Saturday, May 24, 2014

A Fairly Impromptu Rotary Park Trail Half Marathon

On Tuesday, my friend Andrea and I were hiking at one of my favorite trails, and I said, "Hey, I'd like to do a trail half marathon here sometime."   She said, "That would be great."  We usually run anywhere between 3 and 6 miles together on trails once or twice a week.  We run far together on roads--anywhere from 9 to 15 miles during any given training cycle, but for some reason, we always stop around six miles on our trail runs.   I said, "How's Saturday?"   The next thing we knew, we were planning Andrea and Donna's Rotary Park Trail Half Marathon or ADRPTHM.  Andrea's one of those GREAT kinds of friends who is up for anything.  Don't we all need one of those??

I invited several other friends to join us to help pass the miles.  And by several, I mean six.  The trail running community here is fairly small, especially on the female side.  I invited just about every trail chick I could think of, all five of them.  One came!  My neighbor and long-time running buddy Christie joined us.  The male side of the trail runners I know are all generally too fast for us to keep up with.  However, my neighbor and total trail beast Jeff generously came out and blazed a great and challenging 4.5 mile route for us.  He'd run ahead.  Stop.  Wait.  We'd catch up.  It involved this long serpentine hill of switchbacks over a very long time, followed by another fairly large hill.  It was great training for my upcoming trail races (Chuckanut Mountain Half Marathon, Rock and Root 18 miler, and Stump Jump 50K---I seemed to have missed scheduling a 26.2 in there....)

We really had fun out there.  Andrea and I ran fairly well on the first 4.5 mile loop trailing behind Jeff (nice pun....).  We did well on the first part of the second loop on our own until we confused a turn and wound up backtracking here and there and wandering in circles, then going back our original way after we decided it was, indeed, the correct route all along.  (It happens.  More than I'd like to admit....)   We made it back to our cars at 10.1 instead of 9.  I wouldn't say we were LOST per se, just couldn't recall where the route we were supposed to be on went.  We knew kind of where we were for the most part.  (Convinced?  NOT lost.)

I'm not going to lie, the last three were not pretty, especially the last one.  We had both had few carbs and with stopping by our car "aid station" a couple of times and taking pics and hitting the CLEANEST. PORTOJOHN*. EVER., we'd been out there a LONG time.  (*Runners really appreciate a fresh port of john.  Really.)   But we had good conversation and kept running (albeit slower and slower near the end), and it was a success.

Zero snakes.
One blister.
Five challenging hills.
One sore toenail.
13.1 miles on a gorgeous trail.

It was a GOOD day.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

You Get What You Train For---Viola Valley Half Marathon Race Report

Yesterday, I ran the Viola Valley Half Marathon in beautiful Viola, TN.  The whole family and I had gone to Manchester, TN, the night before and spent the night with my in-laws, who were only about 32 minutes from Viola.  

I got up at dark o'clock (4:30 a.m.) and left the house at 5:30.  It was chilly at 46 degrees, with a threat of rain.  I got to watch the sun rise over gorgeous country roads and arrived just after 6:00 a.m.  The race was well organized, and packet pick up went smoothly.  I ran into my running buddies Kathy and Michelle from Clarksville (in the portopotty line---of course!) and took pics with Justin and Angie from a FB page I follow, Run365. Justin and I had met at Go Commando last October and ran 10 miles of it together.   Then I ran into Bill and Diane, from Run It Fast, whom I had met last summer.   

We started, and by mile 2 or 3, I heard "Sunshine!"   My good friend George Boxley was coming up from behind.  He made my night last year at the Run Under the Stars when he'd call me "Sunshine"  every time he passed me on the 1/2 mile course. How can you not smile when someone calls you "Sunshine"?    At one point for a mile or so, Justin, George, Kathy, Michelle, and I were all running in a large group.  I think that was one of my favorite parts!   It was short-lived though.   Justin and I fell back at a water stop, and George and Kathy pulled away. Michelle was right in the middle, and we passed a few miles together.  She wound up beating ALL of us, with a strong surge in the later miles!

I was running about a 9:45/pace for most of the first 6 miles, with a 9:38 mile in there somewhere.  The course rolls and rolls.  I noticed my breathing was louder than I'd like around miles 5 and 6.  Mile 6 was my last mile in the sub-10 range.  In miles 7 and later, I slowed down to a 10, 10:10, and even and a couple way off my goal pace of 10-minute miles---10:28 and 10:31.  I think those were miles 8 and 9, always my toughest miles.  I wound up running alone after about mile 7.   I fought tired legs and hills and stomach upset a bit in those miles, but got it together and ran 10-minute miles for the last couple.  The best part was, other than a few sprinkles, the rain held off until I was in my car on the way back to Manchester!

This half-marathon was 9.5 minutes slower than one I ran in October. However,  I can't be too upset.  You get what you train for.  At that one, I was coming off four months of speed work and hard, HARD training.  For this one-- My last half-marathon was April 5.  I had a terrible 12-miler the following week with tons of IT band pain, and that was when the doc ordered me to take a little break for 4-6 weeks.  I've had several good 3, 5, and 6 milers in the hiatus of 5 weeks.  I had an ok 8 miler and a pretty bad 9 miler, nowhere near a 10-minute pace, about a week and a half before the race.   So, I think it's to be expected that I would run well the first 6 or 7 miles, then struggle.  I am proud, however, that I got it together in the last couple of miles.  I finished by my garmin at 2:11:04, a 9:59 pace, for 13.12.   I think my official finish is 2:11:09 or something.  I must have delayed hitting the start button a few seconds or something.  I realize now that I could have gone out a few seconds slower, maybe 9:55, and struggled less during the later miles of the race.   

It was a good test. I walked a few of the rolling hills throughout and also through many of the water stops. I made my pace goal of averaging 10-minute miles.  I would have LIKED to come in sub 2:10, but I was aware that 2:12 was more realistic.  The IT band made its presence known at mile 9, but never really hurt.  It just tightened up.  It was a little tight and achy last night and this morning.   

A few pics.  I thought this tiny town hall was cute!  

These are a couple of pics from the beautiful course, courtesy of Justin Stroud.  Seriously, it is a gorgeous run!   

It isn't always a "great day," but I love running and the running community.  I enjoy watching sunrises and seeing 13 or 26 miles of a new place on foot.  It's nice to cross starting lines and even nicer to cross finish lines.  Running adds so much to my life.  It may not feel like it at the time, but every mile is a blessing.  

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Injury, Recovery, and a New Direction for My Running

I haven't blogged in a while.   Most of 2014, I have been plagued with pain outside my right knee (and sometimes the left as well) at the point of IT band insertion.   I have a swollen bursa (fluid-filled) sac at Gerdy's Tubercle, the little bony protrusion on the outside of my knee.  It feels like a stabbing pain at times; other times, it's a dull burn.  I'm pretty darn excited that I self-diagnosed it based on information I found on the Internet. When I finally went to the doc in April, Dr. Kurt Kowalski and my physical therapist Dave confirmed that's what it was.

The stabbing pain had started on my VERY FIRST RUN of 2014, a 15-miler on my favorite Rails to Trails route.  After that, it hurt off and on, usually at miles 14+ of pavement runs.  It didn't bother me on my trail marathon or trail 23K.  It REALLY hurt during the later miles of the Greenway Marathon in March (all pavement).  Two weeks later,  I ran the Oak Barrel Half Marathon with my husband in early April without pain.  It was a very hilly course, and I was relieved that the IT band didn't hurt at all.  I was proud that Hubby ran a personal best that day.  We ran every step together for a 2:16 finish.  I thought maybe the IT issue was healed or that it was an issue that would only bother me in marathons.  Then it started hurting on 5-milers.  Then 3-milers.  That's when I went to the doc.

I went to see Dr. Kurt about two weeks before I was planning to run a 50K at the Run for Kids Challenge on a very beginner-friendly course.  He nixed it and said to run only short distances on primarily soft surfaces.  However, when your ortho doc is a Boston Qualifier who longs tons of miles a week, you should probably ask him to define what "short distances" means.   For a couple of weeks I ran 4 miles and under, then I added some 6-9 mile runs.  Mostly, the IT band felt ok.  (Well, in full disclosure, it hurt starting at mile 7.5 of the 9-miler last Wednesday, but just a little!) I also went to two physical therapy visits to get some strengthening exercises for my left side (weakness there makes my right leg work harder- the potential root of the problem).  He also gave me some stretches and pointers on KT tape.  He made me realize I need to do more strength work, and I have been.  I am glad to be back to circut/strength training.  I didn't realize how much I'd missed it.   I've sort of enjoyed these short, but intense runs over the last month!

This weekend will be the TEST.  I'm running the Viola Valley Half Marathon that I was registered for last year, but didn't run.  It is a hilly, paved 13.1 miles.  My longest run since early April has been 9 miles.  I don't know how my endurance will hold up or how the IT will feel.  But I NEED to know these things.  I need a baseline for my current endurance/speed/health.

I've run 66 races (assuming I remembered to log them all on here), and I'm inexplicably excited about this one-- my 23rd half marathon.   I guess it's because I've been struggling for a while with my running.  First, I had energy issues due to Hashimoto's (an auto-immune disease that causes hypothyroidism in me).  Then, I couldn't run without pain.  Now, I just want a baseline to see where my body is.

It's predicted to be 48 and 70-80% chance of rain during the race.  Those are not my favorite conditions!  But, I don't care.  I'm ready to run.  I crave the long-distance run.  I love that completely wrung out feeling at the end of races.

Since my IT feels 80% better, I've made BIG PLANS this week.  I have a race a month scheduled for the next few months.  Funny, all of the races after this weekend that I'm currently registered for are on a trail (or crushed limestone at Run Under the Stars). I want to become a TRAIL BEAST!!!   Here are my upcoming events after Viola Half.  These are all registered and paid for so, there will be no waffling!

JUNE-Run Under the Stars 10-hour Endurance Event in Paducah, KY,  We will run a 1/2 mile horse track from 8:00 p.m. until 6:00 a.m.  Fun!!  The plan is to not re-injure this IT with the counter-clockwise circles (Dr. K said that could be bad).  I might get to 40 miles this year, I might not.....

JULY-Chuckanut Trail Half Marathon in Bellingham, WA.  I'm visiting a friend, and we are running this race together, along with a high school friend of mine, who happens to live there!  3,000 feet of climb over 13.1.  INTENSE!!

AUGUST-Rotary Park 4-5 mile NIGHT trail run with my 13-year old son. Headlamps required!  Fun!!

SEPTEMBER- Rock and Root 30K in Oak Ridge, TN.   The Hill of Truth (run up it twice!) looks interesting.  25% grade at times.  Yikes!

OCTOBER- Stump Jump 50K trail race in Chattanooga, TN.   This one scares me.  It will be my first attempt at 50K on a trail.  Last year, most participants were attacked by yellow jackets.  Some got 12 or more stings!    Also, the course is really challenging.   There are many easier courses for a first trail 50K.   But, I picked this one.  My friend Ryan said to "Train like Hell" for this one.  I plan to.   Honestly, I'm very intimidated by this race, the bees, the difficulty of the course, and the 9-hour cut-off.  (17 minute pace should be doable unless the wheels fall off and roll away--which could happen!)   But sometimes you just have to do THIS:

After that?   I dunno.  Maybe a road race!   Midsouth Marathon in November looks good, and there is always the Flying Monkey Marathon that I need to redeem.

Run happy, my friends!!