Monday, June 29, 2015

Exploring Squak Mountain

Living in Seattle there is access to an incredible amount of trails. I have gotten really comfortable running at Cougar Mountain and can easily run there by myself for hours-- but unfortunately I have not ventured off Cougar too much in the past year. I have been to Tiger Mountain a few times, and made my way up a trail on Squak just once. While Cougar feels safe and easy, Tiger and Squak feel big and intimidating. I needed someone with an adventurous spirit to explore with! Enter my friend Belia. She was game for a new adventure so we made a plan to check out the trails on Squak together.

We headed over to the new trailhead for the recently-opened Margaret's Way trail on Saturday morning. The parking lot is a decent size and we were surprised to see only one other car there when we arrived. The only trail off of this parking lot is the new Margaret's Way trail and it's almost a three mile climb up on to Squak from there-- so not an easy stroll! Once you get up closer to the top of the mountain there is access to many other trails, however. It took us about an hour just to climb this section.

Belia and I in front of the Bullitt Fireplace on Squak.

Once at the top we made our way around a four mile loop, not exactly sure what trails we were going to take before heading in to it. Luckily I brought a map (and if you forget yours at home, there was a stash of them at the trailhead). Belia and I were mostly clear on where we were/where we were heading at the top of Squak. There were a few intersections where we headed off saying "well, I think this is right!" and luckily it worked out perfectly. We intended to do 10 miles total and that is exactly what my Garmin read when we got back to the trailhead.


Garmin results of the route.

The running was pretty evenly balanced with hiking and we ended up with almost 3,200 feet of elevation gain over the 10 miles. No joke! 

Elevation profile of the run. 

I really liked the trails on Squak. Most of the trails were nicely groomed, a few spots were a bit overgrown, but nothing bad. All of the trails were very runnable, or rather, they are if you aren't slowed to a walk by the elevation gain! 

Definitely looking forward to exploring more of Squak Mountain! 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Something You Didn't Know About Me?

Or actually, I probably have mentioned this before.

I am TERRIFIED of snakes.

It is completely, 100% irrational. I have no idea why I am so scared, I just am. Hopefully more trail running will just mean coming across enough snakes that I will become used them? Or maybe they will all just sense my fear and steer clear? Who knows. I also have no idea what I am afraid of, most (all?) snakes I would come across on the trails in western Washington couldn't hurt me in any way-- I am no less scared of a wee baby snake than I would be of a rattlesnake, actually. 

On my trail run to Annette Lake we heard a skitter in the brush next to the trail, guessed maybe we came along a snake, but I didn't see anything. Made me jump a bit, but nothing too big.

Then on Saturday's run with Belia at Cougar Mountain I saw A REAL LIVE ACTUAL SNAKE. Probably a garter snake, which people tell me are totally harmless (other than scaring the shit out of me, I suppose?). It looked big. Like maybe it could have eaten me (jk). 

Just for your reference.

I screamed so loud and jumped, my friend was like "what the hell?!" and I apologized for not warning her sooner about my irrational fear. We had previously been talking about a bear another runner saw at Cougar last week so she said she thought maybe I saw a bear. For the record, my reaction to seeing a bear (which actually could do some damage) would be decidedly less obscene. 

Also found this little guy moseying along a log in the middle of the trail. Lately I have been obsessed with slugs and snails, which there are no shortage of on the trails at Cougar! 

So cute!

Anyways, if you ever happen to run with me, consider yourself warned that I scream for snakes and take pictures of snails. 

Friday, June 19, 2015

June Explosion

Oh, June. Next to December and it's Christmas festivities, June is a busy, busy month. It's all good, fun stuff, but when it's all packed together it makes for stress!

Softball games for my little girl, days off of school for big girl, field day at school, field trips, 5th grade celebration, visits with friends, volunteering, a Sounders game, then the last day of school, my big girl's birthday sleepover and father's day! WHEW! In there I think I slept, a little, and ran, a bit, and attempted to keep the house under some semblance of order. It's also been really warm, unseasonably warm, in Seattle, which I always find exhausting. 

My big girl is done with elementary school. It's been a roller coaster, but thankfully ended on a high note. I think 5th grade was her best year yet. Private school, home school, public school, she's done them all. Hopefully middle school is where she hits her stride and (fingers crossed) really begins to enjoy this institution she is forced to attend many hours a day. 

I also brought my big girl along to volunteer a this month's Cougar Mountain trail run series race. We had a lot of fun hanging out in the woods cheering on the runners and refilling their water bottles. The race photographer got a photo of the volunteers at the first aid station but I don't see the photos from June 13th up on the site yet.

However, as I was looking through the race photos from May's Cougar Mountain race, I discovered that the photographer captured a shot of my friend Belia running the race course after our volunteer shift. I love this photo!

IMG_5790
Enjoying the Cougar Mountain trails.

My running has been all over the map this month. The highlight, so far, was meeting a new friend for an almost 7 mile out and back run/hike on the trail to Annette Lake. We met on the last day of my girls' school and it felt like the perfect way for me to wrap up my "freedom" the school year provides me as a stay-at-home mom. Interestingly, summer gives me less to do, but also less flexibility to just get out and run whenever I want to. I am working on embracing more strength and yoga workouts and being okay letting my higher mileage slip away for the summer.

Heather takin' pictures.

View at Annette Lake.

More view. 

Waterfall near the trailhead.

Being so new to trail running, I am just starting to understand how popular the trails are in this area. By the time we finished our run/hike the parking lot at the trailhead was almost full. At noon on a Tuesday. I assume it would be a zoo on a weekend! This trailhead is just off of Exit 47 off of I-90. You need a Northwest Forest Pass to park in the lot, as well. 

While I might not be running on as many trails as I would like to over the summer, I definitely hope to drag my girls out for some hikes. The one at Annette Lake was a bit long for them, but there are plenty more for us to discover in the I-90 corridor! 

Monday, June 08, 2015

First Week of June (and a fun announcement!)

Overall it was a good week, I think.

My only negative is that, for some reason, sleep has been a challenge this week. I always fall asleep early, and quickly (I am starting to often be the first asleep in a house that includes an 8 and 10 year old!) BUT my middle of the night wakings have gotten a bit out of hand. Hopefully it works itself out. I don't think it is affecting me too terribly much, however, as I am not overly tired during the day. Maybe anxiety about the impending summer vacation?! Haha. 

This past week I got in about 23 miles of run/walk with a modest 2,152 feet of elevation gain. It felt like a perfect amount of work. I also got in two strength workouts and a few short yoga sessions at home. 

My daughters participated in a lap run at school recently and my younger daughter, Eloise, was especially annoyed when her teacher made the class stop running laps to come in and do their school work. She was determined to finish the number of laps she set as a goal, so we went to the school and ran/walked a bunch more laps on on Saturday the 30th and then did some laps on Monday the 1st at a local track. With all of her laps added up she got in over ten miles! I was so proud of her determination! Hopefully we keep up the good work so that she is running a bit more than walking and we will get that goal of doing a family 5k. Iris seems to be a bit more comfortable with longer run intervals.

Finished with all of their laps and wearing new kicks. 

This past Saturday I met the High Heels Running Group for a run at Cougar Mountain. It was a great run, lots of wonderful company, but it was so, so, so HOT already in the morning. It was a "sexy shirt" run and I wore a stretchy, sleeveless, glittery top. It was not the most comfortable running apparel! On Sunday I ran again for another back-to-back run weekend that totaled 11 miles. That was a very hot run, too. I am not ready for a warm summer!

The best part about the heat, however, is dragging out the inflatable pool. This is our second pool, as they aren't puncture-proof (unfortunately!). A bigger pool is a lot of work to inflate and fill, but the result is this:

Eloise chillin' in the pool.

Even I can float on an inner tube in that thing! I not-so-secretly want a bigger pool for the backyard. Need to work on making that happen!

And now on to the big, big, big news for the family: we have a new family member! I am an auntie again! 

Sweet, sweet baby. 

My mother-in-law now has four granddaughters. Lucky her! 

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

May in Review

May held 92.5 miles of running/walking with a total elevation gain of 11,013. It was actually my lowest mileage and elevation gain of the whole year so far, despite my 50k being smack-dab in the middle of the month. Obviously, the taper down, then back up, greatly reduced my mileage for most of the month surrounding the race.

I added up all of my mileage and elevation for the year as of May 31st and I am already at:

*639 miles 
*76,864 feet of elevation gain

Whoa! Well on my way to hit my yearly goals as long as I (knock on wood) stay healthy. 

I am starting to try out a back-to-back runs. This past week I did 5 on Friday, then 7 (plus 3 more with my family) on Saturday. So, 15 total. Typically a back-to-back would be better done with the higher mileage day first, but whatever, I'm a rebel. Will keep working on it and listening to my body to make sure it is adjusting to the added stress okay.

It's a bit of an adjustment to be comfortable with a decreased training load. While I know I don't need 14 hours of working out a week to maintain a good level of health and fitness, it is tricky to shift my mindset to not feel completely lazy with half of that time, or less.

Training for the Deception Pass 50k doesn't start until the end of August, so I have almost three months to enjoy the downtime. Likely I will start appreciating it, oh, around the middle of August. 

Monday, June 01, 2015

50k Training Plan

My 50k training plan.


I have made no secret about just how, well, little I actually ran to train for my first 50k. While I still did a HUGE amount of running (there was was a freaking marathon as a training run!), it was actually on the low end for training for an ultra distance race. So how did I make it work?

Easy. (or not so easy): plenty of other cardio, strength, and yoga sessions added in. As to be expected, my highest mileage running week of the training cycle was week 13 when I ran my marathon. Week 10 came close. In addition to the running mileage I counted the walking mileage every week of my training cycle, as I did enough walking (with enough elevation gain) that it wasn't insignificant. 

Most of my training weeks weren't perfect. Ideally they would go something like week 11: 3 strength sessions (two on my own, one barre class), 3 runs, one swim and one yoga class. There were also almost daily PT exercises and 5 days of walking that weren't on this training schedule because those I threw in basically whenever I could. Most of the weeks random stuff got in the way of the set plan and I just had to adjust and move on. 

When I sat down to make this plan I started with the first 50k training plan from competitor.com. I chose this plan because a friend used it for her first 50k and liked it. Okay, good enough for me! I also knew I would alter it a bunch, so it honestly didn't matter all that much what plan I started with. The staple of each week was the long run, which I followed pretty closely on the competitor plan. Now that I look closely at it, that long run is about all I had left of the original plan! 

Ideally my weekday mileage would equal my long run mileage, but that just didn't work for most of the weeks of the plan, though I came sort of close if I count my walks and runs. The strength training was essential, as was the yoga. Towards the end of the training it became clear I needed more yoga, so on my next plan I will likely have to replace one strength session with one yoga session. 

Judging by how good I felt at the start and at the finish of my first 50k, I would give my hacked together plan an A+. Of course, while I didn't run a conventional amount of miles each week, this plan was not easy. It was often exhausting and time-consuming. Week ten held about 14 hours of training. That doesn't even factor in any travel times to the trails! 

Each runner is different, and while the plan I made wouldn't work for everyone, it worked very well for me. Lower miles and higher amounts of other supplemental activities produced a strong and healthy body. The twice monthly chiropractic appointments didn't hurt, either! 

Anyways, it makes me chuckle when I see plans that claim to be the minimum one would need to simply finish their first 50k and they include a ton more running than my plan. While I am brand-spankin'-new to the ultrarunning scene, I now know that you can train, become strong and stay healthy on minimal mileage.