Sunday, October 3, 2010

Paine to Pain Trail Half Marathon Report

First, let me say what a great, well-run race this was.  The course was terrific and well-marked, the volunteers were enthusiastic and numerous, and they even had cheerleaders at the start and the finish.  Race Director Eric Turkewitz and his team deserve a ton of credit for putting this race together.  I really can't think of one thing wrong with the race today, they even arranged for perfect weather.

The course starts next to Thomas Paine's cottage, in New Rochelle, NY, heads up a hill, and then follows the Colonial Greenway trail, ending on the track at the high school near to the start.  The first mile or so gets you up and over a ridge between one drainage and another on roads, and then you hit the Leatherstocking trail, a windy, rocky single-track through Westchester County.  From there the balance of the trail is on bridle paths that wind near the Hutchinson Parkway back to New Rochelle.  It's a nice course, and, as the RD put it: "Hilly, for Westchester.  This isn't the mountains."
Most of my report on this is about my personal progress, with some race details thrown in, so bear with me if you're still reading. ;)

My last (and first) half marathon was the Brooklyn Half Marathon this spring. That went well in that I finished in under 2 hours (1:56), not as fast as I had hoped, but a decent time.  (I ran that race in a brand-new pair of Bikilas.  Not wise.  Never run a race in new shoes...) Unfortunately I discovered that an old sprained ankle from a year earlier was hurting my form.  I finished the race with a strained metatarsal-cuboid joint, a joint I wasn't aware I possessed up until this race.  I limped off the course in a good deal of pain, and limped around for a few weeks afterward, although I was able to run without pain.

So most of my training since then has been focused on figuring out what was wrong with my ankle, and how to fix it.

I had run the course with the RD and a bunch of others last weekend.  They had two groups running, the fast group, and the slow group.  I was planning on running with the slow group, but went out fast and wound up easily keeping up with the fast group for the first 5 miles or so.  I've been focusing on relaxing my injured right ankle to stress the injured parts, so that hopefully they'll get stronger, and this has been working, but around mile 6 or so I began to feel tightness in my IT band, combined with a strain in the weak part of my ankle.  I promptly tripped, landing on the tight IT band.  Naturally. ;)  So at this point I began to struggle keeping up with the group.  Ultimately I wound up finishing 10-15 minutes behind the group, in about 2:11.  Not what I was hoping to do, but a decent performance given my weak ankle.  I ran in my New Balance MT100s, since my pinkie-toe which I dislocated running in Treks in Colorado is still sensitive, and I didn't want to kick any more rocks with it.

Yes, I'm a mess, and I get injured way too often.

So a week later and I'm back.  My goals for the actual race were pretty modest at this point.  I was just hoping to exceed my performance from a week earlier, and to not injure myself any further.  I tried to take it easy in the early miles, and wound up running strong into mile seven.  I tripped, but did not fall, in almost the same spot as last week, amusingly.  (My friend also tripped and rolled in nearly the same spot.  Must be jinxed.)  But then the IT band began to get tight, and I could feel the weakness in the right ankle.  Oh well.

The race at this point was much easier than the training run the week before.  I felt much stronger, and did not get my tingly-scalp "bonk" at all during this run.  That has occurred during both of my prior runs at 13.1 miles, so that was a definite improvement.  I ate an apple and had a large cup of coffee with whipping cream prior to the race, and suffered no hunger during the race, or after, so that worked well.

But given the state of the ankle and knee, finishing was my major priority. 

And I did, in about 2:06, I would estimate.  I forgot to stop my Garmin when crossing the finish line, and as the race was not chipped, the full results haven't been compiled yet.

So I had a great run in a great race, and improved my performance, and hopefully continued to strengthen my injured ankle.  A nice way to spend a beautiful October morning.

The modified MT100s performed flawlessly during the training run, and the MT101s I ran in today were even better.  Yes, I ran my second half marathon in a pair of shoes I'd never run in before.  I'll post a comparison of the two with some pictures later on.  I saw a bunch of runners in Bikilas and Treks running the race, and I kind of regret not using my Treks, as I didn't stub a toe in either run on this course.  But I'm happy with "better safe than sorry" for this.

UPDATE: As promised: New Balance MT100 versus MT101

UPDATE: Results released.  As I reported, I finished. ;)  In 2:06:26.  I guess I was paying better attention than I thought at the finish line.  Considering I limped for most of the second half of the race, I guess that was pretty decent.  At one point I figured I'd done a 13-minute mile, and when I looked down and saw I'd actually run mile 12 in 11 minutes, I was stoked.  Oh, how our standards can slip. ;)