Running at Kripalu

Well, this weekend I was at Kripalu.  That would take a whole other blog post to describe my experience – glad I went is a good summary.

Yesterday, I decided to skip a session to get my two-hour trail run in. While I was reluctant to do that because Stephen Cope is one of my favorite authors, I had to.

Lucky I.  I had a taste of the Berkshire Trails.  How beautiful.

I navigated by Monk Pond to Bald Head.

I was about three miles in when my cell phone blasted a severe weather alert.  A line of marching thunderstorms was about to cross the region.  Well, what do you do in that case?  You are alone and you are in the middle of a forest.  Nothing.

These are the moments that I hate running alone in the woods.  And, other moments like bears, snakes, tripping and falling, multiple deer hooves, etc., etc., etc.  You begin to understand that you are not in your natural element and that nature is much bigger than you.  There is a whole other world out there………

I was on a Mountain Race when I hit a severe thunderstorm last year.  There is nothing you can do.  The trails become rivers down as they funnel all of the flash rain down and the lighting you just keep moving.  I think that was the race that my cell phone “fried” in.

So, I picked up the pace and just kept going, saying a silent prayer. I came to an overlook where a man was meditating on the edge.  I didn’t want to bother him to say “hey, buddy, see those dark clouds…”  Perhaps his meditating saved us.

The storm passed north of us.  Barely, but it did.

So, I continued my run.

It was a spectacular one.  I was waiting to see the mama bear that they say lives back there but no such luck.

All in all, it was a wonderful seven-mile jaunt on some of the nicest trails I have been on.

Did I say steep though?  Yes, steep.

Today, I woke up with a head cold.  Probably the casualty of sleeping with my windows open soaking in that crisp Berkshire night air.

I struck up a conversation with the Cafe operator and he noted that I could sneak over to Tanglewood as it is free after 9 p.m.  I just couldn’t muster the strength.  And, it was bleedy dark.

The Yoga and breath work was so intuitive and soul-connecting but that is an inspiration for another blog.

My training sucked this week. So, I am hoping that was a symptom that my body is a bit run down and thus the cold.  I hit the track this last Wednesday to find that football practice has already started after Paul gently warned me.  That means that this week, I need to head to Umass Dartmouth to get my workout in.  The track there is far superior it is just a hike.

This is a new week of training.

A 16 miler on the docket for Saturday with an almost three-hour trail run on Sunday.

A new week dawns.

 

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Sunday before Pack.

Sunday is almost here.

Pak Monadnock.

Oh, how I giggle thinking about it.

I was so naive last year in thinking that this race was an easy one.

Let’s face it, none of them are easy, and to be honest, I think the race organizers get immense joy out of the courses that they create.  They love to watch us along the course.

And after last week, I was ready to call this whole thing quits until my coach talked me off of a ledge.  I am competing against folks who train up north all the time.  I have no “home field” advantage.  Sea level is not conducive to mountain running.  So, I have to work extra hard.

So here is a course overview.

A 7.5-mile road race slightly uphill from Wilton to Monadnock, running along some paved and some fire roads.  And, then at some point, you turn onto Highway 101 and you know this is starting to get serious.  Then the gates appear, like the gates of heaven, and you must climb up and up all the way to the top of Pak Monadnock from the base – on already spent and exhausted legs.

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Some grades are greater than Mt. Washington at 23% percent.  It becomes faster and more efficient to hike than run.

So, it is all about gearing this time around.  Like a car.

Checking in as the elevation slowly climbs – How is my body feeling?  Do I still have more “gas” left in the tank?  Shift up if yes, shift down if no.  Very much all about self-awareness and self-monitoring.

In the past few weeks, I have lost about 5 pounds. Have ten more to go.  Losing weight compromises strength but gives you lightness.  You need both so it is a delicate balance.

Tomorrow, things get serious.  Tomorrow is Pak Monadnock.  A 2,000 ft. elevation gain up to almost 2,500 feet.  Still a primer for Wildcat and the 4,000 footers.

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This year I am not naive.  I am in awe.

I have always been drawn to mountains and find the peace that my heart longs for there. But I also see their majesty as part of God’s creation.  Lives are lost, hearts are won.

Getting to the top and looking out, you understand that you can then overcome anything.  Be anyone.  Because you did it.

Folks this is what it is all about.

Conquering the mountain, hating it, and yet being in love with it at the same time. It is life.

Thank goodness there is a diner waiting for me at the end.  We all know how much I love “Counter Culture.”  Not the best food or service, but The Red Arrow in Milford, NH will have to do.  Classic diner look and feel. And, tons of local “Culture.” A pure treat!

From last year:

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And, a bugle will be playing

I am sitting in Waterbury, VT being reminded of a passing statement, “You should have been in the military,”  said my late husband, who himself had been in the Army.  Old habits die hard and it is hard to get up later than anything other than 6 a.m.  But, yet it is that military-like persistence that keeps me moving towards my goals.  Keeps me moving forward.

High noon.

Tomorrow.

This is the race profile from my coach.

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Seems pretty doable once you get past that first 500 ft. climb.  That will be tough right out of the gate.  Passing people after the second hill.  Well, we will give that one a try.  No guarantees on my passing game.

So, what exactly is a “Tempo” effort?  That is pretty much an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale, meaning that you are working above your lactate threshold.  I have done extensive training this season working on extending that lactate threshold out longer.   My heart rate should be within 158-165.

Steady State is more in the aerobic range at a “steady state.”  It is the fastest pace I can run while still being aerobic – think marathon race pace.  It is a “comfortably hard” pace with my heart rate between 150-158.

I am excited for the start and the fact that I only need five races this year.  Well, there are fewer races to begin with this year.  My coveted Mt. Ascutney is not part of the deal this year.  I guess since Ascutney is so close to my client, I could run it for a training run.  Something to think about.

This upcoming week is a recovery week with easy 30 to 50-minute recovery runs on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday and then I roll right into Monadnock next Sunday.

After that, my Ragnar Relay team from Hull to PTow is missing one runner, so I said I will do a “double” leg putting me at somewhere near 25 miles.

It is a couple of tough running weeks, but I think with a healthy diet plan this will put me in excellent shape going into Mt. Wachusett.  That is a straight run up an access road simulating Mt. Washington.

I have all of my times and paces from last year so I can see if training progress is evident.

Onward to Sleepy Hollow.

Tomorrow at high noon!

I hear a bugle playing somewhere!

Get up, RISE AND SHINE!

 

 

And, a bugle will be playing

I am sitting in Waterbury, VT being reminded by a passing statement, “You should have been in the military,”  said my late husband, who himself had been in the Army.  Old habits die hard and it is hard to get up later than anything other than 6 a.m.  But, yet it is that military-like persistence that keeps me moving towards my goals.  Keeps me moving forward.

High noon.

Tomorrow.

This is the race profile from my coach.

Screen Shot 2017-04-29 at 6.52.48 AM

Seems pretty doable once you get past that first 500 ft. climb.  That will be tough right out of the gate.  Passing people after the second hill.  Well, we will give that one a try.  No guarantees on my passing game.

So, what exactly is a “Tempo” effort?  That is pretty much an 8 out of 10 on the pain scale, meaning that you are working above your lactate threshold.  I have done extensive training this season working on extending that lactate threshold out longer.   My heart rate should be within 158-165.

Steady State is more in the aerobic range at a “steady state.”  It is the fastest pace I can run while still being aerobic – think marathon race pace.  It is a “comfortably hard” pace with my heart rate between 150-158.

I am excited for the start and the fact that I only need five races this year.  Well, there are fewer races to begin with this year.  My coveted Mt. Ascutney is not part of the deal this year.  I guess since Ascutney is so close to my client, I could run it for a training run.  Something to think about.

This upcoming week is a recovery week with easy 30 to 50-minute recovery runs on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday and then I roll right into Monadnock next Sunday.

After that, my Ragnar Relay team from Hull to PTwon is missing one runner, so I said I will do a “double” leg putting me at somewhere near 25 miles.

It is a couple of tough running weeks, but I think with a healthy diet plan this will put me in excellent shape going into Mt. Wachusett.  That is a straight run up an access road simulating Mt. Washington.

I have all of my times and paces from last year so I can see if training progress is evident.

Onward to Sleepy Hollow.

Tomorrow at high noon!

I hear a bugle playing somewhere!

Get up, RISE AND SHINE!

 

 

The Sunday before…

My thoughts are on next Sunday.

Mountain running wasn’t something that I set out to do.  In fact, I was an avid road runner.  However, last year, I entered the Mt. Washington Road Race lottery and got in. So, never having run a race like that, I knew that I needed some mountain simulations.

A friend of mine told me that local track club members would run the access road to the Great Blue Hill.  So, I started doing that once and then twice a week.  May rolled around, and I saw a race.  Mt. Wachusett.  I thought that would be good training.  It is about half the distance of Mt. Washington.  So, I entered and didn’t do too bad.  It was an eye opener though.  Signing up for “King of the Moutain” all I needed to do for that race was make it up to the summit, and the race for me was over.  On the way down, I ran into a couple of “old” guys.  They explained to me that there was an actual Mountain Circuit that they do every year. In fact, both were 17-year veterans.  They told me that if one runs a certain number of races, you become a “Mountain Goat,” and you bypass the Mt. Washington lottery.

This is the only series of mountain races in the country.

So, I began to run the circuit.  It was not easy, in fact, it was one of the most difficult things that I have ever done.  I have never pushed myself to such a real physical extreme before. Literally, at times, I worried about my little “ticker” as I tried my darndest to make it up what are sometimes Black Diamond ski trails, and 20% or more grades (some even close to 40%).

Next Sunday it all begins again.  I am in search of that elusive “Mountain Goat” status and the ticket to bypass the Mt. Washington lottery for next year.

I have found an excellent Bed and Breakfast in Waterbury, VT. I tend not to stay with everyone else, needing to mentally prepare myself for the endeavor.  Waterbury is about 30 minutes from the race, and it is in a lovely Vermont town.

It has been a difficult weekend of running.  I did 30 miles this week with yesterday spent doing hill repeats up the Great Blue Hill access road and then a 45-minute trail run.  Today, I completed a 2-hour endurance run. Since, January 1, I have run close to 500 miles on these legs of mine.

Usually, before a race, my coach has me taper.  That doesn’t mean that I stop running completely, it means that I mostly do recovery runs.  So, from Wednesday on, I have 45-minute recovery runs planned with a series of 5 x 20-second hill sprints.  I will already be up in Vermont so the hill sprints will simulate running conditions on Sunday.

I have been getting my diet in check and have lost a few pounds.  The lighter I am, the easier it will get.  Smaller bodies circulate oxygen easier over less volume of space.  These races will take some of that off, with attention to diet.

Saturday before the race is a complete rest day. No running.  I look forward to that.  I hope to sleep in. That should be about 7:00 a.m. for me. Let’s pray they have comfy pillows and a big down comforter.

I will be meeting my friend Don there.  Don is 73 from Sturbridge, MA.  Can you imagine?  He says that he plans on doing the Mountain Circuit with me this year to get the bypass ticket so he can run Mt. Washington one last time.  And, then his 45-year running career will be over. He says he is ending it.  Who knows.  I will try to convince him otherwise, but for this year at least, Don and I will be glued together.  I am going to see him through until the end.

Next Sunday, I have a date with Sleepy Hollow.  I anticipate that it is going to be muddy, given that it is mud season in Vermont.  So, my goal is to not get hurt, finish the race respectable (being safe about it), and just score those Mountain Circuit points.  It is a trail race up to the summit of the mountain with an elevation of 1,500 – a tame ascent for the series, but a nice warm-up for the rest of the season.

Here is what the trails look like at Sleepy Hollow.  Surely, a bit on the technical single-track side.  And, of course hilly.  I am not a fan of leaves…slippery when wet.

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Then my eyes are set on Pack Monadnock the following Sunday.  Now, that is not so tame.  8 miles of rolling hills with some grades at about 8-10%, and then a 2 mile straight up to the top of Monadnock.  That is not a pretty race.  The course was designed to give runners a hill-climb challenge and to test strength and endurance.  The last 1.3 miles are as steep or steeper than Mt Washington with grades more than 20% up to 2,000 feet.

This is the hill profile from last year’s Monadnock race.  A visual to say the least…

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But, like all of them, I will get her done.  If by nothing else than pure persistence.

I take one mountain at a time, one mile at a time, and literally one step at a time and next week it all begins with Sleepy Hollow.

And, no ice cream cones for me….

 

 

 

 

I am Mountain Goat!

Yep, one ice cream cone.

One ice cream cone foiled my chances at reaching the elite USATF Mountain Goat status.

That one race I needed.

Mt Greylock.

Was just not to be.

Food poisoning struck me while staying in North Adams the night before the race.

And, I was knocked out of the USATF series.

The Mountain Goat series.

Six out of eight mountain races earn you the coveted title of Mountain Goat.

There are only 100 in the entire Northeast with very, very few from Southeastern New England.

I was one race shy.

All because of an ice cream cone.

Well, this year, I try again.

It all starts in two weeks at Sleepy Hollow, VT, just south of Burlington.

I can’t explain why.

A male dominated track of running.  Very few females dare not.

Men are made for mountains.  Strong legs, hips, and thighs.

Women are not.

But, years of road cycling didn’t hurt me.  It is only in my favor.

Lord, knows why I want a run up a 4,000 footer.

Just get to Mountain Goat status with the ultimate prize of running up Mt. Washington and a T-Shirt.  But, I guess I will do nearly anything for a T-Shirt.

Been there done that.  7.6 miles straight up to a 6,000+ ascent.

But, I can’t describe the feeling of running up a mountain, getting to the top, and descending.

It is as closest as I can get to Heaven as I can.  And, I do it with my own two feet and a pair of lungs – a blessing many never achieve, so I do it for them.  I run because I can and others can’t but want to.

Two weeks, we start again.

I have a coach – an expensive one.  Worth every penny.

Training has been all winter long – snow, sleet, rain, cold rain (did I say cold rain?!?!), and just pure brutal cold…hours upon hours…and, now the Blue Hills – up and down, up and down…working my aerobic system and my legs.  Kettlebells every night.

What’s on the docket?  Sleepy Hollow, Mt. Monadnock, Mt. Wachusett, Wildcat, Cranmore and the USA Mountain Champs, Loon Mountain, Mt. Greylock, and the only Fell (self-navigated race) Race Bretton Woods.

In pursuit of becoming a Mountain Goat.

I hope you follow.

Here is more about the series.

Scenes from last year….