Monday, December 17, 2012

Remember when

Run Rabbit Run 2012 (Hares)
Remember when you first started running?

Maybe you were a kid in elementary P.E. class.  "Take a lap"

Maybe you were on an athletic team, first day of practice, three miles, out to the cemetery and back.

Maybe you were in college and realized the dorm buffet was taking it's toll, so you strapped on some Vans and hit the pavement.

Maybe you were in your mid-twenties living on your own, you decide that maybe there is something to that whole healthy living thing, or maybe you just want to make sure you're lookin' gooood...

Maybe you were in "mid-life" and realized some of those health conditions your parents had are starting to crop up in your own visits to the M.D.

Maybe you've "started" a dozen times already, and today was a new "start"

Maybe you had a serious health intervention and the doctor said, exercise or ELSE!

Maybe you're really young, something with grand and parent, maybe even great? and you say to yourself, you know self I always wanted to try that running thing....

All these things result in "starting"

Starting has some glamour to it.  Something to share with friends, the energy of a starting line, the endorphins of actually DOing something.  And of course it might be easy to get distracted by tomorrow and Day 2 and will I do it again?  But for now, let's just savor the start.  The origination, the initiation, the inception of a streak, a change, a habit, a passion.  The beginning of something big?

Remember any good starts?
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Run Rabbit Run Steamboat 100 - 2012 Race Report

Where are the rabbits?
Run Rabbit Run year one.  I have a few attempts at first year ultras under my belt now.  I hit the first running of the Cheyenne Mountain 50k and the North Fork 50, and now the Run Rabbit Run 100.   There are always some interesting things that come with running a "first time" event.  Run Rabbit Run has had a 50 mile race for several years so it wasn't totally new organization-wise, just the first time for a 100 mile event.

The Short-Short Version:  DNF. Voluntary.  37 miles or so.  13:37:00.

The Short Version: I was intentionally slow to start.  I got slower.  The course was hard.  Everything blew up.  After being allowed to continue past an aid station for which I had missed the cut off, I went three miles and turned around and came back and dropped.

The Long Version:

  I was initially attracted to trying this race for a couple of reasons.  First of all, the last few years after missing cutoffs at Leadville, I always felt like I wanted to try again right away.  I was after all in decent shape and felt like if I had more time I could have kept going.  Secondly and in conjunction with that I wanted a 100 with a little more generous cut offs.  Thus the Run Rabbit Run 100 fit the bill, a month after Leadville, 35 hours for the cutoffs, in Colorado, sign me up.

Turns out there were a few flaws with my reasoning.  First off, this was the hardest course I have attempted.  And I didn't even get to all of the really hard stuff.  The way they had the course marked, it wound up being between 110 and 115 miles, depending on who you asked.  I hit a couple of sections that were straight up Steamboat ski hills.  No cutoffs, no trails, just get your rump up the hill.  Then the whole injury/very little training did not help things.  Bottom line however, was I was not in good enough condition for this kind of challenge.  Yet.

General race impressions?
  • Steamboat is an awesome place to have a race like this.  It is beautiful country.  I like being in ski towns in the summer.  Cheap lodging is relatively easy to find and very close.  
  • This time of year was amazing (see above) with the changing of colors, and this year anyway, the great weather.  
  • The prize money brought out great names,  the race organizers had things put together well, gave great swag, had things set up fairly well.  (Save for a few notable exceptions.) 
  •  I really like the Tortoise vs Hare idea.  Basically slow, normal people (Tortoises) started five hours earlier than the elites (Hares).  Hares couldn't use pacers, or poles, and a few other make-it-harder rules.  The way this played out, made it so I as a Tortoise could see the elites, multiple times during the race.  This is a keeper idea.

Here is a picture from the beginning.

First five miles, straight up the ski hill.

The first five miles were straight up a ski hill.  To the tune of 3300' of elevation gain.  It took two hours.  I was pretty happy with that time.  Mostly I was trying to not max out my heart rate and go at a slow steady pace.  After reaching the top, it was a fairly easy rolling section over to Long Lake.  I was going slowly, but not so slowly that I was off pace for the cutoffs.  Everything was proceeding as planned up to this point.

I will mention that during the section from the top of the hill to Long Lake I performed a magic trick several times.  The magic trick was teleportation.  Namely, I kept jumping magically ahead of several different groups of runners.  Now this was not due to me passing them with my superior speed (snicker.)  However several groups of runners passed me repeatedly during this section.  The reason behind the trick?  Trail markings.  Or rather the lack of them.  Several groups of people of all types, tortoises and hares, kept getting lost.  This became a noteworthy issue in the blogosphere and here is my take.  YOU HAVE TO MARK TRAIL JUNCTIONS!  When you get to a cross roads and there is no marking as to where to go, that is a problem.  And that happened repeatedly.  When I got to a couple of aid stations I politely suggested that there were several places that needed to be marked.  To their credit the volunteers did their best to correct it.  However many people including elites got lost repeatedly.  The other problem with the marking was that they used yellow tape, and with the golden aspen leaves, some markings were hard to see.  Additionally marking a trail turn 200 yards from the crossroads, around a corner isn't really helpful.  I'm sure this is something they will address next year.  It is a tough job to do course marking for a 100 mile event!

Need more hills?

Looking down is nice

Water, water, everywhere...

After Long Lake was a long six-seven mile (that turned out to be more like ten mile) section that I was planning on making up some time on and increasing the margin between the cutoffs.  Yeah about that. They had mentioned in the pre-race briefing that going down fish creek trail was a bit "gnarly" and that you should "be careful".  This sort of had escaped my notice at the time, but it came flashing back as I hit some really rocky terrain.  There would be no bombing down the hill on this section.  It really was difficult to even "run" in many places.  I actually maintained my desired 35 hour finishing pace through this but due to miscalculation on the length of the leg (it was about 3 miles further than advertised,) I ran out of water about forty minutes before the cutoff and in the heat was suffering a bit.

The scenic view

Not conducive to me running fast.  Just like doughnuts.
The fam' met me at the high school and gave me some great encouragement.  Next there was a quick jaunt through town, and I do mean through town.  I actually had to stop at a stop light!  Imagine that, waiting for the light to change in the middle of a 100 mile trail race.  It was pretty comical.  Then it was on to Olympic hall.  Once again there were some sections, even in town here that were not marked.  I actually had to stop a car and ask which way to go to get to the next place.  Crazy.  After leaving the aid station, I walked outside (the aid station was inside a building) and didn't know which way to go.  I looked back inside and the volunteer at the aid station pointed up.  As in straight up.

Enter, ski hill #2.
Yeah about that.  This I did not do well on.  I REALLY struggled trying to get up this stinkin' hill.  My heart rate was maxed, I had to keep stopping to try and catch my breath.  At several points the grass was slick and I was on all fours grabbing on to tufts of grass to pull my sorry rump up.  I strained my foot again pretty good on this section which didn't help much from this point on.

A view from half way up the hill.  I wanted to just roll back down...

Once at the top the meltdown really went into high gear.  After getting up the hill I was faced with another long uphill section.  I really did not do well.  I think I was probably extremely dehydrated at this point.  There was puking.  There was wooziness.  There was despair and gnashing of teeth.  There was just sitting on the side of the road wishing I was somewhere else.  Ugly.  I slowly ambled up the hills.  At this point I started getting passed by the elites.  I didn't care.  I got passed by bikers having marital squabbles.  I didn't care.  They asked me for directions.  I had no clue.  On a related note, many of these trails had names and signs.  The one we went up was called (no lie)  "The Lane of Pain".  Seriously.  I really had nothing left at this point.  Mentally beat.  Physically beat.  Loss and failure.  But I kept moving forward.  Not sure why.  

I got to the point where I was finally hitting the descent into Cow Creek and was sort of feeling a bit better.  At least the puking had subsided a bit.  At this point I let the mental defeat linger.  I probably could have picked up the pace but I didn't.   I look back and wish I had pushed it a bit more.

Took a quick pick of getting passed by one of the Tarahumara Indians from "Born to Run"  He was wearing traditional garb including sandals as he flew by me.

I knew I had lost a ton of time and would be past the cutoff.  But I also knew they would be somewhat relaxed at this aid station, per the Race Director.  Still, I had no intention of continuing.  The knee and foot were very painful at this point and I was moving so slowly.

However, my awesome crew aka the fam' had other ideas.  I came into the aid station and their encouragement was off the chart.  I had to do some significant blister work at this point, but I got some food, put on a headlamp, wrapped multiple appendages in duct tape and with the help of some people who love me I headed out into the night.

One goal met, run into the night!

I ran down the road for a few miles, felt ok, and then my brain started working.  I was looking at another ten mile section with another one of those Lane of Pain type five-six mile, 2000' climbs.  I knew the last segment had taken 4.5 hours?  and I was already only 1.5 hours from hitting the official cutoff.  I also had far too little water to last that many hours.  Too much thinking.  This was a mistake on my part, I should have just plugged on, but I gave into the hopelessness, and the barking of my leg and turned around and tapped out.  It's easy to look back after the fact and say that was a really dumb thing to do, and it probably was.   However at the time, it always seems very sensible.  

Thus my event was over.  I covered about 37 miles in a very long time of 13 hours and change, over what I feel like was an extremely difficult course.  Easily the hardest race I've tried.  I also realized that I had not done sufficient preparation for something like this.  I have a much better idea of what it would take, and know enough that I still have a long way to go.

Thanks to the fam and my amazing bride who enabled me to go a lot further than I would have all by myself.  She put up with kids and waiting and a whiny runner.  Talk about love.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Leadville 2012 Race Report

I suppose I should record this for posterity's sake.  At the very least I will look back at this the next time I run a race or run Leadville and will have something to obsess over along with looking at splits for every aid station over and over.

Leadville 2012 has come and gone.  The final, official result was a DNF at Half-Pipe outbound, missing the cut off by around twenty minutes.

The result was rather disappointing but going into it I knew there would be many struggles.  I had injured my foot a few weeks back, some sort of plantar fasciitis issues as well as some runner's knee issues.  I had been in physical therapy for the month before the race trying to deal with these minor annoyances to little avail.  I had cut back my running as well trying to rest and recover prior going into  the race.

Then there were the well publicized last minute changes to the course.  The only change that affected me was the change from Fish Hatchery to Half-Pipe.  They changed the layout and it wound up adding distance, by my GPS it was at least an additional mile.  This wouldn't be a big deal except I was fighting cutoffs from the beginning.

From the start to Mayqueen I was pushing it.  And yet I was slow.  The first section to Tabor was covered in about 1:20 which was about five minutes slower than last year.  The congo line around the lake was slow, but I was already struggling at that point feeling tired.  The foot and knee had been hurting from the beginning.  I came into Mayqueen at 2:42 which was three minutes slower than last year and still really too slow.  Right as I hit the campground I started puking.  I did manage to run while puking and earn the admiration and cheers of bystanders for my multitasking skills.

The section up Sugarloaf was terrible.  I couldn't stop throwing up.  I estimated that for the whole race I threw up in excess of fifty times.  This is not normal.  It is also not good.  I was wasted.  I was wasted going up hill.  The time was terrible, I barely made the cutoff at Fish.

I ran/walked a bit from Fish to Powerline, but the pain was getting worse and the puking was staying consistent.  Once again the crew was great, it was awesome to have teh wifey out and about with them, but it was disappointing throughout to have trained for so long and to put up a poor result.

I came into Half-Pipe and sat down with a bunch of other folks who were cut.  Game over, race over, I had been limping for most of the last ten miles so my appendages were happy to have a break.

The most important thing to say about the whole experience was that we had great friends and family with us and they made it fun.  I never would have made it to the starting line without teh wifey and the encouragement of my family.  Thanks to all.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Another Post

A runner's commentary on the elevation profile.

It feels a bit odd to write something about running with all the craziness happening in the world today.

Nonetheless here we are.  Despite my lack of a real race report for PBville 2012 I'm ready to embark on another running adventure.  Run Rabbit Run 100 miler starts on Friday.  You can follow me here. My bib number is #284.

20,000' + of elevation gain.  First five miles, straight up a ski hill.  The usual ludicrousness.  This is winding up being my experiment of attempting an ultra with almost no training and a bum knee.  I think I've run a half a dozen times in the last month.  Thus the expectations are low, and I won't be pushing myself to lasting injury, but I will toe the line and wander around the woods for a bit.

It should be fun as a "tortoise" to watch the "hares" run around during the race.  There will be some big names trying to nab a part of the $40,000 of prize money.

New day, new adventure.  Goin' 'til they cut me. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

Leadville 2012


Missed cutoff at Halfpipe outbound.

Lingering knee issues and the strange Leadville puking syndrome caused some extra challenges.

Thanks to all who helped crew and "pace" and gave support.


Friday, August 17, 2012

Eight hours to go

Well it all comes down to this.

Tomorrow I get to spend a day wandering in the woods.

It looks to be a good day.

My thoughts for the day are:

"I commit, not to quit."
"If the bone ain't showin', just keep goin'"

I'll let you know how it goes.

or you can follow here...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Making this look good

This is called fun.
Hello cruel world.  Recently I've been notified that certain crazy fools will soon be running a one hundred mile trail race in the mountains of Colorado.  I've also been reminded that I am signed up for it.  Again.
I've wondered whether there is a point at which signing up for something like this, training for this and then falling well short of success starts to border on psychosis.  Nonetheless  I am intending to toe the line and give everything I have to try.

The build up has been a wee but short of ideal.  My mileage is down,  the training consistency is erratic,  and the plan has been long abandoned.  I've had a couple injuries that took weeks away, a current knee injury I've been in physical therapy for during the last two weeks.  Then just last week I pulled another brilliant move and hurt my foot while playing basketball.  I haven't been able to walk without pain or run at all since that time.  Did I mention they just added three miles and another 800' of climb to the course at the last minute?

All that is real cute.  However at this point everything that happens is happening for the good.  Foot injury?  Plantar Fascitis gives shooting pain?  Just means I won't fall asleep while running through the night.  Knee giving fits, patellar tracking issues?  Just means I'll get to apply repeated tape jobs that all my adoring fans can sign along the route.  ('Cus I like to give back to the people.)  Poor mileage?  Inconsistent training?  Grossly out of shape?  Just gonna fine tune my mental determination.  Add more miles and more elevation gain to the course?   Psssht please.  The thing was too easy to begin with.  This just means I'll be in the first class of the "enhanced" course.

OK I almost went the whole way on the egregious optimism.  Couldn't quite make it.  But I will make it to the starting line...and when you go ahead and start never know what might happen.

Buckle up.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

So I suppose I have to write this

These aren't really the posts you want to write.  The redemption tour had been two for two this year, but number three didn't happen on this occasion.

The short-short version.

DNF at North Fork 50 miler for the third year in a row.

The short version.

I made the 50k cutoff with forty minutes to spare?  Went up the hill a few more miles and then turned around and came back and dropped.  Dropped!

The long version.

Despite my faux arrogance I really wasn't coming into this race with a lot of confidence.  The knee injury had been limiting my running.  Shape was pretty much lousy.  Confidence was pretty low.  However my intention was to have fun roaming around in the woods all day.  How often do you get to do that?

I did the early start again, said hello to Janice the ever encouraging race director and started off.  I intentionally decided to go slow.  My thought all along was that even if I go slow to start I can still bank enough running miles and have enough energy to walk it in if I have to.  This was good logic except for the walking it in part which came later.

I started out in last and was quickly by myself running through some beautiful country in the Pine National Forest.  I was drinking water, hitting S-Caps (two an hour) and taking gels for calories.  Since then I've wondered if the S-Caps + gels were too much salt, but during the first six hours I felt pretty good.

I ran through some of the best aid stations at any ultra I've been at (bacon!), though they asked me what I needed and when I responded with a poetry recitation and then interpretive dance I found no one willing to meet my needs.  Oh well.  Great aid stations with a few exceptions and they really helped me along.  As a side note, why can't people fill up a hydration pack all the way?  "Fill it up completely" does not mean 1/3 full.  Guess I need to check these things.

Now despite the temporary hydration success, I was really struggling with the uphill sections.  They.  Were.  Brutal.  I was walking, slowly.  At some times I was barely moving.  The only positive I could take from these sections was that I kept moving consistently and did not stop.  I went through the first twenty miles in just over five hours.  This essentially left me ten hours for the last thirty miles, still doable.  Hope was still persisting.

Then my old nemesis returned.  Mount Krakatoa.  The puking hit.  The dehydration was severe.  My whole mental state, which I think was derived in a large part from a bad physical state, started heading South.  There was some wooziness and drunken stumbling on the trail.  There were some attempts at catching up, it was all for naught.  I really couldn't keep anything down other than water.  I got to the 50k aid station which is right at the finish line with lots of people milling about.  I tried to eat and drink, took about twenty steps away from the AS and started puking again.  In front of innocent bystanders.  Have I mentioned that I'm a loud puker?  Like REALLY loud.  I once got sick at a Chinese restaurant and teh wifey said everyone in the restaurant could hear my horrific sounds from inside the restroom.  That's what we call good for business!  "Here kids you should definitely give ultrarunning a try!  Look at that guy, he's having fun!"

The knee was hurting through all of this, but I did find that forcing myself to run and stretch helped loosen things up a bit.  This was not the worst part of the discomfort...

The other really fun thing that will totally convince you to do ultras if you don't already was that I experienced a slight chafing issue.  In the nether regions.  And by slight, what I mean is, a bloody mess.  It was horrific.  I had gone about twelve miles and three and a half hours without  body glide and I paid the price.  I carry some with me in my pack, but at that fateful point of realization it is pretty much too late.

Thus in this wonderful state I left the aid station.  I had convinced myself that I REALLY wanted to leave that aid station.  Unfortunately coming out of the aid station you have to go up.  And up.  And up.  Like up actual stairs along a cliff face up.  And having just run three to four miles down a long descent which comes after the stairs I knew what was next.  I let myself be defeated.  I actually went up the stairs and then up the hill about two miles or so.  Then I stopped and sat down by the side of the trail for about thirty minutes.  Then I turned around and went back.

It wasn't my day.  I'm not satisfied with giving in, but it is pretty easy to say that after the fact.  At the time I felt like I had given my all.  Is there more to give next time?  Only one way to find out...

The Top Ten Things I Learned From a DNF at the North Fork 50 mile race.

10.  Bacon wraps at aid stations are a beautiful thing.
9.  Chafed nether regions are not a beautiful thing.
8. The only thing I felt about eating another "Chocolate Outrage" flavored Gu was Outrage at the prospect of sticking that nasty stuff in my mouth.
7.  I hate quitting.
6. Including a stair workout in the middle of a fifty miler is cruel and unusual.
5. Sudden cloud bursts of rain in the middle of a fifty miler are quite nice.
4. I'm not good at this ultra thing, but I'm also not done trying.  I win.
3. Dehydration and physical duress have tangible effects on your psyche.
2. I learned that one of the aid stations was giving beer to runners during the race?  Is this a good nutrition strategy?
1.  ?  Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what you are supposed to learn...?

Monday, June 25, 2012

Once more unto the breach...

once more unto the breachWell it's not as serious as all that, but I do have a race on Saturday.    The past two times running have not exactly been stellar displays of running prowess.  But then again I've never really displayed running prowess.  Well there was that one time...  The first track race I ever ran in High School was the 800m.  I won.  Never mind that it was a dual meet and I think the guy from the other team (who was the only other person running) must have pulled a Charlie Brown and ran straight off the track.  I was a winner.  Running prowess.  

I told teh wifey that I'm going to finish this crazy North Fork 50 miler this time.  Really my motivation is all about the merch.  I have this rule that I can't wear a race shirt unless I've actually finished the race once.  Since I have a two race DNF streak going here I haven't been able to wear two very nice technical running shirts.  This needs to change.  Yes I know it's not the climb the mountain, seize the day,  or "close the wall up with our English dead." It's a stinking shirt.  But I still want it.

So to add to the usual mountain of evidence against the idea of finishing, I've been struggling through a minor shin splint, the usual patellar tendonitis flaring in my left knee, and on a certain mountain "run" over the weekend I had a crash and burn and slammed my right  knee on to a bunch of pointy rocks.  This pretty much means I am perfectly set to finish this sucker.  I pretty much have called my shot.  I will finish this stinking race in the allotted time.  There ya go.  Totally insane arrogance.  It's a nice artificial alternative to the usual pessimism you find here.  And why not?  It worked for Hal...

'I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot:
Follow your spirit, and upon this charge
Cry 'God for Harry, England, and Saint George!'
    - King Henry V
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Thursday, June 7, 2012

Forecast: Pain

Terry Tate Office Linebacker Demotivational
My pain train still thinks 8 minute miles are fast.
 (Photo credit: jasondefra)
Yes, the pain train is coming.  Not in the farm of Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. (Language warning.)

No my pain comes in the form of a new assistant coach.  So teh wifey has been and will forever more serve as my running head coach.  She does the dirty work, the reminding me who it was that signed up for this silly Leadville thing, the formulating the master running plan, and being the crew chief for all the races.  However now I have an additional coach.

With my "win" of D.F.L. at Cheyenne I won a prize!  Two months of professional coaching.  I wasn't really sure about this whole idea, but the head coach insisted I give it a try.  My theory is the great Cheyenne 50k folks are trying to make sure I actually run a little faster next time and I don't blame them.  However with the new coach, there are a few additions to my training regime.

The first is pain.  The second is running fast.  Strangely, these two things are related.  I suppose I had gotten into some comfortably bad habits of running long, running easy, and running slow.  It seems that the new coach (need a nickname) has some other ideas.  So for the last couple of weeks I have been running intervals, running hard hill repeats and still getting about 50 miles / week in.  I am told this is good for me.  I do know that it is good for the frequency of my whining.

Nevertheless it is a fun challenge and I'm giving it my best.  Two months of hard training to Leadville.  Three weeks to North Fork.  All aboard to Painsville.
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Saturday, June 2, 2012

Down to Guildford and Back

"How would you react if I told you that I'm not from Guildford after all, but from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse?"

Can you name the source of this quote?

So a couple of weeks ago I was hanging out in Weybridge, England.  It's a nice place, you all should visit there some time.  And of course one of the nice things about travelling is going out and exploring different places via the dreadful slogging I call running.

One of the highlights on this trip was an afternoon dalliance along the river Thames.  Near the village there was a pleasant cow path/trail that meandered along the river.  After running a bit I came across a map which showed that if I went far enough down the trail I would come to the village of Guildford.  Being the Douglas Adams fan that I am Guildford, England is the location that the character Ford Prefect claimed to be from in the novel the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  (Bonus points if you guessed it.) While they never say where exactly the main character Arthur Dent lives I enjoyed imagining that I would turn a corner and see a man lying in the mud, blocking a bulldozer.  

At any rate there was much to enjoy on this day of running, including watching crew practice, seeing some swans, and just enjoying some nice sunny English weather.  (It's always like this right?)

And anyway, who doesn't have a great run when you're powered by this every morning?  Cheers!

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Top Ten Things I learned from the 2012 Greenland 50k

Hey, it's a new week, so I guess it's time for another race report.
Colorado Runner Events

The short-short version:
I ran the 2012 Greenland 50k and finished!  (Third time's a charm.)
7:42:16 was the time.
It was one hour and thirteen minutes faster than my 50k last week.
I finished 137th out of 138 finishers.

The long meandering version (kind of like my racing style):

I went into the race with a plan and with some doubts.  I had no idea how I would respond to another 50k  one week after this one.  I'm told this doesn't correspond to normal rest and recovery timeframes.  However, I had not finished this race in two previous tries.  Once was due to youth coaching commitments and last year was due up.  To be perfectly honest the course is not my favorite, but I had no intention of letting this go unfinished.  So I had signed up for these two races back to back and now it was time to close the deal.

My plan was to run the first two laps fairly rapidly and bank some time so that if and when the wheels came off on the second two laps I would still have time to make the eight hour cutoff.  Last year I had gotten to the final lap with less than two hours to go and gave in to the idea that I couldn't make it.  I wanted to finish the first two laps in 3:30 and that would give me time to trudge in the last two laps if necessary.

The doubts came from a number of things.  My feet were still in pretty bad shape from the extensive blisters I had from Cheyenne.  I also knew my legs were still feeling pretty lethargic after the long effort on the previous Saturday.  I had gotten a couple of runs in but I was pretty far from Downy "fresh".  I also knew it might get warm which could exacerbate the normal puking issues.

The pre-race machinations were highlighted by a great visit with Mr. and Mrs.  Happy Trails.
They are just some wonderful folks and it is always great to talk with them.  Mr. HT had some great training going into the race and I can't wait to see Mrs. HT get back to her blazing fast ways (next year's Greenland?)  Mr. HT finished the 25k in 2:00:48!  Unbelievable.  I just asked him not to pass me twice on the first lap and thankfully he didn't.

So, I ran the first lap.  I spent a big portion of the first lap talking to a runner I've talked to previously at Cheyenne and Greenland, a guy I call Firefighter Chuck.  (He works for CSFD).  We have a similar pace and he is fun to talk to about ultras and races and the local running scene.  I don't normally go in for the socializing but in this case it made the first part of the race go very quickly.  Chuck and I would wind up going back and forth several times during the race.

The first lap was 1:39, a perfect time for me.  I felt good, I was moving at a slow, but easy pace and I was trying to set myself up for a consistent finish.  I also tried Injini socks.  I needed something to try and stave off blisters and my good friend and fellow Leadville conspirator has been recommending them for some time.  These are the socks with built in toes.  Let me just say, they. were. awesome.  I'm really sorry I waited so long to try them.  My feet were pretty horrendous going into the race with barely any skin on several toes, but I didn't have a hot spot one time during the whole race.  The other big change I made was to hit S-Caps instead of Endurolytes or just food.  This is another item that the co-conspirator and Mr. HT have pushed on several occasions but I just never got around to it.  Today I was hitting them every 45-60 minutes.  On the first lap, I did not puke.

The second lap came in at 1:46.  I was pushing into this one, trying to make sure I was banking the time I would need to finish.  For me this was a perfect time.  I had planned to finish the first half in 3:30 and left the aid station at 3:27.  This was really encouraging.   I also saw the fam' and the extended clan; what an encouragement they are!  It felt nice running by and actually feeling like I wasn't yet totally defeated.  Also, on the second lap, I did not puke.

The third lap was the tough one.  I hit a really tough patch where I ran out of water (pack didn't get filled up all the way at the aid station) and my knee started having some shooting pains.  I knew it was just a little pre-tendonitis that comes on occasionally but it was very discouraging.  The hurricane-like winds that normally come out on the Greenland open space also picked up.  It makes you feel like you're running into a wind tunnel.  Despite the amount of time I had to finish I just felt mentally defeated.  Almost every step up or downhill was painful and I slowed to a crawl.  If the turn around had been at that point, the outcome might have been different.  However it wasn't and in the time remaining I hit another gel, popped another salt pill and started "running" (aka waddling) again.  I mentally regrouped and reverted back to my mantra from Cheyenne.  Whatever it takes.  I decided that I hadn't gone out there in the 80+ degree weather for five and a half hours just to quit.  I hadn't bombed those downhills and banked all that time just to give up.  I hadn't doused myself in endless gallons of sunscreen just to work on my tan.  I was going to start the fourth lap.  I saw Chuck moving on the fourth lap as I was finishing the third and he asked me if I was going to do it.  My response?  Whatever it takes.  2:05 for the third lap.  Additionally, on the third lap, I did not puke.

Then, I started the fourth lap.  There really is no way to describe starting the fourth lap.  Starting the fourth lap is a beautiful thing.  It means that even if I don't make the time I am going to cover the distance.  It means I pushed through all the obstacles and made it to the final stage.  It means that I did not quit.  It means that I was FINALLY going to finish the race.  Starting the fourth lap is magic.  I will also say that the Aid Station dude who supplied me a bunch of ice was clutch.  The fourth lap went quickly.  I was feeling better and getting faster as I went along.  I felt like I could have gone ten more miles.  To be honest it was a bit emotional.  I had really beat myself up after pulling out last year, and it was hard to take.  I think I must have envisioned crossing the finish line and getting that medal about a dozen different times just during the last lap.  When I finally crossed the line, I had the biggest smile on my face.  I had finally conquered this bugger.  2:15 final lap.  7:42 overall.  And I even didn't finish DFL.  (Yeah I was set for it, up to the last mile when I passed someone.)  AND, I didn't puke.  Not once during the entire race.  In nine ultra attempts, that has never happened before.

It was a beautiful day.  After managing to change into my race shirt, put on my medal, and drive home, I walked in the front door and was met by cry of glee and an enormous hug from the most beautiful woman in the world and my best friend.  It was a great ending to a great day.

Top Ten things I learned from finishing the 2012 Greenland 50k.

10. Chafing in the nether regions = not much fun.
9.  A little mental victory in one race can go a long way...
8.  Recovery time between races is overrated.
7.  Not having to stop and heave saves a lot of time.
6.  I have several bottles of Endurolytes that have recently become available, any takers?
5. S-Caps are quite lovely.
4.  I love Injini socks.
3. My family loves me whether I finish ultras or not.
2. My wife loves me whether I finish ultras or not.
1.  My God loves me whether I finish ultras or not.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Back to Back

Back to Back

AKA the Top Ten Things I Learned from Repeating as DFL at the Cheyenne Mountain 50k.

How to dance was clearly not one of them. (photo by Paul Monday)

As usual, this race report consists of the short-short version and the unnecessarily long version.

Here goes the short-short version.

I ran the Cheyenne Mountain 50k for the second time.
I finished DFL for the second straight year.
I finished five minutes and 13 seconds before the final cut off. (8:54:47)

And now for the details. I'll probably break the race report up into phases.  I think most of my ultra marathons have had similar phases that are characterized by similar feelings and thoughts.  Perhaps you can relate.

Phase 1:  Denial
I signed up for what?  When?  Is that today?  No really.  Seriously.  I paid money to go do this?
Got up early with teh wifey to go make the trek to Cheyenne Mountain State Park.  This would be teh wifey's first dance over the 26.2.  I had supreme confidence in her and her ability to have a great race.  She has a long history of loving running, winning races, and just being a very talented runner.  I have a long history with Twinkies.  I also had my usual assortment of doubts.  Could I finish?  Could I go a couple of hours without puking?  Would the pink fanny pack consume me?
Nevertheless we got there, it was a bit cold, but shaping up pretty nicely.  We met up with my Leadville buddy who was looking to smoke the course this year.  At the registration table I overheard a familiar blogger's name who I frequently stalk and introduced myself.  Then to round out the meet and greet we ran into the fabulous race director Andrea who gave us a big hug and welcome.  I informed Andrea that I was back to defend my DFL (Dead *!$%ing Last) title.  We got the pre-race briefing and lined up.  Everything was going perfectly.  Then the running started.

Phase 2:  The Part Where I Try to Forget How Long This Will Take
The first part of the course goes up.  Then up some more.  I started at the end of the line and tried to enforce  my personal rule of "Never Ever Ever Pass Someone".  There really is no point.  Whenever I feel compelled to pass someone I go crazy and think I need to speed up so much that they never catch up to me.  Which of course they will and then they will pass me.  It's much easier to just avoid the soul-crushing disappointment.  It's also better not to think about the fact that you have 28-29 more miles to go.  It doesn't help.

I knew last time I had gone out way too fast.  I thought if I "started slow and got slower" I would have a chance to hit eight hours or so.  Ridiculously slow? Yes.  Committed to the strategy? Yes  At least until I hit the 5k mark in 44 minutes.  Then I freaked out.

Phase 3:  The Part Where I Forget I'm Not Really in Shape
Then I got rambunctious.  I had been rambling along nice and easy along with another lady who wound up finishing and doing very well.  However when I hit the 5k mark in that slow of a time I panicked.  I started thinking crazy thoughts.  "I've got to pick up the pace or I'll never make it."  "I'm going to collapse on the second lap, I've got to bank some time!"  "I really missed my calling as a Soul Train dancer!"  So I forgot all about my strategy and plan and started booking it along the Blackmer section of the trail.  The technical term for this reaction is, dumb.  I was bombing downhills, even sneaking in some running up hills and made great time.  And wasted a ton of energy way too early.  I finished the next 4-5 miles way too fast.  At three hours in I had my first krakatoa moment (see shouting at shoes) and knew I had just ignored my hydration strategy while being consumed with making time.  Good job, now it's time to pay for your mistakes.

Phase 4:  Have I Ever Mentioned How Much Fun it is to Have the Runs while Running?
The only thing I will say about this is that I have postulated a running maxim which in my humble opinion I find to be universally true.  You can call it the Streak Run maxim.  (OK maybe it needs a different name.) The distance a runner will go off the trail to find a "private" location to do one's business is inversely proportional to the time they have been running.  In other words by the time you hit mile twenty, you're lucky if you make it off the center of the trail.  Moving on.

Phase 5: Losing the Battle
I inevitably hit this point.  In some races I hit it multiple times.  It is that point where I am mentally defeated.  I don't want to keep trying.  I don't want to keep running.  I may even consider wearing a black belt with brown dress shoes.  I just don't care.  Even before the first 15.5 mile lap of two was completed I was ready to be done.  I didn't want to start the second lap.  I started to rationalize the excuses.  Probably due to some encouragement from a volunteer I knew from last year and from the RD when I got to the point of starting the second lap I just kept going.  I have no idea why.  But I did.  I still was rationalizing.  I thought at least I will have made it 22 or 23 miles.  That's good, right?  Better than nothing?  This puking is getting old.  The "running" is getting REAL old.  I have incredibly bad blisters already which I don't normally have.  Quitting is perfectly fine right?  If I slow down enough on this section I won't even make the 3pm cutoff, then I won't be quitting I will just be stopped.  This was my mental state when I turned the corner and saw the love of my life coming towards me on the trail.

Phase 6: Winning the War
I waddled up the trail and gave a big smile to teh wifey.  Instantly my thought process changed.  She was looking like she was struggling and I wanted to do whatever I could to encourage her and keep her moving.  I stopped thinking about myself and got to think about someone else, MUCH better.  I believe the three weeks of sickness she was still recovering from was causing real problems for her.  I'd like to think I uttered some sort of Knute Rockneyesque Gipper speech which propelled her on to the finish.  It was probably more like a grunt and a "YOU CAN DO IT!!!!!"  Needless to say she gutted through it and finished well.  It was the last time I would see her until the finish.
It was at that point that I had a bit of a mental breakthrough.  There was something about giving some encouragement that made me think differently about things.  The mantra I had discussed with teh wifey going into this race was "Whatever it takes"  Whatever it takes to finish.  And so I asked myself, what if?  What if instead of slowing down I got back to running?   What if instead of saying I can't do this, I can't make this, I said, I can?  What if instead of creamy, I mixed in a little super chunk?  I'm just saying.  I figured in my mind how much time I had before the nine hour cutoff.  I knew it was going to be tight.  I had wasted a bunch of time and every time there was an option to run or walk I would need to run.  Every time there was an option to bomb it down a hill, or wince from blisters and thrashed quads I would need to bomb.  Every time I had the option to mix in some interpretive dance in a business meeting, I would need to nail the Anton Artaud.  So I did.  Every time.  For the next five hours.

Phase 7:  The Part Where I Keep Asking, Why Are You Running?
It is perhaps a bit strange to dramatize the insanely slow waddling of an extreme back of the pack wannabe ultramarathoner, but then again why not?  I must have asked myself a hundred times, "WHY ARE YOU STILL RUNNING?!?  JUST STOP!"  Normally I would have stopped.  Over and over.  But I didn't.  I  wondered whether it would all be for naught.  I wondered whether I would crest the final hill only to find myself just a few minutes past nine hours with the finish line packed up again and gone like last year.  I wondered if those minutes of puking and uh, other stops would be the final margin.  Every second seemed precious.  With the help of the fabulous volunteers I sprinted through aid stations like I was in first place and running like I stole something.  I gave everything I had.  The blisters had grown their own blisters, the puking returned, but I was in this strange zone where I just lowered my head and said "Whatever it takes."  Winning these mental battles was a new feeling.  It felt good.

Phase 8: The Finish
I came up to the final set of hills and I was still worried.  Despite having done the previous loop I couldn't remember how far I had to go.  When I hit the last aid station with two miles to go I had far less time than I thought I would have.  I had just under thirty one minutes to finish the last stretch.  That sounds like a lot, but at that point in the race I was hanging on for dear life and didn't know whether two miles meant 2.0 miles or 2.9999 miles.  I went faster.  I kept cresting hills hoping for a view of the finish line to know whether this whole day of effort was going to pay off.  I just didn't know.  Those nagging voices kept suggesting that it was pointless,  all this was for naught, you are just wasting all this effort.  I took those thoughts out back behind the woodshed with a double-barrel, a shovel, and a bucket of lye and ended the conversation.  Finally I reached the last crest.  There was literally under ten minutes to go.  As I reached it, the RD was there in the sweeping vehicle? and joked, "you know if you had been running you would have gotten here a lot earlier."  I grinned.  I could see the finish.  I was going to make it.  Whatever it takes?  Oh yeah.  I pushed the pace into the finish line.  It was still set up!  (It's crazy to think your goal is to finish before the tear down is completed, but I don't care, I wanted to run through that stinkin' finish line).  I crossed the line, threw my hat in the air, kissed my wife, (she realized I had been puking all day and was somewhat disgusted), I high fived one of the volunteers who had been encouraging me all day long and then did a Kirk Gibsonesque fist pump.  Look I know celebrating a DFL is a little bit like celebrating a fluke touchdown when your team is down by 47 points,  but I didn't care.  I had made it.  I had won the mental war.  I had done whatever it took.  Then I went and puked some more.   It was beautiful.

Top Ten Things I Learned from Repeating as DFL at the Cheyenne Mountain 50k

1.  I can do this thing.
2.  It might take me a long while, but I can do this thing.
3.  I wish it didn't take me quite such a long while.
4.  Wet wipes are an ultra runner's best friend.
5.  Teh wifey is an ultramarathoner!  Woot!
6.  When your feet are covered with blisters, running feels better than walking.
7.  In order to properly secure a DFL you must pace yourself to come as close as possible to the cut-offs.  At least, that's my story.
8.  I still don't like North Talon.   I think I like that sneaky little hill on South Talon even less.
9.  Seriously.  If you are even thinking about doing an ultramarathon, why in the world wouldn't you do the Cheyenne Mountain Trail Race?  It is awesome.  Great RD, great volunteers, great organization, great trails.  Go do it.  Now.
10.  Next year there will be a new DFL....

Friday, April 27, 2012

Game Day

Cheyenne Mountain photographed from outside of...
Weather forecast?  Pain and suffering.   (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Well here we go again.

Tomorrow is the 2nd edition of the Cheyenne Mountain Trail 50k.  I am signed up to run it...again.  Last time was pretty eventful, it represented the first and only time I have actually finished one of these ultra things I keep trying.

There's not a lot that lends itself to success coming into the race.  Prior to Tuesday I had not run in two weeks due to some nasty bronchitis and fever.  I'm still on antibiotics.  The whole, lose the piano, effort has been going backwards.  My conditioning going into the race has been really rather mixed.  Also, I'm a little discouraged that Alan Trammell never gets recognition from Hall of Fame voters.  But I digress.  Optimism is running a bit low.  However...

Here are the positives:

Teh wifey is running it!  (She is going to smoke her first ultra!  And beat me by at least two hours!)
They shortened the course.  (Last year it was a mile or two long...)
I have awesome shoes.  (Orthopedic fat guy shoes ftw!)
It looks like there might not be snow this year!  (Actually that was a fun part.)
I don't have to imagine how bad North Talon will feel on the second lap.  I know!
I have a new hydration/salt strategy.  (I'm thinking something like this....)

Mighty Deer Lick 22340 Sweet Acorn Salt Lick Block
Sweet Acorn flavor!

There isn't even 10,000 feet of elevation gain.  Psssht it's like running on a track! (9800' approximately).  

All that to say this thing will clearly be a walk in the park.  Albeit, that walk may take me nine hours...See you at the finish.  (Assuming it isn't packed up again by the time I get there...  :)

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Every day

Every day is a new day, a new chance at life.   It's a chance to start fresh, to pick yourself up and try again.  Giving up is so yesterday, so stuck in last week.  Why bring along the baggage?  Why not just fill in all the space that today's coloring book gives you and then go outside the lines?  I don't have time to process and regret everything I said yesterday.  I only have time to live and fill up today.  Will I be mastered by my thoughts of yesteryear or will I fill the unforgiving minute with sixty seconds run?

I choose to run.

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with wornout tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on";
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings - nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run -
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man my son! 
Rudyard Kipling

Friday, March 2, 2012

Four Months to Go

Four months to go.

Not four months until the race.  Not four months until my birthday.  Not four months until the Olympics.

Just four months to go.  March, April, May, and June.  Four months of decisions.

Every day for the next four months I have to answer the question.  It is a very simple question, but the answer is difficult to give.

Do you want to finish?

The next four months will be the critical period of training and transformation.  It is the proverbial putting up hay in the barn.  There is no time for cruise control, no time for lackadaisical, haphazard indifference, no time for waiting until tomorrow, no time for bad nutrition, no time for skipped workouts, no time, no time, no time.

In four months I'll be running a fifty mile warm up race that I have failed at twice before.  If I pay the price between now and then I will be ready for the race and I will have laid the foundation for August.  If I don't give the right answer every day between now and then, well there's no make up quiz.

I'll give an answer to this daily question in three ways:

  1. What I eat.
  2. How I train.
  3. Making the hard choice.
Pretty simple right?  It just takes some blood, sweat, tears, a whole lot of body glide, and some desire.  It's always a question of desire.  Are you willing to pay the price or not?  Are you willing to sacrifice the time,  push through the pain, embrace the difficult path and bypass the easy one?  We'll all find out on August 18-19th.    Just know, that I will have already answered the question about 122 times between now and then.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Running and Getting Laughed at

So I ran recently, and something strange happened.

I saw a hyena.

No really, a hyena was crossing my path during my run the other day.  It didn't hurt that I was in Tanzania at the time.  Thankfully there wasn't a pack of them laughing at my running form, but it did spice things up a bit.

There also was an epic running showdown.  After I had completed the non-planned, random, "jump out and run some arbitrary distance" run, I ran into a few folks from the summit I was attending who wanted to run.


Running with people.  Hmmm.  This would require human contact and perhaps even speaking.  Since I'm usually gasping for air at a thirteen minute mile pace, that is a problem.  Then there is the whole social interaction thing.  Yeah I usually try to avoid this.  However, in this case I thought to myself, how often are you in Africa and get invited to a track meet?

Game on.

So I went and ran a few additional laps, slowly, on the grounds of the place we were staying along with another American as well as a Kenyan.  There was an additional Kenyan who was going to come but he was obviously intimidated by the incredible physical specimen that I am.  So on the last lap the Kenyan slowed down and ran with me.  I took this to mean he wanted an all out running duel over the course of the next four hundred meters.  Well let me tell you, the duel in the hot Tanzanian sun was an epic one.  There we were, jogging around the track, bantering in the way only truly "elite" athletes can, putting on an epic show (at least 10 minute mile pace).   Then we finished a lap.  At that point all the benefits of really mediocre ultramarathon training kicked in.  I may not have trained to have Edwin Moses type speed, but I can run really, really slowly for a short time.  Well upon finishing the lap my Kenyan friend decided to opt out from running any further.  Some could look at this as him deciding that running any further at that ridiculously slow speed would be revolting.  However I look at it like this:

Winner, winner chicken dinner!  Me=faster than Kenyans.

'nuff said.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Writing Checks

English: Sample sheet of checks with stubs.
Image via Wikipedia
It's almost become a tradition at this point.  I suppose that January is the time that people start thinking about improving their fitness.  Resolutions, and gym memberships, and realizing that tire around your waist isn't a set of left over water wings are all part of it I suppose.  For me it is the time when people start asking me, "So are you going to try that Leadville thing again?"  The answer is of course yes, and it is a good reminder that I'd better start busting my hump in earnest if I'm going to make any progress towards this goal.  It really is only a short time away already, and it would be easy to think about all the reasons that any work is futile.  However I'm stubborn enough and bull-headed enough to try again anyways.

All that being said I really would like to establish some different traditions.  More like, how many ultras are you going to finish this year, and how fast are you trying to run it this time around?  Instead of, are you going to try and finish it.?  Baby steps.  First things first.  I realize.

It's time to invest.  Banking miles now with the idea of reaping dividends in August.  That is my financial plan.  It's painful at times to cough up the extra change and spend time and sweat paying the cost now, but I think, I hope, I dream that the final payday will be worth it.  It seems a long ways off, but I'm going to think strategically.  Keep an eye on those p/e ratios (hill training), diversify the portfolio (strength training and cross training),  reinvest the dividends (speed work), and max out the 401k (high mileage weeks).  All this of course has to fit in the budget (sound nutrition and losing the piano).  The formula is simple.  Time to write some checks.
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Sunday, January 8, 2012

Ultras ruin everything

Scotland Highlands - The Quirang
Scottish Highlands - Image via Wikipedia
Have you ever noticed how running ultramarathons (and running in general) ruin things in your life?

This was reconfirmed last night while watching a movie (The Eagle, if you are interested and no I am not recommending it in any way **insert full legal disclaimer**  and yes there are a few vague spoilers)

In the movie there is a point where two characters are literally running from a band of brigands over rough territory in Scotland and Northern England.  They start off on horseback and after the horse goes lame they have to hoof it themselves.  Well of course there comes the emotional climax when the protagonist who has had a sword slice on one of his legs can continue on no further due to exhaustion.  His side kick, who for various reasons has mixed loyalties, has to make the dramatic choice of staying with his friend or leaving him behind to be killed by the coming ever closer marauders.  Now a normal person enjoys this movie moment, is caught up in the tension of the conflict, and if you are Aristotlean in your outlook, experience a little catharsis.

However, my reaction was different.  Can't continue?  Seriously?  Get your rump up and get moving.  No excuses!  Sword slashes are for wimps.  Not only will you be slaughtered if you don't get up, you won't get a finisher's medal!  (Cutoffs any one?)  Also, why did his pacer let him sit down in the first place?  Big mistake.  Keep that guy moving, sitting down let's him think about it and his muscles tighten up and cramp.  Pacer dude is definitely failing in his job if he's gonna let his runner sit around and whine about not being able to go on.  Relentless forward progress my man.  Psssht please, can't go on.  If you can talk you can walk.  Move it!

Am I the only one who relates a preponderance of life experiences to running ultras?

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Friday, January 6, 2012


The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1993 film)
Image via Wikipedia
In a long dark distant past I knew something about the dramatic arts.  Not this kind of dramatic arts,  or this kind or this kind or even this kind, more like...this kind.  The result of that, and having been coerced into directing a few musicals is that occasionally I'll get strange lyrics stuck into my head like, oh say this one...

Moonfall, I feel its fingers
Lingers the veil of nightshade...
Light made from stars that all too soon fall.
Moonfall that pours from you.
Betwixt our hearts, let nothing intervene.
Between our eyes, the only sight I've seen
Is lust'rous moonfall as it blinds my view,
So that soon I only see but you. 

Very motivational stuff for the running playlist wouldn't you say?  

So that song is best played when I run at night and during what I think of as a type of "Moonfall".  In our neck of the woods, on a moon-filled, cloudless night, it sometimes appears so bright that it seems as if it's day time again.  It's a little bit eerie but nice because no headlamp is necessary.  There's no city light and almost no household lights around so it is a fun time to run.

Do I lose a corner of my man card for this?

Now that I've given you your glimpse of my secret inner life, what is the strangest item on your mp3 player right now?  The strangest thing stuck in your head while running?
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