Category Archives: ultramarathon

Still (Mostly) Alive

It’s hard to believe that only 11 weeks have passed since starting Intern Year and in the same breath, 11 weeks has flown by. I am almost done with my first rotation of this year (Acute Care Surgery) and with it, done with the bulk of my training for RDC! As expected, my running has had to take a bit of a back seat to everything else but I’ve done a reasonable job of continuing to train and build and finally have some long term goals in mind!

July: My only real goal for July was to survive and figure out what my running schedule might look like when the reality of 80+ hours of work hit. We had a relatively mild summer here and since I ran in the early morning for most of it, I really didn’t struggle too much with heat and humidity. I ran a very reasonable 181 miles and my long runs progressed to 16 miles. Workouts were non-specific (long trail runs, fartleks and easy tempos) and focused on general fitness acquisition.

August: I started to figure out what work was all about and finally managed to get through my days more efficiently. I hit the wall a bit energy wise in the middle of the month and finished up with only 165 miles. I did, however, get my first 20 miler in for the cycle and my workouts started to get more specific. I also started going to Orange Theory, which has been very interesting in terms of my perception of effort versus my heart rate.

September: After a relatively disappointing August, I have been trying to refocus more on my running in September. I am about as fatigued as I’ve ever been right now and my body is showing it with lots of general aches and leg heaviness. I did get another 20 miler in and my workouts have become even more focused (more on this later). I restarted my iron to make sure I’m tuned up from that perspective and have been focusing on sleep and stretching as much as I can to combat 80+ hours of standing/interrupted sleep/weird positions in the OR. I’m doing a check in half marathon in Johnson City this weekend and interested to see where I’m at as compared to both Unplugged and the Asheville Half. I don’t know what the topography of the course will be and the weather looks hot but it will be nice to have a supported “up-effort.”

I realized in August is that I have to become more flexible with training and with that, workouts have to become more intentional. I don’t have the recovery ability to do multiple workouts a week and instead, have to make do with a couple of quality efforts each week. Because of this and because I have been so frustrated with my stagnation, I finally decided to hire/bring on a coach. I say ‘bring on’ because I am working with Dave Ames, who is a friend beyond being a coach, and the decision was about as collaborative as it gets. As many people know, Will has been my coach forever but with intern year for him and an intentional shift in our marriage to be as focused on just being married and not being co-workers, co-coaches, athlete-coaches, it was time to make a different plan.

One of the amazing things about having a coach is that all I have to do is workout. One of the terrifying things about having a coach ARE those workouts. For example, I had a medium long run on Sunday with a workout built in that didn’t seem that difficult on paper but was EXTREMELY difficult. Similarly, I have a mile repeat workout today that I am convinced is all but impossible so I have the difficult task of convincing myself first that I can do it and second, getting through it. Dave gets incredible results from his athletes and furthermore, has a lot of experience with the sports psychology aspect of racing which I need almost as much as the physiologic piece.

My race schedule has evolved as well, with a new focus on the US 50K Road Championships (hoping to podium) in March and CIM 2018 for my (hopeful) OTQ attempt. This takes a little pressure off RDC where my main goal is to just get back into marathon running and hopefully undo some of the emotional baggage I am (still) carrying from Philly.

But first, the Bluegrass Half in Johnson City on Sunday!

Product Review: HOKA ONE ONE Clifton

I’ve been a devoted Saucony runner for a long time, but since I found out I didn’t get picked up to be on the Hurricane team this year at about the same time I won a pair of HOKA’s at the RunVermont New Year’s 5K, it was a great opportunity to branch out and try a new shoe.

Bringing new shoes home!

Bringing new shoes home!

HOKA has been around for about five years and is best known for the “fat shoes” that started as an ultramarathon niche and have slowly made their way into the mainstream. Most notably, they sponsor Leo Manzano and recently the entire Northern Arizona Elite team. The idea is that the shoes have more foam and better rebounding than a “skinnier” shoe and admittedly, that thickness was part of what deterred me from trying them earlier. Last Spring, however, my friend Annie started running in them (she is also a Kinvara girl) and absolutely loved them.

I chose the Clifton because at 6.6 ounces and a 5 mm drop, it was the closest to my Kinvara. The weight and drop is where the similarities end, however. Whereas Kinvara is fitted and flexible, the Clifton is spacious and somehow simultaneously firm and foamy. I highly recommend trying the shoe on in store and going a half size down from normal for you. Protip from Skirack: they do come with two inserts, so if you have a size issue, you can try putting both insoles in at the same time.

My first run in the Clifton was very, very awkward. Because of the padding, I found myself sort of bounding along and overstriding and found it very difficult to land on my midfoot. As I got used to them over the next few runs, however, the shoes worked their way into my heart. They are extremely comfortable and when you stop running like an idiot in them and just run like normal, they behave like any other shoe. I especially like them on rough terrain; because of the thickness of foam, no sharp rocks can poke through and bruise your footbed.

I’ve done long runs, workouts and races in them and it wasn’t until I wore a new pair of Kinvara 5 recently that I realized I preferred the Saucony to the HOKA for speed work. The HOKA is fine, but it’s not particularly maneuverable and I do find that I heel strike more in the Clifton than in other shoes. As I got more used to the shoe, the aesthetics of running 6 inches in the air bothered me less and I found myself reaching for them on long runs or recovery runs when I just wanted a comfortable, cushy shoe.

About 150 miles in

About 150 miles in

All in all, I’m very impressed with my first pair of Cliftons and when these are retired, I’ll probably pick another pair up. They are relatively expensive ($130) but not that out of line with the other top of the line shoes currently on the market and hold up much, much better than my Kinvaras that almost invariably have a hole in the fabric by 100 miles in.

Best For: Neutral footed runners looking for a shoe for long runs, recovery runs or runs on terrain with roots and/or rocks. Totally sufficient for mid to long races (actually bet they’d be great for the marathon, just haven’t run one) or longer tempo efforts.

Not Great For: Interval or Full Speed work.


Race Report: Run Your Can Off

Saturday morning was literally the perfect day to be a runner.  Although it was 30 degrees at the start, it quickly warmed up to the mid 40s with sun and clear skies. About 50 of us showed up, filled a truck with donated food and prepared to run anywhere from 1.25 to 35 miles.

From the time I woke up on Saturday, I was aware of how different the morning of an ultramarathon felt compared to a regular marathon.  I didn’t have to worry about halting drinking so that I could use the porto-potty at the perfect time before the start; there was a porto-potty every 1.25 miles.  I didn’t have to eat a huge bowl of oatmeal to carbo-load; I had fuel every 1.25 miles. I didn’t have to pick the perfect layers; as some of the other runners can attest, I lost a layer of clothing every lap for the first few miles, leading me to ask if this was Run Your Clothes Off. Even the atmosphere was different.  Instead of thousands of anxious runners shoving each other in a corral, checking pace bands and planning strategy, we stood around drinking coffee and introducing ourselves. As Queen of race nerves, this was a welcome change.

The race went off around 9:15 and I started slowly as planned.  Really slowly.  I’m not kidding when I say that some of the kids who were running with us beat me through the first lap.  The first few laps were painless as my fingers and toes warmed up.  By about 5 miles in, I had stripped off my tights and was comfortably in shorts and a tee shirt.  For the first couple of hours, I ran in 4 lap (5 mile) chunks, stopping after every 4 to fuel, stretch and do a systems check. Per usual for me, I didn’t feel warmed up until about 8 miles in and cruised through mile 15.  After the 12th lap, I started doing 3 lap chunks and definitely started to feel the distance.  After my 17th lap, I announced that I was only had 24 laps (30 miles) in me for the day. From that point on, I did two laps at a time and just tried to keep one foot in front of the other.

Miles 22 to 26 were tough.  I was tired, sore and disoriented from running a loop trail covered in leaves. By the time I reached 26, however, I was elated.  Every step was one longer than I’d ever run before and I was excited to see how far I could go.  I was also thrilled to note that although I was tired, my form wasn’t falling apart.  I was moving slowly, but not compensating, so I plugged on.  On my 24th lap, Greg, the race organizer, kindly joined me to celebrate.  It was a good thing, as I was tired enough that bidding adieu to every tree, stump, log and squirrel seemed normal.  I finished, with minimal fanfare, but have never been more proud of myself.  The race medal, a crushed can, may become my favorite bling from any race.

After the race, I begrudgingly got myself into an ice bath, foam rolled and refueled.  My friends can attest that I even wore small heels on Saturday night (although they will also share that I was moving so slowly, it could barely be considered forward progress).  I am sore today, but much less so than I anticipated. Stairs are not my friend and although I feel like a rockstar, I look like a pirate. 

So what did this race mean to me?  First, it was part of my continued effort to be a more patient racer. I knew that if I wanted to survive, I needed to go out and stay slow.  In past races (please see Vegas 2009), going out too fast crushed my opportunity for a good race. Second, I verified that endurance remains a strong point for me.  When I am exhausted at mile 20 of Boston, I can think back to Saturday, and be grateful for only 6 miles left and confident that I have it in me.  Finally, I had fun. Running has always been my release valve, but my competitive drive sometimes overrides that and sucks the joy right out of it. During this recovery, I’ve done some fun events that I hope recalibrate me.

I said I’d never…

run an ultramarathon. But here we are and I’m signed up to run a lot of miles tomorrow, under the auspices of charity.  Run Your Can Off ( is tomorrow morning, and I have up to 6 hours to fill with running.  I pledged to run a lap (1.25 miles) for every can/good donated.  I like doing good things almost as much as I like running, so I have a lot to donate and therefore a lot of laps to run.  As with all long runs, I’m approaching this one in a relaxed manner.  I’m not ready to race or even push it, so tomorrow is an another exercise in patience.  I’m going to take it one lap at a time, stretch when I need to and call it if things start to feel bad.  After all, the finish line is at most a mile away.

I’d like to do at least 15 laps, but my real goal is somewhere between 25 and 30 slow laps.  The mental exercise of pressing on and managing boredom will help me late in the marathon, when I often find myself alone and battling my inner “stop” demons. Running 30 miles will also be my last very long run for a while; on Monday, I start my gear up for Boston, the first 6 weeks of which are focused on speed and strength.  Endurance is not a limiting factor for me, but speed certainly is.  My best 5k time, for example, is only about 30 seconds faster per mile than my marathon pace. Focusing on speed necessitates that I drop my volume and over the next few weeks (detailed training plan to be revealed soon…), my runs will be short and intense.

I’m excited to get out there tomorrow for a good cause, meet up with some local runners and run trails for the better part of the day.  Being honest, I’m also excited to eat poptarts, which are my guilty pleasure long run food.  I’m also excited to take some pictures and add to my collection of running pictures in which I don’t look terrible!  I’ll post one or two here.

Have a great weekend of running all. This is the perfect time of year to be a runner!