Frenetic Fitness

fre·net·ic /frəˈnetɪk/ done very fast and with a lot of energy, often by someone who is in a hurry.

Archive for the category “Trail Running”

Grounded

I’m sitting in the lobby of an Asheville hotel in the middle of the afternoon sipping red wine that’s been chilled a little too long out of a coffee mug so as not to alarm the hotel staff. The small one is upstairs in our room taking a nap. She was up late last night, spending a good part of it watching the birth of a litter of 11 piglets. How did it come to this?

A couple of years back our family chose Asheville, North Carolina as a vacation destination hoping to take advantage of the hiking and mountain biking opportunities. At the time, the young one was just beginning high school and we took a couple of hours to check out the local college campus to continue giving her ideas about what options she should be looking for in a college home. She didn’t fall in love or even in like with the  UNC-Asheville branch, but she did fall in love with Asheville. A year ago we happened to invite a friend of mine along for a trip to a music festival. The subject of college came up and my friend asked if we had heard of Warren Wilson College near Asheville. I didn’t give it much more thought but the small one started researching and soon, we had a request from her to make a visit back to Asheville in the autumn so she could see the campus in person. Long story short, we’re back in Asheville for our 3rd visit because in 143 days, we will be returning with the small one and her luggage to help her start the next phase of her life, making a home and getting an education in one of the most beautiful settings in the south.

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We’re back for a second visit to the school now that they have committed to each other. While she was hanging out, making a few new friends and learning a little more about her future home, I took to the trails. With 25 miles of trail around the 900 acre campus, I had plenty to choose from. I thought I’d go for a run. I felt like I should run. I needed to run. But as my shoes hit the dirt I realized that my head and/or my heart was not in it. My thoughts were racing and I suppose my heart was much heavier than my feet. I found myself watching the flow of the Swannanoa River beside me, trying to find the peace that should be there.

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Isn’t that why I love being outside? Normally, that’s where I find my peace. I watched my feet on the dirt and I had to wonder if she would be here in my steps a few months from now, searching for that peace. When classes are overwhelming, when there are roommate issues, when there is boy trouble,  when her heart feels like mine does right now, will she ground herself in this beautiful creation and find what I have often found there? Will she quench her thirst at the spring of mother nature?

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I hope she does. I dream she does. And that hope lightens my load. So I start running…

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When Nature Calls

I spend a lot of time outside. I spend a lot of time outside in remote areas. I have a small bladder. See where I’m going with this? I’m not known for mincing my words so let’s just say that in my circle of friends, peeing in the woods is a common topic of conversation.

As I was inspecting the offerings of a local outdoor outfitter at a canoe club weekend last year, I came across an intriguing box with pictures of women doing fun outdoor things.

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“When nature calls, the answer is Freshette.”

Wha the Wha? Heavens to Murgatroyd, this is what has been missing from my outdoor gear box.

The first time the Freshette came out was at a 100 mile trail run aid station. Don’t think for one second that every single woman at that aid station was not intrigued. Miles and miles of bumpy gravel road lay between us and anything  remotely resembling a bathroom. Most of us knew we would be hanging around this station or one like it for hours. And hours. And it would soon be dark and no one wants to risk tripping on a limb, falling into sticker bushes or rubbing their bare lady parts all over some poison ivy while trying to find a discreet spot to pee. Men don’t typically worry about this stuff. They walk over to a wooded area, turn their backs to the audience and go. If only it were that simple for us. But wait, now it is! Or at least almost as simple. The Freshette has a collapsible spigot that comes with the funnel cup. So ladies,  all you have to do is get the cup placed properly, placement is important and you might want to practice a few times before you try leaving your pants up to do it, extend the spigot and aim. If you’re wearing spandex or loose pants you can do this with a minimum of fuss, no need to go pants around ankles anymore! No more risk of mooning someone coming down the trail because they didn’t know you needed a little privacy. Great for camping, long car trips in rural areas, backpacking, distance runners, paddlers or anyone who can’t do a marathon without stopping at every porta-john.

Instructions, right on the bag.

Instructions, right on the bag.

If there’s a woman in your life who likes to play outside, this is a great stocking stuffer or  “bonus” gift. Buying her a new canoe or kayak? Add a Freshette for those long paddles. Buying her a new mountain bike? Get her a Freshette for those all day rides. Buying her a new backpack? You know the drill. Of course I shouldn’t be all like, “man, when you buy your woman a lil sumpin sumpin…”  Ladies, do yourself a favor and get one of these. You’ll be glad you did, so will the hem of your pants, your socks, and your shoes.

The Freshette comes with an opaque bag so you can conceal it in your pack or gear bag but at this point, are you really concerned that anyone knows you have a pee funnel? So far everyone who knows I have one has asked if I’d recommend it. Yes I would. No one has asked to try mine out. Thank goodness for small favors.

Wordless Wednesday

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Oh my god it’s squirting all over me!

In the midst of a run things are said, that if taken as a sound bite, are funnier than hearing them in context. As my sweet friend Katy and I listened to the thick mud suck at our shoes like a junior high boy who still hasn’t figured out that whole kissing thing, “oh my god it’s squirting all over me!” was a perfectly reasonable exclamation.

Shoe Sucking Mud

Shoe Sucking Mud

I had a chance to participate in another inaugural run this past weekend, The Fit4Life Village Creek State Park 10K/25K Trail Run. I love that clubs and companies are filling in the usual lull in winter races with great events. It was a cool, but thankfully not cold, damp morning at Village Creek State Park in Wynne, Arkansas. The biting wind was making it a bit worse but considering temperatures had dipped into single digits the previous week, the weather was cooperating. If only it hadn’t been raining for four days! I think everyone was prepared for a little mud, but a little mud was not what they got, there was a lot of mud: trail disguised as big, wide, long, open fields of mud and ankle to calf deep creeks that in summer would be hard packed double track. I LOVED it. I admit it, I’m a dirty girl. I love mud runs and never hesitate to run straight into water barriers that others might term “cesspools”.

Cesspool of Joy

Cesspool of Joy

Fulfilling my desire to continue running with friends who keep things interesting and fun, I was lucky that another dirty girl had chosen to get up long before the sun for the drive from Little Rock. I clung to her like I was the new kid at school and she dared to make eye contact with me. Despite her protestations that she was “too slow” for me and warning that she was a cranky pants, I was staying with her. This girl doesn’t know from cranky pants. Six morning miles in a little mud is nothing. So we plodded our way in the mud, sometimes if she slowed, I stomped in puddles and glissaded the mud down steep inclines, daring my balance to fail and face plant me in the muck. Didn’t happen. We talked about our mutual friends which could be construed as gossip but I like to think of it as “discussing their life situations and deciding if/when intervention is necessary.” Really, we talk out of concern for those we care most about. Those we want to rag on, we do it to their face.

Dirty Girls

Dirty Girls

We finished in due time, muddy, a little sweaty and ready to cheer for our friends who had run the full 25K. I even waited about an hour before I cleaned up. I’m that girl, the one who walks around wearing her mud splattered clothes and shoes that have enough dirt to plant a small garden on them. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

The Cost of Procrastination

The day before registration was slated to open for the Sylamore 50K trail run,  I saw a facebook post that anyone interested should be at the ready with their paypal account signed on at least 5 minutes before sign up was scheduled to start.  The race sold out in a matter of hours last year. So about 15 minutes after online sign ups started, I was sitting out on my in laws deck, relaxing in the sunshine instead of sitting at the computer.

When I went to register at 20 minutes after opening, I couldn’t get in. The race sold out in less than 30 minutes. Ugh. I’ve heard such great things about this race, from the great atmosphere to the toughness of the course to the unpredictable weather which in February could be ice and snow or cold rain or if you hate cold weather and you’re lucky, it could be warm enough to wear shorts. You just never know. The thing that doesn’t change is the rugged course, on trails rife with rocks, stream crossings and other challenges.

I’m not even sure why I was considering it. I am having difficulty finding the time to train as it is and have my first road marathon scheduled for the end of December with a second one slated for March and now a repeat of the Ouachita Trail 50K in April. Do I honestly believe that running that kind of distance once a month for 4 months is a good idea?  Of course I do.

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The Ick Factor of an Active Lifestyle

Mid-day today my sweet husband picked up my headlamp from last night’s run, crinkled his nose and said “Eww, this is still wet.” That’s okay because I’m the one who launders his stinky sweaty bike shorts. Seriously, wet chamois beats wet headlamp band in ick factor, hands down.

This life we lead can be a little gross. In the past 39 hours, because I couldn’t go 40 even if it would have made a better story, I have spent 22 hours outside in the Arkansas heat and humidity. In that 22 hours I biked 15 slow miles leading a beginner training ride then treating myself to a trip to the farmers market for the last of the summer’s blueberries by wheel power. We packed and loaded overnight gear into the Arkansas Outside Mobile Office, traveled down the way to our campsite for the night and set up in a light drizzle. We waited and chatted and caught up with friends we may not have seen since the last long trail run event waiting for the gun to start the Full mOOn 25K/50K run. I opted for the 25, let’s face it, I don’t train distance runs enough to pull of another 50 right now. After running that 15—- miles in the heat, with the humidity from the afternoon rain still hanging in the air like a moist towelette, almost refreshing but not quite doing the trick, I stayed out at the finish line for another 4 hours to cheer in more runners and friends. There was music, and beer. There were hot dogs and fun size candy bars. There was a spontaneous yoga class and a dance party. Because even after running 16 or 32 miles, these folks know how to have a good time. Which is why we love them and why we put up with their stench. Now some of these stinky folk were nice enough to use the showers available back in the campground to rinse the smell of hard work off their bodies. Some, like myself, chose to embrace the funk and let it linger. As the morning hours continued to tick away it seemed a good idea to stay up to watch the sunrise. At this point I was close to 35 hours into my experiment with ick tolerance. And because my aforementioned sweet husband had been out on the run course photographing these foul smelling, often scantily clad-don’t get chest hair on my chilidog you jerk- runners too, it was a collaborative experiment. Having ridden his bike for 25 miles in the morning, his olfactory presence was almost as good as mine. As long as it’s both of us, it’s okay. Finally I crawl into my hammock and let the man stew in his own cloud inside the tent. Not because I could smell him, but he was so wiped out the snoring was way worse than any smell could be.

There was much discussion after the race about the things we do to our bodies in order to do the things we want to do. There are the missing toenails. Every distance runner loses a toenail at some point. I have one that I lose sometimes twice a year. This is gross. It comes back thicker each time. Eventually it will match the toenail my husband has that we affectionately refer to as “shark toe”. Luckily, shark toe’s presence in our lives prevents my man from being grossed out by my missing nails.

Shark Toe's Mate

The offending toenail post Ouachita 50K Trail Run

Then there’s the chaffing. Prevention is key but it’s a hard thing to remember. Sometimes you don’t even know the places to try to protect. I wore a shirt on the Full mOOn 25K run that I’ve worn several times without issue but this time, I got a nasty chafe burn inside my upper arm. And there’s the boob chaffing. And the worst: the diaper rash chafe. No one wants the butt crack rash. I suppose it’s lucky that millions, possibly billions of dollars are spent on prevention an treatment of butt crack rash so product availability is high. You just don’t think you’re going to have to buy it for yourself.

Chaffing Prevention

Chaffing Prevention

Within 30 minutes of breaking camp I received a text photo of a tube of Boudreaux’s Butt Paste from a sweet friend who did her first official 25K race AND got a nasty butt crack rash as a reward. When choosing an outdoor lifestyle leads you to days of wallowing in your own funk, losing toenails, needing industrial strength deodorant that contains compounds no longer legal in any country other than a few in East Asia, stuffing your running shoes with sachets of baking soda, and to purchasing vats of diaper rash cream when you have no babies, you know your tolerance for ick is just where it needs to be.

Wordless Wednesday

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Runners and Joggers and Bears, Oh My!

During the Catsmacker/ Kitty Fun Run on Saturday I stopped to take a quick shot of this:

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And Monday morning, a blogger I follow posts this photo on her facebook page:

Bear

Coincidence?

Crossfit and Cheesecake

Trying to finish with a smile

Trying to finish with a smile

The night before what could have been my second 50K trail run, a running acquaintance asked me “so how’ve you been training for this one?”
“Well, I’ve been doing Crossfit, some cycling, a few Cardio Sculpt type classes and I ate a big hunk of cheesecake on my birthday earlier this week.”
This comment was met with a blank stare.
What do you mean that’s not a very good training plan for a long distance trail run? I mean, last minute training  always works in the movies.

I admit, I was woefully unprepared for 30 miles of trail. I knew it going in but I thought if I just took it easy and did a lot of run/speed hike intervals, I’d be fine since the time limit was 8 hours. But there were things I did not count on:

1. Dinner the night before.

I ordered the butternut squash enchiladas, which seemed like a somewhat safe choice. I was wrong. About 5 hours after said meal, I got the butternuts. In the morning I tried to eat my usual oatmeal and chewed a tums. I got to the first checkpoint and asked for tums. They didn’t have any. Luckily even though I’d forgotten to put them in my pack, my husband happened to be at CP1 and had tums! Yea for a man with acid reflux so bad he carries antacids in his car.

2. Rain

Not just rain, an overnight pounding with lightning, wind and lots of rain. Flood warning rain. It was still raining at start time but a half hour delay let the lightning fritter away except for a couple of errant flashes. I was soaked from step one. I thought I was prepared for it, only wearing clothes that had been race tested before. But this was truly the wettest run I’d been on in recent memory. Perhaps ever. I don’t know. All I know is, I was wet and there was chafing and I felt heat on the toenail that had come off in the 50K five weeks ago. All this by mile 5. This does not bode well.

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3. Buddies

I couldn’t help but think of my friend Ashley and her disastrous OT50 attempt. I struggled with the guilt of leaving her to run my own race then and wondered what would have happened if I had stayed with her. I was all on my own for this one. I suppose I could have tried to find a partner but my pace wasn’t matching up with anyone else out there, at least no one I knew since that would have been like 3 people out of more than 200. It’s lonely out there with the rain and wind in your face and blisters on your toe and chafing boobs.

At mile 9 I came to the check point where I had to choose to continue on the 50K route or drop to 25. I was not feeling awful at this point, just a few small nagging things that were probably not going to get better, like the hot spot on my toe and the chaffing boobage. My time was still on target to easily make the 50k cut off but, I wouldn’t be able to slow down too much if I wanted to finish with any time to spare much less energy for anything else that day. I made the call. I dropped. And about 2 miles after that, my knees started hurting like they hadn’t since a training run more than 2 months ago. I think the wet shoes and socks were allowing my feet to move and shift inside my shoes which was causing the knees to go. I should have stopped, sat down and retied my shoes but in my head, I was thinking I was already behind by keeping a slower pace on the front end of what was now a much shorter run, I should just go. So the other thing I wasn’t counting on?

4. My own stubborn stupidity

If it hurts and you think there’s a solution, stop. Because that little thing can turn into a big thing. The pain was so bad that the last 3 miles were mostly walking. Boy, talk about a finish time killer. I had to crab walk down the last steep decline where normally a good downhill is where I let myself go and take all the speed gravity will give me.

I knew as I was finishing that in spite of being ill prepared, knowing that my knees were on fire but I wouldn’t feel it at all within minutes of finishing, telling myself over and over that it was the right decision to drop, there would be a nag of regret. Running has to be a priority to be able to do events like this. It can’t just be something I do occasionally. I’ll just have to find more time in my week because I don’t think the crossfit and cheesecake training plan is ever going away completely.

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A little mud never hurt anyone

Thanks to the War Eagle Trail Running Festival for a great time in spite of the above list of whiny crybaby complaints. And thanks for the cool finisher medal. This one does not get tossed in a drawer.

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Thanks to Rush Running, the Friends of Hobbs group and the park staff at Hobbs State Park and Conservation Area. Your park rocks and rolls.

Back in the Game

I’ve been waffling on which, if any races I want to do this summer. Well this weekend I bit the bullet and registered for two trail runs. One is tomorrow and I had it on my list but was hesitant to register which I think was my way of also avoiding training. I signed up for another 50K trail run at the War Eagle Tail Twister. Without training. So this should be fun. Who waits till a week before a 50K to sign up? There is an 8 hour time limit and I may be right there pushing that limit but I want to give it a go. I haven’t been totally off my game since the OT50, but I’m sure a few runs >15 miles would be helpful going in to this. Of course, the stories are sometimes better when I’m stupid and attempt things I have no business doing. Watch for the report on this stupidity next week. The weather forecast is rain. Lots of it. Possible storms. My buddy Cliff just gave me another mantra to chant while I’m trying to keep forward momentum: “Rain, Shmain, Bring on the Pain”. I like it.20130421-152022.jpg

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