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

Coventry Woods 10K Race Report

CoventryWoodsYesterday morning I laced up my trail shoes as I readied to run my first trail race in three years. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long; time goes by so quickly. Another reason to “live hard” and approach each new day as a gift to be treasured. I am most definitely appreciating every single day that I am able to get out there and run because for a while I feared I may never be able to run again.

Coventry Woods Hoka Trail Series is a brand new trail race on the eastern PA trail scene. I have always found it a bit daunting to race a course that you have never run so I started asking other runners if they’ve ever run there before and what the trails were like. I was told that the trails were technical and expected a lot of roots and rocks. There were some sections that were scattered with rocks in places, but no roots and the entire trail was very runnable.

Before the race began I noticed a young girl who looked to be about nine or ten years old. She wore Vibram Five Fingers and calf sleeves and looked ready to race as she warmed up by hopping along a row of small boulders. Her brother of about the same age stood next to her in similar attire. “Ugh oh,” I thought to myself. These two looked seasoned and ready to tear it up. “She’s definitely going to kick my butt,” I said to the man standing next to me. The kids’ father wasn’t even going to run with them, they were heading out on their own.

We started off down a gravel road and soon headed across a grassy field before popping into the woods onto single-track paths littered with beams of sunlight which always makes trail running a little tricky. I was planning on taking this first race in the series easy but immediately got caught up in those first seconds of the race and took off with the front of the field in order to jockey into position. How quickly it all comes back to you.

The course takes place on a low ridge system, therefore we began the race with a climb which eventually flattened out for a bit. I walked the hills and some of the less seasoned trail runners tried running them, only to be passed later on by myself and the other trail veterans. I found myself alongside a woman named Katie for most of the middle of the race. We exchanged stories which I’m not typically interested in doing during a race, but this really helped me to maintain a good pace and keep my heart rate in the right zone.

Soon we found ourselves on a long downhill section, my strong point. I sailed down the ridge with ease, thinking at the same time that my legs were going to be feeling this in the morning. Because I will return in a month to run this race again I decided I really need to start working on gaining more leg strength in order to attack this downhill even better.

At the bottom of that section we happened upon an aid station, I’m assuming that was the half-way point. The water tasted good, I even dumped some over my head. The second half of the race was much like the first. In the final mile there was a mini loop with a very short section where runners were heading in both directions. At the end of that loop it was all downhill for the final half mile or so. Wow – that felt good!

My finish time was 1:08:00 which was fine by me and good enough for second place in my age group. I finished the race around mid-pack for the women and more towards the bottom two-thirds overall. It was a small field of less than one hundred runners and I really hope it’s a larger field at the next race. It would be a shame for this wonderful trail race to flounder in its first year.

Remember that little girl I mentioned earlier? Nine years old and first female overall in 51:33. I knew she’d kick my butt! Wow.