Wednesday, July 27, 2011
While I was running in a slight chill in Portland, it became evident that the midwestern heat wave was going to be moving right over the Washington area by the early weekend, triggering my escape clause. The pure volume of running I did in Portland, 106.5 miles from Saturday to Friday, and the intensity inherent in each run -- extremely hilly for all but one run- the quarter workout Wednesday morning -- also gave me an excuse not to race. My heat acclimation I had so painfully acquired was wearing off quickly. I wasn't going to "race," but as long as the race was on, I was running.
I attribute this apparent irrationality to my office's wellness program. I ignored it for a few months, until earlier in July when the results from June's segment came in. I checked out the original e-mail and got a little more motivated to participate:
"The top 3 employees with the most points earned at the end of October will win one of three grand prizes. Grand prizes will include 6 months of free health insurance premiums (employee only), and cash prizes up to $500!!!"
I looked at the criteria for the different activities and noticed a great option- take 10,000 steps. I e-mailed the coordinator to ask if a. running counted and b. that was a renewable point source. She affirmed both. I had to get my hands on a pedometer, but that evening I counted my steps in the first mile- around 1300. If I run 100 miles a week, that's 130,000 steps right there,worth 130 points, about 520 points a month.
I just have to be in the top three to earn a grand prize, but I am not here to finish in the top three. To quote Jake Taylor in Major League "Well I guess there's only one thing left to do. Win the whole fucking thing..."
There are plenty of other sources of points, and the most delightful of all was "participate in a 5k: 50 points." That's worth 38 miles right there. So, regardless of the heat, I was participating in that race. Other options include keeping a fitness diary, making a recipe healthier, etc. For the most part, I don't even have to alter my behavior, though it did take me a week to get a pedometer, so I missed a week of earning points for a 100 mile week. But, I still walk more than a mile a day, and take more steps walking than when I run a mile, so that will add up, too.
On to the race: The WMATA trip planner suggested I take a bus to Alexandria and a train north to Crystal City, so I left with plenty of time to do that, unfortunately the bus I caught had not changed its marquee, so I spent a half hour going up the road to Tyson's Corner and back. Then another hour getting to Alexandria. I got the race with 10 minutes to spare, so no warmup beyond a few strides.
I was thinking of just jogging the race and earning the points, but that would kind of be a waste of an opportunity to run fast for a while. The course is as flat as it gets, albeit with the typical Pacers 180 turn. And it's only 5k, so I figured the best of use of my time, given the time I had spent getting there, was to run hard as long as I could until I just got too darn hot. I ran the first mile in the chase pack with Karl and Dutch Paul. We weren't too far off the leaders- 4:54 at the mile, just five seconds back.
When we passed the start/finish line about halfway in, the consequences started hitting me, and I dropped immediately. It was less humid than last year, but the heat (probably 95+) was still definitely getting to me. My head was starting to get painfully hot, and the cup of water I splashed on it barely made a difference. It was time to just finish, and there was no hanging on and gradually slowing, I came to pretty much a direct slowdown to jogging. I came through two miles in 10:25- 5:30, so not too bad of a deceleration, but it wasn't going to get any better. When we hit the 180, I was done, for all intents and purposes. Outlaw exhorted me to catch Wardian, a few steps ahead of me, but I demurred and just wanted to jog it in. Brandon ran by a few seconds after I resigned myself, and it would have been fun to finish with him, but I wasn't here to run fast, I was here for my 50 wellness points, a counter intuitive pursuit given the conditions, but hey, it's just 5k. I actually did hold a few people, including a high school runner, off before the finish, then I grabbed two bottles of water and doused myself. It was cold this year, a big improvement over last.
I did an easy 9 minute cooldown with Karl to take me well over 100 for the week ending that evening. 16:40 was actually 39 seconds faster than last year, but comparing the two years as if they were competent races conflates the issue- I got a good mile+ in and 50 points for the month. It's nice to think of it as an improvement, and I certainly am better in the heat this year, but you just can't empirically compare the two. It was a hard week of running, despite the favors the northwestern weather did for me, and it ended about as uncomfortably as I could have expected. I'm ready for an easy week to just get some mileage in the heat and work on my acclimation again.
Monday, July 25, 2011
It was mostly single track trails, except when you come around a corner so fast you can fall down the slope if you lean the wrong way, then the trails are about a foot wide. I pretty much echo what everyone else says about running in Oregon forests- it's just so green!
Reaching the Lower Trestle Falls was my first order of business. I climbed and climbed and climbed until I got there. In between gasps for air, I looked around and realized how lucky I was that my office had flown me to Oregon and all I had to do in exchange for this kind of running was work eight hours a day. A pretty nice arrangement, if you ask me. The falls were great. Turns out "umpqua" means "thundering waters." Pretty apt, if you ask me.
I went back down to the primary trail, then decided to head out and back. I didn't look at my watch to figure out when to turn back, the opportunity to run out here was too valuable to leave up to arbitrary numbers like time.
Just a knockout. I didn't see anybody else for the 1:50 I was out there. As far as I was concerned, it was my forest. My plan did backfire, twice, though. While climbing over a tree trunk that had fallen across the path--and someone had cut a helpful chunk out of it to help people climb over, I slipped on the trunk, which was a little slimey, and fell chest first, my shoulders taking the brunt of the blow. I got back up and kept going, and a few minutes later, my trail leg caught a rock sticking out of the trail and I went down and slid, landing a few inches from a stake-like branch coming out of the ground. So, I was a little tired, and really beaten up. I then though I took a wrong turn and backtracked three times until I realized I was on the right path.
These trails pretty much just travel alongside the face of the Columbia River Gorge. Again, I didn't see anybody for the majority of my run.
When I saw the photos from Molz and company's run in Umpqua, I told Steve that's where I was headed. He suggested I get to the gorge instead. I got greedy and did both, even though they were far away from each other- I made it work, and every few minutes a feeling would wash over me and I would audibly say, to nobody at all, "I'm so glad I did this." For the most part, the trails were a little wider than yesterday, but they were wet, so slipping was a threat. This bridge was kind of cool. It spans the Oneonta Gorge.
Yep, more climbing. You can run under Ponytail Falls, the upper portion of Horsetail Falls.
Every now and then it's great to get out from the canopy of trees and see just how high you and climbed.
Maybe I was tired. From Saturday to Friday, I ran 106.5 miles, 101.5 of which were up and down long and/or steep hills. Even my recovery runs were a little taxing.
What was taxing was my trip home. My flight to Chicago was smooth enough but my flight from Chicago to Washington was delayed three hours, leaving at midnight central time. I got to Dulles, not Reagan, at 2:45, and by the time the cab got me home, it was 3:30. It took me an hour to get to sleep, then I got up at 7:15 to run 3.25 miles with Slosky, who was in town for a wedding. It was a sweaty jaunt, and Virginia told me that after a week of being spoiled, I was entering a world of pain.
Thursday, July 21, 2011
Tuesday, July 19, 2011
I woke up at 5, but worried it was too dark to navigate trails in the woods, so I waited a half hour for the light to spread a bit. It was raining, which didn't exactly thrill me, but to have temperatures in the low 50s for a mid-July long run was too lucky to give up. Within two miles I had missed some turns, but I figured out where I was and recovered before I did any damage, lukcily I was running pretty slowly up the stead hills to the park. I found the Leif Erikson Drive trailhead and was delighted to find mile markers. A quarter mile later, I was even more delighted to find quarter mile markers. It was steadily uphill, but I rattled off 6:30 miles for a lot of the climb. Thanks to Portland Monthly's handy Forest Park Guide, I knew I would hit a water tank at some point so I was anticipating sucking down the goo packet I brought with me.
The mud was flying, and I was soaked and filthy--I was loving it. I kept climbing, and wondered if I even wanted to go downhill. I didn't even care that there wasn't a dry spot on my body, I was too focused on moving ahead. It seemed like I'd see another half mile go by before I knew it. Then, about 9.25 miles into the trail, I got worried that I hadn't seen my turnoff, which was supposedly a significant road. I climbed a steep, single-track trail for a while, but when I saw it intersect with other trails that were nowhere on my map as I rememebered it, I turned back. I was starting to get worried that I wouldn't get any fresh water and miss any chance of having the goo. I retraced more than three miles of Leif Erikson to the Saltzman Road trail, down a long long hill to Mt. St. Helens Road, in the industrial section northwest of downtown. I was back on track, but knew I had a long way to go. I was starting to wonder if I could make it back to my hotel in time to shower, get to the convention center and eat a decent breakfast before the first workshop I had to cover.
Photo from austinmarathontraining.blogspot.com
It was just plain flat, and I was starting to weigh the consequences of running fast and getting back quickly, or running slower and not going overboard or hitting the wall with miles left to travel. I considered hitchhiking, but I didn't even see many drivers, early on a Saturday morning in a non-residential part of town. I did notice that my form was immaculate, which concerned me because my most significant worry was getting lazy and hurting myself with sloppy form. Despite running for well more than two hours, I was probably running faster than when I started. Running was a natural state, and the only thing that would keep me from continuing was my impending work day. I was worried about making it back just because my sense of professionalism told me to be, but at the same time I was confident in my ability to get back. I went a long time without seeing numbered road signs, having started at 56th and aiming for 6th. As it turns out, the addresses were about 10 blocks off, but I was overjoyed when I hit Vaughn and saw 27th street, knowing I was closing in on my hotel. I saw a bar open for breakfast and stopped in for a glass of water so I could have the goo. I probably would have made it back without it, but the full day of work I had ahead of me probably wouldn't have gone too smoothly. I continued east toward 6th, running along several Simpsons character's namesame roads- Lovejoy, Flanders, Kearny. As I approached my hotel, I check my watch- 2:49. In a little more than a minute, I would break my personal record for longest duration run. I coicidentally finished up at 2:49:18, my marathon PR. I didn't really feel like running another minute. I got up to my room and took my shower, noticing the ridiculous amount of mud, sand and a few pebbles that worked its way into my shorts. I never noticed when it was bouncing around in there for what turned out to be 25 miles, but I sure noticed it when I turned the shower on and the water hit the raw skin on my inner thighs. I averaged 6:46 for the run, though I left my watch running when I went in for water, so I ran a little faster.
It's a run I would never have been able to do in Virginia the same day, where the temperature was much higher. Suffice to say, it's been a good trip.
And my shoes were pretty filthy when it was over, and this was after six miles of running on pavement during which the dirt could come off.
Saturday, July 16, 2011
Thursday, July 14, 2011
I still can't believe how much I enjoyed last year's trip to Reno, all of those pre-dawn runs in such a strange place- half of that city looked like it was hiding from someone. Or in bankruptcy. This will be better in that it won't be completely arid and dusty, and Oregon is by far a much more running-friendly place.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
'Nexus of trails' envisioned
Wednesday, July 6, 2011
Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Friday, July 1, 2011
As my collegiate career ended, I wanted to take time to get to know some of our competitors, but when I got right down to it, I only got to know Torp. I watched a few track races with him and a few of his guys and listened to his commentary, which was at once honest, insightful and hilarious. I knew he had, at times, contentious relationships with his rival coaches, and it just so happened of everything I heard about, I ended up supporting his arguments.
The most extensive meeting was at the conference cross country meet in 2008, when I joined Joe DeMatteis and a slew of other coaches at the hotel's bar. Torp regaled us with stories for a few hours, and I came to appreciate what a fine coach and person he was. Not that I needed to know more about what a good coach he was- my buddy Tom chose to run for him after college, and Sean Quigley stuck with him for his professional career. I got to observe the interplay between Torp and Todd Witzleben, one of his star athletes earlier in the decade who was now assisting him at LaSalle, and really appreciated the relationship they had.
The last time I saw him was at the Swarthmore meet, during which I only wanted to catch the LaSalle guy in my 5k heat. I felt like without any Spiders in the race, catching an Explorer was my definition of success because I just respected them so damn much. I told him as much after the race. He told me that his athlete, a freshman, had come into school slower than 10:00 for two miles and had just finished off his season with a big PR. He exuded pride in his young athlete and hope for what he would do in the future.
Whenever discussion of collegiate athletics turns to putting a school on the map, I can unequivocally say Charles Torpey did a fantastic job making LaSalle known the right way, making it an option for a lot of distance runners in their college search it would not otherwise have been, and the Atlantic 10 conference is richer for it.