Sunday, June 26, 2011

It was a Nice Hike....

I know, right?

Let's cut to the chase. Lessons learned from the training run at Limberlost yesterday:

a) I cannot NOT run for a month and expect to push my body 14 km without pain. I love my Advil.

b) Limberlost is a TRAIL. Makes Sulphur Springs seem like a nice paved walkway. Never mind that crazy hill at Sulphur Springs - when you have to climb and hike rock and roots in order to stay on the trail...'nuff said.

c) My MM and our running friend are both awesome supporters and were very kind to hike with me along the 14km. Read: I had to stop to walk A LOT and instead of leaving me behind, they kindly kept me company.

d) HEED is the best darn electrolyte sports drink in existence! Seriously.

Honestly, it wasn't the most encouraging run yesterday. My MM had told me Limberlost is considered a very "technical" trail. "Come on," I had thought "What the heck is a technical trail? How complicated could following a path be??"  Let's see....besides the aforementioned rock and root hills, we crossed small, slippery wooden foot bridges, slugged through bogs, went right into a small (and luckily shallow) creek, and our running friend went nearly knee deep into mud which was akin to quick sand. Geez, did I mention the mosquitoes??

But did I enjoy it? Well, oddly yes. And for lots of reasons. First, Limberlost is an incredible place. The 14km trail took us past 5 different small lakes, each with a distinct piece of scenery. I want to go back in the fall with my boys (when there are few buzzing insects) and do a day hike. I highly recommend it. Second, Limberlost is a true trail run. Now I really feel like I've really completed one (even if was just a fast hike as it was yesterday!). Third, this was the first time I actually "scouted" out a trail before a race. Yes, I realize I've only participated in one race so far but work with me here. The fact is, I wouldn't have known that between 1 and 2 km is a fairly steep hill, made up mainly of rock and roots that one needs to traverse up. Now I know and thus I also know not to sprint out of the gate too fast 'cause that hill is killer!  And lastly, I still managed to finish 14 km - my time was embarrassing but I did finish it and never gave up.

So the next three weeks are crucial for me. Train, train and train some more. So long chocolate chip muffins at Tim Horton's in the morning. Adios chocolate almond bars in the afternoons when I really needed them (once per week, I swear!). I may even say au revoir to my Heineken (note I didn't say bye to this but see you again!). Again, my goal isn't to race exactly but to finish. Yesterday proved that I can do 14 km but there is NO way I'm walking the majority of it on race day. I'm out there to run and run I will!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Limberlost Training Run aka "Drag Me Through the Woods" ....

So I haven't completed a significant run in about a month. OK, since Sulphur Springs. Which was a full month ago. I ran 5 km two weeks after Sulphur Springs and then had that "incident" with the bitch mosquitoes at the cottage that we don't talk about.

This weekend a running friend, her husband, my MM, and I are doing a pre-planned training run at Limberlost. It is a 14km loop. I decided after Sulphur Springs that I didn't want to do another race without having some idea what the course was like. As it turns out, the race director for Limberlost must feel the same way because he has kindly set up the course, complete with mini-aid stations, for a training run for anyone signed up for the race in three weeks.

I've never run farther than 10 km. That was my first goal and I completed that and apparently I somehow reasoned with myself that 4 km on top of that was really nothing. (I really need to stop listening to myself). If I had continued to train the same way I did for Sulphur Springs than I wouldn't be so concerned. But I haven't so I'm a tad bit worried. Our running friend is a human rocket and my MM is faster than me. I'm seriously considering tying a one of those retractable dog leashes around my waist and handing it off to my MM. If I get too far behind, he can just yank it!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Did You See the Size of That.....

MOSQUITO, PEOPLE! I'm talking large, blood-sucking insects!!!

I was determined to run up at the cottage yesterday. Partially because I really like running up there and partially because I just really needed to run. When MM and I arrived at the cottage just after the noon hour and started to unpack the car, the first thing we noticed was that the mosquitoes were not exactly coming after us one by one. I mean, its not like they take turns trying to take chunks out of you, but they generally don't swarm like blackflies do. For some reason though, yesterday those bitches were swarming and they were enormous - mosquitoes on 'roids! I'm sure if I looked hard enough they might have been wearing gang colours but who wants to take the time???

After unpacking the car, unpacking the bags, settling into the cottage, and dutifully smacking the mosquitoes that had made their way in for the human buffet, we did as any true cottagers do. We had a nap. Once we got up about two hours later, I was really set on running. I think MM thought I had lost my mind a bit but was his usual supportive self and reminded me that all I had to do was outrun the mosquitoes......which made me think "how fast could mosquitoes really fly??" (For those who care....about 1 1/2 miles per hour according to google).

Just to be doubly-safe, I sprayed myself down with OFF or at least I thought I had. And off I went (sorry, that was too easy).

I probably should have foreseen the inevitable. I was running too well. Felt so great. Smiling and content. Sure there were a few bugs here and there but really, it wasn't so bad. I cleared our road and made it to the main road off the highway. I had assumed (incorrectly) that the bugs wouldn't be so bad as there was some clearance on both sides of the road. I swear, I could hear those mosquitoes snickering at me "bzzzz...stupid human...bzzzz....she thinks she can outsmart us...bzzbzzzzbzzzz".

I have yet to learn the art of grabbing a water bottle from behind one's back and drink while running. (Something I should probably practice in the dark when people can't see me dribbling down myself). So, I still stop and walk at a brisk pace to drink; which I did yesterday. As I did, I felt some pricks at my shoulders but promptly ignored them as just figments of my imagination because I had sprayed myself down with OFF. I started to run again. And then I needed to slow down to a walk and drink. Pricking sensations on both my shoulders surprised me so I did what any sane person would do - I looked.  Mosquitoes covered both my shoulders. And then I did what any woman would do - I shrieked, I swore, I smacked. Guess what part of myself I had forgotten to spray?

I'm ashamed to say that those gangs of bitchy mosquitoes sent me running back to the cottage. I got about 3km done in total. But I figure I did what any smart person would do when encountering a mob - run the other way and wait until the crowd disperses before venturing out again. I'm just hoping that happens before the end of least before the horseflies appear.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

My Trail Running "Ah-ha" Moment

Monday was my first run in two weeks. I was determined to get out and put some kilometers in. The weather was hot and sunny but it was late afternoon and I figured just doing 5 km would be a good start. I really was almost giddy with excitement when I put on my running shoes and left the house. I decided to take my normal route which starts out with about a km of trail running before hitting the paved pathways.

I felt great along the trails - I hit my pace early and had no issues. Then I started along the paved pathway and "BAM", I started to wilt. I was hot, uncomfortable, and really thirsty. Now I've run in the heat and sun before but it was usually up north and I would have been shaded by trees and bushes. I did horribly along the path - stopping every so often just to cool down and drink. Not the way I wanted to do this run at all.

On my way back to the house, I finally got back on the trail and within seconds I felt better. At first I couldn't figure it out and then it hit me...trail running is cooler (as in temperature) then path or road running. Even if you don't have trees around, there are usually longer grasses or bushes close to the ground that absorb the heat, not reflect it. Its just easier to run. Now I suppose if you are running in desert-like conditions ( my theory is compromised, but it just made sense to me. The vegetation on the ground created cooler conditions and that in turn cooled me down. I was able to run at my normal pace again!

Until that point I was still unsure if I was "trail-running" material. I seemed more comfortable on paved roads, sidewalk, and paths. But that has certainly changed now - I'd rather be running trails then overheating miserably on the alternative.

I did learn one other thing on Monday - I do have to learn how to run properly in heat. I was just getting used to running in layers and now I need to concentrate on heat....NOT that I'm complaining!!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Not a Good Start to Training....

It's been nearly a week since my 10 km run. I'm dying to get out and just run but its been a rough week with business travel, work, and now I've got a rotten spring/summer cold. Better now than last week though (insert optimistic tone)....

I've got six weeks to my next race now and I feel like I've wasted a week of possible training time. My MM hasn't run this week either as he's still recovering from his 100-miler. Which probably hasn't helped my motivation level but I can't always rely on my MM to push my butt out the front door.
I'm heading up north to the cottage with my boys tonight and I'm hoping to get a run in tomorrow or Sunday morning. I will have to start out slow again and build up my routine - and of course there is also the hill work that I need to get going on.

So a lot to get done in a short period of time. My goal for Limberlost is just to finish again - the race is longer than my last and although I expect an overall improvement in my running style, I doubt I will excel at any decrease in time. And that's OK. Goals have to be reasonable not unattainable or it gets too discouraging to move forward (literally).

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

10 km trail race - DONE!

I need to back up a little because I didn't just get up off the couch and decide to enter a race and run 10 km!

Without going into details, 2010 wasn't a stellar year. I needed to do something physical to relieve the immense stress. It just so happened that my new MM (main man) was big into running. And I mean big - as in insanely long races. He's an ultra-marathon trail runner - meaning a nice training run is about 20-40km. I had always enjoyed running and did it on and off over the years but never had anyone to run with so I never stuck with it.

By January, this past year, I was finally ready to start training and do it right. I invested in the right shoes (and no they were not Christian Louboutin but it would be so cool if a high-end designer would create running shoes...but I digress), got a pass to the indoor running track near my home, and had the support of my MM who believed (and still does) that I can do anything.

It was a slow, painful, discouraging process at first. I had no idea how out of shape I was. I persisted at it though, even when all I wanted to do was anything but run. Even vacuuming seemed better at times and for those who know me, I hate vacuuming with a passion. By the the middle of March I was running for about 4kms with 2 min breaks every two or three minutes. Doesn't seem like a huge event but to me it was enormous. By Easter weekend, I had ran 10km twice and I knew I could at least participate in a race.

Along came the Sulphur Springs Trail Race - a long running (pardon the pun) race just north of Hamilton. My MM planned to run the 100-mile race (no, I didn't make a typing error - that says 100) as well as one of his running buddies and a new running friend was going to run 50 miles. Somehow my 10km goal seemed rather insignificant but I decided to enter the 10km race.

Now my MM, in his wisdom, told me that the race trail was virtually "flat". I'd been training on paved trails but he reported to me that the trails were good and well-packed so not to worry about things like tree roots. By the time we arrived at the race site the night before, there were rumours of this "crazy" hill to climb at the end of the start/finish line. "No problem", I thought to myself, "I'll just walk it - that's what the insane ultra-people do so that's what I will do". Remember that thought....

Race day the next morning was very cool and foggy. I didn't sleep well but I did get some sleep. My MM and friends started their trek at 6 a.m. I got another 1 1/2 hours of sleep; I didn't start until 8:15 - another good reason not to do ultras! I was anxious but really excited. I was on the precipice of achieving my goal - all I had to do was cross the finish line. I didn't care about the time. I just wanted to finish.

The race started without incident. All 200 of us making our way down the "crazy" hill...down down and around a corner and then down and around another corner and down again. I didn't think much about it at the time. I just knew I was going to be walking back up. I started out too fast which isn't surprising as a newbie and the first four kilometers felt like I was moving through a battle zone. The mud and puddles went up to my ankles, there were tree roots to navigate, HILLS to climb (flat...right....), and then other runners from the 100 miler, 50 miler, 50km, 25 mile and 25 km races were passing by. Then the negativity hit me. "Am I an idiot? Why did I think I was ready to run 10 km? I can't finish this! I should just DNF and take my sorry ass back home!!"

After that 4 kms though, I got my stride and my breath back at the same time. One of MM's running buddies passed me and yelled "Way to go!" and all of a sudden I was OK. I was enjoying my run. I reminded myself that I wasn't out here to win. I was out here to prove I could finish a running race.  I started to smile. I was feeling good. Then that damn crazy hill appeared. I knew I was close to the finish/start line but to get to it, I was going to have to get to the top of that hill. All of a sudden it was like I was climbing Mount Everest or Kilimanjaro or whatever major mountain you'd like to insert. I was hoping for a Sherpa to pass and perhaps carry me, but no luck. I kept telling myself - one step at a time. My thighs were yelling profanities at me. My heart was racing and if I had run at the pace it was pumping, I probably would have broken a few records. Half way up the hill I was contemplating just sitting down. You know, take a break. Have some water. Take in the view....but a very wise woman standing at the side yelled at us "only 400 m left". 400 meters? That was it? To hell with stopping I was going to get this race finished so I could collapse properly!

And one hour and sixteen minutes after I started the race, I crossed the finish line. It certainly wasn't a blazing speed but I didn't have to crawl either! I grinned for about an hour afterwards. And once I finished smiling, I did collapse back into bed.

Needless to say, I'm really looking forward to my next race. I learned a lot training and running my first race and I'm going to work on hill training over the next six weeks. MM and I still haven't talked about his definition of "flat" but that is for another blog. Goal Number Two is set now; no turning back!! Limberlost here I come!