Friday, November 30, 2012

12 Hours of J.B. Hunt Park

[The title, "12 Hours of J.B. Hunt Park," is already filled in. Beneath it is the white rectangle I stare at now. What is there to write about running 53 laps of nothing? What is interesting about that? I don't know, but I will try to find something.]

New Gear:
Running is the least expensive obsession I've ever had, but it still gives my inner gearhead some room to frolic and play. Today I was trying out some calf compression sleeves from Zensah, the lightweight running jacket I bought before the Heartland race, and a remarkable fuel belt from Salomon which will be the Cool Product Pick of the Week whenever I get around to it. I packed two Clif bars in the center pocket and mixed equal parts Plain and Strawberry Banana Gu in the two small bottles, which is delicious, by the way.

It was slightly warmer than forecast, but still below freezing at six in the morning. I started with synthetic hiking pants over my running shorts, a long sleeve tech T-shirt, my bright green T-shirt from last year's Winslow race, my beloved Windwall fleece, gloves, and a knit hat. Walking one lap and jogging another got a nice sweat going, so I swapped the fleece for my new running jacket. Total comfort! Three hours into it, I made a long pit stop at the trunk of my car, which actually overhung the path by several inches. I ditched the pants and the jacket, which felt pretty good, so I also ditched the gloves and the Winslow shirt. Most importantly to me well-being, I lost the knit hat and dawned instead my iconic Tilley hat. Finally, I felt like myself. That would be my uniform until sundown and my last few laps when I grabbed my jacket again. Everything worked.

Running Perfectly:
As always, my first hour was pretty rough, especially not having had a serious run in nearly five weeks. A knee, an ankle, a shin, I went through one pain after another. This always happens, and the fix is always the same: Land gently on the forefoot, with the knees slightly bent, every single step. Arms swing on a plane parallel to the direction of travel with the hands low and relaxed. Jaw loose. Pelvis level and spine just so. Total efficiency. Nine hours later, that would still be the fix for every pain, every pain but one. More on that later.

The Wildlife Officer:
About eight o'clock, two hours into it, I gave the first of many thumbs up to a very large man walking clockwise on the same path (I went counter-clockwise the entire time on the rationale that the steeper uphill sections and longer, shallower downhill sections would allow me to run more and walk less). He wasn't exactly walking. He had spring, a lightness to his step--not enough to cause both feet to leave the ground, which would be running, but enough to say he was doing more than merely walking.

Around and around he went.

At ten o'clock, longer that I ever imagined he would last, I saw him sitting in the Wildlife Officer truck which had been parked at one of the ballfield parking lots. The door of the truck was open and he was cleaning the earpieces of the headphones he had been wearing. I veered off the path to wave and give him a "Great run!" which was very embarrassing because I would later discover that he was not in fact done running. I passed him again on my next lap, still in his tights and heavy fleece jacket. I was sweating in shorts and a T-shirt.

Around and around he went.

At noon, after six hours for me, four for him, I noticed the Wildlife Officer truck was gone. I don't know if he was on duty or not, but I hope he was. I could not think of a better way to spend my tax dollars. I've never seen a person that heavy work that hard for that long to improve his own health. He wasn't the most friendly or outgoing guy, but I believe that is because he was in real pain. I may have run three times as long and many times as far, but his effort was greater than mine. The man is a hero.

On Female Proportion:
As always occurs at parks in the more affluent neighborhoods, mid-morning brought out the ostensibly desirable women for whom restricting caloric intake is the most important tool they know to increase their sense of worth as human beings. They walked correspondingly skinny dogs and were good for one or two laps at the most. Frictionally speaking, I've never understood what difference a woman's body proportions would make, but what do I know? I've only been with one. Perhaps I don't know what I'm missing, but I digress. The lunch hour brought out several working women of more average proportion, some of them in scrubs who must have come from the occupational health clinic just down the road. They smiled more and seemed happier.

Blowing Up:
At hour nine, 43 laps into it, I was shocked to still be clicking off twelve-minute laps just as I had been half a day earlier. I'd settled into a perfect rhythm, running about three fifths of the track and walking the rest. Whenever I noticed some pain, I corrected my running form and the pain would subside. One pain would not subside, though.

I love my Brooks Cascadia 7 trail shoes, but for some reason, usually after five or six hours of running, I get a bad hot spot on the ball of my left foot. Not my right foot, only my left foot. Finally, I decided my hot spot had turned into a blister and needed to be dealt with. Removing my shoes and socks, I saw that it had not actually become a blister yet, but it was going to. I taped it up, put on fresh socks, and after some consideration, decided to switch shoes as well.

My Pearl Izumi trail shoes were a bit of an experiment. I bought them on clearance because the cushioning in the forefoot felt luxurious and wonderful. The upper did not feel luxurious or wonderful, but I thought I could get used to it. Let me tell you, you can't get used to uncomfortable shoes! Still, I ran my crazy 82 laps at Tontitown Park in them, some 29 miles, and have trail run in them several times, and they always felt okay. They did not feel okay after 34 miles at J.B. Hunt Park. They hurt like hell.

My blowup was mental, not physical. I could have switched back to my Brooks shoes. I could have smeared my foot with Vaseline. I could have done any number of things to keep running. My legs were tired but had been working just fine before I stopped to check the blister. Instead of forcing myself to run, though, I did the easy thing: I allowed myself to feel satisfied. I became happy with my effort. I decided it was enjoyable to just walk, so that's what I did. I walked the last three hours.

Challenge Myself:
I have four goals in mind when I plan these adventures: Challenge myself, learn something, don't get injured, have fun. Obviously this was a challenge.

Learn Something:
The lessons of hour nine are rich but will take some time to absorb. The most surprising revelation from the run is a technical one: Never, under any circumstances, embark on a long run without calf compression sleeves. They are wonderful!

Don't Get Injured:
Changing shoes was the right thing to do. I was going to get a bad blister if I did nothing, so I did something.

Have Fun:
I ran 42.3 miles, establishing a PR for twelve hours and tacking five miles onto my PR for longest run. What better way to spend an unpaid day off!

[I guess I filled the rectangle. Thanks for reading!]

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Updates Shown in Green!

[My little adventure at J.B. Hunt Park was not by any means my most aesthetic run, but I can't complain. I had fun, learned a lot, and didn't injury myself. Full report to follow in a few days. Now: Vitamin I(buprofen) and sleep are all I'm thinking about. By the way, the support I receive from you amazing readers, lurkers and commenters alike, makes a tangible difference, and it means the world to me. Seriously, I am able to run farther and run better because of your encouragement and good wishes. I am positive of this. ]

Personal Records (official):

Half marathon: 2:21:10
Marathon: 5:10:14
50k: 7:22:16

Training Records (unofficial):

Longest run: 42.3 miles.
6 mile out-and-back from North Shore: 56 min.
Three laps of Fayetteville Lake: 3 hrs, 37 min.
15 laps of the Don Tyson: 3hrs, 57 min.
Six Hours of the Don Tyson: Revised to 26.9 miles.
Six Hours of Tontitown Park: Revised to 28.9 miles.
Twelve Hours of J.B. Hunt Park: 42.3 miles.
Clifty Loop, one lap each direction: Umm, I forgot.

2012 Races:
Hogeye Marathon (5:10)
War Eagle 50k (7:22)
Winslow Half Marathon (2:23)
Heartland 50 (Did Not Show)
Rock the Block 5k: (Disqualified)

2011 Races:

Winslow Half Marathon (2:24)
Fayetteville Half Marathon (2:21)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Experiments in Unpreparedness

I don't know if my writing ever inspires anyone else, but it does occasionally inspire me. My recent Flatrock bit is a good example. I confess I've been back to read it at least a dozen times, and every time I do, I become even more captiviated with the idea of making challenging races even more challenging by purposely not preparing for them. What an original thought, if I do say so myself.

It enchants me to think that I could properly consider myself an "extreme runner" just because of the extreme mismatch between the training I do and the races I run. My running friends are all shocked to learn that I ran my first marathon and my first ultra having trained, on average, barely over one day a week. I ran closer to two days a week leading up to my 50-miler that never happened, but I could not have sustained that for much longer. One day a week is a nice number--extreme in its smallness, as distance runners go, but nice.

Still, I wonder where the limit is. Does one really need to train at all? Can any reasonably fit person, as I am, complete a long distance just by knowing it is possible and doing it? For the last five weeks, my training has consisted of taking calcium citrate and a multivitamin every day. I did run an unknown distance in an unknown time a while back, but other than that, I have done no training at all. It will be interesting to see how many laps of the ballpark loop at J. B. Hunt Park I can run in twelve hours this coming Wednesday. It's about eight-tenths of a mile. Any guesses?

Donald and I reconnoitered this loop tonight and confirmed that the structure just southeast of the easternmost parking lot is indeed a second playgound area. It has three levels. The top level is accessed by a ladder in the center and is completely caged in to prevent suicides. A really kick-ass tube slide takes you back to ground level in only a few seconds.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Probably Less than Six Hours of J.B. Hunt Park

I'm due for a finish, big time. Heartland was a bust, but I did get in a good run at the Inaugural Six Hours of Tontitown Park (which I've just revised to 28.89 miles based on an improved measurement of the course). I felt great after the run, tired but completely free of pain. Then I ran the Rock the Block 5k, a fund raiser for the elementary school where my friend David Dinan's kids go to kindergarten. It was to be the first and last 5k of my life. How poetic that I would be disqualified for doing a Killian and also injure my Achilles tendon. What a stupid stunt that was, running three sub-nine-minute miles on pavement. Only a madman would do such a thing!

That was three and a half weeks ago. After two days of ice, a week of Ibuprofen, and lots of rest, my Achilles had gone ten days without an inkling of a problem. Plus, after being balls-to-the-wall slammed at work for three straight weeks, they decided business was so slow that I needed to be laid off again. No matter, that gave me the perfect opportunity to run the Inaugural Up to Six but Probably Less than that Hours of J.B. Hunt Park. In the spirit of that event, I decided I would show up and run as much or as little as I felt like for not more than six hours.

Funny that I've been living in Springdale for a dozen years now and only discovered this park last week. Springdale has four quadrants, north and south of Sunset, east and west of Thompson. Circumstance has dropped me in such a life that I just do not have call to go into the northwest quadrant, certainly not north of Huntsville Avenue (for Martijn: Mama Tang is on Huntsville) or so. The upper northwest quadrant might as well be Tibet.

But a friend turned me on to the park so I went to check it out. Turns out, it is a beautiful park tucked in amongst Springdale's most affluent neighborhoods, a good reason to never go there. But as a runner, it has one very interesting and desirable feature: It has hills. There is also a measurable, paved path with closely cut grass on either side. It also has a restroom with running water and what this morning was a very cold stainless steel shitter, making it ideal for six-hours-of events. The first one took place this morning.

It was cold. I ran one lap, then two, then three. I ran a forth and a fifth. I ran a sixth, all clockwise. I drank water several times, removed my gloves, and scrunched my long sleeves up over my elbows. I left the loop to run the short distance north to Lake Springdale, which I circumambulated at a slow jog. I ran back to the loop. I ran around the loop some more, clockwise, not counting my laps. I walked a lap and then drove home. I do not know how long I ran or how far.

This concludes my race report.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

I Feel Stupid and Vindicated at the Same Time

Stupid because I never thought to use Google Earth to measure my favorite stretch of the Don Tyson Parkway, vidicated because I came within three quarters of a percent of the correct distance using only a bicycle, a tape measure, and a short piece of duct tape.

My original measurement was 1.355 miles which I elected to round down to 1 1/3 miles mainly for simplicity of calculation but also because I didn't want to overstate my running distances. I got 3550 feet each direction, about 1.345 miles per lap, using Google Earth's path measuring tool. I'm going with that for my official distances but can still use the handy 1 1/3 mile distance for managing my runs.

It astonished me sometimes to see how completely stupid I am. If it wasn't for my moments of startling brilliance, I'd probably get really down about it. As it is, I think I bungle my way through life fairly well, all things considered.

What a bonehead!