Monday, February 4, 2013

Two weeks of crazy

Jan 21 - Jan 27
6 runs
63 miles
17 mile long run

Jan 28 - Feb 3
5 runs
51 miles
20.5 mile long run

1800 miles of driving

As you can see from my log and summary stats, these last two weeks were not the greatest for a marathoner in training. This was a result of my work world colliding with my training world and a decision to try to save a puppy. However, there were some spectacular things that came out of it as well.

I hate missing a day of running, but sometimes the sched just doesn't allow. That's what happened on January 23rd. I spent the day in the field looking for shrimp in vernal pools. It was a great field day, but I had forgotten how tired I get at the end of the day after walking about 5-6 miles in rubber boots on uneven terrain, sweeping a net 5-10 times in each pool (I sampled 40 pools that day), and then doing what I am now referring to as shrimp squats. The basic move for shrimping is to sweep the net through the water for about one meter and then either squat down to see the contents with the net still in the water or bring the net up to your face to see the goofy little critters out of water, squirming around. I find it easier to identify them when they are swimming around in the water, so I was squatting down and holding that for about 30-60 seconds, at least 5 times per pool. Needless to say, my legs were fried at the end of the day and running a workout was not going to happen. I kicked myself for not getting up early to run, but it would have been VERY early to get to the field on time.

I did my 6 x 1 mile workout the next day, and it went fine. I was going to also do my strength training when it dawned on me that what I had done the day before out in the field was probably a better strength workout than anything I could try to replicate in the gym. Coach Hadley agreed with that. This led to a revelation: we go to the gym to strength train because our lives our so sedentary and our daily tasks so mechanized that we don't build strength in every day activities. Now that my job has become more physical, I have to be careful not to overdo it and adjust my training to accommodate this new level of activity. I am thrilled to be out in the field again--it makes me feel alive and excited about my job. It just means I'll be subbing shrimp squats and net pulls for my Spasov squats and lat pulls. Fine by me.

My long run Sunday was awesome. I felt super strong running marathon effort (6:15 pace) and am really starting to get my endurance back. I was also excited about heading up north near Yreka, CA to meet a new puppy that I was hoping to adopt. I have two dogs already: a 12-year-old girl named Sadie and a 2-year-old hound named Logan. Last week I found out that the shelter that Logan came from was being evicted on Feb 1 from the property they were leasing and all of the dogs would be going to shelters in the area, all of which had high kill rates. If there was ever a time for me to adopt another dog, this was it. I called the shelter owner and asked whether she had any young hound pups. She of course remembered Logan and said she had the perfect girlfriend for him: a 6-month-old coonhound-bloodhound mix. She sent pictures and my heart melted. She told me she hadn't posted her yet for adoption but that she'd hold her for me if I wanted to meet her.
You can see why I drove 300 miles to see her, right?

After my long run, I packed up some dog things and started my 5 to 6 hour drive north. I got in to Horse Creek, where the shelter is, at 8:00 and was introduced to Dusty Rose. She was a sweetheart for sure and we hit it off right away. I spent some quality time with her, paid the adoption fees and loaded her up for the long drive home. She was a great traveler. We got home at 2 a.m. and I was excited to see how my dogs would interact with her. I let the Ambassador of Goodwill, Logan, out into the garage to meet her. She ran over to him and they had about a two-second stiff-legged, nose-to-butt stand off before she started trying to attack him. He didn't fight back. I was shocked at this behavior. I was worried that the new girl would be afraid and would cower. It hadn't even dawned on me that she might be aggressive. I realized she was scared. I tried to calm her, but she would not relent. In a few short minutes, Logan was cowering at the garage door to get the hell back in the house. Poor guy.

I sat with the pup for a minute trying to figure out what to do next. I decided to try introducing the grouchy old girl that I knew could hold her own. Sadie came out into the garage and the puppy instantly started trying to bite her. Sadie just stood there and barked but did not engage. I let everyone settle down a little and tried a few more things before realizing that this wasn't going to work out. I felt so horrible for this poor puppy. It was clear that she had learned this behavior from having to hold her own in whatever awful living situation she had been in before she reached the shelter. Nonetheless, I could not jeopardize the safety of my animals by keeping her and I certainly didn't have the time or skills to train this out of her (if that was even possible).

I tried keeping her out back for the night, but of course she howled and barked. The only option was to return her to the shelter. So, I brewed some coffee and set out to take her back…at 4:00 a.m. I knew I would have to stop at some point along the way to sleep for an hour or so, and I found a rest stop about 2 hours into the drive where I could curl up on the dog bed in the back of my car and sleep. I was out for maybe 45 minutes and hit the road again.

I arrived in Yreka, CA around 9:00 a.m. and was finally able to get a hold of the shelter owner. She felt horrible about what had happened and said she would meet me at a rest stop off of I-5 so I wouldn't have to drive all the way to her place. I went to the rest stop and waited. I waited for 2.5 hours. She was not answering her phone. At this point, I was cranky. I had decided to wait to eat until I had dropped off the dog, so I was super hungry. She finally called me to tell me that she couldn't make it to the rest stop and that I would need to drive to her place to drop off Dusty Rose. I was so tired, so sad and so hungry. I just wanted this day to end.

I dropped off the pup and then started for home. I finally arrived home at around 7 p.m. There was no way I was going to run. I could barely keep my eyes open after 36 hours without sleep. I slept for 12 hours that night.

The next day, I was working from home and was thoroughly enjoying having a laid back day. Then, I got a call from a colleague in the late afternoon asking if I could head down to Santa Barbara that night (6-hour drive each way). One of my other colleagues was sick, and they needed me to fill in. Of course I would. I prepped for the field work, completed my run, and then headed out at around 8:00 p.m. I got in the next morning at 2 a.m. and then had to head to the job site at 7:30, saving my run for the evening. While I did get my run in, I was dead tired again. Thursday morning, I had to run before work since I would be driving back home after the day in the field. I was supposed to do a workout, but Coach Hadley warned me to be very careful about stressing my body any more than I had already this week. If I didn't feel good, I was not to attempt the workout. I didn't feel great, so I opted for strides instead.

I finally arrived home again at 11:30 p.m. (yep, that was a 16-hour work day) and was now very concerned about getting sick. The Genius had been sick with a horrible chest cold for over a week, and I had developed the tell-tale scratchy throat on Sunday. I was just waiting for the cold to hit. But it didn't.

The cold didn't take me out because I tried not to stress my body additionally with training, thanks to the advice from Coach Hadley. Each time I had a decision to make about my training, I made it thinking about whether it would be a good or bad stress for my body. I didn't run on Friday (after another day in the field sampling shrimp!) recognizing that I would be doing more harm than good. I also didn't do any strength work this week to reduce the stress.

What I was looking forward to all week was the Jed Smith Ultra Race Saturday here in Sacramento. A masters runner from Minnesota, Amy Halseth, had contacted me a couple of weeks back to ask if I would be willing to pace her in her first 50 mile race. She was trying to meet an ambitious time standard to qualify for the world ultra championships and needed pacers that could help her get there. I was thrilled that she reached out to me. What I didn't know was how far I would be running with her. The 50 mile course would be 10, 5-mile loops of a loop that I run often. I love that loop. I had a 10-mile run on my schedule for Saturday and a 17 mile run for Sunday. I decided to see how I felt in the morning and then decide which distance to run.

When I got to the start/finish area to meet Amy, I saw her Dad (had seen his picture on Facebook!) and introduced myself to him. He told me that Amy had just come through, like 2 minutes ago, and that she was way ahead of schedule. Oh my God! I had to try to catch her. I threw off my layers and took off after her. Without a warm up, I ran for 2 miles at 6:15-6:20 pace and never caught her! I decided to cut across the nearest bridge and backtrack on the course to find her. Again, I had seen her picture on Facebook so I knew what she looked like. I also knew she was the lead female!

I finally caught her and we introduced ourselves. Funny to meet for the first time in the middle of a 50-miler. She was cooking right along at around 7:00 pace and was able to carry on a great conversation. We talked and ran a couple more loops of the course and then it was time for me to turn it over to her husband for lap 9. But, I wanted to keep going! She told me that I was more than welcome to go another lap with her, but I knew she wanted to do the last on her own. We slowed a little in the 9th lap, but she was still strong. It was so exciting to hear the Garmin beep announcing another mile completed. We did a little celebration each time since it was a mileage PR for her. Her previous highest mileage run was 32 miles. I was so inspired running alongside Amy and watching her in this amazing performance. She ended up fishing in under 6 hours 20 minutes, was the first female and second runner overall. She also smashed the standard she was trying to meet of 6 hours and 40 minutes. I ended up running 20.5 miles and was excited about that too. What a great way to do a long run.

Amy and Jaymee ticking off another lap!
With the winner at the finish!
What's even better--I felt great after the run. I hadn't taken any gel and only two cups of water, so I think this one qualified as a serious depletion run. I knew that I had either doomed myself to catch the cold from hell or I would be miraculously cured. I woke up Sunday morning feeling awesome. My throat was no longer sore, my stuffy head was a little less stuffy, and I had enough energy to do house chores for about 5 hours and run.

In the past, when I felt like I was coming down with a cold, I would assess whether I should still run at all, just run easy, do strength work, etc. I had always followed the advice that a cold affecting me above the neck was safe to keep running through and anything with a fever or in the chest should be rested. Although I had just a head cold, I was conservative this time around and tried to keep the running stress to a minimum even though the life stress was maxed out. It worked.

I see runners all the time (and I've been there too!) who have these on-going sicknesses that seem to last for weeks, and they keep running their normal schedule. I've always wondered if continuing to run and train prolongs the sickness, and now I think I know. Interestingly, once The Genius decided to take some down time, his cold started to go away too. Sample size of 2.

This week, I am hoping to have a normal schedule so I can fit running and work in without stressing my body in a bad way. I had planned to run a race on Saturday, but Coach Hadley and I decided that I should try to get in a solid training week rather than taper for a race. So, back up to the high 70s with mileage and some fast 400 repeats tomorrow!  


  1. That was a dramatic couple of weeks! More driving than I do in a month. Sad about the dog - she looks such a cutie too. Anyway, nice way to finish with that dramatic and successful ultra pacing job. Hope the 400s went well!

  2. Drama indeed! It's also more driving than I do in a month, most months. The 400s were fun! (see next post).