Monday, September 27, 2010

Running in the STL, and a Big Win for a Running Buddy

I spent Thursday through Sunday in St. Louis visiting a friend, David, who is rehabbing a really neat 1 up 1 down duplex. The place isn't in too bad a shape, and the neighborhood is pretty nice. He picked up the place for a song. But that's the way St. Louis is. You can buy great inner city properties in decent neighborhoods for not much scratch (as they say). The place is 2-3 br on each floor. The ceilings looked to be between 10 and 12 feet (they were really high). Closets and transoms could be found in most rooms. There was also off-street parking and a back pseudo butler staircase (something I love in old houses).

While he's putting lipstick and real tlc into the property, David's staying at another friend's house. His friend, Amanda, also has a cool old house with a butler staircase and high ceilings. It is in the Shaw neighborhood near Water Tower and Tower Grove parks. While Amanda will shortly be running the Chicago Marathon, she and I never had a chance to nail on the horseshoes for a run. She headed out for a weekend at Innsbruck (that's Innsbruck, MO., not Austria - and I may have misspelled that, but who really cares). Her friend, Meg was in town from Louisiana, and it seemed like a good weekend to get away.

Anyway, I had some great runs - mainly in the rain - through the parks and the Shaw and Compton neighborhoods. St. Louis isn't Indianapolis flat, but it is pretty stinking flat. So the runs were very fast. I was able to run between 7 and 8 minute miles for most of the workouts. That led to me going a bit longer in distance than I had planned, because I was trying to run based on time not distance. The parks and houses along the fabulous tree-lined streets made for really pleasant running. There were very few other runners out, so the workouts became pretty internal and zen-like. I'd hit the zone about 2-3 miles in, and then just cruise.

Speaking of cruising... My friend, Chris ran a race this weekend. It was a 5k in KC or Leawood or some such place. The race was put on by the heart, lung, cancer (I'm really not sure which) association. He popped out of the gate quickly and finished in 4th place - 1st in his age (30-35) division. Congrats to Chris for being a running stud. I'm thankful he lets me run in his wake every now and then.

Chris with his HUGE medal and his brother

My next race is this weekend's 9.5 mi. Sand Rat Race. Then, the following weekend, Chris, Eric, and I are running the Bert Nash 10k (after Chris' performance, it is safe to say that we won't be running that race together).

Anyway, until next week... too dah loo.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Under the Milky Way Tonight

I have only done one night race in my running 'career.' However, I run in the dark almost every day during major portions of the year. This morning, for instance, as my clock ticked over to read 4 a.m., I knew I wasn't going to be able to fall back into slumber. I don't know why, but I have a very hard time sleeping in. If it is 5:30, I will get out of bed. If it is 4-ish, I'll try to stay in bed until 5 or 5:30. So, I pulled out a book I had begun yesterday and managed to finish it before crawling out of bed, making coffee and feeding Lucas, my mentally-troubled kitty (who'd been bellowing at me through the door as he heard pages turning for the previous hour).

When it finally came time to run around 6 a.m., it was still very dark outside. I grabbed a headlamp. But instead of turning it on for the whole run, I left it off for parts of the run where I know there aren't potholes in the roads, and the sidewalks are relatively even. As I hit the turnaround point at two miles, The Church's 'Under the Milky Way' pulsed gently through my earphones. I looked up and could see not only the Milky Way, but some planets and the ever-present belt of Orion. It was absolutely perfect. I waved to several of the other early morning runners I passed in the dark (always women for some reason). It really was one of those experiences that you would love to share with someone when it is happening, but instead, remains an internal and fleeting joy, that only the person experiencing it will ever know.

The run this morning was undertaken as a bit of a recovery run. Yesterday, after weeks of doing my long runs on trails, I kicked out a big run on my old solitary (paved) roads and SLT trails. I was expecting heat, but when I awoke, my area of the city was shrouded in fog. I waited for an hour for the sun to come out, but it never did. So at 8:30 a.m. I set off into the mist. And what a lovely run it turned out to be. I hadn't done it in some time, so it seemed fresh again. The fog made the run a bit surreal as well.

I have this odd thing where I'll think about what can happen to runners out alone in the country. I'm never worried about heart attacks or getting hit by a vehicle. But I do worry about stray rounds from hunters and being run down by the oft-doubted mountain lion. And yesterday, running in the fog, I kept looking over my shoulder to make sure that no larger version of Lucas was skulking along in my wake. I do know of an instance in our county where a woman triathlete was doing a training run and saw a mountain lion that seemed to be following her. But in my case, yesterday, it was just my mind going places in the fog where I didn't want it to go.

I passed a few other runners and cyclists. They would emerge out of the whiteness and sort of float on by. The moisture in the air was so thick that the hair on my arms and legs developed droplets that gave off a silvery sheen. I hadn't taken any water, but at mile 4 did a shot from a packet of Accelerade gel. It always takes those shots about 15-20 minutes before I notice a modicum of increased energy. At the 10K mark I checked my watch and realized that I was going too fast. I ran through it at 48 minutes flat. It was somewhat hard to keep a correct pace of 8:30 - 9:00/mi (which is what I usually shoot for on training runs) because I couldn't gauge distances.

I finished the run feeling relaxed and refreshed. For the first time in weeks I didn't have to shower using poison ivy soaps. My blisters weren't screaming. My hip (which continues to have problems when I play tennis) was also without pain.

So, my plan for this week is to only do 25-30 miles and simply enjoy some solitary runs. After next weekend, I have two weeks of races coming up - one road and one trail. Then it is back to simply cruising the various roads and trails in my neck of the woods until another race grabs my fancy.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Blistering Runs

I don't have a whole lot to report re: running this week. I spent most of the week not running due to the extreme blisters I had gotten during the Clinton North Shore Race the previous weekend. I did get to smack some tennis balls with the Saturday morning crew for the first time in over two months. I still felt a bit of tenderness in my hip (the injury that had killed my Summer tennis season), but it was manageable.

I did learn about excellent (and seriously expensive) bandages that are blister specific. I didn't know that such a thing existed. They work great. I was able to get back into running on Thursday and Friday for a whopping 6 miles (total). And then, on Sunday, Chris, Eric, and I went out and did the same route as the North Shore Race. Chris hadn't done those trails before, and for Eric and me, it was nice to have a third runner to rotate off the front and share in the spider-web-in-the-face duty. Every mile one of us would switch out to the lead, waving a thin stick in front of himself like a spaz as he ran. Even with the stick, we all got faces full of webs. But all in all, it was a great run on a beautiful day.

This morning, after a short 2 mi. recovery run, I signed up for the Bert Nash Dash 10K. It looks really good and hilly. It starts in downtown Lawrence, and wends its way around and through the KU campus. I don't foresee any speed records being set on this course, but it should be fun.

I'm still deciding whether or not to do the Sand Rat race on October 3. I don't like to focus too much on races. I don't run to race, and am happiest when I'm out alone or with friends in the countryside.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Clinton North Shore

As I sit down to write this morning, my left foot is throbbing from a large blister which is situated over an even larger blister. I couldn't run yesterday or today, and probably won't be able to knock out any real mileage for the next few days as I recover. The cause of this pain?... The Clinton North Shore Trail Run put on by the Trail Nerds. The course was said to be an 8.5 mile loop, but in reality stretched over 9 miles. I also got slightly lost by meddling with my sunglasses and missing a sign; a move that caused me to add somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 mile to the excursion (as well as a trek through a nice patch of poison ivy to get back on the correct trail). I haven't mentioned the mirror image (but slightly smaller) blister I have on my other foot, or the blister that straddles the majority of the top of my pinkie toe.

Let's just finish all of this nonsense now... the discomfort I'm feeling presently is in direct proportion to the amount of elation and fun I had running the wonderful race. I loved the run so much, that even as I felt the monster blisters making their way across my feet like Sherman marching across Georgia, I didn't want it to end. I mentally focused on the endorphin-release that the blisters would add to those already churning as a result of the exertion .

The day was cool and sunny. The runners gathered for a rather late, 9 a.m., start. I had a friend, Jeanne, visiting from Boulder. She's training for a half marathon and thought the trail run would be good to incorporate into her schedule Eric Henry, my regular trail buddy, was also present, having driven himself over to the race from where he and a bunch of other friends had been camping the night before.

Jeanne with the crazy socks and her friend (also named Jeanne)

Eric and I have run these trails on a number of occasions recently. We usually ended up covered in mud. I usually end up with bug bites galore. But the race day was different. For some reason (even though it had rained a lot in the days leading up to the run), there was little or no mud. I also am happy to report that I didn't get even a solitary bug bite. I showered with poison ivy preventative soap after the race (having run through a large patch, as I mentioned previously). And, other than the raging blisters, I suffered no ill-effects from the race. I didn't even feel too bad about missing a sign and doing a side excursion during the run, because my friend, Kurt, who finished 9th, also mentioned that his group had run into a couple of confusing stops in the course of the competition.

Eric on the run

All in all, it was a great experience and enjoyed by almost everyone I spoke with after. This included the woman who edged past me in the last mile. I saw her take two spills (apparently these two accounted for one third of her total falls). She just kept bouncing back up and cruising - like those birthday candles that continuously re-light once they've been blown out.

So a big thanks to all who put the race on and to those who participated. The combination of the excellent course and the participants made for a great day.