Four Weeks to 50K – Week 2

Here I will document my unconventional training to prepare for a 50K in four weeks time. Sometimes, you just gotta mix it up! For background, I’m coming off of a solid training block last fall and a solo 50K trail run in December. I had a lot of consistency through January and ended the month with a Yeti 24 Hour Ultra Challenge.

Here is a recap of my second week of training:

Monday – 5 mile run

I did this run first thing in the morning before breakfast to help simulate running on empty later in a race. It was 10 degrees outside which felt SO cold! But one good thing was the wind wasn’t blowing.

Surprisingly, I had the park to myself on this frigid, pre-sunrise run. Go figure.

Tuesday – 6 mile run

This run was structured as 2 miles at 50%, 1 mile at 100%, 2 miles at 50%, and 1 mile walk. I took the 50% to mean marathon pace and the 100% to mean 5K pace. I made the final walking mile a steady effort, but not quite my speed walk pace.

I felt really good on this run and had fun mixing up the pace throughout. It was also a downright glorious day compared to our weather lately with some sunshine and temperatures in the upper 40’s. I ran in shorts!

Wednesday – 1 mile run

The assignment for today was to run 1 mile at a 100%, PR effort. That sounded pretty daunting. I did a 1 mile warm up and stretched a bit before getting started.

I ran hard and expected to run somewhere between 8 and 9 minutes. I never imagined I could run under 8 minutes for a mile, but I surprised myself and finished in 7:45!

The 1 mile effort was pretty scary to take on, but it turns out that running a 5K is still scarier and more painful.

Thursday – Cross Training

Three minute mountain legs routine (lunges and step-ups).

Friday – Rest

Saturday – 6 mile run

I met up with Kim to run this one on the New River Trail. She was running 20 miles (!!) and I joined her for the last six. It was not such a nice day outside…

As you can see by the trees, we had a lot of ice the day before. The trail was fine, though, and was just wet at muddy. But it was 30 degrees and raining our whole run. Yuck! The bridges were a solid sheet of ice, so we walked/shuffled across those.

Despite the weather, it was really good to see Kim. It had been awhile since we ran together. As always, the miles flew by and she’s a total rockstar for cranking out 20 miles in that weather.

Sunday – 6 mile run

I was really sleepy and didn’t feel like doing this one. But of course, once I got out there I felt good.

No rain, but it was another gray day. It was also foggy and I got soaked from running through the fog. I need to remember to wear a light wind breaker for running in fog in the future.

Total miles – 27 miles

Four Weeks to 50K

Here I will document my unconventional training to prepare for a 50K in four weeks time. Sometimes, you just gotta mix it up! For background, I’m coming off of a solid training block last fall and a solo 50K trail run in December. I had a lot of consistency through January and ended the month with a Yeti 24 Hour Ultra Challenge.

Here is the week 1 breakdown of my training:

Monday – 3 mile walk

This was a speed walk to work on my ultramarathon walking pace. I managed to average 15:40 pace, which was faster than I expected. My ankles and lower back were sore after this walk. Clearly I was using muscles I don’t normally use when running.

Tuesday – Rest

Wednesday – 3 mile run

This was a progression run with each mile getting faster than the last. We have had a lot of snow and ice lately, so I was relegated to the paved trails.

Thursday – Cross Training

Three minute mountain legs routine (lunges and step-ups)

Friday – 5 mile run

This run was a positive split run of sorts, with each mile getting 45 seconds to 1 minute slower. I took that to mean start out fast and back off, and that’s exactly what I did.

My hamstrings were sore from Thursday’s mountain legs workout, so I made sure to stretch well after this run.

Saturday – 3 mile walk

The goal was to beat Monday’s time and I did! I improved my walking pace to 15:19 average.

Sunday – Cross Training

Today’s cross training was a yoga routine and I definitely needed it.

So far this training is very different from anything that I’ve done and I’m nursing a few sore spots – most notably my Achilles tendon. But it’s fun to do something different before I dive back into a traditional training plan in March. I’ll check in next week with how week two went!

Yeti 24 Hour Ultra Challenge – Round 2

Last spring I got roped into doing the Yeti 24 Hour Ultra Challenge with my friends, in-person and virtually, as we stared down the unknown of the Covid-19 pandemic. The challenge involves running 5.2 miles every four hours for 24 hours – a total of 6 runs and 31.2 miles. It was fun to challenge ourselves and have something to do, but we definitely all suffered. I didn’t really intend to do it again. But fate had other plans, and on what was arguably the coldest night thus far of 2021 I began round 2 of the Yeti 24 Hour Ultra Challenge.

Stabby cat this time (source)

The past two times I have done a 24 hour challenge (Yeti in April 2020 and my own 24 hour challenge in October 2019) I have always started in the morning around 6 or 7 AM. After much debate, I decided to start this challenge at 7:15 PM. This means my runs were at 7:15 PM, 11:15 PM, 3:15 AM, 7:15 AM, 11:15 AM, and 3:15 PM. I was curious to see how I would feel when doing my final 3 runs in the daylight. The trick was that I had worked all day leading up to starting the challenge and I wasn’t sure how much sleep I would get overnight.

Run 1 – 7:15 pm / Bisset Park / 20 degrees (windchill 14)

We got snow the night before I started the challenge, and there was some snow and a fair amount of ice lingering on the paved trails and on the road at the park. That made the run a little tricky, but it didn’t get in my way too much. I was happy that I managed to dress appropriately for this run and I wasn’t too cold.

My goal going into this was to beat my time before, meaning I needed to average better than 12:07 pace overall. I was a little quick out of the gate, and even using an 8 minute run/2 minute walk interval I averaged 11:11 pace. I hoped that wouldn’t be my downfall later.

The full moon looked so cool and it made things so bright with the snow!

Post-run food: Half serving of Tailwind recovery drink.

Run 2 – 11:15 PM / Random Plowed Parking Lot / 19 degrees (windchill 12 degrees)

Barry joined me for half of this run, and we ran laps around the middle school parking lot. It was clear of ice and snow, which was nice. Once again, I dressed appropriately for the weather, which was a big factor on such a cold night.

This was another quick run for me, with an average pace of 11:08.

Post-run food: Instant cheese grits and a homemade peanut butter oat ball (aka “anger balls”)

Run 3 – 3:15 AM / Treadmill

I tried to nap before this run, but I only managed to doze a little before it was time to get up again. It was hard to get going, but once I did I felt alright. This run was a bit slower, 12:09 pace, but overall I was still coming in well under my goal of sub-12:07 pace so far.

This run played some mind games with me. During my past 24 hour challenges, the early morning treadmill run marked the end of the challenge. But this time I was only halfway. One thing I know is no matter when you start, that 2-3 AM run is a bear. But my next run would bring daylight and I hoped that would help me going forward.

Post-run food: Instant cheese grits and a half serving of Tailwind recovery.

Run 4 – 7:15 AM / Randolph Park / 16 degrees (windchill of 5 degrees)

Once again, I attempted to nap before this run. And once again I only managed to doze and I felt so sleepy when I got up. As I started my run, it was so cold outside. But the cold combined with the sunrise really helped me wake up.

Full moon on display

This run passed by fairly quickly and I finished with a solid 11:18 average pace. I was still on track to beat my time from last year’s challenge, as long as I didn’t fall apart!

Post-run food: Two scrambled eggs on a tortilla and hot coffee!

Run 5 – 11:15 AM / Bisset Park / 24 degrees (straight up balmy)

My legs were feeling pretty tired and sore by this point. But after the first half mile or they loosened up and I kept my pace under a 12 minute average. I could smell the barn and knew the end was in sight.

I was feeling really sleepy at this point, and I switched over to drinking caffeinated Tailwind during my run.

Post-run food: Half serving of Tailwind recovery and instant cheese grits.

Run 6 – 3:15 PM / Randolph Park / 31 degrees and sunny

Everything from my abs and lower back down to my ankles was sore at this point, but I started this run ready to give it hell. It hurt so bad, but I gave it my all to make this run my fastest out of all of them. I was really surprised to run under an 11 minute average pace!

Done!!!

Overall, I met my goal of beating my previous time. Last time, I finished in 6:18:02. This time, I knocked nearly 26 minutes off, finishing in 5:52:37! I can’t believe I ran under 6 hours. I know my Marine Corps Marathon training in the fall was awhile ago, but I think it helped me improve my strength and endurance.

Run data.

This 24 hour challenge went the best out of the three that I’ve done. I think a big factor was starting in the evening. Finishing in the daylight gave me such a boost – something I’m going to remember at my next 24 hour event or when I eventually take on a 100 miler. I also had a good handle on nutrition this time. I can stomach a variety of foods during an ultramarathon, but I have learned that during one of these stop and go-type events, I can’t eat too much and I have to stick to simple foods. You’ll notice that I primarily subsisted on Tailwind and grits, and that worked really well for me. I also think I managed the cold really well by dressing appropriately and getting out of my sweaty running clothes immediately after each run. Running 6 times in 24 hours produces so much laundry, especially when it’s cold!

So many layers, so much laundry.

As in the past, this was a challenging, but fun, event. It’s always good to get outside of your comfort zone and see what you can accomplish. I’m excited to see how my training goes this spring and how I do at my two races in June!

Frozen Toe 10K – Race Report

It feels like it’s been a long time since I ran a real, in-person race. In reality, it hasn’t necessarily been that long, as my last in-person race was Allison Woods in October. But before that was Montvale last March, literally days before the world shut down due to COVID-19. Unfortunately, the virus is still around. But race directors Josh and Gina of Mountain Junkies were able to hold this year’s Frozen Toe 10K with several precautions in place (masks, small group starts in waves, etc.).

Super soft full zip hoodies

The day before the race we got about 4 inches of snow. That, combined with the cold temperatures, made for a true ‘Frozen Toe’ this year. The cold temperatures were definitely to our advantage, as I’d rather run through snow and frozen dirt than the thick mud we had on some parts of the course last year.

I arrived at race headquarters about an hour before the 9 AM start time and met up with Charlotte, Lauren, Paulina, and Lauren. We hung out for a bit and I made a trip to the porta potties before heading up to the starting area. The race start was broken up into waves of 25 or less that started about 3 minutes apart. The front two waves were runners competing for overall placing, and the rest were broken up by age group. The small groupings allowed us to stay spaced out at the start. They also cut out the road section due to merging the start/finish area, shortening the course to 5.5 miles.

Photo credit: Lauren H.
Wave 4 start.

At 9:09 AM, my wave was off and running. I took off along the grass towards the single track trail of the Chestnut Ridge Loop without any real goals in mind. I was just really excited to be back out there running a local trail race. We spaced out fairly quickly, and I settled in to a comfortably hard pace.

The course was in great shape. There were a few spots covered in ice and a little bit of mud in the final mile, but overall I didn’t have to slow down or be careful due to trail conditions.

Photo credit: Jay Proffitt

My first two miles clocked in faster than I expected. I decided I’d continue pushing and see what I could do. In years past, I have run the race during a “clockwise” year, but this year we ran the Chestnut Ridge Loop counterclockwise. It was fairly similar to the other direction – seldom flat with three main climbs and about 750 to 800 feet of total elevation gain.

Mile 3 was a tough one with that big climb, and my pace slowed down some as I primarily hiked up the hill. But I was still working hard and moving well

As I passed the halfway point, I was really starting to feel it. It was a net uphill until mile 4.5 or so, with a few good downhill sections. I tried to push hard on the downhills to make up for my hiking. Although I do think I hiked less than I have in years past on this course.

Photo credit: Jimmy Moore

With one mile or so to go, I got to the top of the last uphill section. I knew it was primarily downhill from here and I vowed not to hike any more. I focused on my surroundings and the joy I felt being back at a real race. I also really enjoyed seeing all of the miniature snowmen someone built all along the course!

Mini snowman
Another mini snowman. Photo credit: Jimmy Moore

As we completed the loop, I could hear sounds from the finish line back at the church. I ran as hard as I could out of the woods, up the little grass hill, and through the finish line. It hurt, but it felt so good.

Overall, I felt really strong and I’m happy with how I pushed myself. I can’t compare overall times, since the course distance and direction were different, but last year I averaged 12:59 pace and this year I averaged 11:59 pace, finishing in 1:06:33. It was a good year for me at Frozen Toe and I’m so glad I was able to participate in a live race. And I finally got my fix of my favorite Mountain Junkies post-race food: pumpkin bread and one of Dru’s lemon cookies!

I don’t have anything else on the race schedule until June. I’m planning to get in some solid training between now and then, and I may or may not have already mapped out most of that training starting on March 1. For now, it’s time to soak in the rest of the first month of 2021 with some playtime on the trails and some hope that things continue to improve.

Virtual Marine Corps Marathon – Race Report

When the Marine Corps Marathon went virtual I initially planned to defer to next year, in the hopes that a live event would be able to be held by then. But I was torn because this year’s race had a special finisher’s medal for the 45th anniversary that contains volcanic ash from Iwo Jima. Normally, I don’t care about finisher’s medals. But this one was really cool. And then my fellow wild mountain chicken, Charlotte, told me she and her dad were planning to run their virtual race in Bedford and invited me to join in.

#VirtuallyUnstoppable

So this special medal and the promise of running with friends is how I ended up shivering outside of an eye doctor’s office in Bedford far too early on a crisp October Sunday morning. I was accompanied by Charlotte, Brandy, and Charlotte’s dad, Larry. Our course had been concocted by Char and her dad, and I had been promised a history lesson of Bedford as we ran.

Photo credit: Christine

We started our run just before 6:50 AM. It was a chilly 39 degrees and we were ready to get moving. In the early miles we were fairly quiet as we settled into our pace. We ran by a house whose blow up Halloween decoration was still up. It looked so cool in the dawn light.

I was having fun running in a totally new place and taking in my surroundings. I had worked back and forth with Char and her dad to map out our course and I was finally seeing it in person. As we approached mile 3, we saw our crew: my dad and Christine. It was still early and I was still sleepy!

Photo credit: Christine

We ran down to the end of a dead end road and I took a quick pee break in the bushes. Then we came back down past our crew and headed onto Independence, which was the busiest road we would run on. We ran single file down the road towards our turnaround on a long, gradual uphill. My hamstring had gotten a little aggravated at Allison Woods, and it was already talking to me on that uphill.

Between miles 5 and 6 we turned onto a road that had less traffic. As we ran down the road, I saw the most vultures I’ve ever seen all in one place. It was very ominous looking. One even spread out it’s wings and made a big show as we ran by – I felt like Snoop Dogg should be there narrating the scene. (YouTube Snoop Dogg Plant Earth if you don’t know what I’m talking about)

Around mile 7 we ran by a sign that said “You’re Here!” I’m not sure why, but I found this really funny, because we still had nearly 20 miles to go. I burst out laughing as we ran by it.

Brandy and I making our way to mile 8. Photo credit: Charlotte

Between miles 8 and 9, we linked back up with our crew. Lauren and her little boy had made it to town, and it was great to see them. I dropped off some trash at my dad’s truck and picked up some more snacks. I was still good on fluids, as I hadn’t been drinking as much with the colder temperatures.

Photo credit: Christine

From there we headed onto a section that went by the hospital and into a residential area. We started hitting some bigger hills and my hamstring started screaming at me. Somewhere through here my piriformis joined in, so that was a real joy. But I decided to just accept that it was going to be how it was going to be. We settled into a rhythm of walking the uphills and running the flats and downs – just like trail running. Brandy, Char, and her dad are all really fast walkers and I had to work hard to keep up when we were walking! Usually, I would start to fall behind and would have to jog to catch up. We also got some distraction and motivation through here when Char’s dad’s wife, Janet, drove up alongside us. She had an American flag displayed through the sun roof and would honk occasionally to keep us moving.

Around mile 10. Photo credit: Janet

All of the houses in this area were gorgeous, and the mountains in the distance were picturesque. I was running along, just taking it all in. I also thought it was funny seeing some of the political sign “wars” between some of the houses. Before I knew it, we were headed towards our halfway point. Along the way, we made a quick stop at Char’s dad’s house (potty break #2 for me). We then rolled back into our crew spot just before mile 13. This time, I was ready to refill one of my flasks with more Tailwind. Throughout this run I primarily fueled with Tailwind. I also had one Huma gel, two or three oatmeal cream pies, and some Swedish fish.

From here, we made our way back to our starting point around mile 14ish. We were about 3 hours into our run and I was still feeling really fresh.

Mile 14 smiles. Photo credit: Dad
One of our “spectators” along the course.

All of our crew joined in with us for our next mile. Char and her dad recreated the Marine Corps Marathon blue mile by incorporating walking by the Bedford Boys memorial flags that line Main Street in Bedford. We also passed by Green’s Drug Store. It was special to share this together as a group, runners and crew.

Char and her dad’s family member, Jack Powers, one of the Bedford Boys. Photo credit: Christine

We returned back to our starting point, and I took another quick bathroom break at the gas station (that’s pee break #3 if you’re counting). From here, we headed down College St. and towards mile 16. I loved all of the houses along here. They were old and historical looking, and each one was unique. Charlotte told me some of the history about them as we passed.

Burks-Guy-Hagan House (source)

Getting a tour of Bedford from two of its own all day was truly fantastic. The route really showcased the town. I especially loved running alongside Char’s dad, who has lived in Bedford practically his whole life, and hearing all of his stories. Char and her dad also knew almost everyone we passed during the day, and would tell Brandy and me little tidbits about each of them.

As we got into more of our out and backs at mile 16, I was still having a great time but the miles were feeling a little longer. Again, we were hitting some bigger hills. In total, we climbed around 1800 feet for the day – quite a lot for a road marathon!

As we climbed up a really big hill at mile 17ish, Charlotte said something about a little camp at the top. I could see some people gathered up there, but I didn’t realize they were our people until we got there. What a nice surprise! I wasn’t expecting to see them again until mile 21 or so. We were on an out and back section and got to see them again at mile 18.5 ish.

More gorgeous views along this part of the course.

Our surprises for the day weren’t over yet. As we were passing back by our crew at mile 18.5, our Meg’s Miles friend Felix showed up! Felix lives over in Lynchburg and he drove out to Bedford to surprise us and join us for some miles!

Mile 20 running with Felix. Photo credit: Charlotte

Felix would go on to join us for the final 7 miles, which was awesome and totally unexpected. We saw our crew again by the Primary School, around mile 21, as we headed out on another out and back. We still had plenty of hills to tackle in the final 10K. Felix and I had a good time challenging ourselves to run up the hills through this section. Then we would regroup and continue on.

Running by the Elks Home – they were already getting ready for Christmas!

I had some Coke from a little 8 oz can when we passed by our crew at mile 21, and finished most of it when we returned to our crew at mile 23. There was just a 5K left to run. My upper hamstring and priformis hurt so much at this point. But I still felt strong and despite those pains, it felt good to push.

Photo credit: Dad
More fun Halloween decorations. We saw so many awesome ones along the way! Bedford does Halloween right.

Just before mile 25, Felix and I ran up a huge hill to the Welcome Center. I had to pee (again), so I ran past our turn and to the Welcome Center. Our crew was there in the parking lot and someone laughed at me for needing another restroom break. Felix waited for me on the corner and Brandy, Char, and Char’s dad passed by while I was inside. I linked back up with Felix and we had fun hammering to catch up with them on an out and back to the elementary school. On the way back, we met up with our crew and Janet passed out flags to each of us for our finish up a very big hill to the D-Day Memorial. This was it. Homestretch.

Photo credit: Janet

Charlotte had let us know that she had been contacted by a lot of media about our virtual run, her family’s connection to the Bedford Boys, and our finish at the D-Day Memorial. Sure enough, I got my third surprise of the day as we rounded the corner at the top of the hill and there were so many cameras. I said “oh, Charlotte.” I felt so nervous about our run being covered by the media. But at the same time, it was very cool that they were covering it.

Mile 26. Photo credit: Christine

We circled around the road at the memorial and hit 26.2 miles, as we made our way back to the Overlord Arch for our finish. We were all quiet through here. The D-Day Memorial is a powerful place, with the sounds of bullets hitting the water. You think of how scary that day must have been for those soldiers who stormed the beaches at Normandy – many of them still boys. I think we were all reflecting on our day and the significance of our run and where we were finishing. We finished our day walking under the Overlord Arch, completing our virtual Marine Corps Marathon run in 6:44 and change.

Photo credit: Christine
Photo credit: Brandy

The media took some photos, and then Brandy and I stepped to the side as Char and her dad did interviews. Afterwards, we spent some time together with our crew and toured the rest of the memorial. All in all, it was an excellent day with perfect weather and the best people.

Photo credit: Dad
A mini Meg’s Miles reunion: Me, Brandy, Felix, Christine. Photo credit: Christine
Photo credit: Brandy

With our finish at the memorial, I reflected on how countless men and women have sacrificed their lives for our freedom. We commemorate those valiant souls and are thankful for the life they’ve allowed us to live. Life has looked very different in 2020. The pandemic has changed the way we live and has disrupted normal things, such as running a large road marathon with 30,000 of our closest friends. But one thing that I have seen exemplified over and over again is the resilience of the human spirit. We have found ways to stay connected and ways to carry on in a new normal. We continue to walk through difficult times and greet each day with a fighting spirit. And I think that’s one of many tangible ways we can honor the service and sacrifice of our military. Oorah!

"I've opted for fun in this lifetime." -Jerry Garcia