The Runner's Reward

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Taper! Arrrrrghgghhghghgh!!

It is taper time here in Pittsburgh!  Commence screaming into pillows, experiencing anxiety about every tiny ache and pain (of which there seem to be more and more daily as we heal from training), and second guessing our training.  Did I log enough miles? I got sick and had to take off that week! I am totally screwed now!

Relax!!  I is easy to say, but hard to do. On a side note: this post is basically a reminder to myself.

The training is behind us. Now it is time for logging light miles to keep flexible and it is time for letting the body rest and heal.  You, like many folks, may be experiencing soreness and fatigue. It takes about a week to fully heal up muscles. As we train we take maybe 1-3 days of rest per week. Now we are reducing the load on our bodies for the first time in months and it is trying to repair itself.  That fatigue means your body is using energy to heal itself and become stronger from all the hard work we put in.  The aches and pains are also a sign of healing.  It is all a part of the process.

The grumpies may have set in. Are you irritable? I am really freaking irritable! I attribute this to the healing process and also reduced endorphin release as we are not running as much or as hard.  This is just a guess, but if you tell me I am wrong I might bite your head off. Taper grumpies...we aren't always rational. 

Free time? What's that? Now that we have some maybe you don't know what to do.
1. See your family. Your wife/husband and kids might have forgotten what you look like. 
2.  Have a day with your non-running friends. They have been wondering where you disappeared to.
3.  Read a book. (About running of course)
4. Watch a movie (about running also)
5.  Have some downtime you time. Did you have a hobby before marathon and half training                started?  Now is the opportunity to pick it up again. Your stamp collection has been sad without you.


Two nights before the race try and get a good night's rest. The night before the race you likely won't from the pre-race jitters and excitement. This is entirely normal for the majority of people.  

Get down to the expo Friday if you can and avoid tiring activities on Saturday. If you are running the 5k take it as an easy effort shake out run.

Twas The Night Before Race-mas

Make a checklist of everything you need. Bib, race clothes, hydration belt, gels, GPS watch, post race change of clothes, and comfy shoes. Whatever you want to have with you, both before and after the race. Throw-aways for pre-race are good if it is chilly out.

A throwaway is simply a layer you can pitch at the starting line or a mile or so in. Something to keep warm until the run warms you up. Please, please move to the side of the course to pitch. Don't throw a hoody down in the middle of the road!

Gather all the things on your list up and put them in one location for the morning. You will be tired, excited, and may forget something important.Take it from me, the guy who left his Garmin in the hotel room for my first marathon. My pacing strategy was out the window before I even started!

Check out your route into the city and where you will park. Normal routes may be closed for the race. 

Race Morning

Eat whatever you practiced during training for your breakfast. Most sources recommend eating 3-4 hours before the race which may mean waking up to eat and going back to sleep for a little.

Go early. Especially if you need to find parking. Normal routes may be closed for the race.

Here we are! About 1 week away and it is go, go, go time! So rest up! The training is behind us. Rest, heal, hydrate (all week), and eat up!

Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaame Onnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn!!!!!!!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Pittsburgh Wild Half Trail Race Recap

 Race Morning

I woke up around 6 AM with some errands to run before the race so I had a glass of water, a glass of orange juice, a banana, and took an oatmeal jar in the car with me along with some bulletproof coffee. By 8 I was back at my house and heading out the door for the 10 minute drive to Boyce Park.  What an incredible convenience to have a race so close to home!  By 8:15 I had my race packet in hand and time to relax for a few minutes.

At 8:30 I started warming up. I did some prisoner squats and light stretches and then headed to the trail for 0.5 mile warmup. A quick bathroom stop and I was ready to go.

Race Time

Eastern Boyce 

The Half Marathon race started promptly at 9:00 AM. The first 2-3 miles I found it hard to get into my groove due to the congestion. It was very tight running, single file on single track trail. Someone a few people back had music on very loud. They had earbuds, but I could hear every word, every note clear as day. Yes, this annoyed me to no end. I found an opportunity in a slightly wider section of trail and passed a few people pulling away from the noise pollution. Around 2.5 miles in we hit a section of gravel road for a short stretch allowing me to get into my groove and for the field to space out a bit.  I chatted with a few guys about running trails. They were new to it. As people flew by us on the open stretch I said that we would be seeing many of them again before the finish line. This proved to be true.

By mile 5 I had started taking short walking breaks on the hills to conserve energy for the even larger climbs still ahead. My pacing plan was to come in a little faster than planned 50k pace. For 50k of trails walking breaks are mandatory (for me). Rounding up from the Log Cabin back towards the 5k/10k trail split there were a few muddy stretches, some of which stretched across the entire width of the trail.  One thing about trail running: expect to get dirty, wet, and muddy. Popping back onto the road the 10k runners headed for the finish line. The rest of us punishment-loving folks crossed over to the western half of the park and the second half of the race.

 Western Boyce

The first half mile was relatively flat and I used this to keep a easy steady pace which allowed me to gain on a few people that were starting to slow up. It also provided some recovery for the challenges I knew lay ahead. 

Soon we cut into the forest. This small section is one of my favorites. Open forest with winding, rolling trail under a canopy of tall oaks. The short, steep downhills are my attack spots for a trail race and again and again I gained and passed on these and the subsequent up hills that sheer momentum carried me halfway up and walking the rest of the way up.  

The next stretch makes it's way through the forest around the RC airfield and leads to the climbing trail to the top of the ski slopes. It was a mostly un notable section of the course for me. I was feeling a bit tired, but strong and prepared for the next leg.

The climb to the top of the slope is a steady up grade of varying pitch. I walked up the steepest stretches and slowly shuffled up the rest. Along the way I spoke to a few people I encountered. There is one steep section up a gravel road and then you are out into the open fields at the top of the slopes. I followed and was surprised to see that ahead was a run straight down one of the slopes. I lengthened my stride and let gravity carry me downwards concentrating on keeping form and good landings. From the bottom the course went right back up on crisscrossing trails eventually summiting Indian Hill, the highest point in Allegheny County.  From here it was all downhill and flats until arriving at the ski lodge. A minimal hill climb came to the last aid station at the edge of the RC airplane field.  The last two miles were rolling hills. I came out on across from the parking lot. The final stretch went through the lot and down the chute at the soccer field.

I finished in 2:28:27,  25/67 Men's category ,and 16th in Age group with an average pace of around 11:30. I am more than pleased.  The only complaint I have about the race is the age groups. It is not so much a complaint as confusion. The age groups were: 0-14,15-39,40-59, and 60-100.  The weirdest age groupings I have ever seen. 

Since the race I have heard many people saying this was the toughest half marathon, 5k, 10k they have done. Also, many have said it was also the most rewarding.   Running trail is a whole different game than road running.  It boosts strength in the lower legs; calfs, ankles, achilles. And for me, it is a boost for the soul. Sunday trail runs are my personal form of religion in a sense.  It fosters a feeling of appreciation of my body's capabilities and the natural world and brings me a deep sense of peace and enjoyment.  I feel grateful for the opportunity to run this race. It truly was a rewarding experience.

Come Run the Trails

I hope some of you will go out and try some trail running. I am at one of the parks in the city almost every Sunday and soon will be going out many Saturday's too. I am always happy to have a running buddy/buddies.  No pace too "slow" just get out and go, go, go!

Monday, April 6, 2015

The Shimmy and The Shake

We are less than one month out from marathon weekend here in Pittsburgh! It is go time and rest time all rolled into one. Many of you will soon be starting the taper after this coming weekend. Get some much needed extra sleep and time with your families. Training hard is important, but as my friend Ed says, "The gains are in recovery."

I have had a bit of a rough time since the Just a Short Run 30k (JASR). The day after the race it seems I came down with a stomach bug of sorts. I was to find out later that at least two other people I know had similar problems after JASR. Was it the water? Was it that one of the kids handing out gels was ill? Who knows. All I am sure of is it was an unpleasant couple of days.

 On Tuesday I got up to run and didn't feel right. Thinking it was the stomach bug lingering I opted to skip the run for more rest.  As I was playing around on the computer I felt an old familiar and awful sensation. Was I going to have a seizure?

It has been around 3 years since I had a major episode and at least 2 years since a minor one. My streak ended on this morning.  Fortunately it was an event of , what I would call, the minor variety. It involved a bit of numbness/needles and pins in the left side of my body and spasms that were confined to just the left arm. This could have been a much worse scenario.   Afterwards, I was entirely wiped out for days and had a headache. I couldn't do much of anything physical and found myself face down on my work desk more than a few times over the next few days.  It is now a week later and my left hand still feels weak and awkward at times, but I can run!

Do you know what to do if someone is having a seizure? Here are a few important things to know!

I took my first run since JASR and the seizure on Thursday. I had planned on walking and then running a little if I felt up to it. As I walked down my street I noticed my legs felt like jelly and I was fairly uncomfortable.  So, what would any runner do? Walking isn't working so let's try running! It took a while to warm up, but running was way better. My legs felt great after all that extra rest days and I ended up running 5 miles with a nice negative split starting at a 10:30 and knocked off 0:30 per mile and the last mile (net elevation loss) I dropped 1:00 off the pace ending at a sub 8. I took Friday off and came back for 17 in the city on Saturday and 10 on Frick Park's trails Sunday.

From here on out it gets fun!
This coming week the goal is to get back on my schedule which should be a little over 50 miles for the week. That said, I'll rest when I need it.  I feel confident that my training so far will get me through all the goal races even if I level miles out and stop weekly increases.

To all of you coming up on your longest run in this training cycle, We are almost there! It is time to actualize the goals we have been training for all year!  If you are coming up on your longest run ever, be confident! Your training got you this far and it will carry you to race day!

Game On Pittsburgh!