The Runner's Reward

Monday, May 25, 2015

Next up! God's Country

The Pittsburgh Marathon is now about 3 weeks behind me and the God's Country Marathon less than  2 weeks ahead.  After Pittsburgh I took some extra rest Monday and Tuesday and got back to running on Wednesday. On Saturday and Sunday I ran 11 miles of road and 9 of trail.

 Mission accomplished! I set out to run Pittsburgh at an effort easy enough so that I could quickly resume training. While I did run it harder than I planned (and had a course PR by over 30 seconds) it wasn't an all out effort. Continuing the reverse taper brings me into two higher mileage weeks and then a cutback before God's Country.

God's Country Elevation Profile
My focus is moving more to trail running now as I prepare for the Hell Hath No Hurry 50k. And what a beautiful time for it!! Week by week I see the forest come more and more alive and it makes me feel more alive.

 I challenge you all to this one thing: Get a friend or two and go out to a trail an hour or more before sunrise. Early enough so it is still pitch dark (don't forget your headlight and extra batteries). It is quite the sensation running through the forest at night! I often go alone for long runs out of necessity. I wouldn't recommend night running in the forest solo, but I do it anyway.  A night forest run tends to have an edge of anxiety for me. You see the eyes of deer, raccoons, and other furry critters reflecting back at you.  Every tight bend in the trail leaves you wondering what you might see as you come around it. There is a certain peace with it too. And then when the sun rises! Oh, when the sweet sun rises. Relief, warmth, and solitude. It is rare to find another soul out on the trails at these times and that is it's own reward. The beauty of nature all to yourself, even for just a few minutes. What a way to start the day! 

Here Comes the Sun! 

So back to the race at hand: God's Country. This should be a great training run and hill climb strength builder/assessment for the 50k.  The first 18 miles are uphill and the last 8 downhill. To prepare I have run a good bit of hilly roads and some big elevation trail running. Ultimately, this is just another training run and it will be the last large week before a 3 week taper leading to HHNH.

Memorial Day Weekend

As I write this it is Memorial Day and this weekend was a big one for running! After this I will do a mini taper for 2 weeks before God's Country.

Saturday I was fortunate enough to get a long trail run in on the HHNH course with John, Alyssa, and Sanchez. It was Sanchez first trail run and he ran like he had been in the woods his whole life.

Our first loop around the course there were some missed turns and some backtracking. All in all we did well though. By the second loop we had the course down pat. After 13.5 miles my trail friends departed and I hung around for an extra 10k of fun.  I picked up my pacing just a hair and strided a few of the flatter sections out. The extra pace and movement awoke something inside me...something primal. Like a bear I went off trail and lightened my load.  Strong like bear! Rawr! This run brought me to over 700 miles for the year and this monster had a gain of just under 2800 feet.

It amazes me that somedays I can run 5 miles and feel wrecked...entirely wrecked. Then there are days,like Saturday, where 20 miles and all of that gain did nothing to me. I felt great! Loose, relaxed,hungry as all hell, but not sore.

Pic stolen from Alyssa

Sunday was supposed to be 12-16 flat city miles. I say :supposed to" for a reason. I got bored running the same route I ran last week and the wanderlust took over. After 3 miles in the Southside I crossed the Smithfield Bridge and headed up the Liberty Bridge. On the other side is the PJ McArdle Roadway. PJ is one of,if not, the longest steady climb in the city area and I have neglected it for far too long. No More!

After the climb you are treated to some of the best views of the city from the aptly named Grandview Avenue. I didn't have my camera with me, so if you are curious you will just have to join me for a run there sometime ;-)

I dropped down towards the city on East Sycamore, a windy steep road. Near the bottom I saw a park I hadn't known about. Emerald View is a part of Grandview park. I couldn't resist, could I?
Road and trail make for a fine mix indeed! After thoroughly enjoying a few miles of park and the sporadic city views through the trees I found myself going up Arlington Ave. At the intersection of Warrington Ave a bell rang in my head and I thought it best not to continue on in this direction towards Allentown, Carrick, and Mt. Oliver. I made my way back to the Southside and rounded out a few more miles.

This made for my highest mileage weekend ever at 33.1 miles and my highest elevation gain week at 4521'.  I am thoroughly satiated and looking forward to a rest day and tons of food. Really...piles of a serving platter used as a plate food. All the miles+all the hills= all the foods .

I hope you all are enjoying this holiday weekend. The food, friends, and family are great, but keep in mind the many brave men and women who gave all to defend us and protect us. Really that is what this day is all about.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Pittsburgh Marathon Weekend Recap

    It is finally time! After months of training in sub zero wind chills, freezing temperatures, and generally awful weather we made it to race weekend! It was a great weekend full of friends, running, and community.


    On Saturday I ran the 5k. The weather was nice and I felt great.  I started off with Kim, who was pacing the 10:00 group and ran the rest by feel shooting for a nice easy run. On this day nice and easy was a negative split shaving off 30 seconds per mile for the following two miles. It was a good, comfortable run.   

     Later in the day I met up with some of the Runderful crew for a shakeout 5k at Frick park.   I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to run with these guys for the first time! I was feeling a little rough, but happy enough with the opportunity and company.

    Frickin' Run!


    What a day! The Steel City Road Runners pre-race lounge at the Westin Hotel was posh and comfy. There was some light food as well. I avoided it as it was too close to race time and instead had water and a glass of OJ with a salt cap.

    Runderful Pre-Marathon
    Steel City Road Runners

    The Race

    I bumped up to Corral C at the expo and got to run the first 13-14 miles with John. John, Alyssa, and I ran many long runs together throughout training for this race and it was great we were able to run a good chunk of the race together.

    Early in this race I felt some sore spots and my groin felt on the borderline of cramping. This was all within the first 3 miles. And then the fog descended. I get this low energy, can't quite focus feeling sometimes early in a run . I'm not certain of what it is , but I have a few ideas. Anyway, the mental fog burned off by mile 6, but still I felt muscles wanting to spasm. I was concerned, but what else can you do but press on? At the Birmingham Bridge things started feeling good. The climb into Oakland was cake. At this point our average pace began increasing a little. (side note: I needed a bathroom since mile 1) At around mile 14 I decided to go for the PR. It only required modest increases in pace. Within a few seconds of parting with John I saw an open port-o-john and bee-lined in. 

    It took about 2 miles to catch back up to John and forge ahead towards Wilkinsburg. My pacing was fairly steady throughout the back miles through Homewood, Highland Park, and back into Shadyside. As I made it to the top of the final hill climb in Bloomfield my eyes welled up with tears. I felt tired, but good enough I wasn't concerned about the bonk and muscle spasms I had there last year. On target for a 4:15 I came down Liberty with a modest speed increase. At the bottom of the hill I felt the tired coming on and stopped to walk for a moment. I stopped right next to Ryan without realizing it! He had gone into calf spasms at mile 8 and still was forging ahead running and finally walking. We talked for a moment and I started off towards that PR with time to spare.

    Those open road, hot miles on Liberty were bad. I couldn't take the heat anymore and my body kept slowing. Once I hit the underpass and cool breeze I was able to pickup pace again, but it was too late. Or not. I started plowing on with as much as I could muster and at about 50 yards before the Boulevard of the Allies and the turn onto the final stretch I realized the PR was gone. I was burnt crisp after that effort and slowly made my way to the finish chute trying to muster a smile for the camera. The time to beat was 4:17:11 from Philly 2013 and I finished in 4:19:25, an improvement by over 30 seconds over last year's Pittsburgh Marathon.

    All things considered, I am very happy with the result and my performance.

    Mile 25

    Afterwards I felt like I might blackout and made my way to the crew and the SCRR tent to put my head down and rest after which there was great feasting and general awesomeness with some great people.Thank you Rundercrew and SCRR for an amazing day!

    Another marathon done with the next in 4 weeks time. 1/3 Marathon Maniacs qualifiers complete!!  I have fully come to terms with the fact I am probably a little masochistic.

    Congratulations to everyone who raced this weekend in Pittsburgh and elsewhere. The heat and sun made for a hard fought race. You have all truly earned the title, Runner of Steel.

    Get all the bling!