Monday, November 08, 2010
Saturday I ran in the 1st annual Amish Country H.M. in Bird-in-Hand, PA, with more than 1,300 other runners. It was fabulous!
The race is in the heart of Amish Country and a big tourist area. I arrived Friday afternoon and checked into my hotel in Intercourse. Then I made arrangements to meet a friend in Lancaster for First Friday. Stores, restaurants and galleries were open late and we browsed through several art galleries and walked the streets people watching.
Saturday morning at 8 a.m. it was a brisk 34 degrees. I ran in shorts, a long-sleeved shirt, a light windbreaker and mittens. It was overcast, but gradually the sun shone through warming it enough just to be comfortable.
The course, filled with constantly rolling hills, meandered by Amish farms. The scenery was beautiful. Horses, cows, buggies, clothes lines filled with clothes flapping in the breeze. A huge valley without a mountain in site. This was the most challenging H.M. course I've run. I loved the rolling hills--a big surprise. There was just enough variation that I never got bored and the change up in working quads vs. glutes kept my legs fresher than running on a flat course.
There were aid stations at miles 2.5, 5, 7, and at every mile after that until the finish. Amish children "manned" the stations, girls on one side; boys on the other, all enthusiastically calling out "water" or "Power Aid." At mile 11, two little blond girls had their hands extended waiting for high 5's from the passing runners.
I felt really, really strong through the race until the very end. I did my usual 8:2 run/walk and by mile 9 was passing runners I hadn't seen before. All that resting between half marathons must have paid off (my last one was 3 weeks ago). I was surprised then on Sunday to awaken to a swollen and sore right ankle. This ankle has been giving me troubles for about a year, so I got an x-ray this morning. There's a very slight chance of it being a stress fracture; the doctor thinks it's more likely to be inflamed tendons and muscles. Lots of RICE for the next couple of days. She also wrote out an order for physical therapy--something I've been wanting to have for quite some time. I have a long list of tight muscles, aches and pains that I'd like to resolve. So maybe the swollen ankle is a blessing in disguise. I am definitely going to be resting for awhile. I want to be in shape in January to start training for a 30K at the end of March.
Oh, my time? 2:16:29 -- a P.R. by 9 seconds.
Sunday, October 03, 2010
Yesterday was one of those perfect fall days (and today is, too). I didn't get out for my run until almost noon, but it was still cool and comfortable. Without any set plan, I headed toward the park, ran two one-mile loops, then headed out of town on the "back road." The route is nice rolling hills. I felt strong and I settled in to run/walk intervals of 8:2. I wanted to run the entire distance, but was feeling the effects of Friday's yoga class--lots of back bends--and I could feel some back muscle strains as I ran. The run went great until I hit mile 10 and smacked into the wall. My foot was aching (darn that blasted toe) and I felt like almost every drop of energy had been used up. So, I slowed my pace a bit and just kept pushing, adjusting my route a bit so I wouldn't hit any big hills. Finished in 2:15:31, which is about where I hope to finish in the half marathon. I'm looking forward to short runs until the 16th.
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
The race was held in the beautiful Quemahoning area just south of Johnstown, PA. We didn’t get to enjoy its full beauty thanks to a foggy morning. Driving there was like traveling through dense cotton candy. At the last minute, I decided to travel to Johnstown Friday night after work rather than getting up around 4 a.m. on Saturday to arrive on time. So I had a very restful night and slept until 5:30.
I arrived at the check in, picked up my bib and headed back to unload and that’s when I found Brians36 and her friend, Robin. This was my first tri—it was more a duathlon—and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I gathered up my bike, bike shoes, helmet, hydration pack, ball cap, and food and headed to the pavilion to set up before taking the car to the parking area. There were no stands for the bikes, so I had to lay it on the cement, and organize my running shoes, cap, etc. hoping for a quick transition into running mode.
It was cold; maybe high 40s, and damp!! Despite wearing jackets, almost everyone was shivering waiting for the start. Finally, the Queen herself, Marcia, arrived to explain the race (12 miles biking followed by a 5 mile run carrying a blow-up sword), timing chips, and the Black Death—an optional, very challenging 7-mile trail run. And to get there, you had to bike another 6 miles to reach the trail run. She warned of bush whacking, mud, prickle bushes, men bearing strange gifts, and steep climbs. No thanks. I opted for the easy and fun obstacle course—and fun it was.
The bike course followed the road around the lake. Lots of rolling hills, none very difficult until about the mid-way point. The ride went from fun to a real challenge. Quickly I geared down and tried to pedal fast. But even on the easier gears, it got very difficult. The road just kept climbing and climbing. Many riders were off their bikes almost immediately. I climbed on ‘til I reached the barking dog (maybe 2/3 of the hill??) and decided the smarter strategy would be to walk rather than trashing my legs early in the race.
We were rewarded at the top by a wonderful downhill run for more than a mile. At one point, I was riding at 27 mph. Heaven help me if a squirrel or chipmunk decided to play chicken. The rest of the ride was a gradual downhill with rolling hills. It kept the ride interesting.
I crossed into the chip area with a time of 1:09. Then a quick rush to change socks and shoes and exchange a helmet for a ball cap. The first mile was a slight decline. My legs felt fine, but my feet were not okay—my toes and the balls of my feet were numb from the cold. It took awhile before they warmed up and I had any feeling in them. Next year if it’s chilly, I’ll wear my shoe covers to keep my tootsies cozy.
No one warned us about the hill on the running course. After making our first right off the main road (roughly a mile into the run), the climb began and it didn’t stop for a long time. I walked most of the hill. And of course, what goes up, must come down. So the long climb was followed by a similar, rather steep downhill. It felt great to be running again. There were small stretches of level and some rolling hills. Inside of a mile of the finish, my left quad began to cramp from the all-out run down the hill. I stopped for a minute to stretch and massage it. After that it was fine and I finished the race with a time of 1:58:48 according to my Garmin. I’ll have to wait until the results come out to see what the chip time was.
I grabbed a bite to eat, did some stretching and waited for Brian36 and her friend so we could tackle the obstacle course together. They took a few minutes to recover from the run, and then we headed up the hill for our last challenge, which wasn’t timed. I’m not sure I remember all of them, but here’s what I remember:
The first obstacles were extremely easy—jump or step over some ropes of various heights, a jump over a faux moat, dipping your hands in shaving cream, etc.
The 2nd obstacle was getting through a spider’s web of twine wrapped every-which way through some trees. People were tripping, twisting and getting hung up in the maze, but it was fun. Behind us a blond said—here’s how you do it—and proceeded to get on her belly/hands/knees and slide under the maze of twine. Yes, it was quick, but not in the spirit of the games. So after trying her way for a short distance, I popped back up and went through the tangle.
The 3rd obstacle was gathering 5 pieces of firewood and carrying them to a new destination—the wood was light-weight, so there was very little challenge.
Next, we crawled under a tented tarp to find clear pieces of “glass.” The volunteer was giving hints where to find the glass, and again, not much of a challenge, but it was fun.
Then we did a series of track-and-field like challenges. Walking a short distance with an apple between our knees, running through a grid (like running through tires), and running down a 2 x 4 and then plunging belly-first in same to scramble across a sand pit.
The last challenge had us scooping water from the lake with our hands and running into the grass to deposit the water into a plastic cup.
I finished 7th (out of 16) in my age group and 38th overall out of 87 with an overall time of 1:58:47 (bike: 1:00:12; run: 58:34). I am a consistent middle-of-the-pack athlete.
For our efforts, we received a lovely crown of paper flowers with streamers, and a cool medal.
After that, we headed to our bikes and rode them to our cars, loaded up, and headed to Camp Harmony for the Medieval Feast (also medieval jousting, fencing, and other demos) and the rest of our shwag. Marcia, the volunteers, and the sponsors were unbelievably generous.
The bags held our shirts (we got to order 1 from 3 different designs), DelGrosso’s organic spaghetti sauce, bubbles, pens, gift certificates and discount coupons, and several other items. AND we each received a trophy with our name engraved AND we received a shield with our names. The gifts had us all laughing. It must have taken the volunteers countless hours to provide all this fun for us.
The registration fee covered our lunch, too. Choice of veggieburger or hamburger or hot dog, vegetables, cookies, beverage, fruit and macaroni salad, and . . . some roasted pig. The whole hog was laid out on a serving table.
There were raffles with some pretty nice gifts, and big trophies for the winners. A great day; the Women in the Wild is already on my calendar for 2011.
Monday, September 13, 2010
Our local NPR station has continued the popular national, "In This I Believe" series. It sums up my thoughts on cycling perfectly. Enjoy.
Sunday, August 22, 2010
This past Thursday was the first "teaser" run in a series leading up to the Mountainback Ultramarathon (50 miles). The Nittany Valley Running Club offers the "Tussey Teasers", not races, so that runners can get acquainted with the course prior to running the race--either solo or as a relay team.
Thursday was Leg 1: 3.2 miles up the mountain; 3.2 miles down the mountain. I ran this leg before and when I finished, I could barely walk. My quads were totally spent. I remember folding myself into the car slowly and then taking three times as long trying to get out of the car when I made a stop at the grocery store. I shuffled through the aisles. The next two days, I had a great deal of difficulty walking and going up and down stairs.
This year’s run was still a challenge. A little over a mile into the race, I was feeling its affects. My legs were beginning to tighten up and I was carrying some tension in my shoulders. I shook my arms out and walked a short distance. Those nasty, little negative thoughts were starting, “Whew, don’t know if I can make it. I’m falling behind; I’m going to be last. I’m going to be hurting tomorrow.”
Then I made a decision. I could (1) complain the rest of the run, (2) quit and turn around, or (3) put on my happy face and have a good time. The first and third choices were real options; the second was not. I chose option 3. I read a daily blog, “Living with Flair” that brings sunshine to my day. It starts my day in the right frame of mind and it’s a reminder that we should strive to find the good, the unexpected, the “flair” in everything we do. It’s always there, but it might take a little soul searching to find it. So, I decided to find the flair in this challenging run.
It really wasn’t difficult. It was a beautiful evening, the road was shaded, the forest was lush, birds were singing, I was having a shared experience with 30-40 other runners, I'm strong and healthy, and as I got closer to the top of the mountain, the sunset was promising to be spectacular. And the best flair moment—noticing that everyone who was now running down the mountain was going fast and had a huge smile. They had earned their reward for working hard and conquering the mountain and they were having fun.
When I reached the summit, two other runners were there catching their breaths. I took a moment to say hello, exchange a few remarks about making it to the top, and then I headed back down. Running fast, but not too fast, watching that I didn’t slip on any loose gravel.
Unfortunately, about two thirds of the way down, my calves began to cramp. I didn’t have enough Gatorade. I slowed down a lot, but had to walk the last quarter mile to keep the cramps from getting too severe. I was disappointed, but I didn’t lose the flair. It was still a fun run and I loved the challenge.
I finished in 1:20:18. My reward was an ice cream cone and a large diet Pepsi on the way home—not the most nutritious dinner—but a very satisfying one. My legs didn’t cramp on the way home, but as soon as I got into bed, they started again. I drank Gatorade and water all night long--they cramped until 3:30 a.m. Between the cramping and running to the bathroom every 30 minutes, it was 4:30 until I fell asleep. The Flair: reading several more chapters of The Adventure of Huckleberry Finn and Runners World magazine, and falling asleep just as the birds began their morning songs.
Other than the leg cramps, I had very little soreness. The lower body workouts at the gym are definitely helping to build strength and endurance. The quads didn’t even know they had had a workout. Some more Flair!!!
In everything you do, find your Flair.
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