Thursday, October 31, 2013

Bear Creek Night Run

It's Halloween today.  Originally, I was going to head up to the Delaware Water Gap to get in a nice run amongst the leaves and colors of fall.  Then, Aaron setup a night run at Bear Creek at the last minute.  I'm always up for a night run, so I did that instead.  It worked out well since today was a gloomy day anyway.  I'll head up north next week.

There were 6 of us running the loop (Aaron, Dorf, Wayne, Ron and his wife Jo and myself).  I haven't been to Bear Creek in so long.  I do like it there, but it's quite a drive for me.  I think the last time I was there was last summer.  It's not an easy place to run as you climb up the trail along the mountain to the top of the ski slope.

It was drizzling at the start.  I wasn't sure if it would rain, so I went with a long sleeve shirt.  Short sleeves probably would've been better as it was pretty hot and humid.  I was soaked by the end of the run, but from sweat, not rain.

Aaron usually flies ahead of everyone on these runs.  He is so awesome on trails.  I stayed behind him and Wayne.  I always have trouble getting through the flat beginning part because it goes through the disc golf course.  I was glad that Aaron was leading the way or I might've been lost.

The run was certainly challenging.  This trail is very rocky and full of leaves and tonight they were both wet.  Add to that the darkness of night and the fact that my headlamp isn't that strong and things were interesting.  Thankfully, I didn't fall.

Some of the beginning of the run is nice because it doesn't climb too much.  You get a little bit of a warmup before the hard stuff.  Aaron, Wayne and I stayed together for some time and chatted.  Once we started some of the good climbing, Wayne told me to go ahead.  He just completed a big triathlon recently and wasn't looking to do much.  Dorf, Ron and Jo were back farther.

I got some new trail shoes and was breaking them in during this run.  They did well, although these weren't the best conditions to run in.  My foot was a little sore on the uphills.  Overall, I did quite well with the climbs today.  Only in one really steep section did I walk at all and that was very brief.

Aaron got far ahead of me during the climbs.  Every now and then, he would stop and wait.  I've been lost there during the day, so I was glad I didn't get too lost at night.  Once, I jumped over a log and realized that that was where the trail turned.  Another time, I missed a turn and was near a picnic table.  I wasn't off the trail too far before I found my way back.

After the steepest section.  It gets easy for some time before the final steep climb.  I saw a headlamp one time and thought it was Aaron's.  I was running in the opposite direction and started to worry.  Then, I figured that it was just someone behind me.  The tricky thing about following the trail is that it isn't marked much and with all the leaves, the path can be hard to follow.

I was happy to finally make it to the top.  I wish I knew how long it took me to get there, but I didn't start my watch until sometime after the first half mile or so.  Aaron and Wayne were waiting at the top.  Wayne took a short cut.

From the top, the remainder of the run is almost all downhill.  It has a few switchbacks and for the most part is flat and fast.  It isn't as technical as the other side.  Aaron told me that he does his trail speedwork runs here.  That is something I need to do in the future.  I usually just run easy on trails.

The downhills were somewhat fun.  Aaron just took off on me.  I went at a decent clip though.  After it was smooth for some time, all of a sudden I came to a very rocky section.  I was lucky not to trip there since I couldn't slow down.  I made it through.

Shortly after the fast section, I saw Aaron up ahead waiting.  We ran together most of the way through the end, although he pulled away late.  That was good because I often get lost in the last section too.  Actually, I have more trouble trying to run this section in the other direction and find the main trail.

We finished up and Wayne was already there.  He took a short cut again.  Dorf, Ron and Jo arrived a few minutes later.  We all hung out and chatted for some time.  We talked about ultra running mostly.  They all are doing the run in Jim Thorpe this weekend too.  I was actually the first one to leave after an hour of hanging out.

It was a good night and a fun group run.  I definitely need to get to Bear Creek some more.  I need to go to some of the weekly runs that Aaron puts together there in the summer.  I've still never made it to one.

Tomorrow will probably be a bike ride day.  My running has been kind of short this week.  I needed a cutback week anyway.  The run at Jim Thorpe on Saturday will be pretty long.  I can't wait for it.

4.18 miles - 51:47 (12:24 pace)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Terror on the Thun 5K Race Report

If you would've asked me two weeks ago what I thought my 5K time would be, I would've guessed something around 23 minutes, 22 minutes at best.  Then, I ran a hard time trial 5K last week and surprised the heck out of myself with a 20:23.  That was wind aided though.

I've been running all long and slow mileage.  I knew my endurance was great, I was just shocked at how much speed I was able to carry without any fast efforts.  I decided that I needed to officially enter a race.  When I was on Pretzel City Sports website the other day, I saw they had a night race today.  Perfect I thought, especially since I love night runs.

The race started behind a bar on the Schuylkill River Trail.  At first, I was thinking that it went down one direction, so I ran there.  It was rough and I figured if the race went that way, it would be tough to run fast.  I then noticed how they setup the finish line and saw that it would actually go the other way.  It was overall pretty flat, but not pancake flat.  A lot of it was paved, but there was some stone too.

I got there early and warmed up with a fairly quick half mile or so out and back.  I didn't time it at all.  I just ran on feel.  I then did a lot of striders to keep the legs churning and sharp.  It used to be that I never warmed up before races and I still don't for long races.  However, something as fast as 5K, you need to get your legs ready to run fast.  Plus, covering the distance is easy so you don't lose much by running a moderate paced warmup.

I got to the line early and the timing people were quite late.  That was kind of annoying.  At first, I was one of the few people looking to line up at the front.  Then, a few others showed up.  There were a few guys that were obviously faster, some I wasn't so sure about and then a young kid that was a wildcard.  I figured that I would easily be in the Top 10 overall.  I wasn't expecting a strong field for a Tuesday night race anyway.

The race started off downhill and actually felt kind of slow to me.  That was great because usually they feel too fast.  When I did check my watch, the pace was under 6 minutes.  Obviously it wasn't slow and I did need to slow down some.  I figured a lot of that speed was just due to it being a downhill start.

I settled in at 6th place and followed the 5th place guy.  It is nice when you are that far up front that you know where you are.  I was afraid that I could get stuck in no man's land if I couldn't keep up.  There weren't too many people right behind me.

The weather for this evening was actually perfect.  It was cool and there was no wind.  I went with a short sleeve shirt and shorts.  I had zero issues.

One thing that I was unsure about was that it was supposed to be a haunted run.  People hid on the course and dressed as zombies.  They didn't get in the way too much though and thankfully didn't jump out in front of us and scare us.  I'm sure they had more fun with the back of the field, but us frontrunners were too focused and running hard.  They actually put fake body parts on the course too.  If you picked them up, you won a prize.  Of course I saw some, but I wasn't about to pick any up and run the rest of the race with it.

Mile 1 went very well.  It was a 6:27 mile and I didn't feel like I was overworking myself at that point.  I was sort of hoping I could break 20 minutes, but that would require a 6:25.  I figured that that probably wasn't realistic yet and I was correct.

Somewhere around the first mile, I was passed by a guy in costume.  I had been right behind the guy that was in 5th place, so I passed that guy and followed the costume guy.  The costume guy made for an awesome pace setter.

This was an out and back and I was happy that I didn't see the 2 leaders until after 1.25 miles.  Around that point, there was short uphill.  It was tough, but I pushed hard.  I continued to follow the costume guy.  By now, my breathing was starting to labor a bit.  I just thought about how short the race was and how I just needed to hang on.

I thought there would be a person at the turnaround, but there were just a few glow sticks.  Luckily, I was followed that guy and he knew to turn there.  I looked at my watch and realized that the pace had been slipping with me following this guy.

I didn't really have much energy and I didn't know if it was a good move or not, but I decided to use the downhill and just sprint by him.  I figured that I could pick up my pace and hoping break him and build a huge gap.  If I fell off in the final mile, oh well.  The strategy worked perfectly and the downhill was great.

I continued to push and push.  At other times, I might've backed off when my breathing was as heavy as it got today, but the great pace was so encouraging.  I needed to at least break 21 minutes.

I don't remember when I encountered them, but there was this huge group of walkers on the trail.  They were rather annoying to get past.  I ran the second mile at 6:48.  Having the guy pacing me through some of it was probably a huge help.

The final 1.1 miles I was on my own.  I knew it would be difficult.  Even if I really started dieing at some point, at least I put in 2 good miles.  I also knew that at most only one other guy was likely going to pass me.  The costume guy was still pretty far back though.

It did help that I had to hold my watch up to my headlamp to see the pace.  That meant that I would look at it far less.  At one point, they had caution tape between two posts.  I guess I could've just ran through it, but instead I hurdled it.

I thought that I might've taken a wrong turn, but I still seemed to be on the trail and then I saw some more zombies.  When I looked at my watch, I saw it at 2.76 miles.  I was very happy then. 

There was a nice downhill through a parking lot, before the last uphill.  I was breathing so hard by now, but had to keep going.  I knew my pace was under 6:40, so I was very happy with that.  I went through a parking lot and a bunch of people were cheering us on.  That was a nice boost.

I just battled really hard up the hill.  I was so pleased to hear my watch beep at 3 miles.  I was even happier to see the finish line.  I ran hard through the finish and ended with a 20:29.  That was good for 5th place overall and 2nd in my age group.  Maybe more amazing, I beat all the women.  That only ever happened once before.  Usually there is one fast one.

Ron Horn (Pretzel City Sports director) heard me coming because I was breathing so hard at the finish.  He thought I was someone else.  I guess that just shows how much work I have yet to go.  My breathing is so for behind my legs.  I need to start working on that.  Still, that is why I'm so amazed by the times that I am able to run.

I'm so happy with where I'm at right now.  I ran faster than this all the time when I was 18 and just out of HS track.  However, I've only run faster once in my post college days.  That was my 5K PR back in 2010.  I guess I need to go after that now too.

After the race, they had the awards ceremony in the bar.  That just reminded me how awkward I am.  I stood in the bar saying nothing.  I can talk all day with friends, but I'll never start a conversation with strangers.  I actually ended up talking with these two guys because they saw my Blues Cruise shirt and started a conversation.  The one guy was the guy that passed early on in the race.  He finished 7th and right behind me in my age group.  I waited around for the awards, but they had a mix up with them, so they said they would mail mine.

I'm so thrilled with this run and where I'm at.  I thought I was headed toward being a trail/ultra guy and that's still really want I want to do, but I guess I have to spend some time on the roads too.  I have some unreached goals there and I have to go for them.

One thing I'm curious about is how fast I could run a half marathon.  Is there a zone that I could run a moderate effort and still put up a fast time because my legs are so strong?  Clearly I can only run so fast with my breathing holding me back.  I'll just have to fix that I guess.

Tomorrow is either a longer ride or a run.  I want to run at some point at the Delaware Water Gap this week.  Then, I can take in the fall scenery.  I'm thinking that will more likely be Thursday.  I'm going to run at Jim Thorpe this weekend with a big group and that should be awesome.

3.1 miles - 20:29 (6:36 pace)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Just Another 15 and 15 Day

I thought about riding last night.  Instead, I took Sunday completely off.  That meant a big Monday as usual.  I wanted to run 15 miles.  Since I handled some rail trails (Nor-Bath anyway) pretty well last week, I decided to run at the Saucon Rail Trail.  It has now been extended a couple miles.

One of the reasons I decided on a rail trail is because I wanted the mileage, but didn't have the time for a slower trail run.  I figured this would be perfect.  I had a great week last week.  Today, there were at least some issues.

It was a beautiful fall day.  The temperature was in the mid 50s and the sun was out.  There was some wind, but nothing too bad.  I wore shorts and a short sleeve tech shirt.

I started at Upper Saucon Community Park.  If I began at Water Street, it would have required a long out and back or multiple out and back segments.  I didn't want to do that. 

I started heading south.  This is the new section that just opened.  I rode my bike on it, but had yet to run on it.  It began by going uphill.  It was steep initially and then gradual.  With the sun out, I was actually hot in the beginning.  It was tricky though because there was a breeze that bothered me some as I was running into it.

I ate an Atomic Burger from Sheetz about an hour and a half before the run.  I knew that wasn't the best idea.  I was definitely sluggish at the start.  I did feel better though as the run went on.

Going out was uneventful.  The trail ended at 2.2 or 2.3 miles.  I was hoping it might go a little farther.  I wanted at least 5 miles in this first segment, so I ran out on the road until 2.5 miles.  I then turned around and had to go uphill.

The first few miles had been slow, but now that I was heading back on the trail, I was cruising.  This must've been a gradual downhill.  After an 8:57 opening mile, mile 5 was run at 8:04.  I was back at my car, but didn't stop.

I headed out in the other direction.  I've run here many times before.  I wanted to make sure that I did a minimum of 3 miles out and 3 more back.  That way I would be at least at mile 11 when I arrived back at the car.

This part was nice because there was a lot of gradual downhill.  The trail was fairly busy and the scenery was solid.  I cruised around.  Most of my miles were now under 8 minute pace.

I was going out farther and farther.  This is the part of long runs where I usually get into a zone.  The first 5 miles and the last 5 miles of a run of this distance can be tough, but the middle is kind of sweet.

I just kept trying to go another half mile out.  Every time I did that, it meant an additional mile onto the total when I arrived back at the car.  I finally turned around at mile 9.  I had almost made it to Water Street.  Now, I would get back to my car after 13 miles.  I could tough out another 2 miles, I figured.

I turned around and it definitely got harder.  I was going slightly uphill and the wind was at my face.  I was still happy to be running consistent miles under 8 minute pace, especially since I was running with an easy effort.  My breathing was laboring from time to time because of the wind, but that was it.

Getting to mile 10 was huge.  I always love hitting double digits.  By now, I was doing okay, but not feeling as great as I hoped.  Some soreness was developing particularly with my back.  I guess I still struggle with crushed stone surfaces.  Normally, I feel great at mile 11, but I was starting to slip by now.

All of the gradual uphill didn't help.  I continued to just focus on the task at hand and the next mile.  Getting to 12 miles was huge.  Before I knew it, I had fought hard and struggled back to the car.

I didn't want to stop now either.  I still had water left.  Not stopping did make it difficult.  I usually take a break on long trail runs.  By now, my legs were slowly getting beat up.

I headed out ion the new section.  I knew mile 14 would be uphill and thus the toughest.  If I could just get past that, I could turn around and cruise downhill.  I grinded out mile 14.  Mile 13 was 8:22 and this mile was 8:28.  I was slipping, but not too bad.

The last mile was awesome thanks to the downhill. I was able to use it and really push myself.  After failing apart earlier, I bounced back to end the run with a 7:36 mile.  That dropped my overall pace below 8:10. 

It was definitely a solid 15 miles.  I've felt far worse after 15 mile runs and also far better.  My legs and back were sore.  It wasn't too bad, but I thought that I'm better adapted to 15 mile runs at this point.  I guess it was all about the surface that I was running on and the repetitive nature of the run. 

I'm not in too bad of shape.  I rode my bike for 15 more miles in the darkness and that helped a lot with recovery.  I should feel fine tomorrow.  I'll probably ride in the afternoon and then at night, I want to run a 5K in Reading.  I really want to see where I'm at from a speed standpoint.  I don't expect to break 20 minutes quite yet, but I'm think I should break 21 anyway.  I'm looking forward to racing again and I love doing so at night.  I think it is a flat course.

15 miles - 2:02:09 (8:09 pace)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Run and Long Ride to Finish the Week

Today was the last day of the week.  I would've liked to run with the BCR to get to 50 miles for the week.  However, it was right at the freezing mark when they started.  I wasn't too crazy about that.  I ended up going to there to drop a CD of photos off.

Instead, I ran with Emily later in the morning.  She was doing her last 20 miler before the Philadelphia Marathon in a couple weeks.  She actually started the same time as the BCR people, but I was only running the last 7 miles with her, so I didn't start until about 2 hours later.

I wasn't sure what to wear.  It was definitely warmer by 9:45 AM.  I went with a lightweight long sleeve shirt and shorts.  I actually would've liked to have worn a short sleeve shirt, but I didn't have one with me.

I parked in downtown Easton on Larry Holmes Drive.  Emily was doing a big loop around Easton, from her house.  I was going to run last 7 miles and then she'd drive me back to my car.

It was a little chilly along the river at the start, but I warmed up quick.  Of course the pace would be nice and easy for me on this short run.  That was good since my last run was hard.

I run so often alone and I feel like that does make me mentally tough.  However, it is awesome to have company every now and then.  It is simply amazing how quickly the time goes by.

We ran through Easton and then onto the Karl Steiner Arts Trail.  This is a nice paved segment with some uphill to it.  I had to make sure not to push the pace too much.  Emily was breathing a little bit since she'd run so far already.  I had it easy.

We talked training and a lot of other stuff.  This is her first marathon coming up and we talked about just staying pretty consistent afterward and issues like that.  I'm probably going to help her out with her training after the race.

I took her through a section behind some apartments.  This is a singletrack flat dirt path.  It is unmaintained.  I was surprised to come across several other runners here.  I didn't think anyone actually ran on this part.

We were then onto the Palmer Bike Path near Crayola.  This section is nice and flat and paved.  I was wearing my regular shoes.  I'm long overdo for a new pair.  I had no problems today though.  I was glad that there was no soreness.  After the fast run the other day, my left kneecap area was tweaked a bit, but it felt fine today.

We ran out to Mill Race Park.  That is a slight uphill, so it can be a little tough for someone doing a long run.  There was some nice fall scenery.

After the uphill, we turned around for about a mile.  That made for a nice downhill.  I ran a little harder and Emily pushed herself to stay with me.  When we got to where she was going to end, I decided to push it pretty hard for a short out and back.

This last segment was .4 miles.  I ran really hard.  It was kind of tough to do after all the slow early miles.  I dropped the pace of this mile to 7:34, so this short fast segment must've been well under 7 minute pace.

It was good to finish up a 50 mile week with an easy run.  It was also good to help Emily out and have some company.  Another fine week in the books.

I went to the D&L and biked 40 miles after the run.  That is pretty flat, so I guess I'll have to make that my new long ride place.  It was nice at the beginning, but pretty cold by the end of the ride.  I ended the week with 75 miles on the bike in addition to the 50 miles of running.  All in all, a productive week.

Tomorrow, I'll be at the Eagles game.  I might ride for an hour or so after dark when I get home.  I'm thinking Monday will be a 15 mile trail run.  Tuesday, I might run a 5K to see where I'm really at from a speed standpoint and what I need to do going forward.

7 miles - 59:01 (8:26 pace)

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Breakthrough Run?

Last spring, I was regressing in my training.  My legs were getting destroyed and my times were slowing down.  I ran an awful half marathon on a hilly course where I didn't even break 1:40.  At that time, I decided my training needed changing.

My greatest strength is probably my desire and work ethic.  However, that is also my greatest weakest.  I push, push and push until I fall over the edge.  I'm terrible at taking the long term approach, even though I know I should.  It has also been tough to take that approach because I've never been healthy very long.

After the spring, I decided that I would just stop running hard.  I would work on my endurance base.  I wanted to build up to where I could run high mileage comfortably.  I also knew that trails helped my legs out tremendously, so I headed there for most of my runs.

This summer has been great with weeks of 40 miles of running and 100 miles of biking pretty consistently.  When I ran the VIA Marathon in September, it was rather easy and I knew my endurance was at an all time high.  That day, I had an inkling that I might have some decent speed too.  I ran a 3:45 with relative ease.  I didn't think I could run much under 4 hours at that point.

Still, it is hard to know if you have any speed until you test it out.  Last week, I had an awesome 25 mile trail run that seemed pretty easy and was again thrilled at my endurance.  Then on Friday, after 10 decent paced miles, I ran hard at the end and surprised myself with a 6:34 mile.

I figured it was time to test my speed a little more to see where I was truly at.  After 3 days of 10+ miles earlier in the week, I rested yesterday.  The plan today was just a mile warmup, then a fast 5K segment and a couple miles to cool down.

I decided to head to the Nor-Bath Trail since my legs are comfortable there.  I started at Savage Road.  I wanted to head out with the wind at my back.  I knew my breathing would lag behind my legs and I couldn't afford to run into the wind.

I was hoping for something under a 7 minute pace.  If I could hold that for 3.1 miles, I would be impressed.  I kind of knew it was going to be a great day when I did the warmup mile.  It was more like a moderate paced mile and I was cruising.  I ran a half mile out and half mile back at 7:04.

I then picked it up and felt great early on.  I was shocked when I first looked at my watch and was actually slightly under 6 minute pace.  It didn't feel too hard at this point.  I felt like I could go even faster, but of course I knew whenever I did that I'd really fall apart.

I've run so many 5Ks that I know how to pace myself for them.  However, since I've been doing all slow runs, I wanted to run slightly slower from an effort standpoint than I normally would.

Of course my pace slid as would be expected.  Mile 1 of the 5K trial was still a blazing 6:23.  My breathing labored not too long after that.  I kept pushing though, trying to find a balance between fast and not too fast.  By 1.5 miles, I was struggling.

My pace was still awesome, even though it was falling off, so I got a huge boost from that.  I just kept battling.  I figured that I could at least get through the 2nd hard mile.

I came through that mile at another amazing 6:36.  At this point, I was just thrilled with these 2 miles.  I actually didn't even care much how I fell of in the final 1.1 miles.  In fact, I slowed for the next .1 miles and clicked my watch at that point.  I figured I could include the fairly fast warmup and just count that as a 5K.  Even then, I would've impressed myself.

I picked it back up instead.  I figured that I would just hang on as long as I could.  My legs were still awesome.  My lungs were just holding me back big time.  Even though I was slowing, I was able to continue at a 6:44 pace for the final hard mile.  That was so encouraging.

I got to Airport Road shortly before I was done with the hard segment.  I wasn't going to cross the road, so I had to turn around and battle the headwind now.  I actually pushed harder and was able to even drop this mile's pace in the final couple tenths.

That last hard mile was 6:41.  Added altogether and my time was 20:23 (6:44 pace).  It was well beyond even my best expectations for this run.  It was wind aided, but I'd have to think whatever advantage the wind gave me would be the same as the disadvantage of running solo with no competitors.

I ran mostly out, so I was almost 3 miles away when I finished the run.  That meant several slow miles back to cool down.  I'm not sure I've ever had a happier few miles.  I was fist pumping with excitement like I had won the Boston Marathon.

I'm probably not far off of breaking 20 minutes in a 5K.  I used to do that all the time when I was 19, but that has only happened exactly once since then.  That was my PR in 2010.  I haven't had this kind of speed since 2010.  In fact, I might've only run this fast one other time in addition to my PR.  I'm very interested in seeing how much faster I can get by actually incorporating some regular speed into my runs.  I may not be too far from PR land.

I definitely need to improve my lung capacity.  Still, I want to be cautious with it.  I don't need to get injured again.  I'm going to stick with the same plan of lots of slow long runs.  I will add one day a week of intervals, tempo runs, fartleks and stuff like that.

I guess I shouldn't be too surprised with this speed.  After all, the way to run better/faster is to run more.  It's not a big secret.  Arthur Lydiard discovered that exact thing 50+ years ago.  I just can't believe how much it seems to be ringing true now.  We'll see where it goes from here, but my "Summer of Endurance" might be really paying off.

Tomorrow is a rest day from running.  I'd like to go for a big bike ride.  Hopefully it isn't as cold as today.  Saturday, I'll likely run again.  I'm kind of interested in running a real 5K now to see what I can do.  I did find a night one in Reading on Tuesday evening.  That might work.

7 miles - 52:00 (7:26 pace)
Fast 5K segment in middle 20:23 (6:34 pace)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Third Straight Big Day

A long term goal of mine is to run something like either AT through PA or maybe the Long Trail in Vermont.  Regardless, I want to do something where I average like 25-30 miles a day for 5-10 days.  It will take awhile to build up to that point, but I wanted to run three straight days of 10+ miles now to get a taste of how my body would handle something like that.  I've never run that much mileage consecutively before.

After 12 and 15 miles at night on the Nor-Bath Trail, it was time for a day run.  It was also time for more of a true trail.  I needed something technical to slow me down and break up the repetitiveness of normal running.

I decided to head to South Mountain (Bethlehem) and run the loop there.  I was there at night about a month ago, but but I haven't been there much lately.  It was a nice fall day, so I figured that the setting would be great.  I wanted to run 15 miles, but the plan was for at least 10 miles.  That would be 2+ loops.  If I went for a third loop, it would likely be in the dark.

I went with a long sleeve tech shirt.  The gear choice was difficult today.  It wasn't that cold, but it was very windy, especially on the mountain top.  I also figured if I was still running after dark, the long sleeves would be great.

I got a taste of the changing conditions early on.  On the top of the mountain, it was so windy and freezing.  When I got down onto the trail though, it was hot and I was sweating.  I just took it easy.

This loop is nice because it starts off downhill.  It isn't too long before you head uphill though.  I walked a lot of that early on just to be cautious.  My legs definitely felt like they put in some big miles during the last few days.

Early on, I saw a couple deer.  That would be the theme of this run.  I saw more deer than people.  In fact, I counted 22 deer in total.  Some of those were probably repeats, since I ran the loop twice.

After walking up the big hill, it was nice to run again for awhile.  The middle portion of this loop is a lot downhill and plenty of fun.  You just have to get through the start.  It is rocky in the middle and the rocks were kind of hard to see with all the leaves that had fallen down.  I handled the rocks pretty well, although I stumbled a couple times.

Before I knew it, I was to this small bridge over some water.  A couple was hanging out there and had to move out of my way.  I then made it to the lookout and saw the City of Bethlehem.  That was an awesome view.

The pace was pretty good and I was having fun.  It is good to know this course because I now know which hills are long and need walking and which I can run up.  The last part of this run is mostly uphill, but it is a long, steady uphill.  I walked some and ran some. 

I walked a lot of the way up the steps and finished up the first loop at my car at just under 4.5 miles.  I was well under an hour (that's the time needed when Decker puts on his Loopy Run there).  I quickly refilled my drink and wiped my face with a towel.  I wanted to get going.

The second loop started off okay.  My legs were kind of fatigued, but that was to be expected at this point.  By now, I just decided that I would only do 10 miles.  The early climbs of this loop were tough, even while walking.

I saw a couple walking and later on a mountain biker.  I would see the couple again at a road crossing.  I just cruised along and tried to run pretty consistent.  The downhill was a big help again and I was feeling awesome.

Just as I was thinking how I was handling the rocks pretty well and feeling great, I bashed the side of my foot on a rock.  That hurt a lot, but I plugged along.

Again, the couple on the bridge had to move for me.  I'm not sure if it was the same couple.  I wanted some extra distance, so I ran out to the art garden with all weird art structures in the middle of a field.  My foot was really killing me through this section and then when I hit some stone trail and it was especially a probably on the pavement.  The foot was constantly rubbing my shoe.

When I got back on the trail and had instant relief.  This finish was more of the same as the first time around.  I saw a bunch of deer, but not much else happened.  At the road on the top, there were a four small deer with their mom.

I was at about 8.8 miles when I came out of the woods.  I wanted to get to 10 miles, so I just looped around the paved roads at the top of campus.  That dropped my pace like crazy and I was done before I knew it.

I actually felt worse at mile 5 than I did at mile 10.  I'm sure I could've pushed on and got to mile 15 without too much trouble.  However, I've put myself through enough the last three days and don't want to overdo it.

Tomorrow, I'm going to the district cross country meet.  I won't run at all, but I'll probably ride to the meet and possibly ride another time too.  I haven't been on the bike yet this week.  On Thursday, I'm planning on a short run.  I want to run hard and see what kind of speed I have.

10 miles - 1:52:31 (11:15 pace)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Another 15 at Night

After a solid 12 miles last night, I wanted another long run tonight.  I was going to run in the day, but just didn't have the energy.  Instead, I went out to the Nor-Bath Trail again at 8 PM.  That was the same time as yesterday.

It was another beautiful, slightly chilly night.  This time, I went with some long sleeves.  I started off nice and easy.  My headlamp was well adjusted.  I ran the short out and back section toward Bath first.  It was good to get an early mile in in that direction.

I saw eyes on the trail early on.  That is always a little uncomfortable.  They were gone when I got there though.  Every now and then, something runs into the bushes during these runs.  Once time, the wind blew after that too and made me unsettled.

The one thing with night runs, especially on a flat trail, is that they are very uneventful.  It is just mile after mile of almost nothing.  The road crossings are one of the few interesting things.  I got through most of those with only brief stops.  Some of the people in the cars that I was waiting for must've thought I was crazy. 

At one point, I heard a guy at a house yell "hey."  I'm not sure who he was yelling at.  I am always worried some dogs at these houses might chase me.  A couple were out later on and they barked at me.

The beginning of this route is awesome, but the surfaces change after Savage Road.  There is some pavement and different stone too.  Going out, it is nice, but coming back sucks because it is uphill.

I struggled slightly with the uphill.  It was now over 5 miles.  The legs were starting to feel it just slightly.  Nothing bad, but some minor aches.

Once I got back onto the section past Savage Road, things got much better.  I cruised along.  I was drinking water, but feeling slightly weird because of the cold air.  I just concentrated on getting to miles 7, then 8, then 9 and 10.  Hitting double digit miles was the absolute minimum for this run.

I knew that when I got to the end of the trail, I'd be just over 10 miles.  When I got to mile 9.4, I decided to turn around and run out again until I hit mile 10.  That was great.  It must've been downhill because I cruised.

It was good to hit mile 10.  I was starting to tire, so I didn't know how far I'd go.  I could definitely get to mile 12 without much trouble, and probably 13 too.  I knew by now that I could get to mile 15, but that might be pushing it.

I just kept going.  I was at about 11.5 miles when I arrived near my car.  I ran that short out and back section to get in another mile.

Now, I just thought what the heck, let's go to mile 15, even if we are a little beat up doing it.  While I struggled a little earlier on, I did better in this stretch because I was more focused.

I ran out to 13.8 miles and had 1.2 miles to finish.  I actually just focused on quarter miles.  I didn't push hard, but I did pick it up in the final mile (7:49).  It was great to get to 15 miles.

I was a little sore, but not too bad.  It shows how far I've come.  I was thinking back to late May when I ran like 17 miles and my legs were just destroyed.  Now, it would've probably taken 23 or more miles until I felt that bad.

Tomorrow, I'm trying for another long run.  I'm hoping for at least 15 miles and I'd love to do 20 miles.  I'm not sure where at though.  I was considering South Mountain (Lehigh), but that might be too technical and time consuming.  I'd love to travel, but don't know if I have the time to do that and run for a long time before it gets dark.

15 miles - 2:12:17 (8:49 pace)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Nor-Bath Night 12

It was a busy day.  I went to cheer on friends and take photos at the Runner's World Half Marathon in the morning.  I then immediately headed to the Eagles game.  By the time I got home and let my dinner settle, it was dark. 

I really needed to refresh myself mentally with a nice night run.  I had no real mileage plan (although I was hoping for double figures).  I just wanted to run until I felt good enough.  I love using night runs for this.

I started off on the east end as usual.  I was hoping I could run all the way to the end of the path into Northampton.  I started my watch, but had to stop early on because my headlamp was bouncing around too much.  I adjusted it and continued on.

I only went with shorts and short sleeves and I was actually freezing in the beginning.  I knew it would get better once I warmed up, but it was tough in the early going.  It was cold enough to see my breath.

Other than a little cold, the run was just so peaceful, calm and relaxing.  Exactly what I needed.  Every now and then a creature would stir in the bushes or I saw some eyes from time to time.  I think they were usually cats or rabbits.  Even at night, I still had to stop at the Airport Road crossing.

I just cruised along nice and easy.  The miles clicked away.  Before I knew it, I was past Bicentennial Park, then over Savage Road and then onto the paved section through the neighborhood.  After the neighborhood, the trail is kind of behind an industrial and overgrown area.  It can get a little uncomfortable there.  I thought I saw eyes far up ahead at one point, but if it was them they disappeared.

As I got to the end of the trail, I was just over 4.6 miles.  I wanted to get to mile 5 before turning around.  That meant running on the roads for a bit.  I went downhill to the Municipal Complex in Northampton.  I then turned around and was going uphill on the pavement.

I was happy to get back onto the trail and the stone.  That was better for my legs.  They were slightly sore at this point. 

When I got past Savage Road, there is another park area that you can turn off into.  I wanted to get to 12 miles now, so I headed on this pavement for a short out and back. 

I plugged along on the way back.  I was pretty consistent throughout the run.  I did have to stop to go to the bathroom, so that slowed up one mile. 

I had to stop at Airport Road again.  When I got to Jacksonville Road, I was at mile 10.75.  I decided on an out and back to the end of the trail.  This section is kind of isolated, so I'm not crazy about it.  It wasn't too bad though.

I finished up with a short out and back on the main path again.  I had a nice 12 miles in.  It was a very refreshing run and a good way to kick off the week.  I'm hoping for a productive week.

I want to do a long run tomorrow.  With the leaves changing, I would like to go up to the McDade Trail at the Delaware Water Gap.  I could get a 20+ mile run in there with no problems.

I'm starting to seriously consider a marathon again in the spring.  I won't run one unless I think I can run close to a BQ time.  I have to start getting some hard runs in soon to see where I'm at.  I need to start running hard at least once a week.

12 miles - 1:44:52 (8:44 pace)

Friday, October 18, 2013

D&L Recon

I wasn't feeling all that eager to run today, but I eventually got out the door.  Tom has planned a long run on the D&L south of Easton for a few weeks from now.  He commented the other day that it was closed in a section and that we would have to work around it.  A few weeks ago, I ran south from the Theodore Roosevelt Recreation Area.  This time, I decided I would head north and see how far I could go.

The weather was perfect.  It was late afternoon and a cool fall day.  It was a little breezy along the river at times, but overall not too bad.  I almost went with long sleeves, but decided on short sleeves.  That was a good choice.

I was hoping it wouldn't take more than 5 miles each way to get to Easton.  Driving to the start though, I knew the run would be close to that distance.  As I was walking (before running) a woman on a bike passed me.  She was cute.  The path was fairly well used today.  Early in the run, a small dog off its leash jumped on my leg.  The owner had three dogs and the other two were on leashes.  I guess this was the nice one.  At least he didn't bite.

Less than a mile into the run, there was a short up and down steps section.  At the bottom of the steps, the woman on the bike was stopped, so I had to run around her.  I didn't really want to because I figured she would pass me later.  I tried running hard briefly to gap her.  It didn't work.  Not far down the path, she was able to pass me.  I ran over a foot bridge and she rode on the adjacent concrete section.

All of that made my first mile faster than I expected.  It was under 9 minutes.  My pace continued to be faster as I got settled in.  The path is pretty flat and easy to run on.  It is like a nature type path, so it isn't that smooth.  The young lady stopped again and I said, "hello there again!"  That got a laugh.

Even though I was telling myself to slow down, it wasn't working.  The second mile was just over 8 minutes and the next two miles went right under 8 minutes.  I was getting faster and faster.  The effort was just slightly faster than what I would call a true easy pace.  It was probably like my marathon easy effort.  I had to at least labor slightly with my breathing.

At one point, there was a sign that said something about the trail being flooded and enter at your own risk.  This was the area they were doing repairs in.  Right below the Route 78 Bridge, they had rebuilt the path.  It was nice and smooth.

Farther down, I finally got to the part that they are really working on.  A guy on a bike had just come through there, so at least I knew it was passable.  There was only a path for about one person wide to go through, but it was runnable.  Actually, even though I was trying to slow down, this mile was a speedy 7:16.  It probably wouldn't be a good idea to run this are during the day when they are doing construction, but in the late afternoon, it was fine.  It should be good on the weekend.  Even if the path is blocked for some reason, we could always just run through the canal itself.  That is empty and appears smooth.

After the short repaired area, there was another section they had redone.  It now had stone.  The repaired areas were nice.  They are wide and smooth.  Actually the area they were working on was kind of interesting.  The dirt was soft and bouncy.

I was now over 5 miles, but I could see the train bridge right near the Forks of the Delaware, so I had to keep going.  I made it all the way to the park just past the bridge.  There was construction fence there, but it was easy to step over.  The whole path was runnable.  The mission was a success.

It was good to be headed back.  I was feeling a little weird.  I figured I would run to mile 11 and then likely just stop and walk the rest of the way.  I just cruised along.  I did start getting tired and light headed at times.  It wasn't anything too bad though.  I just made sure to keep drinking.

Most of the way back was uneventful.  My pace continued to drop as I cruised along.  I was now running consistently under 8 minutes.  I still wasn't pushing much either.  I just counted down mile after mile.  This path got kind of boring after awhile, but really it wasn't too bad because it was all new to me.  It also likely won't be as bad when running it with a group.

I came through with a late mile of 7:31 and was very surprised.  I thought maybe I should consider running hard.  I went slightly faster at mile 10 and that was 7:19.  By now, I was getting fatigued.  However, I figured that I might as well see how hard I can run the final mile.

After 10 solid miles, I pushed hard for mile 11.  I haven't run hard in so long.  Everything has just been base building mileage.  I've been considering mixing in some harder stuff every now and then though.

It felt great pushing it for a change.  Of course it was uncomfortable, but that is the beauty.  The only thing was this mile seemed to take forever.  When I looked at just the current mile pace for the first time, it was 6:21.  Of course I started to slip, but not too much.

Eventually, I was around 6:28 pace for that mile.  I probably could've gone under 6:30, but then in the last tenth of a mile, I came to the short step segment.  There was no way I could fly up and down these and not lose time.  I ran by a woman there that was trimming her shrubs.  With me breathing so hard, she must've thought I was crazy.  After the up and down I slowed slightly and this mile ended up being 6:35.

After all those miles, I was quite impressed with that fast last mile.  I honestly had no idea how fast I could even run a single mile.  I think having this strong base is really going to help my speed once I concentrate on that.  I think I'll have to start running hard at least once a week.  Maybe I'll even consider a hard marathon again.  Time will tell.

Tomorrow, I'm going to watch the Runner's World 5K and 10K.  I may bike down there.  I haven't ruled out running somewhere in the afternoon.  I've already put in over 50 miles this week, so I don't know.  I have a party with the BCR people to attend in the evening.  The Runner's World Half Marathon is on Sunday and I'll be watching that too.  Then, the Eagles battle the Cowboys for first place.  It should be a good weekend.

11 miles - 1:25:04 (7:44 pace)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Seven Night Miles

I was at cross country meets both yesterday and today.  I could've squeezed a run in during the day, but I didn't feel like it.  I also didn't really feel like a nighttime ride or run.  Then I sat down to watch TV and that lasted half an hour.  TV these days is just so terrible.  I almost never watch it unless there's a game on.

Anyway, I decided to get out for a short run instead.  I had no plan.  I was thinking at least 3 miles and hopefully quite a few more.  I went to the Nor-Bath Trail.  That is my go to night run place.  It is a smooth rail trail that is close, remote and peaceful and also doesn't beat up my legs too much.

I started out just before 9 PM.  The big problem was that I forgot my headlamp.  I didn't realize this until the trailhead.  By then, it was too late.  Luckily, the moon is quite full and I didn't actually need any light.  I almost tripped on a twig, but that was about it.  The rest of the run was clear.

I started off cruising along.  The weather was perfect and continued to remind me why I LOVE this time of year so much.  Crossing the roads isn't too bad this time of night.  Without a headlamp, I didn't look at my watch too much.

I just had time to relax and think, with only the occasional distraction.  At Bicentennial Park, I heard tires squealing.  I guess it was probably some local teenagers.

I felt good and really had no idea of the pace.  I also didn't care.  I was just running comfortably.  Night runs are so awesome.  They make me feel so free.

I thought I heard my watch beep earlier, but it didn't, so it took some time to get to mile 2.  I do like that this trail is remote, but also near some houses.  That gives me a little comfort too.

I got almost to Savage Road and turned around right at 3.5 miles.  I was surprised to see my pace wasn't faster, but pace didn't matter.  It slowed some more when I needed a quick bathroom break.

I heard what was either a dog barking up ahead at one point or an animal.  I wasn't too keen on it being the second option, so I ran harder.  Thankfully, I didn't hear anything as I got closer to where the sound was.  It is always a little unsettling when you hear something move in the bushes and you can't see it.  That happened a few times today.

I hit miles 4 and 5 and was getting kind of bored.  At one point near Bicentennial Park, I looked at my watch and saw mile 5.6.  I decided to push really hard for .4 miles.  The fun part was that I wouldn't look at my watch.  I would just push and push until I heard the beep.  It took some time, but I was done.  I thought that mile would end up being faster than 7:44, but obviously the first half of it was slow.

I had really pushed during that stretch and sort of felt like I might puke during the last mile.  Drinking a soda and eating popcorn before the run didn't help much.  I've cut back on that stuff at least.

I just cruised on in the final mile and finished up.  It was great to be done and even run hard for a short stretch.  Getting out the door was difficult, but sometimes you just have to do it.  I know once I get going, I'll keep going for at least an hour.

Tomorrow, I'm just going to do what I feel.  I already have 40 miles of running in the books this week.  I'd like to get to 50 at least.  I've only been on the bike for 15 miles.  I'm not sure that I'll get in 100 miles riding this week.  Quite frankly, I'm getting bored of doing the same loop on the bike.  That's because I ride at night and don't have many other options.

7 miles - 1:01:51 (8:50 pace)

Monday, October 14, 2013

Perfect Run

I don't quite know what it was, but today's run was amazing.  After over 8 miles at Trexler last night, I wanted a long run today.  I was shooting for 25 miles.  The problem is that I've done this plenty of times before and usually came up well short, only doing 15 miles or so.  Today, everything just clicked.  It was almost magical.

I went to Jacobsburg for the run.  I wanted to run at the Delaware Water Gap, but it is closed due to the government shutdown.  What actually made the run most amazing was the poor start.  I wanted to be fairly conservative.  After yesterday's run, I wasn't feeling too strong.  I felt kind of tired and sluggish before the run.  I also ate lunch too close to the start.

I headed out and started doing the loop to the open field area.  I figured that this section gets the most sun, so I'd get through it early before it got too hot.  Still, it was quite hot.  Not summer time hot, but October hot for sure.  I headed out with a shirt and that proved to be too much.

I walked the big hill and wasn't feeling bad, but not great either.  I just plodded along.  The sun was bothering me and my shirt was already getting soaked.  Somewhere around 3.5 miles, I was really losing it.  I started getting kind of lightheaded.  Maybe my lunch or electrolyte water just had not kicked in yet.  Whatever the case, I felt awful.

Instead of getting discouraged, as I usually do, I decided to just battle through it and see what happens.  If it was truly going to be an awful run, then I'd just cut it short.  I was hoping maybe it was just a bad patch.

Then, the amazing thing happened.  I don't know if it was just the downhill or what, but my energy started to come around and I felt amazing.  I thought up a phrase, "90% of our limitations are mental."  I said that to myself and it seemed to ring true.

I took the long way around loop back to the parking lot.  I was now having fun.  Going through the ridge section with roots was a blast.  I got back to the car to refuel at just past 5 miles.  My recovery had been amazing.

After a short break, I continued on.  This time, I headed across the street from the main lot and started the big loop.  I dropped my shirt off in the car and being cooler was a big help.  I walked some of the steeper hills, but for the most part, I ran.  Before I knew it, I was at the Sober's Run Loop.

I walked up the powerline section to be cautious.  The pace wasn't fast, but it certainly wasn't slow either.  I really enjoyed the downhills.  They were reenergizing me all day long.

Instead of heading back, I ran the singletrack along the creek.  This is a fun section.  It is easy and not too technical.  I came out and was going to run on the main path.  Then I saw a couple hunters and decided to just turn around.

I was only at 10 miles by now, but yet I knew I'd get the 25 miles in, unless I collapsed big time.  Thinking about how I managed to get through the 50K while being miserable was a huge help.  I just kept trying to stay positive and enjoy the run.  Having the beautiful fall scenery of Jacobsburg as well as the cool weather was a huge help.

I decided again that I didn't want to head back to the car yet.  The more miles I could put in during this second loop, while still feeling good, the better.  There is a fun loop around Sober's Run, so I did that.  It added about two more miles.

I saw some horses in this section, but they didn't get in the way.  There were a lot of people out hiking today.  There was some great energy there too.

I then headed back toward the main lot.  I continued to walk the steep hills.  I took the longer, fun route back again to add distance.  As I hit mile 15, I still felt amazing.  I couldn't believe it.  Usually, I falter by this time.  With each passing mile, I was more confident that I would make it to 25.

When I arrived back at the car, it was almost exactly mile 16.  I ate a little bit of a Clif Bar, but actually didn't take on much nutrition at all today.  Getting water was a must.  That second loop had been nearly 11 miles long.  I had been low on water for some time.  I filled up and threw in a tablet.

Now, I was back at it.  This time, I was doing the long loop again, but heading out the main path rather than heading across the road.  The restarts can often be trouble, but today they weren't too bad.

I continued to be smart and walk some of the decent size hills.  Prior to the stop, my pace was under 11 minutes.  I didn't stop my watch during any of the stops, so the pace now shot up.  I think my running was still consistent.  It was just the stops and walking up hills that threw everything off.

I went through miles 17, 18 and 19 feeling awesome.  Hitting mile 20 and still feeling good was amazing.  After walking up the powerline hill, I knew the downhill would feel great.  It sure did.

I again continued back over toward the parking lot.  There is a steep uphill by the new building and I was still feeling so great that I could've probably ran up it.  Instead, I just continued to walk.  I was never sure if I would just crash suddenly.

The ridge section was fun.  I was a bit more cautious this time, since it was long into the run.  I was now well over the 4 hour mark.  I never ran that long in training before.  The recent 50K was my lone exception.

I got to the water fountain by the parking lot after 23 miles and refilled my water.  I was so close to done that I didn't want to stop at the car.  I had actually thought about running over marathon distance since I felt so good.

I went across the road and ran the long, slight uphill.  The hill did slow me a little.  By now, I was starting to get fatigued.  I knew I'd have a nice downhill finish.  It flattened out for a bit and when I got to mile 24.15, I hit a hill.  I turned around and headed back.

Going downhill was much better.  If I knew of a good downhill or flat section near the start, I might've continued on and run another mile.  I just couldn't take any hills.

I got back to the parking lot and still needed some distance.  I ran a short out and back along the main path.  That was nice and flat and easy.  I turned around at 24.80 and then finished up at mile 25 right at the water fountain.

I was starting to slip by the end, but I still could've ran/walked several more miles.  Maybe I could've even got to 50K distance.  That would've been tough alone though.

I wish I knew why this run went so well.  Maybe my training is really starting to pay off.  It is actually kind of frustrating that this run was so awesome and the 50K race was so terrible.  Obviously the hills did me in in the 50K, but that was just a terrible day.  This was the complete opposite.

I've read a few books of ultra runners who have had this kind of "WOW" run.  Maybe this is a defining moment for me, maybe it isn't.  Who knows.  Regardless, I'll certainly take it.

I wanted to get this long run done since I'm going to cross country meets each of the next two afternoons.  I might bike in the morning and at night each day.  I probably won't run again until Thursday though.  It has been a good start to the week and I sure hope it continues.  

25 miles - 4:42:41 (11:19 pace)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

What It's All About

I've said it before and I'll say it again, but I LOVE the running community.  I spend so much of my early years running alone and I actually still do so most of the time, but sharing the running experience with friends makes it so much better.

I had a trifecta of running fun this weekend.  First, I helped my friend Tom out by taking photos of his 5K/10K.  It was good to volunteer.  Then, this morning I headed up to Scranton to cheer on and take photos of 8 of my friends who were running the Steamtown Marathon.  Finally, I ran this evening during dusk/dark at Trexler with a bunch of old friends and new ones.

The 5K and 10K was great and maybe the best part of that was seeing a group of Couch 2 5K runners taking on their first race.  A couple of my friends are coaching and running with them.  It is good to see some future regular runners in the making.  Steamtown was awesome because just about everyone ran well.  A lot of PRs.  Of course I'd enjoy capping the weekend with a loop after dark around Trexler (my favorite place to run).

It is funny how a day can start and end so differently.  After seeing everyone running road marathons and doing it so well and I started getting the itch.  I was thinking that maybe I should push myself again and try to PR there next year.  I may still do that, but the night trail run reminded me of exactly where I really wanted to be.  I just love it out on the trails in nature and the nighttime adds to it.

Flo and Todd invited me to join them on a twilight into darkness Trexler trail run.  Of course I can't turn down a run there that is at any time of the day or night other than the morning.  They were planning on the run and then they were going to do some crazy Spartan training type of stuff.  I'm not into that, so I was thinking of doing a second loop.  I've never gone that far before.

A lot of people were invited to this run, but only 6 of us showed up.  In addition to Flo and Todd, there was a guy Kevin, another guy Mike (who I think I ran with last nighttime Trexler run) and a woman Miranda.  The weather was actually perfect, so I was very happy about that.  I love fall days like this.

Todd and Kevin decided they would hang back.  They were waiting for someone else that might be coming.  Mike and Miranda set the pace and Flo and I ran right behind them.  I was very impressed that I ran up the first big hill without too much trouble.  I haven't been to Trexler since Quadzilla in July.  I guess I'm still in good shape.

I figured that Flo couldn't just hang back for too long and of course I was correct.  It didn't take long before she went by them and I followed.  I felt great, so I figured why not.  I was a little worried though because I thought Flo would destroy me (even though she already ran a half marathon while pacing Tom in the marathon today).

 We cruised along and things seemed to be going well.  I was having no trouble with the hills.  I did start to notice that Flo seemed to be lagging behind just slightly.  Not the usual front running, push hard Flo that I know.  She wasn't getting up the hills as fast as I expected.

I was actually grateful for this because she wasn't killing me.  At some point around mile 2, I realized that I was probably talking too much.  I decided to just shut up and we ran in silence for awhile.

We got to the awesome view around 2.5 miles right around sunset.  It was pretty sweet.  Then all of a sudden it happened, Flo just stopped and started walking.  Not on a hill either, but on a downhill.  I stopped with her and quickly learned that she was having stomach problems because she ate too close to the run.

We walked for some time and this was on flat/downhill parts of the course.  It took longer than I expected, but Mike and Miranda finally passed us.  They walked with us a bit, but then we told them to just go on.  Flo suggested that I just keep running, but there was no way that I was happening.  I'm not going to leave a struggling woman alone on the trail, especially with darkness coming soon.  I might as well just have my man card taken away if that is the case.

I also wanted to stay with her because I knew the shortcut back to the parking lot through the zoo.  I figured that if she was feeling that bad, I could take her back to the car and then maybe do another full loop on my own.

Somewhere near the big hills, it started to get quite dark.  We had to turn on our headlamps.  We thought it was odd that Kevin and Todd had not caught us yet with all the walking.  Then, we saw some headlamps up ahead.  It was was the two of them.  We told them of the situation and Todd had a ginger tablet to help Flo's stomach.  He's done so many endurance events and has a little bit of everything.

They wanted to get some running done, so we told them to go ahead.  We were probably around halfway through at that point.  We followed them for a bit and Flo actually got a little better.  We all went through the creek pretty much together.  It was a very cold crossing.

Around the zoo area, we actually caught right up to Kevin and Todd.  At this point, I was thinking that Flo was back and was going to crush it and probably destroy me now.  I was feeling good, so I was up to the challenge.  She was back to hiking after not too long though.

Although I wasn't getting much of a workout, I was still enjoying the company.  It was also fun trying to help a friend through a tough spot.  It is kind of interesting because Flo's first run of the day was helping Tom out, now here she was needing help herself.  You never know what the day will bring.  She was looking for a tough workout and got one, but not the way she expected.

We heard some animal sounds that were slightly uncomfortable.  Then the weirdest thing we heard were screams.  It sounded like a child or young kid.  At first I was thinking maybe at Kidspeace.  That was a little worrisome since we had to run by there later.  I was also thinking maybe we were somehow near some haunted attraction.  I have no idea.  We were by some houses.

We got to the top of the long hill.  At some point around then, Flo asked how far we had left and I said about a mile.  She then had a second wind and took off.  We ran over the rolling hills.  It was a beautiful night and she commented on exactly that.  I saw some green eyes staring at us in the grass.  I pointed it out to Flo, but I probably shouldn't have.  It was likely just a deer. 

It wasn't too long and we were done.  It was almost 2 hours, but it actually seemed kind of quick (at least for me).  I guess I have the easy pace and good conversation to thank for that.

They decided not to do their Spartan training.  I strongly considered at least starting a second loop, since I had energy left.  This isn't the best place to run alone after dark though and as we stood around, I got pretty cold too.  I didn't have a second shirt to wear either.  I was kind of mad that I didn't try another loop and I almost even stopped by the Nor-Bath Trail for some more miles afterward.  I decided to just call it a night though.

Tonight didn't turn out the way it was planned, but it was fun nonetheless.  I definitely need more company on my runs.  Even just a few days a week would be a big help.  I also have to hand it to Flo, she put in almost 22 miles of running today.  She is one tough cookie too.  If it were me, I probably would've just cut back across through the zoo.  She soldiered on and finished up the run though.

Since I didn't run too much today, I'll look to do a long run tomorrow.  Maybe I'll knock out 20 miles or so.  I have no idea where at yet.  Perhaps at the McDade Trail near the Delaware Water Gap.  I feel like I need to run somewhere different.  After a mere 2 miles of running following the 50K, it is back to big miles and long rides again this week.  I can't wait to get back at it.

8.51 miles - 1:51:53 (13:09 pace)

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Short Monocacy Park Recovery Run

I took Monday completely off after the 50K.  On Tuesday, I got on the bike twice.  That was perfect for recovery.  The legs were sore for both of those two days, but felt great today.  The worst was actually that night after I cramped up in both calves and thus they were very sore.

Since I felt good today, I decided I would use a very short and easy run to test out the legs.  If they felt fine, I'd run later in the week.  If I didn't feel good, I would stop the run.

I needed somewhere flat.  I got this trail booklet from Wegman's over the summer.  It had Monocacy Park in it.  I didn't even know they had any trails there.  I hiked there over the summer and saw that it was short and flat.  I decided this would be perfect for today.

The plan was just an easy two miles.  I figured each loop would probably be about a mile long.  This is actually a fun little trail.  It is an in and out singletrack along the creek.  There were a couple fishermen there and I'm sure it's busy there during that time of year.  Sometimes the trail would be very close to the edge of the water.

My left hamstring was a little tight early on, but felt great after a few minutes.  The odd thing during the race and now after it, is that my left calf isn't bothering me anymore.  It had been a minor problem after the marathon and I thought it would be an issue during the race.  I had so many other problems though that I guess I didn't even notice it.

I quickly came to the end of the trail, although I was surprised to be about .75 miles out.  I didn't think the trail would be that long.  I went under a railroad bridge and then ran over what looked like some BMX trails.  I was then onto the main double wide path.

Some people were running with their dogs and the dogs went crazy.  I actually saw two other guys running and a cute young lady.  I was surprised that this area was so busy.  It was a perfect cool, fall day.  I just didn't realize this was a running area.

I ran out until I got to Schoenersville Road.  I thought about crossing the road, but wasn't sure if there was any more trail there.  I was already at one mile out.  I headed back.

This area is kind of cool.  It is flat, but there are giant cliffs near the trail.  The changing colored leaves made it awesome too.  I passed those couple runners mentioned above.

I then went by the section that is part of the high school cross country course.  If I ever want to do some more miles, I could run on there too.  I then had to cross railroad tracks for a second time.  That got me back into the singletrack.  I needed a short out and back to finish up.

It was a nice two miles and I'm feeling good.  I biked in the dark again this evening too.  I'll run one more day this week, either tomorrow or Friday.  It is a light week.  On Sunday night, there is a big group run at Trexler.  I'll probably only do one loop, but I'd love to try two.  That would depend on how I feel after the first one of course.

2 miles - 20:10 (10:05 pace)

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday Morning Quaterbacking

My first ultra is the books and since it is going to rain all day and I can't ride, I figured it is time for some reflection.  I always say how I love "bad" races.  Of course they suck while you are doing them, but you learn a lot and grow so much more after them.  They certainly can lead to good future races.  They also test your mental toughness, which is a huge reason why I run.

Of course it would've been nice to have a decent first ultra, instead of a terrible one.  At least I didn't DNF though and now I can look back on this race in the future if I'm struggling in an ultra.  I see that my ultra running friends drop out of events from time to time.  I'm sure that will happen to me to.

First, I have to look at my training of course.  I've been running a lot on trails and kept everything to long runs.  I did quite a few back to back 15 mile days and also biked a ton.  I would've liked to have gone over 20 miles a little more often in training, but that was just tough to do when I was running alone and running through the heat of the afternoon in the summer.  Have some long run training partners would certainly be a big help.  I need to connect more with others in this area.  Going beyond the marathon distance isn't really an individual thing.

I always feel like I can do more training.  I'm doing 15 hours of working out a week between biking and running.  In addition to long runs, I want to build my volume first from its current 40 miles of running and 100 miles of biking to 50 miles of running and 125 miles of biking a week.  Then, I want to up it to 60 miles and 150 miles by the spring.  This will require more commitment to running or riding in the morning.  Just being able to get more and more long runs under my belt would be a huge plus.

I definitely need to work hills into my training more.  I thought the heat would kill me yesterday, but it was actually the hills that were the culprit.  I run at Jacobsburg a lot and that is relatively easy, so I can do a lot of miles.  It didn't prepare me at all for this course though.  I guess I need to make more trips out to Blue Marsh Lake since it isn't that far.  That or I need to get some more long runs done at Trexler.  I haven't been there since Quadzilla.  I'd like to run the AT, but it is so rocky and there isn't a lot of elevation change after the intial climb to the top of the ridge.

I think another thing that hurt me yesterday was that I didn't slow down enough through aid stations.  During training runs, I'd often run 5 miles and stop to refuel and rest for 5-10 minutes.  That gave me some recovery.  During this race, I stopped very briefly at the first couple aid stations and didn't eat much.

I don't feel as though I ran too hard at the beginning, but maybe an even slower pace would've helped.  I was under a 10 minute pace after 10 miles.  Granted, that was the easiest section of the race.  I'm not sure if the pace was the problem.  I think it was more of my legs just not being strong on the given day.

Part of the reason my legs failed could've been my taper or lack there of.  I really didn't cut back until a week before.  I was enjoying the nice weather too much and I didn't think this race would be as difficult as it was.

I definitely have to focus more on nutrition in the future.  I don't think that affected me during this race, but it could be a big problem in longer races.  I refilled my bottle at every aid station, but I had no game plan of how and what to eat.  I just kind of grabbed whatever I felt like eating.  I should have more of a plan in the future.

I can say without a doubt that I'll run another 50K and even a 50 miler as well.  It's the first time ever that finishing was actually questionable.  I've struggled in races before, but I was never challenged enough that I actually though about quitting altogether.  During road races, I've found times where I couldn't hold the pace, but I was never debating stopping like I was yesterday.  I was so done by the end that I probably couldn't have even moved much farther than I did.  The challenge of just completing the task is exactly what I was looking for.  I look forward to a future of many more ultras.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Blues Cruise 50K

I've always enjoyed distance.  When I turned 19, I ran 19 miles to celebrate.  That was after no more than 10-12 miles ever run at once.  It was tough, but I got through it.  Of course that meant that I had my eye on marathons.  When I found out that people run even farther, I was intrigued and ultimately knew it was what I wanted to do in the long run.

I've come to really enjoy trail running, so running an ultramarathon on trails was just a no brainer.  I signed up for the Blues Cruise 50K in Reading.  I figured it couldn't be that much more difficult than a marathon, because it wasn't much farther.  Boy, I couldn't have been more wrong.  It ended up easily being the most difficult thing I've ever done.

I got to the start pretty early.  I was enjoying seeing all the long haired and bearded guys (although there actually weren't many of them).  That is always what I picture in ultra runners and quite a few of the top national guys do look like that. 

The weather was supposed to be very hot, but it was nice at the start.  It was actually cloudy. I was happy for nice weather.  I was hoping it would stay that way.  I began the race with my singlet.

I had talked to a guy in the bathroom line and he was doing his first ultra too.  He lined up near me at the start, but I think once he realized how fast I am on roads, that he better begin farther back.

I started off nice and easy.  It was a short distance to the trail.  I didn't run this early part before, but I had done a lot of the first half in training.  The first few miles were nice and slow.  I just hung behind people and let them dictate the pace.

There was a group of chatty women ahead of me.  I didn't want to listen to them for mile after mile and they were going kind of slow, so I ran by them when they walked up a hill.  Of course they passed me late in the race.  At least I didn't have to hear them too much.

The early part had some rolling hills, but for the most part it was pretty easy.  My pace was definitely slower than a usual training run, but not by much.  I thought I was holding back pretty well.

It seemed to take some time until the first aid station.  The nice thing about aid stations in that people often spent some time there so it thinned out the busy trail.  After this aid station, I ran a little faster until I caught up to a pack.  Then I just followed behind and let them dictate the pace again.  I was trying to hold back.  The woman in front of me had on Reebok calf sleeves and after a few miles of staring at the ground I got sick of seeing the word "Reebok."

You have to look right at the ground in front of you on a trail if you are following anyone.  Otherwise, you might miss an object and trip.  This almost bit me later on.

I got to the second aid station somewhere around mile 6.  I actually knew this one because I started from there during my race.  By now, I took my shirt off.  I had to carry it in my pants though because my parents weren't at this aid station.  In the first 2 aid stations, I took water only and a couple pretzels.  I figured that I would eat later.  I thought I would be spending a little more time at the aid stations, but that didn't happen in the beginning.

Again, the trail was clear and I ran a little faster.  Again, I caught up to someone.  This time, it was another woman.  I just followed on her heels for a couple miles.  I'm not one to start conversation and after awhile, she finally did.  She said she used to live in Allentown and now works at UPENN and lives in Philly.  Apparently she lives right near Wissahickon.  I'm jealous, since I used to live in Philly and run there a lot.  It is an awesome trail.

She set a good pace.  This was like 4 miles of almost perfectly flat singletrack.  It was awesome.  Even with less effort, the overall pace was dropping and dropping.  A couple other people caught up to us in this stretch.  I wasn't paying attention and tripped really bad.  Amazingly I caught myself and didn't fall.  I have good balance.  The other people were impressed that I didn't land on my face. 

Finally after some time, I decided to pass her and go ahead.  I wanted to run a little fast.  Not long after that, I ran over a footbridge.  I forgot that it rocks back and forth.

We went on the road over the bridge and it was on to the next aid station.  This time, I grabbed some grilled cheese and took my time.  Trying to eat and run was a little tough.

This was the section that I knew would be tough.  It is a pretty big climb.  I hadn't walked much up to this point, but I knew I'd be walking plenty here.  It was tough and then after that climb, there was another challenging uphill.  I was glad that I was over 10 miles by this point.

Someone told the woman in front of me that she was the 10th place woman.  I didn't realize that I was that far to the front of the field.  I passed her going downhill.  This part was fun.  Of course there was another uphill after that.

When we got to the field section, the woman that I was chatting with earlier passed me.  I decided to follow her again.  She's run quite a few ultras and it showed.  She set a nice pace.  She was in her late 40s too.  I was impressed.  I hung with her for a mile or two, but I was starting to slip.

I was feeling it already around miles 11 and 12.  My legs weren't sharp.  I never imagined that I would start losing it this early.  I figured that I'd at least get to 15 or 20 miles before I'd have trouble.  After dropping off from her, I was on my own.

I reached the half marathon point and couldn't believe how beat my legs were.  I saw my dad for the first time at this point.  I told him I was in trouble.  I wasn't even halfway done.  I knew I'd finish, but honestly had no clue how.

I badly miscalculated this back section of the course.  I assumed that it wouldn't be too hard after the big hills, but I was so wrong.  This course was so frustrating.  It seemed like big hill after big hill.  I was just happy to finally get to the halfway point.

I thought I would meet my dad at mile 17, so I focused on getting there.  I don't think he actually met up with me until mile 19.  He had my bag with stuff, but luckily I didn't need it.  I was surprised I didn't chafe much.  I was sweating the whole run, but luckily it was cloudy most of the day.  That was a big plus because we weren't running under trees as often as I thought.

One guy that I talked to was struggling too.  A lot of people were walking a lot, so that made continuing on much easier.  Misery loves company.  The guy that I was talking to said he thought he was in good shape and that he had run quite a few 50 milers that were easier than this course.

The puzzling thing is that he often walked flats and ran some of the short hills.  At one point, it was kind of annoying because he'd run a very short distance, then walk a short distance and then repeat the pattern.  Basically, since everyone was going so slow, you'd run when the person in front of you ran and walk when they walked.  The guy behind me was doing the same.  Every now and then someone would fly by, but not too often.

Finally the guy got a phone call and was walking for some time.  Me and the guy behind me passed him.  I didn't see him again.  I saw my dad again and told him that it was going awful, but I would finish.  I just ran when I could and walked if I couldn't.

Getting to 20 miles was a big plus.  I thought about starting my second watch at mile 21, so that I'd only have 10 miles left.  However, I was talking at the time and not paying attention.  Therefore, I didn't change watches until mile 22.  That meant 9 miles left to go.  That seemed overwhelming, but at least I was in single digits.

This back part of the course was pretty remote.  The aid stations there were awesome, they were just quite far apart.  I ate an orange had some soup and drank a couple cups of coke too.  The volunteers always took my bottle right from me and filled it.  It was definitely different than road race aid stations.

This course was so brutal.  I actually started to kind of feel good around mile 25.  However, every time I would try to run, I'd come to a hill and have to walk again.  That was probably the most frustrating thing about the course.  Most of the runnable section was the beginning of the race.  Maybe it is better next year when they run the course in the other direction.

I arrived at the last aid station and took my time.  I was walking a lot anyway.  I ate a pierogi and talked with my dad.  I told him that I'd finish, but I'd be going slow.

The course description said this section was very flat and runnable, but of course it wasn't.  I walked and walked and walked some more.  I was just glad to get past 26.2 miles (my longest run distance ever).  I ran here and there, but this was still a lot of uphill.  When the course went back to dirt trail, it wasn't much better.

Around mile 28, I finally was able to do some running.  This guy passed me and I decided to follow him.  It was great to have a pacer on this relatively easy section.  I ran over half a mile straight.  That was rare in the second half of the race.  Finally, I walked at a hill and he took off.

I was glad to have some things to think about when I got to these tough patches.  I thought about my surgery and all the tough post surgery months when I couldn't get out of bed.  My friend Flo struggled with a tough Spartan race last week, but completed the race.  That helped inspire me to keep going too.  I'm glad that she had shared that.

The sun was out by this time and that kind of sucked.  It still wasn't as hot as I thought it might be today.  Going around the dam was tough with no shade and some hills.  Then the trail when onto a road and uphill.  There was no way I was going to run on pavement this late, so I ended up walking about half a mile to a mile.  When the road finally ended, it was a gravel uphill trail.  No way I was running up that either.

I now had about 2 miles left.  Actually, based on what the aid stations were calling themselves, it seemed like the run would be half a mile short.  That was fine with me.  One thing I do is that no matter what mile I'm at, I round down how far I have to go.  So when it I get to 1.97 miles to go for example, I just tell myself only 1 more mile to go (even though it is much more than that).

Most of this final 5K was walking.  I actually tried to run for short stretches, but had to stop because my right calf was close to cramping up.  There were some hills anyway, so I just walked a lot.  A lot of people were passing me toward the end.  They often asked if I was okay.  I said I was, but I was just slow.

When I had a mile left, the section was runnable, so I decided to give it another try.  This time, I did the ultra shuffle.  I barely picked up my feet.  A guy told me that there was only about 500 yards until the finish, so I just kept running.

It wasn't long and we were on to the park road.  I could finally see the finish area.  That was huge.  With the near cramping, I didn't think that I would be able to run this much, but I managed to do so.  I ran through the finish line and it was a huge relief.  I had to stand a long time to avoid cramps.

That still didn't work though.  I cramped up twice in the car ride hope and once as I was writing this.  It could be an interesting night.  At least I didn't chafe much.

It is great that I can now finally call myself an ultrarunner.  The race didn't go as planned and it was frustrating to have to walk so much, but at least I finished it.  I battled and battled and battled.  This was the most I've ever been challenged before.  It was probably 10X harder than a marathon.  Hopefully they will get at least a little easier.

I was considering running a 50 miler in the late fall or early winter.  After this race, that is out the window.  I'll at least wait until spring before doing that.  I definitely need a lot more long runs under my belt.

I noticed that my trail shoes have a hole above one the toes now.  I guess it is time for some new shoes.  I've only been running in cheap outlet store trails shoes.  Since I'm on trails so much, I should probably get some good shoes now.

I doubt I will do anything tomorrow.  I'm not sure though.  My legs don't seem too bad other than the sore muscles that cramped.  I'd like to get back to running later in the week.  That all depends how I recover.  I'm hoping the softness of trail will help me recover more than road running would.

30.63 miles - 6:32:52 (12: 49 pace)

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Short and Humid Run

I haven't ran much this week with my 50K coming up.  I only ran once in fact.  Because my regular Garmin won't last the entire race, I decided to get out there an test out the Garmin Forerunner 10.  I plan on using that for part of the race tomorrow.

I decided to get out to the Nor-Bath Trail for a short run.  The plan was just an easy 3 miles.  I wanted to get out with the BCR this morning, but as usual, that didn't happen.  That probably wasn't a bad thing though since they ran on pavement.

I started off at Bicentennial Park.  Instead of starting on the east end of the park, I began on the west end.  The plan was to do an out and back toward Northampton.  That meant one road crossing, but a relatively light one.

It is very hot and humid for October.  It isn't as bad as the summer was, but it was in the 80s by the time I started.  It wasn't too bad in the first mile, but by mile 3, I was soaked.  I signed up for this 50K partly because I figured the weather would be nice.  Instead, it'll be brutal tomorrow.  At least I trained in worse weather most of the summer.  I ran without a shirt today, but even that didn't help.

I zipped across the street in front of a motorcycle at the first road crossing.  Then it was smooth sailing.  There were some people out walking and biking, but as usual it wasn't crowded.  I ran by where they had a race this morning.  It was a race that I finished 2nd overall in last year.

I wanted to run to 1.5 miles, but I didn't want to cross Savage Road, so I wound up turning around at about 1.47 miles.  That was close enough.

The first 2 miles were very consistent.  Each one was run at 8:30.  I guess I was heading downhill on the last one, because it was much faster.  I wasn't running with more effort.  I even had to wait for a few seconds at the road crossing and I still ran that final mile at 8:01.

I was great to be done.  I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow, even though it'll be hot.  I was hoping to race some of it, but with the heat, it will now be very easy and cautious.  I just need to finish my first ultra.  I'm a little worried because my calf continues to be sore.  It bothers me initially and then things get better as I go on.  Hopefully running on trails will help.  I'm sure it will still bother me at the end after a lot of mileage.  I guess I'll know in another day.

3 miles - 25:02 (8:21 pace)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Some Company for a Change

Since I run in the afternoon and most normal people work, it is rare that I run with anyone.  I've been getting tired of running alone.  I've also been running alone so much lately because almost all of my runs have been on trails.

My friend Kelley lives right near the Nor-Bath Trail.  I was there a week or two ago and the surface seems softer than most rail trails, so I figure I can run there a little.  I've been trying to meet up with her for a run for a couple weeks now.  This morning, we finally got together.

I just hate getting up in the morning for runs.  I'm not someone to break commitments though, so I was there at 7:30 to get started.  It actually wasn't too bad because I got to bed at a reasonable time and I was sort of up for about an hour before I actually had to get up.  I had a dream that I overslept, so I guess that got me up earlier.

Normally, I run with the BCR from the east end of the trail, but Kelley was bringing her baby with the jogging stroller and wanted to start from her house, so she didn't have to bring the car.  I met her at the Savage Road lot.

It was good to catch up with her.  We used to run a lot last year, before she had the baby.  I've only seen her once with the BCR since and I didn't run with her then.  We chatted a lot and time flew by.  Before I realized it, we were already midway through the Bicentennial Park section.

We had to be cautious at road crossings, so I suggested we head to Airport Road and turn around before crossing it.  We ended up being the people that annoy me when they take up the whole trail.  There were only two of us though and  at least we were alert enough to get out of the way and listen for the calls of bikers.  There were a few, but the good thing is that most of this trail is empty.

The pace was nice and easy, over 9 minutes.  That was good because with my 50K coming up, I wasn't looking to run hard or far this week.  The planned 7 miles today would be my longest run and maybe my only one of the week.

We turned around at Airport Road, a little after 3 miles.  I guess it is a comfortable ride because the baby slept most of the time.  On the way back, I got a phone call from work.  I stopped to answer it and let Kelley go ahead.  They were telling me that I needed to come in earlier.  I was prepared to go straight there after the run, but I forgot my shoes, so I had to go back home.

Time just flew by.  It felt like we were hardly even running.  That's what I love so much about running with someone.  I wish I could do it more often.  I do have to make an effort to run or bike more before work.  I have a decent little window to do so.  I'd like to up my mileage in the fall to 50 miles of running and 125 miles of biking.  That will definitely require at least a couple days a week of early morning workouts.

We got to 6 miles a little before the parking lot.  We turned around and did a short out and back for the 7th mile (rather than cross the road).  It was a great weather all run, even a bit chilly at the start.  It was a fun run and good to be done. 

Tonight, I might bike another easy 10 miles.  Tomorrow, who knows but it will probably be a rest from running.  I might ride again.  Either way, it is definitely a relaxing week.  Only a couple days until the 50K.

7 miles - 1:05:57 (9:25 pace)