Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dirt Day

For the third consecutive year, Team Dragon Slayers participated in the DWD Gnawbone 100K relay. In case you're not familiar with this race, it's kind of just one big spectacle.  There are other races--a half marathon, marathon, 50K, and 50 miler--going on concurrently with the relay, and those are serious...but the relay (for most teams) is one big party. The Dragon Slayers aren't partiers.  We don't wear costumes or drink alcohol during the race.  We run hard.  But, still, the prime goal is to have fun.

Team Dragon Slayers: Terry Quigley, Tim, Wes, me, and dad.
The race is broken down into 15 legs.  They are all on trails, all challenging, but some are just downright awful. Each of us ran three legs.  Now, there is always a common theme at DWD for me. That theme is that I'm never 100% healthy or normal.  In 2010, I ran it while 7 months pregnant. In 2011, I ran it 4 days after having abdominal surgery.  This year, I'm coming back from an IT band injury.  That is to say, there is, every year, an excuse for me to get the "easy" legs. More on that later.

The night before the race, Tim and I met Scott and some other running friends (Beau, Jonathan, Pius, Rebecca) for wonderful Italian food at Grazie in Bloomington.  I carbo-loaded like I was running an ultra even though I would only be running 8 miles at most.  Oh, well...it was worth it! It was nice to see Jon and Beau again (I had met them at my FAVORITE RACE EVER..Louisville Lovin' the Hills) and to meet Pius and Rebecca.  Pius is from Kenya.  He's really fast, but even more funny and nice. I had a very entertaining conversation with him about the "big, giant, fake checks" he wins at races.

Dad and Quigley didn't want to go out to eat, and Wes couldn't make it because he was driving home from grad school that evening. When Tim and I got home, we said hi to Wes, thanked my mom for babysitting, and went to bed. I did not sleep well or long enough, but got up anyway very early the next morning. The weather was supposed to be warm and muggy, but it was cool in the morning (thankfully).

We arrived at Mike's Dance Barn in Brown County at about 6:40. We checked in, then waited for the race to start. In doing so, we saw a lot of crazy runners in costumes and already downing the alcohol. The one thing that seriously bothers me about this race is that likely 50% of the team cars involved could be pulled over for DUIs. Anyway--the race was soon underway, with Quigley leading off our first leg. Quigley is a BEAST, but all of us were shocked when he came out of the woods in the top 10 finishers! There were some really fast people out there, and Quig was hanging with them!  We thought he looked tired when he was coming out of the woods, and then I noticed that he was beat red. He exchanged with dad, lost his breakfast, and got ready for his next leg.  Have to love The Quig.
Quig passing off to dad.

Dad ran leg 2. I killed time by doing my physical therapy exercises and poking fun at drunk runners with Wes and Tim. Dad handed off to Wes for leg 3, and we had to head over to Ogle Lake for the next exchange. That would be MY first leg. I was nervous. Not because I'm in horrible shape (I am!), but because I've been doing all my runs on flat stuff, and all of those runs have been short. The Ogle Lake leg is only 2.6 miles long (actually more like 3--most legs are longer than advertised), so I figured I could get through that and Tim would take my other legs if needed, but I was so fearful of my IT band locking up and me breaking into tears.  I said a quick prayer as I saw Wes sprinting toward me. We slapped hands, and I was off.
Me waiting for Wes at Ogle Lake.

I instantly thought to myself, "I remember this leg.  There are lots of stairs." This would be my third running of the Ogle Lake leg. I also had a quick flashback to running it last year--how much my abdomen hurt from the incisions in it. I then thought to myself, "At least I was in a lot better shape last year." Those thoughts were interrupted by the first flight of stairs.  I HATE STAIRS on trails.  I understand they serve a good purpose for hikers, but all they do is enrage runners. I passed a couple of people going up them, and then started climbing immediately sans stairs. Then I sort of wished I had the stairs again so I could at least have an excuse to walk. I'm telling you--I haven't been in this bad of shape since right after I had Rowan. I actually think I was in better shape then!

All I could think about the entire run was my IT band. I was praying that I would get through the leg without any pain. Now, I've not had any pain in a couple of weeks, but I've hardly been running and certainly not on anything like Brown County trails. I decided that, each half mile without pain, I had better praise God for getting me through it. So I did (silently). I was feeling good, and knew I was toward the end of the leg. I saw a set of stairs I had to descend, and did so quickly. I got to the bottom of them, though, and was confused.  Where's the trail?  All I could see was the lake and some Boy Scouts.  I heard people above me running, and then shouting "trail's up here!"  I had gone down a set of stairs that I wasn't supposed to.  Which, yes, meant I had to then go UP a set of stairs I wasn't supposed to.  I was demoralized and kind of angry, but quickly remembered the happiness that I associate with running--especially pain free running--and I laughed at myself.

I could hear the other runners cheering, so I knew I was getting close.  I heard the "woo!" guy (a guy who comes every year, drinks a ton, and screams "woooooo!" at the top of his lungs for ANYTHING, including leaves and animals, that come out of the woods) and could then see Quigley, to whom I was handing off.  I ran hard to him, slapped his hand, and I was done.  I told Tim my leg was fine and I should be fine to do the next leg, which was only another 3 miles. I've kind of lost track of what happened next.  I believe Quigley handed off to Wes, and Wes handed off to dad.

And that's when it got bad for dad. I am the unofficial team captain and do try to give people new legs to run each year. I knew that dad had not run leg 8--"Dazed and Confused"--nor leg 15, the last leg--"The Crack of Doom"--so I gave him both of those. Leg 8 was rough. It was almost completely off-road. Bush whacking was heavily involved, and, in the end, it took him about 50 minutes to go 3.5 miles. Sorry, dad!

Next up was Tim. The next few legs were all Millers. It went Tim, me, Tim, me. I was nervous about doing a second leg...kind of waiting for my IT band to kick in. But my doctor had told me that I had to test it at some point. So I waited patiently for Tim and anticipated another leg I've run many times. It's called short bone, and it starts kind of in a field. I saw Tim coming out of the forest, watched him overtake another runner, and smacked his hand. I was off.  I immediately passed two runners dressed as Richard Simmons and hit the trail. I had forgotten that this leg was pretty much totally uphill for the first half. I passed a TON of runners on this stretch, including one dressed as a beer keg. I made it the entire 3 miles without any pain. I smacked Tim's hand and it was time to drive to the next stop. As I walked to the car after cheering Tim on, all I could think about was how out of shape I felt. My HR (though I wasn't wearing a monitor) was spiking terribly.  It was a little warm out, but not sunny...in truth, it was not that bad. I was running at a pace that shouldn't have caused me to feel so....so....tired. I figured it was just the hills and stopped thinking about it.

Tim runs so fast that we barely made it to the next hand off.  But we did, and I started my last leg. I kept praying that God would get me through the next 2.6 miles pain free...and then I could be done and know that my leg was better. The leg started with a massive and steep downhill--not IT band friendly.  So I took it easy.  And I had no pain.  Before I knew it, though, I was passing people coming the other way on the trail. I was very annoyed that they had arranged the course this way, and then, when a guy said to me "What are you doing?  Getting extra miles in?" I realized I might have been lost. Crap! But I knew this trail, and I knew it was a loop, so I figured I had to come out at the right spot eventually. All I knew was that I had to climb a huge hill to get to the finish. Once I got there, I was comforted.

And then very annoyed given how big the hill was. I'm a good hill runner, but I haven't run a hill since Boston. And my HR was spiking again. I was maintaining a very even effort (something Coach Scott taught me long ago--fartleking up a hill is never a good idea), but I felt like I just couldn't breathe.  There was a guy standing near the top, and he had this sort of half-smile. It irritated me a lot...that's how I knew I was tired. I was glad to see Quigley waiting for me. I slapped his hand, he went on his way, and I joyfully told Tim I hadn't had any knee pain.

It was the most uneventful DWD (and maybe even trail race) I've ever done. I did not fall one time. I only got mildly lost. It was quite atypical for me. Quigley, Wes, and dad had the last three legs. And dad got the big one--The Crack of Doom--which allowed him to run across the finish line for our team. He got his HR up to 197 during the final stretch.  That's impressive for a 63-year-old.

The best part of DWD is the socializing afterward. We caught up with Beau, Jon, Scott, and Pius. Scott and Pius did not run the race (though they did an insane workout in Bloomington that morning!), but Beau had run the half and Jon the 50 miler. Beau did very well, but took a really nasty fall. Jon placed second overall in the 50! I asked him how it was, because I had been thinking about the DWD 50 being my first 50 miler. He looked at me and said, simply, "Never again." And I wasn't that surprised...I was getting the vibe throughout the day that this was one really, really tough 50. His course review sealed the deal that my first 50 miler will be (God willing) the Land Between the Lakes 50 miler in March (same place I did the 60K). We also saw Rebecca, whom I'd met at dinner, and she completed her first marathon (that's one tough first marathon!).

We watched dad finish, ate a bit more, talked a bit more, and headed home with our medals. My IT band is better, but I seem to still be suffering from the effects of heat stroke. My plan for dealing with that is just to run slowly until my body recovers. Any heat at all sends my HR skyrocketing. This type of recovery can't be rushed--so I won't.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Summer...and Miller v. Burris

Summer is here!  Like...officially (but don't tell my daughter this, as she's in school until May 31).  If you live in southern Indiana, you know that it has felt like summer since March. But now the real deal is here.  Which means that I have survived my first semester as a tenure-track faculty member at IU.  I absolutely love my job and have not, for a second, ever regretted my decision to work so long and arduously to be able to have it.

A lot of people are asking me, "aren't you off over the summer?"  Nope.  And I'm glad.  I have a ton of work to do, and it will be much easier to do without students around.  I love having students, but it's nice to have some dedicated time for my own scholarship.

Summer is also often a big few months of training for runners. And it typically is for me, too (though I don't discriminate--I train long and hard in the winter, too). But it's going to start out slowly for me. To catch you up, I picked up an IT band injury right after my first ultra marathon, along with patellar tendonitis. I (stupidly) ran Boston on these injuries, making them worse. I am not surprised by this.  I made the decision to run Boston knowing that this would probably be the case. I didn't, however, plan on suffering from heat stroke during that race. I did, and it's taking my body a long time to recover from that. I've read that it takes months to recover from a heat-related injury.

All that is to say--I'm dinged up.  I'm running, but not very much.  I'm in PT for my knee twice a week, and it's definitely getting better.  Right now, I'm running about 4 miles a day.  My doctor would allow me to run more (not that I've ever listened when he said not to), but there simply is not a reason for it at the moment. My plan is to use the remainder of May as a "rehabilitation  month."  Easy, flat running and nothing else. As a runner, I've had to learn that you must operate in peaks and valleys of training, or you will burn out/get hurt, or both.  Don't choose to take some down time (a valley), and your body will demand it of you. That is the problem with our flesh--so weak! I was in a peak from around November 2011-March 2012. I was training a lot, injury free, and extremely fit. I had some great races, including a top-3 finish at my very first ultra. I should have known to give my body a break right after...but the problem is you feel so GOOD (i.e. fast, fit, indestructible) at that point.

The valley began in April 2012, and I ignored it for a few weeks, but am now accepting of it.  I'm not fast right now. I don't have much endurance. I'm a few pounds heavier than my "race weight." Completing a marathon (which, at this point in my running career, is not something I think of as a big deal--though I used to) right now, at any pace, would be much less pleasant than usual. There is a word for all of this, and it's called detraining.

Some people, like my friend Mark, call it recovery.  Recovery sounds really positive.  It also sounds necessary (and, to my disappointment, it is). But what is really is is letting your body detrain a bit.  To "heal" as Mark says. Whatever.  I don't like it one bit, but I'm going to do it. Once June hits, I will ramp up my mileage (slowly, and under the supervision of Scott) and begin training for a September half and, one of my two major goals for this year, a sub-3:10 full in November. For now, I'm happy to be able to run my four flat, slow miles every day.

I am, however, doing DWD this weekend.  Calm down, I'm not running much at all, and I'm certainly not running fast.  Dr. W says it will be a good way to assess where my knee is after all this therapy since I've not taken it beyond 4 tiny miles. That race is this weekend, and it is my favorite of the year. My family plus a guy named Quigley have been on the same team for a few years now, and we always have a blast.  I can't wait.

Another thing I get to do this summer?  Help Sara Jane train again.  She took some down time after New York (smart girl), and is now getting back into training.  She ran a stupendous 5K a couple of weeks ago with zero training, and I can't wait to see what she does in a half, a full, and a bunch of trail races (which she's interested in doing).

She has also inspired me to do something I previously said I would never do. Something that I still can't wrap my head around..a triathlon. She mentioned to me that she wanted to do one, and via hearing her talk about it + Tim and Jimmy telling me about a triathlon with a VERY short swim which happens in August...I decided to do one.  Now, to triathletes, it will seem like nothing. But, you see, for a purist runner, swimming and biking any distance on purpose as part of an event is a big deal. The Cicero triathlon is in August, and it's kind of a baby tri. 200 meter swim, 9 mile bike, and a 5K run. It sounds crazy, but I am going to have to actually train a lot to be able to swim 200 continuous meters. Right now, I'm guessing I could make it 25 meters...in a pool. 

It's a new challenge.  Everyone in my Bedford running group also does tris.  In fact, to my amazement, they prefer them. They got Tim to drink the Kool-Aid in 2010 and, while I'll never do that, I've heard them talk about it so much that I feel I have to do it to keep my spot in the running group! Jimmy and Tim were talking about Cicero while we were in Boston. This was after the race, and I kind of loathed running at that point, so I agreed to think about trying something different.

Then, last night, Tim said to me "Allen thinks he'll pass you on the bike at Cicero." Allen is one Mr. (Dr., actually) Allen Burris.  A pastor and good running friend of ours. He is an excellent, God-loving man...who apparently thinks he can overtake yours truly on his bike. He's new to triathlons and, unlike me, wants to complete an Ironman (I can say with confidence that I will never even have the desire to do that). Apparently, before their weekly pace line bike ride last night, Tim was telling them that I was going to do Cicero, and Allen mentioned something about at least being able to pass me on the bike.

Allen--I have news for you.  I am a TERRIBLE swimmer. I doubt that I would ever come out of the water in front of you unless a shark was right on my heels. Sources tell me that Dr. Burris can swim 350 meters without stopping.  He's way ahead of me there. However, I'm not too shabby on the bike.  I'm not fast, by any means, but my riding ability certainly trumps my swimming ability.  So I'm going to say that my new goal is to pass Dr. Burris on the ride portion of the Cicero triathlon. Dr. Miller v. Dr. Burris. Bedford v. Mitchell. He will have many more cycling miles on his legs, and I'm sure much more swimming. He also has a much nicer bike. But I'm going to beat him.

Now, it's not enough to say that I'll beat him in the race. I have some good leg speed, and it's possible for me to catch him on the run and pass him that way even after having two horrendous first phases of the race. But given that Allen and I are both new to this tri thing, the real race has to take place in the first two phases:  I have to finish the bike portion ahead of Allen. He made the challenge (perhaps without even knowing it..right, Allen?) and I have responded. I am counting on Tim, Bill, and Jimmy to train me to out swim and out bike that Dr. Burris from Mitchell. The Dr. from Bedford shall win this challenge.

Now, what do I win if I do beat Allen?  I'm proposing three breakfasts at Bob Evans. I'd say one, but this is kind of a big deal. I don't eat that much, Allen...and what I really like there are the bottomless cappuccinos. So I promise not to break you.  Except in the race.  It's on...and I call Tim, Bill, and Jimmy as *MY* coaches. You get the nice bike, I get the coaches.