Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Home again! Loved California!

After a week's vacation it is sure is nice to be home!

I took a week off from running . . . okay . . . except for just one marathon last Saturday by myself in Solvang.  We went to a family wedding and had a blast!

Solvang is in a wine region just north of LA and we spent Friday sampling lots of different wines!  Wonderful rehearsal dinner Friday night (yea . . . more wine!) and then the wedding Saturday late afternoon.  The ceremony and reception was at a vineyard and I've never been to a wedding where everyone was served wine when you got to the ceremony!  Heck we drank wine the whole ceremony long!

But this is a running blog . . . enough off-point commentary!

I knew that San Francisco weather was cool (long sleeves feel nice!) but I had no idea that even LA has cool weather.  They tell me LA rarely gets into the 80s!  Usually 60s or 70s max!  And dry!  No wonder there are so many great California runners . . . they have perfect training weather year round!  And I found the folks I met to be super nice and friendly.

I got up early Saturday morning to go for a run.  (Not hard to get up when your body is on eastern time!)  I was actually cold when I started and wished I had brought a long-sleeved shirt!  A guy at our hotel had told me about a road that sounded like a perfect out and back so I could go as far as I wanted.  Just no water or stores!  Since I didn't take my Nathan with me on the trip I improvised!  Doubled plastic bag with four Gatorades inside which I carried!  Okay . . . not the best idea I've ever had but it did work.  Sort of!

But true to form, I quickly missed a turn, got lost and had to improvise again.  I ran about 7 miles of somewhat interesting running by a bunch of wineries and small farms.   On Friday, a huge bike stage race had run their time trials section in Solvang (we missed it due to pre-arranged wine tours) but their route out of town had several, well-placed port-a-potties!  Nice!

Eventually, I found a different road with virtually no traffic and beautiful scenery! 
~5 miles out and not a single house!  The road ran through some guy's ranch!  HUGE!  On each side of the road fields and pastures as far as you could see!  Beautiful!

Ran back to Solvang to pick up my nephew and his wife for a final ~3 miles or so.  But they bailed so I just ran around town until I finished . . . maybe ~26-27.  By the end the temperatures had climbed to the 70s maybe.

Back to the motel, shower and off to lunch and a couple of cold beers!  Then, a short afternoon nap before the wedding.

The next day, after a post-wedding breakfast with everyone, Connie, Michael, La and I drove to Santa Barbara to spend the day.  What a great town!  The layout is just about perfect . . . on the ocean at the base of mountains!  We had a blast there . . . here are a few pictures . . .

On Monday everyone decided they wanted to go on a whale watching cruise.  I tend to really get seasick, so I was going to stay on dry land . . . but Connie shamed me into going with them . . . the old "Well, if you're not going, then we'll all just stay here and try and find something else to do." routine.  Damn I didn't want to go!  Once out of the harbor the captain told us it was going to be unusually windy.  Turned out it was a REALLY rough, windy day out there and probably 75% of the folks on the boat got seasick.  Honestly the first person started losing it within 15 minutes!!  They even ended the trip early to the cheers of passengers!!   I had taken a pill and only got a little queasy . . . but both Connie and La felt bad.  And Connie even fed the fish!  . . . Yes . . . There is some justice in this world!

But we did see whales . . .

The pictures just don't show how rough the seas were though!  So glad to get back on dry land!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

5k my way . . .

I really didn't want to run the Rocky Mount Fun Run for Charities.

I sent two emails to the race asking if they needed volunteer help, but I never got a reply.  Guess they really wanted quality help.  Can't blame them.

Rocky Mount doesn't have too many races, so all of us in the running community try to support every race put on.  This one is pretty neat . . . not as a run . . . but what the event does.  Essentially, the race serves are the fund raising hub for local charities . . . the event organizers get matching funds for all contributions made to a local charity.  So every charity in the area tries to get donors to make contributions through the event.  Very neat!

Another neat thing about this event is that each charity sets up a booth on race day to show what their organization is all about.  And lots of folks from the community come to be part of it all!

So as an event to benefit the community, there is none better!

But as a running event . . . well . . . let's just say it could be improved!  But that doesn't really matter that much.  The races themselves are not the real point of this event.  But still, the run itself could be so much better . . .

So instead of driving to Rocky Mount to volunteer, I drove there and signed up for the 5k.

I didn't plan to really run very hard . . . and I didn't.  I haven't done any speed work in months, so it made no sense to try and go all out.  I was just there to have fun and run a little harder than normal.

Before things got started had a chance to see a lot of Rocky Mount folks I don't get to see all that often anymore.  Lot's of fun.  Plus, the Rocky Mount Endurance Club (RMEC) was out in force!  Since I actually live an hour away, I don't often get to run with the group and see everyone so this is especially fun for me.  I finally found Connie (or rather she found me!) before she when to her volunteer spot on Falls Road.

Lots of confusion about the race start.  One person involved with running the race told us the 10k would start 5 minutes after the 5k start.  But surprise, surprise!  At the last minute (it seemed!) they decided to start both races together!  Actually a smart move considering the 5k walkers . . . but many 10k runners weren't ready!  Oh well . . . its a fun run!

Brent Brondyke and I started together.  Brent was doing the 10k and was also planning to take it easy as he has been having serious running issues.  Lot's of fun catching up with Brent!  We passed the first mile in 9:20.  Faster than I had thought!  I felt really comfortable . . . not like a normal 5k race!!  Saw Connie just after the 1 mile point.  The course headed into the park and at the split, Brent went his way and I went mine.  Soon after I saw Margaret Bentley and we hung together for awhile.  Just ahead we saw Eric Ghiloni and Margaret and I set our sights on catching up with him.  Eric was having some stitch issues but luckily they passed and the three of us ran together until about the 2 1/2 mile point.

At the top of the little hill I decided it was 'go time' for me.  I still didn't really push it, but I did pick it up.  By the time I got to the finish line I was definitely tired.  But the nice thing about a 5k is after 3 minutes and a drink of water I felt 100% recovered!

Henry Forrester and Brandon Miller pushing to the finish
So I headed back out the race course to cheer!  So many inspiring faces!  I can only imagine the stories that go with each of them.  Kids struggling, but so focused on finishing!  Folks intent of crossing the finish line in what is likely their very first 5k!  Proud parents running with their children!  And many, many more.  The smiles and determination on folks' faces is really what running is all about.

Ted Lord and his son about to finish the 5k

 I stayed for the awards ceremony where more of the race organization issues surfaced.  Two 5k runners were declared winners of the overall 10k race so the folks that were the age group winners missed the public announcement of their wins.  Too bad.  I'm sure they sorted this out later, but still 'a swing and miss' for the race.  One neat addition they did at the race this year . . . the overall winners (3 deep) got to award money ($50, $74 and $100) to the Rocky Mount charity of their choice!  What a cool idea!  Very nice tough!!

As great as this event is, I just can't figure out why they can't the the running part right.  I'm guessing that non-runners are the planners.  I'm sure they do get runner input, but this was their 3rd year.  Issues should be worked out by now!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Cures for the Colors 100 - The Good and the Bad!

This post is really more for me so I can remember all the stuff that worked and what didn't work so well.   And maybe there is something here that you might find interesting or even possibly valuable.

While I didn't finish the full 100 miles at the "Cures for the Colors 100 mile Run" in Goldsboro, NC, I did have my best 100 mile attempt to date.  70 miles completed and I know I could have gone further without the blister issues.  (See my last blog entry for my boring race report)

One thing did happen at this race!  I proved to myself that I did have some mental toughness as I did continue about for about 23 miles after the blisters got bad.  I knew I was doing additional damage . . . and I knew it wasn't going to just get any better, but I kept going as long as I could.  My best guess is that I was at an Ivan8 or perhaps just a high Ivan7.  If you're not familiar with this scale of suffering intensity, here is a link to Jonathan Savage's Wiki where he talks about his Ivan Scale!  I really wanted to get to at least 75 miles, but that day it really wasn't an option.  70 was plenty!

Today is Tuesday and the blisters are now much, much better.  After multiple 'openings' and soaking in epson salts things seem to be healing well.  I'll try some running probably Wednesday or Thursday I'm guessing.

What went well . . .
  • The Zombie Runner Cool-off Bandana is totally awesome!  If hot weather get to you like it does me, then this is a total MUST HAVE!!
  • Walking the two laps in the afternoon worked out great.  At the time, I was worried if I would be able to start running again when the sun got low.  In some past summer runs I just couldn't get going again.  But this time I didn't find it hard to start back up running again.
  • Running at night is my favorite time to run.  Saturday night there was no moon and one of the roads had few houses and no streetlight!  I so love to turn my light off and just run!  The best for sure!
  • I finally got my pain medicine dosing  right for me!  This has been tricky to say the least.  The medicine I use (Mortin) has a maximum dosage every 4 hours.  So . . . here is what I did this time: when I first started feeling the need for so pain relief (this time around mile 30 or so, I took 1/2 the maximum dose.  Then, 2 hours later I took another 1/2 the maximum dose.  And I kept taking pills every 2 hours as long are you are peeing.  If you aren't peeing . . . don't take any more pills and up your hydration intake.  This worked soooo well for me!  Everyone may do it this way . . . I don't know.  But I did come up with this plan on my own and it sure works!  And yes . . . I did talk with my doctor about this and my general medication risks before!
  • I'm beginning to learn that when I start to feel myself struggling in a long run, it's usually because I need food!  Gels, soup, candy . . . what ever sounds good.  But I need to eat.  I also drank 4 Ensure shakes.  Not really sure if they were what gave me my boost or if it was the chicken noodle soup.  I'm thinking it was the soup!  But it's magic after I eat.  30 minutes and my energy level is back up!
  • The race had a fantastic variety of fluids to choose from and this was REALLY nice!  Sure they had the normal gator aid and water.  But they also had Coke, Mt Dew, Apple juice, grape juice, orange juice and a ton more choices that I'm just not remembering!  I totally LOVE that!  Very nice!
  • Desitin . . . Damn that stuff is GREAT!  I'll just leave it there . . .  Never an issue since I started using this before the race.  And I used to have problems EVERY single race.  I tried everything!  But Desitin totally solves the problem.
  • My Tilley Hat is absolutely perfect on a bright sunny day.  I'm really surprised I see so many ball-cap style hats and so few brimmed hats.  Maybe folks think they look stupid.  Maybe they think the hat won't stay on well.  I don't know.  But these hats  are awesome for running on a sunny day!
  • Sharon Scott told me a tip she had heard . . . take a toothbrush and toothpaste and brush your teeth!  It's amazing how great it feels to have clean teeth and a fresh mouth at 50 miles!
  • My The North Face duffle bag is awesome.  Okay.  It is a little pricey!  But I believe you could set off a stick of dynamite inside it and it would still be functional!  I have the large size and it's huge!  Everything can fit inside! Everything!  And the neat thing is you can carry this monster like a backpack (everything is included).

What didn't go so well . . .
  • The biggest problem was obviously my second set of shoes!  I really believe all shoe companies are just about equal.  The only things that really matter are 1) does the shape and volume of the shoe match YOUR foot, and 2) does the shoe have the features you need (cushioning, support, minimal, etc.).  It's not the brand, it's the shoe!  My problem was I had been buying the same shoe from the same brand for probably 15 years.  And for some reason, they changed the shoe but still called it the same thing!  So I bought them, took them home and ran in them . . . and then started feeling the differences.  I should have just given them away.  Joey Anderson was with me Saturday as I was changing the shoes and we even talked about the fact that I didn't like these shoes anymore! STUPID!  I should have know better!  Why take that risk?
  • The food they had at the race was okay . . . but I just had trouble eating enough of it.  Pizza was good, but I just had trouble getting the hot dogs down. Luckily, I did have chicken noodle soup and Ensure.  But I was out by daylight Sunday morning.  Had I been doing more loops I would have had issues if I couldn't talk someone into going to the store for me!!
  • I needed medical help with my blisters and there was none available.  On my lap where I was searching for a nurse or doctor at an aid station, whenever I ask, the station volunteers want to know if I wanted them to call for help.  That was good.  But I just needed help with my blisters and there was no one there to assist.  Also, if the temps fell much lower there could have been hypothermia issues.
  • The race needed either lap counters or a lap board.  After 8-9 laps I have to struggle to remember correctly.  Luckily, I had the 'Bill Keene Official 'Runners from Hell' Digital Lap Counter!'  Without that I would have been screwed.  What this technical device is is a over-sized ring you move from one finger (digit!) to the next as you complete a lap!  It works!
  • I really would benefit from an experienced crew member to help me remember stuff after 40 miles or so.  Several laps I failed to replenish electrolyte pills and pain pills.  I also forgot my blinker light as it got dark, I forgot to put on a long-sleeve shirt as the sun went down (and got quite chilled), I forgot to take my fleece my last two laps (when I was going to be walking so slow!).  Nothing ended up being a serious problem, but it could have been if the weather had been any cooler (low was 52° that night).
  • My blister treatment plan needs some serious work.  While blisters have only been an issue for me twice in my running life, both times they occurred at the same place . . . the ball of my foot under the callous.
Okay . . . that's about all I can think of right now.  I promise I will try to make my next blog entry a little more fun!

      Monday, May 2, 2011

      The Operation

      "But you know, Joey, only ONCE in all my years of running have I ever had an issue with a blister!"

      That is a short excerpt of a conversation Joey Anderson and I had as he and I walked through the mid-afternoon heat Saturday.  Somehow we started talking about blisters and some of the problems he had experienced through his running years.  After I said this, I should have walked off the road, found a tree and 'knocked' on it!

      Just before the start.  A word of prayer.  The National Anthem was fabulous!
      I was thrilled when I saw Joey's smiling face Saturday morning when I was on maybe lap 3 (5.26 mile loops for this course!).  Joey had come to a family event in Goldsboro and made time for a little run/walk with me in the morning and the came back for a little over a lap in the late afternoon.  Trust me . . . I gave him a lesson in slow running in the morning session and a PhD in slow walking in the afternoon!  So enjoyed the time together and the mental lift it gave me!

      For that afternoon lap with Joey and the one before it, I had decided to 'walk only' to avoid the 80*+ temperatures.  It wasn't all that humid, but the heat was tough . . . and the course had no shade.  But you deal with whatever it is that's before you.  You just adjust.  So I just slowed down to conserve energy.  That part worked pretty good.

      Joey left as the sun was getting low in the sky.  As he was leaving I was changing shoes and socks, though I was not having any problems.  Joey and I even talked about the shoes I was putting on.  I told him how they had changed this shoe and I really didn't like it much anymore and he agreed saying they even made it heavier and stiffer.  I had brought three pairs of shoes and changing shoes at ~31 miles just made sense . . . the temperatures were starting to drop some and I thought starting again with fresh shoes and socks would be a welcome re-start.  I knew I didn't love these shoes, but I thought they were okay.  In hindsight, it turns out changing shoes was my critical mistake.  But I had no way of knowing that at the time.

      The event was called "Cures for the Colors' and was a fund-raising event to support NC cancer victims.  The event was primarily a relay event but there were six of us who were planning to try to complete the full 100 miles.

      Here is the course:

        This was the race's first year and I expected just about nothing, since it was not put on by seasoned ultra runners.  But I've got to say they did a very good job!  Food (hamburgers and hotdogs) , a great selection of fluids (lot's of choices!), excellent number of aid stations, nice planning for dealing with running at night on roads that weren't close!  And a nice, flat course with 3 aid stations along the 5.26 mile course.  I would do this race again.

      Joey at the end of his walk!
      After, Joey left and I had changed my shoes and socks, I decided it was time to start running / walking again.  And I was really pleased about how much energy I had conserved!  I felt fresh physically and mentally!  So far so good!  I was making good time!  And mentally I was 100% there!

      I had decided to try to post short update on Facebook (my first time ever doing that!).  At about mile 39 I posted "It's a little hot but cooling.  Spirits good.  At 39"  I was moving better then I ever had before at this point.

      But somewhere in the mid 40s I started to notice the bottom of my left foot was getting tender.  Then, a little later I was definitely hurting.  I knew I had a problem.

      So I stopped at the main aid station to survey the situation.  And it wasn't very good . . . no . . . not good at all!  Definite blisters forming under the callous on the ball of my forefoot!  With my shoe off I hobbled over to the main aid station volunteers to ask for some help dealing with these blisters.  But there was no EMT, nurse or doctor around.  The aid station folks told me at Dr. Jim Atkins had earlier been forced to quit due to blisters.  Jim was the race organizer and was also trying to finish his first 100 mile race.  He and I had walked together for the lap before Joey came that afternoon.  I sure hated this for Jim!

      Knowing I had a serious problem developing, I decided to change shoes to my most cushioned shoes, my most cushioned socks and stop at the other aid stations to see if they had anyone that might be able to help me deal with these blisters.  They didn't.

      So, now back at the main aid station (now at about mile 58) I did my own surgery!  Those that know me know my eyesight is not so good up close . . . and I'm not as flexible as I used to be!  Okay . . . I'm not flexible AT ALL!  Especially at mile 58 of a 100 mile run!! So it must have been quite the sight - me with my headlight on, trying to find the edge of a callous on the bottom of my foot where I had a chance of getting a pin in!!  Many, many different pokes!  And when I hit one of the right spot, it looked like I had hit oil!!  A mini-!  "There she blows!!"  It was like there were many, many different blisters, all hiding under this one huge callous covering my whole forefoot.

      So, with surgery over and shoes and socks back on, I headed out again.  While every step hurt, I found I could still walk.  And I even picked up the walking pace (faster walking!!) for awhile as the pain seemed to back off some.  But it got bad again after maybe a mile.  Pain was . . . let's just say significant.  At least with my foot hurting so bad, my legs felt relatively good, all things considered!

      I got that lap finished and took a nap for about 15 minutes.  Decided to head out for another lap.

      On my last full loop, at mile 1 1/2 or so, I saw Jimmy Ballard who was pacing a friend on his first 100 (sorry but I missed his name!).  They were moving really strong!  To show you how slow I was moving, they passed me again at about mile 4 or so . . . and he was on his finishing lap!

      Toast . . . mile 70 at 6:45am.
      Finishing that lap, I knew I was done.  But I needed 2 more miles for 70.  Doing my out-and-back, the last mile returning took me 40 minutes!  My decision to quit was easy.  I had (or even now have) no doubts that I did the right thing in quiting.  If you saw the bottom of my foot, you would understand!  So at about 6:45 am I quit.

      Doing the math, I certainly would not have made the 30 hour cut-off to complete the 100, even if the blister issue hadn't come.  But I believe I would have been within an hour or so of it.  And I believe I could have walked the remaining 30 miles.  So I do feel good about this effort.  But . . . still . . . a DNF is a DNF!  This one is just a tad easier to swallow then Umstead . . . or maybe I'm just getting better at failing!!

      Next . . . what went right and what went wrong.

      Question: Why do you keep reading this??  It's not going to get any better!

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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.