Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Re-inspired Road Running

No worries folks! I'm not giving up trail running. After too long of a time, I finally had a day of non-trail running that felt good, no not just good, good with a side of awesome sauce!

This morning my new awesome running buddy, Laura, informed me that she could get together for a run today. We decided on the Gastonia Greenway since we both needed a nice flat run to let our bodies recover a bit more from our races this past weekend.

I arrived a little early so I decided to get my 1 mile barefoot run out of the way. This was my first day of going a full mile barefoot. So far the bare-footing is going well. The skin on the balls of my feet are starting to feel tender but other than that I've not had any other common barefoot newbie complaints. I'm taking it nice and slow with adding distance in hopes to avoid too many of the usual newbie problems. I'm noticing that it is becoming more natural to use my new shorter stride with mid-foot strike both barefoot and shod. I still do a check every now and then but it's not every stride like a few weeks ago. I made it back to the car a few minutes before Laura arrived, perfect timing!

We had a great run. Lots of talking. I told her of my woes from my run with my other running partners last week. There were some conversations that frustrated me. It was good to get that off my chest and for her to understand how I felt. I'm glad she didn't think I was nuts and decide to take off running in the other direction. Maybe she didn't run away because she knew I could keep up with her? Hmmm...

Speaking of keeping up with her, I loved that I was running with someone that I felt like I could keep an even pace with. I've gotten so used to running at the greenway with runners that I always have to keep my pace in check for them. It was nice to feel my legs and feet turning over at a higher rate and to feel my breathing really get into a good rhythm. I'm not going to call it a hard run but it wasn't the easy that I've been doing. The easy I've been doing with the other girls is too easy. I can chat up a storm when I run with them. With Laura I can chat but I've got to pause in my speaking long enough to breath. We held a good pace, 9:20 min/mi average. It felt awesome to get to do that kind of effort on "roads" again. I hope we can get our schedules to match up every now and then so we can crank out some good miles at that pace. I'm also hoping she can hit the trail with me this weekend, too.

It was great to enjoy "road" running again today. I have to thank Laura for that. I don't know that I would have had such a smooth run by myself at the greenway. In the past I've always thought of myself as a solo runner but slowly I am learning that running buddies can really add some inspiration to your routine. So a big thanks to all my running buddies, you all inspire me in some way. I hate playing favorites but I'm about to. Kay and Laura have given me the most inspiration lately to push myself and to encourage me to be the best runner I can be. I'm so grateful to have both of them as friends and running buddies. (I feel a group hug coming on.)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Sticks-n-Stones Trail Race

This weekend was the second race of the Carolina Trail Race Series, the Sticks-n-Stones 5k and 10k at the US National Whitewater Center. There are two categories in the series, long and short. After running the Charlotte Running Company Trail 8.2 miles I decided to enter the long distance series. I had planned on doing the 10k of this race but due to my ITband issues the 5k was the best choice for me. I emailed the director of the race series to see if I could change categories and he made my week by saying he could do that for me. So I signed up for the race and waited for an illness to strike because since December every time I signed up for a race on line I came down with a cold within 24 hours after signing up. I was lucky this time and stayed illness free!

I decided I was going to give this race my best effort. I decided to try to start out fast for the first time in a race. I'm not good at this, I really like to hang back and let everyone pass me. In a 5k you've really got to start out strong and hold it if you want to stand a chance of placing well because there is no making up time later in the race like a 10k or above. Kay was there to run the 10k. We discussed my plan during our warm up run and as we were standing around waiting she told me I was to start in the front row. Yikes, that's a scary place to go. I knew I'd be hearing her voice the whole race keeping me from slacking at any point.

We went over to the start area and I stood right at the front. The timing service Emcee informed us that he would be staging the racers. The only race where I've been staged was at the two Peachtree Road Races I did. This new development was nice to hear. First he called for the 6 minute milers and below, we all just stood there and looked at him since it's rare to have a trail runner doing under 6 minute miles. After that he asked for the 7 minute and below milers he finally had some takers. I decided to hang out with the 8 minute milers which put me in the second row. I eyed my competition and hoped they weren't as fast as they looked, and not in my age group.

The signal was given to go and I took off as fast as I could. The start was downhill. After reaching the flat area I realized that I went a hair too fast down that hill and my quads already felt wrecked. We ran around the kayak and whitewater pool on a wide gravel path. There were areas with freshly laid gravel that were really awkward to run on. I finally moved just off the gravel on to the grass. Even though I started as hard as I could I still got passed. I saw two women pass me and I knew there was already one ahead of me from the start. We made it to the trail head without a traffic jam, that was a great feeling to be able to keep running at that point. The trail felt so good on my legs compared to the gravel path around the pool.

Once in the woods I set myself to my task of not letting the two girls ahead of me out of my sight. I am proud to say they never did get out of my sight. I also never got passed on the trail. I only passed one person and he clearly had started out too fast and had to walk around mile two. During the last mile there was a lot of pain and moments where vomiting seemed possible. Every now and then I would think, "Oh my god! I'm in 4th place for women!" That was enough to keep me from backing off. I kept hoping one of the two girls in front of me would poop out but they never did, always kept 10 to 100 feet ahead of me. I made it up the hill to the parking lot with very little left in my legs but I still managed to find a last little kick left in me for the most glorious end to any race I've done in a long time.

After turning in my chip and grabbing some water I went for a cool down run around the pool. My legs really needed to loosen back up. After my cool down I headed straight to the results board. Just as I thought 4th place for overall women! Kay blew away the 10k and won female overall. I'm in trouble next year when she moves up to my age group!

Time: 31:28
Garmin distance: 3.37
Garmin Pace: 9:22
Official Pace: 9:33

Overall: 20/70
Females: 4/40
Females 35-39: 1/10

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Now that's more like it!

After a disappointing run following my week off to let my IT Band heal, I'm happy to report that two weeks later I'm thrilled with what I've done. That first run I made it about 1.8 miles before my IT band protested. Over the past two weeks I have worked my way back up to 5.5 miles. With each run it was great to hit a distance longer than the previous run without any pain or tightness. I will admit that on today's run my IT band started to feel tight, no pain, just tight at around 5.5 miles so we stopped. I was really hoping for 6 miles but I'm not going to complain since last time my IT band flared up building back up took much longer. I think I'll hold steady at 5 miles during the weekday runs now and slowly add 0.25 miles each Sunday. Not making it to 6 miles helped me to finally make my decision on which distance to do at the Sticks-n-Stones race this coming Saturday. I'll stick to the 5k and see what kind of speed I can do.

I ran with my new running buddy, Laura, again today. I think we'll make great running partners since we match our paces pretty well. She did her very first 5k yesterday in 27:13, which isn't far off from what I was doing last year when I first started back. Now she just needs to catch up on some trail miles after she's done with her target race, Cooper River Bridge 10k, next Saturday. (I have a feeling she'll run it faster than she thinks she can.) It's not just the pace that makes her a good partner there are other reasons. One reason is that we ran together an hour, then add the walking time too, and we never once talked mom talk. Not that I don't want to talk about my kid but it is nice to not have to rely on that to make conversation. The best reason we'll make great partners though is that she's a running gear whore just like me! Nothing like having an enabler in your life!

On the barefoot front, I'm up to a whopping 0.6 miles barefoot. I'm doing my barefoot runs either on my normal days off or at the end of my shorter runs. I've also decided to eventually go full minimalist & barefoot running once I've done the 15k in May. I've ordered a pair of trail racing flats as my first minimalist shoe (Brian, they were on sale, only $50). I want some Vibram Five Finger shoes but I'm holding out on getting some until they come out with the Bikilas. http://birthdayshoes.com/five-fingers-bikila-information-resources-2010 After deciding to jump into the world of barefoot and minimalist running I also decided to purge my my closet of any shoes that are not comfy on my tootsies. The purge reduced my shoe count by half. Honestly most of them I rarely wore because they were not comfy. Now when I shop for shoes I will be looking for wider and more flexible shoes with little to no heel rise to give me more of a barefoot feel.

That's all for now. Hopefully next Saturday I'll have an awesome 5k race report to post. Until then, happy running everyone!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Photos, disappointment, and naked feet

I have some links to photos from my most recent races.
Here is a photo from the HardCORE Serious Trail Runner 8k: http://www.photos.usnwc.org/Events/hardCORE-8k-02-20-10/hardCORE-Trail-Race-8k/11415360_M9ckm#802408179_JUSpq

Here are some photos from the Xterra Thrill in the Hills Half Marathon: http://defiantphotography.smugmug.com/Action/Fort-Yargo/11364944_bGCpk#800660441_6wuZF-X3-LB

I really should buy this one:

All smiles (it's blurry but you can see how happy I am to finally be doing my first half marathon): http://defiantphotography.smugmug.com/Action/Fort-Yargo/11364944_bGCpk#799421924_GYiS4-X3-LB

On to the disappointment, big sigh. I met with Kay on Sunday morning to do a trail run at the USNWWC. I had high hopes of getting in some decent miles after a week of rest and stretching. Sadly I was only able to enjoy Kay's company for about 1.8 miles before I started to feel twinges of pain in my IT Band. Frak! Kay escorted me back to my car and tried to help me rid myself of the feelings of despair. I'm frustrated and angry with my body for not cooperating. I've tried everything to rid myself of IT band woes. I've worn motion control shoes and stability shoes to stop my over pronation, neither seem to help stop it. I stretch daily. I feel like I spend most of my free time stretching my IT band. I use a foam roller every day. I've also done strengthening exercises for my hips. None are helping. My wear pattern on my road shoes are pretty neutral, actually the left one (which is my problem leg) is more worn on the outside of the shoe than the inside, though it's still mostly a neutral wear. So I've decided it's time to try something I've considered since last year when this problem reared it's ugly head: Barefoot Running!

I'm hoping that barefoot running will help to strengthen my feet to help correct the misalignment that creates my over pronation issues on my left foot. Hopefully I will learn to land lighter and less on my heel. I've seen video and I really land hard on my left heel. I'm starting slow with the barefoot running. Yesterday I stopped by the park and ran 0.25 miles around a soccer field. Today I did 0.3 miles on our neighborhood streets. If it seems to work for me I might look into investing in some Vibram Five Finger shoes and maybe some trail racing flats. The idea is to take away the big cushy heel support so you don't heel strike hard and land more mid-foot. Minimal footwear should allow your body to do what is natural while allowing your foot to stay strong since there are no support systems in them, just enough protection from the elements. So we'll see if this works. I'm really at my wits end about this situation. I have set up an appt to see my sports medicine doctor next week, but I'm hoping to feel better and be able to cancel it. I'm not sure what he can do other than set me up with orthotics and send me to PT.