Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mid Week Update

It was another fantastic start to the week despite the lousy weather.  With temps hovering around 50 degrees, overcast, off and on showers, and lots of wind, my desire to run has been a bit subdued. 

On Monday, I was thinking how much I didn't really feel like going out, but Dan talked me into doing a "short" run on the roads.  He is planning on running the Cox Half Marathon this Sunday in Providence.  I'll be skipping this one to visit friends in Maine.  We decided on a 7 mile course (mapped online 6.92).  After the usual vow of taking it easy, Dan pushed the pace after the first mile (7:08).  We ran at a nice uncomfortable pace - Dan leading the way.  Not knowing exactly where the mile markers were, I still had the feeling that this might be a PR for us at this distance.  When Dan slowed down at about 4 miles in, I pushed ahead - not because I was feeling good - just in the hopes of a good time.  As we turned the corner onto busy 1A, I pushed even harder.  Our 5 mile split was just about 35 minutes even, if I had the location right.  My stride shortened to trail running mode and I hammered (for me) the last 2 miles.  I finished up in 48:03 with my lungs burning.  I set a new PR - 6:56 mile pace for 7 miles.  I think Dan will have a really good time this Sunday. 

Tuesday, it was a quiet day at the office.  After running with that guy Boj last week, I had the idea of exploring the Big River Management Area.  He runs there quite often when visiting RI.  I always thought of it as easy smooth dirt/sand trails - nothing too exciting or technical.  Bojo told me otherwise and I was now curious.  I found this map on a local mountain biking website of the area I was interested in.  It's the closest point to my work (20 minute drive) and has the most interesting terrain.  For my first attempt, I decided to keep it short and simple - run for 15 minutes and then backtrack.  The trail from the parking lot starts on top of a hill and drops steeply.  I ran with the map, but I was having trouble deciphering where I was.  I stopped a few times to get my bearings.  At the bottom of the hill, I decided to stay right on a green dot trail that I believed circled Carr Pond.  This single track had it all: rocks, roots, water crossings, mud, hills, and scenery.  I was a little anxious, feeling completely alone in this wilderness maze.  But, I was enjoying the running too much to really worry.  At about fifteen minutes, I came to an old dirt road that lead to the pond.  I stopped and took in the view, and figured out on the map how I got there.  I was tempted to keep circling the pond, but thought better of it this time, and retraced my steps on the green dot trail.  When I reached the trail that headed up the hill to my car, I thought about exploring some more, but the number of trails in this section was a little overwhelming, so I pressed on up the hill.  Based on the time and effort, I guess it was 4 miles.  I can't wait to return! 

Friday, April 23, 2010

Running With That Guy Boj

Thursday, I met up with an old friend who was in town on his school vacation week.  The plan was to do a 10 mile trail run at Rome Point.  I was a little anxious to figure out a zig zag course to make this happen, but I knew that BoJo would like the trails.  He had been running a lot this week, so I wasn't worried about slowing him down too much.  We were greeted with great weather, even though the forecast was for rain and possibly thunderstorms.  The parking lot wasn't too full, and we had limited human or canine interruptions.  It was fun to catch up with him and talk about our running as we were running.  He really liked the terrain and trails, except he didn't like running on the beach.  It reminded him of snowshoe running, which I forgot he hates.  I didn't care for the stiff headwind and was happy to oblige him by sticking with the trails for the rest of the run.  We got to explore every side trail in the center of the park - trails I have always ignored - and I definitely will be adding a couple to my routine.  We had exhausted all of the trails and still needed to run another 10 minutes to get our 10 miles in, so we did a little trail repeating (which I was hoping to not have to do) and ended up running for an hour and seventeen minutes.  Judging by the time and effort, I'll call it 10.5 miles.  Overall, a great run with that guy Boj. 

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Life is Good

This week has gotten off to a terrific start.  Another beautiful stretch of weather coupled with happy kids at home (school vacation week) are the prime culprits.  Monday, I did a late lunch run with Dan.  I thought I might do a long run alone, but he was more than willing to accompany me.  We ran the 2+ miles of pavement (2 mile split 14:54) to our regular Ryan Park trail loop.  The trails have completely dried out except in one particularly dark section - I have a feeling it's going to be a pond for a while.  I wasn't sure what sort of pace we would do, but Dan answered that by keeping it slightly uncomfortably fast.  When he wasn't leading, I would jump ahead to keep it going.  We did an estimated 51:30 for the 7 miles of trails, which is a respectable time when we only do just the 7.  This was going to be a good 12 mile time!  I pushed ahead on the roads to keep up the pace.  Dan rejoined me and we added a couple of more side streets to get the overall mileage to exactly 12.  Our total time was 1:28:11 - good for a 7:20 pace.  We were really happy about this one! 
Tuesday, my legs were feeling tired and sore.  Another one of my coworkers who likes to run occasionally was interested in doing a shorter run with me at a relaxed pace.  We headed over to Rome Point.  The parking lot was packed.  Not a good sign.  But, we stuck to the lesser known single track trails and only ran into a few people and some older friendly dogs.  We ran the rocky beach for a stretch and didn't realize what sort of wind we were heading into.  This made things a bit uncomfortable and my legs felt really tired.  Once we hit the trails and found ourselves on a downhill section, my energy returned.  We ran for 42 minutes - about 5.5 miles. 
Perhaps the highlight of my week though, is the amount of time I got to spend outside after work with my family.  This is how I envisioned life 5 years ago, before my first child was born.  I pictured coming home and seeing everyone outside, then hiking, playing, riding bikes, etc. together.  It has taken a few years, but the time has come!  My son, now 4 1/2, and daughter 2 1/2, are really enjoying their time oustide.  We have scoured our 3 acre wood for emerging lady slippers (probably have found about 20).  We have found new places to climb rock outcroppings.  They have become interested in finding and observing bugs.  We also have been visiting a nearby pond.  Monday night, we brought a bottle and collected some tadpoles.  We'll let them grow for a while and then return them.  Here's a couple of pics: 

Both nights, we haven't gone inside until 7:30, and by then, the kids (and parents) are ready for bed.  My plan is to do a short run and/or play basketball today in anticipation of my trail run tomorrow with BoJo (who is in town for the week).  So far, so good! 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Running for Time

Today was another picture perfect April day.  With the temperature in the high 60's and not a cloud in the sky, I had a vision of doing a relaxing hour trail run on my lunch break.  I spent some time throughout the morning concocting a zig-zag course through Rome Point.  It's not that large of an area (230 acres), and for years I ignored running it, instead using it on days when I wanted to hike and bring my binoculars.  This winter, I began incorporating it into longer runs.  But a few weeks ago, I ran it with a coworker who grew up in the area, and he showed me a couple of very interesting side trails that made longer runs possible without a lot of repeating my steps. 

I smiled pulling into the parking lot, as there were only a couple of cars there.  Sometimes it can be mobbed.  It is a favorite walking spot for humans and their unleashed best friends.  Today, I would have limited interruptions.  I ran down the main trail and then entered the woods to the left.  Leaves are opening everywhere.  It seemed like a good day for snakes on the trail.  On Monday, Dan and I spooked a large garter snake here.  It looked like it had it's head raised in the air as it slithered off in disgust.  I'm not going to lie - it was rather spooky.  But there would be no snakes today.  Just really great trail conditions.  No more standing water or mud.  I reached the point in a fast time (a minute faster than last week).  I might have stopped and lingered, but there was a guy with a fancy scope checking out the seals, and I didn't want to disturb (or interact) with him.  I backtracked for a quarter of a mile and then hit one of the new trails - an awesome single track through a cedar grove, mature woods, and around interesting rock croppings.  It links up with another single track trail on the south side of the preserve.  I can't tell you how fun these trails are.  The footing is excellent (not many roots, rocks, or wet sections), decent elevation gains and losses, and scenic, twisty trails that keep you distracted. 
Eventually, the trail ends at the beach.  Being on Narragansett Bay and not exposed to pounding waves, the beach here is rocky (all shapes and sizes) and full of old shells (lady slippers mostly).  Knowing my RI water rights, I decided to hug the high tide line and run south towards the Jamestown Bridge.  The tricky footing definitely slows the pace, but I like the challenge.  I jumped a couple of tidal streams that I'm not sure are passable at a higher tide.  To my surprise, I encountered another runner going in the opposite direction.  It's nice to see a fellow trail runner out here!   I soon turned around before the bridge and retraced my steps. 
I re-entered the woods and hit the single track trails again, but this time from the other way.  One of the nice things about trails is that they are completely different running in the opposite direction.  I don't think you can say the same about roads.  I took one more new single track that weaves through a cedar forest along the water's edge, and then returned up the main trail.  I finished my hour run in 58:58.  I'll call it 8 miles, and plan to definitely do it again soon. 

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Chariho 5K

Today, my wife, kids, dad, and in-laws headed up the road to the local high school to run and walk a 5K that benefited a local Relay for Life team run by friends of our family.  This event definitely had a family-oriented feel and it didn't appear there were any big time runners entering, judging by the lack of skinny guys in bright short shorts warming up.  I was my usual pre-race nervous self.  I haven't run a 5K race in literally ten years.  I met up with Justin - last year's winner, and another guy I knew from high school who apparently is now an avid runner.  I got my number and returned to the car so that I could "warm up".  For me, that means listening to music (Rancid) and trying to stretch out my tense muscles.  I lined up next to Justin at the start and hoped for the best. 

And we were off.  I settled into a nice pace, but I always start too fast, and this was no different.  I was in fourth position for the first quarter mile and then reality set in.  I slowed down and a few people passed me.  Justin went by and said that the opening pace was 5:30.  Yikes.  At the 1 mile mark, I checked my watch - 6:17.  I was pleased and hoped that I could keep it up.  The flat course's one modest hill was ahead and I felt good passing a guy who was the last to pass me.  I was afraid that the hill slowed my overall pace.  Then I turned left onto on a long straight open road and was greeted by a stiff wind.  I would have been annoyed by this, except that I was catching up to more people - two young kids who looked like they were on the high school cross country team and another local runner who would normally beat me.  Getting close to the end, the course turned again to the north, and suddenly it felt really hot.  Maybe the breeze was at my back, but all could feel was the intense heat.  It did not make me want to push my pace.  It made me want to run hard enough to not throw up.  The last quarter mile was on the high school track.  I took a peek at my watch and thought I had a shot of finishing just under twenty minutes.  I snuck a peek behind me to see if anyone was going to try to run me down. It didn't seem so.  I maintained my don't throw up pace and finished in 20:14 - an average of 6:31 minute miles.  I was disappointed that I didn't attain my goal, but I'm happy with my pace in these conditions and I was 9th overall.  It was hot (low 70's and windy).  I now have a little more experience for my next 5K. 

My dad finished a couple of minutes later and we waited for my wife (pushing the kids in a double stroller) and her parents to complete their walk.  Then we met up with my mom and headed to the local elementary school for an ice cream social and art show for my son's school.  Yum! 

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Ryan Park Photos

Today I decided to bring my camera and take some pictures of my lunch break running spot.  Originally, I was planning on walking, but I couldn't resist turning this into a run. 

The Fields

From the old Trestle Trail
Our favorite side trail (see tree for name)
Trail Friend
Bellevue Pond Dam
The rooty & muddy section
The bridge over Bellevue Pond
My trail running knee and New Balance 873 Lightweights

Friday, April 2, 2010

Pushing It

Thursday, the sun returned, but that wasn't the only thing.  It also marked the return of competitive training runs with my coworker Dan.  Last year (especially the fall), we were running at the same level and ran alot together.  During our runs, rather than taking it easy, we would continually take turns pushing the pace.  If I was feeling tired one day, I would just do my best to keep him in sight and vice versa.  Admittedly, we both got burnt out from training so hard and by the end of November we both toned it down quite a bit.  But, we both liked how much faster we got by training this way.  So on Thursday, I told Dan I was planning on doing a longish run and he said he was up for the challenge. 

We decided on a 10 mile run (exactly 10 mapped out online) on the roads from our office.  With the temperature climbing up to 60 degrees and the sun out for the first time in a few days, we hit the road.  Our first mile was 7:15.  I wasn't sure if Dan could keep this pace up since he hasn't done a run more than 7 miles since November.  To my surprise, he surged ahead.  My legs felt like they were working pretty hard to keep up.  I definitely was going a little bit faster than I would if I was alone.  He kept it up and I was trailing a couple of seconds behind, waiting for him to fall back.  I was hoping he wasn't overdoing it.  He has a Garmin watch, and his strategy is to keep his heart rate steady throughout the majority of the run.  This is because Garmin can't keep the mileage accurate - "lying" about the real pace.  I either laugh or get infuriated every time his watch beeps denoting a mileage marker that I know is wrong.  At about 5.5 miles, we entered my favorite neighborhood to run in.  It's a great distraction from how my legs might be feeling.  There's a river, a tidal bay, Narragansett Bay, and views of the Jamestown and Newport bridges, not to mention the interesting homes and estates.  At the 8 mile mark I checked my watch and we were in the high 56 minutes.  I now knew that this could be a PR for me and Dan if we pushed the last 2 miles.  Push it we did, and we finished in 1:10:32 - good for a 7:03 mile pace.  We were both extremely pleased.  That's a very fast pace at that distance for us.