Getting Ready

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Yikes. I’m almost larger-than-life here.
This is me heading to the finish line of the VT50 last year.
I hope to look this cheerful at the end of the VT100k Saturday. I’ve been hopping up and down for the last two weeks, I wonder if I’ll have any energy left to run.
Long training weeks of 50 miles are done. We made it through a very long winter and emerged into a full fledged summer swelter. I’ve done the middle of the day heat training. Training races have been run. Back to backs done. Aggie has dragged my sweaty carcass through bramble to a taper-crescendo.
At this point, my training is what it is.
It’s time to prep.
Every aspect of running an ultra appeals to me. Of course there’s the running. That’s a given. But organizing our gear has been utterly satisfying.

I went as far as ordering 15 insulated lunch bags to polish our running style with. We nixed the garbage bags in favor of uptown style. Red for girls, green for boys. I have seven drop bag sites. Hubby has nine for the full 100. We’re gonna utilize all of these. Neither of us has to think about what our bags look like at midnight when we’re a little trail weary. And we look good!

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Here’s what’s in each drop bag for our VT100 experience:
1 Stick pack of Tailwind
2 Bottles of frozen H2O
1 Bottle of frozen smoothie
1 GF PB&J (hubby is a celiac)
2 Gels
Tums
Gas-X
Aleve for her, Ibu for him
Socks
Wet Wipes
KT Tape strip
Pretty straight forward. I’ve heard simple is best, especially later in the game.

Vermont is hottest and most humid in July. Any perishables, like fresh fruit and ice, our crews are handling. So far, the weather forecast calls for 82° and 75% humidity. Although the VT100 has been hotter the previous two years, we are going to have our crews carry lots of ice. Last year volunteering at Stage Road Aid Station, we had very little ice to give the runners. I want to make sure we have lots to share, if needed.

What am I missing?
Batteries, headlamp and flashlight I’ll leave in my Ten Bear bag for later in the day.
Extra Buff, change of shoes will be in my Spirit of ’76 (mile 40) bag.

I know lots can go wrong. I tried to prepare for all the parts I can control, so when something does go wrong, and it will, I won’t feel like a house of cards. I wanted everything ready so I can sit back and enjoy the pre race festivities Friday.

I’m injury free (for today). Packed, trained & rested. So let’s do this.

I’m covered in grace, that I can run. Everything else is just icing. I’ve been running again for a mere 2 1/2 years. That I’ve come this far to run further than ever is incredible. I’m beyond wow’d that I’m going to run in this year’s VT100 so soon. Whether I make it to the finish line or not, it’s gonna be an amazing day. I hope you’ll include me in your prayers Saturday that it’s a smooth, fun day for this grateful girl.

Thanks for running with me,
Astrid

PS I had the privilege of being interviewed for Far North Endurance. Please check out the link here
It’s a great piece! Thank you, FNE.

Pineland 50k 2014

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This year’s Memorial Weekend race marks the one year anniversary of my entry into the ultra world!
Remember how nervous I was for this last year? Well, don’t worry if you don’t, cause I do. I was a wreck. I barely slept the night before. I barely slept for the entire week prior. This year, I slept like the professional sleeper I really am. What a difference a year makes.

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Race conditions in 2013 were cold, wet and soupy. Served with a Hungry (Wo)Man side of mud. Weather reports for this year’s fun called for perfect and dry. And dry and glorious it was.
Race morning, me and hubby, the beautiful Joy and divine Sherry were off at 8am with little fuss. We were comfortable and not shivering or soggy. Hubby and Joy took off for a quicker race.

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Sherry (not crop) dusting this farm. I’m so outta here. Wait for me…

Honestly, my race was perfect. I couldn’t have asked for a better day. Having great weather makes for easy racing. Sherry and I talked (I know, doesn’t sound like I’m racing if I’m talking) for 5 straight hours. We ate, we drank, we laughed. The hours flew by. The rolling, non technical terrain requires little attention to footing. So, I focused on keeping my head busy.

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One loop down. 16 miles to go.

What to say? This race was pretty straight forward. And, happily uneventful.
I figured out at the TARC Spring Classic using Tailwind, I don’t have to eat much. I ate a small amount of banana and watermelon at aid stations. Less food means less tummy trouble. Since my stomach wasn’t upset, I felt strong. And my Psoas wasn’t bothering me. Life was good.
Half way through the second loop, I felt good enough to try a little kick. I took off on my own, hoping I didn’t take off too early. I spent the last 8 or so miles around 10-11 minute miles. For me, that’s flying. I kept worrying I was going to poop out. Never happened. Go figure. My God, I even passed a dozen other racers. So, that’s what that feels like. I apologized to all of them.

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Wish my photos were this good.

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I guess I had plenty of Toyota Jump in me at the finish line. Having a crowd at the finish line helps with enthusiasm. Hubby was there to usher me across.
7:32:15.
That’s a freakin’ PR! By 16 minutes. AND I took 1:22:00 off last year’s race.
Hubby and Joy finished in 5:53:00. Nice work, fast people. A girl can dream…

I think I love ultrarunning as much as talking other runners. It was great to see Heather, Fish, Annette, Lise and company. And meeting new friends, like Bill from California was running another 50k the following weekend. And I think the one after that, too. Hey, Heather, please hurry up and heal so we can run together.
Of course, Sherry, you are my angel. Thank you for being my ultrarunning rock. You are a first rate lady and a great running partner. I wish very new ultrarunner could have an experienced Sherry to guide them.
Many thanks to the race director, Erik, and staff. The aid station volunteers are so pumped, their enthusiasm is motivating. They got me in and out quickly. Thank you to all for putting on a first rate festival.

Some things that worked:
Tailwind. Tailwind. Tailwind. Buy some, it’s the bomb, er, the best. I used a scoop per 20 oz bottle o’ water. I had 4 bottles waters mixed with the Mandarin Orange flavor and one of the caffeinated Raspberry the last hour.
A pineapple Spirulina smoothie before and after the race. The world needs more pineapple.
My Salomon Advanced Skin S Lab 5 Set Hydration vest. It’s so comfy, I forget I’m wearing it. It’s worth every penny. It does need a shorter name, I agree.
My Sacro Iliac belt. It looks silly. I need more crap/gear hanging off me like a hole in the head. But, my back doesn’t ache so badly when I use the darn thing. Thank you, Dr. K for taking such great care of me.

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Since Aggie couldn’t race with us, she took care of our comfy bed.

PS 38 days ’til the VT 100k…

Thanks for running with me,
Astrid

TARC Spring Classic 2014

I’m sitting in the car, shivering and staring out at the still falling rain. I’m spent. J finished hours ago and has the car warm. I’m so grateful to be sitting. And dry. I’m tired. And smiling.
I finished.
I crossed the finish line.
I didn’t want to. I wanted to quit after four of five laps.

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The TARC Spring Classic wasn’t a tough race. It’s a fairly straight forward course, with little elevation change. I think the entire course has 1200′ of elevation change. The 50k option is five 10k loops. There’s the single aid station at the start finish area. The trails aren’t technical. They’re mostly double track with some wider sections. There was lots of mud, mostly from a day of runners and rain. Otherwise, a smooth runnable trail. It was so cushy. I felt spoiled.

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Last fall I read Steve Latour’s A Clydesdale’s Tale and Twelve Ultras in Twelve Months and have been excited about a TARC race since. TARC is Trail Animals Running Club out of the Boston, Mass area. Pineland is at the end of May…making the end of April date for the Spring Classic perfect. The Classic is a fat ass style race, meaning no swag, no finishers medal, no pampering. You bring a dish to share. Perfect. 22 dollars perfect.

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J and I travelled to Weston, MA the day before and meet up with some TARCers. Co RD Josh Katzman (nicest RD you’ll ever meet) was there to wrangle us volunteers. This guy just had surgery, has a knee the size of a grapefruit and he’s out marking the course. I get a cold and I’m a puddle in bed for days. Wow. Tough as nails.
I loved seeing the course prior to the race.

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The first two loops I felt amazing. I was running steadily. I chatted with a few folks. But I mostly ran alone. I was at mile 12 by 2:24.
The third loop started to be a little repetitive. Getting passed over and over and over again is frustrating. There are multiple races simultaneously. There’s a 10k, a half and full marathons. I knew I was cranky when the 100th person said ‘good job’ as they passed me and I wanted to tell them to get bent. So glad runners aren’t telepathic.
I changed my muddy Hoka Kailua to my Stinson for lap four, along with a dry jacket. The dry gear helped improve my mood. I ran most of the lap, but planned my DNF towards the end of it. I was getting close to six hours on course. My brain said good enough.
I’m learning to run through hip pain, especially after mile 25 when my legs crap out. I don’t think I’ve had enough time under my belt (a mere year) running long. It’s around that time that my hips flexors tighten up. I can walk. So that’s what I’ve done late in the day two of the three I’ve run.
When my psoas whined the tiniest bit, I felt relieved to have a legitimate excuse for dropping. The pain disappeared. Now what? A little help here God…and God gave me Jenn.
Jenn and I crossed paths at the end of the fourth. She’d fallen earlier in the race and had acute knee pain. We decided to start on the last lap and walk it together. Walk, I can do. So, we walked. We talked, and it kept my mind off my stinkin achin hips. And the constant rain and 40° degrees, now settling into my finger tips. We hopped over mud bogs. We counted down the miles.
And we finished.
7:49:00.
Hubby was 6:13:ish.
Most of everyone was gone at this point. I was NOT DFL. Pretty close. But not last. It would have been okay to finish last. Both race directors, Bob Crowley and Josh (on friggin crutches) were there til the last person crossed the finish line. Who does that? I guess that’s what makes a TARC race so fantastic. Thank you, both for being there. It meant a lot. Truly. Thank you to the volunteers who shivered in the rain and kept us fed.

What worked:
I’m almost exclusively using Tailwind Nutrition as my running fuel. If you have not had the pleasure of using it, please order some. These are the nicest people making an amazing product. It’s dextrose mixed with electrolytes for use in liquids. Just like their slogan says, it’s all you need all day. I drank a bottle’s worth each lap. I had found I’d been over eating on long runs, causing nausea and GI distress. With Tailwind, I’m getting 100 calories per serving, leaving me only 100 more calories to get from other sources. The only solid food I had was a couple of bananas and a few slices of watermelon.
I love my fancy schmancy Salomon hydration pack. I ran the entire winter in it, soft bottles up front, and loving it. I have to figure out how to put the Tailwind powder in it quickly without dumping it everywhere.

Wet iPods don’t play or take pictures very well. Sorry for the lack of course pics. I know now I can run without music.

Taking a hostage works. Thank you, Jenn, for sticking it out with me.

It’s been 10 days since the race. Me and Aggie have been exploring new trails and logging some serious miles. I had my 1st 50 mile week! Now, my body says rest cause my psoas is talking to me again. I haven’t run for two days, and will more than likely take two more days to RICE. Aggie tried to chew on a porcupine sandwich Sunday. She’s been relegated to leashed walks til the prickly lunch meats go deeper into the woods.
She says ‘harrumph’.

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A little less than three weeks til Pineland….and nine til the VT 100…

Thanks for running with me,
Astrid

Spring? Is That You?

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And just like that, winter is done.
Psych! Maybe 3-5 tonight? Ugh. I hope not. Ah, it is still April in Vermont. Any weather is quite possible until July.
Well, the flowers cry Spring. So, I’m going with it.

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Weather, smeather. Let’s talk running. And racing.
I added another ultra to the schedule. And my first race of the season is a mere ten days away!! Ready or not, the TARC Spring Classic 50k is fast approaching. I’ll toe (TLC I can hear you chuckling) the line the 26th of this month for their annual race.Wooooohoooooo!
I’d like to clarify that this may be a race. And I may be pushing myself. But, I fully expect to be DEAD FUCKING LAST for this one (earmuffs). I am slow. I don’t feel 100% ready for this race. I just got back to my long runs 6 weeks ago. Did I mention I’m slow?
But, darn it, I want to do it. I want to meet runners. I want to talk running. I want to eat salted potatoes. And most importantly, I want to run.
So, here goes.
Training has been pretty sweet. Just as my chiropractor predicted, I have been pain free for two weeks. So running has been pretty joyful. My head can wander while I’m on the trails without the constant whine of back and groin pain.
Friday was a 17 miler. At elevation, there is still tons of snow. But, at 650 feet we’re just a happy soggy mess. We hit a high of 78° F Monday. I think the temp Friday was a perfect 54°. It doesn’t get any better than that for running. I crack myself up avoiding puddling in the beginning, only to go stomping through them by the half way mark. Some of the trails were more swamp and river than dirt. >

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I’ll be grateful when the last of the frozen layers are gone. I punched through the trail multiple times, flailing around, looking like I was having a seizure. One leg would be submerged in a foot of water, the other sliding into a split. Meanwhile, my arms were looking for a dog tail to grab hold of. I’m sure Aggie was rolling her eyes at me.
I surprisingly wasn’t sore on Saturday. This is my 1st long run without soreness the next day. My hip flexors are usually pretty tight afterwards. I’m hoping as my overall fitness increases, this won’t be a problem. Any thoughts about how I can spot strengthen my hips flexors?
Hubby and I spent a leisurely last day at Okemo doing pipe runs on hero snow. Note to self: you will look like a big nerd your 1st time using a T bar. And have the bruises to prove it. *how did I avoid using a T bar for 20 years of riding??
Me and Aggie have been running 10 to 15 hours per week. I’m hoping to increase to twice that by mid June in preparation for the VT100K. We’ll see if me and the girl can achieve that goal.
Speaking of my sweet girl, Aggie won’t be coming to Massachusetts with us next week. BUT, I have a week off of work afterward, so maybe she and I can do some recce’ing then. It’s going to be epic! So much exploring to be done.
>

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Please say a prayer for me that I can swallow my pride on race day and be okay with DFL.

Thanks for running with me,
Astrid-o
>

Tentatively Trotting

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Here I am, eight weeks after the worst of the pain has subsided. My chiro cleared me three weeks ago to try some running. I was so afraid to re injure my psoas, it took me five days to believe her and try a run. And it was the most glorious two miles. EVER.
It was slow, it was awkward. I loved it. AND it didn’t hurt. I think my last pain free run was in September. I love you, Doctor. You work miracles.
We’ve had a few more snow storms, in the meantime. I passed on snowboarding when storm Vulcan gave us gobs of snow. (My Tahoe friends are bristling). Our local trails are so deep with layers of ice and snow. It’s hard to believe Spring is a mere week away.
We have a few more nights scheduled of sub zero temps. Is this really March?
Oh well.
Aggie is so excited to be running again. Her dad stepped in a bit when I was layed up. But not as much as I would. She’s my running partner. I try never to leave laced up without her.

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We completed an incredible 10 miler yesterday. It was tough going. I could feel my lack of base. But, I was running. And I could barely take it for granted. I’m happily sore in my Glutes today.
The snowy trails are awesome for building lateral strength. Anytime I’m off trail, it feels like cheating, it’s so effortless. This winter, we invested in Micro Spikes. They’re on the heavy side, but, again, great for training. My feet feel light as air without them.
So, with this new confidence, I’m learning to love dirt roads. Really. This time of year, they feel like a gift. I’d been dreading that 75% of the VT100 is run on dirt roads. Now, not so much.
Speaking of the 100(k), I’m on track to follow the 16 week plan for training, courtesy of Google. It’s the New Zealand Ladies Ultrarunning Club training plan. I’ll put a link to it in the next post.

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I have a couple of 50k’s in the next 6 weeks. One is a late edition. More soon.
Think Spring!
Oh, one last thing, I think chiropractors are amazing. If you can, try one. Mine has done amazing work on me. I had no idea I could feel this good. She helped heal my psoas pain, aligned my hips and relieved my chronic neck pain. She has been really affordable and so worth every penny. I feel like she’s given me a new body to run with.
Thanks for running(!!!!!!) with me,
Astrid

Stupid Psoas

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I’m not running right now. I’m five months away from the big day. I’m supposed to be training for the Vermont 100K.
This was going to be an ‘inspirational’ post about my new eating habits. About all the deep powder days we’ve had.
But I’m friggin injured. The crappy truth is my brain is telling me it’s forever.
My psoas is messed up. It’s either a torn muscle or a bursitis.
And I’m mad. It hurts all the time now. I walk with a limp. My quad won’t lift my thigh. My right butt cheek is on fire.
I love running. I love the routine. I love the fight. I love being tired from a long run. You get the picture. And I’m not running. I’m not even able to walk the trails.
I’m on a strict diet of rest, ice and anti inflammatories. There’s nothing else to do. I’m going a little nuts. I’m playing a lot of Solitaire and petting Aggie.
So I pray. I pray for healing and patience.

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Those are a lot of ‘I’ statements. Sorry.
In the grand scheme of things, I know in my heart, I’m incredibly blessed. This is only temporary. There are lots of folks out there with a hundred times worse health issues. I’m sorry if this is an inconsiderate post. I know you guys will set me straight and get me off my pity pot.

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Thanks for letting me vent,
Astrid