Friday, December 25, 2009

It's Time For Screwing

No no no. Get your mind out of the gutter.

For the first time since I've lived in my fair city, we've been in a freezing and thawing cycle from our big snowstorm two weeks ago without much melting off. It forced my early morning training partner and I to totally call off one of our runs, and as soon as we started seeing a little bit of melting earlier in the week, we got another smaller storm that dropped a few more inches. Running in broad daylight today, I had to keep my eyes peeled on the ever-changing surface under my feet as it changed from damp asphalt to mushy snow to slick, deep ice. I first thought I could ride it out, and wait for the snow and ice to melt, but now I think that for safety's sake, it's time to screw my shoes.

I looked into some Yaktrax in previous years, but the snow would always melt off before I had a chance to think too deeply about it. For you warmer weather folk, these are devices that you strap to your running shoe for better traction while running on slippery or snowy surfaces.

In all fairness, these would probably be great if I lived in a place where an even layer of permafrost or snow was the norm, but I could see these things getting annoying in a hurry where I live. We so rarely get measurable snow, and the dumpage we received earlier in the month has been melting, albeit unevenly. It would probably drive me nuts to have something attached to the outside of my shoe for sections of road and trail where I don't need it at all. Still, I was seriously fearing a broken ankle or other stupid injury in the slickest spots today, so I think it's time to take action.

Screw Shoes are simply your regular running shoes, modified by placing short screws in the bottom of your shoes to provide better traction. You can put them in the shoes in whatever pattern you like, and unless you're using a screw as long as the one in my screw shoes link that says "don't use this!" you don't have to worry about anything poking through and hurting your foot. Unlike the Yaktrax, this method means doesn't add an extra step of having to strap something to your shoe before heading out the door when you might have already been unmotivated for a yucky weather run to begin with. And, if you don't like them or the weather finally goes away-just take them out.

I won't be able to screw my shoes until after tomorrow's long run, but I am looking forward to doing it some time this weekend, and then trying them out soon after. Then, I might be able to run without baby-stepping and feeling super-cautious everywhere I run outdoors.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

"The World Is Full of Bastards, The Number Increasing Rapidly The Further One Gets From Missoula, Montana"

Yeah, yeah, it's an extra-long title, but a lot catchier than "Races in Places that Start With The Letter M."

I seem to have figured out a trend here. When I'm tapering for a race, I buy running gear. Of all kinds. Because, you know, I might need some of that stuff some day. Maybe even use it all at once. Who knows. You can never be too prepared on race day, right?

When I am recovering from a race-and, more particularly, when I'm nearing the end of a recovery period, I sign up for races. Lots of them. Almost as a preventative measure because of some deep-seated fear that I'll lose all motivation and ability to run. If I'm registered for something, it means I need to get out there to train, or I'm just burning money for no good reason. Okay, okay-it's not anything as deep as that. I think I just like to pick new goal races as soon as possible, and keep that motivation level high without a down period of doing nothing in particular. So, without further's what I've been doing with a my bank debit card behind the computer screen:

Beyond the things I've already had on the schedule for awhile, I've recently added the Missoula Marathon. I joked that I am a big sucker who was caught, hook line and sinker, by the "Best Overall" title that Runners World magazine bestowed on the race in an article in the most recent issue covering some of the best marathons in the country. I'd never heard anything one way or another about the race, but when I read the article, so many reasons to do it, and reasons I would like it jumped out at me.

I had been wanting to add a third marathon to the schedule next year to go along with Boston, and the TBD fall marathon depending on how the New York City lottery works out. Missoula is in July, and splits the difference between summer and fall. It's not too big and not too small-my favorite kind of race where you have enough runners that there's kind of a festive environment, and good sized crew running the race, but not so huge that you're getting up at midnight to catch planes, trains and automobiles to the start where you wait sardined with 30,000 friends for hours. I love my long runs here with mountains in the background through our rural city, and, well-Missoula would be an opportunity to run past scenic mountain vistas to the heart of the small downtown of a fun rural city. That's also our idea of a good family vacation for a lot of reasons-we don't have the dough, nor do we have the interest in jetting off to some exotic beach for weeks, but we love loading up the family van and taking off on long weekend adventures. My husband already found a couple of nearby mountain biking routes, and can do a little of that while we're there. It's SO close to Glacier National Park, too-so that would be a fun place to take the family some time while we're there. I don't know if the race is filling at record pace, but after a few hours of talking about it with my better half, I decided I'd better go ahead and register just in case. Cha-CHING...done deal.

The other thing I've got going is this little event down in Moab. The Moab Red Hot 50+K/33K takes place in February, and I had originally signed up for the 33K. The change in elevation is not anywhere near the craziness of the Imogene Pass Run, and there's lots of nice flattish slick rock and dirt trails. Now, my friend Jen has been wanting to do an ultra for awhile. The girl started working on me to do the 50K. HAAAAAAAAAAAIL NOOOOOOOOOOOOO was my initial response, and subsequent response the next few times she brought it up.

She must have stuck some mind control device in my brain, though. By about the twelfth time she brought it up, saying "oh, you know, we just do it as a training exercise-no pressure!" I said "FINE. I will email the race director to see if I can switch divisions." I fully expected the answer to be no. You all know how these deals with races go. No cancellations, transfers, upgrades, downgrades, running backwards, in fuschia and orange striped shorts, or anything else that's different than what's in the strongly worded race rules and regulations. The longer race also costs more, and I knew that would be a pain to figure out how to pay the difference even if he said yes.

So, imagine my surprise when I got a response from the race director. "Sure, you can change to the 50K! I'll switch your name over to that list, but you might not see your name show up on that list until after registration closes. Bring an extra $16 with you on race day, and just find me and give it to me." How's that for low-tech and easy peasy? But, CRAP, I thought-what did I just do? Over the next twenty-four hours, my head was filled with thoughts like "You moron, what did you do that for? That's too far! You're going to get hurt! You're not ready! You're going to ruin Boston-MORON!" Oh, and only after the fact did I notice that it said 50+K (a little less than 34 miles) and not just 50K. Um, how did I miss a major detail like THIS IS A 34 MILE RUN?

After I got done with all that, on the verge of wanting to write him back with the tail between the legs, saying "just kidding," I checked out some slide show photos of the race. It looked REALLY sweet. Not easy (not that anyone would ever call an ultra easy), but there were lots of smiling faces, great views, excellent aid stations, and the route did indeed look somewhat manageable for a first ultra. This was confirmed by a RWOL forumite who ran it last year, and who was thinking of doing it again. Like I said, no huge, steep climbs, but kind of a rolling route for much of the way, going up for awhile but coming back down a bit at the end.

So-nervously, I decided to not chicken out, and really do this thing as a no-pressure day of trying something new that I think could make me a better runner in the long run for getting over my fears. I'm going to carefully bump my mileage up a bit now, make sure I get in some long runs on trails, and make that long run longer than it's been before. I'm kind of scared, for sure-but are we really getting anything out of our running if we never step out of the comfort zone or give things a little push from time to time? That's the story I am telling myself, anyway.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The (Wickedly Cold) Winter (and not so much) Sun 10K Race Report

It was nasty cold (for here, in December, anyway) this past Saturday when I headed down to Moab with several fellow runners for the traditional season-ending 10K race. Normally, we can count on it being slightly warmer down there, and it was-but this is not saying very much when it was five degrees in our fair city when we headed out at 6:30 a.m.

After picking our race packets, we were trying our best to hang out inside the high school and ride the second of two waves of buses to the start, but the race crew shooed all of us out and said they had to have people on the first wave of buses and then come back for the other half. So, we took the first buses up. I was in seventeen layers of warmups (okay, not that much-but it felt like it), not really wanting to remove them, and was not really feeling racey at all which was oddly comforting. When we lined up, though, I was still telling myself I was going to take some chances and see what happened. When the gun went off, there were some amazingly fast ladies-at least a dozen-who were out ahead of me from the very start. I thought, oh, no shot for an age group today with all these people but any kind of PR would be very fulfilling.

I got passed by several people in the first three miles but also passed a that seemed like a wash. I passed a couple more folks in the middle miles but again it seemed like I was being passed by the same number. This was harder than I ever ran the race the first two times I did this "comfortably hard" here at any point. It was just plain hard, and a little part of me was tempted to kind of do that 90% effort where it is a little bit comfortable just to catch a slight breather here or there. The other part of me said go all out for the best PR possible, you can't control results but get a good PR. So that I did, and I tried to give extra kick *just in case* I was close to age grouping and/or had anyone right behind me. Splits looked like:

7:31 (the hilly mile)
last .2 on a 7:02 pace, Garmin time 43:46, official/gun time 43:48. This was a PR of almost 2:30, so I was thrilled with that. I couldn't have picked it up any more today than I did and felt like that is the best fade-fighting I've ever done late in a race. My friend and regular race buddy Jen looked great coming in too. I could see her checking out the time clock and pushing it right to the finish, and it resulted in about a three minute PR for her.

I really and truly didn't think I was going to nab an age group award, though. I saw how many ladies were ahead of me and my age group (a ten year group) is always strong, and represented 20% of the entire race last year. So, when they called my name for third I was truly taken by surprise, and I said "I'm shocked!" before going up to collect my cool looking medal with the KoKoPelli engraved on it. I figured there was absolutely no way and was watching to see which ladies in front of me had placed. When I checked the results later at home, I was the 12th female out of 416 total, and the luck of the draw for me this time was that five of the women ahead were 20-29, three were 40-49, and three were 30-39-BUT the overall female champ was in my 30-39 age group so I was "lucky fourth" and slid up into that last age group slot when they pulled her out for her overall win.

Besides that, I picked up my guaranteed entry form for Canyonlands, got a tote/duffel that all "Triple Crown" runners got (if you run Canyonlands, Winter Sun and Other Half in the same year), and got a door prize of pizza and an appetizer from a Moab restaurant. So-I guess my moral of the story is-it paid off to not take breathers or cruise easy anywhere. The next person in my age group was twenty-one seconds back, so I absolutely would have been out of age groups with any letup any time in the race.

Another nice surprise and twist this year was that the Taiko Dan drummers who I love so much from the half marathons in Moab on the 10K course for the first time! I wasn't expecting to see them at the 10K and they are always a pick-me-up, no matter how well or poorly you're running. They were in a residential area near the bike path, and it didn't seem to be the full group of drummers that they have on the highway. The pick-me-up that I got from the drumming was the same, though! And, going back to that female champ whose win allowed me to place in age group-she obliterated the women's course record with a 35:XX run, finishing fifth in the combined male and female results, barely a minute back from the winning man. When she went up to get her award she was holding her baby, and I was duly impressed that someone who is still in the night-waking phase of parenting was also finding a way to make a little time for her own running and training.

That completes my 2009 racing schedule. It's been a lot of fun, and the training time for those races equally so. As I post this, I'm about sixty miles short of 2000 miles for the year, so it's my final goal to make sure I finish out the year and hit that mark. I probably would've said "you're crazy!" if someone had told me five years ago that I'd be running 2000 miles in 2009, but today it seems like a totally normal thing to just get out the door on a regular schedule, and have it all add up. Shoot, there are lots of other runners who put in slightly higher mileage consistently, and they wind up at 3000 or 4000 for the year, so I look forward to that being my "normal" a few years from now. Here's to running toward the new year, setting, and working toward new goals in 2010.

Friday, December 4, 2009

BRRRRRRRRRR And The Interrupting Cow Joke

Wowza, it's cold out there. Now, I can hear the few of you who read this saying "Hey, genius, you live in Colorado," but it's sort of a myth that we're under six feet of snow and freezing our butts off all the time. With a very low relative humidity, it's really pretty darn comfortable here in the winter, coupled with the fact that I'm in the high desert so we normally get the highest temps of the state and lots of sun. This morning, I found myself hashing out race day clothing options with fellow running friend Jen. We'll both be heading over to Moab tomorrow, and hopefully setting some 10K PR's.

I have a history of bad-attitude-itis to start the day before getting to this race. It's a two hour drive, which means an early wake-up call instead of getting to putz around the house and wait for it to warm up before setting foot outdoors. It can get pretty breezy while waiting to start up at the golf course in Moab, and we've got to catch a shuttle up there to begin with. That said, both times that I ran this race ('07 and '08), I woke up right after that starting gun sounded, and that inner drive to race kicked into gear. And, each time, this race resulted in what would become a then-PR. So....I'm trying to stay in "don't care" mode but I kind of have a bug up my butt to not just set a new PR, but blow my current 46:06 PR out of the water. That's from way back in February, and the only other 10K I've run since then was a trail race the next weekend, and the Bolder Boulder in May. That was at a higher altitude, on a hillier course, and a month after my spring marathon when I was recovering slowly and running easy.

Getting back to the cold issue, though-as much as I hate the feeling of standing around in below-freezing temps, and wearing piles of clothes, I seem to have had some of my best race days in that kind of weather. I must admit, too, that it feels great after the first mile. It's why I SO love my wintertime long runs, when the trails become less crowded and I'm not melting off my weight in sweat. So-here's to just a little, itty, bitty, teeny bit of motivation and interest in having a great Winter Sun this year.

Switching gears-BlackBear asked about the "Interrupting Cow" joke. I wish I could find the version that was told on the kids show Yo Gabba Gabba, but I did find a pretty decent YouTube clip here from South Park. Warning-if you have kids or interact with kids regularly, and they don't know this prepared for the joke to never, ever go away if you decide to tell it.