>Attitude

>My friend Andrew put up a pretty sweet post the other day on his blog. The message was clear: attitude is everything. My final long run is at last in reach. I am really starting to feel the effects of a hard 4 months of training, and I’m looking forward to the taper process. In these last few weeks, attitude is everything because the work has been done.

I want to thank everyone – friends and strangers – who have taken time to reach out to me and wish me luck as well as support. When I get an e-mail from someone who doesn’t know me beyond my race results or my blog offering me advice and wishing me luck, it shows me how strong the running community is and I feel extremely lucky that I am to be a part of it. It also makes me realize that life must have been pretty lonely without the interweb (maybe Ben can tell us about life back then???). So in case I don’t say it enough later, THANK YOU!

>Hit List

>I am 32 days away, and my OCD is causing me to already get some minor preparations in place for the Big Day. Thus, I need all of your help! Now most of you probably have heard my opinion on running with an ipod. I don’t like it. For me, it distracts me from the gorgeous places I get to run in, or from some valuable/hilarious conversations with other runners. Also, I am usually running to get away from things like the computer or the Blackberry, and strapping on an ipod seems a bit counterintuitive. That being said, I’ve always had a hunch that running with music could actually make me faster, because it is a distraction. And when you’re running 50+ miles, a distraction can be a good thing.

Anyway, I’ll cut to the chase: I am putting together an epic playlist for Western States. In the event that my spirits start to sink, or my body is giving me a problem, I will be pulling out all the stops to keep myself from stopping. The ipod is one of them. Now, I don’t really think I need help, persay, to put together the most baller list of songs in the world. However, if everyone can contribute to the playlist (about 5 songs?) it may also help me because when your songs come on, I’ll be able to think of you idiots back at home drinking beer and having fun and I might run a little faster. There are no guidelines for the songs you contribute, but think long and hard about it! I want good ones. I mean like Christina Aguilera’s “Come On Over” good!

Thank you!!

>Happy Anniversary to me!

>Memorial Day, graduations and Mr. and Mrs. Sippi’s first birthday can only mean one thing – my one year anniversary of living in Baltimore. About one year ago, I showed up to Federal Hill Runners. My memory of the day is short, but I do remember everyone going around and saying their paces. Jen and Melissa were standing together and said 8, so I pinpointed them as who to stay with. No one was very friendly, but no one was mean either. That’s pretty much how the group does it until you’re considered “in.” During that run, they also mentioned track practice the next day. However, it wasn’t until Spider (my only other friend at this point) also suggested that to me that I actually decided to go to the track for TNT. At this point though I was racing the next weekend so I wasn’t going to do the workout, I just wanted to make an appearance and see who was there…basically I wanted to judge everyone to see if I would be friends with these people.

As I walked up to the track on that fateful day, I took note of the fact that Ryan is making some sort of argument for his opinion that Half Ironmans are much more difficult than an ultra. Uh oh, I thought. Maybe I won’t be friends with these people. Shortly after his argument, someone asked me “what do you run?” Haha.

And so it was, my birth into TWSS was complete. I would have never thought that a year from then I’d be facing the Western States 100 and an Ironman within 2 months of each other. But so is the case, and it wouldn’t have been possible without some good friends to get me to this point. It certainly makes me wonder where I’ll be in another year.

>A Comparison

>Runners World…

vs. Ultrarunning:

I love my sport….And its not-scantily clad-older- and often eccentric participants.

>Shorty fire burning on the dance floor

>This weekend kicked off triathlon season for me with the Columbia Triathlon. As I went to the packet pickup on Saturday and saw all the d-bag triathletes who (despite being extremely good looking) act like these events are the Olympics, I got pretty excited. I get a kick out of checking out everyones sweet outfits and bike gear, and the anticipation that was present at Centennial Park was great. Despite knowing that Sunday’s weather wasn’t looking too good, people were pumped, and so was I. My expectations for the race weren’t too high. My first race of the season is never my strongest, but at the same time I would never say I wanted to go slow. So of course while I always am going for a PR, I felt that going 2:35 was reasonable, but 2:40 would be acceptable.

I got to the park on Sunday at 6am, got things set up and then….waited. My wave wasn’t going to start until 8:09, so I had some free time on my hands. I wandered around, I went to the bathroom about 30 times, and I had some snacks. The sweet part was watching the pros come through. Everyone was pretty quiet while Terenzo and the other lead men came through (so quiet it would have been mad awkward if I yelled my phone number to him…), and then the one and only Chrissie Wellington was spotted coming out of the water. Cheers erupted. Everyone simply loves this woman. I snapped a pic papparazi style, hung out a little longer to see Ryan head out on his bike, and then made my way down to the swim start. There I ran into Bren and Jen, who were pretty inspiring and said some words of encouragement. Anyway, blah blah blah and I’m off on the swim start. I felt like I was swimming well, but I also felt like I was in the water for forever, so I knew my time wasn’t great (ended up in the 26’s…yuck). Whether the swim was long or not, I definitely want to improve on that for the races to come, but my focus was really on the bike and run today so I didn’t care. Since January I have had my share of racing and training, and I thought that this would be a good test of where my legs are right now. I took last week relatively easy after the North Face debacle, but I certainly haven’t rested and I felt that if I put in a strong performance on the bike/run portion here – which are notably difficult – then I can be content that I’m on the right path for training.

The bike course was windy, but thankfully the temps hadn’t dropped too much. Starting in the second-to-last wave also gave me plenty of people to contend with and work to pass, so it made the ride fly by. I felt great on the bike, and managed to stay in my big chain ring the entire ride which was a first for me on that course. I was a little nervous that doing so was ruining my chances of a fast run, but whatevs, I had decided to do what I do. Unfortunately, my bike split didn’t come through, so the results show I spend like 140 minutes at T3 or something ridic, haha. But off onto the run I went. I felt good despite the hilly course (which I still swear was a part of the Club Challenge course). Again, I managed to pass a lot of people and that helped to have bodies out there in front of me to run down. My pace ended up being 7:42 and I had the fastest run of my age group. Again, I’m pretty pleased because I don’t think I’ve ever managed that, so that’s a good sign. I came through the finish in 2:39 and, according to Ryan, did not look like a Lumbering Dinosaur; again, a good thing.

All in all, it was a successful event for everyone. I snagged 3rd in the age group, and the rest of Team TWSS also put in great performances making us a pretty baller group.

Little did I know, my big event of the day was still to come. The First Annual Twilight Ajundar Beer Mile took place yesterday evening. After being slightly wishy washy on my own participation in the event, I opted to go for the full after securing a slight handicap that would allow me to shotgun the bevs. After bev #1 I was in first place and held that for all of 150 meters before being over taken by Brennan, Arjun, and Zero. I think Matt Stanford also passed me at some point, but alas, my beer drinking skills are pretty baller and I was able to finish strong in third place, with a time of 8:56. I felt a bit queasy, my stomach was so full of liquid I couldn’t move, and the drunkenness set in pretty quick…but it was awes. (note: 3rd place was for the heat….overall I ended up 5th).

All in all, a great success of a Sunday. Not sure what the next few weeks have in store for me training wise, I will try to iron all of that out in the next couple and days.

>Time Well Wasted

>This past weekend I was running the North Face Endurance Challenge 50 mile. Going into it, I knew it was supposed to be hard. Only 19/85 people finished last year. However, encouraged by my own arrogance and the line on the website that said “changes have been made to the course to make it a little faster” I figured I would be fine. I anticipated it to be rocky, and I expected it to take a little longer than my other 50 milers. Fine, no problem – it’s all good training.

I took the train to NYC Friday afternoon and met Brad at the North Face Store where we got our packets and headed up to the Econo Lodge at Bear Mountain, NY. I tried to no avail to convince him to take me to the Wild Animal Petting Zoo the next day instead of racing, but the race it was going to be. So at 3:22 am the alarms rang and as I laid in bed I heard a sound I never want to hear the morning of a trail race: pouring rain. Great. There’s nothing like wet shoes before you’ve even begun the run. With an early start of 5am, we were in for about an hour and a half of darkness. Starting a trail run in the dark is somewhat of a double edged sword. One, you can’t see the mountains you’re attempting to run up. Therefore, you end up running a heck of a lot more than you normally would and not being able to see it makes it feel easier….but that can take its toll on your legs as well. Finding that balance early is key. I felt good at the start, but was a little concerned about the terrain – it was ROCKY. And steep. And did I mention rocky? Prior to this, the hardest race terrain-wise I’ve ever done was the Jay Mountain Marathon. Now that pales in comparison to what I was facing here. At one point I was on my stomach sliding feet first down an almost-vertical rock face. WTF. And, if you know me at all, you probably realize that I’m as clumsy as they come when I run. And the only thing I’m worse running on than rocks, is wet rocks. I was in for quite a day.

The rocks were relentless. You were forced to do a high knees dance slash run, keeping your steps small and wasting a lot of energy in the process. When you finally had a chance to stretch out and get in some strides, it was short lived and a couple inches of mud. And the rain was still coming down. In every race, I will inevitably hit a low point in which I wonder if I should even continue. Usually this point is between 30-35 miles. Saturday, I hit that point at mile 12. Uh oh. At mile 16, I came across a guy about my age, just laying across the trail with his hands over his head. I asked him if he was okay, offered him a GU or salt tab, he dejectedly said no, he was fine, someone was coming back for him. Doubtful, I thought. But whatever, I had a ways to go. (Note: after conferring with Brad I learned that he, too, had come across this guy at the same point where I saw him. When Brad checked to make sure he was okay, the dude started swearing and saying this race was the stupidest thing ever. A direct quote was “I just ran a 2:41 at Boston, and it’s been 4.5 hours and I’m not even at 20 miles yet!” HA!) I reached the 20 mile point at 4 hours and 57 minutes. Hold crap. Usually I’m about 26 miles into a race at 4.5 hours. Then I found out I was only about 25 minutes ahead of the cutoff time for the aid station. The feeling of doom was unshakable at this point, but it was almost comical to me still – I’m in danger of being pulled from a course? F-you guys, I win these things, you can’t pull me! Little did I know…

I knew I at least had to get to the next aide station at mile 27 where I was hoping Jen and June would be, and I could make the call about the rest of the race at that point. I ran my little heart out for those 7 miles, and realized I only picked up about 12 more minutes, making me about 35 minutes in front of the cutoff. Again, I couldn’t shake the negative mindset I had. The somewhat funny thing was looking back is that I was actually doing well – I felt fine nutritionally, my legs definitely had another 23 miles in them (if I could run the trails) and I was probably in the middle of the pack of runners who were still in the race. To anyone else, I was doing well.

Approaching mile 27 I was getting attacked by bugs, fell 2 more times (making it a total of 6 falls in 27 miles) and decided to stop when I got to the aid station. This just wasn’t my day. I had signed up for the race intending for a challenging – but runnable – 50 miles. I was afraid that if I continued, the fatigue would only get worse and I would really hurt myself on one of the falls. Falling on trails can ruin a year, and I’m simply too close to Western States to let that happen. Images of Amy Agnolutto’s knee after she fell running Boyer’s Furnace this spring were popping into my head (can be seen here and here….and in fair warning, they are really gross so be prepared). I had stopped having fun long ago, and had to cut my losses. Of course, the other half of me was saying “no, keep going…you need to learn to go on even when you’re not comfortable, you won’t just be able to quit at WS after 27 miles.” However, this course was not WS. WS is difficult, but not retarded like this course was. The neat thing about ultras is you can’t fake your way to the end. There was not a chance I could just walk/jog it in to the end, like I have made myself do in road marathons where I wasn’t having a good day. You have to respect the distance, and the trails…and as this day proved, they do their part in keeping me humble.

So that was that. 6 hours and 27 minutes after the start, I turned in my number and chip and got into June’s car with Jen to head to mile 40 to support Brad. He held strong the rest of the day, and finished in about 10.5 hours. His 50 mile time is usually about 7:15 to give you a sense of how hard the day was. It looks like there was about a 50% finish rate overall for the day. Sunday I woke up with some chafing, and a few bumps and bruises (including my pride), but I was in one piece. I went for a run and got right back into my training schedule. I am looking forward to a little bit of a shorter race at Columbia this weekend, where I will hopefully regain my competitive edge and get hungry for the actually competition of a race again. I’m not sure if it’s just been the past 10 days of rain, but my overall mood has been pretty apathetic and I’ve lost some intensity. With about 3.5 solid weeks to prepare left, I need to turn that around as fast as I can.

And finally, a big thanks to Jen and June for coming out and being there for support! You guys were great!

>Your Mom’s A Yurt.

>First, let me just say that Greenbrier State Park is the sheezy. Nestled in the mountains in Boonsboro, this little gem has everything you could ask for in a training weekend – a lake, beach, roads to ride on and plenty of trails.

That being said, what does 18 miles on the AT give you when it’s 95 degrees outside other than stomach cramps, dehydration and the worst run of your life? Great ideas. For awhile now, I have been tossing around the idea of purchasing some sort of real estate as an investment. I am mostly looking at vacation properties, namely cabins and such in the woods. However, it was on the run this weekend that the concept of a Yurt was brought to my attention. By definition, a Yurt is “a modern adaptation of the ancient shelter used by Central Asian nomads for centuries. The compact shape of the yurt and combination of lightweight members in tension and compression mean that the structure is highly efficient in maximizing strength while minimizing the use of materials.” In short, these things are awesome. So, the moral of the story is, I am going to buy me some land and build a yurt on top of it. Yurts have running water, AC, Heat, and you can make them permanent dwellings by including some sweet things like hardwood floor, a loft, a deck, etc. If you have had any experience with yurts, please let me know. Or, if you would like to look into this amazing concept to perhaps investigate the possibility of owning your own yurt, here are some links for your viewing pleasure:
www.yurts.com
www.ranieryurts.com

>Blame it on the henny

>After running on Saturday I was able to realize how far I have come. From training, to recovery, I feel like I have most of my bases covered as I enter the final phase of my training for Western States. In fact, after looking at pictures from the race one of my biggest concerns is figuring out how to look cute while I run. So I’m not doing too bad. My goal is a sub-24 hour finish at WS, (well, let’s be honest, sub-22) and I do not want to give myself any excuses. I want to prepare as well as I can in the next 8 weeks so that I have no room for blame. When I toe the line I want to feel as if I have done everything I can to prepare, so on that day I can relax, and concentrate on just moving forward and nothing else.

Of course, one of my main concerns (as always) is nutrition. In my past few races I have survived on loads of fluids and electrolytes and Gu. After the finish, I can sense that my blood sugar is low (mostly the dizzy/nauseous feeling I have) but after a handful of chips or pretzels I bounce back quickly. While the Gus are enough for a 50 miler or 100K, I doubt that they will help me survive 100 miles. Or at least if they do, it will not be a pretty sight afterwards (and that might disrupt me looking cute in the pics afterwards). So, I have 1 ultra and 1 half-IM distance race to find something more substantial that doesn’t make me vom or poo. First try will be Ensure (vanilla). I have had this at races before, but I have never felt like I needed it. However, I think I will be able to get it down, as long as I can keep it cold. I will also try pringles, as these seem to be relatively okay with me on a long run. Finally, I may try to get some soup at the NF50 and see how my stomach does with that. If those options do not play out well, I will be forced to try something new at WS, and just pray.

If anyone out there has suggestions for things to try on an ultra, please let me know. I have tried pretzels, sandwiches, quesadillas, candy, etc, but nothing seems to be appetizing. That’s what makes me think I need to go for some sort of nutritional supplement drink.

Next thing I need to work on is being comfortable carrying loads of water. I do not like to race with a douchebag on, as my back gets tired and they get hot really quick. However, even just carrying one water bottle makes me want to cry when I’m at the end of a 50 and I’m doing climbs. The plan for WS is to carry two bottles, plus have a spare in a mini douchebag thing made by Nathan. I will attempt the 2-bottle carry during my long runs on the AT this weekend, and then most likely try to race with it at NF50.

All in all, as I iron these two things out and get in my long runs the next month or so I am beginning to feel ready. I put in about 35 miles since the race, with about 50 more coming this weekend. Unfortunately, with all this running I am not able to get on my bike outside much yet, but I will try to squeeze that in on some week nights coming up as well. My hope at this point is that the strength I am building from these long runs will ultimately pay off on the bike as well.

We shall see.

>Um yes, I’ll take that.

>My mileage went above 90 for the week for the first time this year. The big question is, how do I feel? The short answer: Awesome. The long answer: read on.

That mileage is mostly attributed to Saturday’s race, the Bull Run 50 Mile Run (actually 50.4…ha). Put on by the Virginia Happy Trails, this was a great spring race. Only 1.5 hours from Baltimore (at least when you do the drive at 4am) these trails are spectacular. I woke up Saturday morning around 3:30, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that Brad would be accompanying me on the day’s adventure. After hearing that my parents had opted out of going to the race and I was lacking a crew, he skipping a wedding (although I think he was looking for an excuse not go) to drive down and help me out. This turned out to be crucial.

When we got to the park, I hopped out of the car into the dewy grass in my shorts and jacket, and was freezing. The temperature was below 40, and of course I hadn’t brough along any warm clothes. Such is life. Picked up my number, went over the course with Brad and we decided that I would let him know after the first 11 miles if I wanted him to run miles 16-26 and 40-50 with me. It was fun to see a lot of the same familiar faces at the race, and before I knew it we were off onto the trail (314 starters, 265 finishers). The first out and back portion of this race is “relatively” flat. I had been warned ahead of time to really make sure to take my time and save my legs for the last 30 miles where things get fun. Between that advice, the heat I knew would hit later in the day, and my own plans for the race (see post below), I managed to stick to my plan and ran 8:30ish on the dot for the first 11. I felt good at this point, but I definitely noticed the fact that I was racing on tired legs, and told Brad that yes, in fact he will be running with me today.

The day was warming up fast, and I was sticking to my plan of a bottle every hour (more if aid stations came sooner) plus 2 GUs an hour. I was also going to be using S! Caps as well as Hammer’s Anti-Fatigue pills. Feeling pretty good, I hit mile 26 at 4:10. Slightly faster than I wanted, but certainly close to where I hoped, so I’ll take it. I was walking a fine line between saving my energy for when it got hot, but still trying to get through as much of the course as I could before the sun really hit. After that, my stomach got a little ify, but after releasing the hostages I felt much better (my apologies go out to the canoers who got a full view of that action). I hit the 50K mark feeling pretty strong, but definitely starting to wear down under the heat (high temp was recorded at 79.6). Thank god they had ice at the aid stations…I filled my sports bra with it to keep me cool, filled my bottle with it, and doused myself in cool water to keep my core cooled at any point I could. This required stopping at a couple streams as well to splash water on my neck and face.

After that point was the Do Loop. Thank god I didn’t know what was coming. Although only 3 miles, half of which is downhill, the other half is torture. Straight up and straight down, so steep that it’s almost impossible to run either up or down. Not fun after 30 miles. At this point I was leap frogging with 2 other women, but coming out of the loop I was 6th. Knowing I was on my way home after that, I ran a little easier. I also was passing a lot of people still headed out for the loop, and exchanging words of encouragment helped keep me distracted.

Coming down a hill around 39 miles I managed to kick my foot into a rock, sending me on my face down the hill, and causing a huge cramp in my calf. I looked up and saw a woman I had just finally passed, half paniced and tried to do a limping half run. Luckily, what goes down always goes back up on the trail, so I was at a climb in another half minute or so which allowed me to walk it out and stretch the calf. But that was not fun. I made it back to 40 where Brad was ready for the last ten. The heat was really starting to hit everyone at this point. There were a few rocky sections that were really tiring me out mentally, and the urge to “just get to the finish” was there. The final sections of 5 miles each took about 50 minutes each, but I drank my bottle both times in less than 35 minutes. If they had been any further apart, I would have been screwed. I finished up the last run through the bluebells, made it up the last climb, and ran into the finish as the 5th place female, 35th overall, at 8:43:31. Amy Sproston blew the women’s field away finishing up in 7:34. The 2nd, 3rd and 4th women — all very impressive runners — were all within 13 minutes of me. A hot race on tired legs finishing close to some really awes runners? I’ll take that anyday.

There’s always room for improvement, and in the week to come I’ll go over that. In the meantime, today I woke up and walked around for a mile or so, before lacing up the running shoes at midday and doing the sugar factory/harbor loop. Then I ran with my lax girls at practice. My calves are certainly tight, but nothing like I have been in the past after a race. This is great news for my WS training, and is certainly encouraging that I’m heading in the right direction.

Good luck tomorrow to everyone at Boston – just do what you do ๐Ÿ™‚

>I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.

>I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.
I will not go out faster than 8:30 on Saturday.

In case you can’t tell, my goal is to start out running no faster than an 8:30 pace tomorrow at Bull Run. The past two 50Ks I’ve run – although successful – I did not start out as slow as I wanted, and by the end I felt it. For WS, I need to train myself to start slower and run even splits. I have a feeling that if I learn to do this, I’ll actually bring my race times down quite a bit. Unfortunately the learning curve has been a little rough so far. Knowing tomorrow may hit the low 80’s where I’m running though is a big help. I know that people will start out fast (the first 17 miles are relatively flat). By the time the sun comes up and the heat hits people many will already be hurting from starting fast. I am not trying to “race” this event for several reasons. However, I know that if I keep it slow and steady I have a good shot for a top 10 female which is my goal.