Friday, July 18, 2014


So Far:

With the new regime of:

  • get fit for Tevis
  • get fit generally
  • lose the 10 lbs sitting on top of the 10 lbs that already wasn't supposed to be there
  • maybe sign up to do the Way Too Cool 50k in March (this run is a lottery entry with only 850 entrants for the several thousand who apply, so getting in may be one of the biggest obstacles)

I've been runnin' every other morning for about three weeks now to get to the baseline recommended stage of "this schedule assumes you're a regular runner to start with and can run for 30 minutes without stopping". Not quite there yet, but could probably do the 30 minutes if my life depended upon it.

Currently I'm squarely on "Week 1" of the 26 week option shown below ...and have been for three weeks. I'm going to give myself 10 runs at the 2 mile level before adding distance - which means I'll be bumping up to 3 miles next Friday.

My run consists of speed-hiking down our driveway, running one way (on dirt), turning around and coming back past the bottom of the driveway and running the other way (on pavement, although I run on the verge a lot) and turning around, and then slogging back up the driveway again = 2.06 miles.

In the last 100 yrds or so, I really lengthen my stride and run like a real person for a very short while (and can feel how easily it would be to damage to your body running like real people do). I also force myself to run all the way to the top of the three minor "hills" (I use the term loosely), even if it means I'm running slower than I would be going if I was walking - it's all about keeping a sustainable pace. I don't much like the turning around points, since it interrupts my running and I invariably drop to a walk for a mini-break when I turn around, but do my power-hike impersonation when walking. And doing the driveway ruins any splits, since it drops my overall time drastically, but I figure I get extra brownie points for doing it (and when it's hot, I get to take half my clothes off, since the driveway is nicely vegetated and hides me from the road).

This morning was my 8th run and they've been going like this:

28:08 - "OMG, I can barely run for 20 seconds"
27:57 - "OMG, this isn't much better"
26:43 - "hmm, starting to get the hang of this"
26:42 - "that didn't feel good"
26:22 - "coo - look, I took some time off my split and it actually didn't feel too bad"
26:26 - "this run actually felt faster than the much for that"
25:23 - "Oooohhh! Good jump. Starting to feel like I can do this"
25:54 - Had two moments during this run when I actually forgot I was running and was distracted by non-running thoughts. This might be starting to work properly.

Today was the first day I really felt like I was making progress. The ankle-full-o-metal was a little whiney, but nothing bad, and the shin on that side was making its presence known - I still never got full-strength back in that leg after I broke it in 2008 and the calf muscle is noticeably smaller, so I'm taking it easy and not pushing it.

Softly-softly, catchee monkee.

The Programs

When I started up running, I actually had 36 weeks until the Way Too Cool run, so I have the option of dawdling along and finally ramping up to the "16 weeks until..." program close to the event, or being more sensible and doing the "26 weeks until..." option. I actually like the longer option because it looks more interesting (fartleks and cross-training thrown in):
16 weeks to a marathon

26 weeks to a marathon

I like these plans because they don't assume you want to spend your life running (I don't), they give you rest in between. As an aside, this may also be the biggest problem with the whole plan - do I actually like running enough to spend so much time doing it? We'll see.

I do, however, like spending time on the trail and can get excited about the idea of doing specific runs, so that may play into my favor.

Even though I understood the principal of them, I wasn't sure exactly what the fartleks involved so looked it up. This is what it says:
  • During your longest run of the week, run a 1:00 surge every 6 or 7 minutes. This surge is not terribly hard—perhaps only 15 to 20 seconds per mile faster than your normal long-run pace.
  • At the end of the 1:00 surge, simply return to your relaxed rhythm. If you have a hard time returning to "normal" long-run rhythm, then you are running the surges too quickly.
I can do that.

But apparently that's fartlek for beginners. This is what I should be aiming at as I get more proficient:
  • After warming up, run a 2:30 pick-up beginning with the first 30 seconds only 5 to 10 seconds faster than your normal training pace. Each subsequent 30-second block should be a touch quicker than the previous with the final 30 seconds (from 2:00 to 2:30) being at or slightly faster than 10K fitness or race pace.
  • Recover with 90 seconds jogging easily
  • Run another 2:30 pick-up the same way.
  • I recommend running two sets, or a total of four pick-ups, which will take 16:00, including recovery.
Hmm, we'll see. Guessing these things are aimed at track/road runners, since I already get to do the extra work whenever I go up one of my hills. We'll come back to this in a few weeks.

Can It Really Be Done?

It didn't really occur to me until I started delving more into it and reading stuff that the generally accepted behaviour for a "running career" is that you run 5 and 10ks first, then maybe a half-marathon, and then maybe a full marathon before even considering something further. And it seems like most people start running on roads.

Being blessed with very little competitive spirit, and not feeling much need for speed, the whole concept of "getting the job done" over distance is much more my philosophy. I can get excited about the idea of doing a particular trail much more than covering a particular distance at a particular speed. Being no stranger to being "out there" for long periods of time (albeit on horseback), I'm hoping that this will translate into tenacity on my own two legs.

Sarah Nels writes:
" After spending a few weekends listening to their epic adventures and being truly inspired by [a group of trail runners'] unworldly perseverance, I signed up for a 50K training program. I had never run more than 15 miles and didn’t even know what a marathon felt like." 

This is her plan:
If you’re ready to upgrade your status to “Ultra Runner,” here’s my 5-step plan:
  • Step 1: Put your money where your mouth is: Sign up for your first 50K. Depending on your current level of fitness, give yourself at least 12 weeks of training time.
  • Step 2: A goal without a plan is just a wish: Find a training plan and stick to it! A 50K training plan will likely include more cross training than a marathon program and recovery runs on Sundays – both are key to your success as an Ultra Runner. Building core strength helps with climbing, descents, and tricky technical trails while recovery runs help you make the adjustment mentally to running on tired legs.
  • Step 3: Join a trail running or ultra running group: Five hour Saturday runs will go by much faster if you’re chatting away with a group of like-minded individuals, and more importantly, safety in numbers on isolated trails. I’m no stranger to having friends run ahead of me to scare away snakes.
  • Step 4: Eat and drink early and often: While every runner has different nutritional needs, I try to consume at least 100 calories an hour on a 2.5 hour run, 200 calories an hour on runs 3 hours or more. Use practice runs to learn what your body likes during long workouts. As you will be eating and running at the same time, your stomach might not be able to digest complex foods. There are lots of energy gels and bars on the market – try them all. You can also pack fruit, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (a personal favorite), mashed avocado or potato. Training is the time to dial in your nutritional needs.
  • Step 5: It’s all in your head: Set a seemingly impossible goal, know what it takes to achieve that goal, accept that there will be hurdles along the way, and just do it! With a little mental toughness and commitment, you will amaze yourself!
and here's a possible training program:

We'll see. I may discover that I really don't want to spend that much time running, in which case it may fall by the wayside, but in the meantime we'll see how it goes. Right now I feel slow, lumbering, and clumsy, but this morning's run offered glimpses of what may come in the future. 

And if nothing else, Finn thinks it's a most excellent caper.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Remedying the Pre-Tevis "I haven't done enough" Jitters

The original plan for this weekend was to attend the Tevis Fun Ride and ride CA Loop, but the problem with that plan was that it would take up the entire weekend and there was a pile of other things that needed doing at home. So instead I opted for not going and cramming as much into the three-day weekend as physically possible. I think I achieved that goal - I'm tired, I'm filthy, and I have blisters on the bottoms of my feet.

Day 1 - Friday - Jobs B Done

  • Gold star to me for doing my 2 mile run* in the morning, even though I left late and it was hot. 
(* I have this vague plan to aim for the Way Too Cool 50 k Run in March. 

There are several flaws to this plan - namely, I don't think I actually like running enough to want to run 50k - let alone train for it. And secondly, it's a lottery entry, with n thousand applicants trying to squeeze into 850 places, so the chances of getting in are limited. And thirdly, I don't think running with 849 other people sounds remotely fun. 

Despite all this, I have the "how to train for a marathon in 16/26 weeks" [depending on which plan you go with] and will work at it - it'll get me in shape for Tevis and I may even lost the extra 10 lbs that popped up over the original extra 10 lbs that aren't supposed to be there. 

It has to be taylored slightly to fit in the conditioning for Tevis and then VC100. For example, I'm supposed to run Monday morning, but that's after having "two rest and recovery days" - which I didn't actually get and right now can barely creak down to the trailer to get out the GPS that I left on my saddle. Perhaps Monday will be yet another "rest and recovery" day.).

Luckily, everything that got done this weekend was accompanied by a small helper.
  • Small Thing got trimmed - which was a good thing, given that whoever is his trimmer does a lousy job at keeping on top of his feet. Totally overgrown and out of control. I'm glad he's not my pony and I don't pay his trimmer.
  • The boxes from our week trip to Moab that were cluttering up the front hall got emptied and put away, so we can actually walk through the front hall now, not act like it's an obstacle course.
  • The annual "put up the sunshade over the back deck" occurred. This year, it is engineered sans cinder block holding it in place, and is therefore, in the words of my friend Funder, "very classy".

  • In the evening, we met up with Crysta, Ronda, and husbands at the Fast Friday's motorcycle track racing at the Auburn Fairgrounds - lots of fun in a very low-key way. These were followed by excellent 4th July fireworks (they only set off one fire, but had four fire engines standing by), followed by a beer at the only bar open in the entire town. Good ending to the day.

Day 2 - Saturday - Nine Miles of Cool

Except for a couple of walking rides up at Robinson Flat, Roo, hasn't actually done any work in six weeks, post-NASTR 75. Part of this is because his poor back was totally mangled by the well-past-sell-by-date pad I used, coupled with all the walking we ended up doing on that ride -  so it was better to let his back heal up. It still looks awful, with a large pink blotch - and I feel really crappy about it - but he's not sore on it, so I figure some riding probably won't do any harm - and he's supposed to be doing VC100 in September, so I can't let him sit for too long.

Plus I was eager to try out the new Skito foam shims.

Accordingly, pft and I took Fergus and Roo out to Cool in the afternoon mostest heat of the day and took them up the training hill, and then ran them about for nine miles. Everyone had a lot of fun. I was a little concerned that Roo looked like death at the end... but he looked like that before we even set out - I think he was in "hot weather mode" - where he just looks like he's on his last legs (never mind that for the first three miles of the ride, he was quite able to leap about and try and buck whenever Fergus trotted, so I overstretched my poor abused adductors again trying to stay on).

Climbing the training hill - we were soundly beaten by a woman on foot
...who turned out to be Melissa Ribley, out with Robert and Chris Turney,
presumably doing their version of heat/hill training

starting to regain weight

And in the evening we visited Ann and Jess for fud and talk-around-the-table - haven't done this in too long and it was so nice. And of course drank margaritas (hot day, etc, etc) and then didn't leave there until 1 am

Day 3 - Sunday - Heat Training R Us

My cunning plan for this day was to get up as early as I could and beat the heat.

So much for that.

In reality, after the previous late night, I did my best to achieve a lie-in (fail, owing to being woken up by "something" biting my hair), and then had to trim Fergus because his boots wouldn't fit. And then had to come indoors and lie down because it was hot and my back was cricked.

Amazingly, despite nearly wussing out (pft said "you don't have to ride today", and I nearly fell for it), Fergus and I were packed in the trailer and on our way to Driver's Flat by 1 pm... to ride in the hottest part of the day. Needless to say, neither Fergus nor I were highly motivated.

Mindful of the sad state of my quads after hiking down to Swinging Bridge three weeks ago, I hand-walked (hand-dragged?) Fergus down to Francisco's. The temperatures were in the high 90s (36-37°C) when we left the trailer and they just got hotter. Down on the river road, with the sun reflecting off the white surface, it was well over 100°F (38°C).

The thing I wanted most was to get off that stupid hot road, and to stop watching the happy rafters down on the river, not sitting in their rafts - oh no - they were all in the river next to the raft, bobbing along in their lifejackets. Jealous was I.

Once we got around the river bend and into the trees more, it was a little cooler, but only a little - still in the high 90s. Fergus, who was so fidgety for sponging three weeks ago, stood stock still, totally unmoving while I sponged him, and me, and him, and me, and him, and me... repeat. Getting him to leave the creek proved tricky.

Sandy Bottom - about my favorite place on this section of trail. You're
down close to the river and I always expect to see ancient giant sturgeon
in the clear deep water.

And then you climb - and the higher you climb, the narrower the trail becomes,
and the more steep the drop offs. Fergus was a good boy, though, and looked
after me (as usual), even though I am a weenie.

After the climb to the top of Ford's Bar. Fergus isn't fond of Ford's Bar

On the switchbacks on the way up to Peachstone. 

Huzzah! We arrive at Peachstone and I take a celebratory photo.
Couldn't figure out why it was all 'soft focus' and peculiar - until I
realised I had my iPhone stuffed in the front of my bra and had
then liberally drenched myself with the horse sponge in the creek.
Result was a rather steamy lens

This is what that photo was supposed to look like

My visions of trotting up the switchbacks to Peachstone didn't pan out - Fergus did a lot of trudging. I think the combination of the heat and being out there all alone did him in. He wasn't exactly what I'd call dynamic.

But we got to the top, looped around to White Oak Flat, and then went back down again on McKeon-Ponderosa, back down to Francisco's, and then back up Driver's Flat, for a total of 21.5 miles and 3500' of climbing (and descent, since it was a loop). All in all, a decent conditioning ride, even if it was a slow one. And the combination of this, and the training hill the day before, and the CA Loop planned for next weekend, salved my "haven't done enough" feelings. Fergus worked hard these last two days and I feel less like he's been standing around doing nothing and therefore can't possibly finish Tevis.

On the way back down to Francisco's from White Oak Flat.
Using White Oak Flat as the vet check instead of Francisco's
was an alternate Tevis route that was taken once in the 90s
with the idea to keep the historic trail open. Unfortunately, the
section through Todd Valley is now quite built-up and someone
was hit by a car going through there in the dark on Ride Day, so
I think it was deemed a bit too dangerous. 

Fergus' lack of motivation on the hand-walk down from White Oak Flat had caused me to procure a small whacking stick with which to encourage him. This "whacking stick" was wimpy enough that you could have whipped a baby with it and the baby wouldn't have noticed, but it had the desired effect on Fergus and a suitably animated (i.e. not being dragged along by your face) was produced. I told Fergus that Karen (his former mommy and trainer) would not be impressed by his behaviour.

Wimpy whacking stick that I kept for the trudge up Driver's Flat, just in case

Back down at Francisco's, where he peed copiously and
was suddenly miraculously cured of his inability to go downhill.

We even had an adventure. 

After you leave Peachstone, you climb another 1.5 miles and pop out on a paved road for a short while. This then veers onto a small singletrack, which in turn drops you into Todd Valley.

The entrance to the singletrack had branches across it to dissuade people from going up there. Of course, Fergus and I weren't dissuaded, so marched over the top of the branches and went 20' before coming up against a downed tree blocking the trail. It was a pretty wimpy tree and I figured I could bend it and pull it and shove Fergus through (Fergus is good at bushwhacking), and was in the process of doing this when I noticed a blueish thing lying on the trail behind the tree branches... wait....isn't that a wasps' nest?

The wasps' nest - about the size of a football.
It looked deserted, so I figured it had come down when the tree tipped over and all the wasps had vacated the premises.

Crouching down for a better look, I noticed a couple of sluggish wasps crawling on it, so decided that maybe there were some residents. But the thing was totally blocking the trail, with no way around so it needed to be gone.

I maneuvered Fergus back along the trail, took him out to the road and hung him from a tree (this road just leads to the single house at the bottom, so has zero traffic on it), and went back armed with a branch. My plan was to brush the wasps' nest off the trail with my long stick, and it would just drop off the side and Fergus and I could push our way through the downed tree.

I poked the nest and it moved about 2" and a large number of wasps came out. I squawked and ran back down the trail to the road, startling Fergus by my sudden appearance.

Waited for them to calm down and went back again - with a longer stick - and had another go. This time, the nest moved even less distance and even more wasps came out of it. This wasn't going to work.

So of course, what we did was climb a vertical bank, dismantle someone's fence temporarily (fence that had a sign on it saying "No fishing, No hunting, No trespassing" - which of course didn't mean us, what with this being an emergency), put the fence back together again, and then push through the undergrowth (read "poison oak") to drop back onto the trail 20' further up from the nest (and run like heck when you get there, just in case).

All I can say is it was lucky it was Fergus, who takes all such activity in his stride.

* * *

Looking downriver towards Poverty Bar river crossing. The Tevis trail goes
along the right bank about 20% of the way up the hillside.

Somewhere around 5 miles into the ride, I decided I wanted pizza for supper, so the entire trudge up Driver's Flat was spent txting with pft, trying to figure out where we could obtain pizza from (particularly, given that I had no money or cards with me). He called around and said if I could get to the Cork and Fork by 8:30, there would be pizza waiting.

It was 7:50 and we weren't to the top yet.

Looking down towards Francisco's from Driver's Flat Rd

To his credit, once the climbing part was over, Fergus actually trotted the entire last half mile back to the trailer (by now the temperature had dropped to 82° (28°C) and it felt deliciously cool), and I did the fastest untack in living memory, while at the same time giving Fergus water - he sucked down three small buckets (2.5 gallons? each) in the time it took me to whip off his clothes, and I shoved him in the trailer, and through the canyon we went.

Pizza was procured. Yum.

 And Fergus got another drink once the crisis was over.

pft asked me if I'd actually looked at the pizza because he had ordered a "combo" and didn't know what was on it. I told him, no, I hadn't looked at the pizza at all.

 Good weekend.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Pre-Tevis "I haven't done enough" Jitters

Since I had the audacity to leave the state for a week (we went to Utah, ostensibly to pick up our new small dog puppy, but really just to spend a week going "oooooh" in Moab)(this will be the subject of a post hopefully this week before I forget it all), thereby missing two weekends of potential riding, I'm now suffering from the obligatory "I haven't done enough" and therefore Fergus can't possibly finish Tevis without becoming exhausted.

The fact that Fergus did 32 miles the previous week and will do CA Loop this weekend is neither here nor there. He needs more hill work. I need more time on him. We will never finish. Etc. Etc. I'm going to have to carefully balance this type of panic attack with putting some saddle time on him without overdoing it. We're out of town the weekend before Tevis, so that'll ensure that I can't ride him that last weekend - instead I'll just fret about not having ridden him.

Unfortunately, this last week we were gone it would appear that the other piglet horses ate most of the hay. I put everyone in together to make it easier for neighbours (aka "Feeding Angels") Bil and Wendi to feed, and Roo and, particularly, Fergus were noticeably ribby when we got home.

Small Thing, Hopi, and Uno, not so much.

So now the Worker Bees are getting fed five times their usual ration (much to their contentment).

Ducks in a Row

To try and quell the panic slightly, I started putting the ducks in a row.
  • Made an appointment for Fergus to have his feet glued by the excellent EasyCare Crew the Wednesday before the ride. Unfortunately, I've no idea what size glue-ons to get him, since his feet were such odd sizes in May for NASTR 75. Will hopefully work on this (and what sparsies he needs that I'll carry on the saddle) this coming weekend so I can get them ordered in a timely fashion to avoid back-of-mind-fretting.
  • Called Skito to figure out where the new saddle pad foams had gotten to. Turns out they'd delivered them about 30 minutes before I called, so Cinderella Roo now has new pad fixings to protect his poor bald-spotted back. And Fergus will have a spare pad if he needs it.
  • Started thinking about what tights to wear - keeping in mind my legs were rubbed to crap at 20MT 100 from my tights being too baggy. This might have been from trying to keep Fergus to an artificially slow pace to match our riding partner's slow-but-steady get-the-job-done tempo. This is, admittedly, less likely to happen at Tevis, but all the same it was an alarming thing to have happen. I have two pairs of identical green tights. I wore one pair at Tevis and I wore one pair at 20 MT. Must try them on back-to-back and make sure they really are identical. 
  • Figured out a cunning bra + sports bra arrangement to wear that will negate the need for a modest cami top (which makes my tummy hot) under my sunshirt. I will try it this weekend and see if it works or if wearing a double bra makes me chafe and feel like I can't breathe. 

Other things that need doing:

  • Figure out a driver for the rig from (ideally) Robie to Foresthill, then (icing on the cake) from Foresthill to Auburn Fairgrounds (and once there, set up a horse area by unhinging the Spring Tie, throwing down some shavings, hanging a hay bag, and filling a bucket).

    pft says he will do the Robie-FH section if absolutely necessary, but it makes him so anxious and uptight that I hate to do it to him. And it means he has to be up at Robie all day Friday, which he may not want to be, so I'd love to find a way around this.

    Ash is happy to drive it from FH to Auburn, but she's also on a time-crunch to get to Lower Quarry to volunteer there, so it would be better if she didn't have to go via Auburn Fairgrounds.

    I'm thinking hard about who would be willing to do this, but everyone I think of has other jobs that will require them to be other places during the necessary hours. If anyone reading this would be interested in the task, please let me know and I would be grovellingly grateful. My rig is a 3-H gooseneck with small front housie, and an automatic extended cab chevy. If you can pull a gooseneck, it's pretty much a no-brainer.
  • Order glue-on shells, adhere, and sikaflex.
  • Check for sparesie boots and make sure I have what I need.
  • Check the horse feed situation and make sure I have what I need (how can Tevis only be five weeks away???)
  • Figure out some sunglasses. My prescription ones aren't close to my current prescription and are so scratched they are worthless anyway. Either I get a pair of normal ones and go with fuzzy vision, or buy a pair of clip-on ones to go on my glasses. Or I go without (which I do most of the time when riding anyway) and just wear my glasses at night when my vision really deteriorates to the point that I can't recognise if that's one glow-stick or three.
  • Make sure I have enough people elytes (many of my capsules have been carried around in a ziploc on the saddle for two years... and are now elyte powder with empty capsules mixed in. Make sure there are really enough for what I need to consume).
  • Stop chewing the skin on the ends of my fingers so that they are raw. This doesn't help anything.