other sports, people who find runners annoying, probably a bad idea, racing, White Rock Marathon, yoga

Race report: Cross Timbers trail run half marathon

Don't know that these Go Runs will see another run, but I thank them for hanging on.

I have this reoccurring dream where I am running, but I can’t move. Like I am running through water or mud and in the dream, I grab the ground and roots and trees and anything I can to propel myself forward.

Yesterday, I lived that dream at the 2012 Cross Timbers trail half marathon.

As I mentioned earlier on the blog, I signed up for this run as part of my resolution to not take running so seriously and to do fun new things. It was an amazing remedy for the symptoms — self-doubt, feelings of inadequacy, self-pity — that have been plaguing me since my November marathon.

Because of some chaos at home (nothing unusual) I sleep only about three hours Friday night. It rains all night long. Wake up at 4 a.m., drink about 40 ounces of strong coffee — this and adrenaline gets me through the 2 hour (dark and drizzly) drive.

Hari and Steve at the finish.

This will be my first trail race ever and it is going to be rainy and muddy. The difficult and unprecedented conditions mean no expectations. No pressure. Just go have fun. Perfect.

I love the trail race mentality compared to the road race. So low key. Get your number, line up, follow the little white flags. Seems simple enough. The race starts out on the road so runners can thin out according to speed.

I position myself behind the fastest two women and three high school boys who are holding a funny conversation. During the first 30 minutes or so of the trail it is all fun — people  joking, we are moving along, though there is a heavy layer of mud. On a downhill very early on, the leading female tells me to go ahead. I had planned to follow her for a while, but I can’t physically go slow on the downhills at this point, so I pass her and fall in behind two guys.

There is a lot of climbing up and down hills, but I manage to stay upright. We go through the first aid station at 2.5 miles and I take some electrolytes in the form of some terrible liquid called Heed.  At about 40 minutes in, one of the guys I am following looks back at me and goes: Have you run this before? And I go, No. And he says, It is a really difficult race and usually really slow.

Me and Hari at the finish.

So I have heard, I say. I know what he is trying to tell me: that I am going too fast and that I won’t last. Maybe so, but I need to follow someone; I am really scared of getting lost. I back off a little, knowing they are probably right, but I keep them in my sight.

Along the route there are short stretches where you can actually run and I run those at what I felt is a tempo pace (I had no watch, no mile markers, so I could only go by feel). Following the lead of others, I power walk the really steep uphills. Some of those I crawl, grabbing trees and roots in order to pull myself up. The downs are tricky — some I literally ski down, like I am on snow.

I don’t look up from the ground much, but at one point I glance out over the ledge and catch a great view of Lake Texoma. It is surreally gorgeous and I smile — I am so genuinely happy to be here! I begin passing some of the warriors such as Dallas runner Libby Jones who started the marathon version of this race a half-hour before us.

This, I think, is the Cross Timbers race director.

About an hour to an hour and a half in (still no concept of time) I am thrilled to see the frontrunners coming back through. The leader — a sinewy guy with a long red beard under a knit cap — embodies the competitive trail runner.

At the halfway rest station, there are all sorts of goodies — sodas, Gatorade, bananas, candy, cookies. I am loving trail running more and more. I try not to linger too long. As I shoot out of the tent, I see four or so girl runners who aren’t too far behind me. I tell them great job and tell myself You are OK. You don’t need to be first. If they catch you, there’s no shame in it.

Then, I have to add, But, since you happen to be in this position, you DO have to try your best to keep it.

Also at the turn around I see a familiar face, Hari Garimella, my friend from the White Rock Running Co-op, who also decided on a whim to come do this thing. I give him a big hug and take off.

Here's a portion of the muddy trail shot by runner Bryan Moore.

So, the way back is trickier than the way out. The mud has gotten muddier and slippery-er and thicker. Keeping my shoes on becomes a problem. I have to try to tighten the laces or else I will be barefoot. I fall hard one time — I rise with a thick layer of mud covering my butt and the backs of my legs. From trying to catch myself, I’m wearing mud gloves. I try to wipe my hands on the trees but just wind up getting an added layer of damp moss.

On some of the uphills, I begin to doubt my stamina. My knee is throbbing. I feel really tired, but then something such as falling or sliding down a wall of mud, or having to reach down with my hands to pull my shoe from a mud puddle takes my mind off of my fatigue and pain.

A few times, I laugh out loud or yell Whoa! as I slide down the side of a hill — I really am just playing in the mud. One guy passes me and says, You know, we are mentally ill? I laugh and think, Well at least we have a fine ensemble of enablers to organize  events for us. I also figure we are only moderately sick considering there are others in our midst doing 50 miles of this sh*t.

Another trail shot borrowed from Bryan Moore via Picasa.

There are about two guys who pass me on the way back, but I pass a few people myself. One might be the buddy of the guy who implied I was starting too fast. The last hill is an absolute joke. It is so steep and my legs are so tired that I am bent at the waist, holding the ground with one hand and with the other hand, physically lifting my other leg. I’m talking to my legs at this point too: Come on legs, move! Please!

A guy beside me here, doing about the same thing, says: So close to the end and I can’t move. I leave him. It is the words close to the end that launches me up the rest of that hill. Sure enough, I hear bells and cheering in the clearing. Then I see the clock and the finish line — 2:49 is good for first overall female in the half. Not a typo — a 2:49 half got me a first place!

The race director congratulates me and gives me a wooden plaque and a sweatshirt. And I head into the tent where wonderful volunteers serve hot soup, drinks, burgers and all kinds of goodies. Covered head to toe in mud, barely able to walk, eating delicious potato soup, feeling victorious for the first in a long time … life is just about perfect in this moment.

There was one guy about a minute ahead of me that seemed to be easing through the whole race (taking photos of the lake and then taking off as I approached) turned out to be another WRRC friend, Steve Griffin. Trail racing must be his forte (this was only his second ever). He never even looked tired. As I was lounging, I saw another friend Dave Renfro come through the finish line, but he — the 50-mile race leader — was only half done. Dave ended up winning the 50 miler.

I don’t think I will ever forget this race. I know dreams are symbolic of life’s deeper issues, so what does it mean to live out a reoccurring dream? I’m not sure, but it must be meaningful and therapeutic.

Also, my gluteus maximus, quads, back, shoulders, hips and knees won’t forget it for several days. #$%^, Ouch!

inspiration, marathon, other sports, people with true grit, Peter Snell, racing, running, running celebrities, training

Running legend Peter Snell, Lydiard method, other cool stuff

Peter Snell shows me the track shoes that ran a 3:54 minute mile.

In Aug. 2008 when I was writing a story, Gold Diggers, about Olympic medalists who live in the Dallas area, I learned that the legendary New Zealander Peter Snell, winner of three gold medals (1960, ’62, ’64) in the 800 (twice), the 880 and the mile (Snell broke the four-minute mile 15 times, with a best of 3:54) respectively, lives right here in the White Rock Lake area.

In fact, my running group has passed right by his home on an occasion or two. Today he ‘s Dr. Snell and he researches exercise and aging at UT Southwestern. Last week I interviewed him for a story we are doing about (in a nutshell) aging well, and I derived a little wisdom, or at least something to think about, from our talk.

Snell’s coach was Arthur Lydiard, famous for putting his short and mid-distance runners to 100-mile training weeks. Snell still believes in the Lydiard training method. Only now, unlike when he was running the miles back in the 1960s, he says understands why the method made him a great runner. “Back then I was just following directions, he says.”

It’s complex, but basically, the incredible stamina produced by weekly hilly (“slow, 6-minute per mile”) 22-mile runs and daily 17-18 mile jaunts, allowed him to have a devastating kick at the end of short races.

(Check out this video of his two record-breaking miles for an example. )

Lydiard’s method also includes plenty of hills, intervals, race pace and such, but at its heart is miles and miles. In fact, in a Time magazine article, a source remarks that when a competitive runner reaches exceedingly high mileage and the joints begin to ache and the pain is enormous, most coaches ease up, but Lydiard would keep pushing until the runner “becomes insensitive to the pain.” (You can see here why the Lydiard method is sort of controversial.)

Snell poses with other sub 4-minute milers — can you find Roger Bannister?

Snell says the mile race begins at the 3/4 mark. The first three quarters are about positioning and relaxing, he says.

That translates too to marathoning — the marathon begins at mile 20, I’ve heard many more- experienced- than- me runners say. The key is feeling good and staying on target up to that point, then having enough in the tank to go strong for six miles. A good, sturdy base and frequent race-pace running, it would seem based on my studies and experiences, is key to making this happen.

That doesn’t mean 100-mile weeks, but it means significantly more than the 35-45 mile weeks I once relied on for marathon preparation.  But the problem with upping that mileage is balance/knowing when to say ‘enough’ — at 60-70 mpw, I am hurting. My knee is swollen, my heel is sore and my achilles is tender and tight.

Running Times a while back ran a comprehensive piece about Lydiard training. It addresses my issues. Here are some highlights; I totally recommend that serious runners read the whole thing:

Miles are “money in the bank”. The more you have the greater your currency to buy ATP’s (the units of energy your muscles need for contraction) and the faster you will eventually be able to race in any event that has a large aerobic component.”

Train based on feeling. Lydiard looked at modern technology — whether a coach yelling split times from the sideline or a watch that beeps — as training wheels. He would prescribe runs at half effort, full effort, or seven-eights effort and said the runner needed to develop a rapport with his/her body — we need to learn to trust the inner coach, he said.

Balance workouts/ breakdown and buildup. This is tricky. Despite what the aforementioned Time article said, Lydiard believed recovery is important. *”While Lydiard pushed his runners, he offset the overtraining syndrome by preparing them for optimal recovery with base training, gearing the training to be feeling-based, and adjusting workouts according to the athlete’s recovery response. The art of good training calls for an accurate assessment of which side of the adaptation curve the runner is on — catabolic or anabolic — and prescribing appropriately: a recovery run or a workout. There are simple ways of assessing this: An elevated morning heart rate, poor sleep, low energy, sore muscles and bad mood are all indicators that the runner needs further recovery and a workout of any intensity is contraindicated. Once the “spark” has returned the runner is ready for the next “stress.”

Have good timing. Three-four weeks taper, higher mileage during earlier weeks of training, more skills and speed in the weeks before taper … *”It is one thing to maximize the amount of energy at the disposal of an athlete. It is another to channel that energy into the event that matters. To ensure one’s best form is achieved on competition day, a Lydiard schedule is always written from the goal backwards, allotting the amount of time needed for each phase and using the remaining time for base training …  There is nothing more confidence-building than the somatic knowing of thorough preparation.”

Miki and Peter Snell, at home near White Rock Lake

After the 1960s, Snell didn’t do any competitive running. He met his wife Miki at a speaking engagement. She was also a runner — in the 70s she won the Turkey Trot three times. Together they have done a few short triathlons, and they are really into orienteering. They are both still quite competitive, especially with one another. They call exercise “the fountain of youth”, and they , now over 70, are living proof.

So whether you are running 100 or 15 miles a week, keep it up. Consistency, Snell says, is far more important than anything else.

More story in the November Advocate magazine, coming soon.

*quotes from Running Times 

cross training, inspiration, other sports, probably a bad idea, racing, running

Pre-race ritual: surfing and a long desert drive

This is me with my surf coach Shea at Cardiff by the Sea. Cali!

It’s 4 p.m. two days before my long-awaited midnight desert half marathon, and I am climbing a hill, sweating inside a wetsuit, carrying a 10-foot foam surfboard on my head.

Something tells me the days’ cross training would not be recommended in such close proximity to race day, but …who the hell cares? I have a sh*t-eating grin on my face (who thought up that gross expression, by the way?).  After all, I have just done something I have wanted to do since childhood: I stood up on a board, on a wave. Wobbly, no doubt, but I did it.

Explain: I made a quick detour through San Diego — a.k.a. paradise — on my way to Vegas. I talked my buddy Marlena into running the 10k. We also walked hiked 10 miles yesterday – good idea? Later this morning, we head for the desert.

More on the race, pics soon.

cross training, other sports

Triathlon training center to open near White Rock

A 5400-square-foot triathlon coaching and training facility called Playtri will open this summer in Hillside Village, the northeast corner of Mockingbird and Abrams.

Playtri, according to its spokespeople, offers a first- of-its-kind, in the Southwest, performance facility for triathletes.

“This will be like nothing this region has ever seen and is great news for triathletes, swimmers, cyclists and runners,” says Ahmed Zaher, Playtri’s founder and world- renowned triathlete.  ”We have been coaching and training triathletes for over 10 years and found that there is a real need for this kind of comprehensive facility.”

Zaher lives in the neighborhood, and Advocate magazine published this story about him in 2002.

Related: check out Advocate articles about neighborhood triathletes Ironman Clay Scheitzach and ultra-woman Katie Paulson.