Night before my first ultra: thoughts, many thoughts

There are now less than 12 hours before the Chuckanut 50K — my first ultra.

I have a lot of thoughts rolling through my head.

Will I finish? is a big one. Deep down I know I will finish, but whenever you embark on doing something you have never ever done before in your entire life, doubts start to creep in.

It also doesn’t help that my mom told me I wouldn’t make it to the finish. Her exact words, “You’re going to die!” (Sometimes it’s kind of hard having an Asian mom …)

I know it’s going to be painful. I know it will be rough at times. I’ve practiced the course (twice) so I know what to expect. But, this means I also know that I can do it. (Because I already have!)

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So, what exactly am I nervous about?

Having to go to the bathroom, perhaps. I am first and foremost a road runner. I’m used to have portapotties on the course for road marathons. I’ve had to use them mid-race on a few occasions.

And, it’s not like I’ve never peed in the woods. I’ve hiked and backpacked (once) and gone on trail runs before. But, it’s never been with a lot of other people around! This race is expected to have ~300 runners … what if someone sees me??

When I brought this fear up with Bryce, his advise to me was to just step off the trail “and go.” He says no one will care because they will just be running by and focusing on themselves. (I feel like it’s easier said coming from a guy!)

Anyway …

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Don’t get me wrong, I am excited for the race! I’m looking forward to doing what I love in one of the most beautiful places in the entire world! I’m ready to do something I have never done before. I’m thankful to have Bryce there too, he may be running the race ahead of me but it’ll be nice to know that he is also out there with me. I’ll be thinking of my Oiselle teammates who have wished me well on my race. I’ll be thinking about my friends and family who have been so supportive throughout this training cycle — yes, even my mom! (Her telling me I will be headed toward my demise is her special way of saying I can do it!)

I’ll be doing a lot of thinking out there on the trails tomorrow.

I’m nervous. I’m excited.

But, it’s time to take my own advise* and just run!

 

*Trust in your training

 

 

Ultra training: Last long run before the real run

I had been coming off of a cold / jet lag / return-to-normalcy-from-vacation / orienting to Daylight Savings time / fatigue — or to sum it all up, a funk when Bryce and I ventured out for our last long run before my first 50K.

We did a little more than 13 miles. It was supposed to be the 10K out-and-back of the actual race course, but we either accidentally added a bit or my Garmin is just way off. I’m hoping it’s the former.

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This run took place Sunday.

For those of you who live in the greater Puget Sound area, you know what the conditions were like Sunday. People lost power from the windstorms. Some meteorologists were comparing it to a hurricane. It was rainy. It was grey. It was gross.

And, I was overcoming from being in my funk …

Bryce was kind and tolerant to run at my pace. For the first mile or so, that meant 9:45 pace. This felt like a hard 9:45 pace to me. I was using all my energy and effort on a more or less flat part of the course.

Luckily when we first started running, the rain had temporarily stopped.

Luckily when the rain started up again, I was too preoccupied with trying to catch another pair of runners in front of us to care.

I gained a little bit of self confidence once we passed the other runners. I pushed us to an 8:17 mile for that fifth mile because of it. And the crazy thing is that my effort level didn’t feel like it was at 8:17 minutes per mile.

Like I said, trying to kick the funk …

The “back” part of the out and back wasn’t very fun for me. I kept telling myself that during the actual race, I will be coming off of running ~24 miles so I should just suck it up. It did not help.

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The wind started swooping in.

I felt like it was getting darker, although it was impossible since um, daylight savings time!

When we made it back to the car 13.65 miles later, I was relieved. I gave some sighs of relief and grunts as I walked with my head down.

“How am I supposed to do the race when this was so hard??” I said.

Bryce said something encouraging. I almost got knocked down by the car door that didn’t want to stay open because of those high winds. I was more than ready to go home.

Three days since that run, I feel good that I did it.

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With this run, and the other one last month, I’ve now experienced the Chuckanut 50K course in its entirety.

I just have to complete it all in one sitting standing, er, running!

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(Oh, and I run commuted home today in the sweet sunshine and I think it’s safe to say that I have finally diminished my funk!)

Becoming normal again

So, three days ago I wrote about how I was sick/had a cold and was getting anxious because I am running my first ultra in 10 days.

I was done “being sick” like two days ago but what I can’t shake is the fatigue/constant tiredness.

When I went back to work Friday and my coworkers asked me if I was better, my answer was, “Yes, I have no symptoms. But, I am so tired!”

After every night’s sleep or every day time nap, I keep hoping I’ll wake up energized and normal again.

That hasn’t happened.

I am drinking absurds amounts of EmergenC and orange juice in the event that my body is still fighting off remnants of a cold.

“Do you think it has anything to do with your iron?” Joanna asked me this morning.

I’ve been taking my iron supplements like I usually do so I don’t think my iron levels could just drop so significantly that I feel this tired. Right?

“You just did too much in Hawaii,” is my mom’s reaction.

Last week we were in paradise for a friend’s wedding and because I was only there for four days, I tried to pack as much activity into a day as I could.

“Your body is just catching up,” my mom says.

But, how much catching up does it need? I only ran 30 minutes this morning (because I have plans to do my last long run with Bryce tomorrow before our 50K next weekend) and then took a nap this afternoon.

I’m still tired.

This morning’s run was my first one in five days! I haven’t had a fever. The only symptoms I ever had was a sore throat and headache three days ago. I stopped taking cold medicine yesterday because I honestly don’t think I have anything anymore — except the fatigue. No body aches. No more sore throat or headache.

My eyes just keep having that “tired/sleepy feeling” and I don’t feel like doing much at all.

Hopefully this is just my body’s way of forcing me to taper/rest before my big race.

Hopefully it’s nothing more.

Down for the count

I packed my bag last night with running clothes and my running pack. I had big plans to run commute home today. It has been a while since I was on vacation for most of the past week. So, I was looking forward to this run.

But, things changed when I woke up this morning with a sore throat and headache.

How can this be happening now?? I annoyingly asked myself as I took a cold Tylenol with a tall glass of EmergenC and went back to bed. I slept pretty much all day today.

I’m all set to partake in my first ultra in 10 days — with the exception of this minor hiccup.

I need to get healthy.

I can’t be sick.

I can’t be down for the count.

I just ate half a plate of vegetables.

And, it’s not even 8:30 pm but I’m ready to go to sleep.

Because, I’m running my first ultra in 10 days!

Ultra training: My longest (training) run to date

I had never run 24 consecutive miles during a training run prior to Sunday.

Yes, I have run several full marathons, which is 26.2 miles.

But, I never exceeded 20 miles in any of my training runs for any of those 7 full marathons.

IMG_4808Now I finally have — in rainy, wet conditions to boot!

A runner friend, SO, who lives in Duvall kindly mapped out a 24-mile route for me. (Think “out in the country” for this city girl). And, not only did she organize my run, she orchestrated it. She coordinated her family to drop off another friend, SS, to meet us in the middle of my run. SS had 10 miles on the docket and it was nice knowing someone else was nearby me as I continued my run. Our master organizer biked back and forth between us.

Oh, did I not mention SO was on her bike this entire time? Yes!

We ran along the Snoqualmie Valley Trail. It was wet but there were a few breaks from the showers. Despite the weather, I was thankful to have a change in scenery. There were marshes, farmlands and open pastures.

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I didn’t pay any attention to my pace for my first 10 miles. This was mainly due to the fact that my Garmin was struggling to catch a satellite signal so I aborted and just used the good old fashioned stop watch feature.

It was oddly relaxing to run with no pressure. SO biked alongside me and we chit-chatted. This part was a nice constant flat terrain. I had no complaints.

At 10 miles, I started using my GPS. I was racking in around 9 minute/mile pace, or just a bit over. But, at around mile 15/16 my feet started dragging and I was less enthused. I just wanted to finish the run and get out of my wet clothes.

SO also made sure that two more friends were waiting for me at my 20-mile mark. I had just worked myself up a hill from the Snoqualmie Valley Trail to the Tolt Pipeline Trail and was feeling pretty drained. Then, I saw this hill:

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This photo doesn’t do the hill justice but I just hoped that my friends were waiting at the top of the thing to help me finish my last four miles. They were. In fact, by the time I reached the bottom of it, they were making their way down to meet me half-way. (So thoughtful!)

I was happy to have company again. I felt spent but I knew that with their help, I would get all my miles in. (Had I been alone, I would have quit at mile 20).

It was four miles of big rolling hills. I could feel blisters forming under both of my feet.

IMG_4819When we were done, my body felt similar to how it feels after racing a road marathon!

I couldn’t have done 24 consecutive miles without the support from others. People think that running is a solitary sport or activity. It definitely is not.

Running does start with yourself. But, it’s your friends, family and/or teammates that help you get to that finish line — whether it be a 5K, marathon or a 24-mile training run for your first ultra!

Ultra training: 21 miles strong

I seem diligent at training for races.

I’m usually pretty good at sticking to schedules/training plans but that typically just means running the appropriate times per week and maintaining a certain number of miles. And, doing strength and core in between some of those runs.

I don’t pace well during training runs. This is because I usually just go with the “run how I feel” method. If I am feeling crappy, I will run slow. If I feel great, I will run fast(er). I won’t unnecessarily push myself to just run faster when I am running by myself.

Two Saturdays ago, it was different though.

I’m currently training for my first 50K so I have no expectations in terms of a finish time or overall pace. I just want to finish the darn trail race in one piece—and within the race cut-off time (8 hours).

But, in the back of my mind while I am training for this 50K, I am also thinking about building myself up, both physically and mentally, for the Anchorage Marathon in June. This road marathon is my “real” goal race for the year. I’ve been chasing a sub-4 hour marathon time for two years and Anchorage is where it will (hopefully) happen.

I had no reason to run fast that morning. But, I did.

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I started off running five solo miles down and back up Magnolia Boulevard from Discovery Park—my home base for the morning. Then my friends, Julia, Mo and Shannon met up with me and we ran two park loops together. I checked my watch off and on during the run and always saw we were around 9’s and sometimes dipped to 9:30 on the hills. I didn’t really care since I was with my friends and we were enjoying catching up with one another since we all hadn’t seen each other in a while.

Julia continued on with me to get me to a total of 16 miles. She’s so kind and isn’t training for anything but ran a total of ~11 miles with me! We talked life stuff along Government Way. I was getting tired but it was nice having company. We attacked a hill together. We were knocking out miles at sub-9 pace. There was one or two miles at 8:30 pace as well!

I was stunned when I looked at my watch after my total 16 miles and saw I had averaged 9:05 pace.

Maybe I can keep this going even on my own now, I thought.

I said good-bye to Julia and half dreaded, half looked forward to taking on my last five miles alone. I hadn’t clearly mapped out a route ahead of time so I did the same out and back I had done at the beginning of my run.

I passed many dog walkers and other fellow IMG_4775runners. I was sure to smile at each one of
them. I was in a great mood! The endorphins were kicking in. I surged on the downhills and really made a conscious effort to kill the uphills by pumping my arms and leaning in.

By no means were my legs feeling great, but my heart and my mind were both elated. Those two pieces of my body felt very strong that morning.

When I arrived back at the parking lot with my Garmin beeping to signify I had reached 21 miles, I looked down and was surprised that I maintained the pace. I averaged 9:05 pace for the total 21 miles.

To give you a better perspective, I would need to maintain an average 9:05 pace to finish with a time of 3:58:09 in a marathon. This is my goal race pace.

The beautiful Seattle weather we had during that run probably had a lot to do with my mood. Let’s be real, has anyone ever had a great 21-miler in the Seattle rain? And, I know having friends for the middle miles also helped me out a lot.IMG_4777

I’m training for my first ultra. But, I’ not losing sight of my June marathon.

I feel stronger than I ever have before. And, it’s a great feeling.

 

The wake up and the run

Two weeks ago I woke up at 6:20 a.m. — earlier than I do on a regular work day — and was out running by 7 a.m. It was dark. I wore my headlamp and super-reflective jacket.

It was kind of nice because I was out in my neighborhood and there were hardly any cars that drove by. I ran past one pedestrian for the entire five miles.

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But my run that morning was not a mere five miles. Joanna and I met up with Team In Training (TNT) at Tiger Mountain and ran six miles with the team. And then after that was all well and done, Joanna and I continued on for another six-point-five miles together.

I’m not an over-achiever, I’m just doing my best at training for my first ultra. And, I’m too embarrassed to share my training schedule because I know it’s not adequate. I’ve been having trouble with getting longer mid-week runs in. But, that is neither here nor there.

Anyway. I’ll be honest. That first mile of that Saturday morning run by myself in the dark was not fun. It kind of sucked.

But, the miles with friends do not suck. The miles with TNT remind me why I run.  I run for myself, but also for those who cannot.

Tomorrow morning I am going to do my best to get six miles in on my own before I meet up with high school friends at Discovery Park. Because, you know, 21 miles is a lot of miles. And, I’d rather not have my long run (and recovery) take up most of my daylight hours.

So, instead of writing about how I must wake up early and run in the morning — hopefully now when it is not dark! — I should really go to sleep.

Because tomorrow I must wake up, and run.