Category Archives: cramp

Outer Banks Marathon

Outer Banks Marathon

Start time: 11/11/07, 7:20am

Location: Outer Banks, North Carolina

Distance: 26.2 miles

Finishing time: 4:29:06

Average pace: 10:16min/mile

I’ve joked in the past that with every marathon I learn something new, and that I’m really sick of having to keep learning things! But true to form, I learned an important lesson in this year’s marathon, even as I think I approached my race the smartest yet. The idea was to use the “10/10/10” approach; miles 1-10 at a 10min/mile, miles 11-20 at a 9min/mile, and then (if I was feeling it) the last 10k (miles 21-26.2) at an 8:30min/mile. This would have been absolutely perfect on a completely flat course. What I didn’t take into account, though, was the elevation profile for the Outer Banks Marathon.

The first ten miles were fantastic. I ran the first mile with Butch and Chris, which was a real joy, and I felt a tiny bit bad when I left them towards the end of that mile but they had a different pace plan (and were also doing a run/walk, which I wasn’t) so when they stopped to stretch I took it as a sign to keep going. Running through woods, along the water, and then around the Wright Brothers Monument? Fantastic. I felt bad for anyone who ran the half marathon if only because they missed all of this amazing scenery, the best part of the course by far.

Miles 11-13 run through the Nags Head Woods Nature Preserve; the first two miles on a packed dirt road, the third mile on a narrow off-road trail, and all three of these miles are extremely hilly. I should have shifted my planned paces around a bit to compensate for this; planning on not pushing here and expending the strength elsewhere. (As crazy as that section was, though, I must admit that I really liked it. It was gorgeous.) As it is, looking at my splits below, you can see a huge dip on speed for that off-road mile in particular. Additionally, miles 14-19 are at a slight uphill grade and along a highway, which is less than fun and also sapped my strength more than I’d have imagined.

Of course, some things you can’t compensate for. Around mile 14.5, a car tried to pull out onto the course and only stopped when I screamed at it—all of about a foot and a half from me. Shaken, I continued on, but a minute later my right calf seized up and never really let go. Now I’m not saying that me having tensed up from the near-miss from the car made the calf tense up, but I do think that it contributed. I stretched as best I could for a solid minute and then continued on. I must admit I was sad that my parents, Suzanne, and Charlie never saw me up until that point in the race because I was definitely not looking my best from that moment on!

I pushed on as best I could, stretching a tiny bit every mile or two, and starting at mile 20 taking little 30-second walk-breaks because my knees were starting to ache as well. When I started the 25th mile, I was aching so much that I just had to walk the vast majority of it. I couldn’t even face the “just 2.2 more miles!” that I kept telling myself, finally making a deal that when I finished mile 25, I would start running again and not stop until I was done. And sure enough, that’s what happened. I didn’t get the sub-4:22 finish I was hoping for (I’m fairly convinced if it hadn’t been for the calf problem I would’ve hit that), but I did the best I could, and this was the first marathon for which I didn’t enter it with a run/walk plan.

Next year? I’m going to tackle my race the same way, but will pay more attention to the course map when doing so; if necessary I’ll shift some of the planned paces around to better compensate for what’s ahead. Little by little, I’m getting there.

A mile-by-mile breakdown in terms of pace.

A Half Marathon… and 6.9 more miles added on for fun. Or something.

World Wide Half Marathon Challenge
Start time: 10/07/06, 8:00am
Location: Downtown Washington DC
Distance: 13.1 miles
Run:Walk ratio: 5:1
Finishing time: 2:10:41
Average pace: 9:59min/mile

Start time: 10/07/06, 8:00am
Location: Downtown Washington DC
Distance: 20 miles
Run:Walk ratio: 5:1
Average pace: 10:00min/mile

What a morning.

Today was my scheduled 20-mile training run for the Florence Marathon at the end of November… but it’s also the weekend of the World Wide Half Marathon Challenge, in which over 500 people around the world registered to run a “virtual” half marathon either today or tomorrow. No prizes, but we’ve all got race numbers, a results board, even a (PDF) goodie bag. Now, I wasn’t planning on try to beat my PR for a half marathon today (2:06:08) but I figured it was a fun thing to throw in there. After all, I’d be running the distance anyway.

The next bit is also in my regular journal, for those who read both and want to skip it…

Slight diversion

Start time: 09/28/06, 7:00am
Location: Arlington Boulevard Trail and Rosslyn
Distance: 3.16 miles
Average pace: 8:52min/mile

I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to get any runs in this week, but I squeezed in one this morning before having to dash off to an appointment that meant leaving my home by 8am. Originally I was going to just stick to the Arlington Boulevard Trail, but going back and forth gets boring… and there were also a lot of construction vehicles that I had to dodge. So avoiding the first bit was paramount. Instead I kept running when I hit my normal turn-around spot, heading into Rosslyn. Turns out there really isn’t too much in Rosslyn in terms of places to run (unless you count heading over Key Bridge into DC, or down onto the Mount Vernon Trail) so I did a large loop through the River Place parking lot after I ran out of sidewalk, then headed back with a big loop at the end to avoid the construction. And I made it to my appointment on time, too!

(I had a *slight* cramp… almost just a twinge in my left calf. Which was probably not the same problem I had before but I’m marking it just to be sure. And to be fair I hadn’t been stretching all week. Bad Greg. Time to do so right now in fact.)

Saturday should be amusing. I’m working the AIDS Marathon 26-mile training run and I think I’m going to run some of the groups up the Hill of Doom (since I’m stationed right at the top of it and was told that it’s good to run with them for a tiny bit). The base of the hill to the crest on the side they tackle on the way out is exactly a third of a mile; the side they go up on the return is a quarter mile. I wonder if I can get all of Sunday’s 9-miler in this way? (Yeah, not quite the same thing, but I’ll take it.) And then, on Sunday… hopefully… new running shoes!

Sweet the Sting (or, 16 Days Later)

Start time: 06/13/06, 7:00pm
Location: Clarendon and the Custis Trail
Distance: 4.25 miles
Average pace: 10:17min/mile

So. Been a while, huh? Since my last update here, I figured out last Thursday night what was probably causing the strange cramp in my calf muscle (short version: wearing my running shoes for every day walking around) and hoped that removing the problem would mean I would be back up for running again today. The last time I tried to run, within well under half a mile I was in a lot of pain, so my plan for this evening was to jog slowly up to Pacers (4/10ths of a mile) and see how everything felt. I got up there with no problems (and the GPS said it was a 9:27min/mile pace… so much for slowly) so I decided I was ready to run again.

Chris showed up before too long, and miss_ev made an appearance as well (and with an adorable short haircut!) and we headed out and onto the Billy Goat running route. It’d been a little over two weeks since I’d gone running, and this is a tough course, so I had a feeling that I would bomb out before too long. The first mile was at a nice clip (9:25min/mile) but I knew that wasn’t going to last for long. Sure enough, there was a gradual slowdown over the next three miles (10:20, 10:36, and 10:51 for that fourth mile that goes straight uphill, with the final quarter mile being at a 10:04min/mile pace) as I could feel my reserves running out. My body was wondering why I wasn’t sitting on the couch! What was nice, though, was that I got to run it with three other people; Chris took off ahead for the last mile (and I must say I’d have picked up the pace if I could’ve) but the other two I was with were with me for a bit, then the one woman (Chin?) dropped back a bit and the other fellow (whose name I’ve forgotten already) slowed down to stay with her.

The leg held up pretty well. The last half mile it was feeling a little tight, but it didn’t hurt. More of a feeling along the lines of, “I haven’t run in a while and you’re sending me up and down all these horrendous hills.” Still, I stretched it out when I got back to Pacers, and used the Stick on it post-shower. (Man oh man did those frozen cubes of Freeze shower gel from LUSH feel good tonight.) I might try and knock out a few slow miles on Friday when I get back from a trip to Pennsylvania but a lot will depend on what I’m really feeling up to at that point. If I don’t, no biggie.

Things I did learn today include that a pre-run food of applesauce is a no-no (NO BOOTING), that I need to take a second dose of allergy medicine in the evening if I’m to run (stuffed up, ugh), that both this and the Alexandria store will be adding on additional days for running (both will have Tuesday and Thursday options in a few weeks), and now that it’s warm out I should start putting on the Bodyglide for even these shorter distances. Ouchie.

(Oh, and the GPS was dead-on accurate with the Google Maps route I’d plotted out for this before. Yay!)

One Week Later: I Suck

After taking a week off from last Sunday’s calf problems, I figured I was ok to start running again. I’d gone for a long (2.33 mile) walk on Tuesday night which helped a lot, and on Wednesday gotten a massage from Kris that seemed to really knock the problem out of the park; Thursday afternoon it seemed to be entirely gone. So, about half an hour ago I suited up, headed down to the Arlington Boulevard Trail… and in less than a third of a mile it was starting to hurt again. By the half-mile point it was starting to increase rather than decrease, and that’s when I stopped.

It killed me to stop. It’s still killing me to have stopped. Part of me keeps thinking that if I’d kept going it would’ve gotten “worked out” and started to decrease. The rest of me thinks that it’s better to be safe than sorry, that it was the right decision to not keep running and risk further injury.

But I’m pissed at myself, and mad, and just really torn up by all this (no pun intended). I don’t take injury well as you can tell, and any and all doubts that had gone away about starting back up with official training a week from today are now back in full force.

And just think, this is what I do for fun.

I’m glad my car isn’t a stick-shift.

Start time: 05/28/06, 7:50am
Location: Clarendon neighborhood
Distance: 2.66 miles
Average pace: 9:56min/mile

Well, the plan was to knock out a 5 miler this morning. It went well at first, running through Clarendon and all the way down to the far end of Rosslyn before starting to come back up on the huge hill that is Wilson Boulevard leading away from the Potomac River.

It all got cut short, though, when my left calf started to feel sore. I slowed down to stretch it, and that just made matters worse; it completely tightened up and running no longer became an option. So, that was the end of this morning’s run. I don’t know if it was the extra-hillwork (that is one steep hill), a potential lack of potassium, or perhaps that I’d done extra stretching this morning before running. Ah well, win some lose some. Fortunately it was the left leg, since I’m now off to drive up to Pennsylvania. Wheeee!