Black Canyon Training Tales

2023 is full steam ahead, like a freight train chugging along faster and faster. My class and work schedule are micromanaged down to 30 minute chunks, performance dates are starting to line up, new music to learn is pouring in. Meanwhile, in the last six or so weeks I’ve attempted to eek out some semblance of training for the Black Canyon 100K coming next Saturday in Arizona. Maybe training isn’t even the right word. Recovery and maintenance might be better ones!

You may remember I kicked off the year with Across the Years – Last Person Standing, completing my first 100+ miles in a very structured setting. Since then it’s been just sort of a slow, creaky return to running, and not without some challenges and getting a little creative.

The Hip of Doom

First I had some hip/glute flare up that’s been low-key bugging me since this fall. I’m convinced it’s from the excessive amount of sitting while playing piano or sitting at my computer for hours on end, but who knows? I thought it might be my (figurative) Achilles heel in the JFK 50 Mile last November and Across the Years, but in both events it ended up being a non-issue. However, it bugged me enough while running a few weeks ago that I replaced a 13 mile run with a 4+ hour/13 mile hike in the Fells Reservation instead, as walking didn’t cause any discomfort. I’m glad I had the luxury of time on a Sunday to do that! I also started a 2x week at-home strength training routine written by my pal Rachel and I try to pop by GG’s chiropractic office at Wellness in Motion once a week for a 30 minute tune up. Since then the glute/hip discomfort has been held at bay. Knock on wood, I haven’t had a running-related injury since 2017 (not counting the AT), let’s keep it that way!

The Great Freeze

Last weekend New England got treated to a deep freeze with temps in Boston going sub-zero and “feels like” temps going way below zero! There’s no reason I couldn’t have hopped on a treadmill, but I had experienced running in sub-zero temps while in college in Illinois and was kind of curious to try it again, so I layered waaaay up– Double socks, double gloves + mitts, tights AND pants, long sleeve, fleece pullover, jacket, headband, hat, balaclava, sunglasses for a little eye protection–and ventured into the frozen abyss. The most complicated part was breathing- I had my balaclava pulled up over my mouth and nose which made breathing uncomfortable. Then pretty quickly there was moisture build up, which then started to freeze on the fabric from the outside. As soon as I got out of the wind, I pulled it down around my chin, and without my breath keeping it warm, the rumples of the fabric froze in place around my neck. Good times! The freeze only lasted a day, so it was a fun experiment and I’m glad that’s over!

The Never-ending Puzzle of Time Management

This spring I took on two more classes than I had in the fall, that way I’ll have a lighter workload in my second and final year of school next year. But, that means more hours at school and more homework and practice to do. In the fall I’d usually squeeze in my runs either before I left for school/work or when I got home, but this spring I’m attempting to eliminate my train commute on one end of the day and run-commute the 6.5 miles instead, basically saving an hour of the day! It takes a little strategy and planning, but I’m starting to get a routine and kit dialed in, and now I’m wondering why I didn’t think of doing this sooner. Sometimes I only need to carry a few small items with me, other times I’m carrying books, winter clothing, and a laptop and the weight can add up. Two runs so far my pack weighed in at 14.5 lbs. I’m planning to backpack the Colorado Trail this summer, what a great way to train!

The Inevitable Fatigue

I can be as ingenious and creative as I want, but it’s becoming very clear that I can’t do it all, and that’s okay. Last week literally every entry in my training log said “tired” “tired” “tired”, and that’s not good. I took two days off in a row and I’ve been trying to prioritize getting enough sleep and trying not to stress about everything too much. You’ve gotta take care of the basic needs before fine-tuning everything else. Otherwise you’ve got a cart before the horse situation!

Black Canyon 100K Hopes & Dreams

The nice thing going into Black Canyon is having zero self-imposed pressure on running at my peak performance. That’s just not where I’m at right now, and that’s okay. My goal is to finish before the 17 hour cut-off, which will earn me another ticket into the Western States Endurance Run lottery, a race I hope to run one day. I entered the lottery last year with one ticket from the 2021 Hellgate 100K, and predictably didn’t get in. As long as I continue to qualify each year, I can continue accumulating tickets and up my chances of getting in. I’m mostly looking forward to doing my favorite thing in the world–spending a long day outside in great company, something that is never to be taken for granted!


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Who is Mercury?

Liz Derstine, trail name “Mercury”, is a distance runner, endurance hiker, writer, and musician residing in Boston, MA. She holds fastest known times for women on the Appalachian Trail (supported, northbound), Long Trail (self-supported), and Pinhoti Trail (self-supported).

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