Friday, November 20, 2009

Feelin' Good

Been enjoying a runner's high the past couple days.  I've put more mileage in than I have in a long time.  Wednesday evening I ran the approximately 10mi Land's End loop at Clinton Lake.  The guys (Nick, Jim B., and Justin) were nice enough to let me lead.  Ok I didn't really ask.  I just got in front.  I wanted to lead since I figured I would be the slowest and wanted to set the speed.  The run felt great!  I did get a little clumsy toward the end (a good indication of fatigue) but was able to keep up the pace anyway.  I'd forgotten that Clinton has some pretty decent hills out past 3mi.  The leaf-covered, mud-slicked hills were challenging in my New Balance 790's.  I love these shoes!  They're light and built for speed, but not built to propel efficiently through mud.  Despite their limitations in slippery mud, I would be hesitant to wear anything else since I've become so accustomed to the lightness of the shoe.  It's hard for me to go back to the collection of big clunkers I have lined up in the hall at home.

After Wednesday night's run, I wasn't sure I'd be able to do the planned 9mi with Coleen on Thursday on the River Trails.  But by run time my legs felt fine.  I figured I'd do a 4.5mi warm-up loop then see how I felt.  I had it in my head that we would run slower the second loop but when we started, I noticed we were going just as fast, if not faster.  But with all our chatting, I stopped thinking about the speed and let my legs do the work!  The river trails are pretty nontechnical so it's easy to run without thinking about running.  Before I knew it, we were done with the second loop!  I felt great!  I was really surprised that I ran 9mi at a decent pace the day after a 10mi run.  Seems like I'm finally getting back in shape.

Now, I'm thinking about running Sander's Saunter 10k this weekend...AFTER I'm done with registration duties of course!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Hills: The Saga Continues

Mental Battle
When I woke up yesterday, I did what any normal person does first thing in the morning, checked Twitter and Facebook.  I saw many exciting comments about a beautiful layer of snow on the ground, so I eagerly peaked out the window to find...a bunch of wet and no snow.  Drats!  Must be those sneaky KCers who got the sticky snow!  My level of motivation for the day plummeted into the basement somewhere and I didn't feel like going down there to get it.  I didn't feel like going anywhere as a matter of fact.  I daydreamed of staying indoors all day, snuggled under my favorite (and only) blue microfiber blanket, IMing with the Nickster from the comfort of the couch.  But alas, I had things to do.  1) Class, 2) Hill Repeats. 

Class, hmmmm, I could just skip it, right?  Nobody would care if I didn't go to class.  Oh yeah, I guess they would.  There's only one other student in class and when I told my professor I wouldn't make the first day, he canceled class.  I would be in deep doodies if I just skipped class.  I guess I gotta go to class.

Hill repeats, hmmmm.  Not only would I have to run around in the cold rain, but I'd also spend an hour and a half driving in the rain to SMP and back.  That sounds PARTICULARLY unappealing.  Not being able to fit into my pants sounds unappealing too.  This isn't going to be the only crappy day this winter.  I'll turn into a big slacker if I start off like this!  But it's really gross out!  I think I'll just stay in tonight and be guilty. 

Luckily, my friend Coleen texted me asking if I would be attending the run.  I responded indecisively, hoping that she was also feeling indecisive, leading us BOTH to decide to call it off which would ease the guilt.  Alas, she was DECISIVE!  She would be going and reminded me that if I started wimping out early it would begin a pattern of wimpiness that would carry through the rest of the season.  I caved to reason.  I still wasn't enthused about the run, but knowing I'd get to hang out with Coleen and my friends made it seem sort of ok. 

Wrapping it Up Quickly
I ran 4 Ogg Rd hill repeats + 1 walking cool-down hill.  I didn't walk at all (on the four).  I was still dead last by a long shot, but I don't mind.  Four hill repeats with no walking is already a big improvement.  Speed will come later.  Jim Megerson met up with us on the third hill.  Haven't seen him in ages so was happy he came out.  The run wasn't so bad.  I got pretty hot so the cool air was nice although I could've done without the spitting rain.  I get very cold after running in the winter and it takes me forever to warm up.  After a 45-minute drive back to Lawrence in a super hot car, my lips were still blue.

Definitely glad I went running.  Still would've preferred no rain.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

The Smell of Happiness and other Foresty Tales

The Run
My running companion-to-be, Renee, called me as I was sitting in the parking lot to tell me she was running late and to go on without her.  Normally I would have waited, but for some reason I felt like I needed to leave as soon as possible to get in as many miles as possible.  Plus, I thought it would be fun to listen to some music while I ran.  When I got on the trail I was immediately happy that I decided to wear my jacket as it was pretty chilly near the water.  I was glad to be out, but nothing was syncing.  My legs were crampy, my head was fuzzy and my headphones were irritating me.  I decided the iPhone was stupid and I didn't know why I was carrying around this silly gadget and not just enjoying nature.  I stuffed the headphones in my pocket with the phone.  I refocused on trying to get all my body parts cooperating with each other.  It was like a room full of kids whining at me, Legs: "Laurieeeeee, we hurt!", Ears: "Laurieeeeee, WE hurt.  It's cold!", Head: "Laurieeeee, I don't work for at least 2 hrs after you wake up!"  After the past few days of awesome running, I knew I would have to hit a wall at some point and this was it.  I recalled how my legs were cramping during my fast run on Thursday and knew I was paying for all that speedwork today.  I also thought back to the good runs I've had and they never happen right after I wake up.  I resigned to having a crappy run and decided I'd just do 5.5 instead of 8, so I could take walk breaks and still have time to get back before meeting for trail maintenance at 9.  

Something interesting happened at 2.5mi.  The sun peaked over the trees and gently warmed my face.  At the same time I smelled something...familiar...something pleasant.  It seemed to evoke happy memories, but I couldn't remember what they were.  I sniffed and sniffed but I couldn't remember.  I decided that sniffing happiness was sufficient to calm my curious mind.  I thought about what the smell could be.  Was it something special about this weather, this season?  Maybe it was the smell of crushed, sun-bathed leaves mixed with soil.  Whatever is was, I LOVED it!  I wanted to tell everyone in the world I loved THEM (and I hadn't even been drinking)!  I found myself speeding up a little even though my legs still hurt.  At least my head was in the game now.  The need for speed went about as quickly as it came, but the happiness lingered.  I enjoyed walking the last mile, high on happiness and absorbing the tree-filtered sun rays.

The Trail Work
I was dressed and ready to try my hand at some trail work.  I became worried when I looked at my phone to find that it was 9am and I saw nobody waiting around in the parking lot.  Indeed, a closer look at Mike Goodwin's e-mail revealed we were meant to meet at the parking lot outside the Corps of Engineers building not at the trailhead.  As Renee and I approached the correct lot, we saw a group walking down the road so we chased them down and they slowed to greet us.

I pictured Mike Goodwin being a tall, 30-something, dark-haired, forest ranger looking guy.  It turns out, Mike is a 50-something, 5'6"ish man and he's tough as nails.  I liked him immediately.  Despite knowing that we'd be building a bridge and cutting new trail, I still managed to underestimate the physical demand of the tasks at hand.

We started out by unloading lumber and tools from Mike's truck.  I didn't have such a good hold on my first load, a couple water-logged 2x6 beams.  They tumbled out of my feeble arms and one whacked my leg on the way down.  I might be the world's easiest bruiser, so I knew this one would be a beauty.  I walked it off and went back for more wood and supplies.  Once we got everything unloaded, Mike set us to work.  Somehow the big burly men got the east task of building the bridge while the ladies were assigned to bench cut the new section of trail, remove root and vegetation and cut back overhanging limbs.  We were armed with loppers and pulaskis.  Mike showed us how to bench cut the sloped parts of the trail.  I was a little nervous to try this part, because it involved REMOVING dirt and I was afraid I'd mess it up and ruin everything!

Once I got the hang of it, I had a blast slaying the dirt and roots with my big axe (I think I'd make a good horror movie villain), but I felt a little bad about hacking up the roots and wished the plants a speedy recovery.  Bench cutting was fun but draining.  The pulaski weighs 10-15lbs so swinging it plus cutting through the dirt was definitely a workout.  It went something like this.  Swing, swing, swing, swing....swing, swing...swing...pant, pant, pant...swing, swing...pant, pant...swing...pant, stand...ohhhhh look branches...lop, lop, lop...hmmm no more branches...ok...swing, swing, swing...etc.  Levi joined us after he finished up his 18-mile run and a little later Derrick Shackelford, a runner from Kansas City, came by too.  I think it was a successful day!  Renee and I tried to stay until noon, but our tummies weren't having it.  We took off at around 11:30 in search of sustenance.  We found it at Mirth.

Can't wait for the next trail maintenance day.  We can only hope it will be as gorgeous as today.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Sometimes Fast

Tonight Nick and I planned to run about 10mi at Clinton Lake but we ended up cutting it short because Nick was having tummy trouble. We walked for a mile or two until Nick decided he needed to take care of business, so to speak. I was glad he did, 'cause I was gettin' darn cold walking along the lake. When we started up again I was frrrreeeeeeezing. I found myself running faster and faster to try to warm up. After a while I realized I was going pretty fast (probably sub-8) and was feeling good. I decided to see how long I could keep up the pace. Turned out I held onto it until the end, although the lungs started complaining going up the last winding hill on the blue trail. I feel pretty good about the run. I even venture to say I might have given Nick a run for his money at the end. I, therefore, proclaim tonight's run a success. We traversed about 5.5mi overall, the first few a slow run, 1-2 walk/jog and about 1.5 ass-hauling. Even though it wasn't 10, I still feel like I earned my veggie burger and fries!

Shoe Dream Addendum
When we arrived home from dinner and collected our things from the car, I found that an important pair of items was missing.  My shoes.  A huge wave of YOU'RE AN IDIOT hit me as I recalled placing my running shoes next to the truck while I changed and saying to myself, "Laurie, don't forget to put those in the truck."  I'm what some refer to as absent-minded.  Unfortunately I'm not a professor.  I didn't feel like making another trek out to the lake last night and decided I'd trust in the natural goodness of my fellow humans to not steal them.  Besides, if someone wanted to steal my mud-caked shoes they were probably needier than me.  The only other potential scenarios I could work out in my mind were, a) a park officer would throw them in the trash (which I could easily recover) or b) a park officer would take them to some sort of lost and found.  The ideas were permeating my dreams as I slept.  That's when you know it's time to wake up.  I dreamt that when I returned to the park in the morning, the shoes weren't there, so I walked over to the trash can.  The trash can was filled to the top with running shoes that all looked similar to mine but weren't.  Ohhhhhhh the terror!  The dream gave me a good laugh on my drive home from the park this morning with shoes in tow.  They were right where I left them!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Hills Hills Hills

I'm not gonna lie.  Hills are not my specialty.  I'm decent at running your typical small, rolling, blip in the trail that is common here in KS, but if you're talking something longer than say 0.05-0.1mi, I'm pretty useless.

Today was my second Tuesday hill session with my friends at Shawnee Mission Park.  The idea is that we kick our own a**es by running Ogg Rd a few times to improve our hill running skills.  Out here in Kansas, it might just seem like something that will improve your overall running, but when you go out to Colorado and realize the "hills" don't go back down you realize how important this skill is.  Now if I had to guess, I would say Ogg Rd is about 3/8-0.5mi long, and it's up hill all the way.  The last portion of the hill is especially steep and has reduced me to a walk 100% of my 5 or so past attempts.  

Today my goal was to run the whole thing at least once.  Conquer the beast!  Last time I went out my stomach was very uneasy and I never could manage it.  I blame an oversized lunch complete with potato salad for my tummy trouble that day.  Today, at least my stomach felt fine.  On my first ascent, I discovered that in the absence of queasiness, my main problem was not my legs but my lungs!  I kept up with the gang 'til about half way up the road when I noticed my chest screaming, "slow the f down!!!!"  I slowed down, but I still managed to run all the way up!  Mission accomplished.

Now I didn't really hammer down the goal I set for myself.  I was determined to make it up that hill running the whole way, but I never said to myself, "Laurie, from now on, you are going to run that hill the whole way, EVERY time."  With that in mind, and with my still-burning lungs in mind, I decided to walk the top of the second hill.  By the end of the second hill, I had resigned to head home.  Not only does running long hills hurt, it makes me crabby too!  As I was slogging up the second hill, Julie (who had arrived late) was on her way down and decided to cut her hill short and walk up the top with me.  Even at a walk, she was seriously kicking my butt.  Before I knew it, she was 20 ft ahead of me!  I was feeling useless and weak.  

When I reached the top, discussion had begun about whether to run another Ogg hill or to run "Caleb's Secret Workout".  I had planned on wimping out of another Ogg Rd but felt I should try something new if I had the chance.  It turns out most of us had run this before, although it had been a long time and we didn't quite remember the quirks.  When we started out, we scoffed at the ease of the course.  This hill is nothing, we claimed!  So we went to the top of the hill, thinking the next hill would be more vicious.  We ran 4 or 5 hills until we finally spotted a formidable mass in front of us.  I had been hauling myself pretty easily up the previous hills, sprinting even.  My lungs had calmed down and these hills were child's play compared to Ogg!  The final hill put my sprint to a halt about 3/4 of the way up and I didn't mind.  I finally felt like I got a decent run in.

On our way back we realized that the course was actually not so short.  And for that matter, it was not so easy if you kept a good pace.  I decided I liked this workout.  About 10 hills including out and back, all of which you can run, with one challenger.  I liked feeling like I was getting something done, and I liked not feeling useless and weak!  It also occurred to me that part of my problem with Ogg Rd has been that I haven't been warming up at all before I go for it.  Next week, I'm gonna try a short run on the mountain bike trails to loosen up my legs and lungs before I go tearing up another half-mile hill.  I'm also looking forward to augmenting those Oggs with some of Caleb's secret workout!