Monday, November 18, 2013

Will you listen to yourself?

I was up at 4:30 this morning to help my parents with a medical appointment, and I haven't eaten so great today, either, so it figures I'm dragging come mid-afternoon, about the time I really should be gearing up to run to the gym, lift some heavy stuff, and run home.

And man, I just can't do it. Since I'm normally pretty excited to go work out and I've been enjoying the gym, I spent a few more beats thinking about why I'm glued to the couch instead of lacing up my sneakers.

What I realized is that last week was one of my heaviest workout weeks ever. The mileage wasn't crazy, but since most of it was trail miles, which are harder and more intense than road miles, it felt like a lot more.

Saturday: Trail run (5M) (1:45 hr)
Sunday: Hockey (1 hr)
Monday: Run to gym, lift, run home (hilly 3.4M) (1:10 hr)
Tuesday: Trail run (7.3M) (1:53 hr)
Wednesday: Run to gym, workout with trainer, run home (hilly 3.3M) (1:30 hr)
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Trail run (7.9M) (2:22 hr)
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: Hockey (1 hr)

So, well over an hour per day of working out, on average, never mind the half marathon I raced the weekend before. No wonder I'm pooped!

I can tell I'm going to be irritated with myself if I don't do some kind of physical activity today though, so I'm finally going to break out my beloved Pilates for Dummies DVD, which I haven't touched in about 10 years because I lost it somewhere along the way and found it when we moved in March. If that doesn't wear me out, maybe I'll hit up my favorite yoga DVD, too.

My body is just craving a workout where I get to lay on the floor a lot. I'm gonna listen to my body. Please knock if you hear snoring.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Grapevine Lake North Shore Trail

We continued our trail running adventures in preparation for Isle du Bois out a Grapevine Lake and the North Shore trail Friday afternoon. We thought we'd avoid a good bit of bike traffic by going out on a weekday, and given that we still saw a fair bit, I think it was a good move.

We started from Rockledge Park, which costs $5 to enter. It's the parking closest to the freeway and a pretty obvious out and back  path, so it's a good place to start. But as you can see on this map, there are some other options if you want to drive the back roads a bit. And assuming you're not running all 18 miles of the trail (9 out and back), you can explore the trail from a few different directions and never see the same things twice.

I did my first trail run out here and only managed 2 miles before I had to turn around and head back. It was tough and felt very technical. But after Cedar Ridge Preserve, this felt pretty tame and we were able to run a lot of it.

I realized yesterday that the first time I ran it, at some point I got going the wrong way. The trail runs counterclockwise with clear (once you know to look for the clues) western and eastern one-way trails that run fairly close to each other. I think where I screwed up the first time was when you get near a fairly long wooden bridge early in the trail. The bridge is just a few yards ahead of you but the path actually turns down into a rocky ravine.

My guess is, I looked down there and thought, "Surely nobody in their right mind would be expected to run or bike down into that." Obviously my estimation of what looks difficult has changed in the last few weeks. We got it right this time and were taken on a lovely adventure through the woods.

Our plan was to run to Murrell Park, about 3.5 miles out and then head back. It ended up being more like 8 miles even though we never quite got to Murrell Park (it was just through some woods, one of the mountain bikers told us, but we were at 4 miles then, so we headed back). I guess you factor in a little GPS fudging on these things.

I did run out of water, despite a full 4 bottles on my belt, so maybe next time, I'd get to Murrell and refill, as there's supposedly running water there (seasonally available). Good to know for summer, anyway. It's either that or a Camelbak, I guess. Luckily, Rosie brought a couple of bottles of water and I guzzled one without stopping for air as soon as we got to the car. Phew!

Anyway, this is a really lovely trail with moderate challenge and plenty of interest throughout. Unlike Rowlett, which is a mix of quite challenging areas with areas where you could actually look up and enjoy the surroundings and trust your footing, this one only had a few "whoa" spots (including a few water crossings that might be a little intense after a heavy rain) but little opportunity to just take in the surroundings without actually stopping.

Part of the challenge was fallen leaves hiding some footing issues (roots, rocks, lumpy ground), so you had to be ready for a surprise, uneven footfall for 95% of the trail. In that respect, it's a good practice maintaining focus for a long stretch of time.

In the end, we did 7.91 miles in 2:22, averaging about 17 minute miles. This included a bit of walking, particularly at road crossings (there are a few maintenance type roads you cross), and moving out of the way of cyclists, and then chatting up some cyclists to make sure we were headed back on the correct path at the turnaround.

Meanwhile, my foolish error of not putting my calf compression sleeves on after this run bit me at 2 a.m. when I woke up with my calves and feet throbbing. That doesn't happen when I wear those or put them on after long runs (it was too warm to wear them today). Wish I could get full-body compression gear! Just make me into a giant sausage after long runs....

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Rowlett Creek Preserve Trail Review

For our less-technical weekday run, Rosie and I headed northeast to Rowlett, where we were told we'd find smoother, but just as scenic trails to run. Because we're doing shorter, more technical runs on Saturdays, we wanted to log some more miles. In the end, it didn't end up being that many more miles but we ran for nearly 2 hours, which I guess is the equivalent of a long run.

Let me make an aside here that I cannot believe I just said, "Well, I guess 2 hours is a long run." I ran for 2 hours, you guys, and it was no big deal! And we really ran a great deal of it. No run/walk intervals, though trails naturally have you walking some, and a couple of times, my legs were just lead.

Not my photo, this is a red tailed hawk, aka chickenhawk
Anyway, the preserve runs between Rowlett Creek and around a utility easement that's parallel to the creek. The various trail loops meander all over this long narrow area with a few of the more difficult trails that shoot off toward the residential areas (but still appear to be woodsy). You can see DORBA's details on the trail here and a map here. The parking lot tees right into the middle of the preserve, so you have to choose whether to start north or south.

Our route amounted to 7.3 miles and took us about 1:53 to complete running between 15-16 minute miles (including stops to look at the map, gawk at nature, and a few walk breaks... I don't have auto-pause enabled on my Runkeeper).

We headed south first, taking the second trail (#3) as you walk straight past the port-a-potty at the end of the parking lot. It looks like it's going to head down the utility easement, but it turns into the woods on the right and you are on your way. The trails all seem to turn back on themselves here and there, so it's a little disorienting at times, but they're well marked at any forks in the road and maps are posted occasionally so you can get your bearings.

The advice we got, given our goal of fairly easy running, was to avoid trails 7, 14, 13, and 12. Trails are rated from green to blue to black, easiest to hardest, and between the green and blue (we didn't do any black), blue were definitely a little harder, but not significantly. Those ratings are probably more important for mountain bikers, who you'll need to keep an eye/ear out for.

Back to our route: We started with Loops 3, 4, and 5 (5a and 6 are shut down due to DART rail line construction), which took us back to the parking. Part of 5 is a paved utility road. Don't be alarmed. It's not a trap.

We then headed out on on the trail that takes off nearer to the entrance of the parking, over by the pergola thing. Not far down this path, you have to choose between 1a and 1.

Cartoon chickenhawk
1a has a steep river crossing at the very start, but it's not as bad as it looks. Rosie and I both got across unassisted without getting our shoes wet. If it's rained recently, I can't guarantee the same result, however. Just be careful here, but don't be unnecessarily afraid of it. It's worth the nice trail on the other side, where we saw a big ol' chickenhawk hanging out in a tree. Ah say, ah say, Nature!

The trail then goes out into some open farmland for loop 9, which is pretty boring but worth getting through for the nice run back down loops 8 and 1 and back to the parking lot, which I was pretty happy to see.

The southern portion we did was about 3.25 miles, and north was another 3-ish miles, if you're looking for shorter routes. To be honest, I was plenty tired after just doing the south, but we had more miles to chew up and I'm glad we did. The whole place is just lovely (except for loop 9).

One of these days, I want to take a peek at the trails we skipped. What does a black-rated trail look like?

Anyway, very pleased to have gotten to know this trail. It makes for a great training run because it's not so hard that it wears you out mentally or physically as fast as more technical trails, but it's also never boring (except for loop 9).

And despite the easier terrain, I could definitely feel those little stabilizing muscles around my knees and ankles working overtime. It just wasn't like every. single. footfall. required 100% focus to avoid turning an ankle or slipping. I get really tired on trails where the footing is so unsteady, I can't ever look up to enjoy the beauty around me. Feels like I'd be better off just hiking, and BTW, give me a damn walking stick if I'm going to do that.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Cedar Ridge Preserve Trail Review

I'm very new to trail running, and I'm anal retentive about preparing for runs, so the combination of the two means I've done lots of searching to find info on trails I'm planning to run. Sadly, there's very little out there that's terribly useful.

As such, I'm going to try and describe the trail runs we do, so if you're looking for info on a trail, you have some idea of what's going on.

Here's the map of the trail and here's Audubon Dallas' page on the preserve.

The route we took ended up being right at 5 miles:
  1. Start on Cattail Pond Trail and skip the entrances to Possumhaw Trail (or do this one and tack on ~.5 mile, which I'd probably do next time).
  2. Turn off on Cedar Break Trail and do the whole thing until you run back into Cattail Pond trail.
  3. Take off on Fossil Valley Trail (the one I read was quite hard... more on difficultly later).
  4. At the end of Fossil Valley, take Escarpment Trail. 
  5. Then take the Bluebonnet Trail loop when you get to it, and that pretty much ends back in view of the parking lot.
Cedar Break is a mix of easy and challenging sections, but honestly, if you can do it, you can do Fossil Valley, too. Take a break to enjoy the little lookout at Cattail Pond the Boy Scouts built before heading up Escarpment because that SOB is uphill the whole damn way.

Bluebonnet is pleasant and fairly easy, but in the middle where it cuts back, there's a Trail sign with an arrow pointing back the way you just came, and there are two other directions to go. One is downhill and one is uphill. Take the uphill. The downhill goes down to a residential area and you sure don't want to have to climb back up it to get back on the real trail.

There's another unmarked fork in the road earlier on in this otherwise well-marked route, but I can't remember where exactly (end of Fossil Valley maybe?). If you get to it, go to the right, the more well-traveled path.

Both Rosie and I are in pretty good cardio shape, but we were both shocked by how much huffing and puffing we were doing at various times throughout the run. I felt my quads burning during some of the climbs, so it's a great workout. It was amazing to watch another runner (with a Dallas Fire and Rescue shirt on) bound past us on a rocky, rooty portion that we were walking.

I never fell, but I sure slipped on muddy/wet rocks pretty significantly a few times. My ice skating skills come in handy, I guess. 99% of any step ups or "stair"-like terrain are well-maintained, so you're not really having to scramble up large drop-offs.

Also, if you want the avoid the uphill Escarpment climb, you can do this route in reverse, but hills are good for you, so don't do that. ;)

Anyway, really lovely trail and no bikes. Only hikers and runners (and a few dogs) as far as I could tell, so you don't have to worry about getting creamed around the next corner. Plus a few lake (Joe Pool) views along the way, and a fun lookout tower you can climb up and take pics of valley below:

Happy running!

DRC Half Marathon 2013

Boy was I nervous about this race. Somehow, on Thursday before the race, I aggravated the old hamgroinstring injury that had plagued me during the Tyler half, and it was far worse than it was before Tyler.

After agonizing and fretting and even considered bailing on the race, I foam rolled and alternated ice and heat trying to get blood flowing and relax the muscles around the injury, which I could tell were having sympathy anger.

That helped a bunch, and the night before the race, I taped it all up really well with KT tape and that seemed to help immediately.

Since this was the DRC half, most of my running group was also running. One lives right by the start, so I parked at her house and we walked over to the race to warm up and meet our group. Our pace leader was going to pace 2:35-2:40, but my goal was 2:30, so I knew I could start with them to avoid going out too fast, and then once I'm warm, let my body tell me what it was up for.

After a couple of miles, another runner, Rachel, who was aiming for 2:30 but working through IT band issues, and I started to pull ahead of the group. I kept tabs on our pace, trying to hold us at 11:25-11:30 average running 3:1 intervals.

Around mile 9, the path narrows a bit, so Rachel got behind me and she was having to stop and stretch occasionally to keep her IT band from getting so angry. It wasn't long before I didn't see her around me anymore, and around the same time, I remembered that courses were never 13.1 on the nose. If you're lucky they're 13.2 or 13.3, but Tyler was 13.6 and I'd done my pace calculation for 13.1.

I was feeling good, other than my usual hip flexor tightness, so I decided I needed to run as fast as I comfortably could while keeping enough energy to finish strong. I had time to make up if I wanted to make sure I hit 2:30 since I had no idea how long the course really was.

You can see by my splits where I had this realization between miles 9 and 10. And where, between 12 and 13, I started to feel a little woozy and had to back off my pace a little. But once the finish line was in sight, I put everything I had into the "sprint" to the end. I just had this feeling if I didn't, I wouldn't make my time, and if I was just seconds from hitting 2:30, I was going to be really, really disappointed to left anything in the tank.

So, I ran and ran. Of course, we were in the third "slow people" corral, so the gun time was well off, but I thought my Runkeeper time was probably pretty accurate and it was 2:30:45. Ended up with my chip time being 2:30:34, so I'm calling that mission accomplished. But imagine if I hadn't stepped up the pace! Man, I'd be SO disappointed to have come so close and not gone for it. It was well worth pounding through the finish with my mouth agape from sucking wind and looking anything but victorious. Who cares? I made my goal time!

There were 5 things I cared about after the race:
  1. WATER: In fact, I breathlessly said, "Thank you. Where's water?" to the girl handing me my medal. "Right behind us." "Perfect."
  2. FOOD: Oh man, the line for the food tent was so long and I was hurting and couldn't imagine standing still in line for as long as it looked like it would take. 
  3. BEER: Dammit, the line for the beer area was even longer than the food line.
  4. MASSAGE: Ah! A short line! That 10 minutes felt really luxurious. It wasn't so much massage as skilled, gentle stretching, which felt amazing. Well worth missing beer and food for. 
  5. FRIENDS: I saw one of my running group folks while I was in line for massage, and then found the one whose house I parked at just as I got off the massage table. Unfortunately didn't see Rosie (who ran 2:08 for Pete's sake! I heard her yelling for me as I crossed the finish but was too focused to acknowledge her in the moment, but I think she left by the time I got done with massage) or anybody else, but you win some and lose some. 
We walked back to my friend's house and I headed home to an ice bath hubs had drawn for me. Yowza. I have no idea if it helped, though. I still had my usual 2 days of recovery before I even wanted to think about running, and my first run on Wednesday to the gym and back (1.7 miles each way) was not great, but not due to soreness. I was just excited to run and went too fast at the start. And then doing dumbbell squats at the gym didn't help my run back. Plus it's big rolling hills between here and there. Blah blah blah.

As you can see from my splits and the elevation changes, the DRC course was quite flat, so it's a great PR course, with hills only in the middle where you're still feeling good. Good course support and nice familiar terrain since we train on those very streets. But next time, I'd check a bag with chocolate milk and a banana so I wouldn't have to wait in line for sustenance.

Up next is the Turkey Trot 8M on Thanksgiving and then the Isle du Bois 18k trail run on Dec. 6. Rosie and I are running trails on Tuesday (smooth/flat) and Saturdays (technical) until that race and did our first at Cedar Ridge Preserve on Saturday. It was really lovely and took 1:45 to run/hike the 5 miles of trail we pieced together. What a totally different experience trail running is and how much more fun it is with a friend! I feel very fortunate to have found a like-minded runner to have adventures with.

I want to get back to doing MWF at the gym and probably doing very easy runs there (weather permitting) on Monday and Wednesday. Then doing speed work on Thursdays. Very much looking forward to this month of training. Lots of diversity in the cards!