Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Single Track!

Snowmobile trails and tote roads are fine in a pinch, but I have been missing the real trails (single track). I have been out on snowshoes a lot over the winter so I was able to travel the trails that way, but I have still been impatiently waiting for the snow to melt so I can run and bike on the winding dirt trails. I want to feel the trees and brush close on each side! Also, I need technical terrain with rocks and roots and loose dirt to prepare for the Northface Race. For yesterday's long run, Kevin and I talked about driving to Southern New hampshire (or further) to give me the change of pace I have been craving. In the end we decided to drive to Bradbury Mountain instead. Bradbury gets a ton of foot traffic so I thought the snow would probably be packed down nicely for running. Kevin hit the trails on the West side in his screw shoes while I started out on the East side hoping the beautiful mountain bike single track would have seen some heavy use over the winter. No such luck. Most of the foot traffic had stuck to the wider trails (roads) and snow mobile trails. I ran almost everything, anyway. Then I crossed the road and ran most of the West side trails, which were all well packed. At one point I met Kevin at the "summit," which is not very high at all but has nice views. There is some climbing on the West side, but nothing like what we are used to around our house. Running surface varied from packed snow, loose granular snow, sheer ice (stay off the Border Trail if you don't have cleats or screws), a little mud, a few rocks, and an extremely nice downhill run on bare dry technical single track on the South Ridge Trail (just what I was looking for!)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Long Run

Today's long run went pretty darned good. I put it off all day. I didn't sleep well last night, and that combined with a gloomy damp day with messy, slushy roads was enough to make me bury my face in a book while laying o the couch all morning. I told Kevin, "4 O'clock is the cut off. I have to get started by then." And I did. I set out at around 3 O'clock in the afternoon. Trails are out of the question right now. There is still a lot of snow in the woods and it is soft and rotten at this point. So road running was necessary.

I ran ten miles out and back on the very hilly Spec Pond Road. It went fast and I felt great! I stopped by at home to present Kevin with my master plan. I thought I would go out for another six and return home to pick him up for company for my last six. Kevin had kept me company on his bike for a hilly eight miler on Sunday and now I was spoiled and wanted company on my run. But he was already on the treadmill when I stopped by at the house and he planned to use the bike trainer and then do some strength training next. No worries, I took a Cliff Shot and some water and struck out alone.

Eight miles later my hips and knees and lower back were starting to feel the pavement. I'm not a trail runner by accident, but by necessity. I have a lousy spine which doesn't absorb any pounding. When I stopped at the house at eighteen miles I was hurting, but willing. I tried a Power Bar Gel and won't ever do it again. It burned my throat going down and sat in my stomach like molten lava after I swallowed. Live and learn.

My training plan called for 22 miles this week, but my hips, knees, and back were telling me that twenty was plenty (hey, that rhymes!) Two more miles on the soft muddy shoulders of the flattest roads I could find brought me to a nice twenty mile total in 2:48 (pretty happy with that at this stage of the game.) An ice bath and a recovery drink is the recommended post long run treatment. I know that. But a good long hot tub soak with an icy glass of Harpoon Beer did the trick for me!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Hill Repeats

This afternoon I ran eight quarter mile hill repeats on the steepest part of the Chapel Street hill here in Kezar Falls. The wind was fierce, but the temperature was warm and the sunshine was bright. On the very first climb I realized that my legs didn't have much in them today. This isn't surprising because for yesterday's "easy" run I ran up Pease Hill in Cornish...twice for 14 miles.

Kevin and I are considering driving down to Cape Cod to do some mountain biking on snow free and relatively dry trails this weekend. If we do go we will ride on the Trail of Tears in Barnstable. I'll get some running in also. I can't wait to get my mountain bike out on the trails. Hooray for the coming of Spring! We might have to get ourselves some Pugsleys before next winter!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Long Run

Despite this miserable cold, I decided to give my long run an honest effort today. I got through the 26 mile run in 4:54. Hey, that's only about 2 hours off my marathon personal best! Times are tough.

I ran the Porter and Hiram snow mobile trails. They were nice and hard packed early on with temps in the teens, but the last hour was soft, slushy, and slow as temperatures climbed into the high 30's under the bright sunny sky. I felt pretty good through the whole run. I did a bit of exploring in Hiram, trying a side trail that I hoped would take me back over to Porter rather than over the far Hiram Hills. This way I could repeat the Porter trails I had run earlier and pick up my discarded fleece and mittens. This trail had see some recent ATV use when the snow was soft and slushy. Then the rutted mess had frozen solid. Not ideal for running, but I could still make forward progress and head in the general direction I wanted to go. I ran along the backsides of Trafton Pond and Stanley Pond, so I knew where I was the entire time, I still wasn't sure if I could get to where I wanted to go. The snow is still very deep in the woods around here so I was at the mercy of the ATVer. Luckily he went out of the woods exactly where I had hoped he would, and I only had to run about 1/4 mile on the paved road before getting back on the trails I had run first thing in the morning.

About 1 mile before I came to the paved road, among the frozen rutted ATV tracks, I came upon a Toyota pickup truck sitting sideways across the trail. A man and woman were merrily working away with winches and shovels. They smiled and greeted me when I approached. I told them I was amazed they had made it so far out into the woods and asked if it was a GPS mishap. (I've had my GPS try to send me over roads that haven't been maintained in over fifty years. One nurse I work with was sent down the Hobb Swamp Road, which drops off into the South River a few miles in. The bridge has been out for at least 25 years.) But the man cheerfully replied, "No, not a GPS problem, just stupidity." To which they both laughed and went about their work. I wished them good luck and moved on down the trail. I believe that truck will sit there until the Spring thaw. At least they seem to be in good spirits about the whole thing.

I am aching for dirt to run and ride on! Kevin and I have talked about making a trip to the Cape this weekend for some mountain biking. The other option is to take advantage of these last winter weeks and do some cross country skiing and snowboarding in New Hampshire. Either one of those things would help with my Spring fever!

Monday, March 14, 2011

High Road to Pease Hill

This cold is getting the best of me...except my runs still feel great! Two half mile hill repeats were on my schedule for Saturday. I worked all day and felt pretty sick, but after driving up High Rd, Old Limington Rd, and Pease Hill Rd to measure the distance, I parked at Cornish Elementary School and set out for my run. Instead of having to run the same hill over and over, this route provided a long steep one mile climb, a brief period of level and downhill road, another climb over a mile long, a short level stretch, and lastly, a steep muddy half mile climb to the top. This wasn't exactly what was perscribed, but I worked the uphills hard and was very happy with how strong I felt. At the top I enjoyed the veiws of the Hiram Hills to the North and the White Mountains to the West. It was a very clear day and Mount Washington looked beautiful.

The downhill segment went by fast! I had to remind myself to lean forward, strike midfoot, and let gravity do it's thing. Someone once told me to picture my feet rolling along like they are inside a bicycle tire when I run down hill. This works for me. In the past I have won road races by passing rivals on downhill stretches that fell near the end of race. Rocky rooty trails are a different story. That type of downhill running takes a little more skill and practice. Once the trails around here get down to dirt, I'll work on it.

I am going to try to lay low today and give my body a chance to get over this chest cold. I might take the bike out or go for a short run, and I will probably do my strength workout. I don't feel up to a 26 mile long run today, but hopefully I will be able to do it tomorrow.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Speed Work

In between blowing my nose, coughing, and sneezing through a crazy busy work week, I had an awesome speed work day this past week! I haven't done any formal speed work in a very long time. I've run a little Fartlek here and there, some hill repeats, maybe a tempo run now and then...but this workout was more structured and specific. I was to run a quarter, a half, three quarters, a half, and a quarter. Recoveries between each were to be half the distance. Thank Goodness the tracks are still covered with snow or I might have been tempted to go all the way with this and run my workout on the quarter mile loop.

I parked at the Line School in Newfield in the early evening after work. Garmen in hand, I set out on the rolling hills of the back streets. After a two mile warm up I was ready to go! Could my legs and lungs still do this? The answer was yes!

On the 3/4 mile interval I was running slightly uphill and crossed an intersection. Two young guys were coming up on my left at a good pace. One yelled, "Hey Rose, wait up!" I yelled back over my shoulder, "Not Rose." I smiled the rest of the interval because I know Rose and she is a hell of a lot faster than me. My fast pace is probably her easy pace. This would be like if one of you sort-of-fast guys was out running and someone mistook you for one of your running heroes. It made me feel good! Rose lives in the area where I was running and I had vaguely wondered if I might see her when I started out.

Here are the splits:
1/4 1:35
1/2 3:08
3/4 4:50
1/2 3:10
1/4 1:31

Now, these are not the kinds of splits I ran ten years ago, but then again I am not the same runner I was ten years ago. For one thing, I am not completely obsessed with running anymore. I have other interests. For another, I'm older and wiser so I don't particularly like pain, injuries, being underweight, and having a competitive attitude and a big ego. This is the new improved mellow ultra-running Laurel. I'd like to keep this...but also get more fit and a little faster. You know, have my cake and eat it, too.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Stress, Illness, and the Long Run

Over the weekend I realized I have yet another cold. This is my second one of the year and only about one week after I felt fully recovered from my first one. It's all those darned sick people I see for work! I'm just kidding. Really, I love my job and I can't imagine anything more rewarding than helping people who really need it. I am always being exposed to illness and infection, but rarely get sick. I know why these recent colds have grabbed me.

Viruses, molds, and bacteria are everywhere. They always have been. That's why our bodies are designed to resist them. If this resistance fails and these culprits do find a foothold, a healthy body is excellent at fighting them. I think a lot of people with excessive food sensitivities, environmental sensitivities, migraines, frequent infections, frequent colds, skin problems, gastro-intestinal issues and other disorders have low tolerances to the world around them due to a number of things... unhealthy lifestyle (we all know this one), stress (physical or emotional), and negative thinking and attitude. Of course there are many people who do everything right, but are constantly sick. Familial tendency and heredity have a big role also. But just because your parents were both fat diabetics with heart disease that died young, doesn't mean you have to go that route, too! I truly believe we have a lot of control over our health. And I don't need a holistic practitioner to tell me this for a huge sum of money.

I normally have a fantastic immune system and rarely get sick or feel run down. The exception of this is when I am under stress. When I was going through a divorce and starting a whole new life I developed rashes, headaches, insomnia, and kept getting colds. Our physical health is very closely related to our emotional and mental health! Well, recently I have been under a lot of stress and pressure in my workplace. It all stems from Medicare cuts, which are actually sorely needed. We do need to make cuts and be more efficient (in my humble opinion.) But I still have a mortgage and an active lifestyle that demands a flexible work schedule. Hence, the stress.

Today I was scheduled for a twenty miler. Looking out the window at the steady light rain and running streams in the road, and seeing that the thermometer only read 34 degrees, and feeling a sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches, and chills, I wasn't crazy about the idea of lacing up the running shoes. But I did it. I told myself, "only run 5 or 7 or whatever feels possible today." Surprisingly, a nice wet long run was exactly what I needed! I ran twenty road miles at about 8 minute pace and felt better and better as I went. I solved all my work problems in my head as I ran. So when my boss called me a few minutes after I got back home, I was able to speak to her in a calm and logical manner. We were able to negotiate a very do-able plan that will benefit the company (one more work day a week for me with the same pay) and myself (no more on-call nights on the weekends... and even better, I still have the job I love.) Suddenly my cold is feeling a lot better!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Hill Repeats and Max Heart Rate

The higher my weekly mileage gets, the less I keep up with my e-mails, blog, and online training log. I'm slower now than I used to be, so running 60-70 miles a week takes a lot of time these days! I just don't have much time to spend sitting at the computer. But I love to write and this blog is my creative outlet for that, so I'll continue to post when I can.

This morning I ventured out into the sub zero temperatures for my hill repeats. These have been a regular part of my training regime and I enjoy them. Today I ran two miles over hard packed snowmobile trails to a particularly steep and difficult hill. It is just a bit over a quarter mile long with a grade that varies from steep to ridiculous. Sometimes I have to walk part of this hill when it falls toward the end of my long run. Today I was ready for it!

My plan was for six repeats, fast up and fast down. So how is a person to recover between repeats if the downhill isn't run easily? I end up grabbing my knees at the top for 3 or 4 breaths, then run down as fast as I can, stand with my hands on my hips for a few breaths and run back up again. I recover somewhat on the downs, my breath and heart rate do slow down some, but it is still a pretty intense workout. My uphills are getting stronger and stronger, and my downhill running has improved immensely over the past few months.

Today my heart rate hit 180 on the last two climbs. That is the highest I have seen it in a long time. I didn't think it would still go that high. It is a fact that maximum heart rate does decline with age. I used to hit 186 in shorter races and speed work sessions, but haven't worked hard enough in recent years to get anywhere near my max. I think I got pretty close today!