Sunday, April 25, 2010

Spectating the JJR

Immediately following the Blue Hills Foxtrot, I jumped in my car and made my way over to Dedham to spectate the James Joyce Ramble. This is a fairly big 10k that puts up enough purse to bring out some serious runners. I didn't see any Kenyans this year, but the BAA guys showed up in force.

No fancy race commentary from me. I'll just post the pictures I took. Most are rubbish, and I missed half the club. Don't ever hire me to be an event photographer.

nice shoes, twinkle toes

too much energy for mile 5

I wonder if he caught that guy in the hat...?

I noticed the guy behind Maureen, because he's wearing a MV 20M shirt from 2010, which I know Maureen also ran. A rematch, apparently? I looked up his name in the JJR results, but when I cross-referenced the MV20 results, he did not appear, so I'm guessing he either borrowed the shirt, or the number. Incidentally, if it was a rematch, Mo would have smoked him--she finished in 212th place; he faded to 827th.

one more shot of Mo.

My only approach shot of Mel was totally obliterated by some other guy. Oh well.

Mike turns the corner.

I almost totally missed Dave. (I was looking for the mask, sorry!)

ditto Michelle.

this guy is not actually in our club. Looks like you could bronze him and put him on the top of a cross country trophy, doesn't he?

Blue Hills Foxtrot 10 miler race report

Yesterday I helped the CSA put in its potato crop for the year. Potato planting is surprisingly easy. The farmer has already furrowed the field with his tractor, which takes care of by far the hottest and heaviest of the four jobs. The other three consist, in order, of: (1) chopping seed potatoes into about golf-ball sized chunks; (2) dropping the potatoes into the furrows; (3) hoeing over the furrows so the potatoes sit in about 2 inches of dirt. You couldn't have asked for a nicer day to do farm work: blue skies and temps in the 60s, new green on all the trees and robins caroling in the bushes. I'd figured to spend about 2 hours there, but somehow double that time drifted by before I knew it. Something about farm-work just puts you in the zone. Potato, flick, potato, flick, potato, flick, row after row after row....; after a while the action becomes unconscious and higher brain functions largely unnecessary. After the fact, I'm totally at a loss to identify what I was thinking about; I just don't remember ever being bored.

That aside had almost nothing to do with running, except that my back was a little sore this morning, prior to the Foxtrot. It worked itself out by the time I started racing. All right then, enough about potatoes! How did the race go?

What a fantastic day for a trail run! Cool and cloudy, not raining, but overcast in the particular way the sky has when it is earnestly considering it. The woods were an emerald dream of verdurous spring-time growth, rich dark mud, and flowing streams. We toed the line at 9am and got to it.

Right from the siren two guys jumped out ahead and I tucked in behind them. It was faintly possible they were running the 3 mile, but I thought it unlikely: you can usually tell a 5k from a 10mile runner by their arm carriage--besides which,the hard-core guys almost always do the longer distance at this race.

I love the course layout for this race, but I particularly love the first couple miles as they are fairly flat, your legs are fresh, and you can really fly, spinning over all the obstacles, your feet magically finding the stable ground between the rocks and roots that vein the trail. The trees blur by, and you take each downhill like a waterfall, inexorable, flowing always into the easiest path.

I don't run this race with a garmin. If I did, I would look at it and think I should be running slower. That might well be true--but I can't bring myself to do it. Flying through those early miles is just too much fun.

Around mile 2 I started losing contact with the lead pair. All my muscles were feeling strong, but my breath was coming fast, and I knew I had to hold onto it.

In 2008 (the last time I did the 10 miler), I somehow got confused during the race and thought the limed mile marker reading "5" actually read "6". As you can imagine, it was a bit of a psychological blow when I hit mile 6 again -- near the top of long up-hill. I was determined to have a better back half of the race today.

I took some water from the 'stop at mile 5 and I totally nailed it, except I got some on my glasses. I think my water station technique has improved.

Mile 6 and 7 are tough in this race. There's a couple long uphills to contend with, then the easy even Green Trail--which nonetheless throws some up at you--and then a brief section of the skyline trail, which absolutely sucks. I knew it was coming this time and was bracing myself for it. Perhaps too much so--in the middle of one of those long climbs, an HFC guy caught me! I willed for some faster turnover, but my legs were giving what they were giving. I caught up a little on the next down-hill, but not enough. Inexorably, he started to gap me.

I reached the mile 7 mark with great relief; The last 3 miles of the race are mostly pretty easy, and I still felt strong, my attitude focused on racing, not merely surviving. I flowed into the next downhill, feet finding the way.

Total solitude for the next three miles. I kept hearing what I thought were footfalls, but any time I hit a switchback turn (of which there are many), I couldn't see anyone behind me. At mile 9 I rejoined the green trail and picked up the pace. What a joy to stretch your legs after all the single-track where self-preservation forces you to be careful.

No one near me at the finish. A big kick over the footbridge, and I was done.

Results: 4th OA (AG ? ), time of 66? minutes

I didn't hang around for the awards so I don't know exactly how I did. Although I wasn't foolhardy enough to attempt double-headering like last year, I still wanted to catch the JJRamble....

One observation: holy crap what a difference it makes on the downhills to land more on your forefoot. I experienced a big improvement in downhill speed since the Great Footstrike Conversion of '09. Heel-striking downhill on trail is scary; you take fewer strides, so each stride has that much more weight behind it. And if the plant is bad, you're already totally committed, so there's nothing you can do. Maybe you roll your ankle, maybe you just jam it awkwardly. It tends to make you cautious in a way I hadn't appreciated.

Monday, April 19, 2010

spectating the Boston Marathon

Today I biked into Wellesley to watch the Boston marathoners go by. This was only the second boston marathon I've spectated in person, and I had a much better cheering spot this time. The runners really lucked out weather-wise; it was chilly but not super-windy, and it rained nary a drop. All told a beautiful early spring day. It was really inspiring to watch the elites go by: nothing but flow, a pure harmony of motion. What other terrestrial animals run like that? Us and timber wolves, and huskies, maybe.

When the men passed by Hall was in the lead, which I thought was not his plan (what happened to finding a happy middle between leading and settling in at the back of the pack?) All the same, looking at the results, he clearly knew what he was doing since he ran such a great time. Not a win, but what can you say to 2:05:51? That's not just great, that's a staggering time for Boston. You've got to give it up for the new Robert Cheruiyot; he earned it!

I was looking for GNRC jerseys the whole time, but didn't see any! (I hung around 'til 1 o'clock, and I was pretty near the half-marathon mark). You guys must have slipped by me in the crowd. Hopefully my hooting and hollerin' cheered you on in spirit!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

medical report

When I started this blog, I was at the tail-end of the longest-running running injury of my adult career. It was a bit humbling; I hadn't been seriously hurt since I was 16, and that owing more to an uneven growth spurt than anything else. Now I was just another injured runner. Well, that experience had the silver lining of motivating the period of experimentation that I've been documenting over the last few months. I tried barefooting and Vibrams, and then when it got too cold I settled into a pair of Nike Frees, reconfiguring my gait in a rather dramatic way. All this was supposed to help me fulfill one of my listed goals: getting healthy. I thought an update on that would be appropriate, and I'm happy to report the result: about 98% there.

In late February, when I ran my Marathon, I was pretty sure I had it all figured out. My knee pain from the 2009 injury had gone away; my foot pain had vanished, and I could tell my foot muscles were a lot stronger. Many things did not work out on marathon day, but falling apart due to injury was not one of them. A week after the marathon, eager to hang onto all that hard-won endurance, I went out for a 20 miler. I ended up stopping at 19, feeling tired but mostly OK. But then! IT pain so bad I literally couldn't walk (inconvenient since I was still a mile from my house--fortunately after a rest I made it about 5 steps, and then things improved geometrically).

I recognized that episode as a signal to accept my body's inevitable inclination to take some down-time following my crest in February. I wanted to dive right into the next thing, but my body was not on board. So my summer of speed is to be preceded by a spring of loafing around (how clever of me not to call for a Spring of speed; I congratulate myself!)

Actually I think I'm through most of the loafing. I discovered a good stretch for IT pain, and then I discovered an even better therapy for it (although I haven't tried that trick with the 2L soda bottle yet). The therapy is just 2 barefoot miles on the track infield. I'm not sure if it's the barefooting or the soft, even ground, but whatever it is, it pretty consistently blows away the pain in my legs.

Yesterday I did 8 miles in Vibrams; today 12 on trails in the Frees (which are really falling apart in earnest now; I kind of like them like this--they've got credibility--but I don't think I can hang onto them much longer ).

My Vibrams, which I hadn't worn for a while and remembered to be a little small, actually slipped on pretty well. Only the pinch point on the side of my right foot is still there. I am considering "modifying" the offender (i.e., cutting a hole in it with an Xacto knife ). Drastic maybe, but otherwise I'm going to be going through bandaids at a ferocious clip (the Vibrams are too snug for socks).

That is all for now. See you out there!