Monday, May 27, 2013

2013 Run Across Georgia

A great race and a great Memorial Day weekend (plus a few days). We finished the 260 miles with a strong push across the tape, and am really looking forward to next years event.

(Plus, this was a great way to lose that pesky last 11 pounds that I've been struggling to rid myself of)

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Itching for a piece of gnarly trail

I mentioned a couple of days ago that with the Summer heat approaching, I'm getting excited about starting my North Face Endurance Challenge training.

While I love training and training cycles, I especially love this time of year and what it means to me. Really, it only means one thing in particular; Time to get out on Pine Mountain Trail again. That puts a smile on my face every time I think about it:)

The funny thing is, the trail kicks my butt every single time I put serious mileage into it. I've had some epic tales of crash and burn, dehydration, overexposure, etc., but I keep on going back for more.

How DOES one explain that? Well, for me, I just love training out in that ultra gnarly, rooted and rocky wilderness of single track goodness.

Take a look at some of these pics..

How about running through some of this technical glory when your legs are full of lead and you can barely pick up your feet? Face plant waiting to happen...

One of the great things about the PMT is that it has some pretty decent downhill stretches, but they're extremely technical, full of rocks, boulders and sharp switchbacks. It's a constant challenge to be able to really get some leg turnover, while trying to maintain balance and speed to keep you from peeling off a ridge line. Like I said, it's addictive.

For the North Face Endurance Challenge in September, I can't think of a better trail system to be running on. It separates the strong from everyone else. If you finish the race here, you have demonstrated some very tough character and iron-clad determination. You just can't "fake it" in this terrain.

Trust me, I know!

Monday, May 20, 2013

2013 North Face Endurance Challenge ; Looking towards Pine Mountain, GA

If you've read this blog for any time at all, you know how much I love this race. A couple of years ago, it was my virgin ultra and began a long string of epic tales of mishap and fulfillment. I think that's the thing about ultras; some of the best events you can remember are the ones you blew up in completely.  That's just the attraction this race series has on me, and I can't wait for September to get here.

At the inaugural race, I met Dean Karnazes after my 50k finish (abysmal time, so I won't even repeat it) and he told me that the Pine Mountain Trail system was the most technically difficult traiil that the ECS series is run on. That's a pretty impressive statement, but I have no problem whatsoever in believing it. PIne Mountain is a rock and root garden with non-stop ups and downs along some of the most gnarly single track trail you could ever want to run.

I love it.

But on race day, it's a beast. For the 50 miler on that day, it just requires a mental focus that is tough to maintain over a full day. I've had two less than stellar performances in the 50 mile distance and I can't help but wonder if I have the capacity to complete the 50 miler on this course. I want to, I want to really badly. But it is the most unforgiving course I can imagine. For many runners on race day, their initial meeting with Pine Mountain Trail isn't a kind one. Not in the least.

It's because of those reasons that I will, no doubt, be on the starting line again around 5am on race day, looking to push the envelope as far as I possibly can. Last year, the excessive heat took me down hard around Mile 30. This year, I am training harder, WAY harder. I'm also going to begin at least 2 workouts per week on the Pine Mountain Trail itself. I think this will provide big benefits on race day.

But, I could be dead wrong ... :(

Time to see what it's all about... SPARTAN RACE

For a long time now, I have been trying to decide whether I wanted to give one of the nationwide "obstacle races" a go. From the first YouTube video I saw covering one of these obstacle-laden, mud-filled events, I was intrigues, to say the least. But intrigue hasn't been enough to get me out on that course.

Until now.

A coworker of mine has clearly been bitten by the bug that loves the Spartan Race events, and he's a great evangelist for the upcoming sport. After hearing his stories of recent races that were run, I was excited more than I ever thought I would be. His passion for Spartan was intense, genuine and contagious.

He asked me to join him and some buddies on a team slated to run one of the Southeast regions Spartan Races.

I said "yep".

And the Spartans charge into battle for top spot on the leader boards!  #SpartanRace

Next, we pick a date from the Spartan Race website and prepare. Prepare the mind, body and sould for what promises to be a different kind of endurance event. I'm starting to believe what my Spartan Race-friend told me last week: "Be careful, pal. You'll be hooked before you realize it."

I'm starting to believe him...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Didnt expect this...

I knew Pine Mountain Trail was uber technical with rocks and roots galore, but look at what 50 miles of it did to my new pair of Hoka's.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The day draws near

The weather is getting cooler here in Georgia and this runner is pretty Happy with that fact. Training at 70 degrees is far easier than at 95 degrees. I dread the time of year when we lose actual daylight hours, but it's a trade-off so we have to take the good with the bad.

In terms of training, it continues to go very well. I have hit 97% of my workouts without problem and my body is feeling stronger each week. I've been able to put in some reasonably long trail runs on Pine Mountain, which have strengthened my overall confidence.

The Pinhoti 100 is now less than 2 months away and I'm not able to think about much else these days. I bounce between excitement and fear. Zeal and trepidation.  Enthusiasm and reluctance.  It's an emotional battle that goes on all day long, every day. I've never dealt with this before. Never.

Everything considered,  I'm more curious and excited than anything else. I keep reminding myself that this is going to be a learning experience and not some type of time trial for my mental state. It's tough though, when you try to balance your optimism and confidence with the realization that you really don't know what you're getting into simply because you have never done it before.

It drives your brain to ache just trying to piece it all together.

Welcome to my reality for the next 7 weeks.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Something feels different THIS time

Well, the weeks continue to roll on along and my training for my upcoming goal race does as well. I don't think I have mentioned it here on the blog, but I am planning on running the Pinhoti 100 Mile Endurance Run on Nov 3-4.

My first 100 miler.

A lot of differing emotions come to mind when I allow myself to think about the race. On one hand, I am completely humbled by the thought of 100 miles across 16,100 feet of elevation gain. On the other, the thought of spending up to 30 hours along the Pinhoti Trail is absolutely the most incredible way I can imagine to spend a weekend. I'm definitely going into this thing with a holy reverence for the distance, terrain and the inevitable suffering that I know is coming.

That being said, there are moments that I get so stoked, I can hardly stay seated in my chair. At this point in my training, it's gone well and I honestly think I can do this, I really do. But the fear of the unknown is real. Like, 100 miles of real.

The TNF 50 will take place 3 weeks prior to Pinhoti and I'm already registered to run it as a final 50 mile long run with aid stations. I'm not running it with any expectations other than to get in the mileage. I do, however, want to complete it within the cutoffs.  I'd be lying if I said otherwise.  Slot could change between now and TNF, but hopefully my body will continue to stay strong and get stronger with the training peak that is not far from now. It's a wait and see type of thing, but as for now, Pinhoti is ON.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Hoka ONe One Mafate's - On the way

I know, trust me I know what you're thinking. And you're right: these are about as opposite of minimalism-based shoes as you can get. I know. But Karl Meltzer, Dave Mackey, and the countless other trail runners that wear them, can't all be wrong. And the thought of the North Face 50 miler and some extremely technical Pine Mountain Trail, both make me willing to see what all the hype is about. We'll see as soon as they arrive...

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

North Face Endurance Challenge: We're less than 60 days out..

You guys know I've been part of the 50k and 50 miler in the first two years of its existence, and the 50 miler is absolutely on my target list for October in Pine Mountain, GA. If you need some additional, well, motivation, check this out:

Saturday, August 4, 2012

My wife hates them; but I'm nailing them to my feet

I used to make fun of people that I saw wearing them, but now I'm a believer. While they may not make a solid fashion statement (although I do like bright and "loud" shoes, sometimes), they fit my personality to a T.
After a couple of short runs, I can feel my calves working harder to provide the recoil I've been missing all along. Wearing them casually through the house, yard, Target, etc also helps allow free motion in my feet, connective tissues, and toes. This is a completely new experience to me, but I'm really digging the FiveFingers love...

I'll keep you posted as to how long the love affair lasts. My wife may end up throwing them in the lake...

Friday, August 3, 2012

1Hundred: The Film Project

As many of you already know, my absolute crowning achievement, goal race for 2013 will be the Leadville 100 Mile Race Across the Sky. I'm really stoked that this Fall will see the release of a documentary that follows 3 ultrarunners as they train for, and compete in the race. Since I think about running Leadville no fewer than 10 times per day, every day, this is a must-see for me.

Here's the trailer if you're interested in seeing what this legendary (and I mean LEGENDARY) 100 miler is all about.

Transitional running shoes and a Brooks pureFlow Review

I have spent the past few months putting a lot of work into trying to improve my running efficiency and economy. With the incredible press coverage around Chris McDougal's "Born to Run" book last year, the minimalist movement has really kicked into full swing over the past 18 months. I must admit that this pre-occupation with minimalism always struck me personally as yet another passing fad, and I just wasn't going to bite on that hook.

Fast forward to late Winter of this year, and I began to experiment with running shoes that were classified as "Transitional". What this ends up meaning is that some running shoes target around a 6mm heel-to-toe drop differential. It's not quite minimal in structure, as that implies anywhere between a zero-drop to a 4mm drop. But, the key benefit of the transitional running shoe is that it begins the process of helping you get more comfortable with focusing on your mechanics and your gait. Heel striking is a bad, bad thing for most people, and it certainly was for me. Moving to a transitional shoe was the starting point for getting my economy closer to what it should be.

Now enters the Brooks pureFlow

Out of the box, the pureFlow ("Flow's") are a good fit. They combine a nice, wide toe box (this is completely relative to your specific foot, of course) with a padded collar that really provides a snug but cushioned fit around the foot. The heel cushioning is still there since this is a transition shoe, as opposed to a minimalist shoe in which the cushioning is really non-existent.

From the perspective of comfort on the run, I've found them to be easilly as comfortable as the ASICS Kayano and Nimbus that I ran in for many years, but without the monster heel outsole wedge. Again, because the focus here is to encourage your body to be able to adapt to a forefoot strike pattern, having a minimal shoe drop ratio is key. My old ASICS maintained somewhere around a 23mm heel-to-toe drop ratio. Far too high to be able to let my feet and connective tissues absorb and return the energy that I was expending on the road. The primary goal of a transition or minimal shoe is to allow your lower body and legs to do what they were created to do. No orthotics, no heel wedge, no arch support, nothing.

With over 300 miles on my 2nd pair of them, the Brooks pureFlow does just that. And it does it very, very well.

Elvis may be dead, but I'm still here

Fast forward through a very hot, humid (just like I like it:)) summer in Georgia, and I find myself running around 40-45 miles per week under the typical slowdown that occurs when running in 95 degree heat. I manage to avoid this most of the time since I still do the majority of my training after the midnight hour, but it's still at least 75 degrees when I head outside to run. Nonetheless, I'm targeted now and moving forward toward the goals I have set for myself.  

I know, I know. I also hate it when I'm a regular blog reader and the author just goes missing for a few months. About the time you get into a "flow" with what the blog writer is working through, dealing with, etc, he/she just vanishes with no explanation.

I'm guilty, there's no doubt about it. But I'm back on the horse again now, so let's get it back going, shall we?

What's been happening:
Around the time of my last post back in March, I was coming to slowly realize that the 100k effort I had put forth earlier in February had begun to take it's toll on my body, my mind and my ongoing training. If you recall (and you'd have great memory if you can), I finished the Iron Horse 100 in February. I marveled at how quickly I seemed to recover from that race. Actually, I was back to routine training within the 5 days following the race, and I remember being astounded at how quickly my body had shook off the ill effects that accompany a 100k race. In short, I thought I was much tougher and stronger than I ended up truly being.

By the end of March, my fitness, motivation and enthusiasm all seemed to just take a nose dive. Not only did I not really want to get out and train on a daily basis, I couldn't even seem to put together a decent run at a decent pace. Fatigue was all I felt. Heavy legs, labored breathing and a boat load of discouragement were what I typically felt following a run. At the end of it, I just couldn't understand what was happening to me, and I began to wonder if simple aging was rearing its head and affecting my overall fitness. I'm 42 years old, just for reference, so I'm not as young as I used to be, of course. Was this what getting older feels like? I didn't like it at all. Not one bit. I gradually accepted the fact that my fitness level had diminished (for whatever reason) and chose to begin from the beginning and start re-building.

Where I'm at now:

Goal #1: The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler
There was never any doubt that I have to revisit this race and redeem my poor performance last year. I'm trying to attack it differently this year and have been making a few forays into the Pine Mountain Trail for the much-needed on-the-course training that I was lacking last year at this time. This is my goal, focus race for the remainder of 2012, and I've actually managed to secure a trail running partner to join me (at the Starting line, at least). If you remember me talking about Tim running the Iron Horse 100 with me back in February, you'll recall how much of a help he was in those long, early miles of the race. He's registered to run the 50 miler as well, so I'll have company along the course and that's a big, big plus on my side.

With the race less than 75 days away, I'm really stoked about getting people signed up and at the Starting line in October. If you're anywhere near the state of Georgia, I can't recommend this series of race highly enough. From the 5k to the 50 miler, there's a distance that will meet your fancy and give you an incredible trail running experience in the process.

Click Here to Register for The North Face Endurance Challenge

Thursday, March 29, 2012

New kicks on the way

I just ordered my latest pair of perhaps the single best minimalist training shoe on the planet, the 2nd iteration of the Brooks Green Silence. I ran in the first release of this shoe back in 2010, but I was in about 1 full size too small, so my review of it was less than comfortable. Needless to say, I'm totally stoked about getting this shoe in, on and hitting the pavement.

I'll have a review of it as soon as I have a chance to run a few miles in it.

One thing I'll say also; the color scheme has come a long long way from the original Ronald McDonald clown-looking color scheme the shoe debuted in.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Next race is now on the Schedule

I have been wanting to run this race for at least 4 years and I have finally managed to get registered before it sold out. By all accounts, and by the many, many legendary race reports out on the web, the Twisted Ankle Trail Marathon promises to be an epic battle of stamina, endurance and just plain get-er-doneness.

From the many people that have run this event in the past several years, the RD is somewhat of a sadomasochist. From what I read, she just flat enjoys making people reach the "red line" of their performance band and she then keeps them there for hours. There are no "easy" spots in this race; no "small" climbs; no "little" descents. No, everything about this race is an order of magnitude in difficulty and strain. The first couple of miles see the runners forced to climb "Becky's Bluff" which looks to be around 60 degrees. If you notice the elevation chart below, the course has you either climbing straight up or blazing straight down. Nothing in between.

Sweet, huh?

This one is gonna be fantastic!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ultimate Direction Katoa II: A review

I was doing some Spring cleaning in our garage a few days ago, and I finally made it into our storage/utility room that serves as my "Man Cave" of sorts. No, I don't have a theater system or surround sound, it's actually just a storage room where I can stash all of my running gear without fear of my wife reminding me of how badly it stinks. With a wife and three boys, I don't get much storage space around the house, so this is a shrine for me.

While cleaning my "shrine", I came across a medium-sized box that contained many (and I mean MANY) different handhelds, waistpack carriers, fuel belts, one bottle systems, two bottle systems and even a hydration bladder setup that I recently won from Nathan Performance Labs. I don't think there is a single hydration option on the market that I don't already have at least two of. With the exception of the Nathan bladder system, I've used all of these bottle systems many times over, and I've come to know each of their strengths as well as limitations. The setup I choose on race morning greatly depends upon which options fits best for the race I'm participating in. It's all about dealing with the race-day variables for hydration.
At least, that was the case until the Katoa II. From my perspective, this particular pack from Ultimate Direction, has changed the way I think about hydration packs. The long and short of it is that the Katoa II may be the perfect waist pack. In fact, I'll go even further and say that I can't think of a single thing in which UD could improve upon. Seriously, it's THAT good.

Having used several single bottle waist packs in previous races over the last 7 years, my complaints are the same as many other runners:

* too bulky
* fit is not secure
* bouncing
* not enough storage pouches
* "slosh" around during running

UD has addressed each of these former problems with the Katoa II. Because it's a 2-bottle system, it doesn't feel bulky at all. The bottles serve to counter-balance one another, and the result is a more minimal feel in terms of weight and where it sits on your hips. The Katoa also has a thick waist strap and buckle that do not slip during the run. In this design, that snug fit helps you focus on your running and not on how much your waist pack keeps sliding down your hips. The Katoa also provides ample storage space for gels/nutrition, cell phone, a shell/jacket and small foot care kit. In all honesty, there is more storage capacity in this pack that I've ever seen in a hydration bladder setup, which is pretty impressive.

And the biggest selling point of the Katoa II is it's hydration capacity. Two 22-oz bottles give you enough fluid capacity to get you from one aid station to the next, and that's really all I ask of a pack. The storage and pockets/pouches are icing on the cake, but the fluid capacity is the reason we're here. Based upon my experience in the recent 100k, a couple of marathons and numerous training runs, the UD Katoa II waist pack is a piece of must-have gear for any ultrarunner needing to care for himself on the trail.

Friday, February 24, 2012

2012 Iron Horse 100k race report

This race morning began much like the many, many others that have come before it. Yet, it was different. I went through the routine steps and process of waking, getting ready quietly while my wife and our three sons slept. A pre-race breakfast was had, drop bags were checked and re-checked. And yes, nerves were checked and re-checked as well. I dressed for the day, attached my gear and double-checked everything one final time.

Like I said though, this was different.

As I stood alone in the pre-dawn darkness at the race venue, I stood there staring at the Start/Finish banner now stretched across the trail, and my mind just kept going back to October 18, 2011. It was on that day, on a morning much like this, that I stood on the front side of the Pine Mountain trailhead, awaiting the 50 mile journey of the North Face Endurance Challenge. You already know how that day turned out; how my race plan fell apart and so did I. How I looked the Mollyhugger aid station Captain in the eye and said "I'm done". Everything that has occurred to bring me to this day, began on THAT day. Quitting just plain hurts, and today was my chance for redemption.

Chris Rodatz, the Race Director, gave a pre-race briefing at 6:30am, and the gun sounded at 7am. The race was now underway, and all of the nervous energy I had been storing now finally had an outlet to escape through.

The first section of the trail is a 1.78 mile out and back. This nearly 4 miles moved along fine, but there was definitely some congestion amongst the 226+ runners sharing the path. We progressed into the woods after this point, and the pack of runners began to thin as some of the rabbits starting pushing the pace at the front of the pack. I had slipped into a group of about 12 fellow runners, but was primarily running with a guy I met via the Facebook page I set up for the event. Tim was chasing his first 50 miler today, and I had planned on tagging with him for at least the first 25 miles of the race. Knowing that I was going to be running in the woods for at least 12 - 16 hours today made the thought of having a running companion that much more appealing. The time just goes so much faster when you've got someone to talk to on the trail.
As we entered the woods around Mile 7, the footing became a bit more tricky. I wouldn't call the terrain overly technical, but there were enough roots and rocks buried beneath the leaves to make attention a requirement. Having said that, however, I don't think I recall a single face plant all day long. That's pretty unusual for an ultra.

I have forgotten to mention the current weather situation for the race, sorry. Up to this point, there was considerable cloud cover throughout. The temperature was hovering somewhere around 60 degrees or so, and the humidity was definitely on the higher side of the scale, due to the rains that had preceeded us on the days leading up to the race. Admittedly, this is far warmer and more humid than what I would traditionally consider "optimal ultra weather" for a race. Ideally, 40 degrees with zero humidity is optimal. Getting up near 60 degrees can begin to cause issues for runners. If the sun breaks through the heavy cloud cover, all bets are off, and runners will begin to drop like flies. It's just that simple.

The first 25 miles of the race progressed without much issue. The clouds remained in place, and the tree canopy was present for most of the race course. The occassional bit of exposure was not a big deal since the sun was obscurred by the clouds.

I had been religiously following my race plan for the aid stations. From the beginning, I was eating at every aid station (bordering on eating TOO much, actually), filling my bottles, and thanking the volunteers. I was wearing the Ultimate Direction Katoa II waist pack, which contains two 22oz handheld bottles. Here's one thing I didn't care for with the race: the official electrolyte replacement drink. Because Hammer Nutrition is a big sponsor for the race, HEED was the drink on the course. Now, HEED is not my favorite drink by a long shot. Not even close. On race day, I couldn't stomach a single cup of it. Because of this, I elected to only use water in my handhelds and rely on S-Caps for sodium replacement on the run. I've never relied solely on water during a race before, so this was a departure from training, which is a no-no. From PBJ sandwiches, potatoes, cookies, gels, etc., I worked each aid station for the 250-300 calories per  hour I knew I needed to keep my energy levels sustained, and this worked very well.

As I mentioned, I was running with a local guy named Tim, and we were moving pretty solidly through the marathon mark. I will say, though, that because I was running at a slower pace, the mental game was tougher. I had been running for over 5 hours and had not even hit the 50k mark yet, and that was a tough hurdle to get over, mentally. I knew that once I hit the 31 mile mark, I would feel much, much better about the race. It seemed like it took another hour or so, but we crossed the 50k mark and life seemed to get much easier. In fact, while many other runners were visibly struggling at this point, I began to run stronger with each passing mile. I remember thinking to myself (in fact, I said it to Tim verbally) that I feel stronger right now at mile 35 than I did at mile 15. My legs felt strong and quick, my turnover had actually increased and I was in the happy place as we moved down the trail. Looking back at it now with a clear head, I am absolutely CERTAIN that the reason for this is directly due to my consistent intake of calories. Only once did I ever feel the ebb of calorie depletion on the run, and I know that is what made the difference at this stage of the race.

Moving into the 40's, I continued to make full use of the aid stations and my S-Caps. I also was religious in drinking my bottles in between aids. At this point, I had been running for 7-8 hours, and there were a few stretches of trail in which I got tired of the aid station food that was offered. It was at this point that my drop bags saved the day. In an ultra, it's extremely important that you utilize your drop bags as a "mini-grocery store" of  your favorite nutritional aids. At some point in a race, you're going to get tired of pbj sandwiches, pringles, cookies, and M&M's. It's at that  point that you need to be able to hit a drop bag and pull out whatever food works well for you. I only had to do it twice, but my drop bags really came through for me by allowing me to not break my stride in calorie replenishment. If there is a lesson to be learned from this race report, let this be it.

Nearing the 50 mile mark, I knew that I would be dropping my running pal, Tim. He was completing his first 50 miler and was experiencing some cramping issues in the process. It was still daylight, but I knew darkness was soon coming, and I couldn't wait for it to get here. Remember, I train almost exclusively around the midnight hours, so darkness is something I'm well used to running in. Also, the temps and humidity moderate when the sun goes down. Thirdly, I just think it's cool running through the woods at nighttime. Weird? Probably.

Tim finished the 50 miler strong and I'm really glad I was able to spend time with him on the trail. Good conversation made 50 miles seem alot more like 20, and I'm extremely grateful for the company along the way. As he crossed the Finish line, I stopped at the aid station and the volunteers re-filled my bottles. By this time, it was completely dark so I picked up my headlamp from my drop bag. After grabbing some food from the aid, I headed down the trail for the 4 mile turnaround section that would bring me back to this aid station and then out into the darkness of the wildnerness for the remaining 12 miles. 2 miles into this journey, I realized that the majority of runners had already either dropped, dropped down to the 50 miler and finished, or were on the entire opposite side of the course than was I. I saw a headlamp occassionally, but was completely alone for a few hours.

Miles 50-54 went by smoothly. Physically, I felt fine. My legs weren't very sore, I didn't have any lingering fatigue that was noticeable, and my feet were holding up as well. I'll certainly admit that the countless thousands of footsteps were making my feet feel beat up to a degree, but I didn't have any overt pain anywhere. This surprised me, to be completely honest. At mile 54, I reached an aid station and once again had my bottles re-filled. I have still been taking my S-Caps, so I had no cramping at all. The nice lady volunteer at this aid was extremely helpful and asked if she could get me anything. I said to her that I couldn't think of anything but that I was going to borrow a chair and change my shoes. While I sat down, I'll never forget her asking me if I would like some chicken noodle soup. Chicken noodle is a staple of middle-of-the-night ultra running and it seems to have the magical ability to revive a weary runner.
As this angel of a lady brought me a cup of chicken noodle soup, an incredibly wonderful smell hit my nose. Bratwurst... I asked her what the smell was, and it was indeed brat dogs that some guys were grilling for post-race festivities. It was hillarious how she said this next piece:  " don't want to eat one of those NOW, do you? How will that possibly sit on your stomach as you run out into the woods for the remainder of the race?" I told her it would be fine, and yes, I would LOVE to have one now. She was back in a few moments with a huge Bratwurst for me, and I think I inhaled the thing! After 12 hours of pbj, cookies, Gu's, chips, potatoes, etc., something as substantial as a dog was just what the doctor ordered. I gobbled everything up, drank the soup, and headed out for the trailhead that led to the woods.

I cruised up the trail and into the woods and saw even fewer runners than before. Every 30 minutes or so, I would see a sole headlamp coming slowly toward me. By this stage in the race, I knew I would finish and that the buckle was mine. I also knew that running in the completely dark woods is a bit more tricky in terms of footing, so I slowed down and took a tremendous amount of care with foot placement. After about 60 minutes, I reached the aid station near the 100k turnaround point. I'm not going to go into much detail on this one, but these two gentlemen had cooked up two huge pots of shrimp gumbo and lentil soup. In the middle of the woods, in complete utter darkness (aside from the generator-fed lights that illuminated the aid station). I graciously accepted a cup of shrimp gumbo and took it with me down the trail toward the 100k turnaround at .3 mile further. On my inbound return to that aid, I received a cup of lentil soup as I left and filled one of my 22oz bottles with Coke. Time for the jet fuel to bring me the remaining miles to the finish.

With about 4 miles left, I pulled out my cellphone from the side pouch of my Katoa II hydration pack and called my wife to let her know I was inbound and about an hour from the finish. It was great to hear her voice and know that this was about to reach its climax. Having been on the trial since pre-dawn, I can honestly say I was looking forward to just being with her and our sons and just relaxing the remainder of the weekend. It's getting closer with each step I take....

I pass a handful of 100 milers on their 3rd outbound loop through the woods and they're definitely feeling the miles. Most are lucid, but several are pretty close to comatose. I encourage them as best I can, and continue to move toward the Finish. As I finally break from the trail at Mile 65.3, I begin to hear faint music and cheering in the distance. I pick up my pace and start to make quicker progress. Over the horizon, I see a headlamp pointing in my direction, yet it doesn't appear to be moving closer. As I get closer, I get a phone call from one of our sons and he says "we see you". Within moments, I come across them waiting on the trail, camera in hand. I get a sweaty kiss from my wife and we take a couple of dark-as-night photos with my sons. At this point, I turn to my wife and say "I'm going to run this one on in". And that's what I do.

As I ran that final .1 of a mile, I began to enter into the habitated tent-village of a Finish area and people along the sides of the trail began to hoop and clap. Many, many enthusiastic supporters clapping and shouting encouragement and congratulations to me as I ran by. Such a great community the ultra crowd is. With 30 yards remaining to the Finish line, I pass by the final aid station where the RD is sitting, and I yell "Runner 121 INBOUND!!!!" and with that, cross the Finish line with a shout and a fist pump, having reached a goal that was 4 months and nearly 1,000 miles in the making. Sweaty hugs with my family, some Finish line photos by my wife, and Chris, the RD, handed me my buckle and said "Congratulations. Nice, nice race"

I couldn't have agreed more.

A nice, nice race indeed.

Sunday, February 19, 2012



Iron Horse Endurance Run 100k: 15:29:45 (unofficial)

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Sorry guys, I didn't quite get to posting my last entry before we left town for the race. My week was busy with the start of Little League season, school projects and quizzes, and a number of other things.

My wife, our three boys and I just arrived in Florida and I'm now less than 36 hours from starting the 100k adventure.  I'm ready to run, I feel strong and rested and I truly feel up to the test of the 62.2 miles that lie ahead of me. Time will tell, but I don't have any real fear about this race.

I will finish this race and redeem myself from the TNF 50 last October.  Period.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Iron Horse 100 is in sight...

The days are dwindling now and I am about 9 days away from my first goal race of 2012, the Iron Horse 100 Endurance Run. Words really can't convey just how stoked I am for this race. Here's a recap of the past 2 weeks.

Last week saw me run around 42 miles as I began to taper, sort of. As I have mentioned before, I don't typically adhere to a 3 week taper. Instead, I usually adopt a 2 week taper that helps me show up at the starting line in good shape. This cycle is no different. 

The biggest thing I've noticed in the 4 month build up for this race is just how much I've made myself slow down the pace. This has been something that had to happen, but it's such a change in how I run, I'm finding it bothersome.  Rather than maintaining a training pace of 8:12 per mile, I'm more along the line of 9:30 pace per mile. Prelims I said though, for 100k, I have to slow down my pace.

I have also successfully navigated this training cycle without injury. I did succumb to a case of bronchitis at 3 weeks pre-race,  but that's pretty typical for me. After training so hard for those peak mileage weeks, my immune system is just too compromised. All in all, I can't complain at all about how well I've held up, physically.

One thing that is also cool from the last couple of weeks is this; I actually won a Facebook contest about a week ago. The grand prize, you ask? A $250 Nathan Performance Lab gift package. Talk about suweeet!! I haven't received it yet, but I'm definitely excited to find out what's included in the package.

Next post will contain my drop bag plan and the various items I will be packing for the race. As this is an out and back X 4, this aspect should be a fairly easy layout.

Monday, January 30, 2012

2012 Callaway Gardens Marathon race report

2012 Callaway Gardens Marathon (Plus an extra 7 miles or so of fun and frivolity, just to have some additional fun)

Today marked 3 weeks out from my start of the 2012 Iron Horse 100 Mile Endurance Run. As I'm running the 100k event, today was also scheduled to be my longest long run of training, with a 50k scheduled to happen. Fortunately for me, the Callaway Gardens Marathon is also scheduled for this very same weekend.

After my overly-understanding, incredibly patient, not-understanding-yet-accepting-of-me wife gave me the needed dispensation of grace for paying the $$ to register for it, I slipped into Late Registration the day before. Now my required long run could take place on a course I run often, and with a good number of fellow runners. This is so much more better than running such a distance by myself and in the middle of the night. I was pretty excited that it worked out so well.

To consolidate this report as much as possible, here are the relevant details of pre-race: Fueling plan on Saturday (day before teh run) went according to plan. Pretty much adopted a fluid-only fueling strategy (Boost Plus is my friend). Clothing was shorts, The North Face arm sleeves, CEP calf compression sleeves, Nike compression short sleeve beneath a New Balance podium short sleeve technical shirt, and Nike Thermal gloves. I'm just now realizing how I sound with this description, and it does appear that I must have wandered into a running store clearance sale on gear. Multi-vendor mish-mash of my favorite running trinkets, but that's how I roll, I guess. I'm cheap, what can I say?

I also elected to wear my new Ultimate Direction Katoa II hydration waist pack (thanks honey). I decided that because this was to be a training run for race day, I would depend upon myself for nutritition, and not the aid stations along the course. The Katoa II provided me with (2) 22 oz bottles for hydration along with multiple big zippered pouches that I used for stashing my supply of Gu, S-caps, etc. All things considered, this configuration worked very well for me today.

From a pacing perspective, I am reasonably satisfied with how the day went. Again, I was NOT wanting to "race" this marathon. I had to keep telling myself that it's a training run. A 31+ mile long training run, and I need to take it slowly. Ideally, I was hoping to be able to keep my pace no faster than a 10:00-10:15 pace. No matter how hard I tried, I could not make myself go any slower than a 9:23. That seemed to be where my body "locked on" and it just hung there, no matter how hard I tried to slow it down more. In the latter miles of the race, though, I did have an epiphany on how to slow it down. I began to walk through the aid stations. I didn't stop, but found that if I walked, it would add some time on my feet, and that's what I was shooting for in the training run.

When I crossed the Finish line, the clock read somewhere around 4:23:22, which is way slower than my normal marathon times, but still way too fast for what I was planning on hitting. Either way, it was a great race with some great other runners along the course. This helps make all the difference, in my opinion. Just being out there with others is such a boost when you're comparing it to running this kind of distance solo. I'm really thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in this one.

Once I had stowed all of my gear and unneeded clothing in the Hummer, (it was much, much warmer by this time of day) I went out along the lakeside and hammered out another 6 miles or so to breath that 31.1 mile goal I had.

In summary, todays run gave me the mental boost it was intended to do, and I'm really stoked as I look forward to the Iron Horse 100 in three weeks. I will reach 200 miles of training for the month of January, and that's pretty sweet. I will likely begin to taper my mileage sometime next weekend and prepare my body for what I know is going to be the toughest challenge I have faced to date.

Happy running, guys. I hope your training continues to improve.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Iron Horse 100k training update and has anyone seen Winter??

It's barely over a month until I toe the starting line at the Iron Horse 100k in Florahome, and I'm feeling pretty stoked about it. In a lot of ways, this event has been the culmination of many things. For some time now, I've obviously wanted to compete in a 100k event. I'm also eager to get down to central Florida in the winter time to enjoy some warm racing temperatures. But...

If I am completely honest about it, this race is about one thing and one thing only, and that's redemption. There still isn't a day that goes by without me re-living the catastrophic turn of events that was my "2011 North Face Endurance Challenge 50 miler" last October along the Pine Mountain Trail. I would be lying if I said I've put it behind me. I haven't. I haven't even tried. I honestly don't want to put it behind me because I don't ever want to forget what it feels like to just give up in a race, no matter the suffering. In four weeks, I'll have my chance to redeem my courage, my will, and yes, my pride.

On the training side of things, everything has progressed well to this point. I've been logging between 45 and 55 miles per week for months now, and I'm still training 6 days per week. I've had injuries this season (praise God) and I've brought my weight back down to pre-Christmas level. These next 2 weeks will see my mileage peak somewhere around 60 miles and then I'll begin to pull back into a "pseudo-taper" of maybe 2 weeks or so. While I will reduce my training intensity, I'll likely continue to run around 40 miles per week up until the weekend before the race.

At this point, I'm planning on taking the last 5 days off from running entirely. (I know, we'll see how well I hold to that one..) I want to give myself every chance to arrive at the race fresh and rested. This race is a 100k, not a 100 miler, so I'm not worried about it, honestly. I do respect the fact that this is over 62 miles of racing, and I'm going to enforce a smart pacing plan for race day. If I'm disciplined on that day, I hope to be able to cross the finish line in something less than 16 hours. Time will tell, but I think that goal is in reach.

In my next post, I'll share the volume of "ultra stuff" and gear I'm planning on taking with me.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Trying not to get ahead of myself ... again

My training for the Iron Horse 100 Endurance Run continues to move ahead nicely. I've been averaging 45-50 miles per week of training and have completed at least two 22 milers in the past few weeks. My midweek runs continue in the 6-8 miles per day range and I'm being fairly consistent about taking one day per week completely off from running. All in all, I'm happy with how things are moving forward towards February 18.

With the 100k now less than 6 weeks away, I'm nearing my peak mileage weeks of training, so I'm now starting to lean even more heavily on the weekend long runs and the back-to-back component that goes with them. For instance, I'm planning on running around 22 miles this Saturday morning, and will follow it up on Sunday with another 10 mile LSD run. This is a huge departure from marathon training tactics, and I'll be honest, it's not particularly easy to accomplish. It is making me stronger though, and I do believe that my endurance and mental toughness is seeing a benefit from it. I once heard a fellow ultra runner say that running a 100 miler is 90% mental, and the other 50% is physical. I'm believing that more and more.

I know how many of you have an absolutely hatred for the treadmill in your training, so I know you'll get a kick out of this. A few days ago, I needed to run a 24 miler. No problem, right? Wrong. Mother Nature brought a thunderstorm of epic proportions to our area and there was simply no way for me to spend 4+ hours out in it. What did I do? Bag the 24? Skip the run? Wait until another day?

You got it. I ran the miles on the ole treadmill. That's a LLLLLONG time to run on a treadmill, let me tell you. I started about 10 minutes after midnight, and I stepped off the 'mill at 4:25am. I don't know how I managed to do it, honestly, but I did. My relationship with our 'mill is a Love/Hate one. Sometimes, we get along fine; other times we hate each other.

Here's hoping noone has to do what I did...

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mizuno bucks the minimalist trend

I was at a local running store tonight with our three sons, and we eventually made it to the back of the store to look through the latest running shoes. I was at this same store last night, and did the same exact thing, but hey, something new could have come in overnight, right?

I'm looking through the shoe porn lining the walls, and I'm counting the many shoes I either have owned, or currently own and run in. I see my precious favorite, ultra-light and flexible Brooks Pure Flows, my tried and true Nike LunarFlys, and the New Balance Minimus Trail (MT101). All are perennial favorites of mine because they have no more than a 4 mm heel-to-toe drop, are extremely light (less than 9.3 oz) and flexible.

And then, I lay eyes upon THIS:
The massively bulky, unquestionably heavy, all-encompassing, support-laden, molded, melded and minimalist trend bucking Mizuno Wave Prophecy.

I actually started laughing out loud upon seeing this monstrosity on the shelf. It took a little effort, but I managed to get it picked up off the display rack.

A lead bowling ball is what it felt like. About that comfortable to wear, I imagine as well. As an advocate for "less shoe" in my running footwear, I absolutely fail to see what cave Mizuno must be living in if they expect the general running population to buy the very antithesis of what the minimalist movement stands for. While I certainly understand that runners come in many shapes and forms, trying to hammer out training miles in a shoe that weighs nearly double what most conventional trainers weigh today, is a questionable strategy by Mizuno.

I will admit that the shoe does look nice from the sheer aesthetic perspective. The color choices are sharp and distinct, and heck, there are many of them. Of course, the shoe has so much, well, shoe, it's easy to incorporate alot of colors into it.

Next time you find yourself in a running store, see if they carry this puppy and take a look. If you ate your Wheaties for breakfast, you may even be able to actually pick it up.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Running where only goats can live

I ran (no pun intended) across these photos from last months Hardrock 100 Mile Endurance Run in Silverton, CO. For those of you not familiar with the ultra scene, Hardrock is widely regarded as the most difficult 100 miler in the nation. The sheer elevation (over 9000 ft) makes finishing the race very difficult. The 24000+ feet of ascent through the Rockies makes it even tougher. These runners are STUDS:
Don't slip
Breathtaking vistas across the Rocky Mountain plateau

I would pay $$ to run this trail. Incredibly. Beautiful.

The ultragoodies are showing up under the Christmas tree

I just picked up a great deal on a new double-bottle waist pack from Ultimate Direction. I'm really excited to get this one in since I only have a couple of single bottle waist packs. For the 100k in February, having the double fluid capacity is going to be a big plus. I just really don't dig carrying handhelds, especially for 62 miles.

Once I've had a chance to run with it on a long run, I'll post a review.

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