elite athletes that have tested positive in the past. There is no question that these folks are incredible athletes, but in no way should they be allowed to represent the U.S. on a world stage. Once you test positive, your credibility is never the same and that finding will always haunt you, as it should. The fact that we see suspensions instead of lifetime bans communicates a clear message of hypocrisy and double standards that only hurts our sport and the young athletes working hard every day to achieve their dreams. There are enough pressures on young high school and college athletes as it is, without them having to worry about whether their opponent is going to have a slight edge thanks to a sketchy coach or banned substance.

There has always been something pure, clean, and powerful about the sport of running. You have the ability to toe the line at any time, and leave everything you have out on the track, road, or trail. You push your body to limits and beyond, and embody the purest nature of the human spirit. Our sport is at a crossroads, and the decisions made by leaders in the sport now will decide whether running remains that pure test of determination, hard work, endurance, and strength, or if it becomes something else. There are certainly other issues at play here, such as athlete compensation, the politics of USATF and other organizations, and the overall economics of sport. However, doping is a clear problem with a straight forward solution. The only question is whether we will act, and truly embody the #chasing42 spirit!

Daily Chase: Vol. 54

Did you think I forgot about you? Well, I wouldn’t say it was forgetting as much as simply not having enough time:) The training has been picking up over the last two weeks, and I’ve been doing my best to stay on top of everything else going on in my life. I’ll certainly never accuse my life of being boring, and that’s a sign of good decisions as far as I’m concerned! There is simply so much to learn, investigate, and explore in the world…so if you think you are bored, it probably just means you are boring😉 Now, if that reality check didn’t offend you and scare you off, then read on for some more highlights and updates!

It's nice to have so many choices!

It’s nice to have so many choices!

Chasing42Log: 20160704-20160716

Run: There has been a lot of miles and a lot of exploring going on in the past two weeks and it has made my training all the more enjoyable as I kept the #runstreak going! Here are a few highlights:

I love finding abandoned furnaces and other structures along the trails!

I love finding abandoned furnaces and other structures along the trails!

  1. New access to White Clay Creek: I discovered a trailhead into Middle Run, right next to White Clay State Park, and easily on my way home from work. I started bringing running clothes to work so I could go directly out from work, and it was brilliant! The trails were new, peaceful single-track and I loved wandering around in the woods after work. I haven’t gotten down to WCCSP nearly as much as I would like since Brandywine Creek is closer, but now I can get in a mid-week trail fix!
  2. I still get lost: I was reminded last Saturday that my directionally challenged nature is still quite relevant to my running. I drove out early for the group run, intending to do a quick 50-minute loop that we had done many times before, and be back in time to meet up with everyone else. Unfortunately, I managed to get pretty lost in this endeavor, didn’t make it back in time, and spent the rest of the run on random trails secretly hoping that I’d run into the group. I didn’t, but it was still a relaxing 15-miler with plenty of vertical gain, so I was happy.
  3. More hills: I’m back into full-on vertical gain seeking mode, which means looking for opportunities to squeeze as much climbing into as short amount of time as possible. I found two new options that will work quite well for this task. The Ramsey Hill climb is in Brandywine Creek State Park, and I’ve run by it plenty of time but had never done repeats. I also ventured out to explore the Newark Reservoir, which is only a few minutes from campus, and there is a fantastic hill leading from the parking lot to the water itself, which will make for some great mid-week climbing. I’ve certainly done far more climbing since moving here a little over a year ago, and I am enjoying the added challenge!
  1. Another new park: Last but not least, was my unanticipated discovery of the Carousel Park trails. I showed up to our regular Tuesday track workout but it had been moved and I didn’t see the email. I didn’t have time to get over to the other track so I went exploring and stumbled across yet another park and system of trails I didn’t know existed. Bonus!

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Thought: I finally quite waffling and registered for the Grindstone 100! I knew I needed a key fall race to really focus my training, but I was hesitate for reasons I don’t entirely understand. However, now that it’s a go, I couldn’t be more excited! It is supposed to be a fantastic race with some serious climbing, and it even starts at 6PM, so I’ll be running through the night when I’m awake and alert- score! It will certainly be a challenge, and I’ll be hitting the hill repeats and ramping up the mileage as the summer goes on, but I can’t wait for October 7th. My mind is ready for the challenge, and now it’s time to make sure my body is ready- time to keep #chasing42!

Daily Chase: Vol. 53

Happy 4th of July to everyone! I hope you’ve been able to enjoy the holiday weekend, and find some time to get out and explore the roads or trails! The weather around here for the last week has been surprisingly pleasant, and the humidity has stayed in check, which has been a welcome relief. I’m finally beginning to hit my stride with this new schedule, and I don’t feel quite as tired on a regular basis, which is always encouraging:) My fall running calendar is beginning to take shape as well. I registered for the Philadelphia Marathon on November 20th, which should be a blast with some friends traveling out east from Iowa to come run the streets of Philly with me. I think I’ll be taking the plunge on an October 100-miler as well, so more to come on that soon! I think having something significant to train for really does help me focus my effort on a daily and weekly basis so I’m excited to have that looming over me soon!

Trail love!

Trail love!

Chasing42 Log: 20160623-20160703

Run: The miles have been feeling much more comfortable over the past week and a half. I’ve hit my Tuesday track workout goals with consistency, and I’ve been getting in some solid climbing as well, especially on the weekends. The last two weekends have seen 25/13-15 back-to-back efforts with plenty of climbing on the trails, and I’ve felt better than I have all summer. The trails are in great shape right now too, so it’s been an absolute joy to be out there! My weekly mileage comfort zone seems to be settling in at between 60 and 80 miles, and I’ve been hitting that mark consistently. It’s nice to have a sense of where I’m at my best without pushing myself too far.

Midweek beauty!

Midweek beauty!

Thought: The idea of a running culture has been on my mind some as of late. Many activities or affinity groups throughout society constitute sub-cultures, and running is no different. It’s fascinating to listen to story after story from runners about trying to explain their passion to non-runners. How often have you heard these comments?

  • You ran HOW far?
  • Why on earth would you get up that early?
  • Isn’t that hard on your knees?
  • I bet you can eat ANYTHING you want?
  • How far is that marathon?
  • I just don’t know HOW you do it? I get tired walking the dog!
You don't always know where the path leads, but you still feel compelled to follow.

You don’t always know where the path leads, but you still feel compelled to follow.

I will fully admit (and I’m sure I’m not alone) that I often forget that not everyone has the same understanding of running. This is in large due to the fact that I have surrounded myself with other runners who enjoy the sport as much as I do, and enjoy talking about it. It’s human nature to seek out other like-minded individuals that share your interests. However, I’m still amazed at the lack of basic running knowledge folks seem to have, no matter where I am. Running isn’t exactly a niche activity, or a brand new cultural phenomenon. People have been running for a long time, and the current running mindset has been developing for decades. Races of all distances are held almost every day, especially during the summer, and everyone probably knows someone who has run a half marathon or full marathon at this point. We aren’t talking about a group of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics translators here! Yet, the above questions still pop up. I’m always the most troubled by the “I could never do that” statements. If you speak with any group of runners, you’ll hear origin stories that run the gamut. Not everyone has been running their whole lives, and many people underwent significant life changes. Running was simply one aspect of that change. I’d put myself in that camp. Now, I don’t say that as a way of soliciting a pat on the back. I mention it to say that running isn’t out of reach for most people. It certainly helps to have the support of friends and family, but you can do it even without that support. It boils down to mindset. Carol Dweck talks about the difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset, and there is a lot to be learned in that simple distinction. It comes down to believing in yourself and your ability to change and grow. It helps to have a good pair of shoes too! Whatever your journey, the reality is that those questions won’t stop coming, but as long as you keep #chasing42, you’ll always be happy to answer them:)

Daily Chase: Vol. 52

This past weekend, I returned from a quick trip to run with a few friends, and was greeted with a dead phone. I should have learned my lesson by now, but I realized at that moment that I hadn’t backed it up in a few weeks, and I sadly had lost quite a few photos. After my initial frustration, I mourned the loss but moved on. We catalog memories in a lot of different ways, and those photos were just one way that I had captured different moments. Luckily, this site is yet another way that I’m able to capture life, and it made me appreciate even more the power of journaling as a means of cataloging memories. I hope you have many different ways to capture those things that are important to you as well. Oh, and don’t forget to back up your phone!

Chasing42 Log: 20160616-20160622

Run: The time management transition continues, and I’d be lying if I said my sleep wasn’t suffering as a result. However, I’ve still been able to keep moving forward with my training and getting in my daily runs. I have two weeks of track workouts under my belt now, and am feeling really good about the time I’m spending racing around the 400m oval. This past weekend, I met a friend up in York, PA, and we ran the length of the 41-mile York Heritage Trail down to Cockeyville, MD in honor of his 41st birthday. We were awake at 3AM, and running by 3:45AM, which was painful at the time, but we were thankful for the cool temps during those early morning hours. The run itself was surprisingly easy and quite comfortable, and we had a blast! My legs felt fine on Sunday and I managed a nice recovery run along with all of the other chores on our weekend agenda. One of the other significant shifts has been my ability to make it to group runs on Monday nights, which means Monday is no longer a rest and recovery day for me. I’ve shifted my schedule such that Wednesday and Friday are more intentional rest days with lower and slower mileage, and it seems to be working out well.

Thought: As I was running at a local park on Wednesday, I found myself particularly annoyed with some of the folks sharing the paved loop with me. Now that summer is here and the weather is much nicer, it’s wonderful to see so many more people out and about, being active, and generally taking advantage of the weather. However, it would seem that some of the most basic rules of trail etiquette seem to go out the window rather quickly. This wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve found myself pondering the illogical nature of decisions that I would have thought would have been common-sense. I resisted the urge to “politely” ask people to consider their decisions, which was probably for the best since my comments may not have come out quite as nice as I would have liked. However, it reminded me that as runners, we can’t take some of these common-sense actions for granted and need to always assume people will behave irrationally. We need to be ready to react on paved residential trails in much the same way that we prepare to react on single-track in the middle of the wilderness. Dogs and strollers may replace snakes and tree roots as our most significant obstacles, but the need to respond accordingly is still there!

Oh, and in case you were wondering:

  1. Walking 3-wide with 4 dogs across the entire trail is never a smart move. I’m sure you have a lot of gossip to catch up on, but you still need to pay attention to yourself and your pets!
  2. Giving your dog 10 feet of leash to weave back and forth across the trail is going to get you in trouble. I’d prefer not to jump rope with your leash.
  3. I’m really happy to see you getting your young children outside and teaching them the value of exercising. However, please don’t let them run up ahead of you so far that you can’t alert them to others oncoming. They probably aren’t going to be paying attention, and I certainly don’t feel comfortable moving your child out-of-the-way so I don’t knock them down!
  4. Runners- please remember to run on the right and pass on the left, and to keep to your side otherwise. Folks of all paces are out there, and you don’t want them to run into you, or vice-versa.
  5. Everyone else- passing on the left is common. A biker or runner should shout “on your left” before coming up behind you. This means they will be passing you ON YOUR LEFT. This is not a request for you to move to the left, or for the two of you to part like the Red Sea so that I can run between you and hope I don’t trip over your stroller or startled dog. You might need to practice this reflex reaction at home, since it would seem that a significant number of people are confused by their left and right when confronted with the decision.

Just sayin’. I’ll keep #chasing42…on your left.

Daily Chase: Vol. 51

The chase continues, folks. The world continues to be filled with misplaced hate, bigotry, discrimination, terror, and stupidity. Running remains a constant sanctuary. A consistent theme among ultra-runners is the motivation for getting into the sport. Athlete bios are filled with folks who escaped addiction, health issues, depression, and all sorts of other mental and physical concerns. Ultrarunning is a sanctuary for many people. it is a place to retreat from the evils of the world and sort things out for yourself. It’s a place to let your mind wander, to think through your problems, or to not have to think about anything going on in the world around you. In many ways, #chasing42 is all about finding that place where I feel safe to think the thoughts I don’t dare express elsewhere, to try and make sense of a chaotic world, and it continues to be a safe place, and a sanctuary from the chaos that seems to creep in from all sides. Not everyone enjoys running in any form, let alone ultra-running. However, I truly hope that everyone has that sanctuary in some form, and that sanctuary remains sacred. Everyone deserves a place where they feel safe to be themselves, and nobody has the right to take that away. My hope is that no horribly evil act of terror will take that safe place away. Keep running. Keep dancing. Keep #chasing42.

"The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea." - Isak Dinesen

“The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears, or the sea.” – Isak Dinesen

Chasing42 Log: 20160609-20160615

Run: One of the many benefits of my new position at the University of Delaware is a regular schedule  that allows me to attend several of the Delaware Running Club group runs throughout the week. After more than a year of almost exclusively solo miles, it’s been a breath of fresh air (pun intended!) to regularly run with others! I’ve found myself logging more miles, and pushing my training harder as well, which isn’t surprising, but still quite welcomed. My return to regular track workouts has also made for some interesting transitional experiences. I forgot what that distinctly different sort of pain felt like:) Over the weekend, I got in a great 27-miler on Saturday. I was mostly out on the trails, and we were even interviewed for a Delaware Parks promotional video! On Sunday, I tackled more trails and all the hills I could find, and it was the hard workout I had been looking for since straying a bit from them after the Georgia Death Race. I hit the track both Monday and Tuesday this week, and my easy, low-HR workout yesterday evening was definitely necessary. Needless to say, the #runstreak is still alive and going strong.

Thought(s): My running thoughts have been wandering lately as I adjust to a new daily routine and the enjoyably exhausting added mental stimulation that comes with a new work environment. A few things continue to pop up:

  1. It’s time to rework my training schedule. I’ve done it in my head but it stresses me out more than it should that I haven’t put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard, as the case may be).
  2. After the Voyager 50 at the end of July, I don’t have much of significance on my calendar. I need an A race. Right now, I’m toying with the Cloudsplitter 100 in Kentucky or the Grindstone 100 in Virginia. Both are tough races with some serious vert and would be significant challenges, which is maybe just what I need!
  3. My academic/professional life and my running life have remained mainly separate up to this point. However, stories keep popping up that make me wonder if I should be looking for ways to be more of an advocate and ally for the sport. If so, then I have some work to do because there doesn’t seem to be much out there in the feminist and/or multicultural education realm related to running.

Daily Chase: Vol. 50

As it turns out, starting a new job can be a rather exhausting experience all by itself. It has also presented a new challenge for me with regard to my training, as I’ve had to make some adjustments to my schedule, my mileage, and how I balance everything out. It’s certainly a work in progress, but I’m looking forward to spending the summer tackling all sorts of personal and professional challenges!

Chasing42 Log: 20160601- 20160608

Run: I think I finally recovered from the sun poisoning and flu after about 10 days, which meant keeping my training in check and letting my body heal. I was still able to get out every day, and I managed to spend some time in some parks and other more secluded areas that I have neglected as of late. I also decided to revisit some of my hill training after feeling like that piece of things had fallen off a bit post-Georgia Death Race. I’m in the process of finalizing my training calendar for the summer, and looking at some races for the fall, so I’ll hopefully have some exciting news really soon!

Thought: Some of my standard routes have been getting a bit stale as of late. I think that may have more to do with the fact that I typically find myself running along some busier roads than anything else. The routes themselves are relatively clear, but the noise, exhaust fumes, and constant need to be on alert do tend to take away from the running experience. We all make sacrifices for convenience, but sometimes it’s worth the added travel to run in a new location or find a more runner-friendly area to log your miles in. When I was in Iowa, one of the things I loved most was being able to walk right outside my front door and start running. Numerous friends lived within a mile or two of me, and the streets were fairly clear so we could run just about anywhere. It was clean, quiet, and convenient. It made it easy to decide at the last minute to go for a run.

Now that I live in an urban area, and a fairly commercial area at that, I simply don’t have the same conveniences. My mistake, which I’m realizing after a year, is that I’ve been trying to force that same Iowa routine into a new location. It simply doesn’t work. However, I can hop in the car and drive less than 10 minutes away and be in some great parks with paved and single-track trails. Sure, it takes a bit more planning, and it adds time into the equation, but it’s worth it. I might not like spending so much more time in the car, but a few more minutes is a small price to pay for a much higher quality running experience. It’s time to look for new ways to go about #chasing42!

Sustainable Training: Knowing When to Walk Away

I expected this post to be a post-race recap following a great running weekend at the Cayuga Trails 50 Miler in Ithaca, NY this weekend. However, my body had other plans. I went out for a regular mid-afternoon run last Sunday, and the sun was finally out, which was glorious. However, my brain is clearly not in summer mode yet, especially with the persistently overcast and rainy weather we’ve had for the past month. Thus, I excitedly slipped on a sleeveless shirt, but neglected the sunscreen. This was most definitely a running fail!

Three hours later, and I was feeling great after a nice long run and a solid overall weekend of running. I helped the beautiful epicurean with some garden work, and then went inside to shower off and relax for the evening. No sooner had I taken my shirt off then the bright red glow of my shoulders and arms nearly blinded me!

I gingerly showered, although my arms weren’t all that sore yet. The heat, however, was radiating off of them with enough force to power a jet engine. I’ve had sunburns in the past, but have learned my lesson enough to slather on copious amounts of sun screen. The heat and sun simply took my pale, Northern European complexion by surprise.

It took about 2 nights before the full severity of the burns sunk in, and it became clear that these weren’t merely surface burns, but rather solid 2nd degree burns. My shoulders began to blister, which was of course made worse by the fact that I kept my #runstreak alive each day and the sweat simply had nowhere to escape my body. The nausea and flu-like symptoms set in at about the same time, and by Thursday, it became pretty clear that I was not in race shape.

Baxter had the right idea this weekend.

Baxter had the right idea this weekend.

I absolutely hate canceling race plans, and I’ve been looking forward to our camping trip up to Ithaca for the last month. However, I have to honest with myself and listen to my body. The Aikido ninja epicurean referred to this as sustainable training, and that is a very appropriate phrase. Sometimes it’s important to push through the pain, and other times it’s just as important to recognize when to pull back, let your body heal, and live to run another day. There will be other races, I will be running Cayuga next year, and we were able to cancel our reservations with minimal penalty, so all is well on that front.

I might not be able to shake that gross feeling in my stomach (different from the one that led to my vomiting!) when I think about not racing this weekend, but I know it’s the right decision. I was still able get out and find ways to push myself this past weekend, but I also took the time to make sure my body isn’t beat up and fighting itself the entire summer. There is a lot of pride in ultrarunning when it comes to pushing limits. We talk about the pain cave, and digging deep. We post memes that state “A DNF is better than a DNS”. All of these cultural attributes can make it easy to get sucked into ignoring your body, and I certainly admit that I’ve been guilty of that in the past. However, it’s one thing to push through the pain and discomfort that running for long distances can cause, and quite another to ignore actual injuries and risk more permanent damage.

Brandywine Creek State Park is quite lush and green after all of this rain!

Brandywine Creek State Park is quite lush and green after all of this rain!

I want to be running for the rest of my life, and I want to be finishing ultras long into my twilight years. That means sustainable training is a must. Of course, not racing this weekend also means I’ll be looking at upcoming races this summer and fall and working on finalizing future plans! Registering for races while ill is like shopping while hungry. Danger, Will Robinson! Wherever the path may take me, I’ll continue #chasing42!

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