Saturday, April 23, 2016

The Hay is in the Barn

I have heard this phrase before, also in relation to having done the training but waiting for the race to happen. And happen it will: Rock the Ridge will occur a week from today.

Multiple weeks with totals above seventy miles - check. Back to back long runs - check. Some hill training (but maybe not enough - check. One more medium-long run on the towpath with friends - should be checked in a couple hours. Race started and completed - no check just yet.

Check back with me in a week.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Attack From Above

It was only a mile and a half into my run. I was on the all-purpose trail, deep in the woods, minding my own business. And then I felt a little scratching on the top of my head. Instantly, several thoughts occurred to me:


  • That felt a little strange. It was like someone was playing a trick on me.
  • Was it a branch? It felt like one. But (after a quick look around), I realized it wasn't.
  • I quickly looked around and above, and I saw it. An owl!



Now since I was wearing a hat, and since it was only a little scratch anyway, I would suffer no permanent damage. But Mr. Owl did spook me a little. It landed in a nearby tree as I shined my headlamp his way. Then it took off and swooped down at me again! As you may imagine, I hightailed it out of there.


I made it out of the woods alive. The strange thing is this:


It was the second time I was attacked by that guy (or gal). The first was a year ago when I was running in the same area, also donning a hat and headlamp. That time I didn't see the owl, but something rearranged the hat and headlamp enough to make it shine sideways. Since, as with this time, there were no nearby low branches, I could only conclude that it was the owl.


And the even stranger thing is this:


It was the second time within the week that I'd encountered an Attack From Above. The first time had actually only been a couple days ago. There was some planning, and some cause and effect involved.


To prepare for my upcoming Rock the Ridge 50-Mile run, I had originally planned to do back-to-back 20-Mile runs for this past weekend. It had been a long time since I'd done anything like that, but it seemed like a good idea. Further, the first long run could be on the towpath in Brecksville or Peninsula before work on Saturday, and the second could be the 20-Mile Drop, a race I'd done last year. Unfortunately, the weather got in the way.


Several days out, I began to notice that the forecast did not look to be conducive to comfortable long runs: Heavy snow was predicted for Saturday, and extreme cold (for April, or actually for anytime) was predicted for Sunday.


I changed my plans. Instead of taking Friday off, I ran that day, managing to get enough miles in to make my 70 for the week. I would take Saturday off, and did not register for Sunday's race, (re)planning instead to run long close to home. It's often the drive that's more of a concern than the run when the weather's nasty.


Sure enough, Saturday's snow was indeed heavy. Did I mention that this was April? Per my revised plan, I didn't run. The snow was beginning to subside as I drove to work. I was on route 82 in North Royalton, heading under the Ohio Turnpike overpass, when I noticed a snowplow on the bridge above. Little bits of snow were falling over the edge of the bridge, onto 82, and I realized, too late to do anything, that it would also fall on my car. Had I thought quick enough, I would have stopped just before the bridge, letting the plough go by first. But I didn't think that quick.


The snow and debris did indeed fall on my car. Only a little at first, but then a lot. A real lot. Right on my windshield. Enough to bust it up badly on the passenger side.


Enough attacks from above now. Enough!












Thursday, March 31, 2016

The Joy of Failure

There have been instances where I go out for a run with high hopes for a great, or at least a good performance, but for some reason the thing ends as a miserable failure. I revel in these Miscarriages.




I've posted about training failures before: as far back as 2007, and as recently as a week ago. Of course some of my races turn out to be stinkers too.




But not all that many. Most races turn out more or less the way I expect them to. Chalk it up to experience, preparation, or what have you. Actually, I do have something: allowing for failures during training so that they (hopefully) do not occur during races. So an occasional stinker of a training run truly doesn't bother me... Just so it doesn't happen too often.




On the other hand, it's a real confidence booster when a run is beginning to turn south, but I'm able to somehow right the ship. This was the case for Sunday's long run on the Lester Rail Trail. I started extremely slow, then picked it up nicely for the middle miles as Will Bertemes and Harold Dravenstott joined me, and then struggled mightily to get the final 6 of the 24 on my own. Yet I did manage to get through them. I paid the physical price the rest of the day, but that was a small price to pay for the added reassurance that I can do it when I need to.




Wednesday's run was definitely more of the letdown variety. I ventured into the dark park with a plan to do my usual 10-mile route. A good solid pace, despite the hills would have been nice. But I started so slow on the downhill section, that I was never able to recover. I only did 6, and I was happy when it was over. Today's run was better.




Only a month to go now. Rock the Ridge is just around the corner.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

When Does it Get Easier?

I am fond of telling new runners who lament the difficulty of running only a few miles that it gets easier. I lie. After over forty years of running, I'm still waiting for this to occur.

Got my second consecutive 70-mile week in. Now I only have about four more to go before Rock the Ridge. Hey, maybe at some point it really will get easier... Nah!

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Anatomy of a Bonk

In my mind, a critical success factor for the successful completion of a 50-Mile race such as Rock the Ridge is to run a lot. I define a lot as several consecutive 70-Mile weeks, beginning about.... wait for it... now! Am I making the grade, you ask?

For 70-Mile week numbero uno (which was actually last week), I did a 21+, an 8+, three consecutive days of my fairly hilly park 10-Milers, topped off by a 10 from home on Friday. Saturday would be off to spend time with the family as Valerie is visiting.

I started those 10 started fairly slowly, but then a funny thing happened: I got slower and slower so that by the end of the run, I was barely crawling. I figured that I had done something that I hadn't done in a while: I bonked. This was likely due to following my fast diet the two previous days and getting relatively few calories before heading out, not to mention still recovering from the change to daylight savings time. But I made it; I capped off a slow week with an even slower Friday run. Yes, 70-Mile week number one was in the books.

Today would be different. I needed a 20-mile long run. Didn't I? Aren't long runs part of the same critical success factor of running a lot? Yeah, I think so too.

This time it didn't happen. I crashed again, but worse this time. Why, you ask? Probably too much fun and merry-making with the family. Sort of the exact opposite of Friday's bonk. I'll call it an un-bonk.

So now with a 10 instead of a 20 today, I'll have to step things up for the rest of this week. Time to start the big push.

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Stars in Alignment


Three runners, let’s call them Runner F, Runner M and Runner D, are part way through their Hinckley 9-mile loop in the early morning darkness. They’re admiring the stars, and Runner D mentions that he had attended a Star Trek concert with his Trekkie of a son-in-law last night. He consequently didn’t get as much sleep as he’d have liked. He also notes that he plans to become even more sleep deprived tonight as the hour is lost due to the shift to daylight savings time.

Runner F asks the name of the bright star that’s directly in the west. Runner M answers that Runner D will probably say it’s Venus. Runner D, who truly didn’t need anyone to answer in his behalf (but also truly didn’t mind), corrects Runner M, explaining that Venus can only be in the east in the morning, or in the west in the evening. He goes on to speculate that the “star” is probably indeed a planet, just a different one; probably Jupiter.

A couple days prior, the stars came into alignment for Runner D, as he went ahead, gulp, and registered for Rock the Ridge… By Jove!


Saturday, March 05, 2016

Green Jewel: I Was Having a Great Run, and Then THIS Happened…

Did that Subject get your attention? Hope so.

I’m heading southeast on the Valley Parkway, approaching Royalton Road, also known as Ohio Route 82. It’s roughly 20 miles into the Green Jewel 50K (GJ), and I’m having a great day. Amongst the GJ road crossings, however, this may be the busiest of the lot.

I can see the traffic signal from well over a half mile away. As I get a bit closer, I begin to think about timing my approach so that I can cross on green with little or no waiting. I know that if I were to just miss it, I’d have to wait an eternity (well, maybe 2 or 3 minutes, and I know – that’s nothing compared with the 5 hours or so that I’ll be out here – but it’ll sure seem like an eternity).

As I get to within a third, then a quarter mile from the signal, I am upset to see that it’s still red. I had been hoping beyond hope that it would go through a red-green-red cycle, with me arriving just as it changes to green again. But no, it’s staying red. This means I have to run even faster to try to make it on the next green, rather than the next to the next green.

It’s 200 yards, then 100 yards away, and I’m sprinting. At about 25 yards, it finally changes to green, but I have to keep sprinting in order to make it across before it changes back to red.

It happens just as I enter the intersection: I zig, but my left knee zags. It’s a sudden, extremely painful twist, as the knee seems to get off its normal tracking. I scream out in pain, but I don’t think anyone hears – the closest humans are in their cars, waiting for the signal to change (which it does as I limp up onto the opposite side). I’m sure that was by far my fastest quarter-mile in quite a long time, and up until the twist and shout, I had been actually enjoying it. Now, with 11 miles to go, would I be able to finish at all, much less in a respectable time?

With Michelle Wolff at the start. Yes, I know:
the tights.                        Shari Geiger photo
This my 3rd GJ 50K, and I also completed the only GJ 100K. Those other two had been in the 4:30 range, and I have no illusions of running that fast today; I only want to complete it at a steady pace. Okay, if you put the thumb screws on, a sub 5-hour time would be nice, but really, I am focused on that steady pace thing. At the start I tell Michelle Wolff that if I can complete this GJ without crashing, I’ll register for Rock the Ridge, a 50-miler in New York State.



I mentioned that I had been having a great day. I am averaging about 9 minutes a mile, and I’ve actually been picking that pace up since around mile 14. Perhaps it was a tad early to begin my Final Sprint to the Finish.

At about 27F at the start, the air felt cool, but really not all that cold. There was some snow, and a couple slick spots in the early miles, but this isn’t all that awful either. There would be no weather excuses today. I’m more intent on enjoying this annual romp through Cleveland’s wonderful Metroparks.
 
About half-way             John Pavlick photo
After crossing 82, things go downhill fast. Well, that’s not quite literally true; the course is actually gaining in elevation, and with the occasional shooting pain, I am no longer running fast.

I am walking up the biggest hill, the one heading up to the Ridge Road crossing, and I’m walking pretty darn slowly. I stop at the aid station and take my time getting nutrition and fluids. As if that’s going to make any difference. As I begin to run again, my knee continues to come undone – tracking off its normal forward type of motion, and giving me shooting pain. In my more lucid moments – and those are becoming fewer and farther between – I realize that with about an hour and ten minutes to run 7 miles,  a sub 5-hour finish is in jeopardy. I have no idea why that time is suddenly such a priority. It wasn't so a while back, when I was on a 4:40 pace.

After more, but smaller hills, I reach Broadview Road, the highest point in Cuyahoga County, and therefore also on the GJ course. I’ve still got nearly 5 miles to go, but now that I’m on some gentle downhills, I’m doing better. I am also finding that running on the right side of the road (most of the course is on all-purpose trail, but this is an extended road part) feels better on the knee. Too bad I also have to dodge the traffic and the construction crew (they’re extending said trail).

My pace has improved to better than ten minutes a mile again, and the knee pain continues to subside, as I cross Brecksville Road, Ohio Route 21. I know that this final mile and a half is steeply downhill, and I approach with a fair amount of trepidation. What would this do to my knee? To top things off, I still have very little margin of error for that sub-5. Yes, I'm aware that this is pretty insane. Bear with me, please.



In spite of the inherent risk, I pick up the pace and run my two fastest miles of the day – without any knee pain at all! I cross the line in 4:56 – good for a 9:30 overall pace - and I’m quite happy with it.


George Themelis photo
So what to do about Rock the Ridge? I said I wanted steady, and didn’t get it; I had about 25 really good miles, and about 6 awful ones. But it was encouraging that the last four were some of the better ones. I guess I’ll sleep on it.