Saturday, May 25, 2013

You feeling strong, my friend?

Training in the southern highlands of Tanzania. Leaving behind the sidewalks and running San Diego's canyons. Ultrarunning on trails (excluding rail-to-trails or similar flat-like-a-pancake-trails) . Do these things have anything in common? Well, first they make running insanely fun. Second, they completely distort your perception from what the general public defines as a hill. Sometimes when it comes to talking hills with other runners, I feel like Miles Finch.

Why am I blogging about this? Because I'm in the midst of my usual pre-race insomnia and earlier today I poked a bit of fun about the elevation profile of the upcoming Madison Half Marathon race this weekend.

Madison Half Marathon elevation profile

I'm going to get a bit snobbish here and state that I see nothing difficult about this course. If you did any sort of strength running these "hills" should not threaten your pace all that much, at least not enough to fuss about. If I'm in a good mood and you're a beginner I'll let you call 250 feet of change a hill, because I like beginners, and I fully realize it feels as tough as you call it. Now, if you've got some running experience behind you though, I don't want to hear any whining about anything under 500 feet or I start turning deaf on you. Runners complaining about "hills" and "hill work" here around Stevens Point almost warrant a whole complaint post in and of itself. Let's get real about something. There are no hills here.

Now that we've established what isn't a hill, let's talk about a real hill.  

Kilimanjaro Marathon elevation profile
I still remember the pain from this one back from 2008. It was my first marathon (and race) and training had been less than planned what with all the giardia and hallucinations induced from the medication I was taking (prescribed by the way - I wasn't "that" Peace Corps volunteer). I topped out at 16 miles and I didn't know what the hell I was about to embark on at the start line. I remember stopping to walk in the first portion of the hill and upon resuming the run my feet were in such pain I vowed to never walk again until I hit the finish line. Stupid perhaps, but I did it. I can be incredibly stupid when running blind into uncharted territory. The folks at Amazing Running Tours claims this race has 1500 feet of elevation change and Redknot Racing Co. claims the hill is of 1300 feet. I think this race has set the precedent for my whole running life. To this day if my legs don't burn when I'm running a hill, it's not a good enough hill for me.

I really like elevation profiles. I have a bunch of them up on my office wall. 

This one I cried up. It was unforgivably brutal.

Oriflamme 50K: 5-mile ascent at mile 20ish from 2500 feet to 5000 feet

Aren't they pretty?

And here we have the PCT 50 with 7,500 feet of elevation gain. Basic graph but nothing to snuff at.
 And now for my favorite elevation profile of all time (not counting dream races I haven't signed up for yet)...

Superior 50 Mile Trail
How can you not drool looking at this thing!? 

Birds are chirping which is not a good sign. Damn insomnia. Read a book they say. Count sheep they say. Drink some chamomile tea they say. Workout in the morning not at night they say. Not a wink of sleep will be had before this race.
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Monday, May 20, 2013

Ramblings of my goings-on

One of my older sisters invited me to grab some coffee and go for a walk so we could catch up last week. Our schedules haven't aligned much lately and now that we don't have our Thursday coffee dates I jumped at the chance despite having a french press already steeping on my counter. I opened up to her about the recent improvements I was making when it came to running. One of the things I love most about her is she can see things in ways I cannot.

"It's probably because you are no longer struggling day-to-day like you were a year ago. Now instead of going for a run as an vital part of destressing, you get to choose to run just for fun."

Although I have long realized how much running has been a huge source of therapy throughout my divorce and although I constantly tell people "I run for fun," I never put those pieces together with my running improvement. I started adding up different elements in my life that suddenly were making sense to the bigger picture. Not too long ago my younger sister talked me into a certain activity that shall go unnamed. I was actually excited about something other than running for a change! After roughly a month there was an ultimatum that I inadvertently prompted. If I wanted the fun to continue, I needed to devote a significant chunk of my babysitting resources for the next 4-5 months. If you are a single parent, you know full well how desperately essential it is to your social life to not to tax out your babysitting resources. Unfortunately, but not regrettably, I balked.

And not too long after I had this run.

Let me explain this to all of those who don't know me. This was huge!!!! Every single marathon I have run has involved some sort of walking break. The longest I can recall running without a walking break is 14, maybe 16 miles. I've never been strong after 15 so to run that far with no walk break was unseen by me before. I felt I could have gone much longer too had it not been I had a limited time to run before picking up my daughter. The second component to note of this run was that it was at a sub-9:00 pace. This is not a pace I am familiar with maintaining beyond 8 miles. Add these two together with no GI issues, minimal muscle soreness, and no post-run headache and you've got yourself a breakthrough.

I've spent a long time analyzing changes that have happened (beyond my sister's) so I could keep on course. The two main changes I can attribute are (1) consistently training and (2) nutrition.


I completely changed my data entry business so that I can have two guaranteed solo quality runs a week. If I was going to get faster I simply had to have some non-stroller runs. No doubt stroller running has made me stronger, especially now that my girl is approximately 30 pounds, but if I was serious about going after a marathon PR I needed to commit. I'm paying dearly for that commitment but I'm very fortunate for the job I have which allows me the income for it. My daughter fully enjoying the socialization at daycare is an added bonus. I've had days where she cries, kicks and screams when it's time to go home which is the surest sign of the right daycare for your child, or so I've been told. Dependable child care is something I did not have for the first 1.5 years of my daughter's life, and it has made a world of difference, for both of us.


A couple of months ago I decided it was time for a diet tweaking and went with the following changes.

Maca powder: For women's health reasons and reported energy boosts. I found it disgusting to smell and almost non-consumable at first. Its unique flavor profile overpowered anything I tried adding it to but with consistent use the flavor has since become undetectable and the smell no longer repulsing. Makes you want to try it, right? I use it in my daily afternoon smoothie.

Hemp protein powder: For protein (obviously!). Initially I started using this as a partial flour substitute in baked goods but now use it in my daily afternoon smoothie. This has been a marvelous addition since dairy/whey protein and egg protein disagree with me.

Local honey: For allergies and immunity boost. This isn't a new addition but I now take it daily instead of when I think I'm coming down with something. For the first time in years I have not suffered Spring allergies (knock on wood).

Lentils: For digestive health and protein. I am still a flexitarian and don't plan on giving up red meat as pescetarians do. What can I say? I crave beef after a long run. Long ago I swapped ground turkey for ground beef. Now I'm swapping out ground turkey for lentils. By far my favorite swap out as been for tacos but this soup sealed the deal for consuming lentils on a regular basis.

This past Sunday I decided on some more tweaking. I'm now going to attempt adding lucuma powder, carob powder, and mulberries. Eliminating all sources of carrageenan is taking a top priority which will start with committing to making 100% of the nut milk we consume.

The latest recipes that really trip my trigger: Cool-aid, chickpea blondies, and baked cinnamon apples (using coconut butter and serving like a cereal with nut milk).

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