Monday, May 25, 2015

Cotton Row Run 2015

This year's Cotton Row Run was a somewhat similar to all the previous ones I've blogged about running - I was injured prior to the start of the race.

But this time I didn't have a pulled muscle or cramped up calf. This time I had stepped on a steel dumbbell and bruised the crap out of the ball of my foot. This happened a week ago and I was partially healed from it. I still have enough of a limp that I wasn't sure if I should even attempt to run. I made my decision at what I thought was the last possible minute. I jumped into my car and drove as fast as I could to the race.

When I got there and as I was running to the starting line, some guy passed me going away from the race. I assumed he had run the 10K race. It starts 2 hours before the 5K that I run and should have finished already. When we passed he turned and said "hey, they've delayed the start of the race. A tree fell across the course somewhere and they delayed the race by one hour. Your race doesn't start until 10 am." I wasn't sure whether to believe him or not, but I kept on running to my start line.

When I reached the start, sure enough, the 10K race was still going on. I was forced to stand around for an hour and twenty minutes before my own race even began to line up at the start. Once we were lined up and ready to run, the founder of the race took the microphone and talked to us, sang at us, pledged allegiance with us, and bugled us for another 20 minutes. At this point I had been standing up for nearly 2 hours. Finally they fired the starting gun and we were off.

At first I was preoccupied with swerving through the maze of slow people, walking people, and people I just have no idea why they were in our way at all. Finally I made my way into a crowd of runners who were moving along at the same pace as I was. But right away people were stopping to walk. And then I noticed that my own legs felt like rubber. They felt like ... like I had already run every event in a track meet and was ready to get on the bus and go home. My legs were shot!

I kept plodding along, thinking that at any minute my body would adjust and I'd be warmed up. Then the feeling of weakness and shakiness would pass. Then I would run like normal. I was already moving at the pace I wanted. I finished the first mile at 9 minutes and 20 seconds. That's not fast by anyone's measure, but after so many injury-wrecked races and so much trouble with my legs, all I wanted to do was get back under that 30 minute mark where normal people run. 3 sub-10-minute miles would give me my very attainable goal. This should not be that hard.

But as I passed that 1 mile marker and they shouted my time to me, I could not escape the miserable feeling in my legs. They were simply shot. They had no strength at all. They felt as if I were suffering from the flu and needed to go lie down with some orange juice and a bowl of soup.

At the 1 1/2 mile marker they had set up a water station. I slowed to grab a cup. My legs wobbled badly. And then the worst happened - I stopped running and walked. This is something I would never have done back in the days when I ALWAYS ran well under 30 minutes in every 5K and I NEVER walked for any reason. I walked for maybe 20-30 seconds, hoping to shake off the weakness in my legs. Hey, when I fartlek a 10 second walk gives me enough of a rest to blast into a much faster pace than I was currently running. Sure, I'd walk again at some point after that, only to sprint again afterwards, but I always had the strength and energy to keep doing it over and over again. 

Not this time. I started running again. My legs still felt like rubber. I ran and ran, but tried adjusting my pace to something a little slower. Maybe I just needed to ease up a bit and that'd fix the problem.

Nope. I had to stop and walk again after the 2 mile mark. And one more time after that. At the start of the 3rd mile I still had plenty of opportunity to kick it up and finish under 30 minutes. My brain knew this. But my legs weren't even going to pretend that this was a possibility. I ran the 3rd and final mile as fast as my wobbly Weeble-like legs would allow, and I even felt at the final stretch as if I might puke. But my speed was ... lacking.

As I crossed the finish line the clock over my head read 33 minutes and 20 seconds. It was an epic fail. One full year of injury-plagued training had gained me absolutely nothing in this race. I could have run this time without training at all. After I crossed the finish I felt as if my legs were going to literally crumble underneath me. I struggled not to fall to the pavement. This was ridiculous!

So now I have a question for anyone still reading this blog, anyone who just happened by, anyone who is a runner or any sort of athlete and has something resembling an educated opinion about this. I didn't sleep well the night before the race. And I didn't sleep well the night before that. I don't know if that mattered. But I do think that the hour and a half or so minutes that I spent standing and standing and oh-my-God more standing took a lot out of my legs. In fact, I think it turned my legs into blocks of useless wood. Whenever I have to spend hours shopping my legs and my lower back wear out, my bum knee swells, and I feel a powerful urge to go sit in a leather booth and drink something cold and mostly unhealthy. So what do you think? Does standing on your feet for over an hour without a break, prior to a race, take a lot out of your legs? Do you think this is what went wrong for me?

I wish there was a forum somewhere for people who ran this race to talk. If there were I'd ask them. But as I don't know of any, I'm asking you. Any opinions?

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Still Running

Yeah, I've been away awhile. It's been one hell of a winter, with ice storms and sleet and an up-down-up-down temperature shift that is making me insane. First it was 10 degrees. Then, that very weekend, it was 60 degrees. My trees started to bud. Then it was 10 again and a big sleet storm his, freezing everything under a layer of ice. Then it warmed up again and rained. Then it was 10 again and we had an ice storm, followed by some snow. This was 4 days ago. Today its 60 and raining cats and dogs. The ground is frozen and flooded. There are still piles of ice where people shoveled it and yet we're wearing short sleeve shirts today.

Weather like this reminds me of why I'm currently a big treadmill runner. Can you imagine how my running would be doing if I were trying to run outdoors in all of this?

OK, so I'm still running, but I'm still slower than Christmas. Yesterday it occurred to me why. When I was a little kid my parents gave me a purple spyderbike for Christmas. That same year, or maybe the next, my best friend and his younger sisters all received neon-colored spyderbikes. We all rode together everywhere. And where we lived was extremely hilly. I remember one hill in particular, a road named BeBe Ann, or however you spell it. It was a road I passed on my way to the swimming pool all the time. It was so steep that even cars seemed to avoid it. I would pedal as far up that hill as I could. When I couldn't make it I'd pedal until I was at a complete standstill, then turn the front wheel and roll back down. I did that every time I passed that street just to see how many tries it would take me to finally make it to the top. It ended up taking years. I was little and my legs were little, too. But I eventually made it. When I wasn't trying to ride up this hill I was riding everywhere else. My bike didn't have gears. It was just one speed and one gear and that was it. Anywhere I rode to required me to pedal as hard as it took to get there. Being a little kid I didn't think this was a big deal. And I had no idea that I was making my legs extremely strong.

When my elementary school decided to have impromptu foot races in PE class I wasn't surprised when I was one of the fastest kids in my grade. I was already playing basketball and soccer and running track for a church league so I knew I was fast. But I assumed it was something that ran in my family, something I had inherited. My sisters were all fast and they had said running was something we were all good at.

But my brother wasn't. And neither was my dad. And none of his sister's kids were good runners.

By the time I reached high school I was bicycling everywhere all the time. I joined the track team and was fast, even fast compared to all the other kids in my grade all across the state.

All these years later I haven't ridden bikes on a regular basis in a very long time. And when I do ride my legs wear out fast. They're weak. Just a few years ago I used to harassed a friend of mine for constantly complaining about his running not getting any faster. I advised him to do strength training - sprint work, hills, fartlek. He ignored me and just kept running further and further distances while avoiding several extremely good, steep hills right across from his own neighborhood. The first race we ran together I beat him despite not having worked out in years. It made him mad.

Endurance runner

A few years later and I'm living in a city with virtually no hills for me to run. I live in the country where there are no street lights. By the time I get home its dark, so bicycling is a bad idea. As I've written here, I've been running on a treadmill for quite awhile. At first it was just a way for me to get back into the habit while taking it slow and trying to avoid injuries. Instead I had a string of injuries, (probably the result of wearing shoes without any arch support) none of which helped me increase my strength or speed. Since then all I do is run the treadmill. And its boring. And I'm sick of running the same treadmill in the same room all winter long. So I've been treadmill-fartleking way more than I should. Its not really a good, hard workout the way I've been doing it. Its more of an excuse to stop and walk which I then justify by running faster than I otherwise would have in-between. But you can't fartlek every workout, and if you aren't really pushing it then you're just walking a lot when you should be running and working on a steady pace.

So, yesterday I didn't run the treadmill. Yesterday I did leg presses, as heavy as I could go without exploding my knees. This gym has no squat rack and that's a real shame. All it has are machines. So I pressed and pressed, knowing that my legs are going to hurt badly the next few days the way they should after a good leg workout. Then I did leg extensions and stiff-legged deadlifts. It wasn't a huge workout, but considering I haven't done any strength training in a long time I thought it was a good start. I need to do a lot more of this. Runners can't simply run and run some more and expect that this will be enough to improve their times, especially if you're running long distances. If you want to get faster, or even get back to where you used to be, you've got to build muscle. And that's what I need to do.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

It's 2015 already!

Happy new year and all that. If you're a Seahawk fan then you should be happy tonight. They just beat the Panthers. If you're a Patriots fan you're relieved. They had to come from behind to beat the Ravens at the very end of the game. So that just leaves the Cowboys vs the Packers and the Broncos vs the Colts. That's all tomorrow.

Oh, and let's not forget the Oregon vs Ohio State college championship game on Monday night. That's a big deal!

I'm a Cowboys fan. I have been since I was 10 years old, so at least I'm consistent. I can't recall the last time I saw a Cowboys team in the playoffs and not losing. Last week was the first time in a long time. I'll be honest with you guys, I didn't watch their playoff game against Detroit. I just couldn't do it. I hadn't seen Dallas beat Detroit since Megatron joined the team. I believe Megatron's real name is Calvin Johnson or something like that, but everyone just calls him Megatron. He's a giant and for several years Dallas had no corner or safety tall enough or skilled enough to stop him. I left the game playing on the TV and went upstairs to watch Lord of the Rings. I had just seen The Hobbit 3 and wanted to rewatch all the Lord of the Rings movies now that I had finally seen the entire first book in movie form. I came downstairs just in time to see Erin Andrews interviewing Tony Romo and asking him about how it feels to finally win his first playoff game.

Tomorrow is the big day, the Cowboys vs Packers in Green Bay, Wisconsin day. Its expected to be COLD and the stadium is an outdoor stadium. That's bad for Dallas. But Aaron Rodgers has a tear in his left calf which somewhat limits his mobility. Just how important that is remains to be seen. But that's bad for Green Bay.

OK, well, it's 2015 and I'm still posting to my blog despite the fact that roughly 3/4s of the blogs in my blogroll haven't posted in months, some in over a year. I'm late to the party, obviously, but I'm still here. Don't give up on me.

Very popular sideline reporter Erin Andrews