Thursday. Raining so I’m cheating a little and waiting until this afternoon to do my 10 miler with no backpack whoo hoo. (This will be my second run without a backpack so I’m a little excited). Not to worry though, it’s back on for tomorrow’s 24 miler.
So how is training going? I think I can best sum it up with the age old saying “eh.” I’m doing the best I can with what I got but I pretty much know it is not enough. Every day is consumed in some way by race prep — if I’m not out on the road or trail, I’m on the internet buying and trying crap. My revamped game plan is to train and prepare as hard as I can, make it out there, get through day one which is 30 miles (which would be completing an ultra) and then see how far I get before they say “sorry you have not made the cutoff.” As I write that I guess that has always been my plan — just see how far I can get. I was thinking yesterday that if I can just make it to my birthday (the long stage) and then of course couldn’t possibly quit ON my birthday, and once I make it through that the hard part would be over and why stop? At this point the only thing that would make me stop would be not making the cutoff (real possibility), or an injury (yuck).
Last couple of weeks have been heat wave. Everybody suffering. Last weeks’ 23 miler was only 17 because I was pretty sure I was running around one of the circles in Dante’s hell. I did a very hilly (small mountains) route and when I got to the top of one of the small mountains behind my house, my feet took a right without my mind agreeing and cut off the last six miles. It was 5 hours already and I had planned that I would be able to do the 23 in 6 hours but at certain point I said fuggedabout it. It is so hard to justify bailing on a training run because of heat when you are training for a race in the desert. But I just kept saying, I’ll take heat, it’s just this humidity is killing me.
Coupled with the previous week’s heat, I think I just got heat sick. I had no energy and even trying to do a simple 5k without my backpack felt like I was dead. Later that day I was just sick in bed. But after a couple of days of rest and a break in the heat I felt pretty good yesterday. I was supposed to do 12 miles but only got in 9 due to time. I do have to work on top of everything else. I have 10 to do today, 24 tomorrow and another 10 on Sunday (because I took Wednesday off when I shouldn’t have).
So right now I am a GEAR HEAD (different meaning from what we used to call the kids in high school always fixing their Cameros or Mustangs.) From top to bottom I have been trying and testing every little item. I’ve made a lot of progress but still far to go.
Backpack: This was the easiest. I had success with the Raidlight 30l in 2009 so I just bought the same one. There is actually a newer model but I took the $15 discount and got the same model. $135. I also saved more money because I kept the front pack and bottle holders from 2009 and they still fit on the bag so that was good. So far no problem with the backpack. No chaffing. Comfortable. Need to get some new water bottles with straws.
Clothes: Still trying a few different shirts. The icebreaker shirt I wore in the Sahara somehow feels itchy to me now. Might have been the humidity but I will keep looking. I have it as a backup. I love my skirt sports shirt but it is not odor resistant and believe me I NEED odor resistant in the desert. I have decided I’m wearing my skirt sports trishorts. They have two side leg pockets and they have nothing around the waist that cause chaffing. I’ve tried several different shorts and these are the one’s I keep coming back to – comfy and useful. I’m also wearing a skirt over the shorts. Serves multiple purposes, first for vanity — I feel more comfortable and if I want to change in front of people it can also like a towel or wrap. There is an extra pocket in my skirt sport skirt and I’m all about as many pockets as I can have. I like it. So if you haven’t gathered, I REALLY like http://www.skirtsports.com.
Shoes: The perfect shoes I had for MDS made by New Balance they no longer make. I love my Hokas and they feel great until I get to hour 4 and heat. As wide as they feel when my feet are normal they are not wide enough to not allow friction on the seams. I have tried several different shoes since November and I cannot believe that the most unlikely pair (New balance 910 v1) seem to be the consistent winner. I am going to try to get the men’s version to get them just a little wider but they feel the most stable (for my ankles), seem to support my orthotics and so far my feet don’t seem to swell as much in them (which I can’t understand why). I have a feeling I have a few more shoes to try to get the perfect shoe but I’m narrowing in. The other thing about these shoes is they have spots for me to attach my gaiters. Things I have learned the hard way — every shoe manufacturer has a different sizing system. For Hokas size difference between men’s and womens is 1 size. Men’s 10 = Women’s 11. For Asics and New Balance Men’s 10 = Wome’s 11.5. For New Balance a women’s normal width is a D but D in men’s means wide width. Seriously? After long chat with my new pal at onlineshoes he said no two shoe manufacturers use the same measuring system. Well why the heck not?
Socks: Socks get their own category because I’ve had some major blistering problems which I hope are behind me. Turns out my perfect socks by smartwool are also no longer being made. Seriously what’s up with these sports manufacturers? I’ve tried so many different brands of socks and pretty much all of them work for 3-4 hours. It’s what happens in the heat and humidity after 4 hours. My feet swell. I think I have determined that no matter what socks I get unless my shoes are wide enough then I will get blisters. I have one pair of smartwool that I think are still in the running but I can’t find another pair (Smartwool STOP changing socks). I’ve tried too many different socks to list them all but the major players have been: Balega, (though comfy don’t hold up for ultra distance). Injingi (both regular and wool Mini MD –I like them at first but after 3 hours my toes feel cramped). Wrightsocks (coolmesh II okay but not durable enough). Icebreaker (too thick). Smartwool Phd (they are too thin).Swiftwick Aspire 2 inch cuff (for now these are just right — they have a little compression built in which helps). I do have a pair of Feetures Elite Merino Plus Light Cushion coming in and I have high hopes for them. I have spent a good pile of dough on socks.
Sleeping Bag. Heartbreakingly expensive. I had the marmot for MDS. I liked it. But I need a sleeping bag rated to at least 35 degrees for this race and it was only rated for 40 degrees and I have to show them a tag that it is rated to 35 at least. (Oh and Higgins ate the zipper off the Marmot so it is unusable as a bag anymore). After reading several blogs and race reports most people went with the Western Mountaineering Highlight which is rated to 35 and weighs 1 pound and several people were cold the last few nights. As the race progresses and gets to higher altitudes it gets really cold. I do remember the one night I was stuck out in the Sahara not in a tent and it was just the marmot sleeping bag against the elements I was really, really cold. I had to take my space blanket and even that did not protect me from the wind and cold. I’m also a lot bigger than the gals who were claiming the Highlight is so comfy. After reading a lot of reviews (and errantly ordering a Quilt instead of sleeping bag), I decided to go with the Western Mountaineering megalite which is just a smidge roomier (and I mean smidge) but is rated to 30 degrees which something tells me I am really going to want if I’m tired and cold I will be miserable so this should keep me warm (plus it is suggested we bring a light down jacket). $389 (gasp) at Backcountry. But there is never any sales on these and it is hand made in San Fran. So it’s done, bullet bitten.
Sleeping Pad: This time I am doing an inflatable pad. I’ll tell you why, I think pads do next to nothing so I’d rather go with the lightest one I can find which is the Klymit Inertia X Frame recon edition. Weighs less that 1 pound with a pump included. Bottom line is it in not comfy sleeping on the ground and I’d rather not be lugging a lumpy foam sleeping pad that I cut down anyway. This one is actually supposed to keep me warmer by creaing heat traps. Now watch, with all this warmth I’m creating I’ll be suffocatingly hot at night.
That’s all for now. More on food and nutrition in another entry. I’ve been trying lots of stuff there too. I think I have breakfast and dinner ready just need some work on my daytime nutrition.
So much to doooooo….
Funny aside. I was running on a trail in West Hartford that has a section which runs along a few backyards and is separated by a fence. This guy is in his backyard with a whole operation set up for making kettle corn. I guess he sells it and homemade donuts at Cabelas in East Hartford. He sees me running by and yells to me. I stop and he throws a bag of kettle corn at me and says “a snack for your run.” I thought it was so nice I snapped a picture. Of course his company is called “Faddy’s” which I think says its all.
Went down a “closed” trail just to see what was down there. Beautiful field of green plants. Until the park cops came and kicked me out. “Closed sign? I didnt’ see that Officer?” ‘Yeah it was on the gate you had to climb over to get in….’ “Oh that sign…My bad…”