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Downtown Temple,NH

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ouch and ouch some more (UPDATE)

As previously mentioned, I tweaked my lower back during the strenuous task of tying my shoes prior to a race this weekend. It held up during the race but didn't take long to stiffen up once I finished. By the time I got home I could barely get out of the car.

Ice and Ibuprofen have done nothing to ease the pain. Looking back maybe I should have visited Dr. Guinness instead but I digress. Classic lower back pain. Hurts to sit. Hurts to walk. Can't straighten out my back when I stand. I should just lay in bed for a few days if it didn't suck so much.

A visit to the Chiropractor last night actually gave me some relief but it was short lived and is painfully sore again today. To top it off my vertigo has made a return appearance.

Other than that I feel pretty good!

After suffering through another day at work I finally made the decision to see my doctor this afternoon. Good news is my back pain (and associated muscle spasm) is not the same spot as earlier this year that eventually led to 5 wks on the DL. A big fat love handle (or is that all muscle?) just above my iliac crest is in full spasm this time. Doc gave me an anti-inflammatory injection (Toradol I think he said) in my umm... gluteus maximus. Hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to walk upright again :-)

Sunday, June 28, 2009

My First "W" (sort of)

The Exeter 10m Trail race was next on my schedule and I arrived early (not Scott Graham early but early no less), offering a hand and convincing Chris Dunn to run the 10 miler. Chris just returned from VT after participating in the Death Race yesterday and for some reason was not up for a 10 miler today (so he thought). I told him I'd run easy today and of course he knew I was lying or at least stretching the truth. With all my best intentions, I just can't participate in a race without going all out. It is after all, a race. If I wanted to do a tempo run or run easy I'd just go out and do it, no race venue required.

Now most (if not all) runners bring a bag of excuses with them to every race. It's just what we do. Not enough sleep, too much training, not enough training, injury du jour, old age...I can go on and on. I guess it's a way to play down expectations. That way, if we do well it feels so much better. Well my excuse happened while putting on my shoes (Inov-8 Mudroc 280's for the record). As I was tying my shoes, my lower back spasmed. I couldn't even stand straight up! Oh crap. All of a sudden I wasn't sure if I'd be able to even start this race. I desperately tried to stretch out my back as best I could but mostly just walked around, rubbing the sore area. Mike Wade and I headed over to the start for an easy warm up on the trails. Although sore, my back didn't do much else and running seemed doable. Thankfully there would be no bone jarring descents today, mostly rolling terrain. It was go time.

Now Chris told me the trails were tight early and passing would be difficult. With this in mind I reluctantly lined up in front with Chris, Mike, Ernst Linder and a few others. With the 'go' command I was off. To my surprise no one jumped to the lead and I was forced to the front, a place I am not comfortable in. My pre-race race picks Keith Schmitt and Paul Young opted to start a bit further back, presumably to toy with the rest of us, only to pick us off and leave us all in the dust eventually. I wasn't running all out, and I thought it was an easy pace but no one wanted to join me or even run by me so I hung in there for the next mile or so waiting... My place was not in the front and I knew it, but I'd enjoy it while it lasted (however briefly it my be).

After about 10 minutes or so Keith and Paul went flying by but it wasn't the last time I'd see them. Shortly after Mike passed me as well and I settled in behind him for the next few miles. Right behind me was Ernst, followed by Chris. If you haven't run here before you should. These are some nice, technical trails and are truly a hidden gem. There's probably not a single section you can't run but that doesn't mean it's easy. The trails do have some short climbs but mostly it's about keeping track of your feet. Rocks, roots, a little mud and a bunch of bridges, and of course not a single stretch of trail that straightens out for more than 20yds. It's no wonder I got lost out here before!! Talk about throwing your internal compass off, geesh. Thankfully (due to the efforts of Ri, co-race director) the trails were expertly marked and I never hesitated or wondered if I was on the right course.

Well, part of that was due to me following Mike right up to the second water stop just prior to mile 5. In fact, it was at this point that Keith and Paul went flying by us...in the opposite direction! What the? I was pretty sure they told us we'd be doing a 6 mile loop in this section so it didn't make sense that they'd be running back at us. After grabbing a drink at the aid station I took the lead for the second time today. Mike and I chatted a bit, trying to figure out what we just saw and finally concluded they must have taken a wrong turn and we were in the lead...again. I hit the 1/2 way mark at 37:55 but was definitely tiring. Thankfully I guess, so was everyone else.

For the next 3+ miles Mike, Ernst and I would run fairly close together, keeping the pace going. I did notice Mike laboring a bit on the hills so at each climb I'd push a little harder, trying to put some distance between us. It wasn't until we went back through the tunnel under RT101 that this strategy finally seemed to pay off....or maybe it was because Mike rolled his ankle. Although I knew both guys were lurking back there somewhere, I could no longer see them when I peeked over my shoulder, and I peeked a lot! Now I was just trying to hang on and not get passed in the last 1/2 mile or something. The last 2 miles took forever but eventually I was running on familiar trails (from my one time here). I knew I was close, I glanced one more time and coasted in to the finish in just over 1hr 16 minutes.

Keith and Paul were already there and I quickly asked them what happened. Keith had finished in 1:11 something and Paul was a bit back in 1:13. When we went thru the tunnel we were supposed to turn left and do a roughly 6 mile clockwise loop. For whatever reason, Keith and Paul did the loop backwards, turning right when they went thru the tunnel. Although they ran the exact same distance they didn't run the exact same course as everyone else. For this reason they were DQ'd (I think) and were not eligible for prizes. Bummer, because they were (and are) clearly faster then me. My 3rd place overall suddenly turned into 1st.

So, by default I ended up with the win today (and $50!). I felt really bad, not bad enough to fork over the $50 but bad enough that it didn't feel like a win. In all the years I've been running (and racing) I've never had an outright win. (Well technically about 4yrs ago I won a weekly 5k trail race but I don't really count that. It was a 20+ wk series over the spring and summer and I just happen to win one week.) So, even my first win doesn't seem like a win but I'll take the results, and was pleased with my efforts.

Shortly after finishing my back tightened up big time. By the time I got home I could barely walk and every step sends a shooting pain into my lower back. It's always amazing how we, as runners, can run thru all kinds of pains during a race but can barely walk once we finish. This one really hurts. I hope I didn't hurt myself....again.

No results yet but masters kicked butt out there today.

1. Keith Schmitt (40) DQ
2. Paul Young (43) DQ
3. Steve Wolfe (45)
4. Enrst Linder (54)
5. Mike Wade (40)
6. Chris Dunn (40)

Friday, June 26, 2009

Exeterra Trail Race

My next adventure takes place in Exeter, NH at the Henderson-Swasey and Oaklands Town Forests (also referred to as Fort Rock). You may recall these are the same trails I managed to misplace my position relative to my car about a month ago while coming back from my mystery injury. Now I have no idea where the course goes but all I can say is I hope it's well marked :-)

The race was originally scheduled for last Saturday but I was on vacation and would have missed it (opting for the Mt Greylock race on Sunday instead). Due to all the rain over the last few weeks the town of Exeter asked that the race be postponed a week, presumably to minimize the trail damage. So the race is back on my schedule for Sunday.
When I was here a month ago I ran mostly on the Oaklands side (via the tunnel under RT101). My understanding is this is the more technical section (aka rocks like you read about!). I am told the Henderson side is more fire roads and easier single tracks.

There will be 2 options for racing, a 4 mile and and a 10 mile course. I picked the 10 miler and I'm really looking forward to it for a couple of reasons: 1) there will be no mountains to climb and 2) I don't have to drive 1/2 a day to get there. I really like the technical trails but tend to lose a lot of time when combined with hills. I just don't have my trail legs under me yet.

Fellow acidotic RACING teammates Ri and Sarah (defending 2008 North American Wife Carrying Champs) are putting on the race to help offset the costs for their trip to Finland in July for the World Championships. Check out the video if you want to see what it's all about. You gotta love the prize at the end!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Mt Greylock Half Marathon

Mike Wade and I traveled 2.5hrs to Adams, MA on Sunday for the Mt Greylock 'half' marathon (results). The 13.5 mile course would be my longest run since April 5th so expectations were low. If I could make it through the day without hurting myself I'd be happy.

The weather actually held out for most of the race with temps in the 60's and overcast skies, only raining once we were back in the car on the way home. That didn't make the course any easier, however. The seemingly endless rainy days we've had over the past few weeks made for some very challenging conditions. This year's course started in a meadow near the base of Mt Greylock (I am told around 1200ft) and then climbed steadily for 3 miles to the 3,491 ft summit, the highest point in Massachusetts. I did not enjoy the climb. I ran what I could but decided not to kill myself in the first 3 miles and ended up walking quite a bit, reaching the summit in exactly 45 minutes. That's when the fun began... a mostly downhill 10 mile romp on some of the wettest trails I've run on in some time. At times it felt like you were running down a mountain stream. Rocks like you read about. Mud only a kid could love. It was some tough running and I still can't believe I didn't fall.

The good thing was the time flew by since it was far from boring. I'm still way to cautious on the downhills (and I totally suck on the uphills) to be even remotely competitive in trail racing, but I still had fun. These folks are crazy! I just can't believe how fast most can run on these trails. I'd get passed on some rocky, wet, muddy, super technical section and within minutes they'd be out of sight.

All in all, a good day and I was happy with my run (2:14:07, 34th overall). Congrats to Mike as well, finishing 'just' ahead of me in 2:10:03.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Aging Up and Track

Yesterday was my birthday, and as someone mentioned to me yesterday, "you're not getting older, you're aging up!". Although still a masters, I've now moved into the 45-49 age group. Of course most races don't have a 45-49 category but if they do, I'll be ready!

GCS had their weekly track workout last night. The attendance this year has been amazing (at least to me). They've always had a decent turnout but this year is different. It's almost crowded on the track and can feel like running through the mall at times. By now, most are aware of basic track etiquette so it's generally not a problem.

The large crowd is divided into 5 groups (I think) of differing abilities (group 1 is the fastest). For the past couple of weeks I've been running with group 2 but decided to see if I could hang with the big boys in group 1 this week. The workout would be 10 x 400m repeats with 200m rest. My plan was to run 85 sec laps.

Lap 1 - 80 sec, trailing the group by a few seconds, way too fast, I think I may die.
Lap 2 - 82 sec, see lap one

Ok, so maybe I'm not ready for group 1 yet. I gathered my pride and headed over to the pedestrian-like group 2. Just kidding! This group of unnamed fast masters (mostly) were running 88 sec and 90 sec laps when I joined up. They are actually a really good group to run with and most of the 10+ runners stay pretty tightly packed. I tried to convince them to run a little faster ( as I was hoping for 85 sec repeats) but they would have none of it and was almost kicked out of the group before I even started.
The splits below are from my watch. Our coach was yelling out slightly different (aka faster) times and some in the group panicked and made me run in lane 4 couple of times in order to slow me down a bit (slightly longer laps). Trust me, this group knows when it's running off pace and they're not afraid to let you know! In the end I tried to pace them as consistently as I could and made sure the group was sticking together as much as possible. With a 15k race on Saturday, it was probably a good thing I wasn't able to run 85 sec laps.

Remaining Splits:
Lap 3 - 88 sec
Lap 4 - 88 sec
Lap 5 - 88 sec
Lap 6 - 88 sec
Lap 7 - 89 sec
Lap 8 - 88 sec
Lap 9 - 88 sec
Lap 10 - 86 sec

After the workout Mike Wade gave me with a nice Elmo birthday hat (that said "I'm 45 Today") and the group sang Happy Birthday. Ahh, wasn't that nice? I even wore my hat on my cool down run.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Mine Falls Summer Trail Series

Tonight begins the 12-week Mine Falls Summer Trail Series put on by the Gate City Striders. It's a nice, low key race held every Monday at 6:30pm, starting from the Stello's Stadium entrance to Mine Falls in Nashua.
Actually there are two races to choose from, a relatively flat 5k trail race run mostly on the well groomed trails along the canal and a slightly more challenging 5 mile trail race that takes advantage of some of the more technical single tracks in Mine Falls. In fact, the last mile runs along the Mill Pond Trail, one of my favorite trails in Mine Falls. For $5, you can't go wrong.

Don't be deterred by my description of slightly more challenging though. Unless it's pouring rain, regular running shoes are just fine. The 5 mile course has some rocks and roots but for the most part is a fairly easy, dry trail run. Heck, some of the times aren't that different from a road 5 mile race.

The past couple of years I've volunteered more than I've raced, marking the course or manning the water stop (or both). We even put mile markers out there for all you split-nazis, but I can't guarantee they're accurate (what do you want for $5?). This year I may try to sprinkle in a few races along with my volunteer duties. Who knows, you might even see me out there tonight :-)

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Rhody 5k

Gate City Strider Teammates at Rhody

I headed down to Lincoln, RI today for the Rhody 5k (results), part of the New England Grand Prix Series. I really wanted to get a race under my belt after 5 weeks off due to some mysterious oblique injury, followed by 2 weeks of decent running.
I literally had zero expectations today and no pressure to speak of. This was purely a fitness test for me today.

It was a beautiful day, not a cloud in the sky and temps near 80 for the mens only 9:30am start. Unfortunately for me, a beautiful day does not make for a great racing day. I'd prefer it to be about 30 degrees cooler and overcast, especially since 3/4 of this race is run on the perimeter road of Twin River Casino at Lincoln Park Greyhound Park which means we run around the parking lot (this place is huge by the way). Actually, it wasn't that bad of a course and had its share of hills, nothing serious just enough to mix up the pace and keep you honest. Flat courses are boring.

As a side note, I started, ran and finished with my teammate Mike Merra. I can't recall a race that I ran with the same person the entire race from start to finish. Interesting (to me anyways).

Ok, the race: I wanted to go out real conservative and then try to pick up the pace as the race progressed. I went through the first mile in 6:08, but it felt too slow. My effort was too easy and I didn't feel like I was pushing hard enough. I mean, it's a 5k, it's not supposed to feel comfortable. Right after the mile marker was a nice gentle downhill followed by a long curving run around the perimeter of the parking lot (with a barely noticeable incline) and I hit the 2nd mile in 12:12 (6:04 2nd mile) with Mike by my side. Mike started to put a few yards on me and I almost gave up (aka let him go) but decided to try to stick with him and push the last mile as hard as I could. I was now running an uncomfortably hard 5k pace (which was good in a strange way).

Near the 3 mile mark

I passed Mike (that's him above with the hat on backwards) with about 1/2 mile to go and was afraid to look back and as always, ran scared. This race tactic works for me, helping me keep the gas on when I really just want to quit and walk. I hit the 3 mile mark at 18:05 (5:53 3rd mile) and was obviously tired. The last tenth of a mile heads down to the greyhound dog track with a sharp right then left up onto the banked corner of the track then about 100yds on the 'home stretch'. Nice novelty but a lousy way to end a race. You lose all sorts of speed and momentum getting onto the stupid track and running on a dirt track with racing flats doesn't do much for me.

So, overall I was very pleased with my 18:43 effort and the fact that each mile was faster than the last. Mike finished 5 seconds back with a PR! Nice job and thanks for the pull.
I'm slowly coming back, finally!

Mile 1 6:08
Mile 2 6:04
Mile 3 5:53
Finish: 18:43 (6:02 avg)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Running and Racing

Well I completed my first full week of running last week, 35 miles total (5 days of running). Like any good runner, I probably jumped in a little too fast and did more than I should have. By the end of the week my legs were tired and heavy. Live and learn, light on the learn.

Things I did learn last week:
  • My endurance did not suffer too much, surprisingly.
  • My easy pace is roughly what it was before I got injured (with a slightly higher heartrate)
  • My speed is essentially gone compared to what it was.
So I guess I need to find a nice slow, long race to run, right? Um no, I'll be heading to Lincoln, RI this weekend for the Rhody 5k, part of the USATF New England Grand Prix series. Talk about a humbling experience. Yikes! Hopefully I'll be able to score a few points for my team (if I'm lucky).

For the first time in a long time I actually added a couple of races to my race schedule (as opposed to deleting them for the last few weeks). I've penciled in the Bow Lake Dam 15k on June 13th and the Exeterra 10M Trail Race on June 20th.