Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Cotton Row Run 2014

Race day has come and gone. I ran it yesterday. It was a hot and humid day. I had set small goals for this race. I had good reasons for that with my recent record of injuries. Even so, I was somewhat disappointed.

After 2 straight years of limping across the finish line of the Cotton Row's 5K race with a painfully shredded calf muscle I was encouraged by people close to me to lower my goals here and simply try to finish this event without any injuries. That includes all my training and the race itself since both previous years I was injured while training and had to focus on rehabbing the injury enough to be able to race at all instead of working on improving my speed and time. The results were embarrassing race times of over 30 minutes for a 3.1 mile race. For a person who has never run competitively that might be a time they can accept. For me it is humiliating.

The Cotton Row Run was started as a 10K race, 6.2 miles of Alabama heat and asphalt, with an obstacle they call "heart attack hill" thrown in somewhere between miles 3 and 4 just for fun. At some point, with the rising popularity of 5K races, they shifted the 10K race back an hour to 7 am and added a 5K race at 9 am. When I was young I ran the 10K and was competitive in terms of my times. But even then, had they fired their starting gun at 7 am I wouldn't have been there in time to compete. I'm no morning person, never was and never will be. So these days the 10K is out of the question for me. As injury-prone as I am at 9 am I would be worse if I tried to run while barely awake and poorly warmed-up at 7 am.

Anyway, I don't want to summarize this race for a third time. I wrote about as many details of the race as I could recall in 2012 and 2013. It's hot. There are a number of annoyingly selfish participants who get in the front of the starting line and walk when the starting gun sounds. They walk in the middle of the road, blocking all the runners just like I'm sure they drive in the passing lane at excessively slow speeds and refuse to get over or let anyone by. Each year these narcissistic 'runners' have increased in number and selfishness. This year was the worst. At one point 5 girls stood shoulder to shoulder all the way across the road blocking the entire course. Real runners started abandoning the street and running on the sidewalks. That is technically against the rules, but if the race officials aren't going to enforce their own rules against blocking runners and all that they clearly aren't going to enforce rules against leaving the course and running down the sidewalks. Eventually all the real runners were streaming down either side of the course on the sidewalks while the narcissistic obstructionists were in the center of the road, blocking everyone.

Let's get in the middle of the race course and walk

At one point I had a woman race up to get next to me, then jam her shoulder in front of me to block me from passing her. I sped up, stepped around her and got ahead. She sped up and jammed her shoulder in again. She did this 3 times. Finally, I put my hand up to stiff arm her away from me, but she fell back and was never able to catch up with me again. You can maneuver to block runners in a track meet, but in a friendly 5K race with a full street you are not allowed to do that crap. She was unfortunately what I'm increasingly seeing among the up and coming generation of 'entitled' runners. I quit soccer due to injuries and people like her. I noticed that this year's Cotton Row Run had the fewest runners I've ever seen this year in both events, the 10K and the 5K. I'm wondering if more real runners are quitting this race for the same reason - selfish pricks who would rather hurt others than compete.

My first mile split time was 10:30. That was the pace I had planned to run. It was slower than my previous 2 years, but I was trying a new strategy. My second mile split was 21 something. I don't recall, but it was right on schedule. I was trying to conserve energy and avoid injury prior to the third mile. I hoped that by doing this I would have more energy to speed up on the final mile and sprint the final stretch and across the finish line. This is how I used to run. I always had a last burst of energy for the final 100 yards. Of course, I often puked as I crossed the finish line, but my times were good and it was working for me. My final mile was often my fastest. I was also relatively injury-free, which helped. This year I hoped to get back to that strategy again.

I trained for this race for about 6 weeks, running 3 and 4 times per week. Several times I came extremely close to a serious injury, usually involving my calf and once, just last week, involving my hamstring. I started off blasting into my training, focusing on speed work and expecting to simply work up to the distance as I went. But with so many close calls I was encouraged to lower my expectations. Several people suggested that I simply aim to finish this race without being injured. I don't know if I made the right decision or not, but I decided to listen to them. I stopped doing speed work and simply ran my distance with a steady increase in speed until I reached the pace I wanted to run the entire race at, and then held it there to the end for each workout. This seemed like a safe way to train. Given enough time I think it could work. Maybe. Either way, one thing I know for sure is that I wasn't even going to show up to the starting line if I was already injured on race day like I was the past 2 years.

It was hot. During the 10K race the sky was cloudy and the sun was blocked. This helped keep things cooler, not that it was comfortable exactly. But by 9 am at the start of the 5K race the clouds were clearing out. We had full sun. It quickly got hot. The weather channel says it was 90 degrees Fahrenheit. I don't know the humidity level, but it was unpleasant.

This was NOT how it looked when I got to the water station

One thing I did during this race, which I can't explain exactly, was a big mistake. I don't know what I was thinking. After mile 1 there was a water station. With all the obstructionists on the course, they stopped at these water stations, took a cup of water, and stood there in the way so other runners couldn't get water. So when I came to the first water station, I had to stop, reach over someone standing in the way, and grab a cup of water. At that point I was at a dead stop, not running at all. I sipped my water as I walked away from the crowd of people standing around the water station. Yes, walked. I sipped only what I needed, then dumped the rest over my head, and began running again. I did this again at the 2nd water station, coming to a complete stop in order to get to the water. I've never done this before, stopping and then walking for a period before running on. I don't know how to explain why I did it this year when I had no injury and could have potentially run a quicker time than the past 2 years. I wasted probably a full minute doing this.

Up ahead of me a runner suffered heat stroke. People said he came down the final stretch flopping all over like a rag doll. He wobbled and stumbled and weaved and teetered with a wild look on his face. When he crossed the finish line 2 paramedics caught him just as he collapsed.

On the third mile I was feeling the heat. I was a lot more tired than I should have been considering I wasn't running an exceptionally fast pace up to that point. I was starting to droop, feeling my back weakening and encouraging me to lean forward. My form was breaking. There are no real hills of any significance on the 5K course, just little inclines here and there along the way. By the third mile those little inclines were straining me. This was the point where I had planned to be stretching out my stride, speeding up ever so slightly, and cutting at least a full minute off my mile pace, if not two or three.

It wasn't happening. I felt as if I was holding my pace well enough, perhaps slowing just a bit, but not too bad. My first mile was a 10:30. My second nearly a flat 10. If my third mile matched my first I should still be able to shoot for a 31 minute time. It'd be 1 minute and 1 second too slow, but still better than my worst time, which was 33:15 two years ago in the 2012 Cotton Row. My second worst time was 31 flat in last year's Cotton Row, so it wasn't looking good for me even equaling that anymore. And forget about my goal of coming in under 30 minutes.

I spent the last mile struggling to hold my form, control my breathing, and try my best to at least hold my speed when I felt like slowing down. I should have been going faster, but it just wasn't happening. At the final tenth of a mile I kicked it up with what little I had left. I stretched out my stride and 'sprinted' across the finish line. I didn't even bother looking at the clock. I knew my time was crap. I just didn't know how bad it was yet.
The race organizers seemed to take forever to finally post my time up on the wall. I almost wished they hadn't. It was an all-time slow 33:45, my worst ever.

Epic Fail

All I can say about this race is that I achieved my revised goal - I finished the race uninjured. I'm not sure if it was worth it or not. Even limping so badly that I didn't think I could run the last mile I ran a 31:00 last year. Maybe I just run better when I'm hurt?

My training goals for this race were too conservative. Aiming for a negative goal like not getting injured encourages you to hold back when you should be pushing harder. Somewhere in the middle should be my training target - not too aggressive and not too conservative, not insane and not completely lame. Basically I need to be pushing it hard, but not so hard that I get injured.

I'm supposed to run again tomorrow. I think after this disaster I'm going to have to pick up the pace and find me another race to run to see if I can redeem myself before the summer is over. The only other race I'm signed up for at the moment is the Warrior Dash, and Lord knows that isn't going to be a race time I can do anything with. Besides the uniqueness of the course, it recently involved killer hills that are a completely different challenge for me, one that I want to beat this time.

Monday, May 19, 2014

1 Week to Race Day

With only one week to go until the Cotton Row Run I've been trying to keep my training light, with minimal risk for injury. Today I ran the usual 3 miles at a cautious pace. I steadily sped up until the end, as usual. Everything was fine until the last half mile. As is apparently typical of my luck, suddenly my hamstring started to tighten up. I had wanted to go faster, but my hamstring kept getting tighter and my low back stiffened up, too. I almost stopped running early just to make SURE I didn't pull my hamstring.

I finished my 3 miles and immediately slowed down, did my cool down, and stretched my hamstrings, lower back and calves. As I walked across the parking lot to my car I could feel my damn hamstring tweaking the entire way. I ended up limping to the car. It doesn't even feel like I ever really pulled it. It never popped or screamed or burned and tore. It just tightened. It tightened until I was limping, which is pretty much what an injury looks like.

So I'm home now. I drank my protein and various other recovery-oriented chemicals. I massaged the hamstring. And I've got an ice pack under both hamstrings. I realize only one of them is hurt, but with my luck I figure there's no point in taking any chances. I'm icing them both.

The Mayo Rudolph Show

Other than that tremendously exciting new, I'm watching the Maya Rudolph Show, which is brand new. It appears to be a modern version of the old Carol Burnett Show, but she's got a lot of super talented people so it just might work. Well, except there's way too much singing. Speaking of all the singing, Kristin Bell is on the show and she can sing like crazy. I mean, she's honestly incredibly good.

So that's really all I have to say for now. My hamstring appears to be very close to injured. I guess I'll know for sure tomorrow when I try to get out of bed. Until then, I think I'll Google Kristen Bell for awhile and see where it takes me.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Be Healed

I spent the weekend not feeling terribly well. And by Monday I was a poop machine. The only running I was doing was to the bathroom. I may have even damaged the porcelain in the toilet with the shear velocity of my butt vomit.

All of this is simply to say that I didn't run on Monday. If I feel well enough on Wednesday I'll run then. Or give it a try.

Saturday, May 10, 2014


My running has slowed down. I've narrowly managed to avoid injury so far, which is good, but my energy levels are crashing. Each time I run I just don't feel like it. And then even when I can tell my body is able to go faster I don't feel the same enthusiasm about speeding up that I had been feeling. The race is 18 days away and I am doing something wrong. I suspect I'm not getting enough rest, as in sleep. I'm sure it doesn't help that this morning I woke up choking and gagging like I had inhaled a tennis ball in my sleep. I have no idea what happened, but sleep apnea runs in my family so ... bad sign.

Enough about running. I ran Friday. It was a crappy run, but it's done. So I'll leave it there.

Veronica, there's nothing on TV but crap

It's Saturday and I'm waiting to pick someone up at the airport. Nothing and I mean NOTHING is on TV. I'm watching reruns of Veronica Mars. I'll grant you that Kristin Bell is hot and so are all her female costars on the show, but this show has never been my thing. Almost all the girls in 90210 were hot, too, but that doesn't mean I'd sit around watching it for my own personal entertainment, you know? I am a Kristin Bell fan, though. So that's how I settled on Veronica Mars instead of dirt track car racing. That's my only other option and I'm not in the mood to see unrecognizable garage-built roll cages wrapped in thin sheet metal and identical small block Chevy crate engines go around in circles in the mud. I wish they still raced cars off the showroom floor, more or less, instead of every race being cars that look only vaguely like something you might recognize. There was once a time when they actually did take cars from dealerships antd tweak them a little before hitting the track and racing. That must be shocking to kids who have never seen that before. But that was what made racing popular. Now, because no one can recognize the cars, they have to jump them like motocross bikes in order to generate enthusiasm. I have nothing against jumping, especially since they aren't real cars, but I'd rather watch bikes do it.

What kind of car is this supposed to be?

Wow, that was a serious mental fart there.

One of the credits at the end of Veronica Mars is "Super Hot Guy." If that isn't a big red flag that this isn't a show for guys to watch I don't know what is. Time to flip around and see if anything new has come on that I might watch.

Did they seriously make a movie called "Son of Batman?" I mean, SERIOUSLY?!!!

OK, endurocross - that's what I settled on. I understand why they've moved motorcycle racing into stadiums - it generates more money. But I still like the outdoor races better. Motocross on an outdoor track is SO much cooler to watch. Endurocross is funky.

I have apparently wrecked my laptop like a champion. I had to take it to a guy to try to recover the data from the harddrive for me. He called me this morning and said "dude, I can't even get this drive to spin at all. It's toast." He's going to take it somewhere with specialized equipment as a last ditch effort, but if that fails then I am screwed.

Wow, bikes flying everywhere! Endurocross has the wildest wrecks. They're mostly low speed, but involve weird things like a bike that slides sideways along a log or a bike the jumps out from under a rider while he's got his feet down trying to get over an obstacle and the bike just shoots straight up into the air. It's insane. Ooh, rider goes down right on the rocks! Ouch!

OK, a rider on a Husqvarna won. The entire race was led by a rider on a KTM and then he bit the rocks and Husqvarna won. Just thought I'd throw that in there.

Since I mentioned my fried laptop I'd like to add that I HATE this Dell Inspirion I've bought to replace it with. Apparently Inspirion means "the big giant mousepad thingy is hypersensitive and will make typing impossible." I want to throw this computer through the front window and then get a sledgehammer and just pound it into the lawn. Seriously.

So, I get the impression that very few riders in motorcycle racing are tall. Either that or all the women who interview the winners after the race are giants because the women are always towering over the guys who win. I'm pretty sure the guys are small. I've been involved in several sports where being smaller was an advantage and I can see how that might work in motorcycle racing.

Good Lord, this woman has the most annoying voice!

I've been running with a coworker. He's able to just stretch a tiny bit and then GO. Me, I have to do a significant warm-up in order to get a sweat going and then maybe stretch a little, or a lot, and then gradually pick up speed, from a slow pace until I eventually reach my target speed. This seems to be the only way I am avoiding injuries. I remember when I could just slip my shoes on and hit it, but that seems to be long gone for me now. My coworker has never competed. I was surprised when he told me he's never even entered a race, let alone complete one. So I'm trying to inspire him to give a race a try.  We'll see if anything happens with this. I get the impression he's not the sort of person who likes change or risk or anything new. Anyway,

Monday, May 5, 2014

Running, Mowing, Burning, Throwing

I can't recall what I wrote last, but it was probably not terribly interesting and most likely relating to my training. Unfortunately, that's what I have to say again today, too. Sorry.

I had a lot of yard work to do over the weekend, and it took much more out of me than expected. There was a lot of fire involved, as well as a smaller-than-desired bow saw and me throwing, yes, throwing trees onto a giant pile. I'm not talking about shrubs here. I had previously chainsawed down some dead trees and then dragged them out onto the lawn for later disposal. I then left them there for weeks. Saturday I needed to mow, but couldn't because of all the big thick tree hulks that some idiot left covering my lawn. So I had to finally get out there and hoist them onto my shoulders and carry them off to the burn pile. And once at the burn pile, I had to throw them ever higher up onto it, as the pile grew taller and taller. It wouldn't have been nearly so difficult if the same idiot who left these trees all over my lawn hadn't first dragged pulled-up bushes from the front lawn into the back yard and thrown them onto the pile, making it taller than I would have preferred.

By the time I had cleared the yard and burned a much smaller portion of the shrubs than I had intended, the sun was setting and I was exhausted. And then Sunday came.

Sunday - mowing time. Normally I would pull out the trimmer and trim all the annoying little places that are such a problem for my riding mower. But when I awoke in the morning I found myself in pain, as well as completely lacking in energy. So I simply started up the riding mower and started attacking 1 acre of sunburn and grass. After 1 hour I realized I was going to fry out in the sun, so I stopped and ran inside to cover myself in sunscreen. Then it was back to work. Yay, so exciting!

I may have run over a brick, which my shockingly expensive lawn toy happily chopped into tiny little red pebbles and spit out into the grass to cause me more problems in the future. This did wonders for my blades, I feel certain. They say stone sharpens stone. I'm not sure if it works quite the same way with stone versus steel, but I'm hopeful.

By the time I finished with all the fun my lawn provided me, it was after 6 pm. It was at this point I decided to wash my cars. I don't know why. I just did. There are 4 in the driveway, all filthy. One, a large 4-wheel-drive truck, was actually growing moss on the north side of the camper shell. This may have had something to do with my sudden urge to wash.

At 7 pm I finished washing, mowing, brick chopping, etc, and crawled into the house for a shower. My body was completely shot. Thank God for the weekend!

Oh wait, this was my weekend.

So, Monday came and I had to go to work. And then, of course, do my workout after a full workday.

I may have mentioned once or twice that I've been trying to train for an upcoming race. And by 'upcoming' I mean it's this month. I'm running short on time. I don't really have any time for wasted workouts anymore. With that in mind I bravely lurched into the locker room, changed into my fancy sweat-wicking running clothes, and then stumbled down the hallway to the treadmills. I needed to run at least 3.1 miles, the full 5 km distance I plan to run on raceday, that being the distance of the race course, obviously. But once on the treadmill and feeling like an elderly crippled man, I managed to run a much shorter 2 miles. And by 'run' I mean I rapidly walked 1/2 a mile and then ran the other 1 1/2 mile. I told myself that a half run was better than no run, but I know that come race day I won't be buying a word of it. I'm going to be very sorry.

So anyway, I didn't get hurt. I mean, considering my horrible record of the past 2 years I really can call that a victory. 3 weeks to go until my race and I have yet to tear or sprain or strain or break anything. Now, saying it I have no doubt jinxed myself.  And if so, and I do get hurt, I'll be honest about the fact that I have no intention of trying to run this year if I am hurt this close to race day. It just isn't worth it. Either I'm going to start the race with whatever insufficient training as I can  manage, and no particular injury plaguing me, or else I'm not running it at all. Sound fair?