Saturday, February 21, 2009

Running On Cloud Nine

I haven't ran double digit miles since the last week of October. In fact the longest run was a 6.2 mile run last weekend. I knew that I had to A) get a double digit run in before the 50k, and B) run in the hills with double digits in order to simulate the 50k conditions.

I've always felt that all the conditioning a runner needs in order to be able to complete a marathon or 50k is to be able to run 12-13 miles in similar conditions to the intended race (i.e. road for a road marathon, hills for a trail marathon or 50k). Anything beyond 12-13 is all heart and your ability to be on your feet for that long. Not too mention that any running beyond 12-13 is where you would improve your time. But all you need is 12-13. So I knew I had to run at least 12 in the mountains today.

So I turned to my favorite hill running place cause it has some long hills, steep inclines, gradual climbs and so on. It has it all. So off to Lexington Dam I went. At first I thought I was screwed for next weekend, but then things fell in to place.

First Lap - 4 miles (41 minutes)

The first lap starts at the dam parking lot and goes immediately up a very steep hill. I decided for some idiotic reason to run the first hill, which is about a quarter mile long, and then cruise down the hill for the next 1.75 miles. Huge mistake. My body isn't used to that type of running so I was dead tired after only .25 in to my intended 12 mile run. My saliva was thick, I was breathing heavy and my legs were heavy. I already started questioning myself and thinking maybe I should only do one loop and call it a day. I felt like this for the first 2.5 miles despite all down hill after the first steep hill. How could I possibly consider a trail 50k if I could barely complete a 4 mile trail run?

Things improved drastically. My breathing came under control, a little water helped my saliva and the gradual uphill stretched my legs out. When all was said and done I ran it in 41 minutes. No too bad. I was rejuvenated.

Lap Two - 4 miles (42 minutes)

Lap two is arguably harder than lap 1 because the uphill, though not as steep, stretches for over a mile. So after I turned around and ran down the dam, doing the previous loop in reverse, I was able to make up some good time. I eventually got to the top of the hill and knew that I would easily be able to run a third lap. I came in at 42 minutes, which shocked me. A harder loop and yet I ran it almost the same. In fact I don't think I have ever ran this loop this fast.

Lap 3 - 4 miles (42 minutes)

After I reached the dam again I turned around and repeated lap 1. This time, however, I was not going to repeat lap 1's mistake. I walked the whole first quarter mile. Got to the top and cruised down, feeling great as I opened up and ran downhill fast than I had all day. I eventually took the long and gradual climb back up the dam, walking a couple of steeps, before coming in to the car in just under 2:06, or a 42 minute third lap.

I couldn't believe that I had ran such consistent laps, something I have never been able to do here. I've ran these loops a lot and always tired and ran a much slower lap. In fact I have only ran the three loop combo once and that was at the prime of my running last year. I ran it today 7 minutes faster.

I think that I will be able to complete the 50k. Maybe not my best, but I know I can complete it. Only problem is that it is supposed to rain all week, including Friday night and some on Saturday. If this happens will I have to bow out? I don't think I want to run a 50k in mud and rain. I guess play it by ear, but it isn't looking too good. But that doesn't take away from my absolutely great run today...

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Running the Valentine 10k For My Heart

I had one goal coming in to this 10k, which stemmed from how my training had been going: run a sub 50 minute. I didn't meet the goal in one way, but I did in another.

Valentine Fun Run 10k - 50:31 (8:09 pace; 94/459)

Last year this time I was 10 pounds lighter and ran my fastest 10k ever at this very same race. I had no misguided hopes of repeating last year. In fact I didn't even think I would come close to that time. With no running in November and December I had to wait until today before I could even begin thinking about running a race again, using January and the first half of February to train some. Even that was few and far between as I am still adjusting to the new job with earlier hours on top of trying to regain some of the endurance of last year. It will be tough, as it was when I originally started running in July of 2006, but I believe in muscle memory.

So I looked forward to this race, my first of the year and the one that will kick start my season to regain my fitness. So when I saw rain all day Thursday and Friday I began to wonder if I would run at all. I hadn't paid the entry fee yet, so I didn't have that monkey on my back, so I could have not ran if it rained. I played it by ear and woke up early. Listened for rain. Didn’t hear any. Peaked outside and saw the blue skies in between dark clouds. I would be running.

I set off for Campbell which is a short hop, skip and a jump away while I munched on a banana. As I pinned my bib number on I began to get the nervous flutters of an approaching race as the people milled around me. I haven't had that feeling for a long time. Felt good. So we lined up on the muddy grass and the horn went off just a little after 9. And muddy grass it was.

The lead gazelles took off while the rest of us gingerly ran through the dirty water and mud flying around before finally reaching the paved bike path and speeding up. Right away I knew I was probably running too fast. Recently I've found that if I start slow then I can gradually speed up and achieve the time I want and feel better doing it, whereas last year I could start off fast and do better even though I suffered towards the end. So when I ran the first mile in 7:27 I felt a little dismayed shortly before I realized that my legs were already starting to feel heavy.

I slowed it down some and pushed it to an 8:10 mile 2, but I think the damage was done. I was feeling tired and didn't really feel like pushing myself harder. Shortly before we reached the turn around the 2 lead runners came over the slight incline at a sprint, well ahead of the 3rd place runner. I trudged on, taking walking breaks to try and let my legs catch up to my lungs. When I hit mile 3 at 8:59 I knew I had to fix something or I would completely poop out. I started taking more regular walk breaks to let the muscles relax and the lungs slow down. This seemed to be doing the trick as mile 4 came in around 8:30. Still not great, but I was getting there.

At mile 5 I began to feel my juices return to my muscles, began to feel the discomfort lessen as I eased into my running. Mile 5 was around 8:18. All of a sudden the clouds parted, the sun shown down and the heavens sang to me as running became easy. I was cruising along at an easy gait, knowing that this type of running feels really good. Mile 6 came in around 7:57 and I kept speeding up, zooming in to the finish line just barely missing my main goal of a sub 50 min by 28 seconds.

I didn't really care though 'cause I felt good at the end. I took a lot of walk breaks, around 15 judging by the pace spikes in my Garmin software, and I was still able to run an 8:09 pace. So my speed is almost there, and my endurance is slowly catching up. But I didn't care. My ultimate goal was to run the 10k at a faster pace than my most recent 6 miler. This would show some improvement. So far I have ran 4 six milers this year (counting this 10k) and every single one was faster than the one previous. My last 6 miler was run at an 8:17 pace and came in at 49:44, thus the reason I was shooting for a sub 50. But ultimately it is my pace that matters, and not the time, since there is an extra .2 miles. So I have improved again, running an 8:08 pace, and proving to myself that I can get back in to shape.

Anyway, here's to always trying to stay in shape and remain healthy. I lost my way for a couple of months, but I am back. In fact I am forcing myself to train for a 50k that is in 2 weeks! A b-day present to myself as it will be the last day to run a 50k aged 31.