Saturday, July 16, 2011

Training for New York City Marathon Week #2: Saturday

Today's run was supposed to be an easy 5 miles (for some reason, 6 miles stuck in my head), so instead of a boring slow miles, I opted to reward myself with a sweeping view of the Pacific Ocean. Yeah another crummy day in paradise, right?

Montana De Oro Bluffs
Rattlesnakes Flats Trail

Badger Pass Trail overlooking the Pacific Ocean

Badger Pass Trail
Some more of Badger Pass Trail

Can you make out the trail?
Just don't let me encounter a wild boar or a mountain cat...

I love running on the trails. If there's a window of opportunity to incorporate any trail running into Hal Higdon's Advance 1 Program, I will. Today was such a window. I decided to run the 8K course of PCTR's Montana De Oro State Park Trail Run. The mileage was close (4.62 miles versus 5miles) and since the prescribed 5 required an easy running pace, the 4.62 mile trail with its ups and downs will surely dictate my slower pace.  As a matter of fact, this was the most relaxed I've run all week. The weather was nice, a little humid but the serenity of the surrounding trails is next to none. The course is loaded with Poison Oak, but fortunately it doesn't bother me. If I were allergic to it, I'd already known by now. So far so good until...

I was running along, trying to hit the inclines with even effort and running the downhills in a controlled manner. As I was trying to recover from passing the part with a short and steep 40% grade (according to my Garmin) all of a sudden I brushed up against a thicker brush and whoala!  I felt an incredible stinging pain I have never felt before. First thought was, did I just get bit?  My instinct was to run as fast as I can to get away from whatever it was that bit me. I was caught by surprised since I was running at a fast clip, who could possibly bite me so fast? A bee? So I kept running. Upon reaching a save haven, I investigated my hurt. I felt a burning sensation.  I was examining the affected area to see if the skin would have raised bumps.  Only slightly, but the burn continued.  I had no clue what this was.  Should I proceed and finish my run, or find a shortcut right away and go home and tell my hubby. He would know what to do.  Then I thought, stop being a wimp and go on. I had convinced myself to deal with the burn as I was already halfway done anyway.

Smilin' now? Just wait before getting stung by the nettle...

When I got home, I described to my Hubby the burning sensation I felt after brushing up accidentally on the plant.  He knew instantaneously it was Stinging Nettles.  We looked it up and Wilkipedia's description matched what I felt today:

"The leaves and stems are very hairy with non-stinging hairs and also bear many stinging hairs (trichomes), whose tips come off when touched, transforming the hair into a needle that will inject several chemicals: acetylcholinehistamine5-HT or serotonin, and possibly formic acid. This mixture of chemical compounds cause a painful sting or paresthesia from which the species derives its common name, as well as the colloquial names burn nettle, burn weed, burn hazel."  

We looked up what the plant looks like and it showed this: I didn't notice this plant as I ran by...

See the nasty needles?

The stinging nettles is covered with nasty hypodermic looking needles.  Nettles sting you because the hairs are filled with formic acid, histamine, acetylcholine, serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine), plus unknown compounds.  Some people have allergic reactions to it.  Fortunately for me, I didn't have a bad reaction to, just some minor burning sensation.
Some people have allergic reactions to the sting, like the bumps on this hand.
This was taken immediately after the sting; the raised bumps is almost gone.

After reading more about it, I learned (from, that there is a long history of nettles used as a medicine and as a food source. People have been using nettles for food, medicine, fiber, and dyes since the Bronze Age.  Furthermore, many of the benefits are due to the plant's very high levels of minerals, especially, calcium, magnesium, iron, potassium, phosphorous, manganese, silica, iodine, silicon, sodium, and sulfur. They also provide chlorophyll and tannin, and they're a good source of vitamin C, beta-carotene, and B complex vitamins. I also found out that Nettles have high levels of easily absorbable amino acids. They're ten percent protein, more than any other vegetable. I think I just stumbled upon the world's greatest super food!

Wild Man Steve Brill says, "Surprisingly some masochists, actually find nettle stings invigorating, and use them to wake up the body." Perhaps I can identify with that--not the masochist part, but the invigorating part.  I don't know if the stinging burn contributed to my renewed energy or whether it is my current training that made this run so much faster and effortless. Parts that I used to find difficult and had to walk normally, was now easier. I had covered less ground with even less panting. How about that? A month ago when I ran this course, I ran it 50 seconds faster. But the difference today was that I finished strong. A month ago, immediately after the mountain run, my legs, calves and ankles were barking like a dog. They were tight and sore for the rest of the day which required no running the next day.  I can hardly believe the almost immediate positive results I'm reaping from this training program. I am taking stock of every bit of positive change that I can identify that is directly correlated to Hal's program.  So far so good. 

Happy Trails.


  1. Good job nailing down week #2!!!

  2. Thanks Rich! So far the program is manageable. I know it's going to kick my butt when we get deep into it.