Friday, March 30, 2012

The Road to Athens, Well, Actually, Just a Road in Athens, But, You Know

Ran the same 7+mile loop yesterday -- I'm gonna call it the Cable Lane loop from now on. Ran it in the opposite direction than I normally run, which means that I got to apply the Jackson Principle -- uphill first. On the other hand, because the bike trail is below us, I still got to end on an uphill.

I decided to run at what I'm guessing is my half-marathon pace, something close to 8:30 miles, and add in some half-mile repeats where possible. For the first (25:05) minutes, it was mostly guess work, but then, on the bike trail, I had half-mile markers to help me. At which point, I ran (3:34), (4:03), (3:42), (4:25 (water fountain)), (3:37), (4:07), and (3:36) -- then (7:54) uphill to home. Total: 1:00.07. I wanted to get in under an hour, and I would have gotten away with it, too, if it hadn't been for that meddling water fountain.

At any rate, I'll know more about my half-marathon pace by this time Sunday after I run my first Athens Half Marathon. I'll take it mostly short and easy today and tomorrow. On Sunday, I hope to finish the 13.1 mile race. I suppose a high-end goal would be (1:45.00), which is close to an 8:00-minute pace. If I do that, I suppose, my next goal will be to take down Ryan Hall's American record (59:43). So if anybody out there knows Ryan Hall, tell him to kiss his record bye-bye.

I might have to up my mileage, improve my diet, and grow a few more legs, but we'll see.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Lancaster IV

Hadn't realized how long it's been since I ran my .4 mile repeats on Lancaster Road. Hmmmm. Well, I've been injured. What can I say?

March 27: Times: (2:57), (3:06), (3:10), (3:05), (3:02), (3:01), (3:07), (2:59). Average: (3:04). Mean*: (3:04) +/-7.

January 16: Times: (3:14), (2:57), (3:01), (2:53), (2:57), (2:51), (3:00), (2:52). Average: (2:58). Mean: (3:02) +/-12.

January 09: Times: (3:04), (3:11), (3:12), (3:03), (3:03), (2:57), (2:58), (2:59). Average: (3:03). Mean: (3:05) +/-8.

December 19: Times: (2:59), (3:09), (3:11), (3:00), (3:10), (3:00), (3:06), (2:57). Average: (3:02). Mean (3:05) +/-6.

Had a hell of a hard time finding a pace today. Seems like quite a while since I ran up that hill with the intention to run repeats. It felt good, but I couldn't find a comfortable speed.

It might take a few more of these workouts to get back into my previous hill condition -- at this point, I think a good goal would be to hit a (2:55) mean +/- 5, (2:55) average.

I don't have much else to say about it just now, except that I'm looking forward to the next Lancaster run.

Some days it's harder to get back into blogging than running.

* It also occurs to me at this moment that I might not know how to use the word "mean" appropriately.

10-Day Post

Phwew, what a week. I've been researching in Pennsylvania and have found myself somehow too busy to update this and all other blogs. The good news is: I've been running.

Friday (03.16): I ran my varsity cross country course, something I haven't done for fifteen years or more. What a course! Back me up on this everybody who ran cross country in Western Pa: one of the best courses in the state. Hills, open spaces, one long stretch, hills, hills, hills.

For instance:

This is the one long stretch I mentioned: we called it the flats. In retrospect, every workout was a hill workout growing up in this place.

But before we get to the flats, we had to share elbows and snot with three hundred other runners up this hill, the beginning of the course:

Up the gravel, through the pines, past the pavilion at the top of the hill -- it might have been half a mile to the flats, but it often felt like five.

I was never a good runner. I was above average. But in the mid-nineties, I'm pretty sure everybody running cross country was above average. My best time on our course was 16:30 (2.9 miles, a very fast course, considering the standard 3.1). I would have considered myself good at 16:15 or better, and my senior year, we had three great runners on my team, all running sub 16:00 -- it was always awesome to watch the three of them for the first quarter mile . . . also, to see them finishing post-race meals as I crossed the finish line.

Speaking of which:

Here's a picture from the pavilion up top back to the start / finish line. At this point, we've been running down hill for nearly a mile, and here's the final stretch -- fastest finish, I'd imagine you'll ever run.

I ran the course today in 22:35 -- not quite my own course record, nor was I pushing particularly hard, though I did feel like a kid again down that last stretch.

When I was in school the course record was 14:10. 14:10! It was held by Mike McWilliams of Grove City and Amy Rudolph of Kane, whose time I don't remember. Anyway, I only have to take nine minutes off my time, and I'll be back in business.

*     *     *

Saturday (3.17): I met with my famed chiropractor Dr. Stick this morning. I told him that my back had been hurting for some time. He said, "Now, the back is the part you can't see, right? The front is the part that's in the mirror? I always get those two switched."

I said, "I seem to be having some problems with my sciatica, maybe my fourth lumbar. Any advice?"

He said, "Have you been running?"

I said, "Yes."

He said, "Well, I'm stumped. Have you tried running farther?"

So he and I went for a 12-mile run through the "Valley That Changed the World." We either ran it in 1:43:18 or 1:48:13 -- I wrote it down, but can't remember. During the run, he wisely distracted me from my back issues by talking about high school basketball. Sometimes I forget how awesome I was when I'm alone, but Dr. Stick reminded me of how great we were, or how close to greatness we were. Almost certainly, if it weren't for one or two minor details (particularly, our height and our ability) we would certainly have won just about every state championship during the early 1990s. What fun!

We talked running and local politics and oil and industry and of course made slight mention of how sad all of the high school girls, who never dated us, must be now that we are both spoken for. Long story short: my back felt much better. More great healing. Thanks, Dr. Stick!

*     *     *

Sunday (3.18): Okay, normally I take the day after a long run off, but I felt great, and went out for a few miles. I ran 24:15 out, but remembered that I told my spouse I'd be back in 40:00, so I ran like hell to get home in 18:30.

*     *     *

Monday (3.19): Ran with my girls. Well, the big one ran, the little one biked, along the Rails to Trails. Three miles (40:00 minutes).

*     *     *

Tuesday (3.20): Had another appointment with Dr. Stick today. We ran 5 quarter-mile hill repeats at about 1:50 per. The run was great -- beautiful late winter PA weather -- a great time and place to sprint.

This will be my last appointment with Dr. Stick until Saturday 20 May when we'll meet in Cleveland for my first marathon.

*     *     *

Wednesday (3.21): My spouse dropped me off on the way to the camp. Ran seven miles at what I would call a 9:00 minute pace. No mile markers for the first three miles (28:45). But then I ran half miles at 4:30, 4:22, 4:26, 4:28, and the final two miles at 8:41 and 8:58. Plus an extra little kick at the end for a total of 1:05:45. Another lovely run along the Allegheny River Rails To Trails.

*     *     *

Thursday: Dr. Stick told me about a workout that I might enjoy for my back. He said he recently ran 8X800 meters, shooting for 3:20 for each repeat. I decided to try this today.

After a ~two-mile warm up (20:00), I found a track. Here's my times:

Lap 1                 Lap 2                800 meters
1:34                   1:39                  3:14
1:42                   1:38                  3:21
1:42                   1:40                  3:23
1:44                   1:36                  3:21
1:38                   1:36                  3:15
1:36                   1:32                  3:09
1:41                   1:34                  3:16
1:42                   1:40                  3:23

So I ran 4 repeats over my goal pace and 4 under. If we agree to call the 1:32 and the 1:44 anomalous, I'd say my pace is fairly consistent. Overall, I'm pleased with this run.

*     *     *

Friday: Ran four miles with the crapradoodle today at an adequate crapping pace (40:23).

*     *     *

Saturday: I ran two loops today. Lap one: 1:14.20. Lap two: 1:09:22. Total 2:23.43 (~15.5 miles) with a twelve-minute break in between loops. We'll call the break a ghost break, and strike ghost-pepper sauce off the list of things to eat on a cheese burger the night before a long run.

When I got home, I signed up for my first half marathon, which will take place in Athens, OH on April 01 -- hey, six days!

Also, my first marathon. I signed up for that, too. Dr.'s orders. Cleveland: May 20. I'm gonna hafta learn how to run farther by then.

*     *    *

Sunday: Off, reluctantly.

*     *     *

Monday: We're back home now, after about two-weeks worth of travel. I think, at this point, I'll be able to get back into posting more frequently.

Ran the same loop as Saturday (1:05.30) . . . probably faster than I should have, but I was excited to get home.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Road More or Less Travelled

Two roads diverged in a crude-oil wood . . . I turned left.

Two things, real quick: first off, it looked like the road-less traveled took me miles to go before I could sleep, whereas the beaten path steered me towards Shafer Run, which would eventually turn into Walnut St. which is where my folks' house is: where I wanted to go. Secondly, I'll save my rebellion for convention and authority -- I'll avoid that crazy, well-trod noise all day -- but when it comes to running, well, I don't need to twist any ankles this particular evening. I'm just saying, ankle-spraining gametrails are nice for cross country teenagers, but are tendons don't bounce back so well at this stage* of life.

*The stage of awesome-(though tender)-ness.

I spent five hours at a microfilm machine, and I'd still be there if it weren't for those meddling workers of advanced years**. Sometimes I feel like I've exhausted the material of the Valley That Changed the World, but then I get ahold of their newspapers from the 1860s, and it's as if I'm only beginning.

** They aren't so old -- a generation older than me, maybe. But, as I've previously indicated, generations often mark evolutionary advances.

Anyway, it took a mile or two to get my back unstraightened. I ran around the golf course by my parents' home -- it was a private course when I was growing up, and I was always afraid they kept snipers on the water towers, just in case some wild fourteen-year old was jogging. Now, it's open to the public, which means the snipers aren't allowed to stand on top of any permanent structures. Phwew, progress! The one thing that hasn't changed is that smell of crude oil so thick, even as a teenager I assumed the rest of the world smelled just this way, too. Nope, just home.

Also, I forgot my watch. Well, that's only part of the story. The full story is: this morning I was smart enough to pack my running clothes and shoes, my watch, and some almonds just in case I made it out for a run after the Oil City Library shut down. But like I say, they verily threw me out at closing time -- "But I'm learning," I cried as they geriatricked me out the automated doors -- "Go home and watch t.v., whippersnapper," they yelled. At which point, I felt like it was too late to ask to use the restroom.

So I hustled home. Left my gear in the car. Changed into the clean laundry I did yesterday. And was just dumb enough to forget all my running supplies in the car.

I hit the woods, some old familiar trails from my childhood, but they looked different -- perhaps because I'm one-and-a-third the size I was then -- or maybe age just skews our perspective and any explanation would be an oversimplification. I avoided the golfers out of habit (at this point, I suppose, one might call it respect). And I took my time, picking my way through the rocky trails.

After about twenty minutes (I didn't have a watch, but old, trained, rote memory tells me I'm right), I found the rock overlooking Oil City. This great big green and grey limestone's about a mile from the town proper, but you can hear the kids playing down on first street (across the river) and the cars rolling by down below on Allegheny Avenue. Anybody reading this from Venango County? You know the rock I'm talking about. It's like a time / space warp that draws everything in, and keeps everything distant. And -- and this is one of those things I know, but I also know I can't prove -- I can still hear myself from twenty years ago, crashing through the underbrush, dreaming of a P.R. or just to run with one of the top three runners on our team for another quarter mile or so. I can still see myself lean and forty pounds lighter, and hear myself telling my buddies how great I will be when I grow up.

I can only sit on that rock for so long though. Nine minutes and sixteen seconds to be exact. Again, you don't need a watch with nostalgia this thick. Anything beyond that makes me look desperate, like I'm trying to cling to the past. I gingerly hopped back on the path and turned left again and found an even smoother trail (I've seen roadsigns on less) and sailed down an oil access road.

Most of these oil roads are long out of use, but judging from the bootprints (still filling with water) and the smoke coming from the central power supply house, I'd guess it's still active. An industrial throwback to the independent oil producers of 1871. It's kind of neat to see and hear.

So, we'll call it six miles. I checked my text messages when I got home (one of which I'd sent as I was walking out the door) against the current time, and came up with a little over an hour. I'm not ashamed on a day like today to call it a ten-minute pace (remind me to tell you sometime the furious fistpump I gave myself when I was thirteen and ran my first sub-ten mile). There's some glory in finishing every run, even if it's not groundbreaking.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Drake Well Museum

Spent most of today in Drake Well Museum near Titusville, PA:

Doing some research about the early days of the oil industry. I've been in museums and libraries all week, but finding time in the evenings to get out for my runs.

On Monday, I was so smart that I packed my running clothes and shoes into the car, along with some almonds, just in case there was a place to run near where I was researching. Hazah! Still, I made it back to my home base (my folks' house) before taking in some air.

Today, though, I couldn't resist running around Drake Well at Oil Creek State Park. Luckily, I was still smart enough to bring along my running clothes. Unluckily, I was not smart enough to remember my running shoes. I had to run in my research shoes:
For any of you who object, "But those look an awful lot like your teaching shoes, Jackson," I have two things to say, first: you win. You should go on Jeopardy. You're very smart. Second: sometimes my shoes have to do double duty. And today my teaching / research shoes had to be running shoes. They're like the Kordell Stewart

of my feet.

Post Script: went about six miles (58:30), maybe seven. Who's keeping track anyway?

March 01
Thursday: -----
Friday: 4.0
Saturday: -----
            (Week: 6.4)
            March 05
Sunday: 3.0
Monday: -----
Tuesday: -----
Wednesday: -----
Thursday: 3.4
Friday: -----
Saturday: 3.0
            (Week: 9.4)
            March 12
Sunday: -----
Monday: 4.5
Tuesday: 6.0
Wednesday: 6.5

March to date: 30.4
Year to date: 201.1