Thursday, March 27, 2008

Oak Mountain Park - Birmingham AL

I've been in Birmingham AL, Montgomery AL, Gainesville FL, Atlanta GA, and back to Birmingham on business this week. I ran in a park in Montgomery for 30 minutes just to work my way back into running after my 50 miler. Today, Thursday, I went to Oak Mountain Park to run trails. They have a website, and several trails to choose from. Ranging from around 6 miles to over 17 miles. I chose the white trail which is 6.4 miles one way. And of course I have to get back, so it is almost 13 miles round trip. I chose this trail because it sounded easy. Here is the description from their website.
"The White Trail, or the Shackleford Point Trail, is 6.4 miles long (one way). You must turn around and come back the way you came or pick up a connector trail to go a different way. It begins at the North Trail head and follows a path similar to the Blue Trail but at a lower elevation. The White Trail does climb to the highest point in the park, which is known as Shackleford Point at an elevation of 1,260 feet. The White Trail ends at the Peavine Falls parking lot."
I also chose it because it said it was similar to the Blue trail, but at a lower elevation. Now I also saw the part about climbing to the highest point in the park, but I didn't reconcile those two statements. In my mind this was a low elevation course. Wrong, this was the most technical course I've ever run. It was full of roots, rocks and lots of steep ascents and then descents. I did run all the way to the end, and then wanted to return at a faster pace. I will say this is a well marked trail. While it was harder than I thought it would be, I never felt like I was lost. I encountered a few hikers, and three very friendly dogs. They did worry me at first because they came running to me. Anyway it was a good run, I feel good, and I'm heading home tomorrow. I'll probably run with the running club Saturday, they're running 14 miles on hills.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Grasslands Run - 50 Miles

I tried my best to come up with an excuse to not run this race. Why? I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to do it. My first excuse, I’m undertrained. Since I ran a marathon about 5 weeks ago, my longest run was 14 miles last weekend, and I was beat after that. Nothing I can do about that, either I run or I don’t run. Second, it had rained hard just a few days before the run. This run is near Dallas, and you may have seen the news where flights out of DFW were cancelled because it rained so hard there. I was concerned about this because an experienced ultra runner I know, John, told me he dnf’ed here a few years ago because it was a soupy muddy, sandy mess. He has finished this race, and he said even in dry years the sand is a killer. So I emailed the race director, and here is what she said: “The trails should be in the best shape in the 10 years of the race! We needed the water to tamp down the sand traps. there will be some mud holes, but in general things are looking fabulous, including the weather!” Ok, scratch that excuse. Third, my father went into the hospital Tuesday, and had an operation on Wednesday, his third in less than 6 months. Shouldn’t I stay here and be with him? I knew that one didn’t hold water, he came through the operation in good shape, and he has so many visitors, he’s probably sick of seeing people. Ok, there is really nothing holding me back. So I decide to go ahead and decide to give it a try. I get to Decatur and check in to my hotel. This is a pretty low key run, so I pick up my race number and shirt, it’s nice, and then go to the store to pick up something to eat. March madness is going on, so I just went back to the room, set out everything in order, and then got in bed and watched basketball. I didn’t sleep well with all my thoughts about, can I do this, but just like a marathon, I didn’t worry about the lack of sleep. I got up, drove to the site, deep in the country. I got there about 30 minutes before the start, which I like so I didn’t have to wait around long. It was dark at the start, but I knew it would be light within 20 minutes, so I decided not to take my headlamp with me. We start, and I go real easy. This race is sort of like a cloverleaf, 4 different loops each ending up in the campground. They are approximately 15, 10, 15, and 10 miles each. My goals were in the following order, finish, finish under 12 hours, finish under 10 hours. I started running under a 12 minute/mile pace. I was fortunate to hook up with a young man who had done this race before. He was obviously faster than me, but he and I were together for about 2 loops since he was conserving his energy to run the second two loops a bit harder. He kept telling me; don’t even think about running the hills, especially since this is your first 50 miler. I don’t remember his name, but thanks for your awesome advice. During the first and second loops I had small nagging pains in my knee and calves. But they never got bad and in fact they eased up as I progressed. I did however have quite a few moments when I was thinking, can I do this. You read race reports about the ups and downs in an ultra, but now I really understand that. Loop 1, finished under 3 hours which kept me under a sub 12 min/mile pace. The aide station drink was Succeed which I have never tried. So I committed a running sin and used something I had not used in my training. The reason I did this was, I decided to not use my drop bag, I wanted to save time and to mix up the Sustained Energy I had brought would have added at least 5 minutes to each loop. And the aide stations were so well stocked, I decided I could make the entire race using them and my one bottle filling with Succeed when I needed it. Second loop finished, still under a 12 min/mile pace. Starting to feel fatigue though, and knowing that my pace will slow. I am still able to run however, and for the first time I’m starting to think, I can do this. Loop 3, my pace is now over 12 min/mile but not by much. I know I can’t make a sub 10, but sub 11 is still possible, if I don’t slow down too much. By the way, I lost a little time being lost on loop 3 following a couple of guys who said it was the wrong way. Turns out it was the right way, it just wasn’t marked for about ½ a mile. Probably only lost 7-10 minutes, not a problem. At the beginning of loop 4 the young man who had been my guide caught up to me. What? He had left me during the 2 loop, so I knew something was wrong. He said hello again, and I asked what happened. He said he had gotten lost for over 2 miles and had injured his foot. I could tell he was real bummed out about it and I tried to encourage him. He passed me, but soon was walking again. I passed him, and didn’t see him again. During loop 4 I saw that I might have a shot at 10:30, I tried to keep running but when I’d hit the hills they would take a lot out of me, and I was on the verge of some stomach problems, so I decided not to try to run them. I did still run all the flats and downhills. And I amazed myself by being able to do that. Well folks, I finished in around 10:38. I don’t have my official time but that is what their clock said as I was finishing. My watch said 10:39 so it was somewhere in that area. Results aren’t up yet. I received my finishers buckle, I will post some pictures later, and then went to sit down for a few minutes. I knew I needed to eat and to walk some, but I had to sit down first. After changing my shoes and socks, no problems at all with my feet, I got up and walked around for about 10 minutes. I still had a 3 hour drive back to Oklahoma City, so I got a Bar-B-Q sandwich to go, headed to my car, and headed home. I am so grateful to have been able to finish this race. Grateful that I have no apparent injuries and feel pretty good one day later. Thank you all for taking the time to read this.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Back to Racing - St Paddy's Run

I was really ready to race again. I got up this morning and dressed for what I thought would be a cool but mild day. Wrong, it was cold and windy this morning at the lake. I had on shorts and took a very light jacket that I hadn't planned on racing in.
I kept the jacket on for the start and ran for about 2 miles in it until we got back to the start area, and I threw it to a lady standing on the side lines.
I decided I wasn't going to try and P R for this race, but that I would start out easy, and see how things went, especially since we would start into the wind. I did that, and at the first turn around I started to pick things up a bit. I didn't see any of my main rivals, but there are a couple that I don't know by sight. I started passing runners, and saw a guy that runs close to my pace. I caught him and passed him just before the turn around that sent us back into the wind. He doesn't like me to beat him, so I figured he'd pass me again. I heard him right behind me and he did pass me beside the lake. This didn't bother me since he is 28 and I figured I'd draft him for awhile but not let him get away from me. There was one guy up ahead that I thought might be in my age group, and after reading the results, I see that he was. So I'm glad I passed him before the finish. I finished fairly strong and wasn't upset that my time, 36:32 was a little slower than I'd like, but it was about 20 seconds faster than last year. Overall I felt pretty good during this race, I had ups and downs, but no serious downs. My hamstrings are a little sore right now, but that's not bad.
Tomorrow I plan to run an easy 14 with the running club, and then a week from today, Saturday March 22, is my 50 mile race.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

California Trails

Sunday and Monday I got a refresher course on why I love coming to California. I searched online for some trails longer than 5 miles one way. I found one within 10 minutes of where I'm staying in San Jose. It's call Alum Rock Park, and the trails there offer anything you could want from flat to steep and long hills (mountains?). I ran there Sunday, but only had about 1 1/2 hours of daylight. Monday, I got an early start and planned to run for 3 hours. Since I now knew the course somewhat, I parked at the beginning of the trail and started out. I had the trails almost to myself in contrast to Sunday when the trails were full of walkers and hikers. Monday I took several side trails to the tops of very steep hills. On the far end of this trail, it goes up and up, and on a very narrow trail. The trick for me, I'm a bit acrophobic, was to run without looking down. From time to time I'd stop, look down, then continue. After reaching the top of the mountain I had a great view of the valley below. I should have run with my camera, but I try to run with as little as possible. On the run back, I encountered rabbits, squirrels, deer, and I think a beaver. Most of the trail is right beside a creek. After this great run, I drove into San Francisco to have dinner with an old friend. We drove into Sausalito and ate at this great restaurant that was right on the bay. I love this area.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Training - Illness - 25k

After getting back from Pittsburgh Tuesday, I decided to run around Draper lake. I've done it before, but it's been awhile, and I was refreshing my memory for the upcoming Beacon on the Bay 25k. I like Draper because there are very few people running there. The downside is that there is some traffic all the way around. Anyway I did an easy 14 miles around the lake. Then on Thursday, I felt a little ill. I had a meeting to go to, but felt like I would be ok. I travelled to the meeting, and got very ill in the meeting and had to leave. I went home, got in bed and stayed there to the next morning. That morning I had to meet with someone early, so I went, then went on to work. I felt better as the day went on, but spent a lot of time in my "other office." I was torn on whether to try and run the race, but with my 50 mile attempt coming up in a couple of weeks, I decided to skip the 25k. Saturday morning I felt fairly good, but decided to stick with my decision not to run. I got up, went to the lake and picked up my packet and then went back home. I would have volunteered, but decided that I didn't need to be out in the cold that long. Tomorrow, I travel to San Francisco. I am going to try and find some trails to run tomorrow.
To those of you that did run the 25k Great Job by you all.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Speed Work & Trails

Wednesday I was able to do my speed work. The weather here has been great, so I went to the park and did my Yasso 800's. I did 6 @ 3:30 or a 7 minute/mile pace. I actually do 1/2's which is just a tad longer than 800 meters. They were tough, but I had no problem doing them. I finished with a total of 6 miles including rest intervals and warmup/cooldown. Thursday I was going to take a day off, but my son wanted to run, and I like to encourage him, so I ran a very easy 4.5 miles. Friday, I ran the yellow trails at Draper lake. This is a moderately technical short trail. I did it in 40 minutes and had to keep it short because the sun was going down. Today, Saturday, I'm in a hotel in Pittsburgh. It is cold and there is snow on the ground. I wasn't worried because I knew the hotel had a workout room with treadmills. After I settled in, I went down there to run a bit, and found two treadmills with signs on them saying they were out of order. Bummer, so I got on the elliptical and did 30 minutes, and then did a circuit on the weight machines. After 30 minutes of that, I decided to see if I could get one of the treadmills to work. I like working on things that others say can't work, and I did get one to work. I did an easy 20 minutes, shut it off, and put the sign back on it. It will be my little secret.