Monday, May 23, 2011

The Fun Run that Wasn't

In the days leading up to the second annual Emerald Necklace 100k, it became clear that we wouldn't have too many runners actually running 100k. In fact, it was beginning to look like there would be only one or two of us out there. After double checking with all the potential runners, I decided to make it only 50k.

In the mean time, I learned about a Burning River Training Run, which was to cover the first 18.6 miles of the course, and ALSO a 33 to 40 mile run with Lloyd, which would also cover the beginning part of BR100, but then keep going up to Station Road and then some. This latter run was to celebrate Lloyd's birthday, thus "40 on my 40th".

Since I'd only be doing 31 on Sunday, 33 to 40 on Saturday sounded pretty good. In fact, this would give me even more that the planned 62 for the weekend. I'm just so brilliant.

It was already getting warm when a bunch of us met at Station Road and carpooled up to Squire's Castle in North Chagrin Reservation. There we met up with a much bigger bunch (the ones doing 18.6), and headed south. There was such a big group that the start actually looked like the start of Burning River itself. Everything seemed fun and exciting at this point.

The first 10 or so miles of BR100 are on the road, so of course I very unwisely stayed with the lead group of Brad, Steve and Rachel. Along the way we did encounter a few others, including Tim. When we hit the trails after the polo grounds I mentioned that I needed to slow down a bit and I expected the group to just go on. But we all slowed just a bit and stayed together. This (still going at a pretty good clip on the trails) turned out to be mistake number two for me. I should say, however, that at this point I was still very much enjoying myself. The trails were not too rough, but they were more than a little muddy, and we ran through several ankle-deep streams. Our legs were pretty well caked with the mud.

When we reached the 18.6 mile point at Shadow Lake, Tim, Steve and Rachel were done, and Brad and I went on. The problem was that I was done too, and yet I was only about half-way home. I stayed with Brad for a few more miles and then told him to go on; I needed to slow down. Way down.

Now as it became warmer, I entered Bedford Reservation and things became tougher and tougher. I stayed on the trails at times, but opted for the all-purpose trail more and more as I went on. The two main reasons were that I thought it would be fewer miles, and that I wouldn't have to pick up my feet as much. I did take one tumble on the trails along the way. I was suddenly very much not enjoying myself.

After a little bit of confusion, I found my way to Alexander Road, where I got some water and encouragement, knowing that I was almost there. I had thought that this was about mile 30, and therefore must have had only about 3 to get back to the car. The options for 36 and 40 miles were to include extra running in Brecksville Reservation; 33 would be fine for me today, thank you.

It turned out that the Buckeye Trail was early on in the section after Alexander Road - not long after the Bike & Hike Trail started. I didn't see it. I went on, and on and on. And let me tell you, that Bike & Hike Trail should be renamed the Bake & Hike Trail. That's certainly what I did (bake, not hike) for those four or so miles. The worst part about being lost is the thought that you're going all those extra miles for nothing. And suffering mightily for it.

Of course I did eventually get back, covering the last part of the run on route 82. I figure that I probably ran an extra 3 or so miles, so I'm calling it 36. I've had some really bad runs, but this has to rank up near the top (or should I say bottom) of that list. All I could think about is how much I hate this running stuff. This was the first fun run that wasn't for the weekend.

So what was I going to do about Sunday? I was so beat up that I could hardly move, much less run. At the same time, I began hearing from folks saying they also wouldn't make it to the Emerald Necklace. The two people that I thought would show up, John B. and Joe J., showed up. I was there to send them off, but told them that I couldn't run a step if my life depended on it. Joe did manage to finish. For me however, this was fun run that wasn't number two.

I suppose most of the problem is that I hadn't fully recovered from Cleveland. None of my runs in the past week were very good. But this was as bad as it gets. I now need to reconsider which, if any, 100-miler to do. And I need a long rest.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Today's Speed, by Dan Horvath

Today I felt an almost religious need
For some honest-to-goodness speed
When the body arrived at the track
The brain said 'hey, gimme some slack'
And the legs weren't having any part of this creed

Monday, May 16, 2011

2011 Rite Aid Cleveland Marathon

Before I get to the race itself, a note about chemicals. Ad for a chemical company: 'without chemicals, life itself would be impossible.' My chemical of choice when it comes to running is called caffeine. It generally takes a cup or two of coffee, sometimes just tea, to get me out the door for a morning run. I'll also ingest something of the sort for races. I believe that aside from the obvious effect of waking me up, it benefits running in other ways as well: enhanced awareness, lower perception of pain, etc. Before a big race such as Cleveland, I'll often go a few days without caffeine so that the effect will be greater on race day.

That said, I'm usually pretty careful about not taking too much. I don't want to be too dependent on this, or any other chemical. But for the 2011 Cleveland Marathon, I think I took more than I ever have in one day:

-two cups of green tea early in the morning before I left (I had to wake up before driving to Connie's.)
-a no-doz type pill (200 mg) a bit before the start since I wouldn't be able to get coffee.
-3/4 of a bottle of 5-Hour Energy that they handed out before the start.
-another bottle of 5-Hour Energy that I had stashed in my shorts pocket after about an hour of running.
-4 energy gels that were laced with caffeine, taken during the race.
-a cup of coffee after the race (in the Key Marriott Fitness Center where we got to change and take showers).

The effect on the race? I'll get to that. But the effect on me? I was shaking like crazy well into the night, and almost didn't sleep at all. This must be what speed is like. (I had previously thought that caffeine's effects last 4-6 hours regardless of how much one ingested. I no longer believe this.)

The day was foggy, misty and cool. In other words, perfect. My plan was to begin with the 3:20 pace group and to try to pick it up in the end. I'd be happy with anything under 3:20 on this day, since I haven't been putting in the speedwork or shorter races like I did last year when I did 3:13. I'm also a few pounds north of last year's weight. I would've liked to run with Ladd and Connie, but I felt they would be just a bit faster, and I wanted to be more conservative.

Naturally all those plans went out the window as soon as the gun went off. After lining up by Browns Stadium with Ladd, Connie and Bob, I saw only Bob after the start, and I stuck with him for the first 5-6 miles. This was not smart on my part. Bob was running conservatively and wisely; I was not. You'd think after 90-some marathons and gobs of ultras and other stuff, that I'd know better.

I ran alone when I finally wised up enough to just let Bob go. After only a couple more miles, who should catch up with me, but Ladd, of all people. I had assumed right along that he was way up there, and that perhaps Bob would catch him. But no, Ladd was running smart. I decided, still fairly unwisely, to now stay with Ladd as the course took us from the very nice west side neighborhoods back into downtown. We said a fond farewell to the half-marathoners, and began heading east, past Playhouse Square, and eventually out towards University Circle.

The Cleveland Marathon course seems to change almost every year, and 2011 was no exception. Whereas we still go west for the first half, and east for the second half, those loops themselves were almost backwards from last year. I don't have a complaint about this, but it would be nice if they could settle on one course or another.

It was at University Circle, mile 17 or 18, where I lost Ladd. I was slowing just a bit, and he was still very steady. I could only hope that he'd be able to maintain his pace for a personal best. My favorite part of the course, MLK Blvd., through Rockefeller Park, came next. I was doing everything I could to try to maintain my pace, but I think I was slowing still a little more. Jim caught me and we chatted a bit before he went on after a personal best. With all these potential personal bests around me, you'd think... Oh never mind.

We hit mile 20 just as we got up to the lake at Gordon Park. I decided, after all that caffeine, that it was now or never. I'd run a pretty decent 20 miles (in 2:29, give or take), and a 45-minute final 10k would bring me in at a time similar to last year's.

I was surprised that we only stayed near the lake for a mile or so before making several turns. Mile 20 wasn't bad, but I slowed some more for the next few. With a mile and a half to go, I pushed as hard as I could to try to stay under 3:17. I don't know why that number is significant, but it seemed like it was at the time. The finish in front of Browns Stadium (the start had been in back) was pretty cool. I was going full tilt, and probably making all kinds of strange faces from the effort.

I made it in 3:16:xx - just barely under my 3:17 goal, and well under the original 3:20 goal. I could finally relax my face!

After I got my medal, I said hello and congrats to Bob, Ladd, Jim, and some other folks. It was a good day for a lot of us. Within a minute or so, we heard the announcer say, "Here comes Connie Gardner from Medina, Ohio. Congratulations, Connie, you are a *Marathoner*!" I don't think he knew who she was, but we sure gave her some $h!t about being a *Marathoner*!

I didn't know how I did in my age group. I was encouraged to not see too many geezers who looked to be my age, anywhere nearby at the finish. I later learned that I was first in that geezer division. That's a first for me at Cleveland (or any other medium/large marathon for that matter).

I suppose I'd have to say that chemicals do mostly work. And I can't wait till my next chance to abuse them.

Monday, May 09, 2011


The morning run wasn't going well at all. I was tired and slowing already, and I'd only just made it through the three miles over to the Brunswick track. Perhaps if I'd had a plan that was more clear...

The Hinckley Hills that I ran with the gang on Saturday were challenging as always, but the distance (14 miles) was lower than usual for a variety of reasons. Having just returned from some decent running in Omaha, and with Cleveland looming a week away, I didn't need a ton of miles on Sunday either. But I did want to do something, anything, of substance. I'd read that the Hanson Brothers call some of their workouts SOS, or "Something of Substance" runs. I presume this means that there's some kind of quality speed involved. In my case, needed intervals, hills or a tempo run. This was, then, my own goal for Sunday: Anything of Substance.

Too bad I didn't know what. The excuse here is that I never know if the Brunswick HS Track will be open or not. Many days I run the three miles over there, counting on doing a specific speedwork session, only to find it locked up tighter than a drum. Today was not that day... Many days I have a really bad first couple miles, decide that this wasn't my day, and bag the whole run. Today was not that day, either.

The workout du jour turned out to be 5 x 1200 at about a 4:58 average. Not great, but it *was* substantive. I'll have to take it.

North Canton YMCA 4th of July 5-mile

Since I have participated in the Ohio Challenge Series many years, I've done this race many times, albeit many moons ago. It's a fun...