Sunday, March 25, 2012

Another Run Through The Rollag Hills

My knee was still giving me some trouble week before last. The good news was that running really didn't seem to aggrevate it. I missed the group run and did my long run on Sunday. The temperature was nice, but there was a very strong SSE wind. I started my run heading south into the wind. It became quite challenging after only a couple of miles. I was finally able to turn west and enjoy sort of a quartering tailwind for a while. The wind became an issue again when I made the turn for home. I was able to finish 10 miles and was happy with that. I didn't want to push my knee too far too soon.

This first half of this last week was incredibly busy at work. I actually got off work very early on Thusday since I alread had more than forty hours in. It seems that all of the physically demanding work fixed the stiffness and pain in my knee. It's feeling good as new. Since I had Friday off I went for a short 3 mile run in the middle of the morning. It turned out to be my fastest 3 miles yet.

Saturday morning was the "birthday run" to celebrate Jon's and Rachel's birthday. It was a fantastic morning for this run. The temperature started a little on the cool side and there was some fog. By late morning it had become rather warm and sunny. Originally I had hoped to try for a 31 mile run, but since I haven't been putting a lot of miles in I figured I'd just go as far as I could.

Jon, Erin, Rachel, Penny, Lou, and I enjoyed a wonderful run along some very scenic back roads. We all ran at the same relaxed long run pace. After about 3.5 miles Jon turned around and went to get his "birthday present" bike. His knee has been giving him some problems lately, so he chose to do more cycling today. His new ride is a white Pugsley bike with some monster tires. It is really cool!
Since Maggie is five months along in her pregnancy she drove Rachel's truck and was the crew for us. It was reassuring to have water and other supplies readily available. She also took some great pictures and cheered us on. She would get her run with Rachel in after the rest of us had completed ours.

Some day soon I will run an ultra marathon, so going on long runs with experieced ultra runners is alway a great learning opportunity. Rachel gave us some very helpful tips along the way. Both she and Jon reminded us to take the time to enjoy our surroundings. This is one of the main attractions of running a longer race. It seems that many of the runners in these longer races don't hesitate to stop and snap some photos of the scenery.

Maggie Took This of the Group
The training schedule called for a run of 17 miles. Penny and Lou finished 16 miles. Lou had never run more than 13.1 before. It was really great that she was able to set a new longest distance for herself. Rachel, Erin, and I added a short out and back section and finished with 18 miles! We all enjoyed some of Rachel's birthday cake. Jon and Erin had brought some candied bacon (yumm), and I had made some coconut sugar cookie bars. It was a crazy kind of sugar filled feeding frenzy.

Rachel and Maggie still had to run another 13 or 14 miles so we said our goodbye's and left for home. I saw on the Daily Mile website that Maggie (and the future runner growing inside her) ran just over 13 miles. Rachel finished the day having run a little more than 31 miles! They also face a drastic shift in the weather. What started out to be a warm sunny day suddenly became very cold and brutally windy. They are two of the toughest people I know.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

A Little Setback

This week I missed the Saturday morning group run due to a meeting for work, so I went for a solo run in the afternoon. The group was running 15 miles, and I planned on running that far or maybe a little farther. The weather was gorgeous -- 50+ degrees and sunny with only a light wind. I started out feeling good and certainly thought the 15 miles was doable. Then after about 5 miles my right knee started hurting. I had tweaked it a little at work last week. I was at a job site and I didn't notice that a guy from another trade had parked his ladder right behind mine. As I stepped down I tripped over the legs of his ladder and must have turned my leg a little funny. 

I finished my 9 mile loop and decided to cut my run short. I figured if nothing else I could run another 9 miles today (Sunday). I kept an ice pack on it last evening and it seems to be somewhat better this morning. I'll see how it feels once I start moving around, but I think I may give it another day of rest and the do more short runs this week. Hopefully I get it healed up for next weekend's long run.

I'm beginning to think that my goal of running an ultra marathon in April might have to be changed to running the 25K race instead. I haven't been running enough miles recently to make me confident in my ability to finish 31 miles without hurting myself. The good news is I still have some time to get my weekly mileage built back up. I guess I'll do what Chief Dan George said in The Outlaw Josey Wales, "Endeavor to persevere."

Saturday, March 10, 2012

A Couple of Easier Weeks

Week before last was a really light week. The only running I did was on Saturday with the group. It was a step back week with a scheduled 9 mile run, but Jon and I wanted to go a little further. He and I met at Sandy's Donuts about an hour early and got a good 4 miles in before everyone else got there. The group run was a 4 mile loop followed by a 5 mile loop. Things were going quite well until about halfway through the last loop. Even though we were keeping a nice easy pace my legs became really tired and sore. Jon was also dealing with pain in his legs. He and I basically hobbled through the last 2 miles.

The donuts after the run were good and the company was great as always. Jon, Rick, and I had talked about going to the Sheyenne National Grasslands near Kindred, ND for a 10 mile run on Sunday. We decided against going because of bad weather and the fact that Jon and I would need to take it a little easy on our legs.

Last week I went for a 6 mile run on Tuesday right after work. It was one of those off days; I felt as though I was clomping along for most of the run. I found it difficult to get into a rhythm. I actually had a couple of strangers start up conversations with me as I passed their homes. I appreciated their friendliness, but these interruptions made it even more difficult to get in the groove. There was also a lot of slush at the intersections and plenty of snow filled sidewalks which didn't help. I was glad when the run was over.

Saturday's group run was completely different than Tuesday's run. It was fantastic! Eight of us: Jon, Erin, Rachel, Maggie, Penny, Heather D., Heather S., and I drove out to the rolling countryside near Hawley and Rollag. Half of our group comes out here often to run the hilly gravel roads as part of their ultra marathon training. I was really looking forward to experiencing this for myself. We were scheduled to run 14 miles. We dropped off some water next to a rural church and drove 7 miles south to start our run. The temperature was in the teens, but a strong north wind brought sub zero wind chills.

One of the keys to running a successful ultra marathon is conditioning yourself to walk up the hills and run the downhill portions and the flat areas. It's actually quite hard at first. Most people who run are resistant to taking walk breaks. This attitude is fine for shorter distances, but for most people walking is a must as the runs get longer and the terrain becomes more challenging. Walking up the hills was the only way I was able to complete this distance.

We ran the first 7 miles into the wind. The snow flurries and overcast sky made the quiet countryside seem very remote. The only other people we saw were some guys ice fishing on one of the small lakes we passed. I'm sure they thought we were nuts! We reached the church and refueled. The strong wind at our backs made the trip back much more pleasant. Everyone made it the whole way. Heather S. had never run 14 miles before and Penny hadn't run that far in a couple of years. It was great to see everyone succeed.

The Hardcore Award has to go to Rachel who pulled "Thor" the entire 14 miles. "Thor" is a tire hooked to a harness (see pictures/videos below). She is training for the Arrowhead 135 mile race which requires each runner to pull a sled filled with all of their necessary equipment and clothes. Her strength and determination are just incredible.

I can't wait to get back out to run these roads again.

Jon, Me, Heather D., Penny, Erin, Rachel, Maggie, Heather S.