Friday, March 30, 2012

Finally Better Than TV

So, when I was running today, I had another realization. I love being able to think, and need to do something to focus on how insanely insane I am for running over a mountain.

It's not just that we should have better things to do than watch the people on television, it is that we do more interesting things than the people on television. Now, I'm not saying that my life is more interesting than the continuing adventures of Captain Picard, Data, and the rest of the Star Trek gang. However, running down a mountain and over a hill is far more interesting than the junk that is on television these days.

How insanely pointless are bad singers and drunk Kardashians? Why would anyone prefer to watch those people than watch scenery fly by at high speed and power over a mountain? I know American culture is on the skids, but surely, we must be capable of more.

So, now that winter's icy grasp has gone, go do something. Go run over a hill, play with your kids (or your friend's kids), and realize that you are more interesting than the people on television.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Pure, Unadulterated, Joy

Last summer, I started trying to run Mount Helena. I never could get a good run up the whole thing, in fact, I had a hard enough time getting up to the halfway point (which is the parking lot where most of y’all park). Having an annoying Lucy who put zero support into my running didn’t help. So, this year, I’ve been starting early at getting into the running swing, and trying to get over the nasty injury from Butte. Last Sunday, I ended up calling my planned really long run short, and had a miserable time bounding up the mountain, and a gimpy knee once I got down.

So, today, I decided to run through the Agrestic village, and up the Prairie Trail. It was an amazing evening to run, with the sun safely behind Mount Helena, and a nice Westerly breeze at the start. I remember struggling by the time I started up the roads through Agrestic, and now I powered through the shallow slope toward the trailhead.

Once I hit the trailhead, I went up Prairie, and kept the strong pace. Hitting Prairie is nice because the trail starts to have a bit of roll, in the sense that some of the trail has more uphill slope, and some of it has less uphill slope. It’s about a half mile (and another 300 vertical feet) before the trail finally crests. It then hits a set up actual roll (uphill and downhill) before heading into the junction with Direttissima. I love the Direttissima jaunt, it adds some distance, and avoids the nasty switchbacks of the Swaney trail. It was heading downhill where I felt something that I haven’t felt in a long time while running.

To begin, any downhill running is well earned. Anyone who says that uphill and downhill balance out is an ignorant fool who probably has never run up more than a mere hill in their entire life. Uphill running is a body pounding endeavor, which forces every muscle to propel uphill. Unfortunately, most downhill running is difficult in its own way, as the body has to strain against gravity and one bad footfall results in disaster. But, if there is just the right angle of downhill, and the least amount of rockiness, the body floats down the trail. Running becomes effortless, and one feels propelled by forces from beyond. It’s an absolutely amazing feeling.

Once I hit that on the lower part of the Swaney and North Access trail, I floated on down to the Tubbs trailhead. From there, I headed back along Le Grand Cannon on back into town.

So, the biggest change is how I feel from last year. Last year, I could do the run, but I felt like I was struggling through way too much of it. Now, I feel like I’m doing exactly what I should be doing, and I feel like I should be doing this and more. It’s going to be a fun summer!

Total: 5.62 miles, 00:52:28, 1058 feet of gain, and 1020 of loss

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Rodney Ridge Run

So, I was running a temperature this Friday, and decided to take it easy this weekend. While, the problem with taking is easy is that I can only handle so much sitting around before I start to get ill. So, my choices are to either go running and be sick, or sit around and be sick. Yep, better try the former. Helena’s been socked in with a nasty fog all day, and temperatures are right around 40 degrees.

So, Rodney Ridge is due South from my place. It’s an annoy patchwork of private property, city lands, and forest service lands, so there’s not a nice trail onto the ridge. There is a trail through a city park, a nasty city dirt road, and an annoyingly jaunty trail until hitting the middle half of the ridge, which is mostly forest service land. Since I wasn’t feeling like proving anything with my uphill running skills, I decided to hike the uphills, and not start running until I hit the downhills. So, I power hiked my way to Rodney Meadow, and continued southward along the trail. Once I hit the apex, I started running downward. The path continues through forest service land and into private property. Fortunately, as far as I can tell, and based on the ‘pedestrians welcome signs’ the landowners in the south part of the ridge are cool with the trail travelers, although I did notice that horses are not allowed on the path that goes near the stables. Anyway, I run the path down to Arrastra Gulch, and cross the road over to the path that goes onto Spring Hill road. It’s a small trail, and easy to miss if one doesn’t know where to find it. I was feeling alright for this part of the downhill, and enjoying getting the legs moving fast again. I took Oro Fino back down until I could get back onto the waterline trail. I really like running on the waterline trail, although I was really feeling under the weather at this point. Headed back into town, and back home for a well deserved shower.

Distance: approx 8 miles (wore the Garmin, but had a bunch of data from Thursday messing it up).

Time: approximately 2.25 hours. Roughly half hiking and half running.

Elevation: approximately 1500 feet of gain.

Overall: I do like the run, and really like taking Spring Hill out rather than Arrastra. Didn’t really help will the illness, but I may as well be miserable while recovering. The main downside is that I always feel like I’m giving less than my full effort (probably because I have quite a bit less than my full effort to give).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Run To The Pub Race Review

I was smart, and decided to reserve a motel room for this one. So, on Friday, my mom and I got to head down toward Bozeman. When we left Helena, the weather was overcast, on the way to Bozeman, it was torrential rain. That slowed down the travel, although we had plenty of time. We got to the Rainbow Motel (which is really conveniently located), got checked in, and headed over for packet pickup. Unfortunately, they decided to give t-shirts to both those who preregistered and those decided to do last minute registration. So, they were out of my large and my mom’s extra large shirts when we came to packet pickup. I did pick up last year’s shirt for a mere five bucks, since I can always use a wicking running shirt with sleeves. We headed over to the Ale Works, got some amazing food and beer, headed back, and my shirt was resolved. Their comment was ‘you can pick it up in the morning’ which does not make sense when people are trying to avoid drop bags. Later, we learn that the printer messed up, which does make it much easier to take problems with getting correct shirts.

We decide to ride out and scope the course. This is my new recommendation for all road races, as it is much easier to do a race when one knows about where one is, and where one is going.

Figuring out what to wear for the race was a miserable challenge. I ended up wearing most stuff that I brought, being miserably cold while waiting for the race, and then miserable hot one mile into the race. After three miles, I managed to get the windbreaker off and wrapped up in the waist carrier, so I was only slightly too hot for the race.

Anyway, we meet up at the Running Company around 8:15, kill half an hour waiting for the busses, load up at 8:45, get out to the race start at 9:20, and wait until 10:00 for the race start. During the wait, we were miserably cold and windy, while the weather flipped about five minutes into the race.

So, I decided to do the trick from last time, and start at the back. There’s nothing quite like knowing I’ve got chip time over the people ahead of me. The race wound toward Hylite, with a slight uphill. Keep in mind, a slight uphill means that the legs are shot, the pace is off, and the effort is high. On the upside, I did get to do lots of passing, which makes me feel fast. Once we hit the first subdivision, one of the locals was handing out Rainer, in salute of the St Patrick’s Day. So, me being me, I take advantage of the opportunity. Hence, I learn the important lesson that it is difficult to drink while running, and bad beer turns into foam.

First aid station is roughly four miles in, near the hills south of town, and the crew is filling water as fast as they can to keep the line down. Since I beered up, I dropped off the can where it could be properly disposed of. I get my water, and prepare for a nice downhill run back into Bozeman. We finish running through the subdivision, and head back along 3rd ave. I notice the huge set of port-a-potties alongside the road, and figure the next aid station must be soon. Around the seven mile mark, I see the aid station on the left, and so I do the Hammer gel that I had been saving. For the record, I seem to need just a single Hammer, around roughly the hour mark. That did the nutrition trick. We hit the station, and notice a huge mess of green Dixie cups ahead. Yep, the 10kers stole our Jello Shots!

The race continues uneventfully until the nine mile mark, when we make a right hand onto Goldenstein Lane. From nowhere, we are hit with a head deathwind. So, in addition to being tired, going slightly uphill for way too much of the race, we get to deal with a nasty headwind for a few hundred feet. Around the ten mile mark, we finally catch up with the tail of the 10kers, including my beloved mother. So, we get to deal with the walkers right as we get off of Bozeman’s roads and onto the trail system. Actually, any of the remaining 10kers were sufficiently slower than the runners to be easy to pass.

At around mile 11, my right knee finally started to give out. It didn’t give out in the sense of being painful to run, just in the sense that it finally ran out of all power. Nonetheless, I managed to regroup and keep moving forward. Although the trail system was annoying rolling, I managed to make it toward Church and move to the finish line.

So, I go through the finish line, and get my awesome water, and wait for a few minutes, then head toward the massive beer mess. I spend way too long waiting in line (including getting cut by one very rude gal who was encouraged to cut by her even more rude mother) only to sneak one of the prefilled Harps off the table, with no bib mark. By the time that I finish my beer, I head toward Bogart and run into my mother, who I help limp toward the finish line.

So, overall time, 1:54 and change. I didn’t break 1:50, but the course and weather didn’t make it easy. The course was deceptively tough, with just enough uphill to fool the Garmin and drain the legs. I felt strong for most of the race, even though my pace was not as strong as I wanted it to be.

Swag: Last year’s shirt, this year’s shirt (both long sleeve), a really cool pint glass, advertisments for Bozeman events.

Clothing: magic running underwear, green running tights, old-school green sweatshorts, cold weather Brooks running shirt, Adidas running shirt, winderbreaker / hoodie, gloves, hat, waist carrier for the iPod.

Upsides: Family Promise is an amazing organization, the people who do the race are really cool, pint glass is good swag, course is pretty and interesting.

Downsides: packet pickup logistics problems, water stations had water only (no food, or even Poweraid), disorganized mess for most race beer pickup. Mostly, there are a few minor logistical issues that need fixed.

Overall: I found myself enjoying this, although I think I’m going to try a different March schedule next year.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Run For The Luck Of It Race Report

On Thursday, I had some paperwork to take care of on the third floor. While I was communicating, I ran into Victoria, who told me that she was headed up to Missoula this weekend, so I asked if I could ride along with her. She said it would be awesome, and I was happy to have some time to spend with her. I really do not get enough time to spend with cool people, and being in a car is a great chance to converse and find out how people are doing.

So, since I had this and a bunch of other good reasons to come up to Missoula (including an awesome show by the amazing Kevin Koutnik and the Protectors on Saturday night), I head up to Missoula. My beloved mother had already registered for the Lucky Race, so I look up registration on Thursday night, give them the magical Visa information, and print out the confirmation.

On Friday, we wait in line for an hour for packet pickup at Runner’s Edge. I thought that this would be a great time saver, but Saturday had no line. I also bought a sweet Brooks winter shirt (which I wore to the race, and needed), the new New Balance Minimus Zero, and some awesome compression socks. I’ve got a post just about my experiences there, and I’ll never buy running shoes at any place without a treadmill again.

Saturday morning, we get up and hit Liquid Planet for breakfast and food. Caffeine is among the non-banned stimulants, and it’s a generally awesome place for breakfast anyway. The race was supposed to start at 8:40, so I head out at 8:25, thinking I would be late by the time I moseyed over there and got stretched out.

At the starting line, there were a few nasty delays, and we did not actually get going until close to 9:00. Considering the pass fest that happened at Snow Joke, I start way in the back, and decide to be the passer rather than the passee. I didn’t really have any great time goals (it’s an odd distance, but not my first listed 7 miler), but was looking forward to the course.

The first mile was the usual jockeying and getting a pace set. I started slow (around 8:30) but quickly found myself feeling much more comfortable with a pace slightly below 8:00 per mile. I got in a good rhythm and just started going. No one to follow, and eventual passing when others tired out, or when I was feeling good. I also made it a habit to give high fives to the volunteers and otherwise cheer them on. Those people work hard so I get to have fun, and get my eternal gratitude.

We headed out through the beautiful Northside neighborhoods and back over the bridge across the tracks. One thing about bridges (or any elevation) is that the knee injury has sapped my uphill power, but I still have the skill to hammer downhill. It’s not as nice as being on the flat, but at least I’m good at it.

Around the three mile mark, we did the part of the race that I was looking forward to the most. The race goes through the Northside graveyard. I removed my racing hat (out of respect for the dead) and enjoyed the beautiful gravestones. Graveyards make good places to walk, and would be fantastic places to race, although the bereaved (and caretakers) might not appreciate this use. But, I thought it was awesome.

Around the six and a half mile mark, we met up with the fresh leggers doing the 5K. Now, I understand that RDs get a choice. Have everyone start at the same time, and finish in annoying trickles, or stagger the starts and get a mass finish. Nonetheless, running through a pack of fresh legged weekend runners is really annoying, especially when the knee was starting to hurt. Yep, the knee injury from Frigid Digger is still nagging. I don’t think it hurt my performance, it just requires being able to ignore some pain. Anyway, the pack of fresh leggers were running at a slower pace than the sustained 8:00, so I got to get pack into passing mode.

I also ran into my fellow runner, Scott, from Helena. Scott and I had very similar running times during the South Hills trail series, so its good to see a friendly face and have someone to compare myself with. Scott passed me on the seven mile mark, and I didn’t have the leg strength to catch back up.

The last challenge was the pedestrian train bridge, about a half a mile from the finish. It was fun to run up a corkscrew, over the tracks, and back down again. Only downside was weaving around the fresh leggers. I had one gal step in front of me, forcing me back and putting way too much impact on the knee. I considered that it would have been easier for me to just apply my body weight and send her sprawling, but I did have other things to do.

Finish line soon came up, and I manged to complete the whole thing in 55 minutes and change with an overall pace every so slightly below 8:00. So, I’m more than happy, because this means the 1:50 half marathon is very much doable, as is the sub 4:00 marathon. With the weather changing, two months to prepare, and a downhill course, I can rock Spokane.

After the finish line, there was good Irish stew for the victors, and plenty of Highlander beer. I got my beer, my mom’s beer, and another beer because I stood in line again (the beer man offered). Not a ton of variety, but the stew was good and different.

Clothing: Larry Bird style blue shorts, Brooks cold weather shirt, Champion magic athletic underwear, green Adidas running shirt, awesome running gloves, running hat, fanny running pack without bottle to hold the iPod. I regret not wearing running tights, Missoula was cold in the morning.

Music: Dave Matthews Band, Live at Lakeside

Swag: green tech shirt, a bunch of Missoula stickers, two beer coasters, and another shopping bag from a local physical therapist. Nothing particularly unique, but I did this more for the course than the cool swag.

Overall: A good Missoula course, although I’m not sure I’d recommend traveling just to do it. The graveyard gives it some unique character.