Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Ultra training week three (or is it four?)

I'm losing track of my training schedule, not a good sign. No matter: I know the race date and I suppose that's all that matters:

Feb. 15, 2014

I wrote in large fonts because I wanted the magnitude of my terror to resonate.

But onward, no? This week's training, or last week, since I'm a bit behind schedule, went well. I toiled away at the gym for three two-hour sessions  while watching Love it Or List It, my favorite workout show.

Wednesday I ran 10.5 miles around and around and around the indoor track at the Dome. The first four miles were fast and hard and wonderful. Then the Anchorage Running Club held their annual meeting and we voted in board members and had Subway sandwiches, and since all the sandwiches contained meat, I ate pickles and onions and a cookie instead and then ran 6.5 more miles. I do not recommend this. 

Saturday I ran 16 miles over trails that varied from hard-packed to slushy to slick. My foot began hurting around mile 12 but I kept going and really, it wasn't that bad of a hurt, more of a dull ache.

The trails were quiet, no one else around. I passed a runner or walker every mile or so and then, as the dark descended, no one else. I turned on my headlamp and that cheerful circle of light hugged around me and it was so cozy running through the trails at night, with the snow shadows and the silence and the night sky, the birch and spruce trees whispering small gasps as snow fell off their branches.

It was one of those perfect runs that wasn't actually perfect, if that makes sense. Parts of the trail were pure ice, other parts windblown and rough and my foot didn't cooperate as well as I expected. But still, it was perfect because of the silence and the snow and the night sky.

Sunday I took the day off and had studded snow tires put on my car. Basically, I sat on a pile of tires at Sam's Club reading The Stand (I love you, Stephen King) for over three hours, which wasn't very delightful but at least I had a thick book to keep me company (Nadine just moved in with Harold and sealed both of their fates with the Dark Man).

Reading: The Stand, as mentioned. I've read it at least four times before but never stop loving it. I'm also reading Yesterday Road by Kevin Brennan and just downloaded Aurora Sky by Nikki Jefford. So this week I'll be finishing up a horror classic, diving inside literary fiction and starting a young adult novel about vampire hunters in Alaska. And, oh yeah, in my job I'll be writing about a food drive, the fallout of the last assembly meeting and a dodgeball tournament. I hope I don't mix everything up and insert vampires in the assembly story, though it would liven it up a bit, no?

Cheers and happy running and reading, everyone.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Ultra training, week two

The good news: I'm still running.

The bad news (or more good news?): I'm eating like a pig. Seriously. Thursday I had two dinners. Not two helpings, mind you, but two separate dinners. I was starving. I'm always starving. I think it's the combination of a vamped-up training schedule plus the horrific knowledge that in 13 weeks I'll be running 50K in the brutal cold. My body screams: More calories! More fat! More insulation! And I happily oblige.


My foot isn't 100% healed so I'm been running longish runs twice a week and supplementing with long cross training sessions. My aim is extended high-intensity workouts. This, from what I've researched, is the most effective way to substitute running/marathon/ultra training.

So far, it's working. I've run two effortless 13 milers and a lot of 9s and 10s. Of course, the long-distance agony doesn't really start until one passes the 16 mileage mark so I'll let you know in a few weeks if this plan really works.

One lousy thing: Because I need to avoid twisting my foot at all costs, I must run on even surfaces, which means roads, now that the snow has hit. I have to stay off of my beloved trails, at least until the snow packs down smooth. But I did get in one delicious 9-miler the day before the snow hit.

Wheee! Downhill most of the way back from here. This is part of the Campbell Creek trail system, and the trails loop and interconnect and go on forever.

I love this sign, it makes me happy each time I run past.

My gym workouts include 2 hours on the stationary bike, on hill program, twice a week (don't even try this without music) and my new favorite thing, which I borrowed from an ultrarunning blog: walking very fast or running very slow on a treadmill at 15 incline setting.

Sounds easy? Umm, no. I alternate between 3.8 and 4.5 speeds and am wet with sweat by 15 minutes. I go for about 80 minutes total and it's a long, slow, thigh-screaming agony. Last session the treadmill belt was wet from my sweat. It's an excellent high-intensity, low-impact workout.  I engage in this delicious torture twice a week.

The remaining days? Two long runs plus weight training and core exercises twice a week and, this is important, one day of utter and complete rest. And I mean complete. I mean lying on the sofa and reading books and getting up only to walk to the refrigerator to load up on more food.

Besides sweating, I've also been writing like mad and last weekend I took a mini writing vacation at Alyeska Resort. This was a treat from MM since I start a new journalism job in two weeks and need to finish my second novel by then. The resort is amazing. I wish I had taken more pictures by alas, I'm not much of an indoors photo-taking gal. But here is the view outside the window, where I wrote for most of the days.

MM and I took an amazing walk through the Winner Creek Trail at night in the snow. It was so quiet and snow kept falling off the spruce trees with soft little plops. It was like being in another world.

The resort is filled with wonderful little nooks and crannies coupled with comfy chairs and tables. There were so many places to write! I loved it. There's also a fitness center and awesome swimming pool and hot tub. The price, however, isn't as awesome. It's rather spendy, actually, and runs about $200 a night and up, but we took advantage of the PFD special and got the room for $99 (for those of you who don't know, PFD stands for Permanent Fund Dividend, which refers to the free money check all Alaskans receive from oil profits each year).

Must scurry off for a run before dark. We are losing daylight quickly up here, about three minutes a day, which can make one feel a little bit frantic about getting out and enjoying the brief interludes of sunshine. (Come back, daylight, okay? I want it to be summer forever.)

Happy weekend, everyone.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Little Su 50K, Little Su 50K, oh, what did I do?

My apologies, but I must first interrupt this posting for a moment of silence.

My beloved iPod Shuffle has died.

RIP, my lovely iPod

My sister gave me this iPod almost five years ago and I've run with it in Seward, Homer, all around Anchorage (except on the trails; I never run with music on the trails), Nebraska City, Philadelphia, northwest Pennsylvania, Whidbey Island, Seattle, Portland and Hawaii.

I logged thousands of miles with The Band, Prince, Sheryl Crow, The Wallflowers, U2 and even Patsy Cline (oh, how I love you, Patsy Cline). I rarely changed my playlist. I listened to the same songs over and over until they became as familiar as my breath.

Earlier this summer, my iPod started to falter. Sometimes it wouldn't turn on. Other times it played the same song over and over and over again (once, I'm ashamed to admit, it was Toni Basil's Mickey, remember that? "Hey Mickey you're so fine, you're so fine you blow my mind, hey Mickey.")

Two weeks ago, it died altogether, bless its little technical heart. I shall miss it. We had quite the times together. Thank you for the miles, little blue iPod.

Now back to running news. Lookie this:

Dear Cinthia,

Congratulations! You are now registered for 2014 Susitna 100 or Little Su 50K. Please check the event's official website for updates: http://www.susitna100.com

Beautiful, no? P.S. Thanks for letting me steal borrow your Susitna Race photo, Ron Nicholl, and I'll see you in February.

It seems I've somehow registered for a 50K run through the frozen Alaska landscape in minus zero temps. I blame the fact that I interviewed various racers for an upcoming story in Alaska Magazine  and they all made it sound so damned fun, and so damned easy.

 I also blame this woman.

Sorry, Karen, I had to steal borrow this photo because I know I won't be writing the same caption under my race photo at the halfway point: "Halfway and loving every second." (Please!) Source: Karen and Matt Kidwell.

Yes, Karen from the la chanson de ma vie blog. (I'm not sure what that means but I pretend that I do so that I don't feel stupid.) She and her husband Matt ran the race two years ago and loved it. She's also much, much faster that I can ever hope to be, and much, much younger and loves winter much, much more.

Nevertheless, I signed up. And now I'm in. So that's that.

I think the real reason I signed up is because I feel in need of a challenge. I've met my goals for this year (most of them writing, not running, related) and feel the need of push myself toward something new, something to stretch my outlook and force me to stare eyeball-to-eyeball with my own terrible limitations.

So naturally I chose stumbling through clumpy snow in ridiculously cold temps while racing farther than I've ever attempted as my challenge.

This race scares me. The cold scares me. It digs down inside my psyche. It does terrible things to my mind. Even though I've lived in Alaska for almost 25 years, I've never fully adapted to the winters. I don't do cold well. No matter how warmly I dress I become cold the minute I stop moving. (A voice in my head says, "Well then, Cinthia, don't stop moving.")

So, for what it's worth: I am now, gulp, officially training for a 50K.

Big cheers: A huge, huge shout out for Ali over at Ali On the Run, who is racing the New York Marathon today, despite a trying year of Crohn's health problems. You go, girl! (Read her blog if you have the chance. She's an amazing writer, and her honesty will tug at your heart.)

P.S.: I fear that I'm hooked on The Sopranos DVDs. I'm already on Season Two.

Happy running, reading and DVD watching, everyone.