Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It's dark, and we're wearing sunglasses

I'm going to Chicago! 

On October 12th, my running buddy will be toeing the line at the Chicago Marathon, and I'll be there to cheer her on.
She's had a rough training cycle because last winter she tore her meniscus. She was originally going to try and BQ, and to be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if she did, but surgery mid-training set her back a lot.

No matter what time the clock reads when she crosses the finish, it's going to be pretty amazing. I've visited Chicago once before, and as far as cities go, I liked it. I can't wait to be there spectating with all of the crowds and taking in the experience.

I just have to think of some good posters to carry along the route...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pathetic Fallacy

Whatever images or mood your mind conjures up when it hears "Wuthering Heights" is pretty much how I felt on  my run/hike last week.

Anna the adventure dog runs ahead on the trail
My schedule called for 2 hours of hiking and one hour of running on trails. I look forward to these long workouts every week, because they feel like good benchmarks for progress in making it to 26 miles, which is still a hard distance for me to fathom, considering the longest I've ever traveled by foot is 15 miles. 

Anyway, the weather forecast called for PM rain, so I figured I'd get it out of the way in the morning. I didn't, so it started raining on the way there.

The rain was on and off as I started hiking. I wore a short-sleeve shirt under a windbreaker, which was comfortable enough. I think it would be a good idea to get a light-weight, vented rain jacket for running and hiking, though.

I hiked on the Appalachian Trail along the Kittatinny ridge, which was like walking through a cloud, in a misty, gloomy kind of way.

Think "Wuthering Heights."

I tried to hike as quickly as possible, but the rain had made everything so slippery that I couldn't keep up a consistent pace. When the rain fell harder, it became more difficult, so I just went along as fast as I could. I figured that being on my feet moving forward is helping prepare for the marathon, so it was progress. After almost 2 hours, I made it to Sunfish Pond, a natural pond sitting at the top of the ridge and skirted around by the AT. One part of the shore is covered in rock fragments that hikers have stacked into hundreds of cairns. I avoided the rocky section that day to give my ankles and knees a rest, but it's an amazing spot to visit.  Here's a view from a previous trip:

After reaching the pond, I stopped for a wardrobe change to prepare for the run back. I took off both shirt layers and put on a dry long-sleeve technical tee that I had stashed in a plastic bag inside my pack. How glorious it was to be dry! (Temporarily dry, but still, it was wonderful.)

I put my pack on again and started running back along the AT. Unfortunately, the rain kept coming down, making the exposed rocks so slippery. I normally feel confident running on technical trails, but I didn't have any traction and was slipping and sliding and yelling a lot in frustration. Luckily, every time I start to twist an ankle, I unconsciously slacken the twisted leg, bending the knee and absorbing it with the whole leg. So no major injuries, although my knees did not feel great afterwards. I saw two other trail runners out there, as well as several groups of backpackers. I couldn't believe how many people were out and about. 

I ran back in half the time it took to hike there, berating myself for the poor choice of location the whole time. Was the gloomy weather reflective of my mood and experience? An English teacher would probably say so. The literary term for giving human emotions to nature like that is "pathetic fallacy." I guess that the real problem of this run wasn't the emotion factor, but rather the planning. Although I put a lot of thought into my route/location for this hike, I didn't take the right factors into consideration. Single track bike trails would have been a much better choice in the rain. I think that I could have really enjoyed all of the gloom and mist on a different trail if the footing were better.

Luckily, when I got back to the car, there was a bag full of dry clothes waiting for me, which was the most welcome sight, and the next week, under full sun and a blue sky, I had a perfect retribution hike.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Marathon Training

Back in July I entered and won the lottery! The lottery for a race, that is: the Stone Cat Trail Marathon.

A Stone Cat finisher's sweatshirt posted by
I signed up because I thought that after all of these years of running, I am finally ready to take on the challenge of a marathon.

For the past 11 months, I've been training with a corrective exercise trainer/kick-ass ultra runner to even out muscle imbalances and get past all of the obstacles that have been holding me back. I've noticed improvements in my gait, posture, heart rate, and race times. And all throughout this year, I've been inspired and motivated by my trainer, her trail running team members, and other clients. Check out Mountain Peak Fitness to see what I'm talking about. Race reports about utlra races like Wasatch, Badwater, and Western States have stuck with me on my own runs and give a totally different perspective to things.

Of course, there are always little setbacks that pop up. Mine came days after I found out that I was picked for the marathon. An area under the inner knee started hurting after I overextended the knee while jogging on a hiking trail while wearing heavy hiking boots (I couldn't help it - I love running!) and then ran a 5 k later that week. After that I scaled down mileage and intensity, iced it, and replaced a lot of running with cycling, and it got a little better. Not completely, though. Two months later I am still taking things one step at a time, cautiously seeing how the knee feels, and tailoring my workouts to it. I went to the doctor this week and will be getting an MRI for more info. Whatever it is, I don't think that it's very serious. With cycling, elliptical training, and hiking to prepare me, I'll be crossing the finish line on November 8th.

So this is it - I'm getting ready to go 26.2 for the first time!