Sunday, February 27, 2011

Weekly Recap Feb. 20-26 The Flu Bug Bites

Friday 2-25
6 - 40:30  Yes, you read that right.  Sigh.  It is Friday and I almost enjoyed my first run in nearly a week.  The flu bug that was being carried into school day after day finally caught up with me.  And what a wicked little bug is was.  It kept my temperature above 103 for almost three days while imposing a vision-impairing headache. Catching bacterial and viral infections is a primary health drawback for teachers, especially teachers at schools like mine where the students insist on coming to school while they are sick.  Oh, well.

This a.m. run went well until I looked at my split after one mile.  7:08  Really!?  It certainly felt faster. As I normally do in such instances, I set my battle lines and picked up the pace a little.  The ambiance of this morning run around the near empty USI campus was as peaceful as normal.  The strain and effort of the run went mostly ignored until I looked at the watch after finishing.  As expected the HR was too high.  Battling a bug, and the sedentary life that accompanies that fight, results in a significant curtailment of  energy available for running. 

The fever returned by early afternoon, so I ended up in bed for more than 12 hours.

Saturday 2-26
13 - 1:24:01 All of that rest seemed to help a lot.  I still waited until late in the afternoon to run, though.  I was prepared to turn around within the first mile, but I was also hopeful that I would be able to complete a long run.  My highest ambition was to squeeze in some pace work in the second half of the run.  Goal accomplished.

Running long and running hard meant that I risked another night with a fever.  I chose to take that risk.  Because it is now Sunday afternoon and the fever has not returned, I am glad I took the risk.  That long/fast run took a lot out of me - more than it should have.  But I did not fall ill again.  Looking forward to a full week of running.

Weekly Total: 19 Miles (2:04:31)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Weekly Recap Feb. 13-19 - Canal Loop Test Run

Sunday 2-13
10 - 1:10:11  Intended to go nice and easy for this one, but that only lasted a half mile.  It was then that I started climbing the Stru Hill.  This hill will become my life-line for the CO climbs.  The front side climbs 86 feet in just under a quarter mile while the back side makes the same climb in just over an eighth of a mile.  Hey, its all I've got! Up and down and up and down and . . .

After several round trips I found my way to more level ground where I started running 6:3x pace in a brutal wind.  That felt good for several miles, but I stopped at 10 miles because I was beginning to tighten up.  It was a good run for sure!  Sunshine, blue sky, and only moderately muddy trails that were completely void of deer. Yeah, it was another pleasant run!

Tuesday 2-15
6 - 35:13  Another great day of pace work.  I must relate that I am a little surprised about how good the legs are feeling while I am increasing the mileage so quickly.  Of course, I have to work really hard on those legs between runs.  Maybe that is part of getting old.  I don't mind.  In fact, I like the challenge of trying to maintain my limited ability for as long as possible. 

The pace work portion of this run was just like last week - 4.5 miles in 25:11.  It was slightly faster at a slightly lower HR, but that was likely due to the fact that the significantly warmer (48 F) temperature allowed me to wear shorts.  What a fun run.  This is definitely my favorite type of run - all alone and pushing the pace.  I would be totally crushed should I ever be incapable a running hard enough to get the HR up there. Thirty years ago I saw myself as a life-long runner.  Hopefully, I will still be running for another thirty years.

Thursday 2-17
7 - 49:02  Wow!  Another warm (52 F) morning.  This sunrise run came easily at the moderate pace I am running as I ramp up the distance.  Because I have bounced back and forth between short/fast running and ultra running, I have also been forced to adjust my average training pace.  The 7-7:15 pace I am using for most of my running right now is less intense than what I am accustomed to and, therefore, quite relaxing.  These low-effort runs through interesting and varied terrain before the masses of people move in are quite therapeutic.

I haven't yet decided if I feel much different or any better than I would after my normal 19-minute 3-mile Thursday run. Slow and easy running is relaxing, but fast and intense running is spiritual.  I guess any type of running will make me have a better day!  The therapy will be complete when I get back on the bike.

Saturday 2-19  (Pictures coming when I get time.)
27 - 3:33:46  Finally!  I made it down to Land Between the Lakes in Kentucky to run on the Canal Loop  Trail.  Two other planned trips this year had to be cancelled because snow and/or ice that fell heavily and then proceeded to melt quickly in warm air.

The trail and weather conditions were near perfect today.  There were a few boggy spots, but the trail was mostly damp and soft.  Though a light rain greeted me at the trail head, I felt only a few drops before the precipitation moved on to the southeast.  I light wind was refreshing in the 50 F air.

This was my fourth trip to run on the Canal Loop.  I learned of and began to train on the circuit during the winter of 2008.  On two occasions I ran the LBL Trail Run Marathon route by running two circuits of the 11.3-mile single track plus  enough to reach the marathon distance.  Then, in March of 2008 I was one of a about 200 crazed pain seekers who refused to back down when a quick blizzard blew through the area, dropping 6-14 inches of snow, within a couple of hours of the 6 am start.  Even the trip down there was challenging.  I cursed the unplowed Kentucky Interstate before I passed one, then two, overturned salt/plow trucks.  My little Matrix AWD found it relatively easy going.

The LBL Trail Runs consist of 4 concurrently run races in which the competitors run on an asphalt road for 1.6 miles from the tiny town of Grand Rivers to the north end of the Canal Loop Trail before running the circuit 1-4 times for distances of 14 Mi, 26.2 Mi, 60K, or 50 Mi.  Runners are allowed to add or subtract loops during the race and still be counted among the finishers for the distance they run.

In 2008 I ran the 60K.  The first loop involved running through snow that varied from 4 inches deep up to about 16 inches deep, depending on how it had drifted in the short but hearty blizzard.  The snow had been packed down a bit by a weighted sled that had been pulled by a man named Bob Hall.  I met Bob today as I began my run.  What a kind and helpful man!  He told me that he is training for the super tough Barkley 100 run in April.  Good luck with that brutal course, Bob!

The second loop of the 2008 run was run in a narrow, sunken path that was formed by several hundred pounding feet.  I thought it resembled a bob sled run.  Though that little path was a bit slippery, it provided the best footing of the day.  Underneath all of that snow was significantly warmer earth which melted the packed snow before I began the third loop.  The result was a mud slurry that froze on running shoes that were in the 20 F air.  Yes, my feet were painfully cold when I reached the finish back in Grand Rivers. (2nd place/5:26)  That was my second ultra and it was certainly a memorable journey.

Today's run was a repeat of my two previous training runs in LBL.  I ran the marathon distance to test my endurance.  My legs passed the test, but my back did not.  I have been suffering from sciatic pinching for about a month and that became noticeable just before I finished the second loop.  That problem has existed since an accident in 1998.  I simply failed to to what needed to be done to stop the pinching during the last several days.  Now I will deal with a tight right hamstring for awhile.

The single track is a high-use trail that is open to hikers and mountain bikers.  Some runners have trouble with bikers.  I only pick bones with the few rude ones.  Hell, I AM a biker.  Well, I will be again soon!  There were a couple dozen bikers out there today and many of them were struggling with (walking) the steep climbs on the Kentucky Lake side.  Though Bob Hall was the only runner I saw while I was running, there were a few who were starting out just after I had finished.

What a fun run!  I love that trail.  It rolls gently up and down and back and forth on the Lake Barkley side and then weaves wildly back and forth and way up and way down on the Kentucky Lake side.  There are about 1160 vertical feet of climbing per loop.  I climbed more than 2500 feet during my run of 2+ loops today.

The first loop passed quickly and surprisingly easily in 1:31.  I was taking it easy because I intend to run a race (LBL or Tom King Half) in just three weeks.  After a quick pit stop at the RAV to get some calories and fluid, I covered the second lap in 1:33.  I was actually about a minute ahead of the first lap pace for much of the second lap, but I slowed near the end due to the tightness in my back.  Any running with the tight back causes hamstring pain, but pushing the pace creates long-lasting damage to that hamstring. (Does that sound like a voice of experience?)  I hung from a tree branch to stretch the back at the end of the second loop and was then able to run the 4+ remaining miles at a higher pace than I had run all day.

The LBL Canal Loop provides a good test of trail running endurance.  While today's result shows that my old legs are not yet in the shape they need to be in for successful 50 mile mountain runs, that result allowed me to gain quite a bit of confidence.  It is now a few hours after the run and my legs feel like I ran a solid 12 or 13 miles on rolling roads.  The way I bounded up the stairs when I returned home was not indicative of a 27 mile effort at sub-8 pace on a tough trail.

Training on the Canal Loop also allows my mind and lower legs to make the adjustment needed to transition into smooth and efficient trail running.  The trail and its countless root and rock features are still buried under a layer of leaves, so an attentive mind is required to pick the best path.  That attention will also help make the soles of the shoes, and not the palms of the hands, the contact points between me and Earth.  During the second loop I passed a group of bikers who were walking their bikes up one of the steep climbs I heard one of them say, "Damn, he's passing us again.  That guy must be Superman!"  I chuckled, tapped the tat on my hip, and waved without looking back as I thought about guys like Krupicka and Roes who ARE supermen.  Then, within seconds of passing them and rounding a curve, I caught a toe and went down onto my palms.  It was my only snag of the day and it was positioned at just the right time to keep me humble.

Now I must decide which race I will run on March 12.  It appears that I will be sufficiently content with my abilities at either distance.

Life is truly good when there are trails out there to run on!

Weekly Total: 50 Miles (6:08:12)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Weekly Recap Feb. 6-12

Sunday 2-6
6 - 43:25  Super slow and painful run.  The feeling I had in my legs was why I have taken so many days off in the last two decades.  This run was not fun at all, since everything below the waist hurt a lot.  The groin and glute muscles that I strained in the mud last week kept me jogging/hobbling at 7:3x pace for the first three miles before they finally loosened up and let my stride open up a bit.  This is NOT my idea of fun and it definitely seems like asking for an injury, but I have to once again build up my ability to run while suffering.  Taking that need into account, this was one mighty fine run!

Tuesday 2-8
6 - 35:25  It is hard to believe that a great day can come on the heels of such an awful running experience.  Such is the experience of an ultra runner. (Hardcore, big mileage ultra runners please allow me to claim the title - I will show you that I am worthy!)  This run included 4.5  miles of solid pace work (25:27).  While that pace is slower than what I was capable of back in October, I am extremely happy to be where I am right now.  It was cold (19 F), windy (11 mph), and I had to go in pants and a jacket.  Still, this workout came relatively easily with negative splits.

I am accustomed to hitting the goal splits, but my minimal running schedule rarely causes me to have the bad legs I had over the weekend.  Believe me when I say that I put a lot of effort into bringing those legs around. Significant manipulation and dynamic stretching took place over a two day period.  That helped, I'm sure, but the key to my recovery was undoubtedly the repetitious consumption of some awesome vegan chili that I made Sunday afternoon.  Yeah, that's it.

By the way, those deer were back.  This time they were ON the asphalt trail when I first encountered them. Upon the approach of my huffing and puffing self, their white tails were seen in the fading light as they bounced into the nearby woods.  On each of my other three passes they were back on the trail and they waited longer before bounding away.  It was during my last approach that I began to worry.  The deer not only waited as if playing chicken with me, they all definitely took several small steps toward me as if to challenge me. WTH!  Bears in the Smokies do this when they want to rob you of your goodie-filled backpack.  Deer are not supposed to stand firm and challenge.  What did I do?  I held my arms up high and wide while I growled. (Viral YouTube!!)  All deer in the area should be questioned should I ever disappear while running.

Thursday 2-10
6 - 42:30  This run was accompanied by another inch of snow, 2 F temperatures, and an absolutely gorgeous sunrise.  Those deer were undoubtedly just out of sight while tucked in to avoid the frigid air.  It was cold enough to keep me chilled throughout the run despite the fact that I was layered from head to toe. I was purposefully watching the HR in order to guarantee an easy run.  One of the most difficult aspects of training, for me, is to slow down on days like these.  So, I kept an eye on the HR.  This 6 a.m. run was quite enjoyable due to a nearly constant view of the sun as it crept above the horizon and through the forest on its journey into a cloudless sky.

Saturday 2-12
14 - 1:39:24  I ran the same mostly grass/trail loop that I ran last week on the USI campus.  This loop offers a variety of terrain and footing.  At 2.75 miles it is long enough to keep me from getting dizzy or too bored.  With the temperature at 25 F when I started, the ground was solidly frozen.  This was great at relieving me of the slippery mud, but it also created some poor footing due to the fact that the saturated soil buckled when the water froze several days ago.  Only on my last lap did the ground soften a bit.

The legs felt pretty good today.  The more level miles were sub-7.  Those miles that included the Stru Hill were 15-20 seconds slower.  That hill was still covered with an inch of snow.  Stru Hill was the primary source of the 1100 vertical feet of climbing.  This was the type of run I need right now.  It wasn't fast, but the course was tough.  The legs were probably good for two more laps at that pace.  I look forward to measuring my progress on this loop over the next few months.  Of course, I also look forward to running on much longer trails.  I feel a road trip coming.  Sure wish I could climb more!

Weekly Total:  32 miles (3:41)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Weekly Recap Jan. 30 - Feb. 5

Tuesday 2-1
6 - 39:59  A busy schedule and cold pouring rain kept me from running until almost 9 pm.  Though the rain had stopped, a strong 27 mph sustained wind that was accompanied by 45+ mph gusts was thrusting much colder air on the area.  It was 50 degrees when I left and 39 when I finished up. As I attempted some pace work on the asphalt Greenway at USI I was blown into the mud several times.  My fast pace varied from 5:15-5:40, depending on whether the wind was working with or against me. Overall, the pace slower than normal due to the wind. Except for the frozen hands at the end, this one was a lot of fun. It is worth noting that I will continue to increase the length of each of my runs as I build endurance for the summer runs.

Thursday 2-3
6 - 41:52  Nice and easy today.  Groin still sore after the slip and slide mud run.  Uneventful except for the three deer that I spooked on this night run.  They shot across the trail just a few feet in front of me.  I would like to see the surveillance video.  It would certainly go viral on YouTube because the truth of the matter is that their attempt to scare the sh@! out of me was a hoof pumping success.  Those darned deer had many places to run, so why did they run almost directly AT me?  Deer Humor?

This deer event reminded me of another truly scary moment in night time running that occurred fifteen years ago.  I was running down an unlit county road on a moonless night (not dangerous since cars can be seen from a great distance) when a deep, rumbling noise started to build.  A few seconds later two oddly placed lights rounded a bend in front of me.  I kept to the 5:15 pace of the tempo run with reservation.  As the lights grew near I wondered what was approaching.  Then a shadow passed in front of the lights.  Then it passed again.  And again.  And it was going up and down.  What in the world?  With the lights now within a hundred meters and approaching quickly the shadow appeared again - just a few feet in front of me.   Click - Click.  It was a deer with a large rack.  Lucky for me, the great agility the deer possessed allowed it to land just in front of me, see me, and dart off to my right while moving really fast.  My heart paused until I realized that the two lights were also upon me and they were not darting to the side!  So, I did.  It turned out to be an elderly farmer, whom I knew, on his was home from a long day in the field.  I'm sure most runners have unforgettable stories like that one.

Saturday 2 - 5
23 - 2:54:35  Mother Nature is trying to make sure I am ready for summer.  Today she placed another 1-2 inches of snow on top of the slightly hardened mud.  The weather forecast indicated that the temperature would only rise to about 33 or 34 degrees.  The problem was that it only dropped to 31 overnight.  So the saturated ground was only slightly hardened.  A little recon walk let me know that the sloppy trails I had used last week were still quite sloppy.  Not this week!

Instead, I opted to minimize the mud running by repeating a 2.8-mile  mostly off-road loop on snow-covered grass fields and gravel trails.  A wet snow fell most of the time.  It stuck to the grass, mud, and my shirt, but it melted into slush on the short asphalt sections.  My shoes were soaked within thirty minutes due to the wet snow and the slushy puddles in the grass fields.

I ran eight of these loops plus a little more to end up with an even 23 miles.  My legs were fatigued to the point that the groin I strained last week began to ache.  That was probably due to the fact that I had been lifting those heavy wet shoes for over two hours.

It was a good run for me.  Afterward, I thought about the fact that I was on pace to break 3:20 for a marathon while running in tough conditions that included more than 1200 ft of climbing.  I am looking forward to pushing beyond the marathon mark by the end of February.  Yes, I can get there from where I am.

To keep my own limited abilities within the scale of minimal achievement, I must write that I just followed the Rocky Raccoon 100 Mile Trail Run on twitter.  Ian Sharman destroyed the course record on that Texas course by finishing in 12:44:35.  That is 7:38 per mile for 100 miles!!  Put another way, Sharman ran almost four consecutive 3:20 marathons.  That is amazing!!  You can read about it at iRunFar.com.

This feat motivates me to train hard to reach my own goal.  I did not write "train more."  That is not my style.  I am the guy who runs fewer miles than most runners regardless of the goal race distance.

Weekly Total:  35 miles (4:16)