29 March 2011

Nearly there

"Are we there yet?" That's what Kathryn and I wanted to know this past Friday when after 3 hours we weren't home yet. 18 miles is a long way to run (but we'll do one longer before race day), but it's a lot nicer to run together than alone.

Speaking from experience. Looking over last year's training log, I see that my last 3 long runs were solo: 16, 18, 21. All of them in the Morton Arboretum, and I think all of them cold. Coach Rich set me up well earlier by introducing me to those roads, pacing me, and encouraging me through some dumb mistakes.

This year it has been great to get nearly all the long runs in with Kathryn. We will run the Big Sur course together, so why not train together? It isn't convenient, living about 25 miles apart as we do. But she's a good sport to come out on the weekend, and we try to keep our time flexible, convenient, and fun.

She had a foot injury - probably resulting from the 14 miler we did on our last outing together. She missed her 16, which I did alone on the Prairie Path a two weeks ago today. But as of this past weekend, the foot was back intact, and she had some catching up to do. We decided to scale back the pace quite a bit (which, now I think of it, might have been prudent on our 14-miler). Understand me now - I really enjoyed running this slow!

Last year even my longest training runs came in at just under 9-minute miles. So Kathryn's proposed 11-minute miles struck me as ... I don't know, pokey? Kathryn, you know I love you, right? But once we settled into the pace, I have to say it was downright enjoyable. She was good at not letting me push our pace, and that helped me just relax and enjoy.

We started late morning, because it was yet another cold overcast late March day. [Insert grr here] We thought we'd have sunshine before we were done, but knew it wouldn't warm up. And it didn't warm up; but the sun came out within minutes of our start, so we had a nice, long, slow run in the sun. Our route was the Illinois Prairie Path - again, deferring to the recovering foot we were staying off the hills we should be training on. Closed out of the western leg due to tree removal crews, we turned back east and enjoyed the run through Wheaton into Glen Ellyn, then back to Winfield and through the Hawthorne Woods subdivision of West Chicago.

This week is scaled back, and next week is our longest training run - 21 miles. We will hit the hills this week, and see about the 21. Kathryn has demonstrated that she is ready to go the distance. She just has to believe that she can, relax and enjoy. I'll try to help with that, by learning to enjoy her pace!

14 March 2011

A spectacular tumble in paradise

Week Eleven of marathon training passed largely in Southern California.

The day before departure, Kathryn and I ran 15 miles in the Morton Arboretum. Coach Rich introduced me to the Arboretum last winter, and there he paced me through my first hills. We ran in snow and rain. There last spring I did my last long training runs, alone; the last one - 21 miles - in full sunshine with the Arboretum just coming into bloom and flower. It was about time to introduce Kathryn to the Arboretum. And true to my own introduction, she got a long, hilly, rainy run in.

The next morning, Saturday, my Karen and I boarded a plane at 30 degrees and walked off four hours later in sunny LA, 60+ degrees. Spring break! Spring vacation! We were greeted by long time friends John and Kathy Josselyn, who gave us a great tour of their world and put us up in their lovely California home. Out their front windows there looms a high ridge, part of Wildwood Park in Thousand Oaks. Sunday after church we took a long leisurely hike there (but not up to the ridge!), and I knew where I would be doing my easy Monday morning jog!

Saying nothing here about all the great places we were taken, the beauties of coastal California and the framing mountains, of Sunday morning worship, and brunch right on the rocky beach at Malibu. Delightful company, delightful sight seeing.

We were to have rain on Monday, so I was pretty sure my run would be on streets. It did rain, a slow, soaking rain, Sunday night. Monday dawned bright and clear, and I decided I would, after all, hit the trail in Wildwood. It is not a gravel trail; it is not crushed limestone. It really is, um, dirt. Which clung to the soles of my new Brooks shoes ... and so I guess aided the workout factor, as I had more weight to move along with each step. The hills were definitely "not Chicago" but also not overwhelming. And it was great to get in a run so utterly unlike what I would have at home on any given Monday morning.

Two days later, my Karen and I woke up in the Montecito Inn, Santa Monica. (Again, to say nothing here of our beautiful run out through Ojai and Solvang, etc.) This was to be a lighter week all around, according to the training plan; and uncertain, to honor the idea of vacationing together. So, with permission, I set out toward Butterfly Beach (a walk of maybe 5 minutes) for a prospective 40-45 minutes run.I have never run on sand, not run run anyway, and didn't think this would be the morning to begin. A possible destination - Stearns Wharf - was 3.5 miles from the hotel ... farther than my promised time allowed, longer than the training program required, and tantalizingly close ... and to get there off the beach would give me a pretty sizable hill. Off I took.

The hill route took me by the entrance to the Music Academy of the West (nice surprise, that) and the Santa Monica Cemetery, back down to beach level and a nice long running/cycling path parallel to the shoreline. At 20 minutes out, it looked like the Wharf might not extend the run too long. At 25 minutes, I promised myself I would turn around at 30 if I hadn't reached the Wharf. At 28 minutes, there I was, I walked a small circle at the street end of the pier, and headed back to the hotel.

There's this parking lot on the way. The path empties into it, and if the sidewalk were not under construction, one could take that around the lot. I approached the decision point - a public changing room bath house - scanning for options, slowing but not much. I entered the shade of the bath house ... and failed to notice the small change in surface height. A spectacular tumble! I went down on my left side, scraping the heels of both hands, my left calf, and rolling on my left shoulder.Of course someone was sitting right there to see it all. "Man, are you OK?" he asked? Yes, I think so, said I, getting up. "I usually do that on a bike, not on a run!" I told the guy, sitting there with his own bike. "You sure?" Yep, thanks. He sent me on the way with this cheery thought, "You know, you're not getting any younger!"

I was OK, and now I have the calf abrasions as a mark of this year's training. I got back to the hotel with a total run time of 56 minutes, a pace just over 8 minutes per mile (including the tumble!), and hotter than with any run so far in this training period.

To run in paradise, mid-way through this adventure, was sheer joy. Even if I had to pay for it with runners road rash, I wouldn't have missed it!