Solo Saturday

Well, it wasn’t quite solo–I did see six or seven Rogues out there during my eight-mile run. We had something like six different routes to choose from, with six different starting points to spread people out. I was originally going to start at a nearby high school–that route also went within a block of my house, so I could stop in for water–but when I got there just before 7:00, it was dark and desolate. So I went back home and picked up the route from there.

It was 45* and overcast. My first mile or so ran right into the wind, but it wasn’t too bad. Since it might be the last cold morning for a while, I wanted to run about eight miles, but the route I chose was only a 5.5-mile loop. Conveniently, when I got about about three miles in, my route crossed paths with one of the other routes. so I Frankensteined my own route by running a loop from there and adding a bit more on my way back through my neighborhood. Came in just under eight miles.

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The bluebonnets say it’s spring. The 45* temp says LOL no.

I finished in front of my house, so it was easy for me to shower and get ready for our virtual coffee date over Google Duo. Since we can’t  hang out at a coffee shop after our runs right now, we met in our own living rooms. It wasn’t the same, but almost as good. Human contact, even through a webcam, is important.

Take care, y’all.

Extreme Introversion

I’m pretty introverted. Yes, I have moments of extroversion, like at work or with good friends, but I enjoy quiet time at home. I can spend a whole day on the couch with a book–last summer I read 24 books over my eight-week vacation; three of them were more than 1000 pages each. On school breaks I can go several days without taking my car out of the garage. But I live with two other people, so I usually have someone around even if it’s just a teenager sequestered in his room.

But for spring break, the spouse and kid have been at his family’s ranch property since last Friday, safely away from the Coronavirus hellscape. I talked to them at least once a day, and I’ve texted with several friends; I’m also active in a couple of social media groups. So I have had conversations with people, just very little in-person contact.

Wednesday I spent an hour kayaking with a friend–separate kayaks, and we stayed more than six feet apart–and it was really fun. It was only the second time I’d left the house (other than running in my immediate neighborhood with my dog) since Saturday.

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And now I know my limit with minimal social contact is six days before I go a little stir crazy. Even an introvert struggles with extreme introversion.

I haven’t been sleeping well. Or more accurately, I’ve been waking up in the middle of the night and having a difficult time getting back to sleep. There are so many unknowns with school and work and life, I guess my brain can’t process it all yet. Yesterday I woke up about 3am; at about 5am I gave up and got out of bed. I felt sluggish and weird all day.

But there were bright spots: since my Tuesday running group is no longer meeting in person at all, our coach set up a Zoom meeting.

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And (part of) my Thursday group met in a local high school’s parking lot. There were four of us total, we stayed more than six feet apart, and I brought my own water. And while the run itself was a bit of a slog in the 80* temps, it was nice talking face-to-face with humans for a little while.

Today we got an email from school administration that gives us a little bit of insight into the rest of the semester. We’re supposed to go back April 6th, but it sounds like they’re planning for us to be out longer. As I sat here by myself with more questions than answers, something a friend posted really stuck with me. “We will probably always remember what we did during our plague year so make it memorable.”

My people come home today, and our new reality begins.

Social Distancing

I have a feeling that phrase is going to get on my nerves soon enough. But the concept is an important one.

First, the City of Austin canceled SXSW, citing guidelines limiting events to fewer than 2500 people. In the early morning hours on Friday, two COVID-19 cases were confirmed in Austin, causing Austin ISD schools to cancel the last school day before spring break.

Also on Friday, Rogue put strict limits on training groups and meetups–no shared water coolers, no meeting inside Rogue facilities–and on Saturday morning held a much-curtailed long run from the parking lot to Brushy Creek. I ran 6.2 miles with a friend, attempting to remain six feet apart as best we could.

Saturday night, as things continued to snowball and more cases were confirmed in Austin, the city banned any gathering of more than 250 people through May 1. That triggered the cancellation of April’s Cap 10K, although they will be offering a virtual option for runners to pick up shirts and medals, and run solo.

[Side note to race directors: canceling is the right thing to do, and I don’t expect you to refund my registration fee or give me automatic entry into next year’s race. That comes with the territory of signing up for races. It’s fine–keep my money so we can have a race next year.]

On Sunday, the dog and I ran 4.2 miles solo.

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Also on Sunday, my coach, who is race director of  Vern’s No-Frills 5K, canceled March’s race. Vern’s is a monthly race in Georgetown that has run almost continuously for more than ten years. He’s promoting a virtual option as well.

Then Sunday night the CDC recommended closures of schools and other events of 50+ people for eight weeks. This morning, I got an email that the Tri Doc 5K, scheduled for early May, has been canceled. Austin Runners Club canceled all group runs, and I expect Rogue to follow suit soon.

And then the big guns came out.

Late this morning, the governor canceled STAAR testing, which is a relief because the first round would have started April 7, and I’ve been worried that districts will push us to go back sooner than is wise because of testing.

Then at noon, the Austin ISD superintendent canceled classes through at least April 3, with the caveat that it could be longer. I don’t know what that means for my job, or for my kid’s coursework, or the theater performance in which he has a lead role.

Right now, my goal during all of this is to keep moving forward, even if I run around the block and exercise in my living room. Today I ran a mile with the dog and completed an online workout with the Skirt Sports Women Who Move Facebook group. It was about half an hour long and got me off the couch, so I can check the “moving forward” box for today.

Some other workout resources:

I’ve been trying to finish this post all afternoon but every time I turn around, some other bombshell news happens. It seems like things are escalating by the hour. The seriousness of the situation has far surpassed superficial worry about race cancellations. It’s really about our health and safety.

Hang in there, y’all.

 

Canceled

Well, I don’t have to worry about whether I can run a respectable pace for the Texas Independence Relay in two weeks, or whether my knee will hold up for 15ish miles.

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Austin ISD canceled school today after the city announced two confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus; we have spring break next week and at this point I don’t know what will happen after that. The University of Texas has already extended its spring break an extra week, as have many schools nationwide, so it’s a possibility here too.

We don’t yet know about the Statesman Cap 10K or the Longhorn 10K, both in April. And I have my fingers crossed this thing runs its course before June so that my Norway trip can still happen. But that’s a long way off, considering that news seems to change by the minute right now. And these are first-world problems anyway.

Onward, as best we can.

March-ing forward

Last Sunday’s trail 10K had frequent elevation changes, but nothing super-steep. Still, running downhill on trails puts a lot more force on my legs than road running, and I wasn’t sure how my knee would hold up over six miles.

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Every time I dropped down a hill or a step, I expected rebellion from my left knee, especially toward the end of the race. But while it started to feel stiff after the race, it never hurt. Maybe it’s the CBD cream one of the coaches recommeded to me (or the CBD recovery supplement I’m trying out) or maybe just quitting the two-a-day running, but this is the best it’s felt in many months. I’m still worried about my pace for the Texas Independence Relay in a few weeks, but after this week, I’m less concerned about my knee.

I didn’t run before Monday’s core class, though, just to make sure it was rested for Tuesday’s workout. Which I ended up doing in my neighborhood, since my team was meeting at a park about 40 minutes away and I don’t get home from work in time to make that turnaround easily. So I programmed the workout into my Garmin and got it done from my house.

Wednesdays are normally recovery days between Rogue workouts, but when we got home it was rainy and much cooler than the day before, so I decided to take advantage (we won’t have cool afternoons for much longer) and ran with the dog for a couple of easy miles. Thursday’s workout was five miles–still ridiculously slow, but steady.

Saturday morning, I planned to start at 7, but when I woke up about an hour early, I decided to get going. The sky was a weird red-pink-blue color at first, but after half an hour or so, grey clouds moved in. It drizzled on me a couple of times, and I saw the first Scout Team bluebonnet of the season. I plodded along for eight miles, but my legs felt SO tired and I walked a bit.

Sunday morning I took the dog out to a nearby trail. We got a lot of rain (and some flash flooding) on Wednesday but after four days the trails were not really muddy, although the creek was high in a few places, one of which cut our route a bit short since I didn’t want to get my feet wet. We ended up with 3.5 miles and about ten detours to avoid other dogs. I felt like we had a pretty good pace going, but Strava gave me the “trending slower” graph afterward, so that was kind of a bummer. But it seems to be the story of my life right now.

I know I’m not getting enough sleep thanks to a couple of weeks in a row of stressful work things, travel, and races. I mean, I fell asleep at about 9pm both Friday and Saturday nights. I’m tired.

But Spring Break is a week away!

I’m putting a lot of eggs in the Spring Break basket–catching up on sleep is totally going to help my pace bounce back to something close to what I estimated for TIR, right?Nevermind that I’m supposed to run a lot more than eight miles (my combined legs equal about 15 miles). SPRING BREAK WILL FIX IT ALL.

Also over Spring Break: start organizing the stuff I’ll need for TIR–my list currently has 18 items, including several changes of clothes, a headlamp, towels, and snacks. I’m also contributing two water coolers and an ice chest to our provisions.

Another job for Spring Break? Make some flight and train reservations for Norway. Yes, as of now I’m still planning to take that epic trip in June. After Austin canceled SXSW the other day, J texted me: I am going to Norway no matter what. And I’m down with that, although Dad probably falls into one of the “be careful” categories so I don’t know how that will play out.

But before Spring Break can work its magic, I have to get through this week. Which, aside from core class and two Rogue workouts, includes the time change, a full moon, and Friday the 13th. Should be, you know, quiet in middle school.

 

Goodbye February, Hello March

This week frustrated the hell out of me.

It was the end of the grading period at school, so two dozen kids suddenly decided to turn in work from a month ago; several parents directed their late-work displeasure toward me rather than their kids, which didn’t help either. I’m not a fan of this strategy, so with each late assignment the dam holding back the screams of “wtf, people?!” inside my head cracked a little bit more. Friday could not come soon enough.

Ordinarily, running helps me deal with this stuff. And early in the week, it worked. I ran two miles before core class on Monday and six miles with my group on Tuesday. It was slow but not awful, and my knee felt relatively good. But Thursday? Was a shitshow. Everything felt off from the start, nothing clicked right. I couldn’t make my legs move any faster, and after about 2.5 miles my stomach joined the chorus of unhappiness. I bailed early and tried to run back, but I ended up walking the last mile.

Near the end of the day on Friday, a student discovered some racist graffitti on a desk in my classroom, which solidified the shit-tastic-ness of my week. We just wrapped up a unit on Civil Rights and equality, so this is a real slap in the face for me.

Saturday I slept in (trail race on Sunday morning gave me a reprieve for Saturday) and took the dog out for a couple of miles. It went better than Thursday, but he stopped every 200 feet to sniff and pee, so I’m not sure my Garmin data provides a true picture there. I mean, the elapsed time and moving time differ by eleven minutes and eight seconds, so I had lots of breaks.

But my paltry efforts got my Leap Day badge, which I didn’t even know was a thing until I finished. So yay?

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Sunday morning, I woke up early to meet some teammates at Walnut Creek Park for the first race in this year’s Rogue Trail Series. We picked up our timing chips and goofed around taking photos. Then it was time for the trail briefing.

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These always make me nervous. They talk a lot about trail markings and which flag/arrow/sign means which thing. This leads me to believe that the probability of getting lost is high. At one point the race director said that if you get lost, go back the way you came until you see the pink flags again, then pay closer attention once you’re back on the course.

But it turned out the course was super well-marked. Pink stakes marked the inside of every turn; arrows pointing to turns and flags in the trees made it easy to see that I was going the right way. I really only hesitated once, near the end. Otherwise I found it very easy to follow the course markings.

That’s the only thing that was easy, though. My legs still felt sore and tired, and I just couldn’t speed up. And temps were pretty warm–in the 60s–for March 1st. I’m pretty sure I was the last of the 10Kers for a while, but about two miles in I passed two runners, then another near the aid station at the halfway point. I slingshotted with two more women between miles 3 and 5, but they totally dropped me the last mile. Knowing three folks separated me from DFL was decent motivation.

Both the course’s surface and elevation were less challenging than the trail races I ran last summer. Most of the trails at Walnut Creek Park were packed dirt, not uneven limestone rocks and steep hills. Yeah we ran some hills, but most of them were gradual. I was a little worried about my knee, though, considering the nature of trail running’s ups and downs on uneven surfaces, but it held up. It wasn’t happy, but it never hurt.

My ponytail dripped from the humidity down in the trees, but occasionally we reached a clearing where the breeze cooled things a little. We crossed Walnut Creek a couple of times–some of the 30Kers just splashed right on through it, but I picked my way over big rocks. I’m not afraid to get my feet wet, but it’s not my first choice if I don’t have to. So the takeaway here is that my feet stayed dry, I didn’t fall, and I wasn’t last.

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A couple other things I enjoy about trail running: it’s a different vibe, and most folks are really friendly. I had fast 30Kers coming up behind me (they started an hour earlier and ran three loops of the 10K course) and so many runners said “good job, keep it up” as they passed. Just past six miles the course ran alongside a parking lot, and one runner who’d already finished was sitting on the back of her car and shouted encouragement. There’s cheering for every single runner as they come through the finish line, too. I wasn’t super excited about the recreational mountain bikers on the same trail, or the family hikers with dogs/kids, but then again I wasn’t fast enough for it to be a real issue.

This was my first daytime trail race. I ran four of them last summer (two 5Ks and two 10Ks) but they were all at night. So this morning I enjoyed actually seeing where I was going. That may have contributed to my 14-minute trail 10K PR–on the more-stable surface I actually ran vs. hiked, and I could see further ahead than the small arc illuminated by my headlamp. In the daylight I could also identify friends as they shouted hellos from further along the switchback trails.

I’m going to feel it tomorrow, though. I haven’t run trails in a couple of weeks–hell, I haven’t run a lot of road miles either–and my ankles are already displeased with the trail action they received. I’ve got a compression brace on my knee, and I’ve taken some tentative steps into the CBD world with a topical cream that’s supposed to help with swelling. We’ll see how that goes. But it was a fun morning, and I’m glad I tried a new race to kick off spring running.

March also brings Spring Break, then the Texas Independence Relay. I’m far more prepared for one than the other–I’ll let you guess which one.

Asscrack of Dawn 2020

Every year when I travel with eighth-graders to Washington D.C., J and I compare schedules and pick a day to fit in a run. Because our tourist days start before sunrise, it’s always early, so it’s now officially known as the Asscrack of Dawn Run. The event started out as a 5K, but last year it evolved into a five-miler so we had to adjust its title.

This year, the only time when the stars aligned for both of us was my last morning in D.C., which meant a 5:15am start. We’d had a late night, getting back to the hotel at close to 11pm, so my 5:00am alarm (which turned into a 4:58 wakeup call because we were at a new hotel this year and she called to make sure she was in the right place) was rough. But I knew it was worth it.

We had a destination in mind–the Navy Merchant Marine Memorial on the Potomac River. So we ran east out of Crystal City toward the Pentagon, headed to the bike path that runs for miles and miles along the river. The first part of our route took us on roads familiar to us from the Army Ten-Miler, through Crystal City and skirting the Pentagon parking lot, then crossing over a little bridge where could hear ducks just waking up. Probably because we trip-trapped over their bridge.

The bridge deposited us into the Lyndon Baines Johnson Memorial Grove located within Lady Bird Johnson Park on Columbia Island. We briefly checked out the memorial’s stone monolith, then ran through the park, crossed a little marina parking lot and through an underpass to reach the Navy memorial. Its largest feature is a big wave surrounded by seagulls, nicknamed “Waves and Gulls.”

The memorial, the first aluminum memorial in Washington D.C., honors American sailors of the United States Navy, Coast Guard, the United States Merchant Marine who died at sea. It was designed in 1922, installed on this site on the bank of the Potomac in 1934, and officially dedicated in 1935. The base, a WPA project, is made from New Hampshire granite. It seems the project languished, unfinished for a time, as landscaping and final work wasn’t completed until 1939.

Across the river stood the Washington Monument, with Lincoln off to the left. In the still water, the city lights reflected in the river.

Then we turned back the way we came. The sun was just starting to brighten the sky, birds were beginning to wake, and the first planes took off from National Airport, our destination later in the day.

We ended up running 4.3 miles, which spoiled our neat transition from 5K to five-miler, but it served our purposes of returning within an hour. I had to shower, eat breakfast, finish packing, deal with a security report from the night before, and get 90 eighth-graders checked out, room by room, and dismissed to load their luggage on the buses. Fortunately our school staff and parent chaperones jumped in to help and the whole operation was complete in 20 minutes.

Coming full circle, Sunday evening all 110 of us boarded the same flight I take home from the Army Ten-Miler every year. But the best part, aside from the quiet peace of a pre-dawn run with my friend? My knee didn’t hurt at all.