Humidity: Let’s Get Practical

It should be no surprise to you that I absolutely love to run hills in training. My favorite trail, lately is mostly hills.  Now, I get to add humidity to my training recipe. DOUBLE LOVE.

I talk about this every year, as a reminder, as an encouragement. You cannot live in Middle Tennessee and train for races or run for leisure in the summer without having to deal with humidity.

Studies have found that, in addition to an increased rate of perspiration, training in the heat can increase an athlete’s blood plasma volume (which leads to better cardiovascular fitness), reduce overall core temperature, reduce blood lactate, increase skeletal muscle force, and, counterintuitively, make a person train better in cold temperatures.

Meaghen Brown Outside OnlineThe Positive Benefits of Training in the Heat

Santiago Lorenzo, a professor of physiology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine and a former decathlete at the University of Oregon. “Heat acclimation provides more substantial environmental specific improvements in aerobic performance than altitude acclimation,” he says. And in contrast to the live low, train high philosophy, we more quickly adapt to heat stress than we do to hypoxia. In other words, heat training not only does a better job at increasing V02 max than altitude, but it also makes athletes better at withstanding a wider range of temperatures.

Training Effect

Numerous studies have shown that training in heated conditions, two to three times per week for 20 to 90 minutes, can produce a multitude of beneficial training effects. These include:

  • Lower core temperature at the onset of sweating
  • Increased plasma volume (Plasma is the liquid component in your blood. If the volume is increased, you can send blood to cool your skin without compromising the supply carrying oxygen to your muscles.) *To produce more sweat
  • Decreased heart rate
  • Increased oxygen consumption
  • Improved exercise economy

Allie Burdick, Competitor Running Online, “Why Runners Should Train in the Heat

Let’s get practical: Slow down. Be patient. Relax. Bring Water. Drink electrolytes. Have a route with plenty of water stops. Dress appropriately.

Slow down: I run approximately 1-2 minutes slower on humid days, and 2-3 minutes slower on really hot/humid days. I can run closer to my “cool temp” pace, if I push. But, as we are just entering the “heat/humidity”, it is important to slow down and to get your body comfortable sweating, dripping, being hot.

Relax and be patient: I think these go together. I certainly do not go out on a run with a temp of 75 degrees, “feels like” of 80 and give myself a time limit or try to squeeze in a run before an appointment. I have really enjoyed slowing down, getting out, being okay with being slower. Walk, if you feel like your heart rate is getting too high. It will lower your heart rate a bit and give you a break. If you need to stop, to cool off, find a shady spot to stop in.

Bring water and drink electrolytes: this to me is not optional. Carrying a handheld gives me a “cup” for water refills. If I am starting a run with a temperature above 80 degrees, I will make sure to drink electrolytes and water. I find that I need more than just water. *Also remember to “drink before you run”. Do not use your long run to catch up on water intake. Drink before you run, drink during your run, drink after your run.

Route with water stops/shade: This is important for a longer run. Run in the shade as much as is possible. Even a portion of a run in the shade will give your body a break.

Dress appropriately: I like to wear compression shorts in the summer, if I am running long. I do not feel nearly as wet and I usually do not need to bring a change of shorts. I also like to wear a “bra top” or just a sport’s bra. I know that some of you are thinking. . . “there is NO way I am running in a sport’s bra without a shirt”. Okay! Find the lightest tank possible to wear over your bra and choose a light color.

*Ladies-as hormones fluctuate during the month, so does your body’s ability to cool itself off. During the second half of your menstrual cycle, your body must reach a higher temperature before your thermostat compensates and begins to cool itself. In other words, you will be hotter before sweating starts to cool you off. 

 

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Racing in 2018

I am excited about what I have planned this year. It has not been a training season without bumps that is for sure. Let me tell you what I have planned.

Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race. June 15-17

Pikes Peak 50K. July 28

Kodiak 100. August 17-18

Lookout Mountain 50. December 15

2018 racing in brief: Chattanooga Mountains Stage Race was SO MUCH FUN last year. VERY hot and humid and I loved it!! It was cool to start and finish with the same group of runners for 3 days, to share stories, run together, laugh, groan. . . My fav day was day three on Signal Mountain. MAN! The last time I ran on Signal Mountain was for my first trail race in 2012, Stump Jump! I had an entirely different comfort level and experience this time around.

I am running Pike’s Peak 50K in Colorado Springs approximately 3 weeks out from my 100 miler. Pike’s Peak 50K starts at an elevation 6,200′ and climbs to 11,224′. This will be the highest elevation that I have climbed in a race. I am not nervous. I just have absolutely no idea what to expect or if I will make it! 🙂 A D V E N T U R E!!

The Kodiak 100 Ultra Marathon is a dream course with a lively Start and Finish downtown in The Village of Big Bear Lake. Runners will circumnavigate the entire Big Bear Valley including a visit to the summit of Sugarloaf Mountain (9,963′)** and a trip through the rarely visited Siberia Creek Canyon. This is a true mountain 100 miler, with technical footing and a lot of running above 7,000′, per the course description.

**at mile 65, begins approximately 8 miles of climbing to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain at mile 72. Approximately 7,000′ at mile 65 to 9,963′ at the top of Sugarloaf.

Lookout Mountain 50. If I am able to run LM 50 this year, it will be my fourth consecutive year. I almost have a set of 4 glasses, and they had brown sugar bacon last year!! It is a nice end of the year, closer. They added a 20 miler two years ago. It is a beautiful 20 mile course.

Bumps along the way: My hamstring!! My hamstring has been bothering me since January. Nothing crippling just frustrating. I personally do not like running when my body does not feel at least 98.9% normal to me.

In April and May, I completed all of my training miles, and I took specific steps to alleviate my hamstring irritation. I continue to work with my trainer on Thursdays. I love this day. It is usually hard, but I have enjoyed the creative ways he is targeting my muscles this training season.

I had several visits with a Physical Therapist (PT). My PT, Craig, told me that I have a strain in my hamstring. He was helpful. I think he was most helpful “calming some of my worst fears”. He does not want me to stop running. Some days I wish it was as easy as “not running and getting better”. I think it IS this easy but there is a cost. I am not sure I want to stop or that I need to stop. So, I will trust and be patient.

I have completed all of my training miles for May and I am so, so much enjoying running in the heat and humidity, again. THIS weather is a bonus to those of us who live in the South. It is a free training benefit. I will take it!

. . . add several days of hill repeats to the heat, humidity and triple the bonus!! Love it or leave it. I choose to LOVE it.

As far as my hamstring goes, I am feeling better. I am being patient. I am being conscious of how it feels, how I feel and I am pressing in to month two of training!!

 

 

 

Stars In The Night

I think that I am going to let this song, STARS IN THE NIGHT by Tenth Avenue North be the narrative for the past 6 months. It will put ‘grand/lofty/high’ words behind this chapter for the past 6. months. It is so hard to communicate the lows without the lows sounding too desperate. It was, at times, heart breaking and hopeless but I refused to give up, I reached out, I spoke out and God refused to let me give in.

No matter where you lead
We wanna follow you
The trouble is we forget who we belong to
We chase the wind and tides
We chase the reasons why
Chase the spark inside each other’s eyes
Desires are at war
We want that final shore
Sailing on until we find what we’ve been looking for

December and January were a blur. On many nights, I found myself driving around downtown sitting in my car, in the absence of sound. Looking at the stillness of the lights. The cold nights brought fewer people than most months. Gosh, like in search of stillness. In search of numbness.

We fix our eyes on what we know is true
Even in our shame grace makes a way through
We are obsession, a constellation
You are light in and out of every season
So we keep pressing on
With our redemption song
No one can undo what you’ve done

February and March: What I learned to be true was that I am not hopeless. I went to the doctor to see if I could change my antidepressant. I cannot say enough of the steadfastness of my friends. There were some days I did not know what I wanted or needed. To have the freedom to be vulnerable and the freedom to be me. . . that is what they gave me.

Hallelujah
We’re running to you
On fire from the mercy in your eyes
And through the dark
Singing we are yours
Your love will lead us through the fight
Like stars in the night

April and May: It was like I was moving out of the “fog”. I had more clarity. I felt like I had more choices (even though I had these choices all along.) I decided to stop attending my “broken and beloved” study. I went back to my doctor to alter my prescription again. I made an appointment with my therapist to catch up and get some clarity. I am for sure feeling more like myself. More enthusiasm, more energy, less sadness, less crying.

More living. . . less wilting It is strange to not feel like yourself. Stress is a powerful thing. From December to early April I was in constant “fight or flight” mode. What is a healthy response to fear/danger became stuck in the “on” position. Instead of saving our lives, it can contribute to insomnia, depression, panic attacks, and a host of other health concerns. Instead of being a life-preserver, it can wreak havoc on our health, performance, and quality of life (Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald, “Is Your Stress Response Stuck in the ‘On’ position?”).

I believe that it took my husband, my friends, my doctor, my therapist, my God and my self to REFUSE to give up or give in. To anyone reading, who is in a desperate place, a dangerous place, a dark place. . . there is absolutely hope, and it is not just one thing. It is a combination of support that can bring a powerful change. It is not easy to reach out or to be vulnerable, but I have no regrets. Life is tough sometimes. We are all wired differently. I just refuse to stop fighting!!

Broken and Beloved: Chairs

What if God allows brokenness to bring us into closer relationship with Him? What if the pain is to reshape us to understand how beloved we truly are? You will learn how to build a compassionate and Christ-based identity out of difficult experiences or past shame using biblical study, psychological principles, and art therapy. Includes teaching and small group processing.

-Jill Baird, “Broken and Beloved

 

Several months ago, I was working on a chart in my Broken and Beloved group that began with a particular “event”. That event triggered an emotional response in me that I was not expecting. 

My “trigger” was an incident involving a close relative. In that moment, I was replaying everything that I have watched for several months. I was replaying,  watching her in the beginning of this relationship and how loved she is by my husband, how beautiful she is, how smart she is, how capable she is, how independent she is and in that moment I was afraid . . . because . . . in her anger/selfishness she was “going to lose it all”.  She was getting ready to lose and throw away EVERYTHING that I never had. . .  at her age: beauty, independence, talent, intelligence, the love of her dad, the love of someone who thinks she hung the moon and then some. . . 

Then, I took these thoughts/feelings to a “circle chart”. The chart has 3 circles: vulnerable self, critical self, ideal self. The intersection of these 3 circles is a “dotted-line” heart, the healthiest of all 3.

This was an emotional activity for me, because I explored and challenged all of the thoughts that I had in that moment with her.  As I explored those, I uncovered MORE. I uncovered deeper. (After this day, I cried all day and had the worst headache.)

The following week, I took the thoughts and feelings that I wrote on my circle chart and volunteered to process them openly. . .  There were 4 chairs: vulnerable self, ideal self, critical self, coach.

 I took 3 shards of glass/pottery from our first group meeting when I broke a piece of pottery/glass into chards with a hammer, as an activity to express a “shattering” to eventually display these pieces as “broken and beloved”. On each piece, I wrote down 3 things from my “trigger” event that stood out. THEN, I chose one of the pieces to bring to the chairs. WHOA. I chose, “you are going to lose it all.” My eyes got giant as I moved toward the chairs, not sure what to expect. 

I moved from chair to chair and looked at the chair as I talked to that particular part of myself. I took what I felt in the moment of the trigger event, she was getting ready to lose and throw away EVERYTHING that I never had. . .  at her age: beauty, independence, talent, intelligence, the love of her dad, the love of someone who thinks she hung the moon and then some. . .  and spoke those out loud to myself. At times, it was hard to speak without crying. It hurt to hear these things. These things. . . I would tell myself in private in hope that I would stimulate a change. . . were now being exposed. It made me sad to think that I felt this way about myself. The most vulnerable part of myself was scared and afraid and being silenced.

 I yelled at my critic to stop being mean, that she was hurting the vulnerable self. I told my vulnerable self that she was beautiful and she was going to be okay.  I looked at my critic and told her that she was going to be alright too. On some level, each part was hurting and scared. Each part needed to know that she was going to be okay.

And suddenly, she found herself grateful. Grateful for all the darkness and the heartbreak because it allowed her to recognize true love when she found it. And she knew without a doubt, that all the broken, shattered, forgotten pieces of her soul were worth putting back together again.

-Megyn Blanchard

Grief. . . It’s Complicated

I remember her first day of gymnastics. I remember asking her if she knew she was beautiful and her answer was ALWAYS, emphatically, “YES!!” She was a force then. She is a force now. For a while she was safe from anyone else’s words or opinions (even her own). She can’t be little forever. . .

It began back in the summer of 2017. A course of events, words, scenarios triggered something in me, pulled out a file in my brain. “Triggers are capable of ambushing you without your consent and at any moment,” according to Pat Schwiebert, R.N. “Grief Triggers”. An unrelenting sadness seemed to take over. I could not explain the feeling. I could not figure out the origin. . . This began before the struggles with eating. 

So I locked it up, the grief, and tried to throw away the key. I felt like I was dealing with stolen goods. The grief wasn’t mine to have. . . To stop yourself from grieving because it’s against the rules or because you think it shouldn’t hurt so much leaves you emotionally stunted and numb.

Liz Seda, “We Have a Right to Grieve Losses Big and Small

Not sure I want to be saved. I think I just want it to be over. . . the grief. . . the steady tears. . . the reminders. . . The hardest part is listening to the words. It sounds like me. Maybe? More honest? I never yelled or verbalized in front of anyone. I kept it to myself. . . the self hate. . . the words.

When she is happy she’s beaming and bright. She is invincible. So, I go out of my way to offer her happy: things and people that I know she loves. But people and things cannot take away the hardest moments, and I see myself in her and it’s sad. 

Not only will you need to know free, spontaneous joy, you’ll be floored when you suffer a major loss that won’t be contained by your makeshift prison. . . I noticed how heavy I was all those years because now I feel lighter. I could breathe easier although I cannot remember feeling restricted.

Liz Seda, “We Have a Right to Grieve Losses Big and Small

As much as I do not like the tears or the grief associated with them. I would not change a thing. . . God always meets me there. Despite the gallons of tears that I have cried. He has never left. Hebrews 13:5, I will never leave you or forsake you. He cannot leave me.

Reckless Love. . . He (God, Jesus) is utterly unconcerned with the consequences of his actions with regard to his own safety, comfort and well being. His love isn’t crafty or slick. It’s not cunning or shrewd. In fact, all things considered, it’s quite childlike. And I might even suggest is downright ridiculous. His love bankrupted heaven for you. He doesn’t wonder what he’ll gain or lose by putting  himself on the line. There’s no plan B with the love of God. He gives his heart so completely, so preposterously.  We think if we refuse, it is irreparably broken, yet, he gives himself again and again and again and again. -Cory Asbury “Reckless Love

Grief is not a celebration of sadness. It is a chance to look back with longing for your loss. God. . . I see the struggle. It’s real. It does not matter how many people tell her how beautiful she is. It does not matter that she can accomplish what she puts her mind to. It does not matter that she is a tough competitor. It does not matter that she’s a child of the king. NONE of it matters to her.

There are times I think she needs less of me. She needs less of my story. She needs less of my sadness.

If we are willing to accept only those aspects of change (grief) that can be quantified, measured or fit into a tidy box labeled “official,” we miss the richness of our own lives. And we negate the value of those whose circumstance may not fit with society’s narrow definition of “grievable loss.”

Cheryl Eckl, “The Challenge of Unofficial Loss

It’s complicated.

It’s both, And.

I’m grieving some missing pieces from my past, that are showing up in beautiful ways for her. . .

I’m grieving for her and for me, the struggles that she shares with me. . . 

2017: Lows-Highs-Lows

When you start to feel like things should have been better this year, Remember the mountains and valleys that got you here. They are not accidents. And those moments weren’t in vain. You are not the same. You have grown and you are growing. You are breathing, you are living. You are wrapped in endless, boundless, grace, and things will get better. There is more to you than yesterday.

-Morgan Harper Nichols

It is pretty difficult to sum up 2017 in a blog post. What a year! 2017 was filled with extreme highs and lows. There was no neutral ground to life this year. I know it’s changed me. I’m not sure how, yet. Good news, though, I’m still standing.

The lows. . . my parents moved. . . my birthday, merged into Christmas. . . Christmas. . . eating too much. . . eating too little. . . learning hard parts about my story. . . re-living hard parts about my story. . . forgetting self care. . . trying to make people happy. . . “managing” (ie., “controlling”) other people’s lives. . .

The highs. . . my running. . . my training. . . my friends. . . 46 years of life. . . Broken and Beloved. . . Mogollon Monster 100 . . resort living for 2 days. . . Savage Gulf. . . Stage Race. . . Leona Divide. . . Lookout Mountain 50. . .

Looking forward with faith that God will go ahead of me into 2018.

Reminded by looking back that he was ahead of every. single. day. of 2017. I’m thankful that I did not have a glimpse of 2017. As MUCH as I want to see the future. He protected me. He walked ahead of me.

Not sure I’ve wrestled with God (like Jacob), but I definitely have a limp.

Just glimpses of heaven, Lord, not tomorrow. Just glimpses of forever. I’ll be actively looking for impressions of heaven as I move into 2018.

 

Race Recap: Lookout Mountain 50, 2017

Well, it was cold, longer than previous years and fun. This race challenged my “fight game”. I was pretty wiped out emotionally and mentally from the week leading up to the race.

In 5 days. . .

  • 3 evening, school performances
  • 1 uncharacteristically horrible fight with my husband
  • 1 intense (to say the least) personal study session, Broken and Beloved, where I sat in some uncomfortable moments, regarding fear, loneliness, love, my inner critic.
  • 1 emotional and sad car ride to a therapy appointment
  • My 46th birthday!
  • 3 am wake up call on race morning.

I was looking forward to the time away. I was looking forward to the physical challenge. I was looking forward to an escape. . . AT LEAST 10 1/2 hours in the woods and then, a 2 1/2 hour drive home <sigh>.

It was freezing, but I was convinced that the day would warm up, it never did. I wore gloves, two shirts, shorts and tall socks all day long.

What’s new? I love to try new things at every race. This is the first 50-miler that I ran with only one handheld. I liked it. I was able to carry a bar and gel, in case I needed it. I ate at every aid station. I drank SPRING energy drink all day.

Miles 0-18.4 I think this section of the course is the most runnable. This year, I covered 18.4 miles in about 3.5 hours. It is mostly downhill, with the exception of a 3-ish mile climb up to Covenant College where the start/finish is located. The course was in great shape this year. Last year, it was wet, so running down to Craven’s was a bit sketchy. This year, it was cold and there were small random spots of ice, but I did not slip or fall. This year, they moved the second aid station from the area near the Lookout Mountain Nature Center and Preserve that used to be around mile 14-ish to “Blue Beaver” around mile 13.

Miles 18.4-27.2 This section too is downhill for the most part. I am not sure why, but this is where I struggled the most. Just had a hard time getting into my rhythm. I had to go to the bathroom a few times, my foot hurt, my back hurt. . . wah, wah, wah, waah <sad trombone playing>. I got over it, but it was a struggle to stop thinking like a whiner. It was STILL cold. I kept my gloves and buff on.

Miles 27.2-36.4 This section took me from Lula Lake (27.2) miles to Long Branch II (36.4) Just a few changes to note here. Side note: I LOVE the sweet road section right before you get to Long Branch. 🙂 Okay. . . few changes. The aid station at Long Branch used to be located in the little parking lot, right before you begin the loop. NOW, the aid station is at a beautiful barn about a mile from the little parking lot. That was a small downer, when I arrived. :/  They served grilled cheese and hot soup and brown sugar bacon. Oh my word!!!!! I had all three. I prob had about 4 pieces of bacon. YUM!! Again, I was a bit “woe is me here”. I did not cry at all, just struggled to get myself running consistently here and in the previous section. I had the legs and the stomach and the fitness, but I did not have the drive.

Miles 36.4-50+ I looped back to Long Branch and grabbed more SPRING and grilled cheese. I can taste that grilled cheese, now. It was so, so good. It was still cold. I put my gloves back on and went to the bathroom. I started on my way and realized that I forgot my headlamp. I quickly ran back and put that on! My goal now was to make it back to the road, after the Lula section BEFORE the sun went down. This was a good motivator. And, I DID make it to the road. The last 4 or so miles of this race always seem long. There are many twisting and turning sections. <groan>. To my surprise I was running well, here. This is the first year out of three that I ran most of the last section. Crossed the line!!!

CLOSED the door on my 2017 racing, with a bang! It was not the finish time I was shooting for but I ran better than I had in the past. Next year, I will do better at “mentally tapering”. I think the week leading up to the race really had an effect on my racing. I am happy with my stats and I will probably run this race again in 2018!

Your 50 MILER time was 11:40:47

Your pace was 14:01/M

You were number 81 of 148 overall

You were number 3 of 5 in your age group 45-49