Like a Spin̈al Tap amplifier, my streak of running at least one race per year now Goes To Eleven.
When I started out this year by setting my goal of 365 total miles, I thought for sure that somewhere along the way I’d be training for another race which would make that goal pretty easy. Then I lost a big chunk of summer, and found that I didn’t want my 10-year race streak to end.
I started trail running on September first, really liked it, and mixed it regularly into my schedule. And a day after turning 43, I registered for the final race in this year’s Ohio Outside Trail Series.
So last Saturday, Dec. 7, I bundled up and drove to the Munroe Falls Metro Park, arriving just after 8 a.m. for the 8:30 race. It was 22 degrees, but not too windy. A good layer of snow & ice on the ground. By the time I checked in, returned my race goodies to the car, and used the restroom, I only had to stand around for maybe six or seven minutes before the race, which was good.
I had been dealing with a hot throat and clogged sinuses for a couple days, but it was just a cold – not flu – and dammit, I paid for this race, so I was going to run it. And it’s been my experience that the effort of running clears my head, and can usually push aside minor illnesses for awhile.
There were fewer than 200 runners taking part in this 4.7 mile run, but even so, things were crowded on the trail for most of the first mile. It was odd, at the start, hearing the muffled footsteps of runners on snow-covered grass instead of pavement, but once we got into the woods, I felt very much at home.
I’m glad I did as much trail running as I did at Quail Hollow, because it prepared me for the reality of slower times compared with road running, and for the climbs and descents, and the focus and energy and effort it takes. I wish I’d spent more time in the woods, in fact.
Based on the course photos and the trail description, I was expecting a wider and more level run – but the mostly narrow two-lap loop was very reminiscent of the wooded trails of Quail Hollow, with hills and drops and uneven footing. All the stuff I kind of love about trail running. What was different today was the snow and ice, which factored into the running mostly on the downhill stretches, since it kept me from freewheeling.
The temperature was also a factor in my lung power, and kept me slower than I can manage on the roads – but again, I’d anticipated that.
I did manage a nice kick toward the end – helped by about a two-tenths stretch on a park road during the final seven-tenths of the race – sprinting past a guy with whom I’d been swapping spots over the final mile and a half or so. When he crossed the finish line shortly after me, he tapped me on the shoulder and said “Nice finish.”
Here’s my Garmin data from the race:
My official time was actually 47:57 – I forgot to stop my Forerunner when I hit the finish mark, which is why the results above are slightly more – which put me in 80th place out of 159 runners. (Which, of course, made me think I could have worked a little harder and passed the woman who finished two seconds ahead of me, which would have put me in the top half. Dang.)
Despite being nowhere near placing, and with an average pace of 10:19, I’m really glad I did this run, and I think next year I’ll see if I can get my brother Adam to run all three with me. In the meantime, I’ll work to wrap up my goal of 365 this year, put in more time on the trails, and enjoy a frosty beverage or three in this:
Speaking of that Running 2013 goal, with the race behind me, here’s the recap for the two previous weeks:
Week 48 – Two nearly identical four-mile road runs Nov. 30 and Dec. 1: Same route, same overall 9-minute pace. For no discernible reason, I felt better after the second one, though.
Week 49 – 4.7 miles on Saturday, Dec. 7, as detailed above. After I got home from the race, I stopped being in denial about the cold I was nursing, and I didn’t run any more.
That brings me to 344.2 miles. As of today (Tuesday, Dec. 10), there are 21 days left in the year for me to run 21 miles – which would put me just one-fifth of a mile over my goal.
My last two weekends of running have been all over the map, literally and figuratively: I’ve been struggling with my lung power, and having trouble tackling runs in more than relatively short bursts. I don’t know if it’s been the cold weather or what, but I have really felt winded.
So: Saturday, Nov. 16 – Four trail miles at Quail Hollow, mid-30s, temperature wise. Just before the mile-and-a-half mark, I found myself in unmarked territory and had to stop and get my bearings – and wound up doubling back anyway. (I hadn’t actually left park territory, but I was out on the fringes near one of the bordering roads.) I’d done a 9:05 first mile, which is pretty quick for my trail runs, and it hit me hard enough that I needed to take a break after mile two. Things didn’t get easier: I needed two more breaks over the last two miles and never regained any speed.
Sunday the 17th – my 43rd birthday – I thought I’d better try to address this whole breathing thing and do some speedwork: Four decent quarter-mile runs, where my per-mile pace worked out to 5:52, 5:55, 6:15, and 7:00. My total running time was something around 6:20, with about a 2-minute break between each run. Then I did a 2.6-mile jog (10:02 pace). The extra tenth of a mile was because I remembered my last mileage total ended in a .9.
Monday, Nov. 18, I registered for the Dec. 7 Ohio Outdoor Series Trail Run.
Saturday, Nov. 23: Temperatures in the high 20s. Sunny and windy. I hit the roads near the house for what turned out to be another stuttering sort of morning, but I probably set myself up for that by pushing myself to a 7:39 first mile. A two-minute rest, and then I jogged two more 1.5-mile stretches (9:26 and 10:22) with another brief rest in the middle.
And then I missed Sunday the 24th – I wimped out, because it was below 20 degrees and windy, and while I have the gear for cold-weather running, I just couldn’t bring myself to go out there and put my lungs through it.
Which means my mileage total is now 331.5 – and today is the 330th day of the year.
I’m hopeful that the weather – and my lungs – will cooperate enough that I can get in some good extra miles over the long Thanksgiving weekend, and get back into some decent long stretches without feeling so beat.
It was sunny and in the mid-30s on Sunday, Nov. 3. I had skipped the cold and wet day before, knowing this was going to be a decent day. I plotted a new loop – 7.25 miles, out onto some new roads.
A really hilly stretch in miles 4-6 took a toll, and I slowed up pretty significantly in the last half, but let myself focus on enjoying the run and taking in the distance. Average pace: 9:43.
Saturday, Nov. 9, another gray and mid-30s day. Four pretty steady road miles: 8:46; 8:50; 9:06; and 8:39.
Sunday the 10th, was gray and cold again, but much, much windier – which made it a great day to be in the Quail Hollow woods. 3.5 miles, 9:36 pace.
On the year: 319.9 (know, I know – I’d have added another tenth if I’d realized that was going to happen). Today is the 316th day of the year, so I’m right where I need to be.
Three-and-a-half trail miles on Saturday, Oct. 26, and four road miles on Sunday the 27th.
Cold enough both days to warrant long pants, a sweatshirt, hat and gloves, but not nearly enough to get out the long-sleeved Under Armour shirt.
I ran in the woods on Saturday because even though it was 37 and sunny, it was really windy. Being in the trees made a huge difference. I pushed through two decent miles, just over nine minutes each, but really hit a wall toward the end of mile three, so even though I had been wanting to bank some extra distance, I settled for 3.5.
Sunday was similar, temperature- and sky-wise, but with very little breeze, so I did a casual four-mile loop, during which I spent a good amount of time juggling some writing ideas, getting super-excited about them, and trying to run faster while speaking the ideas out loud to myself so I wouldn’t forget them when I got home.
Miles on the year: 305.15. Today (10/30) is Day 303.
Yet again, I found myself needing to tackle a week in a day, which didn’t go so well for me in Week 41.
This time, I decided I’d rather try my longest trail run by far and not worry about my time, so long as I just kept moving above a walk.
Gorgeous, sunny morning it was, and just below 50F, so I wore my shorts and a long-sleeved shirt.
I covered 7.5 miles – all but a quarter-mile of it off-pavement – and experienced pretty much all the environments of Quail Hollow State Park, finding myself taking a few new paths and way out in suprising parts of the park I hadn’t really come near before. The fastest mile I did was my first – 9:03 – and my slowest was Mile 7, at 11:48 (which included a lot of climbing). I only paused twice – once to get my bearings, and once to figure out how to get across a rain-swollen creek.
For the first time in awhile, I got post-run soreness in my legs the next day, but it was well worth it.
Miles on the year: 297.65. Monday (the close of my running week) was day 294, so I’m right in the zone.
I wrote a little bit about the memory trips of my October 6 run, but didn’t address any of the details as far as my running record goes, so…
Saturday Oct. 5 was really busy, and I didn’t get a chance to run, so I figured I’d go out and do a seven-miler on Sunday the 6th and not worry about pacing.
I don’t know whether it was because it was warm for October (around 70F), or the hills in the first few miles, or the fact that it had been almost two months since I’d gone any distance longer than 4.5 miles, but it was a real struggle, and I actually stopped to walk for two minutes, just past the halfway point. (I didn’t count the distance walked toward my to3.5tal.) Knowing that I was going for a longer run, I deliberately kept things easy to start, running an 8:42 pace for the first two-and-a-half miles, which took me out into some rural territory. Then a series of hills hit me. I still managed an 8:50 for mile three, but next six tenths of a mile took me 5:52, and that’s when I realized I was going to need a break.
It helped, but the next 3.4 were a real slog, and my slowest stretch in a long, long time, averaging 10:04.
3.5 uneventful road miles on Friday, Oct. 11: 8:35, 8:20, 8:45, and a 3:53 push the last half mile that got my average pace down to 8:25.
Saturday I hit Quail Hollow for a trail run. I really enjoyed it, but I want to do another post about some of the thoughts on it, and keep this one just to the data points: I averaged 9:26 – which is ballpark for what I manage on the trails – and wrapped it up at 3.25 miles for a couple reasons. First: It was a good stopping point, and I was fairly bushed. Second, I figured that if I left myself a quarter-mile short for the week, it would motivate me to go out the next day, resulting in extra mileage, since I’m never going out for a quarter-miler. If I put the shoes on, I’m always doing at least two miles.
Sunday the 12th: Four miles on the pavement. Perfect overcast morning for it, and I felt really good: 8:32, 8:37, 8:29 for miles 1-3, and a 7:42 for mile four. Average pace was 8:19.
Total miles on the year: 290.15. Monday the 14th is day 287, so I’m back on track!
Road run on Saturday, Sept. 28. Four miles, average pace 8:31. Even though I’ve done this distance slightly faster this year, this one felt good because I kept things pretty steady: 8:41, 8:31, 8:39, and 8:15. Fastest mile at the end, with a decently-maintained acceleration over the last quarter mile.
Sunday afternoon was perfect for a Quail Hollow trail run: Overcast and in the low 70s. And since I started and finished at one of the mountain bike access points (photo above), this 3.1-miler was my first 100% trail run: No pavement at all.
I really liked this one: Several different environments to pass through, and I found my way to the loop which had eluded me a couple weeks ago.
Also, I paused the Garmin and stopped for a minute deep in the woods when a huge red-tailed hawk swooped across the path right in front of me and came to rest on a low branch nearby. I just had to see if I could get a closer look. The thing was just magnificent.
And I shared a funny moment with a family hiking with their kids, inadvertently scaring the bejeezus out of one of the moms when I came up behind them on the trail. I was deliberately making noise, too – heavy footfalls, exaggerated throat-clearings and the like – but they still didn’t hear me catching up to them. Poor woman turned sideways to slip past a branch, saw me about 10 feet behind them and freaked out – loudly – for a half-second before catching her breath and bursting into laughter.
Averaged 9:14 for the run, with no stretches of pavement to let me open things up, so I felt good about that.
7.1 miles for the week. Total to date: 272.4. October 1 is the 274th day of the year.
I got my mileage in week 38 with another weekend combination of a trail run Saturday, Sept. 14, and a road run the next day.
There was still one section of Quail Hollow trails I hadn’t visited yet: a 1.5-mile loop shared with the bridle trail. On the map below, it’s the dashed blue and yellow line.
So I thought I’d include that trail this time around. I started up on the sedge marsh trail – that standalone yellow line at middle right – and then, as I had the week before, followed the southern portion of that green loop.
And then I started reaching forks. This is a pretty densely wooded, hilly, area, and the trails are narrow, so you can’t see a long way in any direction. It’s the area in the right 1/3 of this image:
Now, I’d been to this area the week before, and I had made a wrong turn that had led me to the mountain bike trail, so I recognized that decision point, and made the opposite call this time around. But after some twists and turns, I realized that I was heading away from the trail I wanted to find. So I doubled back, like when you pick a quick death in a Choose Your Own Adventure Book, and went the other way at my last decision point. Then I managed to find myself back on the same section of mountain bike trail that I’d been on the week prior. So I turned around again and found a third option, and took that trail westward.
When the landscape opened up a bit to a less-wooded region, and I hit a T-intersection running north and south, I figured I was at the eastern edge of the loop I’d been seeking. I turned right for a short bit, then thought I’d rather run the long way around, so I headed in the opposite direction. And then somewhere along the path, I made another decision that landed me on the mountain bike trail again, heading exactly where I didn’t want to go. On that big map above, this would be the black trail running roughly parallel to the brown dashed line in the lower right corner.
Oh, fine. I doubled back again. Having added about a half-mile thanks to this detour, I opted to stick to the shorter, northern section of the blue-and-yellow loop, then took the bridle trail branch that led back to the park road, which I followed back to my starting point. (There was, in fact, one more brief detour: Not shown on the map is a weirdly groomed and maintained offshoot of trail that leads to…a house with a big yard in the middle of the woods.)
Here’s what the entire route wound up looking like:
It was fun. Yes, for real.
The next day, I did a four-mile road loop and managed to save my best mile – a 7:53 – for last. Overall pace was 8:26, which was the best I’d managed for that distance in a couple months.
Total miles for the week: 7.5. Total to date (week ending 9/16): 257.8. That was the 259th day of the year, so I was just 1.2 miles shy of my goal.
Week thirty-nine began with a rare Tuesday run on the 17th. I had worked from home, and the writing had not come easily that day, so by 6 p.m., I needed a quick two-mile out-and-back just to clear my head.
It’s not a distance I run very often anymore, so when I do, I try to push myself a bit. While I didn’t go really hard on the outbound mile, I made a point of not letting up too much either, and I felt good about my 7:43 time. Heading home, I maintained that for about a quarter mile, slowed up a bit for another quarter, and then poured it on for the last half-mile, which is mostly a gradual incline. My second mile wound up at 7:34, and I actually hit a 5:25 pace for just a second or two in there. My total time of 15:18 was only 15 seconds off the fastest Hall of Fame Two-Miler I ever managed, and I used to feel really beat up after that race.
Did an uneventful 3.5-mile loop on Saturday in 29:45, for an average pace of 8:29 – although I did have to push myself the last half-mile to get there.
I went out Sunday and decided to do another two-mile for speed. I did my first mile in 7:27, but I could tell I was going to be hard-pressed to maintain that and crack that 15-minute mark. Right after the turnaround, and again at the 1.5-mile mark, and again a quarter mile later, I kept hitting a wall and slowing up.
I really tried that last tenth of a mile, though, and clocked a 15:06.
Total, then: 265.3 miles. Today’s the 268th day of the year – but while it looks like I’ve lost ground, that’s really because my running week starts on Tuesday, and I haven’t done any miles this week yet.
Two three-and-a-half mile runs this week – so I didn’t make up any of my 2.7-mile deficit, but I did enjoy myself.
I went out for another trail run at Quail Hollow on Saturday, just after 9 a.m. Covered some of the same wooded trails as last weekend, but in the opposite direction. Then explored some new territory in another part of the park, running the sedge marsh and meadowlands trails. In a few spots, these were a little more difficult to follow, and at one point, my pace slowed nearly to a walk, since the planked walkway across a swamp was almost completely overgrown by the grasses alongside.
I encountered a few other runners, and some people walking their dogs, and it was a great morning to be out on the paths. Found a few short but challenging climbs, and inadvertently turned myself onto the mountain bike trail for a bit, too. (Despite the number of cyclists I saw getting ready to ride upon my arrival that morning, I didn’t actually see any out on the trail.)
As before, I felt like I got a really good workout even though my pace is nowhere near what it is on the road: a 9:10 first mile, 9:16 second, and a 10:13 third. (That’s the mile which included the partially-obstructed walkway.) The last half mile covered pavement, so I managed to pull my overall pace back to 9:23 by pushing a little at the end.
While I’m really digging the trail run, I wanted to push my lungs and speed a little bit on Sunday, so I did a 3.5 mile road loop a little after 7 a.m. Gorgeous morning, pink sunrise. Felt good with an 8:18 first mile, felt better with an 8:13 second mile. Had to work for my 8:18 third mile, but for the last half mile, I averaged a 7:25 pace, which pulled my overall pace down to 8:08.
And I’m very pleasantly surprised to learn that looking at my year to date, that’s the best pace I’ve done for 3.5 miles yet. Progress has snuck up on me.
Finished off August with a mid-morning four-mile run on Saturday. Somehow felt like I was running into the wind in every direction. Not a really strong wind, but enough to make me think, “Oh, come on.“
Didn’t push things really hard until the last third of a mile, but that was enough to keep my overall pace at 8:50 per mile.
Sunday, Sept. 1, I went for my first trail run.
I’ve run on trails from time to time, but never for any significant distance, but I figured I’m going to try one of the Ohio Outside races by year’s end, I should probably give it a shot. The downside is that trail running means driving – just a few miles up the road to Quail Hollow State Park, but that also means I’m putting on the running belt so I can carry car keys. And if I’m wearing the belt, I’m bringing water – which was a good idea on Sunday anyway, since it was warm and sunny.
So, here’s my run as tracked by Garmin:
And here’s what that area looks like on Google Maps satellite view:
From my parking space to the end of the paved “Nature for All” trail was about .6 miles, and I did that at the beginning and end of my 3.5-mile route, meaning I ran about 2.3 miles on pure trail: soil, rocks, roots, and the occasional wooden-plank walkway.
What I learned: Holybejeepers, trail running is work.
I really enjoyed my ever-changing surroundings and being in the shade of the woods, but I was unprepared for the toll the terrain would take on my pace. For most of the time, I was close to ten-minute miles, held in check by the need for short strides, the need to constantly watch my footing, and the lack of downhill freewheeling opportunities. (Okay – technically the opportunities were there, but for a new trail runner, they came with too high a risk of additional opportunities. You know: full-on face plants, crunched ankles, opportunities like that.) The opening and closing pavement stretches were the spots that allowed me to keep my overall pace at 9:33.
And while the park paths are clearly marked, including numerous loops and offshoots, I did lose track of direction at one point, and got to experience the surprise of approaching a landmark only to realize I’d already been there once, and didn’t think I was anywhere near it again.
If I’m going to do a five-mile trail run, I’ll need to put in some serious time at Quail Hollow, but I don’t think I’ll mind.
Year-to-date: 243.3 miles. Today’s the 246th day of 2013, so I’m 2.7 miles short of my goal, but barring disaster, I should be able to make that up this month and get myself back into a surplus.