End of the year

This morning, I finished my running year with a double summit of Schooley’s Mountain with Dave. Typically my love for sleeping in, prevents me from hitting the trails too early, but whenever I get the opportunity to trail run with someone else, I can’t turn it down, regardless of the start time (7am). In spite of the alarm clock, there are some definite advantages to the early trail run, we had the distinct pleasure of watching the sun rise as we ran to the mountain, which, for those of you who have never experienced a mountainside sunrise, is probably one of the most invigorating experiences available in nature.
Now, as the year comes to an end, many people will be celebrating, and making resolutions for the following 365.2425 days. While part of me still thinks that the change of the year is really an arbitrary deadline, it is a convenient start-date for change, starting over, and gives us all a simple means of quantifying our lives. That being said, I am, in fact celebrating the new year (I’ve never been big on party pooping…) and I do have a litany of lessons I’ve learned over the course of the past year, as well as things I’d like to improve on in the following. With that in mind, I’ve decided to not publish the full extent of my goals/plans/list of random improvements, but I will say this, Next year will include the following:
Ultramarathon(s)
Auditions
Recitals
Increased dedication to bipedal mountain travel
Additional cross-training/core work in an attempt to prolong good form, and make those super-long runs hurt that much less

Now, for some Pictures… according to Dave’s Garmin, we gained and lost just under 1300 feet, all of which during the middle 5.5 miles of a total 11.16 not a bad end to the year…

Rails to trails before the mountain

Base of Mountain… Sunrise

Fog over Long Valley

Rocks can make good tripods..

This was the SECOND stick stuck in my shoe today..

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Binge Runs

Thankfully, the semester is over, which means that I have some more time on my hands to run/recover/sleep/eat/drink beer. Now that my foot is feeling (almost) normal again, I figured that since I have no immediate running goals, just the long-term desire to run faster, farther, and harder in some trail races next year, a few really long runs should be in the forecast. Having the lack of running-related pressure allows me the chance to basically run what, where, and however far I please, at least for the next several weeks, and the Binge Run seems to be the answer.

Now, there are a lot of runners out there, and I believe I’m in the minority when I tell people that I really enjoy running long, this is not to say that I don’t end my runs bonking, sore, stiff, dehydrated, and that bonking, being stiff, sore, and dehydrated doesn’t feel bad. It does. In fact, it feels really bad, and not to imply that I’m a masochist, if I were, I highly doubt that unnecessarily long runs would be my preferred method of discomfort and self-destruction (I think I’d choose the Stay-Puft Marshmallow man…). The reality of it, is when I find myself running for long time frames, it teaches me a lot, and allows me to fully decompress. It also helps me to jump-start my fitness, or at the very least stay relatively on-track.

Now the binge-run is a special case, typically it’s an obnoxiously long run (3+ hours?) preferably without any specific purpose. This allows me to not worry about pace, run where I want, and throw in the towel whenever I feel like, allowing me to only concentrate on running, and enjoying the trip. There are a few disclaimers to the binge run, in case any of you are thinking of attempting it.

It DOES require some planning, if you run trails like I do, run in a system you’re familiar with, or at the very least bring a MAP (best plan, do both!!)

Food and Water are imperative! I always bring way more Gu (or whatever I’m eating this week) than I think I need… and carry at least 1, sometimes 2 handhelds.

Let someone know what you’re doing! This sounds like a no-brainer, but the more comfortable you are, the less likely you are to let someone else know whats going on. There is some risk involved, especially on trails, the last thing you need is to roll an ankle 10 miles from your car, and have no one know you’re missing…. not exactly 127 hours, but in the case you get hurt/lost, it’s nice to know someone will eventually start looking.

Lastly, even though this usually goes against my M.O. this run, I was talked into bringing a cell-phone with me. They’re useful in the OH SHIT situations, and most cell-phones have GPS so you can either be located, or map your way out of the woods… Maybe this is worth the weight… although my inner minimalist is still anti-technology.

Phone, Food, Water, Garmin, Map


Trailhead

TURN LEFT!


Mid-Run Snack

Saw this 2.5 hours in… I couldn’t help but yell it out loud

Mountain running may be hazardous to your pedicure


Summary 12/4-12/10


Sunday 12/4 4.1 Miles through local neighborhoods 32:47

Monday 12/5 1 Mile barefoot 10:07

Tuesday 12/6 7.1 miles on local roads with an emphasis on hills. I tried to run this quickly in an attempt to jump start my fitness so that I can return to the local trails with some hill climbing strength, and without my breathing being too labored. total time: 51:19

Wednesday 12/7 1 mile through sleet/freezing rain (shorts were a bad idea) 7:29

Thursday 12/8 Broken shin loop, 5 miles 44:29

Friday 12/9 1 mile 8:29

Saturday 12/10 FINALLY my foot feels almost normal, for weeks, it had taken several steps after waking up for the tightness to go away, and even then, there would be a bit of lingering discomfort, but today, it feels like a regular foot again. 10.62 miles to, and around Schooley’s Mountain. This is one of my favorite trail systems to run, mostly because of its proximity to my house, and despite the fact that it’s roughly 2.8 miles of FLAT to and from the mountain, the trails on the actual mountain are rather unforgiving, requiring very steep ascent/descents, and very technical terrain. This run is by nature slow (my record on the course is somewhere in the high 1:4x:xx range, with an average run taking just shy of 2 hours. Saturdays time was 2:03:56, my longest run (time-wise) in weeks, perhaps a month.

Total: 29.4 miles 4h 39m

So I’m not quite “back” yet, but things are getting better, I spent some time with Mr. Foamy today after a short 4 mile trail run with Brian, and my foot is still a little tender, but runnable. I’ll probably stick with a lot of road running in the next few weeks, working on bio-mechanical efficiency, and trying to get my leg and cardiovascular strength up a few notches so that my more ambitious trail runs take less of a toll on me physically, especially with regard to my energy levels later in the day.

MT 101’s ~260 miles

Ghetto Heel Drop (a la Krupicka?)

Some typical NJ trail

Allamuchy Sun 12/11 Photo courtesy of Brian James

More NJ trail… before my feet went through it
Ice and mud covered feet

When I got to the car, my shoelaces were frozen tied… So enter the shoe dryer

Bumps. Bruises, And Falling On My Face

Alternate titles for this rant:
Using your head to break your falls: A tutorial
Reasons Someone Should Buy Me A Helmet
Rocks: The Foots Natural Enemy

It’s no new story that I have a tendency to fall, in fact I’ve written about it several times, starting with some stories about backpacking through NH this summer, training for a 50k that didn’t happen, running in the snow, and the all to frequent stumble over a benign obstacle, which, for some reason, is the most likely cause of injury for me. Yes, that’s correct, when I take a spectacular digger, think the kind of fall that would make for a great outtakes reel, I never get hurt, but an errant pen cap on a technical trail, now that’s dangerous!

Where am I going with this? Well I had been talking about my tendency to fall on my face/ass more often than I would necessarily like, and was talked into writing a post about it, but with one stipulation, I had to fall again, that way there are some fresh scrapes/bruises/embarrassment to fuel the rant. Today, the trail decided to provide me with exactly that opportunity.

Descending from the mountain, after 4 consecutive summits, feeling good, somehow the idea that “this would be a great time for me to take a digger” slipped into my head, this is usually how things happen, I’m tired, often a little over-zealous, and more often than not, I have the road/my car within sight (yes, it’s ALWAYS this close to the end of the run) and blam! my face, on a rock. Fortunately, today’s digger was uninjurious, excepting the token bump/bruise/scrape, we’ll call those battle scars. Now while still ranting, let me explain why I have a love/hate with falling on my face. The Hate part is easy, falling hurts, usually a lot, every so often you get off scoff free, but more often than not there are at leas some bruises to answer to, and not to be a sissy, it just simply sucks. The Love part however, is a little more complex. For starters, falling is funny, there have been entire TV shows based on this premise (America’s funniest home videos?) as long as you don’t actually get hurt, a fall is never not funny… Also, falling, in my opinion is indicative of improvement. Strange? Yes, it may seem so, but if you think about it, falling implies that the person eating dirt took a risk that didn’t pay off, this is a learning experience, and is simple proof that you’re going out of your comfort zone. Without pushing the limits, we never improve, which easily translates to, if you don’t fall on your ass a few times, you’re not getting faster.

Now for a recap of some of my favorite spills/diggers/opportunities to eat shit from the past year.

July: Mahoosuc mountain range, descending a steep dew covered rock face with a 30 lb pack on my back, I lost my footing, and fell face first into the dirt. The only thing that stopped me from going over a ledge was my forehead conveniently connecting with a rock. I proceeded to take 6 or so more diggers in that day alone, but the first is always the most memorable.

July: Same day as before, Mahoosuc Notch, Bouldering with a 30 lb pack, after stowing my trekking poles, I leaped off of a rock, and lost my balance on the landing, narrowly avoided slamming my head on a rock (this may be a trend) and subsequently fell on my butt, Another benign landing, but it certainly made me think twice.

August: Schooleys Mountain, On a second ascent towards the overlook, a slip caused me to roll my ankle and land sideways on a few rocks. Not a particularly spectacular fall, but the ankle twist affected my mileage for several weeks afterwards

November: Powerline trails, I tripped on an errant piece of wire, landing directly on my knee, keeping me off the trail for several days… this would be a prime example of embarrassingly simple obstacles laying me out for a few days.

December: Today’s fall.. Near the end of the trail, I tripped on what I think was a rock… All I can really say for sure is that my left shoulder, knee, and chin took the brunt of the impact, I think I laid there for a few minutes simply stunned at the absurdity of it, and surprised that I was completely fine

So fortunately everything is behaving normally, although I expect a little soreness tomorrow, but for now, I think a solid smoothie, some Yerba Mate, and a couple of delicious beers should wrap up the day pretty well.

Slowly, but surely

My stomach virus ended up keeping me off of my feet as far as running is concerned for a whopping 10 days consecutively, excepting a hash, which sort of counts as running, but the exertion seemed to retard my recovery another 24-48 hours, but, c’est la vie. Since then, I’ve been trying to get myself back on my feet, and feel like a runner again. With the combination of hurting my foot on a recovery run several weeks ago, a solid  head cold, and the most recent illness, November has been the lowest mileage month of the year. The rest hasn’t gone completely to waste, and without any races looming in the immediate future, I don’t feel too guilty about it, but it’s nice to be starting to feel like a proper runner again, as opposed to the pseudo-recreationalist/couch potato that my logbook demonstrates for November.

As I’ve returned to the roads/trails I’ve noticed that my fitness has certainly diminished some, but in ways I didn’t quite expect. My endurance is understandably down, but more noticeable, is my erratic pace-rhythm. I’ve always been subject to positive splits, sometimes dramatic, sometimes understandably subtle, but in the recent days, I’ve found that positive splits are running my life… Part of this is likely derived from my abundant excitement to be running again, resulting in my heading from the car at ~7min pace on technical trails, which in my current state (or even when I’m very fit) is typically a ticking time bomb for walking, or at the very least, slowing down dramatically. Strange, however, is the fact that my body seems to be adjusting to this haste out of the gate, allowing me to crush former best times on many of my regular courses through the first 7 or so miles, which is when things seem to begin to fall apart, yielding mediocre overall times. So with some luck, I’ll be able to continue to push the boundaries, and eventually start knocking some serious time off of my regular runs, especially once i re-acquaint myself with the necessary pacing-distance ratios.

As far as the foot is concerned, it’s still not quite 100%, but I think I’ve figured out what’s exacerbating the discomfort, and how to change things so that it can both heal, and keep me running. I’ve returned to running roads, not exclusively, but substantially more than trails, which seemed to be aggravating my foot the most, and noticed that my cadence/balance was different on the road than it was on the trails. Part of this is the obvious necessity of negotiating roots/rocks/other technical aspects, but I think to an extent I had allowed myself to become formally lazy, since I wear a more built up shoe on the trail than I do on the road (more on this later). My trail shoes are still what most people would consider a “minimalist” shoe, but they’re still much more built up than my typical road shoe. Now I’m not an advocate of overly minimal trail shoes, as they simply don’t offer enough protection for the speed/distance/technicality of my regular runs, but the more protection, the more it hides form issues, this of course, is the trade-off. So running some in my road shoes has discouraged over-striding, as well as increased my turnover rate, which yields less impact on my sore foot, in addition, it’s facilitated a more mid-foot oriented strike, which i think is better balanced than an pure forefoot, thus engaging my calf more, and the foot a little bit less. So right now, the plan is to run a lot on roads to regain some fitness, and hill climbing strength, with the hope that when I return to mostly trail running, I’ll have the stamina to maintain better form throughout the run, and subsequently subject myself to fewer rough landings.

Last weeks summary:

Wed 11/30 1 mile 8:05
Thurs 12/1 AM 3.2 Miles up and down Allamuchy 38:00
PM 5 Miles Broken Shin Loop 44:28
Fri 12/2 4.85 Mostly power line trails 43:06 (near my record time.. ~1 min slower)
Sat 12/3 8.4 miles Schooleys Mountain. 1:40:20 I started out way too fast ~7 min pace, and made it through 3/4 of the loop before things started to break down, undernourished, under hydrated, overdressed, but it felt good to run some familiar trails again, and my splits for the first ~5 miles were way ahead of record pace, of course after that point, the positive split monster came out hard

View from Allamuchy

Delicious beer from Adams Beer Garden (it’s good for you, I swear)