Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Getting to Where I Want to Go

A race on Sunday, ungodly heat in Portland all week and now a calf strain—it's all got me off the FIRST track, but I'm not worried. It’s a plan written on paper by a bunch of guys who never met me and who don’t know how I feel when I climb out of bed in the morning. FIRST is my map, but I take a few detours—that's detours, not shortcuts—along the way.

* * *

The race was Wharf to Wharf, a 6-mile run from Santa Cruz to Capitola. I would never have thought to do this race—it’s 750 miles from home—but my Berliner friend Steve was on a trip to California and his family makes something of a tradition out of running the race, so I flew down to San Jose, ate Vietnamese while enduring karaoke with Steve in downtown San Jose, got in an easy 6-miler on the Coyote Creek Trail in south San Jose, and spent a couple nights at the ol' boyhood home with my parents. And then on Sunday, the race.

Santa Cruz is small and Capitola smaller, so 15,000 registered participants and maybe half that many bandits and folks just wandering around the course made for a crowded, tumultuous run. I lined up halfway between the 6 and 7-minute pace signs, which proved to be irrelevant; the runners seemed to have randomly seeded themselves and it wasn’t until after the two-mile mark that I began to move mostly unencumbered. Even at that there were the occasional slow-moving, wayward and zigzagging obstacles to negotiate, including what we came to term “walker walls,” anywhere from three to a half dozen or more people (almost always women) walking shoulder to shoulder, merrily and mindlessly blocking a good part of the road. Every race has its clueless contingent, but Wharf to Wharf excels in this category. Never seen anything like it in Oregon. Then again, up here people are generally pretty knowledgeable and aware (OK, a little obnoxious, too) when it comes to running.

No chip in this race, and I forgot the Garmin at home. Didn’t even mark my splits on my Timex. Data: sparse. But I do know I was through the first two crowded miles in around 15 minutes; made a clear mental note of being precisely at 28 when I hit the the four-mile mark; and my time was 40:35 from line to line. So we can agree I ran a 6:46 pace overall, with the final four miles at 6:24 and the final two at 6:18. I was pleased with all that, so pleased that I surprised Steve by being smiley afterward when I had every right to be miffed, as he was, at the unwillingness of so many race participants to seed themselves properly and remain aware of how their pace and path might impact others.

* * *

Arrived back in Portland around 10 p.m. Sunday to a locked-down 85-degrees-inside house and a forecast of extreme heat for the next several days. Did some light cycling Monday to loosen up a little race soreness. As I pondered rejoining FIRST yesterday, I knew I didn’t want to do track work, having just run very hard in Santa Cruz. I figured that instead I'd take on the week’s long run, a 20-miler at 7:45 pace.

That’s a tough run any day and at any temperature, but by the time I dropped Niko off at OMSI camp and got home and ready to run, it was after 10 a.m. and toasty. As in 85 degrees and climbing rapidly, with unusually high humidity lending an oppressive quality to the air. I’m stupid but not that stupid. I ditched the 20 and decided to run 14 at 8:30/mile pace followed by 10 today. My thought was that 14+10 might not be the quality workout that FIRST had in store for me, but it was enough volume to keep me from falling behind.

The 14er was brutal. I sweat nearly a gallon, literally, with my weight dropping around seven pounds in the hour and 58 minutes I was out there. Weird and telling how 14 @ 8:25—that’s what it ended up being—could be so much more challenging than the 18 @ 7:40 that I did the week before.

It took me all day to recover from the run. I ate the appropriate foods directly afterward, carefully rehydrated and took a long, cold shower. I even rested for 45 minutes, dozing a bit. But still there were points in the day when, alternately, great fatigue, hunger or thirst—or some combination thereof—would roll over me.

So there was a little trepidation coming into today's run, made worse by the fact that I got going later. The temperature was well into the 90s and closing in on 100 when I hit the road. See, I told you I was stupid.

After four miles on the grass at Normandale I felt a sharp pain squarely in the middle of right calf. Actually, to be honest, I had felt the slightest of twinges there late in the Wharf to Wharf race, though on yesterday's 14-mile run there was no pain at all. I thought it might loosen up if I just kept running, but it only got worse, so I cut short the run at 6 miles. Still, on PPH (pints per hour), today turned out to be even more of a sweatfest than yesterday; my weight dropped 4 lbs. during the 45-minute run.

* * *

Around the Web you can find a few semi-authoritative-sounding articles connecting dehydration and calf strains, but none of them comes with citations, so who knows if there's a link there? Right now, late in the evening after some icing and Trigger Point massage, it feels the way a cramp does several hours after it calms down: kind of sore. When I put pressure against the ball of my foot and try to point the toes forward there's no real pain the calf, a good sign. And I can walk and even go up and down stairs without any trouble. Nonetheless, I will approach this injury carefully. With seven and a half weeks to go before Geb and I tangle, there's time to rest and recuperate and still get in several good weeks of training before the taper begins. So if that's what I have to do, I will. It'll suck, for sure—I really want to get back to my track, tempo and long runs! But as I said earlier, if I need to make a little detour—particularly to avoid a fiery crash—well, I'm OK with that.