Monday, December 31, 2012

Week 31: Ending the calendar year

Mon 12/24  4 miles on Cottonwood

Tue 12/25  4 miles on Cottonwood
Wed 12/26  4 miles on Cottonwood. Overnight 3 inches of rain fell. The Cottonwood Trail runs through the floodplain of the Lawson’s Fork Creek, and I love going there after so much rain because you can really see how the floodplain works. In the dark, I could hear the creek flowing hard and deep, and the trail itself was under water in the usual places—out by the wetlands in particular. The full moon was out, and Venus and Mars floated around it. A nicer camera would have gotten better photos.

Thu 12/27 4 miles around the neighborhood

Sat 12/29 18 miles at Croft.  I set off to run longer, but, and you’d think I’d learn after 30 years of running, I bonked from not eating enough breakfast. Generally I get up, eat, and am out to run within an hour. Today, not meeting anyone else, I dawdled at home. I should have eaten twice before I ran.  I also ran one of the hardest loops out here, with endless ups and downs, some of them steep. From what I’ve read about the Ice Age course, Croft will be good training grounds.  By the end of this one I was doing some walking, energy-less despite hitting a few gels in a row. Even though it was chilly, I didn’t drink enough water, either. Eating and drinking remain my difficulties, especially during training without aid stations to use as cues.

from Southside: Centerline to Lizard to Southside Loop over the bridge to Fairforest to Jerry Perry to New Edition to the Lake Trail to the riding ring and back across the bridge to Southside Loop to Centerline.

I love a full creek.

The floodplain in action.

Flood plain functions.

What qualifies as a peak at Croft.
I love these areas of moss, found throughout the park.

As always, Bristol the Enduro-Dog amazes me.

Required lake shot.

 Sun 12/30  8 ½ miles at Croft. I went out this afternoon in clear sunshine and chilly temperatures. I wasn’t sure how I’d respond to yesterday’s long run, especially with bonking at the end, which often leaves me feeling pretty sore. I felt good, though, and ran one of my favorite trails, with longer climbs than most out here. I have to say that it always feels good to drop mountain bikers, even when they’re just other old guys (do y’all read this blog, Ralph and Steve?), and the technical drops and climbs are my strengths.

from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto to the Chapters to Palmetto
Total  42 ½ miles in six runs

This was my first week with six runs since June, and my first over 40 miles since May. I’m starting to get that fitness feeling, and Sunday’s run was the best example: despite a long run on Saturday, I felt smooth and easy through a hard loop. The weekday runs were fun, all in the dark with a bright moon rising. Even the sloppy parts were satisfying. I could have done a longer run, but with the kids home, and my gorgeous off, taking 35 minutes or so to run from home fit well. Eventually I’ll add that longer run midweek.

As for planning, I will run a 50K once a month, and an over-20 once a month. This was a good start, with the Last Chance 50K; I’ll take the 26 ½ mile weekend. I had registered for the Uwharrie 40 mile run, but will have to drop out: travel with L for her auditions takes precedence, and with the joy of seeing my child grow and expand, I will miss it.

Just discovered this stuff this week. I find the first song remarkably moving, and all of it fun.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Week 30: Much thanks to the Pisgah Nation

Sat  12/22 10 miles at Croft. I took a very easy week after the Last Chance 50K. My quads were pretty well wrecked on Sunday, and Monday wasn’t a whole lot better. But Tuesday I felt pretty good, and settled for my usual bike ride to work. I could have run other days, but clearly my 50K run was harder on me than I thought. 

Today I got out with Carroll--always a treat in itself--to run a trail I’ve only run a couple of times before. We decided to cut off a chunk of what was certain to be a mud bath and ran down the road to pick up the bottom half of the new trail. The lake was especially beautiful, though the water was pretty muddy.

from the riding ring: Fairforest Connector to Jerry Perry to the camp road to Jerry Perry

Sun 12/23 5 miles on Cottonwood.

Total: 15 miles in 2 runs

One of the bonuses of this year’s running was going up to North Carolina to run with the PIsgah Nation (including a birthday run and a puke-fest), a group that puts on a fun run a month in the mountains. These folks are awesome, running for running’s sake, for the beauty of the mountains, and for the friendships that develop on the trail. Here’s to y’all, and to more time in the woods.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

I'm in the Ice Age Trail 50

I registered for the Ice Age Trail 50, my goal race for Team Fox and my fund-raising efforts. The race sold out pretty quickly, so I am glad to have gotten in. In the past few years there have been some real studs (non-gender specific) there, which will add a neat attraction.
While there's certainly time before my race, I'm asking you to join my efforts to raise $5000 for Team Fox whose proceeds benefit the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research. Clicking on the logo to the right will get you directly to my personal page. All donations are tax deductible. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Last Chance 50K: You take what you get

My friend Joe, young, strong, fearless, said, “I like technical trails and long climbs.” We were standing at the start of the Last Chance 50K, a first-time race using a piece of the Palmetto Trail in the Francis Marion National Forest in southeastern South Carolina. The national forest extends through the coastal plain halfway between Myrtle Beach and Charleston. Technical trails, maybe, but certainly no long climbs.

With Joe after the race. 
          I’d looked at the topo maps, I’d read a little about the trail. “We’re not going to get that here, Joe,” I said. “You have to take what you get. We’re going to get flat and wide.”
Just saying it made it a little more real to me. I knew we were in for a flat run, “no clues about when to walk,” I’d been telling friends. Nothing around us told us any different as we sat near the junction of Alligator, Copperhead and Rattlesnake Roads, and a sandy access road disappeared into the distance away from the start area. I didn’t know what to expect from such a run.
The out-and-back race started with little fanfare, a small crowd of 50K and relay runners standing around fairly amorphously. A mess of folks went out ahead of me onto the wide single track, and the first mile was the usual jockeying and passing. The trail itself was uneven, lumpy, uncomfortable even so early in the race. I thought about how uncomfortable that could be on the way back in. At three or four miles, we hit a more even tread at the top of a dike between even lower lying swampy areas. 
Deep thick woods of cypress and pine bordered us, the trail a straight line with little variation. I hit the five mile mark--2 1/2 miles from the first (and third) aid station--in 45 minutes and some seconds. About what I figured, and though I had some nagging soreness in my right Achilles, I felt good so far. The first aid station came and went; I lingered there, saying I was running four times between aid stations today. The volunteers were in good moods, and because the aid stations were also relay exchanges, it was fairly packed. 
The second leg changed to include hardwoods, mostly beech I’d say. The trail wandered through the woods, with lots of turns but still no elevation changes. This was maybe technical, but without the difficulty of climbs and descents, I couldn’t tell. Ten miles passed in 1:34, right on the low-9-minute miles I had run so far. 
Through this part I ran with Vincent who had run a marathon or longer in all 50 states--twice. After the race he was heading to run the Jacksonville Marathon the next day, on his way to 100 races 26.2 miles or longer in the year. I was amazed at his consistency.
We crossed a few dirt roads, each section just a little different from the previous one. We ran through pine forests, down a long straight-away, through a long section with tall grasses and very few trees. At 2:26, I came to the second aid station and turn-around point. Again I lingered, longer than the first time, eating, joking with the volunteers and relay runners, making sure I drank enough water.
The way back was obviously more familiar. I was tiring, but I knew what the splits had been, and with such a flat course I knew if I hit the same splits I would finish right at 5 hours. But I was not in this one for a time. My quads were already pretty wiped out, but the flat miles just kept ticking by. At one point I saw we were approaching a small rise that I noticed on the way out as a decline. I wondered how it would feel with tired quads, but I didn’t even notice. I think this race had about zero feet of elevation gain and loss.
I was running alone now, as I had been since I left Vincent at about mile 11. I hit the last aid station with 7 1/2 miles to go in 3:46. I had spent enough time alone to know what my splits had been all along. If I stayed even and ran the last section in what I run it in at the start, I would finish in 4:55. I even left the aid station without lingering, and started off down the trail with another 50k runner. 
“Sub five, you think?” I said to her. “Yep,” she answered.
After a half mile or so I was still feeling good, and feeling like I was slowing down too much. I passed her, gradually pulling slightly ahead. We hit the straight sections, closing in on the five-miles-to-go mark. I was slowing, though, and feeling hungry and tired. 
We hit the mark right on, but I stopped to eat a gel. I started in again, and told myself I’d run ten minutes, then walk two, then run ten and so on until I finished. I knew I was giving up a sub-five-hour time. I made it in, and did indeed grumble about the last couple of miles of pitted, lumpy trail. I passed several runner, and kept up the 10-2 sequence again.                     
           Then, at eight minutes into the next cycle, I felt a cramp in my hamstring, the first of the race. I immediately slowed to walk, and decided I’d walk two minutes. I started running again, and soon finished, crossing the line in 5:01:36, so close to sub-five, but 44 minutes faster my previous PR for the distance.

Almost there. Just before this photo was taken,
I looked up to see my Gorgeous.
Not much beats that.

It’s true I can’t compare the two courses: Terrapin climbs 7500 feet in its course. And I was in much better shape for the two Terrapin races I’ve run. But what a neat experience to be able to run (almost) the whole way, keep things slow and even, a much different head game than a mountain run with lots of climbing. Because of the flat terrain, combined with the out-and-back course, I had lots of neat data to look at.
Here’s where I prove that Paul Ryan lied about his marathon time; he didn’t mis-remember, or whatever he said. Runners remember these kinds of things, and here’s the resulting data.

Start  00:00

5 miles 45:00

First Aid (7.5)
in 1:07

out 1:12
     10 miles 1:34

Second Aid (15.5)
in 2:26
out 2:32
21 miles 3:23

Third Aid (23.5)
in 3:46
out 3:48
26 miles 4:11

Finish 5:01:36

           Look at all it shows. The splits were almost exactly even: 1:14 for the second and third legs--the same miles run in both directions. I ran the first leg in 1:07, and back to the finish in 1:13. There are the six minutes from my 4:55 on-course figuring. It gets closer: the 2 1/2 miles stretch between the 5 mile mark and the aid station at 7.5 miles passed in 23 minutes. On the way back, I ran the same section in 23 minutes. The 2 1/2 miles from the first aid station to the 10 miles mark I ran in 22 minutes. I ran it in 22 minutes on the way back. The 6 1/2 miles from the ten-mile mark to the turn around I ran in 52 minutes; I ran it back in 51 minutes. I ran the last five mile section in 51 minutes, 6 minutes slower than on the way out. I’m pretty thrilled with that even pacing.
I also managed to say funny things at each aid station. At the first and third, the guy tracking us and I joked about my leading the bearded-guys-with-tattoos division. I sang “The Wheels on the Bus” both times. I arrived at the turn-around to a crowd. I hoped C would be there, so I pulled in and hollered, “Who wants to be my girlfriend?” hoping she would come out of the crowd to kiss me. It was still funny without her there, just not as dramatic.
So I too prefer technical trails with lots of climbing, but I took what I got, and had a great time. Chad Haffa and Eagle Endurance did a great job organizing the event. The course was very well marked, the volunteers were enthusiastic and helpful. Assuming we do indeed make it past December 21 (the reason it’s the Last Chance 50K), I’ll try to fit it into my schedule again next year. 

Front of the very cool medallion.
Back of the medallion.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Weeks 26, 27, 28, 29: Last Chance 50K

Week ending November 27

Wed 11/21  8 1/2 miles at Croft. I haven’t been on the Chapters in some time, and it was great to get back out there. I stayed very slow on purpose, knowing that getting the socks at the Turkey Day 8K was getting harder, and they’re only going 75 deep this year.

from Dairy Ridge: Palmetto to the Chapters to Palmetto  

Thu 11/22  9 miles, including the Turkey Day 8k (4.78 miles this year).

Fri 11/23  2 miles

Sat 11/24 5 miles. This run left me nervous about a sore Achilles and generally sore legs.

Sun 11/25 0. 

Total 23 1/2 miles in 4 runs

Week ending December 2

Fri 11/31  4 miles, including 2 miles barefoot

November totals: 70 miles in 11 runs (missing one week, ending November 19)
Year-to-date: 1314 miles in 210 runs

Sat 12/1  4 miles on Cottonwood. Still felt sore, especially in my right Achilles.

Sun 12/2  18 miles at Croft. Phew! The last opportunity I’d have to run long before the Last Chance 50K. Ran 1 lap early enough to meet Ben at the parking lot for another lap. I probably ran too hard showing Ben the trails, which he didn’t know well. I thought I’d run 20, but felt good about cutting it a little short. This one gave me a little burst of confidence.

from Southside: First loop: Southside Loop Trail; 2nd loop: Fern Gully to Southside Loop to Rock Creek to Centerline

Total 22 miles in 2 runs

Week ending December 9 

Wed 12/5 4 miles on Cottonwood.

Thu 12/6 4 miles on Cottonwood.

I didn’t run at all on the weekend, which is the traditional Nutcracker weekend. With Q in his 7th performance, this time as the Nutcracker himself, and my mom and nephew coming into town, there was now way I was going to go running more than a few miles around the neighborhood. I didn’t run a step.

Not actually Quinn's part, but an amazing
dress rehearsal photo.
credit: Spartanburg Herald Journal

Total 8 miles in two runs.

Week ending December 16

Wed 12/12  3 miles at Myrtle Beach. I felt like crap. Dead legged, sore, cold, wet--just not a good run. Shook it off.

Thu 12/13  5 miles at Myrtle Beach. A fun run from Black Dog Running Shop in downtown Myrtle Beach. We ran from the store down to Ocean Boulevard, past the location of the old Pavilion (the “no-villion,” C called it) and up past the Gay Dolphin, a ferris wheel, lots of lights and kitsch. Good shakeout and a little confidence builder.

Sat 12/15  31 miles (Last Chance 50K): 5:01:36 (PR). Report coming soon.

Total 39 miles in three runs

Another version of this song that I sang through the Last Chance 50K.

"He shook it like a holy roller, baby, with his soul at stake."