Monday, April 28, 2008

Florida Scenic Trail - Santos

New trail yesterday. There's nothing like finding a new place to run and enjoying it. I ran on the Florida Scenic Trail, starting from the Santos Trailhead near Belleview. I found this stretch well-maintained and encountered only two other parties (excluding wildlife) during my 90 minute run. This stretch of the trail, running southwest from the trailhead, is flat and well-shaded. I brought my sunglasses but found them unnecessary thanks to the foliage. I drained my Ultimate Direction water bottle in about an hour and will need to explore other hydration systems for longer runs, especially as the weather heats up. It was "only" 61 degrees when I got going but was into the mid-70s when I got home.

On my way back I started thinking how relatively rare it was to see a snake while actually running. Whamo! Within seconds - I kid you not - I came right up behind a 3.5 - 4 foot long black racer on the trail. He/she was facing away from me and we both paused to size each other up. Then, before I could whip out my camera, he was gone, as black racers will do. I was grateful to see this critter.

To sum up this trail...
pros: shady (!), quiet, reasonably firm footing for the most part (for a FL trail)
cons: narrow, many spiderwebs, much poison ivy at this time of year (winter/early Spring may be ideal)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Race recap #1 - Flatwoods Four - April 6, 2008

Ok, this is way overdue. I'd been meaning to report on this year's trail races, but this blog began after I actually ran in three events in '08. I've seen little written about them, so I thought I'd make my own small contribution. Here's the most recent event....

The Flatwoods Four Trail Run was held this past April 6 near Tampa. I'm posting this belated race report (I only started this blog since then), as well as those of two other Florida trail races I've run this year (forthcoming), for the benefit of anyone who might want to try one of these events.

This was my second event of the season, and I was looking forward to seeing what I could do on a shorter course following the earlier Trout Creek 15K. As I was running somewhat out my area, I did not see anyone I recognized before the start of the race.

The start was quite crowded. In fact, it was the most crowded first mile I've run in my life (including high school and college cross country, and various road races)! I placed myself maybe 2/3 of the way back from the starting line, and it took a few seconds to get to the line after the race started. After that it was wall-to-wall runners on the first trail segment, the "shell road". Very difficult to pass anyone. Next we headed into the woods on a very narrow, rough, twisty trail over roots and through palmetto. Kinda dark in there for my shades, but I had decided to wear them to protect myself in the more open middle part of the run. At this point in the woods, runners had to go single file, and things were so bottled up that I actually had to stop and walk three times because of the traffic! One guy behind me complained a couple of times, but I took the slowdown "in stride" as part of the experience. The first mile split was 10:27, which I think is my slowest first mile split in any distance race, ever. Once we got out of the woods, the trial widened and I was able to open things up a bit (relatively speaking) and try to make up some time. The middle two miles, a mix of grass and sand, were wider and sunnier, though I was glad the sun hid behind some clouds part of the time. While the sun was hiding, I removed my cap, and replaced it when it got brighter. The last mile essentially repeated the first mile, minus the crushing crowds. Despite being flat, it was twisty with a little rough footing, and I found myself going into oxygen debt. Back on the shell road I was able to pick it up and put on a closing burst to the finish. I had my typical "Give me air/I think I'm going to throw up" minute or two but that passed, thank goodness.

All in all, an enjoyable day for me.

Race pros and cons, IMHO...
pros: well-marked course, well-organized, excellent post-race food (great job,!)
cons: parking and bathroom access were less than ideal. Depending on your perspective, a very crowded, overly narrow first mile; as with many trail events, do not even consider comparing times with a typical road race, despite the flat terrain... if you care at all about your time, consider your starting position carefully.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Favorite running books

One of the books I turned to in resuming running was my tattered copy of Jeff Galloway's Book on Running. Galloway has been a significant influence on my running - I've always liked his emphasis on proper rest, as opposed to pounding the roads every day of the week. As I was starting over from scratch, I felt this formula would work for me. There are many running books out there, but a lot of them either do not cover, or gloss over, an important part - the beginning.

I also acquired a copy of Galloway's Half-Marathon: You Can Do It. I was going to need to rely on walk breaks as I built up my endurance, and this book is a good source for planning. One of my goals I set for myself was to run a half-marathon in 2008. As I increased my running in the fall of '07 (slowly, gradually), I came across Dean Karnazes' Ultra-Marathon Man. That was very inspiring reading for me, but more on that another time.

If you have any suggestions for practical or inspirational running reading, let me know.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Starting is tough

There were a few other signs of declining fitness I was noticing last summer that troubled me. One was that my gut was getting big enough that I was less flexible in the middle. Second, I was slower to get up from a seating position, whether from a chair or from the floor of my house (a frequent place to sit when you have young children). Third, the stairs at work were leaving me winded.

As an admitted running snob, these realizations galled me (apparently I could pull off being a running snob without actually running). I knew my health and fitness levels were not where they should be, and that things would not improve unless I took action.

I had to start basically from ground zero. Rather than go out and pick up a nice case of shin splints in the first week, I started by walking to re-establish the exercise habit, and gradually adding running segments of as little as 1-2 minutes at the beginning, gradually increasing in number and length. This was NOT easy. One minute of running at a slow pace was my limit; two minutes left me winded.

the journey begins... (summer 2007 recap)

First, a little background...
I used to be a runner, eons ago. I ran cross country in high school (small school) and college (Div. III). After that, well, life happened. Full-time work. Marriage. Kids. Etc. Although I didn't fully realize it at the time, with other distractions (er, focuses) and without other people to run with, and without races coming up every weekend, my motivation to run waned, and my fitness level dropped. Every several months I would try to pick things up, do more mileage and start doing some speedwork. And, every time, I would do too much, too fast, too soon, and get injured. And take time off, losing more fitness. Eventually, by the summer of 2007, I was essentially a non-runner. My energy level had dropped, my waist was expanding, and running around in the yard with my young kids got me winded. My pants were getting too tight too tight in the waist. Looking in the mirror, I was clearly growing a paunch, and if things progressed much further, would become a candidate for a "bro"!
I decided it was high time to draw a line in the Florida sand. I would take up running once more and get back in shape, this time armed with my experience in how not to get in shape. I would go slowly, gradually, laying a foundation one mile at a time, minimizing risk of injury. And I would have goals, and I would have fun.