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Posts Tagged ‘running’

Last year I came across this really cool photo (7th in the gallery) of a person running on a trail in the middle of these super tall trees. The photo won a contest, which did not surprise me. “Whoa… that is so pretty!! I want to run there!”, I said to myself. I knew that the trail was local, but I had no idea where it was. I asked one of my running friends, but he was not helpful.

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This past winter, I decided to check out the cross country skiing trails at Cumming Nature Center. I have not been there in a super long time… in fact, the only thing that I remember about it was the one time when Joel and I were riding in the area and somehow we got lost and ended up at the Center. We went inside to ask for directions (it was pre-smart phones) and the woman at the desk looked worried, a bit more than we were, since we were way off course. We did find our way back to the car… with a few more miles than we intended.

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As I was making my way to the main trail, I was in awe… it was the trail with the super tall trees! The skiing was fantastic! I loved the woodsy trails and views. I ended up going back two more times.

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While chatting with the director, he mentioned that they were planning a trail race and festival in June. I was super excited since I loved cross country skiing there. I signed up when the registration opened.

I kept watching the forecast all week prior to the race day. It was a super hot week… in the upper 80s at times. A chance of thunderstorms kept popping up and going away for race day. The chance of rain went away, which was great. But the temperature dropped into the upper 50s, which was a bummer since it was so much warmer the days leading up to the race. My legs do better in warmer temperatures.

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My friend Sara ran the race too… it was her first trail race!

During the pre-race meeting, we were told that it down poured pretty much all night and that the trails were muddy. I was not too happy about that… I do not like running in deep mud. A few people were super excited… I do not understand the attraction. Why do folks like running in deep mud so much?!? It ruins the trail, you can fall in it, you are covered in mud, and your shoes and socks are super drenched in mud. I do not get it!!

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I have learned to start a race in the front in order not to get stuck in a bottleneck. As soon as we were told to go, I went. The run was ok. The trails were not my favorite, I must admit… 90% of the race was in a deep mud that was covered with tall grass, which made it difficult to see where your foot was landing. We also ran up this hill that seemed never ending and we also bushwhacked through the woods, which was a nice change. Unfortunately, the constant foot changes ended up bothering my knee.

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I was pretty much on my own for the majority of the race. Around mile 4, a woman passed me. She looked comfortable and strong. I was a little bummed since she was the first female to pass.

Since my knee was bothering me, I slowed down and even stopped at times. I tried to stretch and massage the muscles around the knee. Then another woman passed me. I was even more bummed! I was so upset at my knee. I tried to stay with her but she was going too fast and my knee was screaming at me. “Grr… it is what it is.” I thought. I just kept running and walking at times. Finally, the terrain did change a bit so my knee was not bothering me as much. Then another woman came behind me. I knew her from my yoga class, so we started chatting about the race and we shared the same feeling… the terrain was not a favorite.

I really did not want her to pass me too. I knew that I was going to be in 4th place if she did. So I took off. I had no clue where I was pretty much the entire race, but I ran over a bridge and it finally looked familiar. I realized that I was not too far from the finish. Then I found myself among the super tall trees. I also saw Joel and Julia towards the end of the stretch cheering for me. I was so happy to see them! As I ran past them, Julia shouted “Mommy you are the third female to finish!”. “Hooray!”, I responded.

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Photo courtesy of Ironwood Adventure Works.

I did it! I finished 3rd overall in the female group, which included 33 women. I also placed 12th overall out of 51 runners. I ended up with 6.1 miles with a 11:37 average pace. I have been running that pace for 4 miles, trying not to overwork my knee too much, so I was happy to see that I was able to sustain that, despite the rough terrain and longer miles. I was super proud of myself!

The race also included a small festival among the tall trees, which was great! It included 4 breweries, a kombucha place, a juice place, and a food place. Julia played with lots of kids and then hung out at a table where she learned how to make hops DNA. She had a super fun time!

Joel and I and a couple of friends had some super good food and a bunch of beer. A fantastic way to finish a race!

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On Sunday, all three of us ran in the Medved Madness Trail Race… Joel and I, along with our friend Marc, ran it as a relay team (My So Called Legs… of course!) and Julia ran the kid race.

As the race was nearing, I kept watching the forecast. The weather for this race has not been that good to us over the past two years, especially last year. Rain and snow greeted me during my leg. I was also training for a half marathon, so I ended up running a little over 9 miles in that miserable weather (read all about it). I was really hoping for something nicer this year. The weather Gods finally took some pity on us and the weather was fantastic!!

Marc started the race for us. He really wanted to run the first leg, since he has not done that leg before and he also wanted to experience a mass start. He liked the rush of being in the pack.

I ran next. I could not remember the exact route for this leg, but I really enjoyed it. I love running in pine forests and I ended up spending a bunch of time in it. The route also went through a grassy field, but it was not too bad. Also, my leg was not very muddy at all, which I was happy about! Ha! I was a little worried about my knee though… I rode my bike on the Wednesday prior to the race and it was kind of bothering me… I had a burning sensation when pedaling hard or while I was pedaling standing up. But it ended up being ok for the race. I tried not to go too hard. I ended up with a 10:48 avg pace for the 4.25 mile route, so I was happy with it!

Joel’s run was amazing!! The kid race was at 10:45 of that morning, so we were unsure if Joel would finish before that. My friend Jess and I joked that we should tell Dan, who is her boyfriend and the organizer of the kid race, to stall the start until Joel finished. The time was getting closer, but all of a sudden I noticed Joel running towards the finish line with 10 minutes to spare! He ran the leg, which was the longest at 5.46 miles, at a 9:07 avg pace. Incredible!!!

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Julia was super excited to run the kid race. She was even more excited that she had an official race bib! The kid race was well attended too… last I heard was that 34 kids signed up. That’s amazing!!

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As soon as Dan yelled “Go!”, they were off. Julia went full force for a while. I decided to run along so I can capture some photos. Not far after the start, I could see that she was slowing down and that she kept rubbing her left side. She made the rookie mistake and went off too hard… she got a cramp. I kept encouraging her to keep going, but then she got upset. I grabbed her hand and reassured her that it was ok and that we can just walk for a bit. And then the mud section came. It was chaos… the kids did not really want to go through all that mud… neither did I, again! We made it through the section and I can tell that she was feeling better. We passed this little girl who was crying uncontrollably since she was full of mud and lost her shoe in the mud deepness. I felt super bad. I saw Joel cheering Julia on so I told him to keep cheering for her and that I was going to help the little girl.

I went to her and tried to calm her down. I grabbed her hand and we walked together the rest of the way. I told her that many of us ran through that mud too and some even lost their shoes. I am not sure that it made her feel any better since she could not stop crying. As we got closer to the finish, her dad met us and he thanked me for helping her.

I ended up not seeing Julia finish her race, but I felt better that the little girl was not alone in distress. After our amazing feast of chicken BBQ, pasta, coleslaw, salad, rolls, and beer (yes, we even got some free beer from The Lost Borough!!), I did capture a photo of Julia at the finish line.

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Both Joel and I told her that she did such a great job. She disagreed saying that she got a cramp. Joel explained to her the mistake that all runners make where they start off too hard and then they cramp or bonk. I think that she got it. We further told her that the most important part was that she had a good time and that she finished. Because is that not the reason why we run… to have some fun in the woods?!?

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Enjoying her prize… an ice cream sandwich!

Thank you Medved for once again putting on a great race and providing us with a delicious feast!!

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My left knee decided to join the “I am the knee of a runner and I will hurt” group. It did not even bother to ask me if I wanted to join. Who does that?!? Not very happy at all!! And my hip just decided to start hurting for no reason, I guess.

I have always been pretty good at rolling before and after a run, especially after a run. I have not been very good at stretching though.

The first sign of it was last summer. Joel and I decided to run on the Auburn Trail, which I have done numerous times without any issues. Not even a mile in, my left knee started to hurt. I tried to run a bit more, but it was getting worse and worse. I had trouble even walking back to the car. But then a few days later, I ran on the trail and it was fine. I was unsure what to make of it. I thought that perhaps my road shoes were no longer fitting.

At the end of August, I ran the Midsummer Night’s Madness race as a relay with Joel and our friend Kristin. My leg was pretty much in a bunch of fields, so it was somewhat flat grassy terrain. After about 4 miles in, my knee started to hurt again. I was able to finish my leg, which was about 5 miles, but I had to walk/run pretty much the rest of it. It was very upsetting… I was doing so well too! After the race, Kristin helped me roll my muscles and any pressure on the left thigh was super painful. But then I continued running the rest of the fall with no issues.

We decided to downhill ski this past winter. We thought that it would be a good activity as a family. After about 7 or 8 visits, both my knee and my right hip started to bother me. Running was impossible too… I could only last 1 or 2 miles, if that. After another 2 ski visits, I decided to stop skiing. By this point, I was in constant pain… knee and hip. I was trying to think what I have done differently compared to previous years. I have never experienced so much pain before. Skiing was the only new thing, so it must have been the culprit. Both my knee and hip did get a bit better, but the pain was still there. I was so sad! I was not ready to give up running. It is my go to activity in the winter.

I was chatting with my friend Anna and she suggested that I should go to a chiropractor. I was super surprised that she recommended a chiropractor… I did not even think to do that. Usually chiropractors are for back and neck issues, no? She further mentioned that a bunch of runners go to this one particular chiropractor, Dr Burton, at Focused Health Chiropractic. I was also chatting with Molly, my yoga instructor, and she had only good things to say about that same chiropractor, so I decided to give him a try.

After a quick inspection, he mentioned that I had great flexibility and that I was experiencing IT band syndrome in my left knee. He also mentioned that I had weak hips so I was overcompensating in my legs/stabilizers. And sure enough, skiing was the culprit since my bad form caused pressure on my hips and legs.

“Easy stuff.” he said. I was so relieved! He suggested Active Release Therapy. I have read a bit about it and Molly also mentioned it, so I was set. After about 5 sessions and my home care of rolling, stretching, and icing, I finally started to see some results. I was so happy when I was able to run 4.33 miles without any pain! I did have a setback once, and that is when Dr Burton mentioned that I might have some cartilage issues in my knee. He also mentioned that I will have some bad days from time to time. I guess that I will just have to deal with that.

I am glad that my running days are not done quite yet. I do enjoy trail running a bunch. Now that the warm weather is here, I can start cycling as well, which the cross training will hopefully balance my knees and hips more.

So if you are having IT band issues, see a chiropractor and ask for the Active Release Therapy.

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I recently read an article on Outside that smiling makes you a more efficient runner. The article went on to say that “a hard effort makes you frown, and, conversely, frowning might make an effort feel harder—and smiling might make it feel easier“. Seems reasonable. Apparently, a study was even conducted, which pretty much proved that smiling does make you a more efficient runner.

I liked what I was reading and wondered if that was indeed true. Not that I am doubting science, but I just wondered anyway, as a personal experience. I thought about my past races, especially when Julia and Joel cheered for me or when others cheered for me… I feel that their presence and inspiration definitely helped but I was unsure about the smiling part. I do tend to smile a bunch if I see someone who I know, especially Julia or Joel. Did that brief period of smiling really help? I definitely think that their cheer was a distraction, which helped reset my thoughts at that particular point in time. But the actual smile… I was skeptical. So I decided to conduct my own experiment (because that scientific study did not convince me… ha!).

The article could not have been written at a more perfect time… I had a race coming up. This past Saturday I raced the 10k option of the Mendon Trail Run, which took place in Mendon Ponds Park. Joel ran it too. The weather changed a bit drastically and it was a chilly morning so I did not want to get to the start line too early. But once at the start line, there was no pep talk from the organizers and all of a sudden we were off. I hardly had enough time to start my watch. Also, as the pack hastily took off, the front group did not pay attention and missed the required turn. All of a sudden I found myself at the back of the pack. Joel ran past me annoyed. I was annoyed too… we just started and already got lost. Ugh!

As I was trying to settle on the route, I noticed that I was frowning and felt very annoyed. I was going up a small hill and I felt out of breath. That sudden start and missed turn really affected my mood. I then thought about my experiment and I laughed. And I kept smiling for the entire race. I even found myself bursting into laughter thinking about the experiment. I wondered if the other runners saw my smile and heard my laughter. That made me laugh too… I must have looked a bit ridiculous. I ran past the only aid stating, which was located at the half way point, and the volunteers cheered for me and one actually said “good job and you are still smiling!“. That made me smile even more! So with the biggest smile on my face, I thanked them for their cheer.

As I was coming close to the last stretch, I ran as fast as I could… still smiling. I felt super good and finished strong. Joel finished ahead of me, so we chatted about our runs. He mentioned that he did not feel too good. I told him that it was one of my best races and felt super!

I believe that the smiling really helped my run. Throughout the race, I felt super good. My legs were not in pain as they usually are. Even my breathing was calmer. Also, throughout the race, I really enjoyed the run and was not dreading each mile, especially towards the end of the race. I also felt like the run was easier than any of my previous runs or races. And lastly, I think that smiling really changed my overall mood and attitude.

As Joel and I were hanging out in the lodge resting and having a snack, the organizers presented the race awards. For my age group, she called my name. I could not believe it! Also, looking at the results, I placed 23 out of 65 for the overall group and placed 7 out of 32 in my gender group. That is just crazy! I thought that I had a good race, but I felt like there were a bunch of runners and women who were much stronger than I was.

The convincing part of this experiment was the pace. Recently, my pace has been around 11 to even 12 minute miles for 3 to 4 mile runs. I have actually been pretty disappointed about it lately since I feel like I was much faster in the past and even at the beginning of the year. Granted that I have only been able to run twice a week and I do run on my own a lot, so perhaps those are some of the reasons. Running or cycling with a group has always motivated me… I know this for a fact. For the race, my pace was 10:19… and this was a 10k! I am really excited and proud of myself that I was able to run it at that pace! And although there were many runners around to motivate me, I definitely think that the smiling helped. Every athlete should give this a try! And if you do, I am curious to hear all about it.

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On a fine November day last year, Joel and I decided to sign up for the Sehgahunda Trail Marathon Relay. We ran it as a four person relay two years ago, which was fun, so we thought that it was a good idea to run it as a two person relay. Hmm…

The official training started in February. Luckily for me, Joel figured it all out. Run two short runs during the week and then a long run on the weekends. Seems easy enough. I quickly realized that running two days a week was not very feasible. Working full time and taking care of our daughter, the house, etc. kind of put a damper on my training plan. My weekday runs were 5 or 6 milers, so they worked well enough to run longer during the weekends. But once I hit the 9.5 mile mark, I also realized that I did have to run two days a week, otherwise I would not be able to start increasing my mileage without risking an injury. Luckily for us, my parents live in town so they have been very helpful with watching Julia for us so we can do this thing. I am super grateful for it! Even our neighbors helped us one weekend… so grateful!!

The 9.5 mile run was not too bad. On that run I surpassed my longest distance that I have ever ran since I started running about 5 years ago. Then two weekends ago, we ran 10.5 miles. “That was crazy!”, I thought. I felt super good and it gave me more confidence that I will be able to do this race.

Then, as I was running mile 10ish of my 11.5 mile training run on Sunday and Parachute Youth was blasting in my ear “Can’t Get Better Than This…“, I thought to myself… “Oh yes it can, actually!!”. At least I was in the woods and the song distracted me a bit and made me think of the mountain biking video where I discovered the song.

I remember after riding for a few years, a bunch of my friends were asking me why I was not racing. “You would do well!”, they said. My answer was always that cycling would become work. You have to ride a lot of hours to be able to have the stamina and fitness to be a racer. I ride because I love riding and because I love to explore the area on my bike. It is not my job… it is my hobby. The same goes for running. I love being in the woods and exploring our parks.

I recently read this article, which made me laugh but also resonated with me. It was called “I Hate Running” and the writer’s statement after finishing a 50 miler was on point. When someone congratulated him for finishing the race, his answer was something like “I just ran 750 miles… you just saw the last 50 miles!“. (Another great article to check out is “People Who Say That Running Is Fun Are Lying To You“.) Although my feat is not as great as his, this idea of running three times a week in order to complete a half marathon is kind of a chore. It has become work.

I am not sure why it feels this way. Perhaps all those years that I spent on the bike riding thousands of miles burned me out and this is starting to feel that way. Or perhaps the fact that I love to ride, run, hike, and other things makes me feel like I am stuck with this one thing. I guess that is the downside of having multiple hobbies. Ha!

Nevertheless, I am glad that I signed up for this race. I never in a million years would have thought that I would be able to run 10 miles, 11 miles, or even a half marathon. It is a good challenge and I do not want to stop. The race is on May 20th, so I am almost there. I guess that this race also made me realize that long distance running is not for me and that I am happier if I am able to do everything that I love instead of only one single activity.

As I write this, the weather forecast is calling for rain for tonight, on Thursday, and on Sunday. Another reason not to sign up for a race in Spring. Hooray for training!

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I ran the Ready Set Glow trail race on Saturday. I was pretty excited to run it. I mean.. does it not sound fun to run in the woods at night with glow sticks?

I planned to run it last year too, but I waited too long to sign up and it filled up. I was so bummed! So I added the date the registration opened on my calendar and I signed up super early. Joel signed up for it too.

We invested in a bunch of glow sticks so we were set. I was not sure what to expect. I have never run in the dark before. Also, the race was at Dryer Road Park, which has a bunch of super twisty trail sections with lots of switchbacks. I ran in there a bunch of times and I always found myself questioning where I was… and that was during the day. It was going to be interesting.

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Since it was a mass start, we decided to start towards the front to avoid the inevitable bottleneck. We started fast. Joel started even faster… I lost him as soon as we entered the woods. Our friend Jeff stuck with me for a bit, but then he took off too. There were a bunch of runners behind me so I was not left alone. Everything was going fine until I came to a spot where the trail split into two directions. I stopped. I did not see a race marker. I was not sure which was the correct way. But then the girl behind me so confidently took the trail that veered left. So we all followed. As I was running, I noticed that there were no trail makers on the trail. A few others made the same comment. But we kept going. I was on the fence about it, but I decided not to turn around. Serves me right!

The rest of the group split up once again and I found myself running alone. I must admit that I was a little uneasy being out there alone in the woods at night… I run alone all the time and I have never felt this way before. The fact that it was dark was different. I did hear and see other runners in the distance, but my uneasiness did not fade. I also felt like I was just going in circles since the terrain looked so similar in a bunch of places.

Then all of a sudden I found myself in the field near the finish line. “How can that be??”, I thought to myself. My watch showed not even 4 miles… the race was supposed to be close to 5 miles. There were two people standing in the field and they told me that a few others finished early too.

I was so upset! I decided to go back into the woods. I ran for a bit but then decided that it was pointless. I had no idea where I was. I did not have a map to check. It was dark. I was alone.

I ended up with 4 miles. As I crossed the finish line, I told the folks who organized the race that I got lost and off the course and that I only ran 4 miles. I was so disappointed!!

Joel and Jeff finished about 10 minutes after I did. They were upset too… apparently they also got lost. They ended up with 5.5 miles. At least they did not finish early! As more runners finished, getting lost was the conversation of the night and everyone shared their experiences. So at least I was not the only one, but I still did not feel any better about it.

Then the results got posted, which made me feel even worse. I was placed with a “U”. What the heck is a “U”?!?! Apparently it means unofficial result. Blah!

I guess that I should not care too much about it, but I do not run many races, so when I do, I try my hardest. I guess that I do have a little competitive spirit in me. Ha! And I have learned my lesson… I will never follow anyone without double checking the trail markers. I am not sure if I will run this race again in the future. If I do, I will have to make sure that I will have a running partner.

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I recently ran my longest distance… 8.4 miles. On June 10, I raced in the Mendon Mauler Trail Run. I was very excited to run it. The previous week I ended up running almost 8 miles, so I knew that I was ready. The run took place in Mendon Ponds Park, which was familiar… I ran in there plenty of times, so I knew what to expect.

Since I signed up for the 8 miler, it meant that I had to run the same loop twice. That was a bit challenging, since there were a bunch of runners who were doing just the 4 miler and they were running pretty fast. I realized that I am definitely an inexperienced racer. I think that I started a bit too fast since I wanted to stay with the crowd. After about a mile, I calmed down and just ran my pace.

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I felt great on the fist loop. I took a gel towards the end of the first loop, hoping that it would keep my energy going. I saw Joel and Julia at the end of the loop, which made me smile! Then about a mile into the second loop, my left foot started to cramp. I was very thirsty during the entire run, not sure why. It was also a fairly warm evening. I tried to conserve my water since I knew that I had 8 miles to run and I figured that the 10 oz bottle would be plenty for the run. Apparently not. Then my second foot cramped too. I actually had to stop running to alleviate the cramps. I was so mad at myself for not refilling my bottle at the end of the 4 mile loop. I knew that there was a water station further down the trail but I could not remember exactly where it was. The cramps eased up a bit so I started to run slowly. Luckily the water station came sooner than I thought, so I refilled. I started to feel better… perhaps the gel kicked in and the fresh water helped too. I was running next to this woman and she mentioned that we had about a mile left. When I heard that, I just took off and ran as fast as I could. I felt amazing! I finished strong, but right as I got close to the finish line, my shin started to cramp. Ugh!

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I was happy with my run considering how I felt. Since it was getting late and close to Julia’s bedtime, we did not hang around much. Once I got home, I decided to check the results. I was amazed and beside myself… I won my age group (1st out of 9), got second in the female group (2nd out of 34), and placed 21 overall (21st out of 71). That’s crazy!! I never would have thought or expected it!

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My average pace was 12:24, which was a bit slow. I blame my cramps and this steep, full of rocks hill that I had to descend twice. Ha! And I definitely learned my lesson about drinking enough fluids. I should have known better since I had the same experiences when I first started cycling. It was also a Friday night… Friday nights are hard due to working all week, taking care of an almost 4 year old, and blah blah blah. Ha!

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I am still amazed that I can actually run that distance. I guess that I felt the same way when I first started cycling. I never imagined riding 15 miles, 50 miles, or even 100 miles… but it happened. For some reason I have no desire to run longer though. I like the 8 mile/10k distance. I also do not have time to train for longer distances. For this race, I ran twice and rode my bike once a week. I can definitely keep that up.

Oh and the best part about the race was the prize… a jar of Once and Again Peanut Butter! That’s right!

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Oh and this log… haha!!

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