|Mandatory A||Have fun with the team!||Yes|
|Mandatory B||Thank the volunteers||Yes|
|Mandatory C||Get some sweet high fives and hugs||Yes|
|Stretch||100K (62 miles)||Yes!|
|Don’t leave without||50K (31 miles)||Yes|
The last two years, I’ve volunteered at Eagle Up with the Reddit meetup crew (as well as volunteering in Las Vegas for this year’s Meetup at the Jackpot Running Festival). I’ve really enjoyed crewing, but also wanted to try my hand at running an ultramarathon.
I’m generally a pretty private person, and tend not to talk about my goals too much (for fear of somehow letting people down, I’m working on that in therapy), and I had decided to run EU in the fall. Some of the meetup crew decided to go back to Eagle Up, so since I had already started my training, I was super excited to have a lot more friends there to pace and cheer me on!
I slightly modified a training plan from Relentless Forward Progress: basically I just swapped two weeks to coincide with the Pittsburgh Marathon.
As is normal for me, there was a lot of day swapping inside of each week, but aside from my planned miss of a long run due to my regional Burning Man event (during taper, but subbed in with tons of time on feet), I attempted to run everything else, and was generally successful. I had some issues with four weeks in the middle of my plan (see knee issues, below), but that still left me with a good base.
I had to take two weeks off/down due to some IT Band issues, followed by one healthy week, and then took two more weeks off due to some other underlying knee problems. I ended up rallying back and having my biggest weekly mileage ever the week before the Pittsburgh marathon, so no taper for that.
When I was younger, my right knee had some chondromalacia patella (the kneecap goes sideways instead of up and down) and during this cycle, my left knee decided to get in on that action, right after I got past the IT Band issues.
Being diligent about my stretches got me back in working order, and as much time as they take (although sometimes it’s a good excuse to watch some Netflix), they really are necessary for me it seems. But an additional silver lining, is I was able to help a fellow Frontrunner with his knee pains from all my experiences!
The drive to Canal Fulton is fairly easy, and was even easier with a friend in the car, so that was pretty awesome. Eagle Up has grown in popularity, and even getting to the park as early as we did, we were pretty lucky to find a parking spot.
I loaded up my little red wagon with team supplies and as we made our way across the field, a smiling face surprised me, Matty had flown in from Florida to join the team and see me run! There were a lot of hugs (including a wonderful double-take hug) and I think I’m still grinning from being able to share the time with him.
The rest of the day was filled with hanging out with the team, packet pickup and lunch, milkshakes, passing out pizza and meeting the neighbors.
Woke up early at the AirBnB, had a Clif bar with peanut butter, generally was nervous, and headed to the park.
Having crewed enough of these events, I had practiced in my training at being pretty self-sufficient by keeping a small chart for me to check off after each lap so I wouldn’t forget things. It wasn’t a perfect system (as I did forget a few things, more below), but it worked fairly well. I will apologize to the most amazing crew though, between my chart and my demeanor (always smiling), I was told I was tough to crew for since they never thought I needed anything, but the crew and the rest of the team were lifesavers!
I did a halfway decent job at going out slow, which, has been something I’ve been working on! Spent the first part of the loop with Russ and we chatted before we got separated. In the second loop I met a new friend, Matt (who is currently cropped out of my facebook profile picture), and we had some great conversations about family and queer theory. We found each other Sunday morning to congratulate each other.
As I came into the team tent each lap, whoever was there was great at seeing what I needed and filling up my handheld for me. I would check off that I ate some food, drank some water, took a salt tab and then I had a few optional boxes to see if I needed to change/add sunscreen, lube, shoes or clothes. After the third lap I got to chat with Erica briefly, she and I crewed together the last two years so that was a nice boost.
For most of loop four I was inside my head doing some work, and I gave that loop the codename “Ghost Lotus.” While it wasn’t necessarily the conclusions I thought I wanted to come to, it’s probably what I needed, as is the nature of these things.
These first four loops my fueling was mostly denser and somewhat sweeter things, but as the temperature climbed, that was the end of that for me.
The temperature rose and this is where things got tough. I took in some more salty foods (Pringles), and headed to the main aid station where I discovered my new favorite ultra fuels: PB&J sandwiches, and hummus inside a tortilla.
I did notice that for as much as I was drinking, I was not peeing nearly enough, so I started downing some iced tea each lap to try to get things moving. The temperature spiking also threw my stomach into knots which pretty much stayed with me the rest of the race, so I started adding some ginger ale as well as some sitting breaks between loops to try to settle it down.
During loop 6 (I think, or it might have been 5), I caught up with Colin and we chatted as he finished up his race, and Dan was kind enough to pace me for lap 8, which gave me a great second wind and I cannot thank him enough for that. I also ended lap 8 with the traditional Nuggies, a very perfect ultra food.
More miles, just keep churning them out. I tend to approach a run as ‘my purpose’ for the day, so just knowing that this was what I was doing today, kept it from being too daunting.
Loop 10 I was paced by Nate, and we were silly out on the course, made some friends and were told we have great calves (I mean, we do). This was also the lap where I forgot my handheld at the tent. I filled it up, but forgot to take it with me. My chart might be great, but it’s not fool-proof! This was also the lap my Achielles started to give me some trouble. Not too painful, just ‘crunchy’ in a way that it reminded me it was there.
Loop 11 was another lap inside my head, this time codenamed “Gerry,” it was just starting to get dark, and so were my thoughts, but again, good things to ultimately contemplate. This is also the lap where I found my new, new favorite ultra fuel: peanut butter and honey in a tortilla (sorry hummus).
Finishing up loop 12, I had been leapfrogging with a woman the entire day. I finally introduced myself to her, and she told me she was on her last loop. At the last water stop, about a mile from the finish line, I just told her that I was running her in, and that gave both of us a new wind. We chit chatted, but only a bit as she was now determined to run it in. I peeled off at the team tent to let her sprint the final straightaway, and as I passed her on my way to my final out and back, I gave her a fist bump.
The out and back is of course, way longer than the two miles it actually is, compounded by the bugs dive bombing your face if you turn your headlamp on, but the congratulations and smiles you get on the way back are worth it.
Came around the last bend and saw the lights from the finish line and kicked it into what felt like high gear. Passed a couple teammates out on a loop or their last out and back, and the rest of the team had all gathered to cheer me on. Crossed the line and got some hugs and a buckle.
More hugs, tried to stretch, ended up on the ground as we cheered for Russ to finish his 100K as well! We headed back to the team tent and I sat for a bit before heading back to the AirBnB to shower and nap. During this two hour nap, I woke up three times to pee, so I was hydrated well, but I still need to work on that management I suppose.
We headed back to the park to watch the end of the relay (our teams did amazing), and then break camp before we went for breakfast at the local diner that’s become the tradition.
Brooke and I drove back to Pittsburgh to head to Pride (and the ever-popular Golden Girls Live) and the Three Rivers Arts Festival. I saw a bunch of friends, but as usual, after an Ultra, the sheer number of people gets to me and we headed home after a bit.
In the grand scheme, I have things pretty easy. But I will admit, training for an ultra is hard. And training for an ultra as a single person household is hard, too. There’s a lot of minutiae that needs done (grocery shopping, laundry, cleaning, yard work), on top of work and family obligations. I tried my best to make sure I took time for myself, but I failed pretty hard at that.
I had two weeks off, followed by one week on, and then another two weeks off, due to injury. During those times, I really had a tough time mentally, not only because exercise helps me keep better control of my emotions and mental health, but also because I put far too much stock on the number my scale says. Yes, I still have a bit to go and need to continue working on being healthy (with a holistic approach, not just a number), but after losing a significant chunk of weight, I’m realizing I have a more complicated and messed up relationship with my body than I care to admit, and I need to work on those things.
I have a much easier time controlling my weight when I’m running at 40 mpw, any higher and the runger takes over and I gain weight. It’s good that I found that out this time around.
I spent a significant amount of time towards the end of my training cycle and during the race thinking about ultra running as self-harm. Combined with my complicated relationship with my body, I realized that if I’m not careful, this could easily turn into something very unhealthy. But I’m more cognizant of that now, and I recognized my tendency to go that route. So that’s progress, and something I’ll keep exploring and working on.
I can’t thank PRorER Ultra Team, PRANK and the Pittsburgh Frontrunners enough, having such amazing running families has taught me so much and brought me so much joy. They put up with my crazy shenanigans and I’m so happy to have them all in my life!
I ran a bit the week after EU, and that helped to stretch things out, although I’ve taken more rest days lately to let my Achilles fully get back to normal (as well as due to a weird schedule this week). My next goal race is the Philly Half Marathon in November, so for now, it’s just some easy running over the summer with a team event and the ARTC Moose League, as well as a few charity 5Ks, sprinkled in. I’ll be crewing again in October at Sleepy Hollow, and I’m torn between running EU again next year or running it, I think that will depend on who else is doing what, and if I can be useful to the team if they’re going for records, but for now, I’ll enjoy a bit of time off before jumping back in again!
It’s race week! Here’s what I did going into the week, I’ll have a separate post up with a race report.
Thursday, Brooke drove down from Syracuse, and most of the Pittsburgh crew came over for a team dinner. The next morning, we packed the car and headed to Canal Fulton!
Race reports owed: Jackpot, Eagle Up.
Working through Decompression from my Burn was longer and rougher than I anticipated. Due to work and some family commitments, I didn’t have much time to myself, so I felt a bit rushed coming back to Default.
But, life continues on and here I am at the second to last week of my plan.
Taper crazies are real, and I feel like everything is broken and I’ll never be able to run again. I keep reminding myself that I’ve already run a 50K, so I’ll be good the day of. I just need to trust my training and hope the weather cooperates as much as it can.
Race reports owed: Jackpot.
Alright, let’s see what we have today. Couple Game of Thrones things now that it’s ended. Did you, like everyone, want to see a buddy comedy spin off of Arya and the Hound (as well as Tormund and Jon Snow), here’s the 80’s sitcom opening.
And here’s the haunting rendition (By Florence + The Machine, in the show, it was Podrick that sang it) of Jenny of Oldstone from Game of Thrones:
And if you need some semblance of hope after a certain death, here’s the couple during happier times.
And finally in Game of Thrones, here’s one second from every episode.
A sloth, very slowly of course, thanks a human who helped him out.
The new trailer for the Downton Abbey movie looks awesome (although mostly just fan service, but I’m okay with that):
Good news: Philadelphia can exclude foster care agencies who don’t work with queer families.
Very bad news: The administration has unveiled their policy to allow medical providers to discriminate against queer patients.
And finally today, someone did some fancy refilming and editing of the lightsaber duel in Episode 4. Generally I like it!
This week included my yearly regional Burning Man event, but as I start my taper for the race. Being outside and on my feet, in the heat, for so long was actually good training for the Ultra, at least I think so.
Looking back at my Fitbit data, I was shocked by how much I was walking each day. The event itself isn’t on that big of a piece of land, so the fact that I was covering that much distance was a bit of a shock to me!
The Moose League is a series of unannounced events, run as a virtual track meet. My ultra team, PRorER, decided to create a division, so I’ll be racing against the other members of my team (as well as us competing against the other divisions for points). It’s all in good fun, and a good way for me to get more involved with the ARTC crew.
The Moosefontaine Classic was a 2K, so just under a mile and a quarter. I had time to run it before I left for the Burn, and ran just a bit over the distance on the sidewalk loop in my neighborhood (my car was packed to the gills and I figured that was better than going to a school track for the circumstances and timing).
It was a blast to run that hard and that fast. I’ve never raced a mile, so I also had no idea how to approach this, but I’m happy with it and I’m looking forward to more crazy events this summer!
Setting up and Exodus from the Burn certainly did afford some strength work, albeit, moving heavy pieces of art and camp infrastructure, nothing like a structured workout.
Race reports owed: Jackpot.
34 miles, six loops, here’s what I used:
First up, liquids. Started with Nuun energy, since I actually kind of liked it. Used that for four loops. I was having trouble eating as much as I knew I should be after a while, so my last two loops I switched to tailwind, and that was great!
I also made sure to have some regular water each loop, especially after I noticed how dehydrated I was, the weather was shit, and the heat and humidity were getting to me. Had a tiny can of Diet Coke after loop 4 for the extra sugar and caffeine.
Here’s what I ate after each loop:
Loop one: Half a Bobo’s Bar
Loop two: Half a Bobo’s Bar. Still one of my favorites for a reason.
Loop three: No Cow chocolate mint bar. Not bad, a little dry, wouldn’t have again (would sub in a chocolate mint complete cookie to scratch this flavor itch)
Loop four: Can’t make out the brand but a dairy-free chocolate peanut butter bar thing. Very similar to an RX bar in terms of consistency, so not bad. I’ve only seen these at the Vitamin Shoppe, and RX Bars are easier to find.
Loop five: Jelly beans. Nothing sounded good, but I knew I could grab a handful of these and go with it, so they were just right for me for this loop.
After loop 6, had some more jelly beans as I waited for the train to pass so I could leave the parking lot, but otherwise, wasn’t really interested in eating. Forced myself to eat the rest of the day, but in very small increments.
Overall, I’m really happy with what I’ve found works the best for me: Tailwind after mile 20, Bobo’s Bars, jelly beans, mint chocolate complete cookie and something every now and then for caffeine. I’ll be stocking up for Eagle Up!
I’ve noticed I tend to not go for anything salty. I take a salt tab every five miles, and this helps me a ton, so I think that tends to work for me, but I’m always cautious of keeping an eye on that.
My training plan, from Relentless Forward Progress, called for a 50K in training. The jail loop in Pittsburgh is 5.5 miles, so I figured I’d just do six of those and make it an even 33 (of course since I didn’t run tangents and what not, it came out to 33.9 miles, so I’m calling it 34 for simplicity’s sake).
To keep myself on point, I made a chart of things to do/examine after each loop, and that was really beneficial, kind of like being my own crew ahead of time for myself.
I had the new season of Zombies Run ready to go, hit the trail early, and started on my way. It was humid, but wasn’t too terrible yet since the sun was behind the clouds. First loop was good and after a few missteps at my car, got into a rhythym moving forward.
On the other side of the river on the second loop, I ran into Elizabeth and Steve, and we ran together for a while, which really helped. We chit chatted, admired the new chalk art done outside the jail and generally had a decent time.
They dropped off when they needed to for their mileage, and I was left alone for the last two and a half loops. Halfway through loop 5, the sun came out. I ended up adding extra walk breaks when I was in direct sunlight, otherwise I wasn’t going to make it, and that was the right decision.
For the final loop I threw on some sunscreen, which helped, although I still got more sun than I hoped.
I did discover, my patience runs out somewhere around mile 29. I shoulder-checked a woman who was walking in a group four across, taking up the sidewalk. I was as far over as I could be, and she didn’t move, and I just didn’t care.
I did also call two cyclists assholes. One, who swerved to look like he was aiming right at me before correcting himself, and another who was riding on the (very narrow at that point) sidewalk, even though there was a bike lane (which means in the city, what he was doing was illegal).
Overall, I’m really proud of myself. My pace was good, and pretty consistent (aside from the sun walking breaks), and I stuck to my run/walk strategy. I was able to run the next day, and walking around and packing the rest of the day after my run was a little sore, but nothing out of the ordinary; much better than after the marathon two weeks ago.
Did I do a 50K quickly? No. Was it even as fast as I could go? No. But I’m still super happy with what I accomplished. It was a great confidence boost for Eagle Up, and now I’m seriously ready for my taper!
Things I learned:
Race reports owed: Jackpot.
Race reports owed: Jackpot.
Race week! I love Marathon weekend in Pittsburgh, it’s always such a fun time. The atmosphere and energy in the air, from the athletes and all the spectators is just amazing!
It was a bit bittersweet, since I really do love the course and the city, but the marathon organizer has chosen to partner with Chick-fil-A for the next three years, so I’ll be bowing out of both running and volunteering (multiple events throughout the year) until that contract is up. They already had my money for this year, but next year I’m looking at either Cincinnati or Toledo.
After my impromptu Stupid Week the week before, I took this week a bit easier to ease into the marathon
Race reports owed: Jackpot.