Thursday, February 28, 2013

Windy Group Run

Tonight was the weekly LVRR Group Run.  As it got close to start time, I thought I'd be running alone again.  A cute young girl was running and I thought maybe would join the run.  She stopped though and walked away.  A guy Noah, that came a couple months ago, did show up.  He rides his bike there.  He said he got hurt after the last time he was at the run and then just didn't want to run in the cold.

Even though the temperature was around 40 degrees, it was freezing again.  Where is this wind when I need it in the middle of summer?  I didn't know what to wear.  I put on some shorts.  I knew I had to wait around for about 20 minutes or so beforehand, so I wore a jacket.  I wasn't sure if that would be too much.  Waiting in the cold was very difficult.

We started off and headed the normal route.  One nice thing is that it is getting lighter and lighter out.  I think in a few weeks, it will be daylight savings time again.  I can't wait.  Maybe that will bring more people out to the runs.  I plan on moving a couple of the runs to the St. Luke's course in the coming weeks.  This will be for a course preview and hopefully to get some more people out.

Even though there was only two of us, it was a good run.  We chatted a lot about running and cycling (Noah's specialty).  He also wants to try to do some swimming.  Time flew by.

The only issue was the wind.  In one direction, it was brutal.  In the other direction, it was great and actually too warm out.  We ran through Lehigh and by a cute college girl.  There surprisingly aren't too many college kids out when we run through campus.

Over the Hill to Hill Bridge it was windy, but at least it was on our side.  Last time Noah ran with me, he pushed me and that pace was fast.  Even he was complaining that it was a little too fast last time.  This run was much better. 

We ran through town and it was so much better.  The buildings must block the wind.  Before I knew it, we were out of town and over the Minsi Trail Bridge.  The wind was a little tough over the river there.  My lips were pretty chapped by this point.

I told Noah that I wanted to run some extra distance.  I wanted to go to the 6 mile point.  We decided to try running on the Bethlehem Greenway across from the casino.  It is a short, paved path.  I know that somehow it connects to the Saucon Rail Trail.  I'm hoping to make that a new route in the future.  I think it links there via some dirt nature trails.

Sometime I'll explore the area more.  We got to a skateboarding park and then the pavement ended and the path wasn't lit either.  After just a short distance, I decided that we should turn around.

Of course we headed right back into a headwind.  We went out fairly far.  We then crossed the road and headed back toward Steel Stacks.  It was windy in this direction too.  It seemed like the wind was following us everywhere.  Other than that, things went perfectly as we hit mile 6 right near the parking lot.  It was a solid run.  The pace was fairly consistent.  It varied from a fastest mile of 8 minutes flat to a slow of 8:47.  Most of the miles were around 8:30 pace.

I enjoyed the run, but I can't wait for some warmer weather.  That will be a big relief.  I think the weather sucks again tomorrow.  I'll still be out there running for a third day in a row.  I think I'm going to try some hill repeats.  Maybe I'll go out to Trexler for the 2nd time this week.

Another exciting thing is that Quadzilla 15K just opened up.  I told my friend Jill that I would register the first day.  I did just that this evening.  I can't wait.  This is one of my main goal races for the season.  Even though the humidity is brutal, it can't get here soon enough.

6 miles - 50:54 (8:29 pace)

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Getting a Little Farther at Trexler

I stepped out the door yesterday prepared to do a track workout.  Then, I felt the cold wind and decided that that wouldn't be very productive.  Today, I was definitely going to run.  At first, the plan was to go to Trexler.  I brought my trail shoes with me to my new job and was going to run after work.  When I was done with work, I decided that I'd just run closer to home.  Then when I got home, I changed my mind again and headed to Trexler anyway.

The weather has been tricky each of the last two days.  The temperatures have finally risen into the mid 40s.  The problem is that it is still windy and cloudy most of the time.  I thought it would feel a lot better with a 10-15 degree increase, but it hasn't.  One reason why I didn't want to go to Trexler was because it rained most of the morning.

I was fully prepared for a slippery and muddy route.  I figured that by going in the normal direction, I wouldn't encounter quite a much mud.  The beginning is a bit more rocky.  I started off flying down the hill.  I came across a guy walking his dog.  The path was a little slick, but overall not too bad.

I then climbed the long hill.  That didn't have the best grip, but it was very runnable.  I didn't slip too much.  I guess this hill will never get easier.  It's to the point that I can make it to the top without stopping.  However, I am barely running by the summit.  It is just so tough because it gets steeper and steeper.  If there wasn't a lot of downhill recovery time after the hill, I'm not sure that I'd mentally be able to get up the hill.

I went past the bison pen and they were out, but near the top of their enclosure.  I'm amazed at how easy the hill near there is.  It is much more gradual than the steep hill.  I made it up with only minor breathing issues.

There was a lot of stone for grip on the soggy trail, but plenty of mud too.  The most problematic mud sections were usually around turns.  It was hard to get any grip there.  That was the case early on and I nearly fell.  The meadow like section was just slippery all over, as was the short downhill before the road.

Going down the road was a nice break.  I saw a woman walking two dogs.  After the run, I saw another guy walking two dogs as well.  I was surprised with how many people were out there.  The weather was better than it has been, but not great.

I went over the rocky section.  It was challenging because I haven't seen it clear in awhile.  Most of the rocks have been covered with snow lately.  I stepped on a sharp one that stung, but made it through alright.  It was fun.

The long uphill was tough.  Really the most difficult part of this is the first section.  After that, it levels off more and gradually climbs.  You can recover much better once you get past the first part.  I almost didn't make it that far.  The wind was just so brutal.  It was cold and blowing right in my face.  I struggled with what to wear again.  In these winds sections, it was awful and I needed my windbreaker over the short sleeve shirt, with shorts one the bottom.  Other times, I was hot and could've done without the jacket.

I was surprised that the sloped section of the trail had as much grip as it did.  I figured I would be slipping and sliding there, like I have been doing all winter.  It was better than I anticipated.  My foot was a little sore at this point.

I arrived at the view, but couldn't enjoy it because it was so cold at the top.  I was working too hard against the elements to enjoy much of the run.  With everything dead and no snow, the surroundings weren't as beautiful as they could be.

I approached the 3 mile point and had a decision to make.  The trail was going downhill fast and I had to turn around soon if I was going to do so.  I didn't want to climb too much.  I wanted to try to complete the whole loop, but I knew at this point I was likely too beat to finish it.  I kept going anyway.  There were some big tracks in this area.  I guess they were horse tracks.  I never see horses there.

I knew the hills were coming.  I thought I was at the tricky "false hill" before the big hill.  I'm not so sure if that was the case though.  It seemed too easy.  The "false hill" is usually kind of hard.  I forgot about some of short hills in amongst the big hills in this section.  I had not run there in some time.  I was happy to see that I was near 3.3 miles at this point.  This is farther out than I've been able to go all winter.

While climbing the first small hill, I knew the big hills would be tough.  There were some rocks, but also a lot of mud.  The grip was tough because it was so steep.  I got what I thought was the first big hill at 3.5 miles.  I'm not sure if that was actually the big hill or not.  It looked like the trail might have been moved and that this was now a switchback section.  That would sure make the steep uphill much easier and it would kind of take away the fun too.  I haven't run this area in so long that I could've been wrong with where I actually was.

I kept plugging away.  Although every hill was tough at this point, I felt a little better than I did earlier.  I got into a groove I guess.  As I approached 4 miles, I started climbing a steep hill.  Was it the 2nd one or the 1st?  I'm not quite sure.  Either way, this one was steep and very difficult to get up.  I knew I wouldn't be able to get to 4 miles, even though I was so close.  I gave up earlier than I probably should have and turned around.  Near the bottom of the hill, I hit the 4 mile mark.

I was next to the road, but had to look around to find a path out of there.  I ran on the road for awhile.  I didn't feel like running far on it though.  I decided just to quit right around 40 minutes.  That made for a good workout.

The problem was that I had a long way to walk back again.  Eventually, I made it to the zoo.  This time, I found the perimeter trail and used that rather than the zoo road.  It made for a much shorter walk back to my car.  I guess the route that I took was likely the way to bypass the creek crossing.  Now that I know it, maybe I'll keep running and use this route in the future.  At least I could get 5 or 6 miles then.  Maybe I can even do the rest of the loop from there.

I'm amazed at the workout that I did get.  My body is beat up and exhausted.  I nearly fell asleep watching TV.  I'm glad I pushed myself a little farther.  I need to keep going though.  Maybe in better conditions, I can actually complete the whole route.  I can't believe I'm still struggling as much as I am at this point.  I just have to keep going and plugging away.  In addition to going once a week, maybe I'll head to Trexler twice a week from time to time.

Tomorrow will be the 2nd of 3 straight days of running.  Not ideal, but I'll manage.  It will be the LVRR Group Run in Bethlehem.  Friday, maybe I'll do some speed or hill work.  If I do hills, it could be at Trexler again.  The BCR is running at Plainfield on Saturday, so I doubt I'll be there.  I don't like that trail much and it is paved, so I'll likely pass.

4.28 miles - 40:01 (9:22 pace)

Monday, February 25, 2013

Failed 800s

I almost made it out yesterday to run, even though I didn't plan to.  The weather was nice, so I strongly considered it.  I was exhausted after going to the Lafayette-Lehigh basketball game and just couldn't drag myself out there.

That meant that I had to get out and run today.  It certainly wasn't easy.  I was tired and took a brief nap and had no energy.  I grabbed some coffee to try to refresh me as I headed out the door.

The weather was much better today than it has been lately.  I wanted to take advantage of that and try to run 800 repeats again.  I was thinking about 5 or 6 on the D&L Trail.  I headed there later in the afternoon.

I knew I was going to wear shorts, since the temperature was supposed to be around 45 degrees.  The big question was whether to go with a long sleeve or short sleeve top.  Since I planned on a fast workout, I went with the short sleeve top.

Although it was much warmer than usual, it wasn't as good as I expected.  For one, it was still cloudy out.  Having the sun out makes a big difference.  It was also still a little windy and being along the Lehigh River and I was running into it.  The beginning of the run was definitely cold.  I had to blow on my hands until I was warmed up.

Usually I can tell in the mile warmup whether or not it will be a successful day.  Today, it was tough to gauge.  My legs felt fine, but running didn't seem easy and my time appeared fairly slow early on.  I did get faster and faster throughout the mile and was right at 8 minutes flat.

I started my first 800.  Just like last week, I didn't seem to have a fast gear.  It only seemed like I was going slightly faster than the warmup.  I was breathing hard and it just felt like I was going nowhere.  This half mile seemed to take forever.  I was done with it and under a 7 minute pace, but it was way too much work.

I could've pushed through a couple more of these, but I figured what is the point?  I listened to my body and it said, "take it easy today."  If I can't run the first repeat well, I'm certainly not going to run the next few any better.  I cruised after that and when I got to a quarter mile of active recovery, I just decided to keep that pace and make this an easy run.

I think the issue was the ground.  The stone trail can be great for the legs since it is soft.  With all the snow melt and recent rain, it was really soggy and super soft.  It was almost too wet and made it hard to run.  I have encountered this before.  I didn't anticipate it would be this bad.

The trail made every step much more difficult.  Even slowing down and running at an easier pace wasn't easy.  That is because my foot was still impacting the ground over and over again.  Also, this beginning section is slightly uphill.

I continued on and made it a goal to get to 2.5 miles before turning around.  The good thing is that after the fast segment, it was only 3/4 of a mile until that point.  I considered going out to 3 miles because I figured it would be downhill on the way back.  I was just struggling too much though. 

I'm glad I didn't go any farther.  Coming back was very difficult as well.  It might have been slightly downhill, but it didn't matter.  It wasn't easy and my body was taking a beating.  When I got to around 3.5 miles, my left knee near the kneecap got very sore and my right calf started bothering me as well.  I knew I could make it to 4 miles, but I wasn't sure if I'd get to 5 miles.

There is a road along most of the trail.  It got so bad that I decided that I would just run back on the harder paved surface.  I as soon as I could make my way over to Route 145, I did.  It was busy, but the shoulder was pretty wide.

My legs eventually came around on the pavement, but that took awhile.  This part was tricky because the road goes up and down whereas the trail remains relatively flat.  The elevation change was tough.

The road to Cementon comes off of Route 145.  I had to take that back to my car.  In the beginning, it has a decent shoulder.  However, it sort of goes along a cliff with the trail below as you get closer to Cementon.  That meant that there was almost no shoulder and I was right up against the guardrail.

This section was very hairy.  Not only was the shoulder small, but the road was busy.  There were quite a few cars that went by me.  I noticed a few people on cellphones.  I'm just glad I wasn't hit by the morons.  I had a women start to swerve towards me a little bit at the end of the road.  I noticed she had a cigarette in her hand.  She wasn't too close to hitting me, but I had nowhere to go if she did.  I was right next to the guardrail.

It was a relief to get back to a sidewalk in the final quarter of a mile.  I will never run on that road section again.  If I ever have a similar problem as I did today, I'll just run until I can't.  Then I'll walk back.

I finished up and was happy that I at least got 5 miles in.  It was disappointing, but certainly better than nothing.  I am glad I bailed early and saved myself for another day.  Some times it is good to push through, but other times like today, it is definitely not.  I will live to run another day.  If I knew the trail was going to be this bad, I would've ran elsewhere.

I wasn't planning on a run tomorrow, but after today's disappointment, I might get back out there.  The weather is supposed to be good again.  Maybe I'll run some speed stuff.  Perhaps I'll try some 800 repeats, but stick to the more dependable track this time.  I have to go in to my new job tomorrow.  I'm not sure how much work there will be yet.  I'll have to fit my run in when I can.  I should be able to do that later in the afternoon.

5 miles - 41:31 (8:18 pace)

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Some Company in the Rain

After two runs on Thursday, I was very happy to see the BCR group was running today at the Saucon Rail Trail.  My sore calves definitely needed a softer surface.  I was hoping to do 8 miles, but I wanted to at least get 5 miles in and get to 20 miles this week.

We finally sort of had a break in the weather today.  Of course there was a catch.  For a change, it wasn't cold or windy.  Instead, it was rainy.  It wasn't enough rain to soak you, just to make things uncomfortable.  I won't complain too much.

We had a small group because a lot of regulars were running together in a trail race.  I'm sure the weather kept the others away.  We did have a couple new people though.  One of them was from out of town and just here for the week.  Another one, Emily, was new to the group. 

I started off nice and easy running with Mertz until he got warmed up.  The pace was around 8 minutes flat.  The combination of double runs and an early morning run were tough on my legs.  They just felt dead.  I had to take it easy.

After I fell behind Mertz, I got a little discouraged.  Shayne and Emily gained ground on me fast.  I didn't think it would be long until they went flying by me.  That's sort of what happened last week too.  I usually can't hang with Mertz or Flo, but I'm typically ahead of the rest of the group.

The ladies did catch up to me as I was struggling.  They made me feel better by not blowing past me.  Emily went ahead, but Shayne stayed with me and we chatted and ran together for the rest of the run. 

I knew when I went outside that I was overdressed.  I had on a jacket to keep the rain off of me, but it was just too hot.  I had to take it off early and carry it.  That was annoying, but better than sweating a lot.

I felt better with the jacket off, but I still was feeling like crap.  Running with Shayne definitely helped though.  Having company is always a big plus.  As she pointed out, at least coming back is slightly downhill.  I definitely needed that.

We turned around at 3 miles.  I figured that if by some miracle I felt good after 6 miles, I could turn around and head back out.  Shortly after we began heading back, Emily came up behind Shayne and I.

This time, Emily hung with us.  That was great to have more company.  We were very chatty.  We talked about all different subject, from 5K races to trails and so on.  Emily grew up near the Columbia Trail in New Jersey.  I told her that the BCR ran out there once and that I had one of my best runs ever there in the fall.  I felt so good and so fast without pushing hard.  That day was weird.

Shayne was definitely correct that going back was easy.  Before I knew it we were done.  I had no trouble with my dead legs in the second half of the run.  Maybe it was the downhill or maybe it was the good conversation or maybe all of the above.  Either way, the 6 mile run was great.

Emily finished a bit ahead of Shayne and I.  I had some fun and raced Shayne in a sprint finish.  I told her that's how I always finish races and I can't ever remember losing in that fashion.  The final mile was a fast 7:40.

The trail was definitely soft thanks to the rain.  I thought my calf might be sore after this run, but it didn't bother me at all.  I guess I have to stay off of hard surfaces.  I was doing that until this past week.

I wasn't planning on running tomorrow.  Since I had no soreness today, I might try to go somewhere for a long run.  If I do, it will likely be on D&L Trail at Cementon.  I'd love to run 10 miles.  The weather could be a big factor in that.  I haven't looked at the forecast, but it rained all day today.

6 miles - 47:59 (8:00 pace)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

A Pair of Fours

Although I was near the Sands Casino this evening, the title of this post isn't about gambling.  After a disappointing short run yesterday, I wanted to do a double session today.  I got out and ran 4 miles in the morning and another 4 in the evening.

Flo made a comment yesterday that she was running outside today.  I asked if I could join her for an early morning run to begin the double session.  We were scheduled to meet at Penn Pump Park in Easton at 7:30.  I waited and waited, but she didn't show up.  I had to go to the bathroom after a while, so I went to the mall to use theirs.  Of course when I was gone, Flo called me because she was back at the park.  I knew that would happen.  She came on foot since she lives nearby.

As usual, it was another miserable weather day.  When we started it was around 20 degrees with a windchill in the teens.  I had the usual, gloves, a fleece vest, hat, long pants and a long sleeve shirt.  I wonder when this cold spell will end.

It was great having company.  That definitely made this run in the terrible weather so much easier.  Since Flo came from the north, we started off heading south on the new section.  She's faster than me now and I haven't run that fast very often this winter, so it took some work to keep up early on.  I didn't want to slow down though.  If I had to do that later than that would be fine.

We chatted and time flew by.  I was talking about how I need to drop some weight.  I know I need to watch what I eat.  It is just hard to do.  She suggested doing some workouts at home, but I just have trouble doing anything indoors.  I'd rather run or bike any day over working out to a video or taking a class.  I guess I'm old school.  When it does warm up, I am definitely going to bike more.  I'll probably try to do two different workouts a day.

The first mile was a fast 7:28.  It was definitely faster than I'm used to, but not too far out of my comfortable zone that I can't handle it.  Much more reasonable than when I ran with the guys in the BCR that were going hard on Saturday morning.

This section of paved path south of Penn Pump Park is really nice.  There are some road crossings, but they are lightly traveled.  Throughout the run, we had the path basically to ourselves.  I only remember seeing a person here or there.  We ran out to the Crayola Factory and then turned around.

It was windy at the turn around and I was definitely feeling it.  The pace had slowed a little, but it was still brisk.  The trail is closed off, so getting around the gates is tough.  It will be much better when they officially open it in the spring.  Flo could squeeze through some narrow spaces between fence posts, but I'm too big, so I had to go around a lot of them.

We hit the 2nd mile in 7:42 and I told Flo that it was getting a little fast for me.  I had to slow down.  We did, but basing it on the times, I guess it really wasn't much slower.  We ran past Penn Pump and on north.  I only wanted to run 4 miles, so I didn't want to go all of the way out.  I needed to get another run in later.  There is a bridge that the path crosses over, so I ran to there.  That 3rd mile was a 7:46.

At 3.25 miles, I turned around and left Flo.  That was a relief because I was starting to get beat by the faster pace.  I did miss her company though, so it was a trade off.  I backed off and cruised home in the final .75 miles.  That mile was still run at 8 flat though.  I was actually sweating like crazy by the end.  I took off my hat and gloves late in the run.

After the run, the inside of my left calf was sore.  I could sort of feel this coming on as it was mildly sore overnight.  I think it is from doing some faster runs and running on hard surfaces lately.  Other than the tough trail run yesterday, almost all of my runs in the past week have been on paved surfaces.  Also, when I run faster, I run on my toes more and it seems to stress that area a lot more.  I made sure to massage it after the run.  It felt better, but I have to be cautious. 

It was a great run and I was glad to have Flo's company.  It was also nice to get a run out of the way early.  I've been sleeping better lately, so I might do that more often.  Getting out of bed to run early is just always tough for me.  That's especially true in the extremes of summer and winter.

After the AM run, I rested up.  I then headed to Bethlehem for the weekly LVRR Group Run in the evening.  It was freezing cold then too.  The one encouraging thing is that it was still light out when I pulled into the parking lot.  We are getting closer and closer to having the sun out for this run.  That is if it ever comes out during the day.

I waited around in the cold, but no one showed up.  I didn't promote the run, so it was no big shock there.  We only have a couple regulars, so if they don't show, we have no one.  I've actually been surprised that I haven't had to do a solo run in a long time.

Since I was on my own, I wanted to run on a softer surface.  That is one good thing about the no shows.  I headed to the Saucon Rail Trail.  I haven't run at night on a dark trail in some time either, so I looked forward to that.

I wasn't sure if I could park at Water Street after dark, so I just parked on the road next to that park.  I started off heading out through the dark.  I know this trail well, but it was actually nice in the dark.  I sort of didn't know where I was most of the time because things kind of looked different.  I just focused on each little increment.

My calf was sore as it had been earlier, so I tried to take it easy.  This was a much more comfortable pace than the AM run.  Whenever I felt like I might be running on my toes, I tried to back off.  The softer surface did seem to help, but I was still sore.

I cruised along.  The first two road crossings are kind of busy, but after that it wasn't bad.  Just after one of them, I came across another runner.  He sort of startled me because his clothes were so dark I didn't see him until the last minute.

At times I was cold and other times it felt comfortable.  Everything depended on the wind.  Sometimes, my hat and gloves were off.  Other times, I had to put them back on.

Just as I was thinking about how nice it was to run on a clear trail, I came to an icy section.  It got so bad that I turned around at 1.7 miles into the run.  Not quite the 2 miles that I had hoped to go out, but it was decent.  I'm glad the moon was bright so that I could see the ice.  The trail goes along town for awhile, so there was some street lights too.  Not a bad place to run in the dark.

Since I cut the run short on the way out, I was looking for ways to add some distance.  At one lightly traveled road crossing, I ran down the road.  My calf really started to bother me.  This was actually a bike lane.  It didn't go very far before I got to a bridge that was closed.  I turned around and just headed back to the trail.

I looked at my watch a little more in the homestretch than I did at the beginning of the run.  At the start of it, I didn't see my watch until 1.1 miles were complete.  I focus on my watch less when I can't see it.  That is one great thing about running in the dark.   That 1st mile was run at a comfortable 9:06.  The 2nd one was 8:40 and the 3rd one was 8:37.

As I passed some type of maintenance barn, I noticed 2 deer standing behind it.  They were just staring at me.  It was cool how the light shined on them.  I've seen deer here plenty of times in the daylight, but it was much different at night.  It was more unique.  I wish I would've had my camera on me, although I'm not sure there was enough light to get a good picture anyway.

At a couple of the road crossings, cars had to stop for me.  They were probably surprised to see some wacko out there running in the cold, in the dark.  The second time this happened was at Water Street.  That road was too busy, so rather than cross it, I ran in Hellertown for the final half mile or so.  I headed south and looped around the block until I was back at my car.  The final mile was 8:53.

My calf was sore, so I continued to try to stretch and massage it out afterward.  That helped some.  Hopefully resting it tomorrow will help as well.  I'd like to get back off of paved surfaces too.  I thought about adding another day of running next week, but not if this keeps bothering me.  I might even skip speedwork next week too.  We'll see how I feel early in the week.

Although there was some soreness, it was a great two runs today.  I wish I could do that more often.  Some time in the future hopefully I'll be strong enough to make that a consistent part of my training pattern.  Maybe this summer.

Tomorrow I am off.  The last time I checked, the BCR had not announced where they were running this week.  If it is paved, I might have to skip the run.  If not, I might join them.  We'll see.  I have a busy Saturday planned with 4 high school basketball games to attend.  I'm actually not sure how many miles I'll do either.  I'd like it to be a fairly long run.

4 miles - 30:56 (7:44 pace)
4 miles - 35:15 (8:49 pace)

Car stop for me

Other runner
Dead end road.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

When Will it End?

Anyone that knows me, knows I'm a fan of winter running.  I like to be out there when no one else does.  I love the mental challenge of running in adverse conditions.  I feel like that running through winter made me tougher before my second marathon a few years ago.  I also hate summer running because I sweat too much.  All that said, even I am getting fed up with this winter.

Things would be fine if it ever let up.  I would kill for 3 or 4 straight days of temperatures at 40 degrees with little wind.  Instead, every day seems to be around the freezing mark with the wind chill of 25 degrees or less.  Today, I think both of those numbers were even lower.

Today was time for my weekly Trexler run.  This is the 5th week in a row that I've headed out there.  I knew the weather was going to be tough, I just didn't anticipate how bad the conditions would actually be.  There was snow north of us yesterday, but only flurries here.  The ground around my house is clear of any snow.  As I drove to Trexler, I noticed a decent amount of snow in the fields. 

Things seemed even worse when I arrived at my destination.  There must have been close to an inch of snow on the trail.  That was disappointing.  I was expecting a clear trail for the first time in weeks.  Instead, I had another tough run on my hands. 

The wind was brutal.  There was no question that I was going to wear gloves, a headband and a fleece vest in addition to a long sleeve shirt and pants.  I sure did need it with all the wind and cold air at the start.  Some of the areas where I was shielded from the wind, it was warm.  Most of the time, I was freezing and often my eyes were watering.

I started off heading the usual direction.  The snow was solid and crunchy.  That seemed kind of nice.  I had to be cautious though because it looked icy in spots.  That was especially the case under trees where precipitation must have fallen and frozen on the ground.  There were a pair of footprints on the ground.  At first I thought it was one set, but it turned out to be two.  The prints were icy, so I ran on snow and made sure to avoid them.  Later on when I was coming back, I noticed my prints were snowy.  That meant that these two people must've came through right after the storm.  I came after everything had frozen over.

I went up the big hill and thought to myself that it was pretty easy.  That didn't last long though.  It was a grind.  Even though there was grip, I think it took a lot of work to dig into the snow.  By the top of the hill, I was just barely running.  I'm not sure I would even call it running, but at least I wasn't walking.

Going up that hill was so much work that I was breathing heavy for quite awhile on the next downhill.  Recovery is tough, but thankfully there is a lot of downhill after that hill.  When I went down the short but steep hill onto the road, I had to be careful.  It was icy and so was the road out of the nature preserve.  I ran in the clear path that cars had made with their tires.  That seemed to work.

Going through the snow covered rocks was slightly tricky as it often is.  The wind is always blasting in my face here and my eyes water, making it tough to see the rocks.  After the rocks, I headed up the long hill.

My foot was bothering me and I was just going slowly up hill and working too hard.  I was very disappointed in the conditions.  I can deal with cold and windy, tough terrain and hills, but I couldn't deal with all of the above.  When I got to the first part of the hill where it flattens out, I just turned around.

At this point, I recognized that this run was basically a waste.  I was 1.5 miles out, but there was no way I'd be able to make it up the hills on the way back.  I ran back on the road and when I got to the trail at 2 miles, I just decided to stop and cut my losses.  I figured that I would call it a day and stop wasting my time.

At least I gave running a try today.  If I knew it was that bad, I might not have even gone to Trexler today.  I don't know though because I really do want to keep my streak alive.  Since this run was so short, I knew I needed to run again to get some decent mileage.  I thought about running after a high school basketball game tonight.  However, I just wasn't up for it.  It is even colder than it was during the day.

Tomorrow evening is the LVRR Group Run.  Since today was a waste, I am going to try to run twice.  I talked to Flo and she is running from Penn Pump Park at 7:30 AM.  That should work for my first run of the day.  I need to go early because there is a chance I could be working tomorrow around lunch time.  Hopefully I take it easy if I run with her.

This weather is so frustrating.  It is next to impossible to get a quality workout in.  I can't wait for March and April when I can really ramp up my training.  I'm curious to see how well I can run on a clear Trexler trail.  I want to fix my flat tire and start cycling more.  Between running and biking, I'd like to get 2 workouts in on most days this spring and summer.  I need to be more serious and work on improving.  My legs can't afford too much of a pounding though.

2 miles - 19:09 (9:35 pace)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Jim Thorpe 800 Repeats

I was undecided when to run after the BCR group run on Saturday.  When I was outside on Sunday, it was brutally cold and windy.  No way I was running then, especially since I wanted to incorporate speed into my run.  Looking at the weather for this morning, I saw it was still going to be incredibly cold and windy.  It was going to warm up in the afternoon, so I decided I would run then.

When I was with the BCR group the other day, people were talking about possibly running the D&L Trail at Jim Thorpe.  I had not run that area before, so I thought that would be a good idea for today and the future.  There are mountains all around Jim Thorpe and it is a quaint little town.  Sometime, I want to run the trails there.  For now, I was just going to run fast on the flat D&L Trail.

I wanted to start out in downtown Jim Thorpe and run north.  When I got to the parking lot though, I saw that they charged for parking near downtown.  I wasn't going to pay to park for a run.  Luckily, I looked at a map earlier and saw I could park and run on the other side of the river in East Jim Thorpe.

First, I had to find a bathroom.  After having no luck in town.  I found one in the park on the east side of the river.  There were a lot places to park my car and it was a cool area to run at.  I started walking around at first because I wasn't sure if I was going to run there.  I went south on the trail and over the Lehigh River.  Just past the river crossing, the trail was snow covered.  It was in the shade.  I knew the path would be rough if I tried to run to downtown Jim Thorpe.

I said that it was warmer in the afternoon, but it was still cold.  It was around 30 degrees and fairly windy.  The wind was especially prevalent near the river.  I knew that that would make the run a bit tough.  I wore ColdGear and tights as well as gloves and a headband.

The plan was to run 4 X 800 meter repeats with 400 meters of active recovery.  That would be sandwiched between a mile warm up and cool down.  I have not tried running fast at all since November, so I wasn't sure what to expect.  I hoped for the pace to be around 6:30, but really anything under 7 minute pace would've been satisfying.

I started off by heading south.  I figured by the time I got back to my car, I'd be close to a mile.  I went out and over the cool train bridge.  I then went over the river and it was cold over the water.  I turned around at the snowy part of the trail and was .36 miles into the run. 

The road into the park is long.  The D&L Trail itself was soggy and soft.  While I want soft surfaces, I'm worried when they are too soft.  I think that is what messed with my quads about a month ago.  I opted to run on the paved surface when I could.

Since the road was long, I was nearly able to run the entire first fast segment on it.  I didn't feel great in the warm up and usually I can tell a lot from that first mile.  That was definitely the case today.  I struggled with my breathing in the first speed segment and my legs didn't feel great either.  I kept pushing though because I knew it wasn't long and I'd only be running 4 hard segments.

The final .10 miles in that first segment was back on the trail.  That would be the last time that I would run on the trail.  It was just way too soft.  I decided that since I wasn't going very far, I would just stay on the road.  I could basically run every segment along the road without needing to turn around.  The road was almost a mile long.

I probably didn't recover enough in between the 1st and 2nd segments and I paid for it in that 2nd segment.  After the 1st one was run at 6:40, the 2nd one was much tougher.  I struggled to keep it under a 7 minute pace.  I was able to finish at a 6:56 pace though.  Some of that was because I finished the repeat by really pushing it.

I slowed down in 2nd recovery period.  That was a big help when I started the 3rd segment.  I still was struggling with each one of these segments though.  I was breathing hard, my legs felt weak and my form wasn't smooth either.  Still, my times were decent.  I finished the 3rd segment with a solid 6:47 pace.  I was dieing by this point, but knew I could make it through one more segment.

Early on, I had taken the headband and gloves off.  I got hot pretty quickly when running fast.  I'm sure that didn't help my pace.  I dropped the gloves off at my car.  The wind seemed to bother me at different spots in each direction.

Before I knew it, I was into the final fast segment.  I felt weak and dead most of the run, but it was even worse by this final repeat.  I just kept at it, knowing that I was almost done.  When I got to the end of the paved parking lot, I looped around the lot.  I finished up just past the end of the lot with a 6:52 pace.  That required a lot of effort at the end of the segment.

While I didn't feel great or strong.  I finished the run by hitting my goal pace.  I was clearly rusty.  I haven't run fast in a long time and it showed.  I really couldn't run all that hard either because I was winded fairly early in each segment.  I wasn't capable of putting forth as much effort as I would've liked.  I did give what I had today though.  I'll get stronger as I run faster more often.

It was a great location to run with all the mountains around.  I actually could've run even farther along the road before turning around.  I forgot just how long it was.  I would've liked to have explored the D&L Trail more, but conditions didn't allow it.  I'll have to run there again and I'll have to check out the numerous trails in the area too.  I was on top of the mountain in my car and the views were amazing.  The road coming in had a wide shoulder and it could make for an awesome climb up the mountain.

5 miles - 39:18 (7:52 pace)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Ironton Rail Trail with the BCR

Today was the Saturday morning group run with BCR.  A while back, I posted photos of the Ironton Rail Trail near Coplay.  It is a little farther out than the group usually goes, but it is a cool trail.  There is a caboose and some neat signs and other relics of its railroad history.  When the BCR asked earlier in the week where to run at, Tom suggested we go there.  I was excited when it became the chosen destination.

I talked to Mertz when I went to apply for a job where he works.  Since he has to work today and the run was far away, he didn't want to have to drive out that way twice.  Flo said she was going and then messaged me last night to say she didn't want to travel that far either.  I was very disappointed because I hoped to push it a little more.  I wanted to get out of my comfort zone.  Things ended up working out anyway.

If this was any other regular BCR run, I probably would've skipped it without Mertz and Flo.  Not only was their absence an issue, but I pretty much had no sleep.  I got home late last night and had a lot of stuff to do before bed.  I only would've had around 3 hours of sleep if I fell asleep right away.  Instead, I basically got no sleep.  Since I pushed the group to run here in the past, I felt that I had to be there this morning.  I drug myself out of bed.

The weather was cold at 7:30 AM.  The temperature was right around 20 degrees.  There wasn't too much wind at least.  I wore my fleece vest over my ColdGear and had on long pants, a headband and gloves.  After it warmed up a little, I ended up taking off the headband.  I also took off the gloves, but my hands got cold, so they went back on. 

I thought maybe I'd end up running alone and maybe end up leading the pack.  There were some other runners there as fast or faster than me, but they don't always run as fast as they are capable of. 

We started off and Tom and I went out ahead of everyone.  We chatted for awhile.  I was surprised at how fast we were going.  Tom can run fast, but I haven't run with him going this hard very often.  Gayle joined us after awhile and then went ahead of us.  With the downhill start, it was a nice 7:38 opening mile.  Nothing I can't handle, but definitely tough.

I hung with Gayle and Tom for awhile, but I really had to work to maintain their pace.  I wanted to work a little harder than normal, but wasn't planning to go at this fast of a pace.  Sometime before the end of the 2nd mile, I was informed that they were running near their goal pace and that's why they were going so fast.

After a 7:16 mile 2, I decided it would be wise to just drop back.  I wasn't feeling all that great.  I wasn't breathing well.  I'm sure the lack of sleep was getting to me.  I don't usually run early in the morning, so when these group runs go fast, I struggle to keep up.  I had the same issue running with Flo several times.  I think I'd do better during the middle of the day with this kind of pace, but I don't know.

One thing that made the path tricky was the ice, especially on the section that runs parallel to the river.  It was slippery and I went from onto the pavement to back off of it again.  I didn't find the dirt area to be much better though.  The tough part wasn't the ice that you could see, but the ice that you couldn't.  A couple spots looked clear, but I would slide on them.  At least I didn't fall and I don't think anyone else did either.  I'm not sure how Gayle and Tom kept that fast of a pace up over the ice.  They were well ahead.  They were still visible at least.

Part of the trail was closed for construction, so there was a detour.  It wasn't there when I was here last.  It wasn't bad and didn't add any distance to the run.  I could hear some people coming up from behind me.  It was Chris D and Alison.  I knew Alison had some good speed, but was surprised to see her running that fast.

The two of them slowly reeled me in.  I could here them coming closer and closer.  I was dieing and slipping back.  They eventually caught up and passed me.  That actually turned out to be good.  They weren't going too fast, so I was able to hang off the back of them.

The three of us pretty much stayed together for the rest of the run.  From the cement kilns on, it is about 3/4 of a mile of gradual uphill.  That is tricky because it was icy too.  Alison dropped back and I ran with Chris for a bit.  After some time, I couldn't take the hill, so I just dropped back and ran with Alison.  We talked a little about running in San Fran and Boulder (two things I wish I would've done when I was at both places).

Alison and I finished up together, just behind Chris.  It was a very productive run for me.  Hard enough to push myself, but not too hard.  I didn't kill myself.  I need to challenge myself, but not over do it.  Only the last full mile was over an 8 minute pace (8:06).  I finished at 5.3 miles.

We ended the run and waited for the rest of the group.  When they all came back, I got some good pictures of them in front of the big caboose near the parking lot.  It is a cool feature and I really liked it.

I didn't want to go to breakfast, but I had suggested online that we go to Griddle 145 just south of Route 22.  I went there on Sunday and it has a unique menu and generous portions.  I felt that I should go since the place was my suggestion.  It was good and I think everyone enjoyed it, even though it is a little pricy.  I saw my friend Jill, who is very active in the running community, at the restaurant.  It was good to see her.

I'm not sure of my schedule this week.  Gayle and Tom are doing a long run tomorrow at the D&L Trail.  I might join them.  I'm not sure because I would like to run some faster paced stuff this week.  If I do that, I'll like take tomorrow off and run fast on Monday.  I don't want to run three days in a row.  I am trying to be cautious as I build up.  Whenever I decide to add speed to the mix, it can't be the same week that I add an additional running day.  I'm happy with where I'm at right now, but soon I have to start working harder.

5.3 miles - 40:49 (7:42 pace)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Growing the Group Run

Tonight was the LVRR Thursday night group run.  Since it is Valentine's Day, I didn't expect anyone to show up.  I was very surprised to see three others join me.  Even better was that two of them have been to the run before.  The third runner was a friend of one of the other runners.  I need more people to come back frequently.

It was warm out, so I guess I shouldn't have been too surprised that people came.  The temperature was in the upper 30s and it wasn't too windy.  I just wore shorts and a lightweight top.  It was definitely adequate.  I was comfortable the whole run.

The two runners that came before were Jerry and Dana.  Jerry ran with me last week and Dana came a couple weeks ago.  She knew my friend Ingrid.  Dana works in the Big Apple, but apparently now she's able to work from home on Thursdays for awhile and might become a regular.

Dana came with her friend Linda.  They started off ahead of Jerry and I.  We hung back and chatted.  He ran the race that I was considering doing on Sunday and ran under 20 minutes.  I was impressed.  He fell behind me a little at the end of last week's run, so I'm wondering if I could break 20 minutes too.  I haven't run fast in awhile.

This week, we headed up the hill towards Lehigh.  When we had to wait at a light, Jerry and I pulled ahead of the women.  We led out, but they weren't far behind.  We discussed racing and training.  I was telling him a lot about running trails and specifically Trexler.

As we got to Aardvark, one of the women had to go to the bathroom, so they told Jerry and I to go on.  We cruised along.  The pace wasn't too fast.  It was much more comfortable that last week.

I moved this run to Bethlehem because I wanted more street lights.  The problem is that when you get out away from town on Broad Street, the lights are dim.  I usually lift my feet so I don't have a problem with the uneven sidewalk.  Jerry tripped over a sidewalk and fell.  Luckily it wasn't too bad.

We ran side by side up the Minsi Trail Bridge.  It is weird because there is a fence on the river side.  It feels kind of odd, like I might fall off the edge, even though that won't happen.

The time flew by.  It often does on a group run.  We were done before I knew it.  As we were finishing, Dana and Linda came by in the other direction.  Jerry and I stopped at SteelStacks.  I rested for a minute and then decided that I would try to chase down the women.  They were too far ahead though, so I only added another .25 miles to the run.  I had 5 miles completed in total.

The women were very excited about the potential of the group run.  I'm glad to hear that.  Dana said they often do speedwork on Thursdays and suggested we could do some group speedwork in the future.  That is fine with me.  I'm up for whatever.  Speedwork might even bring some new runners.  It's great that we are having some returnees.  Maybe the run will do well in the spring.  It just needs a good start.

I'm trying to stay off of paved routes, so I would've skipped the BCR run on Saturday.  However, I've been wanting them to run on the Ironton Rail Trail for a while.  I have to get out there and join them.  They were looking for a good winter place to run.  It is a great path with a giant caboose and some cool signs.  I love how the trail's railroad past is incorporated into it.  I really look forward to the run.  I was talking to Flo and she's coming.  I might try to keep up with her for some time.  I can't go too hard though.

5 miles - 42:46 (8:33 pace)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sloppy Trail Run

Today I made my weekly trek out to Trexler.  I believe this is the 4th straight week.  I'm going to try to keep the streak going.  Maybe I'll extend it all the way until Quadzilla in July.  Regardless, I want to get out there at least every other week.  I just love the place and the challenge that every run there brings.

The last few weeks, I felt like I made progress.  Today was a dose of Trexler reality.  I wonder what it is like to truly conquer this place (if you ever actually do it).  Any time it seems like it gets easier, I get my butt kicked the next time.  I know if I ever finally do feel comfortable on a run there than I've made it pretty high up the fitness ladder.

I look forward to the day that I can run the whole loop without walking.  Maybe that will come around summer, maybe later or maybe never.  Some people do double loops and I love the idea of even trying triple loops whenever I get into ultra running.  As this trail destroys me week after week, I can't imagine actually doing that.  I've got to set some high longer term goals though.

The weather at Trexler is making things difficult.  It is always the worst near the parking lot.  The wind is brutal so it is usually cold.  Most of the run is comfortable though.  Since I always start at the coldest spot, I always wear too much.  That was the case again today.  I did have on a lightweight jacket over my shirt, but really I could've gone without it.

There are two tricky things about winter running.  One is the wind and the other is the sun (or lack of sun).  Sunday's run was perfect because it was sunny and there was no wind.  Today with almost the same air temperatures it was brutal.  The sun was behind the clouds in the beginning.  Toward the end it was pretty hot because the sun was out.

My friend Gayle ran at Trexler on Sunday.  I was curious how the trails were after a fairly significant snowfall over the weekend.  The problem is that since she ran there, it was so warm out that her assessment wasn't up to date.  The higher temperatures of the last couple days melted away some of the snow, but not all of it.  That made for a sloppy mess.

I started out going the normal (counterclockwise) direction.  I figured this section with more rocks would have more grip.  Really I doubt it mattered too much.  The partially melted snow just became slush.  At first I thought it was great because I was going downhill and the snow was crunching under my feet and I wasn't slipping.  That is until I started to feel the water in my shoe.  There was ponding on top of the ice.  I wasn't even a quarter of a mile into my run and my feet were already wet.  I knew that wouldn't be good in the cold.  I had to be extra cautious to avoid the snow from then on.

Luckily, most of the big hill is exposed to the sunlight.  Almost all of the snow was gone and it had pretty good grip.  The downhill parts of the trail on the other side, didn't do as well.  I had to make sure to be careful and take the descending sections slowly.  I ran on the grass next to the trail in a lot of places because it was the place with the best grip.

The short but steep section right before leaving the zoo area was very tough.  It was snow covered and I almost slide down the hill.  At least I didn't fall.  The rocky section was interesting because it was partially covered rocks and partially exposed ones.  With the wind made my eyes water in this area and that made it extra difficult to navigate.  I managed to though.

After that section was the long uphill section.  I was glad this part sees a lot of sun, so I didn't have to battle through the snow too much.  I still had to battle though.  I don't know what it was, but I was dead and exhausted early on in the run.  Maybe it was inconsistent and messy terrain making me work too hard.  Perhaps it was the hard trail run that I did on Sunday still lingering around.  Whatever the case, I just felt very slow.  I wasn't worried about the actually pace, so I just kept going.

I wanted to get out farther this week than I did last week.  I'm just looking to make some sort of progress every week.  Instead of turning around today, I hoped to make it to the zoo area and then cut across on one of the other trails.  That would give me something over 5 miles of running and it could be a loop rather than an out and back.

My foot continues to bother me on trails.  I don't know what it is, but it gets sore on the bottom when I'm going uphill.  It is no problem going down hill or flats.  I stretched a little, but maybe I should do that even more before a trail run.

Around 2.5 miles, I hit the sloped section of the trail.  I'm glad it isn't too long.  This is the most difficult section for footing.  There was zero grip on the snow.  I then went to what looked like grass alongside the trail, but it was even worse.  It was muddy and slippery.

Finally, I made it over that section and into the view section.  The short climb to there was tough and it was windy.  This is about how far I made it last week before turning around.  Today, I planned to go farther.  Although I knew it wasn't realistic, I secretly wanted to complete the whole loop.

After the view section, it is into a more wooded type of section and mostly downhill.  That is until you get to the bottom and have the two massive hills.  Those are the most challenging ones on the whole loop.  I figured I would have to walk them today, especially with the trail conditions.

As I was going down one hill, I saw a building near the trail.  This didn't look familiar, so I went back up the hill, thinking that I was off the trail.  I wasn't though, so I headed back down the trail.  I had to be very cautious descending.

I was closing in on 3.5 miles when I hit the "false hill."  I call it that because it is very steep and I always think it is one of the two massive hills.  That is until I get to the massive hills anyway.  I tried running up the "false hill" but with it so steep and snow covered, it quickly turned into walking.  The issue was that it was so steep that it was difficult to even walk up.  I had to make a decision quickly, so I went back down the trail and opted for a smoother yellow trail that I just passed over.

I didn't know where the yellow trail went, but it looked like the right direction.  The issue was that this was a long uphill.  My legs just didn't have it in me.  I couldn't take more climbing, so when I got to 3.5 miles, I decided to stop and call it a day.

After about a minute of rest, it dawned on me that the road was right near by.  I didn't want to run on pavement, but I knew it would be easier and I could get back to my car.  I took that route.  It was kind of depressing because I could often see the trail next to me, although it was higher up.

The road might have been easier, but it wasn't easy.  There were still some hills.  At least my pace was faster.  I still felt like I was dragging along and being whipped.  Some of that was the addition of the sun.  Without the wind and protection from the trees, it felt blazing.  I had to open my coat up to get some air circulating through.

I thought I was on the road next to the zoo, but apparently I wasn't.  It seemed like I kept going and going on the road.  I went over 1 mile on there and then 1.50 miles.  Finally, at just around 5 total miles, I headed into the zoo area.  When I saw that it was uphill, I decided to quit at 5.25 miles.  That was it and I would live to see another day.

I thought I was done running, but I was so far away from my car at that point that I had to run again later.  I was near the zoo and could see the Environmental Center where the car was.  I saw a yellow trail and knew this one led to the area near the Ford.  The Environmental Center didn't look too bad when I first saw it.  That was because I was on top of one hill and it was on top of the next one.

Running from one to the other would be difficult.  The yellow trail was very slippery going down.  I didn't fall though.  I then crossed over the Jordan Creek on the pedestrian bridge.  I am glad that it is there because I wouldn't want to run through the creek.

I stayed on the road as long as I could.  That wasn't very long though as the road goes nowhere near the Environmental Center.  I had to take a trail back up the hill.  This wasn't the steepest trail, but it again had no grip and I was so beat.  I stopped way before I would've liked to.  I barely ran over half a mile in this segment.  At least I cut some time off of getting back to my car.

I ran a short untimed sprint up the last hill.  It was good to be done.  I didn't do as much as I hoped and I felt terrible, but at least I did enough to satisfy myself for the day.  I always like to call this place Trexler the Humbler and it was that and more on this day.  Maybe in better conditions in a few weeks, I'll fair much better.  Who knows though.  This trail never seems easy.

I'm not sure when I'll race again, but I am kind of interested in seeing what I can do at a 5K.  The guy I ran with on Thursday, who fell behind me at the end of the group run, ran under 20 minutes at the Fast and Flurry-ous 5K on Sunday.  I haven't done speed stuff recently, so I'm not sure I can break 20 minutes yet, but I must be close to that kind of shape.  I won't find out until I actually run a 5K though.  I haven't done so since early September.  Hard to believe that was 5 months ago.

Tomorrow is an off day.  Thursday is my LVRR Group Run.  Since it is also Valentine's Day, I don't expect anyone to show up.  Since I'm single, I'll be there.  Maybe I'll promote it as some type of singles run and see if others will come.  I don't know.  We shall see.

5.25 miles - 48:18 (9:12 pace)
.58 miles - 5:46 (10:00 pace)

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Wissahickon/Valley Green Run

I was considering that Fast and Flurry-ous 5K this morning.  Then I saw the predicted temperature of 20 degrees at start of the race.  I'll run in weather that cold if I have to or if I'm already committed to a race, but I wasn't signed up yet, so I decided to pass.

I was heading down to Philly for the Drexel men's and women's basketball games anyway, so I decided why not run there.  I haven't run down in my old stomping grounds in quite some time.  I ran the Schuykill River loop so many times that I got sick of it.  I could've run there, but I love running the trails at Wissahickon/Forbidden Drive so much more.  It is such a hidden gem.  There is the option to run on a wide stone path along the river (Forbidden Drive) or more typical singletrack wooded trails around the top of the gorge.  I opted for a little of both.

I stopped at REI in Conshohocken to look at snowshoes.  I got a little lost going to Valley Green.  I knew where I was when I was on Northwestern Avenue near Chestnut Hill College, but it has been so long that I couldn't remember how to get to Valley Green.

I got to Valley Green at 1 PM and it was crowded.  The weather was a little nicer than it has been lately, so everyone was out and about.  I parked at the first spot I saw, but actually there were plenty of spots available.  Valley Green is an old restaurant next to the creek in the park.  It would probably be cool to eat there sometime.

The weather was excellent at the start.  I struggled with what to wear.  I brought along a ColdGear top and lightweight long sleeve shirt.  I thought I'd need a vest, but it was way too hot for that..  I couldn't believe how warm it was, especially with almost no wind.  It must've been around 40 degrees.  I wore the lightweight top.  Since I had no pockets, I decided against bringing gloves and a headband along.

At one point, I thought to myself, it is too warm to even wear long pants.  I dug through my bag and found shorts.  They were a very short pair.  I wish I would've had a longer pair, but that was the best I could do.  I went back and forth on what to wear.  I thought to myself, it is February you can't wear shorts, you are crazy.  I knew the way it felt dictated shorts, so I threw some on.  I didn't feel so bad when I saw a few other runners throughout the days with shorts on.

I started off in the crowded area around Valley Green.  Almost right next to the restaurant is the trail to the top.  It is probably less than .1 miles from where I started out.  I had no warmup before I was climbing.  I remember this climb and how tough it used to be.  It wasn't quite easy today, but much easier than I recall.  I guess it is because I'm more adapted to hills more than when I used to run mostly on the flat terrain of the city.

The hill was still somewhat of a challenge because it was covered in snow and also it was so early in the run that I couldn't warm up.  Other than that, it seemed easy.  I also go to the top quickly.  I can't imagine that it is much more than a 100 foot climb to the top of the gorge.  It isn't like the 700 feet climbs that I often encounter at mountains around here.  It is quite steep, but also short.

The good thing about getting to the top is that most of the climbing is over when you reach that point.  The trail kind of runs along the rim of the gorge.  It does go up and down wherever other paths come into the main road, but that isn't very often.

The trail had some mild up and down terrain.  It was pretty easy once I was at the top.  I just cruised around.  The snow made me work a little more than dirt would have, but it wasn't slippery or anything.  In some spots, the snow was melting and the dirt was visible or it was muddy.  I had no problem going through it.

I didn't have to be too cautious.  I did have to watch out for hikers and bikers up there.  I flew past one guy who was hiking with poles.  He must've thought I was crazy for running up there.  Running in snow seems like it is good for improving balance and I would think it can only help improve my trail running for easier surfaces.

I've run this trail only once in the last 3 years.  Even when I lived there, I probably didn't run the trails more than 10 or 15 times.  I was both lost and knew where I was at the same time.  Everything looks familiar, but it has been so long since I ran there that I couldn't remember the order of the trail.

Somehow I used to always seem to end up crossing over the main path and I could never figure out how.  I thought I was in that area again, but actually this time that never happened.  Some of the up and down was tough.  My right foot was very tight whenever I was climbing.  Luckily, this run didn't involve too much ascending.

There were a lot of runners on Forbidden Drive, but not many up here.  I saw one here and there.  Two young women ran by in the other direction.  I commented that at least I wasn't the only crazy runner up there.  I think one of them was wearing shorts, so I also wasn't the only crazy one wearing shorts.

I was hoping that I could run 4 miles at the absolute minimum and I really wanted to run 5 miles.  After I got about 3 miles out, I decided that I would take the next possible path to Forbidden Drive.  I did just that and I think was at 3.15 miles when I headed back on the main path.

This section on Forbidden Drive seemed to go on forever.  I was nearly at the end of it when I started making my way back.  Again everything was familiar, but unfamiliar at the same time.  All I could remember was that you could see Valley Green after coming around a curve.  It seemed like I went past several curves though before finally getting to the correct one.

The hills on Forbidden Drive used to seem tough.  Today, they felt easy.  I guess that proves I'm in pretty good shape.  Some of this path was icy, but overall it wasn't too bad.  A lot more people were walking, biking or running here.  Between my shorts and the funny looking camera on my head, I got some strange stares.  I'm not surprised.  One guy thought my camera was a light during another run, so most people probably don't know what I'm actually wearing.

Although it was relatively warm, after some time the inside of my legs got cold.  I definitely could've used longer shorts.  I'm not sure if it was the cold air or that my shorts were rubbing against my legs, but they began to chafe and were very irritated.  I had no choice but to keep running because otherwise I would have to walk in the cold.

The most interesting thing I saw on the trail was two guys in army clothes with packs on.  Maybe they were training by hiking with heavy gear.  I decided that I had to run past Valley Green so I would finish up with whatever half mile came after I got there.  That ended up being mile 6.  It came just past where I parked my car.  That was perfect, expect I had to go around about 7 people who were walking their dogs and blocking the whole path.  Some people can be so inconsiderate. 

The scenery was excellent as usual.  I got some good pictures, but there must've been a smudge on my camera or the housing because it showed up on the photos.  Still, it was a cool place to use my GoPro.  I finished up and quickly applied cream to my chafed legs.

As always, this was a great run.  Wissahickon is my second favorite place that I've ever run at.  I only enjoy running at Trexler Nature Preserve better.  It was good to get back here.  It was especially fun to run in some snow and compare my fitness with my past fitness.

I had some time to kill after the run and before the games, so I headed to Boathouse Row to drink some coffee and watched people run.  One thing I do miss about running in the city is all the attractive women.  I don't usually see many runners anywhere that I go these days.  The Parkway is the place most alive with people up here.  City running sucks because there are so few places to go, but that also makes those places crowded and filled with energy.  There is just a certain vibe about it.  It is very different than a lot of the nature trails that I run now.

Tomorrow is an off day.  I'd love to hike, but that is doubtful with my chafed legs.  I'll be happy if they aren't bothering me by the time I plan to run again on Tuesday.  I'm hoping Trexler won't be too bad and I can run there.  We did get more snowfall than they did at Wissahickon.

6 miles - 52:54 (8:49 pace)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Blue Eagle 5K Course in the Snow

The weather threw a wrench into my weekend running plans.  Originally, I was going to run the Warm Hearts 5K on Saturday.  We are expected to get 3-8 inches of snow over night, so they postponed the race.  I had to readjust my schedule.

I'm looking at possibly running another 5K on Sunday.  It is near my house in an industrial park.  It is called the Fast and Flurry-ous 5K.  Hopefully the snow will be out of the way and I can run well.  I probably won't run it if the roads aren't clear.

I didn't want to run the day before a 5K and I'm not sure how tough snow running will be tomorrow.  Therefore, I decided to run tonight at 8 PM.  The snow was coming down heavy, but there was only 1-2 inches at the most.

I was going to run the Saucon Rail Trail, but my parents convinced me not to drive.  We actually went for ice cream before before the run.  Who does that in the snow?  Instead of driving, I opted to head to the other neighborhood and run the Blue Eagle 5K course.

I didn't want to run 3 straight days, but there weren't a lot of options.  It was a great run anyway.  The snow is so beautiful.  One nice thing about running in the snow at night is that it does brighten everything up.  I still wore a reflective vest.  I also had on tights, a jacket over my shirt, gloves, a headband and most importantly a hat to keep most of the snow out of my face.

The snow conditions were actually pretty good.  With my trail shoes, it was crunchy and had great grip.  I was still slowed up by the snow, but it wasn't too bad.  It just made me work a little harder.

The first mile was about what I expected, an 8:34.  Most of the time, it was actually pretty warm.  I put my hood down early and later around mile 2, I took off my gloves too.  Going into the wind was a little uncomfortable.  With the wind at my back, things felt great.

I don't like running in neighborhoods much.  One of the big reasons why is because I worry about dogs.  Around 1.5 miles I heard one barking.  Thankfully I never saw it and it didn't actually come near me.  There are usually dogs on the other side of the street in this area.  I really worried about them tonight because who would think that anyone would be out running in this weather.

Approaching mile 2 is tough because it is uphill.  I knew I didn't have too far to go to finish.  There was only one more hill to go.  I was working a little harder now.  Before I knew it, I was up that final hill.    A car was coming as I went up the hill and I had to cross the road.  I was glad I didn't see too many cars out there.  It was nice and peaceful.  I thought I heard snowmobiles and I saw their tracks, but never came across them.  Of course there were no runners.  Just an occasional set of footprints with dog tracks next to them.  Some people were out in their yards here and there, but it wasn't many.

I managed to see my watch when I completed mile 3.  It was a fast 7:53.  Not bad considering I had a lot left in the tank.  With the cold air and wind, my breathing was a bit heavy.  When the pavement is clear, I can always see the finish line marking from last year's race.  Tonight, I just had to guess.  I was pretty close as I ran 3.15 miles.  The overall pace of 8:07 was quite impressive considering the conditions and the fact that I wasn't going too hard.  I can't wait to see what I can do when I do push myself.

One thing I thought about a lot during the run was snowshoe running.  I asked for cross country skis for Christmas, but didn't get them.  I can't complain because we don't usually get a lot of snow.  Recently, I came across the PA State Snowshoe Championships info online.  They are actually next weekend about an hour from here at Nescopeck State Park.  I have been there before, but didn't run there.  I just explored it.  It is near my friend Eric's house.

I was considering getting some snowshoes, although I don't really have the money.  It would just be nice to workout in nearly all conditions.  My friend Sue said she actually ran that race two years ago and won.  She said it was fun and you could rent snowshoes.  I might end up doing that.  If you join the USSSA and finish in the Top 10 in the race you can qualify for the Nationals.  Looking at the results, that looks fairly easy.  Only around 20 people even enter the race.  Maybe I'll shoot for that next year.  I'd imagine that qualifying would be tough in a place like Colorado, but obviously snowshoe racing isn't that big in this area.

As I said earlier, I might run the 5K on Sunday.  If not, maybe I'll run elsewhere Sunday.  I'd like to run 4 days again next week.  The Warm Hearts 5K is likely going to be rescheduled in March.  I look forward to that race.

3.15 miles - 25:34 (8:07 pace)
Last hill car

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Faster Than I've Been

Tonight was the usual LVRR Group Run.  I often forget to check the guest list for the run on the LVRR website.  I remembered this week and saw we had 3 women signed up.  I arrived 5 minutes before the start of the run because I was running late.  Maybe they already came and took off.  I don't know, but they weren't there.

Because of the women RSVPing, I figured it would an easy run.  Instead, it ended up being the most I've pushed myself since taking the end of December off.  A guy named Jerry, that showed up when we first moved the run here, came out again.  I remember him being pretty fast and having to push it a bit last time.  He said he ran earlier, so he wasn't sure if he could do much.

It was the usual cold weather evening.  The temperature was around freezing the freezing mark with a wind chill in the lower 20s.  I asked for a lightweight long sleeve shirt for Christmas and I wore it today.  It is definitely lightweight as my arms were freezing when we stood around.  It was so bad that I was actually hoping no one would show up and I wouldn't have to run.  I still wore my fleece vest, gloves, a headband and hat to go along with my tights.  That gave me some warmth.  I actually knew I'd be pretty good once we started running, but standing around for 10 to 15 minutes is brutal.

We started off on the usual route.  I kind of let Jerry dictate the pace.  I usually do that and if someone wants me to push it more, I will.  We chatted a lot about running as usual.  He was telling me that he wants to improve his 5K time by about 1:30 in the next couple months.  I'm certainly someone that believes in setting high goals, so I wouldn't question him for that.  I should be able to shave that much time off too.

The wind was tough near SteelStacks and especially when we ran over the Hill to Hill Bridge over the Lehigh River.  It gets so much warmer once we get into town.  One thing that has been good about this run is that even though it is through town, we usually haven't had to stop at lights very long.  We did for a little while today.

I think my watch might've been off by a little in the beginning again.  I'm not sure why it seems to be having so much trouble with satellites lately.  It felt like we were fast and I'm pretty confident that the first mile wasn't over a 9 minute pace.  At one point around mile 2, my watch read 8:34 pace.  I commented how it felt like we were going faster and we must have been.

Climbing up Broad Street can be a little tough, especially when I'm pushed like today.  I was definitely breathing heavy.  I haven't run even a moderate paced run in almost 2 months.  Everything has been easy.  I'm just trying to get stronger and stay healthy.  I think I would call today's pace moderate.

Heading towards Wawa on Broad Street is downhill and that was a nice recovery.  Jerry really started flying and pulling ahead of me.  I could've kept up, but didn't want to push it too much.  I have a race scheduled for Saturday and couldn't afford to kill myself today.

I let him go and he was well ahead of me as we got to the Minsi Trail Bridge.  I continued to run the same way up the bridge and suddenly I gained ground on Jerry.  I noticed that mile 3 was a fast 7:17.  It didn't seem too hard though. 

I caught up to Jerry and told him if he felt good to take off.  Clearly he was struggling though.  He was breathing heavy, like I had been earlier.  I was feeling good.  I guess I'm in a lot better shape than I give myself credit for.  I think my hill running at Trexler over the last couple weeks is really starting to pay off.  Maybe that will be the secret to really getting faster this spring.

Since Jerry flew down the previous hill, I thought he would pass me back on the last downhill into the Sands area.  He never did though.  I kind of wish he would've.  When I'm ahead of someone, I have a habit of maybe pushing it a little more.  If he would've went by me, maybe I would've slowed down.

The 4th mile was a solid 7:37.  I am very happy with that.  We finished up with just over 4 miles in the books.  It was a good run because I ran a little faster and with more effort than I had been, but I didn't kill myself.

Tomorrow is an off day.  I'll appreciate the rest after a long run yesterday and somewhat hard run today.  I'm scheduled to run the Warm Hearts 5K on Saturday in Nazareth.  It's not looking good though.  The forecast is calling for a lot of snow Friday night on into Saturday morning.  I can't imagine it being clear by race time.

I kind of wish I could run a race in the snow, but at the same time, I would like to see how fast I am now.  Today's time was a big boost.  I think there may be a chance that I could run around a 6:45 pace for a 5K.  I could possibly even go under 6:30.  Originally, I was hoping to go under 20 minutes in this race, but that was before taking so much time off in December.  Now, I have ideas of what I'd like to do, but no real expectations.  I am just going to run on feel and not worry about time.  The big question will be whether I can sustain a hard effort for over 3 miles.

4.25 miles - 34:03 (8:01 pace)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tough Ten

Yesterday was a fun day off.  I did some hiking at the Lehigh Gap.  I got some pretty amazing winter scene photos.  It was a tough climb of probably somewhere around 1,000 feet in elevation change.  It was definitely worth the trip.

After that, I was back to running today.  I planned to run 10 miles, but I really had no idea what I'd be able to do.  The problem is that it hasn't been warm enough to melt the weekend snowfall, at least on the trails.  It is kind of weird because there is almost no snow on the grass and pavement, but the stone trails are pretty much covered.

I want to stay off of hard surfaces, so I just decided that I'd try running on the D&L.  Cementon is the easiest place for me to start at, but I can only head in one direction there.  I don't like that much for a long run.  Instead, I headed to the Cove Road Trailhead to give myself options.  I can get 6 miles in going to the south and I can go about as far north as I desire (probably close to 20 miles to be exact).

With so much snow on the trail, it made wearing trail shoes an easy decision.  It was in the 30s, which seems fairly warm compared to what we've had lately.  The wind wasn't all that strong either.  I opted just for pants, a long sleeve shirt and my jacket.  My fleece vest is kind of heavy, so I decided against that.  I wore light gloves and a headband too.

Normally, I like to head south from Cove Road.  That is because heading north is uphill.  Today, I decided to get the hard part out of the way first, so I went north and started climbing.  Later on, I was glad I chose this option.

The trail was snow covered and actually beautiful.  The sun isn't out too often in the winter, but it was shining bright today.  It made everything glisten.  The trail is cut into a lot of rock and there are huge ice crystal all over the rock walls.  That was definitely the coolest part of this run.

The snow on the trail wasn't too deep.  It was only a few inches.  There were some footprints.  A vehicle must've gone through there because there were fresh tire tracks.  I really struggled with where to run.  The tire tracks made for an even surface, but they were slippery.  The snow was uneven, but had more grip.  I went back and forth on this.  I never could decide.  Switching terrain frequently might have actually helped me.

I think my GPS was off in the first mile.  What else is new?  This time, it was on my wrist though instead of my pocket.  It did seem pretty accurate and my pace was fairly consistent after that first mile.

I was surprised at how many tracks were in the snow.  This trail normally is kind of lonely.  On the whole run I saw about 5 people and a couple dogs.  That's more than usual.  All of them were walking.

Running in the snow is just so much fun.  Between that and using my GoPro, time passed quickly.  It was a little windy at times, but early on I ended up taking off my gloves and headband.  The temperature was quite different in the sunny sections when compared to the shade.

This section of the trail is so nice and peaceful.  It is very remote with just a house here and there.  With so few landmarks it can get kind of monotonous, but it wasn't bad with all the snow.

Originally, I was planning to run about 2 or 3 miles at most to the north.  I normally like to go out a little farther on the first out and back.  I got to 2 miles and felt good so, I plugged along.

At around 2.5 miles, the vehicle tracks were gone.  Now, I had no choice but to run in the snow.  That was a struggle.  I passed a house with an adult horse and a pony.  That was cool.  I don't remember seeing them out there before.  A couple dogs barked at me in that area, but luckily none chased me.

I just kept on focusing on each half mile.  I finally got to mile 3, then 3.5 and finally 4.  I was struggling some by the time I got to 4 miles.  I figured that that would be a good time to turn around.  If I went out much farther, I might not make it back.

Almost immediately after turning around, I felt exhausted and start struggling.  I just concentrated on small steps.  I just tried to get through the next mile.  My legs still felt decent.  Hitting 5 miles was huge.  At that point, I figured I could do 6 or 7 miles and would walk a little bit if I needed too.

Breaking down the run into shorter segments always helps.  It makes the run more manageable.  I wasn't as strong as earlier, but I made it through miles 6 and 7.  Now, I knew I'd make it back to my car at least.  Even if I had to walk some, it was no more than a mile.  I kept going farther and farther early on because I knew that I'd have to come all the way back.  If I chose to stop running at any point, I would have to walk the distance back to the car.

Around 6 or 7 miles, I allowed myself to start thinking about getting in 10 miles.  The last time I ran 10 miles, it was on this trail in about mid December.  My body was very taxed that day.  Going slower, around an 8:30 pace for most of the run, saved me some on this day.  Even so, I didn't know if I could get more than 8 miles in.

When I finally arrived at the 8 mile mark and was back at the car, I felt like I had more in me.  I was slowing and feeling weaker, but I wasn't too bad.  My foot bothered me a little and my hamstring had some soreness, but most importantly, my quads were good.

The final 2 miles turned out to be by far the most difficult.  This is because the trail conditions changed.  This section was exposed to more sunlight and the snow had melted in spots.  I was glad that I had not started out in this direction.  The surface was so uneven with snow in some spots and clear trail nearby.  I couldn't find any good, consistent footing.

I just plugged along and focused on getting to mile 9.  Then I could turn around and make it back for 10 miles.  Mile 9 seemed to go on forever.  As I was at mile 8.9, I approached a house with barking dogs.  I decided it was time to turn around.  I've run by there before and they run to the edge of the yard and bark.  I didn't want to mess with them.

The final mile was not only uneven, but uphill too.  It was so difficult that I considered quitting.  I was too close to do so though.  Since 8 miles is the most I've done recently, and that was on good terrain, my legs were getting sore and my body was breaking down.  Finishing was all mental at this point though.

I had to run a little past the car to finish up.  That is because the dogs made me turn around early.  This wouldn't have been too bad, except that now I had to run up the steepest part of this trail.  It was a good feeling when I finally hit 10 miles and was finished.  I really didn't think I would make it that far, but mission accomplished.

I stretched a little, but wasn't too sore.  If I can tough it out in the snow like today, I'm good to go about anywhere.  It could be interesting because the 5K that I'm running on Saturday might have some bad conditions.  It is supposed to snow Friday night.  With an 11 AM start, hopefully it will be clear by then.

Tomorrow is my second week in a row with back to back running days.  Tomorrow is the usual LVRR Group Run.  I'm pretty excited because I noticed that there were 3 women already signed up for it.  At least I'll have some company.  Maybe some warm weather could actually make this a decent group run heading into the future.  Perhaps I'll be able to keep the run there when spring rolls around.

10 miles - 1:26:04 (8:37 pace)