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Training Brain.

Last week I posted a self-deprecating/humorously ashamed post on Facebook about how terrible I felt for forgetting Wes’s basketball practice on Thursday. I did feel terrible but I posted about it with a note of humor so that I could lighten my guilt. Many people chimed in about things they had forgotten, even the coach reassured us! ALL WAS WELL.

And then I forgot again this week.

I KNOW! I SHOULD HAVE PUT IT ON THE CALENDAR.

Let me tell you why I didn’t. Because I never put sports practices on the calendar, only games. Because practice schedules don’t change! Every Thursday! I’ve never had a problem remembering practices. And while last week I forgot, every night this week I thought, “Tonight is not Thursday so we don’t have practice!” Since it was on my mind so clearly every night before Thursday, I never thought I would forget when Thursday arrived.

The catch was this: I had a gathering-I-couldn’t-miss Thursday night, so Donnie was going to have to handle practice. No big deal, he does that fine, but then I found out Thursday day he was going to work late and my mind went into: FIND A BABYSITTER SO I WON’T MISS MY MEETING mode.

I found a babysitter, went to my meeting, and was completely fine until last night when Wesley quietly and sweetly said, “We forgot practice last night Mom, BUT IT IS OKAY! DON’T WORRY!”

My kids know my guilt issues too well. My daughter sent me this message via instagram.
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And of course Donnie was like, “Put it on the calendar,” because he’s not as in tune with my issues of guilt.

Can you guess what happened next? YES YOU CAN BECAUSE WE ARE SO MUCH ALIKE.

ME: “I just feel the need to point out all of the things I did this week that I did RIGHT like put garbage and recycling out and do laundry and pack lunches and sweep and vacuum and change the kitty litter and Christmas shop and move tons of stuff downstairs since the renovation starts in a week and met with the contractor and dealt with the insurance company for my car and set up childcare for the holidays and went to a meeting and took the kids to the library and bought groceries and…”

I stopped there because I realized Donnie had left the room to go to the bathroom. He may not know my guilt issues well, but he knows when to make an exit.

I still woke up feeling pretty terrible about it. It is on the calendar now. I keep telling myself that this is Training Brain. Pregnancy Brain works the same way. When your body is doing something exhausting like growing a human or training for a 100K, your brain gets deprived the necessary oxygen since other parts of your body need it more urgently. I’ve run 77 miles in the past 7 days and I still have 33 miles and 2 days to go before I get a rest day. I AM TIRED, yo. So the blood is going to help my legs and my body cope with all of these miles and it’s doing a decent job with my brain, but on Thursday when the “Donnie Has To Work Late” alarm was sounded and I panicked about missing my meeting, the basketball practice just disappeared amidst the chaos and the exhaustion.

But we do have a lot going on. I work full time. Donnie has been working 60-80 hour weeks. It’s Christmas. I have to move almost every item upstairs to downstairs before 12/28 when the renovations upstairs begin. It’s a lot of balls to juggle even without the 100K training so I’m trying not to be too hard on myself. I’m trying to care for myself and be as kind to myself as I would to any of my friends who called and said, “I missed practice!” I would tell them with love how wonderful they are and that the one missed practice is nothing and just life and that they shouldn’t feel bad. So, I’m trying to tell myself that. I’m trying to be as supportive to myself as I would be to my friends.

The funny thing is that now that we’re on holiday break, there won’t be practice for a few weeks. So, anyone want to place bets on whether I’ll take Wes on Thursday anyway? That would be me. Forget the two weeks we actually have practice but show up the night we don’t.

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3 Weeks.

Header-Logo-2016In 3 weeks I’ll be running 62 miles one race. I have 30 hours to complete it, but I pray to ALL THAT IS HOLY that I don’t need that. I truly think 15 hours is “worse case scenario” based on my current training and past experience. I’m really hoping to do it in closer to 13 hours which will barely creep into my bedtime. That is my concern – the deterioration I’m bound to experience every moment past 8pm which is usually when I try to get to bed.

3 weeks.

The 100K is an “urban ultra” called the Pistol Ultra and it’s in Maryville, TN – outside Knoxville where I’m from. I’ll be able to visit my Mom and even take advantage of a running buddy having a sister who lives there so I’m going to actually have someone run the last 20 miles with me. It’s a greenway, so I’ll not have to worry about the ultra shuffle causing me to trip late in the day (trail ultras make me nervous for that reason, tired legs are hard to pick up) and it’s 10’ish mile loops so I’ll be able to set up my own little aid station with everything I might need. It really has everything I’d want out of my first 100K, so much that I’m using this as a trial run for consideration in doing the 100 Miler next year. It’s too perfect not to at least consider it.

I just have to get through the 100K first. And my last big training week is this week. I need to get 77 miles in this week. I’ve not done a great job sticking to training since Thanksgiving. I got my two back-to-back 20 milers in this weekend, but I skipped 2 runs this week and shortened a 3rd so I finished the week about 10 miles too short. I CAN NOT DO THAT THIS WEEK. I have to be very diligent about sticking to the plan. My goal is to do 7-7-10-7-7-23-16 but I’m not sure how easy that will be. It’s hard to get up at 3am every weekday, which is what I have to do to leave the house by 4:45am. I need an hour and 45 minutes to get all my coffee in, do my blogging, minor chores, pack lunches etc. So 3am wakeup 5 days in a row will be ROUGH. This week I’ll actually be sleeping late on the weekends, until maybe 5am! WOO.

I’m telling you all this so that hopefully you can help hold me accountable. My goal is to pop in Sunday evening and say, “I did it! 77 miles in one week! Time to taper!” Which, it’s not EXACTLY A 2-week taper, but I’ll have a big drop to a 1-week taper so if I can just make it through Sunday and get all of my miles in, I’ll have the confidence I need to survive race day.

I’m equal parts terrified and totally zen about it. I did 57 miles in 30+ hours a few weeks ago. Granted I had a night’s sleep in the middle, but I did it and I felt fine so this race is very equivalent. Maybe even easier since there’s hardly any elevation change on this course.

I was telling my friend this weekend – the one who will be running with me at my race – I’m actually pretty zen about the race day itself. I truly believe the journey is the reward. Race day is just the last step in a long challenge and I survived 95% of the challenge before in the training, so big picture? The race itself? Does not need to hold a lot of power over me. I’m confident I’ll finish, after this week I’ll be more confident I’ll finish under 15 hours, but in reality? I’ve already reached very high levels of pride in the weeks of discipline bringing me to this point. I’ve carried a huge burden on top of work/family/life and I’ve not killed anyone or lost my mind completely. I celebrate the training more than I’ll celebrate the victory.

But I promise you, I’ll still celebrate the victory plenty. 62 miles? BRING IT ON.

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A Dizzy Monkey Race Report

Holy Crap, y’all. This weekend was basically perfect in every way. I wouldn’t change one thing, I wouldn’t do anything differently. Everything that could have gone wrong (and does, as many racers can attest to) went right and I ended a 75.3 mile week feeling like I had just finished any other build week in preparation for my 100K training. Except for the monstrously sore throat which I think is either a sign that my body is like, “FINALLY! WE CAN GET SICK!” or maybe it’s just the after-effect of ingesting so much salt to avoid cramping. Either way – when you do a 50K followed by a marathon and the only thing you have to complain about is your sore throat? You’re doing great.

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This race report will be short because it was my fourth Dizzy so not much new to relate about the course or my experience. My plan was to go in and take it easy and walk ALL of the uphills because I knew I needed to save my legs for the Flying Monkey with it’s insane elevation profile. I teamed up with two friends and the three of us just decided to stick together and it was GREAT. We had a few other friends pop in here and there – not racers, just friends looking for people to run with – and that was a pleasant change to past years! I’ve never had the random drop-in from a non-racer before and it definitely gives you a boost of unexpected energy. But the two friends who I stuck it out with the rest of the race gave me my best Dizzy to date. Not my best time, but the best day. The weather was great. I never got The Sads which I sometimes do on ultras when I end up alone out in the woods. I never thought about quitting. I never walked when it wasn’t a “Kim Needs To Save Her Legs” decision. Nothing ever hurt too bad. My back started tightening up on the last 9 miles, but I stretched it out on a bench in the woods and then just kept moving the final 5 miles so I could get to my foam roller before it cramped up entirely.

All in all? A lovely day with friends on the trails. I finished in an unofficial time of 7:50 which is only about eleven minutes slower than my first Dizzy, so considering how deliberate I was being about “taking it easy” – I’m proud I came that close to one of my previous years!

And then I threw my stuff in my car, headed home, soaked in the tub, ran to the store, and hit the road.

And then Donnie realized he forgot something so we turned around. And then hit the road again.

And then I realized I forgot something so we turned around. And then hit the road agin.

We made it to Nashville, ate a quick dinner next to the hotel, and I think I was asleep by 9 at the latest.

Flying Monkey

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I woke up with my alarm (I rarely need an alarm but the morning after a 50K I knew I would) around 4am and spent some time drinking caffeine and rolling out my back with my foam roller. I felt pretty good, I was mainly just loosening thing up in preparation, not because I was hurting. I felt stiff but not sore which is an important distinction that you make whenever you do back-to-back long runs. Basically I felt just like I would on the days I was going for another Sunday long run on top of a Saturday long run, which I’ve done often this season. I had no new blisters or chaffing. Two things I was REALLY worried about because it would suck to start a difficult marathon already blistered or chaffed.

It was sub-30 when we got to the race start and my nerves were settling in. I was opting to take advantage of the early race start because I was worried I would need more than 7 hours. There weren’t a lot of people there yet because I was early and I could feel my nerves just spiraling out of control. I really wanted to see my friend who talked me into the Dizzy Monkey because I didn’t know anyone and after the friend-supported day before, I missed my friends. I stood out in the cold amazed by how many people from other states were meeting and greeting each other. There were TONS of the “Marathon Maniacs” there which seems like a great running community that I could qualify for, I just never have bothered signing up. After seeing how spirit-filled they all were, though, I kinda want to now.

Trent, the race director, wearing his Seneca Crane facial hair (every year the race has a theme, this year was The Monkey Games), made some hilarious announcements saying things like, “If you get to the finish line and you’re device says more than 26.2 miles, I won’t charge you for the extra.” We started a very short grass path to the road and we were on our way!

I knew it was going to be a fun day when the first sign I passed said, “TRENT SUCKS.”

There was also a sign on the first major hill that said, “LAST HILL” (every hill would end up having those signs) and at the top there was one that said, “300 feet of elevation gain. Only 3200 feet to go!”

The signs were part of the spirit of the race. People had monkey hats on and many – like me – had stuffed monkeys somewhere on their person. People were walking hills which is probably something a marathon maniac knows a lot about because the only way you could do all of those marathons (one guy there had done 300 in one year!) is to take it easy at all of them. So, I followed suit and was happy to have company. That was my plan I stuck to the whole day: I walked all of the hills and ran all of the downs.

I struggled a tiny bit mentally early on, just because I was a bit lonely. But the day was BEAUTIFUL. Cold, REALLY cold depending on what side of the mountain you were on, but the skies were the perfect color of blue with just a speckling of white puffy clouds so every time I felt lonely I’d look around and be grateful I could enjoy such a beautiful race.

By the time I got past the halfway mark I started feeling MUCH happier. I was thinking about how I was going to talk my friends into joining me the next year. The aid stops and sentry locations were filled with wonderful cheerleaders that were so encouraging it gave me a boost every time. And when the “regular” starters started passing me as an “early” starter, they were all kind and encouraging. I tried to hug the outside of the turns to let them have the inside so I probably added a mile on my distance just to stay out of their way, but they never made me feel like they were annoyed by me.

Everyone there was just NICE. No one is trying to qualify for anything because the course isn’t certified, everyone is proud to be a repeat-monkey so they’re excited to find people who have never done it before. And everyone is MISERABLE on EVERY hill which is kinda comical and makes you all laugh together. Towards the end on one short but steep climb there was a sign that said, “This is not a hill” and I just laughed my ass off. I also cracked up over the one that said “8 miles left!” when we only had 3 remaining.

IMG_1178All in all? A race I can’t wait to do again. And again. And again. I could see it being terrible if I had gotten blisters or if I hadn’t committed to walking the hills, but yesterday was simply great. My only issue was I felt my quads, mainly my left quad, on the verge of cramping basically the entire day. So, I kept my electrolytes in check the entire time. I definitely couldn’t have done trails on that kind of issue because any stretch in the wrong direction might have caused a cramp. I was glad I could just do the ultra shuffle on the road and not stress about logs to climb over or roots to catch me up.

I’ll do it again. And by “it” I mean the “Dizzy Monkey” – not even just the Flying Monkey. I think I liked having an excuse to walk the hills. I settled into a great trot that carried me over the downs/flats and just power-walked the hills for an unofficial finish of 5:30.

I ran 57.3 miles in two days and it took me about 13:30. This gives me a good feel for how long it will take me to do my 100K. I’ve been saying “under 15 hours” and I think I can still hold to that.

About the Sign

How does it look? #MonkeyMarathon #DizzyMonkey

A photo posted by Kim Holmes (@misszoot) on

I took it off before the race even started.

Before race day I envisioned myself being the lone walker on all of the hills and people just flying past me all day, hence the sign would be funny. But as I stood at the start line, feeling surprisingly good, I starting worrying, What if I’m not the slowest one today? I mean, how terrible would it feel to be struggling on a tough marathon and see ME pass you WEARING THAT SIGN? That would probably make you feel terrible. And while I knew I’d be walking the ups, I felt good and figured I’d probably be running everything else so…why make someone else feel terrible?

And I’m glad I took it off because, as an early starter, I was actually finishing with some 4:30 marathoners and I would NOT have wanted to make them feel bad when I passed them because they were an hour faster than me and they had no way of knowing that.

In Conclusion

I don’t know what my big goal for next year will be, but as long as the Dizzy Monkey doesn’t conflict with it? I’ll do it again. But hopefully I’ll talk others into joining me. It’s that fun! Donnie even wants to do it next year! Maybe not both, but at least the Monkey! If for nothing else but for the shirt WITH MY NAME ON IT! Do you see? It says “ZOOT” – so did my race bib! If I understand things correctly, next year my shirt will have a monkey on my sleeve to indicate I’ve survived ONE before. How awesome is that?IMG_1184

I feel good, y’all. It’s amazing what a difference proper training makes. I told Donnie last night, “If this weekend had gone terribly I would have regretted every 3am wakeup of the last 2 months.” But it didn’t. It went perfectly so it’s all worth it.

I’m a proud Dizzy Monkey.

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Possibly The Most Insane Month Of My Life.

This weekend is my back-to-back race weekend. I’ll do the Dizzy 50s 50K on Saturday for my fourth time. I’ll come home quickly and soak in a bath of epsom salts and jump in the car with the family to drive to Nashville. Sunday morning I’ll do Flying Monkey Marathon which is already my most unique marathon experience ever just with the lottery registration process and the official emails. I can tell it’s going to be memorable but it will also be terrible because it has the SAME elevation gain (same amount of climbing) as my toughest 50K last year which took me a hair under 8 hours. This will be road so the flat parts won’t be covered in mud, but still…I need to finish this thing in under 7. I AM KINDA FREAKING OUT.

Flying Monkey Elevation Profile - Looks like there are no flats.

Flying Monkey Elevation Profile – Looks like there are no flats.

Since this will be 57.3 miles in one weekend, I’ve basically been training like my 100K is this weekend instead of in January. I’ve been running 60 miles a week most weeks, even on m “rest” weeks I’m doing around 50. I feel ready and trained and I dropped the 10lbs I put on last year. Still not down to my “ideal” racing weight but I can definitely feel the difference in my performance from losing that extra weight.

The main challenge I’ve faced is that my domestic life has gotten HARDER, not EASIER. In theory, this is “my” season so Donnie helps out more with the kids and the house since I do everything in the Summer during his training season. The problem is, he’s had HUGE deadlines this month so he’s working 80-hour work weeks. So, not only is he not able to help out much with the kids and the house, but he’s not arranging childcare or pet care for our race trips which is a huge stressor I hate dealing with on top of a race. I’m doing all of my runs in the mornings before he goes to work and on the weekends he works from home while I’m running. I’m still cooking every night and doing all of the laundry and the dishes AND trying to make progress towards getting the house ready for some contract work that starts in a month or so. I also thought it would be a good idea to launch a small web project, to join group that has it’s first meeting that requires a small amount of reading, AND AND AND…it’s NaBloPoMo.

I DID NOT PLAN MY LIFE WELL THIS MONTH.

But what are you going to do, right?

Edited to Add: I was already running a little late this morning as I got a little sidetracked hunting down elevation profiles and then GUESS WHO CALLED ME AT 3:50am? MY OLDEST CHILD! He hadn’t gone to bed yet and wanted to update me…they won their LipJam competition last night! His last event as the president of his fraternity. Amazing group shot here. I’m going to be late today but I don’t care now because I got to talk to my kid which is rare when your kid is 20 and super active in 90 million extra-curricular activities.

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The Long Road To A Sub-2 Half

I ran the Huntsville Half Marathon in 2006 – my FIRST half marathon. Don’t let this finish line picture fool you. I hated it. I was happy because it was over.

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That was the year I tried to become a runner on my own (without a group) and didn’t train super-consistently. Also? It was raining. And cold. And the race was a lot smaller back then. So even though my finish time wasn’t too bad (2:33) I was super alone and was depressed and at one point saw my family in the race at mile 10 and started crying and wanted to quit. It was so hard. My race report is here.

Yesterday was my 15th half marathon and my 6th go at the Huntsville Half. 5 times in a row since I actually started running for real (with groups) and consistently in 2011. And yesterday? COULD NOT HAVE GONE BETTER. As evidenced by this picture taken around the halfway point. I AM SO GOOFY. (Edited to add this because I LEFT IT OFF: Official Time: 1:56:04.)

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Let’s back track 2 years first…

2 years ago I spent my season focused on my attempt at 50 miles at a 12-hour race in the Spring. I did well/PRd on all of my 50Ks and marathons that year, and did a half marathon (Oak Barrel Half) where my friend Kevin really pulled me to breaking my 2:05 PR with a 2:01. I knew that entire day I could not have done it without him talking to me the whole time and pushing me. He got me a 4 minute PR and I was BEYOND AMAZED AT MYSELF. I also PR’d a local 10K and finally got below a 25-minute 5K that season. IT WAS THE SEASON OF THE PR’s.

When my friend pulled me to a 2:01 that year though – even though it was a 4-minute PR – I still couldn’t help but think “That’s SOOO CLOSE to a sub-2 hour…” which I never thought possible in my skill set.

Last year I got zero PRs. Last year I was focused on just grand slamming and I was not training well during the week and things were just a mess. I put on weight because I was stressing about selling our house and it just was not the year to break time goals. I grand slammed which is great, but no PRs. AND OF COURSE THAT’S THE YEAR SOMEONE MADE THE PR GONG. And I didn’t get to hit it ONCE.

SO NOW…this year’s Huntsville Half. I had been considering trying to break 2 hours here for awhile. But I knew my big race weekend was the next week and I didn’t want to be sore for that. Also? I needed a pacer. If there was anything I learned the race I got my 2:01, it was that I need someone to pull me to my goals. I can’t do it alone. Also? WEATHER. So much depends on the weather.

Up until last week I still hadn’t found anyone to pace me. BUT THE WEATHER WAS GOING TO BE AMAZING. And I had been doing “speed work” on the treadmill so I knew I was getting faster. I hate speed work, and really all I do is negative splits on the treadmill, but that’s still work to get faster so I call it “speed work”. I was still considering it but I had NO PACER, and I was worried.

Then my friend said her husband signed up last minute and he was probably shooting for a casual (for him) 2 hour. Obviously I’d be working hard for my 2 hours but doing it alongside someone who can talk at that speed is the way to go because I knew I wouldn’t be able to.

I felt GREAT on miles 1-9. We were keeping sub-9s pretty easily. I was even talking a little bit here and there. It was hard, for sure, but I felt good and I didn’t have to think too much about holding the pace. I felt I could hold it for 2 hours.

But then we got to that dreaded 10th mile again where you lose your shade and you just have a long stretch of road in the sun and it suddenly became harder. It didn’t get bad, I was never considering quitting or giving up my goal, but I was doing math in my head and realizing we had banked some good time under 2 hours and maybe I could slow down a little bit and still make my sub-2 goal.

So I focused my energy on ignoring that voice and just holding steady. AND IT TOOK ALL OF MY ENERGY. I stopped talking and just focused in on the reports my friend was giving me. Luckily he counts down things exactly like I do. “Quarter mile until we hit that 10-mile point” and “6 laps until the finish line” and “Just this one more hill and then its downhill” – so he was vocalizing everything I needed to tick all of those things off so I could just go one mile at a time, or even one quarter-mile at a time, and not think too far ahead. When you’re running outside of your “happy pace” then every half of a mile is hard. My happy pace takes me 30 miles, yesterday’s pace? 13.1 ONLY.

The funny thing is that our fastest mile? Was mile 12. We did that sucker in like 8:18 I think. We killed it. I was so ready to be done!

And at the finish line my friend learned that I’m a hugger because that was my first instinct when I saw my time at the finish line.

I’m a sub-2 hour half marathon hugger, I can’t help it.

I FINALLY GOT TO HIT THE PR GONG!

I FINALLY GOT TO HIT THE PR GONG!

All in all? The perfect day. I don’t feel terrible this morning, just stiff, so taper week is still on track. I’ve got 9 trail miles on the books today but they’ll be easy ones and should feel good on the old legs. I’m happy. I’m happiest because I can die with that PR and not be disappointed so NEXT YEAR, next year I’m going to finally volunteer at the race. I owe them that!

So, when someone asks me what training plan I used to finally get a sub-2hour half? I have to say, “Um…a 100K training plan. With some negative split treadmill training.”