20 April 2013

Virtual 5K Trail Race at Camp Saratoga - 20 Apr 2013

I had been looking for something to do to support the victims of the Boston Marathon Bombing, when I came across a decent-sized list on Runners World.  One of the things that caught my eye was a virtual 5K race hosted by NYCRUNS (https://nycruns.com/races/?race=runners-for-relief-a-virtual-5k-supporting-boston-marathon-bombing-victims).  I decided to go for it.  The money would go to the Boston One Fund, and it would give me something to focus on beyond the death and devastation so close to my home.  Again.

Mind you, this was my first race.  Ever.  I knew there was a marked course over at Camp Saratoga, as I had run it a few times before (and gotten off-course almost every time).  There's a loop near the beginning, and both of the junctions can be confusing if you don't have your wits about you.  There's also a hard right turn right after the only road crossing that's easy to miss if you're not paying attention.

Fortunately, today I did have my wits about me, and I stayed on course.  I wasn't entirely sure where the course ended, but I knew from a picture on one of the sites associated with the course that it ended somewhere on the parade ground.  So, I guessed.  I had intended on stopping at the posts that used to hold a volleyball net, but I ended up running to the hanging grills instead.

The course itself is hilly, with a few steep ones at the very beginning that almost always have me walking as fast as I can (which today felt faster than normal).  After that the course goes up and down a bit, with one climb just past the second junction of the loop that also had me speed walking (actually I think trail runners are supposed to call it "power hiking" or something like that).  Anyway, I made decent time through most of the course, keeping my pace roughly between 11:00 and 12:00 (my intended range, and the range that I had decent success with last weekend).  As I got into the last kilometer, on the hilliest and most treacherous part of the course, I pushed a bit harder, and started running up the hills.  At the end I was watching the watch, trying to figure out where the end of the course was supposed to be.

I should probably explain that last bit: the course is marked with white markers that say "5K".  There's one bit of trail that appears to have been added specifically for the racing route, and the rest of it follows the roads that we used to use to walk and drive around Camp Saratoga when it was still a Boy Scout camp.  On the last section, the 5K route dives down to a single track hiking trail that runs beside Delegan Pond that used to serve a few of the campsites.  It rushes past the cabins, bends left around the pond, crosses the dam, and then exits out onto the parade ground.  After that, it isn't marked.  So, I guessed.

I crossed the "finish line" at around 36:09, giving me a pace of 11:34 for the course, which the GPS measured at 3.13 miles (a hair over 5K, but GPSs aren't always accurate).  After that I went for a walk to cool down.



Most interesting of all, for me, was the psychological aspect of this.  I wasn't racing against anyone, and yet I was, in a sense, since a winner will be chosen from the entrants into the race.  While I was eating my lunch beforehand, and getting my gear together, I noticed that I was visibly shaking.  I managed to calm myself down some, but I was definitely still in a competitive mood / mode.  The psychological aspects continued on the trail, as well.  After the first mile I felt like I was moving at a snail's pace on the trails, despite the fact that I was running the entire time (minus the few short hills), and generally moving very well given where I'm at, physically.  I know that I could have run faster, but I also knew that if I ran too fast, I would end up having to walk a lot, which would throw off my overall pace.

Anyway, this event was also a chance for me to try out fueling a bit.  The short of it is:

Swedish Fish: bad.  Too big and too chewy.  Hard to chew and swallow while running.  The smaller ones might be OK, but I think I'm going to try out other options.

Fruit leather: possibly good.  I brought two along but didn't eat them until I was done.  They were OK to eat then, though I did notice that the wrapper has to go immediately into a baggie.  Stowing it in a pocket is just asking for trouble, due to the inside of the wrapper being insanely sticky.

I hadn't intended on fueling at all until around mile 2, so that I would have an extra kick on the last bit.  Around mile 1, however, I started feeling sluggish, so I opted to fuel early.  I had intentionally gone the sugary route since I knew that anything complex just wouldn't be useful on such a short course.  It worked, I guess, but I still have a lot to learn about fueling.  I'd rather not fuel at all on these short courses, but after last week's run I've realized that I need to pay more attention to it, and figure it out.

Also, my lumbar pack was a bit big for a race.  It's great for general trail running, since it'll hold a lot of gear, but when it comes to a race, which is generally supported, I think something lighter would be better.  Maybe just a water bottle and something to hold a few essentials.

Finally, while the race was fun, but I can't help thinking about everyone who was injured or killed during this past week.  Especially the poor guy who had both of his legs blown off and shown for the world to see, Jeff Bauman, and the victims killed outright by the blast: Martin Richard, Lingzi Lu, and Krystle Campbell.  Even for those not physically injured, I know that the psychological injuries can cut just as deep, and take just as long to heal, if they ever do.  To anyone and everyone affected by this, my heart goes out to you.  It was such a senseless, horrifying, and despicable act.

16 April 2013

Searching For Answers

My heart and my thoughts go out to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings and their families.  For those who were not wounding physically, I know that that psychological scars cut just as deep, and you are in my thoughts and my heart as well.  It is a senseless tragedy.

I had intended today's post to be a trip report, or rather a series of reports.  I had an excellent run on Sunday, and found that I was at a fitness level that I hadn't realized I was at.  I also have several older trip reports to catch up on.

Most of them will have to wait.  Probably indefinitely.  I'll relate portions of two reports in this post, and that'll be enough for now.

One of the things that pushed me on Sunday, and especially on an impromptu run a week before, was grief.  Last Saturday, April 6th, marked the 35th birthday of my friend Suzy Lyall, who disappeared 15 years ago, on March 2nd, 1998.  All these years later, I still invariably get hit with what feels like a ton of bricks on one or both of those dates, and this year was no exception.  I was in a funk all day, despite having taken measures to avoid it.  A few years ago, I lined up a chronological playlist of her favorite band, RUSH, in iTunes, and used it as a mechanism for channeling and focusing the grief and the rage.  I had started a traverse through that playlist on Friday, but it still wasn't enough.  I was barely functioning, though I couldn't see it.  My wife had told me to go take a drive, go for a run, anything to clear my head, but I was so far gone that I resisted, insisting that I was fine.

Eventually I went out.  I headed to Target to get a chocolate bar for dinner.  (Dinner of champions, I know.  There are very few chocolates left that I can eat without getting sick, and Target sells one of them.)  It was something to do and it got me out.  When I got back to my car, I broke down.  I don't know how long I sat there, texting my wife while tears were rolling down my face, but I eventually snapped out of it long enough to come to a clear decision: go run.

I drove over to Camp Saratoga, and ran.  The park was closing soon, I was in street clothes, my pants were falling down, and my hiking shoes hurt my feet, but I ran.  I picked up some of the older pathways, just faint herd paths now, and crossed some decaying bridges that had been pivotal in my younger days as a Boy Scout.  In effect, I ran into the past, the distant past, to a time when I still had a naive world view.

It helped.  A lot.

Fast forward a week, and Sunday rolls around.  I had a chance to go for a run, so I did.  I built upon the catharsis from last week, channeled that grief and rage, and anger, and confusion, and pain, and ran.  I thought about Paula Barton Viesturs' comment to her mountaineer husband, Ed, after the deaths of Rob Hall, Scott Fisher, and so many others, and "(ran) like I have never (run) before".  Before the snows hit, I hadn't been able to run for longer than a mile before my body screamed for a break.  When I was running on the snow, I could last for... 90 seconds... before I had to shut down and switch to walking.  On Sunday, I set a good pace, and ran for a good 42 minutes at a 12:00 pace for 3.5 miles before I took my first walking break. I know it's nothing to write home about, but it was a major step forward for me.

I was also running in and out of my history here as well, at Saratoga Spa State Park.  At one point I ran down an old road and suddenly was faced with the backside of a view that I had seen many times before in the 90s, when a few friends and I had come here to cook out, including Suzy.

So, the theme for today's post / trip report was supposed to be about these runs, about finding relief, and channeling grief into something productive.  There's a lot more to the story that I think needs to be told.

Instead I'm sitting here, dumbstruck, wondering why some idiot or idiots would choose to (apparently) detonate bombs or IEDs in the middle of people waiting for runners in the Boston Marathon.  I don't understand the increase in violence that has occurred over the past year or so.  Mass killings are becoming a regular occurrence in this country.  I don't understand what makes a man walk into a movie theater and start firing, or a school, for gods' sake, and start shooting elementary school children.  I don't understand how someone can willingly bomb crowds of innocent people, here in the USA, or abroad.  It doesn't make any sense.

I also don't understand how so many people disappear each year.  So, I'm still sitting here, searching for answers, for today and for yesterday.  Perhaps I always will be.  The only conclusion I can come to is that we have to live our lives to the fullest, because you never know what will happen tomorrow.