My Month of Hiking

hike-7-9-17

The on-again, off-again nature of my ankle. It feels bad, it feels good, it feels bad again. It had gone back to feeling bad, so I had gone back to not running, which means that I have been moving through the Wissahickon at a much slower rate for the last month or so.

Hiking. Actually, I love it, but I think of hiking more in terms of mountains and summits than the ups-and-downs of my little city wilderness. The goal has been to get out and get in time-on-feet and elevation gain so that I am not completely out of shape when it comes time to get back to serious running. I’m not sure how that’s going.

A couple observations:

The Park Looks Different At A Slower Pace.

Seriously. It’s not that I am all that fast when running. But at a walking pace, even at a fast walking pace, I have noticed little details of the woods I had never noticed before. The park also seems like a much bigger place. Running from my house to Bells Mill only takes a bit more than half an hour, an hour round-trip. Walking, it comes in at over two hours, and that’s a pretty serious walk.

My Watch Has No Idea What I’m Doing.

God bless you , my little Forerunner 10. You turn on and off and you track my distance. But sometimes, you get really confused. Remember that time you thought I was running and you said I burned 875 calories, and then I switched it to “Hike” in Garmin Connect and you tried to claim I burned 13,400 calories? Good times. Please go back to keeping time.

I Get Really Hungry Hiking.

Like, REALLY hungry. I have been eating like a horse the whole time I’ve been doing the hiking thing. Which, come to think of it, might lend some credence to the whole calorie-counting bit my watch is trying to put over on me.

I Don’t Think It’s Working As A Workout.

This past hike, a decent 17k jaunt with a out 1,300 feet of elevation, I managed to get in about 3k of actual running to see how my ankle felt. I had said to myself I wasn’t going to run again until Late July, but the ankle felt good and the breeze was warm and the sun was shining and I just couldn’t help myself as I got up to Houston Meadow, which after all is one of my favorite places to run. So I broke into a trot and had a go at some distance, and dang if I didn’t feel pretty winded right off the bat. The good news is the ankle felt good during the run, and more importantly, it felt good after the run as well. And it feels good today.

Goal: Elevation Gain.

The ankle problem set in in earnest on day 2 of training for Boulder Field, which stank. I’m not sure I’m going to be able to get the mileage in to pull off my first 50k after taking 6 weeks more or less off and then having to ease back into it cautiously. Nevertheless, I thought back to watching YouTube videos of Jamil Coury and Gary Robinson getting ready for the Barkleys this year, and they were basically just out there going up and down hillsides. So I have taken a similar tack in my hikes, trying just to get the race’s vertical gain into my weekly vertical gain. That’s going ok, and comes out to about 1,000 feet of vert each time I go out, which is very doable. Sure does work the big guns, though.

The End.

Tonight, some more easy light miles at a run. I want to ease back into it but also not waste the days I have. Boulder Field is still out there, and there is a rumor going around that an 18 miles might be added to the festivities, so that could work given the mileage. Otherwise, I’ll be setting my eyes on Blues Cruise and then the Philadelphia Marathon. It’s crazy that it is the middle of July and I am already feeling a time crunch for fall races. Trying not to think of goal paces, but I can’t help myself. Maybe some more on goals, and my lack of them, later.

Until then…don’t roll your ankle.

Advertisements

Nerts.

Welp. Here I am, at the start of week two of a 16-week training block. Total miles so far: 4.5. Not for the week. For the block.

I gave my ankle a good twist while trying to jump out of the way of a lunging, snarling dog back in April. It was a little swollen but it didn’t seem like anything too terrible at the time, so I took a few days off, waited for it to feel better, gave it couple gingerly test runs, and got back at it. Ran a few races. Put in my miles. Took a couple easy weeks before starting this training block.

And then last week, my ankle started to feel like it is going to fall off. A couple days last week, just walking was a big ask. Saturday I was on my feet all day photographing a wedding, and that was rough going. I spent yesterday with my feet up getting caught up on the America’s Cup action from Bermuda.

Today, I was able to prepare breakfast without falling over. Small victories.

I have rolled my ankle many times before, but this feels like something new. It’s off to the doctor for me, and let’s just hope that it’s nothing too serious…it would be a pity to already have to rethink the fall schedule after just one training run.

Usually at this point I say “See you out there,” but frankly, I’m going to be on the couch, so please…

Bring me cake tacos.

Race Recap: Dirty German Endurance Fest 25k, Philadelphia, PA

_DSC8664

Ho boy. This was one for the ages.

My spring racing season wrapped up a couple days ago at the Dirty German Endurance Fest, held in Philadelphia’s Pennypack Park. Since I live less than half a mile from the Wissahickon, I don’t often take the time to get up to Pennypack to run, even though the trails are lovely and I do find myself yearning for some less familiar trails.

First off, thanks to Uberendurance Sports for organizing a great event. And thanks to the Wissahickon Wanderers for letting me hang out with them in their somewhat rainproof tent after the race.

Oh…did I say something about rain?

_DSC8623

The Course

Alas, my trusty, economical Garmin Forerunner 10 has stopped communicating with my computer, and I have not replaced it yet, so I have no GPS maps or elevation profiles to show you for this race. But here is the segment from Strava:

https://www.strava.com/segments/7244853/embed

First thing to note is that the course is a bit short. My watch clocked 15.07 miles, and that included a bit of extra distance after missing a turn. It’s one big loop around the park for the 25k, two for the 50k, and three loops plus a bit extra for the 50 Miler.

_DSC8589

Pennypack in general is flat with smooth trails. There were maybe five true uphills throughout the course, none with an elevation of more than about 100 feet. So in terms of trail running, this should have been about as easy as it comes. Lots of narrow singletrack, some packed gravel, and a few short sections of pavement. A meadow or two. In a couple sections, one at the beginning, and one about two miles from the end, there are these crazy serpentine twists in the trail that were a lot of fun to run. I mean, really tight, quick turns, one after the other.

There were also three creek crossings. On a normal day, this might have mattered, because, you know, your feet get wet. But Saturday, the creek crossings were more of an opportunity to dry off. Did I mention the rain?

The Race

We started off for the 25k at 8:30, amid rain that varied from light to pretty heavy; overall, about an inch and a half fell throughout the day, swelling Pennypack Creek past its boundaries (Aid Station 3 had to be moved during the race because of localized flooding). I started with a very different strategy than in my previous race, a trail half. In that race, I wanted to get out front to avoid getting caught up in a slower queue as we got into the singletrack. For the Dirty German, rather than pushing the pace early and trying to hang on, I took it very easy at the start, easing into my pace. Sure, I gave up some time in the early going, and sure, I needed to wait to work my way up the line on the singletrack, but that was ok. The previous trail half was a pacing disaster, and I fell apart early and suffered long. This race was a bit longer and I wanted to feel better at the finish.

The trail itself, early on, held up pretty well. Yes, the trail was equal parts trail and ankle-deep puddle, but the footing remained firm, and I could descend well and run at a fast and comfortable pace when I found the space. With the heavy rain and nearly-contiguous puddles, the creek crossings didn’t seem to be that much of an obstacle, even of the creek was deep enough and fast enough that some of us were trading nervous glances as we forged into the rapids.

I was feeling good, and running with my new 2L Nathan hydration vest, so I skipped the first aid station. I paired up with a couple other runners to chat and regulate my pace, and that went pretty well for the first half of the course as well. But once the second half got under way and the real work began, I put my head down, stopped talking, and ran harder.

The trails also started to come apart over the second half of the race. On Facebook, a number of other runners have been comparing the consistency of the ground to various unbaked foods…cake batter, brownie batter, hot fudge, etc. All accurate. And it all saps the legs pretty good. My IT band kind of went nuts, and I had to deal with some pain up and down my right leg, but I got through it, and it was really only uncomfortable on the downhills, of which there were mercilessly few.

Coming through the last aid station where I grabbed some Coke and a salt potato, I got caught up behind a slow-moving group going through the serpentine section, so I ate some more time there asĀ  nursed my leg and waited for a small clearing where I knew I could press ahead a bit. Press ahead I did, running well through the very pretty closing half-mile, and then it was back out into the open for the start/finish area, one last puddle to clean the mud off the shoes if not the legs, and it was over. 2:31:50 or so, a pace just over 10:00/mile. Not great for the easiness of the trails, but considering the weather, and how I am still trying to learn pacing and dealing with terrain in longer trail races, I’ll take it.

_DSC8614
Not me. Not my mud.

What I Learned

To ignore the weather. We’re all out there together. It’s an unavoidable element of the race, it’s a problem to be worked the same way you’d work a mountain or a log to jump over. I mean, mud puddles are fun, anyway.

Next Up

Two weeks of light running before my next structured training cycle gets going. I just want to keep some miles in my legs but be ready to start fresh. I’ll talk about my late-summer plans later.

_DSC8593

Shoes: Salomon Speedcross Vario

speedcrossvario-1

Here are the new shoes: The Salomon Speedcross Vario. I’ve gotten to run about 20 miles in them so far, so they are still new, although a few encounters with mud mean they aren’t so shiny anymore. But I always say that clean shoes are ugly shoes, and these shoes sure are pretty.

The Speedcross Vario is designed to be a trail shoes best suited to running on firm surfaces with an eye toward improving traction. At 318g (according to Salomon’s website), they are not the lightest shoes in the world, but they are built quite substantially, and that substantive build gives them a very solid feel on the trails. One reason I like a firmer shoe on trails is that I prefer to really feel the ground contact, to have a sense of what is underfoot, and I find that I step much more confidently when I have that firm feeling. The fit of these shoes goes a long way to giving that sense of firmness and communication with the trail.

They are maybe a bit more snug than other trail shoes; this is not a shoe for someone who wants a big toe box or who is used to having lots of space for their feet. In that sense, it feels maybe a bit more like a boot than looser and lighter shoes. The heel fits snugly, which I like quite a bit, so there isn’t a sense of sliding around inside the shoe. They are also comfortable snug around the midfoot, even when laced a little loosely like I tend to do, and the forefoot is a fairly standard width.

The shoes are also a standard drop-height of 10mm, so they match well with my road shoes, and are a bit more of a drop than the other trail shoes I use.

speedcrossvario-2

The tread of the shoes is very robust, and designed for high traction. The original Speedcross was considered to be a mud shoe, and while the Vario is meant to be used on harder surfaces, the size and placement of the lugs gives this shoe great grip in all situations. Just earlier this week, we had a sudden and very short downpour, which resulted in trails that dried out very quickly, yet left puddles sporadically. These shoes are perfect for getting through conditions like that, even with the Wissahickon’s pervasive rock surfaces thrown in. The shoes respond well to all terrains I have put them through in their brief life so far, and the firmness helps to even out the texture of the trail so that I don’t have to be thinking about changing how I run on different surfaces.

If I have one slight concern about these shoes as I get used to them, it is that I can see a little side-to-side instability in them. I have rolled one of my ankle many times over the years, and I am constantly wary of how my shoes help or hinder my ankle stability. These shoes have a slightly taller stack height than what I have been using, especially in trail shoes, and that seems to require a bit more care on my part to maintain the most stable stride.

I’ll let you know how the shoes go. So far, I am pleased, and looking forward to logging the miles and the races. First up will be the Dirty German 25k next weekend.