Thursday, April 28, 2011

A feudal effort . . . but an effort none the less!

Talk about 'no pressure' races.  This coming weekend's race in Goldsboro is nothing but fun!  All excuses are set in stone.  Lot's of reasons to not do well!

But, you never know what to expect on race day!  Anything can happen . . . ANYTHING!

Legs could feel tired.  But legs COULD feel strong!  No possible way to predict which legs will show up Saturday.  But no reason to feel defeated before I start!

I'm guessing by 20-30 miles I'll pretty much know how I'll feel.  But even then, you really just don't know!  The ups and down / peaks and valleys of an ultra run continue to amaze me!  In 5 minutes I can go from feeling like I'm ready to die, to feeling like I could just go on forever!  I've learned to NEVER make a snap decision ultra running.  Be sure you go for 10 miles or so, at least!!  Things change!

Here is what I hope . . .
  • I get to 50 miles before I even start thinking.
  • I can stay moving until at least daylight.  I've never gone past 2:30 am!
If I do those two things I'll feel good about my day.  Past that . . .
  • 75 miles would be awesome . . . the furthest I've ever gone.  I sure would like to do that!
  • If I could make it to 75 miles by 9 am . . . damn . . . I would have a chance!  Rick Grey tells me that THAT should be my goal and then passion would take me in!  We'll see!
But realistically, 100 is a pretty far 'out there' goal.  Virtually impossible for me, given my current training and rest condition.

But, like I said . . . you never know what to expect on race day!  Anything can happen . . . ANYTHING!  But one thing I promise . . .

I WILL have fun!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

When should a dream just remain a dream?

Warning to both of you readers!
This is nothing entertaining here . . . at all!  Realistically, there is NO REASON to read this.  I've just written it to help me sort things out.  And I do believe I feel slightly better now.  But seriously . . . save your time and skip this one.


I can't help but be torn between two saying:
  • Never, ever give up! and
  • Some things are just not to be!
My dream is really quite simple (and cheap!) . . . complete a 100 mile endurance event.

The dream has been with me now for about five years.  It started in 2007 soon after becoming a member of the Mangum Track Club.  Trust me . . . these folks are a REALLY bad influence on you!  And it became a full-fledged goal when I paced the last lap with Cam Kelly and saw him accomplish this seemingly impossible feat.  I've now tried to accomplish this twice and failed both times.  So now I'm thinking about this dream.  Should I try again?  Or not?

For me three major questions come to mind:
  • Can I realistically do this?
  • Should I try again?
  • Should keep on with my current strategy or re-train  to use a different strategy?
 Can I realistically do this?
I honestly do believe the answer to the first question is yes, it is possible.  Men and women much older then I do this regularly.  And my health is good.  So this should be possible.  Period.

Should I try again?
This is not quite so clear.  It's a lot of work . . . and pain.  And why?  What is the point really.

Quite frankly I really don't like where my fitness is right now.  In order to run the Umstead 100 I've spent literally months in training.  My strategy was to go slow and steady.  So I trained to walk every two minutes and run one.  I thought this was smart.  Now I'm not so sure.

Today, even on a 3 mile run, I'm finding myself walking!  And when I try to run faster then normal, I get out of breath quickly.  I hate to think of how long it would take me to finish a 5k right now!!

Plus, walking is now a mental habit I would need to break. Especially if I decide to move away from this 100 mile run goal.  Heck, today find myself walking and there is no physical reason at all to walk!  I just do it.  Strange.

I honestly believe a shorter, harder run gets you to a better level of fitness then where I am right now.  So, once I decide about this 100 mile goal I know I want to work to improve my speed.  I did for awhile last spring/summer and results came quickly.  It's not really all that hard to do.  I know I can.

Simply add intervals and hills one or two days each week.  And convert my long run to a shorter, but harder tempo runs.  There is work to do, sure.  But it's no harder then what I've been doing.  Just different.  And it would take way less time!

I was never really a fast runner but I wasn't the slowest runner either!  My best 5k was a 20:01.  Certainly not really fast, but respectable.  Convert that to what I might be able to run today . . . maybe 22 or 23??  That would be a good goal to strive for probably.

Should keep on with my current strategy or re-train  to use a different strategy?
So . . . IF (and I do mean 'IF') I do decide to try another 100, the remaining question is what is the best strategy for me so that I maximize my chances of achieving this dream?  Is it a continuation of my current strategy, or should I change my approach and re-develop my fitness to support a new strategy?

To answer this I have to know why I failed in the past.  Realistically you never know for sure.  But I believe I pretty much understand . . .

My first failure was not at an official 'race.'  Instead, I staged my own attempt.  My failure was likely a combination of several factors . . . 1) insufficient miles of preparation, 2) the day I chose to run was the first really hot day of the year, 3) I didn't think through a good approach for a crew and pacers.  These three things doomed my first attempt.  Notice I didn't say that trying this alone was a failure factor.  I run alone a lot.  Even at the Umstead 100 I was running alone most of the time.  It is nice seeing others while you run, but I'm not sure it is a real requirement.

My Umstead 100 failure was a combination of two factors . . . 1) a mental collapse and 2) dealing this the physical pain.

The mental collapse began when I realized that I was moving too slow to finish within the 30 hour time cutoff.  I passed 50 miles at 14:51.  Maybe I was just having a not so good day.  Maybe the hills got to me.  No matter . . . the second 50 miles just couldn't happen in another 15 hours!  While I had taken two bathroom breaks and two clothing changes during the first 50, I had slowed to only infrequent run intervals.  My last 12.5 miles took me 4 hours and 50 minutes and I walked it all!!!  That's just over a 23 minute per mile pace . . . only a moderate walking pace!

And I was hurting pretty bad.  Its hard to explain the pain.  But trust me . . . it hurts a lot!  I do know I could have kept going and now I'm wishing I had.  For sure I had at least one more lap )12.5 miles) in me . . . and possibly two.  But I'm questioning if I really could have finished the full 100.  I'm not so sure I could have.  Even with an unlimited cutoff.

But if I trained to run faster, realistically how much would this help?

More information
  • In some ways I could look at my Umstead 100 failure as a training run.  
  • Two weekends after Umstead, I traveled to the Va 24 Hour race and completed 56 miles and I knew FOR SURE I could have gone further if needed to assure that our Team Awesome won the ultra relay.  (We didn't . . . Team Awesome finished with over 800 miles . . . almost 400 miles more then our nearest competitor!).  I walked from about 30 miles on . . . I believe due to being tired from Umstead, but I kept a good walking pace.  So this, too, could be considered another training run.
So the questions now are:  Should I try again now?  Or should I re-train and attempt it again next fall?  Or should I just say to hell with this 100 miles goal of mine?  This really isn't something anyone can tell me.  It's something I've got to figure out for myself.

One of my problems is I'm not sure I can just 'give up' this goal as long as I feel like there is a chance I might be able to do it.  But in some ways that exactly what I want to do.  Let's face it, my running is excessive and compulsive.  I know it.  But right now, I just don't have anything to take it's place!

I'm mulling all this over . . . and I guess I need to decide pretty soon if I'm going to try this again this spring.

Monday, April 18, 2011

I love 24-hour races!

If you are a marathon runner or an ultra runner and have never participated in 24-hour race, you've missed a really fun format.  There is no easier way to run your first ultra then at a race like this!  Fun and low-key.  The only pressure is the pressure you put on yourself!

This last weekend I traveled to Hampton, VA to participate in Happy Pace Races (that's right  That is REALLY their name!) Virginia 24-hour Race at Sandy Bottoms Park.  The race is put on as a way to raise money for the American Cancer Society and, unlike many races that support a charity, this one really cares about it's mission.   Very cool in that area.  But realistically this race is really more of a 'fat ass' race then a real 24-hour event.  Everyone brings their own support and aide.  But the race did get some surprise food and drink which was nice, and they did have volunteers that kept up with each runners laps.

The course was a 3.75 mile route through Sandy Bottoms Park, a park of land reclaimed from trash dumps and interstate road construction residue.  Very nice place when you consider what it was like not so long ago!  For the race we left the start / finish, ran maybe a 1.5 miles next to  Interstate 64, left turn, go 1/4 mile, another left between a drainage ditch and the woods.  Follow that for a mile or so.  Big incentive here was it smelled terrible so you wanted to get by this part just as soon as you could!

Another left through the woods, another left beside a marsh back to the trail beside the interstate, right turn and 3/4 mile back to the start / finish.  We did pass some beautiful marsh areas.  The trail was for the most part a gravel road.

But the neat part of this event is the team competitions!  This added a whole new dimension to a 24-hour race.  A group of runners banning together for common support and results.  I loved this and hope other 24-hour race will pick up on this.   Competition was three ways:  1) individual runners, 2) a traditional relay where one runner passes the baton to the next runner and 3) something they called an ultra team . . . where each team member runs the full race and team member distances are added together!

Alanna's Super Team banner!!!
Our team, Team Awesome, was put together by Shannon McGinn.  This 12-person team was a team of 11 really talented runners . . . folks who have won 100 mile ultra event or have been solid 100 mile performers.  Heck, one even participated in this year's Barkley!!  Oh yea . . . and the last team member has a solid history if minimal performances in a variety of race distances, never performing at a level that could even be deem average.  Yes . . . that's me . . . the team excuse.  For more on that, see my previous post.

Sabrina, Shannon, Jessi, Jonathon, Tom and Dave . . . all one the front row!  Go Team Awesome!
But Saturday was a new day . . . and another chance for something really good to happen . . . it didn't!  By the time I had completed four laps (~15 miles) I knew my day was going to be a struggle.  My legs just got tired.  Period.  No doubt I had not fully recovered from my Umstead 100 failed attempt.

So quite early in the race I knew this was going to be a hard day!  And it was.  After about mile 35 I don't believe I ran a step.  Okay 'peanut gallery' . . . I know I don't run all that much anyway!! But this was not pretty . . . I just did what I had to do.  But this really wasn't cause for concern . . . after all I was just becoming a better 'team excuse!'

For the first half of the day, the class of the field was Sabrina Moran (another Team Awesome member!)  Sabrina lead the race for 13 hours until she had to stop due to some painful toenail issues.  Following her was Jonathan Savage.  But when the rains came in the evening Jonathan had to quit due to his weird skin disease.  Bummer, since he was running strong and had saved plenty of energy for the full 24 hours.  Sabrina ended her day with 82.5 miles,  Jonathan ended his with just a little less at 78.75 miles.

Shannon before the race.
Shannon McGinn essentially died at about mile 65 or so when the torrential rains, lightning and wind hit at maybe 8:30 or so.  Those of you that know me well, know how much I love running in a storm!  And I had a GREAT storm to run in Saturday night! Did about 2 laps in this and loved every second!  Bet we had 4 inches of rain and the trails became creeks!  Great to splash through!  Totally soaked!

I was bound and determined to finish 14 laps (a double marathon) and I had 13 complete when the rains stopped and the full moon came out!  This just keeps getting better!  I LOVE running at night (as long as I can stay awake!).  Plus, I still had the mud puddles to splash through!

So Shannon, Jim Plant, Amy Schimmel (all Team Awesome members!) joined me as we all headed out for another lap.  Amy and Jim pulled ahead, but Shannon and I just hung together, walking the lap in darkness.  Oddly, Shannon shares my love of not using a light unless you absolutely have to! About the mud puddles . . .  not so much!  Together, on that lap we solved at least 1/2 of the world's problems!  Very fun for me to get to know Shannon a little better.  Super lady!

Ray . . . photographer, master ultra legend and nice guy!
When we finished that lap, Team Awesome got together to try and decide if we needed more laps or not.  Cheryl Lager, our team member who had won last year's race with over 100 miles, wanted to finish 75 miles and needed one more lap . . . so she headed back out.  Shannon needed two more for 75 and was planning to head out after a little rest.  Amy Schimmel was out finishing her lap 14 and Jimbo had already done 14, but went out with Amy anyway!  Such a nice, fun guy! Ray Krolewicz and Tom Gabell had taken a snooze during the storms and had just come out, refreshed, to add more laps!  Not sure where these two guys ended up but you can bet with some serious miles!

Sabrina Moran on the left Tom Gabell on the right.  One was NOT paying attention at the briefing!

Jessi Kennedy and Dave Lettieri had done a ton of miles each (Dave 60 miles and Jessi I'm not sure about) and had already headed back to NJ.  Jessi had had a tough day with some back issues.  So sorry Jessi!  But I sure enjoyed our lap together!  Not often I get to 'run' with the frickin' overall winner of a 100 mile race!

Jessi, Alanna and Dave paying attention at the briefing!
 Alanna Garrison-Glast completed 52.5 miles when all was said and done.  I didn't get to spend all that much time with Alanna . . . she just runs too fast!  But this lady has the unique capacity to brighten anyone's day with her laugh and wonderful spirit!

Me . . . well I tapped out at 14 laps when the team decided we were good.  52.5 miles.  I do think I had a few more laps in me, but had little desire to do more unless it was necessary!  I admit it . . . I'm a wimp!

When I left, Shannon and Alanna were sitting in camp chairs with warm jackets on and blankets covering them.  Shannon, a cancer survivor herself, wanted to finish 2 more laps for a 75 mile day.  But after I left, Shannon, with new life, rose from the apparent dead and finishes 83.5 miles . . . the overall female winner for the event!  WOW!  Folks . . . to come back like that after mentally checking out is unbelievable!  What a TOUGH chick!

Three heroes for the days were Charles West, Sid Dos Santos and Todd Glast.  These guys served as crew for all 12 of us!!  Hard work all day and all night!  I hope I get a chance to return the favor!  Thanks to each of you!  Seriously . . . you guys ROCKED!!

Such a fun time and I loved meeting and sort of getting to know these super athletes and just good folks!

Turns out the team was right!  The 11 team members of Team Awesome set a new race record by themselves!  They didn't even need 'an excuse!!'  But 'the excuse' had a blast anyway!!  And 'the excuse' was ready if needed!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Support the Excuse!

Several months ago as I was training for the Umstead 100, my "friend" Jim Plant, asked me if I might be interested in joining a 12-person relay team to participate in the Virginia 24-hour Race.  Since the race was only two weeks after Umstead I was a little hesitant.

I was pretty sure I would be 'trashed' after my Umstead attempt at 100 miles. . . but two weeks rest was somewhat reasonable.  And this was, after all,  a relay.  So it really wouldn't be all that hard.  Heck . . . more of a party really!  The more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.  Run a few 3.75 mile laps and then pass the baton on to the next person.  So when Shannon McGinn extended the official invitation to join Team Awesome,I quickly agreed!

The team was shaping up to really be a great bunch of folks . . . some I know (Jim Plant, Amy Schimmel, Charles West, Ray Krolewicz, Shannon, Tom Gabell and Jonathan Savage) and some I'm looking forward to meeting (Alanna Garrison-Kast, Dave Lettieri, Jessi Kennedy, Cheryl Lager and Sabrina Moran).

Then . . . a few weeks before Umstead . . . I learned the truth!

This isn't really a relay!!  Oh . . . they didn't out and out LIE to me!  The race 'says' its a relay.  But in this 'relay' every team member's total miles are added together! 

That's right!  They expect me to run for 24 hours!

At Umstead I trudged along for 20 hours and about died!  This isn't looking good . . . no . . . not at all good!  Then, I started thinking of who some of these people on Team Awesome are . . . top drawer runners: 
  • Jonathan has won the FL Keys 100, and does a marathon before breakfast 3 days a week.  Heck at last year's Hinson lake 24-hour Run he finished over 132 miles!!!!
  • Jessi Kennedy WON the NJ 100 (Not just the first female . . . she won it overall!)
  • Dave just finished a 100!  (I don't know Dave yet, but heck he may have won for all I know!)
  • Charles just finished his first 100 at Umstead!
  • Jimbo has done several 100s!!!
  • Shannon has done a ton of 100s.  Not sure of all her running accomplishments but she is a top quality runner for sure!
  • Ray is a frickin' ultra legend who has run more 100s then I have marathons!!!
  • Amy is a killer runner who laps me every time.  She finished 84 miles at Umstead and would have finished except for hypothermia!  A sub 24 hour 100 is a real possibility for her.
  • Cheryl just finished attempting the frickin' BARKLEY a week ago!  That's right . . . THE BARKLEY!
And then there is me.  The slowest 61 year old runner on the east coast . . . and maybe the whole US!  I hold claim to a 90% success rate for DFL finishes (for you uninformed, that stands for 'Dead F***in' Last' !).  62 miles is my longest run ever!

I started thinking about this team and started wondering why (just as you probably have!) they asked me to be on the team with them.  It just makes no sense!  But then it struck me . . . there is only one possible reason they asked me to be on this team . . . and I've finally figured it out!!  THEY NEED AN EXCUSE! 

They think that 11 of them can win this relay!  They are going for it!!  But if they can't, then they can blame ME!!!  That's right . . . I can hear it now, "If we hadn't had that slow, old codger on Team Awesome, we could have kicked butt!"

But one thing that got me excited was that this race is being conducted as a support for cancer research and treatment.  And two of our team members are cancer survivors!  I personally have contributed an extra amount to the American Cancer Society.  And maybe you would like to support this effort and our team and make a contribution too.  Here is a link!  (It says George Nelson . . . and that's the right place!!)

But a promise is a promise.  I said I would be on the team . . . and I will  I'll be there doing the best I can.  We'll see.  I'm hoping I can do at least 50 miles.  But I shouldn't do too much or I'll spoil their excuse!!!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Bust . . .

Ok . . . I failed again!  But I felt better about it then I did at my first 100 mile attempt!  My time sucked, but somehow I feel better about things!

The Positives:
  • Chose the best race ever!  I've run a ton of races . . .  no other race even comes close to this one!  They think of everything!  Every single possible detail . . . it's perfect! And every volunteer must have to go through a week of training.  Everyone single volunteer's focus is to 1) help you succeed and 2) to make YOUR experience the best possible one!  As a runner you may THINK you've experience the best race possible . . . but until you've tried the Umstead 100, you'll never know how good it can really be!
  • No real problems physically!  Okay, I hurt all over!  Every part of my body . . . except my right ear!  But no problem was disabling.  And mentally I kept my facilities the whole time.  I saw so many folks totally 'out of it' . . . not me!
  • Perfect weekend for a 100 mile run.  Cool but not really cold . . . okay . . . maybe it got a little cold Sunday morning, but overall we could not have dreamed of better conditions.
The Negatives:

  • My training was obviously lacking.
  • My mental focus sucked.
I started the race truly believing I had a real chance to finish this race and earn an Umstead 100 buckle. But I was so wrong.  I had no chance.

Running 100 miles is hard!  It's one SUPER hard thing to do!  My hat is off to everyone who has achieved this awesome milestone!  Yesterday, I had three friend that got added to the list of successful finishers: 1) Sharon Scott, 2)  Charles West, and 3) Daniel Lieb.  Several others tried hard and almost made it . . . but not quite:  Jim Wie, Amy Schimmel, Jeff Sackaroff, Lauren Wilkins.  (Oh God . . . who am I forgetting . . . getting old is hell!!)

Sharon . . . That;s how fast she was movin'!!
I just finished looking at pictures of Sharon's experience thanks to great pictures her husband Ricky took.  Got to admit that as I was looking at all the pictures, tears started . . . and continued!! I cried like a baby!. . . if I couldn't do I am sooooo happy Sharon did!  Somehow I feel a special connection to Sharon!

Sharon looking happy as always!!

I was at about 45 miles as Charles lapped me!  Just before the Biker about took me out!
And Charles West.  Charles was on the waiting list but only told a few of us.  He killed it out there.  Plus, he got to hear me 'let loose' on a frickin' biker that almost ran me over!  After all I yelled at him I'm so glad that dude didn't stop, come back, and whip my ass!

Not to mention Daniel Lieb.  Of all the first-timers, I was most confident about Daniel's success . . . and successful he was!  He is a freak of nature!  Somehow I didn't get a picture of Daniel.  But I got this one of one of Daniel's pacers . . . Bobby Cordell!  Talk about adding spirit!

Jim Wei, Amy Schimmel, Lauren Wilkins and Jeff Sackaroff all have the mental toughness it takes.  They didn't fail because of their lack of focus.  Each failed in their goal due to physical issues that became insurmountable obstacles.  Each will ultimately do this.  (I can't help but 'tear up' again when I think about each of these folks . . . and their toughness . . . and their ultimate disappointment at Umstead!  They soooo inspire me!)

But Saturday and Sunday I sure had a ton of support!

Will Jorgenson, Tammy and Rick Grey
Tammy and Rick Grey . . . amazingly neat people!  Rick had huge digestion issues after 50 miles . . . but every time we saw each other he had noting but support for me!  Tammy . . . every trip around she wanted to help.  These are two special people.  No wonder each is an ultra legend!  And the 'Ultra Master and Guru' for so many!

Jim Plant . . . who had a bad cold and had to stop.  But Jimbo is one of the most inspiring folks I know.  He's done a ton of 100s and he'll do many more.  Just not Umstead in 2011!  Sorry Jimbo!  But your Awesomeness will show through in two weeks!!

My pacers:  Eric Pate, Scott Wingfield . . . plus James Stephenson and Cam Kelly waiting to be called.  Eric made me finish Lap 5.  Scott drove to Raleigh and ran to meet Eric and I even though he knew my Lap 6 wasn't going to happen! James and Cam were both so hoping to be there and help me home.  Thanks everyone!

MTC . . . tons of MTCer out there . . . running . . . and supporting.  I'll miss many!!  But Tom Herbst, Frank MacGuire, Fred Dumar, Susan Dumar (special 'atta' girl' to Susan!!!! Super supporter and volunteer!) and Marie Lewis come to mind.    Add to that Ben Dillion . . . probably the one person most supportive of all!  And the 'EVERYWHERE" volunteer all weekend long!  MTC is the BEST!

Final Thoughts

Everyone person I talk to is amazed at even trying to run 100 miles.  Some folks (especially runners) even think they may understand what it might take to actually run 100 miles (I'm one of those . . . but trust me . . . we don't!)  Running 100 miles is no frickin' joke.  You have to have a mental toughness only a few in this world actually have.  The pain . . . the preparation and training, the boredom of the middle miles. . . the focus to push through the unbelievable pain to get to the finish!  Everyone who has ever completed a 100 mile run totally deserves the admiration you've earned!  I just so wish I had it in me.

And maybe I will.  But most likely I won't.  But that's okay.  Maybe I'll develop the mental toughness it takes and the physical condition.  Maybe not.  But at least I've tried.  I'll try again!

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Littleton, North Carolina
World's Slowest Runner . . . well, at least in contention for the honor. Just your average "below average" runner.