Running Mad 13.1

In some ways, today kind of felt like I fell down the rabbit hole into an alternate universe.

Short version:

  1. A booming thunderstorm woke me up about midnight. Wha–? Thunderstorm, in Texas, in July? Very weird.
  2. I had FUN during the race!
  3. It rained on us the last five miles. See #1.

Longer version:

The race offered two starting times: 6am and 7am. At the last minute, we decided to brave the early start to maybe beat some of the late morning heat. After all, it’s July in Texas, and we knew we’d take forever to complete this thing. Well, the aforementioned thunderstorm cooled things off a little, but unfortunately we traded it for humidity.

The first mile or so, it was still dark out, but I know this area well because it’s part of every Rogue training run. After a while, my friend G caught up to us–B and I were attempting intervals of 5-minutes running, 5-minutes walking, and that sounded good to her. At the mile two water stop, we picked up another friend, C.  We’d all been taking it sort of easy this summer, so we were content to run-walk our way through this one.

I noticed the dim stars in the early morning sky, so I knew as soon as the sun came up, all the humidity from the storm would turn the place into a sauna. But oddly, as the sky lightened, more clouds rolled in. Totally not what I was expecting.

As we came down the 183-A path toward the road to hell Brushy Creek Road, two things happened. One, I learned that the course did not actually traverse Brushy Creek Road. Instead, we’d continue along the path all the way to the Brushy Creek trail, which B and I have run a dozen times. Whee! This was such amazing news to me, I nearly collapsed to the ground in gratitude. Except that I couldn’t, because the others were ready to move along. And two, as we crossed the road and the train tracks, we could see a train off in the distance. Just after we started down the path, we watched the train approach, then come to a complete stop, blocking the crossing for any runners behind us. Whew, missed it by thatmuch.

We were probably about five miles into it when we started seeing returning runners–those who had made it all the way to the turnaround and were at about mile 10. Yeesh. At least we had each other. 😉 But we were still sticking well to our 5:5 intervals and we felt pretty good as we ran along the trail, through the sports park, under the highway overpass, and up to the halfway point. It was still humid (the waterfalls, mud, and at least one puddle obstacle had reappeared along the trail, thanks to last night’s storm), and we’d all had a little trouble staying cool, so we were grateful for the iced washcloths the volunteers were giving out at the turnaround.

On the way back, I think most of us started feeling the lack of serious training. Lots of sore muscles and slower paces (although I will admit to not checking my Garmin pace once–just distance and interval). B started chatting with G about Iron Man, and that got us all the way down the trail and back to the 183-A path. G decided to run ahead; C and I were dragging a bit and decided to take it easy on this hilly section. B wanted to stay in front of us. Mr. Competitive. 😉

By now the train was gone, so we crossed the road and headed up the hill. B took off, saying he’d meet us at the top. Yes, after 10 miles, the kid charged up the hill and left us in the dust!

As we traveled up the path, I felt raindrops. That overcast sky had turned into rain clouds! In Texas! In July! I have never been more grateful to see water falling from the sky. We were drenched, and we didn’t care. We just laughed and kept going.

For the last three miles, we ran downhill and walked uphill. We made bargains with ourselves–run to the sign. Run to the break in the grass. Run to that cross street. Run to the windmill. With one mile to go, B decided he wanted to run ahead, and off he went. Then C and I agreed to run the final quarter-mile–finish strong!

As we approached the finish, I realized that we were only at 13.08, so of course we had to run a few extra yards, then loop back, to make it an even 13.1. I turned off my Garmin and B handed me my medal. We did it.

Yay us!

Yay us!

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Slow and steady…

wins the race means finishing a long run after dark.

Saturday’s long run didn’t happen because I’d somehow strained my back muscles, and though it showed improvement on Sunday, I took it easy. Monday I felt okay, but instead of running we took a road trip to Houston to visit the Johnson Space Center. We left Austin at 7:30am and got home after 11pm. So Tuesday evening was our target for that more-than-halfway run, in preparation for this Saturday’s Running Mad 13.1.

Thanks for the heads-up.

Thanks for the heads-up.

I knew eight miles would take us forever–I’m nowhere near half-marathon racing shape, and the furthest B has run is a 10K. Plus it’s July–it’s even hot running on the shady trail. But we couldn’t wait too late in the day, because then we’d run into darkness–literally. So about 7pm we started out from Brushy Creek Sports Park. We took the northern trail first, through Brushy Creek Lake Park, over the dam (“When is this dam run gonna be over?” he joked), and down the trail to the little park where kids can dig for dinosaur bones. A quick dousing under the showers, and we headed back the way we’d come.

I’d packed ice and water in a cooler in my trunk, which turned out to be a lifesaver. The northern trail isn’t very shady, and we completely emptied our handheld bottles on this 3.88-mile segment. So we refilled everything at the car, then headed the other way, toward the YMCA.

As we crossed the first bridge over the creek, B noticed that the water was really clear and he could see fish. Oh and look, a snake! [shudder] It was a coppery-colored snake, fully submerged in about six inches of water. B declared it a ribbon snake; I immediately assumed it was a copperhead and didn’t care to analyze it more closely. In the immortal words of Indiana Jones: “Snakes. I hate snakes.”

What a difference a few days makes. Last Thursday, the creek’s tributaries were rushing, overflowing with runoff from rare July rains. Today, there was a tiny trickle. The portion of creek in which B jumped down to dunk his head had completely dried up. Only flattened grasses hinted that water had rushed through here recently.

We ran-walked our way out to the YMCA. At the last bridge, where the waterfall had been roaring like Niagara Falls five days ago, a slow stream of water lazily moved downstream and over the rocks. By this time, the sun had dropped behind the trees. We were running out of daylight on an unlit trail through a vast park that included snake warning signs.

Our return run-walk moved a little more quickly. This is a trail in which, along three miles of paved trail, various wildlife had crossed the wet concrete, their footprints reminding us that ultimately, this path runs through nature. But the white concrete of the sidewalk reflected what little light we had left, so had something dark crossed our path, the contrast would help us spot it in advance. I told B to just keep his eyes open. A couple of times, as we passed through some especially shady areas, I got out my phone and used the flashlight app to illuminate the trail. Which of course meant that when we crossed the bridge just before the railroad trestle, we were able to see the snake hanging out in a small pool created by the last trickle of runoff water.

The flashlight stayed on after that.

Crossing the bridge where we’d seen the ribbon snake copperhead harmless water snake GIANT SERPENT, we didn’t even slow down. I was over seeing snakes on this run. And it was full-on dark by the time we came up off the trail into the sports park. Across the soccer fields and to the car, we finished at probably the fastest pace of the evening.

We ended up with 7.88 miles, but it took us more than two hours to finish. In our defense, it was 95* when we started, although you’d think the snake situation might have inspired us to move slightly faster. Regardless, it was B’s longest run (okay, run-walk) ever, and we achieved the mental milestone of completing more than half of the half-marathon distance before Saturday’s event. Not exactly superstar training, but honestly, I’ll just be happy if we finish this thing in under four hours!

The run that wasn’t

On Thursday morning’s run, I noticed my lower back was a little sore after a mile or two. It was the kind of ache I get after 12 or 13 miles–not completely unusual, but definitely not typical for single-digit distances. But the rest of the day I was fine, so I just chalked it up to One of Those Things.

Then Friday, I woke up with more of the same kind of pain. It happens sometimes when I sleep wrong and then goes away once I get up, so I didn’t really think anything of it. Except that when I leaned down to pick something up from the couch, those lower back muscles seized up and knocked the breath right out of me. Aleve took the edge off, but pretty much the rest of the day I spent on the couch with pillows positioned juuuuuust right. I watched a movie, I got caught up on Time and Sports Illustrated.

By dinnertime, I had to face the fact that B and I would not be going out for our eight-mile run in the morning. Ugh. Our Running Mad event is a week from today, and I was counting on today’s run to improve our preparedness level from “uh oh” to “maybe.” There’s something mentally reassuring about reaching the halfway point and more, and I wanted B to have that satisfaction before the event itself. So while I didn’t mind sleeping in this morning, I am also disappointed about a missed opportunity.

This morning it feels better. It’s no longer frozen in pain, just sore, kind of like the way my ab muscles feel a few days after core class. I can live with that. So today I’ll get off the couch and move around a bit. Nothing strenuous, just enough to keep the muscles loose. Then perhaps we can try that eight-mile run in a day or two.

Today’s post has been brought to you by Dr. Jekyll

The other day, Mr. Hyde got all bent out of shape about going for our run. After, shall we say, some attitude adjustment, he’s been working on adopting a more agreeable demeanor. But the true test would come this morning when it was time to hit Brushy Creek Trail.

I let him choose whether we parked at the YMCA or at the sports park–we’d run from one to the other and back, so it was the same distance either way. But I figured he’d be a little more enthusiastic if he got to pick part of the route.

IMG_6079Brushy Creek Regional Trail follows, not surprisingly, Brushy Creek. Oddly, we’ve gotten several inches of rain over the last three or four days, so I was looking forward to seeing the creek rise a bit. Our part of Texas has been in a serious drought over the last three years or so–rain in July is almost unbelievable!

We started from the sports park which took us under the railroad trestle (a Capital Metro commuter train passed overhead as we ran) and across several tributaries of the creek. We crossed the first one, amazed at the quantity of water rushing past us. The whole way, the path was covered in puddles and sediment, and a couple of the wooden bridges were still slick. Once, a puddle completely blocked the trail–we had to climb a railing to go around it.

Needless to say, it was humid! The sun had come out after three cloudy, cool days, so while the trail was mostly shaded, we were still sweating up a storm. I was glad we’d each brought a hand-held water bottle with Nuun tablets mixed in.

From the beginning, B tried really hard to be agreeable. Instead of complaining, he chattered about random stuff. A sampling:

Can you tell what he’s been doing with his time the last couple of weeks? 🙂

IMG_6080Near the YMCA, there’s a bridge over a trickling waterfall. As we got closer, we could see that the creek was moving swiftly, even creating little rapids in places. And the waterfall itself? No longer a trickle, that’s for sure.

The water rushed down the hill and under the bridge, then broke into a huge waterfall. But there was more water than space for it–where the creek narrowed and turned, a bit of a backup occurred, creating a little pond of swirling water.

IMG_6089We walked down the banks a bit to get a better look at the waterfall. It roared over the rocks and created a fine misty spray drifting from the pool below. To our drought-tainted eyes, it looked as beautiful as Niagara Falls. I even took a video!

We took a quick break at the YMCA, then headed back. We noticed the clear water in the little tributaries–once I stopped and collected a handful of water to splash on my face. Ahhh.

As we crossed the bridge by the railroad trestle, a guy and his dog waded in the creekbed. B thought they had the right idea, so after they moved along, he jumped down and dunked his head under one of the little waterfalls too. I think if we weren’t a quarter-mile from my car, he would have submerged his whole body!

It was pretty warm out there, and we walked some–let’s say we were in no danger of breaking any kind of speed records! But we chatted and had a really nice time together. I hope this Dr. Jekyll–not his alter ego Mr. Hyde–is my running partner on Saturday, too.

Zero miles

The last few days, my kid has waged an epic battle against the junk cluttering up his room. He’s a bit of a packrat and his room is ridiculously small, so when it reaches Critical Mass–AKA there’s only a footpath from the door to the bed–it’s time to sift through the debris. Model airplanes, Legos, a mylar space blanket from the Austin 3M half marathon, origami dinosaurs, and random socks littered the (tiny) landscape. Each day, he’s tackled one quadrant of the room, and it’s been slow-going–primarily because he finds a book and starts reading it, finds an old toy and starts playing with it, finds Legos and starts assembling them. He’s had to decline a couple of invitations from his friends because he’s still. not. done.

IMG_3720

Fair warning

This morning he spent more time arguing with me about the day’s task than it would have taken to accomplish said task. Which was a huge bummer because I wanted to go out to Brushy Creek Park and run the loop from the YMCA to the sports park. It rained all day yesterday and was still overcast and (relatively) cool this morning. But by 10am he was still sulking and griping. I tried to convince him to run with me; he hid under his covers. I finally decided to run the neighborhood loop while it was still overcast, and of course then he appeared in his running clothes. He continued to decline the trip to Brushy Creek, saying “I’m just going to go by myself so you don’t have to listen to me complaining.” And he took off.

I wanted to run today (before the soreness from last night’s core class kicks in!), but he didn’t. Yet he’s the one who got to go. Because guess what? Now the sun is out. My only option had been the shade of Brushy Creek Park, but he’s already run a couple of miles around the neighborhood, and the park is too far for me to leave him home alone. So now I’m stuck with nothing. Zip zero zilch.

He’s only 10. Why do I feel like I’m dealing with a teenager? Ugh.

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Epilogue: I ended up doing the three-mile neighborhood loop at about 11 am, when it was 80* and 84% humidity. I left B at home to sulk think about his behavior. When I got back, he was waiting with an apology and a hug. Whew–fasten your seatbelts folks. It’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Sometimes the early bird is the bluebird of happiness. Sometimes it’s a grackle.

Most mornings, B is bouncing off the walls anytime after about 6am. Except today, when we needed to get up at 6:30 to run. It was like aliens had taken over his body and replaced him with a surly teenager. I think he might have actually growled at one point.

Rogue was super-crowded this morning, I think because several new training groups started this week. After they cleared out, B and I followed. For reasons I don’t understand, he had chosen to wear his somewhat worn school athletic shoes, not the newer ones he wears specifically for running. They were loosely tied and clunked along with each step,  but he refused to tie them more tightly. Clop clop clop, it sounded like I had a horse accompanying me.

For the first three miles, a pattern developed. He’d walk fast while I ran. I’d pass him. He’d get all kinds of pissed off and sprint ahead. Then he’d get tired and walk. Then I’d pass him. Repeat. He was wearing a black shirt and black shorts, so he looked like a moody dark tornado.

Around 2.6 miles, we got to Brushy Creek Sports Park and had some water. Somehow I convinced him to keep going into the park until we hit an even three miles, which would give us six for the day. We walked most of it, but we made it to 3.0. Once we turned around, he perked up a bit. He played for a few minutes on the exercise equipment at the sports park, and then he fell in next to me as we ran out of the park and back onto the street.

I don’t know if he had a lightbulb moment or I’d just worn him down, but his whole demeanor changed. He told me that running was easier if he thought about something other than running, so for the last half-mile he’d been planning out architectural improvements to his Minecraft house in his head. I asked him to describe it to me, which took us another half-mile. Then we saw a house with two vultures on the roof, and he told me he’d read somewhere that it was good luck to have vultures on your roof on Mondays. This opened the floodgates of random information he’d read recently, which took us all the way back to the first water stop.

He will make a better shoe choice next time.

He will make a better shoe choice next time.

The last mile wasn’t our fastest, but it was probably our most pleasant. He chattered about whatever came to mind as we plodded along together. We finished with just over six miles, and he was stoked to find fruit and donuts waiting back at Rogue.

Later, I asked him to list his three favorite things about this run:

  1. “I stuck it out even when it was hard, and I did it.”
  2. “Donuts.’
  3. “Telling you all about my Minecraft house and plans.”

Looks like a pretty good list to me.

Curiouser and curiouser

68995_522059064508367_720080231_nBack in April, Rogue started planning a summer fun run called Running Mad 13.1. Two things appealed to me about this race: one, registration was only $13.10. And two, the medal. Always the medal. 😉 I recognized that a July 27th half-marathon would present a temperature-related challenge, but I figured for thirteen bucks I could treat it like a training run in which I get a medal at the end. No pressure.

But then things went a bit awry–my injuries hobbled me during the Cleveland half in May, and then I decided to do the RW run streak which meant lots of shorter-distance runs rather than long ones. And then POOF it was July. The longest I’ve run is 6.65 miles, and I was violently ill the next day.

So I thought about bailing on the Rogue event. I had a laundry list of reasons:

It’s gonna be hot. I’m gonna be slow. Everyone else will suck less than I will. The course is not my favorite. It’s two weeks away and I’m woefully unprepared. It’s gonna be hot.

And then M handed me the perfect excuse when he said he had to be out of town that weekend. Oops, no one to stay with B for however many god-awful hours this damn thing was gonna take me.

But I hate quitting. Even though I had a zillion excuses, I felt guilty.

Still struggling with the decision, I saw a Facebook post opening up registration again. So instead of quitting, I convinced my 10-year old to run it with me.

Okay, so it’s double the longest distance he’s ever run, it’s two weeks from now, and he hasn’t run since his last 5K in early May. But when I talked to the organizer about adding him, she said hey, it’s a fun run. Lots of folks will be walking, taking it easy. No pressure. So we’ll run when we can, walk if we need to, and then collect our medals.

IMG_6036I got him to agree to run with me a few times between now and then, so we started today. Went down to the hike and bike trail, figuring we’d park at Zilker, run the three-mile loop, then swim at Barton Springs. We got a late-ish start, waiting for rush hour traffic to settle down, and even after nine it was still very slow going. But we were on the trail by 10. Nice and hot. Good prep for the event, yes?

The complaining started within the first half-mile. We took it easy. We walked some. I pushed him to run more than walk, which led to comments like, “Why do you ASK if I’m ready to run again when you are just going to make me do it anyway?”

IMG_6043We crossed the pedestrian bridge back to the south side of the lake, then took a pit stop at the Taco Cabana. Back on the trail, we encountered not just a water fountain, but a shower. He stripped off his shirt and stood under that thing for about five minutes.

Mind you, this happy moment occurred about two miles into this endeavor. The level of complaining had reached a crescendo that makes me consider bringing headphones on our next training run.

Back at Zilker Park, I told him we were going to run all the way back to my car–finish strong! We passed the playground and the train, and then we were done. We retrieved all our swimming stuff from the trunk of my car and walked to the gate of the pool only to discover… they’re closed on Thursdays. D’oh!

So we drove over to Deep Eddy instead. Some swimming, some Jim-Jim’s water ice, and all was right with the world. At least until Saturday, when we try for five.