Thursday, January 29, 2015

QC: Not a trail convert (yet?)

I went trail running today. But there were a few things that happened in between last week's rainsuckfest and this week's leg murder.

I did a little ninja running after work one night.

I went out for sushi.
I blame old friends that now live in Dallas for getting me addicted to eating ice cream after sushi. We used to go to the same sushi place every few weeks and followed it up with ice cream. Now I have a conditioned response.
I did make some stuff at home too. Like homemade fettuccine alfredo with arugula (repeat recipe, but dang, so good!).

 Black and white cookies (inspired by the impending snowstorm in NYC):
 Pear/banana/pineapple smoothie (because I don't eat all garbage):
And breakfast tacos for dinner (because Adam was in D.C. and he hates breakfast for dinner-his loss!):
Which brings us to today.... Last week, I wanted to hit the trails. But since it was supposed to rain for 36 hours straight, I decided that I would just go for that rainsuckfest at the Greenway. So, I took a rain check (oh, that pun is so intended) and headed north today.

I took a snapshot on my phone of the trail map before I left as reception can be kind of spotty that far outside of the city.
Decided to test out my Skratch Labs hydration mix and got a little giggle when I was reading the instructions.
Then I was ready to hit the road (half of this junk was already lying in here...runner probs...):
I found the trail head/parking lot and debated long and hard about putting my $7.00 in the fee box. Because I was a little confused if only horse riders and bikers had to pay. Eventually, the paranoia won out over frugality/logic and I paid my stupid $7.00.
So I take a pre-run selfie... In case I wash up in a river somewhere, Google autobackup can retrace my final steps. And because, well, selfies.
I trounce over some horse poop:
And head off into the woods!

By mile 0.3, I'm huffing like I've never run before. My lungs are on fire, my legs are clunky, and I'm rethinking my brilliant plan. I get to 0.9 miles before I stop, look at the trail map, take a sip of water, catch my breath, and carry on.

The first 3 miles involve lots of huffing and stopping. There is zero groove to my pace. I can't run fast on the uphills because, well, it's uphill and I can't run fast on the downhills because I know my slightly quivering quads will be yelling something fierce at mile 17.5.

So I take some pictures.

I run along the orange trail for a bit until I come to the green trail. The green trail takes me down, down, down and I cry a little inside because that means at some point I'm going to have to go up, up, up. The view at the bottom is kind of pretty though.

I cross over the creek and realize I'm going the wrong way when it dead ends on the other side. Oops. I turn back around and see the trail markers and head up, up, up. Walking, walking, walking. I stop to eat my Salted Watermelon Gu and open a packet of Runts. Ugh. Like 15 limes and 1 cherry. Stupid.

I get back to the orange trail and am at the top of the hill. There is no cresting beyond trees at this elevation, but I can see the mountaintops on the horizon. It doesn't photograph well, but it was kind of beautiful in person.

I start to descend and am feeling a bit better about things. I get back around to where I am retracing my steps on the orange trail and it start to mother effing rain. Really? It's already pretty muddy and/or full of horse poop on the trail so I'm already a little overwhelmed. My double knotted shoelace comes untied and when I reach down to untie it, I realize my leg is bleeding. Great...

The rest of the orange trail is not as bad on the way back and the rain was only a short-lived thing. Once I get to the split of the blue trail, I stop for my Vanilla Gu and see a couple of horseback riders in the distance. I decide to go clockwise on the blue trail and everything is all hunky dory until I get to the Etowah River. The trail was very clearly marked with blue trail markers and I come up to this:

It's about 40 feet across here (give or take my crappy estimate) and probably about 2-3 feet deep. Hmmmm... I look around and spy a bridge! Wahoo!

I figure out how to get over there and then....
Uh....not a really useful bridge. Technically, it does cross over the river. But the only continuous pieces across are about the size of a baseball bat. No thanks. Maybe there is another crossing that I'm missing?? I waste about 20 minutes turning on the GPS on my phone to look at the satellite map and wandering back and forth from the turnoff to the water to figure out where the crossing is. The only thing I can determine is that perhaps the river is high and people just cross in the summertime when it's lower/warmer. I actually contemplate taking my shoes and socks off and walking across....but eventually I woman up and figure out another way to get the other 7 miles in.

I take the blue trail back to where it meets the pink trail and figure I will just take another way back to the car and decide what to do from there. When I'm on a wide section, a horseback rider is coming in the opposite direction and calls out "hey" when he spots me. I yell out "hey" back and as I pass, he tells me that's all I needed to do to not spook the horse.

The pink trail is pretty rough as I head away from the riverbank and up, up, up. I walk a good bit until it finally levels off. As I make my way back to the blue trail, I start hearing voices ahead. Not like I'm-going-crazy voices, but other humans on the trail. It's full of switchbacks, but I'm guessing they are on horses. I spot the last one in the distance and start to try to make noise. I cough and hack and when I get about 30 feet away, I call out "hey!". The horse jumps, not wildly, but enough to turn to look. The older-than-me woman riding the horse gives me a nice, but stern schooling on spooking horses and I'm instructed to walk by the group when they find a place to pull over. I play nicely.

When I get back to my car, I'm at mile 15.2 and ravenous. I tear open a Kind bar from my purse and barely stop to chew. I gather my bearings and set out for the red/blue trail. After a (more) confusing moments, I eventually am on my way. I decide I will run 1.4 miles out and turn around to get my 18 in for the day. I am finally running on flatter trails/the Kind bar/I'm almost done and manage to dip into the 8's for the first time all day. I get to 16.6 and truck on back to the car.

18 miles, done:
With all my stopping for selfies, snacks, water breaks, rest breaks, map reading breaks, etc., I honestly was going at a snail's pace.
But, it was done! And only a little bit came home with me.

It was a humbling little run. One that will make me appreciate the easy breezy Greenway. I'm far from a trail convert, but it was a pretty rad way to spend my Thursday.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ride The Suck

I'm 5.2 miles from my car. I stand near a trash can with rain dripping from the brim of my hat. Reaching into my back shirt pocket, I pull out an Island Nectar Roctane Gu. It's sticky and sweet. I feel about as far away from an island as I can imagine save for the fact that I do happen to be surrounded by water. Only it's cold and unrelenting, not salty and warm.

I toss the empty packet into the trash and click start on Penelope. There are still 10.8 miles left. Time to ride the suck.


I woke up at 9ish--enjoying sleeping in my 3rd day off of the holiday week. The rain clattered against the windows. I blew warm air on the inside panes and watched it fog up on the glass.

A cup of coffee (Peet's Major Dickason's blend, black) and a bowl of cereal (Cascadian Farm Cinnamon Crunch). I go get the newspaper. It's still raining. I make two pieces of wheat toast and smear them with creamy peanut butter and honey. A second cup of coffee.

It's a stupid poll, but I get a kick out of it anyway. I'm guessing 2% of the 14% are runners and the other 12% think if Oprah can, it can't be that bad!
It's still raining. I do the crossword puzzle. Hah, more marathoning... Stupid paper is really trying to give me a hint.
I trudge upstairs and listen to my latest addiction while I consult the What To Wear tool on Runner's World. I know the answer, but I'm seeking validation? (Lindsey Stirling, thank you for giving me a push out the door this morning. If you like instrumentals and/or need new running music, here's my vote.)
I sit on the stairs and take selfies. It's partly narcissistic, partly killing time, partly gathering evidence of being dry.
It's still raining.
I drive to the parking lot of the Greenway with the heat on high. There are 2 other cars in the parking lot. I gear up (iPod, Garmin satellites, gloves) and walk to the trail head. 2 regulars (fast, my age-ish) pass me in the opposite direction. One is wearing a blue tech tee with a Boston Marathon logo.

Time to ride the suck. Everything except my feet are warm the first mile. The rain is falling, but my hat keeps it out of my face. Maniac shuffles into the mix. Hah!

I pass another human running and we wave. I start to feel my feet. This isn't too bad.

Close to mile 3, I see 2 more humans running. I smile at them. They smile back. I revise my plan of going 4 out-and-back twice to go 5 out-and-back and then 3 out-and-back.

When I begin to approach the sole traffic crossing on my path, I actually hope that I can cross immediately. The thought of standing in the rain waiting for the light to change < the small rest break I usually covet. I stand for 10 seconds before I get the walk signal.

Eye of the Tiger shuffles in as I hit the other side. There's no turning back now. In the open field, the rain and wind smack me hard across the face. My giant Atlanta Track Club jacket, a giveaway for Adam volunteering at my first marathon, billows widely like a parachute.

By the time I get to the 5.2 mile mark, I'm trying to forget that I'm only 1/3 of the way into this mess.

The walkway is beginning to swell with more water. My giant Hokas are still no match for the puddles forming. I feel my socks start to dampen. I look at the underside of the brim of my hat. I should Sharpie Ride The Suck on the inside of it. As a memory of this run. As a reminder that for the tough parts of the race, there are better ones ahead.

I get back to the traffic crossing and don't care that I'm getting drenched standing in the rain.

When I get to the Fowler Park trail entrance, I decide I really need to get water. The water fountains are off and so I cup water from the sink in the bathroom, splashing it all over my already-soaked arms and face. 

As I start Penelope again, Wrecking Ball shuffles in. The same song I was singing aloud during mile 22 at Rehoboth. I feel far away from funning right now, but darn it, hearing the song makes me smile.

Back on the Greenway, I plod on. I haven't looked at my pace once. I feel like I'm slowing down, but I'm reminded that I didn't even know if I had it in me to get this far. Splits be damned! 

The stupid sweet gum balls seem to have multiplied on the way back. And the puddles of water make it impossible to run a straight line. The only good news is that I haven't seen a human in 6 miles so I run wherever I want. Ride the suck.

As I near the turnaround for the last out-and-back portion, I pick up the pace like I'm about to be done. I down all 16 ounces of Gatorade when I stop and slurp down the Vanilla Gu like a rabid animal. Aaaaaaahhhh... I take a breather under the bridge before heading back out for the last 5 miles. I take off the stupid billowy jacket and lay it in a pile with my trash to pick up on the way back.

Mile 12 is about as awful as it gets. I am officially at the worst part. My left hand is throbbing from cold and wet. I think about how I could just go back and be done and still have accomplished a long run. But the stubborn part carries on, despite my impending fear of losing my dominant limb to gangrene. I stuff it further inside my shirt sleeve and hoof it along.

Once I get to mile 13.5, I have a change of heart. I'm going to finish this! The last few miles might be a challenge mentally, but physically, I knew I had it in me. When I get to the last turnaround, I tell my legs to start thinking about finding that second gear. We rode the suck long enough. 

Everything is hazy in the last few miles. I hear Happy. I dodge sweet gum balls. I stop caring that my shoes are squirting water out of the sides. I'm going to finish!

Never mind that I've accomplished the distance before. Never mind that I've run much further than the distance before. Never mind that I've run in the rain before. Never mind that I've had worse runs physically and emotionally before. Never mind that I was benched with injury a month ago. Never mind that I'm on runstreak and about to hit my highest monthly mileage ever. Never mind all of this. I was going to ride the suck and finish THIS run.
In the last mile, I hope that my jacket is still where I left it. It doesn't fit me and Adam doesn't really wear it, but it's a reminder that I'm lucky he's supportive of my habit. Instead of telling me not to go out in the monsoon today or chastising me for thinking of it, he told me "be careful" before he left for work. Admittedly, if the roles were reversed, I would have been like what in the hell are you thinking of doing?

I was never more relieved to hear that last mile buzz. I bent over in exhaustion and took more than a moment to collect myself. Sucky long run of the training cycle, check!

Oh, and this week's inspiration? An Instagram post from Olympic gold medalist and BA chick Allyson Felix.
She is going down.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Streaky, Streaky, Streaky

It was a busy week and not only have I neglected keeping up with bloops, I have 10 days of photos to dump too.

I'm on a #runstreak right now. It started after being frightened off the injury train by using the elliptical on New Year's Eve. I'm on day 18. It's been manageable, but I might call it quits after this week. I want my long runs and speed work to be tough, but not ugly. I got a FitBit for Christmas and it has been an eye opener in how many steps/miles I walk at work every day.
 Like dude... I guess I feel a little better about my 30ish mile running weeks now...

Last Sunday, I finally started to feel in the training groove with a 12 miler that went rather well.
I spent the rest of the day hanging out downtown with friends. We had snacks at a pub:
And took a ride on SkyView Atlanta. It's a smaller ripoff of the London Eye.

Monday, I was back on the treadmill--a trend that would continue all week because I kept running after work.
I was trying to keep up with my January dinner calendar and managed to make a few things like shrimp and grits (Monday):

And sour cream chicken enchiladas (Friday):
My legs were feeling itchy on Tuesday and I tried to do a little speed work. It was kind of bad. I started to try to do a 400 at a 6:00 minute pace and ended up doing 4 at 6:40. I blamed it on the runstreak and trying to do it after a long day at work.
Wednesday, I decided to spice it up with some hills. -3% for a half mile and then +3% for a half mile. It was just another 3 miler, but I felt better about it. Drake helped...
Thursday and Friday, well, I was just hanging on. It was a looooooong week at work and I was just doing 3 milers like a little robot when I got home. I couldn't wait to join these jokers every night:
I was eagerly anticipating my long run on Saturday. January in Georgia is one of the loveliest times to run--the weather is crisp and it is a complete 180 from the soul-sucking devil of August. Plus, I was lucky enough to score a sunny and chilly morning--my favorite! I fueled up properly with peanut butter and honey toast:
And gleefully bopped along the Greenway:
I thought about Dave as I enjoyed my Root Beer Gu at the turnaround:
And appreciated the extra cushion my new Hokas were providing my tired feet:
It was a lovely, lovely run:
I had been dreaming about smoked wings and a double IPA from my local barbecue place, but I settled for a post-run smoothie instead:
Fortunately, I got my wish a little later on:
This morning was nothing exciting. Just 3 miles on tired legs around the hilly neighborhood. I am trying to make sure I do some of my training off the Greenway to get ready for the hills of Boston. But I feel good knowing that I've tackled the Georgia marathon (5 times!):
And the Flying Pig:

Boston might be less cruel? I dunno...I'll report back in April.

I've been toying with the idea of running a trail marathon at the end of February. I mean, I'm scheduled to run 22 that weekend anyway and what's another 4.2 miles? Runner logic.... Besides, I PR'd last time I ran a marathon 8 weeks prior to another one. Again, runner logic.... And it's only $50 and 45 minutes from my house...

And I'm still debating the double 12 days post-Boston (Mitten Challenge). Might be really, really terrible. But it also might be really, really great. And if last year proved anything, I don't want to wonder what if in the instances of pushing myself to the limits. If I fail, I fail.

Lastly, I leave you with a little sumpin', sumpin' that talked to my heart.
Because I hope that somewhere out there, someone decides to go the extra mile, do the extra rep, dig a little deeper... The Loop has inspired me to do things I never thought were in my capabilities and I hope to pass it on.