Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Going with the Ultra

After much review and introspection, I have decided to keep training for ultras. I am definitely going to run the Sunmart 50 mile race in Huntsville, Texas in December. My plan is to mix ultras, trails, and road races. After all, this is 2008 and, as runners, we can have it all these days.

Right now, the plan is to race ultras in the winter, trails in the spring, and 10k's and half-marathons in the spring and summer. The 10k's will allow me to keep up my speed, as well, and I will be able to mix a variety of training elements into my schedule...extra long runs in the winter for endurance, and speedwork in the spring.

So, right now, I am definitely training for the Dublin 10k. I like that race, although it is always hot there, and I had a horrible time there last year. I didn't prepare very well, and plan to make up for that this year!

This year, I am training in the heat of the day to prepare for the hot conditions there; I'm doing more speed training, mixed with longer runs on saturdays, and incorporating more hills into my workouts.



Monday, April 28, 2008

Trail running or Road Running...that is the question!!!

I am at a serious crossroads in my running career. I am trying to decide what my real goals are as a runner. I have been running road races for a good long time, and have recently branched out into trail running and ultras. I just don't feel as excited about running road marathons, or other races since I have tried trail running.

There is something exciting about being out on the trail, immersed in the mountains, or the trees, running on dirt, and jumping over roots, rocks, and snowdrifts. Recently, while in Santa Fe, New Mexico, I ran a trail that led 8,500 feet into the mountains that surrounded Santa Fe. Once I got to the top of the trail, I could see Santa Fe, and way beyond. The feeling left me breathless, and that was just a training run.

I have also recently experienced running my first ultra. I ran a 50k, and really felt the same excitement. It enhanced my training, and kept my running life exciting and challenging. On one hand, I felt at ease to just take off and real time lurking out there, or a certain pace, just the freedom of running. On the other hand, I knew my training had to be on another level, or I would never be able to finish the race, and I didn't want to DNF.

Just thinking about running my next trail fills me with youthful enthusiasm, and I have given much thought to running the Sunmart 50 mile race in December. The challenge of training for a 50 mile race is exciting, and it fills me with a new purpose, a whole new level of training beyond where I have ever been.

I have been weighing this decision against running the Dallas White Rock Marathon this year, but the more I think about it, the less exciting the road marathon seems to be.

Am I crazy, or does it seem like I am really leaning toward running the sunmart 50 mile race?

After I return from Africa, I will only have 4 months left to train for the 50 miler. That's a little less time than I would have liked, but it should be sufficient. If I can keep my mileage up in Africa, I think I could use the next four months to get ready for a 50 mile race.

Meanwhile, I am training for a 10k race in Dublin...and I don't think I would leave road racing behind forever, but right now.......?


Saturday, April 26, 2008

A saturday run in the dark

I wanted to do a nice, easy 13 mile run this morning, but didn't feel like doing the usual routes. So, yesterday, I measured off a new course near my home and was really looking forward to doing something different. I strapped my running belt on, took 8 ounces of gatorade, and 8 ounces of water, clipped them to my running belt and took off at 5:00 this morning.

I started off down Oldham Lane and ran north toward the loop, and on to South 11th street. But, let me tell you, I wouldn't suggest doing it the way I did. It was pitch dark, and there are no street lights until you start getting closer to S. 11th area. There are stretches of road there that are so dark, you can't see your hand in front of your face. At one point, just past that 7-11 store, I saw something large and black go running across the road just in front of me. I am guessing it was a dog on his way home from an all night outing. If it wasn't a dog, I don't want to know what it was!

I came back the same way and then turned East down Industrial boulevard and ran out toward the airport, but by then, the sun was starting to come up. I saw a ton of rabbits as they skitted out in front of me, a crane that came flying up over the creek down by the golf course, and a couple of armadillos that took their time crossing the road.

At one point, I came around the airport and saw an ambulance racing down one of the runways, and then a firetruck. I was hoping that there was not a plane that was going to crash land somewhere out there.

I finally made my turn and came back down Industrial, back to my quiet little street, glad that I had done my run, and I was filled with that little satisfied feeling we all get when we complete what we set out to do.

I got inside the house, made a stack of pancakes and gave into the wagging tails of my dogs, (yes, I gave them a pancake, too!), and sank into my chair, happy to be a runner!


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Running "Out of Africa"

As a sociologist, and social worker, I have worked in some interesting places. Two years ago, I lived and worked in Peru, cataloguing life for children living in Shantytowns. Shantytowns are urban slums, created by homeless people, and made from almost anything that can be scavenged from the environment.

Living and working in Peru gave me the opportunity to run in the Andes Mountains. It was one of the most incredible experiences of my life. I will never forget the sunrises from Cusco, Peru, and the sight of Macchu Pichu in the morning sunlight. Running in Peru was an unforgettable experience.

This summer, I am going to Ghana, in Sub-Saharan West Africa. For one month, I will be working at the Mercy Orphanage, in Accra. This orphanage exists because the AIDS epidemic has claimed the children's parents. I will be there studying their cognitive and social development. I will also get to visit Bonsaasa, a Millenium Village inside Ghana. The United Nations has developed a program to assist this rural, poverty-stricken village with the goal of eradicating poverty there. I will be observing the children of the village, and the schools, which have been granted their first school lunch programs. It should be interesting.

However, one of the projects I will be working on, is starting a running program for the children of the orphanage. This is a project that I hope will live on well after I leave Africa, and I am hoping that teaching these children to run, will influence their lives and give them some direction, as well as helping them to gain valuable self-esteem and help them develop goals in life.

It will be an amazing experience, and one that will allow me to run through Africa, another of my own passions. I will also blog those experiences through this website, so that others can see how the program goes.

Ultra Marathon in Fort Worth (Cowtown 50k)

My first ultra (50k) was a success. I wasn't too sure about what pace to keep, so I ran very conservatively, which turned out well. I just took my time and ran for fun. The course was fantastic, and the volunteers were great. At mile 23, we veered off the marathon course and ran through a set of trails at Trinity Park, and that was great. The change of pace was good, and I really enjoyed the run down by the river.

I began to hurt around mile 27, and my thighs were hurting. My feet at mile 28 felt like they were on fire, and the hills began to make their presence known, especially between mile 28 and 29 as we were coming back into Fort Worth.

At mile 30, a Highway Patrolman was stopping traffic for the finish of the marathon, and he was trying to be jovial. He said, "only a mile to go, have it made." If only he knew. That last mile felt like it was three or four miles away.

What made my day, though, was when I got close to the finish line, and my son and his friends were standing there cheering me on. It felt great, and crossing the finish line was a great joy. I knew I had accomplished my goal, and 6 months of hard training was not in vain.

It was a great event, and I think I will consider running more ultras in the future. Perhaps the Sunmart 50 mile run will be my next ultra. We will see.