Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Next steps....

Still recovering from Saturday's 30K. It really beat me up. Then again, my recovery might be slowed due to my running since. I pushed the pace on Sunday and ran some trails on Monday before 'Frankenstorm' hit. Might take a day off....(yeah right.)

Right now, I know I have a 5K right after Thanksgiving but not sure if I will add another race between now and then. Ideally, I'd like to find a 10K (or maybe a HM). Yet, finding a nice 50K would be awesome. There is one in December that sounds promising but it is in December.

Consider this my waffling post of what comes next....

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Rock'n The Knob Recap

I did what?!

Well, you are about to get a recap of my gumption. If you have been following this blog, you might be aware that my marathon replacement ended up being a 30K trail race out near Altoona, PA. My logic to not replace a marathon with a marathon was for mental sanity and to avoid the thrusting the same goals when they might not be as possible. After all not every marathon is the same. And after training for a specific marathon, finding one that meets the same set of requirements is not easy. But not wanting to waste months of training a 30K trail race was a challenge to utilize my training while knowing when the expectations have to be different. Anyways....

My race of choice was Rock'N The Knob. It was a first year event being held at Blue Knob All Seasons Resort. Sure, it was a 4 hour drive but seemed interesting with a challenging course. (See here and here). Being on a Saturday helped as well as super cheap rates to stay at the resort. Those factors told me to do it. I booked a room and worked out leaving work early on Friday. However, instead of leaving early on Friday, I ended up with a bonus day. Awesome! So instead of hitting the road around 1-2pm, I was on the road at 10am. Made it in good time too! I got to the resort and checked into my room. Oh that room.....lets say it did not feel warm and cozy. Sure it had a fireplace but the TV had no good reception. The office told me that TV reception was not so good recently. So I figured I would scope out the grounds. Mainly the indoor pool and hot tub. Yeah, those were not accessible. And when I got back to the room, I discovered the phone did not work. NOT GOOD! There was no cell service at the resort so having a room phone was something I was not willing to put up with. Thankfully, the resort switched my room and I got upgraded to a two bedroom that was everything I had hoped the first room would be. And yes, I got TV. So instead of wanting to check out, I got to settle in. Had a nice sleep too. And the fact, all I had to do was walk 100 yards to the start was really nice to help begin the day.

On to the race...

Now while, I would have liked a start before 9am simply because I had 4 hours of driving to do following the race, it was probably the best given the overcast and damp condition. I'm on a mountain so the weather is a bit different. Going to this race, poised an opportunity to run in a different manner than on the roads or even in the local trail races. After all, I was going to be gaining 4600 feet during the race for 9200 ft of elevation change. And since we started near the top, we were going down first before going up. All the runners lined up a few moments before 9 in time for the shotgun start. (Oh yes, they started it with a fired shotgun.)

We were off.

I immediately settled into a calm pace. I knew a trail run is not going to be as quick and that I knew running conservatively was in my best interest. Things felt smooth until we hit that ski slope. Or I should say near the top of the slope. Towards the bottom of the slope, the grade was comfortable but it kicked up as we got farther up. It was quite an experience going up for two reasons. The fog and the bag piper. Totally cool. As I neared the top, I could hear bag pipes playing. It felt so epic!!! Add to that the fog and it was a sight. I had managed to make it to the top first and I knew from there, I was likely on my own. I had been hoping to follow someone just in front but I told myself I can do this.

For the first 2.3 miles, I was running with a nice tempo. It was at this point, there was a big downhill with stone rock steps. As soon as I stepped on the first, I knew they were not going to be run down. They were slippery as anything. So running would lead me to injury. Run smart! Once they were done, the course became manageable. Yes, some parts were technical and included switchbacks which made it easy to get dizzy since leaves covered the real trail but keeping a pace was not too difficult.

Eventually, I hit the first aid station around 10K in. At this point, I was off to do a 4.2 mile loop. And the first part....up. This section included the first real hill to grind up. This was because finding the best part of the trail to follow up was covered with leaves. And when I say leaves, I mean leaves covered everything. Thankfully the course was exceptionally marked with orange ribbon. Once I got to the top of this loop, I was able to open it up on some downhill that was light on switchbacks. Of course, at the one point, I had to turn, I clip a root under some leaves and took a dive. Either by luck or subconscious skill, I was able to minimize the damage. Sure, I got scraped up some but I was not bleeding from anywhere so away I went.

When I got back into the aid station after coming out of the loop, I asked how far second was behind. There was not any certainty so someone said 1-2 minutes. I was not sure that was right because I could not see anyone on the sections that allowed me to view behind me for a distance. But still, this was effective enough to make me push a little more. This lead me to probably my best climb of the event. It was also the longest road stretch. For around 1.5 miles, I was on a winding road that had a nice steady climb that REALLY allowed me to see competition below for a good distance back. I didn't see anyone so I figured my lead was bigger than 2 minutes. Mentally, I was hoping to have 10 minutes up knowing that I was now near 12 miles in and in the last portion of the race is 2/3rds of the climbing as most of my downhill running was over.

I hit the last aid station (13.5 mi) in 1:47. Right on pace for finishing around 2:30. However, I was about to run what is easily the hardest stretch of terrain I have ever been on. And little did I know it but my pace was about to SUFFER! Out of the station, the course hits a mountain trail that was literally running on edge. Once again with the leaves, the path was tough to see. This made running difficult as trying to keep a good pace required some strong posturing to keep balance. Otherwise, I was going to go down a hundred feet easy. Getting through that gave me a bit of relief EXCEPT....

I was now about to climb close to a 1000 feet in less than 9/10 of a mile. I was sort of ready for the climb but not with what the course was about to throw at me. This climb had switchbacks, stone stairs and fallen trees. All of these factors made it impossible to find a good running pace or even power hike. Any time I did get some momentum, I would hit a tree that I would have to climb up and over. I was began to grow concerned with my lead and my abilities as a trail runner. Going in I knew things would be technical and I am feel I am a fairly good technical runner but this was uber! Have no fear I made it through this section. I figured anything after I could really get back at a good pace. WRONG!!!! After a small stretch of some good trail, I exited front the wood line near the old ski chalet only to encounter switchbacks that had SHARP rocks jutting through the fallen leaves. Finding the best part of the trail to use for footing....HARD! So pace didn't pick up. On the bright side, I was still in the lead. Of course, I thought I was closer to the end than I thought. I knew 2:30 was out the window. I hoped for 2:35 and then 2:40. Neither were going to be accomplished. Looking at my watch at this point was just frustrating me. I kept plowing through and finally out onto some road.

At the end, I crossed the line a little after 2:46. I would say I did the last 5.1 in 59 minutes but the course was a long 30K meaning on the upside of 19.2 miles. So while not as horrible a pace in the last stretch, the final portion really crushed my pace. However, I was glad to be done with that was the hardest race ever.

Immediately after finishing, I was handing my award and prizes meaning I was free to leave. That was good for me since I had a long drive ahead. I did give myself sometime to recover and watch the next few places come in. 2nd came in 11 minutes behind with 3rd, 7 minutes after.

Pizza was available but since it had pepperoni on it, I was unable to have any. Sad because I hoping for some but it was not a huge deal. I hung out for 1 1/2 hours after talking to a few people before hitting the road.

Following a long drive I was glad to be home. Today I managed to run 8.5 miles but definitely feel yesterday's race. That last 5.7 was ridiculous! When I say it was the toughest thing I have done from a race standpoint, I mean it.

Am I glad I did it? YES!!!! I pushed my limits. And I have since checked similar race results to find my time was not bad at all. Not superstar level but enough to let me know I didn't run a bad race. I ran smart and rather speedy. This means I just need to do some more technical work out in the Wissahickon near my house. Only decision I wondered if it would make a difference..shoe selection. I went with the LaSportiva X-country instead of my usual Inov-8 Talon-X 190. My reasoning was the LaSportiva would allow some more speed. I think they allowed that but I think I might have had better traction with the Inov-8's. Never know and I think both are great shoes so definitely not going to lose sleep on this race.

At the end of the day, I found a good race to push my limits in a marathon-esque way. Parts of the weekend could have been horrible due to lodging but the resort did me solid this stay. Would I stay again? Not sure. Too much of a hit or miss in rooms. However, the rate was great.

Recap out....

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Familiar but different...

A few days ago, this past Saturday, I traveled down to Wilmington, DE to run the Smith McMillian Memorial 5K. As I mentioned in my last entry, this is one of my favorite courses I've run mainly because it is FAST. Sure it is 3 loops but I'll take that for the speed.


I arrived at the race site like clockwork to find out the organizers were not ready for day of registration (an hour before) with 3 runners (myself included) waiting to sign up. So we went to find the restrooms. Kind of humorous to have a few people going....'oh well, I can go to the bathroom'. After a brief stop, I returned to pay my cash. At this point, I found out two things. No more shirts and the biggie.....different course!!!! Oh noes! Not only was it different but it was HILLY!!!!! I went down to DE to get away from hills since I had enough on my slate for this upcoming weekend. But I took it in stride. Normally, on my warm-up, I stay away from the course. However, knowing there was some serious climb, I went out to the 1 mile mark as this was the major climb. I wanted to know the grade so I can plan my race strategy.

I found this was a smart move. Once the race got underway, I took an immediate lead. Knowing what was ahead allowed me to pace myself wisely. I ran a fairly even race crossing the line in 16:53.

To illustrate the difference in the courses, I ran nearly a minute faster on the old course. After, I cross the finish, one of the organizers asked me what I thought and I commented how I liked the other course. She yelled to the other director 'see?! he likes the old course too.' I found it humorous.

Anyways, despite being on a slower course than I would have liked, the race was a good payoff. Not to mention that it got me back on the right track for this weekend as a confidence boost.

On Friday, I will be venture out 4 hours away for a 30K trail race. Looking very forward to it, especially staying at Blue Knob All Seasons Resort. Granted the long drive home will be rough but I'll deal with that later.

Its trail time!!!!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Some distance removed

As the events around the date of Steamtown have gotten smaller and smaller in my rear-view, I've continued to move ahead. I once again am running. I resumed doing so with a mere 3 miles on the 9th. Since then, I have pretty much gotten myself back up to speed in distance terms at least. I've done some minor pushing of the pace but not a ton. My first test of speed is going to be in a 5K this weekend. With how things are lining up, I will be able to attend one of my favorite courses in the past couple of years down in Delaware.

Now you may be asking, isn't the marathon in Atlantic City this weekend? It is but I opted to play it wise and not compete in it. The race just did not match enough of what I needed my marathon to be. And if I had gone down and run a miserable race, I think it would have a negative impact.

Instead, my major race coming up is a 30K trail race out near Blue Knob State Park. It is roughly a 4 hour drive from Philadelphia. I feel strongly I will be able to have fun at it even if my ultimate goal is to be competitive and hopefully compete for the win.

But one step at a time. And first up is the weekend 5K on the road.

Monday, October 8, 2012

When things go off track...

If you have been reading this blog, you know that I was registered to run in the Steamtown Marathon yesterday up in Scranton. Unfortunately, things do not always work out how we wish.

On Friday night around 1am (really Saturday morning), I went to the ER with severe lower left abdominal pain that evolved into throwing up without any pain relief. For me to even consider going to the doctor for anything is a big deal. The ER means it was bad. I spent 9 hours there getting fluids and medication and trying to get something of a diagnosis. While there I did get a CT scan with contrast. At the end, the biggest sign of anything was with my blood cell count showing signs of a massive infection. The timing of this could not have been any worse. Doctors advice was to not race on Sunday.

Yet, for us serious runners, it is not always so easy. I worked for months to prepare for this race. And I was considered one of the contenders. Knowing who was racing, I had a formulated race strategy. I didn't just want to throw that out the window. Plus, from an economic standpoint, I had a hotel room with a non-refundable rate. So, thus, the beginnings of a debate as to what to do. At the hospital, I told myself that my goal was to run but I would give my body time to make the decision. I figured since I had to go use the room, might as well put off the decision. Well, on the way home my choice got a bit of a bump as my stomach did not want to hold down what it had inside. For me that sealed the deal. My Steamtown was done. It is a hard decision to make to withdraw at such a late stage. Thankfully, the hotel was kind enough due to the circumstances to cancel my reservation and not charge me. This was a huge relief. But I still felt down even if my body was telling me there was no way I could race a marathon.

Coming to grips with the reality, I was at a crossroads. Do I try to find a marathon now to run or just move along? And if I looked at marathons, would any help me achieve my goals? I decided to do my best to look at some races in the next several weeks while I still have the conditioning and mental resolve. So two weeks from now, I will be racing in the Atlantic City Marathon on its improved course. This gives me time to recover and focus.

But what happened at Steamtown? Turns out it was a slower day than usual. Only one person went under 2:30, Matt Byrne. I'm very happy for him to win and become the first 3 time winner of the race. It would have been great to run with him but it is a nice mental help to know that no one else went under the 2:30 mark so while I might have been happy with my placing, the time could have been a letdown. Hopefully, I will have the opportunity to race Steamtown next year. But right now, my eyes are set on Atlantic City.

Monday, October 1, 2012


Less than a week out now! Yesterday marked the one week mark until Steamtown. Found out one of my former teammates and training partners, Matt Byrne will be racing. He is from the Scranton area and it is basically his home marathon. It will be great to see him again since he moved out of Philly even if it is race.

I’m in the midst of low mileage now. Granted I did run a peaceful 11.5 yesterday morning. (And I did do a modest 5K effort on Saturday.) Between today and the start, I’m looking at maybe 12 more miles. I’m getting twitchy and nervous. I did catch my first weather glimpse today but really won’t think about the weather much until Thursday when it is more likely to be reflective of the temps I will be encountering.

Almost forgot to mention (thus, my edit), that I have begun reading Scott Jurek's Eat & Run. While a pleasant read, it is not as meaty a book as I hoped for. It goes by just too quick. I started it yesterday at 3pm. I'm only 50 pages from the end. It really should have been double the length. At least that is my opinion as a serious runner reading it. I thought I would be reading this on Saturday in my hotel. Guess not. Either I won't be reading anything or my copy of Duel in the Sun will arrive by then. (I'm doing some reading now that is not about the US Senate, The Park Service, The Forest Service, Forest Fires, the New Deal or the Hoover Dam.)