The Achill Ultra race series on Achill Island in Ireland consisted of three events: a half marathon (13.1 miles), a full marathon (26.2 miles) and an ultra-marathon (a whopping 39.3 miles). There were just over 200 runners across all three races, making this a very personal affair. While most of the runners were Irish, we met folks from Ontario and New Jersey as well. And of course, we were in from New Hampshire. (more…)
Sometimes you don’t know what you need until you have it. Today is day 38 on the road, I’ve run 169 miles since we left, and my first treadmill run didn’t happen until yesterday. We were in Amarillo, TX, there were severe storms in the area and the only roads nearby were too busy to run. So I pumped out a sweaty, boring five miles on the treadmill in the cramped hotel gym. On the heels of my treadmill run, I thought it would be appropriate to give a shout out to the multi-use trails I grew accustomed to while we were out west.
I was lying in bed last night contemplating the start of October and thinking about an article I had just read. The article asked, “Why do you run? Every runner should know the answer to this question.” I thought about it for a minute, and my first answer was that running helped me lose 160 pounds and now it helps me keep from putting it back on. It also helps me to stay balanced (read: sane). Then I thought on it a little further. Running helps me test my limits, both physically and mentally. It helps me push myself further or faster than I thought I was capable, and this gives me courage. If I can push past things that I thought were limits on the road or trail, then I can do it anywhere.
There’s a lot of truth in this metaphor. I haven’t learned everything in life, but I’ve learned that many things that present themselves as barriers are false. (more…)
We’re down to the last month of training before our challenging series of fall races begins. Between mid-September and late October, we’ll each run four races ranging in length from 10K to half (me) or full (M) marathon. Our first fall event, Reach the Beach NH, kicks off in four weeks, and each of our big events takes place less than a month later. All of that means we’re in the thick of things when it comes to our training plans…and before yesterday we were in a rut, too. (more…)
As I wrote a few weeks ago, I am in the final weeks of training for my first half-marathon. I reworked my training plan before hitting the road to ensure I would be able to fit in both short and long runs in between our road travels. This week’s plan called for 15 miles, and I planned to pick up 2 in VA and 3 in TN before a long 10-miler when we reached my aunt’s house in Tampa. I researched running trails in her neighborhood and found a nature park with a 7-mile paved loop. The entrance appeared to be right around the corner from the house, perhaps a mile away, so if we ran there and back, we’d get 9 miles. Good enough for a safe, scenic route.
As it turns out, I grabbed just 1 mile in VA, 2 in TN, and zero in the Smokies…although we did hike 11 miles on Wednesday, which definitely counts as cross-training and a short-mileage substitute. So I arrived in Tampa on Thursday night with plans to go for a long run on Friday morning early enough to beat the heat. I thought we could do 10 miles in just over 1 ½ hours.
We set out early, entering the park via the North Tampa Nature Trail, just a half-mile from where we were staying. We wove our way through a bug jungle before we connected to a spur of the main Flatwoods Loop trail that I had read about. At the time, we didn’t realize we were on a spur and thought the 7-mile loop had begun. We stuck together for the first three miles and then broke off to run at our own paces…specifically, for me to slow down. I was feeling the effects of the heat and humidity, and I contemplated cutting my run short, to 6 or 8 miles instead. I wasn’t sure I’d be able to keep pace for 10.
We agreed to finish the loop separately and meet back at a water station we had passed earlier. It was a loop after all; as long as we kept running in the same direction, we’d get back to where we started. Or so we thought. I watched M run out of sight around a bend in the trail. There were plenty of people around—several bicyclists and a few other runners—so I didn’t feel unsafe. Plus, I had my cell phone with me, and the park was patrolled by rangers who could be also be contacted by phone (every water station listed the emergency number). I kept running, hydrating and enjoying the scenery of the first few miles.
After five miles, I needed a break. I walked a bit of Mile 6 and refilled my water bottles. I jogged a bit more, and then walked again. Somewhere around Mile 7, there was one fork in the road, where two separate loops appeared to join. It wasn’t clear which direction to go, but after some debate with myself, I decided to stay to the right. I was running clockwise in a circle; best to stick to the inside track.
Friday turned out to be an unseasonably warm day in Tampa—86 degrees before noon—and I quickly finished the water I had brought with me. Fortunately, the park had basic water stations every mile or two around the loop. And that loop…well it turned out to be further than I estimated. Not the loop itself, but the fact that we had started on a spur instead of the main trail. I was expecting to meet back up at around the 8-mile mark on my watch. I kept running. The sun shined brightly in a cloudless sky. It was hot, and there was very little shade on the trail. I ate a Goo (an energy product) and ran a bit more.
The GPS distance tracker on my watch kept increasing— 7 miles, 8 miles, 9 miles—and the trail kept twisting and turning with no end in sight. What happened to a 7-mile loop? There were fewer and fewer people on the trail. I ran long stretches without seeing another person while lizards and armadillos darted into the brush beside me. I kept running, drinking, running, walking. 10 miles, 11 miles. I kept thinking back to that fork in the road. What if he went left when I went right? What direction were we supposed to go? Why did we split up? Why didn’t he have his phone with him?
To say I was panicked would be an overstatement, but my level of anxiety was rising with every mile. Finally, around Mile 11, I flagged down a bicyclist and asked if she had passed a water station at a four-way intersection. “Oh, sure,” she replied. “About half a mile back.” I don’t know where the speed came from, but I practically sprinted the next half-mile. As I rounded the last corner, I caught a glimpse of the water shelter: empty. M wasn’t there. I lost steam and started trudging, thinking about my next move.
And just then, he emerged from around a bend, walking in my direction. I waved my arms to catch his attention. I was sweaty, sunburned, exhausted, and safe…but I wasn’t done running. We still had another mile to go before we got home. Final distance: more than 12 miles. What should have been an easy training run turned into a test of conditioning, endurance, and mental toughness…and I think I passed. I also think running 13.1 hilly miles in New Hampshire will be easier than yesterday’s run in the park. -J
The timing of our first few weeks on the road will coincide with the last few weeks of our training before we run a half-marathon back in our hometown. It will be my first half (his second), and despite a recent bout of bronchitis, I’ve done a decent job sticking to my training plan during what turned out to be a mild New Hampshire winter. What’s proving to be a bigger challenge is ensuring we stick to our training plans while on a road trip. Planning our workouts (especially our long runs) will be critical to ensuring we return home at the end of the trip ready to run the race. I spent part of today mapping out a workout schedule, taking into consideration which days we have extended drives planned (making it tough to fit in any kind of workout) and which days look like they’ll offer us a big block of free time (perfect for a long run). We’ll control for the variables we can (like choosing to stay in locations that seem to offer decent running routes) and be flexible when faced with ones we can’t (like weather or terrain or quirks of a small town road). We’ll also need to be more careful than usual when hiking during the first week of the trip. We’re planning to tackle some moderately challenging hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains, and what might be normal fatigue or a nuisance injury on any other trip could become a race-ruining injury on this one. No amount of internet research or advance planning will prepare us for exactly what we’ll find on the road, but having a plan in hand when we set out will give us the best chance of sticking to it while we’re out there. –J