Knee seems OK; New Shoes; 5K coming up

July 28, 2010

Apparently if I train and taper for a 50 mile run, then only run 28 miles, I come out of it feeling pretty good. I went to my usual group run on Monday night.  Six miles at 7:15/mile felt hard but good, even in 85 degree sun. I didn’t feel anything wrong in my knee, either. Probably my knee problems during the 50 were just one of those inexplicable things I’ll never get to the bottom of — sometimes root causes can’t be found.

If the problem was that I’d spent too much time running around in worn-out street shoes before the race, though, I took care of that on Monday. Before the run, I went into the Portland Running Company and asked for my usual shoes, the motion-control Brooks “Addiction” model. The sales guy kind of gave me a funny look. I asked him what was up and he said something along the lines of me not looking like an Addiction guy. I didn’t ask what he meant by that — I would guess he thought I either ran too much or was too skinny to need that much support — and I told him I was a “huge pronator”. He’s still looking pretty skeptical and so I ask him if he wants to put me in a pair of neutral shoes and look at my gait. (That’s how they do it at this store.) He’s enthusiastic about that idea, so he puts me in a support-free Brooks model  and I run around a bit. His take? My pronation isn’t that severe. It’s a little worse in my right foot and mild in my left. After trying a few models out, I end up going with a new pair of Brooks Adrenalines. These are a support shoe, but they feel so much lighter and less clunky than the Addictions. They feel great, actually.

Has my gait really changed? Am I really rolling inward less that I used to? I hope so. Or did the salesperson just see what they wanted to see?

I’m running a 5K in two weeks and two days, so I guess I’ll be trying to work on my speed a little bit until then. I’ll dispense of the long weekend runs, anyway, and get my weekly mileage in on a more balanced schedule. That should be good for my knee as well.

Race Report: 2010 Mount Hood Pacific Crest Trail Ultramarathon

July 25, 2010

My first DNF. (Did Not Finish.)

We camped the night before the race. This was a big deal for me. I do not camp. Sweetie was a start/finish area aid station volunteer and they threw in a free campsite. And the nearest motels were at least a half hour away. And the race started at 6:30 am. So the camping worked out. It was still pretty sucktacular though. Oregonians and their camping. I don’t know what’s wrong with these people.

Anyway, we got up, made it over to the start, stood around… the usual pre-race rituals. Eventually the race started and the entire group of us headed out. It was a minute or two later that we learned that we had all gone the wrong way, skipping an immediate left out of the start area. We jogged back up the hill and got on the correct trail. I thought this was pretty funny.

The first six miles of the trail were the same as for the first part of the Timberline Marathon, so I knew what to expect: a couple of miles of downhill and then some flat running along the lake, though without many actual views of the water. Once we hit the first aid station around mile six, the courses diverged, and we headed out into unknown territory for me. The trail remained almost entirely shaded. Even though it was going to be a very hot day, it was still early in the morning and it was comfortable in among the trees.

Between aid stations one and two there was quite a bit of climbing. I let myself get a little more out of breath than maybe I should, but it didn’t become a problem. A few small downed trees provided some hurdling practice.

It was four or five miles between the second aid station and our turnaround point at highway 26. There were some fun sections of trail in here, running fairly flat but carved into a steep hillside, with great views of Mount Hood off to the left. I mostly kept my eyes on the rocky footing, though. I found myself running pretty well, a few yards back from well-known local runner Mike “Bushwhacker” Burke. I was pushing the downhills harder than perhaps I should have, but I came into this race not thinking I had any reason to hold much back.

Since this was an out-and-back, I thought I’d be able to tell exactly what place I was in by counting runners coming back the other way before the turnaround. I forgot about the early starters, though: some people started at 5:30 instead of 6:30 and we were catching up to them as well. For the most part it was pretty clear who was an early starter and who wasn’t — but there were enough cases where I wasn’t sure to throw off my counting, and I soon stopped trying. Still, I got the impression that I had actually moved surprisingly far up in the field. Of course, I knew it was very early in what was supposed to be a very long day, so it didn’t much matter.

After the turnaround at mile 14, we headed back to the start/finish area along the same route. It was warming up, and I started filling both my water bottles at the aid stations, instead of just one of them as I had been doing. I conscientiously made myself drink frequently, also taking a salt capsule once an hour. Food-wise, I had a fun-sized Milky Way every half hour or so, and also grabbed a lot of food from the aid stations.

Sometime near mile 24, I noticed my left leg was stiffening up. I’ve battled runner’s knee on that side for most of a year now, so I recognized the symptoms right away. It hasn’t been a problem for me in months, though, and at first I didn’t expect it to become a problem during the rest of this day, either. I really thought it would loosen up, or at least not get any worse.

A mile later, maybe, I felt the first little sharp pain in there.

Not good. I hoped it was an isolated incident, but I also started thinking about dropping. The first time I thought about it, my thoughts were largely along the lines of “no, of course I’m not dropping! This is a goal race. I can run a little hurt.”

More sharp pains followed. I started doing more of a shuffle-type run, and taking more walk breaks. My thoughts switched to “Hmm. Maybe when I get back to the start/finish area I should talk with Sweetie about it and see what she thinks.”

The pains ramped up in frequency and intensity. I thought about how much I would like to be able to still run in the weeks and months to follow this race. I thought about how little I would like to try to walk 22 miles to finish this one. I decided to drop.

Walking up the long hill back to the start area was hard. Telling people I was dropping was kind of hard, but not too bad: I felt like I was making a smart, correct decision. It was also kind of interesting how dropping out of a 50 made 28 miles feel like a short stroll in the woods. I was barely tired at all; my feet were in great shape; etc etc. Hanging around the rest of the day and seeing the other runners finish was hard. Especially when they looked happy to have made it.

Next time.

(By the way, I dropped at what was supposed to be mile 28, about 4:20 in. If it really was 28 miles, that means I was averaging 9:20 minutes/mile… which actually seems very unlikely. Either I made a mistake with my watch or that course is measured wrong.)


July 25, 2010

Around mile 25, my left knee started feeling a little sore.  Around mile 26, I felt the first sharp twinge in there. By 27, the sharp pains were frequent unless if I shuffle or walked. I dropped at the mile 28 aid station (which was also the start finish area). I took about 4:20 to get to that point. More later.

Now, wait a sec, what have I signed up for?

July 19, 2010

It’s five days until the Mount Hood Pacific Crest Trail Ultramarathon, my first 50-mile race. Whenever I try to focus on any sort of race planning, my thoughts go something like this:

OK, then at mile 42 there’s a… LOOK! A butterfly! Wow! Hmm, what was I thinking about earlier? Oh well, it couldn’t have been important.

My brain actively refuses to think about what might happen in the last twenty miles of a fifty mile run. It’s like there’s this big blind spot there; it’s hard to even know it’s there because the mind elides it smoothly out of existence for you.

I can understand why this is happening. It’s been a very long time since I’ve planned to run even moderately farther than I ever have before. My first marathon had me running four miles past my longest training run. In my first 50K, I ran six miles beyond that. Those events were almost three years ago. This Saturday, I am going to run 18 miles farther than ever before.

I’ve found the best thing to do is to read race reports from 100-milers. Ideally, you want to find the race reports from the folks in the top ten, not the guy who struggles through hell and back seven times over the course of his 29-hour death-march. Those top-ten finishers usually sound pretty matter-of-fact about the whole thing. Most importantly, any torture they do go through is almost always well after the 50-mile point. Yes sir, they make running 50 miles sound pretty easy!

Anyway, I will keep struggling to think clearly enough to try to come up with some idea of what sort of things I should have in my drop bags late in the race. And whether I should worry about the three giant trees on the trail at miles 33 and 46. The three giant trees we have to climb over. Once in each direction. At miles 33 and… LOOK! A BUTTERFLY!

Hydration Pack Tips and Tricks

July 12, 2010

Running with a hydration pack can be a good option if you need to carry more than 20 or 40 ounces of water. Both Nathan and Ultimate Direction make well-reviewed hydration packs for runners. I have a Ultimate Direction Wasp that has served me well. Another nice thing about all these packs are the very ample front pockets, which put things like gels or your phone in easy reach the whole time you are running. These weird pockets do, however, make you look like a dork. That’s OK.

Anyway, I have a couple of tips I’d like to share. Both involve the bladder inside the pack, and I am guessing both are applicable to pretty much all bladder designs.

  1. It doesn’t have to slosh! If you just fill the bladder and seal it, you’ve left a lot of air in the bladder, which will give the water room to slosh around. It’s easy to bleed the air out after you’ve sealed the bladder. Turn the bladder over to put point where the drinking tube attaches to the bladder at the bladder’s highest point. This lets any trapped air will rise into the tube. Suck the trapped air out. No more air, no more sloshing.
  2. The last sip. One of the downsides to carrying your water in a pack on your back is that it can be difficult to tell how much you have left. If your water seems to be running out and you want to make sure you get the last drops, try blowing a little air back into the tube. There is usually some water trapped in the folds and creases of the nearly empty collapsed bladder, and expanding it a little with some air lets that water make its way down to where to tube comes in. Obviously, we’re not talking about a lot of water here, but sometimes every last sip seems to help.

(Finally, I apologize for the way this post sucks and blows.)

Hilly 18

July 10, 2010

Two weeks to the fifty miler. I guess I’m tapering now.

The general rule with tapering is to cut back the miles but keep the intensity, so today I only ran 18 miles but made them intentionally tough. I hit the hills, going up and down Council Crest twice and Pittock Mansion’s hill once. In the elevation profile above, Council Crest is the big hill at 3 and 13.5, and Pittock Mansion is at the midway point. (The GPS-generated miles are a little off; it is really 18 miles from start to finish, at least if you believe the trail signage.) You can also see that there were six other significant climbs in this out-and-back route. To keep things interesting, I gave myself a pace goal, aiming to keep my average pave under 10 minutes a mile. In practice this meant struggling up the uphills as best I could and flying on the downhills, with no time for much recovery.

Well, it was hard, but kind of fun. I hit my goal, finishing in 2:56:30, a 9:49 average pace. I did stop briefly at the halfway point to use the water fountain, make a phone call, and take a picture of this little guy:

I guess it was a Least Chipmunk. It was teensy. And not shy at all.

This week in running

July 8, 2010

Our long rainy season has finally given way to summer here in Portland, with highs in the mid to upper 90s yesterday and today. Normally I would whine about running in such hot conditions, but right now I’m glad to finally be able to do some heat acclimatization training. It might be hot during the Mt Hood PCT 50 mile run, and I need to be ready. They say it takes two weeks to acclimatize; the race is in two and a half weeks, so the timing works out.

Sunday, the day after my Wildwood 30-miler, I woke up still footsore and tight-calved. I forced myself to do a super-slow two-mile recovery run, which did its job and left me feeling much better. My weird right calf loosened up after that and hasn’t been a problem since. Monday I ran my usual six miles at the WAMR. The hot weather hadn’t hit us yet and I found myself feeling remarkably good for someone who had just run 30 miles. I ran hard and averaged 7:30/mile. Tuesday’s lunchtime run was at an easy pace, though I did feel a bit worn out at the end of the 6.5 miles.

Wednesday the heat hit. It was around 95 for our evening run. I brought popsicles for before and after. The other guys were still talking bravely about how the heat wasn’t so bad around the three-mile mark, but by the time we finished all six miles I think we all agreed that it had been very difficult.

Counting today’s lunchtime six-miler, I’ve run 1102 miles in 2010 so far (68 miles ahead of the pace I need to make 2000 miles for the whole year), and 56.8 miles in the last seven days.