Friday, November 27, 2009

Something to be thankful for

After the end of October in Colorado I pretty much give up being able to run comfortably outdoors without extensive winter gear.  Every once in a while the temperature will creep into the 50s but those are rare days.  Today was something even more rare.  The high was 68 degrees.  68 degrees at the end of November!  I did an easy 8 mile run north of Colorado Springs into the Air Force Academy--no shirt the whole time--at the end of November!  It was great.     

Monday, November 23, 2009

3 hours and 15 minutes of misery, but I made it

It was time for my first relatively long run since the marathon about a month ago.  The weather was supposed to be amazing (mid-50s in November doesn't happen too often in Colorado) so I decided to head back up to Gold Camp Road.  The road was covered in snow pack in areas but for the most part it was clear and dry. 

At the beginning of the run it was around 50 degrees.  With the cool mountain breeze this was just warm enough to work up a good sweat in the sun and have that sweat turn into an icy chill in the shade.  Something just wasn't right from the get go.  Earlier in the day I had attended a funeral for a former co-worker so my mental state wasn't ideal.  Physically I just couldn't get going.  My legs felt like lead weights from the first step to the end of the run.  I was struggling the entire time whether I was going uphill or down.  My hamstrings were tights and this caused my upper abs to over-compensate and they fatigued quickly.  I couldn't find my usual form.

My goal was to run for 3 hours and 15 minutes.  I approached my wife in the car around 2 hours and 45 minutes into the run.  While filling up my water bottle she asked, "How's it going?"  I responded, "Miserable.  I'm freezing and my legs are destroyed."   "Maybe it's time to be done?" she offered.  I thought about it.  For the past hour or so I'd been thinking about it.  I knew if I quit before my desired time that I'd regret it.  I knew it would destroy my confidence and eat away at me before my next run.  I also knew that, if I had any chance at completing an ultra, I had to get the word "quit" out of my vocabulary.  I had to shift my definiton of discomfort; I had to learn to block out the messages that my body was sending me telling me it was time to throw in the towel and I had to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter what.  I walked for a few minutes and then started to run again.  I finished the 3 hours and 15 minutes covering around 16 miles (I don't have my Garmin in front of me for the exact distance).  Considering the elevation, my physical and mental state, and the fact that I walked for a little bit, a 12:00 average pace wasn't so terrible.  But, it was far worse than where I needed to be (or what I was normally capable of).

It was definitely one of the top 5 worst runs I've ever had.  I don't think I fueled well enough that morning (I had a small breakfast and then only ate a bag of chips before I started the run around noon, I don't know what I was thinking?).  My mental state wasn't great.  My legs didn't want to cooperate.  Looking back it was a terrible run for building base mileage or covering terrain.  But, for continuing on despite every inch of my body telling me to stop, it was a perfect test (and success).


Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fall Series III

I came down with a cold immediately following the marathon. The cold, combined with the soreness in my legs, kept me from running for two weeks following the race. I spent about 1.5 days after the race sitting around icing my sore ankle and soaking in the experience of what happened on race day. After that, I was pissed. Pissed that I did so poorly. Pissed that I really hadn’t prepared enough (despite convincing myself that I had). Pissed that my legs hurt so bad (both during the race and afterwards). It was then, when the sense of defeat gave way to anger, that I searched the internet for another marathon—I had to redeem myself. I had to truly conquer the distance. Of course, living in Colorado meant that the Denver marathon towards the end of October was the last marathon of the season. There wasn’t another local 26.2 until the following spring. The next closest race was in Arizona but with the holidays coming up I didn’t have enough time off of work to travel for running. Redemption would have to wait. But, it was time to get back on the trail.

I visited the website for the Pikes Peak Road Running Club and noticed that the 3rd race of their Fall Series was the following day. I hadn’t run any previous races in the series because I was focused on the marathon and the distances of the races were too short to fit into my training. The 6 miles of trail running for race number 3 would be a perfect first post-marathon run.

The race began with one lap around the track of a middle-school and then veered onto the trails of Ute Valley Park. Ute Valley Park is a section of open space that has miles of trails with steep inclines covered in rocks and roots. After the first mile on the trail the pain in my legs let me know that they weren’t fully healed from the marathon. No problem, my I.T. band issues had gotten me used to running with pain. The course went onto single-track at mile 1.5 or so and didn’t get off for a mile or two. This time was frustrating as I got stuck to far back in the pack and the pace was much slower than I would have liked. Passing was impossible and I only gained one spot when the runner directly in front of me caught his foot on a tree root and tumbled to the ground (I stopped to help him up before continuing…in front of him).

By the time the course was again wide enough for passing it was incredibly steep and made doing so nearly impossible. I was now in the last 1/3 of the race and I was exhausted. The steep inclines and the technical terrain had taken its toll on my not fully recovered body and mind. I walked the inclines and ran when I could. I finished the race with a time of almost exactly 1 hour. Over 6 miles my average pace was 10:00—much slower than I could normally run but for the first run after the marathon it served its purpose. It got me back on the trail and pushed me harder than I probably would have otherwise pushed myself. Time to get back in the game.