Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Down with the sickness

No, this post's title doesn't refer to the Disturbed song, although I wish it did (it's a pretty good song). I was down this weekend with a cold/flu type thing (don't think it was the dreaded H1N1). Of course, that's no excuse for not posting anything last week, but I don't have a better excuse, so I'll just go with it.

In a nutshell, the last two weeks went fairly well. I broke 60 miles the week before last and was well on my way to breaking 70 last week until I was felled by the bug. All I needed was my 18 miler on Sunday to finish the week with 71 miles, but instead I spent half the day sleeping in the recliner in front of the Steelers/Vikings game and the other half sleeping in my bed. It was an exciting day. So, I guess this week's planned cutback couldn't have come at a better time since it's gonna be a cutback regardless of whether it was planned or not. I did manage 5 miles this morning, but my lungs burned the whole and I several coughing fits in the middle of it.

One thing that's become blatantly obvious over the past couple of months is that I simply am not capable of running as fast in the early morning as I can later in the day. The week before last, my fastest paced run was actually my long run, which I started at about 8 AM, as opposed to 4:30 AM for my weekday runs. This past week, I ran a few times starting at 4:30 and averaged around 8:45 miles for those runs. On Friday, I had the day off so I took off on my 11.5 mile run at 9:00. I subsequently averaged 8:04 miles for that run while putting out what seemed like the same level of effort. Unfortunately, it's just not practical for me to do all of my runs in the late morning or afternoon. Unless I win the Powerball. Until then, I guess I'll just have to live with it.

The standings for the Black Hills Trail Series were updated this weekend and it's looking pretty good for me (knock on wood). With one race to go on Nov. 7th, I lead the Men's Open Division with 36 points. The next closest runner has 28 points. The most points you can get in one race is 10, so assuming he wins our division in the last race to earn 10 points, I would need only 3 points (8th place in the division) to secure the overall series win. That is extremely doable, assuming no extenuating circumstances (and I've already gotten sick, so hopefully that one is out). In many ways, this race series is like NASCAR. It's not so much how many races you win, but how many you finish in a respectable position. Case in point, the guy in second is definitely faster than me and has smoked me at every race he's been at. But, he's missed the last two races and I only missed one race, which has given me the edge. The last race, the unofficial South Dakota Trail Championships, is different from the others in that there are actually two distances (10K and 16K) you can choose from and you can gain points from either distance. So, there will be a 10 point winner from each distance. This could add a strategical aspect to the series since you could conceivably just wait to see what distance the faster guys are running and then enter the other distance in the hopes of scoring an easy win. But, I'll go on the record as saying that I'm planning on running the 16K with absolutely no knowledge of who else is running it. I'll let the cards fall as they may. It's not like there's a million dollars on the line (is there?).

Hey, big football weekend coming up. Actually, it starts tonight. Belle's first playoff game is tonight at home against Hot Springs, a rematch of the regular season game that Belle won by 3 points, but easily could have been a 30 point blowout (if that makes any sense). Why a Tuesday playoff game you ask? Beats the hell outta me....the South Dakota playoff schedule is screwy beyond comprehension. In any case, the even bigger game is on Saturday in Missoula where the #2 ranked Griz take on #14 ranked Weber St. for the Big Sky Conference championship (probably). Last year, Weber beat the Griz 45-28 during the regular season in Ogden, but then got upset on the last weekend of the regular season so they ended up tying for the conference title (no tie-breakers in the Big Sky, they just recognize co-champions). The two teams met again in the quarterfinals of the playoffs in Missoula and the Griz won 24-13 and eventually went on to the national championship game (the outcome of which I won't discuss here). Both teams feature high-powered offenses and not so good defenses, so it looks like a shootout on paper. Washington-Grizzly Stadium, stacked with 26,000 screaming Griz fans, is an extremely tough place to play, so hopefully the edge will go to the Griz. For the hell of it, I'll just say the Griz do to them what they did to us last year and win it 45-28 at home.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The shenanigans of Mother Nature

Winter has arrived in South Dakota. In October. Early October. Not much snow, but windchills in the teens and single digits. I am not ready for this crap. I mean, seriously, I went from running in shorts and a t-shirt to all out layered cold weather gear in the span of a couple of days. I need a transition period, damn it!

Anyhow, this past week was pretty much more of the same, with another trail race thrown in:

Monday - No running, played basketball.

Tuesday - 7 miles

Wednesday - 10 miles

Thursday - 6 miles in the morning, 5 in the afternoon. My first double since Boston training in the spring, I believe. The second run felt light years better than the first.

Friday - 6 miles

Saturday - 7.3 miles total including the 10-10-10K trail race at Buzzard's Roost, outside of Rapid City. It was cold. Really frickin cold, to be exact. I heard it was in the teens when the race started, and I wouldn't doubt that. There was some snow on the trail, but not very much, mostly just a dusting. What made things interesting, besides the technical, hilly trail, was the fact that the snow was melting in the areas that were in the sun, creating an nice, slick muddy trail surface in some sections of trail where one slip would send you tumbling over a significant drop-off. I basically started this race in the same position I finished it....I literally pass one guy the entire way (in the first half mile) and got passed by one guy (again, in the first half mile). After that, the lead pack took off way ahead of me and everyone else fell back a ways behind me and I was just out in the woods all by myself on what seemed like a normal everyday trail run. Every once in awhile I would catch a glimpse of someone behind me, but they never drew very close and I ended up finishing 8th overall and 5th in my division. That was good enough to keep me in first place in the men's under-40 division of the trail series with one race left to go (on Nov. 7th). And, I won a new watch in the prize drawing. Not a bad day overall. A cold one, but not a bad one.

Sunday - 14 miles. Saturday had been cold, but calm. Sunday was cold and windy. It sucked. Plus my legs were tired from the race. Not the most enjoyable 14 miles I've ever run, but I got it done.

Total - 53.7 miles

Rumor has it fall is going to come back later this week. I can only hope.

Hey, it was another perfect football weekend! Belle beat Douglas 45-20, Montana beat Cal Poly 35-23 and Seattle beat Jacksonville 41-0 (they've now won two games by a combined score of 69-0....too bad there were 3 losses between those two wins). And, my fantasy team won too (and is now 5-0). Football is really the only thing that makes the onset of winter bearable.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Feeling like a runner again

I haven't been shy on here about bitching and whining over how long it took me to recover from Lean Horse. For 4 weeks after that race, I basically felt like a pile of crap running-wise. And a slow pile of crap at that. I finally turned the corner a couple of weeks ago and this past week things continued to improve.

Monday - No running, but played basketball at lunchtime. My legs felt like I had just run a marathon. The Sundance Trail 10K took more of a toll than I had expected, especially on my quads and calves, which I suspect is from pushing the pace on the downhill 2nd half.

Tuesday - 6 miles. Definitely still feeling the quads and calves.

Wednesday - 9 miles. Ah, much better. Basketball again.

Thursday - 7 miles w/ 8 strides. The soreness is completely gone, legs feel really good.

Friday - 9.2 miles. Woulda been a great run if not for battling 20-30 mph wind the entire time.

Saturday - 14 miles. Decided to crank out my long run a day early and headed to the Centennial Trail to do it. The Centennial is 110 miles long (give or take) and stretches from Bear Butte, just to the north of Sturgis, to Custer State Park in the central Black Hills. It's mostly single track and was completed in 1989, the year of South Dakota's Centennial, hence the name. I started at the Bear Butte Lake trailhead, about 40 miles from home and headed south on the trail toward the Black Hills. I knew that the first stretch would be across open grassland, but I guess I was unprepared for just how long that open grassland would last. It ended up being nearly 5 miles before I finally hit the trees around the Ft. Meade VA. I spent much of that first 5 miles dodging both cows and cow pies. Fun stuff. The trail did get more interesting once I hit the timber, but I was only in it for a couple of miles before turning around and heading back. Even in the grassland section, though, there were a couple of serious hills, so I at least got a chance to work on that. Lesson learned: next time I run the Centennial, I'll drive farther and start from a trailhead in the Hills (like the one at Ft. Meade).

Sunday - 7.5 miles. This was meant to be a nice, slow recovery run (about 9:00 pace) after the previous day's long run, but my legs felt really good and without even realizing it, or trying, I was running 8:15-8:20 pace, so I went with it. This run in itself speaks to how much running has improved for me in the last couple of weeks. During my Lean Horse recovery, it took every thing I had to run faster than 9:00 pace. During this run, it would have taken everything I had to slow myself down to that pace. I much prefer having the latter problem.

Total - 52.7 miles

This week I have another trail race, the second to last one in the Black Hills Trail Series, looming. The 10-10-10K is on Saturday. As the name suggests, it's a 10K on October 10th. Actually, it could be the 10-10-10-10K since it starts at 10 AM. And, next year, if they did it on a Sunday at 10AM, it could be the 10-10-10-10-10K . But I digress. The race is on the Buzzard's Roost trail (sounds like a lovely place, huh?), someplace I've never been to. I suspect there will be hills, since there tend to be a few at these things (what fun would running on a trail be if it were perfectly flat?). I'm less worried about the hills than I am the weather. October in South Dakota represents the time when winter and fall abruptly shift back and forth in a struggle for supremacy. This week, it appears as if winter will be the victor. We got our first snow yesterday and the forecast for Saturday is a low of 17 in the morning and a high of 34 that afternoon, so it should be somewhere in between at race time. I'm guessing that if the trails aren't snowy they'll be muddy since rain/snow is predicted for much of the week. But, hey, what fun is trail running if you don't get a little dirty, right?