Archive | March, 2012

Almost there

29 Mar

So when I last left you, I had run a ridiculously fast 5K late on a Thursday night. Well, my knee felt alright the next day. On Saturday, I headed up to Chicot State Park with my good friend Kristin to help out with the Forge Racing Bushwhacker Adventure Race, which was held on Sunday. We got there late in the afternoon, tested out a couple of zip lines, then went for a run on the trails with Forge Racing founder, Jeff Beck, before it got dark. We had enough daylight to squeeze in about 8 miles on those trails. I ran well, and my knee didn’t bother me a whole lot. I managed to get some great pictures as well, since I took my CamelBak, meaning I had room to stash my phone. Check out some of the pics from running, as well as our very tough job volunteering at the race on Sunday.

My knee was a bit sore at times on Sunday, but some of that could be because I let it get stiff sitting in a canoe for 5 1/2 hours.

Monday evening, I was able to run just over 5 miles at a 6:43 pace through my neighborhood. It was warm, but that run kicked my tail. Miles 4 and 5 were tough. I realized then just how much fitness I’d lost through a combination of training for distance rather then speed and then taking time off for injury. But, fortunately, my knee felt fine.

Tuesday evening, I ran a 5K distance at Happy’s downtown, and finished in 19:14. Again, although I ran it fast, my lungs and body hurt doing it. But, no knee problems.

This morning, I went out and ran 6.15 miles in 45 minutes. I held a consistent 7:30 pace, which wasn’t nearly as taxing on me as the previous runs. I picked it up a bit in the last mile or so in an attempt to get in under 45 minutes (I missed by 9 seconds), but I felt good. My knee was a little bothersome during the day today, though. It didn’t really hurt, per se, but I notice it.

So, I’d say that I’m about 85% recovered from my ITB injury now. Trying to be smart and schedule rest days is tough for me, but I know I have to do it. So, I won’t run Friday, in anticipation of 10-12 miles on the trails early Saturday morning. It sure is great to be back running, which is something I sorely missed for the last month or so. Hopefully, I’ll be able to jump back into regular training soon, as I’m less than 2 months out from the Oak Mountain trail marathon and the Leadville Trail Marathon is 3 months from tomorrow.

A better hurt

23 Mar

As many of you know, I’ve been struggling with IT band troubles for the last month, and it’s been beyond frustrating. I haven’t been able to run at all for the most part, which is quite different considering I had been running 50-60 mile weeks. My fitness has declined and more importantly, my mental health has taken a hit. It’s so frustrating not to be able to go run 10 miles at the drop of a hat, just because that’s what I want to do.

My ITB problems caused me to DNF at the Mississippi 50, and I struggled at the Headhunter 10K two weeks ago because I just could not train. I’ve been undergoing physical therapy for the last week and a half, just trying to get back to some semblance of health. I last ran a week ago, but had to bail midway through a planned 3 mile run. My knee then hurt a ton on Friday night and Saturday morning and I did not even entertain the thought of running since then.

Until tonight, that is. I got so tired of sitting on the sideline, that I just decided to go run at 10:00 tonight. I didn’t care if I only got around the block, I was gonna run, dammit. I figured it was important to go out slow, and naturally my knee started hurting halfway down the block. I briefly entertained the thought of stopping and heading back home, head hung low. But I then remembered something my PT said about running faster being less painful on the ITB. So, I picked up the pace and concentrated on my form a lot more than normal. Speeding up naturally let me land with a forefoot strike, and I was cruising before long. The pain began to lessen, and soon I hit the mile mark where my Garmin said I ran a 6:50 mile.

I kept going and at the mile and a half mark, I had to decide whether to keep going or call it a day. Of course, I kept going. I was really moving now and my lungs were feeling it big time. It had been a long time since I ran this fast, and my knee was holding up alright. A few minutes later, the familiar sound of the Garmin told me I was at mile 2. 6:10. 6:10? Was that right? Whoa, I was really moving and my the burn in my lungs was starting to overtake the pain in my knee.

At this point, I knew I had just over a mile to get back home, so it would be a 3 mile run. I was huffing and puffing now. I could tell that I was starting to slow down a bit, and it was tough on my lungs. I was thankful when I crossed an intersection that I know is only half a mile from my house. I really was starting to realize just how out of shape I’ve gotten, not only because I haven’t been able to train, but even pre-injury, my focus was on long distance runs and not speed. Just a block before my driveway, I heard the beep. I knew I had slowed down some. But I was wrong. 6:06. I ran my third mile in 6 seconds over a 6 minute pace. I clicked off the remaining distance and ended up right at 3.1 miles and a total time of 19:43. So much for easing back into it.

The first thing I noticed when I slowed down to cool off wasn’t my knee. My calves were on fire. Concentrating on that forefoot strike had those calves burning. I got back home and immediately iced my knee, and enjoyed a well earned Stone Arrogant Bastard ale. I worked my calves with The Stick roller, but I can still feel them.

The big test comes tomorrow. Does my knee respond well, or is it back to painful steps for the next day. I’m hoping it feels alright. Even just a little pain and discomfort will be better than the excruciating pain I’ve felt in it of late.

But either way, I sure enjoyed getting outside and finally running again. It was a much better kind of hurt, one that all runners can appreciate. It’s why we run. And I’ve sure missed it.

Epic Armageddon IPA

21 Mar

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All the way from New Zealand, Epic Beer has recently made its way to Louisiana. I tried out their Armageddon IPA tonight, a hoppy offering with 6.66% ABV.

I poured it into an imperial pint glass and it was more golden than copper. It was very carbonated and poured with a nice 2 inch head that dissipated and left some nice lacing. It smelled of pine and grapefruit and the taste was much of the same. The piney hop flavor was immediately prevalent and was followed with a slight malt taste. The finish was very dry and didn’t feature much lasting bitterness.

Overall, a nice offering from Epic and one that I would try again. However, it is a bit pricey for a 16.9 ounce bottle, running around $9 for a single bottle. The price is a factor in this one, which is why it only gets 3 out of 5 bottle caps from me. But try it for yourself.

Westvleteren 12 gift pack update

21 Mar westvleterenxii

See the June update on Westvleteren 12 gift packs here.

The long rumored limited US release of the rare Belgian Trappist ale, Westvleteren XII, has been pushed back to June, according to reports. They will be sold in gift packs which will include six bottles and two commemorative glasses, and the Abbey has set a target retail price of $85 per gift pack.

The release is intended to raise proceeds for the Abbey’s restoration project, and will be a one-time event. Two separate distributors will handle the approximately 15,000 gift packs that the United States will receive. Each distributor (Shelton Brothers and Manneken-Brussels Imports) will get just over 7,700 gift packs, but it’s unclear how that will be allocated to each state.

I’m hoping to get my hands on one of the gift packs at the retail price. Westvleteren XII is a fantastic strong ale, and I’m fortunate to have a couple more bottles of it that I’m hanging on to. Hopefully I can replenish that stock this summer, as well as get a couple of the commemorative chalices.

Read more details of the Westvleteren XII release here, courtesy of Beerpulse.com

Piraat Ale: Shiver Me Timbers

15 Mar

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Piraat Ale is a Belgian Tripel IPA, brewed by Brouwerij Van Steenberge that I tried for the first time today. And wow, was I blown away.

Though IPA’s are the fastest growing type of craft beer, there are many different styles. American IPA’s are generally very hop forward and bitter, especially the West Coast variety such as Sierra Nevada Torpedo. Imperial IPA’s are higher in alcohol content and hops, but are typically balanced with malts, like Russian River Pliny the Elder or Dogfish Head 90 Minute IPA. Belgian IPA’s tend to have a cleaner bitterness (is that confusing, or what?) and use Belgian yeast, so they are bottle conditioned and well balanced with a fruity profile in addition to liberal malts.

I find myself more and more intrigued by the Belgian style of late, since they are so well balanced and feature the Belgian fruity smell and flavor that couples well with the hoppiness. Troubadour Magma is a nice example of a Belgian IPA, although Flying Dog Raging Bitch is a American beer that really pulls the style off well.

Piraat really is a great example of a Belgian IPA that, while strong in alcohol content (10.5% ABV), is a very mild tasting beer, without that lasting bitterness that American IPA’s are known for. It pours from an 11.2 ounce bottle, a golden-copper color with a big white head. The smell is a wonderful blend of ripe fruits and malty sweetness. The taste is complex, like the smell, with the fruity flavor start, followed by the wonderful Belgian yeast profile. As this beer warms a bit, you can begin to get more and more hop bitterness toward the end, but it doesn’t stick to your palate. Rather, it has just enough hops to let you know it’s an IPA, but well balanced by the malty This beer is unlikely to please the hop heads enough, but I think it’s complex nature can be appreciated by a wider group of beer lovers.

I can tell that this will become a staple in my beer fridge as long as I can find it. This one gets 4 1/2 bottle caps out of 5 from me. I encourage not only the IPA fans, but beer lovers in general to give it a try if they can find it.

Headhunter Trail Duathalon

13 Mar headhuntergrinding2

Last Saturday the second race in the 2012 FORGE Trail Series took place at Tiki Tubing/Zipline, just outside of Denham Springs. The Headhunter 10K was intended to be held at the Hooper and Comite trails, but a last minute conflict forced a change of venue. Race director Jeff Beck scrambled to find another place to hold the race in the Baton Rouge area, and came up with Tiki as a replacement. It will host the Warrior Dash in the fall, so there was some precedent for holding a race out there, but it was definitely a raw piece of property as far as races go. We got a good bit of rain the day before, but it appeared that race day weather would be fine. Little did we know what was in store.

I’ve been struggling with injuries for the past month, and only ran a couple of miles on Thursday as my only run since the 20 mile DNF at Mississippi 50 last Saturday. My IT band was a little iffy after that run, and I could feel it being a bit uncooperative on race morning. But I was determined to run. Who DNF’s a 10K, right? So, I knew I would get through the race somehow.

Waiting to start

I helped out with packet pickup until it slowed down about 20 minutes before the race was to start. It was a cool morning, but I ditched my pullover knowing I’d warm up once we started. And, was I ever glad I did. A few last minute race instructions, and we were off, down a dirt road, just like the start of many trail races. And that’s where any comparison to “other trail races” ended.

And we're off!

I was in a group of  the first dozen or so runners, and we soon came to a slick downhill through a muddy bank that led right to a ditch before going straight back uphill. It was slippery, and I had to choose my steps wisely, but I made it rather unscathed. We then ran 50 yards or so before turning right back into the same terrain. This time, it was a short, but steep downhill into that ditch, which I was able to hop over, then back up that slick and muddy hill. I had to grab onto vines and branches to pull myself up. My hands were muddy and we weren’t 1/4 mile into the race.

After making it up that hill, I was already breathing heavily. But we moved back onto a dirt trail and soon ran through our first water crossing. It was very shallow and helped to wash some of the mud off my feet. We ran near the Amite river, before turning back and into another very muddy section not far from the start. From their we headed back toward the river and ran along the sandy shore. A downed tree had to be leapt over and the sand made for slow going. We then splashed through some more water next to the shore before turning away and heading back towards the start area. The next section was a reprieve, as we just ran through a grassy field and along a fence perimeter. I was able to open it up a little here for the first time. Little did I know that this was the calm before the storm.

We hit another dirt road again, and dodged puddles and muddy sections, but nothing too extreme. After veering off that road, it got a bit muddier and I could tell we were headed for uncharted territory. Jeff had showed me the machete he used to blaze some of the trail. Little did I know  just  how long that “trail” was. I was “running” hunched over trying not to become a headhunter victim, while at the same time avoiding stumps and slick mud. My knee was not happy at all with this section. I was following the first female of the race, and we were moving as quickly as we could. Then all of the sudden we were off the “trail.” There were no more orange streamers in sight, yet I could hear other runners calling out. I saw the dirt road and scrambled through some briars and vines to get there in time to meet some other runners coming out of the woods. At least I was back on course. We then hit  a swampy section where we went through thigh deep water, then out of that into a very muddy area. Footing was non existent, and the rolling terrain meant hoping I wouldn’t slip. Then we hit it. Another water crossing. I got 2 steps in, and the water was immediately above my shoulders. Jeff had said something in the pre-race meeting about a section that we couldn’t run because the water was too high. I immediately thought this was it and searched for another way. I actually got out of the water, knowing this wasn’t the right way to go. But it was not to be. The orange streamers were on the other side, and a large group was coming. So about a dozen of us all jumped in and swam as best we could to the other side. I think the water was cold, but I really was more concerned about getting to the other side, so I really didn’t notice that much about the temperature.

On the "beach"

Again we emerged onto a muddy trail that tried to make us slip. At last we got back onto a dirt road and headed toward another beach. Some more sand running had my knee screaming. Right after that, we hit a good dirt road section and I was able to pick off a few runners that had passed me while I was indecisive about the swim section. One more easy water crossing and I was moving pretty well on the dirt. The Garmin chirped at mile 3, then a couple minutes  later I was at the start/finish. Oh, did I mention that we had to do the loop twice?

While my knee hurt, I was breathing heavily at this point. I was exerting a lot more energy and giving a lot more effort here than I do on a “normal” trail run. Plus, I’d only run a handful of times in the last 3 weeks, one of which was a long slow effort. It had been a while since I ran in an adrenaline pumping race like this and I could tell my fitness wasn’t where it should have been. But I did separate myself a bit to start the second loop.

The second loop was like the first, with the biggest difference being that 140 runners had trampled the mud, making it even more treacherous and slippery. So that first downhill was even slicker, and the hop over the ditch tougher, since it was so slippery on either side. The second forray back to that ditch was even tougher, and the footing was so slick I decided to just jump in the ditch with one leg instead of trying to leap across. That was probably the wrong choice. My foot sank into a ton of mud at the bottom, and it was a struggle to get out. Then, I had to scramble back up  that hill with muddy vines to grab on to. I was a muddy mess at  that point. Things went fairly well from that point back to the newly blazed section. I had no one in front of me this time, with only a runner or two that I could hear behind me. This time I found the correct route by following the orange streamers, and sure enough came across the same girl taking an “alternate route.” The thigh deep water crossing was expected this time, but the section following was a mud pit. Footing was non-existent and the little pods on my New Balance Minimus trail shoes gave me no traction.

Grinding through a muddy section

Soon enough I was back at the “pool” and swam across a bit faster this time, partly because I knew what to expect and partly because there was only one other person near me. Again, the mud after this section was a challenge, and I bit it at one point. I was able to catch myself before face planting in it, but I was muddy and my knee was really hurting. We finally emerged from it and I knew the toughest section left was the sandy beach area. After that, I was able to let loose again on the dirt road, and ran a pretty quick pace. It was clear that running fast was better on my knee than the slow going in the mud, but I was huffing and puffing. Yet I was determined not to get passed by anyone, even though I could hear the footsteps behind me.

Finally, the finish was in sight and I raced to get there. I crossed the finish in 57:33, my slowest 10K time ever (see the official results here). But it was probably the most fun 10K I’ve ever run/swam. The distance was actually closer to 6.6 miles, so we got some bonus mileage. It was a tough race, and my lack of fitness really showed, but I had an absolute blast.

Dirty, but done

Jeff was really concerned that the unexpected high water really could have upset people. It wasn’t his plan at all to run people through those conditions. The river just rose so fast in the several hours that he inspected the course, that he was totally unaware of it. But I didn’t talk to a single person afterwards who was upset. If anything, they were happy to have experienced it. It was truly the ultimate “I love you, but I hate you” course. Everyone was laughing about the conditions, and that’s what makes this race truly memorable.

I ended up in 13th place overall, 2nd in my age group. It was the slowest time I’ve run in a while for that distance, some of which can be attributed to the course. But as much as I’d like to blame my IT band issues, the biggest factor is that I’m just not in great shape right now. It’s been a while since I’ve been able to run fast. Even before the injury bug bit me, my training for Rouge-Orleans and Mississippi 50 was focused on distance rather than speed. I’ve got to put in some speed work once I get over this knee problem so I can get back to running the way I want to.

A big thank you to Jeff Beck and Mark at Tiki Tubing for allowing this race to happen. It was definitely a race that people are talking about thanks to the conditions. Also, thank you to Bobby Love, who brough a 5 gallon keg of his home brewed pale ale for us to enjoy after the race. It was a welcome sight to see a tasty beer at the finish, especially when the ice chest was full of nothing but Bud Light.

FORGE Racing representing

My knee hurt like hell Saturday night. I brought my daughter to the LSU baseball game, and parked a good half mile from the Stadium. My 8 year old was dragging me along, and every step was painful. Things weren’t much better on Sunday. I haven’t run since the race, and don’t know when I will. Being injured sucks. But I’ve got a physical therapy appointment on Wednesday where I hope to get some good advice on getting back to health. I miss being able to just head out the door and run five, six, or ten miles just because. Running is what I do. It’s my release. My mental health depends on it. Without it, I’m already going insane.

But at least I have the memories from the Headhunter 10K to keep me going until I can run again.

Photos courtesy of Claim Your Journey and Evin Beck Photography.

Lagunitas in Louisiana?

9 Mar Lagunitas

There is good news for craft beer drinkers here in Louisiana. Lagunitas Brewing Co. recently announced a brewery expansion that is expected to be completed in April, which will bring the California-based brewer to nearly every state in the U.S. The expansion is expected to triple their capacity from 185,000 barrels to nearly 600,000 barrels.

This is fantastic news for us in Louisiana, as we have had to get our fill of Lagunitas in Texas. Now we should expect to see some of my favorites such as Lagunitas IPA, Hop Stoopid, Little Sumpin’ Sumpin’ and Little Sumpin’ Wild in Louisiana soon. I also believe that the entire Lagunitas line represents good value. They are relatively inexpensive and give you some bang for your beer buck. They are good craft beers with a higher than normal ABV.

See the entire story here and see some pictures of their expansion here.

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