Saturday, August 19, 2017

Buehler's Heart and Sole Community Walk and Run Half-Marathon Race Report

I'm tired just from typing that subject line.

I'm also tired from running this Hilly Half in Wildly Wonderful Wooster. I had no time goal, or other expectation going in. A steady effort, which on this course should translate into negative splits, would be nice, however.

Why negative splits, you ask? The course begins and ends in downtown Wooster. Almost immediately after the start, runners are going up. And up. And up some more. After half-way, it's back down towards the start on the mostly out and back course. I've done it before; I knew what to expect.

It was warm and humid during the early miles. I'd thought it would be cooler. I was doing 8:30 miles, but they were tough. The steeper the uphill section, the slower I ran. Funny how that works. I saw a bunch of friends before and during the race. Unfortunately, one of them was Doug Hradek, who is a good runner and who also happens to be in my age group.

I hit the half-way point (6.55 miles) in 55 minutes flat. Breaking 1:50 now sounded pretty good, and I picked it up a little. The downhills got better over the final five miles, so at that point, I picked it up a little more.

That's when the thunderstorm hit. It hit hard. I had been watching the clouds from about mile 7 on, and they looked scary. There were layers upon layers of dark, foreboding clouds, and I could see the rain coming down in the distance. By mile 8, huge drops were splashing down, and there was thunder all around.

Mile 9 had some steep uphills, so I slowed back down for a while. But the storm soon ended, about as fast as it started; the downpour only lasted about fifteen minutes. A light rain persisted afterwards. Mile 10 was a psychological boon this day. I hit it in 1:23:30 (that's about my half-marathon PR by the way), and began trying to run my fastest miles of the day. Would I be able to?

The short answer is yes. I ran the final 3 in 23 and a half minutes, for a time of 1:47 flat. I was second in my age group, two minutes behind Doug. First would have been nice, but I'll take it.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Coming Up Short

I needed 24. Isn't it funny how we need mileage like this? Anyway, I only got 22. I will choose to blame this one on today's running partner, Larry Orwin. We were running on the towpath, and he was generally leaving the decisions up to me. When to turn back towards home, how much to add on, etc. Well, let me tell you. Larry let me decide to settle for 22 instead of going on for another two. It's therefore all his fault that I came up short today. Never mind that I was tired. That had absolutely nothing to do with it.

While we are at it, I may as well blame last week's running partners, Frank Dwyer, Michelle Wolff, Harold Dravenstott, and others, on coming up short that time. We were at Buckeye Woods, and I got 4 or 5 in early, before our 12+ mile loop, causing me to only come up with only 17 for the day, 1 mile short of what I call a long run. Never mind that I was tired that time, too. And never mind that they mostly kept going, and I could, if not so tired, have gone further with them. No, that stuff had nothing to do with it.

Also never mind that I'm probably still recovering from Burning River. I do, however, have a marathon to get ready for. The Presque Isle Marathon in Erie is only four weeks away, and I had better stop coming up short then. To do so at that race itself would be a bad thing.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Orion Rise 2017

It happens every year, and each time it's a very pleasant surprise. I am running in the early morning darkness, and quite unexpectedly, for the first time this season, spot Orion rising above the eastern horizon. The rise of the Orion constellation portends the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. It means cooler weather and shorter days. It heralds the start of the harvest season and good eating. I am in my element. It's Dan Season.

It had only been a couple weeks since I'd first seen the Pleiades. Of course that was exciting, but nothing compared with this! This is extra special.

The occasion was a pace run at Mugrage park with Frank Dwyer and Harold Dravenstott. I was alone at the moment, but I looked up, beyond the pond, there he was (Orion is a man, you know). What a glorious sight!

The rest of the run was solid, but fairly uneventful. The pace was about nine minutes per mile, and it was pretty steady. Things are good. It's Dan Season.

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

Details about my Chafing

I left this out of my BR50 report, mostly because it was too painful to relate. But I'll relate it now... but it will also be painful to read. Okay, you've been warned.

I am a little past the mile 45 aid station, the last before my finish. A few minutes ago, I'd climbed up the impossible "piano key" stairs that lead away from Snowville Road. At the aid station I had rubbed half a handful of petroleum jelly on the inside of my upper thighs. It isn't humid, but I always seem to be on the verge of chafing in that sensitive spot, so I've been spreading an ungodly amount of the goop at nearly every aid station.

Never mind that there's better stuff than old-fashioned Vaseline these days. Never mind that it could ruin my clothes. Never mind that it may not work quite as well as some of the newer type stuff. I figured that if I just put enough of the stuff on often enough, things would be okay down there.

I step off the side of the trail to pee for the first time in several hours. Earlier in the race, I'd have tried a little harder to find a tree or bush or something to hide behind. But at this point, any thoughts of modesty and discretion are distant memories.

A woman runs by and announces her presence. I have my back turned, but I think she merely doesn't want me to turn around, in which case neither of us would be happy.

After she passes by, I resume trying to pull my shorts aside. That's when I realize there's a new and unexpected problem: my skin is sticking to the shorts' lining. When I tug harder, it rips. Not the shorts, my skin! On the most sensitive spot a man can have!! It hurts so much that I let out a short, audible wimper. Luckily, my lady friend is out of earshot by now.

Yes, I'm a bleeder. Just like in There's Something About Mary.

I had been aware that chafing can and will occur anywhere that skin rubs against material or other skin. And I'm aware that this happens in the places you least want it to. As it has now.

I suppose this too will pass.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Burning River 50-Mile Front Race Report

Short Version: Things went swimmingly. Until they didn't. Then it got hard. Really hard. But I finished, and that was the main goal.

Long Version: Read on.

Up at 2:05.
Out the door at 2:45.
Arrive at Boston Mills, and onto the bus at 3:15.
Arrive at Squires Castle at 4:30 (after some minor snags).
Off and running at 5:00.

Yes, it's Burning River Time. I like early starts. I like finding, and running with friends, new and old. I like this weather; it's cool for July, and it will stay that way throughout the day. It was a huge factor in why I signed up last minute. I am going to enjoy this.

The first half: Squires Castle in Willoughby Hills to Egbert Road area of Bedford Reservation

One of said friends is Ladd Clifford. He and I stay together, talking and telling stories for the entire road section: 11.5 miles. We go up, way up, and through North Chagrin Reservation, and then south on mildly hilly Chagrin River Road, through the MCRR fluids-only aid station, all the way to the South Chagrin Reservation Polo Grounds. We run at nine-minute pace, which is probably much too fast for me, but I feel great.

Each aid station is like a bustling oasis, where you're a rock star. I want to linger at the one by the Polo Grounds, but I know I must move on. Ladd soon moves ahead of me as we start on the trails. This is not at all unexpected, and I'm sure he will have a truly great day.

My own day is still going quite well too. The trails haven't slowed me as much as anticipated, the scenery is wonderful, and I'm still enjoying myself immensely. I do walk the steep uphill sections, and there seem to be many of them.

I am on the Hawthorne Parkway in Solon. The Shadow Lake is pretty. The course takes me in and out of the woods several times. Around mile 19, the trails become what they call technical. Suddenly, very suddenly, I am not enjoying myself anymore. I've gone from easy running to tremendously tough trekking. I try hard to not become discouraged. Just get through this, I tell myself. It will get better.

It does, a little. The aid stations are between four and eight miles apart. The one at Egbert Road in Bedford Reservation is significant, because at 26 miles (27 on my Garmin), it's just past half-way. Again, I want to linger and savor the buffet. Again, I eventually push on and move out.

It has taken me around four hours and forty minutes to make it this far. If I can only stay at this pace, I'll have a really fast time today. But deep down, I know that that is not likely. The toughest trails are yet to come. The final twelve will be the biggest challenge of all.

The trails in Bedford Reservation are not as difficult as I thought they would be. I am not moving as fast as before, but yet I'm passing a lot of people. Most of them are hundred-milers who started an hour earlier than we did.

I grew up fairly close by, and spent a lot of time in my early years here in Bedford Reservation. Although even as an adult I've run here before, it's been a while. It's interesting to see all this wonderful scenery from a runner's perspective.

The Alexander Road aid station has the most enthusiastic volunteers. And that's saying something, because they're all great. I move onto the Bike and Hike all-purpose trail, and think that I'll finally get back to some flat, easy running for a while.

It doesn't last long. Not at all. Soon I'm climbing down a steep ravine to get on some more technical trails. Oh well.

In Cuyahoga Valley National Park, I emerge out of the woods near Frazee House on Canal Road, and then start onto the towpath. I had been looking forward to this. Most of the trail dogs hate the towpath, but I love it. Yes, it's getting warm, and the mid-day sun is beating down on us. But this is one of my familiar running haunts, and it's flat and it's fast. I run these three miles at better than ten-minute pace; much faster than I'd been going.

If only it could have lasted. For a couple reasons, not the least of which is that I could have stayed on this trail for only about four more easy miles to arrive at the final destination. But no; I have around fifteen to go, not four. And I know they won't be at all easy.

These Brecksville Reservation trails are also familiar. Too bad there are so darn many of them. I say that because they are technical and steep and tough. And at this point, I'm beginning to tucker out a bit. And my Achilles Tendon is talking to me. I don't like what it's saying.

When I arrive at the Meadows aid station, I believe I am at mile 41, but I learn that it's only 38. I must look like something the cat dragged in, because Joe Jurczyk asks what's bothering me. I could spout out a novel of grievances, but I only say that I'm 'just tired'. Great, he says, and then reminds me that the next twelve, many of which are part of the Buckeye Trail race course, will be the toughest of all. I knew that. But thanks for reminding me, Joe.

I am walking now. There are almost no sections here that I would consider runnable, at least not by me. But others, mostly relay runners, are indeed managing to run, and they're all passing me. I have a tough time finding room to move aside for them on these single-track trails. There seems to be no end to these passers-by. I am not enjoying this. Not at all.

The final sections are back in CVNP. By the time I get back onto some wider trails, most of those who wanted to pass are long gone. It's been shady and cool for nearly the entire day. The trails are stunningly beautiful. But I hate them.

It's like they went out of their way to make this course tough. I know, I know. It's a trail run, and I'm not used to trails such as these. Every time I think I can't go any slower, I manage to slow down some more. The steep sections, of which there are many, are almost too difficult to walk up. Or even down. Did I mention that I'm not enjoying this?

Along the way, I talk with some other fifty and hundred milers. I'm in awe of them all, but especially these folks who will be only half-way done when I collapse after crossing the line at Boston Mills. I try to be careful to not gloat too much about how I just can't wait to get there and stop running.

I do eventually, after what seemed like the longest and hardest eleven hours and ten minutes of my life, arrive at Boston Mills. The fifty miles appear to me to be more like around fifty-four on my watch, but I won't quibble about any free miles. I'm just happy to be done. Really happy. Ecstatic, in fact.

Michelle Wolff had run the first relay leg, and is there to greet me. I don't know what possessed me, I say. Fifty-plus miles of impossible trails: just not my thing, I say. Never again, I say.

Since my drive home would be sort of like driving drunk, she follows me to make sure I am safe. I make it, and learn later on that I was first in my ancient age group. You mean I get an award for that miserable performance?

The second half: Bedford Reservation to Boston Mills

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Just the (fill in the blank)

"Oh, you're doing Burning River? Which Race?"

A bit sheepishly, "Just the Fifty."

"Front Half or Back Half?"

"Front......... Trails+Darkness=DANGER!"

The conversation repeated itself several times as Danny Boy signed up for the Burning River Front Fifty at the last minute yesterday.

He's not all that used to the conversation, since he used to generally always sign up for the longest race available at the given event. He wouldn't have to say, "Just the 5K" or "Just the Half", as so many other have.

But now he's old. And "Just the Fifty" is challenge enough.

Plenty, in fact.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sweet Misery

Some track truths:

1) I love the track. the symmetry, the precise measurements, never being too far away from anything. Mostly I just love the looks and challenge of it. It's  the same type of venue that runners, including some of the best on the planet, run on every day. Gives me goosebumps.
2) I love running fast. I know. Fast is relative. In fact, I now know this more than ever before in my life.  But I still love the feeling.
3) I hate the misery of track workouts. I hate the fact that someone put the word, 'work' into that word, 'workout'. This stuff is pure drudgery. But it's sweet drudgery.
4) You may have heard this from me before: running slow doesn't make you slow. Not running fast makes you slow. The track is a partial cure for slow disease.
5) Intervals should indeed be fast. I know: technically, the 'intervals' are the time between the fast repeats. But most of us (and I will here) use the term to mean the fast repeats themselves. But I digress. The intervals, or repeats, should indeed be fast for their distance, but it's far more important that they're sustainable. This means that your tenth 800 should be roughly the same as your first.
6) The length of the repeat distance should vary. For most training, it's good to alternate weekly workouts between relatively short distances and fairly long ones. For example, a marathon runner may do mile intervals one week, and Yasso 800s the next. A half-marathoner may want to alternate 800s and 400s. An additional option is to mix the repeat length in a single workout, like 2 or 3 by 1600, 800, 400).
7) I have found that mile intervals have, at least for me, the closest correlation with marathon performance. In other words, if I can do something like eight one-mile repeats at about 10-mile to half-marathon pace, I will stand a good chance of completing my marathon in the expected time.
8) Naturally, the speed of each repeat will depend on it's length. The mixed interval distance, with different speeds applied based on distance, gives us an excellent sense of pace.
9) The beginning of each repeat contains a sweet spot, where I can run pretty fast before the fatigue hits home. I wrote a blog post about this a long time ago; it's called Before the Devil Knows You're Dead. Check it out.
10) Always give 90 percent; not 100. I've heard that this is the advice top coaches give their charges, especially for the Olympic team. Only at the finish of the final repeat should you give it all you've got. Otherwise, it'll be gone when you need it. This philosophy ought to go into your race plans as well.
11) When your track workout is complete, you should be tired, but not completely destroyed. You should feel as though you could have done more. But don't. Save it for the races.
12) I love the track. Oh, I said that already.

Maybe it'll Blow Over

3:55 am: Out the door before four. This nearly always results in a good run. Good in the sense that the possibility exists that extra miles may be possible due to the extra time. The better news is that the anticipated storms appear to be holding off. In fact, the moon is shining, indicating that the dark skies are at least partially clear.

3:56 am: The moon is gone.

3:57 am: Our runner is feeling the stifling heat and extreme humidity, just two minutes into his run. The air is so thick, he can cut it with a knife. Maybe even a noodle.

3:58 am: Our runner notices flashes of lightning for the first time. Maybe it’ll blow over, he thinks.

4:12 am: The goal had been 10 miles today. Having plenty of time to do such a thing is a plus. But now our runner is beginning to wish he had been able to get out earlier still. The lighting flashes are getting brighter and more numerous, and he’s beginning to hear thunder as well. Maybe it’ll still blow over, he thinks.

4:18 am: The lighting and thunder appears to be more to the south than anywhere else. Earlier, it had been to the southwest, and now it seems to be to the southeast. Maybe it really and truly will blow over, our runner thinks, a bit more hopefully.

4:22 am: It’s pouring, and the lightning and thunder are all around.

4:47 am: The rain has mostly subsided. Our runner is drowned-rat soaking wet, but he’s still going. Maybe the storm is gone for good, or perhaps the rest of it will blow over, he thinks.

5:10 am: It’s pouring, and the lightning and thunder are all around.

5:38 am: Our runner is done. Now he’s more than drowned-rat soaking wet, but he’s happy to have gotten this one done. Now he’ll have to clean up (is a shower really necessary?) and get to work. He dreads going on that long drive into the rainstorm, but who knows? Maybe it’ll blow over.

Buehler's Heart and Sole Community Walk and Run Half-Marathon Race Report

I'm tired just from typing that subject line. I'm also tired from running this Hilly Half in Wildly Wonderful Wooster. I had no ti...