Coventry Woods 10K: Take 3

Today’s trip to Coventry Woods was with some reservation. I haven’t been running very much, I’ve been lucky if I got out once a week and that’s pushing it. I had lost fitness and was under-trained going into this race and had no expectations. I took the first quarter of the race– the climb up the ridge– very easy, basing my pace on my breathing and heartbeat. Once at the top the trail flattened out before turning downhill for a nice, gradual descent which should have been fun but on tired legs I tried to keep pace with those in front of me.

I felt like the water stop jumped out at me even though it was the half-way mark. I don’t recall getting lost in my thoughts in that first half so I was surprised when it popped up like that. It came at a good time, too. I really needed that cup of water to not only quench my thirst but cool myself off, too. It was very humid this morning after an overnight rain. Instead of cooling things off, the rain brought a warm front with it. Not ideal, but doable.

Soon after the water stop we had two fields to get across. Thank goodness for the cloud cover or that would have been painful! In fact, the second field had a great breeze blowing across and I enjoyed walking across it with my arms outstretched. Next came the second really tough spot in the race: another long climb. I walked the majority of this section before finally hitting the final couple of miles which were mostly downhill. One spot was an out-and-back loop and part of that was a painstaking climb on tired legs.

I finished the race about six minutes slower than the last two times I ran this course. I knew I was running slower today but was surprised at how slow. That mattered very little to me. I was grateful to be able to even run this race, again. My friend, Miriam, took third place in our age group in a faster time than my previous two which means today’s was a much more competitive field. I walked away with first overall in the 40-49 age group for the series since I had two second placements out of all three races, and I ran all three races. That was a fun surprise!

I hope that the RD decides to keep this race series going in 2015. I’d love to run it again.

Finding Time

It has been a long month since I’ve last popped in here, filled with bridal showers, a canoe trip, a wedding, race directing and running the kids around to summer camps. I am lucky if I can etch out an hour here and there to hit the trails for a run. The times I have hit the trail have been pure bliss and I always finish saying, “I need to come back here more often.”

That rarely happens.

Last weekend I ended my four-year-long stint as race director of the Quadzilla 15K Trail Race. Again, as in other years, runners show up thinking this race is a walk in the park. All one needs to do is walk around the crowded parking lot after the race and listen to everyone discussing how hard the race was, how steep the hills were, how much more difficult it was than they imagined going into it. And therein lies my own personal satisfaction in having produced yet another challenging and infectious event. Letting go of this race is bittersweet, but it must be done. I need to trim some areas of my life so that I am not working 100% of the time.

I need to step back and start enjoying life a little more.

I need just a smidgen of free time.

Pool Wildlife Sanctuary

Pool Wildlife Sanctuary, Emmaus, PA

Coventry Woods 10K, Take Two

I didn’t find a minute to run last week. Not one minute.

It stormed for a couple of days and errands took precedence on the others. I had a race looming on the horizon and the only way I could prepare was to eat well, hydrate and do push ups, squats and planks here and there. No worries. Over the past month I had hit South Mountain pretty hard and felt a lot stronger because of it. A week off was no big deal.

By Sunday my legs were ready to move. I drove down to Coventry Woods Park feeling hopeful that I would do better than the last time I ran this course. I did a little warmup with dynamic exercises thrown in and felt ready. This time I wasn’t going to get swept up with the front runners. This was going to be my race. I was only here to compete with myself.

It feels good to revisit a race course a month later. Everything felt a little more familiar. I remembered the climb, the fields, the descents, the turns. The water stop came up a lot quicker the second time around even though the course was exactly the same. A blind run on a race course causes a lot more thinking as you react to the trail. It’s amazing how much you actually remember when you return to the same place a month later which means less reacting, therefore maintaining that ability to talk yourself through the rough spots.

Oh, there were rough spots. Long ascents, especially on the second half of the course and I am not good at climbs. Descents, on the other hand, are my strong point and I worked hard to take advantage of them. Before I knew it I was at the lollipop section of the race and once done with that I had less than a mile to the finish. That final section was all downhill.

I finished about 35 seconds ahead of my time from a month ago. A friend looked at that as an improvement. I did not. My view is that both times are basically the same. An improvement would be five or more minutes. It doesn’t really matter anyway. I felt good the entire time, maintained a steady heart rate and ran smart. Strangely, I experienced a little ITB pain in my right leg but after a day of rest that is completely gone.

Next race: July 27. I’m hoping I’m able to work my schedule so that I can run it.

Finding Peace of Mind on the Trails

Last week I hit South Mountain four times. I said I needed more trail time and I meant it.

The trail is approximately a four mile loop and I tried to run it better and faster on each visit. Except for the last time. By then I was tired, beat up. I needed to go slowly and enjoy myself. I needed to sit on a rock every so often and stop to soak it all in. I feel so fortunate to have this little piece of paradise only minutes from my house. When I’m feeling a bit stronger I hope to be able to run there and back from home.

I returned Thursday afternoon for the first time this week. I really thought it was going to be a good run but instead, I felt tired and was forced to take it slowly.

I didn’t mind.

A million thoughts rushed through my head and I wished I had a voice recorder to capture my mental meanderings. In my head I eloquently rattled off analogies about life and nature, I fashioned an entire story while out there on the trail. And I left it there.

What I took away with me is the fact that I have really missed that hour or two of alone time, away from everything else, just me and my thoughts. It doesn’t matter if I do something grand with my thoughts and ideas, or let them dissolve into the time that has passed. What does matter, though, is that I finish up feeling calm and at peace.

The way it should be.

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Sometimes, Feeling Unsatisfied Can Be a Good Thing

Last Thursday’s run up at South Mountain left me feeling a little unsatisfied. Sorry, Chris. I didn’t mind walking it in with you for the last quarter of the run but my legs just wanted to GO! Friday left me feeling frustrated and Saturday I found myself busy for the majority of the day, so no working out for me.

I asked Muffin to join me for a run on the mountain Sunday morning. It felt like ages since we last ran together and I was ready to rock it. I rocked it all right. I rocked it so hard on the last leg heading down the mountain, sailing over rocks and picking up speed as I descended past the boulder field … and then it happened. I gracefully navigated some large rocks only to trip over a tree stub which blended into the trail and stood about two inches straight up. My toe caught the one-inch diameter protrusion and down I went. I actually slid to a stop.

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I popped up, gave myself a quick once over, picking a leaf fragment or two off my elbow. No gushing blood, that was a good sign. On we went. A tiny bit slower and not in any serious pain, I sidestepped a frog who had wandered from the frog pond which is hidden amongst the woods to which no path leads, joking in my head about making a meal of it and grossing my kids out by eating frog legs. (As if!)

Once we finished the run I took a better look at the damages I had sustained. Not bad, really. “It’s just a flesh wound,” ran through my head as I decided the fall had only caused two minor brush burns. Later, my leg would begin to bruise, turning a lovely shade of purple.

I’ll tell you what that fall REALLY means. It means I’m back in it! I fell and aside from the two little scrapes, it didn’t hurt. My back did not send a stop-in-my-tracks shooting pain throughout my body as would have happened a few months earlier. I’m back in the game and ready for more.

So ready, in fact, that I hit the trails, again, the very next day. This time running solo, I timed myself. It took forty-seven minutes to loop the trails, not much slower than the amount of time it used to take me to run the same exact loop. I’m feeling stronger and getting my trail legs back.

 

How I’ve Missed You, South Mountain

Has it really been three weeks since I’ve run my favorite (and nearest) trails? I really, really needed this confidence-booster. I felt strong and full of energy during my run today. Surprisingly, the storm that rolled in during the early morning hours did very little damage to the trails and surrounding landscape. As I expected, there were some puddles to contend with at the bottom of the ridge but beyond that, it was a perfect run. I really need to start running this loop twice a week.

South Mountain Preserve