Monday, October 3, 2011

Paine to Pain Trail Half Marathon Report, Mark II

Last year I ran this race, hence the "Mark II" on this report title, and quite enjoyed it.  I just re-read that report, and have nothing to add to the first few paragraphs as an introduction to this race, so I'll repeat them here:

Thomas Paine
"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. ;)..."

This year the weather was perfect, but it rained several hours before the race started, and for several days before.  So the trail was quite muddy.  Which didn't seem to hold anyone back (the winning time was 1:21), but definitely made for a more interesting run, especially in the single-track sections, and across the wet, muddy wooden bridges.

Last year I ran this race in my New Balance MT101s, and was left with a serious case of IT band syndrome in my "bad" leg, which took about 6 weeks to recover.  I've spent most of the last year working on that leg, and today was my big test of what, if any progress I have made.  I'll note that to conduct this experiment in the most scientific manner possible, I should have worn my MT101s again (I'd worn the MT100 on the training run for the half last year, so that would have been an acceptable substitute); but I decided that I really wasn't in the mood for a long rehab again, since all my previous knee-related running injuries had occurred in those shoes.  So I passed on "science": I couldn't get the experiment past the ethical review board.  Self-mutilation is generally frowned upon, after all.

Very well used
I ran instead in my Merrell Barefoot Trail Gloves, the shoe I wish had existed when I bought and modified my MTs.  As usual, they were excellent.  I'll post something seperately on that.

As far as the race goes: last year my knee gave way at about the 6 mile mark, leaving me limping for the next 7 miles.  I must have been limping pretty quickly, or, more likely, ran far too fast in the first part of the race.  Injuries aside, I somehow managed to eke out a 2:06:26 time, which was pretty decent for my first trail half, and about 10 minutes slower than my first road half, the Brooklyn Half.

This year as I looked at my Garmin and saw I'd passed the five-mile mark I felt a twinge in my right IT Band again.  Hypochondria is a very real thing, apparently.  I quickly decided that this was entirely a function of an over-active imagination, and it promptly went away.  And never reoccured.

I wound up finishing in 1:59:25, a result I'm very happy with, especially given the tougher conditions.  I ran a smarter race, I think.  I'd also like to note that the Maffetone training I've been doing seem to have paid dividends.  I've not blogged about it yet, but I've been pursuing this for the last couple of months, and running almost entirely at slow speeds does indeed seem to improve your results in races; at least it doesn't impede it.

I'd like to thank Lee Saxby.  His tip on pressing down with the big toe when running was continuosly on my mind during this run.  I think I may have over done it a bit, as I started to get some soreness at the first metatarsal head during the run, but I eased off on the press a bit, and was fine.  I still have a little lingering soreness there, but consider that a minor inconvenience.  Changing your gait is never trivial, and doing it during a race fraught with hazard.  But it was an excellent tip and I'm enjoying the easiest post-race recovery I've ever had.  My legs feel great; sore, of course, but I spent most of Sunday after the race on my feet.  I have no discomfort whatsoever in my knees or my metatarsal-cuboid joint, which has been plagueing me for a few months.  That's a good result!

Barefoot-style running, which I'm starting to take for granted, really pays off in a race like this.  With good form little slips are not a concern, and as little slips were a constant for a good part of this, you can keep up a quicker pace with more confidence that you're not going to wipe out.  Ankle-turns are also not a concern, and finishing with your joints in tip-top shape is a nice benefit.

I also did a much better job of pacing myself during the race.  The Garmin was invaluable for that, and I backed off a number of times early in the race, and when walking up hills, to keep my legs in reserve and my heart rate down.  Thanks to some of Krupicka's latest blog posts, I didn't feel a desire to run up all the hills, especially later in the race.  I had a good bit of energy for a quick last mile, which is usually where I struggle. 

Additionally my training and racing nutrition plan since going 'paleo' and low-carb has been to exercise in a fasted condition.  As usual, my pre-race nutrition was a large cup of coffee with some cream.  I started obsessing over carbs in the latter part of the race, but when I finished, that largely evaporated.  More hypochondira, most likely.  I had a shot-glass sized fruit smoothy at the finish line, and an apple, and felt fine.  No post-race crash, either, which has also been a regular and unwelcome part of the routine.  Hopefully the combination of a low-carb diet and Maffetone training are improving my abilities as a fat-burner; again, it certainly didn't impede my performance.

I'd set a lofty goal of 1:45 and a negative split.  I came pretty close to a negative split, but not my time goal.  Nevertheless the race was a good and satisfying improvement.  Hopefully I'll be able to put my half-marathon injury streak behind me, and move on to a marathon.

Thanks to my friends at the Huaraches group for all their advice and assistance.

1st 7 miles, Avg09:05.3178
Total Avg09:09.5177