Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Nowhere to Run

Almost invariably, wherever I travel, I can find a decent area in which to run. I'll often scout something out on Google Maps ahead of time, then head that direction from the hotel. Other times I just let serendipity lead the way for me. It helps that most of the hotels I stay in are located in decent areas. Not so much for the Courtyard in La Vista, Nebraska.

Same Treadmill, Same Workout, Same Result

I was here in La Vista in January, when the weather was incredibly cold - below zero and lots of snow. I spent the entire week (the running part of it anyway) on the hotel treadmill. One of those runs, a speed workout consisting of 8 x 1-Mile, resulted in my first bout with Plantar Fasciitis in quite a while. Since then, I've had the PF more or less constantly, although it hasn't slowed my running down too much. Actually it has, speed-wise, bit not mileage-wise.

So since there was a cold rain on Tuesday morning, I decided to hit the mill here once again. And since I needed speed, I decided to do 8 x 1-Mile again. And by now you've figured out what I'm going to say next: ouch! Yes, the PF, which never went completely away, is back in full force, or at least as bad as it was in January.

Other La Vista Running, Part 1

I did venture outside later in the week, and I wasn't pleased with the running possibilities; not at all. Every direction I went, there were concrete roads, traffic, and generally poor places to run to.

It almost didn't matter, because
a) my foot was hurting
b) I was tapering for the Cornbelt 24-Hour Run, so I didn't need a lot of miles
c) I was beginning to come down with an awful cold


I had decided to be as prepared as I could be for the Cornbelt 24. I packed gobs of gu, oodles of other odds and ends, several changes of clothes, etc. I bought a preponderance of Powerbars, a clutch of Cliffbars, and even some bottles of Boost. My work would keep me in Omaha over the weekend, and I'd decided that for something to do, I'd drive five hours east to the Quad Cities area in Eastern Iowa on Friday night, run the race Saturday morning until Sunday morning, and then drive back to Omaha on Sunday in order to be at work on Monday. Yes, I had it all figured out. Hey, maybe I'd even run well. At least I was giving myself the chance.

It was about midweek when my cold hit, and it hit hard. I'm a baby about these things anyway, but it was surely a bad one. How in the world was I going to run all day and all night with this? Would exposure to the elements for that long cause me to develop something worse, like pneumonia?

Of course there was the option of showing up, doing just a few miles, and simply running according to how I was feeling. Even this little bit would have seemed okay - at least I'd have tried. There was only one problem with that: the five-hour drive to get there. As bad as I was feeling, I wasn't sure I could even get through that in one piece. The one-hour drives to Lincoln were bad enough.

So I ditched the whole idea. It's disappointing, since I had begun to think I could possibly have done quite well. And in addition, I also wanted to see another one of these events in action. All in all, I probably made the right decision, however.

So then there was Lincoln.


When I was originally making my travel plans, I thought: "I wonder if there are any nearby marathons during the weekend that I'll be in Omaha." Sure enough, there was one, in Lincoln, Nebraska, on May 1! Alas, several weeks ahead of time, it was SOLD OUT already, at 10,000 runners for the full and the half. I didn't think there were that many people in all of Nebraska! At about the same time, I realized that I was having a difficult time getting hotel rooms for Thursday through Saturday night. Lincoln was an hour from Omaha, could the rooms be sold out because of the marathon?

Ironically I did find a hotel in Lincoln for Thursday and Friday, but not Saturday, when that one was sold out as well. After rearranging my plans anyway, I wound up back in La Vista for Saturday night. I also found out that what was filling up the Omaha hotels was the Berkshire Hathaway annual shareholders meeting.

My run in Lincoln was actually pretty good. I went south on 27th street for 2 1/2 miles and then east on a (concrete) bike trail for another 2 1/2 miles before turning back. There were a few mile markers, so I could gage my speed. And that speed was about 8 1/2 minute pace outbound, and better that on the return; almost tempo pace for me these days. And my cold? I was beginning to feel better, and the running seemed to actually help.

But note that the running was ten miles, not ten times that amount.

On Saturday I visited the marathon expo. It was just a bunch of runners. I then made my final drive from Lincoln to Omaha. About half-way I stopped to visit the Strategic Air Command Air and Space Museum. SAC had been in place during the cold war years to be the nuclear deterrent to the USSR and other threats. Part of the US Air Force, SAC was the outfit that had all the heavy bombers and also the ICBM's. I was pleasantly surprised by the museum; there were plenty of huge planes inside, including a B-29, a B-52 and a B-1. The World War II exhibits included a sample plane and information about Doolittle's bombing raid on Tokyo. It was all quite impressive, to say the least.


I found it! A place to run from my La Vista hotel. This, after not finding anything the week before, and then spending part of the weekend in Lincoln. I had done some more searching, this time for trails, thinking that I'd probably have to drive to a park somewhere to get to them. Voila! Wehrspann Lake Park (part of the Chaco Hills Recreation Area) is only a short three miles away, and there are six miles of trails there, mostly around the lake.

Like everything else around here, the trails are concrete, but that wouldn't be a problem this time: once I got there, I ran along the grassy trail berms. It was a nice park, and it even had some small hills. I ran around the lake, taking a shorter route that cut part of the trail out by crossing over a bridge over the lake part-way through. I called this a five mile loop. Then I went around again, taking the longer route, which I called six miles. After doing about three more miles in the park, I went back to the hotel, trying to pick the pace up as best I could.

It was enough to call twenty miles, and I'm happy I did it. The cold continues to improve. Later Sunday I drove downtown to take a long walk along the Missouri Riverfront. Turns out there are plenty of nice places to run (and walk) there too. There's also a neat new pedestrian bridge crossing the river to Iowa. I did this walk too, but then just turned right back.

Later in the week I made my way to and around the park three more times - each time for the six-mile loop along with the three miles each way to and from the lake. Each run was a little faster, and my cold continued to improve. It's good to run again!

So it turned out that after finding no places to go at first, and after not being able to make it to my 24-hour run, I did eventually discover places to run.

Monday, April 18, 2011


GCM stands for Glass City Marathon. I ran this one in lieu of Boston because it's easier, cheaper, less time consuming, etc., etc. I'm happy I did.

There were a bunch of us Medina County Road Runners who made the two-hour trip to Toledo. Debbie Scheel, Michelle Wolfe and John McCarroll shared the ride with me. John and I also shared a room at the Roof. We went to the not-so-big expo and then to dinner at Bravo. I believe there were on the order of 15 of us at the table.

I'd forgotten how noisy cheap hotels can be on Saturday nights. I guess I'm spoiled. I wish I could blame my slow time on lack of sleep, but that wouldn't be entirely fair. It would be more appropriate to blame my absolutely stupid 20 miles of running (11 on trails at night) on Thursday.

Although I was pretty beat up from Thursday (as well as the previous weekend's 100k run), I felt okay at the start. Connie, Ladd, Debbie and I stayed together in the early miles before I fell behind to try to stay with the 3:20 pace group. This wouldn't be bad, thought I. If I could stay with them and possibly even pick it up a mile or two out, I'd be able to call it a 3 hours, 1x minute marathon, and I'd like that.

But then something funny happened at about mile nine. We passed Debbie, and instead of staying with the group, I ran with her. At that point I was still feeling extremely good, and truly thought I would be able to continue to hang with them. For some reason, however, I made a split-second decision to stay with Debbie. I could see that she was struggling, and I could also see that the pace group almost immediately got way ahead of us. In my mind, now that I'd decided to run with Debbie, I was locked into staying with her for the entire race. In any case, I honestly thought I'd be able to help Debbie recover and begin to get her pace close to what it had been.

She didn't. We slowed quite a bit during those middle miles. The easy pace gave me a chance to admire the scenery. The course had changed entirely since I'd run this race before. The change was definitely for the better: starting at University of Toledo (where I went for my freshman year of undergraduate studies), through neighborhoods and parks, on roads and bike trails. Although the leaves weren't out yet, a few flowers were, and even the bare trees were pretty. The finish was inside the UT Football Stadium.

And speaking of pretty, it was pretty darn windy! I'm not sure of the wind speeds, but they were extremely strong, and seemed to be getting stronger all the time. Luckily those winds were in our face mostly in the first half, and mostly at our backs in the second half. Debbie did manage to pick up her pace a little by about mile 20. Even then, she had some foot cramps that slowed her down. As the finish approached, so did the 3:40 time barrier. Don't ask why this is a barrier, just accept that it is.

I pushed hard to beat that, and I encouraged Debbie to do the same. I finished in 3:38.

So that's another one for the books. At some point I'd like to get back to last year's levels, but that probably won't happen any time soon.

Thanks to Wendy Kouvaras for use of the photo.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mad City 100k

The piper would need to be paid. It was just a matter of how much.

I was about to break one of the cardinal rules of running. You know the one: Thou shalt not try for a PR in the 50k en route to a 100k run. Just after one of ten 10k loops of the Mad City 100k, I did some quick math and analysis in my already rattled head. It went something like this.
Let's see, 52 plus minutes for that lap. If I can just do four more 53 minute laps, I'll beat my 50k PR of 4:25. But how much would the piper charge for something like this? Hey, maybe little or nothing! Maybe I do 4:25 or so for both the first half and the second half!! Or even if not, maybe I can just go back to the original plan and still wind up with a fast time.

That original plan had, I thought, been a good one. Since my previous three 100k's were all in the range of 10 to 11 hours, I felt that anything under 10 hours on this day would be a great and wonderful thing. Since the Mad City 100k consisted of 10 10k's, something I can actually get my head around, the math is easy: just do each one under an hour. Note the overuse of the word "just" here and in the previous paragraph. There were other sensible parts of the plan as well: E-caps, gel and Perpetuem every lap; stuff like that.

Mad City, so named because it's in Madison, Wisconsin, serves as the USATF 100k National Championship. Therefore, the best ultrarunners in the country were present. The weather at the start was cloudy with temps in the upper 40s; they would rise through the 50s during the day. In other words, absolutely perfect. RD Tim Yanacheck started us off and almost immediately the 30 runners separated themselves into three groups: the fast folks - about 20 of them - ran up ahead. The slower folks - 10 or so - fell back. The third group consisted of me, all by my lonesome, in the middle.

We left Vilas Park, ran on bike trails and roads, went through some neighborhoods, past playgrounds, through an Arboretum and other small parks including wetlands and woods, all the while keeping Lake Wingra on our left. There were a few rolling hills. The toughest was through a neighborhood around mile 2.5. Those hills were enough to slow me down some, but they really weren't bad. In fact, they helped break up the monotony. Each of the six miles were marked by a pillar. All in all, it was a very nice course to be traversing ten times. I do need to mention, however, that the hills did increase in size every time through.

After that first time around, I thought, "this is easy". Sure enough, I was able to run the next three laps in right around 53 minutes and I was on my way. Lap five proved more difficult. I was still maintaining that same pace, but it was tougher and tougher. That's when I really started to wonder some more about paying that piper.

I got my 50k PR: 4:24:17. And then almost collapsed. Well, it wasn't quite that bad, but as I started the sixth one, I knew I was in trouble. Everything started to hurt. Nothing specific, just general pain, and a lot of it. The piper had begun taking his payment already. This lap took me on the order of 59 minutes (and my pace slipped from 8:30ish to 9:30ish); just right according to the original plan. But would I be able to do four more?

Yes and no. Yes I was able to do four more. No, I couldn't keep them under an hour. In fact, they were all just over an hour. Not by much, mind you, just a minute or so off each time. I had taken an ibuprofen tablet for the pain - something ultrarunners are never supposed to do - and that seemed to take some of the edge off. Maybe it's just the placebo effect.

Throughout the race I'd seen fairly few other competitors. There were 50k runners and relay runners. There were 100k runners that I lapped and some that lapped me. But I was still surprised at how few I saw in general. Near the end of lap 10 I did see two others however. One came from behind, and although I tried to hold him off, he passed me with about a quarter mile to go. The other was ahead, and I recognized his shirt and running style. It was Bob Pokorny, whom I'd driven up with. I hadn't seen Bob for the entire time. After the other guy passed Bob, I pulled even with him. Hey, I was finally running with someone! We only had about 100 yards to go, and I suggested we tie. Bob had crashed much harder than I had, and he agreed. We finished 15th and 16th, with a time of 9:31.

Note to self. Next time, stick with the plan! It may not get me there that much faster, but it would definitely get me there with less pain.

RD Tim and his volunteers did a great job. Except for the pain, it was a pleasure!

Then came the (even more painful) ride home, but that's a different story.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

Slick Speedwork

Unfortunately, this title is intended to be in the literal and not the figurative sense of the word.

Debbie and I drove through constant rain and snow during our trip to Connecticut yesterday. This made for a somewhat stressful drive. Veronica's part of CT experienced mostly rain. As expected, we're having a great visit and are especially enjoying Grandson Malcolm.

It was clear and in the mid-thirties (I thought) when I started running Saturday morning. Things were still damp from all the rain, but this didn't appear to be a problem as I ran downhill from Veronica and Barry's place, and then up (way up) Daniels Farm Road, past Daniels Farm and Daniels Farm School, to the track. With all the miles I've been doing, more than ever I had a need for speed.

After 36 (24 out and 12 in) on Thursday, along with other long stuff during the week, I haven't been very speedy at all lately. My (current) theory is that running slow doesn't make you slow; not running fast makes you slow. And if you're doing gobs of your miles slowly, that puts you (read: me) squarely in the latter category.

For this attempt at a Something of Substance run, I figured I'd do some mile intervals at the track for the quality part, and then enough other jogging around to call it 14 for the day and 100 for the week. As I hit the track and tried mightily to pick up my speed, I immediately realized that (whoa!) the track was covered with a thin layer of ice. That put a quick damper on thoughts of any real speed.

I tried to go fast anyway, but when the first mile went by at about 7:37 - about a minute slower than I'd have liked - I began to think it would be a Nothing of Substance run. I did three more icy mile repeats anyway, each one faster than the last, but still pretty pathetically pokey. At least I somehow managed to not slip enough to fall completely.

So I ran back down Daniels Farm Road, back up to Veronica and Barry's place, did some half-mile loops around the block, and stopped when I thought I had 14.

Nothing of Substance, but more miles for the week.

Hinckley is Back

Okay, okay. Hinckley never really left. But a lot of us did; we hadn't been meeting there for our Sunday morning runs for quite some tim...