Sunday, August 24, 2008

Weeky Training Update - Aug 18 - 24

What a fantastic week to be a runner. Cooler temperatures, sunny skies and finally, no rain! I took advantage of this improvement in the weather and did two long runs this week; 15 and 17 miles. I felt very good on the first one but struggled on the second. Just not enough recovery time in between. The most enjoyable part of the 17 miles was the refreshing plunge into Pearce Lake at the end of the run. Oh yeah! Overall, it was a very good week of training. If the weather holds up this week I will be heading to New Ipswich, NH to run 17.5 rugged, rocky miles on the Wapack trail.
Pearce Lake

Actual Week vs. Planned

Total Miles: 43 - 44
Long Run: 17 - 16
# of Runs: 4 - 5
Avg. Miles: 10.8 - 8.8
Trail Miles: 72%

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Long Run Redemption

- noun - an act of redeeming or a state of being redeemed

Missing my long run and weekly mileage goals this past week didn’t sit well with me. The taste it left in my mouth was particularly bitter since it was only week #2 of my marathon training buildup. There was no excuse for it. It had to do with making a bad decision. Run with my usual training partner and get the job done or run with some new folks and get an a&& kicking to the point where you have to cut the run short. I foolishly chose the latter.

I woke up Monday morning determined to start the week off the way I usually finish it, with a long run. There was no way I was letting my failure to run long last week gnaw at me any longer. I had to get this one in the bank early. After a quick breakfast I gathered up my gear and make the short drive over to Breakheart Reservation.

I arrived at the entrance to the reservation around 8:30. It was already getting hot, and I dislike running in the heat. I started my run at the entrance gate on the main paved road heading into the woods. I immediately felt an ache in my quads, stiffness in my calf muscles and soreness in my ankles. No doubt this was from the trashing they took on the relentless hills of the Skyline trail in Middlesex Fells. I knew this long run would not be easy. But redemption never comes easy, nor should it. What heart would it take, what strength mustered, what sacrifice made, what accomplishment felt, if redemption was granted so easily?

After a short section of pavement I cut off onto the Saugus River trail descending down to the riverbank. I followed the trail to the footbridge that spans the Saugus River and meanders its way to Camp Nihan. Soon, I am through the camp and heading out the access road to Walnut Street. Running of pavement is still risky for me but this is the only way I can get to Lynn Woods from Breakheart. One mile of scorching blacktop and I am at the back entrance to Lynn Woods. Two miles and 20 minutes down, but who’s counting!

Lynn Woods is a 2,200 acre municipal forest park located in Lynn, Massachusetts with many miles of dirt fire roads and even more miles or rocky trails. I planned to run most of my miles on the fire roads with some short jaunts on a few trails. Thirty minutes into the run I began to loosen up. My pace was steady and I was feeling pretty good although I wasn’t concerned with pace at all. My mission today was to cover distance, more distance than I have covered in any other run so far this year.

At mile 5 I approach Dungeon Road. This piece of real estate has been my nemesis since I started racing here in 2006. I’m not sure if this long stretch of rock strewn, rut filled uphill that passes Dungeon Rock was named for the deep hole dug by treasure hunters looking for pirate booty or for the torture it inflicts on under conditioned trail runners. Legend claims the former; I have lived the latter on many a run. But today was not that day and I moved slowly but steadily to the crest of the hill.

Some of the gnarly roads and hills in Lynn Woods

This was not the only climb I would encounter on my run. I purposely included climbs up to Stone and Steel Towers on my route. I did this not as punishment for yesterday’s failure but as a test of my resiliency. Long-distance running is a sport of ebbs and flows, highs and lows. A long-distance runner has to work through the low points that inevitably come on a run of substantial distance. He has to look inward, to persevere, and to keep putting one foot in front of another when his body begs him to stop.

<-- Stone and Steel Tower -->

View of Boston

1800 feet of climbing

I had some low points today, as I knew I would. That was expected, and welcomed to some degree. I had something to prove to myself. I worked through them, kept moving forward and continued toward completing my goal of 14 miles for the day. Finally I was back at Breakheart where my run began. I looked down at my Garmin to check the time and distance. I expected to see that I had covered the 14 miles as planned but that was not the case. I had miscalculated the length of the route I ran. Much to my surprise my Garmin read 15 miles! Surely, redemption never comes easy.

Until next time….

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Weekly Training Update - Aug 11 - 17

Well, I really blew it this week. My training was right on schedule until this weekend but instead of doing my long run alone as planned, I met up with a group at the Middlesex Fells. The group was doing a seven mile loop on the Skyline trail. I would run one loop with the group and then do a second one on my own. This would give a solid 14 mile long run to finish up the week as planned. Unfortunately, I ran the first loop with the group WAY too hard and had to call it quits after 7 miles. This put me under my long run and total miles goals for the week. Now I feel like a loser for not sucking it up and running the second 7 mile loop. I'm not sure how this will effect my running next week but now I feel like I have to some how make up for this poor performance.

Actual Week vs. Planned

Total Miles: 32 - 40
Long Run: 7 - 14
# of Runs: 5 - 5
Avg. Miles: 6.5 - 8.0
Trail Miles: 62%

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Race Report - Oxford Dam Run

We’re halfway through the 2008 Grand Tree Trail Race Series but I finally made it to a race this past weekend. The Dam Run in Oxford, MA is race #13 in the 25 race Grand Tree schedule and race # 7 on the newly formed Eastern New England Trail Race Series. This would be my first time running the 10.5+/- mile course (10.73 on my Garmin 205 GPS) and I was looking forward to traversing some new trails.

I left my house early to begin the 80 minute drive to the race. It was a cool morning, the sky gray and threatening to rain. As I continued my drive west along the Mass Pike the clouds began to break. By the time I arrived at the Hodges Village Dam parking lot the sun was shinning. Unlike the past few days, it looked like we would have a nice, sunny dry day. The week preceding the race saw heavy rainfall in the area. In nearby Worcester, streets were flooded and many basements filled with several feet of water. I expected the trails would still be wet and muddy in low lying areas.

A little before 9AM we lined up for the start of the race. The RD thanked us all for coming and said this year had a record number of entrants. He usually has about 60-70 registered runners but this year it was over 100. That made me feel good since the proceeds from the race goes to a good cause, the French River Connection. I noticed a runner by the name of Kevin standing nearby. I met Kevin at the Essex County Greenbelt 10K trial race a few weeks earlier. We were both thankful it was much cooler today than when we last raced. At the 10K, the temperature was in the mid- eighties with very high humidity. Whew!

The race started with the usual “GO” and off we went. After a short downhill from the parking area we ran along a flat dirt road through an open grass field. I settled in near the back of the pack and tried to get into a comfortable rhythm. I was using the race as my long training run for the week. I didn’t want to start out too fast. After a half mile or so we turned into the woods.

The next few miles were made up of twisty single track. The trail really snaked it’s way through the trees with very few straight sections. It was very cool! The were no monster hills but constant small ups and down along the way. The trail was in very good condition, still tacky from all the recent rain, but not too wet. Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of puddles on the course but you could find a way around most of them if you wanted. I took it easy for the first few miles running with small groups of runners and then passing them when the trail allowed it. I continued with the strategy for the rest of the race.

At 4 miles there was an ankle deep water crossing about 10 feet wide and thick with mud on both sides. I ran through the water with a quick, high knee lift hoping to keep my feet from getting bogged down in the mud. It worked! I then came to a large open field. A wide path had been cut through the tall grass, wildflowers and weeds. When I looked ahead I could see a long steep climb up to the power lines. When I got to the base of the hill I realized it was even steeper than it looked from a distance. I tried to run it but with the loose dirt and stone, and the difficulty of the incline itself, it made more sense to power hike it. Everyone ahead of me was walking so I didn’t feel bad about joining in. Much to my surprise I passed several people on the climb.

Elevation Profile

After the climb it was back into the woods for some more twisty single track. It was here were I noticed I was being tailed by another runner. Whenever I past a slower pack of runners he would follow. When I settled into a group, he settled in to. Now I know this was supposed to be a training run but this guy was starting to bug me. After a few climbs and descents over some rougher terrain I noted he was slower than me on the hills. I decided I would make a move to gap him on the next downhill. I soon got my chance and accelerated down a rock and root strewed hill. When I looked back he was far behind and I never saw or heard him again.

Flying down the hill took the bounce out of my legs. I hooked onto the back of three runners and slowed down a bit to get the life back into my legs. We ran together for a short time before we came to a small river around mile 7. We were directed by a volunteer to make a water crossing. The three runners I was with didn’t look all that excited to get wet but I charged head long into the river. The river was approximately 40-50 feet wide and nearly waist deep in the middle. The cool water felt very good on my weary legs and seemed to revive them. I was out of the river and moving easily once again.

I spend the last 3 miles picking off runners one by one although they were few and far between at this point in the race. Finally, I could hear cheering up ahead and knew I was getting close to the finish line. Up one last short, steep hill and I was back to the parking lot where the race began. I finished 4th in the 50-59 age group, less than 3 minutes behind the 3rd place finisher. Not bad considering this was just a training run. It felt good to get a longer race under my belt even if I didn’t run it all out. Next stop, the Wapack trail race in three weeks. That one will be so much harder!

Happy Trails...

Monday, August 11, 2008

Weekly Training Update: Aug 4 - 10

The first week of my 14 week marathon training program went exactly as planned. It was meant to be a rest week from the 36 miles I ran the previous week. I used a Grand Tree Race as my long run. Running with other people made the miles go a lot easier and it was great to run in a new location.

Actual Week vs. Planned

Total Miles: 26 - 26
Long Run: 11 - 10
# of Runs: 4 - 4
Avg. Miles: 6.5 - 6.5
Trail Miles: 61%

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Stone Cat Marathon Training Schedule

I have averaged 31 miles over the past 5 weeks with a long run between 10 – 12 miles. This is my starting point for my 13 week marathon training schedule. The plan may be a bit ambitious and I will have to closely monitor how my body is feeling from week to week. Any increase in symptoms from my injuries will call for scaling back on the long runs and total weekly miles.

Week Long Total

  1. 10 --- 26
  2. 14 --- 40
  3. 16 --- 44
  4. 18 --- 48
  5. 12 --- 24
  6. 16 --- 52
  7. 20 --- 54
  8. 22 --- 51
  9. 14 --- 32
  10. 23 --- 57
  11. 25 --- 57
  12. 16 --- 40
  13. 12 --- 25
  14. 26.2 Race

I hope I don't need it but wish me luck.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

July Re-Cap

July was a turning point in my comeback from injuries that have plagued me for over a year. I recorded my highest monthly total miles so far this year despite the relentless heat and humidity that seemed to be never ending. I also ran a 10K trail race although I performed miserably on yet another steamy day. I’m pleased with my progress so far as I begin to ramp up my training for a fall marathon.

July Re-Cap:

Miles Run: 128
# of Runs: 21
Avg. Miles: 6.1
Trail Miles: 70%

Tentative race plans for August:

8/9/08 Dam Race 10.5M
8/31/08 Wapack 17.5M

Friday, August 1, 2008

Stone Cat Trail Marathon - Goal Race for 2008

Applications for the Stone Cat 50 Mile and Marathon were made available today. This race has been in the back of my mind since January. This is when I began my slow return to running after a seven month layoff due to multiply injuries. I am still struggling to overcome them completely but have not yet been successful. However, I have improved a great deal since I started my comeback six months ago with a minute jog/minute walk training regime. I’m now running 20 – 30 miles a week at a very slow pace. Still, I am thankful that I have come this far.

Now it’s time to move on to the next phase. It’s time to set a goal. I have never been the type to set easily attainable ones. I prefer to set a goal that has some possibility of failure. As T.S Eliot said, “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go”. So, despite all the setbacks I have had in the past year, I feel I am making slow but steady progress. I am confident I can continue on this path and slowly increase my training without further complications. To make my commitment complete, today I mailed my application for the Stone Cat Marathon to the race director.

Fourteen weeks until race day. It seems so far away, yet there is much to do. I will be posting my 3 month training plan for the marathon in the next few days. I will also provide weekly updates of my actual training vs. my plan. In this way, I will resist any temptation to slack off when the training gets more difficult. I just hope to stay healthy enough to make it through the training. The race itself will be the easy part.

Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.--Confucius

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