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Friday, October 28, 2011

A kinda sorta race report?

The Ghost Rail Ultra gave me an opportunity to see just how fast I could run an ultra.  I went for the 22 hour finish pace of 13 minute miles for the 100 and kept that pace easily up until the end of the fourth loop where I gave my feet a break and walked a bit.  My splits for the 15 mile out and backs were:

Start time 9 am

Loop 1- 11:40 left for loop 2 at noon

Loop 2- 2:49 left for loop 3 at 3:00

Loop 3- 6:12 left for loop 4 at 6:40

Loop 4- 10:15

60 mile complete in 13:15...with 15 miles basically walking : )

My plan was to walk/run for miles 60 to 90 to give my feet a break and also because it was really dark and the rocks and roots were covered by the leaves.  The last 15 miles I would push for a finish time of 7 am.
I would end at 105 miles.  I was on pace for a 22 hour but would have been fine with any finish under 24 hours : )

Turns out that I did not expect the 36 degree overnight temperatures in southern NH and I did not bring pants and did not wear my hat nor gloves nor warm undershirt when I went out for the fourth loop. By the time I finished 60 miles at 10:15 my core was frozen.  I was not shaking which is a BAD sign…when you shake it warms your body up.  I took off all my clothes and wrapped myself in a blanket and blasted the heat.  I was going to take ten minutes to warm up my body but silly me I fell asleep for two hours.  Now I should have gone back out there.  I still could have blasted out a midnight to nine am 40 mile run…9 hours is doable.  Instead my body revolted and said no f’in way....even with the body weight up from 107 to 110 (sometimes after wings 112) I still can't handle the cold.  my immune system is compromised and I have low red blood cell count (Anemia, low hemoglobin, low hematocrit). This causes the following things to happen: I fatigued easily and feel weak and at times when I am very cold or my body is taxed I become short of breath.  I can experience headaches(but I do rarely) and chest pain which was one thing that happened at DR...I suffered what I thought was a mini heart attack on the ride off the mtn. My skin becomes very pale...add to this hypothermia which is a problem I face often on overnight runs or anything that involves prolonged wet conditions.  The thing abut the red blood cells is they carry the oxygen and nutrients throughout my body. Less red blood cells means less oxygen and nutrients make it to the cells to provide terms of a long endurance event this can become a serous problem.  After WS100 they did test on me in the medical tent and the doctor came over with my results and said "What the hell are you doing out there?  You just ran 70 miles?  You should not be able to make it 10 miles.."  He had given me a complete blood count. A (CBC) is a blood test used to check your blood count specifically the the RBC, hemoglobin, and hematocrit are tests to see if you have low red blood count. Normal Adult females should fall in the following ranges:

RBC  4.2 - 5.4 M/ul

Hemoglobin (HgB) 12 - 16 g/dL

Hematocrit (Hct) 37 - 47%

My results are so wildly off (but not appropriate to put on my blog) let's just say it is amazing I can do what I do.  Changing my diet from vegetarian for 20 something years to a full blown carnivore was an absolute must, as was training less and taking longer rest times..basically just being smart. Now I was NOT smart when I went back out without my hat and gloves and warm clothes....I just tend not to think of anything but that exact present moment in time when I am competing.  I need a support person on hand and they need to know what I tend to do and they need to be strong enough to force me to take clothes or basically just dress me and shove food down my throat as I also tend to have my digestive system shut down after 50 miles and I forget at time to eat and or drink..and for the first 50 miles I tend to crave fat and chocolate (that is why I subsisted for 50 miles on peanut butter balls with chocolate bits).

When I  ran with Kev he always has extra clothes in his pack I can borrow, but in terms of Dave pacing me he had never supported or paced someone in this long of a run so was unsure of what his focus should be.  He said he thought I would be cold but never spoke up as we headed back out.  He will come to Tire Guys with me so he can pace at Stonecat and he said he will wear a pack with an extra long sleeve shirt, hat and gloves just in case.

In terms of DR2012 Dave has offered to support me and basically stay with me for most of the race carrying food and water..Grace's husband and Hobie's brother did that and it seemed to be a big help..if the weather is kind I won't need it but if it is cold and rainy I will....a huge problem at DR2011 was I had no dry or warm clothes after the overnight and no food for a long period of time and at one point when we came out of the river I after a long cold night I had no food and no water!!! DR was so different than an ultra I think my support was just unsure what they needed to do...add in freezing cold rain and they were cold and tired as well.  Well lessons learned will be taken into next year's DR....but more importantly lessons will be used to finish the McNaughton 500...I really really really want to finish : ) and I think a diet of peanut butter balls and and hot pants and tank tops is not going to equal success : )


Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Rail Trails, Peanutbutter balls, the Po Po and Akhilandeshvari...

I ran the Ghost Trail Ultra this weekend and much of the time on the trail was spent in constant forward motion at a very set pace between 10 and 12 minute miles.  I had lots of time to think.  I ate far too many peanut butter balls at the out and back aid stations but a jar of peanut butter aside I felt strong, cold. but strong.

When I was not dreaming of peanut butter and chocolate I was thinking about men.  I was thinking about the men in my life now and the ones that have long since moved on....

After the race I had a phone conversation with Kev.  I was trying to explain what was going on with me. I was in the process of making a big decision to move on from a relationship I had had in my life that was not moving forward just backwards and therefore was not helping me to grow but instead to remain stuck in place.  I was trying to explain why at this point in time and with this person I was unable to generate any forward motion. I was trying to explain why I thought I had had such a difficult time making strong connections with men.   The simplest way to explain what was going on was to say….I am broken…..there was no drama behind this statement….I said it with the same intonation I would if someone asked me my height or weight.  “I am 41 years old, five feet four inches tall, I weigh one hundred and nine pounds, I have blond hair and green eyes and I am broken…”

My heart broke and I never really had the opportunity to heal and so the heart led to the soul and the soul to the actual body and then I shattered.  The conversation seemed dark but there is a silver lining....I am slowly finding ways to glue these broken pieces of me back together.  And I am finding that you can barely see the lines left behind once the shards are pieced together with the gorilla glue.  Truthfully some of these lines that can be seen... well they give me character.... like a plate I once found at a yard sale.  It was a dinner plate from Italy.  It had gorgeous red, orange, and yellow flowers on it...colors of Tuscany...obviously the plate was glued together....and I thought that this plate was  loved so much that someone took the time to glue it when it shattered.  I thought this plate was breathtaking.  When I placed it on a plate rack on my wall in my old apartment in Groton  I found myself walking by and catching the bright yellow or red hues and stopping a moment to admire the colors. In terms of relationships I can only hope that someone some day will find my glued cracks to be the same...and they will think "how compellingly flawed,  so vibrantly brilliantly off center" and they will sigh and think....her imperfections are breathtaking.

KZ sent me a link... about a blog...this woman speaks of an Indian Goddess called Akhilandeshvari she writes that “Ishvari” in Sanskrit means  "goddess"  and “Akhilanda” means essentially “never not broken.” In other words, she writes this goddess is......The Always Broken Goddess....I read on.  She shares that this goddess is not broken as in weak..but instead her strength is in her ability to tear apart the things in life that stagnate us...those things that we return to again and again and never seem to give us bliss but slowly suck the life from us.....oh how this spoke to have the strength to break the chains to relationships or habits that we repeat over and over again but they just take us two steps backwards instead of a step forward.  I consider myself courageous on many fronts and weak and pathetic on an equal number...but lately I have decided to break those binds from my past all in one fell an ax splitting through a log as if it was butter I am slicing away at the people and practices that are keeping me from moving forward. 

I laugh at myself...I always do..I find inconsistencies my weaknesses my silly absurdities deserving of a good hard laugh.  It is one of the things that people have told me they like about me...I call myself out on the carpet...I can take myself very seriously at times but I love a person who can bring me back to planet earth...who pulls the chair out form under me..who hits the back of my knees so I fall to the floor...I need it and I appreciate it equally in a friend or a partner..  This weekend I fell asleep for two hours when I was supposed to take a 10 minute warm up break in the car..naked and covered in my peanut butter balls I threw in the towel and gave up at 60 miles driving home through the dark cold back roads of southern NH.  I was pulled over...a speeding car late at night through a small town will have that result....naked except a blanket dirty, desheleved, tired and sticky with peanut butter and chocolate I had a flashlight shined on my face and instead of being worried..I just let what ever happen happen...a warning... a smile... a shake of the head and that was that....I thought to myself at that very moment I am living life exactly how I wish to...why would I waste a single moment doing anything other than that...

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ultras....Hot head is spinning

Last weekend I decided to go to Julie's Bday 40 m fatass over the VT hike.  I am glad that I made that decision and it should have been a could I ever have missed such a wonderful day with Julie...we talked for like 6 hours straight : )  I miss the Tuggers...I would like to see them more because they are kind, good people with huge hearts who have been there for me for the past few years when I needed friends to lean on.  Still my life then was all about running races...Stonehead three years running says something...yes it says I am dedicated but it also said I didn't have much of a life or I am obsessive compulsive : )  I want BALANCE and today I can say in terms of training I am more balanced...still I spend far too much time training when I should be devoting myself to personal relationships...especially the romantic needle is stuck on that record and it just keeps playing the same chorus over and over again.. and although I would love to move can't do I need someone or something to help nudge my record player forward...I believe that what I truly want may come to pass if I just have faith...but until then I need to focus on making my life more even keeled.

I am working hard to do this. Last weekend I got in a cross fit and hot yoga class Saturday and lots of errands were done and I had a nice meal and relaxed with a good book and  felt on top of my game for Julie's run.  Now one week later I am poised to run a 100 miles Saturday through Sunday night and I am going for 22 hours and I feel like my body has had adequate rest top achieve this goal. It is all about balance (this should be my next tat after Reckless abandon).

I have a few guys from DR 2011 (Tom L, John M, Dennis and Jay) whom I really respect and connect with.  They tend to do their own thing but will join in with a group when it fits.  All four men have gf's or wives and jobs and 2/4 have kids in their lives....they seem to have a pretty good balance in terms of life and training...I have no one to answer to but me...I go home to an empty apartment and all my time (outside of teaching) can be devoted to training...but there is no real balance....I benefited from having Tom's kids in my life as they gave me an a window into what is important...bath time with Weenie was pretty funny and how can I say a gym workout was worth more in the grander scheme of things than bubble bath and bath toys?

I sent an email to John M today.  He owns his own Crossfit place with his wife.  The two of them are pretty amazing...John gave me some great advice in terms of balancing my training...he cautioned that I was trying to do too much and that I had a\can't or should not (although I think I do) have a very unforgiving and or inflexible schedule in terms of training..he stressed to listen to my body. Sometimes I think I train so much because it keeps me busy and I don't have to think about my health or my love life or my family issues...I just close my mind off from it all and get shit done...but at what cost?  Is this the way to a successful and blissful 500 miles?  To a finish at DR?  When is something just too much?  Is it bad to use training to push your body past its limits over and over again?   What is my ultimate goal in all of this?  Yes to finish the 500 and DR but REALLY why do I do what I do?  It has a lot to do with my health issues...I kind of think these goals are the  strongest medicine in my fight...and yet when does it become about the finish instead of the journey...when I get caught up in it all who is there to kick my ass back to earth...who is there beside me to celebrate these goals....lots to think about...or maybe I think too much.....


Me and Michael St Hilaire at the finish...his wife snapped this photo of him holding up a twig to my log.  What a great couple.  I am always excited to meet new people out on the trails.  It is funny because Micheal, unbeknowst to me, then took this pic and posted it to his racing team site and said they should get me to race for them and then a DR guy saw this somehow and posted it to the Spartan DR FB need to be aware of the many facets of FB lol luckily this was a positive thing although people who don't know me may think I am either a crank, an ass or a bragger...

I think the idea of racing for a team is pretty cool although I know nothing about it. I consider my racing to be uber personal. I am and always will be just Michelle  (and there is no real way to define that...except maybe hot mess lol) and I don't necessarily want to define myself by the things I do or the people I do them with....but in all truth I do define or label or connect or consider ultra running to be an integral part of who I am (don't get me wrong in terms of this post, this not a post against being part of a team or a particular type of racing style or pursuit...this is just about me trying to figure out me). I love DR, but not so much the "Spartan" aspect of truth would rather it had stayed a low key under the radar Peak race than become the Spartan Death Race dadadadummmmmmmm...

I have no desire to do Spartan sprints, or Tough Mudders or any of that stuff as there are WAY too many people and much too much hoopla for me...I would get too anxious with all that...and I like that DR is a multi day race..that better suits me.   Everyone involved in these types of races and activities (To many people DR is considered  the pinnacle of these obstacle type races) are there for different reasons, and one reason is in no way shape or form better than another.  What I am coming to realize is that my reasons for doing DR don't always mesh with others and when I get caught up in another person's training style, schedule, or expectations I am really only moving farther and farther away from my own personal goals which are to finish the Peak 500 and finish DR2012.    I love to fast pack and hike and sometimes like to go lite while other times I like to bring a full pack or wear my weighted vest or carry a rock and I love to do overnights, but it is important to note that overnights tax the body...I know this because I have done them for over 20 years..starting way back when I was in college and a big fastpacker and backpacker.

I know I can do an overnight with ease and I know I can stay on my feet for over 24 hours and still stay pretty lucid and focused on the task at hand.  I need to pick and choose my overnights as they sap the energy from me both from a health perspective and also sadly an age perspective.  I am not an old lady by far but there is a difference with a 25 year old and a 42 year is what it is...I can't train as much with that high level of intensity as I did in the past..I want to do way too many things now and can't just spend all my free time running..I have to train smarter especially with my ultimate goal for 2012 being the Peak 500. In terms of training for Peak one weekend a month would be better spent running 5 hours Friday after school then eating a nice dinner with a book and a glass of wine....sleeping 7 hours then running 10 hours Saturday going out to eat with friends Saturday night then sleeping 7 hours getting up having a nice morning doing errands then running 5-7 hours Sunday and hitting the sheets early Sunday night. Overnights are awesome and fun but they tax the body.  I know how my body reacts to being submerged in freezing cold water and I have experienced hypothermia...I know that it is often a crap shoot in terms of whether my body can deal with 24 hours straight of being soaking wet and freezing..I have low body fat, a small frame, a compromised immune system and an alarmingly low red blood cell count..that equals being fucked when wet and cold.  I know what I need to wear to combat that and what nutrition I need to take in to make sure I have energy to burn to warm myself up and keep trucking..whether or not all the pieces come together... you can't always control for it...but at this point I have experienced enough ultras in the pouring rain and freezing temps to not need an overnight that involves water in October : )  the exception would be the Outer Limits training as they have people on hand if I get to cold I can jump in a car and heat up.  So although I think it is pretty cool to be part of a team..I already define myself as a Tugger first and foremost but also a Trail Animal (loud animal yelp inserted here).

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reflections on the Tarc Fall Classic and other stuff

Not having Internet in my tree fort can be a bit of a drag...still I enjoy my time at the Marlborough Starbucks...I get a black eye with sugar free vanilla and steamed nonfat milk and settle down to do bills or work on curriculum or document my work outs.  My phone has Internet and so most of my emails and any FB stuff is done through that...still I can't always get to the DR New England and Spartan DR page through my phone to see what the heck is going on in terms of training or updates from Andy or just some of the funny posts people do...still I like that my abode lacks Internet and is quiet there and I love to read so it is cool...just finished the Sex Lives of Cannibals a very funny read and now I am starting Eat My Globe..that falls under a kind of adventure genre for food lovers.

This past weekend was great as I had a professional day Friday at school and then Monday a great deal of stuff done in terms of curriculum and then headed home for the night to partake in lots of relaxing activities like hitting the gym to work shoulders...hard...before a 50k race where I am carrying my log..on my shoulders...then hitting Whole Foods and overeating and drinking too many glasses of wine when I am recovering from the flu and have a stomach filled with post nasal it was no wonder on Saturday I felt like crap.

I love the TARC races I consider myself a trail animal and a tugger and I love representing these two groups although tuggers are a quiet humble group...they have the heart of a lion and I am proud to be one of the original group members.  I  knew I would see some tuggers: Em, Dan, Rob were running and Bill H was volunteering as well as Dima after his amazing race in Italy.  I was psyched to see the RD's Bob C and Josh K, great guys, as well as "running peeps" new and old acquaintances....those smiling lovable characters known as ultra runners who like to spend a gorgeous Saturday running around the woods in a great big circle  : ) I finally talked with Michael of Acidotic Racing and Dan C was there representing in his DR bib...awesome... it was Trooper Dave's first marathon as well....too bad I spent most of the time on the course sick to my stomach and puking green slime...oh and KZ was not there : (

The first loop of the course (10k of awesome fun loopy single track trails adjacent to I think Route 3 as I saw highway on a few ridges) was great and I kept a fast pace with log...the second loop one mile in and my stomach revolted...I threw up violently and gagged on way too much phlegm to have been normal..the heat and my sloshing tummy made it so hard for me to run so I had to slow down to a speed walk for pretty much all of the second loop.  I tried to run again during the third but threw up so it was back to a speed walk.  Knowing I needed to speed it up to be able to get a 5th loop in I ran/walked the fourth loop but still my tummy just could not take it and I threw up again.  When I finished the fourth loop Bill told me that I would not have time to get back out for the 50k and I would have to be OK with 26.2 miles with log.  I was happy...I knew that having missed school Monday and Tuesday with the flu my body really was not recovered enough to run fast with log.   If I ran without log I could have pr'd for a 50k even with sick tummy as the course was perfect for me, but sometimes I need to run with log....

I run with log for Dan
I miss him..he was such a kick ass guy...a girl in every port...gorgeous, fun, adventurous and yet one of the only guys my mum liked sitting down with and talking to when he stayed with me..Grammy Roy is a tough one and she saw that spark that was Dan's most attractive quality...a big heart and an open mind and an old soul...when the CD he made me goes into my car radio I catch myself crying...and if you know me..I don't cry much...

So the fact that Saturday was hard and I felt sick and I did not get the ultra distance well it made sense...Dan is not here to ride his mountain bike, or to jump on his not getting a PR or an ultra distance doesn't matter...I would give up a lot just to have him back hear a knock on my door and see Dan there dropping in for a week or two between his trips to Bakina Faso or Afghanistan...always with a hand made piece of jewelry or a gorgeous hand crafted statue for me...always ready to head to Crow Hill and climb or the whites for a fast pack or he would just ride his mountain bike along side me as I trained.  I know that even though he is gone he still has my back and looks out for me.

So the fact I was running a beautiful course, among friends, with MM's at the finish line well that was what was important...sometimes I need to remind myself of that.  Sunday I got in a great hike along the midstate trail and Monday a 10 mile trail run at Beaver Brook so this past weekend was awesome for training. The upcoming weekend is a a conundrum. Originally I was going to run Julie's fatass 40 mile birthday run, but it was canceled so I agreed to an overnight 30 mile hike with some DR people in Vermont. Then Julie decided to run and I want to go run with her Saturday. It is difficult to do both as i have to be in VT for 6 pm so that means I have to leave by 2 at the latest.  I know that 40 miles running trails is better training for the 500, but 30 miles with pack walking through the river and up and over mountains will be better training for DR...I am not sure what I want to do...but knowing me I will try to do both: )  I also can do Julie's run and then skip VT na d do a night hike on the Midstate with Trooper Dave as he has Saturday off and wants to get out and hike from Wachusetts to the Wapack trail in NH and back. Hmmmm options are good : )

Friday, October 7, 2011

Ren and Stimpy return

The TARC fall classic is in the morning...I just finished a quick but satisfying shoulder work out and I am now at the Starbucks with my coffee klatch posse of strange but wonderful Friday night Framingham coffee drinkers....I have two new books, a huge container of whole Foods chicken wings, roasted brussel sprouts and cauliflower and a bottle of Bogle waiting at home.  It may not seem to many to be the most exciting Friday night but I am looking forward to it.  Dave will be at my house at 6 am and we are heading to Lexington.  Dave is running his first marathon and I think he will crush it...he has lost 30 lbs since March...and looks amazing.  I am happy to be introducing Dave to trail running but I miss KZ....we still talk pretty much every night or every other night, but I have lost my running partner...

I must admit that It has been a strange transition...I do like to train alone and Pisgah was a different experience running sans KZ because I have run my races with him for so long... running with him had changed the experience for run alone again brings me back pre-Nipmuck Dave....before he mentored me in my ultra running..when I was running with a huge pack and cotton socks ; ) when I was dating Morris and living in seems a life time ago...when my body was so strong and I thought it would never fail me...

I am recycled...taking all these old parts of me and melting them down and creating something new...I  feel like to be truly alive I have to burn down to my embers and then be reborn....this may be something that makes me unique and strong or it may be seen as a character flaw...I guess it depends on who you ask. I find my happiness from within but don't get me wrong....I love to share in the joy of others..let me warm myself in their happiness..toast marshmallows in their joy...and eat them with dark chocolate and graham crackers....yummy

In the past year I realized that my happiness would not be found from outside myself...I thought I found it but it was just a dream...a glorious one in truth but like tissue paper it tore and flew away....still I hope to one day experience that be able to settle inside myself enough to settle beside someone else....

but for now I will wake up and eat my oatmeal and run trails with my log...and just be....

Monday, October 3, 2011


So I took pretty much all last week off from training....I was tired and my hands were toast so hitting the gym was not a huge priority. In fact did not step into the gym for over 5 days.  I did one quick trail run mid week and then trained with Chris this past Friday.  I hit the cape cod canal rollerblading with Cappy D Saturday and Sunday morning I ran a 10k trail race....then hit the gym for a work out after failing to find the DR training that was happening in Belmont.  In truth it was nice to take a week off and let my body recover.  When I returned to training I hit chest and noted that I was weaker.  For my flat bench I was up to 25 lb dumbbells for 4 sets of 10 (20 seconds rest) for my endurance workout and I was feeling strong at this weight.  Yesterday I grabbed the 25lbs dumbbells and honestly struggled...the dude next to me noticed and came over and spotted me.  I do not need a spotter for this weight but yesterday I did.  Now I had not done any lifting since before Tire Guys camp.  I pulled and pushed a shit load of weight during the 10 hours of that camp and took off a good 5 days from lifting....on my return to the gym should I have felt this weak?  Was I really still recovering from the camp?  In the past when over training was a way of life for me I would run a trail marathon in the morning and by the afternoon I would hit the gym for 2 hours.  I ate half the amount of calories I eat now (and I was a vegetarian I consume beef and or chicken with each meal) and yet I could go on like the little engine that could.  Mind you after 2 years of this I crashed..other things came into play of course...yet I question how I could need this amount of recovery when I have gained more muscle, my health is in a pretty good place, there is little to no stress in my life...when I was a hot mess physically and emotionally I trained like a machine and now that I am balanced I need more rest and recovery?  Is it just age....I will be 42 in January am I officially an old lady who needs to take naps now?

I did chest, tris and abs Sunday and today after I take a nap (yep a nap...I have what feels to me like a cold...a cold?!  In October? I never get colds....cancer yes...colds no....what is going on here? so I thought a nap would help after school before I head to the gym) The plan tonight is to either hit legs hard or do glutes only and then take a spin class.  I am meeting up with Trooper D tonight to train and he is not a huge fan of my glute work out nor would I imagine him being interested in a spin I think it will probably be a hard leg night...pyramid squats, leg press wall squat superset (10 sets of 30 reps (90lbs) leg press straight into a 60 second wall squat with 25 lb dumbbells on thighs then back to leg press no rest at all between the 10 sets except to drop dumbbells and walk the 5 feet to leg is a killer, box jumps, lunges with 50lb barbell 10 sets 10 per leg 10 seconds rest, then some body weight lunges (side and back) and step ups. 

I will be interested to see if the week off (and the nap) help : )