Chasing 42

Life, the Universe, & Running

Daily Chase: Vol. 61

The last 10 days certainly have been a whirlwind! All races involve some degree of preparation and deviation from your normal schedule. However, the amount of time and prep energy that goes into running a 100-miler takes things to a whole new level. I felt like I spent all of last week packing, and have spent all of these week unpacking. I’m not sure I would call running 102 miles much of a vacation, though. The conditions were horrible, and I can’t wait to share the whole story with you!

Chasing42 Log: 20161004- 20161014

Run: The past week and a half has been all about the lead-up to the Grindstone 100, suffering through the race itself, and recovery! I kept my tapering pretty light and consistent last week before leaving for the race on Friday morning. The race itself began at 6pm on Friday evening, and I finished quite a few hours later, but did finish. You’ll have to wait for the race report to read all the gory details. Keeping the streak alive on Monday was definitely a challenge but I punched out a painful mile nonetheless. My run on Tuesday was less uncomfortable, and my legs felt surprisingly good. Most of the soreness had already disappeared and I was only left with the reality of mangled feet and slowly healing blisters. By Wednesday, I was able to get in a comfortable 7 miles, and it felt good to stretch my legs again. I was surprised by how quickly I was recovering, but made sure not to push it. I made it to the group run last night and ran another 7 miles at a bit of a faster pace but could definitely feel a bit of fatigue towards the end. I suppose I should give myself a bit of a break considering I just tackled 102 miles, right? A quick run today will pave the way for a relaxing and easy-does-it weekend. I’ll pick up my regularly scheduled training soon enough, but I’m doing my best not to get antsy and let my body fully heal itself. I just wish it wasn’t quite so hard!

Thought: There is a part of me that wishes recovery was all-or-nothing. How nice would it be if you were completely unable to run all the way up until the point where everything was fine and you could resume your regularly scheduled program? Alas, the human body is a tad more nuanced than that, and thus we do our best to pay attention to all the signs and not over-analyze things along the way. Does anyone else get really antsy in the recovery period after a long race? I’d go so far as to say it’s as bad as the taper leading up to a race!

Race Report: Labor Pains 12-Hour

I often find myself commenting on the paradox of age. As we grow up, we form very clear impressions of what it means to be an adult. Then we become adults, and find that we don’t feel anything like we thought we would. Well, perhaps this isn’t your story, but it certainly summarizes mine quite well. I don’t see this as a bad thing, of course. I’m excited by past, present, and future adventures, and I value greatly the playful spirit and sense of wanderlust that comes with running, hiking, and generally being curious about the world. I wouldn’t dream of changing it, and it was that spirit that led me to this race.

For the first time last year, I decided I would start running my age in miles on my birthday every year. In part this was motivated by a good friend who has done the same thing for the last few years, but more generally, it just seems like I really nice way to celebrate my birthday doing what I love. This year, I was lucky enough to discover the Labor Pains 12-Hour Race in nearby Reading, PA, which just happened to fall on September 4th, the day before my birthday. All of the reviews were positive and it seemed like a great way to take a short trip and enjoy the day with the beautiful epicurean and Looper happy to come along for the ride.

It was a relatively short drive up to Reading, and was made even shorter by the lack of traffic on Sunday morning. We packed some camping supplies so that the epicurean and Looper could set up shop and relax during the day, and watch the event unfold as I returned to the starting area after each 5 mile loop. We arrived in plenty of time for me to check in, pick up my bib and shirt, and for us to claim a spot near the finish area. The race is organized by Pretzel City Sports, and they have quite a bit of race organizing experience. I was impressed from the very beginning with how things looked, and could tell it was going to be an enjoyable day!

All set for a fun day of running and relaxing!

All set for a fun day of running and relaxing!

A record crowd of close to 300 people showed up to test themselves at various limits, and we all lined up for a few announcements before the 7:30AM start time. One of the neat things about a timed race like this is it allows everyone to set their own goals. That might mean running their first marathon or 50K, or pushing themselves even further. Regardless, the relatively short 5-mile loop meant you had a chance to see people repeatedly and you were rarely alone out on the course. This was a welcome treat throughout the day, and it made the miles fly by that much faster.

I wish I could have taken Looper along for a few loops!

I wish I could have taken Looper along for a few loops!

I knew going in that I wasn’t planning to push myself quite to 100%, but rather use this as a hard training run in preparation for Grindstone, and run at least my 37 miles in the process. I hadn’t read much about the course itself, other than it being mainly trails with a few road crossings. I foolishly assumed it would be relatively flat for some reason as well, and I was proven wrong on that front pretty quickly!

The course began with a sharp climb up a hill onto a service road, before dipping into the woods. The first half of the loop had significantly more gain than the second, and I was surprised so see that I had already climbed 400 ft by the time I reached the aid station around mile 2.5. The first half of the course was slightly more runable than the second, but in general, it wasn’t a terribly technical course. My standards have certainly changed over the past year, but the smattering of tree roots and rocks didn’t give me much cause for concern. The second half of the loop was much more runable and rolling, aside from two larger climbs almost immediately after the aid station.

Oh, I should also mention that I may have broken one of the bigger rules in running from the get go too. I decided this race would be a good time to test my new Altra Olympus 2.0s for the first time🙂 I’ve worn new shoes for the first time at races in the past, and Altras seem to work really well for me so I wasn’t terribly concerned. I figured it would be the perfect way to put them through the paces and see if I wanted them to be my go-to shoe in a few weeks. The added cushion, better grip, and flexibility of this Olympus update did not disappoint! I avoided the first iteration of these shoes because they were just too stiff, but Altra completed a major overhaul before releasing the 2.0 and the result is a phenomenal long haul trail shoe.

Relaxing w/ our "lap dog"...

Relaxing w/ our “lap dog”…

If I had to venture a guess, I’d say that the comfort and cushion of my shoes probably contributed to me running a tad bit faster than I had anticipated. The weather was in the 50’s and humid at the start, but overall very comfortable, and the trails were in great shape. I was having a blast on the rolling hills and enjoying being a part of a great running community for the day, and the miles simply melted away. Every time I passed through the finish line to have my lap recorded and ran over to check in with the epicurean, I was feeling great and it felt like I had just left. I was making great time and feeling really comfortable on the trails, and it was a wonderful boost of confidence. It would seem that this most recent training block was paying off, despite all my complaining about the heat and humidity!

I monitored my nutrition throughout the day, and had no problem taking in a variety of food and drink, which meant I never felt on the verge of a bonk. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t consider pushing myself well past my birthday mile goal, and I felt like I could have kept running forever. I was most definitely in the zone! However, I dialed it in and did my best to remember the long goal and not get greedy in the moment. By the time I finished my 6th lap (30 miles), I had talked myself down off the ledge, and I committed to only running two more laps.

I’m pretty sure this decision brought me some much-needed relief, and it made the last two laps that much more fun. As an added bonus, the race started serving beer at the aid station at noon, and I happily enjoyed a nice cold IPA with the knowledge that I was nearing the end of my day. By this point, the sun was shining and it was beginning to get a bit warmer, which meant the epicurean and Looper were heating up without any shade to speak of, so my decision to cut myself off was certainly supported. I completed my 8th and final lap, pausing at the halfway point to enjoy a second IPA, and enjoyed the steep, rocky climb up to the finish area one final time. I walked over to the timing station to tap out, and they told me they’d leave my tab open just in case I decided to come back🙂

I had 8 laps and 40 miles under my belt in a little over 7 hours, and I was feeling great. Last year, I probably would have felt somewhat guilty for not continuing, but I had accomplished what I wanted to accomplish, and I was making the smart choice to head home, relax, and recover. The timing for this race is perfect for my birthday run, and I may very well be back next year to tackle a different challenge. This year, though, it’s all about the long game…and that game begins on Friday at 6pm.

Daily Chase: Vol. 60

The sun is setting earlier, and rising later. It’s once again dark when I roll about of bed in the morning, and everything seems to be moving a bit slower. I am pretty sure that it rained for the past two weeks, with random, limited breaks to give us just enough hope that it might stop. I’ve commented before on the simple joy to be had from running in the rain, but walking from your car to your office in the rain is another question entirely. I’ve found out the hard way that the University of Delaware campus is a haven for puddles and poor drainage. It’s truly a civil engineering headache and I’ve had the soaked pants on several occasions to prove it. However, I’ve been in taper mode for the last week or so, and am starting to get rather excited for the Grindstone 100 this week. A certain hurricane may be soaking my chances at beautiful sunny weather, but a light rain under a tree canopy isn’t all that bad, right? We’ll see what I think after I’ve been running through the night! If you’re interested in following me or checking in this weekend, the race is being webcast at beginning at 6PM on Friday. Rain or shine, I’ll be out there #chasing42!

Chasing42 Log: 20160920- 20161003

Run: In the past, the taper has been a cause for trepidation. I’ve worried about getting too antsy and feeling paranoid about injury. However, the rest of my life has been so busy lately that I luckily haven’t had time to be all that worried. However, I’ve kept things interesting the last few weeks. I made a trip north to Mt. Tammany last weekend for some climbing training and trekking pole practice, and had a blast on a beautiful Saturday morning! This past weekend, I finally had a chance to run the Brandywine Bend Footrace that I had heard so much about since moving to Delaware. This amazing 7.5 mile trail race through Brandywine Creek State Park and surrounding private property is truly a gem and I had a blast! I’ll be sure to share more later. In between, I’ve been keeping it simple and maintaining my streak with some quality runs of varying lengths, speeds, and terrain. In the process, I’ve been focusing a lot on recover and nutrition, and that extra attention has me even more excited for this weekend!

Thought: I’ve been listening to a lot of running podcasts lately, including some fantastic interviews at Ultrarunnerpodcast and GingerRunner, and the epic stories of races and back country adventures have me craving an adventure of my own! I’m not sure what that is going to look like, but I’ll be doing some serious planning once I have Grindstone under my belt(buckle). Where should I go? What epic runs or adventures have you always wanted to undertake? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Vertical 5K Fun

A week ago, I felt adventurous and eager to try something new. The result was the inaugural Vertical 5K (as it shall henceforth be named)! I felt it was worthy of it’s own shout-out Daily Chase-style post due to the hilarity and suffering that ensued.

Chasing42 Log: 20160919

Run: I was feeling antsy, and found myself thinking about all the climbing I had coming up at Grindstone. After a relatively restful weekend, my legs were feeling really good and I wanted to push things a bit harder. I had been out to the Newark Reservoir on several previous occasions and had enjoyed running the perimeter, hoping onto the nearby trails, and doing a few repeats on the enormous hill that stretches from the parking lot to water level. However, I thought it would be fun to take it to the next level, and see how many repeats I could complete.

The hill itself is grassy, and sits at about a significantly steep incline. There is a paved path that winds around up to the water level more gradually, but enough people take the shortcut that the city has found it necessary to redirect traffic up slightly different paths in the grass to avoid erosion. This made the .08 mile climb that much more challenging, and added to the fun! I began my ascents by pushing pretty hard and feeling my pulse jump as my heart and lungs were called on for a more intense experience. I was wearing relatively light weight road shoes unfortunately, so the run down did not offer nearly as much reprieve because I needed to be overly cautious of my footing so as not to do my best Jack impersonation.

The distance accumulated incredibly slowly on the steep incline, and my quads were burning pretty quickly. However, I loved watching the elevation gain increase much more quickly than the distance, with 80-90 feet of gain over each summit. I lost count of my repeats fairly quickly, but started paying attention to the distance and decided after about a mile that I would push for a full 5K. The final runs up involved quite a bit of pushing, but I hit my goal, and relished running down the hill one final time and taking a lap around the parking lot to shake out my legs. I was drenched from head to toe, and no doubt looked like a mess, but it felt incredibly. After 3.3 miles, I had gained 1,772 feet. This won’t be my last time tackling this hill and #chasing42!


MD H.E.A.T. 50k Race Report

The race may have occurred several weeks ago, but make no mistake…the heat is very much still a factor in Delaware. Of even more consequence is the consistent 80-95% humidity, which leaves me wondering if it’s about to rain every day! I was talking with a friend this past weekend about the need for rain because the ground was so dry locally, and it occurred to me that I didn’t even realize it had been so long since a solid rain. The humidity leaves me feeling like it’s always damp and sticky outside. This feeling was the backdrop for my second consecutive running of the MD H.E.A.T. 50k on August 27th.

Last year, this race was my first stab at an east coast trail race, and the 6,000 ft. of vertical gain served as quite the wake-up call. It may not sound like much, but it was quite a bit for this Midwestern transplant. Oh, what a difference a year makes! The course was virtually the same this year, aside from a few adjustments for washed out trails, but running it felt entirely different this year. It was a nice reminder that I’ve been putting in a lot of work over the past year to increase my leg strength and climbing ability.

This year, I was lucky enough to have a friend from Iowa fly out to join me for the race. Ben has been training for the Twin Cities Marathon in October, and naturally saw his first attempt at the 50K distance as a perfect training run to test his endurance. It’s always nice to know I’m not the only one with a backwards logic🙂 As I did last year, I woke up around 3:30am on Saturday morning, and hopped in the car for the quick drive down to Patapsco State Park in Maryland, where we loaded onto the bus around 5:45 for the short drive into the closed park.

I found Ben on the bus, we exchanged our groggy greetings, and we got settled near the start. The RD called everyone together a few minutes before 7:00AM for some quick announcements, and then we made our loop around the start/finish area and onto the trail for the start of the race. We fell into a comfortable pace/rhythm pretty quick during the first of two loops, and the small group of entrants spread out enough that we weren’t tripping over each other on the mostly single-track course.  I had a very visceral memory of the course from last year, and went in prepared for the hilly, technical nature. However, before I knew it, we were 5 miles in and moving along really well. The well-stocked and enthusiastically-staffed aid stations came up quickly, and we focused on moving quickly between them, while still maintaining a comfortable, conversational pace.

My recap of the race and the course itself last year provides plenty more detail regarding the various twists and turns, stream crossings, and steep climbs that awaited us. The memorable Grist Mill climb (all 47% grade of it) was waiting for us around mile 5.8 again, and I relished the experience in a much different way this year. I’m pretty sure Ben cursed my name for celebrating the climbing opportunity, but it was much more fun this year!

We hit the giant stone wall around mile 15 feeling pretty good, and gingerly tackled the climb and descent, managing not to face plant in the soft, muddy ground near the Patapsco River, which was an accomplishment in and of itself. We paused for a few moments at the start/finish to re-hydrate and take in some more calories. Ben’s shoes happened to be water proof, which might make the stream crossings more manageable, but also did a lovely job of keeping in all the sweat on this warm, 90& humidity morning. He was able to ring out his socks before putting them back on, while I pulled out a dry pair of socks and was never more happy to have remembered to pack them! I was much more familiar with the course this year, so I skipped my larger hydration vest, and opted for a bottle and smaller waist pack, which definitely contributed to my not overheating as much.

The second loop was, as expected, a bit more crowed due to the 25K race that had started around 9AM. We completed the first loop in a little under 3 hours and were feeling pretty good, so we kept the pace going. I had been worried about my pace prior to the start of the race, knowing that Ben is considerably faster than I am, but it would seem I have indeed developed a bit more speed myself in the past year. We were both running comfortably, and still able to carry on a conversation, which is exactly what I wanted out of the race as a solid long training run. I excitedly pointed out to Ben at the 26.3 mile mark that we had now run longer than he had previously gone, and it was fun to think back to my first 50K in D.C. at the Northface Endurance Challenge in 2011. We kept pushing along, and were both happy to get through the halfway point of the second loop, since the climbing was definitely front-loaded.

The time continued to tick by, and we moved along, enjoying the beautiful morning. I was once again reminded of how lucky I am to be able to venture out into the woods like this and explore so freely, and it served as a good reminder of my desire to keep my running sustainable. As we ran the final few miles, the reality of the distance caught up to Ben a bit, but he pushed on very well, and we were greeted by children with water guns as we crossed the finish line. At that point, we were both soaked through anyway, so washing off a bit with clean water was a welcome relief!

The post-race spread was impressive as always, and a cold beer tasted quite good after running 31 miles! We lingered and filled up a bit on the excellent spread, before deciding to call it a day and head back to the cars. The epicurean and Looper had stayed home this year, so I was on my own. Based on how I probably smelled after the race, I’m guessing she was happy she didn’t spend a few hours in the car with me afterwards as well. I ended up finishing almost 30 minutes faster than last year, and more importantly, felt much stronger the entire time. It was once again a great race, and certainly nice to see a familiar race and be a part of his first 50K experience. I have no doubt he is going to kill it at the TC Marathon this year, and I’m definitely feeling much more confident about Grindstone as well. All told, it was a great way to spend a Saturday, running the trails, and living the dream. Keep #chasing42 everyone!


Daily Chase: Vol. 59

Life is most definitely about balance, and I’ve found myself examining my own balance in a lot more detail as of late. I’ve become acutely aware, now that I’ve had some time to settle into my new position at the University of Delaware, that there are only so many hours in the day. I have always loved to be busy and fill my days with as many activities as possible, but I’ve also had many more things on my to do list than time to complete them. I suppose that is the curse of finding so many different things interesting, and I wouldn’t change it for the world. However, it does mean I’ve spent quite a bit of time “doing” in the past two weeks, and far less time writing. It’s good to take a moment to stop and reflect on what life is throwing at you, and running continues to be my conduit for just that. I cherish my time running every day, whether it be one mile or 50 miles, and what it allows me to accomplish mentally.

I have some catching up to do when it comes to the happenings in September, but it’s coming…even if some of it shows up in October🙂

Chasing42 Log: 20160904- 20160918

Run: My time has been significantly more limited, especially with the class I am teaching on Tuesday nights, and the extra work it involves. However, my training has been strong as I race towards October 7th and the Grindstone 100. I celebrated my birthday a day early on September 4th at the Labor Pain 12-Hour Run in Reading, PA. My goal was to use the race as an opportunity for a long, supported training run and to hit my age (37). You can expect a more extensive report, but the short version is: perfect weather, great course, lots of climbing, well-organized, and 40 miles in a little over 7 hours. I dialed things back a bit the following week, including a relaxing taper-esque run in Lothian, MD on the 10th while visiting family. There’s just something amazing about having an entire wildlife refuge and bird sanctuary to yourself on a Saturday morning (even if the humidity was out of control)! My weekday running has made for some much longer days, and I think the totality is probably catching up with me a bit, based on how I’m feeling at the moment. Heck, I even managed to squeeze in a run in D.C. after a one-day trip for a conference! I wouldn’t recommend changing in a Union Station bathroom, but I always love running on the mall🙂 The streak is still going strong, and I love the habit itself as much as the miles. I’ve been focusing on getting as many trail miles as possible, and climbing as much as I can the past few weeks, and it seems to be paying off.

Thought: I read blog posts and see photos of beautiful mountain landscapes out West, and I seem to dream of living out there pretty regularly. The wanderlust kicks in hard when I’m reading about amazing back country outings and looking at incredible views. This has gotten me thinking lately about what my life would be like if I actually did live in a mountain town, though. Would the pull be so strong that it would be hard to focus on work at all? Would it drive me crazy to be in an office with a trailhead right outside my door? I’m not entirely sure, but I’m learning to appreciate where I am more and more, and will keep looking forward to the adventures to come. I’ll always be #chasing42!

Daily Chase: Vol. 58

I have a confession to make. I’m going through Olympics withdrawal. This is probably a feeling many of you share, so I’m sure I’m not saying anything all too crazy. This iteration of the summer games was a bit different for me, however. Since moving to Delaware, I’ve learned a great deal about the track and cross-country aspects of running. This was not an area of running I had ever explored, and it certainly wasn’t something my asthmatic, un-athletic teenage self had ever explored. However, the cross-country and track culture in this part of the country is much stronger than it was in Iowa, and many of my friends did compete at all levels, are still competing, are coaching, or their children are now running. This has meant many wonderful conversations about all aspects of the sport, which coupled with my new-found shoe knowledge courtesy of my part-time job, has increased my knowledge and awareness a great deal. My passion is still MUT running, and that’s still where I see myself competing, but I have an interest and appreciation for these shorter races that I’ve never had before. Thus, I watched on with an increased interest as records fell, dreams came true and were broken, and medals were won around that 400m oval. It was a pleasant reminder that the distance doesn’t matter. The time doesn’t matter. The race doesn’t matter. Running is running, and we are all runners. We share a passion, a dedication, and a culture, and it’s that shared identity that truly defines #chasing42!

Bright sunshine to start the semester!

Bright sunshine to start the semester!

Chasing42 Log: 20160822- 20160903

Run: It’s been a solid block of running, the #chasing42runstreak is still going strong! The Fall semester started this past week at the University of Delaware, so my schedule has been quite hectic for the past few weeks. I’ve been working in higher education for over a decade now, and I always think I’m prepared for the “New Year” but it seems to sneak up on me anyway. This has been being a bit more flexible with my running, and taking advantage of opportunities when they arise. I’ve been putting in some higher volume weekday totals going into the weekend, and then pushing hard over the weekend as well as I enter my final push before the Grindstone 100. I was able to meet up with a friend from Iowa last weekend and run the MD H.E.A.T. 50K for the second year, and we had a blast! I’ll be posting a report soon, but I can definitely say that my time and energy both saw a significant jump over last year, which I took as a very good sign of things to come! I enjoyed the first cool morning in quite some time today and enjoyed a beautiful run through Brandywine Creek State Park and up into PA with the group. The epicurean and I are heading to Reading, PA tomorrow for the Labor Pain 12-Hour Race, so I’ll be able to knock out some solid miles and test some nutritional strategies as well. Look for a report on that race coming up as well!

New UD Blue Hens participating in the Twilight Ceremony to mark the beginning of their journey!

New UD Blue Hens participating in the Twilight Ceremony to mark the beginning of their journey!

Thought: In my new position at the University of Delaware, I have the privilege of working with some fantastic colleagues. One piece of my new work environment that has taken me a bit by surprise has been the pleasant focus on work/life balance. I’ve always railed against this push in Student Affairs as an unrealistic vision of a profession that necessitates long hours and hard work. It’s the nature of the beast, and we know what we are getting ourselves into going in. However, as I’ve gotten older and the all-nighters of my youth are a thing of the past, I’ve spent a lot more time thinking about how I can balance all of the priorities in my life. I may still bring work home, read research articles after dinner, and go into the office early to get things done, but it’s a wonderful feeling to know you are in an environment that supports me in all of the areas of my life that are important to me. Did I mention that my supervisor is training for her first marathon, and I’m also loving geeking out over running and helping her as well? It’s all about #chasing42 and I’m living it!

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