I’d like to say things are going perfect and as planned, that I’ve missed no planned runs and have felt strong week after week. I’d like to say I know I’ll be ready for the races ahead this summer, but for now I can only say I am cautiously optimistic. My training has been all over the board with the only consistency being getting the long runs in. I have varied from 35 to 50 mile weeks with some far far less. But, this is how it goes sometimes. Being able to adapt when necessary is an important life skill.
With the Pittsburgh Marathon just 5 weeks away and the Glacier Ridge 50 miler 6 weeks out its time to get those last few weeks of quality work in before taper.
On March 4th I rode in the Leukemia Lymphoma Society’s Race to Anyplace with a team of friends. We rode well, but more importantly were the top fundraising team, and that was really what this great event was all about. We had a team of 12 and each of us had two 15 minute slots on a spin bike with zero resistance. The goal was to spin as fast as you could and cover the most miles as a team. Now I can run. I can run for hours upon hours. However, those two 15 minute sessions wrecked my legs. I was walking down stairs like I had just ran a PR marathon.
The next day the plan was to run the Laurel Highlands Trail Gate to 8 out and back. For those of you familiar with this stretch of trail I don’t need to say anything more than that. For those of you not familiar read on!
The Laurel Highlands Trail is a roughly 70 mile trail starting in Ohiopyle and ending just outside of Johnstown, Pennsylvania. Gate to 8 can best be summed up by the phrase gloriously painful. The terrain is rocky and the climbs severe. Over that roughly 15 mile course you will climb around 4,500 feet. The first climb leading around mile 2 takes you to an impressive overlook of the Youghiogheny River. The trek here is sufficient for many. There is a nice area to sit and enjoy the view. Perfect for a challenging hike and lunch. For those mileage junkies, both hikers and trailrunners, continuing on provides more challenges and stunning scenery. This trail was where I had my first DNF in a race at the Laurel Highlands 70.5 mile ultra. Click here for my race recap from that day.
We started with a large group of people and quickly broke off into smaller groups by pace. Alyssa and I hung in the back chatting. On the trip to mile marker 8 one has three major climbs to contend with. The first around mile 2 I mentioned above. Another climb comes around mile 4 followed by a descent and then comes the mother of them all, a 2 mile ascent from roughly mile 6 to 8. It just keeps going up…and up…and up. And then it gets steeper. Up at mile 8 the trails were still covered in snow, a stark and beautiful contrast to Ohiopyle below.
At the start of our run it was about 15 degrees out, but by the time we returned to the Falls Pub for beery treats and eats it was in the 40’s. Areas that were frozen solid had become slippery mud that required some care in navigating. Especially so around that descent at mile 2 where steep drops and cliffs skirt the trail. Slow and steady we went. Another great day spent on trails with friends. What could a guy have to complain about?
After this exquisitely painful and fun weekend I took a full three days off to recover and took a light 7 mile run on Thursday to loosen back up for the weekend. The run was hosted by SCRR and Athleta. I arrived a few minutes late and saw Suzanne coming out of Athleta. She, like me, was late. We headed off together in hopes of turning some speed on and catching some of the runners. We successfully caught and passed a few groups. After finishing a nice run a few of us went over to the Steel Cactus for recovery tacos and beer. A perfect evening after a few days off.
The weekend saw a 17 miler in the city with SCRR and an 11 miler on trail with Alyssa and Suzanne for Singletrack Sunday at Montour Woods. While the city run certainly was fun Sunday’s run took the cake…all of it. This was hands down the most fun I have had running in quite sometime.
At the start of the run it was about 15 degrees out. The ground was frozen, but the streams were all raging and deeper than usual. We headed off to Moon Township Community Park first and after rounding out 6 miles headed back into Montour Woods. By now it was warming up a little and the ground was getting softer. Still, we did not want to get our feet soaked…it wasn’t THAT warm. With each stream we encountered we needed to devise new ways of getting across dry. The first stream challenge was earlier heading into and then out from Moon Twp Park. Fortunately a large downed tree was the perfect bridge. Other crossings did not afford us the luxury of a natural bridge. We took to alternative methods; stacking rocks, laying our own bridges down , and using sticks for a running start pole vault across the waters. I felt like a kid again happily playing in the woods with friends. If Yoda was a trailrunner he might have said, “Judge not a trail run by its size.” This 11 miler was worth 30 in fun.
After a few rest days I came down with a nasty chest cold. All told I ran one day out of the week. The Sunday Singletrack outing to Moraine State Park. I was still sick as a dog, but thought I was on the tail end of it. I managed a little over 14 miles and called it good. Really I would have done well to stay home, but this was still so much fun! I would make up for the lost miles and then some next week at the Tuscarora Trails 50k so, from a training perspective, I was unconcerned. Besides, life happens and as my last boss had often said, “improvise, adapt, overcome.” Afterwards a large group of us invaded the Harmony Inn for food. An amazing place with great food that is owned by the same folks who run the North Country Brewery so the beer selection was great too.
Sick? To Run or Not to Run
I made the wrong choice. Most likely I would have been over this illness much quicker had I simply rested. So when is it okay to run and when should you sit it out? Not all illnesses necessarily require a break from running and physical activity.
David Nieman, Ph.D., a medical doctor and marathoner / ultra runner uses the “neck rule.” Symptoms above the neck such as runny nose, stuffiness, sneezing don’t necessitate taking days off while symptoms below the neck (chest cold, bronchial infection, body ache) require time off. Ultimately though, listen to your body and if you are unsure it is always better to take an extra rest or even a few than to compromise yourself by trying to push through an illness.