Bradley's View

Bradley's View

Friday, October 14, 2011

Short And Sweet!

     Last week I caught wind of the FootRx Asheville Cross Country Series.  Unfortunately, by the time I came up to speed, so to speak, there were only two races remaining.  So, with my recent speed work(of sorts), I decided that a shorter race could be a great way to test myself and serve as a nice diagnostic test for what I can ask of myself and what goals I can set for the next months of training.

      So race #9 of the series it was.  The stage was Jackson Park in Hendersonville.  Another place worth checking out if you find yourself in the area.  The course was very much a cross country course featuring running through grassy fields, a couple of short stints on asphalt, and predominantly on wide trails.  The race was a 6k, about three times shorter than any race I'd run prior.  Given my inexperience in running short distances I was aloof as to what to expect with regards to my performance, but I knew I'd work my hardest.

      At the starting line I met a few of the runners and was informed as to who the top-runners in the group would be, and then the race had started.  I found myself seeking to stay on the tail of the two notorious frontrunners in the group and was able to keep the gap within about 15 yards for the first kilometer where a cramp led to a little faltering in my speed.

      As we entered the woods I was able to regain a little peace of mind and began to push myself through a couple of quick kilometers.  In the open spaces the two leaders were still in sight, but I didn't have a whole lot more to offer that would allow me to catch them.  Thus, I settled into to a pace that was still very quick for me hoping to ensure that I wouldn't be passed by anyone.

      In the final kilometer or so fatigue really set in and the cramp in my side returned more vigorously that before.  But through the final couple of hills I was able to keep up a reasonable pace and come to the finish line just where I had started, in 3rd place!

      Running "fast" in a race was a very new experience for me.  I have always worked hard in races from half marathon to 50 miles and, don't get me wrong, it exhausts you, but to keep up a fast pace throughout a short race brings about a totally different type of fatigue.

      It felt great to finish.  The top two performers put on an amazing show finishing twenty seconds apart in the mid-22 minute range.  I pulled in two minutes behind at 24:48 (~6:21/mile) with the forth place finisher arriving a minute and a half after me.

      It was a great race to be apart of, a million thanks to Aaron Saft and the rest of the FootRx for the preparations and cheering they provided before and during the race.  And a million congratulations to all of the runners that worked hard and got to enjoy a beautiful day on a beautiful course.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Back On My Feet And Headed to Arkansas

     Have we discovered the silver bullet to avoid the frustration and pain of IT-Band injuries?  Doubtful.  But the last couple of weeks have been wonderful for me.  After foam-rolling myself to tears at least once daily, dedicated stretching/yoga every morning, and several hot baths, I was starting to see promise at the end of so much aggravation.  Adam and a couple of other running blogs led me to believe that running fast could thwart the symptoms of my injury that I was sure to experience after only 3 miles of running slow(er).

      I elected to heed these (potentially) wise words and give it a whirl.  Now, I must say, I've never been one for running "fast".  I tend to keep at conversational pace and run around a 7:20 pace for a half marathon.  So venturing into the realm of high-heartrate and jelly-legs was something new for me.  I tried to keep the majority of my workouts below a seven minute pace for a couple of weeks once I discovered the potential that this approach held.  At first I experienced several days of sore calves, as expected, but every workout I noted that my breathing became more controlled and I was able to find a rhythm in my stride and body motion that just made it feel easier.
      I took this mentality of speed over sprawl with me out west as Melissa, Luna, and I made our way to Arkansas to celebrate the marriage of my cousin, Matthew, and his new wife, Ana.  I must take this time to insert that I absolutely love my family and family get-togethers are always such a joyous time.

      Anywho, after spending some time in Arkansas and getting to run the trail in Jonesboro a few times (and hopping on the treadmill in the hotel), we took advantage of our time in unexplored territory and elected to do some adventuring in Western Kentucky.  We met up with my dear friend Blake and a new friend, Whitney, and spent the day climbing some relatively unused crags.  It had been a while since any of us had climbed so we did a few 5-8 sport routes and called it quits.

Climbing in Dawson Springs, KY

      Once we arrived back at Pennyrile State Resort Park where we were to camp and I immediately laced up my shoes and grabbed my headlamp for a night run.  The five of us (12 legs) headed down to check out the lake before sunset.  What a gem that park is, and a beautiful time of year to be there.  After playing some rigorous fetch into the lake for at least 30 minutes, I considered myself warmed up to depart on the run.
      This run was a ~4 mile loop around the lake that featured a few hills for the conquering.  It felt absolutely incredible.  Running at night is like that- just using one small headlight to see the ground 5 feet in front of you and simply relying on having faith and strength enough to push off with confidence into the darkness.  I truly felt as though I was riding the wind.

Warm-up Fetch Session

     The next day we started back east, only to stop again two short hours later at Mammoth Cave National Park.  After driving through the fantastic fall foliage across the rising and falling of the never-ending hills, the arrival at the visitor's center left me dumbfounded.  How can a park so beautiful as this, with so many opportunities for camping, hiking, running, biking, and horseback riding,  and the world's longest cave(392 miles of mapped cave, and much more that is in the process of being mapped) be so evidently underfunded and under appreciated (as far as numbers of visitors is concerned).  But, alas, that is the case.  I would encourage anyone that finds themselves in the area to devote a couple of days to it.

The Frozen Niagara Formation

     We took a tour of the cave under the guidance of an incredibly knowledgeable and passionate guide and spent the rest of the day above ground.  Here we, surprise surprise, decided to go on a run to get to see as much of the park as we could in the little time we had.  The first two miles of the run I had great company in Mel and Luna, but then I went ahead to finish the last 6 miles on my own and the two ladies headed back from whence we came.  I ran fast and hard and through discomfort and I loved every second of it.  What a peaceful way to meditate and pray running can be!  My performance on this run left me feeling very confident in my ability to preform well in the FootRx Grand Prix race only five short days away back in Asheville.

Mammoth Cave National Park