Returning to Running: Black Cat 10 Miler

So today was the first long run I've done in a while.  With winter setting in, it's just hard for me to gather the time, energy, or courage to head out into the cold to run.  The last distance run was the 9 mile leg of a relay I did with the North Shore Striders in December.  Since then, I've been hitting the treadmill in my stand-up living room, but even then, I have trouble doing more than 5 miles or so before I just grow tired, distracted or get blisters (more on that later).

Did someone say black cat?
Back in January after I did the Wicked Frosty Four on New Years Day, I signed up for the Black Cat 10 or 20 Miler.  I'm aiming for a marathon this year and doing the 10 miler would be a good baseline for the rest of the year to build up my endurance.  I knew I couldn't be ready for 20 miles in march given my schedule and the weather.  Just not feasible.  But 10 was do able.  By the end of last season, I was doing 10 mile runs as part of my training for the half marathon and 25 & 30Ks.

This week came and I started to get nervous.  I felt drastically unprepared.  I wasn't doing as much running as I felt I should and the distances I was running were abysmal.  I anticipated failure to some degree either in not even showing up, walking much of it, or even calling it in somewhere along the path.  Surprisingly, none of that happen.

I got my things ready last night for the run and in the morning got up with enough time to get some food, stretch, wake up and take care of other necessities.  I got there early (as usual) and got my shirt and number.  Luckily for this run, the registration and starting area was at a school so that I was inside until just a few minutes before the race.  This made a lot of difference.  The biggest challenge that I have with races in the winter is that I wear the Vibram 5 finger shoes and being out for long durations (20 minutes or more) standing around before the race, really do a number on my feet.  They hurt or go numb, making the start of the run a bit hard until the running breaths some life into them.  I have socks that I do wear for this, but it doesn't do enough.  This improved my disposition greatly to the race as a whole.

The race took place in Salem along some of the similar routes of many of Salem's runs.  However, this run took people down Rte 114 into Marlbehead and back.  It was actually a great route for different reasons.  The first is that I was familiar with the area so I knew how to pace myself better and knew when I was closer to the end.  In many races, we get markers, but that I knew the terrain and could see in my head the distance, made my endgame much better.   The route was also nice because most of its uphills were in the first half of the race, so on the return, there were some nice downhill portions.  The weather was also amendable--not warm, but sunny.  It was in the mid-30s as the race started but may have gotten warmer during the race as the sun got higher in the sky.  It certainly felt warmer!

I came in at just under 1 hour and 40 minutes.  This was actually quite exciting for me.  10 minute miles for a 10 mile is good for me and I had set my goal to be 1 hour 50 minutes (essentially 11 minute miles).  For me, it's a strong starting base to go with for the next year.  I felt good during the run and for the most part, kept a steady pace.  I only faltered towards the end.  Just after the 9 mile mark, I decided to walk for two minutes as that just seemed to be what my body was telling me.  It was what I needed and as my time hit 1:32, I put myself into high gear and crossed the finished line before 1:40.  Overall, I came in at 530 out of 679.  Considering that this race was filled with the more serious long distance runners, I was even happy with that result too.

One tired (and sweaty) boy.
So as I mentioned above, I have had trouble with running on the treadmill because I keep getting blisters with the longer runs.  This has happened in part because I started running differently on the treadmill than I generally have in the past.  Very shortly into starting on the treadmill (in my apartment--not at a gym), I realized how loud I sounded.  I felt like the Karloff Frankenstein with the platform boots.  In response to this, I changed from the lumbering full-foot step I was doing to just placing the ball of my foot but not the heel.  Typically, my foot would come down initially on the ball and then along the side and not the entire heel but a portion of it.  Running on the treadmill changed this because it made too loud of a sound, so I would land on the ball but not allow the rest of the back of the foot to come down.  This seemed in general a lighter running step than I had previously been doing, but I have found that I have gotten a few blisters and calists as I build up my tolerance and my body adapts to it.  The reason I mentioned this is that within the race, I found myself naturally sliding into this new running style initially but somewhere around mile 5 needing to abandon it and revert to the older style.  I'm hoping with time, I'll be able to keep my form longer.

Overall, I was quite happy with the run.  I completed it and did so in a time that was quite good for me. I didn't feel overwhelmed and I feel like it has offered me a good start to this year's running which makes me more hopeful about not only doing a marathon this year, but doing it well.

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