Sunday, January 30, 2005

Urban Adventure

I had an unusual training experience yesterday. My wife and daughter went to the opera to see Madame Butterfly, so I decided to take the opportunity to do some afternoon training. (In case you're wondering, I love opera and Madame Butterfly is one of my favorites, but this was a Mama-daughter activity). We've had some rain this week so I knew the trail would be muddy. But I also have a maxim I like to remember: You can't choose your weather on race day, so don't choose your weather on training day. Plus, I really do like walking in the rain, and walking in mud is definitely an interesting experience.

On the way to the lake it started raining so I knew it would be messy (and cool; it was 40 degrees). And I wasn't wrong. It rained almost the whole time I was walking; within one and a half miles I fell and scraped my leg, covering my right side with mud. But it was fun and I enjoyed the experience of struggling through the mud.

It began to rain harder and never stopped, so the muddy trails turned into small creeks and streams and most of the time I walked in water that covered my shoes.

My plan was to do 14 miles; seven out and seven back. Everything went according to plan and I was heading back to the car when I encountered a small problem. About 2.5 miles from the trailhead there is a small stream with some rocks placed so you can walk across it. On a normal day your shoes won't even touch water; on a day that has seen some rain you might get the bottom of your shoes wet; on a rainy day you might get water about halfway up your shoes.

On a day that has seen a lot of rain, the creek grows to about six feet across and turns into a raging river about 2-3 feet deep! Uh oh. That river separated me from my car. I waded a little way in and realized that was a stupid thing to do. The water really was fast and I could feel the current tugging on my legs. I couldn't see the bottom so had no idea where to put my feet. I decided I didn't want to become a flash flood casualty so I waded out of the creek. I really had no idea what to do. I found a pretty large fallen tree and carried it to the creek. I thought I could throw it across and either walk on it or brace myself with it. I threw it across the creek and it instantly rushed downstream! I walked along the bank looking for another place to cross and couldn't find one. I was stuck.

I decided I would have to leave the lake and find my way on the neighborhood roads surrounding the lake. The trail had recently crossed a road so I ran back to that intersection. That's right, I ran. I don't know why, but I felt like running, not walking. I didn't go fast, but for the rest of the day I ran instead of walking.

I headed down the road and using the map mode on my Garmin I found I was going Northeast instead of Southeast. There aren't a lot of streets in this area so I had to run where the road took me. I ran for a while in the wrong direction, then I was able to turn right and run away from the lake (still not South, but I felt like I might be heading to a road that would lead South).

After a little while I found a fire station so I stopped and got directions. Fortunately I was going the right way. I followed the firefighter's directions and ended up running on the grassy median of a four lane, 55 mile per hour highway. By this time it was almost dark and I was soaked; I had been walking or running in non-stop rain for three hours.

Finally I started to get my bearings and turned off the highway onto a small, deserted road. That road let right to the lake entrance and I ran the rest of the way to my car. I ended up doing 17.25 miles instead of 14, and I was out for about four hours and fifteen minutes instead of three hours. But in spite of all this "drama" I still had a great time. My only concerns were worrying my family (I didn't have my cell phone so I couldn't call and tell them I would be late) and the hours at the park. I was afraid they would lock the park gate before I got back and I would be trapped. Luckily that wasn't the case.

After I got to my car I headed to Starbucks for a soy latte (a venti this time) and I treated myself to a cookie since I hadn't had any lunch and only brought one Clif Shot with me today (I left my Hammer Gel flask at home by mistake).


Did I mention I set a PR Saturday in the Lake Benbrook Half Marathon? My time was 2:13:55 (10:13 pace), 2:15 faster than my last half marathon (2:16:10, a 10:23 pace) and five minutes faster than last year's Lake Benbrook Half (2:18:51, a 10:35 pace). It's not a great race; the course is kind of boring and they only serve water at the aid stations. I didn't bring enough Gel and ran out of steam at the end. I think I could have hit my goal time (2:10) if I had had more Gel and if I had tapered during the week. I didn't decide to do the half marathon until the Friday before so there wasn't any opportunity to taper.