Sunday, January 17, 2010

On The Road Again... Reflections and Training Notes

I will admit that when I started this blog I was a road runner that dabbled in trail racing, and over time that has clearly evolved to the safe assumption that I am now a trail runner that occasionally, when forced or led by circumstance, will run on the roads.

In 2009 I logged numerous miles on the macadam, but I was much more focused on the trails, and, aside from a 5k I ran in Boston as part of my responsibilities for a 'First 5k' group I was coaching, I stayed away from road racing. The only real allure left for me on the roads are the endurance events, and a couple weeks ago I decided I'd give that first road marathon another shot. So it is back to Cape Cod I will hopefully go, with 16 months of lessons learned under my belt.

My injuries seem to be slightly in check, and while both my IT band and hip flexor still don't feel 'right', they have been subdued enough to allow me to get some longer training runs in. Initially I figured the trails would be kinder to my ailments, and was staying away from longer road runs. Then back in December, the day after Breakheart Dan helped drag me to my first real LONG run in many month (3:30 time on feet and close to 30k) I headed out for a shake out run on the roads. Somehow I managed to run for an hour, covering close to 6.5 miles without too much carnage. The next weekend I didn't have the option to hit the trails, and having just signed up for the Hyannis Marathon, I figured a slow half marathon on the roads would be possible. I used a slightly relaxed run/walk strategy, but still felt like I was suffering toward the end. My pace was under 10 min./mile, but the roads, stomach issues, and the wrong choice of footwear tore me up. The following weekend was a new years 10k snow training run, and then the following week was the G.A.C. Fat Ass.

The day after the 3 hour thrashing and truly tough 20k through the snow at the Fat Ass, I hit the roads and somehow managed 6.75 miles at 8:54/mile pace using a 15/2 run walk strategy.

So I arrived at this week with a little more confidence that I could resume some longer road training runs and not be laid up for days recovering from the beating.

Admittedly I have been limiting my training to running long on the weekends, but I have also been focusing on resistance and interval training during the week. Since the snow has started to fly I have had to be very careful with the inclusion of interval training sessions, but I have supplemented my gym sessions with some short and tough fun on the treadmill. Before super sets of resistance training, I have been hitting the treadmill for a warm up of 15 to 20 minute of running/walking at 15 percent grade. The impetus being my desire to run the USATF-NE Mountain Running Circuit this Spring/Summer. I probably won't be scoring too many points, but the practice running 'uphill' in January and February will pay off in May/June/July.

So this week I logged a couple of sessions in the gym, both with 20 minute 'uphill challenge' warm ups, which left me mulling over weekend plans outdoors. Having done one of the tough gym sessions Friday Night, I thought about resting Saturday and, instead, running Sunday. Eventually the nice weather beckoned, and the forecast of more snow and ice inspired me to get out and go long.

So I set out with my Nathan HPL and some snacks in the gleaming late afternoon sunshine to run easy and log a couple hours on the roads using a 8/2 run-walk strategy, mimicking what I'd like to do for the marathon. Best case scenario, I'd cover a half marathon in the process. I was also a little anxious because it was warm enough that I decided against the CWX tights, which have certainly been helping my IT band, hip flexor, and ab issues during longer runs. In the back of my mind I was wondering if the old injury demons would come through in the absence of the preservation technology.

So off I went, venturing north on roads I hadn't yet fully explored. This new route was made up of mostly serpentine, rolling rural roads that pass all the mini mansions, few remaining farms, and marshlands that comprise the Newbury/Byfield area.
(Great Meadow Conservation Area)

(Frozen tidal stream)

The 8/2 run-walk was working well and the first hour was going smoothly. I was hydrating and generally felt good. Of course this inspired me to go a little farther out when I saw I had hit 1 hour. I then started thinking about how cool it might be to extend the run to 3 hours, and found myself still going on the 'out' portion of the proposed out & back at 1:20. I decided it might be a stretch, but I'd continue on, and the scenery turned more residential as the minutes ticked by, finally I found myself in a downtown area, and came across the following:

(Is it far away... or far, FAR away?)

This was actually sort of a thrill because I have a thing for these "Entering" signs we have in Massachusetts. Some people have high pointing, I have Bay State Border Chasing. :-) Hey, that would be a great name for a team - the Bay State Border Chasers. :-) In any event, I don't have a real systematic approach, but the idea is to collect pictures of these signs when I happen to encounter them on foot during 'significant' runs. It took me 80 minutes to catch this and the "Entering Newbury" on the opposite side, so these two are keepers!

I resisted the temptation to look at my Garmin to see the distance, because this was a run that was to be solely based on time. I had always wanted to make it this far (to the Newburyport town line), and had mapped it a couple times, so I understood I was looking at a big number. I clicked 90 minutes and started the return trip home. Out and back runs are a little like placing a commited wager on one's body. There are no short cuts home in most cases, and what you sow on out portion must be harvested on 'back'.

Thankfully I brought my headlamp and reflective vest, as it would be needed for the 90 minute haul home.

The twilight seemed to be in a hurry to move on west and let the darkness of night descend quickly, and before I knew it I was following the faint beam of my headlamp, retracing those steps that were in daylight just a short time before.

At two hours I felt decent, much better than I had on my last long training run on the roads a few weeks earlier. At 2:10 I felt slightly worse and could feel my hamstrings starting to ache a little, and then my right calf began to get sore and tight. At 2:20 things got worse, and by 2:30 I was in full 'push through the pain' mode.

By this time my run walk strategy went out the window and I was just trying to get from one landmark to another. I suspect part of the cramping was due to not having a couple s-Caps along for the ride to use just in case I decided to go long, and I later realized that my HPL, which I though had been drained at about 2 1/2 hours, was holding back about 8 ounces of fluid I could have definitely used. As it was, I only brought 40 ounces of fluid, thinking I was only going to be out for a couple hours.

Eventually I made it back home, looking down at my Garmin, and seeing I was close to 3 hours, 10 minutes. I continued to slog a couple loops around the parking lot until I reached the 190 minute barrier. Hobbling, sore, and feeling like I was going to puke all over the apartment, I noticed my distance was 19.7 miles! The true masochist in me wanted to get up and hobble .3 of a mile to get the even 20, but I was having trouble getting up off the floor, so I called it a day.

Distance: 19.69 miles
Time: 3:10:12
Pace: 9:39/mile
Stopped time (according to SportTracks): 4:39

Not to dwell too much on the statistics, but I am very impressed that I was able to do this duration and manage 9:38/mile pace. Especially considering the fact that I was using the 8/2 strategy.

Of course I have a concern of two about the fact that on race day in Hyannis I'll be due another 10k or so beyond this point, but hopefully a slightly easier pace and some good conversation with Cookie Monster will be enough to get me to the finish line. I know better hydration and some S-Caps might delay the cramping, but there is little in the world that compares to that feeling when your miles away from the finish line and your body is screaming with every foot step. I am not sure if pushing through this pain builds character or a future of chronic injury!

Nevertheless, I am also about 99% sure I am going to attempt another trail 50k down at the Cape Cod Frozen Fat Ass at the beginning of February, so that should provide another physical and mental 'triple dog dare' to sort a few things out as well!

Until Next Time,


Dan said...

20 miles! Nice run Rob. Sounds like you're ready to tackle the marathon.

pathfinder said...

Great job Rob and a very good pace!

trailgrrl said...

An excellent post...just remember when all is said and done those training runs are the same as a race..just fewer people there at the finish and no peanut m&m' whether or not you make it to a are feeling good about your running and well isn't that why we run in the first place?
you rock.
Lil Roy