Monday, February 13, 2012

New Shoes: The Weekend Wrap-Up

Hey, I put some new shoes on, and suddenly everything's right.

The improbably long 2011-2012 Cheap and Free Race Tour continued this weekend with something I've only run once: the Valentines Massacre 3-mile beverage prediction run. Yes, I know that's a lot of curious information in the title. The race, which used to be a proper 5K, as I learned from the race director, was shortened to 3 miles about twenty years ago when a bridge that used to be over the river, and access to it, went away. This is one of two prediction runs locally, and the winners are not the fastest, but those whose actual times are closest to predicted race times. The entry fee is not monetary; it is two beverages-any kind-of each runner's choosing. When the race is over, our trusty race director tabulates results, and then sends winning runners to the drink table for the redistribution of beverages, letting each good guesser know how many they're allowed to pick up.

The only other time I ran this thing, it was with my oldest daughter who was then about nine years old, and it was together at her pace in the "sweetheart," two-person team division. An instant distance PR is always a winning deal, so I figured, hey, let's predict away. I'd had some tenderness and twingy pain in my right ankle, though, since Tuesday evening, and after several days off, I could still feel it when I tried warming up. I can really close to logging a DNS, which would have been no big deal, but thankfully, the ankle and foot started to loosen up and not hurt after some more gentle jogs up and down the hill in the starting area. I initially predicted 22:00 because I felt a little tired, and also didn't want to run that ankle into the ground. I decided to be both optimistic and less exact in my prediction, though, and erased it in favor of 21:53 a few minutes later. As race time approached, it seemed like a pretty strong turnout for a low key club run. You would never know it was February in Colorado; although we live in the warmest part of the state, being this comfortable in shorts was still rather unusual.

We gathered behind a flour line at the bottom of the road, and I hoped I'd be able to run without getting lost on the unmarked course. It was fairly straightforward but there were a few neighborhoods and sidestreets where one could take a wrong turn. We took off, and I could already tell it wasn't going to be a banner racing day. I resolved to give it my best but wasn't feeling any pixie dust. On better days I'd be able to hang with some of the fastest runners for a bit, but I had no kick today. When I reached the top of the first hill and turned downhill, I took a long look down the road once and could see how far ahead the one sponsored triathlete guy in the race was; it was now time to run in my own space, and focus immediately ahead of me.

Pretty soon, I heard one runner, and then another, easing up behind me, then next to me, then move slightly ahead. It was Andy, and Larry. Larry hosts the turkey prediction run, as well as the Tortoise and Hare relay, a race with the unique and fun format of pairing fastest runners with those who spend the most time "enjoying the course." It makes for a competitive race, and again, it's another El Cheapo run. I was feeling very un-awesome but this fired the competitive engines. I kept them in my sights as we ran down the neighborhood streets, briefly turned onto Monument Road, and then climbed back to loop through the neighborhood toward the finish. I had that moment of "why the hell do I run these short distance things? These HURT!" and then got over myself.

We turned uphill and then the downhill stretch to the finish was upon us. Larry and Andy had strung out a little ahead of me through the neighborhood but I'd made up some ground near the end of the race. Hammering down the hill, I tried to catch them, but it wasn't quite enough. After taking a moment to get my breath back, I checked my time. 22:10. With my most recent two 5Ks going sub-22, I was a little bummed about the weak showing today, but I knew I wasn't feeling awesome, and wasn't out to bust up my ankle today either. I did the usual rounds of visiting with everyone post race, and got treated to the sight of a bald eagle hovering over the river in the distance. He made an appearance several times; everyone agreed this was some kind of good mojo.

I chatted with Ben, one of the regulars on the weekend long run crew, and I said I thought I would be okay on the tender ankle for some short and easy trail running in the two to three hours tops range. I knew Sandra would be good for it as well, and did need to get in a little something before next weekend's RedHot. We convened the next morning, and along with Leila the Eyeball Sniffing Wonderdog, headed out to the trails near Loma and Mack to seal the tapering deal. We got our run mojo on with some gangster rap, and the first few songs from my Beer Songs CD. It's been determined that most of this pre-run ride is filled with stuff that is amusing only to those in the car, with prior drive activities including a five letter F word round-robin spelloff, and Zamfir, Master of The Pan Flute, on tape. I hope this revelation doesn't trigger a request for an intervention or psychiatric evaluation from any friends or family.

When we got to the trails, we decided to do a Mary's Loop/Horsethief Bench combo run. We didn't want to do a ton of climbing the week before the race, and I thought Horsethief was a very pretty meander the week prior. I had some new shoes on; the Newton trail runners my friend Elizabeth recently purchased and let me try on. I scored a killer combination of discounts with Roadrunner Sports, and was excited to try out the shoes today. I love the INOV8's I've been training in, but wanted to get something a bit more supportive for the long course. I've had great luck with my Newton road shoes, so this was fun to get out there and text them.

I felt a little sluggish to start, but we still seemed to be moving along at a decent clip as we headed east on Mary's Loop, and then took the rocky drop down to Horsethief Bench. I'd brought along my little iPod for a change, and thought I'd shoot some short clips of us acting stupid here and there. This was our own personal "S#it Ultrarunners Say."

Continuing down the trail as it curved toward the river, we had our first animal encounter of the day. There were several cows walking right up the trail in our general direction.

Around every turn, there were more of these big guys, and we weren't sure the best plan of action at first. I know what to do if I encounter a mountain lion, but wasn't really sure the right-of-way protocol with massive cows. We decided a bushwhack along the right side of the trail was as good a plan as any, and with that, the stalled line of cows started doing the same thing on the other side of the trail.

We thought they'd all passed, but looking up a narrow, steep, climb with nowhere to bushwack, we saw another cow staring down at us. Not wanting to get into a head-to-head with one of these guys, we turned off and headed all the way down to the river for a little snack and chill break, hopefully giving enough time for the cattle train to move past. It was a good thing; we otherwise wouldn't have gone down for playtime along the banks of the river.

We hung out down there until we started to chill, and figured the cattle had been given plenty of time to pass, and came back up to finish running Horsethief Bench, and back up and out for the rest of Mary's Loop. By now, I was hitting that "just warmed up" point. Another from the s#it ultrarunners say video. Then we began the new post-run tradition of honey dates, oranges, and coconut water. The last long run before the RedHot was history; the hay was in the barn, and all of that jive people say in the taper. My ankle was a little twingy to start, but again loosened up as it did the day before. My shoes met expectations as well, which thrilled me. I was worried they might be slippery, like my road Newtons get in the snow and ice and slop, but they gripped just fine, and had that little bit of extra cushioning I want for the long run.

With six days until THE big day, I am not setting a time goal. The plan is to take it day to day with the ankle, REST it, as I am doing today, bailing from running and yoga, and see how it feels on Saturday. Truthfully, I will be a little bummed if I can't race the way I'd planned this whole training cycle. There's none of the Imogene Pass Run continuous steep climb at the RedHot, and with all the trail time I've put in, I know there will be sections I should be able to cruise, unlike last year when it was a first-time ultra experience, and less of the training had been on trails. It is what it is, though. If the run needs to be a scenic video hike to prevent an ankle blowout, that's the best way to spend my day rather than being pissed off and trying to force the body to do things it shouldn't be doing. I'm hoping, though, that the patented Extreme Taper™ does its thing, allowing the ankle to get 100% happy just in time for race day, benefits of training fully absorbed and ready to be cashed out on the trails above Moab, Utah.


Girl In Motion said...

Best of luck and may the ankle behave. Congrats on the race, considering your ankle was giving you grief and you weren't feeling it, I'd say that was a successful race.

And lol "...then got over myself." I'll try to remember that when I start racing and whimpering this season.

Ashley and Patrick said...

Wishing you lots of luck! I hope your ankle cooperates soon. Regardless, it sounds like you have a great attitude. Eat well, rest, and get excited for race day!