Saturday, December 22, 2012

Doomsday Marathon

I honestly have no idea how many marathons I've run.  But it's been a bunch.  Maybe 80.  Maybe more.  My first was the Marine Corp Marathon back in 1983 I believe (I'm not sure because I gave my medal away!).  Since then there have been a lot of marathons run

I've run most when I was healthy, some when injured, and some when I was sick. Some have been easy, some REALLY hard.  Some fast (for me!) and some really slow.  But through it all I only failed to finish only one . . . the Leadville Marathon back in 2010.

This DNF (Did Not Finish) really bothered me . . . and haunts me to this day.  To be fair the marathon kicked my butt and I missed the time cut-off at mile 20.  But instead of turning in my bib and finishing the race anyway . . . I listened to the race director and rode back to the start in the "Van of Shame."  I'll never really forgive myself for that mistake.  Very disappointed in myself.  I felt good and could EASILY have finished . . . just outside the time limit.  I had done all the really hard parts!

Well, last night I had my second DNF . . . I quit at mile 10 of the Doomsday Marathon!  That's right . . mile 10!!  And I'm not the least bit upset!

This was a very unique race!  First, it was on the winter solstice . . . the last day shown on the Myan calendar.  We all had fun kidding about this being the end of the world.  The race started Friday night at 9 PM!!  Never had a marathon start at night and on a Friday . . .. crazy!

The bad thing about starting a race at night is that I couldn't take any pictures.  That sucks!  Plus, my eyes are so bad I rarely know who I was running near!!  I do love running at night but I think I like a race to start during daylight and the run into the night!

The day was cold and windy but luckily the wind died down some for the race!  Temps were in the low 30s with only minor wind.  The course was in a wildlife management area near Hoffman, NC . . . definitely in the middle of nowhere!  The course was a 2.4 mile loop on really sandy farm roads that surrounded this HUGE grown up field!  Since this was in the middle of nowhere there were no houses or lights at all!  As a result, we had an awesome view of the stars all night!  I love night running!!!

Of the 2.4 miles, probably 1 mile was simply loose sand . . . like you have near the dunes on a beach.  Not packed or firm like the sand near the water . . . just loose!  NASTY running!  And my hip hated it! 

In the middle of my third loop I knew I needed to stop.   So I did . . . and never a second guess if I made the right call.  I definitely did!  Maybe I should have quit after 2 lap . . . but I thought the pain might pass and the hip would adjust.  So I gave it two more laps but finishing was not to be.  So I stopped at the end of 4 laps . . . just under 10 miles.

I was not alone!  I was surprised by how many others injured themselves in the loose sand.  Everyone struggled.  The winning time was just over 3 hours (3:04 I believe) and the second place finisher was maybe 8-10 minutes back.  Then there was a HUGE gap to #3 and the other finishers.  And everyone suffered with the sand.

So I have my second DNF.  It's looking like I will definitely need to avoid loose sand like the plague!  And I'm going to have to think hard about running any trails . . . at least for awhile.

But that's not so bad.  While I love trails and trail running, I can still run on roads and well-packed dirt roads.  That's fine with me!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Running 100 miles - "Lilley-style"

Like in music, there are lots of ways to write a song.  So to in running.  There are lots of ways to run 100 miles.  The following is simply ONE way to do it.  It certainly may not be the BEST way to do it.  It definitely is not the FASTEST way.  It is just simply my way.

So if you are interested in what it takes to be a "Lilley-style" runner . . . read on!


First . . . it helps to be stupid.  Seriously.  Smart people who attempt a "Lilley-style" run can usually SEE the train wreck coming . . . and thus avoid the collision all together.  But still . . . both smart people and stupid people CAN do this . . . it's just easier to be stupid.  That's all.


As in virtually every endurance event, proper preparation is the key to success.  And "Lilley-style" running is no different.  It takes months and perhaps even YEARS to properly prepare.

See . . . the bedrock of "Lilley-style" running is you need EXCUSES.  Preferably medical excuses.  Here you can use your own creativity.  My excuse is a hip arthroscopy but yours can certainly be different.  Fused disks in your back would probably work.  A torn ACL repair in your knee could work too.  A hip replacement might be a good option.  I have one acquaintance that is using "poor blood circulation in his legs" as his!  Brilliant!

But things like a meniscus tear in your knee just simply doesn't provide the needed level of excuse . . . I've tried that three times and it simply just doesn't work as well.  See . . . if properly treated, torn knee cartilage essentially goes away in mere months.  For "Lilley-style" running you need more.

Your excuse must be a long term excuse . . . one that you can "pull out and use" over months and even years!  As you can see it takes a long time to properly establish an excuse like this . . . and health insurance helps too!

It certainly is possible to skip this section of the preparation and still be successful in your 100 . . . but people will laugh at you.  Heck . . . people may laugh at me with my excuse preparation plan in place!  But at least their laughter is behind my back and not to my face!

The next part of preparation is the training itself.  You MUST train.  Definitely.  But here you must be careful and not over-train.  Three days of running a week is plenty.  Five days is too many.  And no "long run" run should EVER be over 15 miles in length.  10 is better.  I suggest using other races as preparation runs . . but here you need to be careful.  Run your training runs just like how you plan to run your 100 . . . very, very slowly with PLENTY of walk breaks!

Don't over do your training.  That could spell disaster.  Instead limit your training to only a month or two.  Save it all for the 100.

Choosing the Race

This part is tricky!  You have to carefully select a race that plays to your skills!  Not every 100 mile race is an option.  "Lilley-style" running just simply can't be rushed!  So you need a race that will allow you the time necessary to execute a proper "Lilley-style" run.

There are two keys I suggest you use to select YOUR race . . . 1) the course difficulty, and 2) the race time cutoff.

If you just simply look at the time cutoff of a race you could make a serious mistake.  There are plenty of races that have what APPEARS to be a generous time cutoff.  But, in reality, is not!  The race director has you climbing MOUNTAINS and such!  Stay away for devious traps like this!

This last weekend I found a race that was perfect . . . easily allowing a "Lilley-style" 100 miler.  It was the Kinston 48 Hour Race.  I was a bit concerned that the 48 hour cutoff would be a hindrance to my "Lilley-style" run.  Perhaps that would not be enough time.  But it worked out to be fine!  As a matter of fact I'm now suggesting 2 day and 3 day timed events are the BEST format for displaying "Lilley-style" running.  You'll see why in a minute!

The run itself

Photo by Stephanie Carter
To properly execute a "Lilley-style" 100 mile run you have to LOOK like a runner and TALK like a runner.  Blend in.  Wear running stuff.  Wear Hokas . . . they definitely indicate your seriousness to the effort.

Once the race begins, "Lilley-style" running is quite similar to traditional running styles.  The primary difference is the speed of execution.  "Lilley-style" is executed at a slower pace . . . with more walk breaks.  Start off with everybody else but then just "eeaaaassseee" back to the rear of the group so that they don't interfere with you.

Now . . . everything that happens in other running styles happens here too!  It just simply takes longer.  A lot longer.

But oddly . . . if you choose the race carefully . . . finishing 100 miles "Lilley-style" lets you finish not all that far behind everyone else!  Seriously!  As an example, let's examine the results from this weekend's Kinston 48 hour Race.

17 folks started the race . . .
Lee Kelly after finishing his first 100 miler!
Tim O'Malie before his last 5k lap (Note stick crutch in chair and smile on his face!)
  • I was tied with another (Lee Kelly) as the 4th person to finish the 100 mile distance!!  

  • 6 total people finished 100 miles or longer!  So I wasn't even DFL!!!  (Okay . . . the last guy to finish the distance (Tim O'Malie) had injured himself (torn calf muscle) and had gotten another race participant to fashion him a crutch so he could complete his last two loops of the course (2 x 5k)!  Yea . . . he is a tough guy!)
  • I finished 1st in my age group!!  (True . . . I was the only person over 60 years old and there weren't any age grouping . . . but I'm spinning it like this anyway!!)

And here is the secret magic trick on why 48 hour or longer timed events  are so good for "Lilley-style" . . . most of the folks that enter really don't plan to do 100 miles . . . BUT they count in the number of race entrants!!  Of the 17 folks that entered, only 10 or so REALLY wanted to run 100 or more!  But if you run this type of event you get to SAY you finished 4th out of 17!!!!!

 Brilliant!!!  To the unknowing . . . you will appear to be a 100 mile running ROCK STAR!!!!!

So choosing the right race is VERY important for respectability purposes!  This course was virtually flat . . . maybe  20 feet of ascent per lap (5k) so a total ascent of just under 650 feet over 100 miles!!  If a 100 mile race were held here, the race director would likely have a cutoff of somewhere between 27 hours and maybe 30 hours . . . and maybe even less.  Nowhere near enough time for a properly executed "Lilley-style" 100!

In "Lilley-style" we try to see just how LONG it can take!  Extend the fun for as long as possible!  Last weekend I did a proper "Lilley-style" run AND reduced the time it took to 39 hours and 36 minutes!  So I know for sure you can do a "Lilley-style" 100 that fast.  I'm not sure if it can be done any faster or not!

There are four rules to running "Lilley-style" that you do need to bear in mind.
  • Smile and at least try and LOOK like you're having fun!  Having fun is definitely not a REQUIREMENT for the full race.  As a matter of fact . . . maybe 1/2 the time is spent NOT having fun at all!  It sucks!  Big ones!  But you must try and appear like it is a blast out there!
  • Whine . . . especially on Facebook!  That way you get A LOT of moral support!  And believe me . . . you need that support badly!!!  Quite honestly the Facebook support I got kept me going!  I would have stopped without it!  Seriously.
  • You must drink at LEAST one beer during the race.  Two or more are even better.  While I have yet to try it, I am fairly certain that wine would be an acceptable substitute . . . as long as it comes from a box.
And just because you're doing the race "Lilley-style" doesn't mean you have to miss out out on all the fun that normal 100 mile runners get to experience.  You can still have all the muscle cramps, aching joints, blisters, etc.!  But I'm finding that you do give up some quality on the hallucinations you get to see!

For me at Kinston, the hallucinations began just after dark on the second night!  But my hallucinations weren't as vivid as some 100 mile runners describe.  Mine were just indeterminable shadows / shapes flashing across the road in front of me . . . and things that sort of looked like people running along the edge of the woods beside the road.  I knew for sure these were hallucinations and they weren't REALLY there . . . so I guess I'm mildly disappointed.

But that is about all you miss.  If you choose a normal 100 mile event you may miss any finish line celebrations, awards ceremonies and such.  All that has been picked up and packed away for next year by the time you arrive at the finish.  But there is a silver lining . . . you don't have to feel guilty about not helping them do all that work!  But if you choose a 48 hour event . . . well that just doesn't work.

So that is a quick summary of "Lilley-style" running.  With this, you too should be able to go out there and finish a 100 mile RACE!

So . . . will I continue to refine "Lilley-style" 100 mile running?

Who knows?  At the end of the Kinston race I was 100% sure I was done with this kind of thing.  But now as the pain is beginning to ebb and, being old, my memory starts to fail . . . so I'm not so sure.

Like with other art forms, "Lilley-style" running needs to grow, expand and change with the times.  And until someone else comes along to champion the continued refinement of "Lilley-style" running . . . I just may have to keep doing it myself.

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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.