I’ve got my new shoes on

I’ve got my new shoes on

A few weeks ago, I visited my favorite running store, Classic City Running, to try out trail running shoes. Classic City is a true locally owned store and everyone who works there is a runner.  They do gait analysis by taking video of your feet as you run on a treadmill and then bring you as many different pairs of shoes as you want to try. You can test them out with a run on the treadmill or outside around the shopping center. They never rush your decision; in fact, I’ve spent an hour walking around the store wearing two different shoes. As fellow runners, they are always willing listen and share their experience and knowledge.

Classic City carries more road shoes than trail shoes, so they didn’t have a huge selection. Several experienced trail runners simply gushed about their Altra’s, so I knew I wanted to give those a try.  I tried on the Saucony Peregrine and the Altra Lone Peak 2.5 and the Altra Torin. I tried on  the Torin for fit because they didn’t have the women’s Lone Peak in stock. The Torins have high cushioning, which would be great for long days on your feet.  Although the men’s Lone Peak were ginormous on my foot (which isn’t exactly dainty), I immediately loved how lightweight they are and that, though cushioned, I could feel the surface beneath the shoe. The high cushioning and max cushioning  models made me feel like I was wearing platform shoes.  Given that I need to develop more lower body strength and stability, I felt I’d be more likely to get into some unplanned acrobatics and injure myself or, at minimum, suffer extreme embarrassment.

I did like the secure and stable feel of the Saucony Peregrine. I wasn’t thrilled about the narrow toe box. I like the idea of a the sturdier rock plate along the shaft, which I would have appreciated back in March for the rockier parts of the Cubihatcha Challenge trail. On the other hand, the appeal of a firmer rock plate wasn’t enough to sacrifice toe box space and a closer to natural foot motion feel. Since I started running, I’ve struggled with the toe nail of my big toes rubbing a painful callouses on my second toes (yes, I have Morton’s toes) and achy metatarsals when I run 8 miles or more.   I decided on the Altra Lone Peak 2.5s for those two reasons.  Classic City ordered my shoes and I had them in less than a week.

At the first opportunity, I took my Lone Peaks out for a 4.5 mile test run at my favorite trail. I was very pleased to discover a distinct lack of trail junk in my shoes. I still have trail debris in my road shoes that works it way around the shoes and sticks me in the most painful places, forcing me to stop mid-run and remove shoes and socks, dig around in my shoes, then replace socks and shoes before continuing. Wash, rinse, repeat. I hope all the gunk works itself out soon.   Anyway. I did have some soreness across the top of my ankle where the laces tie but I think that was from earlier in the day when the dog stepped on me. She’s a bruiser.   (SIDE NOTE: She is always leashed when out for a walk or run) Otherwise, I had no general foot or toe pain, my fore-foot did not feel like it was sliding around in the toe box, and my toes did not rub together. The treads gripped the surface well and the toe bumpers saved me a few times (must remember to pick up my feet).

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When I picked up my shoes, I tried on a pair of Oofos. I immediately insisted that they take my money. I’m not that keen on the Crocs-like material, but man, oh, man, they do feel good on tired feet and legs. I decided on the investment since my mileage will be increasing and anything that aids recovery is a bonus. As much as I love my running shoes,  once I cross that real or virtual finish line, I need them off my feet sooner than now. If I don’t let my feet out to stretch, wriggle, and breathe, it’s cramp city.

As it happened, after my first trail trial in my new Altras, Classic City Running hosted an Injury Prevention event for Moms RUN this Town/She RUNS this Town.  Reps from Altra and 2XU were there  doing demos. I fell in love with Altra’s medium cushioning stability road shoe, which made not winning the giveaway rather disappointing. Regardless, the  Provision will likely be my next road shoe. The Altra rep confessed that he runs both trails and road in his Lone Peaks. It’s an idea worth considering; yet, trail shoes wear out more quickly than road shoes, so making them do double duty could get expensive.

For now, I’ll stick with my rotation of Brooks Ghost 8 and Glycerin 13s for road running and the Altras for trails.

 

Sucking air

Sucking air

Today, I ran the Run for the Bridge 5K out in Monroe. It was a benefit for the Bridge of Georgia, a school for children with autism. It’s the first year they hosted the race and overall, they put on a good race.

It was a small, straight-forward, and uncomplicated race. The RD did a lot of things right and the volunteers were all friendly and helpful. Parking was easy, bathrooms (actual bathrooms!) were available inside the school, there was music, a few vendors, a firefighter and a sweet Dalmatian puppy!  After the race, there was plenty of cold water and bananas, thankfully. It’s rough when there isn’t enough water for all the finishers, especailly on a warm sunny day.

I went into the race with my usual 5K strategy: run fast, don’t stop. I also had two goals; one, place in my age group; and two, PR. It wasn’t pretty, but I managed both, primarily because the field wasn’t deep (101 runners, 9 in my age group).  I ran hard and fast; too fast going out. I ended up gasping and sucking air hard, forgetting to be aware of my breath. Before I hit half a mile, I knew I had to pull back, especially since I was going about 2 minutes faster than my target pace. I walked  several times up hills and through dicey intersections, consequently ending up with positive splits. I’m still pleased with my new PR, a full 20 seconds faster than my last 5K. The heat clearly slowed everyone, because the over all winner pulled 21 minutes.

The age group awards were handpainted frames, bookmarks, and hand fans all made by the Bridge students. The Overall, Masters, and Grandmasters winners rceived trophies. The frames are all very pretty and the students clealry worked hard on them; however, it would have been nice if the printed inserts indicated the age group place. The  AG first place is exactly like the AG third place. 

I hope that if they hold this race again, that they start no later than 9:00 AM. Late April weather is unpredictable in Georgia, but it’s rarely below 40 by mid morning. As it was, the race was delayed 10 minutes from its scheduled 11:30 start so that volunteers (thank you, volunteers!) could be shuttled to their stations and the route markers checked. By race start it was already over 70 degrees. I also hope that there is some better traffic control at the larger intersections. For the most part, drivers were patient (Monroe is rural), but there were a few who couldn’t wait the few extra seconds for runners to clear the intersection before proceeding. I was almost hit by a driver rolling through the stop sign, anxious to make a right turn. I know he saw me because he looked staright at me. 

Thankfully, the finish was a decline because I was certain that although I clearly had an age group place, I didn’t think I’d PR. I ramped up my speed and sprinted in across the finish line. It’s amazing what it takes to shave a mere 20 seconds off your best time (then there are those distance races in which taking 20 minutes off your time is a piece pf cake). I pushed myself hard, perhaps a bit too hard because I’ve spent the day coughing from irritating my throat. And my lungs geel stressed. 

Cussin’ the Whole Way (or been there, done that)

Cussin’ the Whole Way (or been there, done that)

 

I ran the Run the Reagan Half for the first, and likely last, time. The race is the only time the Ronald Reagan Parkway, which runs east to west, connecting three cities, is shut down, making this a fairly popular race for that novelty. It was a small race with approximately 800 total runners and walkers. The Half Marathon was only 148 deep but with some stiff competition because it is chip-timed and certified.  There were plenty of water stations and two port-a-potties along the course. Each mile and the turn-arounds for the 5K, 10K, and half were clearly marked.

In past years, the race was held over the Presidents Day/Valentine’s Day weekend. This year, the race was moved to April, which was both good and bad;  good because it was most definitely warmer than years past and bad because it was most definitely warmer than years past. Regardless of the temperature, there is always a brisk headwind and tailwind with cross-winds on the overpasses.

This year, going out, we had a tailwind, which made it almost too warm on the four-lane black top. I was seriously regretting my wardrobe choice until we hit the turn around point.  The headwind was instantly cooling although the sun was warm and bright. Yay, for that. Except, you combine the 15+ mph headwinds with the loooooong rolling and graded roads, and suddenly the second half of the course is much more challenging.   My form started failing making the uphill and slanting roadway more difficult.  That’s when I started muttering colorfully and swearing off Run the Reagan in the future.

I clearly need distractions and sights to keep my mind from wandering into the negative talk zone.

If you’re running fast enough, you don’t miss the lack of on-course entertainment and cheering sections because there isn’t much to look at – just trees along the set-back, hiding the subdivisions. Going across the two overpasses, the usual suburban businesses are visible.   There were a few cycling groups taking advantage of the closed roadway and a few people who had walked up from their neighborhoods (or drove as close as possible then walked on to the parkway).  I wish some of the people from the neighborhoods who ventured onto the parkway had been there to cheer.

If you’re one of those people out there cheering on runner/ walkers with silly signs (way to go, random stranger!), high-fives, power-ups, cowbells, a guitar and amp playing, a kind word,  – anything – you are more than appreciated. You are making a difference to some runner who is about to give up. The 5K race started two hours after the Half start, so we middle of the pack runners, saw the 5K runners approaching their half-way point, so we exchanged encouragement across the median.

At the end, they had plenty of cold water, bananas, and apples.  There was a small after-party/community event with vendor and sponsor tables and bouncy houses for the kids.    The Half Marathon finishers received a medal and all the runners and walkers received tech shirts. Personally,  I would have liked the shirt to have the race distances on them (possibly even a different shirt for the half marathon runners) and for the volunteers to have a different shirt. It was hard to identify the volunteers from the runners.

The overall winner came in at 1:28:10 with the second place runner just 2 seconds behind him, so it’s not an impossible course. There were awards for overall, division, and age group winners in each distance.  A number of the women from the local MRTT chapter placed, including over-all Female Grand Masters for the Half and 5K. I ran an average time for me – not my best and not my worst.  Regardless, I got it done and was happy to finish.

This isn’t a race, I’d eagerly sign-up for again, especially considering the number of other more enticing and less expensive races around.  I will consider volunteering for a cheer section along the half marathon route, though.

The path less traveled

The path less traveled

A strong thunderstorm blew through last night leaving the air clear and the sky bright today, just begging me to get outside and run. And run (okay run-walked), I did!  Mid-afternoon, I drove out to Harbins Park. I planned to run along the two paved multi-use paths since it was my first visit there (how that had happened, I’m not sure). Despite the brisk winds, the sun was warm and there was very little shade along the paved path, so when I saw the pedestrian only trail head, I diverted off the paved path. 

Harbins Park is nearly 2,000 acres and has something for everyone – sports fields, playground, pavilions with grills, hiking, mountain biking,  and bathrooms. Compared to Tribble Mill, which is only three miles away (wouldn’t it be cool if a greenway connected these two great parks?) this park seems under-used, except for by mountain bikers. At least three people pulled up and hopped on their bikes as I was leaving. It may ne busier on weekends and at the sports fields. 

A few other trail reviewers have complained that the scenery is a bit boring and the noise from the nearby local airport is distracting. I found a few picture-worthy spots. The pedestrian trail comes close to the Alcovy River,  where I stopped on the boardwalk to take a picture (bottom center) and dump the pine straw and dirt out of my shoes.  I think I may appreciate trail gaiters because I find the trail debris in my shoes bothersome. The river was a bit too far away and down a long sloping granite hill to get a good look, which is unfortunate because it would add interest to the trail. Maybe the pedestrian trail will be extended to run alng side the river at some point. The trail itself is unblazed, but is clear-cut with emergency aid markers about every half mile. Around mile 3, or 1.5 depending which way you go from the trail loop head, are two emergency exit paths to the parkng lot, which was comforting simce I failed to note the trail lemgth before getting off the path. Around mile 4, I passed a guy walking in the opposite direction, so I knew I s close to the end. Sure enough, around 4.5 miles, I had made a complete loop. 

The trail itself is single-track with some nice inclines and declines, is mostly pine straw covered with a few areas of protruding  roots, very few rocks, and enough twists and turns to keep you sharp. It was mid-afternoon, so more wildlife saw me than I saw of them (though I was ever watchful for snakes).  I’ll be back out there for more miles soon, especially since I have a 13.1 race at Harbins next month. Maybe you’ll join me! 

Harbins-GCPR-Map

Into the Woods

Into the Woods

Today, for my usual Tuesday run, I headed out to Tribble Mill Park.

Generally, I run the paved path around the large lake, going around it twice to get roughly 6 miles. Instead, I headed to the smaller lake and ran the trail around it.

I was surprised when I hit the trail head after just about two miles. I felt happy and comfortable, despite not rectifying my trail shoe situation, so I turned around and went back the way I came.   Aside from a few people fishing (I think I scared a little girl who wasn’t prepared for anyone to be running along the trail – though she did refer to me as “a girl” 😀 ), one couple, and a dog-walker, I encountered only trees, birds, pollen (sniffle sniffle), and turtles on a log. I admit, they startled me the first time I passed them as they splashed into the lake. There was a cooling breeze off the lake and plenty of sunshine through the trees. A great run overall. I really need to get into a good pair of trail shoes before I tear up my feet.

 

Someone hold my hand

Someone hold my hand

I’m about to pull the trigger on signing up for my first ultra – a 50K in late September to commemorate advancing an age group. And not just any 50K; I have my sights set on the Tortoise and Hare 50K which boasts an overall elevation gain of 5500 feet, including the Stanley Gap that gains roughly 2500 feet over three miles (gulp!).

This wouldn’t be such a crazy idea if I had a marathon or two, or even several trail races, under my belt. As it happens, I have a Baker’s Dozen of race experience and I can recount, in order, each race. Only one of my Baker’s Dozen of races was a trail race – the Cubihatcha Challenge 7.5M/15M/50K this past March.

I originally signed up for the 7.5 Mile race, thinking it would be a good way to determine if I liked trail running and the ultra atmosphere, plus that weekend was meant to be a taper week for a half-marathon. When I arrived at the race site, the Cubihatcha Outdoor Education Center, I immediately changed my race distance from the planned 7.5 miles to 15 miles.  The distance wasn’t the issue; I had run 15 miles on pavement around Stone Mountain (once). It was the terrain that was the challenge. The course description promised a mostly flat, non-technical, wide jeep-track with gravel.

The course was, indeed, as described, except the gravel. I thought the gravel would be small river pebbles, not 3″-4″ granite rocks covering quarter mile or longer swaths to support heavy construction tractors. The7.5 mile trail through woods and around the lake was peaceful and beautiful. There were people fishing the lake and every so often to pop of shotgun. I have no idea what’s in season for hunters. I should probably find out for next time. The two aid stations were fully stocked, especially the start/finish line station (chicken nuggets and pretzels never tasted so good). The volunteers and RD were fantastic, too. We always think of the runners as amazing, but the organizers and volunteers are a special breed of people – hanging around courses for 10+ hours through heat/cold/damp/wind. They have my deepest gratitude.

I survived my trial (trail) by fire with a respectable newbie time on a day that day was unusually hot and humid.   I learned a few things.

First, I have a lot to learn about trail running. Second, I need some different gear (yay, new shoes!). Third, I need to run trails. Lastly, this is going to be fun. And hard. But mostly fun.

31 miles of intermediate mountain trail…

 

If I don’t chicken out.

scared chicken

Don’t let me chicken out.