Wednesday, January 1, 2014

19-miler to Finish 35k Training. BOOM!

Ready or Not...
Days 'Til 35k-10
Days 'Til Marathon- 72

Today's Location- Pocahontas State Park
Trails- Fendley Station, Beaver Lake
Distance- 18.7 miles
Average Pace- 10:30 min/mile

What I Know

1. The Willis River 35k is next Saturday @ Bear Creek Lake State Park.

2. 35 kilometers = 21.75 miles.

3. I'm signed up for this race.

4. I've never run that far.

5. I'm ready anyway (let's think positive).

I've never gone into a race without at least attempting the distance prior to race-day. Today, I ran my longest distance to date, a pretty successful (almost) 19-miler at my favorite spot, Pocahontas. With just 11 days until the 35k, its time to start tapering and resting, whether I'm ready or not. Even though I feel less prepared for this run than I've ever felt for any other race, I do feel confident that I'll complete the distance (hopefully, in one piece and still least on the inside).

The holiday season proved to be a difficult time for training; the extra food and booze hasn't helped too much; combine that with the crazy weather, family obligations and shorter days and you've got a tricky training schedule. I'm assuming (hoping) that the other trail runners out there next weekend are as "slightly unprepared," as I am. I'm crossing my fingers that I'll be able to halfway keep up with someone, greatly improving my chances of not missing a turn and getting lost in the wilds of Cumberland County with the backwoods crazies.
Not only did I go out for my longest trek ever today, I decided to take along my new gear (running toy), a Nathan Trail Mix2 fuel belt. In the past, I've run with my Camelbak, which I've had for years and just recently decided to replace. I've found that the Camelbak (mine is a "Minimule") is great for hiking and for 5-8 mile runs with the dogs, but it isn't ideal for longer distances. There is no accessibility to anything inside the pack unless you remove it. This is a total pain in the booty when trying to run and to keep up a respectable pace. Stopping to take off the pack, get whatever I need from the inside, readjusting and putting the pack back get my drift. Ob-NOX-ious. The lack of accessibility isn't a big deal on shorter runs when I don't need any chews/gels, etc, or when I'm running with the dogs and time isn't a concern. But, when I'm solo and in "training mode," this method isn't exactly time-efficient.

I'll add that Camelbak does make other models that would suit my needs more efficiently than my MiniMule (which is actually a youth pack), but I've been curious about the belt (fannypack?) style for hydration systems, and chose the Nathan belt based on online reviews (stellar) and price point ($45). The model I chose has 2 10oz bottles and a nice, roomy pocket for my phone, gels, key and chap-stick.

My route today began at my usual spot on Fendley Station, heading out from the Qualla Rd parking lot. I took Fendley to Beaver Lake, took a quick spin around that nice little 2.6 mile loop, then headed back to Fendley for an out & back to the Swift Creek Dam. My calculations told me this trek would total about 19 miles, a nice number for my last long run before the 35k.

Well, even though I ended up loving my new belt, it took (admittedly) 4 miles to get it adjusted correctly. I had a hard time figuring out exactly where around my waist I was supposed to position the belt; put it too low and the bottles were jumping all over my butt cheeks; too high and it felt weird on my stomach. There was a lot of stopping/adjusting/cursing in that first stretch, but finally (4 miles later), I was comfy and the belt felt great. I shed my light jacket that I should have left in the car to begin with, stashing it behind a tree and planning on grabbing it at the end of my run. Finally, I was into a nice rhythm, my belt was situated and I had on the correct amount of layers. 4 miles down, 15 to go. Let's do this. 

Miles 5-11 were along a great stretch of trail leading down the the Swift Creek Dam. Its mostly dirt/hard-packed gravel, pretty flat and very pretty, especially near the dam. Because trying out a new hydration system wasn't enough of an adjustment for the day, I decided to try a gel "fuel" for the first time in a long while. I typically use Power Bar Gel Blast Chews (Raspberry = YUM); today I took those along with a couple of PowerBar gels as well. I'm sorry, but those things are gross. I had the berry flavor and while the actual taste wasn't bad, the gooey-oooey texture of it was SO yucky. I've heard they just take a little getting used to, so I haven't ruled them out completely as an option for the 35k or Marathon, but I'm definitely not stocking up on them, either. Just thinking about them now is giving me the heeby-jeebies. BUT, I will say, I do think that once (painfully) swallowed, the PowerBar gel did give me a little boost.

Around mile 11, I hit the turn-a-round spot at the Dam, gagged on my PowerBar gel and headed back up the the trail, 8 miles to go. 

I've noticed that as I've added to my mileage, little tweaks have popped up unexpectedly. About a month ago, I developed whats called a Morton's Neuroma, or inflamed/aggravated nerve between the 3rd and 4th  toes on my right foot. After dealing with escalating pain and discomfort, I ended up buying new shoes (one size bigger), and that problem has since pretty much been resolved. I love my Brooks Ravenna 4 trail shoes; they are perfect!
As long as my tootsies have plenty of room to wiggle and aren't crowded, I'm good to go. But, if it isn't one thing, its another....

About 12 miles into today's run, I feel a weird twinging in my left arm, starting under my armpit and going all the way down my arm, into my thumb. What the hell? It feels almost like a pinched nerve, but more annoying than super painful. My thumb feels weak and a little numb. I adjust my stride, keeping my arms more straightened out so that the blood flow isn't restricted. I check my posture and continue flexing my hand, wiggling my fingers and demanding the obnoxious pinching feeling to go away. Finally it did (take that, weird tweaky feeling), and left me wondering if I have Carpel Tunnel or some rare life threatening arm disease.

I was so busy trying to self diagnose my arm twitch and readjusting my stride that I didn't realize that my homegirl on MapMyRun hadn't beeped in to tell me I'd gone another mile. I'm a big fan of the Free MapMyRun app. It keeps track of your distance, pace and location. Its usually pretty accurate and the GPS strength is typically dependable. I've never had it cut off mid-run or lose signal. Until today. I yank out my phone, and sure enough, the app is frozen. Great. I get it rebooted; luckily it kept track of my time and I'm able to pick up where I left off. Trouble is, it lost signal for about a mile and a half, resulting in inaccurate total mileage for the day. If this was a service I was paying for, I'd be a little ticked. But its free, so Eh, good enough. Since most of the run was an out & back, I was able to estimate my distance pretty accurately anyway.

My friendly MapMyRun lady is back online and pipes up to tell me that I've gone 17 miles. Woah, I think. Maybe I really can do this. I'm amazed by how great my body feels, over 3 hours and 17 miles into this run. Before I know it, I'm turning the corner where I know I'll hit the 18 mile mark. Oh yeah, let me grab my jacket. I dart over to the tree where I left my inexpensive but beloved little black zip-up. Its gone. What the flip?! Who sees a jacket placed neatly by a tree and thinks, Yep, I'm gonna take that. Friggin jerks, all ya'll! After a quick mental "goodbye" to the $12 Wal-Mart running jacket I've had for years, I jump back on the trail, ready to finish strong, eyes peeled for a little jerk wearing my blasted jacket.

At almost 19 miles, my run comes to a close. My big bottle of Chocolate Milk awaits my return to the car, following a nice long stretch and a little happy-dance. I'm dancing because I just ran almost 19 miles and still can dance. I'm dancing because the 35k is next weekend and I'm ready. I'm dancing because Jessie J is on my iPhone and I can't help myself. My JESSIE J JAM

Here's what my Mom's face (probably) looked like when I told her about today's run....

You ran HOW far?!
What a great way to finish 2013. Cheers!