Thoughts on yesterday’s race

Yesterday’s race wasn’t the toughest run I’ve faced this year, but in some ways I consider it my best effort. That’s true, even with the LI Half Marathon I ran in May that was both difficult and humbling. On that race, I missed my performance target by a significant sum, but I am proud that (even with an injury) I didn’t walk a single step over its 13.1 miles. Still, I feel that yesterday’s Dirty Sock 10K represented my competitive best. There wasn’t a single moment when I backed off the throttle, even as my energy levels dropped sharply near the end.

You’d think I would have done better than I did with the effort that I put forth on Sunday. I’ll admit that I felt dismay at the hordes of people who caught up and passed me at various times during the race. I thought, “Why are they all running faster than me? How have they trained compared to me?”  The answer is probably a mix of things. First, I’m no longer in my 20’s or 30’s. Second, I suspect that many participants in yesterday’s race probably train regularly at 10K-plus distances with an effort that I usually reserve only for race day.

With that, I’m pleased with the work I did on Sunday to achieve the best time I’ve ever attained in that race. Like this year’s NHP 8K, I’ve done better the third year than in any previous year. As long as I can hold the gains I feel that I’m on track with my training. It will be interesting to see how I do at the Great Cow Harbor 10K. I don’t know if I’ll improve over 2010’s time, but I know I won’t regret my effort.

Race report: 2011 Dirty Sock 10K

Third time’s the charm

Today’s run (Babylon Village Classic – Dirty Sock 10K): 6.2 miles (net time 58:26)

Sometimes we anticipate a difficult race experience and hope that we’re overestimating the challenge. We do everything we can to mitigate the pain and enhance our performance. That doesn’t necessarily make the experience any easier, but in the end the pain is usually forgotten. Not entirely, but enough to make you decide to do it all again.

Today’s Dirty Sock 10K was exactly like that for me. It was my third consecutive time running this race and for the third time I wondered, in the end, if I will ever do it again. The course is straightforward, an out-and-back 6.2 mile run, mostly on dirt trails. The heat and humidity determine the level of difficulty and the last mile (for me) is always the hardest part.

Team Emerging Runner arrived a little later than usual but I had plenty of time to collect my race bib, along with my race tee (an attractive faded blue this year) and the requisite pair of socks. When we walked into the registration area I saw a rock band on the stage and that made me and my daughter smile. It was a nice moment and we felt we were at an event. I caught up with Dave who was there with his wife and we all hung out until we were called to the line around 10 minutes before the start.

By now I recognize many people who compete in local races and it’s a nicely familiar experience when we congregate behind the faster runners. The trails are wide, but with about 500 people at the start, the runners are pretty crammed together. Soon the horn sounded (oddly it sounded like a ship’s whistle) and we moved en masse, somewhat slowly, until the crowd began to break up.

I ran the first mile in 8:46, which was good, considering my initial slow start due to congestion. I knew I couldn’t sustain that pace and it was obvious that I was running with a faster crowd when they began to gain ground on me. My buddy Dave, who did very well today, had moved ahead and I soon lost sight of him. I tried to use the runners ahead of me as pacers but, by mile two, I began to feel like I was going to have some trouble getting through the entire distance at a competitive pace.

Dave (left) and me post race

Usually I see the winning runner coming back in the other direction around the 2.75 mile mark, but not today. I’d hoped that meant that I was running better than prior years, because that meant the eventual winner would still be circling the lake. Soon I was on the path around Belmont Lake and it felt hard. I was frustrated by the number of people who had passed me, but I knew I was leaving nothing on the course.

Psychologically, I was pleased by how quickly I lapped the lake and passing under the bridge meant that I had less than halfway to go. I continued to get passed and wondered whether I’d finish last. After the race Dave pointed out that we’d started somewhat close to the line so it made sense that faster runners would make their way past me. For the record, I finished where I usually do, right in the middle of the pack.

I did begin to pass some runners as I made my way between miles 4 and 5 and I took water every time it was offered. I also took sips from my hand bottle that was filled with electrolyte mix. Mile 5 finally came and I prepared for the worst and maintained the best pace that I could. Soon we were following the path along Southards Pond. When we turned right I knew we were about a kilometer from the end, perhaps the longest thousand meters I run every year.

Dave and I ran this course last weekend, so I was familiar with some of the features on this section of trail. When I saw the first foot bridge I knew I’d soon see the clearing and then the finish line. I came around the corner and gave my final push, crossing the line over a minute faster than last year. The race announcer even pronounced my last name correctly.

Team Emerging Runner was waiting for me at the finish line and I grabbed some water and drank the rest of my electrolyte mix. I saw Dave and his wife and found out that he finished about a minute and a half before me. He had told me that he planned to go faster than in 2010 and he was right!

Me with Beth and Paul, after the race

I found Paul, who I had met at the NHP 8K race, and his wife Beth. They both ran today’s race and did well. Paul’s very fast, he came in more than 10 minutes ahead of me. I mentioned to both Dave and Paul that I didn’t think I was going to run Cow Harbor but I was overruled. The pain of today’s run has faded to the point where I’m prepared to sign up for the race.

Well another Dirty Sock is on the books and I’m happy to have bettered my previous times. More importantly, I fought off fatigue and pain but I still maintained my targeted race pace. I guess I’d better get started on my Cow Harbor training. Preparation will be the key and I’ll try not to think about the pain.

Liquid strategy for the Dirty Sock 10K

Performance in a pouch

Tomorrow morning at 8:00 AM I should be off and running on the Dirty Sock 10K trail run. It will be the third time that I participate in this out-and-back race that circles Belmont Lake State Park and passes Southards Pond on the return leg. The last two year’s weather was brutal, hot and humid and even some rain. Predictions for tomorrow show 77° and 71% humidity for the start. Not ideal but better than last  year when rain threatened and finally started falling about 45 minutes into the race.

Low cal libation
Favorite fuel

I’ve trained the best I could with the time I have and I’m planning to use GU Roctane gels for pre-race energy and to help get me through that endless last 2K. I picked up a packet of Gatorade G Series Prime 01 that I will add to my G2 (low sugar) Perform that I’ll carry in my water bottle. Both times I ran Dirty Sock I finished low on electrolytes and fairly dehydrated. Generally I prefer simplicity, but if these supplements help me through my expected struggles then it’s worth the extra care.

I’ll file a full report on the experience. My taper is complete, the race day gear selected and my nutrition plan is set. I’m hoping for the best, but mostly I’m just excited to run this course again and see my family waiting for me at the finish line.

Time for some needed rest

Today’s run (street): 2.5 miles

This morning I went out for my last run prior to Sunday’s race. I wore my Mirages to acclimate to their feel, although the trail surface at the race will be different than pavement. I’ll admit that I liked the luxury of this minimal, yet well cushioned, shoe. It’s a nice change from the harder ride of the Hattori’s.

It’s often recommended that runners leave their watches at home and run by feel. I bring my Garmin because I have an irrational need to capture the metrics of every run but I rarely look at the display for anything except elapsed time. I purposely ignored my watch this morning and only checked it at the end when I pulled up by my house and hit the stop button. I saw that I’d averaged 9:14 per mile, which made sense based upon the effort I had made.

I’m still battling the feeling of tiredness and, although I was happy to have run 15 seconds per mile better than my July average, the fatigue was noticeable. Along the way I encountered both a car and a walker at the same intersection — unusual because I rarely see either at 4:00 AM. That woke me up a bit. I’m done with running until the race, although I may do some less strenuous activities between now and then. Rest, I believe, will be the best thing to do before I line up for the Dirty Sock 10K on Sunday morning.

Singlet minded planning

I need to decide if less is more

With only six days before the Dirty Sock 10K, I’m working out my race day preparations. I’ve been thinking about whether to buy a singlet to wear as a hedge against the historically high humidity. The idea is sound, having less material on your body will allow more efficient evaporation of sweat. However, I’ve never run in a singlet and I don’t know if I’d like it or if I would find it a distraction.

My fallback is my Craft Performance running tee that does an excellent job of wicking and evaporating sweat. I’m not sure what conditions to expect on Sunday but, if it rains, efficient evaporation becomes less important and, to the prior point, less material would be beneficial. I’ll take a look at City Sports this week to see if there are any summer clearance bargains. If I get a singlet I can try it on one of my morning taper runs to see if I like it.

While I’m in shopping mode I need to remember to pick up more GU Roctane gels for the event. There aren’t too many products that I think can make a noticeable difference, but this one does.

Pre-race training run at Belmont Lake State Park

2010 Dirty Sock race shirt. They also give you socks!

Today’s run (Belmont Lake State Park): 6.2 miles

It’s been more than two months since my last race (the NHP 8K) so I’m excited that I’ll (once again) be competing next weekend. If we have weather like this weekend’s on the 21st I’ll be very pleased.

This morning I met up with my running buddy Dave at the south end of Belmont Lake State Park. We decided to do a last long training run along the Dirty Sock race course to prepare for the big event. We had plenty of company on the trails at 7:00 AM when we started. There were people with dogs, walkers, bike riders and a handful of other runners.

We took off at a pace that allowed for comfortable conversation and. before I knew it, I heard my Garmin chime the first mile. We reached Belmont Lake and chose to follow the same route that we’ll take on race day. This involves a short section that crosses a highway access road and goes under the LIE. We circled the lake in short order and I was pleased with my energy level at what I knew to be the halfway point.

I never noticed before, but I determined the main trail runs uphill in the southern direction. That may be a reason why I have a tough time in the latter half of this race. Checking our watches we saw that we were coming on the one hour mark and I couldn’t believe that much time had passed. Having an interesting guy like Dave as a running partner certainly helps on long runs.

At the last leg of the run, where the trail twists south after paralleling a section of  Southard’s Pond, Dave stepped up the pace and I followed. He’s a strong finisher and I did my best to stay with him. This last half mile is always tough on race day because it’s hard to discern how much more trail is left before the finish line. I know to listen for the race announcer over the PA, that tells me to start my final sprint to the line.

The humidity finally kicked in and at the end we were a pretty soggy pair. I was extremely pleased with our run and I know I could have put another 10% into my effort if I had been competing. I’m saving that for race day. The taper starts tomorrow. Let’s hope that the heat and humidity take a holiday next Sunday.

The thing about the Dirty Sock course…

Link to picture at Bill McBride Photography

Today’s workout (elliptical): 28 minutes

I’m thinking of heading to Babylon this weekend to run the trails in Belmont Lake State park. This is the location for the Dirty Sock 10K that’s being held next a week from this Sunday. The course itself is straightforward, mostly flat and non-technical, and, unless it’s been raining, well groomed. The thing about this race is the weather. On a cool fall morning it’s as good as trail running gets: picturesque woods, a beautiful lake and some interesting sections with that cross over brooks or pass by another lake. But the weekend of Dirty Sock can show a different side of this course – the heat and humidity envelope you and the last mile of the race is plenty tough.

The last time I ran this course was in the spring when I closed out my half marathon training. I wore my Kinvaras on the trails and thought all was well but that night I awoke to significant knee pain that followed me for months. I’ve since gotten past that problem but I’m a little concerned about a recurrence of this problem. In truth, I had probably over trained the week that I did that run and the knee pain was likely a result of running 30% more mileage than normal.

I’m planning to run in the Mirages, a minimal stability shoe, this weekend and for the Dirty Sock race. I’ve been running almost exclusively with the Hattori’s but I seem to adapt well between those shoes and Mirages. This will also be a big weekend for my friends who race. KWL will be competing in the Philadelphia Grand Fondo bike race (108 miles) and FS is due to run a race on Cape Cod. However, she is “day to day” on deciding whether to participate, due to an injury. I hope everything lines up for both of them this weekend (including good weather) and that we all have great experiences.

Runners: know thy enemy!

Today’s run: 2.6 miles

Hoping to keep my cool

Like most runners, my performance degrades with a rise in temperature. Adding humidity makes it worse and it all makes sense scientifically. If your body needs to cool itself, it will deplete your body’s fluid level through sweat. This leads to a loss in plasma volume and a reduction in oxygen to muscles because blood low is being pushed to the surface of the skin. Humidity prevents efficient evaporation of sweat that dissipates heat and helps regulate body temperature.

It seems like every running magazine I read has an article or two about running in the heat. They all say basically the same thing — that proper hydration (including electrolyte balance) is key. They are also pretty clear that running in extreme heat can drive your body temperature up to dangerous levels. At that point it goes from bad to worse.

I’m thinking about this because I’m two weekends away from the Dirty Sock 10K trail run. It’s a great race that goes through the woods and around a lake. It’s always held the third weekend in August and the two times I’ve run it conditions ranged from high heat and humidity to high heat, humidity and rain. Last year I drank 24 ounces of water after I finished and still felt depleted. It wasn’t until my daughter brought over an electrolyte drink that I finally felt restored and balanced.

This morning’s run did not feel humid (though it was) and I appreciated the temperatures that were still in the 70’s. I had a decent run and by the time I came home I was drenched with sweat but I didn’t feel overheated. I’m looking for a singlet to wear on race day. Despite the “wife-beater” look that I’ve always avoided, that may be a good tool for keeping my body temperature down. One thing I’m counting on is that Dirty Sock will fall on a hot and humid day.

Dirty Sock prep: 60 humid minutes on the treadmill

Today’s run (treadmill): 5.5 miles

The rain was coming down hard at 6:30 AM and the frequent thunder told me that the storm was close. I hoped that it would move through quickly so I could go out for a long run later in the morning. A check on weather.com showed no hope for a letup so I changed my plans in favor of an indoor workout.

If I had gone to Bethpage State Park I would have targeted 8 miles, but I knew that spending that much time on a treadmill would make me a candidate for the insane asylum. I decided that I would run for 60 minutes, including some time for warm-up and cool down. At the start, the temperature in the guest room seemed pleasant, and I had my trusty water bottle to help keep me hydrated. At the ten minute mark I still felt relatively dry and I wondered how long I would go until the sweating began.

By the time I reached the 15 minute mark I felt like I was in a sauna and I questioned whether I could really go the full 60 minutes. By 20:00 I noted that I was 1/3 my planned time and my running shorts were just about soaked through with sweat. I didn’t bother wearing a shirt because I could get away without one indoors. I regretted that I’d forgotten to wear a HRM. It would have been interesting to record my physical response to the heat and humidity over the duration of my run.

I kept drinking water and by the 30 minute/halfway mark I knew that I’d be okay for 30 more. Passing 40 minutes was a welcome milestone and I reached five miles a little before the 50 minute mark. I continued for another 5 minutes and then dropped my pace and finished with a five minute cool down at around 11 minutes per mile.

I wasn’t delirious when I stepped off the treadmill but I was sweating profusely and I made a beeline to the refrigerator and grabbed some Gatorade G2.  The very humid conditions, heat and 60 minutes of motion were exactly what I was after today. The conditions at the Dirty Sock 10K are usually brutal, not unlike today’s. It occurred to me near the end of my run that I must be in decent shape to have gone through today’s workout without quitting or collapsing in exhaustion afterward. I’m hoping that hard workouts like the ones this weekend will yield a good result on race day.

Making plans for summer racing

It looks like we’ll be experiencing hot temperatures and daily thunderstorms this week. I’m resting today for the first time since last Tuesday. If the skies remain clear we may head over to Bethpage State Park to ride bikes. It’s been a few weeks since I’ve done a 7+ mile run so perhaps that will be a goal for Wednesday or Thursday.

I’m still on the fence whether I’ll race in July. I’ve never competed in July, mostly because it’s such a hot month and there aren’t any essential races. I’ll look again at the LI race schedule to see if there’s anything that seems fun. If not, perhaps July will be dedicated to training for the heat, humidity and seemingly infinite last mile of August’s Dirty Sock 10K.