Still a Runner

A Blog by Mary Lou Harris

Archive for Endurance

Race Report – Blues Cruise 50K

Shortly after  a successful first ultra trail race at the Dirty German, I signed up for the Blues Cruise 50K in Leesport, Pennsylvania. Friends had described the race as challenging yet fun. I learned that both were true.

It’s good to see a familiar face at a race and I was fortunately to spot three. Near the bag drop, I ran into Rick and Jeremy both experienced ultra runners. Jeremy followed The Blues Cruise up with the Oil Creek 100K. I expect he will be writing about it in The Road to Trails.

An intense group at the start while I'm lined up in the back of the pack.

An intense group at the start while I’m lined up in the back of the pack. Credit: Ryan Goverts

Near the start, I heard Kristin’s voice, another ultra runner who blogs at Family, Food and Running. She was in a support role for this race and also recently ran the Oil City 100 Miler.

Unlike my experienced ultra friends, as a newbie ultra runner and trail runner, I am still making rookie mistakes. Assuming I would be one of the slowest runners on the trail, I lined up with the back of the pack. Runners stretched ahead as far as I could see with most of them starting at a walk. In addition to the typical rocks and roots, walnuts the size of tennis balls were falling from the trees and onto the single track trail. I bided my time until we arrived at the first aid station. It was packed with runners and with no early need for water or food,  I slipped through the crowd and finally found my pace.

Pink ribbons flagged the well-marked course.

Pink ribbons flagged the well-marked course. Credit: Ryan Goverts

Rain for several days preceding the race left portions of the trail with some mud, but certainly passable. Running on grass after passing a muddy spot helped to kick the weight of any lingering mud off my shoes.

12106783_10204311380657642_3965850244200362561_n

Credit: Ryan Goverts

We were running the course counter-clockwise around Blue Marsh Lake. That placed the ski hill on the course at mile 10/11, my toughest – although not my slowest – mile.  The slowest pace came around mile 23/24 where the uphill/downhill pattern continued. I can also attribute the slowdown to my second rookie mistake letting a horseback riding group get ahead of me while I munched on a salted potato at an aid station. How was I to know they would saunter along for a period of time before again breaking out into a trot? Several of us walked the single track during that time rather than attempt to spook a horse as we shouted “on your left” to the rider. No, better to loose a few minutes and pick up the pace later.

I would tell you how lovely the scenery was, but honestly I was watching the trail underfoot very carefully. I did well until about mile 24 when the beautiful cloud cover gave way to a bit of sunshine. I recall thinking “gee, it’s a bit more difficult to see the trail detail with this dappled sunshine” when – boom – I was down. No harm done, I was back on my feet as quickly as I went down.

Pulling out of the the last aid station I was ready to be finished. I chatted with a couple of guys just behind me on the trail. Their delightful conversation helped me keep going.  Oddly, I have run shorter and mentally more difficult races, but I felt this was the most physically challenging race I have run.  I have done marathons through smoldering heat, nor’easters, angry ocean whipping over the breakwall, and sleet blowing across the Susquehanna. Still, the Blues Cruise was more challenging. And, of course, I plan to do it again, with tougher training built in before the race.

i-99BSW5p-X2

Credit: Ryan Goverts

Finish time? 7:03:11, thanks to a combination of Tailwind in my pack, potatoes with salt, an orange slice and a sip of Coke at several aid stations. I arrived at the finish of that beautiful, hilly, well-marked course in time to say good-bye to my friends who came through the finish much earlier.

Food was abundant, but my stomach said to settle for a grilled cheese. A grabbed a bottle of water, did a 5-minute mud removal cleanup and headed for home. My tired muscles were a strong reminder that I had met the challenge of a second 50K trail race.

Thank you Blues Cruise race directors and volunteers for making the race possible.

Advertisements

Blog Break – Words of Wisdom from the South

Words of wisdom this week come from Diane Nyad, writer, speaker, athlete, and after many attempts became the first person to swim from Cuba to Florida without a shark cage.

Unknown

photo credit: the guardian.com

I believe endurance grows and we can never discount the mental…the powers of concentration and perspective of what it all means. What you are capable of is infinitely higher at this age [64] than when you are a young twenty-something.

Speaking as someone who was 56 years old before developing the focus to complete training for a marathon, Diane Nyad’s words ring true. Something to contemplate while I’m taking a break: where do the scales of ability and mental toughness balance?

Resolution: Strength Training to Conquer the Overhead Bin Lift

December’s last run on O’ahu and first run in Wisconsin resulted in the expected temperature jolt. With running gear adaptable to both climates, I was prepared for the transition from balmy upper 70’s in Makakilo to breezy lower 20’s along the Rock River.

Post-run on O'ahu

Post-run on O’ahu

trail along Rock River

Rock River Parkway Trail near family holiday stop in Wisconsin

Because this trip was planned for two distinctly different climates, I was doubly pleased to include everything needed for a multi-stop sojourn in a single carry-on bag and a roomy handbag. Sportswear designers deserve some of the credit for my efficient packing. Much of my running gear can now be combined with street clothing. Running skirts and dresses, leggings, and a running shirt (preferably one without a list of sponsors across the back) along with a wrap will take you to dinner and out for a run in the morning.

As a frequent traveler, I’ve worked to rethink what must absolutely be included in a packing list.  Self-sufficiency in handling baggage is important as circumstances will sometimes dictate when you – and only you – will be elected to get your worldly traveling goods from Point A to Point B. The always increasing checked baggage fees are an added impetus for this frugal traveler to lighten up.

My packing plan seemed flawless until I boarded the first flight. Lifting my carry-on to waist and chest height: no problem. Lifting it over my head: not happening.

English: Luggage compartments of an Airbus 340...

English: Luggage compartments of an Airbus 340-600 aircraft (economy class). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fortunately, a fellow traveler with upper body strength to spare and about a 10 inch advantage in stature made short work of settling my bag into its space. Ever grateful for the help of strangers when I travel, this experience told me that with my bag packed about as heavy as the airline allows, my upper body strength was not equal to the task.

I was not put to the test again as a full flight out of Honolulu led to a request that some carry-on’s be tagged at the gate. I quickly complied, slipping my laptop out before my carry-on was handed-off. On the last leg of the journey, my husband joined me on the flight and made short work of stowing our carry-ons.

Still, this is a message that I need to heed. Do we loose muscle mass as we age?  Yes.  Can we take action to diminish that loss?  I think so. I admit upper body work and strength training in general takes a back seat to my mileage needs as a distance runner. A trade-off to spend time doing strength training when I could be experiencing the pure joy of running in the outdoors is a tough one, but one that it’s time to address.

Strength Training

Strength Training (Photo credit: Rtist MrB)

My strength training goal for 2013:  Build upper body strength to a point where I can single handedly lift a carry-on into overhead storage.

I’m all ears on advice from anyone who has a workout or a plan for a senior runner who would rather log miles than lift weights.

With gratitude that I’m still running, I’m wishing everyone a Happy, Healthy and Active New Year.