Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Long(ish) Run Adventure- 12/28/10

Jason and I had made plans to run further than we normally do during the winter. These ideas are usually formulated over beers, then neither of us are willing to admit our foolishness, so the plans continue to develop. We decided it would be cool to run 50 miles on the North Country Trail with no support or stashed supplies. It would be an "out and back" run into the wilderness, so everything we needed would have to be on our backs.
The cold weather would play a role in our decision to go "less than minimal" with our gear and supply selection. Here in Michigan, the weather can change at a moments notice(especially when you don't bother checking the weather forecast before going out the door). I loaded my Camelback with the following:
-waterproof, packable jacket
-extra gloves
-100oz water bladder
-1 lb bag of roasted, salted almonds(not exactly high carb, but delicious)
-4 equate brand meal replacement drinks(350 calories each- JACKPOT!)
-2 cans of Redbull
-1 Clif bar
-1 extra shirt
Only now do I realize how much heavy shit I brought with me. This may explain the bruises on my shoulders and back. I wore my New Balance NBx Windblocker tights, lucky green flannel shirt, new polartec gloves, and my favorite knitted hat(Grandma understands the needs endurance athletes have for quality winter gear).

We took off northbound on the trail from the M-20 staging area. About 1 mile in, we encountered our first photo op and a rather picturesque stream crossing.

The crappy weather was limited only to civilized areas.
The forrest still looked pristene in the bland winter weather

After stopping for some pictures, making some gear adjustments, and crossing the stream, we were off and running again until we reached a fork in the trail and decided to take a detour onto the Birch Grove Trail and headed toward the Schoolhouse. We didn't know what it was, so we decided to check it out.

 After a few minutes of running on the trail, I realized that this section of trail must have seen even less foot traffic than the NCT. The snow was quite difficult to navigate and felt remarkably close to running in sand. We haven't had any measureable amount of snowfall in nearly two weeks, so this particular snow was not powdery, nor was it compact, which gave it a greasy feel underfoot. 4.4 miles later, we came across the wildflower garden, which would be quite an amazing sight to check out in the spring. There was also an old basement that was still intact near the wildflower field.

Continuing on briefly, we made it to a crossroad, at which point we turned around, never making it to the Schoolhouse. I felt quite a low in my energy levels, so I felt bad about turning back. Jason had also lost a contact lens, so he was also accepting of turning back early with one eye. The trip back was particularly difficult as the snow warmed slightly and became more slippery. I havent been so humbled by a 30 mile run since my first forray into ultra distance running. Taking a few eating breaks and hiking some of the slippery uphills, we make it back in a time that was suprisingly long, even though we placed little emphasis on speed. I ran three miles less than my most recent race, but it took over 3 hours longer. I was elated to cross the stream and return to the car in the staging area.
We were the only people parked at the staging area. We found out why ater running the snow.

Jason and I contemplating how far we hadn't gone, but already making plans for spring

Monday, December 27, 2010

Summary of a week: 12/13-12/20/2010

AM: 20 miles. 15degrees F, windchill of -1, 15-20mph winds. This was a fairly epic run. The endorphines have since worn off, but it still goes on my "good" list. Left from home and ran the 6ish miles to KVCC, and found it was closed. I went there to enter the Al Sabo Preserve from the back, and was suprised to find the campus deserted. I knew it had snowed, but didn't really see the need to close schools. Oh well. I went around the back of the school to hit the trail, and was met with knee-deep drifts immediately after stepping off the parking lot. It had already crusted over, so I had to high-step it and posthole my way into the woods. Nobody had borken trail since the snow, so I was the lucky running hobo that got to make the first tracks I resisted the urge to run all my favorite single tracks first and headed into the south side of the preserve. I needed windproof gear to get me to the trails, but was able to shed the coat and pants and hide them in some brush while under the cover of the trees. After getting rid of the clothes, I was able to move much more silently. (Edit: I wasnt naked.I wore tights and a long sleeve shirt/fleece vest under my wind gear) The windproof pants made a sound that reminded me of my 14 year old self in a new pair of "husky" sized corduroys. I was happy to be rid of them for a while, but was praying to the running gods that nobody snatched them. It would be a miserable trip home if they disappeared.
To get an even 20, I would need to run 8 miles or so of trails. They looked like a whole new world, despite my very frequent visits to the same area. The snow had fallen and stuck to not only the ground, but the entire landscape-the brush in the wetlands, the cat tails in the swamp, the limbs of all the trees, and all the pine branches. There wasn't a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining brightly. I had to stop at some of the best vantage points to steal a glimpse. The run was filled with vivid images that couldn't be captured by a camera(I'd be willing to try- any companies out there want to give me one to review? Im such a prostitute).
My favorite part about runs like this that follow a good snowfall is that new routes emerge almost every time. The only large animals that have been moving since dawn are deer, and they don't always follow the beaten path. I kept an eye out for tracks, then darted into the woods after what seemed like nothing, but the faint trail gave a new place to explore. It was pretty slow going while ducking under branches and hopping down into gullies and back out the other side, but I found it pretty enjoyable. The 7 miles went by pretty quickly, but I only brought 2 GUs and had just taken the last one, so it was time to head for home.
The trip back may have been one of the worst runs ever, but there was something special about it. There was a headwind that nearly tipped me over, but the ankle deep snow/slush is what did me in. I was breathing quite hard and my legs were burning, but I was busting out some super solid 12 minute miles! I cut in on an eastbound road as quickly as possible to get out of the wind. Upon finding a gas pipeline, I decided to try that as a means to get me closer to home and stay out of the wind. The pipeline trail ended abruptly and I arrived at a fence with a cornfield on the other side. I thought, "This shouldn't be a big deal. I'll just cut through this feild and end up on Parkview." This feild had to have been 1 mile long. It was knee deep snow with hacked off cornstalks, rocks and a crust above the snow. I spent nearly 20 minutes wading in the cold with the wind in my face. I made it back out to the road and did a accelerations for 1 mile, then an easy cooldown for the last. Home free.
Also got conned into a 6 mile walk with Abbey, but that doesn't count. Real cold.
6 miles - About 1 hour's worth of running at Asylum Lake Nature Preserve with Evan and Alex. No watch or GPS, so Ill just guess on the low end and say 6 miles. nice run in the snow by the lake. Got a ride back with Evan and caught the early bus to campus. Studied and had some food before my Exercise Testing and Prescription final.
Got a nice 1.5 hour hike in in the afternoon(call it 5 miles). Tested out my spikes and explored some new trails
14 miles
PM- 7 miles at Al Sabo. Felt really zippy for the first time in a while. I explored some new trails(probably tresspassing, but I saw no signs) and crammed in a run. I intended to get up early, but I slept through the entire morning. The run wasn't particularly enjoyable, partly becasue I felt rushed and my MT100s gave me a nice blood blister on my 4th toe. Still fun, but running fast just because Im in a rush is less than ideal.
PM2- 7 miles at Gazelle's Wednesday Night Live. Good run with Alex, Phil, Mark, and Shawn. Beers to follow. 40 so far. Im already behind on my mileage goals for the week, but whatever. That's what I get for being ambitious.
4 miles- I won't be winning the "Mr. Consistency" award any time soon. Woke up late to being pulled out of bed by Abbey, who would then drag me out for a 4 miler. Without her, Alex, and the rest of my partners in crime, I'd be one lazy son of a bitch. It was a fairly slippery run on the sidewalks on the Arboretum loop.
0 miles- I went to Allendale to see Sam and got caught up in the "Holiday Spirit" (Holiday Spirit- awful rushed feeling of holiday shopping) and couldn't sneak a run in. It was cold and my shoes were wet. That's all I have in the excuse department.
HUFF 50k- 4:28:xx- 33 miles(The course was long). This was a strange weekend. I had no intention of doing any winter races, but circumstances allowed for an impromtu trip with my crew of Joggas. The run served as a training run, and it served its purpose. I felt no anxiety whatsoever and ran the course with little gusto. Im slightly dissapointed in myslelf for allowing such a malaise to overtake my usual zeal for winter trail running. It was a good fitness test, as I held a slightly faster pace than my recent 50mile race at Woodstock with a pretty low effort. I met some cool folks and had some laughs on the course(most notable of which was my accidental showing of my privates after a peeing trailside- I forgot to put my junk back due to frozen fingers and trudged along for several minutes until noticing that my...icicle was hanging out).
0 miles- The rest of the day was spent travelling and catching up with family, so I had no time for a run. The strange part was that I felt amazing. My legs felt as if I hadn't run at all. Other than some frostbite on my foot, I covered the distance, placed 15th out of 310ish competitors, and came out completely unscathed. Makes me feel tremendously grateful for my health and my abilities to move freely.
77 miles

I'll Just tack on the week of christmas to this post, as it was fairly sparse with running:
10 miles- Fairly speedy adventure with Jason at Hoffmaster. a few miles on the beach, followed by some hill repeats on a certain hill that needn't be mentioned, then a really technical run on frozen dunes, overlooking Lake Michigan on the way back. Got a chance to test out my New Balance NBx cold weather gear and enjoy the view of the lake. The inviting scene of Lake Michigan in the summer is substituted for a rather menacing and poweful sight of dark water and icy waves.
10 miles- An actual solo workout, possibly for the first time. A warm up mile on my ice-covered dirt road, a sub-8 mile to ease into it, then alternating easy/hard miles. Stayed sub-6 pace for 3 of them, then commenced cooldown. I was happy to see that the 50k hadn't stolen any leg speed, nor has my alternation between high and low volume weeks over the past month or so. Good off-season fitness test and  it was fun to get the HR up for a change. Though I usually enjoy a workout for more with my speedy training partners Alex, Evan, and Joey, it was nice to see that I can do it alone. I might be slowly turning into a runner.
8 miles- Tempo-ish run with Mark, Tony, Rick(accompanied by his three dogs), RYAN, and Tom. I hadn't met Tom before, but he's the steeple coach at indiana, and an elite mid-distance runner. He showed me some of the lesser-used trails and gave me an unexpected effort that nearly reached "tempo" intensity. Socialized with the joggas a bit, then headed home for yet another Christmas party(7 parties total, which explains the sparse week of running).
28 miles

So, to recap, I ran my goal for 1 week...in 2 weeks.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

12/7-12/13/10 weekly recap

8 miles- short on time, but long on creativity, I turned my running club time into an errand-running session. I had to run the 4 mile trip to the grocery and back, then the run to class. I was enjoying the heavy snowfall so much, that I just ran right by the bus and took the long way home...in jeans and my bulky Brooks Cascadias, full backpack. The pace was decent considering the extra weight and bulky clothes(about 8:30ish pace). Got home and shoveled the deck and sidewalk as a cooldown. It was a nice day to ease into another week after last week's relatively high mileage.

PM- 5 miles- Went to Al Sabo, but didn't even plan on running any harder than it took to stay warm. Turns out, that was harder than anticipated. It took 2 miles before I even felt my feet. I may have to break down and wear socks. The run was picturesque, and I stopped to take in some of the views over the pond. A run like this would be great to be documented with a camera.
PM- 6 miles- 3 warm up with Abbey and Joey. It was nice to cruise around downtown before going into the gas chamber that is the indoor track. 3 miles indoors was enough for me, so I called it a day and headed to my meeting. After running a snowy trail on my own and indoor in the same day, my feelings about indoor running have not improved

AM- 5 miles with Abbey and Alex. An easy, flat shakeout jog on the Kalamazoo River Valley Trail. Followed by some lifting.
PM- 7.5 miles with the Wednesday night crew at Gazelle. Ran to campus, did a loop, headed up by valleys, saw some huge ass Christmas light displays, and took Crosstown Parkway back to the store. I wore my NB100 trail shoes, and they gave me considerable knee pain, even with the heel removed. Warmth and truly minimal shoes are not often found together, so I attempted to wear something warmer. I'd rather be cold.

6 miles- Looks like school and my procrastination got the better of me today. Got in 6 easy with Alex and Abbey this afternoon. It was a great run, but I would like to have gotten in some more miles.  I was up until 4 this morning working on my final project, so I opted to go home and rest instead of doubling. Another long night of schoolwork ahead.

0 miles. After feeling decidedly crappy yesterday, I chose to just take a day off. It threw off my plan of having another 80mile week, but suffering through it for the sake of an arbitrary number seemed senseless. As much as I love the proposed strength gains to be yielded from indoor track workouts, I have to wonder if they're for me. I've yet to have a good experience in the fieldhouse, and the poor workouts are usually followed by my injured knee feeling loose and showing some swelling. I'll try to acclimate to the dry air and speed more slowly, as I may have some sort of characteristic that keeps me from adapting as quickly as the fast guys I run with. The comeraderie I get from the guys at running club is unmatched anywhere else, so I'd like to hang in there just for the good times. The only part that is frustrating is the residual fatigue and soreness that results in cutting the easy, long trail miles-where my love of running really lies. Motivation also tends to disappear when I spend two consecutive nights in the lab working on a project until dawn. No complaints here, but running just had to take a backseat for a bit.

0 again. Another night of inadequate sleep and a truly booked schedule kept me out of my running gear again. 4 hour CPR class in the AM, Meetings all afternoon, and some socializing at night took precedence over running in nasty rain once more. Bummer. I really can't explain it, but I felt that this break, albeit excessive and abrupt, was necessary. After three weeks of slightly above average mileage, weeks that got progessively higher, a down week was sounding pretty good. I'd love to get to a point someday where a down week still consists of relatively high miles, but I'm confident that I'll get there.

Get ready...here it comes...0 miles. Woke up feeling exhausted, so I studied, slept, and read all day. Im getting really good at this sedentary stuff. Consecutive days off are getting to me, but They've also been helpful. Instead of saying to myself, "I'm behind on my miles, I should run xxmiles today," I now just have the itch to get moving. Numbers be damned.

Total for the week :37.5

Here's what the majority of my week consisted of. Note my official sign, thoughtful look, and calculator. If you need further proof that I was working, notice the pencil in my mouth. A true sign of mental depth.

I've realized that the reasons I run aren't for the same reasons as the next person. Not better, not worse, but different. I love being outside.
As I hear people talking about their disdain for winter weather, I can't help but wonder what the falling snow looks like at this exact moment. One of my favorite spots at the nature preserve is a patch of pines sitting near an open, prairie-like field. Once I get warmed up enough to slow down, I head to that spot and sit on a log, watching it snow. First peering out of the forest, watching the snow blow powerfully across the field in waves-not unlike the waves that lap over the sand at home on the beach of Lake Michigan when a storm rolls in. Turning around, I can see the same snow drifting through the canopy of the pines as it slowly and peacefully settles on the ground. I can sit there looking at a scene nearly calm enough to sleep in, while outside the shelter of the trees is a violent air that burns the skin as it freezes, chapping the exposed skin that peaks out from my shoes.
My affinity for running hasn't always been this way, but it's getting to be more and more so with each passing week. Could I walk and experience this? Certainly, and I do, but the pleasure of the experience seems to be heightened by a heartbeat that rises and falls in concert with the hills.

As finals week will surely come and go quickly, Im blessed with nearly 3 weeks off of school. As I write this, the thoughts of long runs, either solo or with friends, are looming in my head. The silence of the woods that I find just a couple hours North of home is inviting. It will help me appreciate those around me more and allow me to enjoy the pleasantly exhausted feeling after hours of running.

If anyone is reading this that doesn't see me often, please know that Im still a goofball who enjoys bathroom sounds and the dirtiest of jokes, but my writing has, for some reason or another, taken on this fancy-pants pretentious vibe. The wordy-er I get ,the longer it will take me to get to something productive.

Hope all who read this are well. All 2 of you.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


8 miles- Used running as my transportation for the day. 4 in the morning, 3 to school, 2 with running club before going to class. Running 4 different times in one day, mostly with a 30lb backpack, is a quick way to make the legs tired with low volume. It also helps when the buses refuse to run at their scheduled times. Met Abbey at the Rec for core work

10 miles. Workout done with Abbey and Alex. 1.5 to the feildhouse, 1.5 for a warmup, 5.5 miles worth of Oliver hill repeats(a substantially long, steep grade, if there is such a thing in the midwest), then 1.5 home. This was great workout, one that makes me greatful for great friends and good health. Added some explosive bursts at the end to work on speed after being tired.

8 miles with the Gazelle Sports Group. Good turnout tonight and a good group. Nice easy 6, followed by 2 to make an even 8. About 7 miles of walking today too, but what kind of runner would I be if I counted that? Ran on snow covered sidewalks and roads, adding a few subtle nuances to an old route. Met Abbey and Alex at the rec to lift weights(shoulders, chest, triceps)

AM- 6.2 miles at Al Sabo. I wanted to break trail on the more technical sections of the land preserve. I also ran some new paths. All I had to do was wait for some snowfall, then the deer showed me where all the good trails are. Headed toward the college and ran on that side for a few miles. One part that was particularly fun was a small "boardwalk"(slightly elevated 2''x8'' boards) that covers some wetlands. It was completely covered in snow, so running on it was akin to running on a tightrope that I couldn't see. Maintaining a fast pace over it was fun and challenging. Im not bragging. Wanna know why? I fell in. Nearly waist deep in water. At least I wasn't wearing socks-I dried up pretty quickly. Not sure if it was the RedBull, the snow, the perfectly cold temperature, or some combination thereof, but this was a greatly enjoyable run.

PM- 6 miles- Gazelle Sports "Run Through the Lights" in downtown Kzoo. We ran from campus to the shop, ran the 5k fun run, tacked on some extra, then headed home. Fun downtown run at a 6ish minute/mile pace. The light-heartedness kept it fun. Gazelle does some pretty cool community events, which explains the amount of good runners in the area.

PM- 4 miles- did a quick loop around my house with Abbey at 10:30ish. She had to work at the store during the run tonight, so I ran with her when she got out of work. NIce run in the snow, but ice covered sidewalks made it interesting. As I run around on the night known as "college friday," I realize that Im  a little bit of a social outcast, but I still keep good company.

AM- 6 miles with Alex. We headed downtown, but then headed down the River Valley Trail to Parchment. 3 out, three back. The snow is all gone on the sidewalks, leaving a nice crust of ice. The feets were a little numb and slippery. The day I find a warmer shoe than FiveFingers that doesn't give me knee pain will be joyous. We met Abbey immediately after for some weight lifting(back, biceps, legs). With 1 exercise left to do, I was feeling pretty trashed. I then realized that I hadn't eaten since the previous night. Bonk practice. Got some food, went to class, then finished my fitness assessment project, which involves finding my 1 repetition maximum for benchpress and leg press. Synthetic exercise is terrible and now my legs hurt.

PM- 4 with Abbey. I was feeling pretty beat up for some reason and didn't want to run, but was bribed with dinner. Same loop as yesterday, but in reverse. It ended up being a calm, relaxing run in the dark. other than our constant yammering, it was silent as the dusting of snow hung in the air on the "Arboretum" loop.

PM- 10 miles- A rather ominous solo run at Al Sabo The clouds were dark, making it seem like a late afternoon run, but was only 2pm. The first 2 miles served as a warmup, then I decided to follow some of the very faint trails that seem to only be used by animals. For some reason or another, I became dizzy, disoriented, and lost. Long story short,I woke, up on the ground, completely out of sight from any would-be passers by. I was only out for a second or two, but felt as if I were returning from sleep. I immediately downed a GU Roctane and shuffled back to the car. My vision was blurry and Couldn't focus on my footing. I glanced down at my watch to see how much further I had to go to get to the trailhead. I would have to call foul, but the pace read in the low 6minute/mile range for several minutes/. Other than in a 5/10/25k race, I'd be incapable of sustaining such a pace. How could I possibly be shuffling along, barely coherent at PR pace?  My best guess would be that a severe case of hypoglycemia  was the cause of the incident, although I had eaten and hydrated before the run.

I made it back to the car and sat down for a minute or two, drinking water and eating another GU to try to revive myself. Still a bit disoriented, I sat in my car reading for a few  more minutes before heading out again. I slowly headed back into the woods to give it another go. I felt stable, so I did another 7 miles of criss-crossing the preserve, with a few breaks in between of stopping and ejoying the silence. The wetlands looked suprisingly beautiful in front of the gloomy backdrop of the dark clouds as I sat near a stream and watched it trickle out into atwater pond.

Runs like this, despite the slight difficulties, impress upon me the desire to see more of nature and enjoy a world less influenced my our hurried lifestyles. Though I love trail racing, I'd be content with giving it up in exchange for endless hours exploring the world. I suppose that's the best part about trail ultras-that's how you train for them. What I need  to do now is find a locale that is conducive to such things.

PM- 4 miles- There wasn't much of a break between the last run and this one, but I did drive to Abbey's to start, so I guess its two different runs. We left from the Rec Center parking lot, did the downtown out/back, then stopped by the store to say hi the people working at Gazelle who were closing up shop for the night. (A store is something that lots of people may take for granted, but having a group of people nearby who really care about the health of the community is something special). We continued on, passing through the park as carolers sang in the christmas lights.

14 miles- Went to Al Sabo to meet the Dirty Herd Trail Runners. I got there a little bit early, so I did 3 miles to warm up. Alex and Evan arrived and we did 9 together in the trails. I was bored and not ready to go home, so I slowly jogged 2 more. It was a great run, jogging around in the freshly fallen snow. Ran A few miles with Tim, Lance, and Justin, some of the regulars in the running group.

Total- 80 miles