Friday, November 14, 2014

Balancing Act

When people first find out I run ultras the first question they usually ask is do you sleep? Do you stop for a snack? What do you eat? Then there's usually a pause as they stop and ponder this for a moment before asking where do you find time to train? 

I began to think about this even more while I was at Adam's Camp and a woman asked the moms what we do to take care of ourselves. As everyone else responded I don't I felt like the selfish one. Oh well I just go on these running adventures for many hours on end. But I know at least for myself running is what I need to be a good mom, a good wife. But how do I do it? Sure I could use a little more sleep at night, but that's not where I'm finding time to run. So what is it? Well I broke it down into a few reasons why it works for me.

1. Make it a priority
It sounds simple, but the most important thing to finding the time to train comes down to how much of a priority is it to you. Training is one of my top priorities. I would never miss a dr appointment to go for a run, but if you make it a priority you can often find time here and there. I get up extra early to work for a bit before I go into the office, that way I can leave early to get in a run, but still get my work done. I've logged miles doing 2 mile laps in my neighborhood with a headlamp on. If I can even get in 2-4 miles first thing in the morning that helps my daily mileage. 

Dan and I started taking James with us running. This has been huge for our training and our family. Its important to us to get James outside and playing. We don't want him to become addicted to TV and video games. And he loves it! I think James looks almost as forward to these runs as Dan and I do. Sure we could each probably use a few more miles than we get when we push the stroller, but it works for us so that we can have family time, running time and still have time to get some chores done around the house.

2. Prioritize your runs
Dan actually came up with this idea and it's great! Although I need to step it up on the priority of my runs next year. Each week prioritize your runs, so for me my long run is top priority, then you figure out a way to get that run in, even if its not the originally intended day. This way if something comes up and you have to miss a run it can be a low priority run and won't affect your training too much. I tend to put my workouts as low priority, but I know next year I need to change this and put a bigger focus on hill/speed workouts.

3. Organization
I am an organized person in general, but I've become even more organized. My freezer is stocked with ready made meals and every weekend I prep all our meals for the week so all I have to do during the week is boil some pasta, throw something in the oven or even just serve it up. I also have all of James' appointments planned out so I plan ahead of time which days I can run when. I don't have one of those schedules where I can run the same time every day. It just doesn't work for me so I have to be flexible. One day might be early morning, the next late afternoon and one day the plan might be just see where you can squeeze in 3 miles. 

4. Know when to ask for help
No one is a superhero on their own. Everyone needs some help sometimes. It's great for my training that Dan also trains because he understands how important it is to me. We work together to make sure we can each get in our runs. On extremely crazy weeks for me Dan can usually tweak his schedule so he can pick up James from daycare or drop him off so I can get in a run. Or sometimes he'll just pester me into meeting him for a lunch run so I don't get bogged down and blow it off.

This summer we also got a cleaning lady. Best decision ever. It freed up our weekends enough to let us get longs runs. And I wasn't so stressed about having a disaster of a house. You just have to figure out what you need help with to make it possible and then figure out a way to make it happen. And then there are days when Dan can sense I'm on the edge and we just order take out, eat out of the box so there aren't dishes and just take a break. 

This week was particularly challenging to get in runs with James' schedule and I had to dust off the old treadmill during naptime one day. But I got my miles in, made all our appointments and had dinner together as a family every night. I'd say another successful week!

Week November 3 - 9

Miles Running: 40.6
Hours Hiking and Running: 7

 

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Adam's Camp Race Report

Speech in the pumpkin patch with BIG pumpkins!
Last week was James' first week of camp. I went back and forth on my decision to send him to camp. Was it too early? Was he ready? Would it be too much for him? But in the end I decided that if it was open to 2 year olds then they had to be ready for kids who might fall asleep or meltdown after an hour. I certainly could not possibly have the only kid in that boat.

On Sunday we got to meet the therapists, other kids and parents. James seemed to be doing okay once he started playing, but he was definitely a bit unsure of what was going on and why he was surrounded by strangers. Monday James and I arrived ready to go. First we had circle time with his group and played music. The look on James' face was priceless. Like 'seriously? I get to play all these instruments?' It got even better when James had music first. He had a blast playing guitar and the chimes. Then he went to speech and the parents were quickly kicked out. 

Music therapy...sometimes we just need to sit in a drum
I continued to spy on James through the windows. The speech therapist was great! She was really pushing him to use vocalizations rather than just signs. He fought it hard for awhile, but by the end of the week was using the vocalizations pretty regularly. That was really exciting to see. After speech was snack and then PT and OT. Poor guy was so exhausted by this point he could barely stand up. I began to wonder if this whole thing would be a waste and he'd be a mess for the last 2 sessions all week. Camp ended with more circle time and the parents got to come back to hear all about what the kids did that day. 

Swinging to OT
I tried to give James lunch before we left, but he was clearly too tired. So home we went for a long nap. Tuesday morning arrived and I loaded James up on some protein filled eggs before we left with the hope that it would help fuel him. He was still pretty tired though and had a bit of a rough time at OT and PT which were first. But then it was like he rebounded and got used to the work. For the rest of the week, he was definitely still exhausted and napped like a champ, but he was able to get through 3 hours of therapy relatively easily. 

We weren't allowed to watch for most of the sessions so I don't know exactly what they did, but it was intense. They definitely pushed James as much as they could before he would just refuse and meltdown. On Wednesday morning I was sitting in the kitchen making James eggs for breakfast and he was playing with his memory cards. I showed him the lion which is one of his favorites, but this time not only did he sign it he said "li"! I was so excited! He's never made a "l" sound.

Happy Halloween
By the end of the week James was still exhausted by the end of the day, but he was still playing and working hard for the entire 3 hours. His group got along so well and really worked well together. It was so fun to watch him interact with the other kids. Everyone had told me to expect "big progress". But what did that really mean? How much progress could a 2 year old make? Well by the end of the week James was saying words (jump, hi, stop, more, help and ball). And by Sunday his new favorite word emerged...happy. He says this non-stop now. And not just an approximation it is a full on "haaappeee"! His balance has also improved significantly. James had preferred to run rather than master walking which has led to no shortage of bumps and bruises. He definitely still runs but fewer wobbles and falls. He is also following direction better. I say better because he was so terrible at following directions before that just about anything is an improvement. He knows what you want, but he'll just look at you and smirk before darting the other way. We still have a long ways to go on this one, but at least we're making progress!

All in all Adam's Camp was an amazing experience for James! He did amazing and seemed to have a blast. We can't wait to go back! I have no doubt we'll be back many more times!

Week October 27 - November 2

Miles Running: 36.0
Hours Hiking and Running: 7


























Thursday, November 6, 2014

321 Mile Journey

Run Rabbit Run 100
Last March Dan and I sat down to look over our race schedule for the year. As we were looking at it Dan remarked how cool it would be to each race 321 miles. In typical Siobhan fashion I was quick to jump on anything that involved any sort of challengeSeveral other RDS runners were also running Chicago which seemed like the perfect end to this challenge. And so we spent the next few days tweaking our schedules and adding in races to equal 321 miles before Chicago. This challenge would be nearly 100 miles more than either of us had ever raced in a year. I knew we were both capable of it, but I also knew it would be a long six months. 


Salida marathon
Our 321 mile challenge proved to be more of a journey than we expected...I guess that's how life often plays out isn't it? It was a rocky start. I was sick for Salida, then rebounded for a huge PR at Quad Rock. Quad Rock was one of the highlights of my season. I felt like things really came together and I had a really solid run. But as the races stacked up I felt like all I was doing was recovering and tapering. There was no training, at least not until after the Leadville marathon. 

Leadville was disappointing. My legs just weren't there. I was over raced and my body was just not ready for the race I had hoped to have. I can come up with a million excuses for that race, a heavy snowpack meant I couldn't get up to train at altitude, it was a new course, still early season...but it all comes down to my legs were over raced and I wasn't ready...well that and I supermanned down Mosquito losing half my elbow in the process. By the time Chase the Moon rolled around a few weeks later my heart wasn't in it. I couldn't get excited about running circles around Highlands Ranch, wasn't looking forward to running in thunderstorms through the night, wasn't looking forward to running through the night and in the end when Dan asked if I'd rather go for an adventure run that day I jumped at the chance. This meant I would have to rework the schedule a bit to make sure I still hit my numbers. 
La Maratona

I ended up finding La Maratona marathon to throw into the mix and that was another highlight. It was an awesome course, even if it was a bit long. And I won my first prize money ever! La Maratona also marked the start of my big training month. One more month of crazy training before the big dance. 

Dan toed the line at Leadville as prepared as he possibly could be this year. Everything was in place for him to have a great run. And a great run indeed! After a rocky first 40 miles he cruised up and over Hope Pass before running solidly back to Leadville! Leadville will always be a special place for us and to see Dan finally get that belt buckle almost had me in tears. He had worked so hard throughout the year and he did it. 

This is what it's all about. This is what I want James to remember. He doesn't need to remember the race, the distance or the time. But I want him to remember what hard work gets you...it may not always be what you thought you'd get or in the time frame you were hoping for, but if you don't give up you will get whatever it is you set out to do. 


Run Rabbit Run 100
Then it was time for Run Rabbit Run. I was more confident in the distance than the previous year, but this year there was more pressure to run well. To push a little harder, to have more success. And RRR is considered more of a graduate level race than Leadville. Was I prepared for that? There was no way to know until I got out there. RRR had its share of highs and lows, but after stumbling up the stairs, hugging the bunny and collecting my second check of the year I was pretty darn pleased with what my hard work had turned into. 

It was the home stretch. We had made it through our 100s, the big dances of this journey. Now it was time to enjoy the last bit. Dan cruised easily through the Bear Chase 50k before we were off to Chicago. I had no idea how Chicago would go. I hadn't trained at all. I recovered and then every time I thought to myself that I should focus on a road run or intervals, speed workout I would find myself pushing up another big hill climb. That's what I love and that's what this was all about. Chicago would turn out the way it was supposed to. 

I can't imagine a better way to have ended our journey. We were surrounded by friends and family and the entire RDS community. Unsure of how the race would go for either of us it was great to both end with huge PRs and great races. 

Overall the last six months of racing has been a challenge no doubt. We raced, we didn't just go out and run or jog any of our races. We truly raced each one, setting out to prove to ourselves just how far we could push ourselves. And the main focus was still family. We never sacrificed family time to get this done. That is maybe the single thing I'm most proud of from this whole experience. I didn't want to do this 321 mile challenge for James if it meant taking so much time away from him. But it was the exact opposite. I think because we knew ahead of time that we had to make the most of every minute we really tried to figure out a way to train and spend time together. And to be honest we were more successful at this than the previous two years. I don't think we'll be running the 321 mile challenge again next year. It's time to take a break...you know go back to just running 100s! But it was an experience I'll cherish for a long time to come. 

Week October 13 - 19

Miles Running: 27
Hours Hiking and Running: 5

Week October 20 - 26

Miles Running: 50
Hours Hiking and Running: 10


Salida marathon


Cheyenne Mountain 50k

Quad Rock 50

Leadville marathon

Leadville marathon

La Maratona 

Leadville 100

Leadville 100

Run Rabbit Run 100
Run Rabbit Run 100

Run Rabbit Run 100

Chicago marathon

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Chicago Marathon Race Report

It's been awhile since I've ran a road marathon and I've never written a race report for one before. I usually just showed up, ran and called it good. My first marathon I didn't even own a watch...needless to say I did not negative split that race! I really didn't know what to expect going into Chicago. I had been running well and my legs felt good, but I hadn't run any sort of long run since Run Rabbit. How would my legs feel after 20 miles? All I could do was try to recover and hope for the best.

Dan, James and I arrived in Chicago on Friday afternoon just in time for the RDS pre-race party. I'm pretty sure it's safe to say James had the most fun of just about anyone there. He ran around in circles until he nearly passed out from exhaustion. Dan and I had a great time meeting so many people we only knew only from online and social media.

Saturday was quite the adventure as Dan and I were certain we could navigate our way through Chicago to packet pickup. After 4 miles of running, more bridge crossings than I can count we arrived safely at packet pickup in the back of a cab. Once inside I felt like country mouse in the big city. I wandered around head spinning and after getting our t-shirts I was desperate to get out of there. So we quickly grabbed a cab and retreated to the hotel for cheese burgers...because really what race would be complete without pre-race burgers?

Sunday morning Dan and I headed to the starting line determined not to get lost. After being so used to getting to races 10 minutes before the start it was a rough adjustment getting there an hour early only to barely have enough time to drop gear bags, use the porta-pottys, kiss good luck and rush into our corrals. I seriously made it as they were saying one minute left. It was perfect running temps so I was a bit chilly in shorts and a t-shirt, but I knew it would only take a couple minutes to warm up. 

Get Lucky would turn out to be the theme of the day and it blasted through the speakers and I broke out in a smile picturing James dancing away! Before I knew it the gun went off and I was crossing the starting line. I had only managed to make it up to the 3:45 pace group so I spent a fair bit of the first mile navigating around runners before settling into what felt like an easy pace. Just before we hit the 1 mile mark I noticed a guy just ahead of me wearing an Ups for Downs shirt and I quickly caught up to him. Of all 26.2 miles this moment stood out the most to me. Here was some complete stranger who didn't even know it but he was running for James. Tears started to fill my eyes as I tapped his shoulder and told him that I have a son with Ds, pointed to my shirt and said I was running for him too. The man told me he was running for his brother who has Ds. A moment later I was off running again, smiling to myself at this little encounter. 

The miles ticked by quickly and I was doing a good job maintaining a steady 7:25ish pace. I was feeling good, but definitely worried as to whether or not I could hang on. I never run this fast so I had no idea how long I could continue. As I approached the charity mile, mile 14, I couldn't help but get excited to see the RDS tent and my family. Apparently I got a little too excited as I clicked off a 6:44 mile. I didn't think I was capable of a sub-7 minute mile for one mile let alone over halfway through a marathon. I guess I'm a bit faster than I give myself credit for, of course I also probably should not have gotten swept up in the moment as about five miles later my pace started falling off. 

At mile 19 I wouldn't say I hit a wall like I've experienced in past marathons, but I was struggling to maintain the same pace I had all morning. Whether it was from lack of calories, I could not begin to stomach any gel so my only calories were from Gatorade at aid stations, or because I had started out too fast I won't know. Looking back I think I could have maintained the pace but probably needed to have trained to run that pace a bit further. My marathon training had been essentially non-existent so I couldn't be too upset. 

A few miles later I began to realize that while I hadn't set out for a BQ, I was pretty confident I would get one, I was really going to qualify by quite a bit. It was just a weird thought. Every other marathon had one goal, one time in mind and one thing I was racing for. This time none of that mattered. I was running for a whole different reason and actually running a heck of a lot better. 


I passed a guy in a Western States shirt and finally started to feel like maybe I was back in my element. And then I got shouldered by another runner who seemed to care less about anyone else's journey. I congratulated the WS runner as I went by and remembered why I had transitioned to ultras a few years earlier. There is a different sense of community in ultras, not to say road races are bad, they're just different. Runners cheer each other on and not just back of the packers, but the elite, lead runners cheer on those behind them, runners of all abilities stop and help the runner sitting on the side of the trail. You certainly never run more than a mile without receiving or giving words of encouragement. Chicago was different. The first half the spectators lined the streets cheering non-stop and the excitement was electric. This was so much fun after running so many races lately where the majority of spectators are the aid station volunteers. There are some amazing aid stations that are totally rockin' it, but its hard to beat the hoards of crowds we ran through.


As I turned into the park I realized I had a shot at going sub 3:20 so I took off. I didn't have seconds set on my garmin so I had no idea how close I was or just how hard I had to push. As it turns out I finished in 3:20:13...should have pushed a little earlier. But still that was over a 15 minute PR, a BQ and overall a time I was pretty stoked about. It also meant the end of our 321 mile challenge, 321.9 miles to be exact. For a moment I kicked myself that I hadn't thought to actually slow down at the end and finish in 3:21...but well I'm just not that poetic. The whole weekend was fantastic, meeting the other RDS runners and their kiddos, seeing the family, eating pizza, and finishing it all with huge PRs for both Dan and I. Dan took 14 minutes off his PR and I couldn't think of a better way for us to end our season than with having great races.

Week October 6 - 12

Miles Running: 51.0
Hours Hiking and Running: 8.0