Four Weeks to 50K – Week 3

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 third week of training:

Monday – 6 mile run

It was another gray, cold, and rainy day so I opted to run this one on the treadmill. It’s been awhile since I “gave in” and ran indoors, but I enjoyed spending my run watching my latest tv show obsession: Homeland.

Tuesday – Rest

I was ready for a rest day, coming off of three days in a row of running. I’m pretty sure it had been several weeks since I strung three days of running together back to back.

Wednesday – Runner’s choice miles

This run was free choice on the miles, and I planned to run somewhere between 3 to 5 miles first thing in the morning. Unfortunately, the park where I like to run still had their gates locked even though it was after their posted opening time. So that stunk. I drove to a different park and only had time for 1 mile at that point, but I was treated to a spectacular sunrise.

It was only 18 degrees, but I dressed appropriately and wasn’t cold! After work, I headed back out for another 3 miles on the trails. Nothing spectacular to report. The miles got done. So here’s another sunrise photo from the morning.

Thursday – Cross Training

More yoga for runners. I need to do more of this stuff when I start my Yeti and Eastern Divide training. Stretching is good for you and it makes you feel good – did you know that?

Friday – 3 mile walk

During week 1, I did two 3 mile speed walks with the focus of improving my ultramarathon walk. The goal throughout was to improve my time each time. My first 3 mile walk averaged 15:40/mile and the second one averaged 15:19/mile. I wasn’t sure if I could beat that time, but I managed to knock another minute off of my pace and finished this walk with an average pace of 14:08/mile!

We had another ice storm on Wednesday night and none of it had melted from the trees, yet. I’m so over winter at this point, but all of the ice in the trees looked really cool. It even looked like glitter when the sun hit it.

Saturday – 7 mile run

I met up with Kim on the New River Trail to join her for the last 7 of her 18 miler. It was clear and sunny, which I really appreciated. But still very cold with temperatures in the low 20’s and a windchill in the teens.


But I managed to dress appropriately for the weather conditions, and that makes all the difference on a run. The sunlight made all of the trees glitter and it sounds kind of hinky, but we were really in awe running down the trail. I wish I had been able to really capture it in a photo. Kim said it was like trying to take pictures of a full moon – it’s never close to how it really looks in person.

Also Narnia
Not freezing, for once.

Sunday – 3 hour long run

This run was time-based instead of having a set distance. I headed back to the New River Trail to start this run mid-morning. It was in the low 30’s at the start of my run and there was still plenty of ice on the rocks and trees along the trail.

It was such a gorgeous day to be outside! It was sunny and warmed up to the low 40’s by the end of my run. The trail got increasingly sloppy throughout, but it was manageable. My shoes and lower legs were a mess by the end!

I ended up getting 15 miles done in 3 hours and 3 minutes. I hadn’t gone that far since early December and I was happy to find that I felt really good on this run. I hit a low around mile 12 or so but pulled out of it by the final mile.

Total miles: 35 miles

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!


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.

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