A passion for trail running, ultras, mountaineering, snowshoeing, hiking, and other outdoor adventures

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Of Transitions, Spinning Wheels, and Recharging Batteries (Fall 2012 Recap)

Hello, lost blog!  The last four months of 201 brought the glorious transition to fatherhood @ fifty--at turns, exhilirating, exasperating, exhausting, and (always) exciting!  The four "E's," as I like to call them!  Mihiret is the jewel in my crown, my pride and joy, and I can't imagine what life was like before her!

Well, I can, sort of, if only in the running sense!  And hopefully in 2012 I'll get back to some semblance of the groove I was in the first half of 2011 leading up to my awesome Bighorn.  No regrets, mind you, as it was natural that running would (and will!) continue to take a back seat.  But hopefully now I'm in a position to sort of find that elusive balance.

But time to sort of close the ledger on 2011 first.  What kind of stands out from the last quarter of '11 are the big races I *didn't* do, and then the season- and year-ending hamstring injury.  Training July/August for SOS tri in September only to first have it shortened by Irene damage, and then not wanting to make the overnight trip up for it with Mihiret just out of the hospital.  Right call, no regrets, but don't think me and SOS will ever be on the same page as far as qualifying standards, the entry a year in advance, settting aside a big chunk of summer just to train for it, yadda, yadda.  Cross that one off the life list, as least for now!

Then getting sick a few days before, and with Mihiret home from surgery, had to pull the plug on what was going to be my "A race" for the fall, the Bimbler's Bluff 50K.  Right call again, but I felt like I was primed for a pretty good race there.  Unfortunately, part of being primed meant doing only the 25K version of Mountain Madness the weekend before, which turned out to be a nice day where I felt good and could have turned in a good 50K performance.  Damn--20/20 hindsight!

At State Line Lookout in the Palisades, with Jeff and Lesley, in September.

The Positive Side of the Ledger

What I can take away on the positive side is four good to decent race performances, one per month. At the Pfalz Point 10 miler in September, I had a good age group place--my first race as a 50-something!--and felt pretty strong...despite the hornet stings I suffered along with maybe half the field!  It was a beautiful day in the 'Gunks, and an interesting course. Sort of where cross country meets trails.  Not quite the time I was hoping for, but it's a race I could imagine going back to occasionally.  Fun time up there with Lesley, Garth, and Jeff.

October brought Mountain Madness.  Even just doing the 25K reminded me how tough the course is, and why I love its twisty, turny, wooded single track.   About as mountainous as NJ trail races get, and you'd be surprised!  I felt pretty spent maybe halfway through, but then got my second wind in the latter miles.  I kept telling myself I was holding back, and had "one more gear left," and to "save it for Bimbler's."  Unfortunately, whatever I saved I didn't get to spen!.  Still, it was nice hanging out with the crew before and after the race (Garth, Lesley, Paul, and Steve Cooper made the trip up from Maryland), and a beautiful sunny buy cool fall day with excellent fall color.  I ended up with a good overall placing. Unfortunately, I got the news Mihiret was back in the ER just as we were lingering after the race, which meant rushing home and put a damper on the day.

Between what turned out be another hospital stay for Mihiret and my own illness of a couple days, training got shot the last two weeks of October along with Bimbler's as far as long trail runs (got some medium Park runs in, including one on the day of the big October snowstorm, which was one to remember--scary with all the trees coming down around me!). 

So having signed up in late September or early October for Stone Mill 50 miler for the weekend before Thanksgiving, I realized I needed to make a bit of a desperate training stand in early November.  So that Friday/Saturday I did back to back 6-hour days, in the Palisades solo and then with Garth at Harriman.  Felt strong both days.  Covered maybe 42 miles or so altogether.  That boosted my confidence going in to Delaware Water Gap 50K Fat Ass aka Felsenmeer ("sea of rocks").

In retrospect, DWG proved to be the fall running highlight day for me.   Hands down!  I felt good, really enjoyed the unexpected company of Ray Sales on the trip and throughout the run (didn't know till day before he was going!), and it was a perfect fall day, cool and sunny.  I love the relentless climbs and rocks, the fall color was great, and it was really nice to see the PA half of the course for the first time. I knew on the early climb up Mt. Tammany, when I felt strong and moved beyond Cherie and Iliana (who were taking their time deliberatly I should add!) and then took off on the backside descent, that it was going to be a good day.  While I had moments when I wavered, being with Ray and feeling fit from the fall's training pulled me through.  We finished in just about nine hours flat.  Not bad on that course!

Ray said on the way back that if he didn't do any more races in '11 (he ultimately did of course, Ray being Ray) it was a good way to end the year.  The words proved prophetic for me.  It was to be my last ultra of the year, and my first and so far only one since Bighorn.  Even after taking two days off running, I then felt really sore Wed., probably from running more than I should on Tuesday (like an hour).  When I felt the same dead sensation on Thursday while running and had to shut it down, that cinched my doubts about the long drive down to Stone Mill....not knowing anyone there...the long drive back after a 50 mile run because Esperanza was working Sunday...a course that seemed to be not as remote and gnarly as I might like.  In the back of mind, I had known all fall DWG was important enough to go back to that I was not going to surrender it even for a strong 50 miler the next weekend.  In the end it really came down to that, but I think I made the right call pulling the plug two days before Stone Mill.  Much as I might have liked to run a 50 miler to close the ultra year.  Oh well, eyes bigger than the stomach!

Injury Strikes

So, then, taking the hint from my dead legs, I decide to move up the little break I had planned for after Stone Mill, taking off what ended up being 9 days.  Just easy cross-training.  But that meant doing a little crash course when I came back, fitting in a couple speed sessions on my own, including one six days before at Van Cortlandt on the very same hills that would do me in. All of a desire to do well in my age group at the Pete McArdle 15K, which I'd done back in 2007 and 2008. If I could run about the same time as in '08, I figured in checking the last three year's results, I could maybe score a third place!

Well, thanks to a good warmup, I felt pretty good on the first two 5K loops.  Not on the pace I'd hoped, but steady, and running well on the hills.  But there were a few signs of hamstring trouble, which seemed to come and go, and I thought were about tightness.  On the third and last loop, I really push it up the back hills, and then was starting what has become my usual mad dash down the latter downhills, where I always try to make good time on the course.  But disaster struck, as I felt a huge knot and had to pull up.  What should I do?  Just walk it in? Well, there was maybe 1.5-2K to go, so I said, just keep turning over and slow down, and try not to injure it any more.  Folks starting streaming past, which was frustrating, as I thought I could finish strong.

In the end, I maybe lost a couple minutes off my time.  It wouldn't have been good enough to score an age group anyway, as I was maybe 6 minutes off the money, in 6th place.  I felt pretty dejected afterwards, as I had to limp around, and knew I'd be out for a while. And kind of wondering whether it had been worth it to gear my training around this race for the previous few weeks.   But it was nice running into Tim Decker after the race, and hanging out with him in line at Lloyd's as we picked up some of their delicious sweets.

I guess maybe the lesson is...not to bomb those hills so much...listen to your body when there are warning signs....maybe not take time off and then rush quickly back into hard training...don't go train hard up and downhills that close to the race.  Tempting to think I shouldn't bother with those short, intense races on ultra-trained legs at all, but I thought the speedwork and shorter stuff from earlier in the fall would carry me through. 

Still a Good Year Overall

I remember thinking after Bighorn, "the rest of the year is gravy."  In retrospect, that was by far the pinnacle, and the first six months the highlight of the running year.  I accomplished a lot those months, and really put it out there.  Didn't mean to rest on my laurels the rest of the year, but in some ways circumstances kind of led to that.  And I knew running would take a back seat.   Now I'm primed for a strong 2012!

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