Monday, November 17, 2014

Apple Valley 5k

Having run the Blossom to Bottle 5k at Johnson’s Orchard a couple years ago, I have wanted to run the Apple Valley 5k race that is put on by another Bedford Orchard for some time now. The Apple Valley 5k race takes place at Gross’Orchard just below the Peaks of Otter in Bedford, VA. You could not ask for a more beautiful setting for a race. With the mountain views and the fall colors all around, the location is perfect for a fall 5k.

Finding out that my Dad had already registered for the race gave me the final incentive to sign up. I have only run one 5k race this year and that was at the D-Day memorial in May. So it had been sometime since I had tried to run a shorter run at a much faster pace. My regular runs these days range in pace from 8 min/mile to 9 and ½ min/mile. Knowing that I wanted to run a mid to lower 7 minute/mile pace, I was going to have to run much faster, for much longer than I have run in months.

Running faster is usually a recipe for injury for me, but I had pushed myself some during my normal weekly runs. I will pick out a mile in the middle of my regularly paced runs and I would pick up my pace and run in the 7 minute/mile range. I knew my legs to turn over at a quicker rate, but I knew it was going to be a challenge to keep my energy up to keep up that pace for over 3 miles.

I arrived to Gross’ Orchard about 30 minutes before the race starting time. This gave me plenty of time to check out a section of the course and warm up. Since the race course was a two lap format, I knew I could possibly complete an entire lap as my warm up. But after making it about a half mile around the course, I decided to retrace my route and make one last pit stop at the porta-johns.

After my much needed break, I spotted my parents. After talking to them for a little while, Dad and I made our way to the starting line. It was located about ¼ of a mile from the finish line, in the middle of the apple trees. The weather forecast had called for the temperature to be in the low 40’s with precipitation. We had lucked out though because the sun decided to pop out and the rain decided to stay away. So at the start of the race, it felt much warmer than 40 degrees.

Once everyone had gathered at the starting line, the shotgun was fired and we were off running. Like all the other races I have run in the past, I tried to settle in with the group of runners running my desired pace. This process too several minutes and I almost lost an eye to an apple tree branch. But I eventually found a nice spot to pace myself for the first section of the race. By this time we were just crossing the finishing area with all of the spectators. A quick smile for my Mom, who was taking pictures and we were back on the gravel road heading back into the rows of apple trees.

About a half mile into the course, we came to the only major hill of the route. The main issue I usually have with cross country style courses is the unsteady footing. If running off-road, I would much rather be on a dirt trail where I can determine which way my foot will bend when it strikes the ground. When I am running in a grass field, it seems like every time my foot lands my ankles are pitched at a different angle. It may be my age catching up to me or it may be all of those past basketball, football, and soccer ankle injuries catching up with me. Either way, the mounds of grass are always my enemy!

I made it over the worst hill of the course, back down the decline, and over the first set of hay bales. After a couple snake like turns through the orchard’s rows of trees, we were making our way to the side of the property that bordered the road. I had finished the first mile of the course in 7 minutes and 19 seconds. I quickly found out that that pace was a little too fast.

Over the next mile, we passed back through the finishing area again to begin lap number two. I also found out that as much as I hated running in the tall grass, I despised running in the loose gravel road even more. Luckily I was still able to think enough to run in the grass strip that ran down the middle of the two gravel car tire paths of the road. It was much firmer and my legs no longer got that “running in sand” feeling. As we made it up the bad hill again, my legs started disagreeing with the rest of my body.

Breathing-wise I was fine, but my legs no longer wanted to keep turning over at the same rate as my first mile. They quickly started feeling like they were turning to stone. I knew need to just concentrate on being loose and letting my body glide through this tough stage of the race. I finished the second mile in 7 minutes and 58 seconds. My pace had fallen off quite a bit from my first mile. I knew I needed to dig deep to finish the race strong.

I tried to zone out and think of other things during the last mile of the race. As we made it back to the front side of the property and back near the main road, I knew there was less than a half of a mile to go. When I get to sections of runs, I like to think of the distance in terms of laps around a track. Two laps around a track always sounded better than a ½ of a mile. Before I knew it, there was only a quarter of a mile left or in my terms, 1 lap around the track! I just continued to keep my feet turning over at the quickest rate possible. I finished my 3 mile in 7 minutes and 31 seconds.

With only 0.1 miles left, I was able to make it through the finish line with a time of 23:34.94, according to my watch. I was very pleased with my time. It was faster than my 5k in May, but well under my PR, which I set on a very flat course a couple years ago.

After grabbing some water and banana, I went to cheer on my Dad as he came through the finish line. This was the first time he had run off the pavement and it was a very challenging course. I was so proud of him has he came into sight. He was looking strong and finished with a very respectful time. It is always great to see him running and I hope that I will be doing the same thing when I am his age. I hope to be taking part in races with my sons!

Dad had done so well that he placed third in his age group and won a piece of pottery from Emerson Creek Pottery. I came to find out later that my time had not registered correctly when I crossed the finish line and my recorded time was almost 7 minutes slower than my watch’s time. They handed out little wooden sticks at the finish line with your finishing pace written on it. My stick said 14th but according to the results, I was in 42nd place with a time of 30:43.5.

I am not sure what happened with the timing but none the less, it was a great race day! The weather ended up being half way pleasant and the fall scenery was absolutely beautiful! I got to run another race with my father and we were both finish injury free. I couldn’t have asked for a better November race!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

2014 Virginia 10 Miler

The Training:
This was supposed to be the year that I set a new PR for the Virginia 10 Miler. This would be the third time that I ran this race and since last year was the “appendicitis” year, this year’s race would be my first attempt to beat my original time. But life tends to get in the way of my training these days. I spent too many of those Saturday mornings drinking coffee and watching cartoons with the boys, instead of getting long runs logged (I really don’t regret spending my Saturday mornings with the boys).

I only logged two runs greater than 6 miles in the month leading up to the 10 miler. So I wasn’t too prepared to beat the 1:26:12 time I had run in my first 10 miler in 2012. So this year’s goal was to run comfortably and finish the race in the least amount of pain. To accomplish this goal I had a three step plan.

The Plan:
First, I would run the first mile as slow as possible. One thing I have learned from running races that 10 miles or greater is that starting too fast can come back to bite you, later in the race. Starting too fast is very easy to do on race day, when the excitement, adrenaline, and fresh legs can override your brain. The 10 miler course can also add to this struggle. The first 1 ½ miles of the course is downhill. Combining this downhill section with the early race energy, can create a scenario that you can pay for later in the race.

The second step of my plan was to make it to the halfway point by running a pace that was one tick above a comfortable pace. Once I got the first slower mile in, I had planned to pick up my pace just slightly. I would continue that pace until I got to the 5 mile turnaround in Riverside Park. At that point, depending on my physical state, I would decide the final step of my race plan.

If I made it to the 5 mile turnaround and my body felt good, then I would push myself harder during the second half of the race. On the other hand if I made it to this point in the race and felt horrible, then I would limp back to the finish line at any rate necessary to complete the race.

The Race:
Getting our two boys up and out the door is always a challenge. So that task is always the first goal of race day. Thanks to my wonderful wife for helping them, while I eat and triple check my gear and packed bag. We did very well this year and I got to the race with enough time to drop by bag off at my company’s tent and use the porta-john. I threw a Gu gel in my pockets and I was off to the starting line. Just like previous years, I couldn’t actually get onto the road until after the race started and the crowd at the starting line thinned out some. Once I was able to get on the course and through the starting line, the race was on!

The start of the 10 miler is very crowded, so it helps me slow down and not start with such a fast pace. I took the time to look around and enjoy the people cheering on the sidewalks and the overall excitement that all the runners were showing during this period of the race. It wasn’t long before I spotted someone I knew, Charlie Coleman. I was able to run the first mile or so with Charlie. This allowed me to ignore my pace and run comfortably for the first segment of the race.

By the time I got to the Farm Basket at the bottom of the first long decline, I was feeling pretty good. I knew the next few miles were going to be rolling hills. This challenging section of the race would lead us up to Rivermont Avenue and can really tire the legs. I just tried to keep a steady pace through this section and not over work my legs too much. I still had my plan of making it to the halfway point as comfortable as possible.

Before I knew it, we were making the turn onto Rivermont and running by the Randolph campus. The course is pretty flat during this section of the race. I knew I had about a mile until the turn around in Riverside Park. After being a little jealous of all the 4 milers who were splitting off for their finish at Randolph, I concentrated on keeping a steady pace until the turnaround.

At the five mile mark, I took a look at my time and saw that I covered the first half of the race in 44 minutes. After doing some quick math in my head, I realized that I could finish with a time very close to my previous two 10 miler races. I had finished both the previous 10 miler races with a time of 1:26, just seconds different. As planned, I was going to pick up the pace on the second half.

I decided to take my Gu gel at this point in the race, so that I may help give me some energy for the last mile up Langhorne. As I made my way back down Rivermont and back on the rolling hills of Langhorne Road, I tried to pick up my pace and run a little out of my comfort zone. As I made it back to the Farm Basket, I was hoping that I had left enough in the tank to make it up the last hill. This was the worst part of the race course. The last hill up Langhorne that stretched over a mile was very challenging on tired legs. I attacked the hill with everything I had left. By the time the finish line was in sight, my legs were dead. It took everything I had to make it to the finish line.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 1:26:58. It was the third straight year that I had finished with a 1:26 time! I was about 48 seconds slower than last year, but without setting out to set a PR for this race, I can awful close. Without putting in the training that I really should have, I was able to run a time that was very consistent with my previous attempts. That gave me a really good feeling about the next time I run the 10 miler!

I quickly found Anna and the boys, as well as some other friends and family at the finish line. As always, it was great to see my family at end of a race. We enjoyed some food and festivities before heading back to Bedford for some Centerfest fun (followed by a nap with the boys)!  

We Honor Veterans 5k

Back in May, I was able to take part in a 5k race that took place at an awesome venue. The “We Honor Veterans 5k” is located at The National D-Day Memorial in Bedford, Virginia. If you are not familiar with D-Day Memorial or why it is located in Bedford, you can get more information from the memorial’s website. 19 men from Bedford were killed in Normandy on D-Day and one of those men was my great uncle Ray Stevens.

I never had the opportunity to meet Ray. But if was anything like his twin brother Roy, it would have been a blessing to know him. Roy Stevens was like another grandfather to me. Roy always lived next door to my grandparents and I have many fond memories of playing on his farm. I will never forget those post Sunday lunch tractor and truck rides on the farm to count cows. I have learned so much about what it means to be a family man from the Stevens men in my life. Harold, Roy, David, and even Brad Stevens have taught me so much about life, through the years. It is hard for me to believe that knowing Ray would have been any different.

Because of my personal connections to Bedford and the D-Day Memorial, I was very excited to be taking part in a race there. I had been looking forward to this race for months, but I found out that one of Eli’s t-ball games had been scheduled for the same morning. Just like many other races this year, it looked like I was going to have to miss the race, in order to not miss an important family event. During the week leading up to the Saturday race, I began to think about the timing of the race and the game. The game was in Montvale at 9am and the race was starting at 8am. It was doable!

I knew I was going to have to leave immediately after finishing the race, so that I would have enough time to make the drive back to Montvale. Since the start and finish of the race was at the D-Day Memorial, I knew I would not be able to park at the memorial itself. The only road leading up to the memorial parking lot was going to be closed until at least 9am. I was going to have to find a place to park where I could make a quick exit.

Since I had not preregistered for the race, I decided to park at the memorial and register before stashing my car somewhere. After registering and using the restroom, I decided to park my car at the Bedford Visitors Center, which is located about ¾ of a mile from the memorial. I would use this opportunity to warm up a little. So I made my way up the hill to the starting line. While doing so, I had to climb the worst hill in the 5k course. For anyone who hasn’t seen the memorial, it is situated on top of one of the highest hills in the town. So naturally, the trek to the top has a little incline. This warm-up session did allow me to judge how difficult the hill was going to be during the race. I would be running back up this same hill during the 3rd mile of the 5k. I was going to be a lot harder at that point!

Once I made it to the start/finish line, I realized that I didn’t have the timing chip that was supposed to be tied into my shoe laces. I just assumed that since there was no chip on my race bib, that the race would just be manually timed. At that point, I just figured that I would be running the race with no official time. It didn’t bother me because I was more excited about just running the race at the memorial. Then some of the race organizers came to the starting line and asked if there were any runners that didn’t have timing chips. I was not alone in the chip-less runners group. It was nice to know I was going to have an official time, but this development pushed the starting time back and therefor threw off my schedule of making it to the game.

When the race was finally started, we were already about 15 minutes behind. I knew I could probably finish the race in at least 25 minutes. So that would still give me 20 minutes to get the game. So I just concentrated on running at a comfortable pace while descending the hill. I have a tendency to start races at a much to fast pace, especially when the first section is downhill. In my mind, I had broken the race up into three sections; downhill, flat, uphill. So I had planned on doing three things during these sections; comfortable pace, maintain pace, attack hill!

The first section wasn’t all downhill, like I had expected. We started just below the memorial and we had to run uphill to the memorial and make a loop around the circle drive that surrounds the memorial grounds. Then it was down the hill to the visitor’s center. This was the downhill section that I to keep myself under control and not let my pace get too quick. I made myself go slower that I could have run this section, in order to save some energy for the climb back up.

Once I was to the race point where the terrain leveled out, I had to ensure that I didn’t lose momentum. I needed to carry my pace that I was running downhill through this second race section. I pushed myself to be consistent through this part of the course that ran by the visitor’s center and to the cul-de-sac at the end of the Bedford Elementary School’s road. Once we looped around the cul-de-sac, I knew I was half way there. My strategy was paying off. Because I made myself keep my comfortable pace through the downhill section, my legs still felt strong at the halfway point.

The trek back to the base of the hill went by quickly. Before I knew it, I was ready to finish the third leg of my race strategy; ATTACK! I gave that hill all I had left. I started a pretty decent pace and went my thighs started to feel the effects of the incline, I stayed strong and tried to keep my foot speed consistent.

A few months ago I started developing pains in my side while running. After doing to some reading on how to prevent side cramps, I found a technique that seems to work well for me. Since my side cramps always occur on my right side, the article I read recommended timing your exhales while the opposite foot impacts the ground. This was difficult to do for a while. But once I mastered the pattern of exhaling ever other time my left foot landed, I found myself doing it all the time. A positive side effect of running with this breathing pattern, is that my foot speed has to keep at a consistently fast pace. This method helps me avoid the long lunging strides, because I can’t keep my breathing pattern going with longer strides.

So I was able to make it to the top of the hill with just enough left in the take to make it to the finish line. When the finish line came into site, I had a dreadful realization. The course took us one more lap around the memorial before returning to the start/finish line. I was so concerned with monitoring my pace on my watch that I hadn't really looked at the overall distance covered. If I had paid more attention, I would have realized that if the race finished at the top of the hill, it would have been a half mile short of a 5k. I started to panic a little bit because I wasn't sure if I had enough energy left to make it another half mile around the memorial. But there was only one thing I could do, try my best. I put mind over matter and pushed myself around the last loop and made it safely back down the finish line for a finishing time of 24:52.

I hung around the finish line to see my buddy Charlie finish and then I was off to Eli's t-ball game. I had a nice cool down run by slowly making my way back down the hill to my car, which was parked about ¾ of a mile from the finish line. I made it to Eli's game just as they were starting, so everything had worked out. I got a text message later from my cousin Jennifer. She told me that I had placed first in my age group, so that was a nice surprise! Another great race day was in the books.  

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Explore Your Limits 10k

I had not planned to run in the Mountain Junkies’ Explore Your Limits this year. I had already picked out a handful of races that I was going to run the first few months of 2014. I have really enjoyed running at the Explore Park, but I just need to limit myself on paying too many race entry fees. After sitting down in January to decide what races I wanted to enter this year, I came up with a list of 5 races I definitely wanted to take part in during the first half of the year.

 This list consisted of the Montvale 10 Miler, the Mill Mountain 10k, the BlueRidge Half-Marathon, the D-Day Memorial 5k, and the 25k at Carvin’sCove. The Mill Mountain race would be the only repeat (including distance) from last year. I would be trying the 10 mile course in the Montvale race, as opposed to the 5 mile race that I had run for the past two years. The last three races listed above would be brand new to me. These include a 5k around the D-Day Memorial in Bedford, in which I have very strong family ties. I would also be taking part in the most difficult half-marathon course I will have ever run and my first race longer than a half-marathon (on a trail too).

So, needless to say my plans for the first half of the year were going to keep me very busy. But was the Explore Your Limits race was getting closer, I had a strong desire to take part in the race again. So, with just a few days till the race, I broke down and registered. With the Montvale 10 mile race coming soon, I knew I needed to spend Saturday morning getting a good trail run in. So I figured that there would be no better way doing it that with a few hundred Mountain Junkies!

After reviewing my race recap from last year’s Explore Your Limits race, I remembered how I had got to race too early and ended up sitting in my car for 30 minutes trying to stay warm. So, I decided that I didn’t need to leave the house until around 8am, in order to get to the race and get my packet. In order to get out the door then, I knew I needed to get up between 7:00am to 7:30am. So I went to bed knowing that I had to get up before 7:30am, to make sure I had time to eat and pack my bag. What happened next was crazy.
The boys came into our bedroom and woke us up. I glanced at the clock and saw the “20” in the minute’s section. Of course, I was too tired to pay much attention to the “hour” reading. I guess I assumed it was 7:30am, so I stumbled out of bed and went to the kitchen, while the boys climbed into our bed to snuggle with Mommy. I made my pre-race cup of coffee, bowl of oatmeal, and grabbed a banana. Then I sat down in front of the computer at the kitchen table and enjoyed my breakfast and coffee. After a few minutes of browsing Facebook and eating my breakfast, it was time hop in the shower.

As I went back in our bedroom, Anna said, “What are you doing?” I said, “I’m getting in the shower.” Then she said, “It is 3:30 in the morning!” What!? In my sleepy stupor, I failed to realize it was 3:20am and not 7:20am. This was not my brightest moment. Anna asked why I didn’t realize the sun was not up yet. So, after eating breakfast and drinking the majority of a cup of coffee, I had to lie back down in bed and try to sleep for a few more hours. Luckily, I feel back to sleep very quickly. The next time I woke up, I was sure to check entire time on the alarm clock!

I woke up again, ate another bowl of oatmeal, drank another cup of coffee, browsed Facebook again, and hopped the shower (talk about Deja vu). As planned, I made it out the door by 8am and to the park by 8:30am. There was plenty of time to get my packet, pin my number, and take a short warm-up run. It was very chilly on this March morning. The temperatures were going to be below freezing up until race time. So, standing around waiting on the race to start was not too much fun. But after a short wait, we were off running.

After having run my best 10k time last year at this race, I told myself that I was not trying to beat any personal records. I went into the race with the game plan of running a comfortable race. After dealing with a couple injuries the past few months, I just wanted an uneventful race. Even more important, I didn’t want to be dealing with any extra pain for days after the race. So, with this in mind I told myself that I was not going to look at my time once during the race. I would hear my watch beep for the mile markers, but I was not going to peak at my time or pace.

The first mile of the race is mostly on a wide gravel path and the majority is downhill. It is very easy to fast and pay for it later in the race. I made myself start very slowly. As much as I hate having a bunch of people fly past me, I just ignored them. I even enjoyed the views of the Roanoke River as we ran adjacent to the river on the lowest section of the course.

By the time we made it to the single track, most of the faster runners were well out in front of me. This gave me the ability to take my own pace without feeling like I was holding up everyone behind me. As we started a section of incline, my side started hurting a little bit again. This is something I have been dealing with for the past few months. The doctor believes that is scar tissue from my surgery last year. I wouldn’t say it is painful. It is more of a nagging issue and it feels like someone is just sticking their knuckle right below your rib cage.
I had recently read an article in Runners World about side stitches. Since my pain is very similar to side stiches, I decided to try one of their recommended tips for dealing with this type of pain. They suggested that you exhale at the same time your opposite foot strikes the ground. I started concentrating a lot on my breathing and it seemed to help. I don’t know if it was just taking my mind off the pain or if it was actually helping relieve the pain. Either way, I was able to make it through the next couple of miles pretty comfortably.

The worst part of this course is that the 10k runners actually share the same first 5k as the 5k runners. So the 10k runners get to see the finish line, only to have to dive back in the trails for another 5k. It was sort of nice to know that I had made it to “halftime” very little discomfort. I finished the next couple of miles at an easy pace and I started to think about what my actual finishing time was going to be. After my 53:38 finishing time last year, I figured with my slower pace I was probably going to be well over an hour. I expected to see an hour and twenty minutes on the clock as I approached the finish line. So you can imagine my surprise when I turned the last corner and saw 58 minutes on the clock.

I came through the finish line with a time of 59:11. I was very happy with this time because I had run my own race at my own pace. I felt reasonable good for just having run 6.2 miles through the woods. I am very glad I decided to run this race at the last minute. It was a beautiful morning to be running through the woods with a bunch of other people. Sometimes it is nice to not being running by myself on the trails. As always, the Josh, Gina, and all of their volunteers put on a great race. I had some good food and enjoyed visiting with some friends after the race, even though I didn’t win any door prizes! I look forward to doing it all over again in a few weeks on my home turf! Until next time, keep on runnin’!

Friday, February 28, 2014

2013 Peaks of Otter Christmas Classic 5k

I have taken a break from blogging, once again. Over the past few months, I have been dealing with some nagging injuries and I have been hardly running at all. The holiday season is always extremely busy for our family. Thanksgiving, Eli's birthday, Christmas, New Year's, and Coy's birthday are all bunched together during the winter months. So it was a great time to be with the family and let my body heal a little.

In November I decided to cut back on my running because I was having a lot of pain in my right side. The doctor thought it was probably scar tissue from my appendectomy last summer. After taking a few weeks to give my side a break, I started back up running but was soon sidelined again with foot pain. After a little research online, I self diagnosed myself with plantar fasciitis. So I decided that after I ran in the Peaks of Otter Christmas Classic 5k in Bedford on December 7th, I was going to take some more weeks off to let my foot heal.

There was no way I was going to miss this 5k in Bedford. This was going to be the third straight year I would run this race. But the main reason that I was anticipating this race was because I would be running it with my father. Over the previous few months, my dad had started running around the loop in Bedford. I remember the first few times I passed dad running, on my way home from work. It made me very proud of my dad to get out there and get some exercise. I think after his retirement, he had some extra energy to burn. During the fall months, I started bugging dad to sign up for the 5k in Bedford, since it was going to be about the same route he was running during his normal runs.

My father wasn't the only family member taking part in the running that cold December morning. Eli was going to be running his first 1 mile race and Coy was going to take part in the kids' ¼ mile race. I love how my boys get so excited to run in races. They are so cute when they so happy about having their own bib numbers to put on their shirts. I couldn't wait to race day, so that I could see three generations of Stevens' boys running down the streets of Bedford!

First we had to make it to the race. If anyone knows our family, you know that we are not the most punctual group. I usually blame it on having little kids, but it is probably more Anna and my fault. It wasn’t until we were in the car, heading to Bedford, that I realized how late we were running. We had about 15 minutes before the start of the race and since we live about 10 miles from Bedford, I knew it was going to be close. Since parking is limited at the middle school, I had Anna just drop me off and I would run use the short run to the starting line as my warm up.

I made to the starting area with just enough time to find my dad. He was already lined up and ready to go. It was really awesome to see him out there. Not only did I see my father, but my cousin Jennifer was also lining up to run. She was also going to push her 2 year old in a stroller. This was going to be a family event. We only had few minutes to talk before we were running.

Once we were running down Peaks Street, dad started telling me to go ahead and leave him behind. He didn’t want to slow me down. It was great to run with my father by my side. There was no way I was going to run ahead. I didn’t really need to leave him behind anyway, he was moving at a pretty good pace. The weeks leading up to the race, I had been dealing with a couple different injuries. I had already decided that after this race, I was going to take some time off from running to let my body heal some. So I was not trying to break any personal records during this 5k.

By the time we made it to Witfield Drive, we had found a comfortable pace. Now we just needed to maintain this pace until we got to the base of the dreaded hospital hill. Jennifer was also holding strong. She was keeping pace with us, even while pushing her stroller. I always try to break down difficult activities into smaller, more manageable tasks. So while running up a long hill like the one on Whitfield, I like to break it down into smaller sections. First, you just have to make it to the gate to the field on the right side of the road. Once you make it to that point, you set your sights on the fire hydrant. Next goal is the speed limit sign, followed by the intersection with Newton Circle. By this time your legs are usually burning so bad, that really just want to get to Oakwood Avenue.

I think one of the more difficult things about the hill section of this 5k, is that you will have another 1 ½ miles to the finish. You legs are really spent by the time you get up to the top of the hill. Dad and I took some time to slow our pace and let our legs loosen up some after the hill. By the time we got to Longwood Avenue, we were ready to make the final push. We made it back to the middle school in no time. I can’t tell you how proud I was to come down the final home stretch running in stride with my father. I was honored to take part in my dad’s first 5k, he did great!

Soon after the end of the 5k, the kids were lined up to run the ¼ mile race. Coy was taking part in this race around the front parking lots of the middle school. As we lined up, so seem a little apprehensive about the race. He tends to be shy around people he doesn’t know and since we were surrounded by strangers, he was not quite his usual wild self. Coy told us that he wanted Papa to run with him too. So we started the race with me holding his one hand and his Papa holding his other hand.

We made our way around the sidewalk on the front side of the school when I saw the bigger kids’ race starting. Eli was running in the 1 mile race for the older kids. His race’s path was down the Longwood Avenue’s sidewalk. It was a ½ mile down and back route that ended back at the school. Since they had opened Longwood back up for car traffic, I didn’t want Eli running by himself down the sidewalk. So I made sure Coy was okay with me leaving him with dad to finish his race. Then I sprinted to catch up with Eli. Anna had run a short distance with Eli, so he was not alone when I got to him. Both Eli and Coy did incredible jobs in their runs.

I couldn’t be more proud on this chilly December morning. I got to run with my father while he experienced his first 5k. Then I got to run with each of my son’s in races of their own. I have been blessed with such wonderful parents. I know no one can choose their own parents, but I would not trade mine for anything. Eli and Coy didn’t get to pick their father either, but I sure glad God has let me be a part of their life. Life is never easy and there are always going to be obstacles in my way, but with the all the loving people in my life I know I can make it through anything!

Monday, December 9, 2013

I am Falling Apart

Since my last race in October, I have been dealing with a couple nagging injuries. First I developed a pain just below my right rib. Since my surgery this past summer, I have been experiencing side cramp frequently during normal runs. I just thought it was due to not running in July and I thought I was just a little out of shape. But as the pain became more and more regular and once it started bothering me hours after running, I decided to go to the doctor. The doctor thought I was dealing with some scar tissue from my surgery and it was causing layers of muscle and tissue to stick together more than normal. He recommended that I take a break for a couple weeks and see if it got any better.

Fast forward a few weeks and I was able to start running again. I started with some easy runs on the treadmill, planning to increase my mileage gradually over the next few weeks. At that same time I began planning in a basketball league organized by my company. I think the combination of running again and making some lateral movements in basketball, I developed a pain in my heel. When I would get up in the morning, I could barely put any weight on my right foot. The pain would gradually get better as I loosened my foot through the day. But each morning and short 3 and 4 mile runs, my heel was very sore.

After doing a little research online, I came to the conclusion that I have developed a little plantar fasciitis in my right foot. All the all the recommended treatments for plantar fasciitis began with rest. Since I was just getting back into running, I really do not want to take a break. But to ensure that my foot problems didn't turn into a chronic issue, I have decided to take a few more weeks off from running. I had already signed up for the Peaks of Otter Christmas Classic 5k on December 7th, so I would try to run that race at a comfortable pace and start my rest after the race. I will use this time away from running to get in some mountain biking and weight training. I will pick back up running in January and see how my foot responds to slowly reintroducing a few miles a week running.

2013 Anthem into the Darkness Night Trail Race

This past weekend I had took part in my second ever night trail race. It is actually the second time I have ever trail ran in the dark, period. I took part in this same Mountain Junkies race last October and I had a lot of fun. After last year, I promised myself that if I ever ran a night race again, I would invest in a better headlamp. Of course after 12 months, I still didn't upgrade my headlamp. At least I splurged on some new batteries (even if they were Family Dollar specials).

I was very happy to find out that Jennifer (Overstreet) Abbott and Catherine (Saunders) Abbott would be running in this year’s event. After finding out that Anna and the boys were going shopping in Roanoke before the race, I ended up bumming a ride with Jennifer and Catherine to the race. Jennifer led us on a very scenic route, but we got to Explore Park with plenty of time to spare. I will not elaborate any further about Jennifer’s navigation skills, she may hurt me!

Once we got our race packets and I put my racing bib on as straight as possible (crooked numbers drive me crazy), we were off to the pre-race meeting. I really should have taken some time to warm up prior to the race starting. The next thing I knew, we are lining up at the starting area. After remembering that I forgot to start my watch last year, I was sure to start it sooner this year. I had a strong satellite signal and my headlamp was on when the starting horn went off.

The first 1 of the race is downhill on a half paved, half gravel road that snaked down to the edge of the Roanoke River. Once at the river, the trail started but it was pretty wide and flat for a while. During this first section of the race, you can really separate into different paced groups. I was determined to get out as quickly as possible this year. I had taken it easy the previous year and ended up behind some slower runners later during the single track portion of the race. My plan worked just as I had hoped and I got through the first mile in less than 7 minutes.

I probably should have planned my strategy a little better. By the time I made it to the top of the first hill climb, I was spent! This hill climb was no joke. It was up a very steep hill with lots of large, loose rocks and leaves. The trail was also very washed out during this section and it was very difficult finding a solid place for each foot step. By the time I got to the top of this hill, I realized that this course was going to be a lot more difficult that I remembered from last year. It was also at this moment that I tried to remember the last night I was on a trail. I don’t know why I didn't train more on trails for this race. I had not even run on a trail since before my surgery in June. I definitely was not as prepared for this race as I should have been.

The next couple of miles went by pretty fast, considering how tight my legs were feeling. I think the combination of no stretching and spending the majority of the day at the pumpkin patch with my family had taken its toll on my legs. Even though I didn’t break 10 minutes on any of my remaining miles, I felt like I was running a lot faster than I was actually traveling. Since I was spending a lot of time watching each foot step, the grounds seems like it is flying by you at a much high rate. Also, since you really can’t see anything too far away, you cannot pick something off in the distance to stare at while you are running.

I knew the course was just over 4 miles, but since there were so many switchbacks on the course, my watch’s measured distance was off. So when I popped out of the woods just after my watch said 3.5 miles, I was pleasantly surprised. I knew that once I was out of the woods, there was just a short run on the paved road to the finish line. At this point, I decided to finish with a final kick to the finish. I really pushed myself during this last section. When I got to the finish line, I didn't feel too good! It was at this point that I thought I was going to puke! I heard Anna and the boys cheering at the finish line. They had met me at the race, following their shopping trip. I decided to walk away from Anna and the boys, so they didn't have to watch Daddy throw up.

 After gaining my composure and pulling myself together, I made my way over the see Anna and the boys. I ended up running about a minute slower than I ran this course last year. Considering how spent my body felt during the middle of this race, I was very happy with my finishing time of 37:12. We hung out at the finish line to cheer on Catherine, Jennifer, and the other runners. Congratulations to Catherine and Jennifer on completing their first trail race! They did awesome! After getting some dry clothes on, I helped myself to some good food and a cup of coffee. The Mountain Junkies put together another great trail racing experience. All in all, it was a great evening of running in the dark! I look forward to my next race, whatever that may be.