Thursday, October 16, 2014

Summarizing my Summer Running Season (part 2)

Post RnR Virginia Beach
When I last left off, I developed a bit of an injury that kept me from running for two weeks.  It was basically a case of runner's knee, also known as PFS or Patello-Femoral Syndrome, an overuse injury caused by an imbalance of two critical heads of the quadriceps muscles, which subsequently cause the patella to track abnormally. Those two weeks off were short, because I was already signed up to run the Rock 'n' Roll Virginia Beach Half Marathon over Labor Day weekend.  With much trepidation, I toed the line not having had any significant mileage under my feet since my 20 mile long run.  And Virginia Beach was HOT.   With temperatures approaching 80 degrees and humidity well over 90% at 7am (and over the course of the morning, increasing to as much as 97%), I managed to finish the race in 2:17:53.  The travel time back to NYC was rough, having sat in a cramped bus for nine hours (thank God for Advil) but with taking the week off afterward, I sought out some other recovery options that could help me get back into racing shape.

Just before running my
first leg of Ragnar DC
I approached my friend Chad Pearson, an acupuncturist with his own practice, Ghostpoint Acupuncture.  Let me tell you - I am such a wuss when it comes to needles.  But it definitely works.  Chad performed traditional acupuncture on me, with some acupressure and trigger point release, as well as some electrical stimulation or eStim in problem spots specifically around my knee.  Within a matter of days, I was able to do a nice 4 mile tempo run along the Hudson River.  And it was important to get better because I was about to embark on a race that would test my endurance.  Over the second weekend of September, I met up with eleven other runners, most of whom I only had correspondence with on Facebook.  We were each going to contribute toward completing a 200 mile relay race, known as the Ragnar Relay, from Cumberland, Maryland to the National Harbor in Washington, D.C.  

Just one of the many spectacular views in western
Maryland for Ragnar DC (photo by Andrew Bartholomew)
Each of us was responsible for three legs, each of varying terrain, elevation changes, mileage, and difficulty.  And with it being a 200-mile relay, there was no question that we would be running under cover of darkness at some point in the race.  As runner in position #2, I covered 6.3 miles, 4.5 miles, and 2.8 miles, for a total of 13.6 miles.  The first leg I ran, at 8:48am, was going to be my hardest - two miles going uphill with an elevation change of approximately 700 feet, and then the last 4.3 miles downhill with an elevation change of approximately 1000 feet.  And I went HARD on that downhill, clocking two 8 minute miles and two sub-9 minute miles. My quads worked in overdrive, and I was in a bit of pain for the rest of the day, coming into my second leg, which occurred almost 12 hours later.  That 2nd leg was pitch black at night on country roads - the only thing lighting my way was my headlamp.  I was able to pass several other racers, though, recording "kills" as they are called in Ragnar-speak.  The next morning I finished my last "easy" 2.8 mile leg, but I was hurting bad.  You see... living in a van for 30+ hours will do interesting things to your muscles.   As a team, we finished the course in just over 32 hours, at a highly respectable 9:37/mi pace average especially for a team consisting of runners of various ability levels.


Reaching the Town of
Montauk on my 22-mile run! 
Team "I Ran I Cramped I Drank"
at the Ragnar DC Finish Line!
A week after Ragnar, I came into my longest run yet - a 22 miler mapped out from my friend Caitlin's home in Springs (East Hampton), NY on Long Island all the way out to Montauk Point on the very eastern tip of the island.  Mind you, this was three weeks out from the Chicago Marathon.  The deceivingly hilly course took me about five hours to complete (I was still a bit bogged down by the runner's knee, and ran at a super-conservative 11-12 minute per mile pace with frequent stops).  The amount of distance also brought about some soreness in the lateral part of my right foot, which scared me a bit - so the following week, I sought out Chad again for another acupuncture session; thankfully, he was able to sort out the issues there!


Thousands upon thousands of
people prepping to start
the RnR Montréal!

A week passed, and I headed up to Montréal to bang out half-marathon #6 at the Rock 'n' Roll Oasis de Montréal Demi-Marathon.  That was a fun one -- 20,000+ starters for the full and half marathons on the Pont Jacques-Cartier running in 64 degree temps with 77% humidity; the route was interesting, running around the La Ronde amusement park on Île Sainte-Hélène, and the Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve Formula 1 racetrack on Île Notre-Dame before heading into the city through an area of malting silos along the more industrial part of the waterfront, and then toward the Vieux-Port. A few deceiving hills (one at mile 10 at Place Jacques-Cartier while passing right by Montréal City Hall/Hôtel de Ville, and one at mile 12 along the Rue Berri underpass under Rue Sherbrooke) laid along the route, where I took my time and walked a bit, since I didn't want to overdo it with only two weeks left before Chicago.  So far, it's had one of the most electric finish lines for a half marathon that I've encountered -- the cheering and le applaudisement surrounding the last half mile of the course had throngs of spectators as much as five people deep! It was a wonderful way for me to start my taper two weeks before Chicago!


My first age-group award at the
Bay Head Shark Run 5K!
Finally, in the week before Chicago, I went down to Bay Head, New Jersey, and ran in a small community 5K, the Bay Head Shark Run 5K, benefiting the Bay Head School.  I clocked a respectable 27:22 5K, not my fastest, but still enough to land me my first ever age-group award!  I earned third place in the male 30-34 age group - not bad for a new runner!  This race was great to bring me into my final week of taper before Chicago.

Coming up... THE CHICAGO MARATHON.

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