Sunday, January 26, 2014

Mountain Mist 2014

I love and hate Mountain Mist.

Really. I love it. It's unique. It draws a very talented and well trained field from all over. It's a different race every year. It's a huge party. It's a MUST DO. We're fortunate to have a race like that so nearby. Ultra runners all over the country know about this one.

Really. I hate it. It's so difficult. It's rocky. You have to sign up on the day registration opens or you'll miss it (and you can't miss it no matter how much you hate it). Old Railroad Bed trail is on the course, and I hate that trail. It beats you to death. It chews you up and spits you out.

Maybe I love it more for all the reasons I hate it.

Then I got a call from my boss on Tuesday. "I'm going to need you to be on a plane tomorrow." I replied, "For how long?" She said, "Until Friday." Sigh. After looking at so many options, I ended up with an itinerary that had me landing in Nashville at 11:00 PM Friday night. That meant I'd be home by 1 AM at the earliest. And I'd be coming from Pacific Time. The other thing I didn't think about was that when we landed in Atlanta, every restaurant in the airport was closed. No dinner. Not good. So, will Jack in the Box at midnight qualify as pre-race carb loading?  It'll have to.

But hey, I'm not in good shape anyway, so just run and have fun and see what happens.

To O'Shaughnessy
The changes to this course are brilliant. I always hated starting cold and having to run a sub-7 minute mile just to get to the trail-head before people who are too cautious on rocky descents. I really, really like the changes that gives 3 miles for the field to even out. So, I was able to run relaxed and ease into the race and still take the descent on Walnut Hill at a reasonable clip. The course was in rare form this year with so many icicles. It was beautiful. I just tried to relax and enjoy the first 6 miles. I made it there in roughly 58 minutes. I was pleased with that.

To Three  Benches
Several runners breezed past me as I refilled my water bottle at the aid station. So, on the descent down Warpath Ridge, I was hindered by the crowd. This was just too slow. After the gnarly descent, on the flatter and easier section, I got too relaxed and tripped over a rock and had one of the worst falls I've ever had trail running. My left quad took the brunt of the fall as I landed on a sharp rock and rolled over on my left side and took more rocks to the hip and side. My rule of falling is "Get up before it starts hurting." So I popped up and barely broke stride. A few hundred yards later, I realized that it hurt. A lot.

I enjoyed some nice conversation on Power Line Trail and followed a crowd up K2 to avoid exerting too much energy on the first major climb. All was well. I got stuck behind some slower folks again on Goat Trail and opportunities to pass just weren't there. I arrived into 3 benches at a busy time and had to fill my own water bottle. That's no problem, but I was using pre-filled cups and they were frozen. I got in and out as quickly as I could. I forgot to look at my watch. But I knew this section took longer than it should have.

To Fearn, the Halfway Point
This section was fairly uneventful, too. I was able to join Alex Clark and James Falcon and Brian Thompson for some really cool conversation. Stone Cuts is one of the coolest parts of this race. Here I am exiting stone cuts.
Runner Guns. Photo courtesy of Gregg Gelmis
It was good seeing Scott and Chelsea Sciavone at the aid station. It's nice when volunteers call you by name and specifically offer to help you. Volunteers make races work. I appreciate the help, guys. I left Fearn at 2:44-ish.

To Land Trust
I didn't feel too very tired coming out of Fearn. I knew that a beating was coming my way, but I've run the Land Trust trails more than anywhere else on the course. I actually felt pretty good and just cruised on High trail and had a pretty good descent with Sally Brooking (grand masters female winner) down Bluff Line. It was quite fun. I rolled into the Land Trust and pitched a tent. Seriously. I stayed here way, way too long. I ate a couple of crackers because I'd rather eaten snot than another GU. I drank some coke. I chatted. I looked for excuses not to take the beating that the next trails would give me. I left at 3:24.

To Trough Springs
I was right. Old Railroad Bed Trail and Alms House Trail just chewed me up. They beat me. I just could not find a rhythm running these trails. I've run these trails more than any section of trails on Monte Sano, and I stil run them slower than Nana texting. It's bad.

When I exited Alms House onto Waterline Trail, I was in a very low spot. I cursed Dink for dangling the carrot that is a 10 time finisher award. I was thinking to myself that I'd never run on trails ever, ever, ever again. I was considering retiring from ultras altogether. I was hating life.

Then, just at the base of the waterfall, I looked up. It was completely frozen. It was a stunningly beautiful view. I couldn't get over how awesome the view was. And I said, "This is why I do this. Let's go."

Coming in to Trough Springs aid station, I looked at my watch and noticed that it said 4:48. I knew that I had a chance to break 5:30. Ok, then. I didn't have another negative thought the whole race.

To the Finish
I knew that 5:30 wasn't in the bag. But I knew I could do it. I ran a good clip on Arrowhead Trail. This is another very good change to the course. I hated this section of Natural Well Trail. And my understanding is that the washout is now completely impassable. I passed several people on this stretch and also after the trail spits out on Natural Well Trail. I am horrible at the descent on Natural Well. Horrible. I got passed here by 3rd overall female Erin Looney. She crushed this descent. I caught her back at the bottom on what used to be slush mile. I knew that I had to run well on the bottom of McKay Hollow because I knew it would be dry today and I knew the climb was going to challenge me. I didn't blister it, but I did run it consistently. I made the climb pretty good, too, passing Sally Brooking here and a couple of other people on the uphill. At the top, I ran about 8:20 pace to the finish and passed 3 or 4 more.

Courtesy Gregg Gelmis

I was 12th in the 40-49 group. That's TWO SPOTS, only 30 seconds from getting a beanie. Man, I want one of those Mountain Mist beanies. I really should have gotten one this year. I was in good enough shape. I just had some bad luck the week before and I didn't take the race seriously enough. 

I'm getting a beanie. Soon. Next year.

And I want to close with a huge thanks to the volunteers, especially the volunteers on O'Shaugnessy where it was windy and cold. Just to name a few... Dink and Suzanne Taylor for putting on this first class event. Thanks to Carl Smith for timing services as always. Thanks to Madelyn Patton for checking me in without ID. Thanks to Gregg Gelmis for always giving us some great photos to remember these events. Thanks to Mona Parker for filling my bottle at O'Shaugnessy, the coldest and windiest aid station. Thanks to Scott and Chelsea Schiavone for helping out at Fearn. Thanks to the wonderful volunteers at Land Trust aid station. Thanks to Elle Trowbridge for her help at Trough Springs. Thanks to Jennifer Bicknell for helping out at the finish. I know I'm missing several, who specifically helped me today. Sorry!

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Coming Back

So it has been quite a while since I posted here. Part of the reason is that I've been battling injury. I had the stress fracture that caused me to miss all of the 2012-2013 ultra season. I missed Lookout Mountain 50 Mile in 2012. I missed Recover From The Holidays 50k in 2012. I missed Mountain Mist in 2013. I had to settle for the 25k at Black Warrior in 2013.
Then I spent the spring coming back very slowly. I started to hit a stride in the summer in 2013. Then, my calf just would not quit hurting. I went through denial. Then I went through trying to just train through it. Then I accepted it and spent 3 or 4 weeks taking 3 or 4 days off and then testing it to see if it was better. All the test did was hurt and set me back. So, I decided to just take off until it no longer hurt to walk on it. That took about 7 or 8 weeks. So, I set myself back nearly 3 months by being dumb and stubborn.
So, 2013 just was not my year. I had a pretty good October and November building a base back up. I decided that I would try and train for the Knoxville Marathon. But here it is mid-January and my fitness just isn't coming along.
Punt Knoxville.
So, I'm going to try to run a few ultras this winter and spring and try to have a good summer and aim for a marathon PR in the fall.
I was able to pace the 3:30 group at Rocket City Marathon in 2013. I was able to comfortably break 5 hours at Recover From The Holidays 50k in 2013, so that was encouraging.
Next up is Mountain Mist 50k. Then, for the first time in 5 years I'm going to do Mount Cheaha.
And today, I ran 5x1k on the track. It was difficult and slow (3:45 per 1k). I thought I was gonna fall over on the last one. But during my cool down, I got that pleasantly tired feeling. I mean, I felt awesome. That feeling that makes me think, "this is why I run." I love that feeling.
I'm optimistic about the future.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Mountain Mania 15k

The Mountain Mania 15k had its third running on June 8, 2013. I really had no idea that Decatur had such a hill. This thing was a beast! The t-shirt and Facebook page have "See the beast. Run the beast. Conquer the beast." And I like the logo.
Typically, the second Saturday in June is much hotter than this past Saturday was. We had really great weather for this race, in the low 60s at the start. The 7:00 AM start is really a great thing for this race, too.

I am not in race shape and I don't really want to race until the September/October time frame. So, it was a late decision for me to run this race. I needed a good marathon pace run, and I have done next to nothing on hills, so I thought I'd give a try at a hilly marathon pace run. I am really glad I signed up for this race!

It's a small race, about 100 runners or so. After the race, during the awards ceremony, the race director asked for feedback to improve the race. One person in the crowd jokingly said, "Make the course flatter!" To which the race director replied, "No, we're looking for a certain type of runner for this race, and y'all are it." I loved that reply!

The Race
I saw several people I knew before the race. Seeing people is the best part of racing. When I pin on a number, I really have to resist the urge to race. But Saturday, I told myself that I would resist that urge. I wasn't really sure who the competition was today. I knew that Colby Phillips could beat me if he were in shape and if he were racing. But he said that he would not be racing, but just doing an easy run. I know that David Rawlings is in killer Tri shape, maybe the best shape of his life. I know that he just ran a 10k PR at Cotton Row. Who else? I see some kids up front. You never know about them. Okay. Marathon pace (6:50 to 7:00) no matter what.

After a prayer (I really appreciate that.) and a few words thanking the sponsors, off we went. One kid shot out of the gate like a rocket! After about 30 seconds, I asked David, "Do you know that kid? Is he really that fast?" To which David replied, "We'll find out." Another runner said, "I wonder if  he knows this isn't a 5k?"

So, I just tucked in about 50-60 yards behind David. I was running alongside a guy named Jonathan and we chatted a bit about the competition for the day We took turns leading the tangents on the turns and stayed together for a couple of miles. Up about 50-60 yards ahead of David was another pair, a young kid and a guy who I would meet after the race, Jay McNeill. Then, way out front, was Ieden Leckenby. At the one mile mark, which Ieden had run well under six minutes, I knew that he was for real.

So, I realized that I was in 5th or 6th place with Jonathan in the other. Marathon pace. Marathon pace. Don't race. Marathon pace.

The second mile has one of the most brutal climbs I've ever encountered in a road race. Yes, it is worse than Cotton Row's Mountainwood. It's really not even close. I was trying to maintain marathon pace effort, and I ran that second mile in 8:08. Brutal. At the top, I was glad for some flat land and I recovered fairly quickly and settled back into the sub-7 minute mile pace fairly easily, and then even faster on the descent.
See, it is worse than Mountainwood.
Jonathan then fell back. Now, I'm in 5th place. The kid running with Jay McNeill dropped off his pace. David eventually overcame him, and then I did. So, now it's Ieden, Jay, David, and me. It stayed that way until about mile 6.

On the back side of the mountain there is a fairly long, straight, mostly flat but slightly downhill section that runs south alongside I-65. Here is where the thoughts of racing entered my mind. Both David and Jay were within reach. I felt like I had run 6 miles at marathon pace, not like I had run 6 miles at tempo pace. I had a lot left in the tank. So, I'm thinking... Can I catch the leader? Did he fall off? Well there was this section where I could see for about a mile. I barely saw the police car. I knew then that I wasn't making up a mile in with about 4 miles to go unless he dropped out.

So, without the possibility of winning the race, I settled back to just a shade faster than marathon pace. I was running about 6:40-6:45 because it was downhill. I passed David a little before 6 mile mark. I asked if Jay was older than 40, and he believed that he was. So, the three of us were battling for masters. Again, I reminded myself, marathon pace. So, I did that. Maybe a shade faster, but never faster than 6:40.

On the way back up the hill at mile 7, I passed Jay. Again, this is worse than Cotton Row. Also, you have to climb this beast twice. Twice. Brutal. I was trying not to go into oxygen debt up the hill. I maintained a steady effort and recovered very quickly at the top. After that, Jay hung close, but I was determined that I was going to maintain a steady effort to the finish and not run faster marathon pace effort. I knew the last mile would be very fast because of the extreme downhill. But I was not going to race. Jay ran very well and hung on pretty close through those last two miles.

I was able to maintain the even effort through the race and finished in 1:05:04 which was good enough for second place overall and first masters runner. Ieden ran 58:39 which shows that he really was nearly a full mile ahead of me. Official results are here. http://www.naolweb.com/rivercityrunner/2013-MtMania_13_OA.htm

I would really like to train for and tackle this course in race shape to see if I could break an hour. It would be a tall order to sub-1 this thing. Kudos to River City Runners for scoring and all the volunteers. This is an awesome, low key, challenging, and well organized race.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Chick Fil A 5k

Last year's stress fracture has been one of the most frustrating things to happen to my running for a variety of reasons. I hated missing Rocket City Marathon. I hated missing Lookout Mountain 50 mile. I hated missing Recover From the Holidays. I hated missing Mountain Mist 50k. Those are all races that I had registered for! So disappointing. Then, the lost fitness of the time off and the time to recover... I am still not where I want to be. Patience.

But the Chick Fil A 5k was a really fun race and produced one of the best race pictures I have! Big Kudos to Kathy Youngren for picking out some rockin uniforms for the Fleet Feet Racing Team this year.


Busy Day
Saturday, April 6, was a busy day of racing in North Alabama. Here are the races that I know about on that day...
  • Chick Fil A 10k/5k in Athens
  • 3M River City 10k/5k in Decatur
  • HTC Scholarship Fund Run 8k in Huntsville
  • Lead Me to the Cross 5k in Monrovia
  • Athens State University 5k in Athens
  • Oak Barrel Half Marathon in Lynchburg, TN (Ok, not North Alabama, but it did draw quite a few North Alabama runners)
What to do... I know I'm not really that fit. I just don't have my base underneath me right now. Do I have a chance to win one of the Athens races, to get that first career win? But I've volunteered at the Chick Fil A 5k for the past 3 years, and they didn't reach out to me this year. I could likely nab at least an age group and perhaps some free chicken (even though I'm mostly vegetarian, I still eat meat 2-3 times per week, and my kids would love that). Hmmm. Or should I just not race at all because I'm not really in shape to race.

If I may say this... Some of those races need to move their date.

3M River City 10k is the fastest 10k in Alabama. People who want to set a serious PR go there. It's an old, established race. It moved from the second Saturday in April to the first Saturday in April last year. I wish it could move back. 

Chick Fil A was also on the second Saturday in its inaugural running, but it's moved a few times for various reasons, one being tornadoes in 2011. I think they hurt their participation numbers by holding this event on this day with so much competition. Perhaps its joining the Chick Fil A Connect Race Series affects its choice for a date? This race could be much bigger, especially with the addition of a 10k option. It's a decent 10k course and there aren't a lot of 10k options around.

The Scholarship Fund run 8k has been on the first Saturday in April for as long as I can remember. It's an established race, but it's nobody's favorite. I like it for what it is, a chance for a PR at an odd distance. But it's a double loop on a hilly course. I think HTC is considering moving this race since there is so much competition for runners on this day nowadays.

For the newer events, picking such a busy date is just not ideal planning. As a race director, I know that there are many factors that influence the choice for a race date, not the least of which are RD and volunteer schedules, police schedules, sponsor schedules, etc. So, sometimes, things like this are unavoidable. However, when planning a new race, you should realize that if you choose a date that has 4 other races within 25 miles of your event, you're going to have a very difficult time getting participation. I've held my event, the Duck and Run 5k, on a date when there were 3 other events, so I know it can be difficult. However, when I did that, the other events were newer than my event, so there wasn't a lot I could do about it. Race Directors, please check several race calendars when choosing a date. And, if at all possible, keep your date consistent. Okay... Rant over...

Chick Fil A
The 10k option at Chick Fil A was interesting to me. The 5k, though, was more like what I really should be doing. So, I decided to just show up and sign up for the 5k. This is the premier spring race in Athens. I constantly learn things from this event that I'd like to apply to my event. I also appreciate very much the charity that this race benefits, Bridge of Hope Adoption Ministry. Pure religion is to care for orphans and widows (James 1:27).

As it turns out, I ended up being the top masters runner at the Chick Fil A 5k. Lots of free chicken and a good workout. And lots of time with a lot of really good Athens folk. Results are posted on their website.

I figured I was in about 19:30 shape. I had just run a 19:41 on Tuesday at the Double Helix Dash, but I figured I could do a little better, especially since this was a morning race and we had very nice weather. When I got there, I realized that the 5k was actually the premier event. I had expected the 10k to be the more competitive event, but that was not the case. There were very few 10k runners compared to the  400 or so 5k runners.

Brandon Mader had brought a car load of fast kids with him and I knew that they would dominate the race. So, I knew a podium finish was impossible for me, given the shape I'm in. I figured that unless there were some unknown super fast kid, about 17:00 would win this race and there would be a few sub-18 finishers, and none of those would be me! :)

I saw my friend and occasional Athens Sunday morning 10 mile runner Ben Greene. I know that he generally stays in sub-19 shape, so I had all but given upon taking the masters.  We chatted a bit and he told me he hadn't been running much. I didn't know whether he was sandbagging or not. He looked fit to me.

When we started, I had a few issues dodging the crowd and then getting around the 10k runners to get out front. It really was crowded, and re-thinking this race start would be a good idea. Within a half mile and without wasting too much energy, I settled into a reasonable spot and pace. Ben was sure enough on my shoulder. Again, not knowing exactly how fit he is and not knowing if I can break 19:30, I did push the pace just a bit. Even with the dodging early on, I split the first mile at 6:12.

I was still leading Ben in the second mile, but I could hear his footsteps getting farther back. Just hold on. Hope to battle to the end and have some guts at the finish. Well, as we approached the 2 mile marker, I heard him charge. I figured he was making his move. I was holding steady, and was planning to hang on if he passed. He got side by side and said, "I just came up here to tell you bye! I'm about to drop off. Good luck for the rest of the race!" He stayed there for a little while, so I thought this might be some gamesmanship. We hit the 2 mile mark at 12:24. Really consistent. I said, "Let's go get this done!" He said, "Seriously, I'm backing off." I then pulled away and didn't hear from him again.

As I rounded the square, I looked back, and he sure enough wasn't gaining. I saw some young guys up in the distance, but knew they'd have to come back to me. So, I decided to just make sure that Ben didn't come storming back and to hold as steady as I could to the finish. I hit mile 3 in 18:38 and clocked the final 0.1 (mostly uphill, ugh) in 0:40. That adds up to 19:18 and as consistent of a 5k as I remember running in a long time. I probably had some more left in the tank, but I was plenty pleased with this effort.

My kids were hanging out with their friends at the start/finish area. The first thing I heard when I crossed the finish line was "Daddy, you got chicked today!" Precious. Thanks, I know. She was fast! :)

It was a fun day and a big shout out to a huge crew of Elkmont runners to did a couch to 5k program and had nearly 100 come and run their first 5k here. Barry Pugh and Whitney Hollingsworth really inspire folks to run. I'm glad to call them my friends.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Double Helix Dash 5k

Several guys from ADTRAN put together a couple of teams to run in the Double Helix Dash 5k at Hudson Alpha Institute for Biotechnology. It is really awesome to work with a great group of runners.

Look at us here.
Photo thanks to Gregg Gelmis
There were others from ADTRAN who ran, but these were our teams. I run with most everyone in that picture on a fairly regular basis. It's really a blessing to work with folks like that. Pretty much any day I can say, "I'm going out for a few miles at lunch today. Anybody want to join?" I'll most likely get a yes from someone in that picture.

Ok... now for the race...

I describe this race as a bad course but a fun race. The course is horrible. Slow. Two out and backs on a 5k and then the last half or three quarters of a mile is on a zig-zag sidewalk that is shaped like a DNA model and goes up and down a slight incline. Miserable course. But the race... There's always a good turnout. It's a Tuesday twilight race. There are just so many people from research park there that it's just plain fun.

Change clothes at work, run over to the race start, socialize for a few minutes, race, socialize for a lot longer, run back to work and drive home. That's pretty cool.

Our teams were divided about as evenly as we could given that Andy, Eric Fritz, and I didn't really know what kind of 5k shape we were in. I had run a couple of tempo runs and they were very miserable. 6:40 pace for 3 miles felt a lot like a race. So, I figured I was in 21 minute shape, maybe a little better. I expected a 3-way battle between Fritz, Jake, and me. But I really didn't know because this was my first 5k since October and my first race since starting back running from the stress fracture (not counting Black Warrior 25k, which was more of an episode of poor judgment than a race!)

When the race started, I hung on to my Athens runner friend Chris Ramsden for as long as I could. I just tried to keep him in sight for as long as possible. I knew he was in better shape than me, but still, hang on and see. Eric and Jake were close by in the first mile. I saw Chris hit the first mile at about 6:18 or so. I hit it at 6:27, and I was thinking, "I feel pretty stinking good! I can hold this pace, maybe even speed up!" So I did. I tried to close the gap on Chris, but he was still running pretty strong.

I headed on down the hill to Mile 2. I was definitely picking up the pace. I hit this one in 6:19. It was downhill, but still, I was starting not to like the pace but still felt pretty good. Chris maintained his lead on me. As I turned around at the last out and back, I noticed that Jake and Eric were far enough back that I would really have to come back to them. They would not catch me without me giving up a lot of pace, and I still felt like I had a strong last mile left.

The third mile was uphill and into a strong breeze before turning on the miserable zig-zag. I passed Jason Mitchell going up the hill, but I heard him stay on my shoulder. Oh well. I'll do what I can. I'm not going to burn up too much energy here because I know what waits on the dreaded helix. He hung on, and Chris seemed to notice that I was close on the turn and put some more separation between us. About 300 meters or so into the helix, Jason made a move to pass. I had nothing more to give to cover his move. It's my first race back, and I'm tickled that I have a chance to break 20! I let him go. When we hit the 3 mile marker and I pressed my lap button, I couldn't believe that was my fastest mile yet at 6:17. Nice. Even with 0.1 to go, I had no chance to catch Jason and nobody was threatening from behind, and sub-20 was in the bag. Still, though, I ran hard through the finish to clock a 19:41.
On the Helix. Thanks again to Gregg Gelmis!

I was very pleased with that! First time back. Fun, and better than I expected.

Our ADTRAN team of Andy Durr, me, Eric Fritz, and Jennifer Bicknell won the team competition with Andy crushing the course, coming in second overall with a 17:49. I am super proud of that dude. He has put in the work and it is paying off. I love to see that! Also, my friend Wendy Hneytenka on the other ADTRAN team smoked out a PR. She keeps improving, too. I love to see runners enjoying it and improving their fitness and confidence.

My 19:41 was good enough for sixth overall and first in the 40-49 age group.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Black Warrior 25k

Well, ready or not, the day to pin on a number arrives. I really thought a lot about this race. I originally signed up for the 50k. I was very hopeful that I would be in sub-4:30 shape for this. When I signed up, Lookout Mountain 50 Miler was my goal race for the season. I really hoped that the endurance I would have built training for that race would translate very well to this relatively easy 50k.

Best laid plans...
Then enter the stress fracture which made me sit out of Rocket City Marathon, Lookout Mountain 50 mile, Recover from the Holidays 50k, and Mountain Mist 50k. So, I knew that the 50k at Black Warrior was a no-go. There is a 25k option to this race, which I was glad to have.

I really debated how to attack this. I've done a few hikes of 10+ miles. I had hiked the 25k course. But hiking and trail running are as different as walking and running. So, part of me thought it would be best to sit back and hike part of the race and run part of it. That would have been smart. I'm not smart. I really debated doing that up until I heard the word "go". 
I managed to jog to the finish for the camera.
When we started, I was at the back of the pack to try to hold myself back. However, I just automatically started passing people. I looked at them and judged that they would not be as fast on the trails as I would be. I judged that they would dodge mud and tip-toe and stop when a blow over crossed the trail. So, I didn't want to be behind them.

Then, halfway to the trail, I realized I was being stupid. But I couldn't slow down. Ok. I have to slow down. I'm not used to this. I'm going to hurt myself. With some mental effort, I did back off just a tad. 

Then, we hit the trail. My oh my how I love to run trails. Especially muddy ones. It was just plain fun. So I started running faster. And faster. And faster. Passing people. When they dodged the mud, I splashed right through past them. Oh what fun. I felt great. I was in total race mode now. See someone? Pick them off.

When I got to the aid station, I refilled my bottle as quickly as I could. I was there less than 10 seconds, passing someone who I was behind as we entered. Oh yeah. It's a race now. I think I can break 2:15 in my first race back! That would be huge.

On the way over, I was riding with two trail newbies, Lance and Chris. This was the first trail race for both of them, and it was Chris's first trail run ever. And I told them that if they break 2:15, I'll buy them a cookie. Or ice cream. Their choice. Unless, of course, the gimp (me) finishes ahead of them. I passed Lance about a mile before the aid station. Now, I'm thinking, "How much of a lead does Chris have?" Swoosh. Pass. Splash. Fun. 

I ran up on a guy who was dodging as much mud as possible. But he was determined not to let me pass him, so I settled in behind him. When we got to a big mudhole, I plowed right through and passed him and determined to drop him. Man, I was having fun.

Uh oh. I haven't been running. I'm not in shape. I see Dan Burleson up ahead. Ok. That's a goal. Man, this is starting to hurt. Go get Dan. At least there'll be some company if you catch him. I got up to within talking distance and we greeted one another. Then, I fell back. I'm hurting. (Not my leg. Not my bone. It feels fine. But every fiber of soft tissue from my hips to my toes is screaming at me.) 

I start to walk any up and run the flats and downs. How far is the road from here anyway? Oh no. I'm done. Now, I'm walking the flats and ups and running the downs. Ok... Let's run. No, my legs won't do it. It's over. I pretty much walked the last 3.5 miles of this race. I was definitely on pace to break 2:15. No doubt about that. But it's a 25k. And I ran it like a 15k.

Here's how not to run a 25k. Don't run the first 20k well above your fitness level and then walk the last 5k. That's not a good plan and you'll be sore for days. And your stomach will be upset. And you'll feel generally miserable.

It's Tuesday, and I just now feel like I could run if I wanted to (haven't decided yet). That was really stupid. But, it was fun until I couldn't run any more. I walked the last half mile or so to the road. I got to the road with 2.6 miles to go in 2:00. I finished  in 2:38. My philosophy was this. Walking doesn't hurt. Running hurts. So, I'm not going to run. It seems like 50 people passed me on the road. I totally didn't care. Lance was among those who passed me, and I think he had an awesome day out there. Welcome to trail running Lance!

I owe Chris cookies. He crushed it for a first trail race. 2:07. Man. Great job! 

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Just Keep Swimming

So, next week I see the doc about my stress fracture. I'm hoping everything is okay, and I'm pretty sure it is. I'm ready to run again. However, when I start back, I plan to start back very easily and slowly. This two months has not been fun and I don't want to sit out this long again. So, for the first month or two back, I'll still be swimming to get enough exercise done.

Like Dory says, just keep swimming. I gotta tell you, I'm really bad at swimming. It's a real struggle just to get from one end of the pool to the other. I keep going back, but I do not get better. But, I'm gasping for air and totally hungry and exhausted when I finish a swim, so it has to be doing some good, right?

I grew up "swimming" all summer every summer. I loved to go to the pool or beach or river. I'd stay in the water all day. I could swim well enough to stay alive and to avoid trouble in water over my head. I was never on a swim team and I never have swum competitively. I don't remember if I've even ever raced a friend to the other side of the pool. So, what I'm trying to do now is completely unlike anything I've ever tried to do before. And I'm really bad at it. Really bad.

This week, I did some laps with a few triathlete friends, and they were pretty much in agreement. I have the ugliest stroke they have ever seen. They all laughed at me. Out loud. My kick is sporadic, wide, and just herky jerky ugly. My head comes WAY up to breathe. My feet sink. I'm nearly vertical in the water. I'm pretty sure I'm a prime example of what not to do when learning to swim. Except that I keep going back. I keep getting in the water. Four or five times per week, I'm beating the water, gasping for air, making waves. But I'm touching each end of the pool and I keep on doing that until I've finished my workout for the day. So take that. It ain't easy and I don't really like it, but I'm going to do it.

This is the program I'm following.
http://ruthkazez.com/SwimWorkouts/ZeroTo1mile.html

I'd love to get up to a mile so I can think about an Olympic triathlon. I won't consider even a sprint triathlon until I can swim a mile straight and I can swim 400m in a reasonable (8:00-ish) amount of time. Right now, I'm mired in week 4 of that program. I've done the week 4 workout about 5 times now, and I am nowhere near being able to complete it comfortably.

Maybe this is where bull-headedness will help me out. I'm going to just keep swimming.