Saturday, October 29, 2011

Brain Freeze

The Trunk or Treat 5k race this morning was a mite bit chilly, with the temperature hanging around the freezing mark. I arrived a little later than I usually do for a race and, by the time I got the number and tag on, it was time to go. My warmup consisted of jumping up and down and moving in place for a couple minutes before the start of the race.

Once the race started, I got into a pace which I would maintain for the entire race, which is good. Unfortunately, that pace was about 30 seconds per mile slower than I wanted to go. I was never really able to get moving much faster and, as often happens for these races, it takes about a mile for me to really get into a rhythm breathing.

The cold air, which I am not all that accustomed to running in, just seemed to effect me. I felt tight and heavy breathing in the cold air was a somewhat of a shock to my system.

The good part of my run, as I noted, was the steady pace I was able to keep through the entire race (besides the very end where I kicked it up a bit). The longer runs I have been doing over the past few months have really been helping.

I ended up with 2nd place in my age group today, keeping a run of finishing in the top three going. I like getting medals and awards as little tokens of encouragement. While not terribly meaningful and certainly nothing to brag about, it is nice to have something to show for the effort - most of which occurs during the training before the race.

Side note: What is with the "long" courses? This one was also about .1 mile long, just like the previous race. Yes, each race is an individual event with different weather, terrain, competition, etc., but a 5k should be 3.1 miles. It doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things, but I would have felt better dropping about 40 seconds off of my race time.

I think I'm finally at the point in my resurgent running career that I don't absolutely need races to keep myself motivated. Not saying that I don't like racing or that I intend to stop, but my continued participation no longer hinges upon just getting to the next race.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mountain Man

Today, I did a group run organized by at Pontiac Lake Rec Area on the Mountain Bike Loop (the same one I did in July). This is the hilliest course I have run to date and is filled with rocks, roots and other hazards. The first time I ran it, I wasn't ready for the course, but I did it. This time, I felt a bit more prepared.

I arrived a bit early and it was cold - below 40 F. I walked around a little bit to warm up. There were about 15 - 20 people in all there at the starting time and, after a few words by Karl, the organizer, we were off.

For the first 4.5 miles, I ran most in front of a little pack of runners. I could hear heavy breathing and footsteps behind me during this entire time. While they would prove more than capable of catching up to me, they didn't. Once they did catch me, I offered to let them pass, but they said they liked my pace. They passed me at mile 5, but we swapped places leading a couple times after that because, at points where the trail split, I chose to take the shorter, "easy" paths while they did not.

I was very happy to even come close to keeping up with these runners because, while they were not "elite", every one of them were good, veteran runners. They seemed surprised when we were talking during the run that I only started back running in the last year and that I did mostly road, rather than trail running.

I ended up doing the loop over 20 minutes faster than I did in July. This was due to 1) being in better shape and having more running experience, 2) running with other people. (While it wasn't a race, they certainly made me push myself) and 3) The weather conditions were much more favorable and the bugs which previously attacked me without mercy were no where to be found. While running at an 11:45/mi pace would typically not be good at this point in my running career, I was very happy with it today considering the course.

You aren't a kid anymore alert: My knees and other portions of my legs don't like running more than about 6 miles or so. After my longest runs, I my legs are usually sore the rest of the day and often the following day too. Based on some tips from the forums, I have been icing my knees (I don't plan to sit in a full tub of ice - that may be effective but does not sound fun at all). I've done this after doing a 3 mile run yesterday and again today. It really seems to help, so I think I will start doing this as a regular thing, especially after a particularly long or tough run. Any other tips out there?

Monday, October 17, 2011

10 Miles, 4 towns, 6 turkeys and a snake.

In the two weeks since the Brooksie Way Half Marathon, I managed to run a total of just over 10 miles. This lighter running schedule was not necessarily done by choice, but it did allow me to heal up a bit. My right leg is discomfort free while running for the first time in at least a couple months. The bad part of the rest is that I feel like I am out of practice and my legs, while "healthy" are not in the best condition to do long runs.

This morning, I decided to do a long run, thinking I would do 7 or 8 miles. I headed out to my normal starting spot and took off. It was nice to be running though it took a bit to get my breathing down. It wasn't bad, but I usually don't have any issues when I am in practice. I tool the scenic route and after a couple miles, I was on a dirt road which could have been mistaken for a country road in the middle of nowhere. The road itself was ideal - damp enough to keep the dirt down with just the right amount of give.There were horses and a six-pack of turkeys in a driveway. Great temperature outside, nice shade and I saw just one moving vehicle the entire time I was on the first dirt road. It is strange to many to think of running as fun, but I was having fun.

The fun continued until near mile 6 when I made a questionable decision. I could have continued back toward home on the loop I planned and got my 7.5 or 8 miles in, but I felt good and decided to make a turn to extend the run. With the turn, I was running against a strong, gusting wind and largely uphill. This road was busier and I ran on the gravel shoulder much of the time. About a mile in on this road, I almost ran over a BIG SNAKE.

The snake was just curled up on the side of the road and, as I noticed it, I side stepped it by a couple feet. I don't know if it was dead or alive and I didn't look back to find out. Looking it up, I think it was a Blue Racer. Not venomous, but I don't think I wanted to step on it anyway. Did I mention it was a BIG SNAKE? :)

After the snake encounter, I really started to lose energy. I didn't drink or eat anything before I took off and was starting to weaken. It seemed like it took forever to get to the road I was planning to turn on and I was fading. I made it to the last turn and was hoping to make it back, but I was running out of gas. I made it past the 10 mile mark and I was done.

I walked for about a mile, but figured I was still about 3 miles from home, so I called for a rescue from my better half. While tempted to call before on a run, this is the first time I actually did. I walked nearly another mile and she picked me up and brought me home.

It was a good run, but was more mileage than I should have done after 2 weeks with no long run. (I forget that this was only my fifth run of 10 miles or more) Next time, I'll stick to my plan. Next weekend, I will either find a race or I may do the "practice run" taking place at mountain bike trail at Pontiac Lake Rec Area. This was the site of perhaps my toughest run ever. It would be nice to take this on with others.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Back 2 Back

I ran a race yesterday (as noted in the previous post) and while I had fun, I was not completely thrilled with how I did. I now see that setting a PR is always good and that, as I keep working, the times will continue to drop.

Late last night, I decided to run another race today because I still wanted to race and it was very close to home. I wasn't too sore from the day before, but I rarely even run at all on consecutive days. To race two days in a row was a bit silly, but I didn't care. I wasn't going to be worried about times, I just wanted to race.

The Run at the Farm 5k was a hilly, cross country course at a local park. While I didn't hurt, my strides didn't seem to have much power behind them. Running on the grass and up hills didn't help matters. I ran a bit behind the main pack to start and gradually, the best runners pulled away and left me alone in the no-mans land I always seem to end up in, way behind the leaders, but somewhere between the good runners and the next tier of runners. About half way into the race, another runner caught up to me and we ran together most of the rest of the race. Another one caught us with about 3/4 mile left and we all ran together in a pack towards the finish. They both passed me with about 1/4 mile left but I made a charge at the end, caught one but didn't quite close the gap with the other. I ended up 2nd in my age group and had a nice time.

I don't plan to race twice in one weekend again, and probably won't run consecutive weekends on a normal basis. As you would guess, I ran best when I was adequately rested and it gets expensive to run these races. It was fun this weekend though. :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

The Great Pumpkin 5k

I ran the Great Pumpkin 5k in Davison, MI this morning. I rustled the family out of bed early and we all rode up to the race at Davison High School. It was a great morning with perfect running weather.

I wanted to do this race because the course looked flat and fast (it was). Perfect conditions to set a personal record and meet my goal of a 24 minute 5k in 2011.

At the start of the race, I went out way too fast. My goal was to keep 7:20 (or 23 min) pace for as long as I could. For the first half mile, I was closer to 6:45, though by the end of the first mile, I was at 7:10. I was struggling a lot more with my breathing than I thought I would and the second mile was at 7:44 - still at 24 minute pace. The last mile was just bad - 8:35. While I finished the very end strong, my time was disappointing - 24:45 (24:40 per my watch and the clock).

While I was disappointed, it was an adult 5k PR by well over a minute and I finished in 3rd place in my age group. After I had a little time to be ticked off that I didn't meet my goal, I realized that, with my half marathon training, it had been nearly a month since I ran anywhere near 5k pace. Most of my runs were at a slower, half marathon pace or less. You run like you train, and I haven't been training for a 5k since June!

The other thing I noticed about today's race is that the course was almost a tenth of a mile long. I was hoping that my Garmin would show that I did the 5k distance in 24 minutes, but it was actually 24:15. It is closer and makes me feel a little less badly. :) While the result wasn't what I expected, I ran as well I ever have, got a medal and had a good time.

There was a kids race after the 5k was done and my lil' boy decided he wanted to run - right before the race started (not earlier when I could have registered him). He was upset as the kids ran by, so I told him to just go. So, he joined the race as a bandit runner and was cute as he ran around the track. He even got the plastic metal and a lollipop when he was done.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Fine First Half Marathon

I ran the Brooksie Way Half Marathon this morning, finishing in 2:04:47. This beat my "official" goal of 2:05 (though I didn't quite make my "fantasy" goal of 2 hours even.) This followed up a 2:10 practice run a couple weeks ago, a run that I thought went really well.

The Brooksie Way course is known as a difficult one. The first half of it is largely downhill, while the second half, particularly miles 7 - 10, is brutally hilly. During that stretch, there first big hill is quite steep and the second seems endless.

I wanted that 2 hour time, even though I am not "there" yet. I went really fast (for me) the first few miles, but did so comfortably. I know they say you can't "bank" time in a race like this, but as long as I was feeling good, I was going to keep it up. On a flat course, I might have had a look at the 2 hour mark, but for today, I'm happy with how it went.

I've been battling something (a pulled muscle or IT band thing?) in my right thigh and it really seemed to flare up around mile 5. It hurt and it probably affected my pace a bit, but it didn't get worse and I dealt with it as best I could.

Near the end of the race, I knew I was close to the 2:05 time and was determined not to miss it. Once you get over an hour on my GPS watch, it doesn't show seconds, but I knew I was close. The best part of my race was the last .1 mile, where I decided I was going to lay out and go with everything I had left up the hill to the finish. I passed about 8 people up that hill and crossed the finish line in as close to a sprint as I could muster. I couldn't have done that any earlier, my right leg was in agony as I crossed the finish line. Had that not been the end of the race, I'm not certain that I could have continued, my leg was done. I wonder if they were taking pictures there at the finish. I'm guessing that I had quite an expression on my face.

Considering it was my first half marathon and my first race ever in excess of 4 miles, I think today was a great success and served as a fine payoff for months of effort.