Sunday, March 29, 2009

Running Update and Other Ramblings

Running Update: My wife is doing well with her running progress and thanks everyone for the kind words of encouragement. She isn’t following any particular training program, but what she is doing is similar to the Couch-to-5K running plan. I, on the other hand, was rather sore for much of the week. With the exception of my left IT band, I feel pretty good now. I did anticipate two weeks of low intensity running/recovering after last week’s 50K. The IT band discomfort may delay things a little, but I have had IT band soreness in the past, although in my right leg, and am not too concerned at this point. My long run/walk of the week was this morning’s three miler to the grocery store and back.

Other Ramblings: My family moved into our current home five years ago. Since then, we have always maintained a bird feeder, but only recently, due in part to informative posts from the Frost Bottom Farm, have we taken an interest in the type of birds that visit our feeder. While my wife is still on maternity leave, our end of the work day, “how was your day,” chit-chat now includes a report of the birds that visited our yard on that particular day. Having an active feeder also brings in a fair amount of birds of prey, which can be exciting (well, not if you are a little bird – or at least not in a good way. But can be exciting for the people that maintain a bird feeder and do not have cable or satellite TV).

Last week, my wife took this picture of what we think is a young Sharp-shinned Hawk. He/She was perched in the maple tree in our front yard.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

A New Runner!

Regularly having blisters on my feet, blackened and/or missing toenails, and after watching me hobble around the house for a few days after last week’s race, why would anyone in my house want to start running? Well, I had to ask my wife that question yesterday when she got back from a run.

Braedon greets Mom returning from a run

She said she wanted to begin an exercise program and thought that running could be an activity that we do together. While she did make it very clear that I would not be gaining a new training partner for twenty-plus mile runs, I am happy for her and hope she learns to appreciate running as I have. The boys and I are cheering for her. One last piece of wisdom for her; the blisters don’t hurt that bad, and the blackened/missing toenails look way worse than they actually feel.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

HAT Run 50K

My lungs were fine for the entire run, but my legs were, and still are screaming at me for the hills I forced them to carry me over. I felt a little woozy for about a half an hour beginning around twenty miles. My feet were soaked most of the race and my left shoe was so water-logged that it made a squishing noise with every stride for the last, oh, twenty-six miles or so. Am I ready to sign up and do it all over again? Hell yeah!

The 21st Annual HAT Run began on a calm, clear, yet chilly morning with temperatures in the twenties. Once underway, it warmed up to near fifty degrees – perfect weather for running. I started out slow, knowing that the hills on the trails would demand a lot of energy as the run progressed. The trails concerned me, as none of my training runs were on trails. I was looking almost straight down during the first several miles of single track trails while I concentrated on avoiding tripping over tree roots, rocks, and the many other runners I was around early in the race. There were more stream crossings than I can remember, but only four of them required getting really wet feet. Some runners were good at skipping dryly across the rocks. I know if I tried that stunt I would have ended up swimming, and the water was cold, so I walked through the water.

Not being a trail running, I learned that my current fitness threshold of comfortable road running (or running over fairly benign terrain) for well over four hours is roughly equivalent to three hours and fifteen minutes of hilly trail running. At the 3:15 mark, I began to get very hungry, woozy, and thirsty all at the same time. I was eating GU every half hour, but at this point, the thought of another GU was revolting. I kept slow yet steady progress to the next aid station, which was about twenty minutes away. The volunteers at this event were wonderful. While they took my CamelBak and filled it up with water, I devoured some M&M’s, drank a cup of Gatorade, and grabbed a couple of pretzel sticks to go. Once I got going again I began to feel better, er, not to the point of running fast, but at least I had some calories to fuel me to the next aid station. Running between these two aid stations is probably the easiest part of the course. There is about a mile of trail and then roughly three miles of mostly downhill roads (some paved, some packed dirt). At the next aid station it was more M&M’s, and this time two chocolate chip cookies. Now there was only five miles to go and all but the slightest inclines looked daunting. My legs were complaining – and I was hearing them, but I told them to stop complaining and get me to the finish line. And they did. It took me nearly five hours and fifty-three minutes, but I finished. The post race food was great. The hot dogs and chili didn’t sound as appealing to me as the chocolate brownies and a nice glass of Coke.

Despite the minor physical discomfort, I enjoyed running through the forest, and chatting with other runners along the way. I also think that trail running is much more laid back than a road marathon. Oh, there is still a lot of competition, for sure, but I also sensed camaraderie amongst runners. Many of the fastest runners, some of whom finished nearly two hours before I did, were still on-hand, clapping and cheering, even as I crossed the line. You likely won’t see that at a road marathon, where the winners are whisked away as soon as they cross the finish line. So yes, I’ll be back again – probably next year!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Happy St. Urho’s Day

Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen!”
St. Urho, the Patron Saint of Finland, allegedly shouted the above saying (roughly translated as, “Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to Hell!”) as he rid Finland of grasshoppers, saving their grapes and crops. I am not Finnish, but I grew up in an area with a lot of Scandinavian influence. While the origins of the legend of St. Urho may be suspect, it makes for a good reason to celebrate. And tomorrow, when the entire world is Irish, I will be too. Enjoy, and be safe.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

A Light Week

Aside from running a few errands, I didn’t put too many miles in this week. And other than a sick week in January, this week is my lowest weekly mileage total so far this year. But that’s okay, because I have a big run planned for Saturday, and I can’t wait. Thirty-one miles of trails, mud, and streams. Although I have never run thirty-one miles, I know I have the aerobic capacity to cover the distance – and just knowing can carry you many miles after fatigue sets in. The unknown is how well will I run entirely on trails and through fields. I don’t get to run on many trails, and the event’s website claims there is nearly 9,800 feet of climbing. So, my plan is to run very conservatively, maintain forward progress, and finish efficiently. If all works out with nap time, my family may be on hand to greet me at the finish. And the exciting part, eight weeks later I get to run the Delaware Marathon!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Welcome Back Joe

Joe and I went on a nice night time run this evening. It was Joe’s first run in about two weeks due to a sore paw, thus I had to contain two weeks worth of Joe’s bound up energy. He did well though. As usual, it was rather still down by the river. I was hoping to see a little better across the river, but the overcast sky blocked the moonlight from shining down.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Cross Training

I woke up a little sore today, but in a good way, if that makes sense. Apologies to Joe Louis, but I decided to forego the easy run I had planned in favor of yard work/garden preparation.

The boys and I hung out again while Mom went off on her own – and this time it was for fun and not for chores. Once she got back, Braedon helped me with the yard work in the back yard.

Joe Louis supervising the work

It was another beautiful day and Mom and Brenden even came out to see what we were up to. I don’t know a lot about dirt, other than we have a lot of clay and rocks, but judging by the number of “healthy looking” worms I saw today, I’d say our dirt is capable of growing good vegetables.

Taking a break to wrestle with Hobbes

After our work was done, I cut Braedon’s hair and my hair with the clippers (for Perplexed – the clippers were dull, and I am wearing a hat as I type). Then we had to feed the animals. Though we don’t live on anything that resembles a farm, some of our relatives have suggested we live in a zoo.

Thomas, Momma Cat, and Wennel

At day’s end my legs feel great and ready to run. I’ll push them a little bit tomorrow, but enjoyed the “cross training” of working in the yard with my family today.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Back on Track

First off, thank you to all for your kind thoughts over the past week. The blogging community is awesome! Brenden is doing much better and life in our house has returned to its quasi-normal state.

Today was my wife’s first venture away from the house without Brenden, as she deserved a much needed break. Of course, her break was just another household chore - grocery shopping. As this was my wife’s first time away without Brenden, it was the first time the two boys and I hung out without Mom. We had a good time.

Prior the grocery trip, I went for one last long run before the 50k on the 21st. It was kind of surreal. With two young kids, I don’t have the luxury of rolling out of bed at a normal wake-up time and then going for a long run (well, I guess I could, but Mom would not be very happy). I helped with Brenden’s 4:15 feeding and was out the door before 5:00. Unfortunately, Mr. Joe has a sore spot on his paw and he did not accompany me this morning. My wife said that he was most dissatisfied when I left without him. I got twenty-four miles in and felt pretty good and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise. I was getting fatigued around mile fifteen, stopped and walked for a few minutes, stretched my legs a little, took a good swig of water, and felt great the rest of the way. Running mirrors life sometimes, there are peaks and valleys, just keep on keeping on. Despite the stopping, I ran the second twelve miles faster than the first, which surprised me. Strictly from a running perspective, I would have liked to get in a few more miles over the past couple of weeks in preparation for the 50k, but some things are infinitely more important than running in some silly race.