Running From Big Foot

There was no need for an alarm this morning. My 11 month old still does not sleep very soundly. From my bed, I grabbed my phone off the dresser and checked the time. I canceled the alarm and laid in bed staring at the ceiling, fighting the sleep sirens calling me back to bed. Convincing my legs to listen to me, I ambled over to the pile of running clothes I had laid out the night before and started to pile on the layers.

Despite being dressed and ready to go, I sat down when I got to the top of the steps. Did I really want to do this? It’s twenty degrees out, and I’m beat. Maybe I can sneak a long run in later today. I sighed, silenced the sirens once more, crept down stairs, threw on my hat and gloves, grabbed my watch and flashlight, and stepped out into the cold.

I hate running in the morning. My legs are stiff, I am exhausted, and I am afraid of the dark. I could make out-and-back routes along the paved, main county roads, but with all the dirt roads, I cannot justify it. At times, I have taken to carrying a flashlight and sometimes I use it when the tree canopy along the back roads blocks sends me stumbling in the darkness. Now that winter has come, the morning fog has turned to frost, and trees have lost their leaves allowing the moon and stars to light my way, consequently the the flashlight is usually just a comfort blanket of sorts.

While 5:30 might not be termed ‘early’ by some, there is only a handful of folks waking up, putting their dogs out, and scraping ice from windshields. While I probably should not, the silent darkness allows me to tune into all the little animals rustling in the frost covered leaves. My first reaction when I hear the leaves is to look. The moonlight is usually bright enough to see shapes and sizes and tell me whether or not I should start shouting and run faster, or if I can keep plodding along.

As I passed through an aged field with ancient maples still growing along the roadside, the leaves began to rustle. It was not a heavy rustle, but it was light and a small brook was running along the road. I chalked it up to a weasel, but still looked to see if I could make out any sort of animal. When I turned I saw a huge lurking beast, barreling after me down the road. I panicked. My heart jumped, my stride shifted in an attempt to put some space between us, and I let out a primal growl found only in the depths of fear. And then I realized, it was just my shadow.

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CHaD ’13 Race Report

Few days late on this one but…

I went into this race feeling strong and confident I could do well. I totally bombed the last two half-marathons I ran (CHaD ’12, and CBHM ’13) so I was hoping this would be something of a redemption. My ultimate goal was to just get under 1:20. I knew it was a tough course, and my last two halves were both above that 1:20 mark which left me feeling like CBHM ’12 was a bit of a fluke.

This is another late in the day race with a gun time of 12:00. Breakfast was a little funny, but I had some rabbit heart, kidneys and liver by 9:00. Some water after, but not much. Race time came and I was feeling pretty good.

Last year I got lost on the pace because they run the 5k and half together and I thought the guys going all out must be 5k’ers. This year, I had my guy and stuck with him, knowing that while I might not be able to keep pace with him the whole time, he would be a good guy to run with. So I stuck with him for the first 5k or so, then faded back a bit. The splits felt pretty even, but the mile markers are off so it is hard to know for sure.

By mile four, it was pretty clear there were three guys in the front and they were going to push it the whole way (third place ended up being 1:14…). So top three went out and it was a matter of catching the two guys in front of me. By mile six I had caught one of the guys, but the next was a ways ahead. I wanted to give up on catching him, but managed to talk myself into staying awake.

Mentally, I think this was one of my stronger races. It would have been very easy to fall asleep mid-race running by myself, but instead, I talked myself up and managed to catch up with the fourth place runner by mile 12. We exchanged the lead a few times, and coming into the finish he managed to beat me by a second. I like to think I could have gone with him, but I am not so sure.

The time was only slightly disappointing as I could have sworn the clock said 1:15:50; unfortunately looking at results it was a 1:16:22. A pr on a tough course on a windy windy day, running mostly by myself. I will take it any day, but thinking I broke 1:16 and then finding out I did not was a bit of a bummer.

Overall, it was a good race, and everything kind of fell into place. Huaraches started to feel a little funny towards the end, but I think it was because I laced the one too loosely.

I did not really drink anything during the race. I did grab water at most of the water stops only to dump it on my head. I also grabbed glasses of powerade at three or four water stops. I did not actually drink the powerade, but did as my brother suggested and swished around a mouthful before spitting it out. I like this technique and think I will try it in the future.

Octoberfest ’13 Race Report

octfest1Well this race report is a week late and so will be short. This was the first real race I have run since the Covered Bridges Half, in early June, which was a total mess. I had attempted to run a mile time trial, but balked. So here we are four full months later and it is finally time to put the racing shoes back on.

Over the summer I have slowly moved to zero drop and when race time came, it was time to strap the huaraches on for a go. I had tried them out on the track for an R-pace workout earlier in the week, and everything seemed good. Of course they drew some attention and a few folks remembered me from last year. I hate the shout outs, but at the same time, I am running in sandals.

This is one of those later races with a start time of 11:00. Always a bit confusing on the gut, but lately my diet and when I eat is so regularly erratic, it seems to be okay as long as I do not eat too close to race time. It also meant there was enough time early in the morning for my wife to want me to go for a run with her. So probably three hours before race time, I went for a five mile saunter with the stroller and wife. Nice for my mileage, and I also think it helped loosen things up a bit.

I managed to leave my watch at home, so I had no way of pacing by watch, it was all by feel, and I think it actually turned out to my advantage. I think if I had had a watch I would have freaked out over the pace being too fast or too slow. Instead I just kept building. Mentally, I was all there the whole time, no sleeping on the job this race. I picked up people as the race progressed and definitely made ground on the hills. The downhills were another question. I did okay with them, but the finish left me hard up. I just could not go any faster. Part of it was perhaps fear, but it is a pretty steep hill and the knee bend did not help. Maybe if I was smashing my heels.

In the end, I placed fifth and won my age group, taking home a nice twenty-four pack of some UFOs. And I set a PR by about seven seconds. Not a bad day out.

Case and Point

Two days ago, I awoke before the sun and shuffled my way to the track to do a threshold workout. I despise morning workouts, but the only time that really presented itself as a possibility was dawn. I figured the first one would work as a warm-up and the rest would come easy. Wrong. My legs were starving the whole time. I sucked it up and hammered through managing to keep pace pretty steadily. Unfortunately, the day after I started to notice a bit of a twinge in my hamstring. More than just an after-workout sore, but more of an angry niggling.

As the day progressed I noticed it more; luckily, it was just a minor annoyance when I would go to sit down. Rather than push my evening run and do the 8/9 miler I had planned, I cut it back to a slow five. Right away I noticed my hamstring was tight like muscle-pull-tight, but after a little pushing through, it loosened up. Of course half way through the run I found myself having the conversation to push it further or to just keep it at an easy five and rest a bit. It is a tough conversation to have with yourself, but a necessary one all the same. Part of me even suggested I should be home laying in bed resting up.

So here it is, a minor tweak and I am all ears – sort of. Pretty sure I will be able to put in a long run Monday/Tuesday and maybe only one Q workout, but with Octoberfest a week away, I am trying to play it even safer. Hard to listen.

Listening

I ran through high school and into college, then took an 8 year hiatus. For the last three years I have been getting back on my feet and trying to get back to the fitness levels I was at – so far I have been doing an okay job. Aside from lung capacity, aerobic abilities, and muscle strength, one of the big differences lies in my body’s ability to cope the abuse I put on it.

I have only really suffered one massive injury – back in sixth grade – when I tore two ligaments in my ankle. Being young, I skipped out of rehab and never thought anything of it, until I started turning my ankle quite frequently playing soccer, rugby, or running on trails. It has taken some time, but I think it is finally back up to snuff, despite a perpetual swollen look to it.

Over the past three years since picking running back up, I have experienced a number of niggling injuries. An annoyance in the knee attributed to patella-femoral pain syndrome – whatever that is – a sharp twitch in the ankle/calf area which I was told was peroneal tendonitis, and a strained calf that came from over training in huaraches. Perhaps these all could have been avoided, I am not sure, but coming into 2013 just getting over the peroneal tendonitis and a perpetually numb toe, one of my goals was to do a better job listening to my body.

Listening is a trick. It is not just a simple, acknowledgement of a sore leg and taking a day off, or easing up on a workout. Rather, the sore leg needs to be acknowledged and understood. It can be tough figuring out what aches and pains are actual injuries waiting to happen, and which are just annoyances that can be smothered with a pillow.

I would imagine some folks do a better job than others at understanding and monitoring their bodies. I like to think I am on the better end of this spectrum and my failure to listen before was due to stubbornness and shortsightedness. This year I have been virtually injury free. Nothing new has presented itself and the problems I had been experiencing seem to have dissipated. It will be interesting to see if I can continue to listen and decipher the true warnings of injuries, and the angry soreness from my body as ultra training picks up.