Stumbling toward the finish

Stumbling toward the finish

Falling on the trail is not a matter of if; it’s when. My when happened much sooner into my trail running journey than I expected.  I remembered to roll, so I only bruised my ego, encrusted dirt all over the spout of my hand held bottle, and scratched up my elbow a tiny bit. Later, I discovered a nice sized bruise on my hip to go with that scratch. Sorry, you don’t get to see that. It’s a wry irony of being being delicate in a less than delicate sport.

The day after my ugly 5K age group win at Run for the Bridge, I hit the trails for 15 miles. Aside from falling, stumbling repeatedly, seriously considering bagging the whole endeavor after 10 miles,  I ended up walking 3/4 of the last loop.  I severely underestimated how much I overextended myself the day before. And my GPS watch died about a third of the way into the 12th mile. I made it back to civilization just in time to collapse on the pavilion bench before washing myself down at the bike wash and heading home. It was another warm day.

That tumble convinced me that I need both hands free to better balance myself out there.  I nabbed a Nathan Intensity hydration pack for less than $50 from Running Warehouse. I’ve wore it on dog walks to get used to it before racing in it. Time constraints moved my training runs to the dreadmill that week. I took the vest out for a real test two weeks ago at the Dirty Spokes Harbins Park 13.1 trail race.

I loved the Harbins 13.1! I haven’t run that slow since my first half marathon, but that was it an enjoyable race. The course used the shared mountain bike/foot trail, the hiking trail, and the shared horse/foot trail, so there was variety in the terrain.  Dirty Spokes did a marked the course well with flags and barriers; although, during the last mile or so along the trail, I had a little anxiety because the trail itself was covered with pine needles. I finally came upon the 2nd/3rd aid station again, so I knew I was still on the right trail. The bike and hiking trails posed the trickiest footing with lots of “snakes” and inclines/declines. The horse trail was nice and smooth. It’s a popular trail with riders, so there’s usually soft sandy areas that have been torn up by hooves. We all got a nice break to pick up some speed along the fire road/maintenance path.

I stumbled twice and slid onto my butt once when I heard another runner behind me and tried to get out of the way.  I really liked having the pack instead of a belt and handheld hydration. It was so much easier to stay hydrated and get to my fuel. The sound of the sloshing water was rhythmic and comforting. The only problem I had was the inside of my left arm rubbed against the small zippered pocket. It didn’t rub enough to cause a hot spot; just annoyance. I may be able to adjust the straps more to reduce or eliminate that problem. My water stayed nice and cold throughout the run (not so with my hand held bottle even though it’s insulated) and kept my back cool.  My Altras did their job – I had absolutely no foot pain or toe problems during the race.

When I finally made it to the finish I was surprised with a beer glass! The race description had not mentioned a beer glass, so that was very cool. Finishers also received a car sticker (Jellybean attempted to eat mine. Bad dog).  Even though I finished during the awards, there was plenty of bananas, water, granola bars, and other snacks on hand.  Packet pick up included the t-shirt (quality shirt), Clif bars, and Clif Bloks, which came in handy. I stuffed a few more in my pack at the aid stations.

I could  have pushed myself more  for a better time, but I took it easy.  I admit, I was still feeling a bit sore from the previous week’s fall and a nasty charlie horse after one of my cross-training swims earlier in the week.  I enjoyed being able to relax and appreciate the trail. Best of all, I discovered, I can fly!

Dirty Spokes made this a must-repeat race. I’m looking forward to another Dirty Spokes race!

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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.

 

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.