There have been a few different topics floating around in my head about what to write about this week—life, social media, books, etc.
That is, if I even wrote about any of those and actually pushed “publish.”
Then I ran across this video and that sent me off on this tangent.
If you’ve been following this blog this winter, you know that Goddess and I have been doing a fair bit of snowboarding.
One common theme that we’ve run across, regardless of the mountain, the state, or the country in which we’ve ridden this winter is that the mountains are full of young retired folk. The gentleman in the video is a spry 62 year old. This winter I’ve been schooled in the deeps, down the steeps, and through the trees by an even more spry gentleman in his 70’s; he said that he’d get in over 100 days of skiing this season, which means he’s on a mountain almost every day.
And, as Goddess exclaimed on a recent glorious powder day as a group was chasing each other through the trees and down the steeps—”Listen to them! They all sound like a bunch of teenagers!”
That’s the goal.
We’ve got a few weeks left yet to enjoy the slopes and try to keep up with them.
After the lifts close next month, we’ll head into the backcountry and chase the dwindling runs. But that means more effort and knowledge than is required at a resort. Here’s Goddess checking the snowpack stability last week:
That was her first time in a pit, putting finger and thoughts to what we’ve been discussing this winter. It’s amazing how fast a season’s worth of talk and reading can be solidified in just an hour or two.
She found that with the spring conditions that we’ve had over the past 10 days or so, the snow pack had stabilized quite nicely. It took a lot of effort to finally get an isolated column of snow to break loose and slide into the pit.
But that was last Wednesday.
With 20″+ of new snow over the weekend, that stable base is now covered with fresh, loose snow, perhaps unstable. So that means we’ll stick to the inbound runs this week.
Hopefully you can find the time to put a smile on your face this week, too.
Perhaps even act like a teenager (if you aren’t one).
Yep, more snowboarding stories and pictures on this Monday. Hey, it’s what we do this time of year.
Last week saw us take a day trip over to Lookout Pass Ski, a small resort that sits right on the Idaho/Montana state line. That makes it sound far, but it’s really only an extra 45 minutes of driving each way, compared to our normal drive.
We had never been to Lookout. Our nearcay to Schweitzer the previous week kicked our exploration gears into drive. Plus, it helps to know when and where the deals are, something we weren’t quite up to speed on last winter.
This winter, I am definitely more dialed in on local conditions, which keyed us into Lookout during a weekday after they had received 5″+ of fresh powder, and more forecast during the day. The conditions were great, both on- and off-piste (trail). That’s important, as Goddess can enjoy good conditions on trail while I tear off through the trees or the steeps and we can meet up again further down the mountain.
Here’s a great example, with Goddess in the run. I head off into the trees to the left, keeping pace with her, or, if I get ahead, I can pop out, see how she’s doing, then pop back in. The best part is that we get to share the lift rides back up together.
Another bonus is that she can hear my hoots and hollers and know that I am safe. Unfortunately, that also means that she can hear the “Ow!” when I find myself in a tighter-than-expected spot and smack a hand against a tree.
Yes mom, I wear a helmet.
Goddess does shake her head, especially when I look down at this and get excited. I love chasing the spaces, especially as they come fast and I have to see and think 2-3 turns ahead. It’s a great mental and physical exercise. I mean, just look at all of those potential spaces and lines!
So much fun!
Plus, with the softer powder, it’s safer to nudge Goddess out of her comfort zone, watching her link turns down steeper runs than she would normally do. And it’s that powder that gives this post its name-cold smoke.
Once we get over towards Montana, the snowfall is more influenced by the cold, dry Arctic air out of Canada. Here in Washington, our snow is heavier and wetter, as the storms come off the northeast Pacific Ocean. Even though Lookout isn’t that far away, the differences are significant. Locally, the snow is good for building snowmen or snowballs, while at Lookout it would pour through the fingers like sand.
So with just 5″+ of much lighter snow, it was easy to lose visibility with a hard turn as the displaced snow—the cold smoke—flew up in my face. So there aren’t any other pictures from that day. We were having too much fun!
But the next day, I got some evening boarding in, back local in the heavier snow, which is still a heck of a lot of fun.
I do love the twilight view up there, especially as more snow was falling.
Hopefully you’re able to get out enjoy this rapidly retreating winter. We’re having a warm-up here, so we won’t be boarding this week, hoping for some fresh fluff with next weekend’s cool-down.
That means that next Monday won’t be a snowboarding post.
But that’s not a race. Although there was some racing. Mainly me trying to catch up to the pack every time the road moved off of level or we hit a secteur pavé.
Although I could leave the fellas scattered by the wayside once I got the diesel engine wound up and started the sprint from a kilometer out.
And while that’s all great, great fun, it’s not an organized race.
And the reality was, as I posted in February of last year, I was athletically rudderless, not really interested in pursuing a specific athletic goal. Mainly because most of the ones that interest me take so much time away from Goddess. In case you hadn’t noticed, I’m quite keen on the Goddess. That means I am quite protective of my time with her, so I wasn’t wild about the 4-6 hour (or more) weekend training days that marathons, ultra-marathons or grand bike tours require.
So I just kept an unfocused training regimen, focused on having fun and staying fit, while not demanding too much time from Goddess. And I kept a thought in the back of my mind, which I did verbalize to a few folks, that I wanted to remain fit enough that I could fake my way through a half, whether that be a half-marathon or a half-Ironman triathlon.
That brings us to today.
On a lark a couple of months back, I signed up for the Heidelberg Half Marathon. It was to be interesting, since I had no plans to specifically train for the race, just rely on my fitness and see how it worked out, since my training at the time was focused on a grand bike tour. Plus, considering that I have not run greater than seven miles in the past two years, save for one other lark of a 14-miler that involved running straight up the side of the Alps, then back down, running 13.1 miles was going to be a stretch. Especially this one, with some pretty steep sections and 3,400′ of cumulative climbing.
I was going to have to rely on the diesel engine and hope that the suspension held up.
Here’s the race map, overlaid on terrain:
That gives you an idea of the terrain. But it doesn’t tell the truth like the profile does:
Like I said, this was a lark. In the previous week, I had run three times, including a fairly fast 1.5 miles for my fitness test. Before that, I had not run in a month, thanks to a combination of things. I had injured myself playing frisbee, which halted any running. Then I went on the grand bike tour and didn’t have time to. Then I got back and came down with some crud that kept me down for over a week.
And that led into this week. Monday was a slow 5-miler to make sure everything still worked properly. Wednesday was a hill run which included the same set of stairs in PR; this time I set a new PR and ran up the entire set of stairs without stopping, although the pace was decidedly slower than 9:35. Then on Friday was my PT test, so basically it was a short race.
In short, I didn’t train for this half-marathon, nor did I taper.
I was walking into it cold.
When I signed up, I took a stab at a finishing time and selected two hours. I based that on the terrain and hope. Unfortunately, hope is not a technique.
I seeded myself appropriately in my corral (#4 of 4), towards the back. I cracked jokes with a few first-timers that I’m surprised we weren’t surrounded by people with walkers, complete with tennis balls. We were only there a few minutes, then the gun went off for our group (some 850 people). It was time to settle into a comfortable pace and see how the day worked out.
It wasn’t long before I was passing people. That turned out to be the theme of the day. I started out near the back of the 3,445 that finished and I finished 1,416 overall. The math is simple – I passed over 2,000 people in 13.1 miles. On this course.
Luckily a good portion of this run is on familiar ground, with the first large hill being part of our normal Monday run. So I knew what to expect. However, the course splits from where we normally head back down to the valley and continues upstream, then crosses further up than I am familiar with. Then heads straight up the other side so that we can loop behind the Heidelberg Castle. So after the midway point, it was all new territory. And that kept my effort in check.
The only spots I walked were the water points. No sense in trying to run and drink, instead sloshing water all over myself. Although plenty of people did and gained nothing from it. I did find it interesting that so many thought that they were saving time, although they had to slow down so much to prevent the sloshing that they might as well have been walking.
The flats were OK. The uphills were great, probably because that’s where I passed huge chunks of people each time. At one point, in the closing miles, we were climbing a series of cobbled switchbacks that were steeper than 20% grade and I had a flashback to the grand bike tour. And the downhills were fun, cruising past many folks who just weren’t comfortable with letting go. I was amazed at how many were walking the gradual downhills, even only halfway through the race.
As you can tell, I had a great time.
But there was one significant annoyance, for which I’m partially at fault. The race is capped at 3,500 registered participants, mainly due to the narrow streets in Heidelberg as well as the narrow trails through the forest. My fault was ignorantly seeding myself way at the back. The annoyance were the many, many, many runners who could not hold their line while running, instead darting side to side even though they gained nothing from the maneuver. I spent more time than I cared guiding people with my forearm, especially when their erratic movement threatened to push me off the trail and down the hill or into a ditch. Or gently guiding someone forward who would dart into an open spot, but not overtake the people around him, while many of us were flying downhill at a much greater pace than they were. But once we got past that section (and ran straight up a wall), the crowds were all but torn apart and the running became smoother.
My piriformis started talking to me at about the eight mile mark, but nothing more than a gentle reminder that I was abusing them. In the closing miles, my calves started twinging, telling me that they were close to cramping up. I’ve been there before, so knew how hard I could push it, keeping right at that point where they would twinge, but nothing more. In the last half mile, a time where I’m usually flying past other runners, I didn’t. But none caught and passed me either.
So the time?
Without training for it.
Just keeping myself fit with a good mix of high intensity and endurance training, mainly on the bike. And that time fit nicely within the cluster of times for the half-marathons that I trained specifically for.
The trick will be seeing how I walk on Tuesday morning.
This weekend, watching the young men and women compete in their high school cross country championships brought back many great memories. And certainly got the legs twitching, wanting to jump out there and join them.
I’m sure I could have held my own.
Today, flying through the forest, racing against only myself. Dodging branches, wondering if roots were hidden under the fresh carpet of fallen leaves, wondering if it’d all come to a crashing halt with a twisted ankle or busted knee.
But not spending too much time focusing on negative thoughts.
Relishing the burning of the lungs, the burning of the legs.
Reaching the next cross road, then turning to jog along it for a recovery stretch.
Not knowing when the next cross trail is going to appear, forcing a turn and bringing the searing lungs and legs back.
And it’s a shame that you can’t see the full sized copy of this image. The sharpness of dirt being thrown up around those feet is pretty amazing.
Well, life’s mapping out the coming year. It will be another year without triathlon.
About a week after Son graduates, Goddess and I will pack up the house and move again. This time we’re off to Germany for a few years (whoo hoo!). That will take a huge chunk out of the summer, which negates any meaningful triathlon training/racing.
Over the past few weeks I’ve jealously watched everyone fleshing out their 2009 triathlon calendar. No such planning for me. Instead I’ll keep the run focus going.
So I’m sitting here this evening, enjoying a few very dark beers that are sliding down a bit easier than they should. Goddess, fresh off a new 5K PR this morning (YAY Goddess!), is egging me on by reading through the Runner’s World’s 2009 Marathon Calendar and tossing out suggestions. Very helpful suggestions, better described as schemes. For example, Luxor (Egypt), the Great Wall, Belgium, Iceland, Athens and Switzerland.
Even a few in the states, while doable, would really throw a wrench in the moving works. But of that list above, Switzerland may be doable. We’ll see.
So while she’s sitting over there giggling and throwing out locations, I’ve come up with a couple that I’ll consider in the coming days. Once I decide for sure, I’ll post them to the left.
As of right now, I’m considering a 60K (37.2mi) trail run and two marathons, both of which will be held on adjacent weekends. And the beauty is that all are a short enough drive from here that we could sleep in our own bed before and after.
So running it will be. Now I’ve just got to make it through the year without any glute issues.
Ok, maybe not all 13.1 miles, but a good chunk of them.
This morning was the Tom King 1/2 Marathon in Nashville. As forecast, we got there just in time for the thunderstorms to roll in. At 7am, in a driving rain and occasional clap of thunder, Goddess started her very first 5K, which she smoked with a 39:24!
While she was running, I warmed up under the overhang of LP Field, which is where the Tennessee Titans play. I’m not a football fan, so I won’t insert any comments about whether they play or not. If you do, I’ll shrug, since it doesn’t mean anything to me.
Lots of warming up, lots of stretching, then a run inside the stadium to watch her finish. For both races, the finish line was on the east side 50-yard line, after entering the stadium on the northwest corner and then running the perimeter of the field. Quite a unique finish, with everyone’s sprint displayed on the Jumbotron. Here’s the view, with the final turn before the final 50 yards:
So at 8am we started the 1/2 marathon. A nasty start at that -> 48F, pouring rain and a good flash of lighting right before the gun went off, with the course turning into a 5-10mph wind after the first 1/2 mile. Good stuff! Starting off at a very comfortable 8:18 pace, I was right where I wanted to be, slowly warming up and then picking up the pace for a 1:45 finish, which needed a 8:00 average pace to pull off. That’s a pace I’m comfortable with for 10 miles on training runs, so I knew I’d have to push it a bit to go the full 13.1. But it’s a race, so isn’t that the idea?
I typically take several miles to warm up, often not feeling supple and smooth until the 5-6 mile range. Well, that never happened. For the next 10 miles, my average pace dropped a very even 5 seconds per mile, then I flattened out at a 9:02 average pace for the last 2.1 miles. I just never warmed up.
Before the start, I made the decision not to wear a jacket, since I heat up so quickly. So I was wearing an UnderArmour compression shirt under a long-sleeve technical running shirt. That wasn’t a bad decision, since I was pushing the arms up after mile 9 and was quite warm above the waist. Below the waist was where the train wreck occurred.
Down there I was wearing UnderArmour compression shorts under a pair of Nike running shorts. The quads were half-covered, but apparently not enough. I chose not to wear tights since I do heat up so quick; plus I didn’t want to deal with them soaking up water and making my legs heavier than my soaked shoes and socks (layered Injinji and Thorlo) would be.
For the first 8 miles, I wasn’t uncomfortable, but the legs were giving what they could (cue Scotty – “I’m giving it all I can, Captain”). At 8.1 miles, the fun began. The knee pain that cut short my run last Sunday reappeared. Luckily it wasn’t the stabbing pain that it was on Sunday, just an ache. Something to keep an eye on, so I pressed forward. Another mile or so down the path and I could feel both of my hamstrings start to tighten. Again, nothing significant, just something to keep an eye on. During these miles, my average pace was only dropping about 2 seconds/mile, so it wasn’t any significant discomfort.
As soon as the ache went away in my right knee, my left ITB started tightening up, which pulled on my left glute and made for a fun couple of strides. As fast as it appeared, it disappeared. And that’s when the right ITB pulled the same stunt. I tell you, I had a stinkin’ Rolodex of pains going on. The legs just spun the wheel and pulled whatever card showed. Fargin’ Bastages!
Like I said earlier, the goal was 1:45. Well, that slipped away. So I then hoped for a PR of faster than 1:49:38, which I set last October. That slipped away, so then I hoped to beat my January time of 1:55:46. Well, that slipped away, too. So then it was all out to come in under 2 hours. The trick was that I wasn’t sure what my time was. My Garmin turned off for about three-tenths of a mile between 9.5 and 10 miles, probably when I was pushing my sleeves up.
I snuck it in at 1:59:44. 60 of 91 in my A/G; 480 of 939 O/A. Here’s Goddess’ capture of me just yards out of the finish chute:
Afterwards I told Goddess that I was going to change my tagline of “Races are a celebration of me being fit” to “Races are proof I’m too stupid to give up“. Quite a bit of frustration there, especially since I’ve been very diligent about stretching, especially my glutes, on a daily basis. But as the day wore on, my normal over-analysis of every run made me realize that I just never warmed up during the race, even though I did a warm up and headed out at a good clip.
The Good –
– My Injinji. After first wearing them at my marathon last month and coming out completely unscathed, meaning absolutely no blisters at all, I bought another pair. Since my foot moved around so much during the marathon, I used the Injinji as a liner inside my Thorlos. Even with completely soaked feet, not so much as a hint of a blister today. Those socks ROCK!
– The fine gentlemen at the turn around point @ 6.21 miles. Runner’s choice of Michelob Ultra or Amber Bock. The bock for me, thank you. And since it was just an ounce or so, it didn’t impact my run. But it sure tasted good, even though it wasn’t even 9am yet.
The Bad –
Did you not just read my post above?
The Ugly –
– Not a single thing. Even the weather really wasn’t that bad. I don’t mind running in a driving rain. I just wish I had warmed up.
I’ll keep stretching and rolling and hopefully I’ll loosen up for the Country Music Marathon next month. But I’m not betting on it.