All posts by Laura K

Spirit, heart and rhythm....

Pacing – Not all Courses are Equal! & Stats

There are a lot of factors that influence your pace with the major ones being:

  • Road vs. Trail
  • Rocky/technical trail or easy trail
  • Hills or no hills
  • Obstacles
  • You’re better with training!!

I developed a simple way of comparing longer runs I’ve done to understand my pace in different situations.  One major factor is the elevation gain so I have calculated an elevation gain factor for each run which is:

elevation factor = total gain in feet/distance in miles

2019 History (arranged from flattest to most elevation gain/mile, T = technical rocky trail, O = included obstacles, pace is moving pace)

Pacing stat tracker pdf Page 001

I Can Only Get Better…Either Do It or Shut Up About it, 9/24/19

I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking and taking a few lessons and thinking about being someone who can improvise for 20 years now.  I’ve been so ashamed I am tied to the written page, sometimes afraid I will have nothing musically to say, and afraid to really try.  Now that my big race is over, I called up Billy Novick, clarinet teacher extraordinaire, who I found through a famous New Orleans clarinetist who a friend of mine went to Harvard with a few years ago.  He declined and said he was retired but then offered to see me irregularly.  I went to his house the next day!

Hadn’t played in over six months, squeaked, tonguing was horrible, scales were horrible, and he made me just play in C or D while he played some chords on piano.  I WAS TERRIFIED!  I did better than I thought but also was pretty bad – gotta start somewhere.  I was thinking he had no idea what he got himself into when he offered to see me next week as well….

Have some hard homework in memorizing chords and improvisation to do for next week but the journey has begun…

Recovery (T+9), Some Big Thoughts and My Next Ultra Attempt in a Month

Last Thursday (T+4) I went out for an hour easy run – first one since race, Zone 2 and my heart rate bounced between 80 and over 150 – couldn’t maintain Z2 for the life of me.  Crazy.  I felt pretty hurt the night of the race going to bed after telling Kenny “DO NOT TOUCH ANY PART OF ME.”  I felt great the next day – a little stiff but honestly better than after the 2 Spartan Supers and after some of the weekend long runs.  My only pain was the top of my foot above my bunion which has taken over a week to not hurt all the time.  Felt worse on Monday – darn tired and emotional driving to work being proud and sad at the same time.    The following Sat, I did a 30 mile bike, 2000′ climb in total with some friends to family apple picking and they worked me! This included the biggest hill I have ever gone up on a bike (the first steep one).  This is the famous “Mt Vernon” hill….Note that a few hours later I was fast asleep in the middle of 30 people and worn out for the rest of the day!


I’ve pretty much been tired every night since the race.  Today I missed the standard Nashoba hill runs but did six in my neighborhood that used to be scary and were surprisingly easy!!  That is exciting as I used to only get to the 2nd mailbox…..and was pretty psyched a few months ago when I actually made it (barely) to the top.

I did have enough energy though to get myself into the Stone Cat 50k on Nov 2, which will replace the marathon I had been planning to run.  I want to be able to say I am an ultra runner.  Decently flat course – 3 10 mile loops and one month to recover and prep.

I also found a podcast I like:

and found two things in this podcast I’ve been thinking about:

  1. I think I like long runs and training because of the problem solving aspect.  I am always learning something, or doing something I have never done before, seeing new things, making new friends, getting super tired and beat up with bruises all over – I love it!  You run into the void not knowing what will happen and just do the best you can – it’s you against you and I am a formidable enemy.
  2. I disagree when they went on and on about how “nothing matters.”  I agree that petty worries don’t matter and that we are all pampered with not a ton of real serious issues – waking up after having my rib taken out proved to me how happy I was just to be alive and put things into perspective.  Plenty of stuff that doesn’t matter has bothered me over the years and I’ve tried to get better at dealing with it.  But a lot of things matter and they don’t have to be big huge things like the planet is being destroyed.  Just being kind to someone who’s having a bad day matters.


What you CAN do after shoulder surgery – An athletes’ guide to recovery

It was difficult to find any online material around what you COULD do after rotator cuff surgery so I created a guide to help athletes realize there are options, especially around training legs (important for all you trail runners out there!).  I do crossfit, so the exercises noted relate to crossfit lingo –

Exercises after Shoulder Surgery – crossfit spin

Here is a video I made just before six weeks when I could take off the sling with some advice:


Remember, do NOT watch youtube videos about people saying how horrible the pain is.  I did and it made me afraid to take off my sling 2 days after surgery.  Turns out, with good breathing to help stretch out the arm the first time, it felt good, not bad.  Remember when doing anything you are afraid of, to breathe – my husband did it with me and helped lower my arm down a very small amount each breath out and it was absolutely fine.

He also became good at doing my hair!

Also note and discussed in another blog post, do NOT do a trail run after taking off the sling and being “freed.”  I did the same week and did a total face/side plan on a gravel trail (luckily on my good side) that could have been catastrophic had I fallen on my hurt side…play it safe on the road to recovery.

It’s Stressful Being a Spectator, AAR Killington Spartan Ultra 9/14/19

Around 6:30pm I emerged from the muddy woods after 25.6 miles, 12,141′ of hill climbs and 11:48 hours at a 27:41/mi avg pace, alone with my headlamp, happy as I did absolutely the best I could but tired and sad (crying) I didn’t finish, to find my sweet husband along with a few others clapping for me at the timeout obstacle.  I missed the time cut by over 30 min. He told me how proud he was with such sincerity. He told me he had been there for ~4 hours and spent the whole day scared something happened to me while listening to the radios of the race officials as people were carried down the mountains with dislocated shoulders, twisted ankles, etc and seeing the tired faces of people coming in.

Later, he said he was so happy and relieved when he first saw me smiling come down the mountain into the base area right for a few obstacles like sand bag carry before transition around 1:45.

He had been watching all kinds of people at the sandbag obstacle right there curse, and sit down unable to move, and struggle carrying the bag up/down the hill, and said he was so impressed at what good shape I was in.  He said it was exciting and almost made him want to do it too:)

In retrospect, his being proud of me (and my coach) means way more more to me than how far I went or what I actually accomplished.  I have done it – learned to love the journey more than the result.  And unfortunately for Kenny, his sign still applies:


My own distinct memories of this run:

  • A man with a beautiful voice singing to me in the cold and rain as we hiked up a hill past transition on a lonely 2nd lap
  • A Wolverine, Duncan, who agreed to give up our college rivalries for a little comaraderie on the trail
  • My coaches note the night before that made me cry telling me that no matter what happens he is proud of all my hard work
  • I never hit a limit or was discouraged.  I got tired a few miles into the second loop but never thought about stopping
  • I learned early in loop 1 that you can’t afford to think about “doing it again” in loop 2 – ultra math doesn’t help so forget about it.
  • Going uphills are way easier when you walk uphills sideways 10 steps facing left, then turn and 10 right, slow and steady and sharing load between legs.  Nothing on my legs or knees got noticeably tired going uphill or downhill.  Now, the cumulative effect hit apparently me later but doing the many death marches wasn’t bad at all.  My feet – may lose the left foot big toenail.  The are on my right foot near bunion also still hurts a few days later – maybe larger toebox with Altras will help there.
  • I thought the Death March and the sandbag carries were not difficult
  • The Ultra loop had a steep uphill through a beautiful field with super tall wildflowers
  • Bring on the bad weather – I thrive in the worst conditions and the coldness and rain at the top was appreciated more than being a negative
  • My downhills had gotten way better with my rockster Inov8 X-Talon 260 Ultras allowing me to run while many slid down on their behind
  • Me and my fellow ultra runners found out about where/when the timeout was after it was impossible to adjust to make it.  I think we had 2 miles to go and only 30 min left.  We kept going anyway but knew we would get the hook.

What I will do differently next time:

  • Absolutely no regrets this race – thrilled with how I did – but will be a little smarter next time.  I want to be able to say I am an ultra runner but it will not be today.
  • Will not leave my light jacket in transition – should always have that in questionable weather.  I froze on second loop after swim and this may have slowed me down a lot.  Debriefed with coach today and had forgotten to tell him that.  I wasn’t sure why I was going so much slower than first loop when I felt great at transition – have no reference for “bonking” and was thinking I didn’t drink or eat enough.
  • I was starving on 2nd loop.  I should have eaten more food/grabbed my PB&J and eaten it on the run.  Just had chicken soup and didn’t really feel rejuvenated.  Definitely need extra gels for 2nd loop to account for unknown extra mileage or extra fuel needs 2nd half

My dreams second loop!! of my jacket and PB&J


  • I cut back my water after around mile 10 as I started to get dizzy and thought I was overhydrating….I may not have caught up on the extra carbs by eating more though.  Need to bring extra gels and figure out the right water intake based on temperature for my body or figure out why I got dizzy
  • Need to work on longer term strength/endurance with perhaps more mountain runs and get my upper body back in shape to be able to do all the obstacles to bring my pace down.  I ran at 27:41 pace and my friend finished at a 26:30 and had consistency between 1st and 2nd laps (while I slowed a lot).
  • Take better inventory of water and electrolytes before and after.  I just threw in extra electrolyte tabs and dumped my lap 1 water cleaning up.  Now that I want to figure out the dizziness thing, I am missing data!!
  • Do age group to get an extra 30-45 min for cutoffs
  • Every time you can, push a little faster as this could have allowed me to finish/wasn’t sure how to pace myself and as I was going faster than plan, I thought I would be fine.  By the time I realized I was going to time out, it was too late to catch up
  • I didn’t know how to time the second lap.  Next time, get the name of the timeout obstacle and time it from the start so you know how far to get there from transition, that way you can pace yourself to make the cut.  I didn’t know where it was/how far from transition to know if I’d make it or not until it was too late.

A little time history of the last week:

When I saw the race profile released around Wed, I got scared as it became real and showed 16000 ft!


But proper training and planning brought me back to calm confidence before the race:

Details of my plan here: killington 2019 bucket planning

Got there early to checkin Friday and had an amazing dinner at The Foundry:

Then after getting up at 4am to eat and prep for a 6:45 start, met everyone at the race:

Once again, had to face the wall to even get to the starting line – a wall that makes my arms shaky as I lift myself over it – what if I can’t get over it to even start the race?!?!

Nothing so different on obstacles (or burpees!)  – here are a few Kenny caught:

The day started out warmer than expected at around 53F but forecast rain before noon that would clear up a few hours.  I hadn’t really planned on a jacket and brought one in a plastic bag if needed (it was – at the top which had high winds and rain) but need to get a smaller one for next time.  Rain didn’t clear up and it got colder so leaving my jacket in transition bucket became a mistake (lesson learned).

This muddy hill prior to the Death March had been just field debris the first time I went down it and became a muddy nightmare the second.  and Death March.

It was a good day and I am proud of it.  I left with a DNF.  No medal.  No recognition at all in race results.  No recognition I did 10 miles more than the Beast.  I don’t need any of that to know what I did.  I raced further than I ever had before with twice as much elevation that I’d ever done under my planned pace.  I crushed the hills and downhills and never gave up (although a few tears were shed).  It quickly went from thinking ” I don’t really need to do it again” to “hell, yes I have to do it….”

The Race:

IMG_6555    IMG_6556



IMG_6558  IMG_6559

Post race emotions:  Felt proud even while timing out, then cried I didn’t make it, felt proud all night, woke up crying and tired and emotional.  Felt pretty good rest of day, then cried all night and en route to work.  Felt better then way better after speaking with coach….. I have gotten the post race blues and love the activity/discussion after a big race but miss the thing that brings so many people I truly love being with together.  Must plan more and keep the team theme going!!

I am just so happy with all I’ve learned this year (remember crying in the basement when you couldn’t remove and put your rear tire back on? remember spending hours figuring out accessories required like cadence meters to use zwift or what trail shoes or or what hydration packs are….?  remember repeatedly falling while learning how to run rocky paths and crying on the side of the trail while people laughed at you? remember the first time you ran Z2 and thought how could this help me….and then realizing I had only run one speed for the last 30 years and maybe there was a better approach :)…..on and on).  I am a goal oriented person.  I am also always afraid so learning also means being afraid a lot or as I like to say to myself, means having courage a lot of the time because it’s extra hard for me.  I like being ordered around a little and being around people who know way more than I do and who will put up with me even if I slow them down. Remember the late night my coach tricked me and had me do 9+ miles of intervals that took an entire Friday night 🙂 Remember the absolute gut wrenching fear of running up Nashoba (my new best friend)?

enough rambling.  Ready to move forward with no fear.  to nourish the new friendships and to build on what I have done this last year and recover what I have lost thru my adult life with my shoulder and posture issues.  I will come out stronger in the end and keep working towards my best self.  I would love to feel like I am helping others as well and really enjoyed coaching my BLF (best little friend) thru the OCR course so perhaps I can help younger women get stronger mentally for work and physically for life…. a new career path!

There are only the trained and untrained.  who are you?  I AM TRAINED!  (Denzel Washington, Man on Fire)



Race Pace and Mental Preparations…T-7 days

Spent some time this week getting mentally prepared….remembering all the hard work I’ve done this year, all the friends made, how much I’ve learned and improved…


I also spent some time trying to figure out if my coachs’ recommended mile pace (26 min/mile 1st loop and 28 min/mile 2nd loop) was in line with what I’ve been doing on my last big runs.  I made this comparison to compare runs.  Critical factors:

  • Elevation gain/miles run –  Great comparative factor
  • Obstacles (bonefrog, boston super/sprint)
  • Super rock technical trail (and slowest times) (Skyline, mountain runs) vs. grassy run
  • Similar obstacle course on grass with elevation (Bonefrog)

Comparison looks like this and Garys’ recommended time of 26 min/mile 1st loop and 28 min/mile 2nd seems right on if not a little conservative.


I’ve got my plan and bin ready to decorate also – my plan is to get in/out of transition as fast as possible.  During tomorrow’s last longish run (90 min), I will eat chicken soup and try taping calves in preparation so its not the first time I do this in the race.


I am surprisingly not nervous about it.

AM JUST GOING TO GO OUT AND DO WHAT I DO…. work hard over a long time loving every second of it.

Old Speck..A Few (14) Notable Miles on the Appalachian Trail AAR 8/24/19

Last long run before the big race!  Tried to pick something with a ton of elevation and a goal of being out around 8 hours.  This weekend ( Aug 24) we were camping at Papoose Pond in Waterford, ME so I found Old speck about 40 min away and spent my Sat on vacation going up and down this 4000′ mountain twice!  I was pretty psyched because I had just finished Scott Jureks book North about his adventures and difficulties he encountered while he set the record for running the entire AT going north.  GREAT BOOK AND FANTASTIC SECTION OF THE TRAIL!


and I know cause I did it twice.

I was also researching trail apps just in case I got lost (as I did on Skyline) and chose Alltrails over Gaia GPS because of this feature (lifeline) to let your loved know you are OK while running.  Unfortunately, it only works if you have cell service, which I had for about 2 minutes the entire 7.5 hours I was on trail and if it isn’t sending out messages from me, turns out it was sending little notes like “she should have checked in by now” to worry Kenny 🙂

Well, this was a fantastic section of the AT and it was a seriously varied run, not just in the terrain which went from forest trail to very rooty to being absolutely beautiful with everything covered in green….but also emotionally as it was foggy and grey the first time I got to the summit and then beautifully sunny the second.  With all of these things going on, I don’t understand why anyone wants to play music while running/hiking.

What went well

  • Got in 6000′ in 7.5 hours – good prep for the big race although mostly hiking with all the rocks
  • Tried out my new Altra Lone Peak 4s which were awesome – I think I’ll like these better than the Inov8 Talon Ultra 260 because of the wider toebox and they recently handled better in loose rock on the Nashoba hill runs
  • Met an awesome trail runner – older guy running in pants with an enormously long, scraggly beard who told me the secret was to just watch your feet and plan where they go one step at a time.
  • People gave me compliments when I passed them a second time and they realized I was doing it twice
  • No blisters
  • No falls!!!  This is huge – am getting better each weekend with practice and hopefully stronger so less likely to trip

What didn’t go so well

  • Got super dizzy at the top after the 2nd ascent – I blame it on too many electrolytes.  Good thing I was followed down by these two folks and their dog – made me feel better if I fell or needed help having them there.

I spent a lot of time thinking about how peoples’ observations are such a matter of perspective.  A woman declared the trail very muddy and I was thinking it was dry.  Was it long, hard to do, steep….. am I obsessive or just training towards a goal…  I take peoples’ warnings with a grain of salt and realized that most of the times when someone says something was hard, it may have been challenging for them but I wonder how much they have challenged themselves.  I am trying to find out how I can push myself and do more than I thought – as I improve weekly, I realize that I may not hit a limit.  What if there is no limit?  That may be the biggest lesson learned this year; however, if there is no limit, it makes every workout challenging as you keep trying to beat your personal bests 🙂

Loved this hike and our few days at Papoose…this run earned me two breakfasts the next day!