Friday, and then Sunday, the 'bar' definitely ate me!
Sunday's run at Breakheart featured much more melting and temperatures soaring into the 50's. We covered all types of trail conditions - snow covered, icy, and muddy, and had a blast doing it. I enjoy trail running in all conditions, but I have an affinity for the water-crossings sometimes involved on certain courses, we crossed streams, and at one point, ran up a trail that was inundated and rushing with water from melting snow. Though things were fun most of the time, I spent the last half-hour running wounded. We were running along Pearce Lake and the trail was slightly at an angle as we were running parallel to the shore and perpendicular to the hillside. Knowing full well that everything was slippery, I stepped on a root, did what skateboarders would consider a 'grind' down the root and landed, slamming my knee and quad into said root. Bruised and a little stunned I got up and hobbled along. The leg and knee eventually felt okay during the rest of the run, but that afternoon I had to sit in the car for an hour to a family party in Derry, NH, and everything definitely tightened up. I looked elderly getting in and out of the car, but more than once I had to explain why I was having trouble moving. Great times!
Very briefly, as Dan is the resident expert on the matter, Breakheart Reservation is definitely a gem nestled in a heavily populated suburb of Boston. Just in the two days I had a chance to experience the trails of Breakheart, I am convinced that I will make numerous trips there this spring for some focused training. Breakheart offers all types of terrain, and some of the rocky ascents and descents reminded me a lot of the terrain I encountered during the Blue Hills Trail Run. Some trails are definite cruisers, while others demand attention due to the technical nature of the track. Many short steep climbs provide ample opportunity for trail hill repeats. At first glance it does seem that Breakheart is too small to do any kind of long run, but with constantly changing terrain, and the criss-crossing trail system it is possible to do numerous loops that never seem quite the same. Breakheart will definitely test one's trail running toughness - Sissies need not apply!
I need to give props to two pieces of gear I utilized during Sunday's run: a Reebok Cold Compression mock turtleneck and Wigwam "Scout" Trail Running socks. At first glance I am not a big fan of the compression gear, basically because I am not sporting a six-pack stomach (I am more of a 'pony keg' or 'party ball' these days) and I find that sometimes getting deep breaths can be compromised a bit. Regardless, I needed a new piece of base layer gear for cold weather runs, and after getting a couple gift cards to a chain sporting goods store, I did some careful shopping. The mock actually has proved to be a great buy as it worked as base layer in the mid-40's to mid 50's of Sunday's run, never making me feel overheated, and it sealed in toasty body heat yesterday and today during training efforts in sub-freezing temps and windy conditions.
The Wigwan socks go against everything I stand for economically. For one, this ONE pair of socks cost $12. The only reason I actually bought them was because I was having trouble using the funds allotted in this chain sporting goods store that will remain nameless, they had an extensive "outdoor" section, but very little for the trail runner. The scout is technical sock that boasts thermal elements, as well as strategic padding and moisture management for protection against blisters. I have to say they have earned the same "pricey, but great gear additions" distinction, just like the two pairs of "Wright Socks" I own. My feet were drenched following our run Sunday, but after 80 minutes on the trail my feet still felt warm, and there were no real tender areas or tell-tale signs of emerging blisters. Thermally they are great. In the 17 degrees of yesterday they definitely kept my feet sufficiently warm, and I think I have a nice alternative to the bulky thermal socks I had been typically wearing on cold weather runs. Still, at $12 I am not sure I'd be apt to buy the socks if I were not spending money on a gift card.
Thursday's run was just plain cold. Good to get out and do something, but 2.4 miles isn't going to make much of a difference, well, except in the area of burning three hundred calories, or so.
Today I just wanted to run another basic 20 minute run, as my current focus is trying to build a little basic fitness. I am not sure what my IT band is going to allow me to do, so I am just taking it carefully at this point. As I started running and discovering that the roads were not too gnarly with snow and icy spots, my evil masochistic training monster made an appearance and suggested perhaps running two "fast" half-miles, you know, just to see where my base speed is at. Looking down at the Garmin I saw .85 miles, considered the fact that I was on a relatively flat section of road, and took off as the Garmin hit .9. Got to the 1.4, hit the lap button, and slowed to a walk, 3:16. I know I am not exactly fast anymore, but I was once able to rattle off 68 second quarters... ah, memories.
I started running again at 1.5 miles and headed back home. As crappy as I felt, I was bent on running one more 'fast' half mile. I decided to go at 2.1 miles and got to exactly 2.4 and had to slow down to a walk, sucking wind. 1:57 split time, which allegedly is 6:23 pace. Walked for a tenth of a mile, started running slow, and then, ticked off that I stopped early, decided to blast another .3 mile sprint. Again, I got to about .2 miles and started to feel that sudden warning of forthcoming projectile vomit, and pushed as long as I could, short of actually tossing the recently consumed pancakes, getting a completed quarter mile sprint in 1:35, 6:20 pace. I am slightly satisfied with the run because I know I won't get faster without the speed training. Though there is a more structured way of achieving more speed through track repeats, I am in the stage of life where making the best of what you have available is what has to work. In this case, a tepid three-mile run became an impromptu mini speed session.
I was going to unpack some of my thoughts about 2008 and 2009, but this post has to end here. Plans and prognostications to follow soon.