Today is Monday. The winds have been blowing hard all day, and tomorrow the rain will likely come, pushing up our already swollen rivers and streams. Mud Season is upon us in earnest.
Last Tuesday, I ran through the park, through sublimation fog, and fell twice on slick ice. My hand still bears the marks. I ate my lunch, a hummus sandwich, when I hit solid ground, attempting to figure out what my stomach can and cannot handle on runs. I didn't last very long, but it was the ice that shut me down, not the food. It was everywhere.
On Wednesday, I did a quick make-up session along the Spring Run, which was dry except for a couple of spots. There was also a patch of late season ice; more like rock or glacier than the slippery stuff that had foiled me the day before. I did some interval training, but my knee was hurting me, and my pace suffered. On the way back to my car, I picked up a couple of hot dogs from Awesome Dogs and ate them as I walked. I don't think I could handle that on a run.
On Thursday, I went back to the park, without food, but with a Heart Full of Soul and a shining sun. Unfortunately Soul didn't get me very far, though the sun felt nice. I again ran some intervals, attempting to salvage something of the week. The ice that remained slowed me down, though, and on the last leg I came across ice that I was unable to cross. It was angled up, I had no traction aids (it's April!), and it was too slick for me to climb up. I was several feet onto the ice when I finally turned around, and I fully expected to fall. I convinced myself that if I got up it, I could get down it, and carefully I made my way back down without falling.
On Saturday, we went to a park down in New Paltz to meet up with some friends. The kids had fun playing together, and they kept us on our toes. It was hot; more like June than April.
On Sunday, the kids and I went to my mom's house for breakfast. Afterwards, they played outside for a while, and then we all pitched in a hand to help with some yardwork. By noon it was close to 70; another hot day.
Later that day, after a week of horrid runs, and one and a half days of being outside in the sun, I went for a long run. It was still hot out when I set off around 3:45. I settled in to a 12:00 pace and did my best to mentally prepare myself for 10 miles of this. The bike path I was running on was level, and clear of water and debris; as easy as a run on pavement is going to get. When I hit an unpaved section, I was surprised to find it firm underfoot.
As the path made its way along route 50, I received a reminder of why I prefer to avoid roads: cars. In this case, it was a car with a half-witted human inside, who decided to compliment me on my choice of hat (a thin explorer's style cap, to keep the sunburn off of my nose and ears). It was gone before I had a chance to thank them for their kind remarks. I thought that perhaps on my next run I should run with a ridiculously long multi-colored scarf, so that another kind soul would have something else to compliment me on as they drove in to 'Toga to get drunk.
After that point I decided to make my way over to the mall area and then run the Five Mile Trail, away from roads. First, however, I needed to start my fueling experiment.
I'm training for a race in May, and I've been trying to figure out what I'm going to do about fuel. I decided to try out one strategy I had read, I think in Runner's World, which was to start fueling after 30 minutes and then fuel every 15 minutes after that. I ate half a package of salty jelly beans, which were really difficult to choke down.
The winds whipping across the mall were strong, and I was happy to be in the woods once I got to the other side. The ice that had been present in the woods three days earlier was now gone, and even the mud was noticeably drier. I made my way down to the picnic area, past a decomposing possum and a gaggle of people enjoying the day.
The section along Geyser Creek had a little bit of ice left, past the tufa pile. The air was noticeably cooler down there, too. I made my way up the stairs as fast as I could, but my muscles were quite upset about being asked to climb stairs after having already run a few miles. At the top I noticed that it was time to fuel again.
I ate the second half of the salty jelly bean packet, which tasted a lot better this time around. I swung over to the Orenda Spring to top off my water bottle with some mineral water. I started feeling strong at this point, and probably should have just stopped fueling for a little while. Instead, I continued on with the experiment. As I made my way over to the western entrance, I drank the shot of salty sugar water I had put in my flask. This tasted delicious: a magical cherry beverage, but I crashed pretty quickly after that, and my pace started to suffer as I made my way through the wetlands. By the time it was time to fuel again, I opted for a gel.
I'm not really sure...
I think I'd rather carry a tub of rice pudding than eat another of these gels.
The flavor was described as vanilla, and the taste was somewhere between vanilla pudding (evil vanilla pudding) and these packages of pre-made vanilla shakes that I used to drink twelve (or so) years ago. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good. My hands were sticky afterwards, and I wasted water rinsing them off so that I wouldn't spend the next few miles trying to obsessively wipe them off.
I finished up the trails and made my way back over to the mall. I ate the last fuel of my run, a stroopwafel. (I'm at least 1% Dutch, so it's legit.) It took me by surprise, though: they are definitely sweet, but the taste ended up bitter. I'm not sure if it was the lingering bite of the gel, or the effect of the run, but it was strange.
I made my way back over to the bike trails, to finish up my 10 miles, and I found myself running on empty. I pushed on, but mile 8 was spent in a trance, and not the good kind. By mile 9 I was feeling better, and I picked up the pace a bit. I was still zoning out, but it was an "almost done" zone. At 9.5 miles, I gave up. My feet were hurting, both knees were hurting, and I had no desire to run any farther.
That last bit is significant: my feet hadn't hurt yet on these long runs. I'm not quite sure where that was coming from, though I'm guessing the mud and water in my socks may have had some impact on it.
I felt drained afterwards, and all the next day. I have two more long runs to get this right, before the race. It's clear that the strategy I used this week is not going to work well. I'm switching to lower GI food, and increasing the interval between intake. I'm contemplating three options for fueling: a trail mix that worked very well on Sawteeth last year, o-nigiri, and/or some No Meat Athlete energy bars. O-nigiri is a portable rice dish, which Matthew Inman (aka The Oatmeal) mentioned in a link off of his running comics (he got the recipe from Scott Jurek's book, Eat & Run).