Sunday, September 18, 2011

Last long run before the marathon

Three weeks to go to the Chicago Marathon and today was my last “long” run before the marathon.   Today’s run was 22 miles, which I did with a group from one of the running stores, Tortoise and Hare.  This was a pretty important run for me today – I had to be able to do it.  I had struggled through my last 20 mile run and had DNF’ed in the Milford 30K.  I had to be able to make today work - and I did.

Overall, it was a good run, averaging a 10:10 min/mile pace (3hr 43min overall) including a couple of rest breaks.  The temp at the start was in the low 50’s with a cloudless sky.  It was perfect weather.  The route was to be two 11 mile loops with most of it on dirt county roads with some modest hills. I felt very strong for the first 11 miles (the first loop), but started to feel tiredness in my legs almost as soon as we started the second loop.   I tried hard to keep on top of my nutrition (ShockBloks, Goo, Gatorade, and Endurolites), but I think I slipped on my intended schedule a bit.  

At about the midpoint of mile 17 I decided to walk a bit and let my running partner, a guy who had been running with me since the start, go on ahead.  After about a quarter mile of walking I was ready to hit it again, and worked towards catching up with my partner, who was pretty much just shuffling his way down the road.  Unfortunately, I was probably pushing too hard as I worked my way up and down the modest hills and wound up aggravating my right hamstring (which has been a pain in my ass for some time) bringing me to a full stop while I massaged and stretched it out.  I was pretty much forced to walk for a bit (probably a good ¾ of a mile) before starting to run again.

I’m not sure what the deal was/is with my hamstring.  I don’t know if it is a muscle pull situation, or if I was cramping (as in a heat cramp).  As soon as it started to hit hard, I gulped down another Goo, another Endurolite, and lots of Gatorade (good thing that I had my camel-back with me!).  I don’t know if that made a difference or not, but I did start to feel relief not long afterwards, so who knows….?

Getting going again was hard.  My legs were getting stiff and I really had to force myself to run.  I didn’t break any records running those last few miles – I pretty much short-stepped trotted my way back to our starting point, even walking up a couple of the hills. But I did it.  I was soooo glad to be done.

So, assuming that my 10:10 min/mile pace is realistic for Chicago, I’m probably looking at a 4hr30min time.   And I’ll be running for 45 minutes longer than I did today.  Do I have  (will I have) the juice to run that much longer?  I’m assuming that I will – I just can’t imagine not…

Three weeks to go!  Next week my longest run will be 12-13 miles, and the week after that,  a mere 8. That is going to feel so weird…  I’m already starting to think about what am I going to do after Chicago…

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Midland 30K

What a disaster – I DNF’ed – I cramped up at Mile 14 and could not continue.  It was disappointing and embarrassing. 

Granted, it was an incredibly hot and humid day, 90+ degrees and insanely humid.  The race didn’t start until 8AM, meaning that the sun had ample time to warm things up by mid course.  But I did anticipate the conditions and tried to plan accordingly, increasing my dosage of sodium enhanced ShotBloks, Goo, Gatorade, etc..

It was a great course, hilly and pretty.  The race starts just south of the town of Milford (the green pin on the map below) and heads north through wooded countryside, back into town and then a south loop again through wooded farm-like country around back to the start/finish area.  All the way through to mile twelve I was feeling good.  I had established a comfortable pace, and was feeling strong.  In fact as I ran through the 12 mile marker I started thinking how good I felt and that I only had six and a half more miles to go.  I didn't think that I was pushing myself, I was walking through every fluid station, making sure that I drank a full cup of water or Gatorade, sometimes even two.  I was on target with my ShotBloks and Goo.  I was feeling good. 

As a testament to how good I felt, I was cruising along at an average pace of 9:30 min/mile, at least 30 seconds per mile faster than I thought I would do.  It’s worth noting that the main pack moved out substantially faster – but even though I felt good enough to maybe run with them, I just let them run on by.

One thing that tripped my up a bit was that I wanted to be able to chase my fuel with fluid (water or Gatorade), but the placement of the fluid stations was pretty half-hazard and it was impossible to predict where the next one would be.  So that kind of threw me off a bit… If I had brought my own fluids that would not have been an issue.

I was going to bring my camel-back water pouch with me, but I decided against it….  I didn’t want to deal with carrying the extra weight and I was a little worried about the straps rubbing my shoulders since I was wearing a sleeveless shirt.  In retrospect, I should have just sucked it up and done it. 

My right calf started to cramp shortly after Mile 12 (on the map here, that would be just as I was leaving Milford itself and heading south - the red pin is where I turned off the GPS after realizing that it was over).  At the next fluid station I made sure that I took on plenty of fluid and then moved on carefully.  The cramps started hitting me more frequently by Mile 13, and by Mile 14, I was at a complete stop and in tremendous pain.  Muscle cramps are the most horrible thing and there is nothing that you can do about it.  Every part of your body is paralyzed as you try to cope with it.  I knew that I was in trouble but at the same time hoping that it would pass and that I would be able to continue. 

I must have been quite a sight.  Picture a dirt country road, kind of woody with some farm fields here and there, and me standing in the middle of the road totally rigid, unable to move, and clearly in a lot of pain.  I was in so much pain that I could not move.  Worse yet, I was in the sun and I knew that I needed to get into the shade, but I just could not move.  Many runners stopped to ask if I needed help, offering their water or Gatorade, and tried to get me to move into the shade.   The best help I received was from a group of 3 nurses who got me to the side of the road near a tree and some shade who massaged my calves – that was incredible.  Another runner gave me his last salt tablet.  One guy was a physical therapist who instilled the help of another runner to help stretch me out.  At first I didn’t want to take anything from any of the runners or even accept their help because I didn’t want to affect their run or take water that they would need for themselves.    I got to the point where I was sort of shuffling (if that is what it was) down the road, ever so slowly closer to the finish line.  But as the cramps were hitting my thighs a woman stopped and asked the question that all the others had asked “would you like me to get some help for you”, - and I made myself say “yes”.  That was so hard for me to do.  It was so hard.  I am a runner, I am not a quitter. But I clearly was not in control of my situation.  I was so angry. She ran up to the next aid station she also got on her phone and called 911. 

I sort of continued to shuffle my way down the road trying to stay in the shade.  Now mind you, I’m not really walking.  I’m doing more of a penguin walk, kind of hunched over and moving my legs in a stiff and stilted way.  After a few minutes a cop car pulls up from behind me and the police woman asks me if I was the runner that needed help.  I couldn’t help myself from replying “no, I always run like a penguin….”  before admitting that yes, it was me that she was looking for.

Moments later an ambulance, a fire paramedic truck, two volunteer paramedics, and a race marshal converge on me, all of them with their lights on and sirens blaring.  Sooooo embarrassing… I want to crawl inside myself and disappear.  I get on the tailgate of one volunteer’s pickup trucks and the EMS guys take my vitals and start asking me questions to see if was going into heat stroke.  The good news was that my vitals were all good.  The EMS guys wanted me to get into the back of the ambulance but I declined saying that ambulances were similar to police cars, once you get in the back of one, it’s hard to get out…

After a bit everyone leaves except for the volunteer paramedics.  And I’m starting to think that maybe I could walk the rest of the way so that I don’t have to post a DNF.  I only had 3 miles to go… its not that far.  So I stand up, take a few steps, and both parameds say “no way”.  My calves were twitching and spazing out. Walking, or any physical exertion was out of the question.  I finally had to relent and agree to let them drive me back to the start/finish area.  I could not even get into the front seat of the pickup truck without my legs cramping.  I had to ride in the back of the truck so that I could stretch out my legs. I was crushed, disappointed, humiliated.  I was beside myself.

Much later I learned from other experienced runners that DNF also stands for "did nothing foolish", meaning that choosing not to finish was the better part of valor - live to run healthy another day. Of course, in the moment of the even itself, surrendering is a hard thing to do.

Meanwhile, back to the drawing board.  Training for this marathon is becoming quite a challenge. Aside from hoping for a cold October 9th for the Marathon, I need to come up with the right nutritional recipe to keep this cramping from re-occurring.  I’ve learned a few more things from the internet (from other runners who have had the same problem) and I’ll work on implementing those ideas.  I am still planning on doing the 22 mile training run in two weeks.  I have to be able to do 20 miles or else the marathon itself may be in jeopardy.  Gotta do it.

The marathon is 5 weeks from today.  I have to make it work.

PS: to add whip cream on top of this shitty day, while carrying my stuff into the house I dropped my iPhone (which I had taken out of its usual Otterbox protective case) and smashed the front glass on it. @#$%!!!

PPS:  the day after the event (Sunday) is a nice cool, somewhat overcast, day....  what a difference a day makes!  another @#$%$!!!!!

Friday, September 2, 2011

August, hot August

Summary of the last few weeks:  A week after running an 18 miler, I did my 20 mile run.  Just prior to that (and just after my 18 miler) I did an 8, 2, 4, & 4 mile runs, with a rest day just after the 18’er and just prior to the 20’er.  I may have over done the running but until that point I felt really strong.  Bottom line:  I had to walk the better part of the last 2 miles of that 20 miler.  And it was a real confidence killer, like how the hell am I going to go 26.2 miles?

One of the bummers about the run was that it was raining/lightning about the time that I was wanting to start my run (~6:30AM) and I had to wait until almost 8:30AM to start.  The temperature was ok (70’s), but as the sun rose, both the temp and the humidity skyrocketed. The heat/humidity may have been a factor in my lack of performance even though I tried to do a good job watching my fueling and water/Gatorade intake.  I even tried walking/resting by my truck on every 2.5 mile lap.  Nonetheless, by the time that last lap came up, I was pretty much done and was walking more than running the last couple of miles.  I was pretty bummed out.  But I did the distance. 

Another thing that I learned is how hot my legs get.  I’ve been wearing longish running shorts that fall just short of my knee – in other words, they aren’t the short-short running shorts that sprinters and “real-athletes” wear.  But as I run these longer distances, my legs get very toasty – and sweaty – to the point that the shorts material is sticking uncomfortably to my legs.  I try to roll them up and tuck them into the inner lining, but it becomes a constant bother as they tend to un-roll as I run.  I need to get myself a pair of real running shorts….

In my angst and distress of a less than optimal 20 mile run, I wanted to try running the 20’er again the following week to prove to myself that I could do it (instead of taking a “step-back” week – where the longest run would only be ~12 miles) .  But I went online to one of the active.com community boards asking if it would be prudent for me to go for another 20 miler.  All of the responses were a resounding “no, don’t do it – take the step-back week – you’ll be fine”.  One guy said that in running there are good, bad, and horrible running days.  I had had a “bad” day.  If I had quit the run altogether, then it would have been a “horrible” day, with the point being that I did complete the 20 miles, even though I had to walk some of it.  K – ‘nuff said, I did as suggested and had an easy week, doing a couple of 5 milers, a 13’er, and a 6’er.  Felt pretty good.

The week after that has been a really easy week as I prep for the Milford 30K (18.5 miles) event.  This is a hilly and rolly event in the country about 40 minutes from Ann Arbor – mostly dirt roads and a little bit of asphalt.  It’s billed as a great pre-Chicago Marathon run.  My left knee and ankle have been feeling a little weird so I’ve taken it extra easy, and have only done two short runs (a 4 and a 3 miler) and have been doing the stairs in my house to help strengthen and condition my legs.  I decided prior to the last 3 miler that the new orthotics that Brad got me may be what is bothering my knee and ankle, so I yanked them out of my running shoes.  If I can find my old orthotics I’ll do the 30K in those, otherwise I’ll go without.

Given my last couple of weeks, my confidence is not great and I need to get myself psyched up for it.  Even more special, the weather has given us a little heat spike (in the 90’s) and the promise of rain on the day of the event.  Should be a hoot!

5 weeks until Chicago….