Sunday, January 31, 2010

Winter Trail Series 5K Race Report

The Winter Trail Series 5K on January 24th was my second trail race. I was considerably less nervous about this one than I was about my first, before which I scoured the internet for accounts of people's trail experiences and examples of finishing times. This time I wasn't very worked up about it - just excited to finally be racing again. There aren't many races held during the winter, and I hadn't run in a race since my 10K in September, so this was a great opportunity.

On race morning, I woke up tired but excited. The support staff came with me, and we drove about an hour to the park where the race was held. I registered and warmed up, trying to tell myself that my legs felt like lead only because I was wearing so may layers, and that once I took off the heavy warm-ups, I'd feel light and fast.

I stretched and just got to the starting line in time. I stayed toward the back as we headed through the parking lot and on a dirt road around a little pond. After we rounded the far end of the pond, we veered off the road onto the trail. This is where it really began! The pack thinned out to a line of runners strung out along the steep, wooded hillside. Ahead of me, I could see the string weaving along the thin ledge of the trail before rounding a corner out of sight. At this point, I was most conscious of keeping my easy pace and possibly holding up the runners behind me. I kept as far to the right of the narrow path as I could whenever I heard someone approaching me from behind. At that point I wasn't vying for position with anyone and wanted to let them pass if they needed to. Some did, and I imagine that it took a good deal of extra energy for them to get a burst of speed to pass while at the same time stepping half off the trail. I kept up my pace as well as I could as the line wove around ahead.

Sometimes, when driving through the ridges and valleys that make up the landscape of my hometown, I look around at how a stream has cut a path into the mountainside, like this picture:
and think that I would love to run in the woods alongside it. For this race, I was running in those woods. The trail crossed streams and ran along ledges and zig-zagged from one side of a hill to another before reaching the top and climbing upward again.

The path was about a foot wide and covered with rocks, tree roots, and leaves. I focused a lot on the ground right in front of me and finding the best footing. When I felt that I was getting used to the footing, I looked at the feet of the person in front of me and just followed. Sometimes I looked at how he jumped over a log and tried to do it myself more gracefully or with less energy. I tried to imitate movements but with more spring and lightness. It was fun, but I truly was very tired. I had started off feeling exhausted, and when the trail climbed unforgivingly uphill, with nothing but more hills after every turn, I slowed to a walk and let people pass me as I hiked up the path.

As soon as the trail leaveled out, I began running again. It wasn't long after that that it began to descend, and we entered the downhill half of the course. I almost took a tumble headlong down the hill a few times here, but being tired was no longer much of an issue. Gravity got me going, and I just had to place my feet. I found myself getting into focus and not noticing anything but my footfall and the ground ahead.

When the trail emptied us out onto another dirt road, we all knew that the finish was near. A few people behind me surged ahead on the blissfully flat ground with powerful kicks, and I increased my speed as well. When I could see the chute, I started to sprint and passed the people I had been running behind for most of the race. The support staff cheered me on, and I gave him a thumbs up before crossing the finish line with a time of 37:24.

My main reflection about this race is that it was a challenging but fun course, and I would love to run there again when it's sunny or when the trees are green or when I could stop and enjoy the scenery more. It was a challenging course, but I also think I could perform much better there when in better shape and health. I hadn't been feeling myself for a few days before the race. On the Thursday beforehand, I actually cut short a 2-mile run on the treadmill by half. I was just too tired and had no motivation. I didn't run again before the race hoping to rest up and be ready for it. Unfortunately, I wasn't. Seeing as I came down with a cold this week, I suspect that the whole time my body was trying to fight off the cold.

This race was the first in a series of three races. The next is a week from today, and the third is a month after that, both with a 5M or 10M option. I think that I'd like to do the third one. By March I hope to be in better training, and it will be the same day that my cousin is racing the Disney Princess 5K. I ran my first trail race with her in North Carolina and it would be neat to know that we're both running at the same time, even if several states away.

I just have to kick this cold so I can get back out on the road and trail!

Friday, January 22, 2010

100th Post

I admit it: I'm a bad blogger.

Here I am, typing my 100th post, and do I have a fancy giveaway contest to celebrate with? Negative. Do I even have a list of 100 things you never knew about me? Nope. What can I say? My name is Librarian on the Run, and I'm a bad blogger.

The only way to redeem myself is to announce my next race, which will be...tomorrow! The weather report looks favorable (it should even be a few degrees above freezing at race-time) and I think that it will be a lot of fun.

The race is a trail run - my second ever. The course is described as 90% single-track trails with some dirt fire roads, so in addition to taking the opportunity to get out and race in the off-season, I'll also be working on number 2 of my 2010 List O'Fun. I'm excited!

After the race, I plan on going to a running store and purchasing a new pair of running shoes. There aren't any running stores closer than an hour's drive from my home, and I've been meaning to do it for a while so I can finally have someone analyze my gait and suggest shoes that are really best for me. The race is held not too far from the store that my orthopedist recommended, so it will be a great opportunity to go.

With all of the running excitement, one must not forget that tomorrow is Championship Sunday, so the afternoon will be all about football. I'll be rooting for the Jets (in the playoff-absence of their stadium-mates, the Giants) and then watching the Saints-Vikings game.

Of course, after the games, I'll go back to being a librarian and tune in to Masterpiece Theater for a new version of Jane Austen's Emma.

After all is said and done, I'll get to work on my 101st post: a race review of my second trail race ever and first race of 2010.

Ever on.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Muddy paws

Winter took a break today, and I knew that I needed to spend a lot of time outside to take advantage of the beautiful weather. I had a 5.5-mile run scheduled for tomorrow, so I decided to do it today instead. I did not feel 100% during the past two short, slow runs this week, so it may not have been the best idea to skip a day of rest, but I had the day off of work and felt that doing the run today would be best for my schedule.

At first I wasn't into it. The trail was still icy and snow-covered in places, and in spots where the sun hits it, it was muddy. I had a bit of difficulty picking my way to the best footing, and it was a little rough on my ankles, shins, and apparently my right foot, and mentally I wasn't into it. I just had no motivation, and by mile 1 I wanted to turn around - and not just turn around and run back, but turn around and walk and basically do nothing. As much as my mind told me to stop, though, I kept going, and I'm glad I did. By mile 2 I felt much better. My legs were a little tired from the uneven footing, but my breathing felt great, and the distance didn't seem like much at all. At the turn-around point, I thought with great satisfaction that until last May, this same route was the farthest I had ever run.

Somewhere between miles 1 and 2, I came across two women walking dogs. One of the dogs was very friendly and left some lovely muddy paw-prints on my shirt. It's a new fashion trend.

Toward the end of the run I felt tired, but I got a second wind at mile 5 and was able to finish pretty strong. When I finished, I saw another runner who asked about the trail conditions. She wasn't too daunted. As she said, you can usually assume that if you run on this trail, you're going to get dirty.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Adventures in Blood Donation

My biggest concern last summer, when I considered donating blood for the first time, was that it would affect my running. I decided to wait until the winter, when I would not be running as far or with as much intensity. Right now I don't have any upcoming races, and I'm not doing any major endurance exercising, so I thought that now would be a good time, and when the support staff and I arrived at the blood bank yesterday, I wasn't very worried. I should have known that it would turn into an adventure, though.

I filled out some paperwork and was screened for eligibility. I received the H1N1 vaccine last week, and my blood pressure was low (proof of cardio-vascular fitness!), but I was still eligible.

I then was guided to a table where another technician was there to draw the blood. He could clearly see my vein but had a little trouble getting it to "pop' enough. Maybe because of that low blood pressure? Then he elevated my legs (again, because of low pressure?) and gave me a ball to squeeze, and I looked at the ceiling and counted the seconds between squeezes.

The technician checked on me every few minutes, asking if I was feeling dizzy or unwell. The last time he asked how I was doing, I said I was fine and continued focusing on the ball. Ten seconds later, I was dizzy. I was laying down, but all of a sudden it felt like I was whirling around the room. I called to him to tell him, and then I went somewhere. I've been trying to remember what I was saying or doing, but I can't remember. I do remember that it was interrupted by excited voices, and another second later I was looking up at several faces looking down at me, putting ice packs on my face and chest. I felt like throwing up and really couldn't tell much of what was going on.

Once the nausea passed, I just lay there and felt better. The support staff came to make sure I was ok, even though he had just had blood drawn himself and should have been sitting down and eating some snacks.

The adventure was almost over, but not quite. As if passing out wasn't enough, my fingers turned white, went numb, and were startlingly cold. Then my legs - from the thighs down - started to tingle. The technicians gave me a blanket and lowered my legs, and after that, I was just about back to normal. I drank fluids, ate some cookies, rested, and after a while, I was ready for the support staff to take me home.

The funny thing is, before I left, the technician who did my screening came up to me to tell me not to worry about it happening the next time. I was a little shocked by that. I asked her if the blood pressure was the reason, and she said that I my low blood pressure is normal for me because I run, and that I was probably just nervous because it was my first time. So if low blood pressure is normal for me, wouldn't that mean that it's normal for me to pass out when I give blood? Just a thought.

I wonder if other runners/athletes have had this problem. I tried to do some quick searches on the internet to see if I could find articles or message board posts, but I didn't come up with much. Unfortunately, I think that it will continue to be a problem for me, so I probably will not be doing it again.

Throughout this adventure, I felt like I was invoking T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock":

"Do I dare
Disturb the universe?"

Not unless I want to end up "Like a patient etherized upon a table", apparently.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

The culprit is...a dog-sled team?

So I'm usually out on the trail, being all hardcore running in the cold with snow on the ground, and I twist my ankles on tire ruts that have frozen into icy lumps. I think, "Ok, I can run around them, but where did they come from? The park service maintaining the trail?" Maybe, although the space between each tire is too small to be from one of their Jeeps. "An ATV?" Maybe, although they're not allowed on the trail. So I usually grumble and continue on my way.

This weekend I headed out to the trail for a run. I was, again, feeling very hardcore, because the temperature with windchill was about 7*. I felt hardcore until I got to the trail and came across a dog-sled team that is practicing for the Iditarod. All of a sudden 4 miles in above-zero temperatures was not very intense at all - not when compared to 1,150 miles of frozen tundra.

The dogs had just finished their run and were being put away one by one in their pens on the back of a truck. One dog greeted me with a warble-ly howl. It was pretty cute, although not nearly as fluffy as I would expect a husky to be. Then I noticed that they had not been pulling a sled, but an ATV with the motor turned off, which explains all of the tire ruts in the trail.

I didn't stick around very long to watch them unhitch and load up into the truck, but I did spend most of my run thinking about the training they do on the trail and wondering what it's like to actually participate in the Iditarod.

I guess that if the dogs and their owner can handle that epic journey, I can handle running on icy tire ruts.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy New Year!

Happy new year! Today is the day when I usually would make a resolution or set goals for the new year. Instead of setting goals, though, this year I'm approaching it as planning new things that I'd enjoy doing. So this post is the conclusion to my 2010 List O' Fun.

10 Fun Things To Do in 2010:

#1: Run a half-marathon
#2: Run on single-track bike trails
#3: Do some speedwork
#4: Run in the mountains
#5: Volunteer at a race
#6: Experiment with cute hairstyles at races
#7: Explore places in town that I haven't been before by running
#8: Try out the Try-It-On Triathlon
#9: Run in the 5K hosted by my high school
#10: Maybe...just a marathon

Volunteer at a race:
I'd like to see a race from the other side and give back, in a way. I started considering this when I couldn't run, but it would be just as meaningful and important when I can run.

Experiment with cute hairstyles at races:
I've never focused much on how I look during races, but reading the Chic Runner's blog has made me want to try out some cute hairstyles like bows and pigtails. It would be fun, and maybe the race pictures would actually be postable. (Notice how I never post race pictures?)

Explore places in town that I haven't been before by running:
There are some roads in my town that I haven't been down in so many years that I can't remember where they go. What better way to find out than to run there?

Try out the Tri-It-On Triathlon:
I almost entered myself as a contestant in CNN's FitNation Triathlon Challenge, but decided to try something less expensive and intense first. There's a local triathlon held every September that has canoeing instead of swimming, and the biking section is for mountain bikes. I've been thinking about doing it for a few years, and I think that 2010 will be it.

Run in the 5K hosted by my high school:
In 2008, my high school started hosting an annual 5K. I didn't participate that year because I hadn't been in training and didn't want to embarrass myself with bad results. (It's kind of pathetic, but true.) Then this year it fell during the time when I couldn't run, and I'd like to make up for it in 2010. This is, in a way, a time goal, because going back to the track that I had so many hopes for in high school, I really want to place in my age group in this race. To do that, I'd definitely have to run sub-25 minutes - maybe even faster. I guess we'll just have to wait and see what September brings. I hope to be able to be that fast, but if I'm not, maybe I'll grow as a runner if I have the guts to sign up for the race knowing that I won't be able to place.

Maybe...just a marathon:
All right, this is a big maybe. It depends on how I feel and what my priorities are. After the half-marathon, I might decide that I'm not ready for the big one yet, or I might send in my registration the next day. It's out there, though.