Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Yesterday I celebrated the National Forests

To all who have taken a stand to protect our National Forests, I applaud you. Sometimes, this can be an uphill battle and the words spoken are to deaf ears. But, yesterday, the voice for protection was heard, and the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act of 2009 was signed into law (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/30/us/politics/30lands-text.html).

In celebration, I, although exhausted from my speedy 5k on Sunday and work, went to the National Forest area closest to my house. I did not focus on my speed or hill climbing. Rather, I reviewed my surroundings more closely; I surveyed the new green, the tall and bent trees, and I enjoyed the noisy local birds. During this joyful and slow run, yesterday's focus was on the forest - my place of solitary retreat and challenges (miles of challenges).

Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Sunday Surprise: good 5k time

In < 3 weeks, I am running a relay with other GA runners in Southern IL. The relay consists of 3X 3.5 legs. The team is composed of me, a 25 yr old woman and several retired-age and very fast gentlemen. From the emails they have sent, I easily have deduced that their level of commitment and pride in this race is devoted and extreme. I am not familiar with the relay, the history, past successes or losses by this group, and/or, when I first agreed to sign up, the level of seriousness in the training. (One individual told me he was going to run 2 5ks a week to train - whoa)

-Aside - my approach to races. I enjoy running mountains and distance on trails, so other races seem easier in comparison... This running style lacks commitment to speed or consistency. However, I recently I have been surprised with a win or a fast time -

Return - From the emails I received, i deduced that I had better alter and increase my "training." My response today: set up a course around my neighborhood and run a 5k. So, this afternoon around 5:30pm (after several hours of trying to do work), I embarked. The first mile was warmup approx 9:00 minute mile; then the "race." My first mile was 6:07; it was painful. The pain started at the first 1/2 mile. After that first 1/2 mile, I told myself, wellllll maybe I will only do 2.1 miles. But, the second mile I slowed down to 6:31 mile, which aided in recovery, so the last mile was: 6:19 - and then I finished in 19:30. a 5k in 19:30! Now, I can say it has been a long, long time since I have run that fast. And, notwithstanding the pain, it was such a great experience. Such a great runner's high. My breathing was laborious, but my legs felt strong, and I increased my speed during the last mile. After I finished, I congratulated myself in my quest to race a 5k, by myself, and I ran a cooldown mile.

An enjoyable day of free 5k racing!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Suggestions for creative speed work

Recent weakness:speed. I dread any type of track work out or tempo. I prefer a non-watch, long run with an arduous climb. But, any activity needs balance in the training and since I have signed up for some shorter relays - speed will have to be inserted into my weekly accumulation of miles.

Please leave suggestions. eg - what do you do to incorporate speed?

For example: I have read articles where some runners will run 5ks regularly for speed... Or, should I run faster down (or up) the hills?

Alternatives on Saturday

After a long week - any type of running sounds great: a training run for the 1/2 earth day marathon in Greer, meeting at Fleet Feet early, or [insert]. But, after a long week, one of my other favorite activities is to sleep late (very late to some). On Saturday, this type of behavior prevented me from joining fellow greenvillians. Instead, I slept, and I slept past 10:00am, which may sound late (or not), but it prevented an early rise and finish for my run. So, as another alternative, I drove north to another favorite stomping ground: any area outside of Asheville. There, I met a friend at Bent Creek Experimental Forest.

This forest is ideal for long climbs and not too-technical trials. On Saturday, under blue skies and in still chilled air, we completed a mellow loop of 10 miles (or so). - Brief aside: as I have alluded to before, since the marathon, my long distance runs have felt easier and less demanding. Most runs in the double digits provide for an enjoyable balance to sitting most of the week. Hills are also welcome. - this pattern proved true on Saturday. A hill that I had hated on a training run before the marathon had become a welcome warm up, and my breathing was slow and relaxed; during the climb, I even tried to initiate conversation with my unwilling companion. The loop continued on the ridge and then rolled down and around to the dirt road, which finally met up with our parking lot.

To conclude: the weekends are becoming predictable with their trail binges (Sunday we squeezed in 5+ - ran out of time)

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Weekly "routine"

Preface: I have always hated using the word routine. For me routine = something I do several times and call it a routine, ie tell other people it is a routine. Explanation? Is it because I hope it will become a routine by overtly calling something I do more than once this label?

Notwithstanding my introduction, I now write that I have developed a weekly routine. The thought process is: on the weekends I (attempt to) binge run - run as many miles as I can over Saturday and Sunday. So, on monday I am "burned out" of running and the thought of going back to the woods slightly nauseates me. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursdays are my days when I am not as excited to be at work, so the fifty minutes or so in the woods provides a much needed head clearing, mind wandering and eye resting. These days are spent deep in the woods with Grendel bird watching and hill climbing; these afternoon sessions must be a type of therapy through adventure. I tell myself: I have discovered new trails, new ridges and seen many birds - I have had an adventure (i am chuckling at my ability to deceive).

The glorified and much welcomed end of the week: Fridays (this explanation needs its own paragraph). - an assumption could be that - this would be a celebration run - the week at work is over (very cliche), my weekend has started (yes I confess, I am a quasi-weekend runner warrior as evident by the binges). But on Fridays, I am mentally and physically exhausted, and the only activity that looks appealing is sitting on my couch with my fiance, Grendel, a beer and some dinner.

So, this is my second week of my "routine" - the real theme of this post is - will I break this habit of my routines not developing and meeting the definition(a regular course of procedure b: habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure - see http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/routine) , or will I succumb to my usual failure and not meet this definition...

Maybe this routine will carry me to the next marathon??

Monday, March 16, 2009

Life post-marathon and weekend binges

To veteran marathon runners: the recovery and post-first-marathon life - the reality has been a contrast to numerous stories willingly shared by runners of other individual's lives being destroyed (exaggeration). There were tales of: those people not being able to run for weeks; severe illnesses; debilitating injuries; and other horrible events. But, since the marathon several weeks ago, I have already returned to the double digits and weekend binges. This weekend was no exception.

Saturday, it was raining, and since I recently have proven my love for running in horrible weather, I loaded up my dog in the back of the station wagon, and we rode out to the favorite Chattahoochee national forest for some rainy fun. We were on a time crunch, so I allotted us 50 minutes, and we took it in stride.

Sunday, thankfully, the weather was gentle, and the rain left us alone. I smiled more as I tried to perfect my trail running. [Aside: new trail running goals: increase my time going down the hill and lessen my fear of tripping over rocks and roots to fall on my face and run faster!!! notwithstanding the danger]. We found a new trail; a lovely and calm single track that followed the roaring river for several miles before heading North. The trail was an easy 4.3ish out and back. But, there had been a recent burn, which filled the air with the smell of smoke (not visible but attached to the humidity)! But, realizations (in the areas of proximity of trails and geography of this expansive forest) were made. The Chattahoochee National forest contains a Wildlife Management Area that covers several counties, yet the areas containing trails are very close (difficult to briefly describe here). For example, yesterday, after we finished our over 8.5 mile relatively flat run, I realized our closeness in proximity to Currahee Mtn. Delighted, we paraded (albeit slowly) up this familiar mountain where the weather was dryer and the views were better.

In retrospect, again - another brief ode to the marathon - the enjoyment of running for several hours, as of now, seems to be quasi-permanent. [illustrative example: Saturday - my legs were confused as to why we had to finish after only 50 minutes]

Perhaps another trail marathon soon?

Friday, March 13, 2009

more pictures from black mtn marathon!!!

More pictures from the marathon!!!!

Before being too wet!!!! Very nervous & Excited!!!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My first marathon - COMPLETED

I will begin with the end. I completed my first marathon; it was an arduous task.

We started running at 7am before the sun woke up. It was raining, but, fortunately, still around 45ish degrees. The first 3 miles were on pavement, and I was worried I was going to be get too hot and would start shedding layers.

Then, the climbing started on a muddy sick single track. We turned upwards while the landscape thickened; the rhododendrons fell closer to us because of the moisture and the fog enveloped us. There was fog above us, next to us and below us. So, I put my head down and climbed for 3 miles until I reached the wider quasi-dirt road. Then, we reached the first aid station. The adrenaline was still pumping as i grabbed a cup of water, some banana and a slice of orange. I left the comfort of the tent and started climbing, again in the rain and fog. Again, I put my head down to avoid the rocks and some of the deeper puddles, which had turned our wider trail into a "creek bed." This continued for 10 more miles during which we had to gain 2500 feet.

Once we reached the blue ridge parkway, I started to panic. We were at 5180, but it was not the altitude, which bothered me, it was the cold: the very cold wind and the colder sleet, which came in sideways and seared through my clothes - my soaked thin rain jacket, and my two layers of thin high tech fabric shirts. Before I reached the turn around tent, I considered stopping and asking to be taken down because of strong concerns of hypothermia, but once i reached the tent, got out of the wind, and ate some more food, some braveness kicked in. It was temporary, but it lasted enough to bring me back to the trail.

The down should have been easier. I had gravity to help me; I no longer had to climb, but this was a false assumption. The rocks were slicker, the puddles deeper and the rain kept coming and the fog was thick. I should have gained immeasurable time back from my ascent, but instead I focused on not slipping and keeping my head down and focused. For many miles, I was alone and concerned that I had missed a turn until I reached one of the few aid stations and was revived by Gatorade. These thoughts and concerns continued until I was spit out onto the campus of Montreat College.

There, I followed the road/path back to the Lake where I knew we finished.

From an outsider's view - this marathon may have sounded as though it was torture and why would anyone chose a mountain marathon as your first? There is no hope for a good time; there is no hope for speed; there is no hope for flat stable land with sunshine. However, - it provided a challenge - I wonder if I will be able to repeat. It allowed for such intense focus and determination - that now - any other marathon will seem enjoyable. Those several hours(not going to repeat my time) provided me with strength and confidence to run another. - for this - I am grateful.

Been gone so long....

Since I have not posted in a while - it is difficult to begin again. Similar to running again after you have taken a break because, for example, you develop the flu & bronchitis (if you are new to my blog - these 2 sicknesses took me out for about a month in Jan - my marathon was at the end of Feb). So, here I am - beginning again.

The next posts will take you through my adventure enduring my first marathon and all its "gifts."