Here comes the rain again

I knew it was going to rain this morning. It rained for our Detox Dash yesterday morning, it was raining when I went to bed, and it was raining when I woke up. The Weather Channel went out on a limb and predicted a 100% chance of rain during the time I’d be out running.

Pleasant.

Pleasant.

I had planned to wear a dark (i.e. not transparent–that’s a mistake you only make once…) shirt and capris, but to be visible I added my white Columbia jacket and white hat. And I dragged out a slightly older pair of shoes–I saw no point in wearing the newer ones when there’s a 100% chance of rain.

It rained pretty hard on me as I drove out to Rogue, and I remembered a previous cold, rainy, and miserable long run. No one was in a huge hurry to take off, but because it was just rain and not lightning, I had no excuse. I really had to get out there and do this. So I found my waterproof headphones, dropped my phone in a ziplock bag, and headed out.

The first mile felt okay. It rained steadily, not quite a downpour but more than drizzle. The second mile, I warmed up a bit and the jacket was too much. The rain was light enough that I tied my jacket around my waist and kept going. Slowly. Remember, I hadn’t really taken a rest day since Friday of last week, unless you count Wednesday when I bailed after a mile. So my legs were tired, and I just couldn’t move very fast. I walked some of the hilly sections, I stopped for water after the first mile and around 3.25, and I eventually turned around after four miles. I’d brought a package of Sport Beans and took a couple every mile or so. My stomach felt okay, so I’m cautiously optimistic that I’ve resolved the fueling issue.

The return trip was more of the same. Slow, some walking breaks, a little drizzle, more Sport Beans. I’m kind of concerned about running a ten-mile race next weekend–between today’s snail-like pace and tired legs after single-digit mileage, I can’t imagine it will be pretty.

Unlike the trees that have decided it’s spring!

Spring sprung

Spring has sprung

I spotted a few bluebonnets on the way back too–the rain should really help the wildflower season this year, even if it’s not filling the lakes. But ugh, since I’d abandoned the waterproof jacket, I was soaked. I’d brought a dry shirt and changed into it right away, before I did my foam rolling. But I had no dry socks and my feet kind of squished. I’m pretty sure I was one of the last people back–the trio who came in behind me had run something like 20 miles, although they’d started an hour or so before I did. One of the vendors (a guy from Skechers) had brought bagels and coffee, which hit the spot. Again, good news on the fueling front, since my stomach still felt well after eight miles.

After a cold, wet run, nothing is better than a hot shower, dry clothes, compression socks, more coffee, and my couch. I have to go out later today, but my exertion level will be low and my evening will involve the couch and Netflix.

I declare tomorrow a rest day.

Changes in latitudes

The last part of spring break looks a whole lot like the first part–getting up early and driving downtown, following the siren song of free stuff. This time it was a Rogue event–the Detox Dash, a 5K 3.6-mile run around Zilker Park.

Because it’s a Friday morning, we weren’t sure what traffic would be like, so we left my house at about 6am. Fortunately spring break (lack of) traffic allowed us to make the drive without even slowing down (!) and we were early enough to find parking at Rogue rather than having to scrounge street parking, always a challenge downtown. Sometimes being an early bird pays off.

This is a fairly new space, and it’s much larger than both their original location and the suburban one where we train, so we kind of felt like the hayseeds comin’ into the big city. But I ran into a chum with a bottle of rum two of my former coaches, and a bunch of Rogue CPers made the trek as well, so at least I knew a handful of people.

We’ve already set a precedent that we’ll get up early and drive some distance for good times and riches and free stuff, and we were not disappointed this morning. ASICS brought goodies–including tech shirts and wear-test shoes–and some other folks were setting up post-run wine, breakfast tacos, and coffee. This defines Rogue events in a nutshell–run to detox, then have wine.

I christen thee "Swag Whore"

Visions of good times that brought so much pleasure makes me want to go back again

But first we had to actually run.

It was 70* and drizzling as we headed west on Fifth Street. I suggested perhaps we just hang out at El Arroyo and wait there for everyone to come back, but sadly they weren’t open yet. So we kept going, under the highway and across the lake to Zilker Park.

There's just too much to see waiting in front of me

There’s just too much to see waiting in front of me

The rain picked up a bit as we looped around the park, but I figured if it’s going to be humid, it might as well rain and cool us off a little. And if the sun had come out, I think it would have been steamy and miserable, so rain was fine with me. I was feeling kind of poky–remember, I’d run almost four miles just 13 hours ago–so I took it easy, especially on any section that might put extra stress on my calf.

Running Man looks a little like Iron Man to me.

With all of our running and all of our cunning, if we couldn’t laugh we would all go insane.

Rogue coaches joke that any given distance is a best guess, so a “Rogue 5K” could be three miles or 3.7 miles. This time it was on the high side–my Garmin said 3.6. When we got back, we dove into the coffee and tacos, then milled around, chatting with friends and making some new ones. And grabbing goodies! I ended up with the official Detox Dash shirt, another ASICS shirt, chap stick, and an ASICS string backpack. So thanks to Rogue and ASICS for enticing us downtown on a Friday morning!

Now, to enjoy the last day of Spring Break. At least until I have to get up early again tomorrow. To run again. Yep, if we weren’t all crazy, we would go insane.

Side note: this song has amused me most of my life–I was allowed to sing allllll of the lyrics when I was a kid. ;)

Running buddy

Yesterday afternoon I planned to run my usual three-mile loop around the neighborhood, but a half-mile into it, everything felt just … wrong. So I bailed.

After a fun family day today, I decided I wanted to try again, and I convinced B to run with me by promising we’d go through the park with the water fountain and the ducks instead of the usual route. It was warm and humid, so building in a bit of a break usually helps me get him to come along.

Quack

Quack

The park is about 1.25 miles from home, so it’s a perfect point to get some water and take a bit of a breather. It was warm and humid, and the break helped. From there we followed the new(ish) path between a small reservoir and a new apartment complex. It was cooler back here, under the shade trees, but B was still tempted to jump into the reservoir to cool off.

Scout bluebonnet

Scout bluebonnet

We looped around the apartments and headed back the way we’d come, stopping for water again and walking a little. He hasn’t run at all (other than for lacrosse) probably since September, so I didn’t want to burn him out with one run today.

He chatted about Minecraft, about the rockets he’s building, and whatever else popped into his head. I felt good (none of that off feeling from yesterday) and we were running a decent pace–it was an enjoyable time together. He’s almost 12 and I know these experiences will be less frequent in coming years, so I’m really glad we had this time today.

“But I, that am not shaped for sportive tricks”

This time last year, I’d set PRs or beaten my goal times in five consecutive races–two half marathons, a 10-miler, a 10K, and a 5K. It never occurred to me that those might stand as my PRs for a while.

Last summer when I signed up for my fall/winter distance races, I entered goal times that were ambitious but–I thought–doable based on my recent performances. Little did I know I’d spend the next six months dealing with three separate injuries that decimated my training. Not only did I not come close to last year’s successes, a couple of my races clocked personal-worst times. So I’ve taken to calling the last few months the Winter of My Discontent, from the opening lines of Shakespeare’s Richard III.

And it’s frustrating the hell out of me.

I’ve  been back at regular, consistent training for about three weeks now. And yes, I’ve improved from my dismal showing at 3M in January, both pace- and endurance-wise. But every training run reminds me just how much I’ve lost.

Last night we ran 1K repeats. This meant a one-mile run to the neighborhood starting point–this used to be the easy part, but now I find myself struggling up the hill, lagging behind everyone else–and then the workout. Run each 1K loop at 10K pace, take a 2-3 minute rest, then repeat. I ran five of them, but my average pace was almost a minute per mile slower than the pace I ran to PR the Cap 10K last spring.

Not only that, the furthest I’ve run since 3M is seven miles. Not ideal preparation for a 10-miler in a week and a half, no?

I’m planning to run eight miles on Saturday, but I’ll be on my own because most of my group is running a 5K instead. But I guess if I can run eight, I can run ten. So I am reasonably confident I can finish the 10-miler, but once again it will probably be my slowest attempt at that race.

I keep reminding myself that my only real goals are to finish the races I signed up for before I was hurt, and not get hurt again. But I have a habit of looking back, of comparing myself to others. And because last year’s races ended in almost respectable finish times, it’s hard to accept this regression.

But even Richard III points out that perhaps things will improve for me. Most people only quote that first line, but actually the next few lines offer a hint of optimism.

Now is the winter of our discontent
Made glorious summer by this sun of York;
And all the clouds that lour’d upon our house
In the deep bosom of the ocean buried.
Now are our brows bound with victorious wreaths;
Our bruised arms hung up for monuments;
Our stern alarums changed to merry meetings,
Our dreadful marches to delightful measures.

Here’s hoping for a glorious summer, one in which I shake off the clouds and the bruises and dreadful marches.

Hey, I have an English degree. If I don't quote Shakespeare now and then, UT might take away my diploma.

Hey, I have an English degree. If I don’t quote Shakespeare now and then, UT might take away my diploma.

My only contribution to SXSW

I moved to Austin when I was a kid, long before SXSW was a thing, and generally I’m not a fan. The crowds, the traffic, the hipster vibe, no thank you. I’m sure many of the musical acts are great, but I’m long past the age in which I find it fun to booze it up on Sixth Street. Yet when my friends asked me to run the Brooks SXSW Morning Runspiration 5K this morning, I said what the hell.

We drove downtown, dodging SXSW road closures, and found parking between Seventh and Eighth Streets. Thus we had to walk through the roadblocks at Sixth to the starting point on Fourth Street. The bars, always slick and vibrant at night, looked kind of sad in the light of day. The only people moving around were police officers at the roadblocks (increased after a tragic accident last year) and the folks charged with cleaning up from the night before. Instead of music blasting from the bars, a strong odor of bleach and disinfectant permeated the air. A fire truck, lights flashing, pulled out of the fire station as we approached. As soon as it got out on the street, its siren started blaring too.

We were a little early for the run so we ducked into the Hilton for a few minutes. Hotel bathrooms beat portapotties any day! Closer to the 7:30 start time, we headed out to the Brooks tent across the street. My friends who ran this last year said the crowd was a lot bigger this year–it was nice to see some like-minded folks out there bright and early!

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I’m behind the guy in the orange shirt–he’s completely blocking me, except that might be my hand sticking up over his shoulder.

After a group Instagram photo, the 10Kers went one way and the 5Kers another. Two of us had run six miles of hills yesterday and weren’t particularly interested in racing this thing–I felt a little sore and decided to call it a recovery run. So we headed west on Fourth Street, dodging bicycles, guys with ladders, and random pedestrians. At San Jacinto we turned north. From Fourth to about Eighth, we really had to pay attention to the sidewalk–dropped food, stray beer cans, and the occasional vomit puddle made me glad to be running in the morning instead of partying at night.

Oh yay, a hill at Eighth Street.

From there it was mostly flat, although it seemed that we hit every red light at every block–drawback to urban running, clearly. Along with narrow sidewalks, cracked concrete, and random trees.

We ran down the hill that was part of the Austin Half last year (where I encountered the marathon runner who was struggling to finish), passed Scholtz’s Garten, crossed 19th, and followed San Jacinto onto the UT campus past the west side of the Texas football stadium. At the entrance to the alumni center, my watch said 1.55 miles so we turned around and reversed course.

And had to go back up that San Jacinto hill. Yarg. At this point I was really sick of hills.

Fortunately at Eighth we got to go downhill, and at Fourth we turned left for the last two blocks of the run. We were so slow, I’m pretty sure some of the 10Kers got back before we did. But at least we were out running, not nursing a hangover, right?

The Brooks folks had shirts and water bottles for us–woo, free stuff!

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Gotta love free stuff!

From there, we went for breakfast. Coffee and tacos, naturally. I’m pretty sure we ingested many more calories than we burned on our run, but I’m okay with that. It was a fun morning with friends, free stuff, and Mexican food. What’s not to love?

It definitely beats barfing on Sixth Street.

Hills for breakfast

What is wrong with me? My first day of vacation, and I woke up early to run.

This time we mixed it up a bit, revisiting the hills we ran back in October. I was really nervous about taking this on today, though. On Thursday (of course right after I declared myself back from injury…) I had a terrible four-mile run in which my calf bothered me and I had to walk a bit. So I hemmed and hawed about whether to try it or stick with a safer, flatter route; finally Friday night I decided for sure that I would give it a shot.

I got up at 5:30 (hello first day of spring break) and my running buddy picked me up at 6:15 for this little field trip. We got out there and sat in the car for a while, trying to muster up the energy to get the party started. Not only was I nervous about my leg, I was also trying a new fueling experiment–Sport Beans–since I’ve had issues with Gu and gels lately. We finally headed out a little before 7am, still in the dark.

The first mile and a half is basically downhill, kind of a gradual descent with a few flatter spots. We made it to the water stop and took a break to help a runner who’d aggravated an injury and was trying to reach one of the coaches to pick her up. I ate a few Sport Beans (they didn’t taste like Jelly Bellys, really, but they were fine and I had no problem munching on a handful of them) and took a quick injury inventory. Once I was satisfied that everything felt okay, we continued.

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Downhill again. For the next 1.5 miles, we wound down and around. We could see the uphill road off in the distance, but id didn’t seem possible that we’d get all the way up there.

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See the trees off to the right? And then snaking out above one of them is a grey strip going upward and to the right? That’s where we were going.

It’s only a mile and a half, but cars were downshifting to get up some of these hills. On the way out, there were two really steep sections–I ran about 2/3 and had to walk a bit.

It was a cool morning–in the 50s–but by the time I got to the three-mile turnaround I was drenched in sweat. We took a breather at the top, grateful for a water stop. I ate some more Sport Beans and re-assessed my leg. Everything still felt pretty good, other than the fact that I’d climbed a bunch of damn hills.

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We pretty much had no choice–it was time to head back down. I admired the Tony Stark house (it’s on top of the hill to the right in the above picture) and tried not to think about the what goes down, must go back up rule of running hills. This is one of those routes in which the return trip is a hell of a lot more difficult. And it’s not like the first half was really easy or anything!

I listened to my podcast about Stonehenge and focused on putting one foot in front of the other. My vision shrunk to a little window about three feet in front of me–I knew if I looked up at the hill, I’d be doomed. I guess you could call it a run, but sometimes it felt like I wasn’t actually moving forward. I had to walk the top third of one particularly steep hill, and then we finally made it back to the water stop. A mile and half to go. Mostly uphill.

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Again, I made it to the top mostly running. Finally, the last half-mile flattened out. My podcast had ended, so I fired up my bad-ass running playlist and tried to pick up the pace. I wasn’t speedy by any stretch of the imagination, especially after 5.5 miles of hills, but it was faster.

My Garmin hit six miles just in front of the park where we’d started. Some of the coaches had brought bagels, fruit, and coffee, and looking at the spread I realized that I felt … good. No queasiness, no funky stomach. Sport Beans for the win! I drank some coffee and ate a bagel with peanut butter, and I borrowed a friend’s foam roller.

It wasn’t an easy run, but I’m so glad I did it. My leg held up just fine and I felt really good overall. Tired, but in a good way. After the ups and downs of this week, this one was a huge confidence-builder!

Tomorrow we’re heading downtown–SXSW is hosting a couple of free runs this weekend, and the Four Musketeers are getting together again!

Long road back

I’m not where I was this time last year.

I’m slow, my legs feel sluggish, and I’m a little nervous about re-injuring myself.

But I’m back.

My average pace for four miles tonight was a minute and a half faster than the pace I ran over the same distance two weeks ago. My leg has been 100% pain-free for more than three weeks–even on hills, even during a speed workout, even when I’ve run as far as seven miles.

I have three upcoming races: a 10-miler, 5K, and a 10K in that order. Last year I PR’d at each of these races, and those PRs still stand. So it’s going to be bittersweet running them this year knowing I can’t touch those times right now.

But I’m back.

Not where I was. But I have a chance to get there again.

I have a long road ahead of me, but that’s okay. Road trips–with the sunroof open and the music blasting–can be very therapeutic. And so it can be on foot as well.

The road goes on forever...

The road goes on forever…