Get (trail) Legs

If you don’t use your trail skills, you lose them.

I learned this the painful way at Croft State Park Half Marathon this past Saturday. Now, let me first acknowledge that my “trail skills” are pretty bad at the best of times, but I had gotten fairly comfortable on more technical runs during the first half of this year. Fast forward through road marathon training, and I hadn’t stepped a race flat on a proper trail in months.

No big deal, I thought. My legs feel okay after the marathon, I thought. It’ll be fun, I thought.

Ok, so it was quite fun once I realized that racing was not in the cards for me and that I should just call it a semi-long run instead of a failed race attempt. Not only were my legs in no shape to go at race effort, but my ability to stay upright was nonexistent. Less than 5 minutes into the race, I took my first tumble. Approximately 4 falls later, I reached the river crossing (mile 8ish, I think?). I carefully eyed my best route across the chilly body of water and started hopping rocks. Hop, hop, hooohhshitSPLAT! Down onto the rock bed, landing on my right hip and knee. Up past my waist in the water. Did I mention it was cold? The upside to the frigid water was that my legs became numb and I was able to keep moving. I did a glorified jog that last several miles, but at least it was over.

I make it sound kind of terrible, but the Croft Half is actually an incredibly well organized trail race that offers substantial prize money, has tons of awesome volunteers, and is run through a beautiful state park. While my trail racing techniques could use a lot of work, the race itself is great.

*I’ll edit this to add pictures if I can find any. Thankfully I didn’t see any cameras around during my many tumbles.*

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Love the run (and race).

There’s something to be said about experience.

I did my best to sabotage myself in the last few weeks leading up to Spinx Marathon. I hated running; I didn’t want to run; I barely ran. Instead of focusing on race day and what needed to be done, I only focused on all the things I didn’t do perfectly. I very nearly didn’t race.

But, race day dawned, bright and beautiful. It was the perfect day for me (a bit too warm for some, but I do love the heat). Experience at the marathon and ultra took precedence and I was able to force my body into race mode. I chose to go out very conservative, managed to settle in with a great group, and slightly negative split my way to a 3:18:32. Good enough for a 2 minute PR. I’ll take it.

I was 9th woman here, about 7 miles in. Steady, steady.
I was 9th woman here, about 7 miles in. Steady, steady.

Of course I wish I’d been in the mindset to really go after the 3:15 or better. I know my body could have done it, but I just wasn’t strong enough mentally to do it. I’ll be better next time. I have a new game plan, new race goals, and an awareness of my faults and strengths at racing. I’ll be better next time.

By here, at almost 16, I was 7th. I finished 4th. My fastest miles were 23, 24, and 25 (mostly thanks to my pacer that just kept pushing)). Yes, I'm that pigeon-toed. It seems to work.
By here, at almost 16, I was 7th. I finished 4th. My fastest miles were 23, 24, and 25 (mostly thanks to my pacer that just kept pushing). Yes, I’m that pigeon-toed. It seems to work.

In the almost two weeks since the marathon, I ran about 25 miles and am on pace for about 55ish for this week. I’ll race a trail half on Saturday and spend the next few weeks remembering why I love running. I love hill repeats, I love fartleks, I love slow meandering runs that take me through the best parts of my city. I love running, and heading into winter– my least favorite season, I’ll take all the love I can get.

Until Paris Mtn 20k (that is on Dec. 6th and I care how I race at that one)….

**Photos Courtesy of Pace Running Magazine’s Facebook page**

Time Keeps on Slippin’

Name that song!

 

I certainly meant to blog in the last two weeks, but I mean to do lots of things and that rarely works out. I’m generally one of those that is a content consumer rather than a content producer which pretty much means I’ll never write a book because I’d just rather read one.

 

Anyway. Things happened since I last wrote, and most of it had nothing to do with running:

Exhibit A: I'm engaged to be married
Exhibit A: I’m engaged to be married.

 

Exhibit B: I really did graduate from Clemson.
Exhibit B: I really did graduate from Clemson.

 

Exhibit C: I have a job. I'm a barista, and doing my part to perpetuate the stereotype of underemployed persons with advanced Humanities degrees.
Exhibit C: I have a job. I’m a barista, and doing my part to perpetuate the stereotype of underemployed persons with advanced Humanities degrees.

 

As you can see, it’s been a reasonably busy couple of weeks. I’m not really sure on many wedding details, but it’ll work out and be awesome. And I’m not really sure when and how I’ll find a proper career, but will also work out and be awesome. And I don’t know how long I’ll be able to maintain this level of optimism, but it’s worked out for the better part of 30 years and is mostly awesome.

 

I’ve also been running, and there are now only 9 weeks left until the marathon. In many ways I’m pleased with how my mileage and quality are going, but it’s often difficult to see progress in the day-to-day. Mostly I’m just kind of tired and feeling the cumulative fatigue that leaves my legs feeling flat. However, this morning I did a 20-miler that, while nothing all that impressive, was a negative split run that ended up being quite similar to a long run I did 5 weeks out from the marathon last year. But I’m 9 weeks out now and hitting about the same times in much hotter weather. So, progress? I hope so.

 

This coming Friday I’m going to race Midnight Flight 10k. I was fourth place woman there last year. I’m honestly not expecting much more than that, but I do hope to race smart and not let the hill in the last mile do too much damage to my legs (and ego).

 

I never know how to end blogs, so here's a picture of the fence Palmer built to keep the chickens out of the garden area in the backyard.
I never know how to end blogs, so here’s a picture of the fence Palmer built to keep the chickens out of the garden area in the backyard.

Spinx Marathon training week 1

I keep a physical pen and paper running log, because my version of a running log also looks a lot like a diary. I write about how I’m feeling, how life is going, what demons I’m currently battling, and other such journal-y type musings. I like it because running, to me, is so much more than just gps data and workout splits. I like being able to look back and recall exactly what I was going through weeks or months ago, and how it affected my running. I find the patterns and try to recreate the positive ones.

That said, I have big goals for the next few months, and I want a public place to talk about them without spamming my poor social media friends. By actually using my blog, I will have an internet dumping ground for my mundane running stuff, but only the people that want to read about it all will have the option of clicking through.

So, today marks the end of my first of 14 weeks of training for Spinx Marathon.

I think it went well:
75 miles
8-ish beers
4 midday naps
2 lifting sessions
1 track workout (all negative splits, too!)
1 5k race (run at 10k goal pace in a controlled effort)
And 1 very hot 16 mile long run

I hope to write more specifically about marathon goals and such, but for now I will leave it at that. On to week 2…

Summer Haze

I love surprise sprinklers when I'm running in the summer.
I love surprise sprinklers when I’m running in the summer.

I know it isn’t officially summer yet, but it’s close enough, and the summer racing schedule is heating up for most people. I noticed that there was a spike in traffic here on my oft-neglected blog, and realized that most people are reading my race report from Merrill’s Mile a couple of years ago. I hope everyone who read has signed up for this year! Unfortunately, I will not be attending the 2014 edition as I have a wedding to go to for a college friend.

My own summer racing schedule is actually looking rather sparse. I ended up dropping from the Bad Marsh 50k (yes, even after all my talk about crushing it this year), but I AM still doing a 50k that weekend. It just happened to work out that there is an ultra event here in Greenville and it felt like a better plan to switch to the race close to home. Not only that, but I’ve been helping coach some newbie runners to their first 5k and their big “graduation” race is on the same day (in the evening), so I’ll get to do my own racing still AND be able to go support my hard-working athletes at their race.

I feel pretty solid going into this 50k, even though I’ve had to slightly adjust my time goal since I’ll be running on (albeit fast and flat) trails instead of the track-like route of the Bad Marsh race. I still think I’ll run a huge 50k PR, it’ll just be a touch slower than I initially expected.

Oh yeah, I finished my Master’s degree. It sort of doesn’t feel like it happened, or maybe that it isn’t really over, but I am a Master of Arts in English now. For about two weeks after I finished I was just in this weird malaise of:

My brain hurts.
My brain hurts.

And also, I’m still unemployed. I have several options in the works, but I’m reaching my panic threshold about my career– or lack of. On the upside, I have been enjoying the opportunity to schedule my running and other cross-training stuff as I want, and explore some new creative projects that I have wanted to try, like photography and HTML stuff (and maybe I’ll stop ignoring my blog?). Most importantly, I needed the time to decompress from it all and recharge. I’m ready to get this show on the road though.

So, yeah. I’ve got the 50k in eleven days, then I’ll be transitioning into a road runner again as I prep for a fast fall marathon. I’ll find a cool job soon enough, and in the meantime my goal is to appreciate this chance to take in the world more mindfully and leisurely.

Summer mantra.
Summer mantra.