My knees hurt today, my quadriceps are sore, and I can barely walk down stairs, but otherwise I feel no worse for wear. A few posts ago, I mentioned how I was experimenting with running (or, as I clarified, “trotting”) as a nice way to get some exercise and enjoy some fresh air during the cold winter. Compared to cycling, trotting has several advantages, particularly for the cold weather (ie, going for a trot when it’s cold isn’t nearly as involved and potentially miserable as going for a cycle). At the same time, trotting isn’t fun like cycling is fun (yeah sure, trotting feels very satisfying and can even be enjoyable, but trotting doesn’t give me the same THRILL as cycling does). So I don’t imagine that trotting would ever replace cycling as my first outdoor recreational love, but it might be a nice balance to it.
Anyway, yesterday I went on my first “long run” and am pleasantly surprised that it didn’t kill me. In fact, it has only heightened my desire to go on more long runs.
A Bit of Backstory
Last week, I watched this Outdoor Idaho program about the Boise Foothills on the local public television network (you should all watch it, BTW!). They didn’t show many of my favorite places in the foothills, but I did find it uplifting to learn more about how this community has set aside space for people to commune with nature that housing developers won’t be able to bulldoze over. At some point in the program, they mentioned the annual Race to Robie Creek, which is a running half-marathon up and over dirt roads, ascending 2,072 feet and descending 1,692 feet, and pegged as “the toughest race in the Northwest.” The race course goes up Shaw Mountain Road and over Rocky Canyon Road down to Robie Creek, which is a route that I have ridden on my bicycle hundreds of times. After watching the program, I got it into my head that I wanted to start training for the race. Considering that the race is extremely popular but has limited registration space, it isn’t likely that I would actually be able to participate, but I can certainly train and make it my own personal goal.
Having been casually trotting around for about a month, I haven’t been keeping track of my running stats. Generally, I run for about an hour, but I have no idea what my distance or pace have been. I am confident, however, that I am an extremely slow runner. Actually, I have been specifically trying to run slowly to gradually increase my capacity to run somewhat reasonable distances. When I set out on my first run a month ago, I could barely run a few blocks before getting winded. Now, I can go out and run several miles with only a few short walking breaks, so I feel very satisfied with my improvement.
With regards to training for the half-marathon that goes up and over a mountain, yesterday I decided to get some baseline data.
Specifically, I decided to run a portion of the race course and challenge myself by running a much longer distance than I ever have before.
Here is the link to my Strava data.
Total Distance: 9.92 miles
Elevation Gain: 1,057 feet
Total Time: 1 hour 59 minutes
For the route, I essentially ran the first half-ish of the race course, and then turned around and ran back. Sort of, not really. Distance-wise, I only needed to do 3 more miles before I would have run the full half-marathon, but I still would have needed another 1,000 feet of elevation gain to get the full climb for this particular race. So I suppose this isn’t too shabby for my first longish run in my month-long experiment with running. In looking at last year’s race results, it’s hard to compare yesterday’s run with the race results since I only did the first 4.5 miles of the race and then ran back (there is actually a logistical challenge with trying to replicate the actual race because it does not form a loop or even an out-and-back… the race is from point A to point B, with point B being 13 miles away from point A – - during the race, they actually have buses to transport racers and spectators away from the finish line, so if I were to try running the full race route, I would need to arrange for someone to come and pick me up in an automobile). Anyway, it was definitely a good run!
Below is the elevation profile with my pace comparison. After about half a mile of a warm-up along flat sidewalks, the course goes up these windy neighborhood streets along Shaw Mountain Road. You can see how I was able to run almost to the top of that first climb without walking (except for the big spike (which represents a drop in the pace) at the beginning of the run where I had to stop and adjust something). After a 30 second walking break at the top of the first climb, I ran down to the base of the canyon and then proceeded to run up and up Rocky Canyon Road. I’m pretty sure that those spikes where my pace dropped to around 23 were other short walking breaks, but otherwise, I really did manage to trot most of the almost 10 miles, although my pace isn’t very consistent.
Arguably, I am a very slow runner, even by trotting standards. Below are my mileage splits. The next time I go out and do this run, it will be interesting to compare my pace across each mile.
Overall, I feel excited about how I was able to do this longer run without dying or without being in too much pain. I’m going to do some reading about effective methods for training but I envision doing this run to compare my performance every other week or so. Specifically, now that I can run a reasonable distance, I want to work on increasing my pace. Also, while I was running, I experienced some knee pain and tightness in my IT bands. During the descent, I took a five minute break to stretch out my muscles which helped a lot with the tightness. I’m not sure if my knee pain is due to a muscle imbalance or tightness but I’m going to see what I can do. I could also just be that my knees aren’t accustomed to the impact of running, having been primarily a cyclist for many years.
A Final Word About Hydration
One of the convenient aspects of cycling is that a bicycle frame generally has one or two mounts for water bottles. You may also add additional mounts onto the seatpost and even the handlebars. Running, unfortunately, has no such convenience.
I’ve been experimenting with different methods of carrying water on my runs but it’s been hard to find something that isn’t annoying. I’ve talked to runners at the running shops and have done some online sleuthing and have determined that most runners apparently don’t carry water with them. I suppose for a short run that might be just fine but for my plan to do longer distance runs, I feel very strongly about having water.
For my run yesterday (and also for my future runs), I bought one of these Nathan Trail Mix hydration belts. I have no idea how this one compares to others, but it was the only one in stock at the local running shop so I bought it.
I was pretty skeptical about it but it actually worked well and was minimally irritating. I was able to cinch it tightly around the smallest part of my waist and it didn’t move or bounce at all, which greatly exceeded my expectations. The water bottles (which I had filled with an electrolyte replacement) were mostly easy to get out of their holster and back in while running, though I did find it challenging to actually drink from them while running. The only thing that disappoints me is that I haven’t been able to force my telephone into the pouch. Especially for longer runs into Rocky Canyon Road, which is isolated and has all kinds of wild animals (like wolves and cougers), I would really prefer to be able to carry my telephone in case of emergency (or, more likely, photo opportunity). So I might try to somehow expand the pouch using some scissors and my sewing machine.
Well Readers, do any of you run and have any advice about dealing with knee pain, carrying water, or increasing one’s pace?