Thursday, September 16, 2010

I'm Doing What??? :-O

Its been a bit since my last post! Things have been busy, training hectic but progressing really well. I completed the Run on the Sly 50K on Sept 5th as a training run for my 50 Miler, the Dick Collins Firetrails 50 on Oct. 9th. Run on the Sly was a beautiful fun and aside from the nasty regurgitation of some watermelon at mile 26.2 I fared well. I tell people I coach again and again not to try something new on race day and yet there I was at the mile 26 aid station thinking "wow.. that watermelon looks good!"... BAD idea.

BUT!! The big news is getting selected for the 2011 Marathon de Sables in Morocco!! This has been my dream event ever since I learned about it! MdS is a stage race through part of the Sahara for 156 miles in April. Aside from the obvious challenges of heat and distance runners have to carry all of their food, clothing, sleeping bags etc and "compulsory items." Technical checkpoints ensure that all runners are carrying the requisite calories and equipment which includes a "venom pump" because of scorpions and snakes. Yeah.. not quite like any other race I have ever done. For me its like Mt Everest.. in the sand and heat.
I will be using the blog for the next few months to chronicle my training and then the race so stay tuned!!!

In the meantime here are some great videos relating to the event
MdS- Part 1
MdS-Part 2
MdS-Part 3

Run Happy

Thursday, May 6, 2010

First Time

You always remember your first. It’s almost always awkward and you’re nervous, having never done it before. There is lots of fumbling around a bit, not really knowing what you are doing Though if you are like most, you have imagined exactly how it will be and probably practiced on your own so everything goes just right. There is nothing wrong with that, its natural and no one wants to go into this kind of thing unprepared. You dreamed about it, thought about it, and you are absolutely sure you are ready. Most of the time though, you still start out too fast and pay the price later. It’s rarely how you thought it would be and some parts are downright disappointing. Still, it is your first time, and that lives with you forever.

That’s what your first ultra marathon is like, and that’s exactly how things went when I ran the Sunsweet Tehema Wildflower 50K. I didn’t think I was nervous but friends later told me that I had absolute tunnel vision at the start, and hadn’t quite shaken it at the 16 mile turn around point. I had everything planned out, right down to the ziplock bag with replacement energy gels, enduralyte capsules and a Cliff bar. I had practiced for hours running the hills near where I live and was fortunate enough to get to run half the course with race directors Alan and Bev Abbs prior to race day.

This is where I have to take a moment and give serious props to these two. Despite full time jobs and demanding pro ultra running careers of their own they take the time to put on this amazingly beautiful race through the spring time hills above the Sacramento River in Northern California. Not only do they do a magnificent job of orchestrating the event (a 10K, 50K and 50K relay) they are unbelievably gracious. Several weeks before race after corresponding with Bev regarding the course and explaining I was new to ultra running, she invited me and several of my friends to come up and run the course with her and Alan. Along the way they pointed out where stops would be, provided tips on ultra running and served up brownies at the end. Truly remarkable people Alan and Bev.

And, like most first times, everything is magnified. During the ultra I found that there really seems to be no “slightly” anything. If you are low on fluids or fuel, the resulting bonks are intensified. If you haven’t trained properly, you will know it early on. And, everything positive is intensified too. The beauty of the wildflowers, the friendliness of fellow runners and aid station volunteers and the finish… oh the finish is exquisite and indescribable.

And when you are done, and reflecting on what just occurred, one wants to brag, but do try to respectfully refrain. It is unseemly to boast and ruin the special moment. You do wonder if people will be able to tell by looking at you what you have done, and you ponder if it will it make you run differently.

I fared well for this first time out, and when things settled down I was able to actually enjoy the run, reap the benefits of all those hill runs I did during training and generally came out of it with my dignity intact. I posted a respectable time, coming in 16th overall with no injuries and can’t wait to do it again.

There will most certainly be others, and I will do better, last longer, and fumble less. Some perhaps will be even more beautiful. But none will ever match my first.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Where Does the Time Go?

Holy googly moogly! It's already the first week of February! It seems like the holidays were just yesterday and here we are full on into 2010! This year has been extremely busy so far and full of promise for amazing new adventures, goals and opportunities.. ALL good!

Close on the horizon my "baby" girl is graduating from college this spring. This is something I have yet to wrap my head around since quite clearly she can't have come so far so fast. But setting all fatherly bias aside, here is one of the most amazing and bright young women I have ever known and the vista ahead for her is bright and sunny and full of promise. Watching her as she figures out whats comes next gives me such excitement and confidence for the future.

As I write this I have settled on my big goal for the year; running 50 miles to commemorate that same number of years chasing my own adventures. It hardly seems that long... the list of my birthdays.. not the distance of the run. Supported by friends and family running parts of the journey we will start where the Navarro River dumps into the Pacific and wind our way along Highway 1 south through Pt. Arena, the coastal towns of Elk, Manchester and Gualala before ending on a particular bluff that has become one of my favorite places on the planet. This expedition of sorts has been dubbed "The Coast N 50".. my very good friend Alan prefers "The Ed To Bed".. but he does have that wry British humor.

To get there, I have refocused my running from "how fast can I finish".. to "I just have to finish" ( I think this is where Alan is getting the Ed to Bed comment). I am upping my miles and undetaking my first ultra event this spring. The Sunsweet Tehama Wildflowers 50K in April will be my first step towards my 50 mile fall goal and I plan on at least one more this summer.

As if things couldnt get better... I was invited to be part of the local Fleet Feet inagural coaches training program! We get all kinds of more formal training on nutrition, hydtration, biomechanics and gait analysis, training philosophys etc. Now aside from getting to mentor through participation I can really get involved in helping people reach their goals. It's really amazing and emotional to be there when someone runs their first mile, or 5K non stop. Last weekend several people in our current group ran their first 10 miles! I read somewhere that some people never run a total of 10 miles in their entire lives and here these folks have worked up to being able to do in a couple of hours.

So this looks to be an action packed year. Lots of stuff on the horizon and hopefully some tails from the trails as I chase down ultra running!
Tight laces

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Auld Lang Syne

Ok.. not to be all "mooooshy" but this year is ending on an amazing note thanks to all of YOU.

I have connected with old friends, made incredible new ones and built even stronger friendships with those around me. It's been a year of unfathomable challenge and yet equally amazing promise of new opportunity. Through a new job, a change of priorities (and all that entails) new doors have been opened and new acquaintances made that make me look forward to the coming year with an astounding vigor. Through all of it, friends old and new, family close and distant have rallied, supported, cheered and counseled, coached and cajoled me to my own triumphs and I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

I have been amazed at the way technology shrinks our world and brings us closer together despite the naysayers who espouse that it takes us apart. With my view from the electronic "cheap seats" I have been party and privy to all of your own hurtles, and triumphs; your heartaches, accomplishments and successes and for that, I am eternally grateful. I can't wait to see what the new year brings each of us. Perhaps it is the challenges we face as society that drive us to reach out and connect during what is arguably the most difficult period of our current history. I don't know, but what I have experienced and witnessed is an astounding array of compassion, caring and old fashioned good heartedness that gives me absolute belief that we will triumph... always.

And after all, what fun would it be if this were all easy? To paraphrase a somewhat infamous quote about life:
"The goal is not to arrive at the end with a perfectly preserved and pristine body but to slide in sideways, beat up, totally worn out and screaming.. WOW.. what a ride!"

There is no way I can tweet and tag, email or call each of you when the circle of people who have made this last twelve months that incredible ride has grown as it has.. So, as this year draws to an end I count my blessings, and they are each of you.

My thank you, and warmest wishes to all of you for a safe, happy and prosperous New Year; may you each be half as fortunate as I am, for then, you are wealthy beyond measure.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Agony and the Ecstasy (Or why is a PR Never Enough?)

I set out to run the California International Marathon over six months ago, initially setting my sites on a “BQ” (Boston Qualifying time). Soon realizing this would mean cutting over 20 minutes off my previous best at the Paris Marathon earlier this year I scaled back just a tad. Aiming and training for the 3:45 mark I felt was a respectable advance on my Paris time and would be a full 40 plus minutes better than my first marathon.

Race morning dawned crisp and cold, around 35F. The busses to the start were unusually chaotic for C.I.M and the sweat check was like a scene from a third world country with people yelling, bags flying and a general sense of disarray quite uncommon for this event. I have run C.I.M as a relay team previously and the organizers usually have this event down to a science. Ultimately my sweat check bag would go missing and someone somewhere now has a really nice Brooks NiteLife jacket and a pair of ASICS warm up pants. But as any race participant knows, and is informed, this can and does happen in the best of events. I really couldn’t bitch. The rest of the event went off flawlessly, the volunteers, literally in the hundreds were friendly, helpful and with only one exception, a credit to the event and get my heartfelt thanks.

But we digress! Lined up at the start after a brief warm up but couldn’t find the 3:45 Pacer, Grant Carboni. C.I.M has a cadre of really amazing pacers and while I have never run with a pace group before, talking to Grant and Rae Clark at the Expo I was sold. The gun sounded and I headed off figuring I would be on my own pace wise. Shortly after crossing the timing mat I spied Grant and the pace group about a half mile ahead and spent the next couple of miles slowly reeling them in and right after that caught up with my running partner Bill E. and we settled into our group, our pace and started clicking off the miles. Grant is an amazing pace leader and knows the course like the back of his hand so I could just settle in and run.

C.I.M starts in Folsom CA at the base of the Folsom Lake dam and winds its way into downtown Sacramento to end just shy of the steps of the state capitol. It is a net downhill and advertised as a fast course and top Boston Qualifier but don’t let that fool you. It is still 26.2 miles and at times the “rollers” are still a challenge! Throw in a nice headwind that we turned right into at mile 10 and again just past the half way point and it tests you just like any other marathon.

Bill and I stayed with Grant and the pace group, sometimes even slightly out ahead, clear through to mile 17 or so. I had a couple of minutes in the bank from starting behind and reeling them in so I was feeling ok to drift back a bit and try and draft behind the group to stay out of the breeze but that was the start of my wrestle with “The Beast” as I have come to call him. The Beast, that insidious in creeping of aches, pains and second thoughts daring to become doubt and misgiving that we distance runners know all too well. The Beast gnawed at my hip, pushed a sock down to crumple and threaten a blister and called upon the cold to assist in never giving me a chance to take off my gloves and beanie.

The Beast stayed with me through to the end of the race, threatening to turn into the full fledged “Wall” and daring me to stop and walk right up to mile 22. At that point that old ally Determination finally lent a hand and from 22 to 26 I was able to call up the reserves and claw my way back to my pace. Those where the toughest miles of the race and my wife would remark later when she took this picture just 200 yards short of the finish she could only yell out “almost there” instead of her traditional “Looking good”.. that would have been such a vast overstatement!

I finished just over three minutes off my goal, and for a

time it looked as though the official time was actually further off than that. Later I would confirm that was the gun time and despite that even that time was a personal record, I had on what has been described by my lovely bride as my Cranky Pants. Later I would confirm my official chip time as 3:48:14, more than ten minutes better than Paris and a new personal record. The Cranky Pants have come off, my training saw me through to the end of arguably the toughest race I have participated in. I am uninjured and setting my sites on next year. So, why does it bug me that this guy beat me by 13 seconds? Maybe its the name thing? Or that we look so much alike? Maybe next year. ;-)

Thursday, September 17, 2009

In Search of the Perfect Run

As Viper said to Mavrick "A good runner is compelled to evaluate what's happened, so he can apply what he's learned. Up there, we gotta push it. That's our job. It's your option, Lieutenant. All yours."

I love that quote, and the movie. It came out at time when I was younger and could recover from just about anything overnight. I was not a runner then. I was a Marine, we didn't walk anywhere, we ran, or did push ups. I ran when
told and didn't really enjoy it though I ran much faster than I do now. The fastest and easiest run I ever had was in High School.

I remember it, a crystal clear spring day in Boulder just before graduation. I would run in gym class with my friend Mark. We ran with the ease of teenagers and paid no attention to running. It was about horse play and not sitting in a class room. It meant talking about girls and what we would do the following summer. I was off to boot camp, he was a year younger and his summer would be spend hanging out with friends and deciding what the future held in store.
We would power down the hill from the school and out for a couple miles oblivious to the altitude and effort. But the perfect run, the one that I remember to this day came at a cost.

I still remember getting the call that weekend. Mark and another friend, Jeff had been in an accident. A drunk driver ran a stop sign landing Jeff in the hospital and Mark gone from our lives. The following Monday, I found myself in the locker room without my running buddy. Lacing up my shoes I headed out with the class, but alone. I flew down the familiar hill and out away from the school and to this day, 30 years later I know it was the fastest and furthest I ever ran. Everything clicked and it was the easiest run physically I have ever known despite the angst and the tears. Just over a week later I was standing on yellow footprints being yelled at by USMC Drill Instructors and the running was never without urgency and purpose

It would be ma
ny years before I ran again for pleasure, for clearing my head, reaching a goal, or just to enjoy a beautiful day. But that run after Mark's death has never been far from my thoughts. It's hard to express the feeling that memory evokes and I have backspaced and edited this last paragraph much as much as I rolled over in my head what was it about that run, how do I recreate it and apply it forward. Maybe, like the MiG in Top Gun, I just need to relax about it.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Bachus and the Numbers (or, an unscientific study of the effects of hydration on running)

I am a pretty diligent runner when it comes to the numbers. Negative splits, hitting my pace targets, training to Lactate Threshold, Easy Pace, Marathon Pace, Tempo Pace etc. Once I have my training plan in place I work to stick to it and I have seen my speed and endurance increase.

I have read with some detachment the effects of hydration or rather dehydration and pride myself on keeping well hydrated. Here in Chico we "enjoy" some fairly blistering summers and you get pretty acquainted with the need to hydrate.

I had a bit of an epiphany during this last weekends long run though. My friend Bill E. is a great guy, solid runner and a great sense of humor. We are pretty evenly matched and I enjoy running with him when I get t
he chance. Bill has been telling me of late that he has been reading up on training better along in your heart rate zones and had been feeling that he wasn't giving his ole ticker the rest it needed at times. He got me thinking about it and I have begun wearing my heart rate monitor and paying a bit more attention. Of course I was not the least concerned; those who follow my blog know I have wrestled with going on statins and have done a cardiac stress test and according to the sage Doc M. I have "the max heart rate of a 32 year old." But we digress.

Saturday dawned a bit cloudy as the marathon and half marathon training groups I am helping coach set off for our weekly
long run. Today's workout: half mile warm up, plyo's, stretching then off for a 10 mile loop round Bidwell Park. First mile at easy pace then step it up to race pace and hold it for the remainder.
Bill and I fell into an easy rhythm and trotted out our run talking about heart rates, the weather and our target times for C.I.M. I noticed that while I felt pretty normal for the pace, Bill seemed to be having a bit of an easier time of it and finished looking obviously more at ease than I.
In comparing our numbers we were dead matched except for the heart rate. His was a solid 20 BPH lower than mine! I had done everything I normally do before a long run, same breakfast, same amount of sleep, same basic type of meal the night before and I didn't feel bad, just my hea
rt rate seemed elevated and it took a bit longer to get back to normal.
The only thing different was a couple of glasses of wine the night before. I felt no effects from the wine, went to bed and woke up clear headed and got roughly the same amount of sleep and had essentially the same diet.

Conducting a bit of an experiment I went out after a good day and a halfs rest for a recovery run and really kept an eye on my heart rate. After a couple mile at easy pace, with my heart rate solidly where it is
supposed to be I stepped it back up to where Bill and I had been running and low and behold, almost 20 beats lower than the same pace just 36 hours previous!

Doing a bit of math, this whole debacle translated to my heart beating 2400 time more in a two hour period than normal. Extrapolating that to my marathon race pace that's roughly about two miles more that my heart runs due to the dehydration effects!! Not to mention the recovery time now needed at exercising my heart at 80-85% max as opposed to where it should have been, about 70%.

Now no one in their right mind has a couple of glasses of wine before a marathon, and candidly, the only reason I had any was because I planned on a leisurely long run not doing any race pace work. But we do frequently underestimate how hydrated we are and I certainly didn't realize how much harder my heart has to work to pump that thicker blood until I got to actually see the numbers and compare to someone who is in the same shape as I am.
Fall racing season is upon us and I for one, don't need to add these ghost miles to any of my upcoming endeavors!
Hydrate, pay attention to your training heart rates and enjoy the fruits of lord Bachus AFTER your accomplishment!
Tight Laces,