Trail running is stupid. My stance is firm on this despite a wobbly ankle.
Was having a great race (I was with the guy who finished 8th) when halfway in I came to an off-camber, downhill, and sharp turn. It happened in a flash so I don’t know if it was related to a root or rock, but the bottom of my right foot was pointing left for an instant and it hurt. I hobbled to a walk and quickly realized this wasn’t the kind of ankle twist that you can walk or run off. Race over, man.
Being halfway through the race also meant I was as far from the start as possible. I hobbled my way down the single track trail, pulling off whenever I heard footsteps behind me. Being a great race, there were a lot of footsteps behind me so that .5 mile off the small trail took forever. Luckily, it was fire road after that, but the first post I came to was marked “1.75″ (the race started at 0). I figured it’d be roughly a 30 minute walk, but I didn’t properly account for hobbling as opposed to regular walking. It took FOREVER. On the way I found a nice walking stick to take the load off my foot, and as I neared the end a group of three women from the race met up with me in order to give me company for the remaining bit of the walk. Portlanders are the best.
Once I got home, ice and ibuprofen. With any luck, this’ll be a 2-3 day thing and I’ll be back out to race next week. Already feels a tiny bit better, but I’m still hobbling around and am not able to ride today (last day of the month – was supposed to ride 50 miles in order to complete 1250km in July so extra bummer to not reach that goal).
So trail running is stupid, my ankle hurts, I’m failing a monthly goal, and blah. I suppose I’ll live.
Another race down. Fortunately, this went much better than the last. I went out rather slowly and picked my pace up all the way through the finish. Pacing myself, a novel idea, no? I don’t know if my result was much or any better because I beat some people I had lost to last week and lost to some I had beaten last week. But I felt better about it so I’d have to think I ran better.
Anyway, this course was more of the same. Up a trail, down another, back up again, and back down again. It wasn’t until the final downhill that I began feeling fatigued. I had run with another guy the entire race (we got to chatting after he slipped and fell trying to pass me on the inside of a turn – it had rained) and once he got by me around Mile 2, I kept pace with him and was even gaining towards the end, but as soon as we hit that downhill he flew away from me and caught and destroyed the two folks we had seen off in the distance the whole race. In that final downhill mile, he put 30 seconds on me. Pretty nuts.
So yeah, back to the fatigue bit… Running downhill is harder than uphill. On that final stretch, my quads and left foot couldn’t handle any more pounding so I was more or less sidestepping the whole way down. I went just as fast as everyone other than the guy who blew everyone away, but it’s clear I have much room for improvement there. Unlike riding elevation, where I suffer on the way up, but my weight helps me on the way down, you seem to suffer for having extra weight both ways when running (up because duh and down because of the pounding). I’m sure my muscles will harden up with more practice, which I’ll be getting over the next ten weeks or so of weekly races.
I no longer hate trail racing. It’s clear I’ve got a lot to learn (I’m sure there are best practices for running up and down that I could stand to read up on), but my body isn’t hating me as much as after last race and I’m sure it’ll only get better. Do I love it? Not quite yet, but I’m also not ready to rule it out as my next addition.
I grabbed this one for its relevance to what we’re currently working through. It builds upon the principals from Lean Startup, which I haven’t yet read. In hindsight, I probably should have read that first, but this book stands up pretty well on its own.
Who would I recommend it to? Anyone with their hand in UI/UX design, which should be everyone out there.
The premise is that designing a user experience is difficult to do in a lean environment. All too often we get caught up in the old BDUF approach. Collaboration is the key and it starts at the design phase. Someone from every discipline of your team should be involved from the start to the finish. This establishes ownership and understanding of the goal and product. There’s no more “Oh, my job is done, on to the next thing and I’ll half-assedly glance back at this other thing now and then.”
One of the key suggestions for getting great UX in a fast moving environment is to design toward outcomes rather than a backlog of must-have deliverables. Similar to how a backlog is created (or how one should be created), customers are polled. Rather than having one person responsible for that interaction, the entire team is. How? Regular user acceptance testing. Get the product in front of actual customers and see what they say. Have everyone view the results. This book and idea are primarily focused on UX, but it can go for any feature of the product; getting more people involved in understanding customers can never hurt.
My Highlights (brackets = paraphrasing, indented italics = my comments):
A decent read and pretty quick read. If you’re interested in UX in the slightest, you ought to give this a go.
Trail running hurts, and there really is no cross-training for it (unlike road racing, which is more about cardio [that I can get on the bike]). I’m in great shape, but not for this and it showed. Up and down, and up and down turned out to be the murderer of quads, hamstrings, and calves. Two days later and I’m walking pretty funny. I’m pretty sure I used and spent muscles that I didn’t know existed.
So… This was my first ever trail race. I realized that when they asked the crowd at the start who was new to trail running and maybe 2% of the other folks (capped at 100 runners) and I (without hesitation – then I second guessed myself, but realized it was in fact true; after hundreds of races, this was new to me) raised our hands. I’ve run on dirt before, but nothing in the DC area comes close to the trails out here. Rock Creek might be considered a trail out this way, but it would be in the “flat” category. In preparation, I ran once the month prior and had three other runs on my trail shoes since moving west. Totally prepared for ~5 miles up and down trails on a 1100ft ridge.
Why did I do it? Heather’s coworker told me it was awesome. I suppose it could be at some point, but I’m not there yet. I think I may be too much of a numbers person; you can’t really pace yourself by time, you never really know how much further you have to go, and you can’t compare one performance to the next. Those are all things I love about road racing and cycling; they’re so quantifiable.
Not too much to say about the race other than I went out a bit quicker than I probably should have, walked up a massive hill with said coworker of Heather’s (he caught me there and pulled away the rest of the race), and am not too pleased with my overall performance. I guess my expectations should have been a bit lower? Bah. I suppose I could blame it on riding my bike for a full day a few days earlier, but I honestly felt pretty rested otherwise I wouldn’t have even showed up so “bah” on that too. All was not bad, though; I won a free pair of socks that are pretty awesome (wearing them now) and valued at 1/3 of the series entry fee!
So my running will now consist of these weekly races, which combined with the fall series that I was brilliant enough to already register for (have to get in early) will occupy me until the end of October, and a weekend maintenance run of 2-4 miles.
I’m hopeful that things will get better as my body learns to do what it has never done before, but… ow… and the races only get longer from here.
A few months back, a high school friend/tuba buddy contacted me on Facebook. She has been living just outside of Seattle for a few years, but is going to have to leave the area shortly to finish up/continue her nursing “stuff.” On her bucket list was a ride I didn’t know about, the Cascade Bicycle Club Group Health Seattle to Portland. 203 miles over two days. I had ridden a century before and it wasn’t the most enjoyable thing ever. Doing it two days straight? Ugh, but I obliged her. If anything, it’d force me to do some proper training, and Lord knows I may never get another chance to do this with someone again (I’d not do it solo) so I might as well get it out of the way.
About ten days before the event, out of the blue, my friend asked me if I’d like to do it in one day. Without hesitation, I replied “YES!” I’m not sure why I didn’t hesitate, but I suppose the thought of a single ridiculous effort interested me more than two slightly less ridiculous efforts. An added bonus is that it greatly simplified the logistics of camping in a field for a night. Given the life events that occurred a few weeks prior, I needed simplification, especially since I wasn’t even in town and would only be back for a couple of days beforehand.
Also given those life events, my training was a bit stunted and I didn’t manage get any long rides in all season (I typically do hard efforts for 20-30 miles, which prepares you very little for riding all day), but I was feeling pretty good about my general fitness so I knew I could get through it. At a certain point it becomes mental more than physical anyway.
Friday night, I pick Heather up straight from work and we head up to my friend’s house. A bit of traffic getting out of town, but then it is smooth sailing with a quick stop for some burgers and gas. A few miles later and we arrive. Said friend lives in a house with an absolutely stunning view of Puget Sound. We unload the car, setup an air mattress, and grab some sleep for the short night (arrived at 9PM and need to be riding by 5AM – she lives 30 minutes from the start too).
Wake up, grab some coffee and bagels, pack up the car, short drive up to U of W, get stuck in traffic trying to get to the appropriate parking lot, decide to park it at the local QFC (like many others), and go from there. After a quick half mile cruise to the start, we’re off. 203 miles to go.
We stopped every 25 miles or so, but sometimes when things were rough we’d only make it ten (that happened once, after lunch). I’m not going to provide details on the stops and in-between, but suffice to say this was a really well put together event. If you needed a break, there was one at most 5-10 miles away. The volunteers were amazing, plentiful, the food options were above satisfactory (I did start to get bored with the same options over and over again), and I really can’t praise the ride organizers any more. They managed to safely get 10,000 cyclists (25% do it in one day) the length of an entire state. No small feat at all.
So how did it go for us? We didn’t know what to expect. 14 miles per hour? 20? Would we find a nice paceline and cruise along only doing work every few minutes? Would we even be able to do this? It turned out that we were two of the stronger riders out there save for the paceline that started right from the gun and supposedly rolled through the first 100 miles in four hours (“gun” was 4:45AM – we didn’t get there until 5:15 or so due to the unforeseen traffic so we missed out on riding with the more serious folks). One or the other of us ended up pulling pretty much the entire day. I think I can count on my hands how many minutes of rest we both got. We’d take a few turns in the wind and then look behind at the folks eating our drafts, but nobody would ever come to the front. That turned out to make it a hard day, but it was also eye-popping; when moving we averaged about 19mph (GPS shows 18, but that counts walking through rest stops for minutes at a time). My friend turned out to be more up for the ride as she was smiling the whole damned way and towards the end was pedaling away from me.
My body more or less ran out of “go” at mile 90. The hardest part of that was realizing we weren’t even halfway. Five hours on the bike and not halfway home. Ugh.That first 100 was likely harder than the second because there’s no good way to tell yourself that you’re getting there; you always have 100+ miles to go, which in itself is a tough ride. When you’re already beat, it hurts to think about. Following 100, you can at least count down. Interestingly, from 90 until about 130 miles, I had nothing in the tank. From 130 to 180, I found a second wind, but lost it as we approached Portland. Tough day. It certainly didn’t help that temperatures were above 90. It was literally not possible to get enough fluids into one’s body; I’d fill myself completely at stops and during segments, but bathroom breaks told me I wasn’t fully hydrated. Did I mention that it was a tough day?
All in all, I’m glad we did it. No small feat and one that I’ll always cherish – especially that finish. I’d go so far as to say this was mentally tougher than a marathon. Physically? I was able to walk without looking odd the next day so I’d have to think it was easier on my body. Then again, I do still have some numbness in a couple of fingers and a toe.
Will I do it again? Maybe. I’d need the right group, and I’d probably not do it next year; the suffering will be too fresh in my mind. If someone does convince me, I’ll be doing the two-day at a leisurely pace or the one-day with a really solid group that can help do the work and aim for less than 10 hours (20mph).
We finished in just over 11 hours for a GPS-claimed average of 18mph (as mentioned earlier, this includes walking around rest breaks so I’m certain our average was more like 19). 203 miles. 7000+ calories.
A special thanks goes out to Heather and my friend’s husband. They both had to do the round-trip with us by car and were both there for hugs at the finish (I didn’t hug him, but would have if he offered). Thanks, guys!
I got back into town Tuesday night and figured I might as well ride in this final series race, which I had already paid for. I hadn’t seen a hill in three weeks (NC is pancake flat, and while I was able to ride once I got a bike [missed a week], the climbing muscles got absolutely zero work) so my inability to win was only exacerbated. What to do? Alternate plan.
The first lap of the race comes with the award of beer. Assuming nobody else was hell-bent on getting it, I figured I could go kamikaze, win that beer, and not care about the rest of the race. I didn’t know if it’d work, but it was the plan.
Showed up at the race, said hey to my friend, shared with him my plan, lined up, and we were off. One of the youngsters (the juniors race with us) decided to bomb up the initial hill and then die (figuratively) at the first corner (an uphill hairpin) so that caused a bit of a of a bottleneck that served to spread out the field unlike ever before. Two guys got away and three of us chased. I had planned on taking the lead from the start, but it wasn’t in the cards. Hrm. Plan already foiled? At the base of the final climb, we caught the lead two and I was on the back of the group. I dropped a gear and put the power down to surprise anyone else that may have been interested in the prime and create a gap. Luckily, nobody went with me, and halfway up the hill a glance behind told me I had it. I was pretty gassed, but continued to give the hill everything I had (not much) and crossed the line first. I was so far ahead of the other guys that I slowed up at the line and pointed at my number to make sure they knew which race I was in (a number of races run simultaneously).
From there, I didn’t care how it all went. I let off and allowed my heart rate drop back from max. Already tasting blood (happens when you overwork your lungs)… Ick. Recovery took an entire lap and I likely ended up near the end of the field. I kept with a couple of guys back there as my lap times only got faster following that second one. A waste of a race, but hey, I won more than ever so was it really a waste? Maybe winning the first lap/primes could become my MO? Regardless, had my best result yet with 14th, but a few fast guys were moved up and relatively few people raced so the result must be discounted a good amount.
Added bonus to this day was that my friend won the overall. He’d been getting ~5th every week, but this week was his. Very happy for him.
With that, the race series is over. I really wish it could go on all summer; I need more racing. A look at the race calendar now that I’m back in town tells me that the season is nearly over. Bummer! Cross is upon us, but I still feel like I need base miles. This year’s training has been a mess… Maybe next year will be the year I shine? Hoping for no quality excuses. Yeah, next year will be my year. I want more than beer. I’ll get more than beer.
Up next is riding from Seattle to Portland on Saturday (doing the one-day) and then the beginning of the trail racing series. I’m in horrid running shape as evidenced by the monthly trail runs I do that leave me nearly unable to walk the next day. Naturally, I should just go ahead and race those runs, right? Never boring!
Another one in the books.
My plan to go after the prime on the first lap fell through when it was clear at the start that some faster guys had that in mind too. I didn’t even bother as we hit the ramp up to the line.
The race went very similarly to the last one as this is really more of a time trial than a tactical road race (it’s all about individual fitness as long as you’re not a moron and miss the start or take on more wind than you should). I started seeing a gap open between me and what was left of the field after about four climbs, pulled it back on the downhill once, and then the next time through could not and was on my own.
Same exact placing as last week except there may be an update or a couple since there’s one glaring error I know of (my friend, Dolan, finished in the top 5, but they have him down as last place – I’m assuming they thought he was getting lapped… Ouch. Dolan, look faster ). Again, two people off the pack. I’ll get there someday. Maybe. Bonus this time around is that the Women’s 1/2/3 race caught me on the last lap. They’re pretty quick. I took the lap easy/let them around and dragged a few gapped riders down the hill. If there’s on thing I’m good at, it is going down hills. I suppose that’s not really a bonus
I’d been noticing some funny noises from my rear wheel and also a slight wobble. Sure enough, popped a spoke in the middle of the race. Didn’t affect anything, but descending and cornering at 35mph may have been a little more loose than usual. Didn’t stop me from putting in a PR on the downhill. Replaced the spoke myself and took the bare wheel into the shop today (I don’t work on wheel innards), they pulled it apart, bearings were fine, but the axle was a bit loose. They fixed that and showed me how I can do it myself in a matter of 30 seconds next time it occurs. He cleaned up the insides and trued the wheel slightly for $10. I slipped him a $20 because karma/beer. They said that typically after three popped spokes they recommend a wheel rebuild. I’m at two so I’ll probably just get that done over the winter whether or not I lose another.
I went up the climb section four seconds faster than last week and twenty seconds faster than the week before so the improvement is measurable and good. I’m pleased.
I’m unfortunately missing the next two races, which leaves only the season finale. With a total of zero series points, I’m nowhere close to being in the running for anything, but a bit bummed I’m missing them anyway. Following that, I get into running a dozen or so trail races in a row on Wednesday nights. I’m definitely going to have to get into the Monday night road races and maybe look into some Saturday races too because I’ve got the racing bug again and it must get itched.