Thursday, September 24, 2015

Training Updates

Officially a week in to my new and improved training plan, and it's been . . . interesting! Overall it's enjoyable, and I am excited that my workouts now have a more specific purpose other than just simply getting in more miles. And I have to say-- my first 50k training cycle was about just running, and it was great, and my race was great, life was great. BUT, I want to consider the idea that I can do it smarter and better (and maybe, just maybe, a tad faster), so here we are!

I did a run with hill sprints. Six 10 second hill sprints in the middle of an easy run. It was fine. The plan calls for a lot of rest between each sprint and that was a little boring. A 10 second sprint is a great place to start, but it wasn't that hard. Yet. It will build from there. 

I did an easy run where I tracked my heart rate. The basic calculation for an easy run is 180 minus your age, so for me it's 180-37=143. I had heard this before, many times, but when you start running by heart rate you slow waaaaay down. I thought I was already running pretty easy, but nope. I averaged over a 12 MINUTE MILE on that run. It would have been more like 10 min/mile before. I was shuffling along and even then had to constantly keep walking. Tried tackling one of my favorite hills to see what would happen-- unfortunately at that point my HRM (heart rate monitor) went haywire and started spiking, so I am not exactly sure what my HR was on that section. Basically I walked the whole hill.

Speaking of spikes, here is what my reading was for the run:


It's pretty obvious where the HRM spiked. I have read all sorts of things about why HRMs spike like that, but feeling a bit too lazy to figure it out on mine.

And see how the line goes a little up and down over and over? The down is every time I had to walk. For real. 

The other thing you can do, I recently learned, is try to breathe only through your nose while running. If you're running easy enough you can do it. If you are running harder you can't. 

The long run at Rainier last weekend, which was much longer than I would typically do in training. My runs in training will mostly be between about 4-5 hours each weekend, a couple shorter, one longer. 

There was one other short easy run in there, too. 

My other challenge this cycle is to focus on time on feet over distance. That way when I head for a run with a ton of elevation I don't have to get frustrated with how much more time it takes me to do my prescribed mileage. 

And that's that! Looking forward to keeping my easy runs truly easy, my hard runs hard, and becoming a stronger runner.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Mother Mountain Loop on Mt. Rainier

This past summer, after traversing a section of the Wonderland Trail, I decided I had to get back down (up?) to Mt. Rainier again before the no-snow season was over. With some back and forth planning, it was finally settled: The 17 mile "Mother Mountain Loop" would be the perfect spot for an end of the summer run/hike. 

Belia was in from the get-go, and our friend Lisa joined in the day before, so we had a great little group. Two is more than good for a run, but on bigger adventures having 3-4 people feels just right to me. Fortunately the weather was looking good and the rangers confirmed trail conditions were snow-free, though a bit wet. We readied our gear for the 7+ hour trek and headed out at 5:30 on Saturday morning!

The loop we took goes around Mother Mountain on the northwest side of Rainier, hence the name Mother Mountain Loop. Some people refer to the loop as something like the Mowich Lake to Spray Park to Carbon River to Ipsut Pass to Mowich Lake loop, which is a bit more of a mouthful! 

Our route.

We started our journey at 8:45 am on the Spray Park Trail, heading south from Mowich Lake. The trails around Rainier are jaw-dropping gorgeous, but many sections just aren't running friendly for people without a ton of technical trail experience. We ran when we could, hiked when we could, and it was a good pace for all of us. 

Lisa, me, and Belia at the start.

Within a mile or so we passed some hikers who asked us if we had seen the bear (Yikes! We hadn't.) we made our first stop at the Eagle Cliff Viewpoint. Rainier was "out"! Lisa gave us a quick lesson on clouds, explaining the circle above the summit was a lenticular cloud-- meaning it was very windy at the top! 

Belia and the mountain.

We then pushed on towards Spray Falls. 

Spray Falls. Much more impressive in person!

After Spray Falls it was time to start climbing up to the Spray Park. I imagine that in the Spring/Summer it is gorgeous covered in wild flowers, but at the end of summer the flowers were gone and the foliage was starting to turn deep reds and yellows. 

Lisa hiking up to Spray Park.

Mt Rainier from Spray Park.


Belia continuing up!

This next section was my favorite. I am not sure the exact name, but heard it referred to as "the rock garden" and that exactly describes it! Last time I was on Rainier, heading up to Panhandle Gap, we went through a similar section. My friends explained that you had to follow the cairns, which are stacks of rocks, that mark the trail. Fortunately I had this piece of information to share, as that was the only way to pick your way through the rocky section. 


The biggest stack of rocks! 

Extremely happy me!

Looking for the trail. It's in there somewhere! Like a game of Where's Waldo.

Heading down.

The rocky section in this photo is where we were in the pictures above.

After the rock garden we went down, down, down towards the next landmark, which was Cataract Valley camp. We stopped there for a little break, the continued down even more to the Carbon River. As we descended, so did the clouds. The previously sunny skies turned ominous and we were all worried it would start to rain. Thankfully we never got more than a few sprinkles, but the clouds stayed put for the rest of the day. 

The whole morning I had been looking forward to going over the suspension bridge at Carbon River, but it was actually kind of scary! The bridge rocked as you walked across it. I went straight across and waited. Belia and Lisa stopped in the middle to enjoy the view.

Waiting at the end of the bridge.

Enjoying the view.

After the bridge we stopped and sat down for a snack. I had been thinking about heartier, savory foods to carry with me (sugary running-friendly food gets old fast!) and thought I would try out an Amy's frozen vegan burrito. It was delicious! I put it in my pack frozen at 5:00 am and by the time we sat to eat, maybe around 1:00?, it was thawed and perfect. 

Once we were on the other side of the suspension bridge we began to follow the Wonderland Trail for the rest of the way. The trail was fairly runnable for the next section as it followed along the banks of the Carbon River. 

Approaching Carbon River again. 

A mile up the trail we had to go back across the Carbon River.

 
Crossing another section of the Carbon River.

My favorite part about the section of trail along the west side of the river was watching for mushrooms. There were so many different kinds, close to a couple dozen that I spotted! This was probably my lowest point, physically and mentally (there was a lot of yawning!), which thankfully wasn't actually too bad, but I kept myself alert with my mushroom searching. 

Amanita Muscaria

This section was extremely green!

From Carbon River the Wonderland trail gradually heads down to Ipsut Creek campground, then it begins climbing again. As I watched my Garmin I thought we didn't have far to go, and knew it would be a climb up to Mowich Lake. We had no idea what we were about to get in to, however! The climb to Ipsut Pass was, in a word, intense. We all looked up at what felt like a wall of rocks on all sides, knowing we had to somehow get over or around it, but not seeing any way that it was possible! There were 2 1/2 miles left. Two hikers came towards us and we asked them how to to get to Ipsut Pass. They pointed up high on the rocks. Deep breaths all around, and we went on our way. We were all pretty tired, this loop already a stretch for all of us to complete, so throwing in that climb at the end felt like almost more than we could take on! However, we soldiered on. Everyone was in good spirits and laughing and talking despite the fatigue we each felt. At many points during the day I felt grateful for the company of Lisa and Belia, but during that climb I couldn't have asked for better companions. When we finally, finally!, got to the top it felt like we had summitted the mountain itself (which is something Lisa has actually done, twice!)! 

A bit over half way up to Ipsut Pass.

Almost there! We came from the bottom!

At the top of Ipsut Pass.

We stopped to enjoy the moment, but knew we had just a mile left to get to Mowich Lake, and that it was down hill. Willing our legs to run, we took off down the trail. It was a beautiful trail, very soft dirt with some roots here and there. Down, down towards the lake. We ran up alongside of it as we pushed towards the parking lot where our post-run food was calling our names!

Mowich Lake.


Lisa took this, it cracked me up. Yummy food!

We made it to the car and grabbed our food. I learned from my trail companions the last time I was on Rainier that there is nothing better than great food post-run. It all tasted so good as we ate and rested down by the lake, tired and happy.

A quick change of clothes and we were off to head home.

I can not wait to go back!

A few notes on the run: I was extremely bummed that my Garmin died at 15 miles, two miles short of the end. I don't have the exact data from my watch, but I think the total elevation gain was over 5200 feet, and the climb to Ipsut Pass was half of that! The loop is 17 miles. It took us about 7 1/2 hours, as we enjoyed lots of stops and moved at a comfortable pace, walking all uphills and carefully maneuvering over the technical downhills. I brought far more food with me than I consumed-- which is a good thing! I always want to have extra food. Despite carrying my water filter, we never needed it. My 1.5 L water bladder was not quite empty when I finished, so I probably should have drank more. There were plenty of places on the trail to filter water had we needed up, until we veered away from Carbon River, about 4 miles from the end.

If you want to attempt this route, and I highly recommend it!, there are a couple of things I suggest you should do: first, check to make sure the road to Mowich Lake is open. The park closes it mid-October or at the first snow, whichever comes first. If the gate is closed, which is five miles out from the lake, you can run/bike in, but it's up hill to the lake. Also call the ranger station at Carbon River and ask about trail conditions. Snow can often linger at Spray Park well in to the summer, and though we saw a patch near the trail, we didn't go through any. For me, snow might have been a deal-breaker, as I have no experience trail finding or hiking through snow. 

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Coasting on Fumes

The past few weeks have been a bit crazytown. Just when I was sliiiiiiiding in to the end of the summer, coasting on fumes, the Seattle public school teachers went on strike. The night before school started. Ugh. I had/have many mixed feelings on the issue, but it boiled down to personally just feeling like I wasn't sure I could keep everything going. And you know, I kind of didn't for the past week and a half. Stuff got shoved aside left and right. 

I started a new job, nannying for the most precious baby ever, it's kind of awesome. I worked 46 hours, with the baby and my two girls, the whole week before school was supposed to start. It seemed like an okay choice at the time, because, well, school was supposed to start! My break is when the girls are in school. Luckily my middle schooler did start school, because she isn't in the SPS system anymore. So it was me and my 4th grader muddling through. 

Here's a fun picture of one of my girls going back to school and the other sad (but putting on her happy face) because she wasn't:


And yes, this probably sounds more dramatic than it was, I am fully aware. 

But! School starts today! YAY! 

And hopefully that means back to the normal-ish swing of things around here.

I was killing my workouts at the end of summer, for the most part, until I just hit the wall. Every night I headed out, running or strength training, knowing that working out during my lowest energy time of day was going to be short-lived. But it didn't end up being as short as I needed and I just fell apart a bit. Last Sunday night called for some fun mom-shenanigans at a concert. A super late night coupled with some drinks and an early next morning meant un-planned rest days. 

Ah, well.
My new favorite motto. 

One highlight is meeting with a very cool running coach I have been hoping to get the chance to work with for a long, long time. We got to have a meeting and she wrote up a great plan for me to kick some ass at the Deception Pass 50k this December. The plan includes, gulp!, hill sprints and other shenanigans. It was such an inspiring meeting, though, I am more pumped about running, and life in general, because I just feed off the energy and excitement of training and planning for seemingly unreachable, crazy goals. The Sun Mountain 50 miler is set for May 2016 and then, eventually, my eyes are on my first 100 miler. But we're focusing on the 50k for now. Baby steps!

I did the hill sprints on Wednesday and they were pretty short and easy. A series of 10 second sprints with tons of rest between them. Hills are my BFF so it was actually really fun. 

 
The shirt I need for my next race. 

Up next: another run at Mt. Rainier. Hopefully I will find time to post next week! 

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Limitless Inspiration

I have immensely enjoyed giving up a bit of my time to volunteering at races this summer. It's definitely something I want to keep up-- for all sorts of reasons, but the biggest, and most selfish, is how much inspiration the runners provide me.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of volunteering at the finish line for the Cascade Crest 100 in Easton, WA. Once again my friend Belia came along (volunteering is always more fun with her!) and we drove to the finish line through cold, pouring rain on Sunday morning. Our job was easy enough, helpful, important, and lots of fun. We were responsible for getting the finishers' sweatshirts and buckles ready as they left the last aid station before the finish, then tracking runners via text message as they got close and made sure the race director, Rich White, was ready to announce the runner as they came towards the finish. We also had to track the finishing time of each runner. 

Race Logo

We watched roughly 60-some of the final finishers (out of 99 total) come through. Each runner had a beautiful and personal reaction to their finish, and it was incredible to have a front row seat to each one! There were several runners who I have admired through social media, all very accomplished runners, and it was cool to see them in person. 



The race was extremely tough this year-- as if a mountainous 100 mile race wasn't hard enough! They battled driving rain, blasting winds and hypothermic temperatures out on the course. I can't imagine how difficult it was for the runners, as well as the volunteers, pacers, and crew who were out there all night! Shivering just thinking about it. The job I had was incredibly cushy in comparison to what most of the other volunteers did for the race! 

Of course, on Monday I found myself idly googling "how to train for a 100 mile race" . . . . you know, as you do . . . . and well, as with most ultra training plans, there wasn't any real consensus on what sort of background a runner would need or training a runner would need to do. One plan says you don't really need to run over 50 miles a week, another has you running close to 100.