Saturday, September 29, 2012

A Tough Solo 16

I volunteered to help Tom out for the Tim Lambert Memorial Run this morning.  I was a course marshal.  Because I didn't want to run and then stand around at the race, I opted to get my 16 miles in afterward.  The weather looked pretty good anyway.

I always enjoy volunteering.  The crowd wasn't too big, so it was pretty easy.  We mostly just had to cheer on the runners.  Flo was running the 5k.  I knew she would win the race in the women's division, I just wondered if she could win the whole thing.  She did great.  She took second overall and ran under 19 minutes.  She wasn't too far behind the top male.

Since the race didn't start until 10 AM and I stayed for the awards ceremony, it took awhile until I got running.  That didn't happen until almost noon.  I also had to change in a park before running.  I wanted to stay off of paved trails and I thought that double out and back segments would be good for my 16 mile run.

I parked along the D&L Trail at Freemansburg.  The plan was to go 4 miles out to the east and back, then head 4 more miles out and back to the west.  The west is more scenic with Bethlehem Steel and the City of Bethlehem to look at.

I headed out toward the Route 33 Boat Launch from Freemansburg.  There are a couple neat, old buildings there.  A few trail volunteers were out there working.  I was hoping that they would be there when I came back, but they weren't.  I guess I wanted some one to know how far I ran.

Early on is so tough mentally.  It just seems like you have forever to go.  I checked my watch about 6:30 into the run, just to make sure it was working.  I went almost a full mile before really looking at it.  I tried not to look at it much while running.  It would beep every mile and then I'd take a look at the last mile's time.  I wasn't concerned at all about pace.  Since I was running alone, I just ran what felt relatively easy and comfortable.

This trail is rather quiet.  I mostly just saw bikers out there.  There were a few walkers too.  Runners were very scarce.  It was over a mile into the run until I saw anyone.  I was so it the zone that when they yelled, "coming on the left," I was startled.  The peace is definitely nice, but it does make it kind of boring.

I heard some gun shots going off across the river.  I was happy because it seemed like I was approaching the boat launch.  It turns out they actually shoot guns at multiple places.  When I finally got near the boat launch, I heard more gunfire.  It is strange how that can be comforting, but I knew I was in a familiar area.

At the boat launch, there was a baby watching the water.  She saw me running and pointed at me.  It was a cute moment that took me away from the difficulty of a long run.  I waved at her and said "hi."  At this point, I hit mile 4.  I wanted to get more than half my running done before getting back to my car.  Therefore, I continued on.

I wanted to run at least another half mile before turning around.  This part of the trail was a bit of an adjustment.  It changed from trail to pavement.  It wasn't too bad early on.  It would've been tough later in the run.  I went out a mile and back.  The sun almost looked like it wanted to peak out.

Even though I was under trees most of the time, the weather was still great.  It was cloudy and cool most of the time.  I thought about wearing a singlet, but opted for a regular shirt.  That worked out well in this weather.

The combination of speedwork and high mileage is starting to take its toll on me.  I felt pretty good a couple weeks ago, but now I'm all beat up.  I need to back off.  I think I'm going to limit myself to one speed session a week.  As I hit 5 and 6 miles, I was already beginning to have some soreness.  My IT band started to bother me slightly.  I need to watch that carefully because I have had problems with it in the past.

Other than being sore, coming back in was quite uneventful.  It was just mile after mile of trees, with the occasional peak at the Lehigh River.  Some lady was texting at one point and her unleashed dog was in front of her on the trail.  I was impressed that it stayed put.  All it did was yawn.  It could've moved out of the way a little, but I was happy it didn't chase me.

When I made it to mile 8, I couldn't believe I was only halfway done.  Throughout a lot of the run, I kept adding my total weekly mileage up.  If I completed the run, it would be 52 miles.  I was looking forward to hitting that 50 mile mark.  Just getting back to my car was a choir. 

Right before I got to the car, I almost stepped on a snake along the canal in Freemansburg.  It was a small snake, so that is why I missed it.  I think it was black with yellow stripes the length of its body.  I saw a turtle in this area once too, in addition to the ducks and geese that are always in the canal.  It is quite the area for wildlife.

I had not had a thing to eat and I could've used a drink when I got back to my car.  I was afraid that if I stopped, I might not getting going again.  Therefore, I passed it up and kept moving along.  That made for a difficult remainder of the run.  Before mile 11, I felt like I was bonking some.  Trying to get to mile 11 seemed like forever.  It was so slow.

I told myself to just keep plugging away.  I as I was around mile 12, I came near the Steel and finally had some nice views.  I knew I was close to Sand Island, so I wanted to just keep going.  Somehow, I was going to make it to mile 13.  Even if I didn't make it all the way back without walking.

In this section, I passed the only run that I saw all day.  It was a young kid running in khakis.  I assume he was a Lehigh student.  He needs to get some running attire.  When I parked at the beginning, I saw a cute woman running.  I should've followed her.  Little did I know that I would see so few runners out there.

This weekend is the Irish festival called the Celtic Classic.  As I got to Sand Island, I could hear the bagpipes.  That was a huge boost.  Now I see why some people use music to get into a nice rhythm.  They sure did that for me.  I wish I would've been running a little farther out.  I turned around around right at Sand Island.  I ran briefly on the pavement.  I was surprised that it wasn't worse on my knees.

The bagpipes had really lifted my spirits and given me a second wind.  That lasted for about a mile.  Coming back didn't seem as slow as going out, but now my legs were in a lot of hurt.  I kept plugging along.  A mile or so from Sand Island was nice because it was a fairly smooth stone path.

The terrain was one of the most challenging things of the run.  The dirt parts like I encountered in the last couple miles were nice and soft, but they could be uneven and had a lot of roots and rocks.  The stone parts of the trail were uneven too and sometimes different size stones.  They use some big stones in Freemansburg and those suck.  This terrain beat me up bad.  The arches of both of my feet were quite sore afterward and my feet couldn't wait to get out of the shoes.  I think I need to get some new shoes as well.

The last mile was certainly the most difficult as always.  Every tenth of a mile or so, I would look at my watch and countdown until I was finished.  I may look at my watch too much early on, but I think it is a big help late as I near the run's completion.  Even though I was beat, I decided to pick it up with just over half a mile to go.  That didn't last long because the footing was just too uneven and rocky.  I think I made it about two tenths of a mile before giving up and just cruising on in

One thing that made this run nice was how long it took.  It was just under 2:14 minutes.  When I am pacing the Runner's World Half Marathon, I'll be trying to finish in 2:10 minutes.  Since I can run a half marathon so much faster than that and even my training half times are much faster than that, I need to get used to running for that much time.  This was perfect for that and my 17 and 18 mile runs will be even better.

I was so amazed at how hard that run was.  It might've been as difficult as my 23 miler before my last marathon.  It did dawn on me that I haven't run this far since the spring of 2010.  That is quite some time ago. 

Running alone is tough.  Those group runs have been huge for long runs like this one.  I will try to get to the BCR runs as often as I can.  I'm so beat up that I will need to use the foam roller a lot, get some rest and maybe put on some Biofreeze.  I need some more recovery.

One thing that helped me get through this run was thinking about how short 2 hours is within the time frame of my whole life.  Heck, I sleep for four times longer than that.  Tomorrow will be my much needed weekly rest day.  I might switch my speedwork around this week.  I'm not sure when I'll do the mile repeats.  Maybe Monday, maybe Tuesday, maybe Wednesday.  I guess a lot of it will depend how my body feels.  Either way, I need to back off the speedwork some.  I'm already quite strong and I don't need to do too much.  I am clearly getting close to that point.

16 miles - 2:13:51 (8:22 pace)

good time for pacing

so beat up, 50 mile week

Friday, September 28, 2012

Cloudy Friday

After putting in a tough double on Thursday, I needed to run another session this morning.  It was just an easy 4 miler, but my sore quads surely weren't recovered from yesterday's workouts.  I wanted to run Schoeneck because I enjoy that course, but I figured that my quads would be screaming.  I opted instead to head to the Plainfield Recreation Trail.  It has been a little while since I've been there.  I was thinking about running the neighborhood by my house, but decided not to.

It had rained pretty good earlier in the day.  The ground was soaked.  I wore a hat since it was supposed to rain off and only.  The only rain that came down during the run was a light drizzle.  I had to get moving pretty early because I planned to watch a cross country meet all day.

I started off nice and easy.  I just tried my best to enjoy the run.  It was dark and gloomy, but those are kind of my type of conditions anyway.  I did my best not to look at my watch at the beginning of the run.  I knew that would make the run fly by faster.  I was so proud of myself that I made it to .87 miles before glancing down.  That is a big accomplishment.

There were a lot of black walnuts on the trail.  I decided that I would kick them off the trail and sort of make a game of it.  That made for a nice distraction on this usually boring run.  I didn't try to clear every one, but just enough to keep me busy.

With the rain, this trail was nice and peaceful most of the time.  It isn't a highly trafficked trail anyway.  Weekends can be busy, but weekdays are usually quiet.  I had the trail all to myself on the entire way out.

The out part of the run went by pretty fast.  On the way back, I finally encountered a couple.  They were biking earlier when I parked at the trailhead.  They were quite sure where they were then.  After a short period, I was all alone again and back to kicking walnuts.

I cruised along and it was quite uneventful.  Part of the last mile must've been uphill because it was quite tough.  Finishing up was a breeze though and likely downhill.

Toward the end, I passed a couple walking their dog on a leash.  They going the other way was another pair with an unleashed dog.  Plus, there were a couple cute guys running with their dog on a leash.  I guess it was a busy day for dogs on the trail.

Being finished was great.  I stretched and felt a little better.  I certainly have to do something about my quads.  They are so beat up.  I need to use the foam roller more often.  I need to use it a few times each day.

Tomorrow, I am volunteering to help my friend Tom with his race.  I am going to be a course marshal in the 5k over in New Jersey.  That should be fun.  I am also going to have to somehow get my 16 mile run in.  The 5k isn't until 10 AM.  It looks like the weather will be cool all day.  I guess I'll run later on in the day.  It might be humid though.  I'd love to run with someone, but I guess I'll be doing it alone.  Oh well.

4 miles - 33:26 (8:22 pace)

Thursday, September 27, 2012

An Easy Double Up

Today was another double run day.  I was so pissed about my poor speedwork session yesterday that I couldn't let it linger.  I needed to get back out there and run again, even if it was easy.  From the moment I started writing about yesterday's run, I was eager to get back out there.  Initially, I considered running after dark last night.  I wasn't feeling great, so I gave myself a little more rest.

I couldn't take waiting until the evening to run, so I headed to the Nor-Bath Trail this morning.  The plan was a very easy 4 mile run from Bicentennial Park.  It rained a lot this morning, so the ground was soaked.  I didn't notice the rain as it was already sunny and warming up out.

I started off heading west on the trail.  Originally, I was thinking of just doing an out and back each way to the nearest road crossings.  Having done that a few weeks ago, I knew that would be 3 miles total.  Since I'd still have to get another mile in, I just crossed Weaversville Road as I headed west.

I cruised over the two bridges.  I was looking at a map the other day and was confused.  I thought there were three of these bridges, but I guess there are only two.  My quads were tight at the start and the first mile was very slow again.  That mile ended in 9:24.

I need to run more miles as slowly and as comfortable as the first couple miles of this run.  I don't always run harder, but even on my easy days, I probably push more than I should.  I was having some injury problems when I went slower, but those have gone away.

After crossing Weaversville Road, I kept going.  I figured that I would continue on until the next road crossing.  This section was somewhat difficult because there isn't as much shade.  It was getting a little warm on the trail.  I thought about wearing a singlet, but figured there was no point with this being such an easy paced run.

As I got to the second road crossing, I was right around 1.75 miles.  I decided to turn around here and head back.  That would leave me with a half mile to cover when I got back to the park.  Normally, when I do these out and back runs in two directions, I like to run farther in the first one.

I didn't feel like I was running any harder on the way back, but my pace picked up significantly.  I guess my legs just came around.  There was also a slower runner up ahead.  Even though I tried to focus on the ground in front of me and not on catching him, I'm sure I instinctively ran faster to gain on him.

I got to Weaversville Road again and was happy that I had to wait for some cars.  I was hoping that that would allow the other runner to pull farther ahead.  I still gradually caught up to him.  As we approaching the first entrance to Bicentennial Park, he stopped and started walking.  I was just behind him at that point and had almost caught up.  I felt kind of bad because he was breathing pretty heavily at that pace and I wasn't even working at all during my faster pace.

After getting to the main entrance to the park, I headed out another half mile and then walked back.  It was nice and easy and comfortable.  The last two miles were still run in 8:27 and 8:31 though.  I was happy that my gray shorts weren't soaked.  It was cool enough and the run was easy enough that I didn't sweat much.

I saw a lot of people walking, running or biking on this beautiful fall morning.  What was odd was that I saw two people from my run on this trail on Monday.  What are the odds that we all workout there at the same time?  One was a Middle Eastern woman.  She was still carrying her purse, but at least her outfit looked more appropriate for running.  This time, I only saw her walking though.  The other person was the older guy who looks like he spends a lot time at the gym.  He was on his bike

This was a great easy run.  I need more of them like this.  I need to learn how to back off more and just enjoy running.  Not everything has to be fast.  An easy run like this can really aid recovery.  I'll keep note of that for the future.

The Thursday night LVRR Group Run turned out to be great too.  I saw Jen's car, but didn't see her because she started early to get in some additional miles.  A guy named Stephen showed up.  I've seen his name before online.  For awhile, I thought we would be the only ones running.  Then Rob showed up and another woman who ran once before and is a regular with the Saturday group (I forget her name).

I was relieved to see that it would be another easy run.  My body was quite beat up after yesterday and this morning's run.  Some days these runs are hard, others they are easy.  I knew Aaron wouldn't be there because he leads another run, so at least I knew today wouldn't kill me.

I went out nice and easy with Rob.  We chatted a bit about mileage, injuries and just training in general.  Stephen and the woman knew each other so they ran together.  For me, it was a nice and easy pace.  It was actually good practice for pacing the Runner's World Half Marathon.

Rob stopped to tie his shoe at the Robin Hood Bridge.  I didn't realize it, so I kept going.  I pulled Stephen and the woman along.  We talked about half marathons, specifically the one coming up with the Philly Marathon.  Rob told us that he ran the 20 in 24 on my old stomping grounds in summer.  That is a solo loop race where you run as many miles as you can in 24 hours.  I'm not sure I ever want to run that paved path over and over again.

Around the Route 78 Bridge, we got stretched out a bit.  The pace was fairly quick for the two of them.  I pulled them along.  Eventually we got to the big hill at the Fish Hatchery.  The woman left us, so it was just Stephen and I.

I hate running up this steep hill slow, so even though I don't like leaving anyone behind, I took off.  I went semi hard up the hill.  It is definitely getting easier to run this hill.  I was happy because this was the first time all run that I had to breath a bit hard.  The rest of the time I was barely working.  I don't mind though because I'm there to pace the group as needed.

I was quite far ahead of Stephen after the hill, so I slowed down dramatically until he caught up.  I guess I could've just turned back around and caught up to him.  That would've given me more mileage.

We ran together for the final mile and a half back to the Clubhouse.  He told me how impressed he was with my running up the hill.  It wasn't that hard, since I had not pushed up to that point in the run.  I guess sometimes I don't appreciate how well I am running right now.  I'm just so focused on where I want to go.

Although the temperature wasn't bad, it was still humid.  My Group Run Leader shirt gets quite sticky.  I was sweating pretty good, even if I wasn't working much.  I can't wait until it gets even cooler.  It is getting interesting now because it is almost dark by the end of the run.  Pretty soon, we will be finishing in the dark. 

We got to the last couple hills on the back of the route and I flew up them again.  Stephen made it up them, but he did have some trouble.  Maybe my pace was what made it difficult.  I blasted up the hills and then again let him catch up.  We cruised into the clubhouse and he finished up.  He thanked me for leading him in a pace faster than he would usually run.

I wanted to get some more done.  Plus, I wanted to run a little harder.  I pushed to do an out and back and get another mile in.  That gave me 6 miles for the run and 10 miles for the day.  For once, they were at a comfortable easy pace.  The lone exception was the speedy final mile which I ran at 7:45.

I need more easy and fun days like this.  I need to stop pushing so hard so often.  Maybe one day I'll learn.  Maybe I'll appreciate my day to day runs more too.

Tomorrow is probably another easy day.  If I feel good, I wouldn't mind pushing a bit more than I did today.  I'm thinking that I might head up into town and run Schoeneck and it's wonderful hill.  I need a 4 miler and that is about how long that course is.  I will be at a big cross country meet, the Paul Short Invitational, all day tomorrow.  I'm hoping my legs can handle all that walking and running around to take pictures.  On Saturday, I need to find a way to get my 16 miler in while also volunteering for a race that a friend is directing.

AM 4 miles - 35:27 (8:52 pace)
PM 6 miles - 54:52 (9:09 pace)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Another Day of Failed Repeats

Wednesday has become my regular mile repeat day.  I'm running such a fine line for hitting my goal of 7 minute pace for these.  Last week, everything went perfect and I came through the 5 repeats with flying colors.  This week, not so much.

I was ready to get out the door at 9:30 in the morning and then I realized that my watch wouldn't have enough power to make it through the run.  I could deal with not using it for an easy run, but I must have it for repeats.  I had to wait about another hour and a half before it was charged.  I won't lie, I did enjoy the extra rest.

Even before I got out the front door, I just wasn't looking forward to this day.  I had no energy.  Usually I am pumped to run fast.  Today, I felt like I could run long, but wasn't sure what running hard would do.  I went out for the run anyway.  It is always worth giving it a shot.

I stepped out the door and could already tell that it was a bit hotter than I would like.  Nothing too warm, but a few degrees and some higher humidity could make a world of difference.  Last week, conditions were perfect.  Today, it was supposed to rain.  I was hoping for that.  Instead, it was sunny.

I went to the Saucon Rail Trail.  The biggest problem is trying to decide where to run.  I was torn between there or the D&L Trail at Cementon.  If there weren't such busy road crossings, I might hit up the Nor-Bath Trail more often.  I probably should anyway.

I typically can tell very early on whether it will be a successful day or not.  Today, I wasn't so sure.  I didn't feel great when I started off, but I wasn't terrible either.  I knew if I did hit my goal, it would take some work.

The plan was for 6 mile repeats.  The first one is usually the toughest.  This time it was no different.  I had to work much harder than I wanted to just to get under a 7 minute mile.  Maybe I should just run on feel and not worry about my time.  I think this mile had some slight uphill and that made it tough.

The second mile was even more difficult.  I came through the half mile around a 7 minute pace and I had to push and push.  I picked it up enough at the end to go under a 7 minute pace again.  I even cruised in the final tenth of the mile.  This was just way too much work too early though.  I was breathing very heavily after this one.

I tried recovering in between the second and third mile, but my legs just weren't strong.  I started off the third mile, but was well off the pace.  I looked up ahead and could see that the path went uphill.  Even if it was slight, there was no way I was going to go under 7 minutes without killing myself.

I turned around before I was a quarter mile into this repeat.  Going downhill was a relief, but I just didn't have it.  I decided it was best to shut it down and live to fight another day.  If I was even close to goal pace at this point, it might've been worth pushing.  Maybe I rely on my watch too much, but I feel it is best to not overdo it.  I'm already happy with where I'm at now and feel like I could race well if my race was this weekend.

Even though I backed off, I still was used to the fast pace, so my times were pretty solid for the rest of the run.  My final 3 miles were under 8 minutes each.  I was around 3.5 miles out when I turned around, so I still had that far to go back.  At least I knew I'd be getting in some good distance, even if I didn't succeed in hitting my goal.

Coming back in, I didn't feel great.  I just kept going and going.  My new plan was to get 7 miles in.  Now, all I could do was enjoy the scenery.  There were some good looking women running, so that was nice.  One of them had on a Quadzilla shirt.  I wanted to make a comment, but she was busy chatting with her running friend.

As I neared the end of the run, I could tell that if I stopped at 7 miles I would have to walk about half a mile.  I decided I would keep going and get 8 miles in.  I usually head south from the Water Street Park, but there is almost a half mile of trail to the north.  It isn't fun though because it hits a dead end.  I kept going on there and passed some mentally challenged people that were walking and having a picnic in the park.  I figured my day was a struggle, but I didn't feel so bad knowing that a lot of their lives are a struggle.

As I said earlier, I have such a fine line between succeeding and failing on these long repeats.  I need most things to go well.  I think the biggest factor to my failure was going too hard on Monday.  I need to figure out how to be easier on my legs if I am going to run hard on Monday and Wednesday.  Ideally, I would run my second speed session on Thursdays.  That doesn't work though since I lead the LVRR Group Run.  Last week was my best workout to date and that was without running on Monday.

The weather wasn't great today and the trail didn't help either.  It is relatively flat, but there is definitely some uphill on the way out.  That makes it tough to get started and leaves little room for error when trying to hit goals.  I also ate an English Muffin before the run.  I'm not sure if that had any impact.  It isn't much, but I usually don't eat anything.

The big thing I need to work on is being mentally strong before key runs.  Today, I just didn't feel like getting out of bed and really pushing myself.  My legs didn't have it, but even if they did, I defeated myself before I even took a step.  I do feel like I know my body well, so I don't regret shutting it down today.  That said, sometimes you can push through days like this and surprise yourself.  I have quite a few weeks left before my race.  I'll just have to nail those workouts.

Tomorrow will be the LVRR Group Run.  I want to get at least two extra miles in before the run too.  I may run up the other big hill to add some distance too.  That is if I am feeling good.  Hopefully I'll be well rested for tomorrow's run.

8 miles - 1:01:44 (7:43 pace) 

running hard monday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Trying the Lehigh Gap Again

I wanted to run an easy day today, but also do some climbing.  Since it was nice out, I decided I could run the barren trails at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center.  I was hoping to climb to the top of the mountain and run along the ridge for awhile.  The plan was for about 8 miles.  It didn't quite work out, but I still got in a good workout.

I started out on the LNE Trail.  This begins with a little climb at the Nature Center.  It is rocky before leveling and smoothing out.  I saw some people get out of the truck next to me and I thought I might catch them on this trail.  Then I realized that they didn't look like hikers, so they were likely on the flat D&L Trail.  I will give them credit, I saw them walking out about 40 minutes later.  That means they were walking over an hour and a half.  They didn't look like they could go that far.

Even when the trail flattened out, it was still a bit of a pain.  The grass between the tire tracks on the trail was overgrown.  I've never seen that before when I have run there.  I guess they usually mow it pretty well, but for whatever reason they haven't lately.  I used some bug spray, but still wasn't crazy about rubbing up against brush.

The arch of my right foot started bothering me in this section.  That happens from time to time when I run in my trail shoes.  It only seems to be a problem while I'm running.  I'm not sure if the shoe doesn't fit right or what the issue is.

Eventually I came to the Prairie Grass Trail.  The nearby zinc plant killed all the vegetation on the mountain and that grass is about all that grows there.  This trail is a bit rocky and it is a steep uphill climb.  During the summer, Kelley and I ran here, but I couldn't climb too much because the humidity was brutal and the trail is exposed to the sun.  With this cool breeze, it was much better.

I made it farther up the trail than I ever had before.  Although it was uphill, it wasn't too steep.  I wasn't breathing all that heavy.  Maybe it is just me getting stronger.  The problem was that my arch really started killing me.  It was getting close to unbearable and I could feel it with every step of the climb.  I kept going though.  I ran through the treeline and all the way to the intersecting Charcoal Trail.

I had hoped to take the Charcoal Trail all the way to the top of the mountain.  My foot was just hurting too much.  I also saw a hiker on that trail and decided that it would be a good time to turn around and head back down the mountain.  I had probably climbed a couple hundred feet, but I'm sure I had a few hundred more to go.  The top of the mountain still looked far away.  I'm sure it wasn't as bad as it looked.  I probably could've made it to the top without the foot issue.

Going down the trail was a great relief for my foot.  I had no more pain.  Since it is so rocky, I had to be careful with my footing.  It is a shame because the views of the valley below and the town of Palmerton are great from up there.  I made it back down to the LNE Trail fairly quickly.  

Although I didn't go as far as I wanted to, I at least got some climbing done.  I wanted to explore the far end of the trail, so I continued west on the LNE.  This went on for a couple miles.  Kelley and I had unsuccessfully run the other end of the Prairie Grass Trail earlier in the summer.  It was too overgrown.  I continued past that section and on to the end of the LNE. 

It was weird running near the end of the LNE.  Suddenly the trail was like a normal trail with trees lining the path.  No more dead vegetation.  The zinc plant must have blown its nasty air over the river and right through the gap.

I passed the Three Ponds Trail, but that looked overgrown.  I saw some houses below the trail.  Then there was a gate at the end of the trail.  I knew that somehow the LNE connected to the D&L, so I kept going.  I had to go downhill on a stone road by the houses.  There were some really crappy trailers there.  Eventually I found more of a main road and was back onto the D&L Trail.

The rest of this run was very easy.  I watched my overall pace fall and fall, even as I ran with no effort.  Some of the stones on the LNE were bigger and for some reason that seemed to bother my arch.  This terrain was fine though.  My pain went away.  My IT band on my right leg did act up a little, but it was only minor. 

At one poin,t I looked over a saw a concrete wall that I had noticed from above.  I thought I was farther along on the D&L than that.  I then realized that because of the way the trail curved through the gap, I would be running more distance on the D&L than I did on the LNE.

This part of the D&L was long, but uneventful.  I passed a few walkers and bikers.  That was about it.  As I got back to the Nature Center, I was at about mile 6.40.  I decided that I would run to mile 7.  Rather than run on the D&L, I elected to climb the short hill of Prairie Warbler Trail next to Nature Center.  That added some changing terrain and about a quarter mile to my run.  I finished up by continuing on the D&L Trail and then walking back.

It was a nice, easy day.  I love running at Lehigh Gap.  The views are amazing.  They were even really cool from the D&L as I approached the gap.  One of these days, I'll make it to the top of the mountain running.  I now feel like I can actually do that.  I just have to keep my foot from acting up.

Tomorrow is another speedwork session.  I'm not sure where I'll go.  Perhaps on the D&L again or maybe the Saucon Rail Trail.  I plan on running 6 X 1 mile repeats under my goal pace of 7 minutes.  I'll have to check the weather, but I assume it will cooperate.  I'm looking to nail another key workout.

7 miles - 1:01:55 (8:51 pace)

Monday, September 24, 2012

Windy Fartlek

Monday is my first speedwork session of the week.  The tricky part is not overdoing it and being able to run strong on my key session on Wednesday.  I might have done a bit much again today, as I did a few weeks back.

I thought keeping a tempo pace might be quite the challenge and would beat me up too much (especially with today's wind).  Hill repeats are usually so short that they make attaining mileage difficult.  Because of those issues, I opted to run a fartlek on the Nor-Bath Trail.

This would allow me to run however I feel on this day.  I slept it because I knew it would be cool all day.  It was actually warm whenever the breeze stopped blowing, but that wasn't often.  When the wind was going, it was quite chilly.

My quads felt good yesterday, but the extra day off made them feel sore.  Rest doesn't exactly help.  My first few steps were awkward as usual.  Then, I got warmed up and was doing fine.  The first mile was easy and I managed to make it across Airport Road without stopping.

After the warmup, I began cranking it up.  I usually start these with longer and slower "fast" segments.  This gets the legs warmed up some more without over taxing them and pressing them into action too soon.  Of course these longer segments are still shorter than my repeats on Wednesdays.

The first segment into the wind was .25 miles at a 6:47 pace.  After another longer segment, I shorten it up and went faster.  I ran a 5:41 minute pace for .15 miles.  That was certainly a bit difficult.

I was hoping to do a longer segment of .35 miles, but I had to settle for .25 miles because I was approaching a road crossing.  I didn't want to take the risk of slowing down.  That was done at a fast 6:12 pace.  I then followed that up with the .35 mile segment.  That one was at a more pedestrian 6:49 pace.  I used that almost like a fast recovery.

I ran one more short and fast segment before turning around.  That was .10 miles at a 5:41 pace.  I turned around at the halfway point.  That was just in time as they were doing some work on the trail up ahead.  I got to avoid that mess.

Going out was mostly into the wind, so I was looking forward to heading back.  Having the wind behind me was a help, but not a great of a factor as I thought it would be.  My legs were already feeling quite beat.  My first fast segment coming back was a medium distance of .20 miles.  I managed to just break 6 minute pace with a 5:57 pace.

My goal was to pick it up a lot over the second half of this run and I sure did that.  I was almost in full out sprint mode for .10 miles.  I completed that one at a blazing 4:42 pace.  That is the first time I've done any speedwork segments under a 5 minute pace in a long time.

In the next two speedy segments, I increased the distance to .15 and .25 miles.  I kept both of these segments under a 6 minute pace too.  After really pushing in those segments, I needed a good recovery.  Normally, I don't like to give myself more than .25 miles to recover.  This time, I gave myself .30 miles.

My next fast segment was sort of a recovery too.  I only ran .10 miles and at a 6:10 pace.  It certainly was somewhat of a challenge, but not as difficult as the previous few segments.  As I was preparing for my final fast segment, I knew this one would be tough.  The long recoveries made my tired legs think they were done.  I planned on just running a hard .10 miles, as I kept pushing myself that turned into .15 miles.  The pace was 5:27.  Perhaps even more impressive was that I could tell from far away that this portion of the run was slightly uphill.

After my speedy part of the running was over, I started my cooldown mile.  I saw a couple runners and some bikers on the path throughout the run.  The two most interesting people had to be a young Middle Eastern woman and an old man.  I passed the woman earlier as she was walking.  She was dressed fairly nicely with a jacket and scarf.  She also had on perfume and was carrying a purse.  When I saw her this second time, she was running.  That seemed quite odd.  The old guy had to be in his 70s or 80s and he was biking with his shirt off.  He was ripped.  It didn't look like he missed a day at the gym in his life. 

I also saw a Bluejay on the trail.  It was very pretty.  I don't see those flying around too often.  It was one of the few things I even noticed.  I had to dodge a couple squirrels.  When you run these speedwork sessions, you are just so focused and almost unaware of your surroundings.  I was happy I made it over all the road crossings without any problems.

After I finished running, I realized how much my legs took a pounding.  I keep these fartlek intervals short, but they are so fast that they really stress my body.  It is good to run at speeds that I'm not used to, but it causes my muscles to work differently.  My IT band on both legs seemed a little sore.  I'm hoping some decent stretching helped.  I probably need to work on my legs more between now and my next speedwork session. 

I don't feel like I'm pushing too hard during these fartleks, but I guess I do.  I just need to do a little less so that I don't kill myself and that I allow myself to be strong a few days later.  I need to either run different speedwork sessions or run these smarter.  I have to be more careful because speedwork can be a big cause of injuries.

After a good workout today, it is time for an easy one tomorrow.  I can't decided where I'm going, but I'm looking for an easy 7 or 8 miles.  I'm thinking maybe I'll run the trails at the Lehigh Gap Nature Center.  Now that it is cooler out, I would like to try climbing to the top of the mountain.  Sometime, I'd like to go the Poconos.  I want to run on the McDade Trail along the Delaware.  I'm not sure I want to go all the way up there with a cross country meet to attend tomorrow though.

7 miles - 55:08 (7:52 pace)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Run for the Diamonds Preview

We are camping somewhat close to Berwick, so I decided to do my long run on the Run for the Diamonds course.  This is my favorite race ever.  I ran it back in 1999.  The course is tough, the crowds are great and the weather is unpredictable.  I signed up to run it last year, but wasn’t healthy enough to do so.

Berwick was actually farther away than I thought.  It took me almost an hour to get there from Hickory Run State Park.  It was still closer than the two hours that it is away from home.  I’d like to get there again before the Thanksgiving Day race, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to.

When I woke up, it was cloudy and freezing cold.  I was in no rush to get running.  That is for sure.  I considered running in long sleeves and I brought one of those shirts along.  By the time I got there, it was actually getting quite warm.  It was sunny out now, but there was still a strong breeze.

I wore a singlet and knew that would be an excellent choice.  The temperature wasn’t high, but it was very humid.  I first toured the course in our SUV.  I almost didn’t run this 9 mile loop because it seemed dangerous.  I decided that I didn’t want to drive all the way back and then run, so I headed off.

I parked a few blocks from the start and began my warmup.  The course is 9 miles in length.  I’m cutting back this week, so the plan was for 11 miles.  That made for a mile warmup and a mile cooldown.

I ran around Front Street.  The town is into high school football and that was evident with all the streamers throughout town.  I saw that stadium and it looked neat.  When I got to the start line of the race course, I was only about .4 miles into the run.  I had to add some length to get to the start.

South of the town is the Susquehanna River.  There was a pedestrian walkway next to the road bridge over it.  I ran a short out and back along there.  A woman was walking with her kid and he stepped in my path right as I was about to pass.  I avoided him though.  I came back and was at the start of the race course.

The first mile is on Market Street.  I watched some video of the start to figure out exactly where the race begins.  I took off at Front and Market.  Even though the road is wide, it was busy on a Saturday morning.  Therefore, I ran on the sidewalk.  I don’t like the unevenness of sidewalks, but it would have to do.

This course has a brutal climb, but at least it starts with a mile of flat before that.  It makes for a nice warmup.  I was already quite hot in this first mile of the course (2nd mile overall).  I went along at a comfortable pace on Summer Hill Road/Foundryville Road.  I was wearing my minimal shoes.  I was a little unsure if that was a good choice since I don’t run on road in them much.  They did work out though.

Normally when you run on roads, you should face traffic.  On steep climbs, I usually like to run on whichever side is going uphill.  Today, I just ran with the side of the road that had more of a shoulder.  In the beginning of the hill, that was the right side of the road.  Up most of the hill, I ran on the left side.

The second mile of the race course is a gradual incline.  This wasn’t too bad and I still moved along.  Things really got tough at Mile 3.  That’s when the big climbing begins.  It is far from the steepest climb that I’ve ever run, but it is very long.  One nice thing is that the course is still marked at each mile.  My GPS was quite accurate throughout the run.  At most, it was off by .02 miles.  That’s not much of a difference.

The climb isn’t straight up, so you can’t quite tell how much longer you have.  I was only going uphill for about half a mile and I was already thinking that I wanted to quit or turn around and go back down the hill.  Having run the race before, I knew it wouldn’t be too long until I was at the top.

A dog barked at me, but luckily didn’t chase me.  The hill was tough enough; I didn’t need an animal to speed me up.  I thought getting up to Summer Hill would be a relief, but that wasn’t quite the top.  The main beef of the climb was this 2 mile section.

One nice thing is that around the 4 mile marking on the course is fresh pavement.  Up to this point, the shoulder was decent and so was the road.  The paved section made it better.  The course seemed to flatten out and drop at this point.  I thought the worst of the climbing might be over.

After speedy drop, it was back to climbing again.  This wasn’t anywhere near as bad as the earlier climb, but it was still difficult.  Slowly, the hills were taking their toll on me.

There is another wonderful drop before turning onto Kachinka Hollow Road.  There were some spectacular views of the surrounding mountains in this section.  Turning onto Kachinka Hollow Road was depressing because it involved more climbing.  It was another gradual climb through farmland. 

It was out in the open and fairly hot.  That’s one thing that sucked about this course.  There wasn’t a lot of shade.  That won’t be as big of a deal in November as it was today.

Kachinka Hollow Road was hairy because it had no shoulder.  I had to just run along the road.  I didn’t have any close calls, but a lot of cars had to slow and go around me.  One of them was a cop.  I was about 5 miles into the route and it was finally time to cruise downhill.  Earlier in the run, I questioned why I wanted to do such a crazy race.  Flying downhill after a tough climb makes it all worth it though.

At one point while I was going downhill, I ran by two women running.  They were going the wrong way on the road.  It made for tricky passing as a car was coming.  When I was driving the course, I saw a women running uphill and three guys running and a woman on a bike near the end.  I’m guessing a lot of locals run the course throughout the year.  It makes for a nice loop.

Of course any time I thought it was all downhill, I’d come across another uphill.  This happened just before I turned onto Martzville Road.  That was with about 2 miles left on the course.  It was so much fun watching my pace drop and drop and drop.  I was going easy, but putting in miles well under an 8 minute pace.  I think at the top of the hill, my pace was something around 8:38.  By the end of the run, my pace went all the way down to 8:14.

Martzville Road is fast and mostly downhill.  I cruised by a huge house with giant “S” signs everywhere.  I saw somewhere that it said Sophie and there was a race car there too.  I’ll have to look into what that was.  There was a golf course on the opposite side of the road too.

I had to move out of the way for a couple on bikes coming my way.  I ran in the grass briefly though as I was now in a residential area.  A few people were walking their dogs or by themselves along this road.  It was odd because there weren’t any sidewalks.

Martzville Road flattens out at the bottom.  It is funny because I was so used to the downhill, that this seemed hard.  It isn’t like I was climbing or anything.

Most of the final mile is on Market Street.  That was difficult running on sidewalks again.  I was also feeling beat.  I still put in a decent mile.  It was good to be done with the course without running too hard.

The cooldown mile was brutal.  I was so beat.  It was humid and I was chafing.  I ran what seemed like a slow pace and it felt like it took forever.  I ran to my car and did an out and back from there.  I still had over half a mile left when I got to my car.  Even though it felt slow, the mile was still 9 minutes flat.  Eventually I was done and very happy.  I stretched and walked to the store to grab a Gatorade.

I was quite impressed with my time considering that I didn’t push and that the weather wasn’t the best.  Of course on race day the weather might be terrible for other reasons.  I ran the course part of this run in 1:13:17.  That comes out to an 8:08 pace.  My slowest mile was 9:14 and my fastest was 7:33.  My time when I ran it back in ’99 was 101:13.  My training is better now that I was then, but I also had more natural speed when I was 19.  For the race, I’d love to go under a 7 minute pace.  That would be 1:03.  That could be tough.  I’d like to at least break 1:05.

I’ve been on flat rail trails a lot lately.  That’s good since my half marathon is on that terrain.  However, this race is only a few weeks later.  I definitely need to start sprinkling in some more hill training.  Maybe I’ll do a hill week, where I run uphill for three straight days.  I should do hill repeats sometime.  The best place for me to simulate race conditions is South Mountain near Lehigh.  That elevation gain is about the same.  The tough part is that that is shorter, but steeper.  This run for the Diamonds course is more gradual.  Maybe I can find somewhere else to run around there.

I can’t say enough about this Run for the Diamonds race.  When I ran back in 1999, I felt miserable and struggled up the hill.  I got a side sticker part way up.  It was cold and rainy.  I wanted to quit, but I pushed through and flew through the last half.  It was my toughest race to that point and I persevered. 

The crowd support and history of this race is what makes it very unique.  They have run it over 100 times.  It began in 1908 and is one of the oldest races in the country.  Back in the early years, the best marathoners in the world would show up.  Many Olympians and Boston Marathon winners were there.  It was quite the spectacle.  The crowd used to bet on who would win.  It is now just a big regional event.  It doesn’t have the prize money that would attract the professional runners.  That is too bad.  It would be cool if some big names showed up every now and then just because of the history.

What else makes this race so cool is how old school it is.  The entry fee is still only $25.  It is a hidden secret in running.  Even with that cheap of a price, it still only gets a couple thousand people.  That’s a perfect size for me.  Big city races are so overrated.  There isn’t even any online registration.  It is all still done by mail.  I hope things just continue this way for a long time.  If it does, I will be there almost every Thanksgiving Day.  I can’t wait to finally make it back.

Tomorrow will be my usual weekly off day.  Then it is back to running a regular week.  I’d like to either do hill repeats or a tempo run on Monday.  I haven’t done either in a while.  I’m looking to put in 50 miles this week, with a long run of 16 miles.  I asked Flo if she is interested in doing a night run this week.  That would be fun.  Either way I’m looking forward to continuing my improvement and hopefully enjoying some more fall weather.  I also need to start searching for a job soon.  I need some income and my health now seems good. 

11 miles – 1:31:24 (8:19 pace)

Hickory Run Run

My dad and I decided to go camping this weekend.  We are at Hickory Run State Park.  It is about an hour from home (near where Routes 80 and 476 meet).  Since Friday runs are typically so awful, I elected to wait until getting to the park to run.  I wanted to start right away though, because it was already after 3 PM.  I figured a trail run would be a nice change of pace.

I wasn’t quite sure where to go.  I thought about running in the northwest section of the park.  There is a great view of the Lehigh Gorge there.  I didn’t have any shorts with me that could hold a park map and I didn’t want to get lost.  Therefore, I decided to just run the route that I ran last year when I was here.  This time, I ran it in the opposite direction.

There is a 10k race here in the spring and it follows that course.  I can’t remember which direction the race actually goes.  For some reason, I also thought this was a 5k course and not a 10k course.  When I ran here last year, I tried to do a speed session and failed miserably with all the hills.

Today I was just taking it easy.  I started off running in the campground.  My dad suggested that, rather than run on the road.  I was sore in the beginning (my quads) and again I ran awful at the start.  Once I got warmed up, I was okay.  I never did feel great today.  Yesterday’s workout was hard.

I saw an opening to the road from the campground and left it.  It turned out that I could’ve run farther in the campground.  Instead, I was running east on Route 534.  I didn’t realize there would be such an uphill to get to the trailhead.  I wasn’t enjoying it and kept wondering where the trail was.  It was far from the worst hill that I’ve ever run, but it kept going and going.

Finally, I turned onto the Pine Hill Trail.  This trail is a wide doubletrack woods road.  It is nice and open.  The path is mostly grass and some dirt.  After the slow first three quarters of a mile on the road, this was a welcome change.  It was a super long downhill that seems to last forever.  I wasn’t complaining.

There was some water here and there, but overall the trail wasn’t too muddy.  It didn’t slow me down much.  I got to the Blue Trail and saw that the sign said that the highway was 1.75 miles away.  That was a wonderful 1.75 miles.  It flew along.  It was so fast that I ran with ease and put together back to back miles of 8:33 and 8:18.  

I knew things would get interested when this part of the trail changed terrain.  Eventually, it became a narrow singletrack.  First, it climbed up a short hill.  I was happy because I thought it might be a longer hill.  The setting was now a pretty thick forest.  I tripped around the top of the hill and twisted my ankle.  The next few steps were tough, especially because the path was now rocky.

Going downhill, the path turned very technical.  It was rock after rock.  I couldn’t go very fast because of that terrain.  I was still happy to be descending.  Last year, I ran up this hill and it killed me.  This direction was hard, but much better.

One section was so rocky that I basically had to walk over it.  Other than that, I just scanned the terrain for the best footing.  I knew I was going the right way because pink ribbons were tied all around.  I assume that was from the trail race.  At one point, I briefly lost the trail and started to get worried.  Luckily, I quickly found it and was on my way.

I did have to climb just a little bit, but most of the run was downhill.  I went through one section that was like a meadow.  I then came out to some train tracks.  Everything was familiar, so I was happy.  I wasn’t crazy about some of the overgrowth on the trail.  I forgot bug spray and didn’t want to come across any ticks.

After the railroad tracks, the trail changes names and terrain.  It is about the width of a doubletrack, but a vehicle wouldn’t fit through some of the low canopy.  The map shows this as the Shades of Death Trail, but the signage listed it as either part of the Fireline Trail or the Sand Spring Trail.

I was running along the trail and it was neat because I could see and hear Hickory Run below.  At one point, I came to the intersection with the Hickory Run Trail.  I was only about 85% sure that I needed to stay on my current trail.  My worries were put to rest when I saw some old mechanical type pieces buried in the ground.  This was familiar from last year’s run.

As I entered the final mile of this 6 mile run, I was wearing down.  Even though the trails weren’t too difficult and the weather was wonderful, my quads were sore.  I realized that I was running on the balls of my feet and that was stressing my quads.  I’m not sure if that’s how I’m running now on roads, but I am definitely forefoot striking on trails.  I will have to check next time I hit the roads.  It is very possible that I am doing the same now that I wear minimalist shoes a lot.  

The only tough thing about this final section was some of the water on the trail.  Wherever there was an uphill, it would drain.  I couldn’t help but get my feet wet a few times.  I had to make sure I didn’t slip either.  Finally, I hit 6 miles and was done.

I knew I’d have some walking to do, but didn’t realize how much.  I figured it to be around a mile.  I’m guessing it was over 2 miles.  I seemed to be walking forever.  There was a sign for the campground and I was glad because I might not have turned there.  I was still far from the end though.  After the sign was a huge climb.  I’m glad I wasn’t running this part.  It took so long that I almost considered running again.  Finally I got to the campground.  Then of course I had to walk some distance to get to our camp site.  Of course it ended up being uphill too.

Today was a decent run.  Whenever my Friday run doesn’t bore me and drive me crazy, I’m happy.  A trail run almost always seems refreshing.  This a good park to run at with miles and miles of trails.  Some time, I’ll make sure to run more of them.  For now, this familiar loop worked.

I could run here again tomorrow, but I’m actually only about half an hour from Berwick.  I’m going to try to get there in the morning and run the Run for the Diamonds course.  I might run the race on Thanksgiving Day and was planning a few course tours anyway.  I need to run 11 miles, so the 9 mile course plus a couple extra miles should do.  This race has a crazy two mile climb that I both love and dread.  Hopefully I’ll be strong on it tomorrow.  The weather seems like it will be nice.

6 miles – 57:42 (9:37 pace)