Day531 Grindstone Training

Would my readers want to hear about my first 10K race of 2023 or hear me training for a 100 mile race? TR;DR a long post about my weekend.

I ran a 10K on Sunday called For the Love of It. It has been a race I have done every year since 2017 (or at least I thought so, until I checked the records).

I almost did not sign up this year. You know, I just did not have the feel for it. Maybe it is a sign of burn-out. I know though 10K is good for me. I need some high cardio intense training. 5k/10k fits the bill.

Friday morning, my friend messaged me that the Sunday spa time would be postponed. A few of us have been wanting to go to Spa World after one of our training runs. It all started when we got a runner in our running group to sign up for her first half marathon. She wanted to do Hot Pot and Spa either after a training or race. Since this place is far outside the city, we haven’t been to it yet. This Sunday, the schedule worked for everyone, but the lady (MC: main character) came down with an illness, so the event was canceled.

I was scrambling to replace my weekend activities with something else. For Saturday, I wanted to go out on the Mountain to see one of the trails I will be doing a 100 mile race this September. For Sunday, 10K run seemed right. I had not run a 10K for awhile and I got an email reminding me to sign up.

I will talk about the Sunday race first then go back to the Saturday hike.

The 10k race: I woke up early. Got to the High School where the race would be held. Got my stuff — bib, swags, clothes. There was an hour wait before the start. I stayed in my car to catch some sleep. I haven’t been sleeping well lately — something changed, in that I got very sleepy early in the evening, around 9-ish and I would do a fake sleep (sleeping say on a chair or something) until 1 or 2 AM in the morning, then I would wake up and go to my room for a real sleep. However, usually I would be wide wake by 3 AM, and I would be up till morning. Anyway, I had a very interrupted sleep schedule since new year.

This year, there were not as many runners running as before. I remember in the past the school parking lot would be full. It was the reason I went to the race site early to get parking, but this year, it seemed not necessary because the lot was only half full even when the race was about to start. Getting my bib only took couple minutes.

We had about 200 runners. Faster people stayed in the front. I stood in the rear. The weather was nice. It was a chilly morning around 32 F with slight breezes (maybe about 5 mph). I felt cold and had two long sleeves on, plus a down jacket. Looking around and didn’t see anyone wearing a jacket, I took mine off. I had shorts on, so I was cold. Temperature wise, it was perfect weather for running, but I was sick mid week and had not built back up my resistance toward cold. Maybe the Saturday hike being out whole day in the cold also affected me. So I felt cold. I was glad to get started.

We started on time. People took off. I started with a slow jog. I felt heavy. I think my pace was between 12-15 min per mile, which was just my normal ultra pace. In thr past, I was usually much faster when running 5k/10k. I was with a bunch of slower people. Many were big and kind of out of breath. I was wondering if this is the pace I would go for the whole race.

Somehow I confused the distance between a 10k and a 5k. I thought we had only to do 3 miles. I have been training for 5k on the treadmill recently. I ran a few 5k on the treadmill during the week. My body had memorized the pace/distance. My mind did not comprehend that I would be running 6 miles until after mile 1.

My body responded like I was on the treadmill. After 1 miles, my pace increased, as I normally do. I have been doing progressively increasing my pace over time on the treadmill. I could see my body started giving me a little more juice as the race progressed.

By mile two, I felt I finally was back to my usual 10k pace. I lengthened and quickened strides. I reached Mile 3, and halfway.

I was sweating. At first I contemplated stopping and to take off one layer. I decided not to. It was a good decision because occasionally we got a breeze and I felt cold. Two layers was the right call today. Yet I was also sweating.

Slowly I was over taking people, especially on every uphill. My mountain training gave me an advantage when comes to hills. Hills here did not put me out of breath. I could charge straight up them.

Mile 4 and 5 came by. We came back to the school where we started. Mile 5 was just beyond the school. We had only a mile left and the course took us around the block. I put the kick in to keep up my tempo. This allowed me to catch some remaining people in front of me. There were 5-6 of them.

We finished on the high school track. I tried to dig in until crossing the finish line. I came through under 57 minutes (officially 56:56 min).

I was glad because, my goal today was at least try to get it under an hour. I did it. It was not a fast time comparing to the past. I had much lower times before. I take what I got today though.

About my ankle. I was limping before the start of the race. I was limping afterward. First mile, my ankle did bother me, but as I continued to run, my pain was gone. I could really dig in to do my best. Ankle stopped hurting. I was happy, at least I could run harder.

2017 | 50:46

2018 | 54:05

2019 | 49:46

2020 | 53:10

2021 | NA – away for Rocky Raccoon 100

2022 | NA – overslept I think, I had the shirt

2023: 56:56

There you go. My time is a bit worse than before. Yes, it is my goal this year as other years to get faster.

Part II: Now about my training run on Saturday.

This week I decided to visit the course for the Grindstone 100, at least part of it.

The idea was to run the Wild Oak Trail. I first hiked Wild Oak maybe back in 2018. It was my first backpacking trip and most vivid memory. Camping is still something I love very much even though I haven’t done many in recent years.

The trail is 28 miles long. At the time in 2017, I did not know people run on it. It was also at the time my hardest trip. It always had been in my mind if I ever wanted a hard training, this would be the place to do so. At the time, I had not been exposed to MMT and the like.

Over the years, I went back there a few times. During one camping trip in the fall, probably in 2019, we encountered runners that weekend running a 100 miler (4 loops) on the trail. We were amazed. So in 2020, I ran on it on my own one weekend. I think I did two loops and was proud about that and somehow gave me the confident to signup for a real 100 mile. It was then I was introduced to the race TWOT 100. Note, last year I tried to sign up, but was not granted an admission. Doing the TROT 100 is one of my dreams. Today, I am not writing about TROT 100, but Grindstone 100, which also uses part of the Wild Oak Trail.

Now having done the MMT, going back to Wild Oak is kind of easy. My perspective had shifted once again after this weekend. Wild Oak has a lot of elevation changes but they are way gentler than MMT. The trail at least is way smoother. Most of it is runnable. MMT on otherhand is much more technical and I have not been able to truly run on the MMT trails.

I started the day later than what I wanted because I could not sleep very well. I was supposed to leave for the trail around 3-4 AM. I did not leave the house until 9 am, maybe 5 hours later than my original planned departure time. I got to the trailhead around 11:30 and did not start the hike/run until near noon.

I still wanted to do the full 28 mile loop. I expected probably would take me 8-9 hours, meaning I would be running in the dark for a significant amount of time. Sunset at 5:30. I messaged my mom I wouldn’t be back until midnight. I did not expect to finish until past 10 pm.

The day was cold. Even at noon, it was below freezing. When the wind blew, I felt it. I had on my normal running clothing, of two layers, a t-shirt and a long sleeve. A long pants with thermo underwear. The wind cut through them. I had to put on a fleece jacket but I still felt the cold. I brought a windbreaker along but did not put that on because I wanted my shirt to breath.

Temperature should stay constant around 30s, even at night for that day, which was good that I did not have to worry about temperature drop when night approaches. Up on the mountain, it might drop down to 25 ish. The wind was gentle about 5-10 mph. It was a perfect day in winter to do this hike.

In the first mile, I got my feet wet. I was surprised of the water on the trail didn’t freeze. The night before the temperature was down to 14-15F in the city. It might have been close to the low teens or single digit on the trail. I had expected the trail to be frozen.

As I climbed higher, there was snow on the trail. I encountered a runner returned from his run. He was probably did an out and back. I saw dog prints and another set of footprints as I got higher. There was fresh snow. It was good knowing I was the third person on this trail since it snowed. I think we had snow on Thursday.

Maybe about almost two miles in, I rolled my ankle. It was just a slight roll but then it started hurting and I could not put weight on it without being uncomfortable. The pain was not sharp, just like being hit in the funny bone type of pain that made my foot goes weak. I limped along. I felt I just had bad luck. It reinjured an old wound that I tried to heal for the past month.

I felt discouraged. First, I was slow to wake up and got to the trail late and problems compounded with a rolled ankle. Now I felt it would be very hard to finish the loop. It felt the trip was wasted.

At the time, I decided to press on and to defer the decision to turn back at the 6 mile mark, the Little Bald. I still hoped to finish the full loop but I was worried if the pain didn’t go away, it would be a slow hike and I might roll it again. I also sensed I might have to give up on this trip and call it a day early. The decision weighted on my mind as I hiked upward.

The trail is popular but not that popular of me going to encounter another hiker being late in the day and if I get hurt on the trail, it might be a while before someone could rescue me. I had to believe that however severe my problem is, I would have to get myself out on my own. I was asking myself, could I extract myself from this mountain. It meant I had to be sensible to turn back while I still could.

Snow got a bit deeper further up. My foot did not improve. Normally, I could walk it off. I got to Little Bald after three hours or so and only had hiked about 6.5 miles. I still wanted to continue on, so I started down on the other side to Camp Todd. I was hoping if my foot got worse, I could hike on the road to get back to the parking. It would still be a 9 mile hike back but on the road.

I saw the set of footprints I was following disappeared, meaning the runner/hiker had turned around. It prompted me to reevaluate my decision if I still wanted to still do this. I would likely be limping all the way and there were 22 miles left. I had only gone 6 miles in 3 hours. I might not get back to my car before midnight.

I then decided to turn around instead of continue down to Camp Todd. It was a good thing too because at the time, I did not realize I left my map back at the car. If I had gone on, I would not be able to find my way back even if I were to reach a road. There was no cell signal in the area. I had general direction memorized, but without a map was a disaster in a making, especially after dark.

Returning to my car was mostly on downhill, 6 mile of descending. Running down hill hurt my foot more than going up. The thing with the pain was not every step would hurt. It only hurts on random steps. I could not narrow which position made it hurt more. It made going downhill hard. When the pain came, it caused me to be unsteady as if my leg would buckle. It made it a bit scary going down the hill. I started to run down to quickly get it over with. Risk it I said.

After a mile or so on harder impact on my weaker foot, the pain went away. This was what I normally expect of walking off an ankle roll. I continued to make my way down.

On the last mile, it was like 4:30 pm, sun was setting but was still bright enough, I encountered two older people. They were hiking up. We chatted. They asked if I had gone all the way around 28 miles. I said no and explained my weak foot. If not for that I was attempting to do the full loop. They were asking if I was okay. I said I should be fine in making my way back down. I asked if they were planning to camp up on the mountain, they said no. We chatted some more on races when they noticed my River Gorge shirt. They seemed to be seasoned trail travelers. They seemed to be aware that there are races conducted on the Wild Oak Trail as well. I mentioned that next week/or the week after would be the TROT 100 there, and even a 200 mile race. TROT 100 is on Feb 17 I think (2/15-2/19).

We said our goodbyes and I continued down. I was thinking, sun would be setting soon, and it was weird that they were hiking up. I guess they maybe hoping to see the sunset on the mountain top. I hoped they would be ok. Temperature would drop soon. I wanted to be back in my car.

There was a cyclist loading up his bike when I arrived back at the lot. I started the car and then put on layers. I was cold. I was also hungry. I hoped to get something to ear when I got to town. The nearest city woud be Harrisonburg. By the way, I stopped by there for dinner.

I finished the day with 13.2 miles and it took me 5 hours. It probably would have taken me more than 10 hours to go all the way around. I would be finishing around 10-11 pm and possibly midnight. My foot was okay but I felt it would be very sore if I put 28 miles on it that day. Plus I still would have the 10K to do on Sunday. I was glad I made the right call to turn around.

My next opportunity to get back out to the Wild Oak Trail might be in March or later. I know I need to go there a few times to be familarize with the course. My race, the Grindstone race will be on the last week of September. I still have time, but I wanted to do well. Some think MMT is harder. I think so too, but I could not and must not look down on Grindstone.

Conclusion: I had a great weekend. I did not do as much as I wanted in term of training. Normally I tried to get 50 ish mile on a weekend. Lately, my miles were not there. I was glad I had a little bit of adventure. I went to Grindstone, saw some snow, got some hiking in, and ran a race. I am still relatively healthy, with just a bad ankle. Next week, I would have my second training run for the MMT and that what I like to write about.

Camp site at Little Bald, my turn around point. A hiker/runner continued toward Reddish Knob, where turn around point for Grindstone. I have never been there and hope to run to there some day before my race
Beautiful Vista all around as I hiked up. I had not done many winter hikes and the benefit is great views while hiking because no leaves blocking them
Such smooth trail and note leaves are gone for the nice distance views to be seen. It is something not available during the summer
10K run on Sunday. I just finished. Note, it was cold and everyone ducked back into the high school’s cafeteria after they finished

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