Monday, June 29, 2009

My Three Races

What possessed me? I’d done stupid stuff like running three races in three days before, but never when I was in this bad shape. Not that I’m not on the upswing, as I like to say. But this weekend should make me or break me for the rest of the year. Ironically, my slowest race was my best, and I was thrilled with a PW (Personal Worst) that really wasn’t.

The Wadsworth Matchstick 4-mile was the Friday night race. Lots of friends from MCRR showed up, but not so many from the series. The hills were as tough as ever, and it was fairly warm at 79F. I ran a slow but reasonably steady 27:19. Since the turnout was lighter than usual, I managed to place 2nd in my age group. Got a $10 gift certificate to Second Sole!

What hurts, besides the slow time, is that 1st in my age group went to Doug Hradek, who I almost caught up to at the finish. I used to also be able to beat Doug in my faster days. Oh well.

On Saturday morning I drove out to the Green Township Y very tired, but not overly sore. The Green YMCA Caribbean 10K was not going to be a pretty one for me. I figured I’d start slow and try to keep the mile splits around seven minutes. Luckily it was cool and comfortable with temperatures rising through the sixties. With that conservative start I managed to run a fairly steady pace with nearly even splits. I came in at 44:39. This was obviously not one of my faster 10K’s, but under the circumstances, I’d have to take it.

Another funny thing happened: even with this slowest of 10K races in many decades I still came in 3rd in my age group. The leaders? Vince and Doug. Once again I had tried to catch Doug at the finish but wasn’t able to.

Now I added up my mileage and checked my average pace for the past week. One would think that after a tempo run, a speedwork session and two races that I could average better than 8 minutes per mile for my weekly seventy, wouldn’t one? It was 8:04. I guess this means I’d better do fewer miles. In fact, I’m thinking that next week will be an easy one for me, no matter how hard that is. Maybe this will enable me to run a decent pace at next week’s 4th of July run. Naaah, probably not.

On Sunday I awoke still more tired, but still not overly sore. This run would definitely be a slow one. Eight minutes per mile. If I could just do that for the entire NCN Columbia Station ½ Marathon, I’d have a PW, but I’d still be happy. For some reason, I’ve never run a really bad ½. As far as I can tell, my worst ever came in 1989 at the West Bloomfield half in 1:41. 8mpm would bring me in at about 1:44 and change.

But would I even be able to do eights? I did for the first six miles, but it seemed like faster than that. At about the ½ way point I caught Debbie and Ladd. I thought we’d run together for a while, but our reunion didn’t last too long. Ladd sped up, and so did I as I tried, unsuccessfully, to catch him once again. Debbie stayed back, but seemed to be doing fine anyway. Up until that point all my mile splits had been at or just over 8mpm. After this point, they were all faster than eights. Not that it wasn’t tough out there. There were some windy parts, and although there was no sun, the humidity was very high.

I took an energy gel at mile 9 and continued to gradually increase my speed. After 6 consecutive miles slower than 8 minute pace, my last seven were: 7:59, 7:54, 7:53, 7:58, 7:47, 7:21, and 7:13 for the final uphill 1.1. I liked that trend. In fact, I liked the whole race – I really enjoyed myself out there. There is nothing like the ability to finish strong. My overall time was 1:42:15, good for first in my age group.

But it was still a PW. Or was it? Ladd’s GPS told him that he’d run 13:67 miles. Other runners with GPS’ also said that they had it at ½ mile too long. ½ mile would be 3 ½ or more minutes. So it’s the PW that wasn’t. And the slow run that was my best.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Fly and Me


It was about 4:30am when I stepped out the door, and this was a bad thing. I'd wanted to get out the door before four, so that I could run more, but that's not what was in store. I guess I have to get out of bed before 3:10.

It was comfortably warm as I started, and this was a bad thing. It meant that I'd be extremely UN-comfortable as my run progressed, especially after the sun rose. And of course this did turn out to be the case.

What do these bad things have to do with the Fly? If you combine them (starting late and hot weather) and also run on the Ohio country roads that I run on, you get attacks by deerflies. And this is a bad thing too. They drive me bonkers. I know that I could avoid them. I could get out earlier and do my entire run in the dark (I tried, I tried). I could use repellent (but I hate that stuff, and I always have the hope that maybe I can avoid the flies long enough so as not to need it). I could run more on the citified roads and avoid the country roads (but I love those country roads). I could just stay in bed and not run at all (this is not an option).

After about an hour of running in the dark, the eastern sky began to get light. And that’s when I got my first nibble. Or, I should say, the first nibble got me. I tried to brush it away, hoping beyond hope that it was just some rogue fly that was out there on his own. Nope. Soon I was being eaten left and right. I did manage to swat one and it fell out of my hand and onto the ground. But that’s just the beginning of the story. Here’s how I described this little incident in my Facebook entry for today: ‘ is sure this happens to everyone: you’re out running on country roads and attacked mercilessly by deerflies, so you swat one and it falls to the ground and you think, “at least that’s one fly that won’t chomp on me anymore”, but IT DOES, and you know it’s the same fly because it looks a little like Jeff Goldblum, so you swat it again and this time you hold it in your hand an pull off one of its little wings, PETA be damned.’

The rest of the story isn’t quite so exciting. I got back home for a pit stop after my 11-mile loop, then went out again, headed for the track. Those three miles were slower, but when I hit the track I really turned on the speed. Yeah, right. I did go from 8:30 and 9:00 minute miles to just under eight minute pace for three of the four miles there. Not so long ago I would’ve expected these to be sub-SEVEN minute miles. Today I was happy with the sub-eights. But then, suffering mightily, I slowed down again and struggled to get home in the heat. I’d wanted to do something like 22 to 24 miles today, but this run only added up to 21 in 3:01. Maybe next week’s long run will be better.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

More On (or is it Moron) Speedwork

Just kiddn. It was great speedwork. And there was a good bunch o folks out there too. Never seen quite so many before. We did 800, 1200, 800, 1200, 800 and I'm pretty durn happy with the results. I think my running is getting somewhere.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Stamina

I've been talking about speed and strength, but there's a third component of running improvement: stamina. It's the ability to hold a relatively fast pace for a relatively long time. In order to improve stamina, one would do tempo runs and longer intervals at slightly slower than top speed. Today I worked on my stamina.

I took a long 5-mile route to the track and then did a 3-mile tempo run there. Although I've done a few on the mill, I haven't done an outside tempo run in a long time. I was very, very happy just to be able to do the 3 consecutive miles under 7 minutes each. Then I struggled home.

Now I've got to recover enough to be able to do the speedwork tomorrow.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Fathers Day, Solstice, Anniversary

Yes, it's all that. Number 34 for our anniversary. I suppose it's about my 30th Father's Day and my 56th solstice. Not sure how many total fathers days we've had - maybe 100 or so. Also not sure how many solstices we've had - probably on the order of 4.5 billion.

So of course the day is being celebrated by eating. We went to Madd Chef's for a nice dinner last night and are about to go again today for their Father's Day Brunch. We also had a 4-mile great hike on the towpath with Amy, who happened to be finishing up her run. We'll probably also see a movie.

On top of all that, I had a pretty good run today, finishing my 11-mile course in a fairly strong and steady 89 1/2 minutes.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Running in the Rain

There was a steady rain as I went out the door for my 16-mile run Thursday. I managed to keep a steady, but fairly slow 8:45 pace througout. It wasn't pretty.

Yesterday it was raining and I didn't feel like fighting it so I stayed on the mill for 6. It wasn't pretty.

Today I met Dave and we ran on the towpath to Peninsula and back. That's 14 (in 1:57) but with the extra running around I'm calling it 15. Yes, it was in the rain. And on the towpath, rain = mud. It wasn't pretty.

The good news? I'm continuing (barely) to get 70 per week in.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Strength and Speed

A few posts ago I wrote about Speed and Strength, so this time it's the other way around. Sunday I ran 22 .9 mile laps on the NC24 route. I done good, averaging just under 8 minutes per mile. There were a couple stops however. So that was the strength.

After a couple shorter runs Monday and Tuesday morning I showed up for speedwork last night and also done good. I was able to (just about) keep up with Ladd and Frank as we did 6 x 800 in about 3:11 or so.

Things are looking up.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

That's Not So Raven


“Nevermore” was a lie. Yes, I had actually spoken the word to a gaggle of three ravens sitting in a tree looking down at me. They didn’t say anything back – but they did have knowing gleams in their little black eyes. I had passed them once before, and at two hours, twenty minutes into my planned three hour run, I was headed back and figured I wouldn’t pass by this way again. Ravens are near the top of my list of really cool animals. They are highly intelligent, they get along fairly well with humans and they mate for life. The Native Americans in Northwestern North America revered them, consistently placing them atop their totem poles.

This run in Jasper National Park would be my long one for the week. I’d been running about 90 minutes per day here and in Canmore, near Banff, without a day of rest; remaining vertical for 3 hours would be a challenge. But the trails are so wonderful that it’s easy to forget being tired or beat up. I started out from our Pine Bungalows cabin along the Athabasca River at 4:20am. This far north and only a week away from the summer solstice, it was already fairly light. The sunset is also quite late – well after 10:30pm or so. We never see darkness.

I ran up the long driveway to my first trail – Bighorn Alley. I didn’t see bighorns or any other wildlife here. At the end of this trail I emerge onto the main road right by a bridge over the river. I take it and then immediately turn right onto trail number 7 which runs along the river heading west. This is a very scenic trail – the river is a beautiful aqua color, and the mountains were beautiful in the morning as always. Soon I come across a couple female elk headed over to the river. I stay well clear – I’d heard that they’re particularly nasty now that it’s calving season.

At 90+ minutes into my run, I’d crossed another bridge and was now back on my side of the river headed east into Jasper Townsite. Jasper is a nice town and there are trails galore here as well as everywhere else in the Canadian Rockies. I pass through town and then head back up some of those hilly trails to the north. After passing the ravens that second time, I still had more running to do. I went back to the north on trail 2a and witnessed more fantastic views before coming back around and unexpectedly passing under the ravens a third and final time. That’s why my statement to them had been a lie.

I made it back in exactly 3 hours. Then it was time to get ready for a long hike with Debbie. But that’s another story.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Running in the Rockies

That's the Canadian Rockies, by the way. We're spending a few days in Canmore, near Banff, and then a few more in Jasper, followed by one in Calgary.

Just before leaving I ran 7 on the mill and then 2 more on the trails in Heritage park. This was significant for two reasons: one because I saw two dead, decaying dear on the trail (kind of strange), and two because this enabled me to hit 70 miles for the week. That's the first of those in a long time. I'm gonna try to keep it going though.

Sunday's run goes under the category of "whoa, I didn't think I'd see that!". There are trails galore in Canmore, and generally all over the Canadian Rockies. I studied the trail maps intently before venturing out. As soon as I found the trailhead, I got lost on some dinky trails and thought: whoa, I didn't think I'd see that! Whilst I was lost, I looked up at the towering mountains that had been gray and misty in the early morning gloom, and I thought: whoa, I didn't think I'd see that--- The tops of the mountains were pink. BRIGHT PINK. It was from the sunrise, of course, but I certainly did not expect to see that color this morning. Then I saw and animal right in front of me on the trail. It was an elk, and it was as big as a draft horse. You can guess what I thought at that moment: whoa, I didn't think I'd see that! I eventually found my way onto the better maintained trails and got 90 minutes in.

Oh, the sights you'll see. Some of Monday's run was similar to Sunday's. A little lost, but not as much. More pretty pink mountaintops, but not as much. More elk, and this time they wouldn't get out of my way on the trail. I ran along the other side of the river for miles and miles. What a great place to run. Call it another 10 in 85 minutes.

Tuesday's run was not so good. It was raining and snowing, so I didn't use the dirt trails which would've been muddy. I therefore didn't see any elk. I was feeling tired and lousy anyway. But I somehow managed to stay vertical for 90 minutes. A miracle.

My first run in Jasper was a beauty: all along the Athabasca River. Like Banff and Canmore, there are trails all over the place. These were as fine as the others. I ran the ¾ mile up our road to the start of the Bighorn Alley trail. I took that to its end, near a bridge over the Athabasca River. After crossing it, I continued to follow it on the trail alongside. The return was a little faster: my splits were about 47 and 42 minutes.

My Thursday Run was a long one. See my separate post: That’s Not So Raven.

Finally I also got a run in on Friday before leaving for Calgary. It was also on the trails in Jasper, and at times I ran at a decent enough pace. Other times, of course, I ran slower. 85 minutes in all.

And that's about it for running on this trip. For more about the trip itself, including pictures, see Debbie and Dan's Travel Blog.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

To me this has running implications. When I'm doing speedwork, it means getting in the first part of a repetition at a good speed but without working very hard. Before my body figures out that, "hey, I'm working hard and I should be breathing hard and hurting!" When I'm doing a long run, it means getting out super early and getting the first part of the run in before my body even figures out that it's awake and running at all.

Of course there are other reasons for getting out early: it's cooler, there are no deerflies or other bugs before sunrise, There is less traffic, I can get finished earlier... I could go on. I have to get these early starts in even when I don't have any pressing work or other commitments. I realize that I'm insane about this, but there you have it.

For today's long run I managed to get out about a half hour earlier than I did for last week's disaster. I'm not sure how much difference that made, because it was cooler and I was better rested this week anyway. So I started my first of four six-mile laps on the Lester Rail Trail at about 4:20am. It was still very dark, and that slowed me down a bunch, despite my little flashlight. That 9++ minute per mile pace didn't matter too much for me; my goal is always to finish strong, not the other way around.

My goal, in fact, is always to run each 6-mile loop faster than the one before. It's fairly rare to be successful in this, but I try. I also used to try to get under 7 minute per mile pace for most of the final loop, but this hasn't happened in a long long long long time. Now it's tough to get close to eight minute pace. I wasn't too overly concerned about the numbers today. I just wanted to feel strong the whole way and thereby expunge last week's awful death march.

How did I do, you ask? After the first loop of 55:38 it began to get light, so I dropped off the flashlight and picked it up a bit. The second was much better: 51:34. Would I be able to pick it up yet again? I was and I did, but just barely: 51:09. Then came the final one. That's where I completely fell apart last time. Luckily it was still cool. And luckily I didn't feel too terrible - just a little tired and sore. As I headed east on the trail, I tried mightily to pick the pace up even more. It sure felt like I was running faster than before. Too bad the clock doesn't lie - I was right on almost exactly the same pace as I was for the previous lap. As I turned and headed back, I realized that I'd have to pick it up even faster. The funny thing is that I did. Barely once again, but I did: 50:53 (so each loop did indeed get faster) to finish in 3:29.

That's only a few minutes better than last week's time, but I feel way better about it.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Balance

Yes, life is a balancing act. Work, school, home life, family and social activities all need to be coordinated in a balanced way. Someone once said there are seven ports of life (not sure what they all were, but the above bunch are probably five of them), and your ship can only visit some of the ports at certain times. You can sail to more than one in a given period of time, but not all, and it's certain that you'll spend more time at some of the ports than others. Finally, the ones you concentrate on change at various stages of your life. All part of the balance. Makes you think about President Obama's job.

I'd have to say that for me, at least, running is one of the important ports of life. I devote a lot of time to reading, writing, planning (the 24-hour event) my running, not to mention actually pounding the pavement and trails. Even this time has to be balanced with the rest of my life, and even within itself. For example, I try to run some speedwork and something long every week. I know that I can't do these too close together - I've got to balance the weekly schedule so as to allow for rest time as well as all the running. The original plan was to do the usual Tuesday track with the gang, and then a longer run later in the week. In the process I'd try to keep the weekly mileage up in the mid-sixties. All a matter of balance.

Tuesday track didn't happen. I'd had a hamstring problem, and was called to work at the store anyway. So today (Wednesday) I did 7 outside before hitting the mill for 6 1200's. I could've hit the track, but I wanted a decent amount of mileage, and as the rain began, I decided to do the rest inside. I *think* I should be able to recover ok in time for a long run on Friday.

The hamstring? I got that whilst running on the North Park trails on Monday. Half-way through the run I tripped on a rock that was sticking out of the trail by 1/16 inch. I stumbled forward for several steps, but barely managed to keep my balance and not hit the ground. What I did do, though, was pull that right ham. Had to limp home. I'm a little better now, but I'll need to be very careful with my speedwork.

So Monday's run was a matter of balance too. I didn't fall, so I kept my balance. On the other hand, hitting the ground may have been preferable to this injury.

Ouch II: Danny Boy Falls for Nothing

Danny Boy is awake at 3:30 AM, which is a little earlier than planned. Good, he thinks; he may be able to get an extra mile or so in. Eleven...