Thursday, December 23, 2010

Back At It

With a packed ultra schedule coming up -- 1 in January, 2 in February, 1 in March and 1 in April -- I realized it was time to get back in training mode.  I've been having fun sleeping in on weekends and doing my little 10 milers, but that's not gonna cut it for 3 Days of Syllamo.  And I can honestly say that I'm ready to get back into the long runs again.  I don't know that I'm mentally ready for the back-to-back long run weekends, in which I spend half of my time running and the other half eating and napping, but I have a while before I have to do that again.

So with that in mind, I decided last weekend was THE weekend.  The weekend to start back up.  I made plans with my friend Sarah to meet up Sunday morning for a 20-miler at Clinton Lake.  I've spent a lot of time at the smooth, fast River Trails lately.  Far too much time actually.  The advantages of running the River Trails are:
  1. Fairly non-technical.  You can keep a decent pace and get your run knocked out quickly.  In contrast, Clinton Lake is quite technical with lots of rocks, roots and hills.
  2. Close to home.  Clinton Lake is about 7 miles away, so it's kind of a waste to drive out there for a short run.
  3. Good drainage at the river.  The trails at the lake can get very muddy, especially in the spring time.  Last year was especially challenging, due to the large amount of snow we got in the winter.  Recently however, the Kansas Trails Council added a great deal of armoring to the normally soggy sections and it has helped a ton!
The disadvantages of running at the river:
  1. Non-technical.  I know I already referred to this as an advantage but can get a little boring when you're not challenged much.  In addition, very few trail races are on trails this smooth.  My reflexes and ankle strength seem to have deteriorated a bit due to my months-long hiatus from the lake.
  2. Short on length.  A full loop of the river trail is only 9 miles.  Loops get boring.  A full loop at the lake is 23 miles.  And the scenery is constantly changing.
So all things considered, I decided it was time to get back to the hills, rocks and roots of Clinton Lake.  As far as I can remember, my last long run at the lake was back in May when I ran the Inaugural Hawk 50.  Wondering why it's been so long?  Well for one, remember when I mentioned the trail could be a little soggy?  Here's a water crossing at the race, which is normally calf high on me.

Anyway, the trail was soggy for a LONG time.  Like, until July.  I should also tell you that I hate summer and I also hate spider webs.  So running on a trail that would extend my run time by 30% or more wasn't very tempting.  Nor was the prospect of breaking through hundreds of spider webs on this less-traveled trail.  I'm pretty good at coming up with lists of excuses, huh?

Well it was the perfect time to get back to the lake!  It was in the mid-30's for our run.  My favorite temps for running.  And the trail was nice and dry.  We started out at 7am and after the first mile we had both warmed up quite a bit.  So I stopped to take off my jacket and my brand new glove/mittens, bungied them into my Nathan pack and put on my thin liner gloves.  I'm getting pretty good at having the right gear on hand at all times.  The quirks of a runner I guess.  I actually keep headlamps in my purse all the time.  What kind of odd things do you keep in YOUR purse?

The rest of the run was just wonderful.  I probably wasted a lot of time stopping to look at things, but I was just having too much fun.  It felt like I was on vacation!  I would look down and see some cool bird feathers with bright orange accents and point them out to Sarah.  I'm sure by the fifth time I pointed out bird feathers she was thinking, "Enough already!"  All along the way, I stayed fueled with the energy balls Sarah made at home.  They are sooo good.  Made with dates, figs, and apricots.  I think there was some yummy coconut in there too which provided a nice texture.  We were a little nervous at times, because we kept hearing what sounded like gun shots.  And to my knowledge hunting is not allowed in the park, so I can only assume someone was hunting on nearby public land.  I was wishing I had worn a bright orange shirt instead of my all-black ninja-esque getup.  At least I wasn't wearing a white fluffy tail.  The good news is, we never got shot! 

On our way back to the trail head we spotted a big bird, which I thought might be a hawk, because I'm not good at identifying birds.  I commented that I wish our friend Kristi was there to tell us what it was and to identify all the feathers we kept seeing.  Not a minute later, we came across Mike Goodwin (president of the Kansas Trails Council) hiking the trail.  We greeted him and he asked if we had seen the baby eagle fly by.  Well that answered our question in a timely manner.  We saw a baby eagle!  Pretty big for a baby!  I asked him about the next trail maintenance day and he said it would be sometime after the new year.  I forget what it would involve.  Something about a water crossing maybe??  Anyway, sounds like a fun project for January!

We did a bit more walking toward the end, but I didn't feel totally exhausted or unbearably sore.  We finished up in about 4 hours and 45 minutes, which I was pleased with--taking into account eating breaks, staring-at-birds-and-feathers breaks and the challenging nature of the trail.  I mean, if I'm really bookin' it, I can maintain a 5mph pace for about 10 miles out there.  And I don't think of myself as a slow runner.  This trail just takes it out of you.

After the run, I grabbed a Jimmy John's sammy, went home, ate, showered, planned on doing stuff around the house, but ended up just conking out.  The effects of the long run hit me like a sledge hammer.  I didn't mind.  I got in a great nap, anyway!  I did not envy Sarah, who went home, took a shower, then had company over to bake cookies all afternoon.  Zzzzzz.  I don't know how she does it all, AND wrangles a 2 year old.

Well, I can definitely say that I was excited about my first weekend back at distance training.  Ask me what I think about it in a couple months when I'm doing back-to-backs.

Friday, December 17, 2010

My First Race

Don't let the title confuse you.  The topic of this entry is not "the first race I ever ran".  That was probably the Parkville Turkey Trail Trot 5k in 2002, and I was really slow.  I'm talking about...drum roll please...the first race I will ever DIRECT!  A very exciting milestone.

So how did I come across my first race directing opportunity?  It was a weekend.  Sunny I think.  Maybe 40 degrees.  I was running on the Lawrence River Trails.  I had turned around early.  My initial plan was to do two, 9-mile loops.  Then my revised plan was to do one, 9-mile loop.  Then my double revised plan was to do 5 miles.  If I recall correctly, the reasons included chafing and wanting to spend time with my boyfriend.

So on my trek of shame back to the trail head, I started thinking about how we (the Lawrence Trail Hawks) don't have any races on the river trails.  To date, they've all been at Clinton Lake State Park.  In my quest for branching out, I began brainstorming when such a race would be.  And based on the dates of the other races we already host and the fact that I hate the summer, I decided on early spring.  Then I thought about what the name and distance of the race would be.  It's all a blur to me now, which order I decided on what.  But the result was...the Pi-Day River Rotation (πr²) Half Marathon.  The reasons being, 1) Pi Day is in March, which fit my time frame, 2) Pi Day is nerdy and I like that, 3) the title can be abbreviated πr², which is the area of a circle (more nerdy), 4) it's a loop course with alternating counter clockwise and clockwise directions and 5) we don't have a half marathon yet.

So now I should probably back up and tell you what Pi Day is in case you haven't heard of it.  Pi Day is a holiday held to celebrate the mathematical constant π, 3.1415… It is held on March 14th (3/14). Get it? π (sometimes written pi) is a mathematical constant whose value is the ratio of any circle’s circumference to its diameter in Euclidean space. -source

Also, Pi Day is generally celebrated by eating pie and other round foods.  So even if one was totally unappreciative of the clever name and not nerdy at all, he or she would still be lured in by pie (and running).  Unless you're Sarah, and you don't like pie.  Weirdo.  If you were Sarah, you'd still have to come, because you're my friend.  So there.

In conclusion, because I came up with the idea I have to direct it!  That's the way it goes 'round here.  So here are the details!  It's March 19th at 8am.  Sorry, couldn't actually swing Pi Day.  It's a Monday.  But you could still celebrate by running around in circles if you want.  Online registration will be open soon, but if you like writing checks and mailing things and not paying extra fees, you can register RIGHT NOW!  So check it out!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Running Family

Since it's the holiday season, I've been getting all soft and sappy feeling.  So I thought I'd take advantage and write a bit about the importance and awesomeness of my vast running family.  If I had to guess, I would say I'm friends with 100+ trail and ultra runners in the Kansas/Missouri area.  And if you have any experience with the trail/ultra community you'll know that any of those people would probably donate an arm and part of a leg to help out a fellow runner.

I'm always amazed when I think about how very different many of my running friends are in terms of political views, religious beliefs, everything!  But it never stops us from loving each other to death.  We all share a few things.  1) Loving the outdoors.  2) Need for a challenge, test or struggle.  Builds character!  We've all been in a race and thought, "Gosh, this is the hardest thing EVER.  I hurt like hell, why am I doing this?"  And after the race you're still thinking, "I'm never doing THAT again."  And a few days to a few weeks later you're saying, "When's the next race?  I wanna sign up!"  3) Friendliness.  If you meet someone at a trail race, the next tme you see them, you're on hugging terms.  The third time you see them, you're old friends, practically BFFs.  Unless it's Stacy Sheridan or Debbie Webster you're talking about.  They'll hug you the moment they meet you!

So to my running family, whether you celebrate Christmas or not, you can always take those few days away from work to reflect on all the special people in your life and remind them that you love 'em all!

Love you dearly ,


Thursday, December 2, 2010

Cold Weather Running

So if you didn't know yet, I like to run when it's cold!  But I do have my sweet spots.  Tuesday night got pretty chilly - upper 20's and windy.  My hands were pretty cold at the end.  I ended up running with my water bottle tucked under my arm for a while.  Last night was just lovely.  I think it was upper 20s or low 30s, but no wind.  If it's light I'm pretty comfy with low to mid 20's.  If it's dark, my sweet spot is low 30's.  If I had a limit I would say it's somewhere around zero. 

The legs start getting super stiff down around zero. I suppose one could throw enough layers on to run at lower temps but then the weight and bulkiness of your clothes starts hampering motion, and it's just not as much fun. Although...running with extra weight would probably be a great workout, I run because I like to feel free and light! Not because I like to feel like I'm carrying around a small child.

My coldest run, most painful run?  Well, coldest-FEELING.  It was 9 degrees, not taking into account wind chill, and it WAS windy.  Also, it was night.  Nick and I ran along the levee for 1 mile to the trailhead, did the 4 mile loop, then headed back on the levee.  I never warmed up.  My legs burned the whole time.  In all fairness to the winter weather, I was wearing extremely lightweight tights.  I think Nick and I can both agree that this was our most painful run.  He has his own reasons.  Maybe having something to do with the fact that he had to stop for a bathroom break??  He loves telling the story.  Just ask him.