Saturday, April 27, 2013

Trail Marathon

I couldn't miss the opportunity to run a trail half marathon, on some of the same trails we ran during the Dances With Dirt 100k relay last September. Booked the race well in advance and, of course, my training was a disaster, but I was going through with it, just because.

You could not have asked for any better weather for race day, it was perfect.

Due to the tightness of the trails and the amount of people in the race (~800), they were have a 'wave' start. The first group that started off were people that legitimately thought they had a chance of winning and then up from there, starting about a minute apart. I, rather over-confidently, decided to opt for the 8:30 road mile pace, but start at the back of the pack. The course started out across an open field at the edge of the lake, but very quickly went into the woods and didn't mess around from there. For the first mile it was still quite congested as either we caught up with the stragglers in the previous group of the sprinters in the following group. The trails are very tight and a quite a few people aren't so big on trail etiquette and can make it really quite tricky when they try and sprint around you like a bloody gazelle. You really have to pay attention of the trails and look out for exposed roots, loose rock, etc. This is mentally taxing and it really doesn't help when you are right behind someone and can't see what is coming up.

 My first problem arrived at around 1.5 miles in. I had gone for a short run on the Thursday before the race and ended up have a slight pain in my left achilles tendon, this came back with a vengeance, hills started to suck. Just to top it off, at around 2.5 miles in, my right achilles decided to join the fun, ahh the gangs all here, let the party begin, every hill came with pain, getting worse the longer we went on, deep bloody joy.

The race scenery was gorgeous, but with it being a technical trail run, to look around while running would have meant a severely turned ankle, or worse. Rather bizarrely there were a couple of times during the race when I was completely alone, with no one in sight, I even thought that I'd somehow managed to miss trail markings, but no, it was just hilly and I saw people ahead, it was really quite strange though.

The race had many, many hills, with varying degrees of nastiness. The pain in both achilles meant that they were all slow going. I basically ended up running/ walking like a bloody penguin up most of them.

 On crossing the line we were handed a bottle of water, the all important medal and sent on to the snack table, which had bagels, bananas, muffins, water, etc, all very pleasant. I staggered on, found a spot on the ground and lay down and tried not to die.

 Final official time was 2:18:00.2, 38 out of 68 for my age group, 339 out of 766 overall. According to my Garmin, taking into account stopping to let people past, I got 2:17:50

Friday, April 26, 2013

New Shoes

A good deal on new shoes and realizing that I had almost 400 miles on the Sketchers, ended up being a good coincidence. So my new road running shoes and going to be Saucony Kinvara 3's...

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Garden Spot Village Half Marathon

We decided that I would do this one after finding out about it and the Road Apple award at last years Bird-in-Hand half marathon. We drove over to Pennsylvania the night before, allowing us to go and get a feel for the place at packet pickup, which was a breeze, followed by a nice meal and few cold ones the night before. We did see an English girl that was asking everyone to sign a car tire that she had, and commit to having a healthier and more environmentally aware lifestyle, what the tire was all about, we had no idea. We were staying about ten miles from the start live, but armed with the trusty GPS we were quite confident. Little did I realize the fun that the GPS had planned for us in the morning.

Up bright and early in the morning, as planned. I had already decided to wear a long sleeve shirt and shorts, although at the start of the race it was damn cold, it was going to heat up a little during the race and obviously I was going to warm up as well. I grabbed a quick snack, we jumped in the car, fired up the GPS and got going, or so we thought. It turns out that this was going to be one of these times where the phone's urgency detection system kicked in and steadfastly decided that it was just not going to bloody work, we were on out own, jeez. After a few minutes we realized that someone had decided to try and follow us to the race and we soon took a random, 'just bloody turn left here and we'll get close'. Luckily we had inadvertently managed to find the second half of the half marathon  route and we followed it in. We got there, way more stressed than planned, but get there we did.

Start area, damn cold, well organised though
The race start, while bedlam, was very well organised. There were plenty people to help with directions and general questions, etc. We parked on the grass at the entrance to the residential complex and strolled over, it was damn cold, but with with a beautiful blue sky. All we had left to do was to try a find a spot to wait that was (a) in the sun & (b) out of the cold breeze & (c) find a bloody portapotty for me before the race started.

The band, before the start
After the obligatory national anthem and then a rather bizarre pre-run prayer it was time to get ready for the off. Here is a video of the start, taken by Bren, if you watch to the very end, you can see 'tire girl', I'm approx 1:48 in, but not too easy to spot.

The race eventually got underway and we were off. The first part of the course took us out through the far side of the village, and as like all other races I've been on was bedlam and basically an exercise in trying to find a small gap to run in and not getting stuck behind a group of slower runners. The pack did stretch out quite fast and before even the first mile was done, running at my own pace was a breeze. The hills at the start were fairly gentle and only a  mild preview of what was to come.

In the race packet was a small hydrapouch, that the race management were encuraging everyone to refil & use, instead of grabbing cups from the water station. At first I thought this idea a little crazy, but decided to go with it. I used it at the first water station and after a little practice I decided that this appealed to my 'tree hugger' sensibilities and decided that it was the way to go. Within half a mile of using the bloody thing and then clipping it onto my waistband, it had fallen off and I was back in the land of the cup consumers, oh well, c'est la vie.

If there is one thing I will say about south eastern Pennsylvania, it is damn hilly, and they seemed to go on for ever. It seemed lke there wasn't a flat piece of land of the whole thirteen miles. My pace would be pretty good on the downhills, I'd even overtake a few people, but not going crazy, trying to conserve energy and my legs, but come the uphills, I'd be getting passed by everyone. After mile 5 we had a mile or so of downhills, but they weren't much fun, as I realized that, what with this being a lollipop run, I was going to be running up these soon enough, and they were damn steep. Typically I only walk at the aid stations, while drinking, but almost exactly at mile 8, on a really crappy and very steep uphill section. It was around this time that my running form fell apart, my ankle starting hurting and I was full of self doubt. Around mile 10, I saw the tire girl from the night before and she was dragging the thing, it was tied to rope which was tied around her waist, and I believe she was doing the marathon, absolutely crazy, she is an athletic god, incredible.

It was just after seeing her that I had a wee bit of a revelation, my paced had slowed but I really didn't feel any crappier, I was just wimping out. I decided to get my sh!t together, stop feeling sorry for myself and, most of all, stop letting people pass me. Once I got over that purely psychological hurdle I starting feeling a little better about things. Don't get me wrong, the hills still sucked, but instead of bitching about it to myself, I just got on with it.

Around mile 11 the course stopped being a lollipop and we started to head to the end. It was looking flatter and really quite pretty for running, after some very tricky mental gymnastics I realised that given luck a sub 2hr completion was in my sights, all I was looking for at the start was a sub 2:10, due to crappy preparations, so what the hell. It all finally fell apart as we turned the final bend towards the village, only to be met with a long gradual, uphill, oh well, ho hum...

The final ~100 metres
I turned the final corner to the finish line, saw Bren, smiled, felt a guy desperately trying to beat me, the old guy, let him enjoy it and finished. Official time 2:02:37, 22 out of 37 for my age group, 295 out of 682 overall, not amazing, but not too shabby.

How Endomondo saw it -
How Garmin saw it -

Large tech shirt, not quite
large enough for me, Liam got
this one

The carriage and horse are Amish
inspired, shoes for running,
shoes in a horses mouth,
your guess is as good as mine