Saturday, July 28, 2012

Midnight Long Run

Today wasn't the craziest run I've done, but definitely close to it.  The original plan was to run 10 miles with some of the BCRs on Sand Island at 9 PM.  After my fall yesterday, I wasn't sure I could go.  It was going to be a small group anyway.  Some showers passed through around that time, so the run was cancelled.  I was at a pool party an hour away, so that was fine with me.

As I was driving home, that running bug hit me.  After the run was cancelled, I asked Kelley if she wanted to join me in the AM for a run.  She said she needed some sleep.  I knew it would be hard for me to get up, plus I was thinking if I did that I would want to watch the Formula One race.  Therefore, I decided that I would get the run in when I got home.

The Nor-Bath Trail is my regular night run.  I've run it quite a few times alone.  It is nice and quiet by myself.  The road crossings can suck in the day, but they are fine at night.  When I started out it was actually around 11:30 PM.  I've run late before, but I don't think I've ever run that late.  I certainly haven't run over 10 miles anywhere near this late at night.  I guess I'll be decent at 24 hour races since I enjoy the nighttime so much.

I had to walk quite a bit to get a signal on my GPS watch.  That was frustrating.  I guess it was still probably cloudy after the storm.  As I was walking with my light on, I think a bat might've flown in front of me.  That is one cool thing at night.  They might be harder to spot, but there are different creatures out there.

Running with a headlamp can certainly be awkward.  It takes awhile to get used to just lighting up a small area in front of you.  It is also weird because you bounce around and so does the light.  I think running this way would actually be good for practicing smoother form.  The biggest issue was actually avoiding all the moths and other night bugs.  I'm sure I ate quite a few of them.  I guess they would be a good source of protein.  The headlamp wasn't tight enough and thus rather frustrating to run with.  It kept sliding down my face and I would have to readjust it.

Another thing that sucked were all the spider webs.  I took one on early and was covered the rest of the run.  I ducked under a few more, but they probably hit me some too.  When I got into the car and even when I was back home, I was still picking them off me until I took a shower.

Early on in the run, my legs didn't feel great.  I did a lot of standing at the party.  Plus, this was my sixth day running this week.  I was definitely beat up.  Knowing that I'm planning on taking off a couple days was a big help to push me through.  It also helped that I didn't look at my watch too often since it was dark out.

Everything was smooth as I kept going along.  There were some asphalt sections that my knees and feet didn't enjoy.  Surprisingly, it was my feet that were the real problem when it came to soreness during the run.  It was also more of my big toe than my injured toe.  Maybe my compression sleeves helped my calves.  One of the asphalt sections went through a neighborhood.  Some guy was in his garage using power tools after midnight.  That must've annoyed his neighbors.

After the neighborhood, I hit a section behind a plant.  It is kind of beat up and shady.  I was a little worried that I might bump into some weird people there.  I also thought maybe some teens might hangout in an area like that.  Thankfully, I ran into neither on any section of the run.  I did see a decent sized animal in this part of the trail though.  It may have been a cat, but it looked bigger.  I'm thinking it was more of the size of a mid sized dog.  Perhaps it was a fox.  I'm not sure.  I saw another similar creature later on as well.  Mostly, I just saw the eyes on that one.  I never did get to see the color of either of them.

I ran out farther than I ever have before.  The trail crossed active railroad tracks and then a road.  I couldn't see if the trail continued on, so I just turned around.  I was definitely close to Northampton at that point anyway.  I was hoping to run out to 4.5 miles and this was at mile 4.35.  That was close enough.

One great thing about running out very far is that no matter what you have to go all the way back.  There was a lot of uphill early on the turnaround and my legs were screaming.  I knew if I quit though, I'd end up walking back anyway and it would take longer.  I pushed on.  I just focused first on getting to mile 5, then 7, then 7.5 and after that, just mile after mile.  It makes the run much easier to break it apart into baby steps.

When I say uphill, the trail really wasn't that steep.  I was just beat.  After that, it definitely dropped downhill.  I didn't run any harder, but my times dropped and my legs came back and felt great.  It was a lot like the gradual long downhill at the end of the Freedom to Liberty Run.  The other great thing about coming back was running on familiar ground.  I came over three bridges in a row.  I knew where they were.  I then passed Bicentennial Park and then Airport Road.  I turned my headlamp off at most road crossing.  I didn't want anyone to see me and possibly attack me.

Even though the temperature wasn't bad it was still quite humid or at least damp after the rain.  My shirt got fairly soaked, so in the last 3 miles or so, I took it off.  I didn't have any protection for my nipples and didn't want them to chafe.  It was very cool going shirtless.

When I got back to Jacksonville Road, I was right around 9 miles.  I typically don't run on the east side of Jacksonville Road.  The trail doesn't go very far in that direction.  It turned out to be perfect today though.  It went out half a mile and I was able to finish right around where I started.  Driving along the road, it didn't seem like it went that far, but I'm glad it did.

This was such an enjoyable run.  I love running at night.  It is so calm and peaceful.  I am such a night person.  This time of year, the temperatures are so much cooler too.  I'm might have to run a few more of these.  I'm even thinking of running them later, like two or three in the morning.

It was another productive and tough week.  My aching knees really need a rest and I'm finally going to give it to them.  I'm definitely taking two days off.  I'm hoping I have the willpower to take three days off.  My body certainly needs it.  It would be a great way to taper before next weekend's Blue Eagle 5k.  Hopefully I'll be disciplined enough to hold off from running until Wednesday.  Who knows with me though.  I need to listen to my body a bit more now.

10 miles - 1:28:08 (8:49 pace)

Friday, July 27, 2012

First Trail Running Fall

I knew it was only a matter of time.  Run trails long enough and eventually you will fall.  I'm surprised I never did before.  At least if I have, it wasn't enough to do any damage and I don't remember falling.  Well today I finally took my first official fall.

I just wanted an easy day.  I figured I'd head to a trail.  I haven't been on the trails all week.  I was only looking to run 3 miles.  I opted for the fast and easy course at Jacobsburg.  I decided to go on the Sober's Run Loop.  I've run parts of this, but never actually the whole loop.

I parked out near the horse trailers in a small lot.  I often run this part when I start at the Environmental Center.  It is flat and more of a stone road than a trail.  After a short distance, there is a steady climb.  None of the climbs at Jacobsburg are like the mountain climbs I usually do, but this was was still challenging early on.

I normally don't like to run this area of the park because horses are allowed there and they are a pain to navigate around.  Thankfully I didn't see any on this day.  I've done some repeats up this exposed climbing section.  After getting to the top, the trail remains wide, but goes back into the woods.

This is the part of the trail that I've rarely, if ever, run on.  I quickly looked at a map beforehand to know where I was going.  I just followed the green loop.  It is interesting because there are so many little off shoot trails all over.  Maybe one day I'll explore them all.  I passed a cute girl walking a dog in this section.  I was going easy, but my pace was fast.  That was thanks to the mostly flat, smooth and wide stone path.

I was amazed at how quickly the miles were adding up.  Before I knew it, I was back to the area that I know and have run before.  I did miss the one turn back to the start because I usually cross the road in that area.  This turn led me back to more true trails.  I was now on a narrow dirt singletrack in the woods.  That is much more enjoyable for me.  This part of the trail is slower, but still pretty fast.  It follows a ridge just above Sober's Run.

There are some short climbs and a few rocks, but it isn't too bad.  I was definitely enjoying this section.  I was commenting to myself how I don't appreciate Jacobsburg enough.  It is a scenic place to run.  It just doesn't have the hills that I crave.

Right as I was thinking about how I don't appreciate this place enough, BOOM, it happened.  Before I knew it I was on the group covered in dirt with a couple of nice cuts.  I guess I was daydreaming and relaxing and all of a sudden, I tripped on a rock.  The scrapes on my wrists, arms and legs were like those that you get when falling off your bike as a kid.  Painful at first, but not a problem in the end.

The real concern is my toe.  Because I have Morton's toe (my middle toe is longer than my big toe), that bashed on the rock and was quite sore.  I've banged it pretty good on rocks in the past.  I think I even had to take a few days off once.  This one certainly hurt pretty bad.  I was at about two and a half miles at this point.  It didn't hurt enough to prevent me from running though.  I probably pushed off more with my mid foot, but I finished the final half mile.  I like running in lighter shoes, but then you lose the protection and wind up with issues like this.

When I got back near the car, there was a path down to the water.  I walked down it and was going to wash the dirt off of me.  As I got to the rocks though, I realized that I couldn't walk on them with my sore toe.  I just headed back to the car and brushed as much off as I could with paper towels. 

My big concern was driving home.  It was a toe on my right foot that was sore.  This meant I could have trouble hitting the gas and braking.  Luckily, I wasn't too far from home.  Driving was somewhat tough, but I managed to use more of my mid foot, rather than the toe.

It is funny that with all the difficult and rocky trails that I've run, it is on one of the easier ones where I take my first fall.  I guess I just concentrate more when it is tougher.  This brings up another thing.  For awhile now, I've been saying I need to practice falling.  Maybe now is the time.  Had it been a big fall and I landed on my wrists, I might've broken them.  It is tough to brace yourself so quickly for a fall, but you have to land on your side, not on your wrists.  I certainly need to practice this on some grass.

The plan for tomorrow is to run at night.  I was hoping to do 10 miles point to point with the group.  Now, I'm not so sure.  I'm icing my toe and I'll have to see how it feels tomorrow.  Hopefully, it is just a little bruise and not too bad.  There would be worse things than having to take a few days off.  I was planning that anyway after tomorrow.

3 miles - 28:28 (9:30 pace)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Group Run Through the Storm!

There are times when you know you have a good training partner because you are both running hard and push each other during a workout.  Then there are times like today when you realize you have a GREAT training partner.  A downpour begins and thunder is booming all around and you know neither of you is going to stop until the workout is complete.

Things started off like a normal group run.  All the regulars were there.  By that, I mean Jeff, Peter and Kelley.  Our big group of four.  It was so hot as we started out that I decided to run shirtless.  My club shirt was dirty and I wasn't feeling the singlet that I had with me.

Sums it up perfectly!
Kelley said she was sore from yesterday and going to take it easy.  That was good to hear because I didn't feel like going too hard either.  Of course I also didn't actually believe she'd take it easy.  To my surprise, she did that for awhile anyway.  She joked that she is going to call me Coach Brian because I've been teaching her a lot about running.  I think really the best thing I can teach her is how to hold back.  She comes from a lacrosse background and is all about hard work.  The trick with this sport is to work to the edge without going over it.  Injury is so common due to overdoing it in running.

The run started off at a nice pace over 9 minutes per mile.  I decided that we would start across from the clubhouse to keep cool.  It turned out that that didn't matter.  As we hit the Fireman's Bridge, a storm started brewing.  It got dark and very windy.  It was actually quite cool and refreshing.  The climb up the steep hill was still tough as always, but at a slower pace than usual, Kelley and I were actually able to chat.

After the Fish Hatchery, we started back toward the clubhouse.  It was already raining a bit at this point.  Peter had been behind us a bit most of the run, but suddenly he took off.  We figured that he just didn't like the storm.  We had lost Jeff a little while ago.

Kelley and I soldiered on as it got worse and worse.  The wooded section near the clubhouse wasn't too bad because the trees blocked the rain.  When we got back to the clubhouse, it still wasn't terrible.  The worst was yet to come.  We were at around 3.5 miles at that point.

Once we left the clubhouse to complete the loop, things got much worse.  It really started to pour and Kelley and I got soaked.  My shoes were soggy and my shorts completely drenched.  Being shirtless was actually kind of refreshing though.  The worst part was that the lightning and thunder were drawing closer.

Raindrops shortly after the run.
Kelley made a remark suggesting that maybe we should turn around.  I said we were almost to the Robin Hood Bridge anyway and would have just as far to go back.  I was wrong, we actually weren't as far out as I thought.  I didn't really matter.  I think we both knew that neither of us was going to quit unless we were rocked by some nearby thunder and lightning.

I love running in the rain and to be able to share that with someone nearly as nuts as me was great.  Kelley told me once that when the weather was awful at a lacrosse tournament, she played her butt off when no one else would and got herself a scholarship.  I knew she wouldn't quit on me in these conditions.  I said at one point, "Now we find out who really wants to run...or who is just really crazy."

I wish I had a picture of us running in these conditions.  Maybe it could've won a Runner's World photo contest or something.  Just another reason why I need a GoPro camera.  I did get some post run rain photos, but it just wasn't the same.

Finishing up was fun because there were a lot of puddles forming to run around or splash right through.  Shortly after we were done, Jeff came through in his car.  He finished up a little earlier.  He told us there was some crazy guy that just started running.  By now, it was a downpour and a lot of thunder and lightning.  We saw him running on the other road and then when he was finishing up.  It turned out it was Peter.  Perhaps he is even crazier than Kelley and I.  He told us he sprinted ahead to drop his phone off in the car and then continued to run.

The LVRR Clubhouse in the rain.
After the run, we huddled under an overhang chatted and waited for the rain to stop.  It took awhile, but things finally settled down.  These times after runs are a lot of fun because it gives me a chance to talk to the people that I didn't run with.

Because of the rain, the pace maybe was a little faster than I would've liked.  We just naturally picked it up to finish quicker.  It was so cool though that the pace didn't seem faster.  It didn't appear to be too much work.

I'm considering taking off tomorrow before the nighttime long group run on Saturday evening.  Most likely I'll head out and do something.  I may end up running an easy 3 miles at Jacobsburg.  I am not sure one rest day will help much.  Next week, I plan to take multiple days off in hopes that my sore shin will recover.

5 miles - 43:14 (8:39 pace)

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Fartlek with a Partner

Today was an opportunity to try something new.  I have run fartleks alone, but never with anyone before.  These are runs with no structure where you mix in hard running whenever you feel like for how ever long you feel like and with whatever recovery time you want.

Usually when I've done this on my own, it has been a little more structured.  Today, Kelley and I met up to run it together.  We would alternate who gets to lead each fast interval.  The other person would have no idea when it would start or end, the pace or the duration of each interval.  Not only does this get you moving faster, but it provides for practice in changing paces during a race.

We met at the D&L Trail in Cementon near her house.  I needed a soft stone surface after the pavement beat up my legs yesterday.  We started at 10 AM and the weather was almost perfect.  It was cool out and not even 80 yet.  Most of the trail is shaded, the parts that aren't were a little hot.

We started off with a mile warmup before getting into the meat of the workout.  Even the warmup was a little fast.  Kelley just likes to go, go, go.  The warmup was a good chance to chat for a little.  I was wondering how much we'd talk during the run, but it worked out well.  We talked during recovery and then concentrated the rest of the time.

The main part of the workout was four miles long.  I started off with a decent pace for the first interval.  I like to start slow and build after that.  In Kelley's first segment, she really made me work.  She was flying and I could barely keep up.  She didn't give us much recovery time after my segment.

After I told her we didn't have to go that crazy so early on, we settled into a more reasonable pace.  I again led with a decent, but manageable pace.  For her second fast paced interval, I tucked behind her and just stared at her legs.  That helped pull me along and made it much easier.  I did this from there on out to the end.

On the way back, I put in a tough longer segment.  It was close to a quarter mile.  I could tell Kelley struggled a little with that one.  I had some trouble keeping up with her on her final segment.  I actually just dropped back a little before she slowed down.  I did throw in one more quick sprint at the end which I think caught her off guard and gave her some issues initially.

My legs were so, so today.  They didn't feel dead, but weren't great either.  They did manage to hold on though.  I didn't feel any soreness in my shin at all during the run.  It was still sore afterward though.  Next week, I'll definitely try taking a few extra days off.

This was certainly a fun workout.  One thing that was tough was when the other person had control of the segment.  Not knowing the pace or distance is hard.  That's just like a race though.  When you are in control, it is so much easier.  If you start to tire, you can stop sooner or if you feel great you can keep going.

On the final cool down mile, Kelley took off from me.  I was wondering what she was doing, aside from just picking it up.  She had taken a shortcut after a road crossing earlier and wanted to sync up our distances.  At least that is what she claims.

While we are fairly close to the same speed right now, I feel like I'm holding Kelley back a little.  Maybe that is a good thing.  Otherwise she might end up running herself into the ground.  I'm already coming close to doing that to myself.  She is making for an excellent training partner.  I think we are making each other better.   I guess our future race results will show whether or not that is the case.

Tomorrow, will be the LVRR Group Run.  Since today was an AM run and that is a PM run, there should be plenty of time to recover.  I might take Friday off.  I do plan on a fun group night run on Saturday.  I'm glad Tom is back from vacation so we can start those up again.  Next week, I might take some extra rest days.

6 miles - 50:18 (8:23 pace)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Mill Race Park

After an easy day yesterday, it was another easy day for me today.  I decided I'd run relatively close to my place.  I haven't run at Mill Race Park in Palmer in awhile, so I headed.  This is a nice little route, mostly along the Bushkill Creek.  The plan was to run 5 miles.

I got up early in the morning for once.  It was still fairly humid and I'm glad I went without a shirt.  I'm sure people weren't too crazy about seeing that combined with my short running shorts.  I started off heading towards Tatamy.  This trail is nice and flat.  It is mostly paved, but part of it in Tatamy is stone.

I felt alright early on.  I went to the end of Tatamy and back.  That was about a mile and a half to my car.  The section at Mill Race Park is tough because there is no shade.  The rest of the route is shaded though and there is often a breeze off of the creek.

I was sore from the pounding of the road.  My theory that softer surfaces would work better for my legs right now was definitely true.  The bottom of my right foot was a little sore along with my usual spots on my shins.  A couple times I took a step down and some pain briefly shot through my leg.

Because of that, I decided to turn around early, rather than run to Penn Pump Park.  This was around mile 2.5 and I figured I'd run to mile 3 and then stop.  I don't know if I just took some wrong steps or maybe the trail was sloped funny or something, but I experienced no more pain.

Since I was feeling better, I kept going after I hit mile 3.  I went past Mill Race Park again and went back towards Tatamy.  I continued out to the edge of Tatamy again and came back.  My pace got faster throughout the run (without more effort), until the final mile.  Then I slowed a bit.  When I got back to the park, I was right at my planned distance of 5 miles.

It was good to make it through the run.  My shins still continue to bother me though.  It is more of a nuisance than anything right now.  Taking it easy isn't helping as much as I'd like.  I might have to take another day off this week, maybe Friday.  I'm not sure how much that will help though.  I could probably use 4 or 5 days off.

I was bored this afternoon, so I drove an hour and a half each way to Campmor in New Jersey.  It is a big camping and outdoor store, kind of like REI.  They didn't have much of a running selection, but I did get a running jacket for only 50 bucks and an orange long sleeve shirt for 25.  I need a lighter jacket for the rain, so that works great.  The shirt will be good to wear in hunting season.

Tomorrow will be my last speedwork session before next weekend's Blue Eagle 5k.  The original plan to is run a fartlek with Kelley.  We haven't cemented those plans yet though.  We were talking about the Saucon Rail Trail, so maybe we'll run there.  Thursday will be the usual group run.  Tom is back from vacation and is trying to put together another night run on Saturday.  It would go along the D&L Trail from Sand Island this time.  That would be fun because this time, I want to do 10 miles.  Last time, I could only do about 4 miles.

5 miles - 46:23 (9:17 pace)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Stung on the Run

Sunday was a much needed day off after seven straight days of running.  Because I was still having some shin/calf soreness, I considered taking a second day off.  Of course that ended up changing.  I did decide to back off and run an easy 4 miler rather than a speedwork session.

I was hoping to get some relief for my legs by running on the soft trail at the Route 33 Boat Launch.  This is mostly a dirt and stone path.  It helped me earlier in the year when I did a long run there with the BCR.  The trail itself isn't bad, but it is rather flat, straight and boring.  That said, in addition to being soft, it is shaded (which was very important in today's 90+ degrees), flat and fast.  I really do hate running on rail trails or canal paths alone.  It goes so much faster with a group, like on Saturday.

Note: Not the bee that actually stung me
I guess I should've taken it as a sign that today was going to be bad when I couldn't get my GPS to work.  It was frustrating because it was getting a signal, but for some reason it wouldn't go into the timing screen.  It was a sign of problems to come though.

Last time I ran at this location, it was a rather uneventful run.  Today, that certainly wasn't the case.  Early on, I felt decent at a nice and comfortable pace.  I definitely did feel some slight soreness in my legs though.  I don't know if it is actually more of a problem at a slower pace where my legs hit the ground more often.  Whatever the case, it wasn't a completely pain free run.

The plan was for two miles out and two miles back.  That started out fine, but things quickly changed.  With just under a mile and a quarter in the books, I felt a sharp sting on the back of my head and then heard a buzz around my ear.  I never did actually see the bee.  It was very painful for a minute or two.  I was cursing up a storm.

Because of the initial pain, I decided to head back, figuring I didn't want to be too far out in case I had a reaction.  I never have before, but who knows, especially with all my other health problems and medications I've been taking.  It has been a few years since I was stung.  I guess the needle in the arm for blood work today just wasn't enough.

When I turned back around, I never saw the bee or a hive or anything of that sort.  I have no idea why it stung me.  I thought it was kind of odd that it would do that while I was running.  Within half a mile, the pain subsided and I was doing fine.

I continued the rest of the run at a comfortable pace.  For awhile, I was figuring that I would just run back to the car and cut the run a mile short.  When I got back there though, I decided to keep going and finish the run.

I ended up running in the other direction along that path.  I thought this might suck because it is a harder paved surface.  It actually wasn't bad though.  The only problem was some of the heat as I ran in the open parking lot.  Even that was fine because there was a nice breeze.  Potential thunderstorms were on the way.

I wore some gray shorts because I didn't think I would encounter many people and thankfully I didn't.  The problem with these shorts are that when I sweat, it is very easy to see around my crotch and behind.  They get soaked and really stand out.  Good thing I really only came across a couple people in the parking lot, a guy on a bike and another guy running.  No potential futures dates that would've made me feel too embarrassed.

It felt so good to be done with the run.  So far, so good with the sting.  It is still a little sore, but not too bad.  Hopefully it won't swell up any more.  My shins aren't bothering me either.  I found a good stretch to do and I'm really going to work on them now more throughout the day.  I need to get rid of the soreness, hopefully that doesn't mean backing off too much.

I would've liked to get in some speedwork today, but after Friday's workout I'm very happy with where I am at now.  I'm going to run a fartlek with Kelley on Wednesday anyway.  That should be fun and a good workout too.  I might run with Mel tomorrow.  I would like to do some relatively flat running for now.  I can add more hills when I get over this shin/calf problem.  Hopefully scaling back and little will be a big help with this issue.

4 miles - 37:14 (9:19 pace)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Building Up the Long Runs

Now that Quadzilla is over, it is time to start stretching out the long runs.  Even though I've done over 9 miles, that was on the hilly course with plenty of walking uphill.  I think 6 miles is the most straight running I've actually done up to this point.  Today, I went out with the Breakfast Club Runners and did 8 miles.

It was a smaller group than usual.  Many of the regulars were on vacation or elsewhere.  The two speedsters Mertz and Flo weren't there.  That left the other Chris, Kelley and I to set the pace.  We ran on the Nor-Bath Trail, which I was thrilled about because it is the closest route to my house that they run.  It took me less than 10 minutes to get there.  I was so early that I had to wait around 20 minutes for everyone else to show.

I started off behind Karl and a couple others.  He had already run a few miles, so he was warmed up.  It took me a little while to get going.  When I saw the pace was kind of slow in the first half mile I said to Kelley, "okay let's go."  We took off ahead.  I was surprised to see Chris didn't follow.  He's faster than me right now and finished near Kelley in the Quadzilla last week.

After all the hot days lately, it was a gorgeous day to run.  It was cloudy and cool.  The temperature was in the 70s.  I wish it was a race day.  I'm praying for the weather to be even close to that on the day of the Blue Eagle 5k.

One thing with group runs is there isn't much to write about.  I'm not as perceptive to the things around me and how my body is feeling.  I get so involved in chatting with the others, that I don't even look at my watch too often.  Time seems to fly by.  I could write some about our conversations while running, but that would get pretty boring.

Kelley and I cruised out.  The pace was a little quick early.  We probably could've ran slower throughout.  My lower legs were a little sore early, but they came around.  At one point, a tree was down and we had to go around it one by one.  The only other eventful thing on the way out was the dead mouse that caused Kelley to yell as she jumped over it.  I also decided that I would have some fun, so I jumped over the low gates at road crossings.

We went out four miles.  Shortly after we turned around, we can across Chris (who was now flying).  It didn't take him too long to catch up to us.  We noted that once he did catch up, it forced us to push the pace a little.  For the rest of the back portion of this run, we ran together.

Apparently Chris said something to Kelley at Quadzilla without knowing who she was.  It is funny that Kelley ends up running with people in races and then meets them later.  The same thing happened with this guy Peter that joined our Thursday run group.  She beat him in a sprint finish at the 5k the day before they ran together.

The pace coming back was fairly comfortable, but on the clock it was nice and fast.  I'm actually kind of glad Mertz and Flo weren't there.  Eventually, I want to run with them and hang on as long as I can.  That's probably not a good idea to do that yet though.  Running at that pace with Chris and Kelley was good enough for now.

On the way back we had the same mouse yell and same maneuvering around the branches.  I didn't like running three wide at the end, so I pushed the pace as we were almost done.  Then Kelley asked if we were nearly done and when we said yes, she took off.  I playfully sprinted ahead, but then fell back.  Today isn't the day for racing.  I let Chris and Kelley finish a little ahead of me.  Yesterday was a hard enough day for my legs.  They feel pretty good today.  Hopefully I'm getting over the potential injury problems.

I went out to breakfast and that was fun too.  It is a good chance to talk to the others in the group that I don't normally get to run with.  For some reason, I was actually hungry.  That usually isn't the case after a run.  In fact, it is usually the complete opposite.  I typically can't eat a thing.

There was talk of going to Merrill Creek in New Jersey next week.  That would be great.  That's a fun loop around the lake.  I might even be able to get my dad to go.  He could get some awesome pictures of us from his kayak.  I definitely want to keep running longer and longer on Saturdays.  I'm doing a half marathon in November, but I want to build up well beyond 13 miles.  I am hoping to get my long run up to at least 17 miles.  I'm not sure if I have ever actually run over distance long runs before a long race before.  That's a strategy that I might consider for my marathon training, especially if I decide to run a 50 miler too.

I've now run for 7 straight days.  I'm am finally taking off tomorrow.  I'm sure my body with thank me.  I put in a good 35.99 miles this week.  Next week, I might need to back off a bit.  I'm planning on some speedwork on Monday.  I talked to Kelley about maybe running a fartlek together sometime next week.  That could be fun.  I've run those alone, but never with someone.  It could be challenging.  Hopefully we don't kill each other.  Since we have a LVRR Family Hike coming up at Walking Purchase Park, I do want to run there sometime next week.  I went once last year, but it was just too hot that day.  The trail was quite rocky too.

8 miles - 1:08:52 (8:36 pace)

Friday, July 20, 2012

Flying!

I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do today.  I was hoping for some speedwork, but I've had some minor soreness lately.  I planned to get up early, but it was a rare cool day, so I was able to run at my usual time after 10 AM.  Not only was it cool, but there was light rain too.

I would've liked to have ran repeats on the Blue Eagle 5k course, but when it rains my watch gets all wacky when drops hit it.  Therefore, I just opted to run hard for the full 5k course and then I'd lock the watch.  I wish I could've warmed up, but I just went right at it.

I ran with my new minimalist New Balance shoes.  They were great.  They are so incredibly lightweight.  I was going pretty hard in the beginning and I was blown away with my pace.  The first half mile was definitely my fastest, but I did stay strong throughout the run.

My goal in a couple weeks for the 5k is to run under a 7:00 pace which comes out to a 21:45 5k.  I was amazed as I came through the first mile at 6:43.  That mile is a lot of downhill, but I still didn't think I could run that fast with that kind of effort.

Things got a bit tougher in mile two.  There is a gradual uphill.  My time was slowing a bit.  Then after a little while the road is pretty rough.  It is very noticeable in my minimal shoes.  The one thing I don't like about them is the laces are so thin and hard to tie.  The tongue was slipping to the side.  I definitely need to tie them tighter next time.

Another thing that slowed my second mile was a big dog.  It was out at one of the houses and barking at me.  I slowed a little and then when I saw it wasn't going to chase, I picked it up again.  That killed some momentum.  I continued under a 7 minute pace though.

The second mile was a 7:07.  My time continued to slip with the tough uphills in the second half of the course.  I still came through 2.5 miles under a 7 minute pace and I was still at a 7 minute pace when I hit 2.6 miles.  For the last half mile, I just focused on being smooth and having nice form.  I didn't want to kill myself, but I wanted to keep going pretty hard and efficient.

After the last hill, I picked it up a bit.  When I get to this point in the race, I plan to think of all the tough times I've been through with my health.  That pushed me to the end last year.  As I hit my race goal time of 21:45, I could see the elementary school.  I was that close and in a training run.  I had no idea I could run this fast in a race, let alone a training run by myself.  I'm making incredible progress.

I crossed the highway and I was into the school.  I pushed hard and finished at 22:27.  I was simply amazed.  I'm not sure what led to such a great time.  Some of it was obviously just me getting stronger.  I can also attribute the lighter shoes to some degree.  I'm sure the whether was a big help.  I love running in the rain and always excel at it.  I just hope race day is somewhat cool.

The only bad thing about today was that I actually ran 3.19 miles instead of 3.1 miles.  I really need to work on running this course on tangents better.  It is tough to do because there are so many turns.

I was commenting last night that I'd like to see what happens if I go out hard.  Could I hang on in the end?  After today, I guess the answer is no.  I did slip quite a bit throughout the run.  I'll go out easy for the first mile on race day.  It should still be fast because it is downhill.  I should be able to bank a lot of time early without much effort.

With two weeks until the race, I guess I might have to rewrite my goals.  Maybe I can even go under 21 minutes.  That would be amazing.  Either way, I know I'm getting faster and much stronger.  I've never even run the Blue Eagle 5k in race conditions as fast as I did during training today.  Every time I've come back, I've been training for about the same time period too.  I'm getting well ahead of schedule now.  Maybe a PR in the half marathon isn't out of the question by November.


The one thing that does worry me a little are my new shoes.  Both of my shins were sore in the same area that they have been the last few days.  I only plan on using those shoes for racing and speedwork, so hopefully I'll be okay.  I'm not going to run more than a 5k in them for awhile.  If I decide to race the half marathon in them, I'll build up to it.

Yesterday was such a crappy day and that made today so much better.  Sometimes you just have bad days.  It is when they become a pattern that you have to worry and back off.  For now, I'm not doing that.  I'll slow down a little next week, but I have to keep working on getting stronger.

Tomorrow will be a run with the Breakfast Club Runners at the Nor-Bath Trail.  I can't wait.  I haven't run with them in awhile.  I'm hoping to run 8 miles.  We'll see how I feel.  I definitely need to start doing more long runs.  I have been doing way too many 5 milers lately.  This has been a big week.  If I run 8 miles, I'll be approaching 40 miles for the week.  That's because of the long race on Sunday though.  This Sunday's rest will be a big help.

3.19 miles - 22:27 (7:03 pace)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Pushing Through a Bad Day

Today was another day with two LVRR activities.  First was the Family Hike at Jacobsburg in the afternoon.  In the evening was Group Run.  It was an all around good day.

I was looking forward to the hike because it was close by.  Unfortunately, it rained even in the woods.  Laurie, the hike leader, showed up with little ones as did a woman with some older kids.  It was good talking to the woman because her older son is going to run cross country for Nazareth Middle School.  Hopefully I'll get to see him run for the high school team in the future.

As usual, it was another fine group run.  The regulars showed up, Kelley, Peter and Jeff.  Some others were considering going, but no one else showed up.  Jeff actually ran early because he had to leave by 6:30.  I felt bad because he is a bit slower and had to run alone on this day.

I took off with Kelley and Peter.  This time, we headed the direction of the 5k course.  Usually we've been going the other way.  It was my idea to go this way though.  It starts with some hills.  The early hills beat me up pretty good and I asked Kelley sarcastically, "who's idea was it to go this way."

I'm not sure what it was, but I felt like crap.  The trail seemed kind of soft from the rain today.  It was also still humid.  I'm sure the fact that I've been running a lot is another problem too.  Whatever the reason, I was feeling awful.

Coming around one turn, we almost got hit by a mountain biker.  I guess we were taking up too much of the road.  We got to the giant hill at the Fish Hatchery and I knew I'd be in trouble.  I wasn't wrong.  Kelley blew way ahead and Peter quickly followed.  I was way back and just trying to survive.

Normally, I fly downhill because it is such fun.  I had done that on the earlier hill, but I didn't even do that then.  I was a little disappointed that Kelley and Peter slowed down and let me catch up.  I would've liked trying to work hard to catch them.

When I got that back to them, I told them how crappy I was feeling.  Even though that was happening, I noticed our pace was still increasing.  I just kept going.  We hit the last short hill at the Robin Hill Bridge and I just dug in and ran hard to get over it.

After coming downhill, I just decided I'd push.  I took off and was surprised that Kelley didn't follow.  She was saying how she felt very good with a rest day.  I thought she'd be with me.  Instead, I put quite the distance between me and her.  I was able to keep a good pace for a little over a quarter mile.

If Kelley was with me or ahead of me, I might've been able to push more.  I just decided to back off for the last half mile though.  Kelley quickly went by.  I thought about trying to catch up again, but decided to finish easy.  I had enough hard running on this awful day.  Peter even passed me before we finished.

Even if it wasn't for long, it felt good to fly ahead of Kelley for a little while.  She's still faster and stronger than me.  It will be good when I get past her.  It will also be great if I can help her get even faster than she thinks she can be.  I said she could go under 20 minutes in a 5k and she just laughed.  I think she can do it.  Maybe I'm not realistic all the time, but I don't have any limit to where I think I can get to, so I should be able to get very far.  That reminds me of the great quote, "whether you think you can or you think you can't, you are right."

It was a great workout.  I was glad I pushed hard.  I figured it was perfect practice for a race when I feel terrible and don't have it.  Sometimes you just have to push through.  It can be amazing what you can do.  This pace was close to my fastest training pace to date, but it wasn't nearly as draining as some of the past group runs.  I was amazed that the final mile was run at 7:28.  That was even after cruising for the final half mile.

I'm happy that my shin or whatever it is didn't bother me.  It normally hasn't been a problem before running.  It is more an issue when I'm sitting around.  Right now it isn't bothering me either.  I'll just monitor it and back off if I need to.

Tomorrow I'm still not quite sure what I want to do.  I'm thinking I might do my speedwork on the Blue Eagle 5k course.  That would be in the morning and only if I feel good.  If I don't feel great, it might be an easy run.  On Saturday, I'm going to the Breakfast Club Runners group run.  They are running at the Nor-Bath Trail.  I love when they run close to my house.  I think I'm going to make it a long run of about 8 miles.  We'll see what happens.

5 miles - 41:57 (8:24 pace)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Adapting on the Fly

Sometimes I tend to do unnecessary things when it comes to training.  Today was one of those days.  I should’ve just called it a day when thunderstorms came rolling in, but I just couldn’t get myself to do that.  The plan was to meet Flo and Michele for Steps at Lafayette at 3:30.  It was insanely hot all day and storms were quickly approaching as I arrived.

I thought maybe I would get my workout started a few minutes early and hopefully beat the storms.  It was after all a relatively short workout.  I had hoped to do 8 reps this time rather than 6, but with the weather I wasn’t so sure.

I went to the bathroom in the gym complex and right as I came out, the rains started.  Actually it was first more like nasty wind gusts.  I did get a brief run up the steps to duck behind the stadium and under cover.  I looked out and it still wasn’t bad yet.  I thought that maybe I’d giving running the steps a shot.  I got through one rep and the lightning came and I packed that part of the workout in.  I was disappointed too because I didn’t even get warmed up before this rep.

Of course at this point I should’ve called it a day.  I thought about waiting it out a little to see if the storm passes.  Then I decided I’d just turn my GPS watch on to see if I could get a signal.  It worked, so I decided to start running with the cover of the stands.  I ran to the end of the stands, which is the length of the football on the home side and ended up being 0.07 miles.

I decided that I would just do this back and forth until I got two miles in.  After half a mile, I was bored and figured I should add a speed component to the workout to get something accomplished.  I ran hard out and comfortably back.  It wasn’t at all out sprint, just a fairly fast paced short segment.  I ended up doing eight of these for about half a mile of hard running.  

One thing that was nice was that early on with the wind, every time I would get to a tunnel in the stands, I’d get a blast of cool air.  After some time, the wind died down and it was actually very stuffy under the stands.  I didn’t even realize how bad it was until I was done.

I actually decided to keep going after the two mile point.  I ran another slow half mile.  This was probably very unnecessary, but I just felt like I’d keep going.

The workout wasn’t bad, but I don’t know how people can run ultras in short loops.  Running the same route over and over again is hard enough for 20 minutes, let alone 20 hours or more.  I’m glad I got something done and was able to work in a little speed.

The middle of my calf on my left leg has been bothering me lately.  I think it is from all the climbing that I have been doing and pushing off.  I’m going to aggressively ice it over the next 24 hours.  If it persists over the next few days, I back off a decent amount next week.  I think it is more from climbing than mileage.

After I was done today, I couldn’t help think of ads and stuff that show people training when others wouldn’t.  That was certainly me today.  There wasn’t much point in being out there, but I just love to train.  Flo and Michele didn’t show up and I didn’t expect them to.  Me on the other hand, I’ll almost always be there, regardless of the conditions.  I just manage to improvise.  Sleeping in is the only thing that stops me from running with others.

Tomorrow is the LVRR Family Hike at Jacobsburg.  It is great to do it around here.  Then I can relax the rest of the afternoon, once the hike is over.  Last week was a lot of fun.  Of course I’ll be leading the regular group run at 6 at the clubhouse.  I hope I’m well recovered by then.

2.5 miles - 24:01 (9:37 pace)

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Back to Climbing

The original plan for today was an easy run to introduce Michele to Jacobsburg in the afternoon.  She cancelled last night, so I checked with Kelley to see if she wanted to run Lehigh Gap in the morning instead of Friday as we were planning.  She agreed, so we met up.

It was scorching hot, even in the morning.  It is supposed to rise to 98 degrees today.  I knew running the barren mountain would be better on Friday, but I just didn't care.  I was too eager to try this route out.  I ran there a little, but I had not done any of the climbing that I was hoping for.  I have also hiked to the top and knew the views were amazing.

I had planned to run a short uphill early, then along the rail trail for awhile before climbing to the top and back down.  I figured this would probably be around 6 miles or so and a good run two days after Quadzilla.  I was actually kind of glad Michele cancelled because I recovered better from Quadzilla than I expected and wanted to do a harder day.  If she didn't cancel, I probably would've just made in a hard AM run followed by an easy PM run with her.

I said the first uphill along the trail was short, but it sure was tougher than I anticipated.  It wouldn't have been bad if we had a change to warmup.  I had to check a couple times because Kelley stayed back and wasn't on my heels.  I had to make sure she didn't stop or worse fall like she has done before.  The climb really got the lungs burning before the trail flattened out.

The LNE Trail, which is mostly an old rail bed, is maybe a third of the way up the mountain or so.  It is relatively flat after the first climb and since the zinc plant killed off the trees, there are some pretty good views.  We passed the part of the Prairie Grass Trail that I've run up before, but I decided that we would stay on the LNE Trail until the other end of the Prairie Grass Trail.

This turned out to be a bad idea.  I guess most people use the other part of the Prairie Grass Trail.  This part of the trail sure lived up to its name.  There was a nice climb and we went through some shade and ferns, but we were in high grass most of the time.  It was almost impossible to distinguish the trail at times.  We actually ended up walking a lot of it, because it was too tough to navigate.

Eventually we decided to just to head back down and climb some of the other part of the Prairie Grass Trail.  That added well over another mile to our route though and I was starting to get exhausted in the blazing sun.  We climbed the other section of the Prairie Grass Trail for a little, but I was beat and the climb was straight up and rocky.  I told Kelley that I just had to turn around.

I couldn't help myself on the descent and I just opened up and flew down the hill.  Kelley wisely ran more controlled a fell back a little.  Of course she was quickly with me again on the LNE Trail.  We ran back toward where we started for a bit, then decided to try a different route back.

We turned around and ran down the Boblink Trail.  We were on the D&L Trail that runs all the way to Northampton.  I joked and asked her if she wanted to run all the way home.  I was hoping there would be more shade on this section.  There was some, but not much.  It was disappointing.  We finished up a six miles.

It was a good run.  I was disappointed that I couldn't make it to the top.  I'm sure Kelley could've made it to the top.  What we did was enough climbing and it was probably good that I didn't do too much so soon after Quadzilla.  I really wanted her to see the top of the mountain and the spectacular views from up there.  Oh well, maybe next time.

With her job, Kelley is available to run at a lot of random times since she works at home.  That is great because I am free all the time now.  I'm sure we'll be running plenty together, not just the LVRR Group Runs.  She also doesn't know the area too well and doesn't like running alone, so it is good for me to guide her around.  The only thing that sucks is that I'm holding her back a bit right now.  She was over five minutes faster than me at Quadzilla.  Maybe when she gets to know the routes more, she can lead and pull me up these climbs.

I'm not quite sure on the plan tomorrow.  I'm definitely meeting Michele for Steps at Lafayette at 4.  I might try to sneak in a run in the AM or maybe I'll just run a little more around the track at Fisher Stadium.  I can't decide.  I'd like to put together a training plan, but with all this meeting up with people, it isn't even worth it I guess.  Things just change so much on a daily basis.  I'll just have to keep a general structure and do what I can.  I'm having so much fun running this way though.

6 miles - 1:01:13 (10:12 pace)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Testing Out the New Shoes

Originally, the plan was for a complete rest day today after Quadzilla.  Since I skipped running on Saturday and felt good after yesterday's race, I decided to go for a very easy day.  I bought some new minimalist shoes last week and wanted to test them out.  They are New Balance 730.

The shoes I bought were pretty cheap.  I've been wanting to find something lightweight to run races in for awhile, but I didn't want to spend much money either.  When I saw these at the Crossings last week, I decided that I'd give them a go.  They only weight 7.3 ounces compared to my everyday Mizuno shoes which are 10.9 ounces.

I thought I would just do an easy mile.  That turned into a mile and a half after I started running and then on eventually to two miles.  It was very hot in the mid afternoon and that made even the easy run a little tough.  Whenever I could, I opted for some shade.

I ran around Louise Moore Park near my house.  It is a good place to go for a very easy day.  It is a mostly stone loop of just under a mile in length.  There is very little elevation change.

The new shoes worked out great.  I could really feel the surfaces that I was running on.  That was a little interesting because it is mostly stone, but some crushed rubber and wood chips.  The small uphill wood chip section is usually a bit of a main.

The run went well and the shoes seem good.  There was a little soreness in the mid foot afterward, but not too bad.  Even though I'm a slight overpronator, I think these neutral shoes will work as long as I don't wear them too much.  I plan on only using them for racing and speedwork.  If I really start to like minimalist shoes, then I'll go to buying more expensive ones as everyday trainers.  For now, these will be good enough.

After the run, I went nearby into the neighborhood and did 6 X 8 second hill sprints.  That was what I did last week too.  If I get out there again and do them this week, I'll probably do 7 reps this time.  They seemed kind of easy and I'm not sure how much they are helping me at this point.  Maybe I should be doing more reps.  Regardless, it doesn't hurt to do them.  I wish I could find a steeper hill to work with that is close by.  The hill under Route 78 at the Parkway was actually perfect for doing these.

I'm still not quite sure on my schedule tomorrow.  I'm planning on meeting Michele at Jacobsburg at 4 for a very easy run and to introduce her to the trails there.  I'm thinking I might do my speedwork in the morning, maybe run the Blue Eagle 5k course.  If I do that, then I can make Wednesday's Steps workout my main workout.  Otherwise, I'll need to have two hard workouts on the same day again.  Kelley also wants to run together later in the week, maybe Friday.  I suggested Lehigh Gap if we do get together.

2 miles - 18:33 (9:17 pace)

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Quadzilla 15k

It was the race I've been waiting all year for.  I still couldn't get out of bed much after surgery when I initially signed up for the Quadzilla 15k in the spring.  I had not even run a mile at that point.  Not surprisingly, the race director Jill thought I was nuts to try this race.  I can't blame her or anyone else.  Last year, I missed the inaugural event.  I was on the comeback then and thought it was smart not to enter.  This year, I couldn't help myself.  I figured even if I had to walk most of it, I'd enter. 

Me after passing someone on the uphill
I first ran at Trexler Nature Preserve last summer and immediately fell in love with it.  The hilly terrain, the amazing views, the beautiful trails and many different elements make the place unique when compared with anything else around here.  Last year, I was only able to do five miles of the course before my health problems started again.

I really didn't know how I'd be able to run the race this year.  On April 18th, I took my first run since October and ran just over 10 minutes for one mile on a flat trail.  It was a tough road back.  I began to be confident as time went on, but what really gave me a boost was running the T-Rex group run on the course in early June.  I walked a lot of the hills, but knew I could complete the race.  Last week's group run there was big help too.

Yesterday was fun as I helped out with registration.  I'm not working now, so I'm trying to get involved in as much stuff as I can.  Being able to help with such an awesome race was excellent.  I was amazed at how many people showed up early to pick up their bibs.

On to the race itself.  I was kind of hoping to run with my friend Kelley, but I knew she would likely be too strong right now and that just wouldn't be realistic.  I did start out with her, but the race was too fast.  It started on a road, so I understand why everyone ran fast.  At one point, I looked at my watch and we were on a 6:30 something pace.  I'm lucky if I can run two miles that fast on flat terrain.

The best race around
I fell back well behind Kelley and then another friend Sarah came along as well.  I told her there were so many hills and she didn't enjoy that.  I must've let at least 25 people pass me in the early stages.  Some were certainly faster, but I think a lot of them had no idea what they were getting into.  I figured I would catch a lot of them later on.

I was hoping to run up most of the hills, especially early.  That quickly ended when we got to the long climb as we headed toward the road along KidsPeace.  This is a very tough, long climb.  I ran it for awhile and then wisely started walking up it.  Most others around me were too.  I just wanted to save myself for later in the race.  During this stretch I met one of the local trail runners, Ron, whose name I've seen around facebook many times before.  He helped lay out the course yesterday.  We chatted for awhile, but I pulled ahead of him when we got to the dirt road.

The start
I was having so much fun and this point and was really glad I knew the course.  As we approached the Environmental Center, I tried running the big hill for a little, but then decided to walk.  Of course I wasn't alone in this.  It was a common theme.  At the top, it levels off for a bit and then there is a short climb before the water station.  This was an area where it paid to know the course.  I ran up this short hill while quite a few people were walking.  I knew the top was near, so I kept running.  One of my friends, Tim was working this aid station.  Neal, the LVRR President was working the second aid station.

At the first aid station, I passed Angie and her husband Stan.  I originally thought about running with them, but she said they were just running for "fun."  That was pretty damn fast for fun.  They were actually walking uphill and flying on the downhill and flat sections.  Not a bad strategy.

I came across another friend Mel with Angie and Stan on the very steep hill after the Environmental Center.  Of course I walked up it.  I still wanted to hold back.  I played leapfrog with Angie and Stan for awhile.  I'd pass them going uphill (if it wasn't too steep) and they would pass me going downhill.

I passed those two for a final time just past the second aid station, right before the long climb.  I knew I could make this whole gradual climb and figured a lot of people would be falling off at this point.  It was five miles into the race and things were already tough.  I was only partially correct in my prediction.  People were falling off, just not as many as I thought would be.

I don't know if Angie and Stan walked up this whole portion or not, but figured if they did much walking, I'd be long gone.  I definitely wasn't doing any walking.  This part of the course is interesting.  It is a long climb, but the trail is straight and smooth.  You can actually make up a lot of time.  I was going uphill and my pace was going down.  I was surprised by that.

Me before the start
When I got near the top, I passed two young guys with Tough Mudder headbands.  I was going to ask them what was harder, but I figured that since I just saw them walking a few minutes earlier, I already knew the answer.  They had not even come to the really tough point yet either.

After the long climb, there is a lot of downhill.  When I run downhill, even here on these steep hills, I really open up.  I look for good places to put my footing.  I use most of the trail to find some semi solid rock.  This was tough during the race because I was passing people.  I had much less ground to use and I had to be more careful while descending.

Last week, I screwed up on which hill is the big hill in the back part of the course.  I did it again today.  I walked some hills that I probably could've made it up because they were short (even though steep).  They do look so similar.  I even drove through there yesterday, so you would think I would've known better.

I had actually been feeling very strong up to the big hill.  I passed a lot of people on the long climb and several more after that.  My legs were feeling great.  It was just the steepness of some of the hills that was getting to me as well as the humidity.  It was cloudy most of the run, but still very humid.  My shirt was soaked.

Passing the guy uphill
The long climb was such a beast.  Everyone was walking up it.  It is so difficult to even walk up it.  I was hurting for sure, but some people were even worse off than me.  I was just relieved to get to the top.

There is a second, slightly less killer hill in this section too.  We were all walking that one as well.  For some reason, I seemed to think that was the end of the hills.  I forgot about the last one.  Before that we crossed the creek.  It was nice and low and I passed a women there.  I started running up the long hill after that.  I knew I was near the finish, but probably didn't push as hard as I should've on this one.  Once I got toward the top and could here the crowd and I ran again like everyone else.  At some point on the hill, this lady would won the 55-59 category passed me.  That was a little embarrassing, but I had to be impressed with how strong she was.

After this climb was the most frustrating part of the course.  We did an out and back through the grass section.  I hate running in grass.  The bigger problem though is that I didn't know how long until the turnaround.  Not only is it grassy, but it goes uphill.  I ran for most of it, but eventually walked at the top.  The only relief was knowing it would be back downhill to the finish.

The one  cool thing about the out and back was that I could see a lot of friends.  On the way out, I passed Kelley and Sarah (who were a few minutes ahead).  On the way back, I saw Angie and Stan and slapped hands with Mel.  They were obviously a few minutes behind.

Sprint finish as always
I cruised through the downhill portion of the grass.  I was tiring some, but still relatively strong.  One issue was that my goal time was under 1:40 and I was well under.  That caused me to not push as hard as I would've if it was close.

I came up on another guy at the finish.  As always, I went into my usual sprint.  For a minute, I thought that I'd actually lose a sprint since he came back on me.  I was just commenting to someone the other day that I never lose a sprint finish.  At least I've never lost one that I can recall.  I did manage to beat him in though as I kept going hard right to the finish.  It might be pointless it the grand scheme of things, but I still just always have to finish strong.

I was thrilled with my time.  It was close to my time for the training run last week.  That was pretty impressive considering that it was almost a mile longer today.  I figured I might be able to run that fast, but I just wanted to break 1:40.  I did just that, by nearly five minutes.  I ended up finishing with a 10:15 pace.

I took some pictures after the finish and wanted to cheer on friends coming in, but I was just so exhausted and soaking wet.  I only crossed the creek with water up to my ankles, but my clothes made it seemed like I fell in.  I needed to change and dry off, so I wasn't involved as much after I finished as I would've liked.

I saw most of my friends at the finish.  It was fun.  By my count before the race there were 15 people that I knew doing the race.  I never ran with anyone I knew before.  It was great to have plenty of company.  That is the fun of group runs and getting to know others.  Even though I didn't run with any of them for long stretches, it was just good to see them.

Some of my excellent training partners
The group won a few awards too.  Flo, who said she wasn't going really run the race, ended up third overall.  I think if she trained for it, she could probably win the women's division.  She a good road runner, but I bet she'd be an amazing ultrarunner.  Angie and Sarah also got age group awards.  Two of the guys I know as well picked up some awards, Tim and James.

It was a great time and I was very happy to crush my goal.  I ran just how I wanted to.  I would've liked to have run up more of the hills, but I wasn't willing to kill myself to do so.  I knew the course pretty well and that was a huge help.  I was pretty steady and consistent until the crazy hills at the end.  One day I will run up all of them.

I'm not sure how I would've run the course differently.  Maybe I could've attacked the flats and downhills more and then just let all the big uphills kill me like they did anyway.  I made up a lot of ground on the people that passed me early, but by the end we were just too strung out for it to matter.  I might've been catching them, but they were so far ahead at that point.

I'm so thrilled I was able to finish this race.  It is hard to believe that it was about seven months ago that I was in a hospital bed for a week after having major surgery.  It was about another three months after that that I was still in bed at home nearly 24/7.  Only in mid April did I get back to running.  Now, I have to keep pushing forward.

I really want to finish at least in the Top 25 next year, hopefully Top 15 overall.  I was somewhere in the 80s this year (out of almost 400).  I'm going to attack those hills so much over the next year.  If I decide to run a 50 mile training race, that will be an excellent training ground.  I'd really like to break 1:20 next year as well.  I think I can do it as long as I keep improving and working hard.  All my great training partners have been a huge help getting me to where I am now and they will help me get where I need to go too.  Time can't go by fast enough as I am eager to get better and attain all my goals.

Tomorrow will be a much deserved off day.  On Tuesday, I'll get back at it with an easy day.  I might run with my friend Michele at Jacobsburg.  She wants to get faster too and I'm glad to help.  My slow paced day should be fairly tough for her.  It would be good for both of us.  Wednesday, I'll be back to doing some speedwork as I prepare for the Blue Eagle 5k in early August.  I might run steps at Lafayette with Michele too.

9.3 miles - 1:35:23 (10:15 pace)

Friday, July 13, 2012

Uneventful Run

Usually I have plenty to write about during my runs, but today's was pretty basic.  After a couple hard days, it was time for an easy run.  Since I was a little sore from yesterday's run, I wanted a soft place to run as well as relatively flat.  I opted for an easy out and back at the Route 33 Boat Launch.  The run was just three miles on the dirt trail.

I didn't get out until almost noon, but the weather was about as perfect as it could be for this time of year.  It was cloudy and cool.  I was still sweating during the run, but walking around was very comfortable. 

I started off and headed west under the Route 33 bridge.  This is a nice and peaceful wooded trail.  One section near the bridge is becoming a little overgrown.  I cruised along at a nice and comfortable pace.  Not much happened really.  I passed a few mountain bikers, but that was mostly it.

After a mile and a half I came back.  Somehow my GPS got screwed up after the turnaround.  I definitely didn't run the second mile as slow as it indicated, nor did I run the three mile as fast as it showed.  Overall, the data looks accurate as I finished up right where I started.  It was a very slight struggle with about three quarters of a mile to go, but not too bad.  I think this tough week has taken a little out of me.

I consider doing a few steep hill sprints afterward or even some pilates this afternoon, but I don't want to risk it at all for the Quadzilla.  Of course I've probably gone harder than I should've with running this week.

A couple of friends are in town tonight because they are running the Spartan Race tomorrow at Blue Mountain.  I am planning on meeting them tonight at the Allentown Brew Works.  That should be fun.  Tomorrow morning, I'm hoping to get up to run an easy two or three with the Breakfast Club Runners.  If not, then a rest day certainly won't hurt.  I'm working at the Quadzilla registration tomorrow as well.

3 miles - 28:25 (9:29 pace)

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Busy Day

Today was a very busy day for me.  It started with an LVRR Family Hike on South Mountain in Emmaus.  That was followed by watching cyclists practice at the Valley Preferred Cycling Center.  After that, I went to clubhouse and Bart Yasso showed up.  Finally, it ended with another good group run.

The hike was very entertaining.  We hiked about 2 miles on the South Mountain Preserve loop.  Little kids are too fun.  They seemed to really enjoy the rocks, trees and streams and of course berries that they could eat off the tree.  Some of the uphills were tough for them and not exactly easy for me.  I was actually surprised at how much I was sweating.  We ended up getting split up a little bit, but we had enough volunteers to keep track of everyone.  The real fun part for the kids was the huge pile of rocks.  They were climbing all over them.  I opted not to as my climbing days are long over.  I've never run through that section, it was pretty cool.

Since I was already in Emmaus and close to the clubhouse, I didn't want to go home before the group run.  At first, I wasn't sure what to do.  Then it dawned on me that the Valley Preferred Cycling Center in Trexlertown is having their Junior Nationals competition tomorrow.  I figured they must be practicing.  Sure enough, I was right.  I actually think it was some older riders practicing before the kids.  It was cool to watch.  They would ride in packs or actually draft off of a motorcycle to go fast.  It was funny seeing all the young kids on the bikes later on too.  I might head back there tomorrow for the race.

After watching the cycling, I decided to head over to the clubhouse.  Neal, the club president, and others are usually there hanging out if I arrive early.  This time, Bart Yasso of Runner's World showed up.  That was entertaining as he had plenty of stories to tell, including a few about the times he met Lance Armstrong.  It is neat that we have some famous runners here.  Budd Coates ran and finished well in the 5k last night.

The final event of the day was really the main event.  It was the weekly group run.  We didn't have a big group, but there were plenty of familiar faces.  Akshay was there, as well as Kelley and another guy who is a regular.  Jeff couldn't make it this week and I think for the next few weeks, but he plans on being back.  We are getting a nice little core group.

The run actually turned out to be a perfect pace.  Yesterday was a hard day and Sunday is the big race, so a medium pace was perfect.  That's what Kelley and I did as we ran together at the front, with the guy not far behind.  Kelley and I chatted about various things like recruiting high school athletes and of course running.  Time just flew by and so did the miles.  I love running in groups.  It makes hard running so much easier.

It is funny to think how much more social I've become in the last few years.  I'll still never take over a room, but I'm definitely not as shy as I used to be.  Kelley and I were chatting almost the whole time.  I had to laugh inside though at how dead it got as we climbed the big hill near the Fish Hatchery.  It is like someone hit the mute button as we concentrated on the tough climb.  I said a few words in the middle of the hill as it leveled off, but that was about it.

The rest of the run seemed to fly by.  I barely even noticed the final few hills.  Of course I had to run a little past the clubhouse to get exactly five miles it.  It was an excellent run.  A little taxing, but not too tough.  Just enough to get a solid workout.  I'm sure Kelley and I will really start pushing each other in the upcoming weeks.  She commented how she saw that I did two workouts yesterday and is so competitive that she wanted to do two.  I can totally relate to that.  I think we'll be good for pushing each other over the next few months.

After the run, we relaxed outside the clubhouse and chatted.  It wasn't like the usual alcohol and wine post run gatherings that the older members have on Thursday afternoons, but it was fun.  We discussed shoes, training and many other things.  I enjoy that almost as much as the run itself.  This is becoming a great little group.

I'm not sure what the plan is for tomorrow.  It is going to be an easy day.  I just have no idea where.  My car is having problems and it might be in the garage.  If that is the case, I might have to run by my house.  I had to borrow the parents SUV today.  On Saturday, I hope to do another easy run with the BCR and of course Sunday is the big race.

5 miles - 43:56 (8:47 pace)

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Challenging Double Day

I didn't get too much recovery from last night's run, but I was at it again today for a double workout.  As usual, I would've liked to have gotten up earlier and ran earlier in the morning.  That didn't happen though, so I started off at 11 AM.  It actually wasn't too bad then.  It still probably wasn't 80 degrees at that point, but it was getting hotter.

I was unsure where to run.  I decided to go to the Nor-Bath Trail for some speedwork, rather than the hot neighborhood near my house.  I figured the trees and shade would be a huge help and I was right.  I didn't want to cross Airport Road, so I started at Bicentennial Park.

I did a short three quarter mile warmup.  I went towards Airport Road about half a mile, but didn't quite get to the road before turning around.  I then finished my warmup and started cruising.  My Garmin was a bit messed up early on.  It said my pace was way slower than it was and it also said I ran from 500 feet of elevation to -500 feet in elevation.  I'm not even sure where I could find -500 of elevation.

My legs certainly weren't strong after last night's run, but they weren't too bad either.  The first mile was solid and pretty uneventful.  I ran out 1.75 miles on this flat gravel trail before turning around and coming back.  I passed three women with double strollers and they barely gave me enough room to go by then.  That was kind of rude.  They didn't need to hog the whole path.

I was quite beat after two miles.  Rather than kill myself and run the planned hard three miles, I decided to cut that segment half a mile short.  I ran two miles hard on Monday, so two and a half today is progress.  Even though I was falling off, I kept just trying to work on maintaining solid form.  That is the most important thing to do when fatigued.  It was also probably a good thing that I cut my running down because my hamstring started to bother me.  After the run, the inside of my left calf became slightly sore.  I iced it this afternoon.

Since I cut the fast segment short, I cut the planned distance by half a mile too.  My cool down was still over half a mile.  I was actually glad I cooled down when I did.  For one, I stopped the hard segment right before a road crossing, where I had to wait for traffic.  I also came across two tractors cutting the grass along the path.  That created a lot of dust and would've made fast running difficult.  They were nice enough to stop when they got near me.

I was very happy today because I found my compression shorts.  I want to use them to run Quadzilla.  They were were great because they are tight and will prevent me from chafing.  It took some getting used to early on in the run, wearing clothes that tight.  After awhile though, I didn't even notice them and I felt great.  I was sweaty, but didn't even realize it until I was done.  I will definitely be racing in these on Sunday.

After a hard morning run.  I headed off to Lafayette's Fisher Stadium in the evening to run steps with Bob and Michele from the Breakfast Club Runners.  At first I was beginning to think I might be running alone because Bob didn't show up until almost 4 and Michele was running late.  Bob and I started without Michele.

During my first or second rep, after a half mile warmup, Michele showed up.  I never actually met her before and although I said hi, I felt kind of bad that I didn't chat a little more.  I had started my workout though and wanted to keep going.  My plan was just to do six reps up and walk down to recover.  In the future, I'd like to run a couple sets of these, with a half mile jog in between.

Bob and Michele were running both up and down them and recovering in between or doing pushups or situps.  Michele brought her young daughter who watched her mom run.  It was very cute.  Good to have some encouragement.

After two or three reps, I was really feeling it.  It is amazing how you typically feel good in the beginning, but after getting past the tunnel section in each rep, it really starts to burn.  If the steps were any longer than they are, I might give up.

When I started the six rep, I was feeling good and I said to myself, maybe I'll do two more reps.  Once I got to the top and it really started to hurt, I gave up on that idea.  I didn't want to overdo it after a hard morning run.  It was also pretty hot too and that might've factored into it some.  I finished up with a solid day in the books and not too much soreness.

I took photos of the LVRR 5k and felt good.  I shouldn't have any problems bouncing back tomorrow.  The 5k was cool because I ran into so many people.  I'm really starting to get to know a ton of people in the running scene.  That is great.  The club also gave out college scholarships to high school athletes.  That was cool because I know who quite a few of the runners are from watching so much track and cross country.

Tomorrow afternoon, I'm helping with the LVRR family hike.  We are going to South Mountain in Emmaus.  That's good because I don't know that trail too well and it should help me get to know it better.  After that, I'm leading the regular Thursday group run in the Parkway.  After the hard day today, I'm kind of hoping for an easier day tomorrow.  I ran into one of the guys that usually comes and he said he'll be there.  If that is the case, it will be a tough run for me.  I'm up for doing whatever is needed.  This should probably be a taper run with Quadzilla coming up, but it isn't.

AM
4 miles - 34:21 (8:36 pace)

PM
1.5 miles - 22:19 (14:52)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Not So Easy Merrill Creek

After yesterday's hard workout, the plan for today was to run nice and easy.  It didn't quite work out that way.  I headed to Merrill Creek in New Jersey with my dad.  There is a loop trail around a reservoir.  That allowed me to run and my dad to kayak.

Originally, I was hoping to have him take some cool pictures of me running across the top of one of the dams there.  That didn't happen though because he wasn't even in his kayak when I crossed over the dam.  I guess I should've waited.

I ran there before for a short out and back segment.  Today, I wanted to run the entire five and a half mile loop.  It starts out with a nice stone path along the reservoir.  It then goes into the woods and comes out again on top of the dam.  There is some elevation change early on, but it isn't too bad.  It is nice and fairly fast.  I was taking it easy.

After the first dam, there is another segment of woods before crossing a second dam.  During this woody section, I came across two deer hanging out at the end of the trail.  They took off as I went by.  When I got to the second dam, I encountered a problem.  There was a gate across it which was closed.  I had to walk down over some sharp rocks and go around the fence to keep going.  That cost me some time.

The second dam was really cool.  It was a couple stories high and the view to the nearby valley and other hills was pretty neat.  As I got toward the end, I noticed some trail next to the dam.  I'm not sure if I was supposed to go on that and come back down rather than crossing the dam.  If I did that, it would've been one hell of a climb.

Again, I had to walk around the fence at the other end of the dam.  After that, came the disappointing part.  I was glad the trail didn't follow the steep paved road ahead, but was disappointed with its path.  The next section was actually cool.  It was a semi challenging wooded trail with plenty of roots and rocks and elevation change.  It just sucked because I was looking to do a comfortable easy run.  I didn't know I'd have to work this hard, especially when it came to some of the climbing.  I will say the area was beautiful.  I just thought it would be mostly gravel trail

The biggest problem with the terrain is that I wasn't prepared for it and thus had on my road shoes and not my trail shoes.  Luckily, I the trail wasn't too technical.  There were definitely a few tough sections with some pointy rocks, but I managed.  Only once did I hurt my toe a little.  During this section, I also came across a random bench in the middle of nowhere with a couple kids smoking there.

After coming out of the woods, it was on to two more dams.  These were nice because I could pick up the pace some more.  The weather was actually perfect for this time of year, even when I was out of the shaded woods.  Of course, I still was sweating like crazy, but that is to be expected.

After the fourth and final dam, the path was stone again for a little bit.  It was fast for a short time.  Then the trail winded along a cove.  Some of the dense pine that it went through was very dark.  I have to say I was impressed with how groomed the trail was.  It looks like they cut brush there regularly.  Eventually the trail crossed over a wooden walking bridge.

I kept looking at my watch and could wait to be done.  The run wasn't bad, but not what I expected.  After the wooden bridge, there was more climbing and rocks.  I then went by some old stone structures.  They looked somewhat interesting.  After that, the trail came to an open field.  I was able to count six deer hanging in there.  I think I saw at least 15 deer either while running or driving around the area.

I was finally back at the boat launch and completed the run.  It was actually about 5.25 miles rather than 5.5 miles, so I ran a short out and back to finish up.  It was a good run.  I just wish it was easier and that I could've rested more.  Now that I know what the terrain is like, I definitely be back there.  Next time though it will be when I'm looking for an easy trail run.

The only other bad thing is that after this run, I ate some unhealthy food.  There is this place in Phillipsburg that has Italian Style hot dogs.  They put hot dogs, potatoes, peppers and onions together in bread.  It is excellent, but certainly not good for me.  I am trying to make healthier choices when it comes to eating, but it is hard.

I did some pilates core work again this afternoon.  I'm still struggling with it.  My flexibility just sucks and my core is quite weak.  I was able to last nearly 20 of the 26 minutes of the DVD this time though.  I am slowly improving.  I just need to stick with it and do the exercises at least twice a week.  I really don't enjoy stuff like that.  I'd rather just run.  I do need to improve my core though.

I went up to the Crossings this morning.  I got a cheap pair of New Balance minimalist shoes.  They only weigh 7.3 ounces.  I am eager to try them out.  I might only use them for speedwork and races.  I need a lightweight shoe for both of those.  So I don't get injured, I'm not going to try them out until after the Quadzilla this weekend.  Then I'll work them in gradually.  I did notice today that I run on my toes most of the time on the trails, so that should help me transition into those shoes.

I'm hoping I can still do some speed stuff tomorrow morning.  I may run a tempo run on the Blue Eagle 5k course or at the Nor-Bath Trail.  I'm hoping to get to Lafayette at 4 PM and run steps at the stadium too.  My busy week continues with some photographing of the LVRR's Summer Series 5k in the evening.  It is action packed, but should also be a fun day tomorrow.

5.5 miles - 54:19 (9:53 pace)