9.5.11: catching up

Made it through the hurricane (and the earthquake) with no property damage, completed my first week of classes and an 18-mile run on Saturday. It’s Labor Day and a time to catch my breath. Trying to pick up where I left off is a little like doing the piles of laundry after returning from a trip. Blogging as documenting is a tool for mental/special organization. Some of us need that more than others.

The Hurricane
For those of you following The Green Book (the Marathon Training Team Log) the Patrick Henry Half Marathon was highlighted for Saturday, August 27. After a great 16 mi. long run the previous Sunday and some strong speed work during the week I was feeling very comfortable (with no injuries or complaints) and thinking that this would be more of a fun training run than a race. And I was pretty confident I could easily break 2 hours for my first half marathon and I was looking forward to this milestone. My mind was more focused on work with a flurry of activity not only for the start of classes, but also the exhibition design work in progress for the upcoming Richmond Folk Festival. Friends called Friday afternoon inviting us to join them for dinner at a neighborhood pub and knowing it wasn’t the best place to get pre-race meal, I decided that seeing friends with my family was a higher priority.

Earlier in the day, the news was filled with stories of evacuations and disaster preparation in light of the progress of Hurricane Irene. The weather report called for a dew point at 6 am of 77. Runners World’s chart rates anything above 70 as “Extremely oppressive” and “Skip it or dramatically alter goal”. That news alone left me, at best, ambivalent. At dinner we checked the storm track on our smart phones. Before bed, I set out some gels and recovery food and drinks and went off to bed without setting the alarm. I’d been waking up at 5 am for my runs and figured if I wanted to do the race, I’d wake up. I was more anxious about just getting to the starting line: finding my way to Ashland and a place to park (with all the talk about how HARD it would be to find parking); standing around in the rain, in the dark; getting my race packet, pinning my bib, and being at the starting line at 7.

If I’d been excited about the race, I could have easily planned ahead. I woke shortly after 5 and stepped out on the porch to a very warm, tropically humid pre-dawn morning and my first thought was how gross it would be to run for two hours in that. Back upstairs, Don was awake with his laptop open on the bed surveying the enormous swirling band of yellow and green just miles south of Richmond. As best as I could compute, based on distance and the rate of the storm it would be hitting Ashland about half way through the run. The choice was torture now or misery later. Miss the race, or risk getting caught in a miserable storm with 30 mph headwinds, and that was after an hour of slogging through “extremely oppressive” conditions.

“It might be okay,” I thought out loud without any conviction. “You never know. It’s hard to predict,” Don replied. After agonizing over a decision with the window for leaving and getting to the race on time quickly approaching, I decided to just stay home and go back to sleep. Fifteen minutes later, at 6 am I was awake and half rising thinking, “I could still make it.” But there wasn’t much energy behind that. As the morning wore on and the high winds and rain held off until close to noon, I was sulked miserably feeling like I might have had a great race. It wasn’t until days after that I spoke with folks who kindly said, “You mad the right decision. It was pretty miserable.”

The next day I set out with Garmin holding very little charge after we lost power, and planned to make up the 13 mile run. I was able to see much of the damage from the storm and ended up straddling and climbing over a few downed trees in my path. Right now my legs behind the knees are covered with a pretty severe case of poison ivy. But otherwise I feel great.

Back to the Green Book.
So the schedule called for a 10 mile this weekend and an 18 mile next weekend but I’ll be at my nieces wedding party next weekend and couldn’t imagine disappearing for three hours on Sunday morning.
But something switched with me after the 16 mile run two weeks ago. As much as I didn’t think I was prepared for it, I ended with a great run and a fast final few miles. A long run no longer felt so formidable and by getting the long run behind me first thing in the long weekend, I’d have the next two days to spend with my family. Henry drove around with me on Friday after school to set out Gatorade bottles at several locations around the city, allowing a few options for a run in case my IT bands started acting up, or some other new injury should flare up. I ended up criss-crossing the Saturday running groups, passing a few coaches, and circling around a few Fan blocks and around Oregon Hill so that I would be close to the end by the time I made it over the long span of the Lee Bridge and over to 28th Street. I was shy a mile and half and had to make that up in my neighborhood and my recollection is that it was a long mile and a half. I walked through the front door with nothing hurting. Ate what I could, drank as much as I could manage, soaked in an ice bath, and after a shower the Don, Henry and I headed out for a nice sedentary drive out to Farmville to look at boats. Eating a lot after a long run is never appealing and it takes effort to replenish my body with a lot of calories (and good nutrition).

Family Kayaks
The two things we do together as a family are biking and paddling. We live just a few blocks from a river which hosts a range of paddling from flat water, to a long stretch of class II, and up to class V or VI depending on the river level; and adjacent to one of the best urban mountain biking systems in the country. I knew the time would come to buy Henry (my 8 year old) his own boat so that we could more comfortably run the rapids of the upper James River as a family. Up until this time, I paddled the kayak while Don and Henry paddled the canoe but it’s rough on Don’s back, and the canoe isn’t meant for white water. And after Henry earned the camper of the week award at the local paddling/climbing camp for his ease in white water, it seemed like it was time to break down and get us all in our own boats. We bought for Henry the used boat he’d been paddling at camp and Don chose a kayak meant more for white water than my basic recreational kayak. We launched our first paddle with our friend Tom and had a five-hour trip down river stopping to explore catfish holes, walk out on the Z-dam and lounge on the rocks.

Balance

One of my primary concerns about an injury when I was training in the spring for my first marathon was that I’d be too tired or injured to maintain a high level of activity with my family. Almost every decision I make in terms of when and how long to run takes into consideration both my family and my work. If I can get up early enough for my early runs, I can be back home just as they’re waking up and I can be there to help Henry get ready for school. If I know I’ll need some time for recovery after a long weekend run, I can plan something like a movie or road trip rather than a crawl upstairs for a nap. With two days of driving rain in the morning, I’ll need to make time during the day to get to the gym, either before classes or during a break. It might mean shifting a 9-mile run to Thursday rather than Wednesday. Some things just don’t get the attention needed. Dinner. I’m loosing my creativity for dinner. The houseplants are barely holding on, and our dinnerware is cracked.

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