Thursday, December 24, 2009


Well, it's 3:42am and it is officially Christmas Eve. And here I am on my computer, unable to sleep, it's dark outside and a mere 17.5 degrees. And I have been awake since 1am. I tried reading, drinking "Sleepytime" herbal tea, browsing the internet, and nothing has been successful in making me sleepy, so I have just decided to give it up, enjoy my morning coffee, and write about my woes. My cat, Sam, who loves to be with me wherever I am, even gave it up and crawled inside a sleeping bag to go back to bed. I thought it might be a good time to just go out for a run, but the darkness and bitterness outside made me rethink that. Now I don't think that 17 degrees is that bad; I have run in colder weather and have thoroughly enjoyed it. However, that was when it was light outside. There is something about the cold and dark together that just doesn't appeal to me. Unless I have someone running along side me to commiserate with. If I really wanted to be productive I suppose I could be wrapping those last few Christmas gifts right now, but really, why take away from that last-minute preparation for Christmas? I will let them wait.

So I am just rambling with nothing really important to say. The Munster vs. Perpignan rugby game was on a bit after 2am, which I just realized that I missed. Oh well, it was a replay and I saw the last few minutes of it yesterday morning and saw that Munster slaughtered Perpignan. But Joe told me that my man Ronan O'Gara had a really spectacular game and I would have liked to see that.

So Merry Christmas to everyone. Relax and enjoy the beauty of the season and the wonderful whiteness outside. And if the mood strikes you, get out and enjoy and run or walk in the cold and realize how alive it can make you feel.

"My life is a gift from my Creator. What I do with my life is my gift back to the Creator." --Billy Mills

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Running Rocks!

Here it is . . . the first day of winter! We already have a decent 3-4" base of snow and the flakes of fluff are falling right now! Woo-hoo! It's looking promising that Joe and I will be able to get the xc skis out soon, which I have been dying to do since I got a new pair of boots that fit properly and appear that they will give me some excellent support for skate-skiing (any bit of support I can get for this is definitely useful!). We do have what appears to be a decent xc skiing surface on the seasonal roads, but if you look closely you can see that the ice ridges and some stones are kicking up through the snow. So if you have good eyes and even better control of your skis, you could probably get away with skiing right now. However, my snow-vision is limited to the few feet in front of me and by the time I see any obstacles that might chew the skis it is likely too late to avoid them. And then there is my lack of control . . . another story.

So until the ice and rocks get totally covered by snow I am sticking to running. And running in the snow is just totally freakin' awesome. I have found that it is really good for your form; you can't stride out too big or you will likely slip and fall right on your fanny (I do that enough when I ski; no need to practice it during the runs). So I feel very efficient when snow-running, the scenery is beyond belief, and the cold weather completely agrees with my breathing.

As I read some other blogs, I am discovering that some other ultra runners are investigating the return to their minimalist running roots. I have really been enjoying Jeff Browning's accounts of becoming a more minimalist runner. I, too, am working on this. I have always thought that because I am a runner of larger stature that I needed more support and cushioning in my running shoes. After reading "Born To Run" I have found that this is not so and have been working on minimalizing my running shoes. On Saturday Lorrie and I went for a 14 mile run (ugh! on the roads!) and I ran in my Asics Gel DS Trainers, which for a smaller person would probably be considered a training shoe, but for my size it is quite minimal. And flat (forefoot and heel at the same level). And I felt pretty darn good when I finished the run. I really want to try the Vibram Five Fingers but I think that will have to wait a few months, since I don't have a treadmill to run indoors on and the 20-degree-and-below temps along with the snow don't appear to agree with running barefoot.

So December is a month of relaxation and d0-what-I-want with my running and the serious training for MMT 100 will begin in January. Heineken Cup Rugby continues and my Munster men seem to be doing well. I have also been pulled toward the other Irish team, Leinster, and Jonathan Sexton and Brian O'Driscoll have been playing really excellent. Sexton is a young fly-half with an accurate kicking boot. O'Driscoll is just plain amazing. I would love to see the finals come down to Munster and Leinster; that would be awesome.

And for those of you already thinking about July . . . registration is open and the forms are online for The 22nd Annual Finger Lakes Fifties.

That's all the news for now, so cowgirl up and get out and enjoy the snow and cold!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Finishing Up & Looking Ahead

The 2009 racing season has officially ended for me. With all of the hunters taking over the woods this time of year, we have been pretty much banished to the roads, which is both mentally and physically challenging for me. This weekend Joe and I decided to combine some running fun with family visiting and ventured down to State College, PA, which gave us a chance to visit with Joe’s daughter, Morgan, and her family and challenge ourselves with the Nittany Valley Half Marathon on Sunday. The last (and only time) that I ran this race was in 2002 and all I remember is how awful I felt from the very beginning until the bitter end. I am certain that I could have fallen down the hills faster than I was running them. So this time I really just wanted to redeem myself and, of course, have fun.

As usual, Joe and I got into the spirit of this time of year and festively dressed in some really cool long green shorts with jingle bells on them (a fantastic find at K-Mart), red shirts and red hats. We both think that it is very important to not only run fast but to look good doing it. The fast doesn’t always come, but we always look good!

The first two miles of the race were run as a two-loop circuit on the Penn State campus. Snow that had fallen on Saturday made this part of the course a bit treacherous and really made us hold back to keep from falling (read . . . time lost!). But at least it kept us from going out too fast and blowing up. Then it was onto the roads and uphills and downhills. I have to say, for a road race, I was having fun and feeling like I was running well. But I do have to say that road racing (and road racers) are intense! Both Joe and I ran without watches, a rare sight as we noticed the other racers. Many of the runners were wearing ear phones which limited any conversation, although even when I tried to share a few words with the non-ear-phone-wearing runner, I was pretty much ignored. I’m not saying that the others weren’t friendly; we did meet and get to talk with some really great people, but it just wasn’t the atmosphere of the trails. But that’s OK; I guess feeling some of that intensity is good – it spurs you to put a little something extra into your speed. It was good for me.

But, hold on, what was that? At around mile 11 I passed some guys sitting behind a table with a sign in front reading “Beer Stop”. Whoa, wait a minute; I certainly had better go back to that one! And I turned around and ran back to the table and stopped running and enjoyed a very nice lager with what were certainly the angels of the race! OK, I have to say that the roadrunners got this one right. And with that burst of energy I flew to the finish line! 1:47:42; not bad for a heavy-weight ultrarunner! Joe wasn’t far behind, coming into the finish in 2:00:05 . . . better than his last half marathon in August and good for first in his age group!

It was a great weekend of visiting and running. And now it’s time to rest and catch-up on the rugby happenings. And time to think about the upcoming Spring running schedule. And you know what the really good news is? I won the lottery! OK, not THE lottery, but really just as good. The Massanutten Mountain 100 lottery. Only now I have a tough decision to make . . . Massanutten on May 15 or MorFun Wapack Trail 50Miler on May 10. I’ll let you know which one wins. Got to make that decision fast.

We have snow here on the hill today and it’s got me thinking about snowshoeing and xc skiing. Excellent!

“I feel eager and ready for another excursion a month or two long in the same wonderful wilderness. Now, however, I must turn toward the lowlands, praying and hoping Heaven will shove me back again.” - John Muir