Monday, December 21, 2009

Holy Geez

Wow, I can't believe it's been a month since my last post. What in the world have I been doing? Well, in short: school and being sick.

I skipped Dude, Where's the Trail because I had an immunology test the next day. I didn't feel real ready for it on the Saturday before the race and I didn't want to be stressed during the run thinking "I should be studying..." so, I figured it'd be best to just not do the race. Sigh.

After that, I spent most of my time getting ready for finals, dealing with the cold weather, and getting sick enough to take 7 days off of running. :( I added a bit of bike/elliptical work during that time, but nothing as vigorous as usual.

I feel like I still have a good base - as evidenced by my quick 8 mile run around SMP on Saturday after helping a buddy move all morning. So, I'll tweak my training a bit and keep working towards that sub-24 goal at Rocky.

Oh, and I'll post more.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Dealing With Pain - Something from the Ultra List

Subscribing to the ultra list is asking for a barrage of e-mails, some only marginally related to ultra running, some not related at all. It is a guarantee of a good Friday joke, an occasional rant about Dean Karnazes and lots of discussion about salt tablets - over and over and over.

Like with anything in life, there's occasionally a truffle hidden in all of that crap. Okay, more than occasionally. I actually really like the list. I just had to train myself to ignore the drivel. I know some of the folks on the list from races and would love to meet many more of them - mostly to tell them their jokes are bad.

A little while ago someone posted a question about dealing with pain in an ultra. The basic premise was: how do you manage the pain you eventually encounter during the late miles of a run. There was much discussion. One of the posts came from "Laz" (aka: Gary Cantrell) of The Barkley (more here). I asked and he allowed me to post it.

i dont know that it becomes easier, so much as you simply adapt.
as you extend your boundaries, distances get easier.
50 miles makes 50 k easier.
100 k makes 50 miles easier.
100 miles makes 100 k easier.
and the first time you are excited to have "only" 100 miles left,
nothing is the same any more.

i look back on my earlier ultras,
and some of the reasons i felt i had to slow down... or drop out,
and i am amazed that i gave in so easily
when i later discovered how much more i could survive.

you learn to take the pain
wall it off in a corner of your mind
and just keep moving.
it doesnt matter if you are having a good day, or a bad day.
the only difference in the two is your time.
you dont think about quitting
you dont think about finishing.
you just keep moving.
because that is what you do.
that is who you are.

it is a useful skill,
knowing how to simply endure.
it is the ultimate reward for running ultras.

i think some people come by it naturally.
but everyone can acquire the skill.
if i can, anyone can.
no one is less inherently tough than me.

This is resonating with me because of my upcoming 200-miler. I will run 100 miles and then think "wow, that was nice, only 100 left". Seriously? I'm really having a hard time fitting that into my brain.

Monday, November 16, 2009

A Speedy Start to the Cold Season

Winter gave the KC area a little peak at what's under the trenchcoat today with a subtle mix of cold temps, rain, sleet and some snow. Nothing sticking, but close enough for me to be excited.

I have an immunology test today, and, as is standard, I went for a run as a study break. It's a fantastic way to let the brain relax and get the endorphins going. I brought home a disaster of a performance on a virology test a few weeks ago - 90% of which I blame on not running before the exam.

I took another break today to read Gary Henry's excellent (as is standard) Ozark Trail 100 race report. Go read it but promise yourself in advance that you won't go sign up for the nearest 100 after you're done. It's that good.

My goal today was a quick 5-miler on paved trails. I have somewhat tired legs from an aggressive 5-miler I ran yesterday. I know I'll pay for this someday at the pearly gates but yesterday's run was a treadmill run. I know, I know. I did it at a 8:45 pace yesterday. I wanted to stay close to that today while including some hills. I've been encouraged by Jeremiah, in order to encourage some weight loss, to incorporate some speed work as a means to drop a few pounds. So, that's what I set out for.

There was a very light drizzle as I started and the temp, according to my car, was a nipply 37 degrees. This translated into perfect running weather for me. My pace dropped quickly from a subtle 9 min/mile to a blistering 7 min/mile which I was able to hold for almost a mile and a half - a knightly accomplishment for me.

I churned out the entire 5 miles at an average just over 8 min/mile. Way better than I wanted. That definitely put me in a good mood for my exam tonight.

I'm down to about 200 lbs, meaning the past few weeks of running has paid off with a steady weight decline. I tend to plateau after losing 5-10 lbs then drop again. We'll see how that goes over these next few weeks. Remember, my Rocky goal is a pudgy 190. 10 to go with 11 weeks left.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Craptastic Run

We're all allowed a bad run from time to time, right?

This morning was the beginning of the winter wyco season. At least, that's what I call it, for no particular reason. We had 8 folks (plus a dog) show up for the scenic 10-mile stroll around the lake.

The run started out normal enough for me. After about a mile I noticed that my breathing wasn't normal, it was very labored and loud. I also noticed I was only running with 6 people (including me) not 8. Hmm. So, I backtracked looking for the other two folks. After ensuring they knew where they were headed I darted off towards the larger group. I immediately felt like I was running with two rocks for legs instead of my normal allotment. I was dragging ass.

One of the guys waited for me at a road crossing. We made it to the Triangle and I just didn't feel like I had the energy for a trip through there. I also figured the lead group would be coming out pretty soon anyways and I didn't particularly want to lose them.

I'll save you the boring details and just say that after that I was running dead-last. The group had to wait up for me a lot. It was sad.

My excuse is that I'm more exhausted than I realized after weed-wacking part of the powerline trail at Shawnee Mission Park yesterday. My arm is actually still sore. My other excuse is that I ate eggos before this run. That was probably pretty trail-tarded of me.

Last week's total mileage was 36. The goal this week is 40. I thought I had more of a long-run base than I really do. The 12 I did on Wednesday night really left a mark on me.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

My New Favorite Hill Workout

Last night I set out to measure what I hoped would become my regular winter hill training course. McNaughton has 1000 feet of ascent over each 10 mile loop. I don't think that's terrible, but after 50, 100 or 150 miles I'm sure it's going to suck, bigtime.

So, I've been looking for a rolling hill course with some steep sections and some flat sections spread out over a respectable distance. I was thinking maybe a half mile.

I also want to do the hills somewhere that I have a nice warm-up available. Something not too strenuous to start off with. But something that taxes me a bit before I start on the hills.

I think I found the perfect course.

Starting from the marina at Shawnee Mission Park head to the mountain bike trails next to the tennis courts. Run the orange trail heading West. When you get to the 4-way trail intersection take the purple trail that heads "left" as you come off the orange trail. Take this to the furthest West trail entrance, head off the mountain bike trails, onto the paved streamway trail. Head down the hill to the streamway trail loop. Before you get to the loop take a right on the fireroad/horsetrail. Run this gravel road until you get to the camping area just before the gate on the fireroad. That's 2 miles exactly. It's relatively flat and it's a comfortable way to warmup. You have to run on pavement for about 200 yards. Whatever, I'll take it.

Now you're at the start of your hill workout. It's simple. Run the power lines heading East. The workout starts with a quick uphill followed by a short flat section. Then you hit a massive hill which I still find un-runnable. After this it's a gradual uphill into a nice rolling section. Once you hit Ogg Road keep going straight. At this point you're running along Tomahawk golf course. There's a line of trees between you and the fairway - but I'd still hope that nobody's slice is acting up too bad when running this section.

Keep going until you hit the "road" coming out of the golf course. You'll know when you hit it as the trail just kinda stops. It's exactly 1.5 miles. That's a nice round number - another reason why I like this course so much.

My Garmin tells me it's almost 500' of ascent for the out section. You end up higher than you started so the trip back involves less ascent. About 250' as best I can tell (I didn't measure it exactly). So, run this twice and you get have a nice 6 mile workout with somewhere around 1,500' of ascent. That's not bad. 3 round trips gives me 9 miles with over 2,000' of ascent - a good training run.

The grass is a bit clumpy along the trail. I'm not sure what to do about this. This might sound crazy but maybe I could take a weed-wacker to it one afternoon. Just to cut a more runnable path through some of the sections.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It's all about time on your feet, dummy

I ran the Pilgrim Pacer fun run yesterday. The real race is in two weeks but they did the fun run to drum up support for the race and, well, to just have some fun. There's a 5k, 10k and half marathon option.

I went for the half, and then some. The whole race is on paved biking trails near Shawnee Mission Park. On the way back, around mile 12, I was getting a little bored and my feet started to hurt, so I left the "official" course and headed back behind the mountain bike trails to get an extra muddy hill in. I had a good reason for this - I wanted to get some difficult trail work in after having lots of miles on my legs. The trails were pretty muddy - the big hill along the power lines was essentially unrunable because of the mud. My little jaunt added about 3/4 of a mile. Worth it for some mud.

The good news was that I kept a sub-10:00 pace for the entire run - that's including the walking I did along the power lines.

The sad news is that 13-ish miles is the furthest I've run, non-stop, since...well...

- 10/10: Heartland, 20 miles, walked with John.
- 9/11: Patriot's Run, didn't run 13-straight, I walked a lot.
- 8/23: Leadville with Greg - walked the majority of the time.
- 8/16: Pike's Peak Marathon, walked most of the way up, didn't run all the time on the way down.
- This is getting depressing
- 8/1: The Gary Henry training run...covered 16 miles but walked a bit. This one might count, but we'll keep going.
- 7/27: 14 miles on the sandrat trails. I'd say this counts.

Fer christsakes - it's been almost 3 months since I've knocked off more than a half marathon?!?! I'm teary-eyed right now.

Then I came home and raked leaves for two hours. During this I realized what a great addition to my running workout it was. I was on my feet for 4 hours - that's quality ultra crosstraining right there. So, I might have had 17 on the calendar for yesterday, and I might have only gotten 13.5 of it, but I spent a lot more time on my feet, which makes up for the missed miles.

Friday, October 30, 2009


Finally! I ran to the lab this morning. What an absolutely excellent way to start the day.

Unfortunately, the route requires about 2 miles of roads before I hit the trolley trail at 71st and Brookside. This sucked for two reasons. First, there were tons of leaves covering the sidewalk and the street, this made it hard to see the little bumps in the road or sidewalk that'll trip you up if you're not careful. Second, the dammed cars. God, I don't know how people go and pound pavement next to streets all the time. The cars are so annoying. I'll take the deer, skunks, rocks, mud, horses, snakes and spiders over the exhaust-ridden, noisy, inconsiderate roads any day.

I didn't run the whole way. The urge to see a man about a horse (aka: poo) hit me about a mile from the lab. It wasn't subtle either. I managed a shuffle to contain the problem. Then I hit the stairs at UMKC...yeah, not comfy.

Monday, October 26, 2009


So, I finally bit.

Yesterday was a stairmaster day (mostly so I could study and exercise, or, really, feel like I was studying).

I did some weights and realized what a wimp I've become.

At the end, I decided to knock a few miles off on the treadmill. So, after 20 or so minutes of running my foot started to hurt. Pretty standard on the treadmill for me. There had just been a discussion on the ultra list about barefoot running on the treadmill. I thought this sounded kooky, but as my foot ached I started to wonder: "what would it feel like"?

So, I slipped the shoes and socks off, got on the treadmill and started walking. Hmm, my foot started to feel good almost right away. Odd. I cautiously turned the speed up, just to a slow jog. It felt...well, it felt really wrong but not physically, just mentally. Like I was violating some running rule. But, my foot felt great, so I kept going. I ended up only doing about 1/2 a mile but it was fantastic.

My feet did hurt last night; it was weird to be sore in my feet.

I'm not sold, but I'm optimistic about adding some barefoot cross-training to strengthen my feet/ankles.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Time to Start Thinking About Rocky!

15 weeks. Yay.

Ok, I'm working on my training plan today. I have a simple goal: sub 24-hour finish.

One big (pun intended) thing I need to work on for this race is getting my weight back down. I'm at 205 (after my haircut this morning) and that's not going to be fun come race-day. I'd really like to run the race at 190. That's a pound a week - quite doable.

So, expect a bunch of weight reports, weekly mileage logs and other stuff related to getting ready for this race over the next few months.

2009 Men's Health Urbanathalon

I ran the Men's Health 2009 Urbanathalon last weekend up in Chicago. Definitely a different kind of race for me. It's a 12-ish mile course with obstacles: monkey bars, marine hurdles, stadium stairs, taxi cabs, a 8' wall and a tire obstacle.

My girlfriend Erin, my buddy Jeremiah, his girlfriend Erin and I flew up there on Friday morning. Instead of taking it easy the day before the race we spent most of Friday walking around the city. We did turn in early that night...well, they did, I couldn't sleep, so I spent three hours in the lobby reading books and trying to get tired. Figures.

We got up around 6 on Saturday for the race. Jeremiah and I headed down there early, we decided to walk/run there instead of cabbing it. Seemed like a good way to warm up. It was about a mile and a half away and during the hike down there it started a strange rain/drizzle/snow/hail combination. I actually liked it, as I'm a fan of running in weather like that.

Anyways, we got to the start, stretched, wasted time, etc. The way the race was started was moronic. They simply divided us up by age and sex. So, males under 25 started first, followed by 25-29 males, etc. I felt pretty bad for people who started in, say, the 30-35 age group and had trained for the race and felt like the had a chance to place. They'd be forced to weave in and out of hundreds of people who had started before them. They gave us about 5 mins between heats, which didn't help the serious competitors at all.

We started off towards the North, headed to Navy Pier. At the pier we encountered our first obstacle, the tires. Simple, run through the tires, jump over the big ones, run through more tires, etc. Not a tough obstacle, you just had to make sure you weren't stuck behind someone really slow.

After the pier we headed back down South, towards Solider Field. At Solider Field, heading South, we hit the second obstacle, the monkey bars. Again, a simple obstacle, as long as you had good momentum and weren't stuck behind someone who decided to just hang there or drop off and not get out of the way.

We continued South. We were on mile 7 or 8 when I started really wanting some sports drink. They had water stations that were just that, water only stations. No Gatorade, Powerade, nothing. Just water. That really sucked.

The turn-around was the marine hurdles. Man, I didn't expect these. First off, they were on a sand volleyball court. Running up to it was the first time I'd wished I'd had gaiters on. I cleared the first two ok. The third one was tougher. I swear I had to jump higher to get it (I think because of the slope of the beach). I tried 3 times to get over it, and I couldn't. Shiiittt. Screw it, I went under it. I felt like a loser for that. Better yet, Jeremiah saw me fail to get over that last hurdle. Excellent.

Heading back North we had three obstacles left, the stairs, the taxi cab and the wall. I wasn't moving nearly as fast as Jeremiah wanted me to. I wasn't tired or worn out, I was just moving at my own pace, which I like to think is a consequence of running ultras. I like to think that, it's probably not true.

We got to Soldier Field in short order and started up the stairs. We headed up to the top level and were ushered into one of the sections. This part was the definition of a clusterfuck. They had two sections of stairs for us to run and were randomly dividing us between the sections. We were told to run past the first and do the second. Ok. We got to the second and found a giant mass of people trying to crowd into the same small section entrance. On top of that, the runners from the first section were coming out right next to us. It was a total disaster. We must have wasted 5 minutes just standing there trying to get onto the stairs.

The stairs were mostly a walk, not a run. There were so many people going up and down you didn't get much of a chance to walk until you ran into someone's rear. I didn't mind this much as I didn't have the energy to run the stairs.

We left Soldier Field and headed to the finish. I wasn't moving nearly fast enough for Jeremiah and he spent most of the last part trying to speed my ass up. It wasn't happening. We got back to the start, hopped the cab and waited in line to scale the wall. Jeremiah helped me over. I don't know if I needed it or not, but it was nice to have the help.

We finished in 1:56 and something. Not bad. The winner ran a 1:08, I think. Which is completely insane.

Once it was over I felt like I could easily do the course three more times. I don't know if that's a mental and/or physical shortcoming I have now. I didn't feel like I could run faster during the race, but I could do the race several more times.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It Actually Can Always Get Worse...aka: 2009 Pikes Peak Marathon

Ultrarunners have a saying: It never always gets worse. I'd like to argue that this phrase only applies while at or below 10,000 feet. After that - it can always get worse. Pike's Peak is a prime example.

I'd ran up Pike's Peak once before, last June, when I came out to Colorado to visit my buddy Chris. I made it to the top and decided, because I didn't want to be a lighting rod, to hitch a ride back down. A lovely old couple from Florida gave me a lift and I managed to avoid puking until I had gotten out of their car. My goal for this run was therefore to not puke at all. I like to keep it simple, ya know.

Erin, her Dad and I arrived in Maintou Springs around 6 on Sunday morning. The race starts at 7 which, if you ask me, is about two hours too late. I think this thing should get going at 5 - or there should at least be an option for an early start. Mainly to allow for slower runners to make it up and start back down the mountain before the nasty and unpredictable afternoon weather rolls in.

I digress. We got there early and managed to find a parking spot - quite an accomplishment considering how small Maintou Springs is and considering how half the roads were blocked off for the race.

It was coooold. In the upper 40's cold. We had just left KC two nights before and it was in the 90's with a good dose of humidity. I shoulda brought a parka with me.

We mulled around and talked. Me trying to mask my nervousness. I felt trained, well, as trained as someone who lives at 1,000 feet can be for a race that starts above 6,500 and ends at 14,000. That's what worried me. That thin air. I was worried about being able to eat and drink above treeline - something I had trouble with when I did my solo run last year. I'd manage, I kept telling myself.

Eventually I ran out of Mexican-In-The-Cold jokes to use on Erin's Dad and we headed over to the start. I felt like I was headed out for a 50-miler. I had my jacket tied around my waist, my Nathan Pack loaded with food, salt and other goodies and gloves and a headband stuffed somewhere for when I got really cold.

At the start the RD spent some time talking about the first woman who had ran Pike's Peak - 50 years ago. The race claims to be the first to recognize a female finisher. I don't know how true that is but it was the theme of this years race and it was nice to see her at the start. After the national anthem we were off.

Now, I was apparently in the first wave - first of two waves that is. My San Francisco Marathon time of 3:38 put me in the "fast group". I wanted to point out that I wasn't fast, especially at low-flying-plane altitude. This was another thing that worried me. This turned out to not be a problem as they made no effort to separate the first wave folks from the second wave.

My strategy for the race was to take it really easy and save my energy for my time above 12k feet. Keeping that in focus would be really difficult for me as I tend to get caught up in a pack and forget my plans. So, at the start, which is relatively flat, I forced myself to stay at a 10:00 pace. I ignored all the folks passing me (many already sucking wind after only 20 seconds of running) and stuck to my pace. This was a big accomplishment for me and I think it paid of later when I forced myself to walk some flat sections.

Anyways, we ran through Manitou for a bit then turned towards the mountain. I ran part of the first hill we came to then decided I better start walking. This walk lasted me about 12 miles. I was really surprised but us back-of-the-packers essentially walked the entire way up the mountain.

After maybe another half mile of pavement we hit gravel road, still uphill, then we hit trail, again, uphill. Turns out the first hill of the race is really the only hill of the race...all the way to the top.

I fell into a group walking at about 15-18 minute miles. It was a healthy pace and I was able to talk so I knew I wasn't working too hard. All I had to do was keep this up, I'd be fine.

I started chatting people up, as I tend to do, and found a guy running Leadville the next weekend. Wow. Quite a way to acclimate to the altitude - go run a 14-er then go run Leadville. I also met a guy who was doing the "double" - the ascent on Sat and the marathon on Sun. That's pretty nuts also.

Turns out, a lot of the folks who run Pike's Peak are ultra-runners. I met very few "regular-old-marathoners". After the fact, this makes a lot of sense.

Back to the race - well, not a lot to say. The aid stations were great. Well stocked with people willing to help fill packs and other stuff. I maintained my walking pace and just focused on moving ahead. I felt fine up past Barr Camp (10,000 feet) and kept a strong pace even up to the treeline, which is right around A-Frame. I think this was about 12,000 feet...maybe a little lower.

Then my eating and drinking problems started. I don't know what it is about altitude that makes it difficult for me to eat and drink, but I get a really sick feeling anytime I do. Now, I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that I'm getting less oxygen at 12k feet than I am at 1k feet, but it's just odd.

It's about 3 miles to the top from A-Frame. I was managing a 30 min/mile pace at this point so I had an hour and a half to fight through to make the summit. I just started putting one foot in front of the other and kept telling myself I'd get there.

I got passed a lot during the trek above the trees. I didn't have to stop and catch my breath like I did during my solo run, but I wasn't fast by any means. It did get a bit discouraging to think I was probably in the bottom 25% of the racers at that point. Ah, who cares - I had to keep telling myself.

The trail to the top was littered with some folks who were not in good shape at all. There were a couple of pukers and some folks sitting there staring blankly off into space. I offered them salt, water or food. No takers. Ok.

At this point, I started to think about how a flatlander could better to train for this race. I came up with 3 strategies:

First - a stairmaster is your friend. Do 2-3 hour sessions. For creativity points mix in some running with the climbing. Maybe a 5 mile run followed by a couple hours of stairmastering (is that a word?) followed by more running. I only did a mile or so of running before hitting the stairmaster. The longest I was on was 2 hours. I should have done a bit more.

Second - find a straw, insert it in your mouth, then run with it. Keep the pace you can keep only breathing through your nose and that straw. Try not to trip and impale yourself with the straw.

Third - find a happy hour or grab a sixer of your favorite lager, get a buzz, then try either the first or second strategy. Being at that altitude really made me feel drunk. I couldn't walk completely straight and I was pretty confused at some points.

So, the altitude change is why I say it can actually always get worse. As you climb there's no way to avoid the loss of oxygen. Now, I know, eventually you start running downhill and it's a whole new ballgame. Fine. But for those first 13 miles - it can always get worse.

Eventually I turned a corner and saw the top of the mountain. Then I looked lower and saw the turnaround for the race. What! Man, I felt gyped. The race turnaround is about 50 feet lower than the top of the mountain. I found this odd in my mildly confused state. Whatever. I got to the halfway point, headed towards the aid station, and started looking for Erin.

See, Erin and the kids were going to meet me on top of the mountain. The plan was for her to drive up, bring me a new shirt, get some pictures, then head back down. I also wanted my sunglasses. Except...Erin wasn't there. Hrm.

I pulled out my trusty iPhone and called her. Through a terrible connection I made out "stay there, we're ...static, static, silence, static... top". Then it cut out. What?!?!? I just ran my happy little ass up this dammed mountain and you're not here! I was furious - for about a second. Then I looked around. See, this whole time I hadn't taken a second to really appreciate where I was. Wow, what a view.

Now, this might sound mildly lame but I think there's a huge difference between experiencing a view from the top of Pike's Peak when you drove or took the cog up versus when you mustered the will to climb up the boulder pile yourself. This is what I realized as I was stuffing my face with grapes. I had just spent the last five hours putting myself through hell to climb to the top of a 14k foot mountain. That felt pretty good.

So, instead of saying screw it and heading back down the mountain I decided to just sit and enjoy the view. I didn't care about my time. I had plenty of time to make the cutoff. I was up there - I was going to enjoy it. This is what I refer to now as my navel time. I spent almost an hour sitting there, just enjoying the view. The search and rescue people came over to me and asked me if I was ok - probably wondering why I hadn't started back down on my own. I said "well, I'm here, I might as well enjoy the view". They looked at me, looked out over the landscape, then looked back and me and said "yeah, good point".

Eventually Erin and the kids appeared at the top. I saw them and scurried to the top, got some pictures and hugs and strange looks from them. Apparently they had a harrowing experience driving up and weren't totally happy to be up there. Plus, I was probably way more chipper than they expected me to be at that point. We talked for a bit, then I decided it was time to head down.

Now, I'd like to point out that I actually made it to the top of Pike's Peak, to 14,115 feet. As far as I can tell everyone else made it to 14,075 feet. A minor yet important distinction.

Once I started downhill, after an hour of sitting, I was surprised at how good I felt. I had no problem running or breathing. What a difference from the trek up. I pushed myself a bit and started passing folks. I like to think I'm a pretty good downhill runner and it showed here.

The journey back to the treeline was pretty uneventful - except for the C-130 I saw fly through the valley below, swinging side-to-side as it avoided the mountains. Pretty cool to see.

Once I got into treeline I kept up my slow jog, passed more folks, worked on eating since I had more of an appetite and focused on finishing. I also noticed I had what felt like rocks in my shoes. Under both of my heels. I kicked my shoes around a bit but couldn't get the rocks to move. Odd. I kept running.

Eventually I decided to stop and take the rocks out of my shoe. I sat down, took the shoes off, and couldn't find any rocks. Huh? Weird. As I was putting my shoes back on a deer came out on the trail about 20 yards behind me. He looked at me, didn't seem to care I was there and walked on. I'm not sure why but that was really neat to me.

I crossed the finish line at 9:35:36. That put me cleanly in last place for my age group and I was 525/540 male finishers. Pretty much last. But - I had fun which is really all I cared about. I knowingly burned an hour at the top and I'm totally ok with that.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ready to Run

Well, I'm in Denver, got my packet yesterday...parking was a nightmare in Manitou Springs. Today is a chill day, might go check out a national park - as it's free this weekend.

The weather for tomorrow isn't looking promising. Severe Thunderstorms are likely in the afternoon in Colorado Springs. Couple that with likely rain tonight and the trail might be a bit muddy. The mud I don't mind, it's the lighting that worries me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Taper Time

After an undisclosed amount of stairmastering, running, a teeeeeeny bit of rowing and lots of moving it's time to chillax. Pike's Peak is this Sunday. Then Leadville. I'll be running Wednesday night with Greg, Ben and Sophia to discuss our plans of world domination. By world domination I of course mean helping Greg finish Leadville in the time he wants. I imagine the condition he finishes it in doesn't really matter.

I've been leading the Trail Nerds Monday night beginners run for three weeks now. I'm kinda digging it. I've had respectable turnout the past few weeks - with last night being the best by far. Although I really need to stop eating a massive dinner at 5:00 with my parents then running at 6. I almost puked last night.

In other randomness - the Trail Nerds held our night 10K last Friday. Erin, the kids and I manned the turnaround aid station along with Jon and Shelly (I think). We had a great time watching the runners come in, totally covered in mud, only to head down for the soul-sucking .999999 mile loop that is the triangle. Most made it out okay only to be reminded that they had to run back through all that mud they had struggled through the first 2.5 miles. The best had to be the people who lost shoes in the mud.

Off to Colorado on Friday and up to 14,103' on Sunday!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Who does number two work for?

I did the Gary Henry training run this morning. He's doing 47 or so miles on 3 out-and-backs. I joined him for one of them at 6 this morning. 16 miles round-trip.

It was a fantastic run. The rain let off about half an hour before our run which made the levee nice and soft. The roads leading to Linwood were soft also - maybe a little too soft, I had about a pound of mud and rocks stuck to my shoes.

I was doing great until about mile 10 when the urge to leave some trail fertilizer struck me. I managed to keep going until about mile 14 when it was so bad I had to stop and walk. I headed into a corn field and briefly contemplated using a leaf from a stalk...but then I chickened out and just suffered back to the trailhead. I've never had to poo on a run before. Maybe I should start packing TP.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Terrible Idea

I just had a terrible, absolutely terrible, idea...

Stolen from:

What's a Fat Ass?

So, what's a Fat Ass? Well, other than a common physical trait among most of the participants it's a term used in the ultra-running world that means that the run isn't an official event.

This is an official Fat Ass event, which means that it's not an official event. There are:

* No entry fees
* No T-shirts
* No awards
* No sponsors (including CRRC - this is simply a non-event being organized by a club member)
* No aid stations (bring your own fluids & nutrition)
* No road or trail closures (so obey all normal trail etiquette and traffic laws)
* No time cutoffs
* No cheering crowds...don't show up if you're expecting tons of spectators (other than funny looks from passersby)
* No bitchin' or whinin'
* No wimps
* Plus, this one will likely be cold, windy, and maybe even icy if conditions are normal for that time of year

Wow, that sounds terrible. What is there?

* A date, time, and place
* A course or route
* Bragging rights
* Good people
* Great fun
* Possible social events following the run at a local food/drink establishment

Since it's not an official event it also means that that anyone that wants to participate is welcome. If you want to participate in this Fat Ass but don't want to run 50K (let's say you want to run 5, 10, or 20 miles) that's OK since it's not an official event. Just don't claim that you did do the 50K or you'll get a Fat Ass Whoopin'.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

One of those runs

I've had some good runs in my day...yesterday was one of the best.

In my book you can't beat one of three conditions for running: snowing, a beach or a nice rainstorm. Rainstorm sans thunder, lightning, hail and tornados, of course. Yesterday I got the rainstorm.

I met Ben and Sophia at Shawnee Mission Park at 6. I had planned on the beginners run, which starts at 7, but since they were running at 6 I figured I'd just do both. We hit the MTB trails as a nice steady rain was falling. Not too hard, not too soft, just right.

It was fabulous. The trails were sturdy yet just slick enough so you had to fight for your balance. The three of us did one lap, stopping midway to admire the new trail being put in by the Earth Riders (I think) back on the North side of the trails. The addition of the second trail is going to make a 10-mile run back there possible.

We got back to the trailhead just after 7. There was one additional car in the parking lot so I headed back into the woods to see if I could find whoever it was that had shown up. I enjoyed every step of that run. No iPod, just me and the woods. It doesn't get much better than that. I had boundless energy.

It was just the kind of post-MCAT run I needed.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

A different kind of ultra

I'm currently in the middle of a different kind of ultra...yet one that can be easily related to a 100-miler. Or, maybe, 10 100-milers, on consecutive days.

I take the MCAT in 8 days. 8 am, on the 17th. I've been getting ready for this, more or less, since June of 2007 when I sat down in that summer chemistry class and began this long journey. It's been quite an adventure.

I've spent the last month and a half (since Jemez Mt) studying at least 2-3 hours per day for this test. Over the past month I've been putting in more hours - somewhere in the 4-6 hour range. The last two weeks, it's been even worse, in the 10-12 hour range.

The last few weeks have been quite analogous to a long race. I'll start a day out strong, trying not to think about all the work ahead of me. I'll start to get tired, take some breaks and try to re-focus. Then I'll get really tired and start setting small goals for myself; get through this next section, run halfway up this hill, etc. Past a certain point it all becomes a mental game you have to play with yourself. Eventually I finish each day and I find it hard to remember what it felt like throughout the day, I just know how it feels to be done.

The analogy extends to other people (racers) also. You come across people who seem to be so prepared for the test. They don't even seem to have to try and they exude an air of confidence that you wish you had and wonder if you could have developed given the right training and preparation. There's others who you're wondering why they're even toeing the start line, thinking there's no way they're ready, why are they even here?

I guess it'll end just like an ultra too. Some of those folks who looked so good at the start won't even make it halfway. Others who you wouldn't have put a dollar on finishing will end the race with their head held high, looking strong and ahead of most in the field. You'll still wonder how they did it after the race.

You'll finish also. You'll run your own race, doing what you need to do to get you to the end in one piece and in a respectable time. There wouldn't have been a doubt in your mind that you would finish, you know your preparation and hard work were a good foundation to run your race off of and all you have to do is show up race morning somewhat coherent and with a couple pairs of shoes. It'll be a fun race.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Snakes and Dogs

Oh summertime. How I despise the with your poison ivy, ticks, bugs, spiders, humidity and snakes. You force me to pavement on some days, as I feel sure to encounter a 15' rattle snake in a field of poison ivy surrounded by ticks while stuck in a giant web at 100% humidity.

I stepped on my second snake yesterday. First time was a king snake. Very large and very harmless. Yesterday was a copperhead. Luckily this one was very small and very harmless. It was about a foot long and the thickness of a pencil. It did not seem happy to have been stepped on. It had some stones; it didn't run from me, it stood up to me, hissed, held its ground. I relented and backed off, surely only feeding its ego.

I also got chased by a dog yesterday. A lab that was only a couple of months old. It was fierce. I ran past the family on the trail, they were walking with the dog, without a leash. It decided I was more fun than the family. I had my headphones on, so I didn't hear them yelling at me to stop. The dog didn't care they were yelling. I had that weird feeling I was being followed after about 30 seconds. I turned around and saw the dog, happy as a clam, running after me. The family nowhere in sight. Oops. I grabbed the dog and returned it to the rightful owners.

Oh summertime.

Monday, May 18, 2009

2009 Jemez Mt 50 Miler

If anyone in the vicinity of Los Alamos happens to see my ego laying around could you package it up and send it to me? I'd really like it back. Postage guaranteed. Thanks.

I got my ass handed to me by this race. Difficult isn't the appropriate way to describe this race, defining is a better term. This race will tell you if you really know what you're doing as an ultra-runner. Do you know how to train for a race? Do you know where you're at with your running? Have you been slacking on your training? Do you give a race everything you've got? What do you need to work on? Jemez Mt will answer all of this for you.

I'll save you the gory details and simply say I made it 17/50 miles, and I'm DAMMED proud of myself for making it that far. So, what happened?

My girlfriend Erin and I flew out to Albuquerque on Thursday night. A friend of hers from Santa Fe who we were staying with picked us up from the airport and drove us up to Santa Fe. We got in very late so we essentially just turned in for the night once we got there.

The next day we got some shopping done and walked around for a while. I was a bit worried about the altitude, Santa Fe is at 7,000', but didn't seem to notice it. Later that afternoon we headed up to Los Alamos for packet pick-up. We got to the high school around 6 and found it full of runners. The pasta dinner was free for everyone so Erin, Cheryl and I indulged while listening to the RD talk about the course conditions, etc. I was feeling pretty good at that point, pretty confident I could pull of a finish.

I think my first mistake was not staying in Los Alamos the night before the race. It's a 45 or so minute drive from Santa Fe to Los Alamos. That's 45 extra minutes of sleep I could have banked the next morning. So, instead of getting up at 3 am, I could have slept till 3:45 or 4 am. That would have been nice.

So, we headed back to Santa Fe. I took it easy the rest of the night. Eating a bit more and turning in around 9:30 or 10:00.

At 3 am my alarm went off. Argh, it was early. I stumbled around a bit, ate some food, and got Erin and Cheryl up. We were out the door by about 3:45. I drove up to Los Alamos and Erin even managed to stay awake the entire time, which was really nice. Probably to make sure I stayed awake also.

We got to the start at about 4:45. The start was at 5:00. This was cutting it way too close for me. I still had to stretch, visit the port-o-potty and simply relax before the run. I managed to get one of those three things accomplished before the run - the visit to one of the two port-o-potties they had at the start. (If anyone who puts the race on reads this: you guys did a great job of organizing everything, but PLEASE have a few extra port-o-potties out there next year...2 doesn't cut it).

I got done with about a minute to spare. The folks who were behind me in line probably started the race in a sitting position. I barely had time for a quick picture with Erin before we were off.

The beginning of the race is deceptively flat. We ran along a road for a bit, then veered off onto some gravel roads and finally onto some single-track trail that took us to the start of our first climb. It was really dark out so I didn't get much of a chance to enjoy the scenery. We hit the first aid station about 5 miles in. I was feeling good at that point. The altitude didn't seem to bother me. My legs did feel a bit heavy and sore - like they were building up lactic acid, but I wasn't sure. I got some water and headed out in short order.

Then the fun began.

Aid station 1 sits around 7,000'. Aid station 2 sits at about 8,750'. They're 1.8 miles apart. You do the rest of the math. This, for some reason, did not compute with me before the race. This was clearly a walking section.

I had a good stride starting the climb. Quickly I noticed I had begun to develop a sharp pain in the lower left side of my back. Odd. I took two ibuprofen and hoped for the best. A few weeks before, at the Freestate 100K I had run into a similar problem with the lower right side of my back. I hadn't had lower back problems for years. Hmm.

I kept going. Up and up. Slowly yet surely my legs started to burn, bad. I wasn't short of breath yet, but I could feel the burn, so to speak, with each step. People passed me. More people passed me. Etc.

I was about 6 miles into the race and I was already hurting bad. That was such a demoralizing realization. It's ok I'd tell myself - I'll fly down the downhills. I subscribe to the Greg Burger school of downhill trail running: "if you can safely stop within 50 yards you're going too slow". I'd make the time up.

I hit aid station number 2. Finally. My legs felt like I'd just finished my third lap (60 miles) at Rocky Raccoon. Wow, the view was amazing and holy crap it was chilly! My back was still hurting so I popped another couple ibuprofen. All I could think was "time for a downhill!". This was going to be fun.

Then I saw the downhill. Hmm, it wasn't very runnable. It was really steep. Shit.

I made my way down, running when I could, using trees to stop me when I needed. All I could think the entire way down was "this would be near impossible if it were raining". I couldn't imagine that course in the rain. You'd need trekking poles, repelling rope, a helicopter, pick-axes, and ten buddies just to make it up and down some of those trails.

After finishing the downhill the course meanders through a breathtaking canyon. The trails were lightly worn and we followed a stream much of the way. It was a gradual uphill and it was all I could do to keep myself from sprawling out on the grass and writing my own version of "Leaves of Grass" or "Walden Pond" it just seemed that relaxing. The environment there almost demanded that you take some time to appreciate its beauty.

I forgot about my back and my legs and my sorry disposition. I didn't care about the time or med school or the MCAT. I was in my own little world and it was fantastic. Then I hit aid station 3 and with it another uphill.

You visit aid station 3 twice. Once when you're coming in from aid station 2 and again when you're coming in from aid station 4. Now, I need to take a second and thank the volunteers. This is literally the middle of nowhere - and it's a pain in the ass to get to. These folks hiked in the day before, setup camp, and started purifying drinking water by hand for the runners. Yes, they did this all by hand. Amazing. I still can't believe the volunteers in this place. I was bitching and moaning about the race and all I was carrying was my Nathan pack. I didn't have to hike all the equipment in that these folks did. They were fantastic.

So, this part of the race takes you to the highest point on the course at 10,480'. I felt every inch of it. Best I could tell we started around 8,500'. It's a 2 mile trek to the top, so that makes for about a 20% grade. That's steep.

I was ok for the first few minutes. Then the back pain kicked in and the legs started burning again. I took some more ibuprofen and mustered on. After about 5 minutes all I could think about was saying f-it and turning around and heading back down the mountain. But, I didn't. I kept going. Very slowly. I had to stop every 50 yards or so and catch my breath and let my legs recover. This was not going well. After what seemed like forever I hit the top.

There were some amazing views from Caballo Top, I didn't stick around too long to enjoy them. The wind was blowing hard and I was itching to get back down the mountain. It was cold up there and the wind didn't help.

I did a pretty good job running down the mountain. I had to walk some of it but most of it seemed runnable. It was tearing up my quads tho. The constant downhill was tough.

About 200 yards from aid station 3 I saw one of the volunteers coming up the trail towards me. He was shouting "shoo, shoo" and clapping his hands and looking up to his left. "WTF" I wondered. Then I looked to my right and saw this giant black ball of fur running away from the both of us. "Holy Crap! Is that a bear!?" Yeah, a big black bear was high-tailing it up the mountain. It seemed ginormous. I only got to see it for a few seconds, it was quick and it didn't seem to want to be seen.

I got back to aid station 3, grabbed some food, got more water, and headed off for the next leg. I'd covered 14.2 miles and felt worse than I did after the 100 miles at Rocky. I could barely run and my back still hurt. I took another two ibuprofen and realized I'd taken 8 and hadn't peed yet. Great, I was gonna need rehab if I kept this up.

I walked most of the way to aid station 5. There was a lot of uphill here and at some point I just decided I was done. It had been almost 5 hours and I hadn't even covered 17 miles. On the way down from aid station 4 to 3 I didn't notice any 50 milers coming up the mountain. I figured I was one of the last. This was pretty pathetic in my view.

Erin was waiting for me at aid station 5. This was pretty fantastic considering she had to hike 3 miles just to get to the aid station, uphill. She brought me a bunch of stuff and said generally supportive things to me even though I was grumpy and not chipper. I thought about it for about a second and told her I was done. My legs had nothing left. I just wasn't feeling it.

In retrospect, I dunno, it's pretty depressing to think that I quit after 17 miles. It told me a lot about myself and my running.

First, I don't train properly. Full disclosure time. Know how many miles I banked in the months leading up to Rocky? Maybe 150. I did two weekends of back-to-back 10 milers and one weekend of a 20 miler one day and a 10 miler the next. Sprinkle in a few short runs around the city (all less than 5 miles) and you have my Rocky Raccoon training. I finished that race in 24:39. I essentially didn't train at all for Mother Road. I only ran 50 of 100 there. I also didn't really train for Brew to Brew, save for a few random weekday runs. I really need to get my crap together and find a consistent running schedule.

Second, I gotta shed some of this extra weight. I eat like I run a 50 every weekend. It's adding up. I'm back to 200 (from ~185 in Feb). That's just unnecessary weight I'm lugging up those 2,000' climbs.

Third, I think the stress of my life is affecting my running. The MCAT, my research and school are weighing on me tremendously. I can feel it in that I don't find a clear head as often when I run. I'm not sure what to do about it. Get through the next two months, I guess.

Training for this race in Kansas is something that would be difficult. One of the hardest parts, I think, was the relentless uphill and downhill sections. We don't have that here - where you get 2 miles of solid uphill or downhill. I'm used to a couple hundred feet up, some down, rinse, repeat. It gives your muscles a break. There were no breaks here.

The altitude is tough also. I say that, then I think back to when I ran Pike's Peak back in June. I was fine up to about 12,000'. I was also in much better shape than I am now. I think training hard where I'm at will make the altitude issue somewhat moot.

This race was a good wake-up call for me. It tells me I'm going to get whipped at the Pike's Peak Marathon if I don't get my crap together. It also tells me I'm going to let Greg down at Leadville if I'm not careful. At least I know where I'm at now.

I do know I'm going back to Los Alamos in 2010 and I'm going to run the whole 50 miles.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

You know, I still am working on my Rocky report...

Believe it or not but I'm still working on my Rocky Raccoon report. By this point half of it will be stuff I make up along with the other half of stuff I made up while running. Sigh.

Geez, what have I been doing since early Feb? Well...just running for fun. There were a couple GREAT snow runs at SMP in mid-February. The kind of runs where there's nobody around and I just kind of trek through the trails aimlessly and end up in the middle of the woods with no trail in sight. The weather has been getting better so I'm not the only person running through the Plaza anymore.

Oh, Psycho Wyco was the weekend after Rocky...duh. I did 10 miles there. I didn't really push it, just ran it for fun. I signed up for 20 but my body told me 10 was plenty coming off the 100 the weekend before. The conditions were tough - starting to get muddy early with some very slick spots in the shade. I felt real bad for the folks doing 2 or 3 laps out there.

Had my spring break, didn't run across Kansas, obviously. Still sounds like a fun idea, just a pain in the ass to plan.

Brew to Brew is in two weeks. I'm looking forward to it. Not going to try to run it hard, just run it for fun. I'm really hoping the weather holds up...that could be a brutal race in poor conditions. After that it's the Free State 100k, then finals, then Jemez 50 miler...all of which is over 9k feet. Then I'll need to find a June or July run to get me ready for the Pike's Peak marathon in August. I was suprised when Matt Carpenter e-mailed me about Pike's Peak. He was verifying runner qualifications. I suppressed the urge to say something lame like "I read the story about you in the Times and I was totally impressed". Oh yeah, and then there's the MCAT...July 17th.

Did I say sigh yet?

Monday, February 9, 2009


I'm home from Hunstville, with a shiny new belt buckle! 24 hours and 39 minutes to run 100 miles. Wow, it's hard to describe what it feels like to have run a hundred. Well, there's a lot of pain in the description, but you know what I mean.

Voluminous race report forthcoming, probably in a few days, I have a lot of studying to do the next few days.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Rocky Butterflies

Sitting here, staring at my biochem, all I can think of is getting through the race this weekend. Really, I just want to start it, I'm not worried about it, just really excited to get going.

I haven't ran since Sunday. I think I'll try to do a few miles tomorrow and then maybe again on Thursday, but nothing insane.

Erin, Kathleen and I are leaving Thurs after work. Going to stop in Oklahoma City and stay with one of Erin's family friends then head down to Huntsville on Friday, hopefully arriving fairly early in the afternoon. Yes, for Kathleen's last weekend in the States we're dragging her to a hundred miler ten hours away. I think that qualifies as being a good host, no?

I'll talk to y'all on Monday.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

A Weekend of Wyco Fun

I'm getting good at losing people at wyco. A few Thursdays ago I lost one person, on a night run, and today, not satisfied with losing just one person, I lost TWO! I rule. I'm going to try for three next time I run out there.

I found them, eventually. They would have made it out of the park alive, I'm sure. Or would they? Never know. Silly cougar might have gotten them.

Total wyco mileage this weekend was 30 miles. Did two loops on Sat morning and one loop this morning after helping out with the 5k. About 80 or so people ran it. The general consensus of folks finishing it was "damn, that was the hardest course I've ever ran". Yeah, no shit, those hills are brutal.

I'm not too worried about Rocky this weekend. I just want to get it started. I feel ready. Third attempt at a 100 miler, hopefully this time I'll finish it. That's all I want to do, finish it (oh, and in under 24 hours).

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

An update!

I know, I suck. Let me count the ways.

Hmm, four months since my last update? Wow.

What have I done since then? Not a lot:

KC Marathon
Mother Road 100 (DNF'd at 50)
Nathinel's Run (DNF'd pretty early because it was like zero Kelvin out there)

That's all a setup for Rocky Raccoon in a few weeks, of course. 100 miles, here I come, again.

I'm taking the unprepared approach to this race. My long runs lately have only been 10-15 milers on the weekends.