Monday, April 16, 2012

Runnin' the storm out... and just a little Swim!

Saturday morning - 3am. Forecast - Showers and thunderstorms. Outlook - dismal. Humidity - High, Temps - lower 60s. I woke up to all this. Friday afternoon, tornadoes had hit Norman and the weather was only expected to get worse as the weekend progressed. For some reason, I could not find the current conditions on the TV - 247, the 24/7 weather station from one of our local stations was showing some kind of variety show programming and there was some kind of infomercial on it's sister channel from a different local TV station. Oddly enough, the Weather Channel's "weather on the 8s" was not running either, I think it was also running some kind of programming - something on the Coast Guard, I think.

I got up and got my gear together anyway and checked the weather on my phone. It wasn't looking good - I'd probably get wet at some point in the run. I'd hurt my knee playing volleyball last weekend, but it wasn't feeling too bad. I'd originally thought I'd wrap it, but as I was getting ready, I decided that if I just tape it good, it would do. I wasn't planning on massive miles anyway. Finally having everything together, I got to the River Parks West at 4am and started out. It wasn't raining yet and I was actually feeling pretty good about everything.

The city was so quiet except for the distance rumble of lightning. I prepared for the worst and was constantly praying for better while on my run. As I got started, I looked at the radar and saw a storm heading in from the Northwest and thought to myself that there was no way I wasn't going to get wet. I put my cell phone in a Ziploc and continued.

While most everybody else was planning on 13 miles, I had decided to cut my run to 6 because of my banged up knee and foot. I was determined not to get wound up and start running too fast. Even so, I was 3 a little under 3 minutes faster than normal when I passed the pedestrian bridge.

The lightning was really playing across the clouds and as I put the bridge behind me, I began to question the wisdom of running down beside the PSO power plant in a lightning storm. It wasn't that I was afraid of getting struck by the lightning, but rather that I was concerned that one of the transformers could blow and spray the hot oil my way. I figured that it was a slim chance and I kept going.

 My original plan was to head down to the soccer fields, then go back and cross over the pedestrian bridge and all the way up to 11th and back across the river on the Southwest Boulevard Bridge to get back to the start. As I passed PSO, I checked the radar again and the storm had started moving off to the north and I thought I'd be able to continue on my chosen path. I made it to the soccer field and realized I was still a bit ahead of the game -- 2 miles down and doing good. I turned around and headed back up by the power plant and just on the north side, I realized that the lightning was starting to pick up again. About that time, I felt a few drops of rain hit me. I checked the radar and another storm was headed right for us.

I had thought about sheltering on the other side of the pedestrian bridge and so I made my way across it. But looking again at the radar and seeing that the area of storms was pretty deep, I decided I didn't want to be separated from my car and headed back across to the west side. I figured I might could get up to 21st street before the rain started in earnest and so I pushed on. Finally, I started seeing runners with our group as I made my way in.

Once back, I hung around for a while and then went to breakfast with the running group. It was a good time. Then, with clearing skies, a full belly and some tired legs, I decided to go hit the gym and get some swimming in before they closed the pool for the thunderstorms that were predicted to come rumbling in later.

I'd been telling my friends about a new race I signed up for. The Tulsa Swim is an Iron-distance swim, 2.4 miles (or 4km) in open water. I was excited when I saw it come on the board, because my ultimate goal is to do the Ironman. I swam competitively in high school and I have completed a couple of indoor triathlons, but this will be the first time I will have swam competitively in open water and I am honestly not sure what to expect. What I do know is that I am confident in my ability to make the distance. So confident that I signed up for the "Long Doubler", which puts a 500 meter sprint race in front of the Iron distance swim. So the first 500 meters has to be completed in 30 minutes or less. Well, I wasn't sure whether I could do that, but I thought that I had done that kind of distance a few months ago in about 25 minutes and so I thought it would be a very good idea to give it a try and see where I stood with it.

When I got to the gym, I found that there was a class going on in the pool so I would have to wait. I dressed out and climbed in the hot tub for a little while instead. Man, it had been a while since I had done that and it felt good. After soaking for a few minutes, I got out and slid into the cooler pool and let it cool me off. Finally, the class was over and I could get started. I needed 500 meters in the 25 meter pool, so that would be 10 full laps. Not a problem, but I have had a problem counting laps twice, so I was just going to see how it went. I was not really recovered from the run, but I am generally at home in the water and so I figured it wouldn't be too bad - I might go a little long today, but it would be enough to give me a baseline.

I barely kicked off, just so I wouldn't kick the wall - I hate it when I do that. And I was off. No sense in killing myself, so I just made sure my strokes were steady and strong. I swam down and back for my first lap, kicking off weakly, since there would not be anything to kick off of in the open water. As I started down on my second lap, I noticed my arm and my stomach trying to cramp a bit. The conventional wisdom that you will drown just because you are cramping is well known, but it is a myth. Cramping in and of itself will not lead to drowning, it is the panic that you feel that will do that. In fact, panic, in general, is the culprit in something like 85% of all drownings in large bodies of water.

Anyway, I just concentrated on smooth strokes and continued on my laps, trying to mentally count them. Still, I am not sure if I lost a lap or not. When I "lose" a lap, I could the last lap over again and keep going. I never skip to the next number unless I am sure I have swam the previous lap. In some cases, this has meant I've swam the same lap 3 or 4 times. So I will say that I completed at least 10 laps before I stopped the clock. When I did so, the clock was at 19 minutes and 30 seconds. Well below the cutoff time of 30 minutes and enough of an margin of error to account for the difference in open water and a pool! And this is even on already tired legs and cramps! Man, it felt good to not have to worry about the cutoff. Now I can just concentrate on getting a bit faster and then to concentrate on my endurance and making a better time!

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pushing through... (500miles?)

Someone told me that Saturday's run time was going to be earlier, so I said what, 4:30? No wait, better 3:30 in the morning. Today's trek was a scheduled 12 miles and it is coming into the time of the year and the time of the training where we roll back the time a bit to beat the heat and allow people to get done at a good time. I'd been warned to take it easy, I've had a big month with the attempt at Little Rock at the beginning and the successful if exhausting first trail run at the Snake Run last weekend. But as I woke up and heard The Proclaimers "I'm gonna Be(500 miles)" on the radio, I was thinking I might just could do the whole 12.

Seems I was only partially joking as I ended up splitting the difference and started at 4 in the morning. I was just getting geared up at the River Trails West start point when a couple of others pulled up and we chatted for a minute and then we each took off.

Soon, I was left alone in the darkness. My headlamp broke a few weeks ago, after Little Rock, and I haven't had a chance to replace it, so it was just me and my eyes with the occasional switch on of my handheld flashlight.

The early morning darkness precluded some picture-taking, but I tried my hand at a few shots anyway. The city lights take on a whole new quality when as the city slumbers and its these times that I enjoy running and listening to the city's restive pulse, long before the day begins.

It always amazes me when I think about where our runs actually take us. The diversity and distance of these treks really leaves me in awe, thinking, 'did I really do that?' What possesses a big guy like myself to get out and push himself to do things that "normal" people consider crazy. I mean even if I called all this a "walk"... Me: "I'm 400 pounds and I just walked 7 and a half miles up and down some pretty good hills this morning because I think it is fun." Normal Person: "You're nuts, stay away from me." (The preceding is not representative of any actual conversation I've had, but a scene in my head only. Thank you).

So, the first part of this journey I recall from a previous training run. Over the river and down by the hospital, so far so good. At my first mile, I was greeted by the big neon Route 66 sign and I was in good spirits. I pressed on. Coming up to Charles Page Blvd, I was thinking about all the times in Little Rock that I would walk down to the viaduct and watch the trains go by, wondering what their destinations were and thinking about the Arlo Guthrie song, "City of New Orleans". As I passed over the tracks there, a train was passing beneath me and I paused, for that moment, in 2 times and places at once... or so it seemed.

I turned back north for my last push in that direction for the day. I would pass through Owen park and past the oldest house in Tulsa... Still too dark to take pics of that, but I did manage to get a pic of downtown from the park as dawn was starting to creep across the sky. Still had a big uphill to go so I took a moment to fuel and drink something. I figured that this was where the waterstop would be, but I was just out too early for that and I wasn't going to wait around. So up the hill I went.

Now the last time I came up this way, I honestly don't remember what the path was, but it seemed like I just kept going and going this time. I don't remember taking the turns I took, but I guess I must have. Finally, I got well up into the subdivision there and made my easterly turn. I crossed the pedestrian bridge over the Tisdale and realized that it was shaking... kinda like that bridge in Little Rock. Hmmm... Might need to remember this. Finally, I was back out on a street I had run a few times. Heading down toward Cains and more familiar territory, I was certainly starting to feel my legs and feet getting tired. But I wasn't done yet. The morning twilight was starting to brighten into a grand day as I passed Cains Ballroom and I realized that I was doing pretty good on time. My first 2 miles had been great times, but maybe just a little fast. I was still in the groove passing that spot, but I could feel the endurance starting to slip. I was coming up on my 5th mile and I started thinking about how I might need to cut this short. I could have just backtracked down 1st street until I got back to the Bridge I came over earlier. That would have been the quickest way back, but I wasn't ready to do that. Looking at the course map, I decided the best thing would be to just follow the course as it doubled back and cross the 23rd street bridge for a 7.5-8 mile trip for the day.
So I continued on. 500 miles, huh? Yeah... kinda felt like that. Push through it. My biggest obstacle now? Going down Galveston, the steepest grade of the path. As I came around mile 6, I was feeling real lean and a little nauseous, but a sudden realization struck me... Everything from here was better than I had done at Little Rock and I was still pretty strong. No cramps and I still had legs left, if not a lot. Soon I was to Galveston and I stopped to fill up 2 of my 4 bottles I carried with me on this trek. It was my only water stop, but I had planned well and was not abnormally in need of fluids. Just a little over a mile and I would be back to my truck, so no need to overstock here. Push. I was right, I didn't like the downhill portion. Uphill is for running, downhill is for skiing. No skis today.

Finally, I was on River Trails East and heading in. Right about mile 7, I realized that my left foot felt squishy. Great... same foot as on the trails last week -- I had a pretty big blister. Nothing for it now, I babied it as best as I could trying to get back to my truck. Up and over the bridge... Did that thing get longer? It seemed like it took me forever to hobble across that thing. Finally, I was on the last leg. But my feet had just about had it and I pulled up short and got a ride back to my truck. Total distance 7.6 miles. It's been 2 days and I am still feeling it. Maybe by mid-week I'll feel like I am back to normal. But this is an off week for me, as I have tests in OKC on the 7th and won't be running the Aquarium Run like I had given thought to. A shame. This year, I think I could really rock the 5k, too. Maybe next year.