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Goldilocks and the Three Runs

This past weekend, including Friday, I had the pleasure of getting some serious trail time in with Nathan and enjoying some of the best the Bay area has to offer in terms of trail running. These runs couldn't have been more different for me: one was pretty good, one was horrible and one was just right (aka awesome! aka a Devon Day!)

Friday:

Friday trail tempo run with Nathan.
Nathan and I got up super early and headed up to Mountain Home Inn to do a nice 11 mile loop. Nathan wanted to run hard, so out of the gate I was killing myself to lead us at a good pace. The first 27 minutes we ran at a low 6 minute pace, I could handle it but it definitely didn't feel easy. We backed off a bit as we continued to climb up and around the top of Mt. Tam. Clearly my favorite part was popping out above the clouds at West Point Inn and then getting to dive bomb down Nora trail to Matt Davis. Once we were on Matt Davis, I got a bit possessed and started hammering away at a low 5 minute pace for a nice stretch of groomed double track. We covered 11 miles in 1:25 with 1660 feet of climbing. My glute/back felt good, my energy was decent. I was definitely enthused by the run. It helped diminish my trepidation about Saturday's run: The Rapture on Mt. Diablo.

Saturday:


Nathan ready to go with his new Black Diamond poles

Friday was decent, I felt pretty good the rest of the day and got busy on my one weekday non-cooking day. I was hoping Saturday would go well. We planned to run on Mt. Diablo and the last time I ran there, I was worthless. I was pretty good last week about listen to my body, fueling and recovering and generally giving myself a break after flying back from Australia (was that really just a week ago? I actually had to check my calendar!) and all of the craziness of the April and May. I have been feeling off and on worn out pretty constantly for two months and I am well aware that I need to be forgiving and take good care of myself after such a stretch, especially as I begin to think about actual training again. I told myself that I would just see what the run had in store for me on Diablo and respond accordingly and appropriately.
Sad face. But awesome new Rudy Project sunglasses.

The run definitely had something special in store for me but I can't say I handled it with grace or style. It was an absolutely beautiful day out, not to warm yet and Brett, Nathan and I headed up Burma Road to do a 20-ish mile loop Nathan had mapped out. From the car we immediately went up a super steep grade and my calves cramped up horribly and my achilles felt ouchie. And we were less than 1/4 mile into the run. I felt absolutely drained on top of that and as I continued to power hike, Brett and Nathan became smaller and smaller specks on the never ending climb to the top. I wanted to keep up, I wanted to feel good and I couldn't even make a feeble effort from the beginning. I got really down on myself, felt sorry for myself and started to mentally talk down to myself a lot. So much for forgiving and taking care of myself. As I continued to climb, my stomach started to act up and it felt like I had a bowling ball flopping around in there- uncomfortable to say the least. Brett and Nathan patiently waited for me at a turn and I apologized for holding them up. I contemplated what to do but was being stubborn and said I would continue on the planned route (despite not "needing" the miles). The route now took us downhill steeply, which inevitably would lead to another very stout climb up to Eagle Peak. 

As I ran downhill, my energy left me, my stomach was flopping around and I couldn't even keep pace running downhill which is my specialty. Brett and Nathan were pulling away and I stopped, yelled, "I am turning around" and did an about face to go back up the hill. I was a big falling apart mess and not my proudest moment. I couldn't handle my emotions well for some reason and I really appreciated that Nathan was so comforting and Brett was so understanding. We all have bad runs, I just need to not fall apart when they happen. I think sometimes I put too much pressure on myself to keep up or run well when I am with others. Having a crap run by yourself is one thing, no one is effected by it, but when you are with others, its harder not to be hard on yourself. At least for me. I am working on it. This was a lesson that I am not quite there yet. I am not sure where along the line I picked up this response (it never happens in a race or when I run by myself) but I am certainly not enthused by it. But like I said, I am working on it.

After splitting up with the boys, I kept climbing up to the summit of Mt. Diablo, cashed in 3500 feet and then got to descend for what seemed like eternity. When I got back to the car I was completely wiped out. I drank a half serving of Ultragen with coconut water, changed my clothes and pretty much passed out in the back seat. Or at least I wished I was. When the guys got back, I was bonking pretty bad and spent the majority of the car ride back loopy to do much more than stare out the window. Yes, I pretty much had a very winning day all around. At least, the day passed and I was still alive (it was after all the rapture) and could try again in the morning.

I still had managed to cover 15+ miles with 3500 feet of climbing in what seemed to be a very long time. And I ran into lots and lots of snakes.

Sunday:

Happy face. And another sweet new pair of Rudy Projects.

I was a bit nervous for my run on Sunday but decided to be more resolute about accepting whatever I felt and whatever came up. I knew Nathan was going to do about 20 miles, so I aimed for a 15 mile loop out of Mountain Home Inn where we parked the car. It was a cool morning as we set off up Mt. Tam. I pretty much said, "see ya, have a good run" to Nathan before we left the parking lot, thinking he might want to take it out hard. Instead he said he'd like to run together for a while, so I figured I would just settle into whatever pace felt good and say goodbye whenever he was ready to take off. Since we had run counter-clockwise on Tam on Friday, we headed clockwise up Matt Davis which is very runnable and only a slight uphill. 

I felt like a completely different person. I had energy, I had spring in my step, I had speed and no soreness. I glided along the trail and threw down a pretty fast start. We made it to the climb that goes 1 mile up to Rock Springs. Before we had started running, I had set a goal to run up this trail from bottom to top. I usually don't make it all the way up. But I did it. I got to the top and exclaimed, "yeah I made my goal". I was feeling good and Nathan suggested I continue on a bit farther with him instead of taking my turn onto Ben Stein. I figured I was feeling good and a few extra miles would be fun. I knew I would NOT be going the full distance with him since I had no desire to drop down cataract only to turn right around and do the steep climb back up to Northside. We jammed along and finally I took my turn up High Marsh trail which I had only been on once before and started flying along, really feeling good. 
 Goldilocks and the good view.
I really liked High Marsh trail and I managed to find my way back over to the Northside trail which is one of my absolute favorites on Mt. Tam. No mountainbikes are allowed and it is not near any parking or close trailhead, so it tends to be pretty empty. I zoomed along, rocking out to my music and picked up speed with the sun shining down on me. I had a geeky smile on my face I am sure. I hit popped onto the fireroads and flew back to the car, passing other runners and taking the time to make huge two foot leaping jumps into puddles along the way. It was refreshing. I just played and laughed and had fun. I let go of the previous day and remembered that this kind of moment was what I do what I do for. Its not about how fast or far its about how fun and beautiful. I definitely was having fun. I just kept picking up speed and came squealing in on two wheels back into the parking lot; 18.5 miles in 2:30 with 2,000 feet of ascent. It was awesome.


Speed on the High Marsh Trail

Since the craziness of races, work and sleeping at altitude began at the beginning of April, I have been doing my best to navigate all the things that have come up. Some days I am outrageously successful, some days there is much room for improvement. I am feeling, ultimately, that I have come out the other side in one piece and with the wheels still on. I am looking now towards the beginnings of training (transitioning back to real structured training-slowly!), a fun month of pacing gigs and many more great days out on the trails doing what I love to do.

Invincible


Sometimes I mistakenly think I am invincible. My muscles recover pretty quickly from hard runs, even runs I feel that I am completely under prepared for or extremely taxing and I usually feel ready to run within a few days. 

April's "triple crown" of achieving my Olympic Trials Qualifier, winning the 100k National Championship and setting a CR & PR, and then 9 days later setting the FKT with Krissy at the R2R2R show my capacity to recover quickly and be ready to roll. My crazy race month in April was not by design, in fact, the only thing I had planned (at the beginning of the year) to run in April was R2R2R. LA came about after I didn't make the standard at Houston in January and Mad City came about because of the discovery that my spot on the 100k National Team was tenuous at best (as one of my 'A' goals for the year was competing at worlds). I knew as these plans all manifested themselves that I would be extremely lucky to get through all of these events unscathed. I told myself that I would focus on recovery, recovery, recovery. After LA, I did a good job basking in my success but was also able to put in some good 70-80 mile weeks between it and Mad City. After Mad City, I barely had time to land on the ground and repack my bag before I was off to Utah/Arizona for R2R2R. I don't think I even celebrated that victory as much as I should. My "recovery" was non-existent for the most part as between Mad City and R2R2R I traveled, worked my busiest week yet as a chef, slept at an even higher altitude and ran about 30 miles for the week. I was very tired for R2R2R and even more tired after the 42 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing. However, by the time I got back to SF, after a good massage and a few easy miles with friends, I was feeling much better. I even managed a fast 14 mile run on Saturday (the 4th day after R2R2R) with Nathan before heading up to Bodega Bay for some family time. I ran 70+ total miles for the week and tried to get back into recovery mentality. It was essential I do as I asked a great deal of my body in April and before I can even stop to take a breathe, I am on my way to my next race, leaving on Sunday for Australia and the North Face 100k which is on May 14th. 


I say I tried to get back into recovery mentality because for some reason last week, I had a hard time pushing out the "I should be training" mentality. Because of all the racing, I don't feel like I've been doing a whole lot of running or had a whole bunch of feel good time in my body and for some reason, I figured a good week of training would be the cure for that. Why I thought this is beyond me. I didn't go too crazy, but planned a good 90-95 miles for myself for the week. Tuesday and Wednesday were pretty light, Thursday was our normal morning ninja run and Friday I did a double plus a gym workout= 19 miles and 1 hour of weights. So by the time I woke up on Saturday, I was worked. I was ready to go back to bed before I even got out of it. My body didn't hurt (except my hamstrings from the previous days squats) but I was all over tired.

Look a bobcat. 
Or in my case, oh look, an excuse to stop while going up a steep hill!

I planned to get out with Nathan and run with him for the first 7-10, then continue on my own for a total of 25 miles. I thought I'd get a good 45 mile weekend in and that would give me a little confidence booster for NF100k (i.e. trail time confidence). The majority of the first few miles went like this: we run, we get to a hill, I start walking, very slowly and wishing I were dead. 

Nathan and I started discussing just exactly what I was playing at with the my training schedule for this week (my coach has this time unstructured as I should be chilling out not training per se). I came to the obvious conclusion ultimately that I am way too hard on myself and just because my muscles/bones feel good doesn't mean that I can just jump back on the horse and keep going full throttle. This past month has been super taxing. This past month has been super amazing and rich and full of things to celebrate. And I should celebrate them and praise myself, not push myself until I do break. I have been very lucky to make it through the past month healthy and that is something I definitely need to be mindful of. 

Needlesstosay, I decided to cut my run short. And it sucked, most of the way. I was not my best runner ever, I was tired worn out Devon (hence the death becomes her photos). I just need to cut myself a break which I use to be good at doing but haven't done in a while. I cut my run short on Saturday and changed my run plan for Sunday. I ate a half of my favorite kind of gluten free carrot cupcake to celebrate all I've accomplished (I usually don't have them except after particularly hard long run efforts or races & hadn't had one since last summer!). I refocused my energy on recovering. I am in recovery. I should be. I need to be.

When it comes down to it, the only way I can make it through my next challenge (NF100k) is not by training more but by maximizing how recovered I can get. I need to fuel myself, repair my body and rest, rest, rest. I am such a big proponent of rest (I take off one day a week) that it is funny to me how hard I find it to really rest or chill out sometimes. Ultimately, the changes I made in the weekend's run plans made the week an ideal maintenance week for me- about 80 miles. My run on Sunday was fast and felt really good, so I know that I am not too far gone. But Saturday's run reminded me not to push myself too far.

I know I am not invincible. I never intended to have the month that I have had. I don't want to become one of those people that gets sucked into chasing that high or racing too much. Instead, I want to be the type of person who cuts myself a break, rewards my good work and doesn't engage in self-defeating behavior or thought processes. I cannot continue to be the runner I am if I blindly press forward in haste, instead I must be patient, I must take a step back and I must take time to celebrate my accomplishments/ give myself credit for all I do. I think I am on the right track.

One of the things I do while resting? Make Fast Foodie Tshirts of course! Get yours here!

Boundaries

Road trip, South Africa 2003. Going outside of my boundaries and outside of myself.

When I was little, I loved to be outdoors much like I do now. My sister and I spent a lot of time playing, running, riding, swinging and exploring on Capitol Hill where we grew up. In order to keep us safe, my mom gave us boundaries. These boundaries were physical locations, streets that we could not cross, but we were free to roam about within those bounds. They changed the older we got but I found that even when I earned another street or my territory expanded, my go-to locations stayed the same and I found a great deal of comfort in routine. When I deviated, I always felt like a rebel, even if I was still within those boundaries and no rules were being broken.

As I grew up, I didn't realize it but I internalized this framework. I developed boundaries for myself, safe routes, territory in which I was comfortable in. In high school, the boundaries were distance and the territory large, so I never really even noticed them. But looking back now, I can see them. Looking through all of my journeys and all of the places I have lived, I see now that it has been part of my strategy, part of how I frame a place, it is an instant framework that I setup whenever I arrive in a new location. 

Examining it now, I can clearly see this play out. I have somehow managed to be bold and adventurous but at the same time somehow managed to instill boundaries wherever I land. It has been an amazing coping mechanism to get myself oriented and settled wherever I have gone. I can be very spontaneous yes, but subconsciously, I think I am more a creature of habit than I ever real imagined. I can remember living in South Africa and a few of us deciding to go on a road trip to 4 different countries. We had a rental van and a map and I remember being reluctant to go because we had no plan, we had no route, we had no boundaries. I went and it was one of the best times of my life, but I can see now how my subconscious is ordered when it comes to adventure and spontaneity.  

Nothing better in life than exploring new routes and trails with friends.

Looking back it is amazingly evident to me, though I never really thought about it. When I lived in Fresno, South Africa, Pittsburgh, London, Atlanta and when I first moved to San Francisco, my first order of business was develop standard routes to the places I needed to go. I always felt better once I knew exactly how to get to the grocery store or pharmacy or my favorite place to eat. In running it seems even more evident. I am a route girl. I find a route and I set my boundaries and I develop permutations of the route to suit my distance needs. Deviating from those routes always makes me feel like I am on an adventure or being a rebel even if I am not one. 

It is very easy for me to become a creature of habit. I come by that honestly. When a lot of things in life are up in the air and I feel like I am really going outside of myself to do something hard and new and different (starting my own business and writing a cookbook), familiarity is my equilibrium. The boundaries give me comfort. Or so says my subconscious. A few days ago, I set out for a run and realized that perhaps the boundaries, the routes I was limiting myself to were not in fact comforting me, but deadening my senses, allowing me to check out and zone out instead of being present. Its almost like I was sitting in front of the tv, shutting my mind down and allowing myself mindless time. And not in a good way. On that run, I decided to run a new route, I decided to be different. I didn't have a specific workout or speed to go at, so I was free to just explore. It was amazingly refreshing to come to a fork in the road and decide which way to go. I was present in the moment instead of somewhere else or nowhere at all. There is a time and place for routes but I realized that I need to be conscious of how I balance the two things. I think they have gotten out of balance more since I have been training for fast road marathons since the focus is more on paces, splits and miles than when I trail run. I have *less* of this problem when I am out on the trails though I see its presence too. I finished up my run and though it was not remarkable in any way, it felt liberating. Variety is the spice of life and I realize that I need to check myself and keep in balance. Boundaries are not inherently bad, but you have to find a healthy equilibrium between staying within them and pushing past them.

It's really hard to take a picture of yourself splayed out on the ground post long run.

This week I have also been wrestling with boundaries in my training. I am tired. As I mentioned last week, I have been pushing myself really hard and burning very close to the edge. I realized that I had never really stopped pushing the training since December when I started training for Houston. I haven't really taken a step back since then. I raced Houston, took a token light week and was back to it. In my head, I compartmentalized my training for Houston and for LA and didn't see the big picture. The big picture being that I have run well over 90 miles a week with 3 hard workouts a week continually for nearly 3 months. Leading up to Houston, the cycle was so short I never did a cutback week, there was never time. I was doing the same for LA. The only cutback weeks were the taper for Houston, and week following Houston. Not much of a cutback to race a marathon in 2:50. No wonder this week I felt like I just needed to not press into the 100 mile range. I needed to respect my own personal boundaries or likely I would fall to pieces before I was even to the start line. 

Yesterday, though it was not easy for me to convince myself to do so, I decided to take it really easy.  It became a relative rest day, running only once in the morning with Nathan who is tapering for tomorrow's Napa Valley Marathon. I knew I had a long run planned for today but it still took me nearly two full hours in the afternoon to talk myself out of a second run and I even had to text my sister to tell me not to run. My body was spent, my mind reluctant and my glute/hip thing was not happy. Hello, obvious much! I decided to opt for an ice bath and a concurrent cocktail instead. I have been living an austere yet strict life for the better part of  3 months trying to achieve my goals and really, sometimes you absolutely need to remind yourself that life is too short to be so serious and that being constantly rigid will drive you mad (and make you wander around in your running clothes for 2 hours while anxiously trying to decide if you should run or not).  Respecting your physical and mental boundaries in training is essential and as I sat there in my ice bath, sipping a cocktail, I realized I was doing way more for my training by NOT running, by not being rigid and ridiculous, by not pushing myself too hard and by not giving into neurotic behaviour. 

When I woke up this morning, I was ready to run. I felt refreshed, my leg wasn't bothering me and I was ready to push hard in my 2 hour long run. Since I hadn't been able to do my tempo run during the week, I decided to incorporate some hard tempo intervals into my long run. While last week, I worked on relaxing and not forcing myself to run every long run at or near marathon pace, this week I decided to really push my limits and push outside my boundaries. It was a perfect morning, shorts and t-shirt weather. Sunny and pretty still. I did an out and back into Sausalito. I hit around 6:30 pace to warm-up then once on the bridge started doing 2 mile repeats at 6 min/mile pace or faster with 1 mile recovery at long run pace (between 6:30-7:30). It was hard but it was awesome. There were moments when I just wanted to stop during the intervals and instead, I pushed harder, found the next gear. I went outside of myself and dug deep. I didn't limit myself, I just pushed and burned. My 4th and final interval, nearly 15 miles into my run I was able to clock back to back 5:50s. It felt really really good. 

In the end, I realize that boundaries can mean a lot of things and can exist concurrently. They can provide comfort and security, they can provide a way to navigate the world. They can be limiting or protecting. They can be respected and broken. And they can be all of these things all at once, existing in perfect harmony and balance, if we let it.

Confessions of a red-liner

I definitely don't have this kind of muscle tension right now.

I was going to entitle this post "recovery and adaptation" but that's boring and I don't want to start entitling my posts all with "this AND that". Plus, this title is much clearer: I have become a red-liner. What I mean is, I have been pushing myself to the brink and dancing on the edge of a very sharp sword for sometime. I think the only reason I don't go over is because I have a coach and his workouts kick my butt so hard I have to be judicious about my second runs and recovery miles. Since December, I have been running both faster (in my hard workouts) and slower (in my recovery runs). But oh whee, I have been burning since I started training for Houston. I feel strong, I feel fast, I feel light, I feel tired. My workouts are great, but the day after a hard workout I can definitely tell that I am dragging more than I like. As I mentioned in Friday's post, I did not wake up that morning feeling motivated. I listened to my body and ultimately it paid off with an awesome tempo run.

Yesterday, I woke up and again was not jumping out of bed, rearing to go. I only had recovery miles planned, so after a bit of lingering under the covers (it was cold out!) and a cup of coffee, the Baker and I headed out for a nice easy recovery run. I had all sorts of sore spots and various muscle aches but the miles generally felt good. I think my legs were more sore this week because I didn't have my usual Monday massage with Scott. No good! I need my weekly torture session! We had a lovely run, came home and enjoyed more coffee, oats and got ourselves sorted to enjoy the day. I planned to go out for another session in the evening while the Baker made dinner to get in some more mileage for the week.

It has been an interesting transition from ultrarunning to marathoning again when it comes to the weekends. No back to back 4 hour runs deep in the wilderness or in the Headlands. No hour of driving to get to the run. Only one long hard run per weekend. Since both the Baker and I are training for marathons right now (and he is in taper for Napa Valley) we suddenly have all this spare time on the weekend. It is freaking awesome! On Friday, I had suggested we hit up the Ferry Building farmers market, we both adore the market and seldom go because of the aforementioned ultrarunning reasons. But yesterday, we were determined.

Usually when we go to the market, we want to get there super early to beat the crowds of people. However, yesterday we banked on the predicted rain (or snow) and cold temperatures to keep the crowds at bay and made our way over there around 10:30.  I love the farmer's market!




We had decided to keep ourselves on a budget of $20 each so that we didn't go crazy over every delicious looking goodie at the market. It's a good thing too because I could have easily bought $20 worth of brussels sprouts alone. The Baker knows a lot of folks at the market including the one with the best kept "secret" there: Marianne Wiener, baker and owner of Anna's Daughters' Rye Bread. While everyone else is lining up for Roli Roti (which is amazing) or Blue Bottle Coffee (also amazing), Marianne is serving up the best cup of hot cocoa you have ever tasted. Seriously. I have tasted the sweet pure decadence and it is rich, creamy, chocolately but perfectly balanced. It took everything in my power to say no to a cup (since I am not doing dairy anymore or sugar right now).




Topped with a dollop of freshly made whipped cream, ah, heaven. One cup leaves you perfectly satisfied. Marianne is super sweet and we could have stayed there all day talking to her. Her rye bread is off the charts I hear, as well. However, we couldn't linger too long, we had an inspired lunch to make. As we wandered around the market, we each picked ingredients that caught our attention and slowly built a plan for a market inspired lunch. We grabbed Harissa spices, king trumpet mushrooms, spring onions, a mega bunch of kale, brussel sprouts and some lovely tulips.



We headed home a whipped up a spring onion scramble with Hungarian sausage and kale on the side. We wrapped it all up in some warm corn tortillas and it was simple bliss. I had fun taking pictures in the good afternoon light streaming through the kitchen window. So much for the predicted snowy dreary day!



It was an all around great day. I truly enjoyed the luxury of having run 7 miles before breakfast and having the entire day to interact with the world and do some of my favorite things! As the afternoon crept on, I started to think about that second run I had planned. I hadn't gotten more into the idea over the course of the day (I hadn't really thought about it at all), I actually had a bit of trepidation. My legs were feeling pretty sore and dead. I just couldn't get into the idea of running any more miles at any speed. But I also felt guilty. I felt like *should* (bad word I know) do more miles, after all, this was a peak week for me for the LA Marathon on March 20th. I wanted to get over 100 miles for the week and if I didn't run again, even with today's long run, I wouldn't make it. Then I had one of those, hello don't be an idiot moments. I realized that I was being ridiculous, really freaking ridiculous and dangerously stupid. I had arbitrarily decided at some point that my peak road weeks would be over 100 miles (and peak ultra/trail weeks over 140) even with a complete day off from running. 100 miles of road training a week is brutal and I have been doing it hard since I started my training for Houston in December. I did 414 miles in December, 403 in January and only 3 weeks this year have been under 90 miles, which were the two weeks before Houston and one week after. I know better. I just didn't realize that I wasn't taking the whole picture into consideration. The way I was looking at it was Houston through LA training standing alone, as opposed to my training leading up to Houston and continuing towards LA as one. That kind of longer push deserves more cut back weeks. In my head I somehow considered race week and the week after Houston as cutback weeks even though that definitely isn't the case. I can't count a hard marathon effort and a taxing experience as a cutback week even if the mileage number says it is so. Duh Devon.

Needlesstosay, I didn't run again yesterday. I took an ice bath instead to increase the muscle tension in my legs for today's long run. I may take a while to figure out the obvious but I definitely don't think twice when I do. I also realized in my contemplation of how hard I have been working that I have been running my long runs potentially too fast. I don't need to try and do every workout at marathon pace or have that be my goal. When I set out today, I first consulted my training paces and aimed to be in the mid to slower end of the 6:37-7:37 range that is ideal for my marathon goal. I planned to do a fast finish and ultimately had an excellent workout. I worked really hard and had a great week without being needlessly overzealous about mileage. It was a good week and I was able to pull myself back from a pattern of potentially harmful behavior and see the bigger picture. Ok, time to get out of the confessional and help with dinner.

I leave you with Scream Sorbet at the farmer's market. Non-dairy ice cream (macadamia vanilla pictured) because everyone needs more ice cream (or similar) in their lives and an exception to the rules every now and again.