Sunday, February 21, 2010

Frigid Five in Edmond, OK

Since I had off of work on Monday for President's Day, we took a quick 3-day trip to visit my parets in Blanchard, OK. I found a fun-looking 5-mile race in Edmond, OK, called the Frigid Five, so we both signed up and got ready to run.

Saturday morning, I put my game face on...but this time, complete with a burgeoning, trashy mustache. I've never had the opportunity to run with a mustache before, and I only decided this a couple days in advance, but I had to ask myself: WWPD?

Anyway, Saturday ended up being quite pleasant for Oklahoma in February: a high in the mid-50's was predicted, and it was mostly sunny and upper 30s/low 40s in the morning. Near perfect, in fact, except for a 15mph wind. But, not too much to complain about. The race had a casual but on-time start, and had a winding course on the paved trails of Mitch Park in Edmond. The race has gained popularity year over year, with around 1000 people in this year's race. Great to see that many people out in February!

Scanning previous results, and knowing my time from a 4-miler in November, I figured 31 minutes would be a good goal, and that somewhere around 20 people would be around that time, so I lined up accordingly. And, bonus if I didn't get chicked! ("Not that there's anything wrong with that!"). Seriously, it doesn't bother me at all, but because of my respect, it's always an honor to run near the leading female. (I will not, however, go out of my way just to race a female in an arbitrary position after 1st place, as I watched 2 guys do so they could beat my wife by a few steps!)

We took off, and there was plenty of room to find position and settle into a rhythm. The hills were mainly in the middle miles of the course, so I figured running the first, downhill mile a little fast wouldn't be the end of the world, and I hit it right on target. I dropped some time on the 2nd and 3rd miles, as the hills began and we headed into the wind, but I also passed a couple of guys here. I hit the 4th mile in exactly the same time as my last 4-mile race in FC in November, so I knew I was ahead of pace if I could keep it up. My last mile ended up being one of my fastest, as I got closer to one more runner and had a target to pace off of. This kid was a local 16-year old with his own cheering sections, though, and rightfully so: he had saved a heckuva kick for the end. Great to see a younger runner save something for the end rather than blow up, so my hat's off to him!

Anyway, I beat my goals for the race, and then looped back to find Jessica. Her goal was to run consistently for the entire race, but she kept running strong and beat her stated goal by ~2 mins per mile...and beat my more challenging goal for her by ~1min/mile. Great job! It was nice to have my parents out there cheering us on and taking pictures, too.

Afterward, we headed to Pops "Soda Ranch"on Route 66 in nearby Arcadia, which has over 500 flavors of soda. Crazy! Lots of interesting bottles and flavors of 'microbrew' soda, many of them with real sugar and other 'real' ingredients.

Then, we headed back down to OKC for lunch at Ted's Cafe Escondido, which has some of the best Mexican food in the world, I kid you not. Yum! Full and ready to pass out, we headed back home, where I took a shower and shaved off the 'stache. All good things must come to an end.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Avoiding Frostbite

This story is about a fairly ordinary morning trail run, but is being shared to serve as a cautionary tale to others.

I've been trying to up my mileage lately. Since we were leaving for a full weekend of skiing, I decided to sneak in one more run before heading to Summit County. Plus, I got some sparkly new shoes the day before, so I was anxious to break them in. At dawn, I headed out for an easy 10-miler.

I ahould add that just a few days earlier, I did slip on some ice and fell right on my butt, so I was a bit more careful about sticking to visibly dry pavement and concrete. Although this was a far cry from the shirtless running weather of just a week ago, ice was not the concern of the day.
Verily, it was cold, but so far, so good: the streets were quiet, and the air was crisp.

Still, the air stung my face a bit and made my fingers tingle. Over time, I bunched them inside my glove to try to get them to warm up. Then, I tucked them under my armpits briefly. This only helped for a few minutes, so I needed a new tactic. I suppose one of the problems with running in the cold is keeping the hands elevated. Over time, this prevents proper bloodflow, I guess, so I shook my hands downward, and the began to warm up. Painfully. But, I figured I only had 20 minutes or so left in my run, and then I could look forward to turning the fireplace on, grabbing a coffee, and taking a shower.

And then I got home. Now, as an engineer and introspective physiology hack, I've questioned the 'intelligent design' of the silly human body before. Why does my head and upper body sweat and overheat, while my extremities suffer painfully? Extremities, yes...finger, toes, and...uh-oh.

Often, when running in the winter, I'll debate pants vs. shorts, but in either case, they're snug and windproof. (And most of my winter outdoor activities involve multiple layers of pants and snowpants). Today, for some reason, I wore some rather light, NOT windproof pants, and loose-fitting undergarments. This, with the wrong amount of sweat, conspired to create a near disaster. On my run, I felt like I needed to take a pee for about 45 minutes, but when I got home, I realized it wasn't that simple. A burning sensation, yes, but something altogether worse. Although the male human body will go to great lengths to regulate testicular temperature, apparently keeping the rest of it warm was an afterthought.

I quickly headed to the shower. A few times in the past, when I've thawed out cold hands, I've found the re-warming to be even more painful. Today, as I thawed out completely, I literally doubled over in pain, felt like I was going to vomit, and bit into a towel so I wouldn't scream...too loudly. After 6 or 7 minutes of hell -- is it fire, or is it ice? -- I regained hope for the future. I headed over to the Internets, and quickly learned that this problem is not uncommon at all; rarely permanent; and rarely suffered more than once.

The lesson? Stay snug and windproof!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Twin Mountain Trudge 2010

The Happy Jack, Wyoming, area is known for some great cross-country skiing, with numerous groomed trails through the trees. In the summer and fall, these same trails make for some great mt. biking and running. But who would think to run on the trails in Winter?

Well, some enthusiastic runners in the Laramie/Cheyenne area, that's who. Hence, the Twin Mountain Trudge.

The Trudge is a mini sort of winter adventure race, with the course and logistics set up by Alec Muthig and friends. The course is just under 11 miles nominal distance (if you follow the snowshoes and flagging correctly), with an extra credit option of doing another loop.

This race was brought to my attention by local trail-runner Nick Clark, who also offered to carpool up to the race, along with another local runner, Alex May. I appreciated the chance to carpool and meet both of these guys. Nick has been on a bit of a hot streak of late, having won two competitive races in January already (in addition to having won the Trudge last year), so it would be interesting to see how he did in this one.

Por moi, my "goals" were simple: I was looking to get in a good race early in the year to motivate further training; spend a few hours on some new trails; and meet some new folks. In short, mission accomplished! Time-wise, or distance-wise, I had no idea what to shoot for. Due to the carpool, I made one promise: if Nick stopped after 1 loop, so would I; if I were 20 minutes or more behind Nick, I would stop after 1 loop. Else, I had a decision to make, based on conditions and how I felt.

We arrived sufficiently early for the pre-race briefing, etc., and lined up. Honestly, there were folks of all shapes and ages out there to have fun...and we were off. I enjoyed the first part of the course, a moderate climb over dirt and light snow. Thankfully, traction wasn't a problem, and it was all runnable. We headed off into singletrack, though, and the post-holing began! At this point, I was surprised to see that there were just 4 of us within site of each other; effectively, two groups of two. I tried to stay within sight of Nick and Ross, mostly to watch where they ran so I knew where the terrain traps were! I thought that it would be easier to run in their footsteps, but I found that to be more difficult than I anticipated. I looked forward to short bursts of dirt, when I could start running again; but trudging slowly in the snow still kept the heart rate up. We hit a short but steep section of a fenceline climb which necessitated walking, followed by the "Devil's Loop." Devil, indeed. I lost site of Nick and Ross, as this truly became a trudge-a-thon of much walking, for me at least. Soon, Brian M. caught back up with me, and we got a chance to chat a bit. At the deep end of the loop, there was a hole-punch to prove that we did the loop -- I nearly missed it, but Brian pointed it out, and another runner caught up to us. He was looking good and started pulling away.

I looked forward to finishing the Devil's Loop, but finally learned a few techniques that made trudging easier. First, I took long, sliding, reckless strides on the downhill, as the snow was deep enough to cover all the rocks. Also, on climbs where there were sufficient steps from the Alec's snowshoe tracks, it was definitely easier to take quick, light steps uphill than it was to walk. Still, immediately after the Devil's Loop, I had no thoughts of doing a 2nd overall loop.

But, the course became mostly runnable again after the Devil's Loop, and really became fun again. I took the time to look around and enjoy the warm sun and open views on this part of the course. Soon, 3 of us were at the 8-ish mile aid station in the middle of nowhere, but I didn't really need anything (and forgot about the Scotch that was there!) I kept going and hit the downhill fire road and let it fly. I saw Ross coming out for a 2nd loop, and he offered a gamely "Nice job!" at the same time I did -- but didn't see Nick, yet. This part of the run was fun enough that I was contemplating the 2nd loop.

I reached the finish-line a few minutes over 2 hours -- a nice, even number that would have been nice to hit, but c'est la vie. I saw Nick there, and said "Thank God!" My decision was made, Nick was satisfied enough with winning the 11-miler. More miles would've been fun, but so was hanging out, eating soup, chips, and M&Ms, and drinking beer.

Yes, the sun came out even stronger, and with no wind, it was quite enjoyable. I enjoyed chatting with several of the Wyoming runners, and cheering on Alex as he came in strong. I also talked a bit with Amber Travsky, who's a great resource for southern Wyoming cycling and skiing, I've read several of her articles. I also learned that the RD, Alec, is getting ready for next year's Arrowhead 135.

He made it to Mile 41 in a previous race -- on snowshoes (the slowest method of travel allowed in a grueling, freezing race). Having spent some time in Minnesota and enough other time out in the cold for various reasons, I was eager to hear about Alec's previous lessons and future plans for the race. I think he's got a solid plan in place and knows how to handle logistics and training, so I look forward to seeing how he does in the Arrowhead next year.

And, I look forware to next year's Trudge!