Leesburg 20k

Day 157

I finished today run with ease. It was a race so that helped. I ran faster than normal training run. Twice as fast. I was not trying to win any medal though. I finished last in my age group. I was ahead of my expected time however. That is a win for me.

The run took two hours for me. It was hot and I was drenched in sweat. I poured water on me. I finished the race completely wet from head to toes.

I felt the vibe. It was an out and back on the W&OD trail with the race started from Leesburg and went near Purcellville. I think we were like two miles from there. We turned around and headed back to Leesburg.

Though it was hot, it was much cooler than yesterday. We started early. I had to wake up at 5 AM for this. I got to the course kind of late and almost couldn’t find a place to park. Last year I was there before anyone and I could park in any spot. I arrived 45 mins later than last year (but 45 mins before the race start.

I felt fresh even though I did a 20 miles yesterday. It is good to run on fresh legs. It was only the first week of my training so everything is fresh. I know the feeling after 10 weeks in, I don’t think I could do a race after a long run.

My run from yesterday though was not the usual long run. I broke it into three segments, with about 7 miles each. The middle segment was a 6 miler. The middle segment was a torture, but the last one was really good as the sun was setting.

I am not sore yet. I have a blister on one of my toes. There is an onset of shin splint on my right leg. I will keep an eye on it. Monday is usually my rest day. I am thinking of shifting it to Wednesday to better fit my schedule.

I love Sunday. Well, weekend in general.

Middle of a long run

Day 156

Boy is it hot! I am 7 miles into my long run and now stopped and got sidetracked here. I had my biometric taken for the TSa pre check screening. That is another story. I am not so happy to pay a load of money so that I don’t have to go through extra check like removing my shoes before boarding an airplane. So I am happened to be near the Manassas and is a perfect place for a long run.

There were a bit of people on the trail. I prefer running where no other people especially people who are strolling on the trail. I only came across another runner during the whole time.

The place is beautiful and it definitely gave me a work out. Elevation isn’t bad but it is cross country running. The path is grassy, gravel sometimes, dirt, and mixed with some inclines. It certainly a good place to train and I don’t have to drive out to the Shenandoah. It has been a while since I run on such rough terrain.

Second day

Day 155

If the first day of training was hard, the second day was tossing in the towel.

It was Hot. I didn’t feel like running. But Run I must otherwise how will I run when November comes when it is icy and cold and the course is hard?

I just need to get into the rut again. Rut?! Did 8 mile today. No extra mile. I basically was done by mile six but had to push till the end. Having a set route helped.

Man man I’m starting complaining. Running is so boring… And I got to do 17 miles tomorrow and 10 the next day. I don’t know. With this attitude of mine, I am not sure if I can last for 14 weeks. It should be 17 miles no problem, why not add couple more and round it up to twenty.

The Route today was a modified Rock Creek plus Lincoln with the normal extra bonus mile run around the Washington Monument (all these are from our normal club run routes).

From the Dupont Circle, headed toward Connecticut Ave to Carvert, to down along Rock Creek, passed the Kennedy center, looped behind Lincoln, looped around the Washington Monument via Indepdendence Ave (because it is fenced off and under construction forever), and up 15th st, turned left on Constitution, turned right and followed 17th st to connecticut back to DuPont Cir.

After completing, I treated myself to a large Kung Fu tea – strawberry-lemon-green tea with herbal glass jelly. No sugar and lot and lot of ice.

Funny I used to run miles and miles around Washington without complaining or needed a treat.

Start

Day 154

I finally started my formal training today. I pulled out a 16 week schedule I found on 50 miler. I am couple weeks behind so, it will make it 14 week plan.

I looked at the mileage I am supposed to be doing. It is not looking good. The summer was supposed to slingshot me into this level but because the last two months I have been battling with my illness, I am basically starting at zero.

I have been with the club ad running at least 8-10 miles a week, but that is really not enough. Ya, I have been doing marathon and all. That was June and now is August. How fast time flies. Haha, I suppose to be doing 50ish mile (total) by end of this week. I think I can get up to 20 ish. Will see.

I did 4 two days ago. 2 miles yesterday. Trying to do 8-10 tonight. I did 3.7 so far. Still a few more miles to go before I sleep.

It is a start. It feels go to be back in training!

Near miss

Day 153

If I don’t write about this, I won’t be able to move on.

Over the weekend I and several others headed to West Virginia Roaring Plain which is southern part of Dolly Sods Area.

The trip was a one night camping and the next day a 15 miles hike. We camped at the trail head. Apparently there is a nice big area in the woods for our big group of 7. We brought along several newbies unexpectedly.

The trail was technical and we have never been there before. Even experienced hikers had hard time finding and staying on the trail, so we read from the trail notes we brought along. It was my first time encountered such a challenge. It was beyond my level. I was given several chances to locate the trail during the hike and I failed to find it before others did.

I had a GPS unit but it didn’t really help to stay on track because the resolution was not high enough. If it was off by 50 meters, that is a big distance in the woods. I always know we are near a check point but we are never right on the check point at places where we should be turning. So every time we lost a trail we scattered around to search for trails. The GPS was of no help. There are many false trails too. Plus, my GPS North alignment was off by I think 30 degrees. So wherever it says to go in one direction, I couldn’t trust it. Which direction is the real direction whenever I looked up from my unit, I would ask myself. I had to use my phone compass to confirm. It was good still to have the unit because at least I could find how far I have walked and where I was on the map. However in term of picking the next direction to walk to reach the next checkpoint, the unit was way off, it was all pure skill from my hike leader, that we found the next point. She did spectacularly there. Also a handheld GPS is not like a car GPS, it updates at an interval, and what shown on the screen was the last update, which could have been five minutes ago. I could have forced an update on the position but there is usually a delay. I couldn’t trust it.

We lost the trail a few times. The worse was we had to look for an oak tree to make a turn at a rocky outcrop. We couldn’t find the oak tree. We passed it by a few time. I think we spent an hour there going round and round. We even backtracked for a mile. I got blame for this since my coleader at the time didn’t know she was backtracking but everyone else knew. She blamed me for not telling her.

At last someone, my coleader’s friend (he was an experienced hiker) pointed out the small oak tree we passed already several times. The light bulb lighted in us. We knew then we were on the right track. My leader then fan out to search for the next trail (teepee trail) we supposed to take and found it. That was the most difficult trail to locate. The reason was some of the carne were knocked down so we couldn’t find it. The trail was way up and out from where the oak tree was. It was unexpected.

The rest of the hike was pretty easy. We got to the forest road (FR 70) and entered a next forest where the trail was wide and blazed. There were only three miles left to get back to our car. Unfortunately we hiked very fast then and the newbies (or one of the newbies) couldn’t keep up. We didn’t worry because my leader’s friend was the self-designated sweeper (last of the group) to catch any the stragglers. Unfortunately near the end our sweeper friend couldn’t figure the way and they had to backtrack to FR70.

By the way, I am normally a sweeper on most hikes but my leader wouldn’t let me be one on this. She wanted me to be next to her to keep an eye on the trail. I ended up usually in the middle position (4th person down) in the group.

For us, after didn’t see them coming out the forest we went back in to search for them. Later we decided to send a group home first, while two remained to wait at the trail head. While I left the mountain we got the text message from ones who separated and their intended heading, which was a miracle in itself because the cellular signal was poor/non existent in the area. So we went back to pick them up. Of course the ones who got lost in the forest were not happy, even though it was a happy reunion for us.

Everyone said there is a lesson to be learned. One, was to wait up and keep everyone together. I won’t disagree with that, but I don’t think that was the main lesson. I have been in many hikes where I was hiking alone and got separated from the lead (since I was usually the sweeper). I think the main lesson is communicate what is expected from the participants. Most newbies had a rude awakening that they might have died in the woods (if they were not able to come out). They were never expected to be alone and lost.

I felt that according to common outdoor rules and I learned this very early on in my hiking experience is to have a map and know where we are going. It is generally expect that we can find our own way out. I knew this because I got left behind on my very first hike.

Second is this, and we did well, is an inexperience hiker is to team up with an experienced one. That was the reason nothing worse happened. Our sweeper friend was confident even when lost that he could leave the forest in his own power without the need of a search party. He did. I was as cool as a cucumber except for the other new guy with him. He took care of the inexperience one.

Third is communication. My leader relied on her friend who took the rear, on any hikes it wouldn’t be a problem except on this he didn’t know the trail (and didn’t ask about it), though he should have. I think both he and my lead was overconfident. If we had taken time to show him the map and the way of the last segment of the hike he even if separated he still would able to proceed. We were trusting his common sense to find the way because the trail was easy compared to what we have been hiking the whole day.

Though his backtracking was a smart decision, it wasn’t the best. If he has remained in place our search team would have located him (with only say 30 minutes). He wouldn’t had to backtrack and ended up walked an extra 6-10 miles out. The backtrack costed 4-5 hours. They were like only half a mile from the car when they got lost. They backtracked because they think we ourselves were lost. Any way a lesson learned.

My friend who led the hike was quite shaken from the experience, mostly dealing with everyone blaming her for the fiasco. I felt yes things like this can happen and people can get separate and lost. But also those going on a trip should be prepared with the necessary tools like maps and compass, and knowledge of how to use them. etc. None of them printed a map out. They have themselves to blame.

As for me, I am not that much being bothered. I just have to remind people that they have to be responsible for themselves on the next trip I lead. True people are not really blaming me any way, I am just a co-lead. They blamed the lead.

By the way, I learned my lesson of bring a map and compass after being left behind in the woods the first few times, when I went hiking with my current leader. I always was able to find my way out by luck! And usually I got left behind at an ‘easier’ section. That said.

First real run

Day 142 & 152 / Mt Pleasant & Dolly Sods

This post was written back on Day 142. The past weekend Day 152, I had similar experience. I went camping at Roaring plain (Dolly Sods area). I did a run too which allowed me to compare my performance of the same course I ran three weeks back.

I had my first real run with my heart rate above 110 BPM. It stayed near 180-190 the whole way and I didn’t feel like I was having a heart attack. My pace was around 10:15 min mile, much much faster than any of the runs I had in the past three weeks. It was a 4 mile run. Previously the best I could do was 12 min mile.

I am extremely please. I could really rebuild myself and it might be even in time for the 7/26 race. My heart finally let me run as fast as my legs can go. It has been so hard to get my heart to beat faster than 110 the past two weeks. Finally, I felt the shackles were removed from me. I can run.

What changed? I think it is really about food. My friend K was right. I wasn’t eating right and wasn’t eating enough. Over the weekend, she cooked all my food for this week about 12-15 servings of high calories and good hearty food. I ate them for two days now and couple with protein shakes and vitamins supplements and I started to see results. This run has changed drastically.

There are other reasons too. I rested plenty, haven’t been running since a week ago.

I went to church, a reason in itself. I haven’t gone to church for worship since April. I am very much believe in miracle. Going or not going to church affects my running.

This Sunday there was a miracle prayer about dipping oneself in the Jordan river figuratively 7 times to be healed of one’s leprosy (Naman’s account). I wanted to be healed! And I dipped myself when the pastor offered the altar call. I put myself first in line. I felt I was healed and I ran on Sunday’s evening right after worship at the first chance I got.

What it means? This is or was my crises. I have experienced a bad recovery after my first marathon in 2017, my knees gave out on me that time. But I wasn’t as afraid as this time. Every week, my performance got worse and worse until it was clearly something was wrong when I couldn’t run a single step. That was the weirdness feeling I ever felt. I always felt I can always run if not fast run slow, but to be totally not able to run, without a clear sign why other than being out of breath and feeling awful inside was a first for me.

It was a very humbling experience. I couldn’t take it for granted. Now I am almost back at my old self, to run fast and to run as long as I want! I couldn’t feel any better.

What other things been happening? My mind has totally been focusing on my run / not run but I had an good weekend. I might wrote about it in a previous post. I went for a low mileage backpacking trip and that kicked my butt. I was slower than the newbies we brought along.

1. I got to lead for the first time. On Wednesday night I took a newbie in the woods. We arrived late and it was not my choice. My friend K already led her group to camp a few hours before us. It was pitch black and no other people were camping or in the trail head parking lot. I knew the way in because K has told me where the trail was but I still had my doubt. When you are alone (newbie didn’t help), I have to rely on my map and knowledge – it was just one path once you get on it. Still, for that first half hour I had to experience everything I learned from past trips. It was a very good experience, from doubt to confirmation.

2. When we got to camp, I was much relief. K took charge of everything for the rest of the trip. First night we didn’t sleep too well. I shared tent and it was my first and I forgot to pack some earplugs. It would have helped. I was up all night. Not a single z.

3. The next day was pretty normal. It was a low mileage hike (7 miles at most) to the next camp site. We took many breaks. I had a stop to use the privee at one of the AT shelters. That was amazing (for me) because I couldn’t imagine myself digging a hole in the woods and I needed to go. The hike was my limit that day. I found I was sored in areas of my body I didn’t expect. My IT bands were stretched till I felt they would pop at any second. I was huffing and puffing. I was dead last. Every hill was a challenge.

4. The third day was much better. We hung around in the morning watching clouds and sunrise. I had a breakfast on the outcrop. I hiked fast without much breaks out of the mountain and surprised myself to find strengtg.

5. I slept at home the third night but went back out on the fourth day (Saturday) since most of the group was still out camping. I didn’t arrive at the camp early enough so I basically met the rest of them near the trailhead. I got some hiking out of it (couple miles). My friend K was ecstatic to see me. We hiked Crabtree Fall together and had lunch at Harrisonburg.

6. I drove like 7 hours that day, more time spent in the car than in hiking. It was unavoidable. Not much was done for the rest of the day except to unpack and clean up. Once arrived home, I felt asleep early and slept for 11-12 hours, after eating three bowl of Trader Joe’s fried rice.

7. Sunday was another highlighted day. I visited K church. The dipping thing and the Sunday run. I was pretty excited. I time tested myself on the run and felt I was on the road of recovering, finally.

A bit of house keeping

Day 151 – Upcoming events

Time flies. A bit house keeping because of everything been going on, I lost track of things regarding my race schedule and all.

The August race Iron Mnt is canceled (for me only), at least I wrote to the race director asking to be withdrawn from it and to give my place to someone else. Race Director accepted it. I won’t be running that but I will still try to run the course on my own on another weekend. I haven’t picked a date yet. They have a 30 miles training this weekend but unfortunately I will be doing backpacking in West Virginia. I really want to run this course though.

As for Labor Day, same weekend of Iron Mnt Ultra, my friend and I will backpack somewhere south near Roan Mnt. I have been there last year camping with the Sierra Club. That was like a light version. This time the plan is to do a 50 miler, with shuttle pickup, not sure if a shuttle drop off at the beginning or a pick up at the end. I think we prefer dropping off and we walk back to our car. This way we won’t have to worry when we have to get to the pickup point. This trip will be huge because it will be the longest BP I’ve ever done.

I just looked at my September race schedule and what I saw scare the daylight out of me. I signed up a bunch of races. I think the first Saturday, or there is a marathon in the morning (double checking realized I haven’t registered for it but now debating if I will run it), then there is a 5k (9/11 remembrance run) at night on the same day, and then early next morning on Sunday there is a Half marathon (I am sure I registered for this one). This will be my an ultimate test thus far! I haven’t tried a back to back run before marathon-5K-half marathon, but it is probably good training for doing a future back to back marathon.

Couple days ago, after I knew I was all better, I signed up a bunch of smaller local races. My August calendar was pretty clean, there was no race. So I added a 10K and a 20k. August is my special month because three years ago, it was when I started running seriously. This race, South Lakes 10K, is one that started me on the path of being a marathon runner! It brings back a lot of memory each time I get on the course. This will be my forth time running it.

I signed up a 10 miler in Sept. This is also a tradition race. It was the race I ran with the lady of my dream in 2016. It is a race dear to my heart. It was a race when everything seemed out of control, the race brought everything back into focus. It might do so again this time around because it will be a race that going to launch me into the crazy month of October, when I will be running a marathon every weekend! (Or attempting to).

I really need to get back into training mode. I am no longer on a run schedule, so the first step is to have one. Second is to reestablish my long run. Third is to do real hill training. Fourth is nutrition – this has been my weak spot; I just have been eating too much junks. Fifth, is consistent sleep schedule.

Next year, I will focus on speed improvement – which means track work and interval training. That would be phase three. Goal for next year is cut down my time to 3:45 (marathon finish time). Phase 4 would be BQ time attempt. I will go into phase 4 when I am near BQ time (probably hiring a coach by then), going for the broke.

Finally, last night a dude I know signed up for the Quantico tri. The event is in two weeks and he told me about it. I am itching to do it with him. I know my time will be suck but hey it is a local race and someone I know is in it. He hasn’t been training but he seems to be in a good shape. He is a marine so naturally, he will do fine. I am not like him…I looked up the time of last person finished from last year and I think I at least can do that. So I am still debating if I should do the event.