Hellbender Half Marathon Course +

Longest run ever, yesterday.

photo 3At Terri’s suggestion, I did a 1 mile warm up at the start of the trail, then did the Hellbender Half Marathon Course to familiarize myself with the terrain there. I had biked parts of it a few years ago, but needed a bit of mental reassurance for next month’s run.

Typically my runs start around 5:30 a.m., but I wanted to more closely mirror the start time so I left at close to 9:00 a.m. The temperature and humidity were almost ideal for mid-July.

Terri and Arron biked to meet me at the five hydration station stops and were excellent moral support for me along the beautiful course through Roaring Creek Valley. I could not accomplished this without them.

My fueling was slightly different. We ran out of the Perpetuem protein tablets, and they are on back-ordered through the company. So it is now mixing up a slurry using the Perpetuem powder. On long runs, I typically slowly chew-up three tablets between miles 6 and 8; for this run I slowly sipped the mixture between miles 7 and 9. I was concerned that I would feel bloated with this mixture on top of the water I was taking in, but that was not the case.

Overall, my energy level was good during the entire run today. I know what to expect along the course, and my fueling plan worked as I had hoped. After cleaning-up and stretching out, I felt good and we took in Knoebel’s for a bit; that way I would not be immediately sitting for over an hour on the drive home after today’s little victory.

When we did get home, I rolled out and took a soak in epsom salts for 20 minutes. This morning, my quads and knees feels just a little used, but as I am warming up today, I feel good and am looking forward to my shorter weekday runs.

14.04 miles, 2:20:13, 9:59 pace.

Cross Training

Week 36/52 recap

5.3 miles temps – 5. miles EZ – 16 miles paced

I rarely mention the cross training I do as part of my trainphoto 1ing for the NYC Marathon. I have kept up with my physical therapy and added in extra core exercises and yoga stretches. Also, once a week I hop onto my mountain bike and go for a good hard ride.

At the beginning of June I was biking one of my favorite routes, Barnes Lane Loop. I am always excited for my Bia Sport watch to log any of my old route and look at them on the maps online. I also have the data kick over to another social network called Strava where I can compare my times and distances to other athletes.

Strava allows you to connect with groups of friend who share similar interests or other locals who run and bike the same routes that you do. They even have a function called “segments” on which you can directly compare you time to anyone else who has logged the same stretch of road, trail or hill. I mostly like to compare my segments to how well I have done in the past to see if I am improving. Occasionally, when I log a new route for myself, I will see that someone else has labeled a segment in the midst of where I had run/biked.

That is what happened when I checked out my Barnes Lane Loop the first time on Strava. All sorts of segments came up with the times other bikers had traversed the area. I had ridden at a relaxed pace, feeling out where I was fitness wise, and it was no surprise that I hadn’t been the fastest biker on any of the segments.

There was one segment on which I wasn’t too far off the best woman’s pace, a mile section in Spring Creek Canyon. I thought, “I bet I could best that time if I pushed,” but hated to knock anyone off the status of “Queen of the Mountain” (QOM) as Strava calls it. I checked out the woman’s details and the next thing I thought was totally uncharacteristic of me, “GAME ON!”photo 4

I mentioned in detail in (Act 1 – Red State, Blue State) of how I passed a local woman as I was biking to campus one day and she never lets me forget it. That was the woman who was Queen of the Mountain on that segment of Spring Creek Canyon. She had gotten under my skin by showing her competitive nature every year I ran into her and now I could compete with her, beat her, without her seeing me coming. A lot like when I passed her cheerfully on Orchard Road but this time with a different intent.

As each week presented itself, my cross training didn’t allow me to return to the canyon route. Thunderstorms chased me to spin on a stationary trainer at the PSU gym where Jim has a membership a couple of weeks in a row. The cost for a day is only $5 so it was worth it to get my biking done in a different way. It is dry in there but I worked up a good sweat each time.

I biked out to Boalsburg one week so that I could have my Bia Sport measure the one route I like to run for long runs. I helped me know the elevation gain too, since the NYC Marathon is not flat, I am trying to train on a similar course. There are Strava segments on the route too and it was fun to see how fast some locals have accomplished along the bike paths.

photo 2 copyLast week would have been a perfect morning to buzz down through the canyon. It hadn’t rained so there would bee no puddles nor slick muddy spots to slow me down or make the route dangerous. Alas, I had business in Lewistown calling me. I needed to visit my parents’ lawyer sometime during working hours to sign some legal papers. The canyon would have to wait.

No regrets biking to Lewistown! I hadn’t biked the route since I was cross training for the 2012 Wineglass Marathon. I was anxious to see if my fitness allowed me to pedal up and over Front Mountain without having to stop. I loved biking Stillhouse Hollow and skirting the remote Greens Valley. Whether biking or hiking, I usually always see deer or bear or grouse in this section of Bald Eagle State Forest.

This year I opted to stop and take some photos along the way. I started at the top of the Seven Mountains with a head lamp because I knew Stillhouse Hollow would be dense and dark. Just a mile in, I a took a photo of me by the “bridge out ahead” sign because I thought it would make me look tough. For the decades I have been hiking and biking that area, the bridge has always been navigable by foot and really was only a warning to vehicles.photo 2

The hollow was very dark that morning and I was glad to have worn the headlamp to see the deep potholes and jutting rocks on my descent. I was also pleased and really impressed that my Bia Sport and Go-stick had reception. This was one remote area I had not ever expected it to work. I was excited that it would record my whole workout and had a bit of assurance that in case of an emergency I could rely on the SOS Alert for assistance.

Remote, dark and quite, this area of the woods has always been some of my favorite in Central PA. I only set up listening to my podcast of Selected Shorts to help distract my ascent up Front Mountain. As I descended the south face of Long Mountain into the hollow, I was a little creeped-out that I seemed to have chosen a Halloween episode to start with. The woods took on a spooky feel and I stayed hyper aware as I crossed first Laurel Creek on a gated cement bridge then got close to the crossing of Greens Valley Stream.

It turned out to be kind of a funny story, The Cat That Went to Trinity that takes some crazy twists. I am determined to listen to it again because I became distracted with a crazy twist of my own when I came to the bridge that was out.

My Bia Sport recorded my fussing at the stream crossing.

My Bia Sport recorded my fussing at the stream crossing.

No, really, this year the BRIDGE IS OUT! No planks to walk my bike across, no creosote scented beams of yester-year, the only thing left was the skeleton of what had held them. I wracked my brain, “Had I walked across the iron structure with my bike before!? No way!!” The drop from the bridge remnants was significant as was the bank down to the creek on either side.

I stood there fussing about what to do when I found where other bikers and hikers must be using the one bank down, cross the creek and and back up the other bank. The banks were steep, the creek was running strong but not high and I really had no other choice. I resigned my self to having wet feet for the rest of the day, used the breaks on my bike as I walked it what felt like nearly vertical by my side then crossed the stream. I had to leave the bike at the base of the stream and take off all extra weight (my CamelBak and saddle bag) then return to push and climb with my bike up the far bank. It was tricky but I earned the right to feel like I was a bad-ass by the Bridge Out sign.photo 3

The rest of the ride went well and I enjoyed the readings of a couple of Poe stories as I crossed over the top of Front Mountain. I could tell that I was having and would have no trouble with the ascent but the mountain laurel was in perfect bloom so I stopped a few times for some photos.

This week has been peppered with quite a few thunderstorms and downpours. It is also the local Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts and my cross training day fell on Children’s Day. I love biking in to see what crafts the kids have made and are selling. I have purchased a lot of great creations from them so it was pretty much a no-brainer that I would use the visit was my cross training. The canyon would be muddy with a lot of puddles from the storms.

The canyon. It was calling me. I wouldn’t have time to bike the entire Barnes Lane Loop but what if I just did that segment and turned around and came back in time to catch a bus into Children’s Day? That would be silly though because I would have to bike up the terrible Shilo Road hill on the way back.

The canyon. I knew I could push harder than before and maybe, even with the tricky terrain, could go faster than the 6:33 that woman had biked that segment. Damn the mud, damn the deep puddles, I was giving it a go and the crawl up Shilo hill could be my victory lap.

photo 2 copyI chose The Moth podcasts to keep me company, put on my Bia Sport on to record the ride and my other watch to time the exact segment. I warmed up for a couple miles and kept my legs active and rotating even on the long descent down Shilo hill. I took a drink of Nuun on the level final 1/4 mile and then saw the gate ahead that marked the beginning of the segment. I got moving as quickly as was safe to bike around the meal gate and punched my timer.

I remembered to stay focused on keeping my effort up even when I would normally back off. The segment was really only 7/10 long and I could rest after I crossed Rockview Road. I knew exactly where the muddy spots and puddle would be and made the best of every tanget. I pushed super hard on the straight-aways upon which I normally backed off and enjoyed the view.

Until the hard left turn onto the bridge crossing, the muddy spots had slim sections that were drying and the puddles never crossed the whole path. The bridge was covered, as usual, with a huge muddy puddle at the near end. From years of running and biking this route I knew that straight through the muddle was the safest and I plowed through it as fast as I could after making the turn. Not a slip nor wiggle as I made it to the far end of the bridge!

The ride wasn’t over though, I had about 1/10 mile until Rockview Road. I saw where the segment ended head and knew it was going to be tricky to stay up to speed and safely hit the rough section that followed. I did hit the final muddy section a bit unsteadily but made it onto the wooded path without incident. I hit my stop watch and glanced down, 5:32 – over a full minute less than her time!

I was pleased and biked on just a bit farther to the dam to cool down before turning back for home. What was almost more gratifying was slowly grinding up Shilo hill without having to dismount. I had a good workout even though it was half the distance I normally bike.

Of course the moment I got home I had to go online to see if Strava recognized my victory n that segment. Sure enough there was a trophy by my workout that signified I had achieved a personal segment victory on this ride. I scrolled over it and it reflected my 5:32 on Spring Creek Canyon as begin second place… what!? SECOND place!?

Not but three days before, another woman had broken the record on that segment by recording 4:50! I had to laugh and I was really glad that I hadn’t been the one dethrone the QOM. I beat the 6:33 that I set out to do and that was good enough for me.

I was also pleased to see that someone had recorded Shilo hill as a Strava segment and out of curiosity looked to see how my time stacked up against the other women. My 11:15 grind uphill actually landed me a second place to the QOM 7:27. Did you guess it? I wonder if she would be cross if I could pass her up Shilo like I did on Orchard.

Leash Your Dogs

Week 35/52 recap

5.3 miles EZ – 5 miles with 10 Strides – 12 miles EZ

I fully expect to be met with passionate vitriol from dog owners who feel that they have a right to take the leash off of their dog in any public setting. My question to you is, why do you think that it is acceptable for me to be forced to physically interact with your dog? I am not talking about inside a dog park where it is obvious that dogs are allowed to be off lead and rambunctious. I am talking about places like parks, paths, neighborhoods and woodlands.

When using shared public space, it is a common courtesy to not have what you are doing interfere with other people’s activities. Bikers should pass pedestrians carefully, slower traffic to the right on bike paths and all that jazz. Dog owners should have their dogs on leash. Even in State Game or Fishing Lands where it is permissible to train your dog off lead, it clearly states that they must be under your control and on lead if not training.

A year and a half ago I mentioned one of the things I am grateful for are dogs on leashes. Large dogs look at me like I am running to play with them and run after me. I have been knocked over, slammed into and had scratches, and torn muddy clothes from paws all up to my shoulders. Once last winter, when I wasn’t prepared for impact, a solid golden retriever really hurt my arthritic SI joint while I was running.

Frequently Jim will take the lead on our runs if we see a loose dog because he knows they head right for me. I am the loose dog magnet. One time we were trying to skirt around an owner who was trying to corral his large dog when it lunged at us, playfully I assume. Jim yelled, “Hey!” at the owner and the guy laughed but the dog kept on and it really wasn’t funny. We weren’t stopping to play, we were on a focused long run.

Like PA public hunting and fishing lands, our local parks are all signed. The rules are more stringent in the municipalities requiring dogs to be on leashes (max length 6′ in length). For some reason some dog owners feel this doesn’t apply especially to early mornings or in the winter when they can’t see anyone using the park. They don’t seem to consider the half mile of paths and sidewalks that cut through our local Spring Creek Park that are frequented by runners and bikes that are passing through.

I have had dogs see me from across 2 softball fields and a soccer field zero in on me and dig in as fast as they can to catch me. The owners bellowing at their dogs to stop seems to work about 10% of the time. Of course I have to stop my run, in some cases climb onto a bench or table and yell at the top of my lungs across the fields, “Control your dog! Leash your dog!”

Last February I stood chanting those things to an owner who pulled up and just opened their car door to let a couple of large dogs freely tumble out. As she yelled, ineffectually, for her dog to stop she stumbled to reach for its collar. She looked at me in surprise as I said, “I am not moving until you have your dog on a leash.” She had to scramble into he car to find the leash she had never intended to use in the signed public park.

I am not unsympathetic. I know large dogs require exercise and sometimes a large field to run in. I think it is great our area has a very nice dog park for that. I whole-heartedly suggest that a person never take on the responsibility of a pet they cannot properly care for. If you don’t have private land to let your dog run, cannot exercise it to the extent it needs while you hold on to the other end of a lead or won’t take it to the dog park, DON’T GET A DOG!

Penn State University has many large fields that serve dual usage of parking for football games and occasionally grazing large livestock. I have biked along the access roads there and seen dog owners pull up and drop their dogs as they drive slowly along. They never get out thus allowing their dogs tear through the fields as they stay in their climate controlled vehicle. Never mind cleaning up after their dogs, they are most certainly not in control of them. I have had to dismount and prepare to wield my bike as a weapon as multiple dogs have charged me on PSU lands.

On yesterday’s 12 mile long run, I saw no fewer than 4 dogs off leash along the public bike path that had just recently put up signs reminding owners to leash their dogs. Another runner had his German Shepherd on a leash as he ran but gave me a pretty dirty look that I seemed to be in his way on the path. Jim, who was running separately from me at that point, also saw him in the same neighborhood. Jim said the guy was pretty obnoxious to him as they came toward each other, “There are certain unwritten conventions that you don’t take up the whole sidewalk and this guy just didn’t seem to want to share.”

We run long quite early on Sunday mornings and there was plenty of room for everyone so I was surprised when I saw him again. He came in from a side road from the neighborhood that met up again with the bike path. He again looked annoyed, sped up to bolt right in front of me, taking the turn so tight and cutting to the grassy side of the street sign. We were both starting up a long grind of a hill and his dog kept looking back over its shoulder at me. They were both faster than me so I had no problem that they started outdistancing me as the hill progressed.

Eventually the dog realized I wasn’t chasing them, stopped looking back at me and I started to forget about them. Even along the 5 lane main artery into town, things were quiet until I heard the man yell something. About 1/2 way up the hill, I was a bit relieved when I saw them cutting across the many lanes to get to the other side of the highway. As I watched, I heard the man yell again and the angle of their run revealed that he had lost his grip on the dog’s leash! They were running up the hill in the lanes where traffic could appear and bear down on them at any second.

There was nothing I could do, if cars crested the hill they would be on them in an instant! Unable to run anywhere but up the same hill on the bike path, it was a terrifying situation and I felt sick about it. Thank goodness there was no traffic at all coming from any direction and eventually the dog turned onto a side road and into a development. Selfishly, I was glad not to see them anymore and I was relieved the dog chose a less dangerous route.

It took me a full minute to get to the point across the road they turned down and I heard the man yelling still. I glanced down the side road and the dog was still loose, standing in the middle of the road blocking the path of a stopped car. The man was no longer running, he was all exhausted and walking toward his dog. He was still far enough away I had my doubts they would connect for a while. Unfortunate mistakes happen and hopefully they were safely reunited. There was something about the whole situation that just reminded me of this video.

Slipped lead or owners boldly defying leash laws, loose dogs can be a nuisance and really dangerous. My message to owners in this situation, I am not a stick in the mud that I don’t want to pet and socialize with your dog when I am on a run. I don’t know your dog and do not have the time to get to know it when I am running. It is not all about you, I am out to work not to socialize. I find it is really annoying and many times frightening that I have to come to a full stop until you gain control over your dog. I am not inviting your dogs to play and it is NOT MY FAULT that my running makes them want to chase me. I am well within my rights to report you to the authorities. I have and will take photos/videos of you, your loose dogs and license plate if I have the means. Please leash and control your dogs.

13 Miles Right on Track

The training schedule that Terri helped set up for me feels right on track. Having today’s run coincide with temperatures in the upper 50ºs, a light breeze, and low humidity made it just about perfect. We ran together until our first fuel and fluid cache. We ended up passing by each other and were able to slap hands as our training routes crossed; that was a nice highlight! I felt pretty good after the half-way point, but started to feel the miles as I approached my final fuel and water cache. After the 3 Perptetuem tablets, a Hammer gel, and water, I forgot to take my Endurolite caplets, and for a brief moment felt like running back to grab another swallow of water, but I ended up just swallowing them on their own. Then it was the duel mental and physical push until then end, trying to keep a smile on my face as I passed folks on the shared bike path. I was hoping for a negative split [1 hr. 12min 24 sec at the half-way point], and was not sure if I’d do that or not; but I did end up at 2hr 19min 21 sec. at a 10:36 average pace. As I finished, I felt pretty beat up, but kept moving as I cooled down. Wearing compression socks now as I type this up and they feel great!

and a Third to Go

Week 34/52 recap

5.3 miles EZ – 5 miles hills – 10 miles paced

Of the 52 weeks I am blogging about training for the NYC Marathon (#52toNYCmarathon) this one ended the first 2/3 started with a sore calf on my left leg. The final miles of last week’s 16 mile long run really aggravated it and it was still quite tender the next day. I was able to make it through most of my PT and core work with the exception of destabilized cone touches. It just started to aggravate my leg too much so I stopped.

If I could only have been sensible and stopped when I was hurting last year at this time. When I push hard for the sake of other people, family or team-mates, I have a hard time putting my needs first. Because of not balancing my activities and rest, my upper and lower back was completely seized up. I rarely felt problems when I was running but by July would occasionally have a seizing and tingling pain running from my lower back down my legs to the back of my knees. It was so jarring a few times that I had to stop running and walk home. Even that didn’t make me rest because of training for Ragnar Relay, I would head right back out the next day to make up the run. Back to back runs have always been very problematic for me.

The rest of this week I was super careful about my calf. I was able to do all of my scheduled workouts but kept hyper aware of my leg. When it acted up again after a run, I would baby it with first icing and ibuprofen then Epsom salt baths and massage. I realize training is a balance and I haven’t been so married to my prescribed schedule that I didn’t consider asking my coach to amend it. I send weekly emails to my coach, Angie Spencer of Marathon Training Academy, and she is great. She advised that if my calf was still painful for my long run to drop the pacing and just run it easy. It turned out to be fine and yesterday I pushed hard with no consequence.

Being flexible with what is going on in my life and balanced with my choices has been a good theme for the first 2/3 of my marathon training. So, just like this week, the first 2/3 were spent building back carefully.

I ditched alcohol consumption this past February and after 4 months have noticed that I can remember more dreams for the first time in years. I am going to assume that means I am sleeping better, more REM sleep. Not that all of my dreams are pleasant ones, actually about 50% of them are quite disturbing filled with poisonous spiders, untrustworthy strangers and sad moments. Even with the nightmare I had last night, I prefer remembering dreams than being numb and more frequently sleepless.

I think about what this last 1/3 of a year’s training will hold for me. If I look at the marathon course itself, 2/3 of the way will be almost mile 18 on First Avenue in Manhattan and I will hopefully be able to see Jim for the first time on the course. I will be getting a big boost seeing him, and hopefully, my “daughter-outlaw” Amy before the section of the marathon where it gets super tough. If ever a marathoner is going to “hit the wall”, bonk or just stop running, there is a strong chance it will be in the last 1/3 of the race. The Bronx is where it gets tough, mile 20 is just over the Willis Ave. Bridge that separates Manhattan from The Bronx.

If you look at a marathon purely mathematically, it is true that there aren’t 10 more miles after mile 20. The final 6.2 miles are very tough and require a strong mental focus so many call that distance the last 1/3. I approached my first, The Wineglass Marathon, that way and think it was a good strategy. I can remember passing under a highway near the 20 mile marker and thinking, “I have never run this far before, this is uncharted territory.” It was an exciting adventure but it also got really difficult as the miles went on.

So today I steel my resolve just as I will as I head across the Willis Ave. Bridge into the Bronx. The last third of training and the marathon are going to require some really tough work and sacrifice. I will have to play mental games with myself to keep going and to make wise choices. I will need to fuel properly and have faith that the work I have put in, the groundwork I have already laid, is solid and will see me through even when I want to quit. I will evaluate any pain or discomfort I am in, assess the immediacy and emergence of it and decide if it requires caring, casting aside or coping.

I hope to wear this shirt that I made. Jim helped with the awesome front design and I painted it front and back.

I hope to wear this shirt that I made. Jim helped with the awesome front design and I painted it front and back. If you choose to copy/use it yourself, please give us credit.©

The Challenge of Getting 12 Miles In

As part of my training for the Hellbender Half-Maraton August 17th, I had twelve miles scheduled this weekend. Since I was concerned about the course, Terri suggested that I run 12 miles of the course on Saturday. She would bike the trail,  and have water where the race’s stations would be located. She would then run her 16 mile training run on Sunday and I would provide support for her.

We had biked and letterboxed on this trail a few times in the past, but I have never run on it. It was a good plan, and we were prepared for the weekend. We were greeted by a rainbow early Saturday morning, and headed off for Elysburg before 6:00 a.m. Terri had read about a detour due to construction in Danville on the Knoebel’s Facebook page, and we made it to the Sheetz in Elysburg in great time for a final restroom stop. I made it out before Terri, and casually glanced at the headlines in the local newspaper rack. I read a story about a search about a missing jogger and a few moments later was able to ask Terri if that search area was was where we were heading. She said it was, and it seemed like the search ended on Friday evening according  to the article. When we arrived at the parking area for the rail trail head, it was blocked off with orange cones and a sign saying that parking was restricted to state forest vehicles only. We sat parked along the road for a couple of minutes trying to decide what to do next, and came up with a plan to go to the other end of the rail trail. The route would not be the same as the race, but at least would be on the same terrain. When we arrived at that parking area, a couple of forest rangers greeted us and said the entire state forest was closed indefinitely.

At this point it was 8:30, I had fueled properly for a run, and had no place to go. Knoebel’s would not be open for hours, so we bailed and headed home to regroup and plan for having my run overlap somehow with Terri’s. She looked at her course, and where her and my water/fuel stops should be for training. If I went with her for the first six miles of her course, it fit perfectly for me as well.

5:00 a.m. Sunday morning I placed two of the caches, and soon after 5:30 we were off together.

Then about 1.5 miles into the run, I took a tumble crossing over a wood-chip pile on part of the trail. Apparently, where I stepped was hollow underneath, and I collapsed it with my weight. Terri was right behind me, and I assured her I was okay. I ran on adrenaline for next five miles, and I was constantly reassessing if I really was okay to continue. The final five miles felt really slow, even though I had a negative split of 4 minutes.

I stretched out some before seeing Terri at mile 14 in front of our home. She was looking strong, and took off for her final two miles. I gathered Nuun water and a recovery drink, and drove off to meet her at mile 16. As I waited for her, I stretched out some more, and could tell that I will be sore later today and tomorrow from the physical shock my body took from the tumble. Aside from the soreness, I think I am very lucky that it was not worse.

Go, You Chicken Fat, Go!

Week 33/52 recap

5.26 EZ – 5.26EZ – 16.3
cycled 15
serious core workout Friday

Anyone see iPhone’s new ad featuring the song “Chicken Fat?” What used to also be called “The Youth Fitness Song” and sung by dear Robert Preston brings back memories of grade school gym class to both Jim and myself. Origionally composed for President Kennedy’s Physical Fitness Program it preceded Title IX and some of the exercises excluded girls.

Go you chicken fat go is how kick@$$ my week has been. A super hard workout Friday left my gluts still sore for my 16 miler today but I got it done.

Also if ANYONE has an old copy of the grade school Physical Fitness Program requirements of the late 60′s, please share it with me. I am trying to put together just what we had to accomplish to pass the test. The original test included a softball throw, a broad jump, a 50-yard dash, and 600-yard walk/run (this was BEFORE it required a mile run), chin ups for guys/arm hangs for gals and more.