Head and Heart – another 20 miles

Today was the last “peak” training distance of 20 miles.  I won’t have to run that far again until Nov 17, thank God.

Last weekend, I was in Gettysburg, PA watching my daughter, Ellie, run with her xc team.  This weekend, I was in Groton, MA, watching my other daughter, Lucy, run with hers.  Both girls are inspiring to me as they push themselves.  Yesterday, Lucy was not feeling tip-top health wise, but she managed to kill it on the course and shaved more than a minute off her best time. A big PR day for her!  Here is Lucy taking out a hill and a post-race photo with me  (photo credit, her grandfather, Grumpi):

IMG_1772  lucy and mom Groton race

OK, onto my 20 miler day, which was actually a 20.12 mile day.  Definitely the longest distance I’ve run by .01 miles. (Last 20 miler day was 20.11. 🙂  )

Here is how the day started:

  • 4:00 a.m.  – my alarm goes off.
  • 4:07 a.m. – my second alarm goes off (well planned, I’d say.)
  • 4:20 a.m. –  1/2 cup coffee, banana w/ peanut butter
  • 4:30 a.m. – feed the horses but don’t let out into the pasture because there is *definitely* a skunk skulking around  -do not need skunky anything to deal with at 4:30 a.m.
  • 4:31 a.m. – rush dogs back into house from front lawn morning business to get away from where the skunk might be lurking.
  • 4:32 am. – all living things at Soule household safely behind closed doors and skunk -free-fresh.

And the day continued:

  • 5:40 a.m. – arrive at Janet’s, see that she’s wearing shorts and t-shirt and I’m bundled for winter running (it was 41 degrees.)  I brought other clothes in the car. Quickly changed to shorts and long sleeve tech shirt.
  • 5:45 a.m. – we’re off!  IN THE DARK.
  • 6:30 a.m. – already past 1st water stop – still kinda dark, but enough daylight coming for us to see our feet. Phew.
  • 7:00 a.m. – feet really, really hurt.
  • 7:30 a.m. – we stop talking.  We’re 2 hrs in, starting to separate a bit (Janet leads and tethers me), and we’re just moving along.
  • 8:45 a.m. – I start to fall apart from the waist down – feet pain moving through ankles up to calves, knees ( this is new).  We’re almost there, but we’re hurting.
  • 8:46 a.m. – I think to myself, “no body left – body broken – only thing working to keep me moving is my pumping heart and my head forcing signals to my feet.
  • 8:50 a.m. – really worried – we’re moving at a slow pace, slower than I hope to run the marathon, and I’m breaking down but not quite to 20 miles – how will I add another hour of running on race day?  Answer:  “Head and Heart“.
  • 9:23: – back in Janet’s driveway, 20.12 miles behind, NO walking.  We were slow, but we finished.  Heads and hearts in tact.

Then back to my house for recovery plan:

  • 9:45 a.m. shovel out horse stalls and let horses out (no skunkiness to worry about now)
  • 10:30 a.m – ice bath. I stay in for 12 minutes.  This is the last ice bath until Nov 17. Yeehaw.
  • 10:43 a.m. – hot shower that was environmentally careless because I was probably in there for about 30 minutes, but…  I’m not really sorry about it even though I used up an extraordinary amount of resources to run hot water on my body for that long.
  • 11:30 a.m. – warm, in cozy comfy clothes, and looking to take a quick nap on the couch. But Stella was already on the couch, looking how I felt, so I joined her:


GOOD NEWS – I did NOT have a side stitch today!  I received a lot of advice since last week’s post, but unfortunately, I was stuck between “You’re drinking too much water” and “You’re not drinking enough water” from two equally fast, equally experienced runners.   I went for the mid-way and drank about 2/3 of my normal amount. I switched from Gu Chomps to Power Gel thinking that I might do better with paste version of energy supplement rather than chewing something with gelatin that could bounce around in my tum.   I also did not eat any ice cream last night (to avoid bad effects of fat, if there are any.)  Not sure what mattered most, but I am so happy that there was no stitch.

Tapering starts now – that means that the distances just get shorter from here until the race day. Next weekend’s long run is 12 miles with manageable length mid-week runs.



Battling the Battlefields, Gettysburg, PA


Before I get to the running update, you need to watch this video of a starling swarm that Ellie and I saw this evening. It was so much bigger than I could get with my phone. I’m pretty sure that the lead starling was pretty unclear about where to go and all of the thousands of followers were like, “Dude, ever heard of Googlemaps? Puhleeze.” Definitely looked like a directionally challenged group of birds.


Onto running business:

I am fortunate enough to spend the weekend in Gettysburg with my daughter, Ellie, who is both a sophomore at Gettysburg College and a member of the cross country team. Today, we both had sports battles.

Actually, Ellie has been battling injuries for over 18 months. She spent most of the summer in physical therapy and returned to the fall season with a training protocol that limited running to 5 min at a time. Not the ideal scenario to train with her college team. But Ellie, like me, can get fixated on what she wants and, this case, it was getting into a race before the end of the season. She raced for the first time two weeks ago, and then again this weekend. Today, she battled her injuries and her fitness level to crush the race. Impressive showing. Here is a photo of Ellie slammin’ the finish line:


Crazy Land, by the way, has a national reach from what I can tell. At least, it’s got a strong foothold in Pennsylvania college athletics. The men’s teams were running an 8k and the finishers were coming through at about 25 min. Super fast. And super sick. Once the leaders made it through, they collapsed, vomiting on the ground only to cause a traffic jam for the bunches of guys coming in behind them, many of them with the same results. At one point, there were about 12 guys heaving onto the grass. Nice. CRAZY.

As for me, I followed Janet for a fast 5 miles on Thursday morning (negative splits in the last two miles – UPHILL) and recovered by spending 10 hours in the car on my drive to Gburg the next day. However, the sedentary time made me pretty stiff. So, this morning, when I had to get up and head out for 12 miles, I wasn’t feeling very positive.

Also, I’d like to say that it is much darker in PA at 7 in the morning than it is in Maine. I was planning to start my run by 6:30 a.m., but it was too dark and I didn’t have reflective gear with me, so I had to wait until 7:15, which was still kind of a dark start. The problem with starting at 7:15 is that I had to really, really be finished by 9:15 so that I’d have time to get back to the hotel, shower, and then get back to the College in time to see Ellie race at 11… and leave enough time to find a parking place on a day when then the College was hosting multiple athletic events and an admissions Open House.

My run included battles with cramps and hills.

Of course, the number one thing for my whole day was to see Ellie race, so I had an extra spring in my step once I got going to be sure I’d be back in time. That was good. I ran a pace 20 seconds faster per mile than my average of late. Bad part was that it called the cramp into action before I was finished. I’m tired of battling The Cramp.  (And, in a small aside, this area does not seem to support the morning athletic bunch that I encounter in Maine…  I didn’t see another runner until mile 9.5 and he was the *only* person I saw. No bikers at all, which is odd, because I would have expected the hilly terrain to be candy for the crazy bicyclists. Nope. ) Nevertheless, I got my 12.7 done, lickety split, then back to the hotel, showered, back to Gburg, just in time to park far enough away from the race start that I had to RUN to get there. (I was not hoping for another run opportunity today, but it was worth it!)

As I write the blog week after week, I’m noticing a pattern of commenting on beautiful scenery. Maine is not the only state to deliver. Ellie told me that there weren’t any hills around. I think what she meant was that there weren’t any hills on campus, because all the hills were right there in the battlefields that I ran around for 12.7 miles. Good thing the scenery was this good – it made me not care so much about the hills:



So, today’s 12.7 was my “draw back” distance in between long runs. Next weekend is 20 miles. I really, really need to kick the cramp. I’m not kidding when I ask for suggestions. Three weeks in a row has me worried that my muscles have “muscle memory” and I absolutely need to wipe the memory clean before next week’s 20 miles!

Ellie and I both ran hard today, so we definitely patronized the local Dairy Queen for some tasty blizzards. Saweet! 



This has been a nutso week for Janet, Margaret, and me, so I really don’t know what everyone is doing for their workouts – Janet will probably go longer than her training plan says and Margaret will squash in some amazing workout tomorrow that will keep her up to date.



Vacationland meets Crazy Land

We were *this* close to a team run this weekend!  *THIS* close.

Margaret had planned a trip to Maine for the holiday weekend, Janet’s camping plans in Acadia got wrecked thanks to the gov shutdown so she would be home, and I was not traveling for work. It looked as if the three of us might actually run together for the long run – 18-20 miles.   But, life got in the way and it turns out that we all had to run separately.  Janet scored 21 miles (overachiever), I clocked 17.5 – a bit short of my goal thanks to a killer side stitch (to be discussed later,) and Margaret is planning her 3 hrs of running time (however many miles that gets her) for today.  We’re still pretty proud of ourselves, though disappointed that we didn’t get to help each other through the madness.

So, since I was alone, I can really only report on my activity for the week.  I had to travel, so I only completed a couple of short-ish runs this week – 3-5 miles each, but close enough to stay on the training plan that I’ve been using.  I also felt a cold coming on (occupational hazard this time of year with so much handshaking and so many different germs to encounter in so many different locations… including subways,) and knew I had a long run coming on the weekend, so wanted to save some energy.

My training plan called for 18 miles on this weekend. I wanted to try and go for 20. Especially because last weekend I wanted to get to 15 and had to stop at 13 because of a side stitch.  This weekend called for redemption.

I am fortunate enough to live in the same town as Olympic Marathon Gold Medalist, Joanie Benoit Samuelson. She is incredibly kind and generous and she spreads her enthusiasm for running all over the place. She knows the local high school runners, the local college runners, the average community runners (like me) that are grinding it out on the roadways on the weekend, just trying to get it done.  She and I have had various reasons to cross paths and she has kindly taken notice of my teenage daughters’ running interests and supported me in my own.

Though I can be intimidated by her incredible athleticism and accomplishments, I still went ahead and asked her for a solid 18-20 mile route in Freeport/Brunswick.  I knew she’d have a selection of long routes she loves and since we live near each other, I knew she’d suggest something I could hop on right from my own road.  Sure enough, she cheerfully offered a route that was just the right length, though, I must say, a bit HILL -Y.  A roller coaster run was not my first choice.  However, I imagined that the next time I bump into her, she’d ask me how the run went, and I’d have to say, “Well, I wimped out  and drove to a different starting location to get a flatter route.”  LOSER answer.

Instead, I told the truth:  “Thanks for the route, I’ll give it a try. I’m fighting a cold, so I hope I’ve got the distance in me.”

Joanie: “Well, listen to your body – it might be good to cut back to 15-16 this time …. can you go long next weekend?”

Let’s mark the entrance to CRAZYLAND right here.

“…go long next weekend” – does that mean that 15-16 miles, my “cut back”, is not long?  Where does long begin? 18? 20?  But I took the bait and parked right there in Crazy Land as I tightened my Hokas and started on Joanie’s original 18 miler recommendation.  No cut backs.

As I was running, her route reminded me that I live in Maine – aka VACATIONLAND.  Crazy Land and Vacationland all in one day.

Here is evidence of Vacationland on my run:

MILE 6.5


MILE 12.5


MILE 13.5


These were some pretty fine sites to keep me cruising along on a very hilly route.  In my favor – perfect temp (50 degrees), light cloud cover.  Working against me – low tide and cow farms – not so fresh air in some key areas.  😉

TUNES:  Pandora cycled through some great artists: James Taylor, 10,000 Maniacs, Alison Krauss, Mark Knopfler, Sarah McLachlan, Dixie Chicks, Lyle Lovett (3 times), John Mayer (5 times), plus others.  I know those artists don’t sound like they’d provide the rock-on beat that one might need to keep running, but if you run a 10 min mile, their tunes are for you.

NUTRITION:  I had eaten carefully all week.  Now that I have logged multiple very, very long runs, I am constantly hungry.  I have a theory about this. I am definitely eating a enough calories to make up for what I burn plus what I need to stay alive, plus some extra treats because there is a certain amount of “food forgiveness” that I am taking advantage of with the mileage.   But, I think my brain has taken note of the many weekends of forced bodily distress and emptying of caloric reserves, and is trying to prepare in advance… telling me, “Eat up. THAT could happen again.”   So, I am even more conscious of the balance of what I eat, when I need to eat more carbs to have the energy on hand for long days, planting water along the way, and carrying energy chews with me.

CRAMP: Still, even with my attention to nutritional needs, that ridiculous, mean, side stitch bit me at mile 16 on this run and I pretty much limped the last mile and a half…. I was disappointed. I really wanted at least the 18.  I know a .5 mile difference isn’t a lot, but it IS a lot when it’s short of the goal, for the second weekend in a row. 

On the upside, 17.5 miles took me exactly to this spot – MY HOUSE!!!


To get the 18, I would have had to run past my house and that would have been hard to do, even without a cramp.

Back to the cramp – if anyone knows anything about side stitches, please help me.  A friend of mine recently asked me what my fears were about the marathon. I have many, but at the top of the list is SIDE-STITCH because if I can’t breathe it out right away, I’m cooked. I’m sorry, but I just don’t think I can do the pickle juice on a long distance run, despite the believers who swear it will save me.  Nevermind the fact that I’m not sure how I would access pickle juice during the marathon…

RECOVERY CARE:  I did sit in an ice bath, but that’s not the good part of recovery care.  Typically,  I am not a routine nail salon patron. In the past, it’s just been a treat when I’m in NYC or every now and then at a place near home. But, in the last couple of months, I have been getting regular pedicures – on the long run days – because I am willing to pay someone to to rub my feet.  The spiffy polish on my toes is just a nice take away.  Fortunately for me, Eddie is sympathetic to the toll the mileage takes on my feet… so he does an extra super job working on my feet and calves.

Eddie is awesome. (He works at Nails Lexus, by the way, Rte 1 in Falmouth, ME. Go there.)


So, all in all, we are in the home stretch.  Next weekend is 12-13 miles. Then, one more really long one – a 20-22 miler – in late October, and then it’s tapering until the really, really long one on November 17th!


Soule Style Triathalon – Practice in Positivity

It’s not even 2 pm and this Saturday has proven to be a bit of a triathalon – Soule Style.  And it’s worked thanks to extreme and artificial positivity on my part.

I’ve never done a triathalon – haven’t ever even watched one – so I’m not sure of how it all comes together, other than it is a beastly combo of three physical tests:  running, swimming, and biking.   I don’t swim, or bike, so today’s triathalon was organized by Soule type challenges.

Last weekend, I was pumped with victorious feelings (aka – endorphins) after the 20 mile run. However, while trying to complete the final couple of miles, I got mentally weak and let bad thoughts find their way in.  My positive mantra, “I am strong, I am ready” was in a battle with very negative energy… like, “I will NEVER do this again – EVER – this is stupid – why am I running 20 miles? I hope I never do this again. Oh, wait – I do have to do this again on October 12 and October 26 and then again on Nov 17 with an extra 6.2 added on.  Hate this.”  See? Not very positive. I was trying to cram in the “I am strong” bit but, as you may recall, my body was also contributing to unhappy feelings, so it really was a test.

Honestly, after last Saturday, I really didn’t want to ever run again. I had to travel this week and I half-heartedly laced my sneaks and ran along the East River in NYC for a 4 mile go, only twice.  I didn’t enjoy it, I just got it done. I wasn’t looking forward to this weekend’s long run, which I knew I would have to do alone.

Then, last evening, I was on the phone with my daughter who was feeling some dread about taking the SATs this morning. She had prepared, she was ready as she could be, but dread was all over the phone.  I encouraged her to really employ positive thinking – to spend time, over and over, imagining herself being comfortable reading and answering the questions, calm when challenged by a tough one, and moving forward to the next with confidence.  I suggested she really embed that vision in her mind and go to it, even during the test, if anxiety started to take hold.

I realized at that moment, that I needed to really do the same thing for myself. A mantra isn’t enough. It has to be an attitude.   The “power of positive thinking” is all over the place – in meditation, in psychotherapy,  in the book and movie “The Secret” (touting a belief that you can bring good things to you by imagining them in your life.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Secret_%282006_film%29)

I imagined myself pacing right through my 13 miles, comfortable, hydrated, enjoying the scenery. I imagined my body as compliant and supportive. I imagined myself cramp free.

My positive plan was the gun going off to my Saturday Triathalon sections:

Part 1:  I did run 13 miles – at race pace – and since I was alone and it wasn’t raining, I strapped on my phone and listened to music. I was happily cruising along and Pandora was feeling my positivity, delivering the BEST lineup of tunes I’ve ever had in a straight 90 minutes. One song after another, offering the right rhythm to keep my feet swinging, making me want to sing along (though I couldn’t because I was, after all, running 13 miles.)   Even when a ballad got thrown into the mix, it allowed me to relax just a little to a softer song, and then pick it up again on the next tune. (Thanks, Pandora!)  When my feet started to really hurt at mile 9, I decided to switch to a podcast, knowing that if I listened to talking, it would be harder for my feet to get my attention.   Fortunately, I had a very hilarious podcast of NPR’s “Wait – Wait -Don’t Tell Me” that sent me right through to mile 13.  Hooray!

Part 2:  I got home, shoveled out the stalls, and was stunned that I felt I had enough energy to squeeze in a ride. Thanks to the combo of my travel schedule and training schedule, I haven’t ridden in a month. And, Thoroughbreds, like my horse Trivilin, are not at their best when allowed to just hang around for too long. In fact, and un-exercised TB can really unleash serious shenanigans. To prepare for the rodeo, I imagined him being cool, responsive, and well behaved. I imagined him being perfect.  Even with 13 miles already into my legs, I swung up on his back and started to work him out.  He was worried about deer in the woods, squirrels and birds – but instead of exploding, he twitched his ears and tail, and kept moving along with respectful energy.  Saw-eet ride!  Here’s a photo of my guy – *after* he got his workout and was back to grazing…


Part 3:  I wasn’t looking for a triathalon, but we do own some crazy pets.  The third leg of my triathalon was cleaning.  When I came in from riding, I encountered my Labrador, Ruckus – who is, for real, an experienced thief.  He had gotten into all kinds of stuff – and I’m not even sure where it all came from since cabinets and trash were still locked up.  You can see from the photo that his escapade required some clean up:


And after that, Stella was smelling seriously bulldoggy, so I plunked her in the kitchen sink and gave her a bath. Here is a photo of Stella running , post tub-time, as if I’d doused her in gasoline and set her on fire instead of actually sudsing her with shampoo and giving her a blow dry …


And then, I was so hungry, that I opened the fridge to make lunch and decided one of the shelves had a spill that needed to be wiped up, which turned into me emptying the fridge completely and giving it a thorough cleaning.  And then I did 3 loads of laundry.

Triathalon summary:  13 miles + riding crazy TB + cleaning *everything*.  No finisher medal today, but I’m positive I’ve earned dessert.