Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pod Trod

The first annual first-ever Pod Trod was held last Sunday at gorgeous Clinton Lake park in Lawrence, Kansas. Man, was it fun. The idea was that you download a narrated course description the night before the race onto your mp3 player - and don't listen to it! You then show up the next morning, and when the race starts, you start listening and running. Or listening and standing. Or listening and running back to wherever you just were. Whatever.

I convinced my friend Theresa to run this one with me. Actually, I had several friends say they would, then they bailed. Whatever. We got down to the lake about half an hour before the start, milled around for a bit, and got ready for the race.

I had downloaded Clinton Confusion. Theresa didn't have a working mp3 player so our solution was to use the speakerphone on my iPhone so we could both listen to the description. It actually ended up working pretty well. You could choose from one of three courses; Clinton Confusion, Lumbering Luddite or Mud Babes Revenge. All three transversed basically the same area around the blue, red and white trails at the park, they just all went in different directions at different times.

Gary Henry gave the pre-race briefing to the 50-or-so assembled runners which mainly consisted of "have a lot of fun out there". I had a feeling we would. With that Gary sent us on our way, or "ready, set, play".

The first part was easy, run to this big brown house. Check. Everyone kept running past it and we hadn't listened to the next track so we just followed them while listening to Greg "LeCompton" Burger tell us to head down to Lands End. Lands End is this 5 or 6 trail intersection only a Brit could really appreciate. We came down this hill to the sight of 30 or so runners just standing there, heads cocked, looking up in the air, intensely concentrating on something. If someone would have seen it and not known about the race they seriously would have thought that the aliens had just turned on their brainwashing devices and we were all standing there waiting to get picked up. It was hilarious.

You have to pick up tokens during the race to prove that you passed the several checkpoints. Greg sent us down the blue trail for a while to some stairs, which we were to climb, then get back on the white trail and end up at Lands End again. Check. No ticket yet. Odd.

We then took off the other way on the blue trail, randomly passing people running in all directions on the trails, very reminiscent of the museum scene at the end of The Thomas Crown Affair when there's "guys with bowler hats all over the place". It was hilarious.

We found the #2 'token' which got us real worried about where #1 was. We decided to keep moving on. We were directed to the red trail along the shoreline, headed West, for about half a mile. This was a tough section as it was very rocky and rooty and narrow and there were people passing us going the other way. After a while and some turns we found the #3 'token'. Easy. Dammit, where was #1?

We were directed back to Land's End and told to head to the finish. We started that way but stopped before there deciding we needed to find the first token. We re-traced our steps and found a bucket at the first set of stairs that said "CCC #1". Yeah, that wasn't there when we headed out.

The way back to the finish was along the white trail. We could hear the folks at the start/finish so we decided to cut through the woods and out onto the field instead of trucking all the way back to Land's End to hit the finish. The Nerds at the finish were like "where the hell did you guys come from?" when we came out of the trees. "Shortcut." I said.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Perfect Weather, Pefrect Run

The two days of (constant) rain we just had must have washed whatever was left of summer away, greeting me this morning with fall's relaxing scent. You know, fall just has that smell to it. I don't know what it is, but it's great.

I have a metric butt-ton of samples to run today in the lab but I decided they could wait for me to get a quick run in this morning. Few things make or break my day more than a good run. I wanted today to be good, so, go for a run it was.

It was about 60 degrees when I set off, not wanting to accomplish any great distance, maybe just to Loose Park and back. Simple except for the hill up Wornall. Oh well, I'd take it easy, no need to push it and hurt the foot. Maybe I'd run over to Coleman Heights, my Grandma's house route, through Valentine. I decided to run wherever, it didn't matter.

I took the Loose Park route. Headed through the Plaza and up Wornall. I didn't push it, I just enjoyed it. Few people were around, the streets were empty, I felt like I had the city to myself, and the most amazing thing happened, I didn't think about anything at all. It was great. I just ran. I just enjoyed the run. My foot didn't hurt. The weather was perfect. The wind was strong but manageable. It was exactly the run I needed.

My foot felt fine but I wasn't going to test it. I headed back home after one lap at the park. Going back through the Plaza I noticed all the Pitch newspaper things (I don't know what they're called). It was odd seeing a picture of me running while I was actually running. Going down Ward Parkway I imagined seeing the one in front of Kona empty, hoping that over the weekend copies had been taken up by all the girls inside who were taken aback by that striking silhouette of the man on the cover. Creating wonderful stories about him and waiting for him to walk in so they could shower him with drinks and attention. But alas, it was full. Yes folks, these are the kinds of things I think about when I run. Totally random crap.

So, it's a perfect day. Hopefully an indication of the fall to come. I wanted to keep running. I wanted to find a good book (*cough* non-science *cough*) and curl up on a porch with a cup of coffee and a sweatshirt and enjoy the chill. Not today though. Today it's a day-date with the mass spec. At least it's giving me perfect chromatograms, so far. It's a good day.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Patriot's Run

The Patriot's Run was yesterday (Thursday, Sept 11th) at Two Trails Park in Olathe, Kansas. There's several options to the run. You can run a certified marathon or you can just show up and run for however long you want. My plan was to show up at noon, for the race start, and run until 9:11 at night, the end of the race.

I set myself up for disaster on this one. School has been taking up a ton of my time, keeping up with classes (or not keeping up), getting ready for my bi-weekly classes, and trying to get my research in line has put me under a ton of stress lately. If I have a fault (yes, I'm sure I have many) it's that I take on too much stuff at one time and won't admit, until it's generally too late, that I've taken on too much. Maybe this run was trying to tell me that.

I got to the park around 11:30, got my packet and got my stuff in order. The race is run on a .75 mile loop, all asphalt. It's fairly flat, well, flat until you've ran the same loop 20 times, then it's hilly as hell. I didn't know how I'd react to the asphalt (hint: I didn't like it). I looked around and didn't like it.

I was also very nervous headed into this race. I'm not sure exactly why. I think part of it was that I'd be running around people the entire time. With most ultras I've been around people for only very short amounts of time, usually headed off into the woods, countryside, or darkness by myself. Here I'd be with people the entire time. It didn't sit well with me for some reason.

It was also raining, not hard, but consistently all day. Running in the rain is generally one of my favorite things to do (behind snow and the beach). But I wasn't feeling it today. Maybe for a two hour run it'd be cool, but eight hours of it...hmm, it wasn't sitting well.

Back to the race. There were about forty people in total running. I think it was divided equally between marathon runners and run-however-long runners. We all kind of huddled under a shelter, milling around. I stretched, tried to not think about what it would feel like to run for nine hours. Talked to some folks, etc.

Around noon we were herded to the start, facing south, meaning we'd be running counterclockwise. We were on our way. I started easy. Focusing on keeping my pace at a steady 10 min/mile.

I did fine for the first hour. I held my pace. It was hard to zone out though. There were so many people around and we were passing the start so often I couldn't get into just running. I was busy thinking about other things, which made the running harder. I was already questioning if I could mentally handle the entire run. Oh well, I kept pushing it.

My parents showed up not long after, the first race they've been to. My mom immediately tagged me as looking like crap. I told her thanks for pointing out the obvious since I'd been running for an hour in the rain in a circle. She said it was more than that, I just looked beat.

She was right. I was tired. My legs burned way more than they should have on the very easy uphills the course offered up. I started walking about 1/10th of each lap - the part that was the steepest grade. This wasn't going well.

I stopped to take an ibuprofen and some salt tablets. Maybe that would help. I ate. Maybe that would help. Nope. Nothing. No energy, legs burned, mind wasn't in it. God, was I not going to finish? Was I going to have to quit?

I set off on another lap. I ran but immediately found I had nothing to keep me going. WTF? I walked for a while. See if that would help. Nope. Nothing.

I stopped wondering if I'd quit and started looking for reasons to quit. Was my foot hurting? Well, yeah, a little, but not horribly. I'd ran on it in worse shape. Maybe if I kept running it would start hurting more. I wanted it to hurt. What was wrong with me? Why would I want that?

The foot would just be a good excuse to stop. Everyone told me to stop if it started hurting. If it did hurt then I could justify stopping. That was my excuse, everyone would accept it and tell me I was smart for stopping. Then I wouldn't have to tell them that I just couldn't get my head in it. I couldn't get my legs into it, they didn't even show up. They were still at home, in bed.

I kept doing the laps, walking a lot, putting off the inevitable until the next lap. Finally I decided that was it. I was done. 3 hours and 30-ish minutes, 18 and some odd miles. That was my limit. I turned in my number and headed home. Tail between my legs.

I'm not too sore today. My foot does really hurt a little, but not a lot. I avoided talking about the race with folks at school who knew I was running. "How was the race?" "Aww, it was ok, not great, just ok." New topic.

I didn't really DNF, as it's an open-ended run, at least not on paper. Yet, in my mind I quit and it really sucks. I've approached my running to this point with the attitude that there's nothing my mind can't deal with. That's pretty arrogant, I know, but it's how I've seen it. Maybe now I know my mind has limits. I don't want it to. I want to think my mind can deal with anything. Limits show weakness. At least to me. I can rationalize anything, I can say 10 miles into a 50-miler that I'm 1/5th of the way done, not that I've got 40 miles left. Not yesterday.

One thing I'm sure of, it wasn't my muscles or bones or body that failed me yesterday, it was my mind.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Trail Nerds in The Ptich

The Trail Nerds got a great write-up in our local weekly paper, The Pitch. You can find it here.

As part of it they included a kind-of-obscured picture of a runner at the Mud and Muck 5k two weeks ago...number 71. Hey, I was number 71. Go figure. I'm on the cover of The Pitch for being a Trail Nerd. Life couldn't be better.

Patriot's Run tomorrow. Let's hope my foot decides to play nice.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Friggin Foot

Yeup, it still hurts. I haven't been running on it much and the dumb thing won't heal. I think it's doctor time.

Did the Mud & Muck 5k on Aug 31st. It was a nice 5k with a 25 yard or so mud pit about a quarter of a mile from the finish. Just like Dirty Duo but cheaper, better organized, and a whole lot more fun. I didn't hydrate properly the night before the race (read: I drank waaay too much and went to bed way too late) so I chalked this one up to nice and easy 5k. It was fun.

The North Shore Trail Run was last Saturday, the 6th of September. Another great Trail Nerds event. I hadn't run the Clinton Lake trails before so I was really looking forward to it. Jeremiah and Tayler joined me for this one. Tayler brought Bentley (a 115 lb Swiss Mountain Dog) with her. Fun for everyone.

My foot was feeling a little funny before the run but I decided to do it anyways. I didn't push it very hard, just kind of enjoyed the scenery and the other runners.

I'm seriously considering not doing the entire 9 hours and 11 minutes of the Patriot's Run if my foot acts up too much. We'll see.

In case you care about my other life (the trying to get into a MD/PhD program life so I can have no life) I got asked to give a talk in October at the Gibbs Conference on Biothermodynamics over the research I did this summer (and am still doing, actually). I'm totally stoked about that. Well, stoked and scared. "I'm an undergrad, please be gentile".

School is killing me this semester. Between research, my classes, and teaching two nights a week my running and sleeping are really suffering.