Monday, August 11, 2008

Leg Hate Me

I'm not quite sure what Rod "He Hate Me" Smart thinks of this picture, but it's what comes to mind when I think about the Raven's Nest 5K Trail run I participated in this past Sunday morning.

My legs hate me.

A trail run through a hilly wooded section is part fitness, part finesse. You've got to be in good shape to take the extremely steep climbs and punishing descents. Your ankles and knees also need to be able to bear the pressure of running sideways along the pitch. And you've got to be to handle the sudden hairpins that is typical of switchback trails. It's more than just being alert. I believe it's having an uncanny ability to sense the trail and tread lightly upon it.

Multiple repeat winner of this event, Ivan Marsh, must be part Jedi knight. He looks the part (pictures Teri B - light saber's all mine). Maybe I'll ask Qui-Gon Marsh to train me next year for this race.

What you lack in grace your body absorbs. It's truly amazing what kind of punishment that the body can take. While stumbling over roots, rolling ankles on stumps and bounding down steep grades, my joints somehow managed not to break or snap off. I must be pretty flexible. Or have a lot of those midi-chlorian thingers in my blood. Anyway, I'm too old for Jedi Training.

While preparing for this race, I envisioned what a 5K would be like. Any 5K is short enough that there's no excuse not to run very near the red line. It's highly taxing to the cardio system. So the night before, I went through the mental imagery to put myself in a position to endure 15 - 20 minutes of torture that I imagine feels somewhat like suffocating. Since I've never done a trail run, I just focused on the gasping for air part.

On Sunday morning, I picked up my friend Mike for the drive out. This was Munson's second time at Raven's Nest. As a cyclist, Mike appreciates the running for its cross-training cardio burn. The Raven's Nest hill also provide a good quad workout. Anyway, we went through Starbucks drive-thru for a cup of coffee and got an ear-full from the super most friendly and chatty attendant Starbucks has to offer. You can't fool me, evil Starbucks Barista! I thought we were going to hit critical mass. I mean, here I was sitting in between nice/evil Munson and his Starbucks counterpart who was already buzzing on caffeine. It was the perfect storm. I quickly paid the bill and hit the road.

Joining Munson and I at the race was Bryan. When it comes to running, this is Bryan's element. Bryan's roots are in running. Before making the switch to focus on cycling, he's raced everything from trail races to marathons. He's done the Raven's Nest race every year since moving to Omaha. This year, he finished 6th. That was a day after a completing in the Cliff Drive cycling race in KC. Oh, and he hasn't run in like six weeks. Not bad, kid. After a brief warm up in which Bryan showed us the beginning and ending of the forest section, it was off to the start.

Shortly after the gun went off, I found myself leading the pack. That wasn't such a good idea, because anyone who's led a race at any given moment knows that only two things can happen: you win or lose. If you've haven't led, you don't experience the sensation of losing because you were never in contention to begin with. But there I was, a running fool, frantically tree-bashing through the woods. for a about a mile, I managed to hold off what sounded like a pack of wolves behind me. Then on one of the major hill climbs, the overall second place dude passed me. Shortly after, Ivan skipped by. The hills became like roller coasters: long steep ascents with perilous serpentine downhills. At the bottom were the sand pits of despair that ended up being more like doing the merengue than running. A final climb and exit from the woods brought the welcomed sight of the finish line.

Place: 3rd Overall
Time: 20:10

Afterwards, while I was vomiting gelatinous lime-green Gatorade within a stone's throw from the finish line, the events that just transpired came quickly into perspective. I've run 5Ks three minutes faster than that effort. I've also run many 10Ks at a faster pace than this. I saw my body twist and turn in ways I didn't know were possible. Heck, I haven't barfed after a race in over four years. Indeed, the Raven's Nest 5K was one of the most physically demanding run I can recall till date.

So allow me to be clear. While the race was extremely well organized on beautiful rolling, wooded farmland, I did not have fun running the race or throwing up afterwards. Two days later, I don't appreciate the reminder in the pain I feel in my feet and ankles. It's just not worth it. I appreciate my health.

So if I do it again, it will not be for speed, but to enjoy a run in the woods with friends.


  1. Actually, I missed the 2006 race. I was second in 04, third in 05 (or the other way around), seventh last year and sixth this year. Clearly, actual training as a runner is only good for three or four places.

    You did very well out there. You're gonna be sore for a few more days. That's the way trail races like that go.

  2. Like Bryan said, you eventually forget about the pain, and remember the race as "fun." That's why we go back. If that same race were to happen next week, I'd skip it. I'm still baffled that you got 7 minutes on me. That's just nuts! Great job, to both you and Bryan.

  3. It's Wednesday and the bottom of my feet feel like somebody took a 2x4 to them. Ankles are getting better.

    Bryan: Once a runner always a runner. Without running for six weeks and improving on last year's time is remarkable. You're a robot.

    Munson: I'm still running sprints at the track every Tuesday night. As you know from specific crit and interval training, (running) track sessions do wonders for maintaining a higher pace for longer durations. But I hear ya, bro as I also wonder how Marsh put a minute on me. I'm more convinced than ever that he's a Jedi.

    Speaking of Jedis, I spent all of five seconds creating that special effect light saber. Perhaps one day, Ivan will stumble upon this and appreciate my artistic flair.

  4. I would like to thank all three of you for encouraging me not to return to running.