Thursday, February 25, 2016

Dry Creek 10K Race Recap - My First Trail Race!

   As previously mentioned, I've been running trails recently. And, with the exception of a recent fall down a gravel hill, I've enjoyed it. So I signed up for the Dry Creek Trail 10k to see what trail racing was all about.

   I pretty much went into this race blind. I asked a few people about the course in the days leading up to the race, but all I could really find out was that 1) it's longer than a 10k (which I already knew because the website clearly states it as such and 2) it's not as technical as Percy Warner, which is where I have been running.
   The race started at 8:00 am, and I arrived at the Cheatham Wildlife Management Area about an hour prior. I had picked up my bib the day before, but I have a thing about being early for races. It was a little chilly at first because I was in short sleeves, but not bad. It'd been raining on and off overnight though, so it was humid. Ugh - I hate humidity.
   The race pretty much started on time. Might have been a few minutes late, but no one really cared if so. Trail racers are notoriously laid-back. Dry Creek was hosting three distances: a marathon, a half-marathon and the 10k, and we all started at the same time. I was told there were over 300 racers, which is a pretty large for a trail race (I think). Fortunately, the race director did a great job with the route so it wasn't confusing as to who went where.
   The course itself was mainly a gravel path with some true off-road trails in the middle. It started off with a slight downhill for the first couple of miles until we turned off of the main road when we hit a steep descent that was covered in leaves. I just tried to put my feet where the person in front of me did because I was scared I was going to break my ankle (I'm always afraid I'm going to break my ankle when trail running).  Of course, some guy came FLYING down the hill and blew past us. Seriously - I have no idea how people do that. #nofear
   After a small distance of flat, we hit a GIANT HILL around mile four. And this was where I started walking. I didn't feel bad though - most people I saw were walking. The bad thing about not knowing anything about the course is that I had no clue when this hill was going to end. And guess what? It didn't! FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE RACE! Ok, I'm exaggerating a little bit here, but not too much. The actual hill was probably a mile and a half before we hit the top, and then we had rollers until the finish... but they were the kind of rollers that always had more going up than going down. And no, I didn't walk the entire time. Just mainly up that first ascent. It was killer.
   And then - we were done!  Just like that. Considering my last two races were marathons, running at 10K (even an extended one) seemed really short. And, I have to admit, running on the trails makes the race go by faster than ones on the road. I was too busy worrying about where to put my feet to care about where I was on the course, or what pace I was going. As a result- this race just flew by.
    Being that trail races are low-key, they had people writing down your bib numbers as you crossed the line. One of the volunteers asked my name at the time, and I saw him write it down on a separate piece of paper... Hmmm.... Might I have won something?  Sure enough!  BOOM - Third Place Masters!

I got swag!  

   I should probably give up my trail running career now so I can say I've placed in every trail race I've done - but I won't. NRC has a series of 6-mile trail races and I'm signing up for it. They did a great job with putting on this race, and I'm looking forward to the others. Trails have been a nice change of pace, but I also think they have made a stronger runner overall.  Plus, I love the laid-back vibe of the entire scene. It seems more of a giant group run than a race. We even had a cookout afterwards and people brought food like a pot-luck. While this is probably standard for trail races, it was my first race so I didn't know. The only negative was (and this has nothing to do with the race itself) that people need to learn how to park. If you arrive to a race late and there is a great parking spot in the lot up close to the start - you might want to stop and think about WHY that spot exists. Because it might be the only clearing for people in the back of the lot to get out. Yes, I was stuck for a few minutes, but then someone in the front row left and I was free.  
   Great job to NCR and their RD Beth. Looking forward my next time on the trails!  

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Learning to Hurt Again

   I realized something during my run last night - I've kind of become a wuss when it comes to my workouts. Oh sure, I'm out there doing it. I'm swimming, biking or running pretty much every day of the week. And it frequently hurts, as exercise generally will...but it doesn't HURT. And that's bad.
   Before I go too deep into this post, let me say that I'm not referring to the kind of hurt that actually causes injury. Because that's just stupid. No, I'm talking about the kind of hurt that breaks you down so far that you want to puke. Or cry. Or makes your legs burn so badly that you don't think you can take another step...but you keep going anyway. THAT kind of hurt. And unfortunately, it seems that I've kind of forgotten how to do that.
   I say "unfortunately" because that kind of hurt is what makes you a better athlete. That's the kind of hurt that makes you faster. That's the kind of hurt that makes you so mentally tough that you feel like you can do something as insane as covering 140.6 miles in one day under your own power. I knew how to hurt when I did IMCHOO. But that's gone now.
   That I've become a wuss hit me last night when I was running with East Nasty. I was supposed to do 3.5 miles of tempo - about 8:30/mile. The kicker is that while I can generally do this on flats, last night's route was hilly (as every route in East Nasty is). I tried to not let that throw me, and I lined up to run with the 8:30 pace group. One of my VFF (very fast friends), Bree, even offered to pace me. All I had to do was follow Bree and not think about the route or my pace or anything. But what I couldn't block out the was hurt. Those hills just killed me and I had to walk. The kicker is that the old pre-IMCHOO me would have kept going once the hurt started. The last two months before IMCHOO something kicked in and I WOULD NOT stop my training until I hit my pre-determined stopping point no matter how bad I felt. Now, I hit a hill and I'm like "This hurts. I can't run anymore." And so I don't. My mental toughness is shot.
   So now I just need to figure out how to love the hurt and not let it stop me from accomplishing my goals. If anyone has any suggestions as to how to make this happen, please let me know. In the meanwhile, I'll over at the Pedestrian Bridge doing hill repeats.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Tribute to my Bad-Ass Friends

   Athletes find inspiration from different things. Training for a specific goal - whether it be a new distance or lower race time - is tough and really not that enjoyable while you're going through it. Especially when it's really cold, or too hot, or even perfect weather when you just want to do anything other than go train. Sometimes we need a little something to get our butts out the door to go for a run. And for me - that's where my friends come in.
   My friends are the reason why I get up early every Saturday morning to ride my bike trainer. My friends are why I run when it's so cold and sleety that my eyelashes freeze. And when I'm feeling tired and just don't want to go any further, my friends are the ones who push me to finish that extra mile.
   You might think I'm out there every day training with a big group of friends for every workout. And some days I am. But frequently, I'm out there slogging out the miles alone. However, I know I'm never truly alone. I know my friends are also out there, somewhere, hurting in the same way that I am. And that inspires me to push myself further and harder than I thought I could ever go.
   I'm especially inspired today because one of my favorite training partners achieved a long-held dream today and qualified for Boston. I know I've mentioned Kathy several times in the past. We're FTP teammates and were frequent training partners until I moved across town. Being that we were neighbors, we would ride to races together and just laugh the entire trip. Technically, we're competitors, as we're in the same age-group, but she's way faster than me and has beaten me in every race in which we've competed together. That would probably annoy me if it were anyone else, however, Kathy happens to be one of the nicest people I have ever met. She also works her ass off to achieve her goals. Which, in turn, makes me want to work my ass off to achieve my goals. Which hopefully, inspires you to work your ass off. Which, again, inspires me...  You get the idea.
   So, I'd like to take a moment to say Thank You to all of my Bad-Ass friends. I don't care if you're training for an Ironman or your first 5k. You're out there, pushing yourself everyday. I see you reach your goals, and you make me want to work harder to reach mine. Which makes all of the freezing runs and bikes rides in 100 degree weather worth it.

Me (left) and Kathy immediately after IMCHOO.  Friends are the best.

Friday, February 12, 2016

What's Kristine Reading? February Edition

   It's been stupid cold and snowy here in Nashville, so my training has kind of gone to hell. Yes, I've gotten soft down here in the South. I don't mind the cold so much, but I don't venture out in the snow. I'm prone to falling under the best of conditions. I don't need to temp fate by running in the snow.
   Which all leads me to the fact that I've been reading a lot instead of training. Nothing too deep - just fun books that help pass the time when it's cold and gross out. My pick for February is "A Study in Scarlet" by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Yes - my first Sherlock Holmes novel ever!

   In complete honesty, I choose this book because I'm hooked on the BBC TV show "Sherlock" starring Benedict Cumberbatch (I'm "Sherlocked," as they say). If you haven't watched any of "Sherlock", you really should because it's excellent. Each episode is loosely based upon one of the original Sherlock Holmes novels. And being the huge geek that I am, I HAD to go back and read the books to see how they compared to the show. (For the record - doing this is actually a departure from my normal MO. I rarely watch a show or movie prior to reading the book from which it was based.)
   Coming from the standpoint of someone who knew NOTHING about Sherlock Holmes other than watching the Robert Downy Jr. movies, watching the show and reading this book has been a lot of fun. Of course, I had heard of Sherlock Holmes growing up, but I was never really into mysteries so I just kind of avoided the books in the past. But I always wondered how Holmes and Watson ended up together because they kind of seemed like an odd pair. Well, "A Study in Scarlet" is the first Sherlock Holmes novel, so you learn all about how they met and why they live together. And previously, I always just thought Holmes was a kind of a quirky, Sheldon Cooper-kind of guy...and he is. But the whole "brilliant master of deduction" thing was lost on me. After reading the book, I understand the character more, and can see why Holmes has become such a prominent figure in classic literature.
   "A Study in Scarlet" is based on the murder of an American who is found in an abandoned house. He had been killed, but not robbed. Scotland Yard is baffled, so they ask of the assistance of the country's only consulting detective - Sherlock Holmes. Since this book is a mystery, I'm pretty much leaving the review at that - don't want to give anything away. However, I will say that even though I had seen the TV show and knew (pretty much) who committed the murder, I was still very interested in the book. While the overall plotlines are similar, they differ enough (greatly in some points) to not get bored. In fact, you kind of wonder how everything will all fit together in the end.
   The book is only about 120 pages and it didn't even take me a weekend to read. I'm not sure if I'll go back and read all of the Sherlock Holmes books that accompany "Sherlock," but I'll probably hit a few more. I am definitely glad I read this one though. And seriously, go to Netflix now and watch "Sherlock." You're welcome.