Chili, Caffeine, Clif Shots

Ithaca Chili Cook-off is today! That means busy at CTB, and taking pictures of the event for Agava. I’m debating doing a bit of biking before I go out there. Sometimes the spinning makes my legs feel good, but I also know I will be on my feet most of the day.

I had two confidence boosting runs this week, which I’ve been waiting for. My hamstring is behaving as long as I take short strides.

I’m sold on the salted watermelon Clif Shots. They are delicious and I can put down a bunch of them. I’m also sold on scones. I’ve been eating one as an afternoon snack for the past week and they make me smile.

I started drinking caffeinated coffee in the mornings. I’ve been off caffeine since JFK in November. However, I want to use caffeine in my races for a boost, so my coach thinks I should introduce some of it back in before race day. Still on decaf for everything else.

My sister did her first 10 mile run of her marathon (!!!) training plan this morning and she didn’t walk at all! I’m so proud of her. I can’t wait to do this race together. If I didn’t mention it, we’re going to Texas in May to run the Silo District Marathon. Run-cation is the plan, road-tripping and stopping along the way is also scheduled.

I’ve been reading Liza Howard’s blog, and I love the format. It’s quick, funny and something that makes me smile. I think if I want to blog more often, the way she does it is sustainable for me. I’ll even include my running time like she does.

If anyone doesn’t know who Liza is, you should. Powerhouse running coach, mom and amazing athlete.

Breakfast today: oatmeal with maple syrup, bananas and peanut butter

Running: 118:28 minutes

The 18th Mile

JFK meant a lot, but also not much at all in the grand scheme of my running journey. It wasn’t a PR, it wasn’t a new distance, it wasn’t a hard course, yet it was everything I needed to believe in myself again.

It’s no secret I’ve struggled this past fall. I’m still learning how best my body responds to training, nutrition and everything else that comes with becoming an ultra-runner. I have to admit, although I will do my best to remain positive about things, running has been hard emotionally and physically. In short, it sucked more times than it was blissful, but I kept at it because I know these kind of things happen.

I signed up for JFK months ago thinking it would be my big race of the year. It still was, however I wanted to be more prepared for it. Actually, I wanted to be prepared at all, but it wasn’t in the cards this time. I tried my best to get up some mileage after my month healing from injury in September. However, that’s what it was, I just ran regularly, easy, and tried to work on the things I could. Relax about it, eat enough, do my best to cope with the depressive symptoms that would follow when I admitted that JFK was not going to happen.

However, with each week, I felt better and started to trust my body again. I didn’t feel like I creeping around on runs trying not to break. I started to relax and enjoy the process and simply let go. I did one 20 miler a few weeks ago and it went really well. That solidified JFK in my mind. I would go, I would start, and I would try.

I wish I could say I believed in myself at that point. Things got better, but I had a lingering doubt that would not go away. It would take a lot more than positive self talk to get it to leave, I had to prove it.

So here we are, two days post JFK. I have completed my first van trip. I hurt in all the places. My hunger is ravenous, yet many times after and before eating I feel sick. If I could do one thing for the rest of my life, I would foam roll my calves because they are so tight. I fucking love it because I earned it.

The Race

Getting to the high school in Boonsboro, MD was pretty uneventful. The day prior I was able to talk through all my fears and worries with my good friend Rich Heffron and he was very comforting. I was able to tell him, a bit bashfully, that I was ok if I DNFed. I wanted to start and see how far I got. I am not someone who can just do a random 50 miler. It takes so much out of me, both physically and emotionally. I admitted I really, really, REALLY wanted to finish, and I would be sad if I didn’t, but I was not putting my body in a position to be injured for an extended period of time. If I needed to stop, I would stop. He was very understanding, supportive of my decision and just made my feelings valid. Thank you Rich, your words helped me each time I wanted to quit. I had given myself permission to do so and nothing was wrong with that.

I got to packet pick up, knew no one there, and left without any fanfare, just the way I like it. I went back to my van, went to the high school where the race was starting, talked to my sister and fell asleep.

The race began at 6:30AM a little walk from where we all had gathered for the pre-race briefing. Actually I have no idea if I started when the gun sounded because most of us were still walking there.

I felt oddly shaky during the first few miles, my pants kept falling down and I really wondered if I was doing the right thing. I had to use the bathroom a few times and at mile 5, it was (honest to God) the first time (of many) I considered stopping. Really. At mile 5. Of a 50 mile race. This is not an ideal scenario. However, I tried not to think about it, figure out my pants situation and try not to fall on the Appalachian Trail.

The first 15.5 miles were beautiful, if rocky terrain. It reminded me of Escarpment, but not as bad. One thing that kept me going here was not falling and realizing I was running terrain this much better than I had back in July. Small wins I suppose. At about mile 8 I realized I had yet to start eating or drinking, so I put my focus into that. I decided I would try to eat something with each buzz (mile marker) on my watch. This also might be why I was going to the bathroom more than I’d have liked. Hydration helps digestion.

At mile 12 I had another one of the episodes where I thought about dropping. It was a particularly rocky section and I stubbed my toe so badly, I thought I broke it. Even the guy behind me told me I should get it looked at. However, I didn’t fall, so I kept going and just like that, we got off the AT and I was ready to actually run.

I got going at a good clip, ate more of my shot blocks (salted watermelon forever) and had a good 2 miles. Then another down moment happened and I started to get some weird lower back pain. I straightened up and it went away, but the dark thoughts were back. I made it to an aid station around mile 18, and this is where I changed.

The aid station was manned by a XC team, and they had the most beautiful cookies I had ever seen. Seriously, they were professionally down. I ate one there and asked if they would be at the finish line. They said no, and I thought it would be a shame if I didn’t grab more because I love eating beautiful food, it’s fun and makes me smile. So I grabbed, a lot, of cookies, stuffing them in my bottle pouch and carrying them. I don’t know what it was, the sugar, the beautiful appearance or just the kindness of the aid station, but mentally I shifted. I started offering cookies to runners I passed. I was in pain and doubtful, but I started to let go, I started to run free, I started to believe in why I was running here. I want to finish and I want to run for a long time. I stopped caring about not living up to potential. I stopped worrying about anything other than moving forward and being the kind of runner I want to see out there on the trail. I got into a sort of flow, but it wasn’t a runner’s high. It was still painful, but I accepted the pain and let it come with me. I guess it would be more like a grind. I started grinding, putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.

At this point, I started running with another guy named Scott, who made miles 20-30 an absolute blast. Both of us were relative newbies (his first, my second) and still figuring things out. We talked, we connected and it was just what I needed. So often, I crave alone time. I enjoy it actually as I’ve written before. Today though, I needed other people. Other positive people, suffering together, but also finding beauty in the suffering.


“The loneliest you will ever feel is when in need. Whether from pain of an injury, cold or hunger, you will feel at your most lonely, most insignificant when you are away from people and in need” – Aleks Kashefi


At about mile 30, Scott and I split up as he needed a bit more aid at the station than I did. I caught up to two other guys, Lou and Tom (I think) and ran with them for the next 10ish. During those miles, I had a few more low moments, but just having them there and talking with them made them not seem so bad. I stopped doubting my ability to finish. I just knew some miles would be more painful than others.

I forgot to mention that it began raining when I got off the AT and onto the tow path, which then turned into freezing rain and wind at points. That may have caused a few low moments, but actually I found a great strategy of putting the noodle soup in my handheld bottle and then eating bars which balanced my electrolytes. The soup was warm which was such a blessing out there. I didn’t realize how cold it was and might have avoided the hypothermia others suffered. I’ll definitely take that strategy into my next ultra.

The last 8 miles of the course were on the road. Miles 42-44 were kind of a battle as I felt like I was so close, yet so far. The road opened up and it actually felt like home. At mile 44, a man told me “it’s ok, less than a 10K to go!” They also were playing Christmas music and I had a cup of hot cocoa. I’d had it. I picked it up because damn it, I know how to run on the road. Those last miles might have been my fastest and I passed 10 people. I was just ready to be done. Not because it was freezing cold, I was tired and I missed my sister, but because when I crossed that finish line, I knew I would believe in myself again. I could call myself and ultrarunner and believe it.

I finished the race somewhere around 8:06 and change. A long day that exposed my lack of specific fitness, my mental and emotional demons and had terrible weather. A race I told myself I could DNF and it would be completely justified. A race I didn’t believe was possible just a few weeks before. I finished.

With that, this long post is done. Thank you to Mike, the RD, the incredible aid station volunteers, Red New Racing and On Running for their support.

Special thanks to my sister Laurel, my mom and dad, Ian Golden, Rich Heffron, my coworkers from CTB, Amelia Kauffman (who raced as well), and my wonderful roommate and friend Lesley, who has seen me through the injuries and believed in me when I couldn’t walk.

Products I’m Enjoying: November 2017

The frozen hands and rainy days aside, I quite enjoy this time of year. It’s not perfect outside, so running takes a bit more effort. Layering is starting to happen and I just love a big comfy sweater and a book. It is my time to begin to slow down and just be.

In addition to those reasons, I have had the chance to being back or try some items that have been on the back burner for a few months. I’ve provided links where appropriate so if you’re interested, try them out!


Coconut Butter

Swanson Vitamins recently reached out and sent me some goodies to try. One of these things was this delicious coconut butter. I have loved coconut butter in the past, but often forget about it as I am an self-proclaimed peanut butter addict. This week for breakfast I have been enjoying coconut butter, peanut butter and maple syrup sandwiches and OH MY STARS that’s GOOD! I don’t know why I never got on the peanut butter and butter train, but now I’m not getting off. Head to their website to see all the other great stuff they have!


Squash

A couple weekends ago my sister was selling her beautiful wood panels and other home goods at The Pumpkin Stand in Lodi, NY. While there I bought some of their delicious delicata, spaghetti, butternut and acorn squash. Conveniently on the way home, I stopped at my parent’s house and my mom had made her famous tomato sauce, which I stole and have been eating this week. I’m not crazy for pumpkin, but I do enjoy these winter squash, especially since I can make them in the microwave!


Chocolate Honey

The Philosophie is a brand I’ve supported and represented before because I love the message. They believe your health deserves the best, and it really does right? I’ve been swirling this superfood cacao honey into my smoothies or on top of the mounds of toasts I’ve been consuming recently and it adds a touch of sweetness that is just right. Also, peanut butter topped with this stuff is beyond fantastic!


Wheat Germ

Since getting my results from Inside Tracker, I noticed that wheat germ was a recommended food to raise both my vitamin D and Iron levels. Although I don’t normally use this, I figured it would be an easy add to my oatmeal (my oatmeal is getting complicated now with more than just oats, PB and banana…what the health?!) It does add a depth that I quite enjoy. It gives the oats a bread texture and I can actually spread the peanut butter on top. Not ideal for mixing things in after, so I’d advise mixing in whatever before cooking. I’m also going to experiment adding it to yogurt, but I haven’t done that yet.

Current Shoe Rotation


On Cloud Cruiser

I like using these for the gym. They have extra toe room for the elliptical and a solid platform when I do my easy 20 minute gym routine. They are not fancy, but they get the job done. I’ve tried to run in them and use them for short runs of less than 5 miles, after that I like shoes to be a bit more specific to my foot.

Hoke Speed Instinct

I bought these last week and have run in them twice, 16 miles and 12 miles. I love them and think I will use them for my next race. They have enough cushion without being bulky, the appropriate lugs for both trail and road, and conform to my foot well. I have run in the Hoka Clifton before and enjoyed them, so I’m glad I found another Hoka shoe I like.

On Cloud Flyer

Oh these shoes! Each time I’ve run in them the past week I’ve gotten poured on…and they are fantastic! They drain surprisingly well, I have no blisters and they are not wearing down. They are the most cushioned of the On line, and these days that’s what my feet need. A bit more durable upper and the classic cloud pattern on the bottom, I recommend them for middle distance runs (6-11 miles).

Other shoes I’m wearing a bit: On Cloud, Altra Impulse

Running Related Things I Don’t Talk About

This morning on my run I listened to the most recent Real Talk Radio with Nicole Antionette podcast with Lauren Fleshman. The episode (and all her episodes really) get into the nitty-gritty details of what goes on in everyday life. It’s messy, complicated and often not as Instagram worthy as many people may seem. They talked about pregnancy and the things Lauren has experienced, explaining what was different for her, how she dealt with the changing of her mood and body and the discussion she had with her partner, Jesse, who was racing an Ironman on her due date.

Additionally, I listened to an episode of Heartland Running with Joel Cohen (of the Simpsons) about the book he just wrote How To Lose A Marathon. In the book, Cohen spells out everything that happens when you begin to run for the first time. Things I didn’t even think about or remember experiencing, but make a big difference.

These two episodes, listened randomly so close together made me think about what I don’t talk about concerning my own running. Here we go:

Bathroom: I go to the bathroom A LOT. When I say a lot, I mean 5 times per day, and that is just number 2. If I am actually properly hydrated, that number reaches 9-10. I go once when I wake up, most likely once during my run or right immediately after, once after I finish breakfast and once in the afternoon. Then I also have gotten up to go in the middle of the night. This is due to my fiber consumption and also depends on my hydration status. It is getting exceedingly better since I started taking more vitamins and trading starchy vegetables (like potatoes, squash and even some grains with too much fiber) to bread. I eat a higher proportion of calories from bread and white grains than I ever have because it simply stays with me longer. I used to eat say, some blueberries with my breakfast, and then 2 hours later they would be coming out, not as digested as I would like. It has been a lot of experimentation regarding this, and I am actually making progress. Veggies are great, but white grains keep my belly and body happy.

Feet: I am not talking about my foot injuries here, I am talking about the regular foot maintenance I do each day on my feet. I spend at least 5-10 minutes after my shower pumicing, massaging and lotioning my feet so that they don’t rub my shoes the wrong way. That is not debilitating, but painful, annoying and it prevents me from wearing certain shoes. I also work consciously to harden my feet without rubbing them raw. I want to get them to a leather-like feel, but not with blisters underneath. That is where the problems come. It’s gross sometimes with all the dead skin that comes off, but it allows me to focus on putting my best effort in a run instead of running gingerly.

Keeping Clean: I run at 4:30AM, and need to be at work by 5:45AM. I do not shower in between there. However, if I don’t do something in my lady parts, I have had, let’s say, less desirable feelings later on that day. This also sometimes happens in the later stages of an ultra when you’ve been sweating and in the water all day. Not fun and feels like peeing needles. A few months ago, I discovered the power of baby wipes. Huggies to be exact. These things are super simple and the fastest way to clean up down yonder when you’re pressed. I simply shed my running gear, do a wipe through, and put on clean undies for the day. I will shower later, but I take comfort in that I am not growing bacteria all day.

Running with people: I will be honest, I do not run with people in my daily runs. I used to last year and I enjoyed it, however my schedule is not conducive to other people with normal hours. I also need to focus on my own paces, both in workouts and recovery and easy runs. What I find happens, especially with peers, is that an easy run is never truly easy. You either get talking and the pace quickens or someone feels like they are slowing everyone down, so they speed up, and then everyone else speeds up. That is not an easy, recovery run. I do enjoy running with others when I’ve done it, but I realize that most times, I use running as my me time. I see people all day. I like my 1-2 hour solo adventures where it’s just me and the outdoors.

Running in the dark: I run in the dark, with my headlamp, everyday. Every single day. My batteries are the best. I do this because I run before I work, which is at 4:30. Even today, when I went out at 6 (sleeping in HOLLA) I probably could have used a headlamp until 7. It’s fall, and that happens. There are some things I don’t talk about, like how sometimes cars see you and your lamp and like a bug to a candle, they drive right at you! I know they really do not mean it, but honestly, you need to be careful. Even I would not take on a car. I run on the roads so I don’t worry too much about stepping on things, but I am still aware. No one is up, so if someone is up, it’s weird and just be cautious. They probably think the same as you, but still. I have never felt unsafe, but I try not to be an idiot.

Strava: I honestly, do not look at my or other’s Strava. I stopped doing this because it only did one of two things, it made me with I was out there when I was injured, or it made me compare my training to someone else’s. I am not her. I am not a man. I am me and I know that most times, my body responds fine to low mileage. It’s hard to not go do another 20 miler when your last one felt great and it looks like so-and-so can do three of them a week. I won’t do that to my body and mind. Avoiding Strava is self care. I barely even look at my runs, I just use it as a log or if something did feel weird.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Any other things you think runners don’t talk about?