Sunday, September 18, 2011

Week 9: Where There's Fire, There's Smoke

Holiday weekends breed laziness. I did not want to get up and go on my Monday morning run on Labor Day. So I didn't. I slept in, and it was nice. But I did end up going running in the evening. The weather had actually cooled down from the previous hellish month so it would be more bearable running in the evening. The other part of the reason I was able to convince myself to go out and run was that this past weekend had taught me an important lesson. You need to run in interesting places.

In the previous I had been saying how the Monday run was becoming one of the hardest ones. I had been doing all of my timed short runs in the city block sized park close to my home. There is really nothing fun about running in a circle for 45 minutes. Going to different places keeps things interesting. I was excited to go on my run in New York because it was new; it was a mild adventure running in a place I was totally unfamiliar with. So when I can I need to get away from my small park and go somewhere else. So I went to the big park instead. Memorial park where our long runs usually start off at are has a 3 mile trail to run on. Its still a big circle but it is a much more interesting big circle.

It was cooler and I was going to a more exciting place to run. With those things in mind by the time I set out Monday evening to run, I was now looking forward to it. That's because I was not expecting two separate anomalous events that would attempt to ruin my run. The first was clearly noticeable upon stepping outside. Texas has been experiencing drought conditions for several months now. Most recently this has culminated in a huge number of wildfires all over the state. Some of which were not too far north of Houston. Smoke from these fire's was clearly noticeable in the air. The sky was a little hazy but it was the smell that made it evident.

This smoke made the run not nearly as fun or easy as I had expected it to be. About two miles in my eyes were burning and I felt sick to my stomach. This was really disappointing after I had gotten into a good mood about going on the run. Neither issue cleared up the remainder of the 4.5 mile run. The second issue fortunately only kicked in right towards the end. I had been wearing my new running shoes for about three weeks now. I wasn't expecting any big issues with my feet anymore but towards the end of my run I got some serious hot spots on both feet in the same spot. I actually had to shorten my run slightly because I really didn't want to get bad blisters on the bottom of my feet. Blisters on my toes I can deal with, bottom of my feet, not so much.

I'm not really sure what the cause of the foot issue was. The most likely culprit was my socks. I have two different types of socks I run in. Both types are Asics and are specially designed for running, but one type is much nicer. Fifteen dollars a pair nicer. Apparently that extra money is for something because I wear those socks for my long runs and have never had issues. I was wearing the cheaper pair for this run with poor results. To counteract that issue I now use Body Glide on my feet too help.

Tuesday was a big day because it was my last day of hill training. Fortunately the cooler weather was still prevailing and the smoke issue cleared up immensely to where it wasn't noticeable during the run. The run consisted of the very similar workout of the previous weeks but with one major difference. The previous weeks had been 4 on 2 off seven times, 4 on 2 off eight times, 5 on 2 off seven times, so it seemed that today would be 5 on 2 off eight times. Correct, with the exception that the recovery time had been reduced to one minute between sets. At first this was a worrisome prospect but shortly into the run I was feeling really good and I really had no issues with the workout. Another sign I was on the right side of the workout wall. I was finally feeling in shape again.

Thursdays run ended up not happening. The plan was to get up and go on a morning run, but getting out of the habit of morning runs made that more difficult than anticipated. It wouldn't have worked out even if we did get up to run because the smoke in the city was even worse that morning. When I went out to go to work I was immediately concerned something was burning in the vicinity of my home, the haze was so heavy and the smell so strong. Fortunately that was not the case. However, the plans to go running that afternoon also fell through when my wife came home not feeling well. I was talked into not going on the run, but only as long as we don't make it a habit. We'll see.
A later date, but it gets the idea across. That is smoke, not clouds.

Saturday rolled around and it was another big run to cap off a fairly big week of important runs for me. A ten mile run. My first run ever that would hit double digits. I looked on this as a big step. I was looking forward to this run. Everything seemed to be showing that this run would be a good one. Despite a few missteps I was not disappointed. I started off the run in the middle of my group which was pretty normal for me. About a mile in I came to the conclusion that I was not pushing myself as hard on these runs as I could. During the hills training I could keep up with or lead most of the runners who lead the long runs. If I could keep up with them there, surely I could keep up with them here, right?

So I decided to test out my theory, and set forth quickly moving up the group until I got to the back of the pack of fast runners. Unfortunately, the group of fast runners had missed a turn in the run and actually cut a mile off the run. This was relayed to use when we hit the first water stop. We were told when we reached the planned end of our run we would need to run an extra mile to make up for it. This was kind of a pain but not too big a deal. I just had to run with someone who had a GPS watch that would know how far we had gone. So the run continued. We got held up by traffic a little more than I was used to which was frustrating, but its unavoidable sometimes when you are running on the street. The run eventually took us back to Memorial park and would have ended shortly after the end of the three mile loop if it were not for the short cut we had taken.

It was while running through the park that I experienced another minor set back. When I had woken up that morning my stomach felt a little out of it but nothing serious. This feeling of unease came back a lot stronger while running through the park. It got to the point where the coach I had been following started getting a pretty good lead on me, because I was cramping up. I feel it is inevitable if you run long distance that you will eventually run into this problem, and it is actually one of my biggest fears for the marathon, too eat something that just totally messes with your stomach during a long run. Fortunately I was able to run through it, settle down, and eventually catch up with the coach. For the last mile and a half of the run the coach and I fed off each other to keep pushing ourselves. She was trying to hit specific splits for the run and was dragging some. My arrival on the scene helped push her and her knowledge of how much distance we had to go allowed me to keep pushing myself knowing how close we were to the end. It worked out well. We finished up the run at an awesome pace to finish at 92 minutes for the ten miles. I was really excited by that because it meant I was much closer to a 9 minute pace and was able to keep it up for 10 miles. This is something hope to keep up as the training goes on.

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