This month marked the beginning of my training for Run Across Georgia. Prior to starting my training, I had plotted out this wonderful training plan. I had spent about a month working on it and revising it, but after reading Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell, I had to edit my training plan yet again! I would say it took me about 2 months to come up with what I believe is the perfect training plan for an ultra, which incorporates the concepts and principals of the Galloway method of run/walk with frequent and regular walk breaks but also building up to my target mileage gradually and then tapering.
The week before my actual training started, I began plotting out routes I could run to train on that would mimic my course. These included highways, hilly roads, high traffic areas, and things of the sort. I did a nice run out on Pierce Chapel road where I enjoyed some nice scenery.
The first week of August, I started with small runs here and there on my weekday runs of no more than 2 – 5 miles and longer back to back (B2B) runs on the weekends. My first weekend long run was with Kena, Stephanie, Brandy, Blake, and some other folks doing a 1.4 mile loop over and over again around Kena’s place. I did 11 miles there and was going to finish with another 11 miles the next day. Unfortunately, I found myself sick as a dog on Sunday and had to finish my 11 on Monday.
Well, that was an adventure and a half! I did 3 miles with the Couch to 5K group and then met Crystal for trails up at Pine Mountain. We got lost and wound up behind a juvenile rehab facility. A lady, Connie, found us and she helped us get back to the main road where we parked. We were so lost it wasn’t even funny. Moral of the story here is it is always good to be overly prepared in terms of water, food, a head lamp, and a gun when you run in the woods. Also, I caught a crawdad, so if we did get stuck over night, we would not die. Before our getting lost experience, we did see some beautiful sights along the Wolf Den Loop trail loop.
Two days later, I ran with Jesse at the Rotary Park 5K, which was the 4th race in the summer 5K series. Jesse wanted to try to do well on it and I wanted to try to just run a comfortable pace, so I actually wound up running with Nancy at a very comfortable 1:1. (I forgot to mention earlier, I have been training at a 1:1 targeting a 15 minute mile pace.) I think we wound up going faster than what I was aiming for, but at 3 miles, I’m not going to complain.
Friday I was going to do my long run because I had my orientation on Saturday for the honors program at CSU. I plotted one route but then did another due to weather. I did 4 miles of loops around my house before coming in for the night and finishing the remaining 7 in the morning. The morning run was probably the most wonderful run I have ever had by myself. I nailed my pace, experienced my neighborhood and a beautiful morning. I got to run over JR Allen twice and basically see the north side of town waking up. It was spectacular.
Sunday morning was an exciting day of trails at Flat Rock with Crystal and the usual group of characters. Karen came out and after doing 6 miles assured us we’re a special breed of crazy and that she would come cheer us on for The North Face Endurance Challenge next month. I forgot my sock, fortunately Stephanie had an extra pair. Crystal wasn’t having a good day and went back to the truck after 4.5 miles and I finished my 6.5 and met her back at the truck. I ran the rest of my miles later in the evening around the house doing loops. Charlie joined me on one of my loops and I am very thankful to have such a supportive and sweet little child who has just as much enthusiasm and determination when it comes to running as I do. We may not be the best runners, but our hearts are in the right place and we give it our all. He was slower than what I needed to be at because he insisted on wearing my reflective vest and sunglasses and then wanted to take the glasses off half way. So we lost some time to futzing with that. I’m sure he’ll join me again at some point, so I’ll have to get a picture of him decked out to run with the vest because it is hilarious.
The next week wasn’t really what I was hoping for. Weather was horrible as were my spirits. I did manage to get my long run miles in that week, but I didn’t get my B2B run in or any trail miles. Fortunately, I’m still early enough in that it isn’t a big deal. I did two light miles during the week and a half marathon on my Saturday run. That was bad to say the least. The course itself was fantastic and I was kicking butt the first 8 miles. It was raining and a little warm, but the rain stopped before the race started and even though it was a little warm, I managed to keep up a consistent pace and just rocking it! Then, around 8 miles in and somewhere around the 1:30:00 mark, it got cold. I stopped sweating so much. Chaffing began and it got ugly fast.
My immediate reaction was “speed up, sweat more, chaff less”. So I proceeded with split second plan A. Unfortunately, this plan produced neither sweat nor prevented any chaffing. In fact, all it did was make me chaff more and increase my fatigue. So it was off to plan B: lube on the fly. Yes, I dug down into my ghetto bag of tricks, spit on my hands and rubbed my thighs. (The things we’ll do!) That worked for all of about 5 minutes, and I’ll give myself an A for effort as it was a great idea, but one with a short lifespan. Finally, it was time for plan C: dry out. At this point my thighs are bloody, rubbed raw, and nasty like you wouldn’t believe. I do the “I just got off a horse” walk for a bit trying to let the blood and my skin dry out a bit. I’m not sure what I was hoping to accomplish at this point other than I just don’t want to feel raw ground beef skin rubbing up on itself over and over again.
All of this started to make me really upset because I was really hoping to do well at this run. It was labeled as a “flat, fast course” and I was hoping to get a PR, but alas, that was just a giant no-go. While I thought the chaffing issue was a deterring factor on my time, it was actually not that big of a deal. I lost maybe 5 minutes from the chaff walk. I was able to get through my chaffing with some mental work asserting myself constantly that “I am stronger than the chaff” and that there’d be “no slacking the last 4 miles”. I put on my big girl panties and came home strong (of course, not without stopping to take a few photos here and there.)
But that was not the end of the race. The girl I went with was still running. While she was finishing, I was enjoying a snow cone and changing out of my gross clothes. She didn’t feel too great when she finished in part to the fact they only had Gatorade at mile 10 and her electrolytes were really low. I wound up driving us home as her body expelled excess water the same way which it came in. She was fine, but it was a very hard night for me. I didn’t get back home till 1:30 and by that time, I had been up for almost 20 hours. (I really need to learn how to handle this whole lack of sleep thing!)
After that debacle, I took some time off. My body needed to rest. I took off on my B2B run and cut out one of my weekday runs. My next run was 4 miles on a Wednesday night. I did a loop in parts of my neighborhood and on a few high traffic streets. The best part of my run came along Weems road near Morningside Baptist Church. I was headed in the direction of the church when a truck on the opposite side of the road of me (also headed in the same direction) slowed down and shouted on their window, “GOOD WORK! KEEP IT UP!” Certainly, that driver could appreciate the difficulties involved in running at that time of the day in the heat. That was great. Even the cars on Warmsprings were really courteous in terms of trying not to hit me. I always appreciate when I don’t have to find myself scrambling to try and find a safe shoulder. At some point, however, I came in contact with poison ivy or I was affected by Virginia Creeper (which I have a bunch outside my house that has never bothered me, but when you run, anything is possible!) I came home with a rash on my ankles that was blistering and itching to high hell. I dealt with that and all was good and fine after my shower.
The next run wasn’t until Saturday and I had another B2B weekend in store. I spread out my runs on Saturday by joining the Galloway group in the morning for 6 miles followed by 6 miles in my neighborhood in the afternoon. That was a very hot run. For the first time ever, I found my feet actually feeling too hot. I did, however, plan that run just right so that when noon hit, I was within earshot of the weather siren on Schomburg and Warmsprings. I raised my hands in victory and continued onward.
In the middle of that hot and potentially miserable run, I was thinking about Relentless Forward Progress by Bryon Powell. I kept thinking to myself that as long as I am moving, I am making progress, even though it is slow. I don’t have to be fast to be good. Sometimes good means you just keep going and don’t give up. Even if you’re slow, walking, whatever you name it, as long as you GO. At that moment I discovered a new power word for me: RELENTLESS! Instead of CHARGE, I would rally to myself RELENTLESS as my walk break ended and I found myself running again in the heat, often up a hill. I became a victor in a battle against weakness and it was awesome. So yes, new motivational word: RELENTLESS. I AM RELENTLESS.
After that run, I got sunburned and took a nap, although I was not aware of the sunburn until later in the day. Usually, I can’t sleep during the day, so this made me wonder if something was wrong with me or if I was genuinely tired. When I woke up, however, I noticed said sunburn and a heavy, burning feeling in my sinuses. I’m certain all the people enjoying the beautiful, non-rainy Saturday who were out doing yard work managed to kick enough junk into the air to make my allergies act up. One teaspoon of local honey later, I was noticing instant relief. (Possibly just a coincidence, or not.) I then spent the rest of the evening preparing for the Country’s Midnight Express. That was my last run for Saturday. It was hot, crowded and just difficult to maneuver. I was pacing Jesse, who really wanted to do something around 32 minutes or better, but with the crowd, it was damned near impossible! Prior to that race, I had done 6 miles in the morning, 6 in the afternoon, and one warm up. At 2 miles in, some random frat guys gave me a beer which was pounded in place of a missing water stop. Cheap beer never tasted so good! In the end, Jesse did not get his time he wanted. After sprinting down hills, leaping over lawns and trash bags, and dodging walking people, we did it in 38 minutes. That was painful for me as its my slowest 5K time EVER! And the worst part was my hips were aching like crazy from all the odd maneuvering we were doing just to break free of the crowds.
By the time we got home, it was only a matter of a few hours until my next run. After making breakfast and then grocery shopping, I headed out to do my first of three legs that were three miles long. The first leg was a simple out and back from our place to the other side of Warmsprings on some residential streets behind the rails to trails. That was just to get some more hills in. After that run, I joined Jesse and Charlie for a quick dip in the pool to cool off and suspending on noodles in the cool water was probably the best feeling ever! The next run was right after we got back from the pool on another out and back in the neighborhood. As soon as that ran ended, I had to hop in the shower to just get the sweat off me and change and jump into the car to go to Pine Mountain for a trail run.
Normally on Sunday mornings, I go with the trail group but they canceled the run because of Country’s the night before, so I got a few Galloway folks to come out and try trails. It was a lot of fun. We were only going to do three miles but they felt adventurous and were up for four. No one got injured although I did come extremely close to face planting into a pile of rocks while I was ironically talking to them about safety.
Later in the week, I eliminated one of my weekday runs to add an extra recovery day and instead did a 2 mile loop on Thursday and a 4 mile loop on Friday. The 2 mile loop was horrible. It was 0.1 mile long, so in order to get my full 2 miles in, I had to circle it 20 times. Add to the equation the fact it was over 90 degrees out and full sun and I was miserable. I was only out there for all of a half hour but it was the worst half hour in my life! Who knew 2 miles could be so horrible? Friday night was just my typical looping around the neighborhood. About a half mile in, I was hit with this horrible urge to poop. I made it back to the house in time to run in, do my thing, and run back out. After that, it was a nice run on a humid evening with lightning off in the distance lighting up the sky. Very cool stuff. The completion of that run ended the month for me with 100 miles calculated and I finished my first RAG training month on a great note.
I finished feeling very positive and excited for months to come, however, I know Jesse has been frustrated at times and I keep telling him to hang in there. I know it is a lot of work on me physically, but it is also extremely difficult on Jesse to have me out of the house a lot. As months progress, he will need to become involved in the process by tracking me and practicing his role in the event. But for now, baby steps. Oh, and after four months, I had to invest in a new pair of running shoes. Got another pair of Saucony Mirage 3’s. Same color.