Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cha-Cha Changes

Have you read the book, Born to Run by Christopher McDougall? I just gave it to my daughter to read while she is at school (yeah, I know she has probably has more than enough to read) and I will read it again once she is done with it. But reading the book made me realize that my feet problems could have been caused by the over-engineering of running shoes. So this past week I decided that I was going to make some changes on how I run. I have not had any insoles in my shoes since I recieved orthotics early last year. I decided to not put in the orthotics in the running shoes and also leave out the insoles. I have run twice in the woods with my shoes like that and worked on running like I am falling forward, trying to keep my running steps on the forefeet. It is difficult to keep that form-the body has had plenty of time to adapt to the wrong running form. I have to constantly think about my form, to make the adjustments necessary to bring my body over the front of my feet. I have to tell myself to make quick, light steps and to increase the turnover, trying to take three steps in places where two used to do. Is it going to work? Only time and how I feel will tell.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Every ultra runner should volunteer to crew for a friend or even show up at an event and do so for a stranger. It provides you the perspective of all the non-runners who show up and crew for their friends and family time and again. I believe that it also can renew your own desire to run, increasing the commitment that you feel to just get out the door, to train and run like you were first starting out. When I first started running ultras, I did my first one alone, on the roads in Rhode Island at the Nifty Fifty. While it provided me with a good taste for doing ultras, it also clued me in on the fact that I like trails and that is what I wanted to do ultras on. So the next ultra I did was the JFK50 in Hagerstown, Maryland. When I decided to do it, I was not sure about how I was going to do, especially alone. So I asked Julie White (nee Pinkham) if she would be willing to come along and crew for me. She said yes and the rest is history. I ran and finished and Julie was awesome helping me out.
In late September, I heard from a friend that Julie had decided to run her first ultra, the 2009 edition of the JFK50. I immediately sent her an email asking her if I could return the favor and go crew for her. She said that while she had not been advertising that she was doing the run due to the fact that she was not sure she would be ready, she was more than willing to have me crew for her. Chuck Brenker was also going down to try for his eighth consecutive finish. Julie had planned on running with Chuck but he was injured and very worried about making it to the finish. Julie sent me an email on Thursday telling me to make sure that I brought along some running togs because she wanted someone to run with on part of the course.
The JFK50 starts at 7 AM for most of the runners but there is a 5 AM start for those people who do not think that they can finish in 12 hours. Both Chuck and Julie applied for and received the 5 AM start. We left for Maryland at 8 AM on Friday morning, riding in Chuck's van with my mountain bike on the back. We shared the driving, arriving in Hagerstown at 3 PM. As we were heading for the hotel, we passed the hotel that was the host for the JFK50. In we went so the the two of them could pick up their race packets and numbers. Julie bought me a neon yellow tee shirt that said Crew Support on the back. She also talked to one of the guys who were selling jackets and such, asking if he could put a jacket away with her name on it. She told him that she would only be buying it if she finished. He had no problem with that and put it in a bag with her name on it.
Saturday morning Chuck and Julie were up at 3:15 AM. I was awake also but I had the luxury of possibly going back to sleep. They had to leave the hotel by 3:45 to make it to the start for the briefing at 4:20. After ensuring everything they needed was with them they were off. I laid back down but was unable to fall asleep right away. I watched a bit of a basketball game on ESPN and then dozed until I had to get up to catch my ride at 5:45 AM. Joe Kairys, a friend of Chuck's, had met us at the hotel the night before with his wife, Selena and two of their children, Joseph and I am such a dunce, I forgot the name of their daughter. They were giving me a ride to the start so that I could pick up Chuck's van and head to the first aid station with crew access. After arriving at the start area, it took me ten minutes to find the van. I walked by it twice before I realized it was there. After a stop at a convinence store, I headed out following the directions provided by the race. They were excellent directions and I did not have a problem all day. I arrived at the aid station just after seven and the first runners were already coming through. Julie arrived somewhere around 7:30, feeling good and enjoying the run on the trail. Chuck showed up about ten minutes later, hobbling but gamely going forward. I walked with both of them through the aid station and up the parking lot road to the next trail area, making sure that they both had everything that they needed.
I headed out to the next aid area that I could access thinking that I was leaving early and would have no problems parking. Was I ever wrong! The area where crews could see their runners is not the actual aid station, but about one-half mile before it. The runners come down off of the Appilation Trail and head toward the entrance to the tow path. The place was mobbed with people standing in the intersection of the road. I found a place to park at the end of the road, hiked back up to the trail, decided that it was much too crowded and hiked up the trail. I found a very large rock that was flat on top and parked myself on it to wait for the runners. The trail at this point is a series of switchbacks coming down off of one of the high points of the course. I pulled out my crossword puzzle and enjoyed the time sitting there. Approximately fifteen minutes went by and the first of the early runners started coming by. I tried to talk to everyone that came by and all of the early runners would reply. It was not until the first of the 7 AM starters started coming by that there was no replies. They were more serious and more focused on moving ahead. Julie showed up looking great and feeling good and I fell in behind her, running down the trail to the road. She changed her socks, got a new bottle and I told her when I would next see her. I waited for Chuck, who showed up about 20 minutes later still hobbling and still going forward.
From this point the runners run on the tow path that parallels the Potomac River for 26.2 miles. My plan was to go to the Mile 38 aid station, put everything that I needed into my backpack and ride my mountain bike along the trail to meet up with Julie and Chuck. The aid station was in the process of being set up when I got there. I rode past them and headed out. The towpath was in pretty good shape, but there were area that were muddy and some puddles. I really enjoyed splashing through the muck. I met the lead runners around mile 32 and began what I would do for the next few hours-talking and encouraging the runners. Julie was looking good when we met. She had hooked up with another runner, Sue from New Jersey. They were doing a 7 minute run/3 minute walk pace and I think that it helped hold everything together for Julie. Farther back on the trail Chuck was walking. His injuries had caused him to over compensate and he was having problems with the other leg. It would continue the rest of the day. I went back and forth between the two, giving encouragement and providing anything that they needed to keep on going.
When the runners go off of the tow path, they run on the road for the remaining eight miles of the race. There was not supposed to be any crew on the road section. The race, in their notices to the crews, said that no one who was not a runner would be allowed to run on the road. So I told Julie that I would see her at the finish. I left her at the 38 mile aid station and after checking on Chuck, headed for the finish line. I thought that I might have missed her, but after going over the times in my head, realized that I was just very early. She finished strong in 11 hours, 58 minutes. Chuck struggled in, but had plenty of time before the cut off with a finish in 13 hours and 32 minutes.
The two of them were funny at times the following day. I drove the whole way back while they nursed their aching bodies. All in all a good time. Makes me want to run another one. Next year.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Too much over a short time?

What is too much? Since I am older than when I started running long, does that change how much is too much? In the last six weeks, I have done six races.

The first weekend was the Strides for the Handicapped. Of course, for me that was not enough. I met Pam for a two hour run at Bluff Point. Beautiful run in the early morning. After we finished, I drove over to Camp Harkness to run the 10K part of the Strides races. I went into the race saying that I would not run hard and amazingly, I did not. I ran with Karen Short for the first three miles and then I turned around to help a lady who was pushing her husband in his wheelchair. She was struggling up a hill and I had to help. I believe that her name was Susan; do not remember his name. I helped her up the hill and she said to go ahead, that she could handle it from there. So I ran to the finish line and turned around and headed back out to give Susan a hand. I met her about a mile and a half from the finish. So I added an extra three to four miles to the 10K. I felt great and enjoyed the run.

The following weekend I decided on Thursday that I was going to run the Hartford Marathon. Julie White was running it as a training run; she is going to run her first ultra, the JFK50 in November. So I decided that I wanted to help out. The day was beautiful and and we ran the 26.2 miles in 4:22:30.

The third weekend brought the Penguin 5K. Now, five kilometers is not bad, but the Thursday before I decide to try to play with my stride, working on running on and off of my forefeet. It can be difficult and trying, but I did it and the problem was that I strained my left calf. Friday it still was sore and I was worried about running the race. Saturday morning I ran the race. During the warmups, the calf was not bad, but I planned on running easy. Fat chance! The calf did not bother me and I took off. That was bad, but it wasn't because of the calf. After the race, I turned around and ran the course again (slower). By the time I finished, my left hamstring was killing me. That took too long to get over and made the race the following weekend something of a problem.

The Bimbler's Bluff 50K. I had not run this race before and had been looking forward to running a course that Jerry Turk had laid out. It had rained the day before, so the course was wet and muddy. Just what I like. I have written about this race so I will skip the facts and just say that I again enjoyed the run.

Taking a trip to run a race is normally a solitary thing for me. Carol does not go to races and pretty much does not like to associate with runners. She is not hostile toward runners; she just does not like running. So when she goes with me, it is pretty neat (at least for me). We took a trip to Washington DC with four other couples, taking Amtrack down and back. Riding the train is an easy way to travel. No worries about traffic, staying awake, able to eat and drink when you want and, on the plus side for me, being able to play a game of cribbage or two. Carol was going with to be able to see some of the sights-she had no intention of going to the race. So the Run Geek, Run 8K was a lonely run for me. NOT!! I ran from the hotel to the race start, ran way too fast for the first 4 miles and died in the last mile (8K = 4.98 miles). Came in fourth in my age group; not bad but the other people in our group did pretty good. An age group first, two seconds and two thirds. Not too bad for our little group.

Last weekend, I tried to run the Stone Cat 50 miler. So this was the final straw, at least for how I am feeling now. The biggest problem going into this was work the week before. I had to work second shift and two of the days I worked to 12:30 am and 3:00 am Wednesday and Thursday, respectively. Friday evening I left work at 9:30 to drive up to Ipswich, MA. I got to the hotel by 11 PM and was in bed by 11:30. So when I got up at 5 AM, I was pretty tired still. I did not feel bad and did not think that it would affect how I ran. The race started at 6:15 and I felt pretty good. The course has changed since I ran it 8 years ago, with more single track and starting and ending in a different place. Running through the woods in the early morning (it was very cold-I had planned on wearing one lightweight poly shirt and ended up wearing that shirt plus another lightweight poly shirt plus a light jacket shell. I kept them on, even when it warmed up a little later in the morning) was awesome and I was moving better than I expected. The first loop went by in 2 hours and 10 minutes. I went through the start/finish and headed back out still feeling pretty good. About one-third of the way through the loop, I slipped on a rock and twisted my right knee. It was, at the time, a minor pain and I kept on going. Unfortunately the pain stayed and continued bothering me, with the pain increasing the farther I went. I started having to walk for stretches. When I would start running again, it took a couple of minutes for the knee to loosen up enough to actually run without a limp. Another problem that was occuring was that I was favoring the right knee and unbeknownst to me, I was hurting the left knee. But I am getting ahead of myself. I kept on trying to run only to have to walk to relieve the pain. I took the one Advil that I had, but it did not help. By the time I finished the second loop (in 3 hours and 10 minutes) I had pretty much decided not to continue on. The guys at the aid station tried to convince me to go back out and I started, but turned around immediately and went looking for Gilly, the race director. He convinced me to do the 1.2 mile loop that the marathoners do at the beginning and that gave me a finish in the marathon with a fleece as the finishers gift. I left soon after and my left knee started to let itself known almost as soon as I got into the truck for the ride back. I will be visiting the doctor to have both knees looked at.

So did I do too much in such a short period of time? Is it just age creeping up on me? I am not sure yet, but I do know that I want to get back out there and run. I will just have to do like Pam for a little while and limit my running for a little bit to shorter runs. Once I can.